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   taking Lake Edward for granted
Thursday, August 15 2013

location: northwest coast of Lake Edward, Fulton County, New York

This morning while we were sitting on the dock drinking our coffee, Gretchen told me about how things had gone last night. Events that take place at yoga studios obey rules that are sometimes at odds with conventions; for example, instead of applause, audience members were encouraged to make a sound with their mouths while moving an arm. But, this being a poetry reading, at least one thing was distressingly familiar: the wanton and shameless assertion of male privilege. Gretchen has mentioned encountering this before at other poetry events and it seems to be a common feature of poetic maleness no matter how superficially-sensitive the males in question happen to be. Typically if there are several women reading alongside a man, the man will monopolize the time, reading much longer poems and doing other things (such as giving long-winded intros) suggesting that he thinks (on some level at least) that the bulk of the attention of the audience should be directed at him. Another issue at play at last night's event was the value given to personal beauty. It's becoming increasingly obvious that at a poetry reading, the best poetry tends to be read by the least attractive poets present. Beautiful people are indulged in any subculture, and irritating behaviors and a general absence of talent that might make a homely person a pariah are instead viewed as quirky eccentricities when manifested by the gorgeous. Despite all of that, Gretchen had a great read and received an incredible amount of support from the head yoga woman there (who acts as guru to a number of celebrities my sense of propriety forces me to not reveal).

Not that we're urgently looking to buy a lakeshore cabin, but Gretchen (at least) still entertains the idea. Today she had arranged with a realtor named Carol to have her show us some lake properties in the nearby southern Adirondacks. So late this morning we drove a couple miles south and met her in front of a house on Mountain Lake. Mountain Lake is maybe a quarter or a fifth the size of Lake Edward (aka Vandenburgh Pond), though it's much more crowded with cabins. Viewed from space, it looks as though it has no undeveloped shoreline at all. As for our real estate agent Carol, she was a chatty woman who insisted on pursuing conversational tangents even when we made clear we had no interest in them. As for the house we were looking at first thing today, it was a cruddy structure made of concrete blocks which had been partially clad on the outside with vertical board & bat siding. Supposedly it was even uglier on the inside than it was on the outside. But people were in there and not answering the doors. So we walked around the outside, strewn as it was with bicycles, firepits, and recycling. There didn't appear to be any grass at all, though this seemed to be the result of the ground having been pounded by hundreds of feet. Around back, there was a nice dock (43.105643N, 74.370735W) with a roofed place to park a boat. But it was all crammed in tight between two other houses, and, as I said, the lake was crowded all the way around with other docks and boats and cabins. It's a much crappier, much more suburban lake than Lake Edward. Suffice it to say, neither Gretchen nor I had any interest in this house or, for that matter, anything on this miserable lake.
But there was another house across the Mountain Lake that Carol was being all coy about. Supposedly its owner was about to put it on the market and Carol was worried that if she told us about it before the paperwork was finalized, we'd go over there and buy it directly, completely bypassing Carol. "I've been burned before," she said. But she still wanted us to see the neighborhood where this house was situated even if she didn't show us the specific house. The neighborhood was better; it was on the end of dead-end gravel road, which would make it much more dog-friendly. The shoreline also looked to be less crowded. But there really wasn't much to see. While we were there, Carol suddenly had a change of heart and pointed out the house to us; it was a tan-colored cabin set back in the woods directly on the water's edge. "I'm gonna have to trust you," she declared, addding somewhat nonsensically, "Sometimes you have to trust in the good lord." (She didn't know that Gretchen and I are both atheists.) In any case, we were in no position to knock on the door of that cabin and offer that woman her asking price, so Carol had nothing to worry about.
From Mountain Lake, we convoyed northwestward in Fulton County, ending up at West Stoner Lake, where Carol showed us another depressing conglomeration of cabins, firepits, and docks of dubious ownership crowding a narrow arm of the lake (43.224485N, 74.527554W). At least it was remote enough for us to let our dogs run around off-leash, but that was about the only thing going for it.
Carol took us into the cabin that was for sale, the one with a dubious connection to the lake, and the whole place seemed dark, cold, and possibly festooned with cooties. The shape of the cabin was long and narrow, which is shape that really only works for shotgun shacks. Still, the owners had made some good decorative decisions, the most intriguing of which was to cover the front of their cabinets with lacquered birch bark. Overall, it was dreary and depressing place and certainly worth nowhere near the $189,000 asking price.
The next place Carol convoyed us over to was a small cabin near the southeast corner of East Stoner Lake. Coming from the west off of Route 10, East Stoner Lake looked distressingly overpopulated, with lots of cabins, floating docks, and even a floating dock with a built-in slide. There were also dozens of white children looking to cross the road. This was the part of the lake dominated by a number of families that had been coming to the lake for years. The cabin we were going to was in a more-secluded part of the lake, and it was a cute efficiently-laid-out place, but it was adjacent to a very swampy part of the lake (43.226109N, 74.511801W) featuring ankle-deep water, numerous plants, and God only knows how much mud. Gretchen wants a cabin where she can go swimming off the dock, and this wasn't it.
The last cabin we looked at was down on East Caroga Lake. It was grim, ugly, cobbled-together monstrosity with low ceilings, floors that pitched steeply away from the walls, and an unpleasant fragrance. As with most of the other places we'd seen today, it was crowded in amongst its neighbors. As for the view across the lake, the landscape looked essentially like a flooded suburbia. We'd been taking Lake Edward for granted; clearly lakes like it are the exception even here in the Adirondacks. Mind you, the Adirondack countryside is almost completely unpopulated away from the lakes, but near them suddenly everything becomes lawns, lawn decorations, lawnmowers, and vinyl siding.

This afternoon Gretchen made some sort of Asian noodle dish using cabbage from our garden. She later spent much of her time lying in the yard near the lake reading one of the many books she'd brought. Eventually, though, she was interrupted by a couple young women who mysteriously wandered through. It looked like they were drinking from bottles of beer. One was the granddaughter of our landlord for the week and the other was a friend. Gretchen always gets along with such random strangers really well, but my response was to stay in the cabin until after they were gone.
Gretchen split a bottle of girlie currant-flavored sparkly wine with me, and then it was my night to cook. I made what I most love to make: a big pot of chili using cans of beans, tomatoes, and (for lack of other supplies) a can of Trader Joe's vegan chili. Gretchen had picked up some emergency provisions on her drive to Lake Hill. These included chili powder, nutritional yeast, another tub of hummus, sriracha (which I'd foolishly thought I could do without), and socks loaned by Sarah the Vegan. Though a purist wouldn't recommend this, I found sriracha was an acceptable way to bring the chemical heat of the chili up to a basal level tolerable to Gretchen (a level, it bears noting, that has slowly risen through the years).


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