Outdoorsy Part IV: Caumsett As An Adult

Fifth grade meant an overnight field trip to Caumsett. Sixth grade meant an entire week of overnights to Ashokan. Bits and pieces roll around in my brain, both trips melding into one because they both concerned nature and both made me feel awkward. To be fair, everything made me feel awkward. To be fair, lots of things still do.

Here’s what I remember that I’m pretty sure is Caumsett.

  • Sitting in a big room with a fireplace, listening to a man in a thick off-white crocheted sweater who was holding a replica of a baby alligator
  • Being on the beach, watching the man, who had black curly locks to his shoulders, lick his finger and smear a rock, and then show how the rock became paint
  • Going outside in the dark, sitting on the grass, looking up at the stars as the man shone a super-powered flashlight up to point to each one as they made constellations–and then hearing the story of how the stars were made:
    • Something about a dark blanket being put over the earth, probably because humans were doing something terrible, or maybe the animals were being naughty. Then the birds flew up and tried to take it down, creating holes because their beaks weren’t strong enough to pull it. The holes allow light to come through. These are stars.
      • Recently, I wrote a poem trying to express this sentiment. I don’t think it comes across at all. I don’t think the poem has any birds in it.
  • Ticks. Grassy land has ticks. Let’s all be aware of the ticks. They can cause disease. If you see a tick, light a match, blow it out, put the tip to the tick, burn it, lather it in Vasoline, and then pluck it out with long tweezers.
    • This means that I’ve known about ticks since I was in fifth grade, so everyone can stop telling me about the ticks. They are the reason I haven’t ventured into nature all these years. (Okay, one of the many reasons).

Up until recently, I thought of Caumsett as a magical land, far far away, nestled in my childhood memories somewhere between coloring a Snoopy cartoon in kindergarten and receiving a dictionary on graduation night in the sixth grade. It was a place of wonder in nature far out there.

Then my brother brought up riding in Caumsett. I was like, What do you mean? He was like, I ride my bike there. I was like, What are you saying? He was like, You do know Caumsett is on Long Island, right? I was like,  ? ? ? ?  He was like, Caumsett is on Long Island; you can drive there. I. Was. Floored.

It’s taken a few years more, but I’ve found a hiking adventure buddy willing to put up with my tiptoeing into the land of tick-infested-tall-grasses and penchant for needing snacks and clear path to a bathroom wherever we go. I’m a fortunate gal.

Sidenote: I’m now incredibly aware that my first question to anyone whenever they ask me to go somewhere is, What about bathrooms? I have no idea when this new habit started, but I think it’s a pandemic thing. I drink a lot of water. I have already peed in one plastic container out in a park because there were no bathrooms. I’d do it again. However, I’d rather do it in a toilet, unless that toilet is the equivalent to the Trainspotting bathroom. P. S. The bathroom at Robert Moses comes pretty close to that one. Now this sidenote has taken a turn towards full tangent, so let’s get back to Caumsett, A Childhood Jaunt Turned Adult Realness.

We met at Caumsett after my GPS took me past it. Getting there proves to be an interesting venture because you get to a point north on Long Island until you need to go across this little two lane thingamajig out in the water. Then you wind around and there are mansion-like houses and then the park that the GPS doesn’t recognize. I found the bathroom. Best bathroom I’ve seen in any park hands down! (See? Bathroom Awareness is a thing). Then I handed the Captain the map and was like, This piece of paper means nothing to me.

By the way, I call him the Captain after one of his characters in a story he was working on. Also, he can kayak, so, he’s like a captain for real.

Sidenote that literally just popped into my head: When I was planning my wedding, we found a guy who was a captain with whom I became obsessed. I totally wanted to have the ceremony officiated by a captain. That captain was busy the day we planned to get married. Then that captain kept emailing us about how he might be able to work it out. He had two weddings planned that day already, but he for some reason became reverse- obsessed with us. We stopped answering his emails and settled on Judy. Judy was the best. And now I’m divorced. Not Judy’s fault. The End.

The captain took us into the walled garden and remarked at how the garden didn’t really have much color. Being the height of summer, I suggested that maybe there were more bloomy things happening in the spring.

Out of the garden, we walked past the horsefly dragonfly things that I literally gasped at. We found raspberries. Okay, he found raspberries. I was like, Those are raspberries!?!? I see them all the time! Can they be eaten? He was like, Yes, you can eat a raspberry. He plucked a red one, washed it off with his water, and ate it. I was astonished. It’s as if I were back in fifth grade seeing the magical land of Caumsett for the first time.

We found a building that was maybe called the garage house. It looked abandoned but some sort of unit was chugging along inside the first floor. I wanted to climb the steps to the top, but I thought better of it, figuring if any of those large bugs came at me, I’d fall to my death while trying to swat them. Capt decided to give it a shot, so afterwards, I did, too. I expected great views, but mostly, I could see only the other part of the building and lots of trees.

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We went around the building out to the back and Oh. Meee. Oh. Myyy. I grabbed my head, both hands on either side, stunned. The hill we were on was high and rolled down to a pond. Beyond that, the water went out way back to meet the sky. I couldn’t stop saying how pretty it was. Then from behind, I heard, You’re looking at Connecticut. An older man and a woman arrived behind us. I was like, Connecticut is beautiful!

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Then Capt and I walked down the hill. I stopped to look back. (I did not turn into a pillar of salt. That’s a joke for all you myth-joke-enthusiasts). Up on the hill, the house reached towards the sky behind it. I did a happy dance. Everything kept being pretty.

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Except the bugs. The dragon horse fly things that I’d panicked about before flew around the path by the pond. There were dozens of dozens. I repeated aloud many times, They aren’t real. They aren’t real. They aren’t real.

See? This is why I’ve always turned down offers to go hiking and camping. I know myself. For anyone who’s a nature person, like a real true camper hiker one with nature person, my behavior isn’t cute. It’s juvenile and annoying. I can’t help it. It’s my reaction to all things creepy and crawly. I don’t think these things will kill me, but I also don’t like them.

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There weren’t too many in the little path under the trees to the water, so we went there and watched some fish jump up through the surface and splash back down. There were birds. There were flies. Capt talked about the British. This is very similar to the conversations I have with my brother when we go on Sibling Adventures. He tells me the history of a place, and I respond with, I totally did not know that.

We walked the rest of the path down to the beach. [They aren’t real. They aren’t real.] Yet again, Long Island does its thing. We were in the woods. Then we’re at the beach. How does that even happen? It gets me every time.

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This beach has rocks because it’s the North Shore. That means it was time for the second installment of Christina Skips Rocks. Capt skipped a few, one leaping no less than five times before going under. I basically threw a rock into the water. Then he showed me how to hold it better. I held it differently and instead of kerplunking straight down, it went diagonally into the water, splashing straight to the bottom. He suggested I do a windup like a pitcher in baseball and then was like, Just throw it, like a ball. Explaining that when I throw things, they don’t go where I want them to, I threw a rock into the water as if I were throwing a ball. He was like, Yeah, so you do have the power to throw. That was never the question. I’m quite mighty. I simply have no skillz in aim.

I tried a few more times. I managed to throw a rock straight behind me onto the sand. Then I threw one in the opposite diagonal, which I have no idea how that happened because if my momentum is going left, how does the rock go right. Then I did another and it almost skimmed the water before drowning. The beach has many rocks. We could have stayed all day. Instead, I was like let’s do those little rock tower things.

The proper term is cairn. He’d never built one. I was surprised because he’s been on rocky shores all his life and can skip rocks. How could he never have built one? So we built them. Mine wobbled until I realized my bottom rock wasn’t built for foundation work. He built a mini-fort because he understands rocks.

In the shade, we took a break so I could eat a snack and we could both look at maps I’d bought from the Greenbelt hiker people. They are more maps with lines that I don’t quite understand. We also watched a few people arriving to enjoy the beach in beachy ways like tanning, picnicking, and swimming. One woman lay belly-down on a boulder in the water and made swimming motions with her arms and legs. This is my kind of swimming and next time, I’m going to suit up and dive in. Only I’m not going to do that because now I’m remembering there are animals in the water and so no thanks.

Capt was like, I think the path goes up there. I was like, there are people on the beach that way, so there must be a path there, too. He decided to follow my suggestion and keep walking on the beach. After a really really long walk and still not arriving to where the people were, I was like, You should know that when I make a suggestion that concerns anything about directions or spatial situations, you need to veto it. He was like, Good to know. We finally came out to some fisherman road that people drive on and took to walking it back.

I thought I didn’t like the big dragon horse flies, but I started wishing for them as we made our way down this new path. It was like walking through a wall of gnats. We didn’t stop waving our arms the whole time. We stopped to put on another layer of deet to no avail. He veered us off to another path under different trees. For a few moments, it was better, but then, flies flies flies. So. Gross.

Thankfully, he can read a map and has a good sense of direction. We saw buildings. I get excited when I see buildings because that means we made it. Of course, I checked out the bathroom again, and we ate some more food. I kept happy dancing. The park is such a pretty place.

Then we hopped in our cars and drove down the road to Target Rock. There’s another history lesson here. Something about the British again. I’m pretty sure they would shoot at the big rock in the water for target practice. In the distance beyond the water, I was mesmerized by the smokestacks out in Northport. Something about smokestacks and electricity scaffolding sends me reeling.

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Also sending me reeling, in a different way, was when Capt was like, Oh, there’s a tick on my sneaker. He flicked it off. I jumped up yelling, Tick Check Tick Check! And then proceeded to scour every inch of cloth and skin I could see. No ticks. And that’s when my bikini top closure snapped in half and my top fell off. This is how I hike.

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We hadn’t visited Target Rock in fifth grade, so that was brand new. Caumsett now is a bit different from fifth grade Caumsett. The brick of the buildings, the red ink rocks, the tall yellowing grass, that’s all the same. Actually, it’s probably mostly the same. I’ve changed, not nature. I’m more inclined to actually go out into it. I actually enjoy it.

P. S. I wore knee high socks. Because of ticks. Quit your worrying.

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I Want To Live At Wardenclyffe (aka More Tesla)

Remember when I went to celebrate Tesla’s birthday last year? Yes, cake and everything.

This year, I took a tour of Wardenclyffe since I can’t go to his birthday. I’ve decided that I would like to live there. Sure there are plants growing out of bricks, and none of the buildings are habitable.

Side Note: Brace yourself. I just looked up the word habitable to make sure I was using it the right way. What has become of my lazy-writer-MO? Oh, wait, I’ve been doing some proofreading gigs. It’s that grammar stuff.

Side Side Note: I still have like five jobs.

Anyway, Tesla! I love him! Here’s why. [All this is from notes I took in 90 degree heat in the blazing sun, so, you know, “facts.”]

The Bauer House

The Bauer House was originally a shoe shop before prohibition. Then it (allegedly?) became a speakeasy. There are tunnels leading out that were probably built to avoid police raids. The last time Telsa came to Wardenclyffe, he sat with the Bauers, speaking to them in German. German, y’all!

Tesla’s Coil

Tesla’s coil uses magnetic and/or electrical fields and can play music when hooked up to a keyboard if it doesn’t first give out so much energy as to render the keyboard inoperable. The first solution to any technology that isn’t working is: Turn It Off and Turn It On Again. I didn’t catch the name of the volunteer running the show here, but he knew, like, everything. Lots of stuff about induction and resonance. We listened to the coil play the theme song to Game Of Thrones.

Did you know that if you play a note on a stringed instrument next to another stringed instrument, the other instrument will play the same note? Yes! Because waves of some sort.

[Again, it was hot, I was sweating–yes, I know, I’m always sweating, but this time it was from the heat–and I was following science the best I could, and I’m not a science idiot but I’m also not Tesla or this very knowledgable volunteer and I don’t play violin, so let’s just accept my “waves of some sort” as accurate. Also, I don’t know if I spelled knowledgable right; it looks wrong. Back to being lazy].

Then we moved onto the Van de Graaff generator. It’s the thing that makes your hair stand on end if you put your hands on it. However, humidity can put a damper on all that electrostatic, lit-er-al-ly. So while the VdG generator messes your hair up in a fun way, humidity interrupts the fun and messes your hair up in a not fun way. This is why everyone moves to Arizona. The dry heat.

Finally, someone played the theramin. It’s an electric instrument that works without touching it. The inventor, Theramin, was from Russia and also invented things for ships to help them with navigation. Possibly.

Teleautomaton

Tesla created the first remote-controlled machines. Like, robotics, y’all. In 1898, he presented his teleautomaton at Madison Square Garden to the crowd at the Electronics Expo. Some people accused him of occultism and that bad magic. Some people thought he had a monkey inside his machine. Because somehow that’s more believable than scientific inventions.

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Is there a monkey in here?

Tesla’s Tower Of Power

Tower To The People is a documentary directed by Joseph Sikorski about Tesla’s Wardenclyffe dream. Sikorski offered some insights into the story, complete with sound effects of buildings crashing down when he got to the part about destroying Wardenclyffe. Basically, after Tesla’s friend Astor died on the Titanic, his estate pursued back-rent for Tesla’s living at the Waldorf Astoria and kind of not paying sometimes. Somehow, destroying Wardenclyffe led to getting the money they wanted.

Also, here is exactly what I wrote in my notebook after all that: Telefunken in West Sayville = other huge LI tower.

Discuss and get back to me.

Induction Motor

There were Teslas there. Like, the cars. They look like any other cars but they run on Tesla technology (not monkeys). I don’t know much about cars, but I do know a scooter built for two is the epitome of everything life is meant for.

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Train Spur and Lab Chimney

The train spurred off right to Tesla’s lab. It doesn’t do that anymore. The decorative cap on the chimney is called the wellhead. That’s about all I gathered because I was distracted by the plants again.

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Lab and Tunnels

The lab has tunnels running out from it to where the tower was. These tunnels were to get water and air to the tower and for steel and copper electrical grounding rods.

That does not sound right at all, but these were words I heard. Feel free to continue to play around with them until you find an order that makes sense to you.

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Isn’t it pretty?

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I wanted to get a Tesla pin, but all they had were t-shirts, so I instead donated some money and headed out.

I want to go back, though. There’s something about that place. There are spirits. It hums with something special. So if I could just live there, you know? To soak up all that vibration day after day.

I know. I’m aware that my idea of camping is watching Naked and Afraid while wearing clothes under my ceiling fan. I’m aware that living at Wardenclyffe would mean living without modern day advances like plumbing. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to live there.

So, here’s the deal. I’ll keep visiting whenever it’s open. I’ll keep taking my notes and writing my poems. I’ll keep falling in love over and again with this inventor. My collection, Tesla, My Love, Our Everything, will one day be complete and published, and then maybe it will win an award, and then maybe I’ll get rich and famous and then I can refurbish the Bauer House and live at Wardenclyffe. That’s the plan.

We’re Spies! Or Are We? If We Are, This Title Makes Us Terrible Spies!

Spyscape!

Being a spy takes risk, critical assessment, composure, agility, and martinis. This is what I learned.

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ONE
I do not like martinis. I kind of knew this already, but I tried again. S wanted a dirty martini, so I got one, too. I took one sip and was like, oh look you now have two dirty martinis. She declined because she wanted to get through the spy thing without careening about. They served good food, too. Butternut squash skewers are my jam, man.

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TWO
I love room-sized elevators. Getting to the exhibit proved invigorating as we watched our mission on the walls of the elevator. I didn’t jump with glee, but I definitely bounced with glee. S pointed out that the glee is not exactly spy-like. True, but still. It’s fun to have a mission!

THREE
I’m riskier than I thought but it’s still not a whole lot. Throughout the exhibit there are games to play and one is risk assessment at blowing up a balloon. Quite honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was doing the first time around. Apparently, when you don’t know that there’s risk involved, you have no problems with risk. Later on when I understood it, I was more careful, and so it averaged out. S’s risk? Same as mine.

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FOUR
I am a good liar. I know when people lie. I can lie to people. However, I could not find my way into the booths to take the lying test. S was like, where are you going? I was like, I’m following the velvet rope. She was like, You’re following the rope backwards–the doors are right here. Oh. Okay. Good liar. Bad at directional logic. As someone who has no qualms in telling people I don’t know my right from my left, this is not shocking.

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FIVE
S and I see movies that we don’t remember. And although S has an incredible memory that’s always been better than mine, I remembered a movie that she didn’t. Ryan Phillippe is in it. Let me back up for a minute. Spyscape is also a spy museum, so there were exhibits and some were about movies that were also about real spies. So there was a thing about Ryan Phillippe that at first sounded interesting to me, and then I realized that I’d seen it, and then I remembered that we’d seen it together. I was like, Yeah, we had to sit in the first row and his head was really large and you made yourself fall asleep because you weren’t enjoying it. S’s response? Oh, yeah, now I remember.

SIX
I’m loud. Even with headphones on, S heard me shouting out answers when we were in a 360 degree spy headquarters, searching for screens that fit the description the lady on the headphones was listing. I had to be loud. The one time I didn’t shout my answer was the one time she told me I was wrong when I was clearly right. While most spying is quiet, sometimes you need to shout. Or maybe get better spy equipment.

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SEVEN
Agility! How agile are we? Only lasers can tell us! My hair kept hitting the laser beams, so my time took a few hits. Both of us were really good at hopping over and crawling under beams. Also, night vision! Actually, according to my spy profile, agility is not one of my top three strong traits, but it sure was fun.

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S taking on the laser beams

EIGHT
Let’s not talk about the logic puzzles. I will say I was able to do the word codes and decoding pretty easily because, you know, letters. As soon as shapes and sequences popped up, I was like, I don’t even know what I’m looking at.

In the end, I found I am an Agent Handler, a manager of agents who provides secret intelligence or operational support. This means I recruit, cultivate, and manage agents with extreme care. Enter Mission: Impossible music here.

All this leads up to how we began the evening: Neither S nor I could get our locker to work. We chose a locker, put our stuff in, and then closed it. However, it wouldn’t close. We couldn’t reset the lock. We also had a hard time opening other lockers. Was this a challenge? Was this the test? Nope, we simply could not use the lockers.

Or could we?

Spies!

Daytripping With Tesla

My brother and I are both teachers, so we have summers “off.” Those quotation marks mean we are not working in the normal sense; however, if writing syllabi and reading for the Fall are not working, then syllabi-writing is somehow a hobby that I can’t stop doing, not for the fun of it but for the mandatory necessity of it. (Full disclosure: the Virgo in me loves writing syllabi because I get to plan things. Planning!)

The “off” also refers to the ability to gallivant across the tri-state area to see things we live near yet have never seen before. On the list for the first jaunt (bum leg and all) were a memorial, a bull, and a tiny village of shops and artsy things within Stonybrook. Some of these things were demapped. My brother must have said this word maybe 52 times. Also, we found Tesla. Like, the guy, not the car. But also, the car.

First stop: an apparently demapped Vietnam memorial in Bald Hill. Or, if not demapped, then not easy to find on a map. The GPS took us to in and around the area of the memorial. We could see it rise above the trees along the road. However, we were on the opposite side of the road near the Pennysaver Amphitheatre, which was closed but had an open gate. We rolled in and rolled out. Then I suggested parking in the tiny park next to it and walking back over.

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My brother taking pictures of the top of the memorial from all the way across the road and the trees.

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And this is how much of it we could see.

As we walked uphill towards the open gate that said they were closed, a tiny car with a large cigar-smoking, 7-11 coffee-drinking man rolled up behind us and shout-asked: You lookin for somebody?

We were like, no, something–the memorial.

After starting to say it was way deep into beyond the gates, it dawned on him what we were talking about and he was like, Oh you guys gotta go back to how you came in and then take the next exit off ’cause this whole area is Bald Hill.

I was like, Yeah, the map said we should go here.

He was like, Yeah, it’s a good thing I found you because you woulda got lost back there and you have no water. He chuckled. We thanked him.

We made our way back to find the next exit and my brother was like, That guy needs a name. At the same time we automatically said, Vinnie. He was totally a Vinnie.

Thanks to Vinnie, we found the memorial. It was a weird exit because the memorial is located in a park in the middle of a highway. It’s quite breath-taking, literally and figuratively. It’s on a hill [hence, Bald Hill], and it’s simply stark in its simplicity and tribute.

 

Side note: several times, my brother asked me if I could keep walking and if I’d be able to get up the hill. Boys sometimes notice things. I made it up the hill all right and back down, much more slowly than usual, of course.

Second stop: The bull statue in Smithtown is in the middle of a very busy road. At first, we couldn’t find it, so my brother kept asking, When do we give up? I was like, Never. So on we drove until he was like, There it is! It’s hard to miss. First we turned before it and realized we couldn’t pull over. Then we backtracked and I told him to turn into the bike path that also indicated parking. He was like, No because we can’t get out then. I was like, but the big gardening truck is there and it has to get out somehow, pointing at the gardening truck that we would be parking behind. We drove under the overpass and I was like, Pull into the urgent care. He was like, it’s private parking. I was like, there are enough spaces in there so other people can park so we won’t be blocking any urgency. He parked.

We walked over to the bull. It’s pretty large and anatomically correct.

 

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He was like, I’m not sure I got its head in. Thanks, bro. Then again, I did accidentally photobomb his picture (see above).

Third stop: Stonybrook to see a bunch of things that are all in one spot. The neat thing about his wanting to see things is that they crossed over with a bunch of lists I have about the best tea and coffee and oddities across the land. We found a very fancy post office, Hercules, an old boat, pretty water, and the Grist Mill which was closed. I walked around it to see if we could get better photos of the water wheel but my brother was like, this is a private road, and I was like, It’s not like I have a car. Then we couldn’t get around the mill anyway so we headed back.

 

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In honor of Hercules, we look Herculean here.

Two girls arrived behind us and were taking pictures so I offered to take one of them together. They declined just as me and one of them at the same time noticed that we both had Gatsby bags. They’d dropped off books at the little library near the tea shop and I was like, I wished I had books with me to leave. Apparently, it was their second time there, so they knew to bring the books. I know for next time, but I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon because it’s quite a drive and I’ve got other places to see. (Also, we didn’t ask them to take our picture and they didn’t offer, so the only one I have is the one I took by leaning my phone against a tiny tree stump).

Starved, we ate at Crazy Beans. They have a Crazy Ruben and a Crazy Cuban. We debated about which would win in a fight. The ambience and the deliciousness of the food make me forget the outcome.

 

The biggest part of our outing, however, was a very unplanned excursion into the world of one Nikolai Tesla, inventor of many electric things and patenter of very few. Also, fun fact, lover of pigeons. That fact didn’t actually appear in this exhibit, but it’s something I know because I once wrote a poem called “Tesla And Marconi Throw Down For Patent Rights, Royalties, And, Most Importantly, Fame” that was published in Spilt Milk, a now defunct British online poetry mag. It’s one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written because not only does it discuss science, patents, and what a douche Marconi was, but it also refers to the band Tesla, a very underrated band concerning nostalgia and the 90s (but who also played Jones Beach last year and seemed to be very happy and very much still underrated).

we found the educational and Cultural Center at the back of the large parking lot where all the other shops stand. There was a Tesla exhibit that cost $5 to see (marked down from $7 because of change issue–score!). The first thing I noticed was that everything was written in both English and Russian. Then I noticed it was not Russian. Tesla was not Russian. It was a different language. Now if you think I’m going to remember or look it up at this point, you don’t know me at all, do you. At least I know about his pigeon-love.

Anyway, the exhibit had trivia and lots of things to read and some things that we weren’t allowed to touch because they obviously generated electricity. There was a neon Tesla. There was also the Tesla car that Tesla did not make. We waited around for the presentation that we were told would happen in 15 minutes. It didn’t happen in 15 minutes even after we took a bathroom break, so we decided to bow out of the demonstration, knowing that there would be some sort of electricity happening. We did partake in the Look At How White The Paper Is Under The Tesla-Inspired Light Bulb, however, which was good enough for us.

 

The misfortune of Tesla stems from his failure to patent his most precious inventions. He did patent some inventions, but not enough. Maybe he trusted people too much or maybe he thought gifting it all to the world was the way to go. However, he died poor. There’s a movie you can watch about it on Amazon, and the exhibit featured a suit and fancy hat worn in the movie.

Since then, Tesla has been following me. Popping up on the television, a documentary about Tesla. Driving down the city street, a street named after Tesla. Tesla cars everywhere I go. Pigeons. Lots of pigeons flying around. Tesla may be trying to tell me something.

Then we saw an old house. Demapped, we first found the address given near the house. Then we drove back and forth through the backroads of Stonybrook and Stonybrook-adjacent, trying to find another old house. Back and forth until, oh, there it is, next to the historical society. The houses were really old. My brother is a history teacher. It made sense to see old things up close. These houses look the same in these photos. They are different.

Tesla-ed out and in a food coma, we found our daytripping coming to a close. I arrived home with a half a sandwich and a bit of a limp, worth every moment.

 

 

 

Best Friend Sinbad

Remember when my sabbatical ended on the most glorious note? When I found my best friend? When Sinbad tweeted at me? Twice!

My best friend Sinbad came back around to the New York area for a friendship visit with me and 348 other people. On the rainiest night of Spring, Eddie and I drove up to Nyack as the sunset for a 9:30 PM show after thinking all day we’d be going to the 7:30 show and then printing out the tickets and realizing, hey, the show starts past my bedtime. Good thing we looked at the tickets before leaving, though.

Side note: when I was an undergrad in Oneonta, we would drive through Nyack to get there. There are apparently a South Nyack and a North Nyack, and the signs say (or used to say to my recollection) So Nyack and No Nyack, so we’d entertain ourselves by saying, Soooooo Nyack?  Nooooo Nyack! This was entertaining back then. Okay, who am I kidding? Still entertaining now. Also entertaining? Mooing at cows.

The Palisades Mall is like a small village, but we easily found the parking lot we needed to be in, which was pretty full. That meant walking in the rain, but it wasn’t too bad. A plus–the line for the club was inside, unlike the line we stood on for Wheel of Fortune or when we went to see Santa at the Montauk Lighthouse.

Waiting on line with Eddie is a bit of a challenge, especially when I’m wearing rainboots and not heels. We like each other, we really do, but since he’s almost a foot taller than I am, having a conversation in a noisy place poses a bit of a problem. I’ll say something to him;  he’ll stare off into space. I’ll nudge him and say, I said something to you. He’ll say, What? I’ll say, Nevermind I don’t remember. Then we stare in different directions again.

One thing I was trying to point out to him was a woman standing on line on the other side of the rope (the line was like a line from a theme park). Her shirt said: Nah. And then right under that it said: –Rosa Parks, 1955. I thought this was Hil. Air. Eee. Us. However, trying to point it out loud enough for Eddie to hear but not for the woman to know I was talking about her proved to be impossible. But it’s a funny shirt, right? Right.

We were let into the club at around 9:30 PM. So the show didn’t start then. We were seated at a table towards the front around people who were quiet and looking at their phones for the most part. We ordered food (do not get the pretzel at Levity Live if you’ve ever had an authentic NYC street pretzel–it’s just not okay) and drinks (an unsweetened iced tea because I’m wild). Then the host came out.

The host was not the club host. He was Sinbad’s host. I think his name was Devin, so let’s call him that. He made us laugh about being in Nyack but not ready for the city, and he was mispronouncing Nyack until someone in the crowd corrected him. At one point, he forgot part of his act and looked it up on his phone, which was actually pretty funny, and it worked out only because what he said afterwards was funny. Unfortunately, not exactly memorable, but I know we laughed. [SIDE NOTE: I just mis-typed laughed so badly that spell check thought I wanted to say lathered. Now that’s comedy.]

Here’s the difference between comics and long-standing career comics: Sinbad came out and the very first thing he said had the entire club howling. It was something as simple as feeling old and wanting to sit down. It was pure funny. Eddie and I were laughing loudly out loud. The cell phone couple across from us were offering up huge belly laughs. The entire room woke up with non-stop giggles and hoots and table-slapping.

Devin stayed on stage the whole show. He was like a backup singer for a musical act, chiming in every now and then, and answering questions when asked directly by Sinbad. For the most part, though, it was all Sinbad, doing his thing and interacting with the audience. So quick. So witty. So obviously thankful for being able to do that for a living.

Sinbad

Petting Penguins

Things I’m big on: free stuff, going to new places. Things I’m not to big on: animals. However, in, like, sixth grade, I made a penguin out of clay. It got smashed along with several other clay animals, and we were allowed to make them over. The smasher, to my knowledge, was never found. Since then, I’ve had a penguin affinity. Although I’m not big on animals, penguins are okay.

That brings us to the weekend of a lot of stuff.

Stuff 1: Travel Marketplace. Hosted by AAA at Hofstra, it’s two floors of free pens, bags, candy, chocolate, note pads, key chains, and stickers. This year, I also got a chip bag clip, and I spun a wheel to win a luggage tag. The best part, aside from learning that Hershey Park has a zoo–yeah, that’s right, a zoo–and aside from learning that you should get the hopper pass in case it rains if you go to Universal Studios, is that we got Moonpies from the good folks over at the Tennessee table.

Also, Eddie and I learned that we still don’t look all that old. We got to a table where two people who looked like they could be our children asked if we’d heard of their tours. I said I’d heard of the name. They were like, we specialize in trips for people in their twenties, and they went to go on but our laughing brought that to a short halt. We called over our two friends who are still in their twenties (And who could also pass for our children) to hear the rest of their pitch.

If you want to go to Scotland, there’s a tour company that offers two versions of a Game of Thrones tour. While I would very much like to see Scotland as a country unattached to a television show, I would also very much like to wear a cloak and shoot an arrow at something.

We booked no trips but did manage to work up an appetite despite the Moonpies and Hershey kisses, so we went to Sonic.

Stuff #2: Sonic. There’s a new Sonic near the mall by us and you have to wait on a very long line no matter if you’re taking out or sitting in a stall in your car and I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo which seemed like it would be the healthiest choice–still gross but healthier than anything else–and I took one bite and then threw the rest out. I think I have an aversion to fast food these days. Clearly, I’m not against junk (see “Moonpies” above), but Sonic food really isn’t great. It’s the drinks that makes them Sonic. Everyone else enjoyed their shakes and chili cheese fries. My unsweetened iced tea tasted delightful.

Stuff #3: The Long Island Aquarium. It’s been in existence for 17 years and this was my first time visiting. The one in Coney Island is closer, I think, and really, I’m not an aquarium kind of gal. Fish. Great.

My mind changed a bit when I saw the thingies–stingrays? is that what they are?–coming up out of the water to eat what people were feeding them. For $3, you, too, can feed them. It was fascinating but also a bit disturbing. The faces of these things are really weird.

We went outside to see the sea lion show. Outside was about 2 degrees. We lasted about eleven minutes when I leaned into Eddie and said, I need to go inside like right now. When we got inside, our friends had followed. Pretty much no one wanted to freeze to see a sea lion jump.

We saw sharks, an octopus, a lot of fish of all different kinds, and turtles. We also saw monkeys. I don’t know why they are at the aquarium.

Then we went to pet some penguins. A small group of us were brought to a room near the penguin exhibit, which was closed because it was too cold for even the penguins to be outside, and we sat in a circle while two penguins toddled around us. They nipped at boots and scarves. They crapped and then walked through it a bunch of times. The pecked at doors and windows. They followed around the keeper whenever she walked from one side of the room to the other.

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The keeper picked one up and let us pet the penguin. Then later on, we pet the other penguin. Then we got to take pictures with the penguins.

One of these two people who had arrived late sat looking as if he were going to be sick, and then kept clearing the steam from the windows so people outside could see in. Then he asked someone to take a video instead of a picture. I thought to myself, why in the heck do you need a video of sitting on a bench? Then he didn’t sit. He knelt down and proposed. The people outside knew it was going to happen, so they weren’t trying to see the penguins, really. They’d been trying to watch for the proposal.

The girl said Yes. I’d been holding my breath because it seemed she was going to say No, and I was fighting off tears of potential embarrassment for this guy. Phew.

Stuff#4: Witnessing proposals and penguins can work up an appetite so we went to and Irish-type pub called Diggers Ales & Eats. It was good. Okay, I got a salad, but still, it was a delicious salad.

Sign for Diggers Soup of the day Whiskey

Stuff #5: Eddie’s mentioned a few times this pretzel place that supposedly has the best pretzels on Long Island, Knot Of This World (get it?). From the pub, we went to Huntington to find them. Funny thing: every weekend in March is up for a St. Patrick’s Day parade even if it’s not St. Patrick’s Day. So we found ourselves at the winding-down of Huntington’s Irish celebration. Having just come from an Irish pub, we fit in, of course, except that we were not drunk or wearing green. We parked up a hill and walk in the freezing cold all the way down the main street. We found the pretzel place that had its door open so that the guy outside could yell in to bring out more pretzels to the table he had set up on the sidewalk. Why, sir, must the door stay open?

Aside from remaining frozen indoors, we delighted in very large pretzels. I want to go back with someone who has a palate for exotic tastes so I can split a flavored pretzel, like one with spinach and cheese or one with cinnamon or one with Nutella. These may not seem exotic, but to Eddie, they are because they do not fall into the main food group he likes, Bland. We split a regular pretzel. It was warm and delicious.

Five Stuffs is a lot for one weekend. We did stuff. We stuffed our faces. And I did this final stuff that probably made my weekend. Because it’s the little things.

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