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.

Outdoorsy Part XV: Advice and Facts

Belmont Lake State Park has a long loop around the lake that’s easy to follow. It’s my kind of navigation—walk in a circle. It also has off-shoots, and I’ve wondered where they go. Because the Captain has a better sense of direction than I do (as do all people and most animals), he agreed to come along and scope out the paths. I mentioned this plan to my brother who replied, “They all go to the parking lot except for the one that goes to Argyle in Babylon.” That seems not-getting-lost-able. Here’s what we learned.

  • 1.

Most paths go to the parking lot when you veer away from the lake. It gets a little woodsy at times, but you can usually find a road or a lot somewhere close by. Also, there are entrances to the park from the street in some of the woodsy areas, which would account for how some of the joggers suddenly appeared seemingly out of nowhere. 

  • 2.

If you have not yet been vaccinated, here’s some advice: drink a lot of water the day before, the day of, and the day after. We learned this from a little old lady on a jazzy who was zipping through the woods. We put our masks up when we saw her approaching, and she yelled out to us, “I’ve been vaccinated! It’s okay!” and then asked if we were and then told us about the water, which she found out from her doctor. Later on, I saw this lady trying to get a young child in a stroller to smile while the man pushing the stroller kept moving it away since this lady had no mask on and the child was not entertained. I like this lady. She’s got spunk.

  • 3.

Go here to find children.

  • 4.

Some plants that look like lettuce are called skunk cabbage and they smell like skunks, which means they smell like weed, not as in gardening weeds, but as in the pot. I first saw them, and the Captain was like, “Skunk cabbage,” but they didn’t smell. Then I had an annoying bunch of gravel in my boot, so I had to sit and shake it out, and when I sat, I was whipping my head around, looking for people smoking up. It stank. And it wasn’t the people. It was the plant.

  • 5.

Yellow flowers are not all the same. I knew these flowers weren’t daffodils or dandelions, but I didn’t know what they actually were. I also knew there was a good chance I’d find out for sure (and find out for sure about the skunk cabbage) if I posted pictures on Instagram in my story with question marks.

I get all my science facts from an inanimate chair.

Storm King For The Win

Y’all, I completed my Summer Wish List! I am so grateful to all my friends and the fam who helped make it happen!

The final item was visit Storm King. Originally, I had two reasons. The first was to make new memories because the last time I was there, the wasband was also there. We had a great time, for sure, but new memories would be nice, too. The second was because a guy I was recently seeing suggested that we go there, and then he suggested we not date anymore, so I went with both suggestions, changing the first to singular: I go there, not we.

Then the reason changed. I really like public art, and I hadn’t seen SD and BS in a while, and with the semester closing in, this would be a really nice way to catch up before the nonsense begins.

Tickets kept selling out. Finally snagged some for a week out, and we hoped for no rain. The day came, and not only was there no rain, but the weather lady called it a gem of a day. It truly was. Perfect outdoor art weather.

I left my house a bit on the early side to make sure I got there on time, so I was able to stop along the way when I passed by two places.

The first is a bookstore pit stop for NYS. It was closed, but I bumped into an old friend.

Walt Whitman is everywhere, yo.

The second was Fort Montgomery, where I was a few years back for a Sibling Adventure day. I pulled over because I couldn’t not gawk at how pretty Bear Mountain Bridge was. Seriously, a gem of a day.

I did get to Storm King a bit early. They let me into the parking lot. They scan tickets through the window, so when the woman pointed in a direction for me to go, I wasn’t sure what she meant, so we wound up miming and pointing a few more times. Really, there was only one way to go, but my directionally challenged brain wouldn’t allow it to be easy.

We all met up after parking, put our masks on, and off we went to see the art. It was large art. There were pieces that puzzled us. There were sections where we asked, Is that art? Later on, in the vending machines, we found a book called Is It Art? So I suppose we aren’t the only ones who ask that.

The grounds are sprawling. We ventured up and down hills. We checked maps and couldn’t figure out where exactly to go. We became very focused on finding the North Woods. We did go into them a bit but not on purpose. Every place we went was pretty much accidental.

While I couldn’t find the man coming out of the ground that I saw the other time I was there, we did see a plethora of sculptures. We decided some were put together with pulleys, some with glue, and some with magic.

I’m holding it up with magic and invisible pulleys.
Nosy

What a way to end a summer. What a way to complete a wish.

Outdoorsy Part VI: Orienteering

More hiking means more summer wishes came true on a rather lengthy excursion to the end of the North Fork. As a South Shore gal, I know Montauk as The End, so I wonder what everyone on the North Shore calls Orient. It’s also an end. It’s a really far end. Along the way, I saw farms. It’s that kind of far.

Upon arrival at Orient Beach State Park, a lovely woman in the booth gave me and the Captain the rundown of what to expect in the park. She told me to drive really slow because there’s no rush. It’s two miles from the booth to the parking lot, so we could look out the windows to take in the scenery. She showed me a map of how we got there from Riverhead to the point. Then she showed me another map with the park trails. When we looked at the trail map, we saw really it’s only one trail, and the map shows it magnified at several levels. We made our slow drive the two miles to the lot, and we found that the day was already heating up.

We hit the trail where it was marked Start and End. That seems surreal, but it’s not because the trail isn’t a loop. When you walk towards the booth end, you’ve gotta walk back unless you plan to walk home. We took a side nature trail for a moment and read about a guy who was there once in history, and then we went back to the normal trail because I wasn’t wearing high socks and I’d refused to put on bug spray. So onto the paved path we went.

High socks and bug spray were not necessary on the pavement. After walking a bit, we went down onto the beach. Yup, this was pretty much a trip to the end of the earth, and it was heaven. Also, there was red sand. I’ve got a penchant for any sand not sand colored.

Then I tried to make a bird friend again. Why do I stalk the birds? I don’t even like birds all that much. Captain and I even talked about how I know a lot of birders and am not into birds. He considers birds dinosaurs.

We skipped rocks. That’s right, we. I got some skipping to happen. I’m heading for the Olympics soon.

After a bit more walking, Capt. was like, This is the hottest and sweatiest I’ve ever been. I was like, Oooh look at how the sand is so pretty. He was like, Let’s find some shade. I was like, Everything is so pretty! He was like, There’s shade over there, so let’s sit. I was like, Why are you so hot? He was like, It’s boiling out here. We climbed up between some boulders and got into the shadows of some trees. Then I felt sweat literally pouring into my eyes, and I had to use the flap of my backpack to wipe it away. Actually, yes, it was very, very hot. It kind of snuck up on me.

We rested and agreed to keep going at least to the next half mile marker. But first, we broke some rules.

A breeze kicked up as we ventured to find a lighthouse. We saw one, but it didn’t look like the one on the cartoon map. I thought the one we were looking for was on the other side of the beach and the marsh. We headed back, this time taking the paved path and reading the signs along the marsh. Everything felt cooler until we hit the patch where it was maybe 20 degrees hotter. I have no idea how that happened, but for a stretch, we were drenched again. I made a plan: get to the car and blast the A/C for at least five minutes while downing lots of water. I’d brought my insulated cooler bag packed with water and coconut water that I’m drinking because I have dehydration issues lately and I don’t like drinking it but I am because I have to.

Next, we walked the beach. Captain spotted a kayak at the lifeguard station and offered to grab it so I could sit in it. I declined, pointing out that it was daylight, there were lifeguards around, and they probably wouldn’t want us to do that.

Why the kayak? I cannot quite explain this. For the past year, almost every new person I’ve encountered has talked to me about kayaks. This prompted me to remember a found poem I wrote called “Survey” that lists all the weird questions I get when I take surveys to get free stuff. One of the questions for quite some time was “Do you own a kayak?” (The poem got published in an anthology put out by one of my favorite journals, and now that journal has closed indefinitely because the editor decided to be a terrible human towards a writer and then shuttered everything. Sigh.) The surveys also asked, “Do you own a crab pot?” What the hell is a crab pot?

Anyway, the kayak thing. I decided one of my summer wishes was to sit in a kayak on land. When I shared this on Instagram, I got a slew of replies about how to possibly make this wish come true. This bolsters my point: I know kayak people. The universe is telling me something.

I can’t swim. If you are saying to yourself right now, Everyone can swim, stop that thought immediately. I get told this often. I know how to swim. I can do the doggie paddle across half a six foot pool. I do not float. Accept this, and let it go.

Therefore, I’ve never understood kayaks. I refer to them as Little Boats of Death. They are cousin to the Canoe, The Boat of Death for Two.

I learned some things walking at the beach at Orient. First, we found ourselves at another body of water. When you’re out on the end of the fork, there’s water everywhere, and we found what seemed to be half-beach-half-marsh. People were paddle boarding and kayaking. We skipped some rocks. That’s right. We. Olympics here we come. I learned that skipping rocks does not make people fall off of their paddle boards.

I also learned that some kayaks are open. I didn’t know this. I thought you were basically in the boat as part of the boat. Thirdly, some kayaks fit two people. My mind kept exploding.

Then we saw them. Kayaks on the shore. Captain sat in one. He was like, It’s a good fit. He got out. I got in. And there ya go. Wish granted.

After kayaking on land, we went around through another path and found the parking lot again. We looped back onto the beach for a final shot at rock skipping and ocean watching. Then we were done with the park, which had been filled to capacity. We never found the bug lighthouse. On the way out, I pointed out a replica of the lighthouse we did see. Turns out it was the Orient Lighthouse, which seems appropriate.

On the way back West, we stopped at The Candy Man. We got candy.

Then we stopped at the Lighthouse Museum. It was closed. We found a set of steps down to another beach. So we took them. I lost count of the steps when I saw seashells in the trees. After a few minutes of beachiness, we headed back up. I took breaks every landing because I knew if I didn’t, I’d keel over at the top. I know this because once I decided to take the stairs instead of the escalator at that subway stop where the E and the F meet and it’s vertical and maybe the equivalent to climbing a mountain, so I took my time.

We tried finding some art galleries on the way back. Whatever we found was closed. I found a library for a bathroom break, and the librarian was like, We have an art gallery upstairs. I love serendipity. And apparently my new thing is taking pictures of signs in bathrooms. You should know that I sanitize my phone a lot. Like a lot a lot.

And I love Long Island. I love that I can drive out to the ends of the earth and make my way back all in one day. I love that I can see different kinds of water and beaches. I love that I can pass by real farms and vineyards. I love that roadside stands have hand-painted signs to sell corn and honey and pie. And you can bet I’ll be heading back to have some corn and honey and pie. And there’s a whole community of kayakers that I still don’t quite understand, but I have somehow become adjacent to, and it’ll be fun figuring out why. Whatever the universe has in store for me, I’m ready for.

Outdoorsy Part V: Many Parks Are One Park

Post Tropical Storm Isaias on another rainy morning, Capt. and I decided it was a good day to go hiking again. The plan was Blydenburgh, which seems to be the middle of the Greenbelt. I got there and found it closed. I remembered that I had the Parks By Me app, so I searched and found Caleb Smith was nearby. We met there at the locked gates. Another park down. Capt. was like, “You wanna go to Nissequogue? I know it’s open.” And that’s how we decided to take a hike along the mighty Nissequogue and whatever else we could find that was open.

Because there’d been storms, getting there proved to be a puzzle. Trees were still down everywhere. Fortunately, the park was open and the rain was letting up. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of construction going on, and the only bathroom was a portapotty. My need to pee outweighed my aversion to moveable toilet rooms, so I held my breath, whined a lot, and succeeded in not giving myself a UTI. Then we were off! (Yes, I practically bathed in hand sanitizer).

Because there’d been storms, I was on high alert for tree branches coming down. Capt. was like, “They cleared the paths.” I was like, “There can still be falling branches.” Here’s how that works: Tall trees have lots of branches, and if a high branch falls, it could land on the lower branches, and then it teeters until an unsuspecting little lady walks under it, and then blam! Lady down.

That scenario did not play out thankfully. Instead, our hike took us to the beach.

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING: WE WERE IN THE WOODS AND THEN WE WERE AT THE BEACH!!! Gotta love Long Island.

The first thing I saw as we made our way to the river shore was an army of hermit crabs scurrying from the water into the high grass. [Note: I learned after posting a short clip in my Instagram story that they were fiddler crabs, not hermit crabs, and that I might enjoy a field trip with Professor Zito when he looks at marine life. Instagram is a wealth of information. P. S. I do not know who Professor Zito is.] I told the crabs they didn’t have to run away, but they did not listen to me. Then I pointed out to the captain that we were near water and rocks.

Here’s the third installment of Christina Skips Rocks.

Capt. handed me a rock. He was like, “I guess I’ll go first so you can see how low I get to the water.”

I was like, “My entire life is low to the water, Captain.”

Fair point.

He skipped a rock, and it jumped twice and sank. I threw a rock, and it kerplunked. Round 1: Unsuccessful.

He skipped a rock, and it jumped twice and sank. I threw a rock, and it jumped once and sank.

Let me say that again: I skipped a friggin rock!!!!!!!!! I did it!!!!!!!!

The two of us kind of stared at each other for a moment. Then he congratulated me, and I did a happy dance. Then I was like, “You know I can never skip a rock again, right? Like, I did it, and now that’s it for me.” I was like this when my brother and I won music trivia as Sip This. The host was like, “You have to keep coming,” and I was like, “Nope, we’re going out on a high note.” We kept going to trivia. I did win another time. So here on the beach, I decided to give it another go.

Let’s say that Round 3 proved unsuccessful.

From the beach, we went to the bluff. We stopped for snacking and watched the fishermen. Along with the fishermen were four young boys doing what young boys do. At one point, three of them were right near me waving around a detached fish head. I pulled my mask tighter around my face; forget germs–fish heads smell. From below on the pier came “Boys, get down here!” and then, “Sorry, you can yell at them.” The guy in charge of the boys wrangled them back and then continued to scold them every few moments for the next few minutes until they decided to calm down and fish again.

From the bluff, we went to the woods. From the woods, we went to the beach. From the beach, we went to the bluff. And then somehow we wound up back on the path where the crabs were. I have no idea how we did it, which is why I don’t hike on my own. Since we were on the beach again, we gave rock skipping another go. I skipped another one! We ended on a high note.

On the other side of the park is the closed down mental institution that is now a park. We walked that, looking at the abandoned buildings and taking in more downed trees. Because I didn’t think I could face another portapotty moment, we walked to the library and used their bathroom. Their song of choice for hand washing is “Over the Rainbow,” and the sign says to sing it twice. I wasn’t even through the first few lines when I knew I’d already hit twenty seconds, so either they don’t know the tempo of Judy Garland’s melodious tune, or they are aiming for a super long hand washing session. Outside, we passed a garden, and I snapped a butterfly landing and leaving. I also made a new friend.

Then we saw a dinosaur. On the way back through the mental institution grounds, I thought I was seeing things at first. I saw what looked like a T-Rex bobbing its head around. Finally, after squinting and doing my best to decipher what was happening, I said to the captain, “Hey, what do you see up ahead?” And he was like, “That’s a dinosaur.” If this had been one of those heat wave days, I would have chalked it up to hallucinating, but the two of us were both hydrated and well. We were indeed seeing a dinosaur.

I’ve been manifesting things lately. My energy and the world’s energy is totally in sync. Case in point: on one of my walks, I was mentally composing a text message to someone I hadn’t seen in a while. A few moments later, she appeared on the path walking towards me. Yeah, I know. Trippy, right?

So a little bit before the dinosaur sighting, Capt. and I were talking about Old Bethpage Village. I was like, “Adults in costume sometimes make me uncomfortable.” Then I described the hierarchy of discomfort. The most egregious are the characters with the big heads that don’t say anything (Mickey Mouse at Disney; the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup at Hershey Park). Under that are people in costume who never break character, not even for a second (the knights at Medieval Times; colonials in every colonial village).

Now here I’d gone and done it again. I’d manifested myself a dinosaur. Had I been alone, I would’ve backtracked and circumnavigated the park back. And I would’ve gotten lost doing so, and it would have been worth not being near the dino. Since Capt. was there, I didn’t think he’d want to take the trip, so we gave the dino a wide berth as we passed by.

Nissiquogue State Park 8 7 2020 (3)

Then we debated a bit about the kayak plan. I have this plan that I want to sit in a kayak on land before the summer ends. There’s a long explanation behind this desire that I can explain another time. We saw below us at the water people near some kayaks. The launch where we were was roped off, so to get to the guy, we’d have to drive somewhere. I was like, “That’s too much kayak effort.” So Capt. decided to let it go for now. However, he’s been kayaking, and he may be able to hook a gal up with one. On land. With a life vest. Because as much as this gal is learning to love nature, this gal is also still highly aware of all the dangers that are the reason it’s taken so long to get out in nature. I like being alive. I plan to keep it that way for a while longer. Which is why I wore appropriate attire to ward off slipping and lyme disease. I even put on a hat.

Nissiquogue State Park 8 7 2020 (7)

Oh, also, happy birthday, capt.

It’s Electrifying (AKA More Tesla Stuff)

Children at the museum! This was my first encounter with a school field trip at the Nassau County Museum of Art. I assume it was a class trip. There were children there. They were sitting in a semi circle. Then they scattered all around me, drawing. I love that they were taking in the art. This is what every day in school should be. Also, it should be noted on the website, something like: Hey Christina, You Will Awkwardly Encounter Children At The Museum Today.

Actually, the only awkward encounter was with the security guard who was standing beyond the semi-closed doors separating the entry lobby to the first gallery. I was like, Can I come through? He was like, Of course. As if the doors being almost-closed was completely normal. That’s when I saw the children. I didn’t gasp. At least I don’t think I did.

Anyway. Energy: The Power of Art! The artwork showed the abundance of forces in the world through visual art. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, a thingie that creates traveling light with a zapping sound, panels of iridescent fabric alongside panes of glass that I did not knock over at all. Some of it was abstract. Some of it was super realistic. Some of it had words in it, and I love a piece of art that incorporates words, especially when those words are by Rimbaud.

IMG_5904

The Delusion of Quixote by Scott McIntire

IMG_5919

Dancing on the Beach by Doug Argue– This is the one with the words!

IMG_5917

IMG_5947

Road Trip 1 by Scott McIntire

IMG_5923

I made my own art!

D3DA7788-1C9B-4308-9131-01135D2E4D99

I was so excited about not breaking anything that I didn’t get the artist’s name. For shame!

There was a room dedicated to my boyfriend Tesla. That room was closed for a private event. Um, how about no? So I watched one of the documentaries in the exhibit, and by the time that was over, the room was open. Granted, everything in the room was stuff I’ve seen before because I’ve visited his lab at Wardenclyffe a bunch of times, but still, seeing it was a necessity.

CB940078-3BC8-4227-B83A-E3EF05184DC8

And then I saw my most favorite thing in the museum:

90A00A54-563E-474B-BC68-1971CE2558FA

I think that’s going to be the title of my next poem.

BONUS TIME!

And also, there was a cool exhibit a while ago and I just learned how to get videos to work on this blog, so here’s the cool thing I saw last time that is not about energy but  is about fooling the eye.  The artwork? Does not move. Or does it?

“Lanterns”

When I hear lanterns, I think of nighttime in the Old West and a barn fire from a horse kicking over a kerosene lantern and then an old man in a nightgown grabbing his own lantern and running onto the porch and his eyes going wide at the blaze and then cowboys and lanterns and fire.

Also, I think of Chinese lanterns. Those are pretty!

Winter Lantern Festival sounds like the pretty kind. Over in Snug Harbor on Staten Island, lanterns were ablaze! Except that they weren’t kerosene fueled and weren’t really lanterns. S and I headed out on a not-too-cold winter night to see the lanterns which turned out to be lights, and the lights were pretty, so it all worked out.

Snug Harbor is pretty small compared to the number of people who were swarming to see the pretty lanterns. That meant a lot of driving in circles. When I was about to make a fifth loop, the security guy beckoned my car over and asked why we were there. S was like, To see the lights. He was like, Okay there’s no parking inside but you can park right in front of my car. He indicated a very tight spot for which I would need to parallel park. And it took me under five minutes, which is highly impressive. I also sweat out maybe a pint of parking sweats, which is expected. (If y’all thought there would be no sweating, y’all have forgotten key elements of my soul).

Not pretty was the soft mud beneath our feet as we walked through. We wore boots. We were smart. I’m including this link here– https://gothamtogo.com/winter-lantern-festival-2018-on-staten-island/ — to show how the photo envisions the ground as magic unmuddy tiles, which is the opposite of what we were walking on. There were paths made of some sort of outdoor pathway building materials, but to get closer to some of the displays, there was lots of mud in the dark. But it was lit by these pretty non-lantern lights, so, in turn, it was kind of pretty, too!

The lights were LED sculptures and Eastern themed. There were large flowers, a panda, and a dragon at the beginning. The Chinese zodiac lit up another pathway. There was a shimmery peacock, which I suppose is not necessarily Chinese, but more worldly. Other worldly things were the Christmas tree and some butterflies. And we walked through a shark. It’s hard to explain, but it was also pretty.

A small section of candy appeared, and we saw it from across the way. I was like, That was made for you. S was like, for sure. When we got to it, she kept turning towards me as I was taking pictures of her from behind, and finally I was like, Hey you’re ruining it! And she was like, Ohhh, yes, good idea.

A few years back, we went to a Will Cotton exhibit and I snapped a quick photo of her from behind looking at the painting, and it was pretty amazing. Since then, whenever we come across a candy-themed exhibit, I usually recreate the magic of S In Awe Of Sweets. Here in the dark backlit by candy, it does the trick.

winterlanternfest 2018 (40)

#SouthpawSweets

Then there was another panda. Like a person in a costume panda. I stopped short and then told S we had to walk quickly. When she saw what I was avoiding, she cackled and then tried to get me to go back twice to take a picture. No, no thank you. I am not going near adults in costumes that don’t speak. It’s weird and awkward and I stand by my choice.

She also found some lanterns for me! Lantern success!

winterlanternfest 2018 (32)

Look At All Of These LANTERNS!!!

After we were lanterned out, we headed to the car. Only we couldn’t find the car because once we were out of the exit, I was like, We’ve never been on this street before. S asked a security guy about exits, and he was like, Did you park on Blah De Blah? And I was like, I have no idea. So he was like, That means you did. He gave us directions back into the park and then out again. I had to parallel out of the space halfway because by the time I’d maneuvered back and forth a bunch of times, the other security guy pulled his car away. More success! Very little sweating!

And all by the light of the pretty lanterns.

Catacombs, Pudding, and Holland Taylor

Maybe rats and other creepy crawlies come to mind when thinking of the underground world of New York City. You take the subway? You’ve probably seen a rat. In fact, you take the subway, you’ve probably seen some things. Lots of things. Anyway, this is not about subways. This is about what’s underground in NYC, and if you go to the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you’ll find catacombs. You can tour them by candlelight, and you can keep the candle and keep lighting it as long as the battery has juice because it’s not a real candle because there was already a fire there once, so the non-fire candle is a safer way to take a tour.

Tommy of Tommy’s New York came into the air conditioned holding room across from the church to say hello and explain that the tour is so popular that he splits up the groups and has two guides go in opposite directions. It seems that everyone wants to see a catacomb by candlelight. What you may not be expecting is that in addition to catacombs, the tour goes through a church and through the cemetery grounds and you get a tour guide who has a tiny projector to show you neat pictures of people who were buried. You learn gossipy history. You learn stuff while underground holding a candle!

Things we learned (oh! “we” refers to my officemates and me):

  1. People used to bury their loved ones in the catacombs and then go into the catacombs to pray because the catacombs were kept open.
  2. People learned that open catacombs could start to smell, so the catacombs were sealed and reopened and sealed and reopened.
  3. Exit signs glow in the eeriest way underground.
  4. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians protected old St. Patrick’s so no one could set fire to it, and the wall surrounding the cemetery is a fortified wall.
  5. I cannot spell cemetery correctly on the first try. I keep writing cemetary. I’m a teacher.
  6. The Italian family that started Italian restaurants in NYC is buried there.
  7. There’s a crypt that was left unlocked which means it’s accessible and no one has come back to lock it and it’s got Edison light bulbs in it along with some very expensive marble and tile because, although you can’t take it with you, you can for dang sure come close.
  8. Boss Tweed came up, and it was super interesting, and I can’t remember any of it (grief fog!), but I do remember that two guys who didn’t like each other very much are buried next to each other.
  9. Getting buried there is way expensive.
  10. I would not want the job of cranking the wheel to make the Erben Organ make sound.
  11. Sheep need a vacation.

After the grand tour, we got coupons to places to eat nearby! Though we didn’t use the coupons, we did head over to Rice to Riches for rice pudding. The signage alone overwhelmed me. I had to order at a counter–one of my top non-favorite things to do in life–and there were vats of pudding to choose from and then more signs. Worth it. I finished almost all of my pudding before realizing that my insides might try to climb out from the effects of eating so far out of the  norm. However, a bowl of Be My Banana Coconut is simply irresistible and worth anything that could possibly happen as aftermath–and nothing happened so I clearly make good choices.

Rice

Like I joined Entertainment Weekly’s panel and got invited to the Crosby Hotel for a preview of the second season pilot of Mr. Mercedes. It’s a show on the Audience Network through AT&T Direct Now. That means I cannot watch the show at home, but it sure was thrilling. After the viewing, there was a Q&A with three main cast members and a producer: Brendon Gleeson, Holly Gibney, Holland Taylor, and Jack Bender. Thrilling again! I was especially gleeful to see Holland Taylor. Don’t ask me why. I simply got giddy. She’s so elegant!

Mr Mercedes 2

Let’s add this all up, okay? Three things in one day. This might go down in history as the day I did the most things ever. And also a day when I learned I can eat a vat of rice pudding, watch one episode of a show I’ll likely not see again, AND tour the underground of NYC without bumping into a rat. A good day, right there.

 

Hyde Park Hudson

The Roosevelt clan has an intricate history that can get convoluted in many branches of their family tree across New York. Teddy Roosevelt was all the rage two years ago when my brother and I visited Sagamore Hill. This year, we turned our sights to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, his wife but also his distant-some-number-removed cousin. Don’t ask me to explain it. The tree is confusing. Ask a park ranger. They know everything.

Incidentally, I’d just seen that sprawling tribute to FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt in DC, so I was primed for this occasion.

We got up to the Roosevelt headquarters in time for a tour of the home. Because we were a small group, we fit on the little tram that took us from the park building to the house. A distance of maybe a three minute walk, so we felt kind of silly taking a ride. But what were we gonna do? Be jerks and say, Nope! We’re better than all of you and prefer to walk! Jerk move, no thank you.

The views from the back of the house sparkle and gleam. The inside of the house is mostly roped off (and we couldn’t go upstairs because it was hot and there was  no A/C, and again, we wouldn’t have minded, but again, we’re not going to be the jerks). The most interesting thing about the house is the glass walkway installed over the stairs and ramp from the foyer into the office. It preserves not only the physical materials but also the fact that a President of the United States who was nominated and then elected for four terms did all that while needing the assistance of 10-pound braces and a wheelchair. We need more of that can-do attitude these days. And maybe a bit more of a return to class. At least, like, civility. At least, like, in public.

We moved onto the library. Fact: The FDR Presidential Library was the first presidential library and he used it while in office. This is the point of a library. This library has his car in the basement, too. Letters to the president hang on the wall, and not all of them are complimentary. One guy wrote a letter to say how he was disappointed in his vote for FDR. Someone else sent him a recipe.

The exhibit showed posters from the world wars, complete with an alert at the beginning to warn that there would be insensitive references to Japanese Americans. There was not warning that it would also have completely sexist materials, but I guess that’s just, like, everything, so no warning needed. I kept thinking, oh that might be racist, and, hmm, that’s got a bit of the racism. Then I turned a corner and saw a poster that started out Jappy Jappy, and was like, ahhh, there’s the racism. Which means that racism appears on lots of levels from subtle to in-yo-face. The sexism I simply stopped taking note of. Because I’m a girl. Thinking is hard.

These posters really made me realize how much World War II was the main focus of life in the United States at that time. One war played part in the country taking a turn for the worse. Then another war made the country start to thrive. Everyone had a part. Don’t travel because traveling is for the troops! Rationing means the troops get to eat! Gossip gets troops killed! Hey, Ladies, write a letter to a fella!

Another Fact: The iconic Rosie The Riveter campaign did not catch on until much later as part of widespread nostalgia and a move towards feminism.

It would be nice if one day we could have peace unite us and thrive on that. The military’s goal would be to help in times of natural disaster and need. It would be really, really nice.

The rest of the library houses: the war-room complete with maps and rotary phones; FDR’s office that includes a copy of Ferdinand the Bull; a statue made out of pieces from the Berlin Wall; drawers and drawers and drawers of archived files.

The grounds also have a rose garden that grows roses and other pretty things. There lies the Roosevelts and their dog, too.

Onto Val-Kill, the side of Val-Kill Industries and the home that Eleanor owned. There’s another long story about all that, which I cannot even begin to retell. Again, ask a park ranger. The tid-bit I remember clearly is that Mrs. Robinson, that song from The Graduate that really has nothing to do with The Graduate, was originally entitled Mrs. Roosevelt. Mind. Blown. Right?

Upon arrival, a park ranger in a tram asked if we would like a ride up to the the Vistor’s Center. Because when we pulled in I’d literally said out loud, I wonder where we go now, I said to the guy, Sure thing! We took a very quick ride up a small hill on a dirt road and over a one-lane bridge that’s smaller than my driveway. Again, we felt a little silly, but really, this help us figure out where to go. (Later on when we were leaving, the tram ranger pulled up next to us and asked if we wanted a ride back. We politely declined.)

We stood in the room where Eleanor Roosevelt spoke to JFK when he came to ask for her support. She agreed to support him only if civil rights were a major part of his platform. We stood in a room where much of the furniture had been made on-sight. We stood in rooms that were only a percentage of the original because the grounds had not originally been declared a landmark and everything was sold at auction.

Hey, if you bought something from that auction, return it. It’s history. And don’t be a jerk and ask for lots of money for it. Eleanor Roosevelt did lots of good things, so do a good thing, back.

Also, at some point in wandering through rooms of files and historical content, I realized that Herbert Hoover and J. Edgar Hoover weren’t related. Okay, to be completely honest, I knew that there was a Herbert Hoover and I knew that there was a J. Edgar Hoover, but in my mind, somehow, they were the same person. So when I posed the question, When was Hoover in charge of the FBI, before or after his presidency?, my brother literally palm-slapped his forehead. And I was like, Oh, yeah, two names, two people, were they related, though? Another palm-to-forehead. So that’s a no.  I’m a teacher!

Then it was time to walk over the Hudson. Walk Over The Hudson is a pedestrian/cyclist span across the Hudson. It gets you really close to the sun in 90 degree heat, but the wind from the elevation is a nice trade-off.

Because we were in the direct sun, I put on my hat. My head shape and hats do not play nicely. Because we were in the direct sun, I was sweating buckets, which should surprise no one. Additionally, I had on my free sunglasses that I got at Summer Solstice. What I’m getting at here is that I clearly was the most attractive gal out and about in the Hudson Valley. Back it down, gents! Back. It. Down.

IMG_0858

Even nicer are the views. Stunning. Truly stunning.

Also stunning, quite literally, are lightening strikes, as this sign hints towards.

IMG_0891.JPG

Capping off the day, we ate at a diner. My favorite type of restaurant! Eveready Diner appeared on Season 1 of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, so my brother was excited about that. I’ve eaten at two other DDD places, and they both were bleh. This experience turned that bleh into a yum! The food was so friggin good. Since my brother is a history teacher who loves DDD, this entire day was my birthday present to him. Happy Birthday, big brother!

IMG_0899

 

Lost In The Mountains of NY

When Bright Hill Press invited me to read in Treadwell, NY, the invitation sent me reeling to days of slippery uphill walks to class, fuzzy wool socks, wearing coats upon coats, frozen snot (it’s a real thing), and gray skies for days. SUNY Oneonta, fifteen minutes from Treadwell, was my home for a few years during my undergrad days. I knew the drive there would come as second nature, as much as second nature could be for a gal who gets lost in parking lots. Not even a slight hesitation. I said yes yes yes, packed up some books and some outfits, and off I went towards the mountains of upstate New York.

Upstate New Yorkers, would probably frown upon my description of the Oswego area as upstate. For me, a life-long Long Islander, anything above the Bronx is upstate. However, those on the Canadian-US border are kind of more upstate than where I was headed. I was really going to Central New York. Unless this territory-debate has changed over the years. You can see it’s kind of ingrained in me.

Anyway, at three and a half to four hours depending on traffic, I set out for a day or two of hilly mountain driving. I stopped in Sloatsberg for a quick bite. I stopped in Roscoe because you have to stop in Roscoe. The Roscoe Diner is there. It’s like a law or something. I didn’t eat at the diner. I visited the parking lot and moved on.

Then came the part of the trip where I veered away from the Oneonta route and headed to Treadwell instead. There were huge trucks that sometimes drove behind me on one-lane roads. My car was doing really well on the vertical roads, but I still panicked every time one appeared because I didn’t want them to think I was going too slow. I didn’t feel like I  was going slow until cars passed me. I kept telling myself that slow and steady wins the race. Then I would counter my own self with we’re not in a race.

Then I passed a milkery and knew that I was very much in the country.  What’s a milkery? It’s a very large factory where milk is made that appears out of nowhere on the side of a mountain. Many of the large trucks were coming and going from here. I figured this is where a lot of the cows I saw were sending their milk. That’s how it works, right? Right.

Rounding a bend after hours of clutching the wheel, I came upon a sign at the end of a major road that had four arrows at the top. This was not a street sign. Instead, the arrows indicated: Franklin, Oneonta, Delhi, and Walton (I think these were the four). Ahh, I was in the area. Then I followed my GPS turn by turn and then the last turn came and I missed it.

No big deal. This is the reason I have a GPS. It’s not so much for directions to get to places. It’s for directions for when I screw up. So I waited for the recalculation, and it didn’t come. I took a quick glance. There was a wide blank space on the map and a blue dot hovering in the center. I’d lost GPS. I’d lost all phone signal. There would be no phone calls. There would be no artificial intelligence. There would be only me and my brains.

No big deal. I’d pull over and turn around. Ummmm, nope. When you’re on a mountain, there’s nowhere to do that. If you miss a turn and have no GPS, you really have no idea how long you have to keep driving  until you can turn around. It could be a few minutes. It could be an hour.

And that’s when I did what any self-respecting adult would do. I started drive-crying. Crying at the GPS. Crying that I was lost. Crying that I just wanted to get out of the friggin car. This is me and my brains working it out.

I found a road, finally, and turned around. I found the turn on the way back. Then I found that I was too early. What’s a gal to do? No cell service to call or message. No nothing. No one around. No place to ask anyone in person. So I headed back over to that four-arrow sign and decided to drive in the direction of Oneonta.

The road. To Oneonta. Was closed. I shit you not.

So I did some more drive-crying, only this time, it was more of sit-in-the-motionless-car-crying. Then I chose the next best arrow. Delhi. I had no idea how long it would take me to get there. I just drove and drove, passing cows, passing farms. Drove and drove until I heard a bunch of dinging, which mean I had emails arriving, which meant my service was back on. I kept driving until I saw the sign for Delhi and then cried because I’d found Delhi. I parked on the main street in Delhi and walked around a bit. Then I saw the time and decided I needed to eat and change and get ready for my reading. From Delhi, the road to Oneonta was open, so I headed towards the Southside Mall.

Up and down and twisting around, the GPS stayed on the whole way. I rounded a mountain bend and saw a sign and started drive-crying again, this time because I was all nostalgic because this was the turn to Oneonta. Oneonta has a Panera. Oneonta has wi-fi. Oneonta is technologically advanced, at least more than Treadwell.

I ate. I changed. I messaged. I called. I charted out my way back. I realized that the way back from Oneonta was the street where I’d turned around when I missed my turn, which means that only one road to Oneonta was closed.

The reading was fabulous. I read with Tom Clausen,  a poet who writes what he calls “little poems.” They are haiku and haiku-adjacent. The poems are very lovely; a lot of them read like tiny meditations. I read about space and sci-fi and vacations. I gave away astronaut ice cream and stickers because that’s my schtick. I crashed at Bright Hill because they have a room for crashing. Tom drove back home which would take about an hour, which is not long when you live up there. I perused their library. I wrote and read. I hooked up to their wi-fi. Life was good.

For breakfast, they left for me a bagel and a banana and some other breakfasty stuff, which was such a nice gesture. I wasn’t a bagel snob. I ate the bagel, and it was good. I headed out shortly after breakfast. The morning was sunny but chilly–probably not chilly for up there but it was for me.

I. Did not. Get lost. In the mountains!

Instead, I got lost in the Bronx.

But then I found my way home. Which is always my favorite part of traveling.