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Summer’s Gone: Notes From a Damp Holiday Weekend


Driving upstate on a holiday Friday morning with friends from Brooklyn, wondering: Where is all the traffic? (Answer: It’s decided to stay home and avoid the hurricane rains.)
Stopping for fresh vegetables at Al’s Farm Stand on Route 28. He apologizes for the lack of corn: “we’re just completing the second pick of the day. It’ll be here in 10 minutes.” Is that fresh enough for you?
A Friday afternoon hike up to Acra Point on the Escarpment Trail, my city friend’s 10-year old son determined to get a signal on his new cell phone, my own 10-year old son trying to turn us back around, my 20-month Noel alternately begging to be carried and demanding to jump around in puddles. Me wondering how I’m hiking on only 4 hours sleep, and why the trail doesn’t look familiar from my Escarpment Trail Run. (Answer: I was too busy judging my next step to take in my surroundings that day.)
The view from Acra Point: Misty, but all the more impressive for being so.
A Friday evening barbeque on the deck: even with the burning grills, it’s so early-autumn cold that we eat indoors.
Accompanying the food with Finger Lakes Wines brought back from our recent trip to the region. The Rooster Hills Chardonnay 2005 is very good, its buttery flavors matched by bracing acidity. The Fox Run Cabernet Franc 2002 is a little too oaky for my tastes but my Brooklyn dad friend falls for it big time. He’s found his new favorite wine.
Good cheese: Manchego with rosemary rind.
A good night.

Farm fresh food with a mountain view

A good morning: Lying in on Saturday until 10am. Much needed after that Thursday New York night out.
A four-mile run in the rain.
Our friends’ plans to go fishing are canceled. So is the intended trip to the Zoom Flume water park. It’s too wet for all that.
It’s Saturday afternoon at the movies instead.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
The dumbest movie since Dumb and Dumber.
And much funnier.
Nothing is sacred, no one is beyond ridicule. Not NASCAR, not Halliburton, not working class America,not the celebrity culture, and certainly not Sacha Baron Cohen who plays an unconvincing but amusing gay French Formula 1 Race Driver called Jean Girard.
We laugh hysterically despite ourselves.
We wonder whether to let the kids in on the jokes about crack dealers. We decide against it.
My friend says we might need therapy after that movie.
We settle for Chinese food.
Yes, of course there’s a Chinese take-out near us in the mountains.
(“Name three things America gave the world,” asks Jean Girard in Talladega Nights. “Chinese food,” replies John Reilly’s character Cal Noughton Jr.)
Besides, Chinese food is a great accompaniment to Finger Lakes white wines. Enjoy a semi-dry Riesling from Anthony Road with vegetable lo mein and garlic bean curd.
Discard a 1998 Côtes du Rhône pure Syrah that’s been kept a year or two too long. Salivate over a La Quintessence de Pesquie, a premium Cotes du Ventoux from the same vintage and my idea of wine heaven. God, I love those Syrah-Grenache blends when they’ve matured like this.
Watch the Apocalypse souvenir DVD that recently came my way courtesy of my former band partner Jeff Carrigan. Why am I so damn serious throughout my interview? The other four members are constantly falling about laughing and me, I’m pulling at my cheeks and reflecting on our past like Apocalypse was the most important thing in the world. (It was, in my world.)
Start watching the Channel 4 TV show Whatever You Want we once appeared on, but it’s too quickly too embarrassing.
Introduce my friends to Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G instead. I’d sooner watch somebody else be embarrassed.
Like my friend’s 13-year old daughter. There are just a few too many jokes about poonanny for her to be comfortable in front of her dad.
Play FIFA 2006 against the boys on the Playstation. Win both my games. Thierry Henry scores a corker in the 90th minute. I love this game.
The boys prefer Sonic Heroes. I reckon they clock about 12 hours in just the two days.
Still, it’s kept them out of trouble. Especially on a rainy day.

Call this summer?

Our friends have to head back to Brooklyn early on Sunday. And they miss the weekend’s lone few hours of sun.
Head into Hudson.
Refill my growler with Evan’s Scottish Light at the Spotty Dog.
Where we also buy coffee, colored pencils for Campbell, the Sunday paper, a Brownie and enjoy the free wi-fi.
Drive to Staples and pick up back-to-school supplies.
Along with the rest of the nation.
Watch the wife make a vegetable curry with the remainder of the fresh vegetables.
Campbell begs to be driven to the Drive-In to see Barnyard.
Two new movies in two days: must be the last weekend of summer.
And a cold, damp, lets-go-to-the-movies weekend at that.
Barnard is not as funny as Talladega Nights.
Though it has its moments. Especially if you’re 10 years old.
I love the idea of the Drive-In, and I love that we have one but half a mile up the hill, but the reality is never quite as enjoyable as the fantasy.
The sound is shit, the picture has to fight with the night sky, and it’s hard to stay sat in your car seat that long.
Which is why so many people bring deck chairs.
But we didn’t bring any deck chairs.
Campell and I end up sitting on the bare lawn in front of the giant screen, a blanket over our laps.
Drive home. Get ready for an early night: it’s Monday tomorrow. Look for my cell phone to set my alarm. Can’t find it.
Call my cell phone from the house phone. Can’t hear it.
Go to the car and call it. Still can’t hear it.
It’s 11pm at night. Get in the car, drive back to the drive-in – where Jaws is the main feature – drive up to where the car was parked, get out the flashlight. Find my cell phone.
That was a close call.
Set the alarm for 7.
Like an idiot, I’ve decided to run a race in the morning.
But I’m not really an idiot. Putting the occasional race in the schedule keeps my excesses in check, inspires the occasional early night, provokes the occasional early morning start to a bright new day and the euphoria that comes from a sudden spurt of energy.
Besides, this race is part of our Runners Club’s Grand Prix, for which I get points. Call it my competitive nature.

Noel doesn’t care what you call it, he loves it. And he has the place to himself.

Wake up to the sound of the phone ringing at 7am, totally exhausted. Remember that I told the wife not to let me come back to bed. Stumble round the house in the dark. It’s cold. Put on my running clothes, make some coffee, drive 43 miles across the Hudson and down to Rhinebeck. 43 miles. Whose idea was it to live in the country anyway?
Still getting in my stretches when the race starts at 9am. After the last few days, I feel really tight all over.
Get in my groove at around mile 3.
Get into top gear around mile 5. End up running the last couple of miles at a sub 7 minute pace, finishing the 10k in under 44 minutes.
Think this is a really good time.
Somehow, still finish 59th.
I finished 59th on the Escarpment Trail Run.
Can I settle for being 59th in life?

Note the same familiar faces in the post-race crowd, those who, like me, rise to the challenge of rising early to gain Grand Prix points, for no real reason other than they like to have a goal to keep them busy.
(Isn’t today meant to be a holiday?)
Post-race nosh-up includes doughnuts. Can’t resist. Snag two of them. And a home-made brownie. And a bagel. And a banana. Hey, I just ran hard and fast.
Drive 37 miles home – shorter but longer – where the decision has been made to, despite the cold, use the last of our free tickets for Zoom Flume.
We won a 10-pack from WDST earlier in the summer.
And Zoom Flume closes today. A ticket not used would be a ticket wasted.

Closing up for the summer: these picnic tables won’t be used again until Memorial Day Weekend.

Drive to Zoom Flume. Note several other cars in the car park. Figure there must be other people daft as us.
Inside, quickly conclude that almost all the other people here actually work here.
Campbell so enthralled by the lack of lines he goes straight down The Anaconda, which sends him straight into the pool of water.
Freezing water, he says, shivering and laughing.
Set off with son on those rides that don’t actually soak us. Twin’ Tubin’. The Black Vortex. The Wild River.
Shirtless and wet, get goose-bumps.
Noel wearing a sweater as he waddles through the shallow water of the main pool, happy to have the whole place to himself.
Posie in swimwear – and sweater too. She doesn’t brave any of the rides.
Feels like a day from my childhood – on a British beach under a cold cloudy sky. Back before the days of Global Warming, when the British beach was always cold.
Campbell and I daring each other to take one of the real soaking water rides.
Neither of us accepting.
Posie ordering a hot chocolate. There’s none left. She gets a tea instead.
Putting on my hooded sweater, lying back on the deckchair and finally opening yesterday’s Sunday paper. Starts raining. Start laughing.
Return to the food court. They’re handing out the last of the ice creams. For free.
Leave Zoom Flume, gratis Klondikes in hand, a little wet and very cold. Behind us, they’re pulling up the lounge chairs, shuttering the grill, closing down for the year.
The Beach Boys ‘Surfin’ USA’ is the last tune I hear on the Zoom Flume radio. It sounds incongruous
Drive home, pick up more fresh vegetables from an organic farm, get Campbell prepared for a new year of school.
Turn on the heat.
Autumn has arrived early.
And we’ve been living up here a year already.
Happy Anniversary.

Solving America’s obesity crisis, one closed grill at a time.

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