But I digress, which is half the fun of any journey. Agape on the shotgun seat lay a Rand McNally road atlas, with all its varicose-veined possibilities. I am one of those people who cannot look at a map without feeling a child's sense of wonder at all that awaits me out there: Boos (Ill.) and What Cheer (Iowa), Baskett (Ky.) and Ball (La.), Sliders (Va.) and Heaters (W.Va.). Who knew what I might see?
For now, I could say only this: I wanted all my lunches to be racing-striped in ballpark mustard, noisily dispensed from flatulent squeeze bottles. I wanted to eat all my dinners from Styrofoam fast-food clam boxes that yawned in my lap while I drove 70 mph and steered with my knees. I wanted all my afternoons to dwindle in the backward-marching time of a scoreboard (:10, :09, :08...), that physics-defying device that allows a person lucky enough to mark his or her time by it to grow younger.
I wanted to stave off adulthood. I wanted to see America. I wanted to have fun. Over the next several months, my only calendar would be the multicolored mosaic of one team pocket schedule or another. Shakespeare asserted in Henry TV, Part I, "If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work." Surely Shakespeare was full of s—, and I intended to prove it. Leisure City (Fla.), here I come.
So I joined Interstate 35 and traveled out of Minneapolis in a cold gray mist. It was like driving into a sneeze. The radio reported 94-mph winds in southern Minnesota as well as golf-ball-, baseball-and softball-sized hail. Wonderful. It was raining sporting goods, and I was following the perforated yellow line of the highway, a trail of dripping nacho "cheez" that would lead me to the lost soul of American sports. Or whatever it was I was looking for.
I found Don Lansing reposing on his grand front porch, lemonade and tinkling ice cubes sweating through a tall glass. It was not yet noon and already 94°. Lansing had forgone the wooden porch swing for an aluminum-framed lawn chair, the kind whose nylon latticework leaves your ass looking like a flame-broiled hamburger.
"I think they come for as many reasons as there are stars in the heavens," the farmer said, looking out on his Field of Dreams, a ballpark cut into a cornfield that receives 20,000 tourist pilgrims annually. "Some think that Kevin Costner lives here. A lot of people don't understand that Universal built this field—they think my family built it before there was a movie. And a lot of people don't know that the house is real. They think it's just a movie set."
Wasn't he bothered that some people treat his house as a movie set, taking photos through windows? "Naw," he said. "Usually they respect my little area here. Sometimes at night they'll ask me to turn on the lights"—there are six stanchions around the field—"but I only do that for special occasions." Lansing pointed to a stanchion 280 feet down the rightfield line. "Joe Pepitone hit the top of that one," he said, referring to the ex-Yankee with a toupee like a shag toilet-seat cover. "No one else has done it.
"It's neat to see all the people and where they come from and their reactions to the field," Lansing continued. "We've had 'em from Australia, Japan, all over Europe. Places without baseball."
What could possibly be the appeal to someone who doesn't know baseball? Lansing chewed on that question as if it were cud. The farm has been in his family for 92 years. Lansing played ball on the property with his father, LaVern, and LaVern played ball there with his father. "I think," Lansing said at last, "it has a lot to do with fathers and sons."