really worth $40?
Sunday, August 14 2022
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
As I puttered around making coffee, Aunt Barbara was the first one up, joined later by Deidre and then Kent. Barbara and Deidre had had their own rooms, but Kent had slept on the hide-a-bed in the loft. Gretchen was still sleeping in, but she'd muttered to me something about putting out the coffee cake and some plates, so I did that. I had some of that coffee cake, by the way, and it was damn good.
The social pressure wasn't so intense this morning, and what little there was could easily be handled by the lift the coffee was giving me. (As with the wine, only Deidre, Barbara, and I were drinking caffeine.) I put the letters for the day's New York Times Spelling Bee on a piece of cardboard, and, after a quick rundown of how the game works, we all called out the words. There were at least two panagrams, one of which was "draping" ("d" was in the middle).
Much of the conversation I was having consisted of me explaining various complicated things I've built, such as the watchdog resetting system on the Moxee WiFi hotspot (something only Kent had the technical knowledge to understand). Kent is extremely knowledgeable about current events and was nearly done reading Authoritarian Nightmare, a book by John Dean from back in the dark days of the Trump administration.
Deidre was heading off on a walk down the red-flagged trail, she called me aside one the pretext on needing to know where the trail went. But then she and I had a fairly long private conversation in the woods about various things, mostly my mother ("Hoagie" or "Betty"). Deidre wanted to know how she and my brother Don were doing, and I explained that together they're managing to bumble along without too many mishaps, helped in large part by Joy Tarder and Josh Furr. Deidre wanted to know if Hoagie had received a diagnosis for her issues, and I said that of course she hadn't, but that it was clear dementia was a big part of it. Deidre seemed a little resistant to this notion, largely (I suspect) out of wishful thinking, most of it by-proxy from Barbara, who, Deidre told me several times, is "very protective" of Betty. I then talked some about my relationship with Betty, which is fraught with such suspicion on her part that I can't get any of the facts I would need to help her in any way. Betty, I explained, still thinks I'm trying to exploit her in some way, oblivious to the fact that I have no interest in her crappy stuff. I also mentioned, in passing, that Betty raised me in poverty when there was absolutely no need to. Deidre agreed with me that this seems to have been the case. Deidre also told me about how things have been with her mother Barbara since Barbara's long-time husband George died of lingering injuries resulting from a ski accident. Apparently George had been in complete control of the house's finances and had been a pathological tightwad, refusing to buy replacements for things like washing machines and boilers as they failed. Eventually when George was too sick to stop them, they managed to get some money spent on these things. And it also turned out that he was sitting on accumulated pile of money exceeding "millions of dollars" in size. That't the sort of thing that can happen when you have a long high-paid career as a corporate chemist (as George did) and you're pathologically frugal. And it happened despite sending four kids to college.
Back in the cabin, Gretchen was having an interesting conversation with Kent in which Kent was describing the early onset of his schizophrenia, when he was trying to attend the University of California at Santa Cruz and lots in muddled delusions and tormented by hallucinations. Eventually he got put on a medication that didn't just put him in a corner drooling on himself, and he managed to have a successful 20 year career from which he just retired back in June. Now he's aspiring to work at a grocery store, perhaps unloading trucks in the back. It seems like a waste of his excruciatingly accurate memory and deep intellect, but perhaps he wants a job that doesn't get in the way of such thoughts.
Eventually Deidre returned from her walk, the pin I'd put on the map app on her smartphone not having been too helpful.
But now it was time for our guests to leave. So, while Gretchen was trying to get dog shit off her shoe, there were hugs all around. And then the guests were gone.
This weekend would be freakish in that, after our cabin never having had a single guest (other than a few locals getting a tour), we'd be having two sets of overnight guests. My relatives had been the first batch, and later this afternoon Gretchen's ex-girlfriend would be arriving in a rental vehicle driven from Pittsburgh. But that would be later. First, Gretchen and I (and the dogs) would go down to the dock and enjoy that for some hours. Of course, I never really just go hang out at the dock, I always have a project. And this time was no different. I had a couple bags of concrete down there that I was worried would go bad if I didn't use them. So I decided to take advantage of the very low lake level to further beef up the concrete footer for the southmost steel pier at the end of the fixed part of the dock, a pier that will likely experience a lot of strong forces acting on it once the lake is frozen to a depth of two or three feet. So I made a wooden mold and mixed up most of an 80 pound sack of dry concrete compound mix and used it build a low shelf to further buttress the existing footing in a step of concrete further from shore on the rocky reef the pier rests on. Once that ws done, I cracked open a Fiddlehead IPA and floated around on my back on the innertube the way I like to. Long passages of silence would pass between Gretchen and me and then we revisit the topic of how horrible Deidre had been to present me with a bill for her modest contribution to our hosting effort.
After getting out of the lake, I did a little more trail improvement to the new section of diagonal trail. The best of these improvements were a set of solid stone steps made out of large stone boulders down the steep section of trail where my Aunt Barbara had fallen on her ass.
On our walk back to the cabin, we could hear Joel and his drunk bro-ey friends popping off a small gun at his stupid gun range. But at least this time Joel had warned us beforehand he'd be shooting some this weekend. And he'd waited for us to leave our dock before beginning his shooting. Joel also says that this will be the last of his use of his gun range at its present lakeside location.
At around 4:00pm, Gretchen's ex-girlfriend (and today's second Barbara) arrived in a rented Ford Explorer with Tennessee plates. Barbara brought a big bag of groceries to add to our food supplies, and when we told her about the stunt Deidre had pulled, it was so terrible that she almost didn't believe us. Barbara's quirkly sense of humor and low-demand affect was a breath of fresh air, though we were pretty socialed out. Eventally Gretchen and Barbara walked down to the lake and eventually went for a paddle in the canoe around the lake. Meanwhile I set up a stereo to play the Glove City's favorite radio station and proceeded to set several more pieces of bluestone in the nascent walkway to the cabin's front door.m This required digging deeper into the sandy soil for the thicker rocks, and the results were increasingly satisfying.
Later, after Gretchen and Barbara returned, Gretchen made a dinner of Asian-style pesto noodles with cutlets of tofu and roasted cauliflower. I wanted a beer, and managed to convince Barbara to split a Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout with me. Over dinner, much of the discussion concerned Ramona's increasing decrepitude and what might be done. Barbara suggested not getting a third dog too soon if there is concern that Ramona might not live much longer, since her hatred of random dogs might cause her stress in such a situation and speed her demise.
Gretchen had been talking about a rousing game of Bananagrams, but it was already dusk, and the plan was to drive with the dogs back to Hurley tonight. Gretchen and Barbara, though, would be staying at the cabin an additional night and Barbara would drive Gretchen back to Hurley in her rented Explorer tomorrow. So I washed the dishes and straightened up some of the mess in the yard and then bid Gretchen and Barbara adieu, loaded up the Bolt, and had an uneventful drive back to Hurley. Arriving there a little before 11:00pm, I took a xanax before climbing in bed.
Neville on one of the bluestone pieces I'd set in the nascent walkway last weekend.
Click to enlarge.
Neville and Ramona on the chaotic arrangement of bluestone near the front door of the cabin. Click to enlarge.
My cousins and aunt with Gretchen. From left: Deidre, Barbara, Kent, and Gretchen. Click to enlarge.
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