Catskills Corner: Ten of the Best Part 1
My mother stayed with us for the best part of two weeks through the second half of April, a period that included my 45th birthday. This was not intended as reciprocation for my making it over to Yorkshire at the end of March for her 75th birthday bash; the dates just worked out that way. It was the first time she’d seen our house finished and habitable; it was also the first time we’ve had anyone to stay for more than a couple of nights. In the midst of it, thanks to her offer to child-sit for a weekend, Posie and I also had our very first night away together without Noel since he was born.
All in all, her visit was perfect. The weather was beautiful both weekends, with the April showers and cold snaps regulating themselves to school days in between. And it seemed as if she couldn’t have timed it better for local events that brought out the best in our community… unless, and this is equally probable, we are just blessed to live in an area where community is constantly at its best. I’d like to think we appreciate the beauty of our surroundings (physical as well as natural) at all times, but I believe we appreciate it all the more when people come to visit. Here are the top 10 events of our last two weeks:
10) The Arts Upstairs opening reception and Cabane Studios closing reception, April 18.
Phoenicia’s pot-lot party takes place the third Saturday of every month and I’m upset if ever I miss it. This time I did miss out on most of the art, being busy collecting signatures for my petition to run for school board. (I guess that sentence demands a separate post.) But in doing so, I engaged in many healthy, creative conversations with other members of the community – especially the older members who attend art openings, rather than the parents of school age kids who I more frequently associate with around here. I was worn out from what felt much like campaigning for three hours, but was happy (if not surprised) to discover that my mother had befriended various local residents and had headed down Main Street to buy Campbell an ice cream where she found herself hanging out with her new best friend, Uncle Rock.
9) 60 Main, a Community Store.
The space underneath Arts Upstairs in the heart of Phoenicia was, until very recently, occupied by a Tibetan rug store: very nice if you happened to be in the market for a Tibetan rug, but … Well, let me just put it this way, I never went inside. The space was recently taken over by a couple of local community regulars and Arts Upstairs patrons who have turned it into an already vibrant community store under the indisputably accurate name of 60 Main. The initial inventory is a mixture of hand-crafted clothing (including the celebrated Babytoes brand), locally-produced preserves, Jane’s Ice Cream (apparently founded on this very spot), and… rare comics and fanzines. Incongruous though that mixture may sound, it’s what will surely make the store unique. As it happened, an edition of the very first copy of Legs McNeil and John Holmstrom’s Punk magazine sold for $100 the week the store opened; and you can well believe I’m planning on getting a few old Jamming!s in there asap. In the meantime, you can find copies of my published books there, as well as first editions of various pulp paperbacks and all kinds of freaky hippie comics the likes of which should not necessarily be fondled by kids. The store is a welcome asset to a village Main Street that, like anywhere in this recession, needs every decent storefront it can get, and I already get the feeling that locals are going to treat it as a place to socialize as much as they are to buy and sell. Hopefully, Alan and his wife can find a way to monetize that appeal (e.g., sell coffee or tea); in the meantime, let’s trust that tourists and locals alike offer it their financial support.
8) Somewhere Else, April 19.
There’s no easy way of saying the difficult part: one of our Onteora High School kids is suffering from a devastating cancer. It’s a little easier elaborating upon the positive: that school children and adults alike have rallied around him. The high school kids put on a magnificent benefit before Christmas, full of food, music and good cheer. And local musician Ralph Legnini has spent the last several months helping the kid in question, a talented ukelele player called Killian Mansfield, fulfill a musical dream by producing a CD in which Killian plays alongside many of his heroes. On Sunday April 19, a listening party was held at the Center for Photography in Woodstock, an event that was literally packed to the low-slung rafters as hundreds of local residents came out to offer their continued support and appreciation. With all the hubbub at hand, it was difficult to hear the CD itself, which is still a couple of months from release. But given that the list of musicians who contributed to the album include Levon Helm, John Sebastian, Phoebe Snow, Kate Pierson, Dr. John, Gail Ann Dorsey, Jay Ungar, Chris Wood, Jules Shear and Todd Rundgren, almost all of whom have connections to the area, you know it’s going to be good. Somewhere Else will benefit the Hope & Heroes’ Integrated Therapies Program for children with cancer. Please visit the charity’s web site: that’s Killian on the front page, pictured getting acupuncture. Kudos all round.
7) Ray’s Run, April 19.
I had to high-tail it from the 11am launch of Somewhere Else to make it into Kingston for a 12:30pm race: the Ray’s Run 4-miler. It’s named for a local runner, Ray Caddy Jr., who passed away a few years back at the age of 25; proceeds from the race go towards the scholarship fund set up in his memory. (In 2008, five Kingston High School students received $500 scholarships.) Not every race round these parts is a charity event, nor should they to be – and yet it’s surprising how many succeed in raising money and awareness for good causes. In this case, as with the Celebrate Life half marathon I ran in March, local businesses chipped in with donations of certificates and goodies that were awarded as automatic raffle prizes to the runners: some people even went home with professional runner’s sunglasses. I came away with a $10 certificate to Panera, possibly the worst bread in the Hudson Valley. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to run, and to benefit a good cause in the process. I was happy to do both.
6) Earth Day in Phoenicia, April 19.
I wrote a little and posted a few pictures from this one already. It was the most beautiful afternoon in every sense of the word: the weather, the events, the parents, the kids, the all-round atmosphere of peace and good will and love for the environment. By the time it was done with, around 4pm, I thought that if there was any event I would like my mother to have witnessed to understand why we feel so fortunate to live in this neck of the woods, then this would have been it.
5) Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, April 25.
My Earth Day post was partly informed by the excellent material at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s web site, which reminded me that this would be the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning before leaving the kids in granny’s hands for the next 24 hours. The weather, we knew, was set to be unseasonably hot, so we got there as soon after the 11am opening as possible. We were given personal guided tours by owners Doug Abel and Jenny Brown, who work tirelessly to give rescued factory farm/slaughterhouse/abused animals – far too many of them from Brooklyn – a fair opportunity to enjoy their lives, and who manage to project positivity in all their work while gently pushing a vegetarian/vegan philosophy. One of the things I’ve discovered from visiting the Sanctuary in the past is that all the animals have personalities: not just the goats and the pigs, but (or perhaps, especially) the hens and roosters. That’s not something we want to consider about the animals we eat, but it’s absolutely true; they recognize their human patrons, they cuddle, they can be seen living out their existences in entirely individual manners. Seeing them all enjoying a day of perfect sunshine in (relative) freedom was a reward all to itself. I encourage anyone coming to visit our area to stop in at either the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary or the nearby Catskill Animal Sanctuary; or simply visit the web sites, read more about what they do and why, and consider making a donation to support their work. We are all enriched by their contributions to our community.