A Brief History of Kimonos

To be fully alive is to have an aesthetic perception of life because a major part of the world’s goodness lies in its often unspeakable beauty.

~~Yukitaka Yamamoto

[An old triptych of three women wearing kimonos. Source: Google Search.]

Recently, my wife and I spent an afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). She wanted to see the Tudor exhibition. I went through it quickly…I love English period decorative and portraiture art but that interest peaked with the final season of Downton Abbey. The newly restored (and painted!) ancient Greek and Egyptian statuary was where I wanted to spend more time. So we did both. We then visited the Asian art wing and saw the Kimono Style exhibition. From there we retired to the Member’s Lounge for a glass of white wine ($17.00) and a bottle of Pellegrino. While eating our Hummus and Pita plate, we discussed what we had seen and I mentioned that I would like to revisit the Kimonos once more before it closed. We finished our visit to the Hall of Medieval Art to see the Christmas Creche.

The Kimono Style (which closes in February) was more than fascinating. Within three minutes of entering the gallery, I realized that my concept of Kimonos was, to put it mildly, somewhat simplistic. The background, styles and fabrics were intricate and beautiful. So, I did what every good blogger does in such a situation…I ran straight to Google to find out as much background as I could. And, like yours truly, I fell asleep before I could get to the Edo Period. I awoke after a brief nap, shoved my laptop aside and headed for the bed. I slept the sleep of an opium smoker.

My dream came quickly. There were cherry blossoms everywhere. I was standing at the edge of a Dark Forest. “Don’t go in there”, I was told. “Those who do often end up as suicides. It was the Aokigahara, where the ghosts of Japanese mythology are said to dwell. I was not alone. Her name was Akari, which translates to ‘vermillion red’. Her beauty was heavy with gravity. A deep, peaceful and somehow alluring aura made the air around her radiate a golden light. Her face was as while as the first snowfall of winter.

She was a Geisha. But unlike western stereotypes, she was not for sale. A Geisha is not a prostitute but instead is a highly educaated woman trained in the Art of the Tea Ceremony, music, literature and calligraphy. She was one of about 1,000 active Gheishas in Japan today.

In my unenlightened world, I thought she would take care of my every need, even before I knew I had it. She took my hand and led me to a low desk. She mixed the ink and began making brush strokes. She made me try to copy her bamboo leaves. My attempts were embarrassing. She smiled and led me back to edge of the forest. I took a step toward the trees…

I woke up.

I’ve digressed.

Kimonos were first reported in the Kofun Period (300-538 CE). Over the centuries, the style has changed in many ways. The first Kimonos were of Chinese design. The trade between Japan and China brought new styles to Japan. In 718 CE, the Youo Clothing Code was enacted. This determined who was eligable to wear one, the kind of material and even the fact that the robe opening was to be Left to Right. The opposite closure was reserved for the deceased.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the obi was added. Length of sleeves and multiple layers were common.

By the early 20th Century, many class distincions were abololished. Western clothing came into style. But the Kimonos remained popular. After an earthquake in Kanto in 1923, a shortage of fabrics became available from unused clothing. In recent years, the Kimono has grown in popularity. Men are wearing western suits to work and changing into a Kimono robe in the evening.

[A present-day mother and child with modern Kimonos. Source: Google Search.]

What follows is a gallery of Kimono photos I took at the MET. I regret that I can not give you the style name, fabric or historical context of each one. Just marvel at the subtle striking beauty of this small sample of Kimonos:


[My personal favorite.]

A few days later we returned to the MET. I headed straight to the Kimono Style exhibit. I took a few more photos and went further into the Asian Art wing. I wanted to sit in my favorite place. It’s a replica of a Chinese (or Japanese) Courtyard. I sat and listened. In years past, there was a small trickle of water from a fountain. I loved the tranquility of the murrmering water.

It was silent in the room. For some reason the fountain had been turned off. I was disappointed. But, if nothing else, I am a resourceful guy. I pulled out my ear buds and plugged into my iPhone. I went to my Calm app and found “babbling brook”.

I think you can work out the rest of the story…

[Sources: the historical material is from Wikipedia. All the MET Kimono photos are mine. The rest are the result of Google Searching. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I did not have the aforementioned dream.]

Advertising Icon “Little Debbie” Held In Trafficking Charges

Have you tried cakes and pies…?

~~Little Debbie

[Little Debbie’s Original Head Shot Found in an Attic in Tulsa. Source: Google Search. Image copyrighted by McKee Foods, Inc]

I was sitting in the Operation Room Lounge of the Holiday Inn on Main Street when I first got the text message on my iPhone. It was Huntsville, Alabama and it was hotter than a stolen tamale. The barkeeper poured me my third draft of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The only chilly location in the room was the bar stool next to me. Her name was Sheila. Her hair was the color of polished copper. I kept wanting to call her Ginger. I was hoping she would agree to come back to my place, order in a Papa John’s Everything Pizza and stream something up lifting. I had Bergman’s The Seventh Seal in mind. My friend Sheila wrote a Miss Lonely Hearts column for the only other rag in town, The Huntsville Trumpet. I, on the other hand, had a corner office in the Huntsville Reporter. I’d like to say that I covered the waterfront, but it wouldn’t be true. I wrote obits. After taking an extra deep gulp of PBR, my iPhone broke into Dancing Queen by Abba. I nearly knocked Shiela’s Pink Lady over as I reached for the singing phone. I put my left forefinger in my ear and turned away from my colleague with a quick “scuse me”. I grabbed by notebook.

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What? Yeah. Who? Yeah. Okay.” I muted my phone and turned to Miss S.

“Girl, do I have a scoop on a big one.”

“I bet you say that to all the girls.”

“Do you like tasty snacks?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

I cringed. I did it again. Now she’ll take me down with a MeToo and a #.

“No really. Remember that girl who’s face is all over the snack packages? Well, she really did it this time.”

“You mean…”

“Debbie. Little Debbie,” I said after looking over my notes.

“Sure, I remember her. She still alive after the Opioid thing?”

“You bet she is and she’s up to no good…as we speak.”

Sheila pulled an obscenely long cigarette out of a box that was buried deep in her macrame handbag. “I gotta have a smoke. Come on join me.”

“Outside?” I asked. “But it’s hotter than Dutch love.”

“Stop whining and start talking.” She headed for the door.

“She’s in big trouble now. The Feds are holding her in a Police Station in West Palm Beach. Seems there is a ton of evidence that she is the CEO of a massive eight continent human trafficking operation based in Hong Kong.”

“I loved the original better than the remake,” said Sheila. “Big lovable ape loves beautiful girl…I could cry…”

“Please don’t. And that was King Kong, don’t you remember?”

“Guess I was looking at you too much and not the screen. All those people sitting in front of me. It was really not a very nice evening,” she said.

“It was a Drive-In, sweetheart,” I said.

“Details.”

“Anyway, the old girl, this Debbie person is about sixty now. She was quite a big deal once upon a time. Her brand of snacks were sold in every gas station in the free world. There was even a Little Debbie song. You can Google it. Kind of catchy.”

Sheila crushed the butt of the spent Virginia Slims cig and turned to me. “There was always something a little odd about her.” We settled back onto our bar stools.

“I totally understand,” I said. “Want to hear something strange about her? I had her image on my iPhone. She was wearing a hat with a chin string. I pinched the photo and made the tiny clasp as large as a Susan B. Anthony dollar. Know what? Hidden in that image was a symbol that has been linked to Satanic Cults throughout Meso-America and the Pacific Rim. She was up to more than we can imagine. And none of it was good…or legal.

Sheila looked at me. “Can we talk about this later? I’m famished.”

On our way to Papa John’s Pizza Emporium, we stopped at a well-stocked 7-11 store. I bought a six-pack of Moosehead Ale and a quart of Maker’s Mark. Sheila pulled down a bottle of medium priced Tequila. I reached for a few snack cakes that would be our dessert. I nearly picked up a Little Debbie Raspberry Apple Plum Cake. I stopped. I looked down at the package. I would bet my uncle’s Studebaker on the fact that the image on the package on the shelf…Little Debbie eyes seemed to be following me. They were a dull shade of red. Was that a curl in her short cute hair? Or a horn?

I grabbed a Tasty Cake instead. Cherry flavored. Just like the eyes of Satan.

[Shot from the hip. The package at the 7-11. Yet another mystery. Where is the hat string? My photo.]

A Song. An Image. A Tear

“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

~~ Winnie the Pooh

I am a fan of talent shows. I don’t mean the kind we used to see on the Miss America Contest from Atlantic City. Bert Parks standing off to the side and singing “There She Is, Miss America” would make the whole event worthwhile to me. No, I’m talking about the County Fairs, School Events…perhaps even an open-mike night at a small Irish Pub. The talent is usually young people…a new dance routine learned at Maggie’s Dancing Studio down on Main Street. I’m envious of those who can stand up before a bleacher full of strangers (and some family). The thirteen year old girl on the school stage singing “Am I Blue?” or a nine year old singing “Both Sides Now“. Whatever is lacking in true talent is made up for in pure guts. I could never do it.

But I digress.

Every so often I spend a few minutes surfing Facebook for clips of Steve Martin’s first time on The Tonight Show, or an ‘official’ music video of Bob Dylan’s latest release. This is my time to catch up and upgrade my cultural literacy.

Several weeks ago I happened upon a collection of postings from America’s Got Talent. It was here that I first heard a pre-pubescent yodeler from Iowa or a darkly frightful young woman illusionist from Indonesia. But I paused on a segment featuring a ten year old autistic boy (who is also blind!). His foster father held his hand and did the introduction while the boy rocked back and forth, holding his cane. His name is Christopher Duffley. The clip is eight years old but I had never seen it before. The dad said the boy would be singing “I Want To See You“. I googled the song and found a tune by that name written and preformed by Boz Scaggs. I’m not totally certain it’s the same song…but it’s a moot point. The point is that I was very moved by what I was watching. The boy’s first faltering notes. His unease apparent.

(I have a vested interested in this topic. My daughter, Erin, teaches a couple of autistic boys in Orting, WA. And my grandson is approximately the same age as the boy on stage.)

But he gave up the cane, grabbed the mike and sang. The live music behind him on stage adjusted the pace and tempo to fit the child’s tiny voice.

But such bravery.

I felt a warm tear rolling down my cheek.

And, as fathers sometimes do, I saw my own son (now thirty-five years old) as that boy. I tried to climb into the father’s head. I couldn’t.

I could not do much of anything but watch, watch until the next tear fell.

[Note: For further information on autism, go to the link below:]

https://nationalautismassociation.org/

The Most Terrifying Ghost Blog Ever Written

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.”

–Madeline L’Engle

[Reading by the light of a single candle. Source: Google Search]

For reasons unknown to me, I’ve always been attracted to things that are dark and gloomy. When the wind blows against the thin glass of my window and the moon appears and reappears behind the darkest of clouds making shadows black and sounds in the woods (or wherever) make a dreadful moaning, then I’m happy. Well, sort of.

But first I need to tell you that as far as ‘ghosts’ in the common meaning are concerned, I’m pretty much of a skeptic. I don’t necessarily believe in the dead returning, but I do love a good ghost story. And, make no mistake, I’ve read more than my share. My favorites are M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood and Poe, of course. But Poe didn’t really write a classic ‘ghost story’…he was just plain creepy and morose.

Instead of telling you a ghost story, I thought I’d like to share just a small sample of my favorite Spirit Photographs. Many of the most famous photos have been debunked. Some have not and they defy explanation.

–Here is perhaps the most famous (if you exclude Mary Todd Lincoln sitting in a chair with Abe hovering just behind her) is the Grey Lady of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. A Captain (sorry the name escapes me) took this photo in 1936. I’ve read many possible explanations but the photo remains an enigma.

What do you think?

[The Grey Lady descends the staircase. Source: Google Search.]

The woman has even been identified. She is the sister of British statesman, Horace Walpole. Apparently she was having an affair. Someone didn’t like that and had her locked in a room for quite a few years.

–I find the next one very interesting. Perhaps because it involves children (often the haunters). The back story is that the little girl’s sister died in a fire I believe. The photo was taken in 1925:

[At the poolside in a cemetery. Source: Google Search.]

I’m not a professional debunker, but this one has me puzzled as to how it was done…assuming it’s a fake. If it isn’t, well then.

–The next one has very little information regarding it. It looks like Ireland. And we all know Ireland is quite haunted:

[I’ll say this. The composition is too classically “ghosty”. A sheet? Your call.]

–The Bachelors Grove Cemetery in Illinois is reputed to be a very haunted place. When Paranormal Investigators set up their equipment, all manner of odd readings came up. I’ve seen many photos from that cemetery, but I find this one heartbreakingly sad:

[She sits. She is thinking about something profound. Who is she? Why is she there? Source: Google Search.]

I read that all the researchers present claimed there was no-one in that location when the photographers went to work. I would like to know more about her. Alas, I fear I’ll never know any answers.

That’s not all the photos I have, but I wanted to share a small sample.

I’ll end this frightful post with this:

It’s plain to see that this is an illustration and not a photograph. That’s okay. It still sets the mood for a memorable Halloween.

Local Boy Does Good

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

–Anon. [Source: Pintrest]

[View of River Row from the Court Street Bridge. Owego, NY.]

It was mid-October. The forecast called for clouds and drizzle. The chilly air and the leaves along the sidewalks brought back memories of Halloweens past. I never saw so many pumpkins. I usually had to travel to Iron Kettle Farm to see that many. Some trees foliage was past peak. A good many still clung to their brilliant reds and yellows and scarlets, holding on to them like a protective mother with children. In the distance, up, up among the trees of West Beecher Hill, the monument to Sa Sa Na Loft was visible as a white column. It acted like a sentinel, keeping watch over the Village below.

But I digress.

I came back to Owego feeling like a conquering hero. I’ve had some modest success as a blogger. My fan base is predominantly Owegoans (I suspect). My reason for coming home was to gather some photographs for a future writing project and tend to my family’s gravesite. At St. Patrick’s Cemetery, I wiped the red granite clean and left three roses. I also left three roses at the grave of my life-long friend, Greg Stella, who passed away in early June.

I also was hoping to connect with some high school friends. Unfortunately, that failed to happen. Perhaps I didn’t get my publicity team in place early enough. It all turned out for the best, in a way. I got more than enough photos and I got a chance to smell the same scent in the chilled air that I recall as a youth.

Memories began to well up in my mind. I stood on the Court Street Bridge to take the picture shown above. Just behind me and to my left, down near the river where Route 17 (I-86) now exists, there was the old Lackawanna train station. I had my first kiss there (and it wasn’t from my mother). I paddled canoes in the waters below me. I lived Owego. I loved Owego.

The house on Front Street where I grew up still stands. I noticed as I stood on what was once my sidewalk, that the old place could use a coat of stain on the shingles.

[420 Front Street. Once the Egan Home.

+ + +

I have a fair number of pastimes to keep me occupied in my advancing years.

~~I’m making efforts to teach myself how to watercolor.

~~I’m trying to learn two chords on my Ukulele.

~~I write blogs. I write books.

~~I am a volunteer photographer for Find-A-Grave.com so I am drawn to cemeteries.

So, off I went to take care of business. I needed to place an ad in the Courier, but the office was closed. I left a message on their machine. I tried the same with The Pennysaver. I’m waiting for a call back. I couldn’t wait to sit down to a sumptuous dinner at The Cellar Restaurant but after Yelping it, found it was closed that night. I decided to go “graving”, i.e. photograph requested memorials. There were dozens of requests at Evergreen Cemetery. I couldn’t locate a single grave. The same thing happened at St. Patrick’s and the Steele Cemetery on the Montrose Turnpike. No success.

[View of Village of Owego from the Sa Sa Na Loft Monument in Evergreen Cemetery.]

In the end, I wasn’t much of a conquering hero. I was able to accomplish a few of the tasks I had intended for my visit. But it wasn’t a failed trip at all. I saw an important map at the Museum and I now have a bundle of photographs on file for future use. Maybe a blog? Maybe a book?

I got a chance to stand where I once stood those many years ago. I saw the same late 19th Century buildings that line the streets downtown. I stood on a grassy patch of lawn along Front Street near St. Patrick’s School (not a school anymore) and gazed out at the Susquehanna River. A memory: One winter day in the 1950’s, a build-up of ice had been broken apart upriver in Binghamton. The result was like something seen in the Arctic Ocean. A nun took us out of class and carefully crossed Front St. Our class stood and watched and listened to the churning ice floes. It was an awesome sight for a young boy.

It’s possible to go home again if you keep your special memories close to your heart.

[Susquehanna River from Front St.]
[Sunset. Owego, NY]

[Note: All photos are mine.]

The Lost Mausoleum

“Reader beware as you pass by.

As you are now so once was I.

As I am now so you will be.

Therefore, prepare to follow me.”

–Tombstone Inscription [Source: Pintrest]

[Antique map of Owego, NY. [Source: Exhibit at the Tioga County Historical Society]

This is a true story. It does not involve ghosts but it has potential. It takes place in Owego, NY, my hometown. Yes, it has the elements of a tale that would chill your bones on these chilly nights when the pumpkins line the window sills and the porch steps creak with the frost. The fake spider webs hang from second floor windows and tree branches. The cold wind stirs the red, brown and yellow leaves into dark corners. Candles burn in some windows. Lights are on in the basements of a few dark mansions that line Front Street. The time of year has come to turn up one’s collar, wrap the scarf once more around your neck and pull your hat over your ears.

It’s Halloween and I am trying to find a mausoleum.

When I was a young teenager I often visited the Owego Museum, aka The Tioga County Historical Society. On the wall a large very old map (1853) of Owego hung for years. I used to stand and gaze at the beautiful map, memorizing the names on the plots all over the Village. In the margins are architectural sketches of notable buildings. And here is the problem:

I distinctly remember focusing on the corner of Main and McMaster Streets. There was a rectangle drawn there with the word MAUSOLEUM written in the small box.

On October 20, I was in Owego tending to some business (we were staying at the Parkview Hotel, notably haunted). I dropped in at the Museum to photo the map. I was in for a shock. It wasn’t where I remember it. It wasn’t there. I asked the Director and he led me to an office on the lower floor. There was the map. I slipped out my iPhone and began photographing details of the map. Something was wrong. The mausoleum wasn’t shown. What could have happened? I’m 99.99% sure it was the same map I saw as a boy.

[A detail of the 1853 Owego map]

All that is labelled on the corner of Main and McMaster is: Methodist Ch. There is no church on that corner. Here is a photo of the corner:

[The corner of Main and McMaster Streets]

The mystery is now in place. Was there ever a tomb at this corner? Did I recall the map correctly? If the structure did indeed exist, who was interred there? Where are the hallowed remains now?

I can say this with the utmost confidence, I did see the word MAUSOLEUM on a map at the Owego Museum. I also find it very unlikely that there are two very similar maps. Since so many plots of land has the name Pumpelly on them, it’s likely that the tomb held the remains of a member of that family.

So there it is. Not a very complicated story but certainly a puzzling one.

Putting any potential ghosts aside, I will share something personal with you. It involves the map in question. At the other end of Front Street is the house where I grew up. The address is 420 Front Street.

Interestingly, the map was printed before our house was built.

[The Hollenback Estate]

The view before you is Front Street and part of John Street. This section of Front was long known as “Broken Arm Curve”. It may still have that moniker even though the sharp angle has been modified. As a child, hardly a Saturday night would pass without an accident. (Now there are traffic lights and plenty of warnings of the curve.) Notice the tree icons that appear on several properties. See the large house close to the center of the photo? That was the Hollenback House. Apparently, Hollenback, a successful businessman, had something of a Gentleman’s Farm. Look closely at the angle of Front where it makes a right turn a heads towards the Hickories Park. There is a single tree icon. That is where my house is located. I believe it was built by Hollenback as a wedding present to his daughter. My father bought the house in 1945. After he passed in 2004 we sold 420 Front Street to a young family. That was the Egan house for sixty years.

Now there are only memories of my time playing in the fields that filled the grounds from #420 to the river. There are still live apple trees from Hollenback’s orchards in those yards.

So, while not really a ghost story, this narrative elicits my love of local history…and the very interesting fact concerning a missing crypt.

[All photos are mine. I am grateful for the assistance given to me by Scott MacDonald, Executive Director of the museum and for allowing me to photograph parts of the old Owego map.]

ADDENDUM

Several hours ago (it’s Sunday night) I received a Facebook message from John P. Ricklefs. Attached to his comment was a photo of THE MAP. I am very grateful and glad that the map I saw as a child did indeed exist. Look at the upper left corner of the rectangle. You will see the word Vault. I was not mistaken. But the existence of the vault itself remains a mystery of sorts.

[The map showing the vault. Photo: Courtesy of John P. Ricklefs. Used with permission]

Lost in a World of Cardboard

box noun A container.

–American Heritage Dictionary

[Our future Livingroom. Photo is mine.]

Call it propriety. Call it embarrassment. Whatever you wish to call it, I’m not going to reveal, through iPhone photos the extent of the cardboard that has found a place in our apartment. We used Westside Movers (the very same company that moved us away from the City in 2011) because the estimate was reasonable and they work fast. And the movers will pack anything that isn’t Epoxied to the floor. Don’t put a Sharpie down and turn away because it will disappear and end up six hours away and it will be weeks to uncover. If it ever surfaces again in this familiar universe. Yesterday I was unpacking something, at least I thought there was something, bound in the volumes of newsprint. I tore and ripped savagely with extreme prejudice only to find a scented votive candle, maybe an inch tall, in the palm of my dusty hand. Finding the TV was not a big problem: it surfaced on Day One. Great! The remotes were packed in another box. They were found on Day Five.

But I digress.

We are now officially relocated in New York City after nearly eleven years in the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York State. You’ve read my posts over the years about our experiences in the Lake Placid region. If you read the blogs closely you would have detected an arc in my narratives. It goes something like this:

~~Finding a Real Estate Agent

~~Elation

~~Reality

~~Fear

~~Loneliness

~~Depression

~~Finding a Real Estate Agent

But, make no mistakes. We enjoyed our time in the woods. But how many times can I shovel the never-ending snow?

We’ve enjoyed the company of awesome neighbors and we already miss them. We’ve shared many dinners and fireside chats on cool evenings. But, all good things must come to an end…and we came to a point that new adventures in Manhattan was something we wanted very much.

So, visit me often on WordPress and please click ‘like’ at the end of each blog. Pay your love forward, I work hard on these posts.

[Manhattan Sunset. Photo is mine.]

{Note: If you want my mailing address please ask me through Messenger.}

Dorset of My Dreams

“Oh, to be in England…”

–Robert Browning

[The chalk coast of Dorset. Photo: Google Search]

It all started on a late winter morning of 1984. I was walking to my office at King & Low-Heywood Thomas School (KLHT) in Stamford, Connecticut. Walking with me was a teacher/administrator. She was going through her teacher-mail regarding microscope sales and Petri dish discounts. She held on to an envelope and after a few moments glanced at the contents, she turned to me and said: “Here, maybe you will find this interesting.” She handed me a letter. I took a quick look and put it on my desk. I had a first period class.

Later, after my ninth cup of Faculty Room Coffee I looked over the letter. It was from a business office in New York City. The company arranged Teacher Exchanges. I put it on my desk again and went off to meet with a student. As the Fates would have it, the British teacher who was seeking an exchange was right there in the office. We talked. He took the Amtrak to Stamford where I met him and took him to the school for a tour.

To make a long story short, this guy, Chris, really wanted to do the exchange. The Headmaster was not so enthusiastic. But, it all worked out in the end. Early August of 1984 found me on an late evening flight to Heathrow.

[Corfe Hills School, Corfe Mullen, Dorset. Photo: Source CHS webside]

A year is a long time to distill my experiences into a few paragraphs. Simply put, I had a few rocky days getting to know the ‘system’, meeting my colleagues, learning the names of my students and attempting to find my various classrooms. I was hired as a Geography teacher, a subject I love. I was happy. What was difficult was the number of courses they gave me to teach. I taught fifth and sixth form geography, General Studies and Religious Studies. They gave it all to me.

“Face it. You’re bloody irrelevant being here only a year,” some administrator told me on my second or third day.

[Last day of school. Two of my favorite students who helped me and gave me sage advice. Sally in the white blouse and Yzanne is to my right. Photo: Photo is mine]

I was never bored. When the weekends approached, I was faced with two choices (mostly): Take a hike on a Footpath in Thomas Hardy country or go to BritRail, buy a return and spend the weekend in a Cathedral city like Wells or Salisbury. I couldn’t get enough of the countryside, the dramatic coast of Dorset, the small villages that had little more than a pub. My ‘local’ pub was the Barley Mow. I can’t tell you how many pints and Steak & Kidney Pie I’ve eaten in that very old thatched building.

[A hillside with a copse of trees on the summit. Photo is mine]

I found some walks that went through some of the most picturesque locations. The sunken path below is near Shaftesbury. Madonna had a house nearby.

[One of my favorite footpaths. The trail itself is sunken about ten feet. Photo is mine]

The places I travelled are all marked off in my dozens of hiking guides. My personal best is a nine-mile walk that began in the parking lot of a pub called A Brace of Pheasants. I was exhausted at the end of the day. The Ploughman’s Lunch and two pints of Guinness helped me start out but didn’t help me finish. I had a Steak & Kidney Pie. It was a Sunday so I went home, took a shower and turned on Radio 4 to listen to a drama. Later, when I was a bit too hyped-up to sleep, I would tune to the station that carried “Prime Minister’s Question Time”. You can image how interesting that show was.

[Footpath signage. Photo is mine]

I have been back to Dorset many times since the mid ’80’s. I made every effort to share what my past was like by going on footpaths with Mariam. My favorite hill to climb is the Glastonbury Tor.

[Mariam on top of the Glastonbury Tor. Beneath her feet, King Arthur is said to await a return to save England. Photo is mine]

Mariam and I spent one Christmas (just before Covid) at a ancient northern Dorset pub called the White Lion Inn. A cozy room. A friendly bar downstairs and a garden eating area.

[The White Lion Inn. Photo is mine]
[A typical narrow back lane in Cornwall. Photo is mine]

Each trip Mariam and I make, we try to explore a different region. Above is our trip to Cornwall. We’ve been to The Lake District, Cornwall, Yorkshire, Dartmoor, the east coast and London, of course.

[Our close friends. They live in north Dorset. Anna is destined to be a great ballerina. Photo is mine.]

I’ve only picked out a minute part of the things I did while in Dorset. But, like all good adventures, I got a book out of it.

[So go out and buy yourself this book. It contains all my adventures (mostly). And it has color illustrations. A great holiday gift. Photo is mine]

A Young Man’s Backpack

“To travel, to experience and learn: that is to live.”

–Tenzing Norgay

[The Kelty Pack. Photo is mine.]

Stuff has to go. Lots of stuff has to go. When you relocate from a 3-bedroom lakeside house to a 1-bedroom apartment on Riverside Drive in New York, you soon realize how easy it was to gather stuff. And now, much of the stuff has to go.

Over the last few months, I’ve given away books that are precious to me, books I have had on my shelves for decades. These were important books that I must now live without. A great deal of other stuff has walked out of our door. Lots of furniture, clothes, kayaks, a piano, two telescopes and several posters to mention only a few. I hope the new owners of these objects will treat them with care…and love them as I did.

One item (that I had lost track of) surfaced in the attic. It was a packframe. But it was more than that, really.

When I first began hiking in the Adirondacks, back in the dark ages of the late 1950’s, I used an Army surplus packframe. It was wooden and probably issued during the Korean War. I used it for years. I hated it. I may as well have been carrying my gear in my hands. The frame hurt my back and made enjoyable hiking adventures much less so.

What to do? I was offered a summer job with the U. S. Geological Survey to be a field assistant on the Juneau Icefield in Alaska. The wooden frame was never going to cut the mustard as they say. So, I began saving my nickels and saving my dimes. I was going to have happier times. Soon I was able to purchase a Kelty Pack. I gazed at it. It wasn’t much to look at. It was crumply and stained. I hiked for several days in Alaska carrying at least sixty pounds. It squeaked and creaked every time I hefted it onto my back.

A little backstory:

It was the early days of the hiking craze (that is still with us). Not much really good equipment was available to the average backpacker. These days, one would have to mortgage the farm to afford the best stuff. Walmart sells very serviceable goods for the hiker. However, if you happen to be an Everest or El Capitan Big Wall Climber, then be nice to your wife because you will be needing a lot of $$$ to afford the latest technology.

There were better packs than the Kelty, but not many. It’s not the Ferrari of packs, but it was miles ahead of the rest.

It is my hope that, whomever ends up with my Kelty will treat it with respect and love. I also hope that they have as many adventures that I did with it. I can only hope.

One afternoon in the future:

I happened to feel the need for a beer. I know it was late, nearly time for the “Time Gentleman” bell. As I pushed open the screen door to the Red Dog Saloon I brushed against the person leaving. I stopped to apologize. It was my old friend, Kelty. He looked liked he had seen better times.

“It’s you,” I said.

“Yeah, and it’s you,” said Kelty.

“How have you been? It’s been quite a few years.”

“I’m fine. Not that you really care.”

“Whatever do you mean?” I asked with trepidation.

“You left me for a newer model. How can I ever trust you again?”

“But…”

“No buts here bud. We’re through.”

“Let me buy you a drink, pal,” I said with little hope.

“No thanks. I’ve got places to go. People to meet.”

Kelty moved out into the street.

“Don’t bother looking for me. Don’t ruin my life. I’m being carried around by someone who has a much better back than you, my ex-friend.”

“Is it over between us?” I asked.

“I’m afraid so, buddy. This good-bye is our last good-bye. Don’t shed a tear. We had our day in the sun and the rain. I guess I really don’t blame you. I was getting a bit creaky lately.”

“I guess it’s so-long then.”

“Yeah. Maybe we’ll pass on some trail someday in the future. But, do me a favor. Don’t mention our life together. Let’s keep it our little secret.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m seeing this hot little rucksack I met on the Appalachian Trail. If she knew we had a past, it might ruin everything. I want to take her to a Youth Hostel and, you know…get a little private room and then perhaps, in the future, we can start our own little family of Fanny Packs.”

“Not to worry,” I said. “I won’t give us away.”

“You always said the right things.”

Dan & Daughter At Rest

My father is hidden behind everything I am.

–Adrienne Egan “Danny Boy” (From a high school essay)

[Long Pond with Long Pond Mountain in the distance. Photo Courtesy of Terri Mendelson]

I have long dreaded what was about to take place. As I approached the shore of Long Pond, the memories began to weigh heavy on my heart. How often had I stood in the sand since the early 1980’s when my older brother, Chris, discovered the St. Regis Wilderness Canoe Area? A group of friends followed me to the beach. My son, Brian, carried a backpack that held a black box. I was about to say a final goodbye to my brother, Dan. He was the last of my brothers…the last Egan from Owego…except me. I was alone now. I thought of a phone call in 2019.

Mariam and I were in a pub in Dorset, England. The establishment was closed except for several dozen locals. It was Christmas Day. The dinner was for those who had nowhere else to go for the holiday. Mariam had located the small square in the pub where cell phone reception was weak but present. She punched in the number. It was a phone call I wish didn’t have to happen.

I spoke (or tried to with a broken signal) to my brother, Dan. He was in a hospice bed and he had about forty hours or so to live. I managed to say “I love you” but I don’t think he could make out the words.

Two days later, while we were settling in for dinner at the White Lion Inn, Mariam’s cell rang. The message was simple. The message was clear…and final. Dan had passed away.

I signed a paper to allow for Dan’s cremation.

Years later, in early August, 2022 I sat up in bed and realized that I was the one responsible for the cremains. I chose August 27 for the day to fulfill Dan’s will and have his ashes left in Long Pond.

~ ~ ~

Many years ago, back in 1991, just after I arrived in New York City to take a new teaching job, my phone rang. It was my father. What he told me sent shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes. Dan, who had been badly injured in Viet Nam, was told by the doctors that a) he would never walk again and b) he would never father a child. He proved the good doctors wrong. He walked with a limp…but he walked. And, he had a daughter by a young woman named Diana. The child’s name was Adrienne.

All was well until it wasn’t.

Adrienne and other college mates were having a party event on the roof of Adrienne’s dormitory. The facts are vague in my mind. The others left the roof…left the roof for Adrienne. She fell asleep. She rolled to the roof edge. She fell. She died.

Something died in my brother that day. His personality darkened. But he pushed through much of the grief…as much as one can…and he began to age. We all aged. But Adrienne was destined to be the teenager that lived in Dan’s memory. For the rest of his days.

Dan has been reunited with his daughter in the urn.

They both will enjoy the sunsets and storms that roll over Long Pond. The ice of winter. The buzz of mosquitos and black flies will fill their ears. The wind will howl in the dark nights of winter. The burning sun of summer. The meteor showers and the Aurora. The rainbows and the woodsmoke. These are all the things that Long Pond will offer them as it welcomes the new arrivals.

[For the Memorial Service. Photo courtesy of Bart Durkin]