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August 2008

Barrack Obama

Barrack-obama-speaking Last night was an historic moment, and I found myself wishingObama-and-mother two things. One, I wish Barrack Obama's mother was alive, so she could have watched her son accept the Democratic presidential nomination. (I took some comfort when he mentioned that his grandmother was watching at home.)

Two, I wish that Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, and that he would have watched it too. Amazing and inspirational.


To Connect or not to Connect


DSCN9387  Among the many beauties of the Adirondacks are its remoteness and its sense of timelessness. I have been going there since I was a toddler, and the place remains remarkably unchanged.

There is no Internet service where we go. That's the good news and the bad news. (You can use dial-up with the land line, except that my MacBook Pro doesn't have a port for a telephone wire - I think designers figure at this point that no one is using dial-up service anymore.)

You would think this isolation from the wired world was part of its charm, and in many ways it is. But the reality is mixed for me. If I'm out of touch with my editors too long, it's a problem. After a long weekend, I came home to more than 100 emails, many of them actionable. It sets me back in a big way. On the positive side, If we had access to wireless, I could stay up there longer, because I could actually work from this amazing Adirondack camp in the woods. On the negative side, if we had access to wireless, I could actually work from this amazing Adirondack camp in the woods.

Speaking of work, I have to get to it. Two articles for the Times for this Sunday's paper, and two interviews for the book proposal. Yikes. Those woods sure seem compelling.

PS This is The Weatherman, The Boy, and my daughter's Boyfriend (heretofore to be known as "The Boyfriend"), walking down to the lake to do some fishing.


Away Again

DSCN9271 A couple of my friends have started making comments along the lines of, "Are you away AGAIN?" The answer today, is yes. Away from home, away from the Internet, away from cell service. (I am posting this ahead of time.)

We are up in the Adirondacks for a long weekend. It is especially nice because of the guest list: The Weatherman, The Boy, My Daughter, and Her Boyfriend. And me, of course. I love having my kids way up North, where they can't be distracted by friends calling or coming by. There's no where to go, so they are MINE, MINE, MINE.

Which is not to say things will necessarily be tranquil. The Boy is in charge of packing games. I see he has already set out Monopoly, Scrabble, Apples to Apples, Trivial Pursuit and Scattergories. We are a competitive family and some of us (not me of course) are worse winners than they are losers. Hopefully, I will not be reporting on any family carnage in the next post.


Historic Fire House Now Rubble

Bilde Among the many press releases that arrived in my e-mail inbox yesterday, was one inviting me to Peekskill  this morning to watch construction workers move an 1890 firehouse. A few weeks ago I had written a cover story for the regional section of the NYT about the historic structure, and how it was going to be moved out of the way of a bridge construction project, saved and restored as part of an historic district.

Well, I didn't get to that press conference. Yesterday, as they were preparing the old brick building for the move, a malfunction on the hydraulic lift caused the building to slip and then collapse into a huge pile of debris and dust.

I don't think Peekskill has the money or the will to rebuild the old firehouse - most likely they will save some bricks and use it as a memorial for fallen firefighters. What a sad ending to this story.


A Little Too Friendly

Friendlys_happy_ending OK, somebody has got to tell Friendly's to get a clue. Their "Happy Ending" promotion is causing snickers up and down the East Coast. I first came upon the "happy ending" offer when I was traveling home from Vermont with my friend Sally. I can't remember exactly what the deal was, but it was something along the lines of - pay a certain amount for your lunch or dinner, and get a free sundae.

But marketing people - PLEASE! Don't you know what the term "happy ending" also means? Well, this is a family blog, so let me put it delicately - if a man is offered a "happy ending massage" it means his massage therapist will be providing a form of, er... sexual release at the end of the massage. The ultimate in relaxation.

This is a pretty well known phrase. When The Boy heard me joking about it with Sally, he recalled how he and a group of guy friends were at Friendly's, and their waitress offered them a Happy Ending. They were dumbfounded, though to their credit, they declined. When the bill came, scrawled on the bottom was a note that they had credit for two happy endings. One of the guys took a picture of it with his cell phone.

And by the way, I just visited the company website, and their tag line appears to be, "C'mon. Get In. Get Friendly." Just how friendly are these people? So Friendly's, as amusing as all this is for most of us, it's time to get a grip. Wait, let me rephrase that....


The Forgotten Pet

Yesterday I was reminded that in addition to having two kitties, whose antics have been chronicled here, the family also has a turtle.

This turtle, Mike-y, has been with us for years. He is our second turtle. The first, Myrtle, had a traumatic demise, which shall not be chronicled here. But Mike-y, a land turtle, lives a quiet existence in a tank in our guest room. (Well, it's not so quiet for overnight guests, who complain of rustling and lettuce chomping noises. And before we got a screen top for the tank,we once discovered one of the cats in there, batting poor Mike-y around. It was ages before he came out of his shell after that mishap.)

ANYWAY, the Weatherman does the care and feeding of the turtle, which is why I can forget that we have Mike-y for weeks at a time. He lives a pretty quiet, isolated existence.But yesterday, the NYT reported that a pet store was missing it's two-headed turtle. Huh?! Yes, a two headed turtle. There was a photo, and since this wasn't a tabloid reporting, I have to assume that this was not photo-shoped, but a real freak of nature.

This has given me a new appreciation for my very normal turtle. You can tell who's who in the photos. Mike-y is the one with one head.

Mike-y

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Two Blasts From The Past

Hair This weekend was bookended by two blasts from the past. On Friday night the Weatherman and I went with our friends Melanie and Drew to a production of "Hair" in Central Park. Needless to say it was pretty groovy. There's something freaky about hearing songs that you literally haven't heard in 40 years, and how - as soon as you hear them - all the words are still in your brain. My sister had gone to the original Broadway production of the show in 1968, and we had the cast album in the house, so "The Age of Aquarius" and "Let the Sun Shine In" and even the more obscure songs all came right back to me.

The evening, of course, prompted memories of the sixties. My friend Melanie lived briefly on a commune. Drew and The Weatherman compared draft card numbers. (The Weatherman's number was 45, but the draft was ending a month after that lottery, and he managed to get a medical deferment that carried him  through that period.)

Anyway, there were many ways in which the show was dated, and many in which it was stillWTC-crossSmall relevant, particularly with Iraq and Afghanistan in the background. But what had the most poignancy to me was the passing of youth and all the hope and fervor that comes with it. The original cast of "Hair" must be well into their 60s now. A lot of the  audience members grooving away probably have AARP cards tucked into their wallets. Ah youth.

The other book end on the weekend was going to see the movie "Man on a Wire" last night. This documentary is about Philippe Petit, a French high wire walker who, with his compatriots, strung up a cable between the two World Trade Center towers in 1974 and proceeded to walk, dance, taunt the police and generally perform on the wire for 45 minutes. It is breathtaking to watch. Even though you are watching the documentary that Petit is narrating, so you know he's alive, it is still heart-stopping.

Again, there was so much poignancy to watching the film. You see the construction of the towers, the relatively lax security (that's how they were able to get in and set up the cables on the roof) and the wonder of these enormous structures, which Petit believed were built just for him. Not a word is said about 9/11 - there is no need. And too, you see an aging Petit reminiscing at age 59, while photos of him as a beautiful young man perched on top of the world take up the rest of the screen.

If you get a chance to see either "Hair" or "Man On Wire," you should do so. Poignant, moving, beautiful.


Oh, Sure.

8-15alligatorA_thumb So a couple of hunters from Georgia say they have definitive proof of Big Foot. Evidently they dragged his body from the woods and stuck him in a freezer. The New York Times says, "One photograph provided to the news media showed what resembled a gorilla - or maybe a sheepskin rug - lying twisted in a freezer, with a dollop of intestines protruding from its belly." (Nice writing,  I must say.)

I honestly have never been able to work up a healthy interest in the legend of Big Foot, one way or another. But funnily enough, the headline in our local paper this morning read, "No joke! It's a Gator." Evidently someone discovered - and wildlife rescuers captured - a 3 foot alligator from a local pond in my own sleepy little town. I wouldn't have believed that one either.

The middle of August is usually an incredibly slow news time, and stories that normally wouldn't even make the paper get prominent coverage. But two wild beastie stories in one day? What a bonanza!


Welcome Home Dinner For The Boy

Paul's welcome home dinner Well, you know how I get when The Boy returns from a long absence. And when he walked in tonight, he said he was kind of stuffed, because at 4 p.m. he had stopped on the road and had a big slice of pizza and some kind of egg sandwich. But The Boy being The Boy, he sat down to the dinner table at 7:30 p.m. and proceeded to clean his plate.

Here's what we had - grilled pork cutlets (very thin, just thrown on the grill for a few minutes a side and brushed with bar-b-que sauce), corn on the cob (fresh from the co-op farm), green bean salad and pasta with cherry tomatoes.


Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes

Mince four cloves of garlic. Chop up about half a cup of flat leave parsley. Heat 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and then cook the garlic and parsley for a few minutes, until the garlic just starts to color. Meanwhile, take a pint of cherry tomatoes, and cut them in half. Add the tomatoes to the garlic/parsley mix, and cook for about five more minutes. Season with sea salt and fresh pepper.

Cook a pound of pasta - I used mini-penne - and drain. Toss with tomato/parley/garlic mixture. Season with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Green Bean Salad

Top and tail a pound of fresh green beans. Cook in boiling water for about 4 minutes, until they are crisp but not droopy. Drain and refresh with cold water, then set aside.

Chop 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, set aside
Chop 1/3 cup green onions, set aside

In a large bowl whisk together the following:
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger

Add the green beans, cilantro and green onions to the bowl, mix and serve.Pasta with cherry tomatoes   Green bean salad


Oh Joy! The Boy!

20080423_camp_variety_winona The Boy is finally coming home today. As some of you know, he has been up in Maine for 8 weeks, teaching soccer and baseball at his old summer camp. I say "his old" camp in several senses of the word. First, the camp, Winona, celebrated its 100th season last year, so it has been kicking around on the shores of Moose Pond for more than a century now.

It is also The Boy's "old camp" in the sense of his former camp. He was a camper there for 7 summers, a Counselor-In-Training for one summer, and this summer was his second as a counselor. Do the math, and that means he has spent 9 summers at Winona.

This is a really traditional camp-y camp. All the boys live in platform tents - only the main building has electricity. There are a lot of backpacking and canoe trips. No lights, no phones and obviously no computers. The traditions run deep and the camp breeds a fierce loyalty amongst campers and staff.

I remember well The Boy's first summer there, when he was 10. We got painfully written homesick letters. I was worried sick. But when we  made the long drive to Maine to pick him up at the end of the summer, the first thing he said  was, "I want to come back next summer."

I figured that this year, he would be done with Winona. He wants to travel abroad for his junior year in college, and I also thought he'd want to look into internships and such to build his resume. But we heard from The Boy last night. Guess what? He has already signed a "preliminary contract" to return to work at Winona next summer. As for this summer? According to The Boy: "The best summer of my entire life."


Swiped Clean

Metro card Has anyone else ever washed a Metro Card? Yesterday I inadvertently laundered this card. I must have tucked it into a pants pocket after swiping it in the subway. Knowing me, I didn't want to be fooling with my wallet and purse while in Times Square, so I slipped it in a pocket and forgot about it.

This wouldn't be a big deal, except that I had just added $25 of value to the card. Do you think it will still work? And is it relevant that this was a cold water wash, delicate cycle? It didn't go into the dryer, which I'm sure would have done it in.

I have laundered money before - strictly cash in the washing machine of course - but never something with a sensitive strip before. God knows how they actually work. But if it does work, this card will definitely be the cleanest thing in the New York City subway.


Peekskill Firehouse On The Move

Firehouse600
GOING PLACES Peekskill’s Centennial Firehouse, built in 1890, is being relocated to become part of a historic district.


By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: August 9, 2008
Peekskill

IT doesn’t look like much now. The Centennial Firehouse, a two-story red-brick structure built in 1890, is tucked under a large metal bridge and has been abandoned for more than two decades.

Weeds are growing up the sides of the building, the windows are covered with sheets of metal, and crumbled bricks litter the floor.

But next week, the 118-year-old building will be ready for its second act. The firehouse is being moved, and if all goes as planned, it will ultimately be renovated to become a museum and part of a historic district.

The firehouse’s history is still fresh to some of the firefighters who worked there. Deputy Chief John Esposito not only remembers off the top of his head the day the firehouse closed — Oct. 19, 1980. He also knows by heart the names of the two members of the company who died in the line of duty on Aug. 1, 1918, while battling a fierce fire at the Fleischmann plant.

“They were John Torpy and Walter Cole,” Mr. Esposito said. “Walter Cole was 18. He had just been elected to the company in July. That was his first major fire, and unfortunately his last.”

He wasn’t certain of Mr. Torpy’s age but speculated he was about 21, because he had just gotten out of the Army. (Five members from the Cortlandt Hook and Ladder Company were also killed in the Fleischmann fire.) The men died when a brick wall collapsed on them.

Mr. Esposito, a 44-year veteran of the Peekskill Fire Department, can tell you about the company’s first fire apparatus — it was called a jumper, and the water was hand-pumped. The firemen responded to fires by pulling the wagons themselves, sometimes running up the steep hills surrounding the station.

Mr. Esposito even knows the names of the two horses — Homer and John — that pulled the company’s first horse-drawn wagon, purchased in 1908. The horses were kept in a stall on the side of the firehouse.

Fond as he is of the firehouse’s history, Mr. Esposito was delighted when the company moved to its current quarters on Washington Street.

“We were ecstatic,” he said. “When you got torrential rains, the old firehouse would get flooded out. We’d have three feet of water in the building. And it happened all the time.”

After it was closed, the building and surrounding property were sold to a developer. But the area was mostly abandoned, and over time, the vacant firehouse became home to vagrants and began to deteriorate.

It wasn’t until the State Department of Transportation made plans to reconstruct Route 9 here that the firehouse got back on the city’s radar.

The $72.9 million project will replace four bridges in Peekskill, including the bridge over Central Avenue, where the old firehouse sits.

To make the improvements, which include additional lanes and wider shoulders, the firehouse had to go.

The Transportation Department condemned the property.

This is not the first time the Centennial Firehouse and Route 9 have gotten in each other’s way. In 1932, when the original bridge was constructed, workers had to shave off part of the firehouse’s roof to accommodate it.

This time, however, the Transportation Department, the city and the New York State Historic Preservation Office worked together to devise a plan to relocate the structure.

The cost of the move is part of the highway project budget (there is a cap of $400,000), and the city also received a $1 million state grant to rehabilitate the building.

Moving a brick building that is more than a century old is a delicate task. Workers begin by cutting two-foot by two-foot holes around its base. Steel beams are then slid through the holes to help create a new foundation. The building is lifted up, and rollers are slid underneath.

The firehouse will have to be rotated 90 degrees before it is moved, to avoid utility lines and the existing bridge pier, said Sandra Jobson, a Transportation Department spokeswoman.

It will be rolled about 500 feet to a corner of a parking lot, its temporary resting spot. The ultimate plan is to move the firehouse in about 10 months to Lincoln Plaza, about a block away, where it will be restored and placed near the Lincoln Depot, where Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech in February 1861.

Lincoln visited Peekskill during his inaugural train journey, on his only stop in Westchester.

City officials envision a small visitors center, the Lincoln depot and the firehouse all linked as a mini-historical area on the waterfront. Peekskill has other historic neighborhoods, including the Fort Hill Historic District. Mayor Mary Foster said the city was accepting proposals for the design and use of the plaza.

The public will be given an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed designs, she said.

“You need to balance the economic possibilities of revitalization while preserving our history,” Ms. Foster said. “The fire companies would clearly like to have a museum aspect to the firehouse.

“Since it’s a two-floor firehouse, you could also do some sort of food part — firehouse cooking maybe. But whatever we do, we want the full community’s support.”


Denzel To the Rescue

Denzel-washington A few weeks ago, I wrote a story for the NYT about how Mount Vernon High School, known for its powerhouse sports teams, had to cut athletics from their school budget. The city twice voted down the school budget, forcing administrators to make some hard choices. Pre-kindergarten was spared; sports were not.

The community then rallied to try to raise money for the beleaguered district - reaching out to parents, alumni, city residents and neighboring towns. Athletes washed cars and took contributions in jars. As of last week, they had raised just over $100,000 (I'm proud to say that my own community contributed generously) but Mount Vernon was still considerably shy of the funds they needed to re-institute fall sports.

Enter the talented Denzel Washington, a MountChamp_cover_with_border_small Vernon High School graduate. A few days ago, Mr. Washington announced that he would contribute $100,000 of his own money to the effort. WIth a little more austerity and some shifting of funds, the district just announced that there will be a fall season.

But the school district still faces a daunting task. There's not enough money for winter sports, and that means the 8-time state champion basketball team may not have a season. Stay tuned....





08-08-08

Woodstock view The Chinese know this is an auspicious date - thus tonight's opening ceremonies for the Olympics. It has also been personally auspicious. As of two days ago, I couldn't imagine how I was going to get out of bed for a meeting with my agents. As of yesterday morning, I couldn't imagine how I was going to be able to drive to Hartford to meet Sally for our girlfriend getaway. As of getting on Route 84, I couldn't imagine how I was going to drive another five minutes when I was so lightheaded.

But my head cleared, Sally drove the second leg of the journey (from Hartford to Woodstock, Vermont) and as you can see from the photo, here we are. Both of us doubted we could do much of anything once we got here, but taking it really slow, we did a modest hike up Mt. Tom, which in my confusion, I kept referring to as "Saint Thomas Mountain." This is the view of the town of Woodstock from the top.

Soon after we got up there, it started to thunder, and we made it down, had a nice picnic lunch on the porch from which we watched the rain pour down,  and are now enjoying a nice cup of tea in the Inn. I am so happy we both made the trip.


Girlfriend Getaway

Here is a small sketch of me and my friend Sally, getting ready for our weekend trip together. OK - perhaps not. Perhaps the reality is that - though we met as college freshman roommates when we were both 17 years old, we don't quite look like this anymore. OK, fine, we never did.

What's more, we have both been sick all week - Sally, languishing at her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and me, still feeling pretty terrible, up here in New York. But we have a tradition, damn it, and we're not breaking it today.

Preety-girls Other than that room we shared freshman year in college, Sally and I have never lived even remotely close to each other. Soon after graduation, she began traveling the world, while I began producing children. Our lives took completely different turns. Sally is one of those people whose address I never write down in pen, because it changes so often. She  also happens to be one of the people I love the most in the world.

The two of us have always made a point to carve out a little time to spend together each year. She knows I hate to fly, so she tends to come north, but not always. Please try to picture us  in a cabin in West Virgina, whitewater rafting in Tennessee, at a spa in Connecticut, on the beach in Rhode Island, in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania (don't even ask) - most of the time laughing so hard that we are snorting.

So I'm still feverish and she has been on antibiotics for days. Our plan was to go hiking together in Vermont. In two hours I am picking her up at the Hartford, CT airport and then we are heading another  two and a half hours North to Woodstock. I can't imagine how we are going to actually do this, feeling as weak as we do. But I'm confident that about 7 hours from now, we will be at the small inn, laughing so hard that no noise will be coming out.


Under the Weather

Sick-girl-cartoon Maybe it was too much partying at the wedding. But whatever it was, no sooner had I said goodbye to the last of my house guests then I started to feel pretty low. For the last two days I've been running a low-grade fever and feeling totally washed out.

It does make me realize what a normally high-energy person I am and how lucky I am to generally enjoy very good health (knock wood). Yesterday, the idea of dragging myself off the sofa to refill my glass of half/seltzer/half/orange juice seemed like a daunting task.

But speaking of daunting, I must drag myself into Manhattan this morning to meet with the two agents who are helping me shape my book proposal. I have taken two extra-strength Tylenol, slapped some makeup on my pasty face, assembled my notes and will soon head to the train station. Among my concerns is being able to appear enthusiastic over the latest proposed revisions. That and not passing out on the way...



The Post-Wedding Brunch

Brunch table Doesn't this look pretty? Here we are all set up to host a brunch on the day after the wedding. The garden was ready, the tables were rented, and we have taken a few of the wedding reception center pieces to help decorate.

In fairness, the Weatherman warned me. He said things were not looking good on the radar. Nonetheless, we set up outside. The guests began to arrive a little after 11:00 a.m. The rain began to come down a little after 11:00 a.m. By 11:30 a.m. it was as dark outside as if it were night. Then we heard a huge crack and boom - the power went off.

And the power stayed off, not just through the brunch, but until the evening. The Weatherman and I gathered candles and flashlights as our guests gamely stumbled through the dark house. Fortunately, I had already put the food out and the menu was what a friend described as the "perfect black-out brunch" - cold poached salmon with green sauce, croissants, tea sandwiches, fruit salad and chocolates. There were mimosas and soft drinks, and the only real problem was the ice melting and the coffee getting colder and colder.Centerpiece

But hey - if we were going to have this kind of weather and this kind of drama, far better to have it on the day after the wedding instead of at the big day itself. But you do have to imagine these outdoor tables, soaked and swaying in the high winds, as the little creek that runs along the driveway overflowed and poured into the street.

And in the end, the rose centerpieces were saved, the food was eaten, and the affair did turn into exactly the kind of intimate gathering we had hoped for.


The First Photos

I know, I know, you've been reading about this wedding long enough. How about a look? These were taken by Emily's friend Samara at the wedding. But just some highlights first:
-The wedding was absolutely beautiful. Emily and Peter married outdoors in a garden setting. They wrote their own vows, which were thoughtful and touching. The bride was very emotional - there were tears - and the couple were so obviously deeply in love. OK, you've waited long enough - here is their first kiss as a married couple:
265098123603_0_BG And here is there first dance as a married couple. Isn't Emily's dress amazing?
316098123603_0_ALB
And one more for today - my beloved Sister Amy (trying hard not to cry) and the bride.
277358123603_0_BG

The party was fabulous, though I'm hoping against hope that no photos emerge of me on the dance floor. Let's just say I was a little over-excited. More details tomorrow...


The Wedding Day

800px-Wedding_rings The morning has dawned sunny and clear, and augers well for a 5:30 p.m. outdoor ceremony.

It was just over a year ago that the Weatherman and I were up in Maine, visiting The Boy, when my cell phone rang. It was my sister, and I told her it was not a good time to chat - we had just sat down to dinner.
"O.K.," she said, "but I have some exciting news."

The news, of course, was that Emily and Peter had gotten engaged the night before. Since then there have been "Save The Date" cards, and dozens - possibly  hundreds - of phone calls about planning the big event. (Come to think of it, 100 calls on the seating alone.) My sister and I are very close, and I was delighted to  follow the planning, chip in my opinion on the MOB (mother-of-the-bride) dress, color scheme, etc.

Last night was the rehearsal dinner and it was really fun. Hosted by the groom's mother (Peter's Dad passed away when Peter was in high school), the event was at a restaurant right on the Hudson River. We watched the sun set and if I wanted to get really hokey I could say that the sun set on Emily and Peter's last night as single people. (Well, thank God I skipped over that impulse.)

Anyway, there were toasts and lots of table hopping as the two families got to know each other. I'm happy to report that the bride's brother was well enough to show up for at least part of the event. Things were perfectly civil between the Mother of the Bride and the Father of the Bride, who divorced several years ago. Emily was radiant, and she and Peter looked awfully happy, if a bit nervous.

But hey - today is the big event. I have to get to the grocery store, as I am hosting a post-wedding brunch tomorrow for 25 at my house. The Boy is flying in from Maine today for the wedding. We're cutting it close - he lands a few hours before the ceremony, but he couldn't get much time off from his summer job.  My daughter came up from the city last night for the rehearsal dinner and took today off from work, so she can help me prepare for the brunch and we can get ready for the wedding together.

OK - I'm blathering now. I'm just very, very excited. Don't expect a post tomorrow, dear readers. But I promise I will share the highlights of the wedding itself when I write the next post. Cheers!