Travels 25: We Park the R-Pod Next to a Haunted House and Play a Part in Grassroots Democracy

In the last thirty hours or so, we have made zero forward progress on our trip home.  We’re taking a breather, a last stretch before the last stretch, if you get my drift.  A gulp of air in preparation for the final sprint to Rainbow Lake, if you take my meaning.

We’re staying at our friends house near Cincinnati, Ohio.  Specifically, we’re in Camp Dennison in Hamilton County.  Our friends are Darcy and Judy Havill.  Now you may recall the Havills from earlier postings, before the Travel Series began.  They are neighbors of ours at Rainbow Lake.  Their real home is here.  Their house in the Adirondacks is where they spend most of the summer.  Darcy is the guy who put our stone walkway together and earned himself the satisfaction of creating a beautiful stone path as well as a place in the rarefied world of my blogosphere.  I teased him and Judy, his wife, about living here in a fly over state.  Now I realize that I was partly incorrect.  We’re here, so it’s not a true fly over state for us, right now.  But, as I look at the jetliners flying over, I realize that Ohio is sort of a fly over state.

Life can sometimes be so complicated.

Well, they let us park the R-Pod across from their main house.  They also own a beautiful little house that is being renovated (by Darcy…the guy can do anything)…there’s even an early 19th century log cabin in their backyard!  We got a tour of the various buildings on their property.  Everything is very old and antiques rule the various nooks and crannies.  His projects are without number and he has many places to hide in and putter.  Everyman’s dream.

We get to the house next to the R-Pod.  It’s old and it’s yellow…very yellow.  And, it’s haunted.  Darcy says that when he’s working at night in some parts of the house, he can feel a “presence”.  Hearing this, I pull my iPhone out of my fleece jacket pocket and find the App that detects ghosts, or “entities”.  I turn it on and watch the little hand sweep in circles like a sonar detector you see in the John Wayne movies about submarines.  Every blip on the App screen is an entity, a green dot shows up.  Within two minutes, a green dot shows up.  It’s right behind me.  Then a pale red dot appears behind Darcy.  That color indicates an especially “active” center of EMF “energy”, or a ghost.

The App is free and is tagged as “entertainment”, but I know better.

The device is even tuned in to pick up audio (voice) messages of words said by long dead people.  According to the App description, these words, once spoken, stay around in the ether indefinitely.  When I first started using the App, the words I heard most often was “gullible”.  It’s all so very paranormal.

We then took a drive around the area and saw a nature preserve and gated communities.  We parked in a small village and looked into some shops.  In one antique store, I was forced by my wife into buying even more old books.  I keep insisting that we have enough books at home but Mariam said she’ll always be able find room for more.

[And if you believe the above statement, I’d like you to take a look at some swamp land in Tennessee we’d be willing to sell you]

Then, in the afternoon, it came time for me to further the democratic process and lend my hand in a local election.  Our hostess, Judy, supported a certain candidate for the county fiscal office.  Judy needed to make some phone calls to encourage people to get out to vote and to vote for this particular person.  How did I help?  I went to our guest room and stayed real quiet, allowing Judy to concentrate on these calls.  I didn’t pester her about things like scones, coffee or local ice cream.  I stayed quiet and out-of-the-way to let her “get out the vote”.  I think I was so quiet that I took a nap.

That evening, the four of us joined the candidate and several dozen friends at a local BBQ place for, hopefully, a victory party.  We kept our eyes glued to the zipper of election data at the bottom of the TV screens, below an episode of C.I.S.

About 10:30 pm, our friend was declared the winner!  We cheered.  Hugs all around.

I stood aside, quietly watching the joy in the room.

Quietly congratulating myself on the role I had played in this little corner of democracy in this most amazing land of ours.

Our trip was nearly complete.  After all, what more can a “hard traveling” guy like me do?

I wanted to leave behind a silver bullet or something and have people whisper: “Who was that stranger who helped our cause?”.  But, I’m too humble to take credit for saving democracy in Ohio.  Besides, I had a comphy bed to go home to.

I had to start this blog.

This is the yellow house.  The now famous R-Pod is just visible to the right, just over the hedge.  I think I see Uncle Sam in the window, waving at me.


The Return of the Good Neighbors

I’m sitting back in my favorite Adirondack chair on our deck.  Every so often, a kayak or canoe paddles past our dock.  I can hear them but can just barely see them.  I have to do some trimming to clear the view to the water.  I thought about doing this a few weeks ago, when the weather was mild, but it meant I would have to decide which chainsaw to use; the electric one or the old gas job.  I couldn’t decide so I’ll think about it this winter and decide next June.

I’m snuggled in my L.L.Bean Fleece Jacket.  It’s green and cost about $48.00, but that includes free shipping so I really think I got a steal.

As I sit back, I contemplate my large tomato plant.  I counted close to thirty-five tomatoes.  None of this matters, of course, because they will never ripen.  The growing season up here in northern New York State ended about two months ago.  My tomatoes look like mutant Granny Smith apples.  I’m bummed out about the whole thing.

A few minutes ago, I was down in my office.  It’s actually a “Man Cave”.  I even put several very masculine items about the room to remind visitors that it’s really a “man cave” and not just an office.  I have a hammer.  A book by Hemingway and a birch bark waste basket…nothing that would be found in a “ladies boudoir”, if you get my drift.  I think I even have a copy of a Playboy magazine hidden somewhere, but I can’t find it.

I write my books in this room.

Back up on the deck, I think about my new novel.  I have dialogue and plot twists to figure out.  And setting. Setting is very important when you write a novel.  How else was the reader know where all the plot stuff was happening.  I should go back downstairs and write.  Earlier, I sat there at my iMac and did some thinking.  Then I realized I had some things to do.  Like write.

I stared at the 17″ (diagonal) screen.  But wait!  I had things more pressing to take care of.  My novel could wait a few minutes.  I had already counted my paper clips so that was done.  It occurred to me that I needed to rearrange my sand collection.  I couldn’t decide whether to sort them by geographical location or color.  I figured that location was the best choice because, if truth be told, they all kind of looked alike.  Scattered volumes of the poetry of Rod McKuen needed to be lined up together in a neat row.  I was so proud of them.  Also on my “to do” list was downloading the entire songbook of Yanni, King of the Pan Flute.  Then, of course, I had to begin on researching my projected two-part bio on “Milli Vanilli: The Early Years”.

Yes, there was an afternoons worth of hard work to do in the “Man Cave”.   So, I went back to the deck to think about all these things while sitting in my Adirondack, looking at my failed tomato harvest.

I settled back and began to drift while listening to the neighbor deftly handle his leaf blower.  The guy on the other side of my property was just getting his chain saw started.  It was going to be a perfect napping time.

Before I knew it, I was fast asleep and deep into a dream.  I had just won second prize in a “Think You Can Dance With The Stars?” segment.  My partner was Lady Gaga and our “routine” was pairs clog dancing.  As the creative leader of the duo I felt the need to ratchet up our demonstration.  So I took Gaga aside and asked her to add a short yodel piece.  She broke down in tears and left the set.  Gaga can be testy sometimes.  How was I to know that her first husband ran off with a Swiss sheep herder?

It was about that time when I was pulled from my slumber by a familiar “chink, chink”.  It was the unmistakable sound of a chisel on stone.  I went through the house and there they were.  Our neighbors from Ohio had returned from a wedding in Newport.  Darcy was back to work on our (his) stone walkway.  I just didn’t understand the necessity of all that work.  After all, I had already put a new sidewalk in last Fall.  I thought the railroad ties looked great.  It was only after several lady friends got their spike heels stuck in between the ties that my wife made me rip them out.


I looked at the progress Darcy was making and began to come around to the general thinking that the stone pieces were the way to go.  But, no one was going to pull anything over on me.  I had gone out during the night and checked the flat stones with a level.  They were perfect.  Just the thing to have as a base for my 30′ x 26″ strip of Astroturf.  I had it all figured out.

Don’t think that I didn’t take part in the labor.  I actually spent several minutes gathering the chips of chiseled rock and put them in a plastic bucket.  I’ll find a use for them somewhere.  Up here in the North Country, a man has to use everything…nothing goes to waste.

When it was finished, we all celebrated with a nice home cooked dinner.  My son, Brian and his girlfriend, Kristin were visiting.  He told bold tales of how he defied all his friends and co-workers in New York City and actually attended a Mets game at Citifield.  ( I raised my son to be strong and brave.)

When everyone left and the activity settled down, I found that I was the only one awake at 3:00 AM.

It was the perfect time for me to got down to my workshop and double-check that I had the correct amount of green paint.  I didn’t want anyone to comment on the ugly swirls of color in the stonework.

I wanted it to be just like a giant lawn.


When my wife and I drive through Ohio (really can’t help it), on our way home from Tacoma, I’m going to see how I can fix up Darcy’s property to really look good.

Good Neighbors

It looked like rain.

I stood staring out of the sliding door of our downstairs family room.  It was getting gloomier by the minute.  That was fine because my tomato plants needed some water.  I went back into my office and sat at the computer.  I was working on revisions of one of my books and also outlining my next project.  It’s going to be a ghost story set in New York State.  I was struggling with plot lines, character and place names, narrative threads and setting.

Yes, I’m a writer and I’m not ashamed to say it, not at all.  But it still looked like rain.

So I sharpened a few pencils, arranged my scratch pads and organized my felt tip highlighters.  After emptying the pencil sharpener reservoir into my Adirondack birch bark waste basket, I counted the number of yellow legal pads piled on my stack of what I call my “elbow books”–they have to be at my elbow when I write, and checked my copies of “Bipolar Disorder For Dummies”, “Chess For The Complete Idiot” and the interview in the latest issue of Playboy.

I was getting tired and it still looked like rain so I did the only thing that made any sense at the time, I went upstairs to take a nap.

I was lost in a dream about Lady Gaga and I crossed the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of rubber band balls and bales of twine bound together with scarlet yarn that was a foot thick.  Gaga was quite testy when I kept insisting that she not skinny dip so much.  Our only companion on board was an albino Llama.

After an hour (Gaga and I had not yet made it to Hawaii) I was roused from slumber by the chink of metal on stone.  There were voices.  One of them was my wife and the other was our neighbor, the husband of my wife’s very good friend.  They’re summer people and live on our loop road.  They’re from Ohio but we like them anyway.

I slipped a pair of Keds on my feet and went out to see what the noise was about.  They were together in the front yard and what they were doing shocked me to the very marrow of my femur.

We had purchased really nice stone slabs to put in a new walk leading to our front door. The stones were laid out on our yard.  In all honesty, I liked the look of the scattered rocks.  It gave the yard a “rustic” look…not too “Long Island Perfect” if you get my drift.

Anyway, there was my wife and Darcy setting the stones and constructing the walk.  I went back inside to find the bug repellent and came back out.  They had not even noticed me observing them.  Who knows what would have happened if I had gone into town for supplies?  (Earlier I had threatened to visit Saranac Lake to purchase six finishing nails so I could hang my Yankee cap in the workshop.)

Yes, who knows?  They may have finished half the walkway if I hadn’t interfered.

It started to rain and the evening was coming on.  Darcy and his wife (she had arrived earlier and hauled the stone pieces from our driveway),  left for home.  He turned down the Corona beer I offered, saying he wanted to go home and have a White Russian.

I have to admit that he and my wife did a superb job at getting the project underway.  I couldn’t have done a better job myself.

It’s great to have such wonderful neighbors…even if they are from Ohio.