porcupine country below the falls
Thursday, June 15 2006
setting: Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York
At around 9:30am I took F train across Brooklyn and into Manhattan, riding it to within walking distance of Port Authority on 42nd Street. Picture in your mind a subway full of New Yorkers. Chances are you're thinking of some sophisticated hipsters dressed in black along with some loud-mouthed middle-aged people and perhaps a couple of weirdoes, homeless people, and a small Asian woman walking down the aisle selling AA batteries. But this morning's subway crowd didn't look anything like that. Almost everyone on the train was young but not noticeable hip. No one wore low-rise pants, had visible tattoos, or more than a couple earrings. They were dressed business-casual, but not in a deliberate dotcom sort of way. The young women wore almost no makeup. The guys had closely-cropped hair and sported facial stubble. Everybody was listening to their iPods.
Gretchen and the dogs met me at the Kingston bus station when I rolled in on an Adirondack Trailways bus. She was wearing a raincoat and some distance down the road she revealed to me that underneath the raincoat she was wearing an outfit suitable only for the bedroom. We'd only be together for about 24 hours before she'd be leaving for a month-long writers' retreat in the Adirondacks. We had to make the most of our limited time together.
And so we did, although there were sandwiches made from fake turkey in there somewhere. Later we went for a walk to the blackwater "Canary Falls" to the south of our neighbor's farm. On a whim, we decided to pick our way down to the base of the falls and continue downstream along the creek, down a gorge where the water has cut a staircase in the bluestone bedrock. It's beautiful down there, with two more spectacular falls to reward our adventurousness. We had the idea that few other people had ever seen these falls, though that probably wasn't true since there was a trail leading down the gorge to a house at the mouth of the valley near Canary Hill Road.
The main problem with going down the gorge was that we eventually had to go back up again and find the Stick Trail that runs along the edge of the plateau. The hills here are all incredibly steep and the only trails are those made by years of deer traffic. Another issue was porcupines; that gorge is full of evergreens and is probably host to dozens of them. When we finally made it back home I removed a single porcupine quill from Eleanor's side and what may have been a quill from Sally's lip. At least the dogs are smarter than they used to be about the prickliest of rodents; in the past they'd have so many quills we'd have to rush them to the vet.
This evening Gretchen and I dined at Stella's, the Uptown Kingston restaurant with the especially delicious salad. We sat outside on the sidewalk along Front Street, one of the most visible places in a small town. It's a good place to inevitably encounter that person you've been trying to avoid, such as the guy who supposedly claimed he'd be a famous artist right now "If only I had a Jewish name."
Friday night in a small town seemed to be going well for a drunk young man with a flask of booze in his back pocket. He stumbled across front street and immediately struck up a conversation. He wanted to know if the restaurant we were eating at was Sicilian and when I said I didn't think so and that for all I knew it was "Genoan," he insisted that it wasn't properly Italian. When he found out we were customers, not employees, for some reason he felt the need to profusely apologize.
Later, while Gretchen was talking to me her gaze became fixed upon the flashing headlights of a truck she could see over my shoulder. Her eyes, she said, felt comfortable there and she couldn't find the strength to move them, not even to look at me as I talked. "It's that thing," she said. "You know, that thing when your eyes get stuck." I knew exactly what she was talking about. The first time I remember this happening to me was back in first grade when I found myself captivated by nothing in particular outside the classroom window. But I've never had it so bad that I couldn't give eye contact to the person with whom I was conversing.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next