Outdoorsy Part XXV: What Water Is This?

You’d think by now I could easily catch on to what nature is where, but the winding roads of the North Shore clearly don’t want me to. I’m pretty sure they were designed to keep out non-inhabitants. Counting on my GPS, I curved along the backroads until I saw a figure in the distance. There on Boney Lane was the captain, waving me into the David Weld Sanctuary as if he were on a tarmac guiding in a plane for landing. It was helpful because as soon as I’d made the turn onto the road, my GPS proudly yelled, Arrived! and I had not arrived anywhere except on a road somewhere.

When I parked, the captain was like, You put in the wrong address so I was waiting for you. I was like, No, I clicked the link you texted me and that’s what the map did. Apparently, Boney Lane and Short Beach Road are the same but also different according to my phone. As if I could possibly put in a different address on my own. Like, 345 Curvy Lane, BackRoads, Long Island.

There was much need for sunscreen and bug spray. I doused myself in both as I also tried to not let bugs get into my car. One did but I’m pretty sure it’s now flown out. A wasp almost got in, and thankfully it didn’t because then I’d have to abandon my car at 345 Curvy Lane and hitchhike back to civilization.

Into the preserve we went. It was really green. Not very buggy, thankfully. This was the first hike for my new hiking boots, and grassy woodsy-ness was a good way to break them in. We went down a few paths and then suddenly, we were on a bluff overlooking the water. He was like, Want to go down to the beach? I was like, Is that really a question?

Through the woods we found the beach. What water was this? I didn’t know. It was the Sound. I looked out in the distance. To the left stood smokestacks. I pointed: Northport? He was like, Yup. I was like, That’s your response?!—I know geography for once and all I get is a Yup?! He was subtly impressed.

We walked the beach. Another good way to break in my new boots with soft land underfoot. Also a good way to break a sweat. We’d gotten off to a later start than usual because I’d taught yoga in the morning, so by now the sun was blazing. Super pretty and also super hot. I’d opted for shorts since I knew we’d be mostly on the beach and he’d said the trails were pretty wide. Except for a few places in the path where I passed through as if I were in Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks to avoid ticks, it felt tick-less most of the way.

This was Short Beach, but it was pretty long for a short beach. We passed by what looked like cabanas. Lined up with them out on the water was a floating platform. On that platform, batbirds perched, all batty and birdy. I walked a bit more quickly to pass them. Then we got to where sunbathers sprawled out. We passed them and got to a point where the beach curved around and we could see the other side. I was like, I know where that is! On the other side is the place we’ve hiked before attached to the Greenbelt Trail where Sunken Meadow and Nissequogue meet up (I think. I mean, I knew where I was but that doesn’t mean I know names of things). This was the second time I knew geography. However—what water is this? Is this the river or is this the sound or is this something else? It was the river.

Basically, all the water is the water, and we just call it different things whenever we want. It’s all connected. {However, this morning, an inanimate object DMd me to tell me I don’t know what a beach is, so ya know, don’t go by me).

We hiked more along the river side of the beach and then cut across and around some more until we found a place where the captain said was good for swimming. I was like, Sure, go ahead and I’ll stay alive on the shore. I had on half a bathing suit, and if he’d swam longer, I would’ve gotten into the full thing, but for a ten-minute swim with bugs attacking me, I didn’t do the production of switching my bottoms under a dress I’d brought. The taking off of the boots and socks was a production in and of itself.

Then there was the production of getting it all back on. Then there was the debate of reapplying sunscreen. It was not possible for me. I was slick with sweat. My sunscreen is on the expensive side. There was no point in wasting it; it wasn’t going to stay on my skin with all the moisture pouring off me. I know—this is so attractive. I could go on about what I possibly smelled like at this point, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.

As we started to head back, a swarm of bugs kept biting me. Only me. We stopped on the beach—I think on the sound side not the river side—and I switched from the natural bug spray to the intense chemical stuff. It worked. I’m okay with chemicals if I’m not being eaten alive by no-see-ums.

When we arrived at the bathrooms at Short Beach, I was like, Can we go in the shade? We walked towards the covered picnic tables, and I sat and took in the not being in the sun for a while. There was a breeze! That’s when we remembered the captain wanted to take a picture of what was in my backpack. He was like, Did you take less stuff this time? I was like, I actually have more than last time because of beach options. The one thing I didn’t have was my solar powered charger/flashlight/compass because it adds another few pounds and I simply couldn’t add more, and on a shorter excursion, I banked on not needing it.

After that, we headed back to the beach, back up into the woods, back up to the bluff, and then back through the preserve to find the tiny buggy parking lot. It holds six cars. Six. That’s probably enough considering it’s almost impossible to find if you’re not familiar with Curvy Lane in BackRoads, LI.

Art Ownership and a Zoltar Encounter (and Warhol)

Because the art expo was during the day, BG figured I’d be up for it because it was well before my bedtime. Because it was at a brewery, I was iffy at first because I don’t drink and I don’t eat—I live on air—and I don’t like going to things where I’m not going to support the business. Then I realized, I could buy him a beer, so I was like, We’re doing this. Because MD has been trying to get us together to go to an outdoor summer concert and because there would be live music at the art show, I told her about it, and then we, all three, were finally in the same place at the same time in the blazing sun with creative minds all around us.

When I go to fairs, I want one of everything. My strategy, then, is to visit every table and then circle back. It works because I get to then figure out if I really, truly want something, and also I don’t need to carry it around with me. If it’s gone by the time I go back, then it’s not meant to be. Because I recently paid a pretty penny to have my kitchen wall light switch repaired for the third time in two years and bought two air conditioners and paid to have them installed and had my gutters fixed and cleaned, I can never move from this house. Therefore, I’m finally looking to decorate my living room wall. It’s a big empty space. Art can go on it.

I didn’t buy anything to go on the wall. Instead, I bought magnet art and a sticker. Baby steps.

Artwork credits: Deena Hadhoud, Emily Rubenstein, Ahlicks, and JGA Creations

The bathroom was inside rather than a port-a-potty. Bless you, Great South Bay Brewery. Y’all know how I rely on bathrooms, so in MD and I went as BG stayed at a table taking a survey about his life so he could buy a custom-made notebook. As soon as we got in the door, MD was like, Omigosh it’s that thing from that movie! Helpful. I was like, what? where? Off to the side beyond the bar was a Zoltar machine. I’ve seen them in real life before and had my fortune read by one with a few broken fingers. MD had never seen one up close, and so I was like, You’ve gotta do it, handing over a dollar to her as my gift of fortune. Zoltar is pretty loud as he moves his head and hands. This one has no broken fingers but even after the fortune card spat out, his hand kept moving, and it got a little creepy. The fortune was fun, and she got some lucky numbers out of the deal for the next PowerBall.

Before leaving, BG and I made one more lap and then asked the band for their name. They played covers from a variety of decades, and at one point, they were singing a song by Four Non Blondes and I literally thought the lead from the band was singing and had to look up to see if it was her. It was not. It was The Drinkwater Brothers. BG was like, what if they were the Drinkbeer Brothers, ’cause we’re at a Brewery.

Another jaunt into the art world came in the form of another Sibling Adventure! When we last adventured, we cleaned up some garbage. This time, we planned for indoor activities. My brother’s school year finally finished, so I booked us tickets to the Nassau County Museum of Art. Because I’m now a full professor, I’m making more academic choices, which means I bought myself a membership to the museum that came with a membership to NARM, a reciprocal museum thingie that allows me to get into a bunch of other museums, too. So I didn’t actually buy art here. I bought the museum! This paragraph needs more hypertext, no?

The first part of the adventure was all about the unbearable New York traffic. My brother, who never runs late, was running a little late. I knew he thought he’d get to the museum from his house in twenty minutes. I also knew he didn’t realize traffic. I waited a bit and then went into the museum. The guy at the front said I could check in for both of us and he’d let my brother in later. My brother arrived after a 45 minute drive, all apologetic, and I was like, You were cursing in your car, weren’t you? He was like, No matter where I went, for no reason, no construction, I just couldn’t go anywhere. Yup, that seems about right.

Sidenote: Apparently, the traffic is due to not only those who usually take public transportation now driving cars but also more delivery trucks for more people shopping at home. Hey, everyone? Go back to doing things the way you did them please and thanks.

Before he got there, I got a bit taken aback by the number of people in the building. I didn’t feel unsafe—I’m not talking pandemic—I’m talking how usually I’m one of three people there. Instead, there was what seemed to be a field trip of teens roaming about. Also, there was a video shoot happening in one of the galleries. The guy at the desk was like, Gallery 1 is closed at the moment. Then another guy came over and was like, No, it’s not. So the first guy was like, Okay I lied, everything is open. Ha! The doors had been closed, but the people filming said patrons could come in while they were on break. There was equipment everywhere, so taking in the artwork from La Belle Epoque while navigating state-of-the-art video tech was quite the juxtaposition. Toulouse-Lautrec probably would have enjoyed it.

My brother found me outside Gallery 1 as I read about the art movement, and he was like, I want to see the Warhol.

Warhol again? you may ask. The answer is always, Yes, of course, Warhol again.

Up the winding stairs we went. Some of the artwork we’d seen in person before—the animals and some of the flowers. Some of the artwork was new to us: Mt. Vesuvius, portraits of characters using diamond dust, portraits of Jewish people, drawings of flowers, album covers.

Here’s a quote that sums up Warhol’s main pop aesthetic that made the two of us go, yeah wow:

Business art is the step that comes after Art . . . I wanted to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.

Andy Warhol

Then? Soup cans. Whoa.

In the midst of this Warhol extravaganza, a fire alarm sounded. It was one of those deafening, piercing alarms. We poked out of the small gallery we were in. A semi-frantic man was quickly walking through the hall. I gestured into the air and asked, This means we leave, right? He was like, yes, please exit now! Down the stairs we went and outside into the 100 degree weather. I entertained my brother with how I handle fire alarms on campus: I walk away from the building, and my students ask if they should follow me, and I ask, Do you want to be close to the building if it explodes?

After about ten minutes, the alarm had stopped and no authorities arrived, so back into the building we went, up the stairs, back to the Warhol. Then back down the stairs to finish off La Belle Epoque. We went to the back gallery and found a lot of Tiffany lamps. Fact: I didn’t know Tiffany lamps were named after a guy with the last name Tiffany. On the wall in the hallway hung a very detailed timeline. In very un-history-teacher-like-fashion, my brother did not read every single word of it. That proves that it really was a lot to take in. We did some scattershot observing, pointing out things we recognized. At the end of it all, he was like, Basically, a lot of stuff happened in a really short period of time. History lesson done.

At this point, Gallery 1’s doors were closed. I asked at the desk if it would reopen soon, and the guy was like, It should be open. I was like, The doors are closed. He went to see if either set of doors would be open, and they weren’t, and he was like, Sorry they haven’t told me anything different. I was like, I totally get it—there was a lot going on still. The gift shop was open, though, so back up the stairs we went. Because I bought a membership, I got a free poster. I really thought about what I wanted on my wall and also what meant something to me. I got the poster from Fool The Eye. It was between that and Energy: The Power of Art! The former won out because it may look better on my wall. Also, it may not go on the living room wall at all. I may move things around now that I’m staying in the house forever. The women at the register had a dandy of a time trying to ring it up until finally they were just like, Thank you very much for your support in being a member and we will figure this out later. Heh heh, they’re wonderful people at the museum. Also, “dandy of a time” is my new fun phrase.

Because our time schedule was off, we hadn’t eaten lunch and were starving. We found some shade and ate. Then I was like, We can drive up the hill or walk. My brother chose to walk, so in the 100 degree heat, we made our way up the road to the Manes Center for Pop Art.

The number one reason to see this exhibit together was to be able to say, Good God, it’s a Lichtenstein! in the same room at the same time. We checked out the Robert Indiana and Katz work along one wall.

Then there at the end, Good God, it was a Lichtenstein! Everything else paled in comparison.

Good God, it’s a Lichtenstein!

On the final two walls were Rivers and Rauschenburg, both very interesting. Over the final piece, a light was flickering, which caused the piece to look different every moment. This seemed to be accidental, but also, it was like performance art. Like we were part of the art. That’s what I’d like to believe.

Outdoorsy Part XXII: Bubblicious

In between two major highways, the wilderness grows wild as if the highways aren’t there. Blydenburgh has a sneaky way about it, offering a huge lake that seems endless and paths that intertwine with each other.

BMc and I met up in the parking lot that’s in the middle of the park, so far in that I thought I was going the wrong way for quite some time. I kept following signs for children’s camp grounds and a dog park and then the parking lot appeared. BMc asked if I wanted to go to the bathroom first. Clearly, the word is out. Your gal likes a bathroom, and these were pretty clean by park standards.

I put him in charge, pointing out that I simply follow anyone I’m with since I have no sense of direction. He suggested we follow the lake so that we know where we are, and I was like, I have no opinion on this matter.

We came across several points where we could get lakeside. At every point, I was like, It’s so pretty! We also came across buildings, one that’s a mill and a house that’s pink (if you didn’t just sing like John Mellencamp, for shame!). At these abandoned buildings, we saw an old couple, having a fun time taking pictures of each other. Then the guy bobbed his head really quickly, which caused a quacking sound. These are the people I wish to become some day.

There’s also a point when we started to hear rushing water. It was sudden. BMc was like, it’s waterfalls. We rounded a bend, and there through the chain link fence was a waterfall. On one side of the path, the lake seemed so calm. On the other, water rushed through. At a different point along the path, there’s a huge tunnel that goes under one of the wide highways. This was where the water was also coming from, and I realized that this water is the same water we saw at the other park on our other hike, and then I had that whoa moment that all water is the same everywhere. Whoa. Trippy.

Then I smelled grape Bubblicious. I immediately asked BMc if he smelled it. He was like, No, but what does that signify? I wasn’t sure. Burnt toast means a stroke, but the sweet fruity aroma of sugary gum is not in my wheelhouse. Then he was like, Oh, wait, and he sniffed his water bottle. Yeah, blueberry something or other had wafted out of that. Mystery solved. This time.

We walked across some bridges and elevated pathways, wondering who built them and how they got there, agreeing that our curiosity was fleeting. We wouldn’t go looking it up later on. We could simply be happy it was there. After a few more turns, the water wound up on our other side, and I was like, Are we going the right way? He was like, Yes. I was like, But the water is over here now. And he was like, we turned. And I was like, Oh, yes, that’s how space works.

Now’s a good time to remind everyone: I’m a teacher. I shape young minds.

Right when I started thinking I’d need a bathroom or I’d have to use my lady spout, a bathroom appeared. I can’t remember this ever happening before. Right near the place where they rent out oars and boats launch, there’s a bathroom. Super clean—this park is all about clean facilities.

The park is also full of fences, and figuring out what they separate proves to be difficult. Also fleeting. It’s interesting to guess until the last fence post. A very angry horse indicated at one point that we were near the horse stables. We’d seen some horses on the way in and followed for a bit, but following horses is never a good idea, so we’d curved off onto a different path. Now we’d happened upon the horses again. It was only the sound of an angry horse. If it had come upon us, I wouldn’t be writing this. I know my place in this world. I know the skills I have. Defending myself from an angry horse is not on a list of things I can do.

Thankfully, that was not something I needed to encounter. Lots of chimpmunks, no angry animals the rest of the way, and incredibly large trees. Because it’s a forest in the middle of a traffic jam.

Outdoorsy Part XXI: Burnt Toast

Before heading out to hike, BMc needed to know one very important item of information: I am an annoying hiker. He didn’t seem phased by the notion, so off we went, BMc, the captain, and me. The path from Belmont Lake State Park to Argyle is an in and out that, according to some hiking websites, is about 9 miles. Perhaps including a walk around the lake. Perhaps not. I’d waited to do this hike because I wanted to build up to the possible 9 miles with some other hikes first. Spoiler alert: it’s not 9 miles and I hadn’t needed to build up to it. Still, it was worth the wait.

We met in the parking lot, and the captain was like, We need to go where we cross under the Southern, and he pointed in one direction. I was like, nope, it’s that way, which is the other direction. I was right. That’s 1 out of 10 if y’all recall. (I’m right one time out of every ten).

After snarking about upper management and administration, and after watching two women and a child get followed by geese because they’d been feeding the geese as they are not supposed to do for this very reason, we found the path under the tunnel into the wilderness. The captain was about to go to the wrong path, so I was like, No this way. Unprecedented. This was twice in one hike that I was right. How this happened, we will never know.

Whenever I smell burnt toast, I immediately ask whoever is nearby if they smell it, too. Burnt toast smell is a symptom of having a stroke, so I figure we all can’t be having a simultaneous stroke. There in the middle of the woods, I smelled it. So I asked. They both smelled it, too. It smelled delicious. We started talking breakfast food. The smell lingered, got stronger, faded, got stronger, faded, and eventually went away. We don’t know where it came from. I do know that I want more of it in my life. I don’t eat bread, so I’ll take the aroma whenever I can. It’s like one of those many foods and beverages that have a better aroma than taste. The aroma was strongest around a pond that we came upon when we got into Babylon. Mmm, toast.

BMc asked at one point what we were carrying in our backpacks. The captain had water and snacks. I had that and so much more! Your gal had her full lunch, a towel, sun screen, two kinds of bug spray, band aids, tissues, gum, deodorant, hand sanitizer, eye drops, chapstick, a solar powered phone charger that doubles as a flashlight and has a broken compass, and, as a new addition, a pee funnel that is supposed to let me stand up while peeing if there’s no bathroom around. I have a feeling I might pee all over myself, but I’m clearly prepared to do that and still be able to clean up afterwards. I’d rather not squat over the ground seeing that every time I go outside, random people warn me about ticks.

We made a bicycle friend. While most of the cyclists inched by without warning, this guy shouted from well behind us, On! Your! Left! Which is how it should be. I yelled, Thank you! Captain heard him mutter, You’re welcome. That guy should teach a class in how to warn pedestrians that you’re riding a bike. This is also what bells are for. If you’re going to go riding, then know the rules.

Things that came up in conversation that I didn’t know about that were to become my homework:

Watching the movie Hook.

Watching some show or movie that starred one of the actors from Hook.

That actor’s name who starred in A River Runs Through It whose face I could see and whom I called “a doughy Brad Pitt,” like not in a bad way but like in an observable way.

Something else that I have now forgotten. Actually, I haven’t forgotten. It’s something I didn’t write down and didn’t make a memory of. (Lisa Genova’s book Remember has changed my life. Read it, and you, too, will realize the different between forgetting and not making a memory).

Argyle Lake appeared not so much later. There were large birds around, one that was standing tall on a rock with large wings fanned out. It looked bat-like, and I didn’t like it at all. By now, I have forgotten what kind of bird it was, but the captain and BMc knew. I will refer to it as a batbird. There were many batbirds on the large rock thing in the middle of the lake, all hanging out in the sun. They didn’t look like bats when their wings were closed. We also saw a black bird with a red spot on its wings that I usually see out at Heckscher, and BMc was like, it’s a red spotted black bird. I was like, That’s its name? He was like, Yes. Right now, I don’t know if that’s what its exact name was, but I do remember thinking it was a very obvious name.

As we headed into town to get some coffee (aka so I could eat my lunch because I was starving) and use the bathrooms (no spout for me this time!), I spotted another guy toting a backpack. I pointed him out—See? That guy’s got a backpack, too! We all looked to where I was pointing. This guy had on combat boots and shorts and no shirt. He was also running. They suggested that perhaps his backpack was filled with something different, and it was possible he was running from something or someone just as much as he may be running towards something. Fair enough.

We visited Babylon Bean where I found a bench to eat my lunch. Our sidewalk conversation seemed to annoy the woman who was at the other table conducting a video chat, so she got up in a huff to go inside. Work in public means the public can get in your way sometimes. We next visited the library and then the statue of the guy who clams. There’s a name for him. It’s not longshoreman. It’s not clammer. It’s something specific, and I can’t remember that, either.

Back to nature, we took some of the same and some different trails back. I wouldn’t know the difference. Plus, everything looks different on the way back because you’re facing a different way. What made me feel most secure about being in the right place? Burnt toast. There it was again, wafting through the air. Ahh, the delights of nature never cease to amaze me.