Balmy Latitudes

I’m sailing the summer wind

I’ve got whiskers on my chin

And I like the mood I’m in

As I while away the time of day…

~~Gordon Lightfoot “Christian Island”

You’ll have to move your stool closer, Gloria. I need to multitask right now. I’m making notes on a new blog and, while talking to you, I have to filter out the ‘music’ being piped in about six feet above my head. I will never understand why piped-in music doesn’t include a Nocturne by Chopin or a long movement by Scriabin. I’m not sure what it is I’m listening to. There is a bit of Island music, some beach songs and “Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville ”, all twenty versions. To make my meager efforts even more difficult, I’m going to write the blog on my iPad…something I’ve been able to accomplish only twice before (well, maybe three times). This is not an easy task since my iPad is probably older than my son, who is slowly making his way to middle age. My apologies, Brian but July is your thirty-sixth birthday. Gloria, do me a favor and find the bar…it’s behind the potted palms and order me a Diet Tonic with an ample slice of Lime. I need my Vitamin C. You can order yourself a Double Lime Ricky. Put it on my tab. Oh, and don’t forget four bags of Cheez-its. I’ll need the Polyunsaturated Fats (1.5g) to get me through this blog…not having my laptop at hand.

But, I digress.

I’m sitting on the deck of Level 11. We’re abroad Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Cruise Ship, the Paradise. My Apple Watch tells me it’s Breezy and 82 F. That’s a far cry from 36 and rainy back in New York City. I’m not a Cruise-Guy, so you, my dear readers, might be wondering why I’m on this boat, (which will depart around 5:00 pm and will be setting our bearing for Freeport in the Bahamas. What I will relate is not a long story so you still will have time after reading this to order in a pizza and a dozen donut holes with Chipotle sauce.

I guess it’s time I got down to the real writing…

Please do not misconstrue this blog as a faintly disguised attempt at bragging. I’m not a braggart in anyway. In truth, I despise those who feel the need to embellish their barely tolerable lives by making the little simple things more than they are. I simply feel the need to make my barely tolerable life interesting by doing the right thing and telling you the truth.

So, here’s the truth…

It started last April 21, 20022. Mariam was having PT after her shoulder surgery in February. We were in Fort Myers, Florida. I always met her after her sessions and we would go somewhere for lunch. Our usual Cafe was closed and a sign in the window directed us to their sister restaurant…a Greek place on San Marcos Avenue. It was very warm so we elected to eat outside, in the shade of a large umbrella. After finishing my cheeseburger and Mariam polished off her salad, we went inside…she headed to the cashier and I for the restroom. She was waiting outside in the sun as I walked to the door. Something on a card table caught my eye. It was a clear plastic box with a slot on the top. The placard behind the box had an enticing image of sandy beaches and Palm trees. I don’t remember even reading the message, but I instinctively knew it was a raffle. The only time I ever entered a raffle was in the late ’70’s. I think I won a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. This time I took a few minutes to fill out the slip of paper. I folded it twice and pushed it into the plastic box. What can it hurt, I thought?

Yes, you guessed it. A few months later I received a call from a man who said I had won a raffle. By that time, I had totally forgotten about the plastic box and the slip of paper. Of course, I immediately had suspicions so I cut to the chase.

“It’s a Time-Share thing isn’t it?” I said.

“Nope.” He said.

“Be honest with me sir, I’m nobody’s fool. I’ve been around the block. I’m a senior but you can’t intimidate me because of my grey hair” I said.

He said: “No strings, sir.”

“Nothing is not without strings” I said, quietly questioning my grammar.

“So I’m not going to end up selling my car to a guy named Pogo behind a used car lot in Boca?” I said.

“You have my word.” He said. “Now, let’s talk about your trip.”

“Okay.” I said.

He said: “There are port fees and a few other monetary details to go over.”

There always are, I thought. There always are.

~ ~ ~

So, by time you, dear readers, will get around to reading this, we will be on our way to The Fins Restaurant where we have an 8:30 seating. It’s not a long cruise but we will be passing near The Bermuda Triangle. So if we get sent through the portal into a parallel universe, I certainly hope you enjoyed my blogs. You can always click ‘LIKE’ in memory of all I’ve done for you.

It’s been great.

[Me, I hope. Soon. Photo: My picture from the hallway of Level 6.]

[Last evening in West Palm Beach. Photo is mine.]

Don’t Be Fooled By Trompe-l’oeil

[Illustration source: Google search. Artist Erik Johansson.]

Why did Van Gogh become a painter?

–Because he didn’t have ear for music.

~~

Whenever my artistic girlfriend is sad, I let her draw on my body…

–I gave her a shoulder to crayon.

~~

I used to do fine arts, until I decided I didn’t like arts.

–Now I’m doing just fine.

~~

When you’re colorblind in an art gallery, every thing is a pigment of your imagination.

~~~

So, as I was saying, I came close to being arrested by the Art Police (Security) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) about two weeks ago. What, you may very well ask, were you doing? Trying to find a cavity in Mary Magdalene’s molar in the Medieval Hall? Did you haggle over the $17.00 glass of wine in the Balcony Lounge? Unwrapping a mummy? Or did you try to slip a halter top on Andromeda in the Sculpture Hall?

Actually it was none of the above.

I had spent more time admiring the newly restored and painted statuary in the Greek and Roman Art Gallery. It was awesome to see the statues in living color. I felt like Marcus Aurelius in flannel-lined jeans. We lingered until Mariam pointed out that she thought there was another exhibition I had mentioned. Yes, I said. There is something about Cubism and something or other on the second floor. I checked my Apple Watch. We had forty-five minutes before we were due at the Balcony Lounge for S. Pellegrino, Chardonnay and Hummus with Pita. We had time. The walk would be good for me. I needed the exercise. We headed for the escalator.

On the way, Mariam pulled out the exhibition folder and said: Here, is this it? It’s called Cubism and the Tromp…I stopped on a dime. Wait, I said. Trump? I’m done here. Let’s go home…No, wait, she said. It’s called Cubism and the Trompe-l’oeil Tradition.

I told her the only French I knew was to say “Zwei bier, bitte”. I had so find a bench to sit. I was shaking. I thought it you said…C’mon, she said. It’s not anything political. I felt relieved. A few minutes later we entered Gallery 199. We walked slowly through the rooms, absorbing the ambience of artistic…art when I spotted something on the wall. I walked over. It was framed (!). But something wasn’t right. There was a nail sticking out. I stared. No, there are several nails sticking out. I glanced around for the Security to alert them to the danger of someone snagging a sweater or a Polo Golf Shirt on those dangerous nails.

[Notice the nails. Photo is mine.]

Upon closer inspection I was astonished to see that it was only a painting of a nail. My tension eased. Besides, the Security Guard, whose name tag read: Richard, was chatting up the red-head Security Guard from Gallery 201, (name tag read: Amber. He was making headway.) I stood back. This was something else indeed. I walked back the first room and read the writing on the wall. Whoa. This was Trompe l’Oeil. I scratched through my fanny pack for my French Phrase Book. It meant the eye deceives. Suddenly, a memory flashed before me. I remember a poster I had back in the early ’70’s. It was M. C. Escher, perhaps one of the most famous graphic artists in a long time. It was all coming back to me…

I returned to Gallery 199 and looked for more. I saw a painting from half-way across the room. I swear it looked like something was painted on wood. Wait, I thought. I assumed that artists used stretched canvas to paint on. Moving closer I was amazed to see that it was a painting of wood on canvas. I was feeling dizzy. This was awesome. This was really fun to look at.

[Indeed. Wood painted on canvas. Photo is mine.]

This was heady stuff. And there was more:

[I wanted to open the curtain a little more. Boy, was I fooled. Photo is mine.]

I felt Mariam pull on my sleeve. Look at that one, she said. I looked. Whoa. I’d better get over there and keep all that stuff from falling on the nicely polished hard-wood floor.

[Fooled again…Photo is mine.]

The painting above impressed me the most. Notice the comb interacting with the leather strap. This was not an exhibit I will easily forget. We walked through a few more rooms. I checked my Apple Watch. Time for hummus at the Balcony Lounge. After paying the bill (large enough to choke a horse) we made for the main exit doors and. There’s a yellow, Mariam said, let’s hurry and get it. I slowly descended the grey granite steps and walked to the cab, passing a saxophone playing the blues…in the rain…on glorious 5th Avenue…under a leaden sky…in the Greatest City in the World.

I was secretly hoping that cab was really there…and not just painted on the pavement.

~ ~ ~

I am sad to say that I lost my M. C. Escher book sometime in the last forty years. (I think it was a Tuesday). In the meantime, I’ve been busy trolling the Internet. Talented street artists have done some mind-blowing work with 3-D visual arts. Here are just a few examples: Enjoy…

[Park Bench. Artist: Julian Beever. Bored Panda.com]

[A common theme in this genre, fear of heights. Source: Google search. Bored Panda.com]

[Source: Google search.]

[Source: Google search. Artist: Erik Johansson]

[Source: Google search. Paste magazine]

[A living room rug to die from for. An advertisment from Tempu.]

[The shower is especially dangerous. Tempu]

A final word to my friends and readers: I apologize for not providing a full description of the artists at the MET. I don’t think I ever forgot my Moleskin notebook before that day in the Museum. The two ads were photos of iPad images. Tough to do. If you’ve enjoyed this post, ‘like’ it and move on with your life…which is, I’m sure, far more interesting than the musing of someone who can barely paint a brick with a brush from Ace Hardware. I never had an art class until I moved to NYC in the early ’90’s. Well, actually I took a six-week Screenprint and Etching course in Poole, England during my year in the UK. Full disclosure: My etching of Durdle Door in Dorset…I did it the way I saw it. But, it will print in the reverse.

Oops, I’ve done it again.

I will leave you with Escher’s most famous pieces. I believe it’s called Waterfall. Find a book about all this. You’ll love it.

[Artist: M. C. Escher. Source: Google search.]

My 75th New Year

[Source: Google search]

Some of you will be reading this post late on Sunday afternoon…after several Alka-Seltzer tablets. Some will be reading this tonight, before the Ball Drops in Times Square. Some of you will see who the blog is from and move on without a glance. “Oh, him again.” Some will see my name and say: “Patrick Egan, oooh he’s good. Another gem of unparalleled literary brillance.”

I’m thinking back on many December 31 nights. My brothers and I would have Dick Clark’s New Years Rocking Eve. My father, perhaps in his fifties or sixties would go to bed around 9:30 pm. Now, here I am at 75 and waiting for 11:30 or so to watch Anderson Cooper in the fog and rain. Hopefully Lady Ga Ga will perform. Maybe Bob Dylan will pop a few confetti-filled balloons after getting the thousands of people in Times Square all excited and elated by singing Desolation Row.

Yes. It’s finally over. 2022 was a, let’s say, interesting year. My best friend passed away and we moved to Manhattan. That’s a lot to deal with.

[Photo is mine.]

I love metaphors (and similes), even when I sometimes can’t tell the difference. I know the rule: Like vs Is, but I’m easily confused about a lot of things. So, I offer this simple metaphor to you, my wonderful readers:

This is a once-a-year event and a chance to reinvent yourself. But you have a rare gift in your lap right now. You have been given a crisp new map, neatly folded and sharply creased. When you open the map and spread it out on a table you will be alarmed for a second. This map has so many trails, paths and byways you’re confused. That’s the point. You can choose any path now. It’s all going to be new. It’s your choice how 2023 will go. But it takes a first step. There may be sadness in the months to come. Perhaps unlimited joy. You may cry but when the tears ebb, laugh your beautiful heart out.

[Photo is mine. Taken somewhere in England.]

Remember to close the gate behind you and keep your eye on the distant and beautiful hills.

The best of luck and Happy New Year!

Friction Rubs Me The Wrong Way

fric-tion (frik’shen) n. 1.The rubbing of one surface or object against another. 2. Conflict, as between persons having dissimilar ideas or interests, clash. 3. Phys. A force that resists the relative motion or tendency to such motion of two bodies in contact.

[Source: Google Search]

Friction is really good for only one thing…okay, two…no three. One important use is the simple act of striking a match. This would come in handy whilst camping, setting the stage for a special dinner for that special someone, arson, lighting a fuse of an M80 on July 4th or offering a light to that special someone you are hoping will come back to your place for that special dinner. (Full Disclosure: I would never date a smoker! Lips that touch tobacco shall not touch mine.) Besides, the above would have to take place in the rain or snow outside a Smoke Free bar. There are many ways to strike a match but I will leave those details for you, dear reader, to research. I will simply say: Watch any Bogart film. Striking a match is not to be taken lightly. The person striking the match must consider the coefficient of friction (fr). That is a number that is the ratio of the resistive force of friction (Fr) divided by the normal or perpendicular force (N) pushing the objects together. This is easily shown in the equation: fr=Fr/N. If you’re having trouble following all this, I would say: Trust Me or Get The Cliffs Notes.

But I digress.

Another vital use of Friction is the idea that involves static cling. As someone who has washed more than a few loads of soiled clothes, there is nothing worse than static cling. My personal solution to this problem is bounce. The only issue I have with dryer sheets is that the sheet clings to the clothes. This can be a very serious issue if you have to get dressed quickly. It is common when that special someone has a special someone who comes home from a business trip to Toledo. That rascal dryer sheet can cling to the back of your shirt or pants. People will stare. But static cling isn’t all bad. At parties it can be great fun to rub an inflated balloon on your shirt. The static will allow the balloon to stick to you. All kinds of obscene situations can be arranged.

A third and perhaps the most important use of friction is starting a fire. Putting matches (and Bic BBQ starters) aside for the moment let’s shed some light on fires. It is a well known fact that friction produces heat and enough heat can cause a flame to appear. We’ve all heard that one can rub two sticks together and make a fire. In fact, that is usually done in movies (Westerns). But if you ever saw two boy scouts rubbing two sticks together you would observe an exercise in frustration. It isn’t that simple. However, variations on that idea do exist. Take a close look at the photo below:

[Source: Google Search]

This method actually works. Notice the smoke wafting near the guys foot. This, dear readers, is friction in action! Personally, I would not attempt this in the heart of New York City. One problem is finding appropriate sticks. That would entail visiting Central Park. And most of the sticks readily at hand there would be covered with dog germs. In extreme cases of darkness, i.e., a Blackout, one could use a flashlight. However, when the AAA batteries lose power there is always the torch. (Not a British ‘torch’…that’s a flashlight), but a real kerosene-soaked torch like the angry villagers in Frankenstein (1931 Dir. James Whale). That would, of course, bring the Law down on you. You would likely end up making candles in Dannemora.

I will follow up this enlightening blog post with something else that has annoyed me for years…Gravity.

The Pump: I Can’t Handle It

[The Pump. Located at the village green in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.]

“How does it feel?”

–Bob Dylan Like A Rolling Stone

For many years Bob Dylan has provided a plethora of quotes for me for use in most social situations. Armed with these literary bites, I have made something of a name for myself as a Dylanologist. Yes, I’ve read many books about Bob and I can often be seen leafing through the big volume of Lyrics, looking for just the right wording, the satisfying cadence, the rhyme, the syntax and the deep theology found within his five hundred + songs. If you’re a follower of mine, you know that I often find appropriate places to insert a quote or two into a Blog (like I’m doing here) or a Facebook post.

Dylan was not awarded the Nobel Prize for scratching girl’s phone numbers on phone booths or public bathroom walls.

Just the other day I asked an attractive woman:

“My warehouse has my Arabian drums, should I put them at your gate?”

She stared at me with a blank expression. “Watch it, buster. My husband lifts weights.” I closed my trench coat and retreated back into the alley. I didn’t want to hear that her husband was kicked out of the Soviet Secret Police for being too rough on snitches.

Years ago I walked over to the Typing Teacher at the school where I taught. “Time is an ocean and it ends at the shore. You may not see me tomorrow.”

“What? Are you taking a sick day?”

Another time I was struggling to recall the name of a somewhat obscure song by Dylan. My head was lowered in concentration. A woman standing near me apparently thought I said something. She asked: “What did you say?”

At that very moment I recalled the song.

“Wiggle. Wiggle,” I said. I can still feel the stinging of my cheek. It was a left hand swipe and I can tell you that she was sporting a ring on her finger the size of an oxen yoke.

You can see that I’ve had varying degrees of success with these quotes. And I have the scars to prove it. But there is one line, buried deep inside Subterranean Homesick Blues. In fact, there are several keepers from that song. I once asked a woman who was sitting next to me in a bar: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” She glared at me with big brown cow eyes which quickly narrowed to evil slits. She seemed to breath fire, and not the good kind.

‘Hey grandpa,” she said, “I don’t need a weatherman. I have an App.” She shook her iPhone with a barely hidden malevolence that would frighten any witch in MacBeth.

But I digress.

The real story I intended to tell you about is how a long-time search on my part led me to a quaint upstate college campus on a day just like today. Actually, it was yesterday, in the afternoon. After several Google searches I finally located the famous pump that does not have a handle.

“The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handle.”

You may have seen the music video of the song. Dylan is standing in an alley near the Savoy Hotel in London. He’s holding large cards which has bits of the song written on them. He drops each one as the words are sung.

[The Pump. A Closer Look]

I read somewhere that there is a picture of a street in London supposedly showing the Beatles crossing the intersection. Maybe there’s a song about that. Maybe there are some lyrics that I can adapt for a supply of pick-up lines.

I heard a song from those days once. Now I remember. I was riding an uptown M104 bus in New York. I was sitting next to a ravishing redhead with green eyes and a provocative plaid flannel shirt from L. L. Bean. I turned to her and, pointing to the Chrysler Building, I said in my best Ringo nasal voice: “You know that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

It took three doctors and four nurses, using industrial strength Saline Solution to wash the Mace from my eyes.

I waited for everyone to leave except the younger blonde RN. I quietly said to her: “Cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it.”

I woke up in the ER twenty minutes later.

My jaw was wired shut. No more quotes from me for a while.

[The video.]

[All photos are mine with the exception of the Dylan picture with the sign Government. Credit: Tony Frank/Sygma/Corbis.]

The Troll Who Cried

[Heading off to the Barnum Brook Bridge]

I began my walk to the Barnum Brook Bridge carrying an emotional load that nearly broke my already painful back. It was a warm and very muggy afternoon. There were grey clouds in the hazy sky. There were grey clouds in my mind, my soul and my heart. I was not dreading the Bridge like I once did. In fact, I was looking forward to visiting an old friend…sort of. I walked slowly because I needed the extra minutes to think. At the same time, I was formulating my words. It’s not every day that one has to say farewell to a friend. For me, now was that time. I must make this my finest hour.

I walked on, pausing to photograph a wildflower for a later post on Facebook.

[The Trail to the Barnum Brook Bridge]

I had arrived. I put my foot down hard on the first plank, making more noise than usual. Sure enough, out pops The Troll. He looked about and disappeared beneath the bridge when he spotted me.

“Who is passing over my bridge?” he asked.

“I am passing over your bridge,” I said. “Let’s get this over with. I need to sit down.

He emerged from under the wooden planks and said: “I know you. Listen up. Keep your distance.”

“Why?”

“The Covid thing, remember. Are you still in lock-down mode?”

“Not really,” I said. “Things aren’t as bad as they were when I last came this way. Now it’s the Monkey Pox.”

“Just in case, don’t come any closer. I’m packing a can of Mace.”

“Let’s get the riddle thing over, shall we. I need to have a talk with you.”

[The Bridge. If you look closely for a long enough time, you may see a bit of Troll’s head peeping out]

“Okay. Okay. Here’s the first riddle:

What is dirty when it’s white?”

I pondered the question for about forty-five seconds when it came to me. “A Blackboard.”

“One down and two biggies to go, Patrick.

What goes from Z to A?”

Another new one. Where did he get these riddles? I thought. This time I was really puzzled…for about a minute. “Zebra”, I almost shouted.

“Whoa. Who’s on a roll today?”

“I am. Let me have the third one, Sir Troll.”

“Don’t get cheeky, my friend. You know what fate awaits you if you miss one. I cringe to even contemplate…”

“Spill it,” I demanded.

He looked smug. He thought he was going to get me on the last one.

He spoke with a twinkle in his large eyes: “What is the saddest fruit?”

Now I was worried. I had no idea. This wasn’t in the Big Book of Riddles I study before every trip to the VIC. And no mention of any of these new puzzles in the Ultimate Book of Norse Mythology. The newer edition that has a new forward by the author, Dr. Sven Sunquist.

“The clock is ticking, Patrick.”

“Go ahead, grind my bones or whatever you do when someone misses a riddle. I give up.”

He stared long and hard at me: “You look like a beaten donkey. I see damage in your eyes. I’m going to give you a pass. The answer, appropriately, is Blueberries. You can pass, but you owe me one.”

“I owe you a riddle?”

“Figure of speech,” he said. “Don’t get anal on me.”

I sat down on the wooden bench near the bridge: “I’ve got something to tell you, Troll.”

“You won the Mega Millions.”

“Don’t I wish. No, it’s…it’s that we’re going away. We’re moving. We’re going back to New York City, I do believe I’ve had enough woods and winter and slush and bugs.”

He looked deep into my eyes again. No words came to his lips. He just looked at me. His eyes were moist. He sighed.

“How long are you gonna be gone?” he asked slowly while trying to swallow. “When can I expect to visit with my favorite human again?”

[A rare image of The Troll]

I chocked at my following words: “That’s just it, Troll. We’re moving away for good. It’s possible that we may never see each other again. Don’t think for a moment that I won’t miss you because I will. You see Troll, these last few months have been very hard on me. I lost my closest friend. I wish he had just moved somewhere, but he didn’t. He passed away. I have only a few real friends. You could count them on two of your three fingers. I’m lonely up here in the North Country. You, Troll, are the only real friend I have left…besides my wife, of course.”

He had one hand in his pocket and the other one rested on the planks of the bridge. He was drumming his fingers on the dried wood. He said: “Funny thing. I don’t have many real and true friends either. We’re both the same here, are we not?”

He turned away and began to cry. He didn’t just cry, he sobbed and wailed. I’d never seen him like this before.

“Please Troll, don’t make this any harder. It’s not you, it’s me. You have your little place under the bridge. I’m a restless guy. I need a change. I need something new. I don’t know how many years I have left.”

“Hah, I can see right through you. You’re leaving me for some Big City Troll, right? I knew it. Those Big City Trolls are different than ones like me. They wear the traditional outfits. They look like they just got off a photo shoot with National Geographic Magazine.”

“No, there’s nobody else, in New York or anywhere. Come here. Let me shake your hand and wish you farewell.”

“Oh, but that’s against the Rules. You can’t touch me. Strange things might happen.”

“There are no such Rules out here, Troll. Here, give me your hand.”

As he placed his very large hand in mine I felt a jolt. I swear a bolt of lightening hit my arm. I closed my eyes. I had visions. Troll standing in the rain and waving at me, or standing in a foot of snow and grinning up with those big cow-like eyes. Or wiping away the sweat on days like this. I remember how he played the Pan Flute and made me see the different Adirondack seasons squeezed into one short vision. He was a treasure trove of wisdom and I’d be crazy to let him go out of my life for good. No. I would return someday…some sunny day. I will be older, more feeble, more pained and maybe just a little bit wiser. But Troll, he will never age. He has all the time in the world. I don’t.

I withdrew my hand: “I have to go now. Be good, my friend. It’s not forever, it’s just for awhile. I’ll be back.”

“That’s what the little girl said in Poltergeist.”

I turned and began the walk back to my car.

“I see your son was in Iceland for a few days. He loved it, didn’t he?”

“Yes, but how did you know?”

“My Icelandic cousin. And, oh, I see your daughter, her husband and your grandson came for a visit. I bet you loved that.”

“I did.”

“Oh, by the way. I know you used a photo of Fluffy to hawk your books. That’s shameful.”

“Little Lambs Eat Ivy.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re the Riddle King. Figure it out.”

The trail curved to the left. I looked back for one more wave. I saw him blowing his large nose with a red bandana.

[Note: All photos are mine with the exception of the Troll image. That was a result of a Google search.]


Out Of The Woods

Goodbye’s too good a word, babe

So I’ll just say “Fare thee well”

–Bob Dylan “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”

[Our front yard on July 10, 2022. Photo is mine.]

Look close. It’s hard to see. If you’re reading this post on a laptop, you’re out of luck. On a mobile device you can use your fingers to enlarge the photo. See the sign in the background? The one that reads: Tir Na Nog. It refers to a very old Irish legend. Tir Na Nog is (was) the Land of Eternal Youth. If you lived there, you would never grow old. If you left that place, and touched the ground in the ‘outside’ world…you could never return. And you would grow old and eventually die. This was the name of our camp in the Adirondacks. The whole spell worked for a time, and then it didn’t. I grew old.

The sign in the foreground speaks for itself.

A small bit of backstory here.

I have been coming to these mountains since I was five years old. Seventy years of family camping, canoeing, hiking, climbing and building sand castles became part of my DNA. As a teenager I first had the feeling that living in these glorious hills was a dream to be wished. Time passes. Hiking partners, several dear friends and a brother or two…fellows who shared a cramped lean-to, built campfires, swam and sweated together began to move on (a sweet euphemism for death), leaving me alone without the motivation to climb just one more summit or paddle to just one more lake.

Did I mention that I have a deep fear of being alone? Loneliness most often brings me to tears.

A hiatus set in for several years. Then I met the woman who would be my wife. Even though she was born and raised in Queens, she took to camping like a bird takes to the clouds. She loved it. She often said that the Adirondacks were “soul satisfying”. So we bought a house in the woods where deer and bears roam, by a lake with a dozen loons, under skies that rang out with thunder and the rain fell by the pailful. We moved from our apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Rainbow Lake in November, 2011. We decorated with gusto, bought a wood stove, hung Adirondack posters, bought several kayaks and a new pair of hiking boots. We were happy…until we weren’t.

[Our house is nearly hidden by the trees. Photo is mine.]

Those of you who have followed me on WordPress have read my many posts highlighting my many complaints about the harsh weather, the length of winter and the incessant presence of mosquitoes, gnats and black flies. A winter or two ago we had a week of frigid arctic air. The high temperature for that week never rose above -9° F. But make no mistake. I have also celebrated the quiet snowfalls, the early summer wildflowers and the jaw-dropping autumn colors.

So, I’m turning another page in the book of my life. Pending any financial issues, we have found a buyer. Boxes are already filled and labelled: BOOKS FROM PAT’S OFFICE. TO NYC. Eleven years of memories are going with us…but just as many are staying…for the new owners and for a few friends.

Not an hour ago I said a tearful farewell to my daughter, Erin, her husband, Bob and to my precious grandson. Elias got to see where grandpa has spent the last decade. I’m so thankful for that. The next time he visits, I’ll be taking him to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

I will be trading the tall pines that surround our house with skyscrapers of glass and steel. Some of my friends don’t care for urban life but I thrive on the buzz, the convenience and the lack of isolation. As I wrote a few lines ago, the wilderness (the Adirondacks have lost the real sense of wilderness experience to the masses of hikers seeking this very isolation…ironic, but true), breeds loneliness in my soul. Where I once found solace and quiet, I now find sadness. The ghosts of my brothers and close friends lurk around alder thickets and shadowy forests. I can not escape them.

[Manhattan skyline. Photo is mine.]
[Our front yard. Photo is mine.]

But the Adirondacks haven’t seen the last of me. I will surely be back to take care of the items still resting at the bottom of my bucket list. I’ll return on a glacially cold day in a future January and ski the slope on Whiteface Mountain where the Men’s Downhill was held in 1932 and again in 1980. Then I intend to learn the intricate moves of curling and join a pick-up team.

Or maybe I won’t.

I already have a plan. Once we’re settled in an apartment, I’m going to order Chinese take-out. Or perhaps I’ll take a walk in Central Park to experience nature.

I will have the freedom to choose.

Into The Woods

[The Adirondack Forest. Photo courtesy of Brad Brett]

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.”

–Carl Jung

In the rearview mirror of the last three weeks of my life, I see I’ve left behind many things and added many memories. I’ve left behind the heat and sand of Florida, the peaches and boiled peanuts of Georgia, a friend and his wife in North Carolina, the breathtaking vistas and overlooks of the Blue Ridge Parkway and later, Skyline Drive. Mariam and I sat in a restaurant in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and played music bingo. We passed Carlisle where my daughter went to college so many years ago. We drove apace with the trucks and cars across New Jersey and plunged straight into the Holland Tunnel.

The Grateful Dead: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Once we were settled in a generous friend’s apartment, we began to search for a place of our own. Both of us want to come back to New York City to live. But it’s proving to be harder than we expected. One place is too small, another lacks outdoor space. One might be a walk-up. I can’t do four floors as well as I once could. No, not now.

Why move? you might ask. You have waterfront, kayaks, canoes, snowshoes and bikes. The answer is simple and complex at the same time. We love the quiet woods. We love the sound of our paddles as we glide along on Rainbow Lake. But, so much of what the ‘dacks provides are activities that are fit for a younger man (I speak here for myself). We miss people. The quiet can be overwhelming sometimes and brings with it the loneliness of the North Woods. As a person who has struggled with insomnia since childhood, I dread the dark nights, those dark nights when the wind shifts in strange ways and the moon struggles to peek out from behind a dark cloud.

I don’t want to shovel another millimeter of snow. I don’t want to get into my car just to get our mail. I want something of a social life. I want to be able to order in Mexican or Chinese food. I want company.

Bob Dylan: “I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea. Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, at times it’s only me.”

With the exception of my mother (she never took to the camping), my entire family had strong ties to the Adirondacks. They made Eighth Lake, Raquette Lake and Long Lake special places. But these people have passed on. Around every corner I turn, behind every tree, on any lake, along any trail…there are ghosts lurking…not to harm me, but to remind me of the many great times I had among the mountains. One spirit, however, follows me. He was a good friend. I took him on his first trip to the High Peaks. On a chilly November night…I remember the gibbous moon…this friend died, not in my arms but very nearly so. I’ve told this story before. His presence, his souI and his life have followed me for forty-eight years. My memories of the night he died are dark and are the stuff of my nightmares.

Gordon Lightfoot: “Like brave mountaineers, we aren’t bothered much by time.”

I’m heading headlong toward a milestone birthday…and I am fearful. There are so many years behind me and not very many left to me. I accept that. But I don’t have to like it.

I’m not done yet.

I can only hope.

But, in the end, I will never totally forget my love of the mountains, even though they are now beyond my grasp.

‘There is beauty in everything. Even in silence and darkness.”

–Helen Keller

Bob Takes A Bow

[Source: Google search.]

“I’ve got nothing more to live up to.”

–Dylan

This is not going to be the usual Bob Dylan fan blog. I’ve something special to relate. More on that later.

I’m sitting in what is usually the warmest room in our home, the dining room. It must be the two sets of floorboard heaters if I were asked why I’m not wearing a fleece vest while I try to put together this post. The fact that my hands are as dry as the sands of the Kalahari doesn’t make typing very easy, but if I load up on hand lotion, the keyboard can get pretty gummy, if you get my drift.

When I finish this, I’m heading downstairs to the ‘family room’ where the wood stove is located. No TV tonight. Just a time of quiet (well, maybe I’ll take Alexa with me) reading and flame watching. It’s expected to fall to 8 F later but I’ll be prepared. Unlike six nights ago when I sat in Loge 4, Row D, Seat 34 of the Beacon Theater in New York City.

I was there for what is likely my twentieth Bob Dylan concert. Most of my readers already know that I am a consummate Dylan fan. I don’t follow him around like a few friends did with the Grateful Dead…traveling from city to city. No. I catch him when he performs at a location near me.

The very best concert of his that I have ever seen was back in the day (1973 or 1974) when he was touring with The Band. They played Nassau Coliseum. It was my first big-time rock concert. He commanded the stage.

Now a days, however, he can’t fill arenas so he plays smaller venues. The Beacon Theater is a beautiful space and with a little help with a pair of opera glasses, you can see his expressions…which are few.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Bob has been criticised for his ‘lack of attention to his audience’. It’s all true. He says nothing to the crowd, only a few words to his band and then leaves to roaring applause. Some fans are annoyed by this and feel slighted. I don’t. I feel that Dylan has more than given of himself. I mean, how much energy does it take to sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” for 9,700 times? I couldn’t do it.

But at the end of the show on November 29, six nights ago, he did something I had not witnessed in decades. After his last encore, before leaving the stage…Dylan stood before his band and bowed to the audience.

He’s no Mick Jagger or Tony Bennett, but considering my love for his poetry, music and his constant presence on the road (The Never Ending Tour), I’m pleased with small gestures.

Dylan doesn’t need the spotlight.

Now I have to go and start a fire.

[Photo is mine.]

 

One Son

[Brian. April 24, 2018.]

No, the title of this post is not something I stole from a menu from one of the many Korean eateries on W. 35th Street.

And, if you look at the photo above…(I always use a lead-in graphic for my posts), I can tell you certain things:

It’s a profile of my son, Brian.  No, he is not dreaming of traveling to France.  No, he does not make a living balancing things on his forehead (maybe he does, maybe I missed something). And, no, he is not conjuring a suitcase.  If he had that kind of talent, I’m confident he’d be conjuring something more interesting that a valise with faded travel stickers.

We were at a restaurant just south of Macy’s and a few blocks from where he works.  During the dinner I looked at him and recalled that I didn’t have a good profile picture of him.  So I asked him to pose against a neutral wall, not considering the piece of old-time luggage that was mounted there.

Before we rejected the desert menu, I was busy thinking.  I had written many blog posts that highlighted places and people who I hardly knew.  Interesting interactions with people who I, most likely, would never meet again.

I’m proud of those posts, but it occurred to me that I had not highlighted my own children enough.  I had mentioned them in many blogs, but never were they a main subject of my encounters.

When I first moved to Manhattan in the very early 1990’s, Brian was about five years old.  I was going through a divorce.  My father brought him down to visit.  I took my dad to Bethune Street where he worked for the Bell Labs in the 1930’s.  Brian came along.  He was a tiny guy in the big city.

Later, he came down with a friend.  I have a picture of him in front of the Twin Towers.  He says he remembers the day clearly.

Even later, he came to live with us while he attended Baruch College to complete his undergraduate degree.  We had a challenging time fitting him into our one bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side.  For me, it was good-bye Letterman while he slept on the fold-out sofa.

He graduated and before you could say “congratulations”, he had a job.

Now, he buys us dinner…we are the ‘out-of-town’ now.  He tells me which train to take to get to some obscure place in one of the boroughs.  He has a lady friend and they live in Astoria.  Ironically, he lives just blocks away from where my wife grew up.

I’m awed by how my son has grown up.  I’m amazed at his success.  I’m proud to have him as my son, my only son.  No one will carry the Egan name into the future except him.  And, I’m not pushing anything.

I love my son beyond what I thought was possible.  He is everything I tried to be in my life…funny, outgoing and charismatic.  Where I failed, he succeeded.

Look at the photo below.  It seems like just yesterday that I took the picture.  I’ll always think of him with the little stick in his right hand.  The look on his face says to me: “I’m a good boy, daddy.”

I hope the sweater is still in around somewhere.  In a trunk maybe.  Then someday, if he has a son of his own, he may be able to have him pose for a similar photo.  And, maybe he’ll write a blog about much he loves his little boy.

Oh, yes you are, my one son.  My Number One Son.

Love you Brian.

[Brian. ca.1990]

All photos are mine.