up Eagle's Nest Road
Sunday, April 4 2004
This evening Gretchen and I attended a birthday party celebrating the 52nd birthday of one of our new friends, the male half of the couple who live up on Eagle's Nest Road. After our own Dug Hill Road, Eagle's Nest is the next road north up Hurley Mountain Road to climb the escarpment rising from the agrarian Esopus Valley to the heights of the forested Ashokan Reservoir Plateau. Coming from our direction (the south) the wooden road sign at the intersection with Hurley Mountain Road spells it "Eagel's Nest." (It's spelled correctly on the sign's other side.)
Unlike Dug Hill Road, most of the climb up Eagle's Nest isn't owned by Catskill State Park, so it's much more developed, with houses jockeying for progressively better views. Some are ratty and look like they belong to indigenous Catskill rednecks (for lack of a better word). But most of the houses appear to be occupied by Woodstock types: people with big bank accounts, good jobs, and liberal politics. Recently we learned that Larry, the realtor who sold us our house, bought a quirky house on Eagle's Nest.
We felt like such nerds when we realized we were the first guests to arrive. So we sat around in the kitchen talking with Mr. and Ms. Eagles Nest and their former nestling, a young woman who now lives in North Hampton, Mass. (She displays a rainbow sticker on the back of her car, but it's not a Subaru.) Gretchen often claims to find twenty-somethings annoying, but she spent a good fraction of tonight's party talking with the daughter, who is about to enroll in a PhD psychology program.
Mr. Eagles Nest gave me a quick tour of the house, which sits atop an arm of highland extending from the escarpment. It's a moderate-sized modern-style house featuring a dramatic view of distant Mohonk Mountain. The insides are beautifully decorated by Mr. Eagles Nest's photographs and and artifacts collected from throughout the world over the course of many National Geographic expeditions.
Many of the people invited to tonight's party consisted of people (like us) whom Mr. and Ms. Eagles Nest had met while walking their dog.
Since the Eagles Nest's daughter is a vegetarian, Gretchen naturally assumed that there would be plenty of vegetarian options at tonight's potluck meal. This wasn't to be the case. I could tell things weren't going well in this department when I overheard some of the guests expressing surprise upon learning that the daughter was such an extreme vegetarian that she didn't even eat fish. What was most surprising was the fact that nearly every dish that had been brought contained meat. Given the number of Woodstock denizens present, the kind who know their way around brown acid and draft card conflagration, I would have expected a somewhat greater level of culinary enlightenment. I think the problem was mostly generational; the vast majority of people present were over forty, and I get the feeling that (because of the conservative nature of eating habits) Boomer vegetarians are rare. Gretchen and the daughter were forced to eat sweet potatoes with a watery dahl that was in desperate need of salt. Fortunately, all the desserts were vegetarian. As always, Gretchen's contribution, a pumpkin roulade she'd baked this afternoon, was a particular hit.
Between dinner and desserts, we were all gathered into the living room to watch a slideshow of photographs from Mr. Eagle Nest's recent trip to Antarctica. The most striking of his photos was one of an ancient iceberg comprise of ice so dense that its color was dark green. I was also impressed by a picture of the detritus washed up on an Antarctic shore. It was full of ovoid coin-sized chips of ice, each blasted smooth like beach glass.
In the course of talking to several people tonight, the most notable thing that kept defying my expectations was learning that some interesting person had been living in this area for a very long time. No matter where I've lived, it's been my experience that I'm not going to find much common ground with "old timers" from an area. This was particularly true in the rural south, where conditions were unfavorable for the long-term retention of people having peculiar interests, unusual ideologies, or, for that matter, much education. But even in relatively enlightened places like coastal California or New York City, it's difficult to imagine people staying there for the long term unless they had something wrong with them. It was heartening to realize that reasonable people actually do settle down around here, occasionally lingering for generations.
Eleanor with her arm around Clarence today.
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