A Happy Halloween
Excuse me some sentimentality this Monday morning: I’m coming off an extraordinarily satisfying weekend in our new community. Saturday morning I was over in the town of Hudson, getting to know it in greater detail than when I posted a report during the summer. At the Spotty Dog, I picked up two books about the place. One, Historic Hudson, is a pictorial history of a “city” widely considered one of America’s architectural treasures. (Of course, this did not stop the City elders knocking down some of those treasures in the 1960s to build, believe it or not, low-income hi-rise projects.) The other is called Diamond Street, about Hudson’s former red light district: this city of just 8,000 people once boasted, if that’s the term, some 15 brothels. That’s what you get when you let Quakers, with their live-and-let-live policy, found a fishing port, with its inherent need to supply sailors with entertainment. Fascinating stuff.
Driving back across the Hudson River over the Rip Van Winkle bridge, I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of the Catskill peaks – many of them already snow-capped – in much the same way I used to stop and gaze at the majesty of the Manhattan skyline. I used to stop at some point during my NYC working day to say “I love living here,” but that process ceased in the late 90s. Now I’m saying it all over again – albeit about nature, not steel. Further proof the move made sense.
Saturday afternoon Posie and I arranged to meet someone in the lodge at Hunter Mountain, for convenience sake. We were turfed out at 5pm closing time by none other than Orville Slutsky, whom East Coast skiers and riders will know as the Mountain’s founder and primary owner. Orville’s in old age now, his hearing not too good, and by all rights and expectations should be living a life of luxurious retirement by now. But in the nature of many a self-made man, here he was, on a Saturday in October, still minding his mountain’s business. He left us with the words “We could be skiing in a couple of weeks” and though I’m not sure he was talking about doing downhill runs himself, there was still an edge of almost childlike excitement in his voice which suggests he’ll be taking care of his slopes till through his final days.
We then stopped in at the Prospect Restaurant at the Scribner Hollow Lodge, just up the road, considering whether to entrust Campbell at home for an evening and book in for the restaurant’s fall food festival, which was being paired up with Pinot Noirs from Germany, France, the Finger Lakes and Oregon. We’ve gotten to know the owners and staff at this place too, and they made assurances that they would accommodate my vegetarianism, but in the end I decided it didn’t really make sense to spend so much money on what is, essentially, a wild game festival – besides, I was only in the Finger Lakes last week: it’s not like I don’t know the region’s wines. We spent the evening in front of our first log fire of the winter instead, watching a newly-purchased DVD of The Office. You can take the boy out of Britain but…
Sunday morning I got out on the bike and rode round the locale for a while – never an easy task given that you can’t go more than about 100 feet in any direction without encountering a hill, but worth it for the breathtaking views that greet you at almost every crest and corner. We then headed down to Campbell’s school for the kids’ Halloween Parade, which involved a short walk through town to the polite applause from various onlookers, and a brief “concert” at a community hall by the Phoenicia park. While walking, we were either introduced to or met by our own volition all manner of lovely people – parents, kids, weekenders – most of whom have prior or ongoing roots in New York City. And we then ended up at a local parents’ house party, complete with haunted house for the kids, grilled food, good booze, and plenty delightful company, including yet more people whose paths I’ve crossed in previous years, both in New York and back in London. As I think I wrote back when first discussing the move, it seems like this area is where everyone in my world goes when they’ve had enough of the City. Or as someone else put it to me, flipping that statement on its head: this is not where you should move if you want to get out of the music business!
But, actually, none of the above is what I set out to write. More to the point is how I’ve been feeling really blessed with and by my family. I know I’m lucky with the wife, and though I may not have expected her to adjust quite so rapidly and contentedly to the move, she’s a fully grown adult and was an equal part of the decision-making process; she wanted to leave Brooklyn. Ten—year old Campbell, on the other hand, was merely consulted. So you can imagine that it was a thrill to watch him out on the Halloween Parade, freely enjoying himself with new friends and complete strangers alike. Likewise, we’re overjoyed that he’s settling in so well at school. But the real pleasures are coming at home, watching Campbell and Noel together. We’ve been through raising a kid before, of course, and a lot of what we’re seeing with ten-month old Noel is not imbued with the same sense of novelty as it was ten years ago. But Campbell was our only child, and as such the relationship was exclusively between us as parents and him as the object of our affection. What we had totally unanticipated about Noel’s arrival was how much pleasure he would provide for Campbell, how much entertainment Campbell would provide for Noel in return, and how much we as parents would come to see Campbell from Noel’s perspective, Noel’s from Campbell’s, and to realize in conclusion that we are raising not just a new baby but a full family.
As we drove home last night, Campbell said something incredibly sweet about Noel and Posie that I won’t repeat both because I can’t recall the exact wording and because it would look unbearably soppy in print. But it left me with a sense of Sunday night satisfaction that rendered all the stress of parenting, marriage and work worthwhile. I feel blessed.