Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Rug of Scarlet and Mustard





It is astoundingly beautiful down on the trail today. All night it rained hard.  A constellation’s worth of red maple leaves and sugar maple leaves and walnut leaves and sycamore leaves and even the strong green leaves off of the northern red oak were severed at the petiole and fell from the branches.  And if the day before there was a Persian rug of scarlet and mustard it has been stitched anew with an entire new set of acrylic thread. 

 

It probably isn’t the safest thing to do (I am wearing a helmet now, after my inglorious topple-over last Saturday that left my forehead looking like someone had smacked me with a bag of crimson manure ), but I took out my iPhone as I biked beneath the canopy and pulled up the setting that allows you to adjust the filter and took one shot of the trail and then another with the next filter and so on and on as I pedaled along.  Three or four times, I felt gut-punched and forced to pull out the camera once again, in the nave of this cathedral.



Up at the bridge I saw a big eastern cottonwood with not a leaf showing the slightest turn.  I thought I had that tree all figured out when, up my driveway it was the first tree to turn.  “Ahh, a frail southern tree,” I imagined.  But that clearly had nothing to do with why my tree turned and this one has yet to.  There are three or four big silver maples out there on that bridge that hold their color still.  What will they look like when it’s time to finally fall?



And where I’d been enjoying wildflowers in the summer, bringing clipped stalks to my desk to consider, the drama now is all about the canopy falling to the ground.  I picked up thrrty, forty leaves on a walk this afternoon with the Mrs.  They’re now in a glass bowl, on my desk.  The Sumac still on the stem, garish reds and yellows almost too loud, too electric to be believed.   And with so many leaves gone you get a different view at what remains.  By the place where our property abuts the trail, I saw a collection of small trees I didn’t recognize.  They look like birches of some sort.  And even this late in the year there are new things to find:  Andean Alder I was told, for the first time in my searching. 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 09/30/20




Tuesday, September 29, 2020

More Anthemic than Melancholy




It hasn’t rained in a while and I’m glad to see it drizzling out there.  The color.  The muted color in the wet autumn is overwhelming.  When I returned from driving my little one to school, I just stood and stared out from the head of the driveway at this tree and that.  Over by the shed there is a nondescript ash tree that now has big round yellow leaves on display and right beside it is the miraculous red maple with a thousand jewelfish scales, glistening wet, shimmering colors in motion.  Each of the oaks is beginning to change from green in their own way.



A woman who was DJ’ing for WVKR Vassar, was prattling on in an inviting Queens accent about singularly remarkable it was to drive around in the Hudson Valley just now, up to Kingston, over the bridge and off into Colombia County.  “Yes.” I said, driving along through Highland on 44/55.  She told me she was going to adjust her play list and play some music which testified to this and before long she had me near tears playing Billie’s version of “Autumn in New York,” which I turned up full blast as though it were more anthemic than melancholy. 



Over on the window there is a dark paper wasp, inadvertently showing me all of his or her underparts. The critter has been standing there now for about forty minutes.  It doesn’t seem to want to move.  And I was going to write that the Autumn cold was slowing him down but in fact it is unseasonably warm out there.  More likely his body knows that a rather thoroughgoing change is about to happen.  I was trying to find out the lifespan of a dark paper wasp on Wiki but they don’t mention it.  Additional queries suggest they last just about a year.  So presumably he or she, who spent their life a worker, is fixin’-to-die. 

 

My little one spoke under her breath to her sister.  “I’ll never hear the end of this.”  Her friend was visiting and there, at our dinner table, mentioned her piano practice and the work she does with animals.  My older one gave me the heads up the next morning to be sensitive about the urge to compare her and her friend, and so, at dinner last night I said: “I want to mention how singularly proud I was to see you comport yourself last night with your friend here.  You really shown out.”   She knew instantly it was a set-up. 




Tuesday, 09/29/20


You, Slayer of Worlds





Nephew over.  Good to have him.  It’s different hanging out with dudes.  Haven’t had much dude time in a while.  He came while I was on a call and played a game of Parchese with my wife and my older one, his cousin.  By the time I came out he was on his phone and I asked him to show me the game he was playing.  It was one where in you, slayer of worlds, manipulated the spinning planet of your choice, yes, I see that’s earth, and then chose the manner in which you’d like to destroy it.  I chose something that looked like it had tentacles.  It zoomed up, pondered the pitiful planet and waving its arms, it drilled a hole through earth and killed a third of the population.  There were approximately ten different such ways to destroy the planet and we proceeded to try a few more.

 

Next we played Battleship.  The box was empty, but I found the cases with the ships and the pegs and the grids there in the drawer.  Presumably there is a manner in which to calculate probability, which would rightly have you place your grey plastic piece here, rather than, say, there.  I did my best to be deceptive.  My nephew was in the unenviable position of having an aircraft carrier as the last member of his flotilla to remain.  I had a svelte little sub.  Aircraft carriers are tough to hide and I sunk it.

 

I couldn’t resist.  He didn’t resist.  And soon we were watching The Who, and Hendrix and the Small Faces on Youtube.  He politely humored my urge to rock.  He wanted to show me clips that involved The Beatles on “Family Guy.”  Scouse accents haven’t come far since the days of the “Yellow Submarine”  cartoon.  You’d think these voices-for-hire would at least practice a bit before attempting something of that importance. 


 

Ahh, but we should get some exercise.  And soon we were pedaling along what only last week was the rail trail but by today was a Persian carpet of fallen yellow, burgundy and claret leaves that had just begun to fall in earnest.  We turned back on Broadhead Avenue and I narrated the tale about the poor individual who’d been dragged along Main St., stuck under a truck.  Returning asked why it was that all the storm troopers in the Star Wars movies all had the same voice.  I could hear it, immediately in my mind and it seemed a worthy truism. 



We still had a bit of time, before his mom would arrive and he was willing to let me read him some of the Orwell, I’d gotten him last month.  It’s been thirty-five years or more since I cracked open “Down and Out in Paris and London” but Orwell writes so well, and we immediately care.  He talks about not eating, referencing that some people do it for health.  He was on a third day without food and it was insufferable.  I can recall a time without money, traveling, when I went for just a day or so and it was involuntary, it was indeed miserable.  And before long, my nephew was asking good questions about the plot and the details and I wondered if he might night continue to read the tale on his own.

 

 

 

Monday, 09/28/20





Sunday, September 27, 2020

Red, Shawls of Ochre

 


I wish I could invite you to gaze out with me now at this yard before me.  Thoughtful hands, decades before my own had been at work here.  For the first fall I realize the distinct autumn grandeur of vines.  My goodness.  The Virginia creepers, and the grapes and yes, the poison ivy all light up the trees with ropes of red, shawls of ochre.  Straight ahead there is a juniper tree that is strictly green.  I see the thick poison ivy vine I’d cut in the spring still hanging where it had wanted to reach the ground.  Removing poison ivy is good. Or is it?  I feel like I’d needlessly unplugged a string of Christmas tree lights. 

 

There’s a red maple off to the right that is beginning to turn, wildly.  The two sugar maples to the left seem to move more consistently from green to yellow.  The big Northern Red Oak and Southern red oak that form a crest of green.  They take their time.  Earlier in the year, I’d thought about taking certain trees down in order to enhance a view, but it is hard to imagine imposing one’s will on this Cezanne-like panorama.  It takes time to get to know a place, doesn’t it?



The little one has a friend coming over today.  This young lady is a year older than her.  She drives.  Still Chinese in their habits neither of my girls have bothered to get a license yet.  I’m in no rush to see them driving, I’ll confess.  A right-of-passage that was always irrelevant in China.  I don’t suppose it will be more than five years or so before no one will drive much of anywhere.  You’ll need to go out to a driving track to drive-your-own-car.   Automated vehicles will take us about swiftly, safely and we’ll wonder how we ever put up with such random danger in our daily lives.  But for today, they may go out for a ride.  And that is fine.  I think.  And I will worry. 



Cloudy outside, and warm.  But it’s the end of September and nothing can hold this autumnal pull.  Weather report for my town says sun all day.  May get warmer.  But if you were looking at these leaves, you’d be thinking of lighting a fire and swinging a scarf around your neck.  My stepdad has told me to keep an eye out or migratory birds who’ll now be making their way through, flying south.  How I missed the seasons when we lived in places that had none. 

 

 

Sunday, 10/27/20



Eh. Let Them Wonder

 



Biking is different from walking.  One can move faster.   Biking is also not motorcycling.  One doesn’t move that fast.  I bike just about every day, plain as I walk around.  And every day I bike down the hill and walk the bike through the woods out to the rail trail.  Not long ago I accelerated going down the hills in playful pursuit of a groundhog who was making for the woods and I couldn’t stop fast enough for the turn and hit the ground hard.  Today I was going much slower but caught a root where I usually dismount and fell over in stages.  Stage one was the falling down part.  My knees took that in.  But they didn’t stop me and I was conscious of my head continuing to hurtle toward the ground and towards phase two which ended in a thud.  My forehead met the dirt. 

 

Blessings to be counted.  If that landing pad had been a stump or concrete or a rock, I may have knocked myself out or worse.  As it was, I saw some stars but quickly realized I was alright.  Physically, I’d be fine.  But as I wiped my forehead and took notice of the blood, I considered my aesthetic makeup with the selfie feature of the phone.  I looked orible, and I debated for a while whether to admit defeat and clean my ass up, or do the daily run like I’d wanted to, albeit, looking like I’d somehow angered George Foreman.   Eh.  Let them wonder.  I wiped myself off and headed out undeterred.   

 

A month or more back in the heat of summer, I’d pedaled off the trail to the right after the Wallkill Bridge, on Springtown Road and saw that the folks there at the Coppersea Distillery were advertising whiskey slushies which seemed like a stroke of marketing genius there on that hot day and I biked right over and started asking about what they had when I realized I hadn’t brought my wallet.  I vowed to return and today I did.  But as I coasted up to open barn store front, they have on the road I kept on going.  People!  There was a line.  No. I didn’t want to idle among people looking this way.



Ahh, but the back, if memory serves . . . yes.  They have the bar-like service with the slushies in the back.  No one is in line.  They had two different types and I chose the sour one.  I tried to draw a disarming reference to my mangled forehead, but she kept on upbeat and oblivious.  It was phenomenally delicious, as I’d suspected and, spying a bathroom sign I went in to take stock of myself.  Oh dear.  Soap water stings.  It won’t do to pull my hair down over the front, the lacerations a bit broad for that.  And all the while I have playing, fairly loudly out of my phone in my pocket the circular wonder of Terry Riley’s 1968 drone: “In C.”



Biking has its own velocity.  The velocity I fell at today was single digits per hour on to packed dirt.  I’m mortal.  I’ll be getting a helmet.  At home I tell my wife I got in a fight with a guy who said bad things about the Chinese.  “I had to flatten him.  But he got a good shot in before I did.”  She believed me for a moment and wondered if the cops were coming.  The younger one, listening upstairs told me later she’d been lured in for just a moment or two herself. 

 

 

 

Saturday, 09/26/20



Leaves of Impossible Green




I’ve been searching on-line for the “Stone Forest” in Minnewaska and was directed to articles comparing Minnewaska to the famous Stone Forest in Yunnan.  I don’t know why mind decided that was the name.  Checking the email from my father I’ve managed to discern that we went for a hike this morning at the “Lost City.”  Certainly, it was a lost city, made of stone up in the forest.  And it was remarkable hike up.

 

Again, up on the Shawangunk Plateau, I noticed what was different.  There are, of course hemlock that once commanded the ridge with mighty old growth.  Sugar maple and red maple just like we have in our yard but further along in their race to full flush claret then litter brown.  But up at the top of the yellow trail that morning we saw many striped maple as well.  Their leaves are three times the size and they don’t reach out so wide.   The oaks are different up there too.  Squat round oak leaves of impossible green that I’m told are from a bear oak tree and saw tooth leaves that are somehow still characteristically oak-like called the chestnut oak.  And all along the rocky shelf, growing low to the ground were mountain laurel which look, to me, like rhododendron and huckleberries, which the locals used to make extra money from by picking and selling them in the summer.



One assumes it is a state-park no-no, to dig up a sapling and take it out with you.  My father insisted that nobody would care.  Perhaps I’ll bring a trowel and some plastic bags and backpack and give it a shot next time.  Not sure how they’d feel about being down here in the valley, beneath the cliff face, but we could clear out some space, so the locals don’t crowd out the sun and slowly create a showcase off all the different trees that grow, locally. 



Later after getting our groceries and some sour grape juice, the girls and I were heading back home.  It was my turn now, you see.  The little one had been playing songs from the first BTS album on our ride over.  I thought to play “Hey Bulldog.”  I don’t know why.  Soon I was drawing everyone’s attention to Paul’s bass playing which is fluid and hearty like tropical fruit and then, later I wanted them to hear when John yells, “Quiet!, Quiet!”  I suggested that this was indicative of the fact that John was in charge of things.  By the time I asked them to guess who was singing “All Too Much” as the feedback announced the next glorious tune, it was indeed all too much and they made clear they’d had enough.   I’d been infected though and decided Steve Hillage’s version would be just the thing to make the dinner to when we got home. 




Friday, 11/25/20



And, Do Not Touch

 



My gal doesn’t like snakes.  A phobia that seems to have stemmed from an incident back in coastal Shandong.  A wee-girl, she was caught by surprise when some local delinquent threw a snake at her.  The countryside, she described to me with a sour face, where you could see piles of snakes, all writhing together just outside the village.  The poor village, which has since then had a hulking chemical factory built up next door.  No one has to worry about snakes or much of any other wildlife now. 

 

I have always been fascinated by snakes.  From as early as I can remember, I’d wanted to catch frogs, and turtles and certainly snakes, if I could.  Birds, and rabbits and deer were of no particular interest.  But reptiles, were exceedingly cool.  In the time that I’ve been back in this area, a year or so now, I have only really seen one garter snake, out by the bridge over the stream, on Huguenot Street, near Garvan’s.  But then I haven’t been hunting them out.



Today I got a wechat call from my wife.  (Fuck-off Donald, the app still works, for now.)  “Can you come down here?  There’s a snake.”  I was in the middle of five things and I dropped them all, grabbed my phone and headed out to the pile of gravel and bricks we’d inherited here and which she’d been dismantling.  First question, of course: “How big was it?”  I’m brave to a point.  She suggested something a little over a foot in length.  “What were the colors?”  “Black.”  Hmm.  “It wasn’t black and yellow?”  She shook her head, disgusted to even think of it.  I was intrigued as it didn’t sound like a garter snake.



Fifty-eight bricks or so later, I saw the smokey grey ribbon, between two paving stones.  Colder than summer, he seemed a bit sluggish as he moved to find new shelter.  My wife presented me with a challenge: “Move it!” And “Do not touch it!” in the same exhalation.  First, I used my app to identify that this was a ringneck snake, with a telltale yellow ribbon circling his
round (read, non-venomous) head and a pale, yellow underbelly.  I attempted to coax him on to a spade, but eventually gave up and just picked him up, right behind the head and gently escorted him off to the pile of rocks on the edge of our property.  Later (yes, after thoroughly washing my hands, my dear,) I learned he was nocturnal and we’d obviously disturbed his sleep.  Oh, if I could have only presented that culebra to my eleven- year-old self.  That would have been a grand gift, across time.




Thursday, 09/24/20



Um, Yes. Thank You





Went to court today.  That was interesting.  Back in November, I was returning home from having rented a leaf blower at the TruValue hardware store.  Approaching State Route 208 a cop car behind me turned on his lights and pulled me over.  He suggested I had run a stop sign.  He handed me a ticket, which constituted a moving violation.  It seemed abrupt at the time.  Couldn’t I have gotten an advisory warning?  


 

I didn’t hear from the town of New Paltz on this till right before Covid struck.  I tried to go to the courthouse and there was a note on the door suggesting they were closed, indefinitely.  OK.   I reached someone on the phone who asked for my plea and in as much as I said “not guilty” they said they’d be in touch, when things were back to normal.  About a month ago I finally got a letter telling me to be there today at 5:00PM. 

 

Did I stop?  I believe I did.  Was there margin for error?  Certainly.  Have I been excruciatingly attentive to “Stop” signs ever since?  Indisputably.  I’ve been out of the country so long I hadn’t had any infractions for at least a decade.  My father who’s had his share of moving violations, explained to me that if you plead “not guilty” they might reduce things so you’d only have to pay a fine and not get points  on your license.  But sometimes, he warned me, they have video imagery, in which case, there ain’t much you can do. 

 

So today, I tucked my shirt in, shined my shoes and slicked back my hair and drove, carefully down to the courthouse.  All the parking places seemed restricted.  Extra cautious I asked a cop in an SUV outside where I could park.  Me and about a half-a-dozen other folk were then, milling around outside the courthouse and eventually shown a seat inside.  Happy to be anachronistic, I did not mind that my phone had to be turned off, as I had a book of Claude McKay’s poetry with me and did my best to block out the noise and loose myself in his patois diction. 

 

One person and then another were called up for their pretrial conference.  The judge, who seemed a kind fellow asked the policeman or woman first what “the people” pleaded.  They used coded acronyms like “AVC” or “2170” which the judge then explained to the defendant.  Invariably, it was about not getting points on the license and usually paying a fine.  In one case they just dropped the charge.  I had played out what I’d say, so many times in my head but when they finally called me and I slowly remembered that the cop looked like this guy and not the person in my memory, he suggested that the charges, from pre-Covid would be dropped.  Would I be OK with that?  “Um, yes.  Thank you.  That would be fine.”



The purpose, for a modest infraction like this, was certainly served.  Due to the cop’s initial action I have remained achingly vigilant about stop-signs, particularly in my town.  That is certainly a social good.  In a Han Feizi world of laws however, wrong is wrong and that is all.  Indeed, my wife thought this ‘dropping of charges’ sounded rather suspicious.  Where is the justice in that?  But I was rather content with the way it had all come to closure.




Wednesday, 09/23/20

 

Upon a Snapping Turtle




I took a different way home today after dropping my daughter off at school.  My calls which had started at 4:30AM on Tuesday were done for the morning, and I took a left on Haviland Road, which I’d never done before.  Anticlimactically it quickly leads one to Route 44/55, which I’d ridden out on just the other day.  But today I took a right on 44/55 and when back through the hamlet of Highland and continuing straight went along Vineyard avenue under the bridge that hosts all the 9W traffic. 

 

I’ve long wondered what was down here, having ridden across that overpass some hundreds of times over the decades of my life.  My former neighbor had suggested to me that Highland had a bawdy reputation as being something of sin-city, back in the naughts of the twentieth century, when people would travel over from Poughkeepsie to drink and carouse.  Driving down River Road towards the landing on the Hudson I wondered about the historical purpose of this building the corner, or that brick construction with plenty of rooms.  Was that a house of the rising sun?    

 

Unnerving to be there, down below the old rail bridge and the Mid-Hudson Bridge, staring up at what I’d only ever driven or trotted over.  The bridges are phenomenal from this view.  There are some lovely old houses and some aching fixer uppers there along the river as you follow Oakes Road to its dead end.  I had some mournful Robert Wyatt on that complemented the mist rising off the river. 



Heading out to do some work in the lower garage I noticed the white bowl that’s been sitting near the garbage bags now suddenly out on the driveway.  Peering inside there was a baby turtle and with a bit of angling of my phone I confirmed that this little guy was a baby snapping turtle, ‘common American snapping turtle,’ which my wife had found.  I went to discuss with her and spied a second.  She then found a third.  Soon we had seven little turtles in this bowl.  She must have stumbled upon a snapping turtle nest when she was spreading around the big mound of paving sand, my father and I had recently exposed when he tore down the dilapidated shelter that had been covering the pile. 



Everyone agreed they were very cute.  But, as with lion cubs or baby crocodiles, these little guys would not stay cute for long, before they matured into assertive reptiles with tremendous jaw power.  As is though, they seemed like appetizers for a dozen mammals and birds which generally carouse our yard.  My wife and I decided they needed water and we walked them down towards the stream that abuts our property, across the rail trail and, wished the septet we could only assume were siblings well.  And then we sent them all on their way. 
Bonne chance mon petites tortues.




Tuesday, 09/22/20



Forcing the Requisite Air




We have had a day last weekend, when we drove into the Palisades Park, home of the hemisphere’s largest Koreatown as part of a birthday treat for my little one.  This Saturday we all went to Manhattan and later Flushing as we’d promised, to let her visit restaurants and a manga bookstore.  Sunday night, it was only fitting that we had the grandparents over for a dinner with a cake as they had presents to give and we had a good time on all these occasions.  But it was only today, Monday the twenty-first of September when her birthday actually arrived. 

 

The older one had come home with a bag of balloons to decorate the house.  We sat up in her sister’s room courting a head rushes, blowing up two dozen, large balloons.   When we finished, she broke out another bag with letter balloons we had to blow up with a straw, which eventually became too soggy, so we took to pinching the self-sealing hole and forcing the requisite air in so as to be sure to finish the two words.  By the time we’d completed the thirteen letters required to spell “Happy Birthday” we were both breathless and loopy. 



Riding north my eye caught something I didn’t recognize, and I stopped my bike, after Mulberry St.   The app confirmed that I was seeing something new, with the intriguing name: “Fallopia Japonica” or more prosaically “Japanese Knotweed” which was all over this section of the trail.  Later, I saw the plant again on a road going down to the Hudson and it grew big and thick confidently.  Another ‘new’ plant which is all over the place. 



Spuds, a pork loin that had been basting in a teriyaki flavoring all day, some string beans cooked in butter.  Boil the frozen
guotienr before you fry em’.  I was chopping and wrapping after my bike ride, worried about how I was going to get it all prepared in time when my 6:00PM meeting didn’t show on the zoom bridge and it all came together smoothly.  Candles on the key lime pie my wife had brought home and the song that must be sung, in English and Chinese.  Happy birthday my little sixteen-year-old.  I hope it’s a beautiful year for you.

 

 

 

Monday, 09/21/20     

            

Monday, September 21, 2020

We Slipped A Lot

 



It’s a mouthful, and for someone like myself who has been consuming all the poetic, prose and literary output of this author it was good today to finally dig into a critical biography of the great sojourner and ingest a new title morning:  “Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha: Queer Black Marxism and the Harlem Renaissance” by Gary Edward Holcomb.  And while the examination of his FBI files, suggest he was more of Party member, perhaps, than his autobiography would later suggest, the main thrust of the work had more to do with exploring how his anarchical and queer cleavages cross cut through three of his novels, tying them together and illuminating McCay’s politics. 



Beyond the scope of the work, presumably, but I was disappointed that Mr. Holcomb did not choose to address McCay’s later conversion to Catholicism. Given his earlier preferences its an interesting destination. I haven’t really seen it examined anywhere in any meaningful fashion, beyond its mention at the end of his Wiki page.  It certainly doesn’t change any of the work he produced in his younger years or suggest that his beliefs in younger years weren’t enough to examine by themselves.  But his conversion would certainly seem to be an important bookend to the man’s intellectual journey, some of the anarchical abandonment of the boys-life in "Romance in Marsaille" and "Banjo" would presumably also have plenty to inform where it was McCay's mind and soul later came to rest, in preparation for the unknown. 

 

I feel like I need to force myself to move on from this topic, this milieu.  I can only ever go so far from the central, biological, economic, professional focus of my life before it demands to be considered, anew.  The U.S.-China relationship will continue to get worse before it gets better.  No.  It isn’t open conflict.  It isn’t the depths of disdain from the Korean War, where we shot at one another, nor the period immediately thereafter.  But we’re slipping.  We slipped a lot this year.


          

This morning I got up and checked my wechat.  I’m connected to some thousand-plus people in China on wechat.  They are all still connected to me for now.  Trump is concerned that the CCP are collecting data on millions of Americans.  They have reason to worry.  I’ll concede that.  So do Chinese people and the Chinese government have legitimate reason to worry on all the data the U.S. captures about them.  And there are tough conversations to be had about what sort of data any country makes available to another.  But we can all see, that the Trump administration’s handling of this is impetuous, ill-planned, designed to jar the other side, with no real depth of strategy beyond it.  Wechat connects millions of Americans to millions of Chinese.  Those threads of communication took decades to build, one by one.  Less communication leaves more room for misunderstanding. 

 

 

 

Sunday, 09/20/20



Urgency of Breath Itself

 



The weekend’s, I make time.  I read my fifth Claude McCay novel this morning.  Yes, I’ve been a bit addicted.  This was much more quiet and mannered, set in Jamaica, the place of his birth.  Completely different from any other wok of his I’ve read, it also uniquely focused on a young woman.  There are so many hidden parts of Claude McCay’s life, his sexuality, his party membership, and certainly his West Indian identity, which one can glimpse from his fiction or his autobiography: “A Long Way From Home.” This is the first time in his work, beyond his early poem’s where Jamaica is the setting and Jamaican diction is unfurled in prose.

 

It’s good I was up early and finished it before 11:00AM.  By that time, we were on the road, heading to Manhattan.  We’d all promised the little one a day of doing what she wanted to, down in the metropolis.  All the way down I listened to early Toots and the Maytals, continuing on with an honorary mourning of the great apostle of upliftedness.  Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died too, jilting the perilous election into even steeper tilt.  The Checker Player in Chief’s faux-sagacious banning of Wechat goes into effect in less than twenty four hours, there are many glaring stars of concern in the immediate constellation but . . . ‘time’s tough’ and Toots Hibert was filling my soul with confident warmth, causing me to sing in a croaking voice, driving along the New York State Throughway. 


 

Crossing the George Washington Bridge on a sunny fall day and fortunately can still rob my breath straight out of my heart, my gizzard.  The river, the city, the traffic . . .  you can’t look off to the side more than for a glimpse or two if you’re driving and it still makes me flutter.  We got downtown and the Essex Street Municipal Parking is still in business, just like it was in 1991, allowing people to park for less than the cost of a limb.  Needing to pee one of those pees that has been repressed so long and so forcefully that it has reached an all-consuming, unrelenting primacy approximating the urgency of breath itself.  This must be exhaled.  “The black building across the street,” said the gent at the front ticket booth  I head off with my family trailing behind to the place where I’ve been told a public bathroom exists.



So many baubles now, to consider in my old haunt of the Lower East Side, traipsing up from Delancey on Norfolk Street.  Women who walk by majestically with my eyes inadvertently trailing, now arrested by trees, that I don’t recognize.  So, I walked beneath Black Locust and London Planes which I never knew for all those years I'd strolled around here.  And I do my best to shut up and let my daughters decide for themselves what is of interest and what Manhattan means for them.  Eventually, they ask questions. 

 

 

 

Saturday, 09/19/20



Practiced My New Phrase

 



In the bathroom at 2:45AM.  The call will start in fifteen minutes.  Limber with sleep, I am used to it all and I toggle around with the iPhone for the first time since I’ve been back up.  A dear friend in Tel Aviv has written me back and parenthetically informs me that today is the first day of Rosh Hashanah: “so in the spirit of our holiday - Shana Tova, which means happy new year.”  I thanked him and promptly pinged a few other friends and clients in Israel and practiced my new phrase. 

 

Three or four calls later my dad swung by as scheduled.  We were off to meet Paul Huth, the Mohonk Preserve Director of Research Emeritus, who lives in the same spot as my dad.  Pop, early as always. Me, puttering around till the last minute, characteristically we got on our way eventually and by 8:30AM we were up at the Trapps parking lot heading into the woods. 


 

Paul Huth is an exceptional gentleman.  His cross cutting veins of knowledge brought geologic, botanical, social and economic history into the now with affable confidence that was only matched by his pleasant, inquisitive demeanor.  We hiked over to the restored Van Luven home which he’d played a major role in helping to preserve.  I, who have been having a fairly solitary exchange with a phone app, identifying plants and animals this past year finally had a chance to talk to someone who knew just about everything alive and everything inanimate.  Fishers had been reintroduced.  Old growth up here used to be giant hemlocks.  There was a tavern right over there.  This entire mountain grove was a field one hundred years ago. 


 

Wonderful to consider the strange early industrialism of nineteenth century America, when there were vile compromises and remarkable, different possibilities.  How tough it would have been to live up here, all winter, with nothing but your brawn, your neighbors, your root cellar where you stored whatever it was you were going to live on. Mountain folk, who called this home for generations.  And before that caves on the cliffs, which earlier Indians migrated to, hunting out one area and moving on.  He suggested I consider some of the articles he had on line, which I will and that I read a book, the title of which is memorable: “An Unforgiving Land: Hardscrabble Life in the Trapps, a Vanished Shawangunk Mountain Hamlet.”  I’ll get them both, certainly and hopefully we'll all hike again together before long.  

 

 

 

Friday 9/18/20



To Honor Him In

 



Stopped by my mom’s after dropping off my little one at school.  I had conference call on, that was going to mean I had to be rude and chat away on the phone for the first fifteen minutes after arriving there.  I’d warned her and my stepfather about this and as soon as I arrived after a few obligatory elbow bumps, I went straight to the bathroom and worked through this call which needed me more than I expected.



Checking wechat there was a particularly gristly exchange with a friend who seemed inexplicably irritated, once again.  Down in the shower floor there was a sizable spider who couldn’t discern how to get out.  I knelt down, mid conf call and tried my best to have the app zero in the species, but it wasn’t meant to be.  I couldn’t get passed the genus.

 

Gristle. That friend.  Chew on it.  No time to take the exploratory way home today.  For the second time my older one is calling to ask where I am.  When will I be home?  Don’t you remember, I have a doctor’s appointment?  “Yes.  Yes.  I’ll be there in a minute.”  Toggling between WFMU and the Vassar station WVKR and suddenly WoofMu threw on Toots and Maytals.  The magisterial voice of Toots Hibbert had only just passed the week before and, inappropriately, I never really took some time to consider that, to honor him in some way. 



Gristle gone. Fried off into the the air.  Turn “Funky Kingston” up as loud as the car system will allow.  “Everybody!”  And sing and sing out loud, as loud as you possibly can along with that strong, pure west-Jamaican voice.  I could have driven around listening to Toots for hours, but I rolled down the driveway and turned over the car to the ladies, before Toots could conclude his remarkable shredding. 

 

 

 

Thursday, 09/17/20

 

He Was Looking Thin

 



I saw a dead mammal lying there on the right of the trail right before Plaines Road, by Sojourner Truth Park.  I didn’t stop.  Passing, it looked like a fox.  A fox.  Was it one of the foxes that hunts in my backyard?  What could have led to that wily fox’ demise?  I told myself I’d stop there and do my daily photos and search around for things on my way back. 


 

‘Twern’t no fox.  It was a groundhog with big buck teeth.  Flies were all around his head.  Hard to imagine someone moving fast enough to hit him with a bike on the trail.  They can haul when they need to. This chap wasn’t fat and tawny like the Jackie Gleason stand-in that trundles across my lawn.  This guy was pale.  He was looking thin. 

 

I took a customary walk around, searching for some new plants.  Didn’t find much.  There was a small white flower my app told me was snakeweed, that was all up and down the area I was walking in and I plucked a few stems and imagined it up on my desk.  Back home I looked up snakeweed and learned that it was actually the cause of much trouble in the nineteenth century, when cows would eat it and their milk would inexplicably become poisonous.  It was Abe Lincoln’s mom, in fact, who was one of the victims of snakeweed milk poisoning.  It wasn’t for many years that they discerned that snakeweed was the culprit and milk became pasteurized. 



I plucked the tiny leaves off the stems and placed the bouquet into a smart looking glass vase and went out to talk to my wife and daughter.  Down in the basement, moving the laundry to the dryer, I suddenly coughed and felt a sharp, biting pain.  Could it be?  Had I somehow ingested some of this milk toxin by manipulating the snakeweed?  I thought to go and wash my hands immediately.  At the top of the stairs, my younger one now also coughed, over and over.  She jokingly wondered if she had Covid.  Then, I coughed again and it was clear that something else beyond cut flowers was irritating us.  The older one explained that the Mrs. had fried up a big mound of chili peppers and took them out to . . . keep away the deer.  Does that even work?  The whole house was uninhabitable for the next hour or more.  We all had painful coughs. 

 

 

 

Wednesday 9/16/20


Revealed Further On Out




The little one has decided not to take the bus to school.  It’s a long, bumpy ride when there isn’t a pandemic and at present, we can’t but sympathize with her that it is of questionable safety to ride a small bus to school.  I was on a call with my team in China and Japan and rode up to the top of the hill and waited this morning.  “Sorry everyone, I need to go on mute.”  I stepped out to go meet the bus driver as he came around the corner and walked up as he opened the school bus door.  I explained.  He understood.  It wasn’t the same lady from last year.  I hope she’s OK.  This guy was pleasant.  He closed the door drove on.

 

This summer I’d driven my older daughter over in the other direction every morning for her babysitting gig.  It was a bit farther, up and over the Gunks and though it was a commitment, and an investment, I found that I had really substantive talks with her, during these rides, early though they were for her.  I was quietly saddened when they came to an end last month.  And while last year these same rides for my younger one seemed arduous, I was happy for the chance to be the chauffeur this morning.


 

I told her that I was reading the manga series she’d leant me, “Attack on Titan” and could not resist imitating the theme song, which is catchy in an overproduced, thunderous sort of Japanese way.  Within seconds she took to putting it on the air with her phone.  I asked her why the Titans were so ruthless and hungry and why the main protagonist was always on edge with those spiraling bug-eyes?  She hinted knowingly at many things that would be revealed, further on out.



Returning home I had a call at 9:00AM but it was still early and as I did with the older one earlier in the summer, I took a heretofore, unknown pathway home.  Passed this way hundreds of times but I’d never actually turned left at the light and ridden Route 44 out to Gardiner.  And so, when I got to selfsame highway this time I went left and rode up into towns and through the communities I’d never seen before.  And the road meandered and I began to worry if I’d get home in time, to make this 9:00AM call. 

 

I did.  It was fine.




Tuesday, 9/15/20