A DYING BREED

A long morning it’s been. On the road from daughter Vanessa’s house in Sutton, MA. to home. Pittstown, N.J., that is. Hunger overtook us before we completed the journey. Breakfast was at the Morristown Diner. Yes, New Jersey that is.

Our conversation touched on what a unique slice of Americana that diners are. They’re all a little retro, seemingly regardless of where you might dine at one. Morristown was no exception.

Our waitress, it may reasonably be presumed, was a seasoned veteran. She’d obviously been doing this for untold years. Ours was yet another table in the progression of this decade of customers. How was this place still in business?

My Eggs Benedict were, how you say, quizzical. Sure, they tasted as they were supposed to, but the Hollandaise Sauce was sort of a lurid, garish orangey-yellow color that gave the appearance of, perhaps, a Halloween decoration. Safe to say, this was NOT your grandma’s Hollandaise.

To accent our discussion, Jude reminded me of my stomach of steel, Years ago, we’d been on the long journey from Tuckaway South back to Tuckaway Pittstown. Daylight was waning on this Mother’s Day, one of the busiest restaurant days of the year.

We stopped to eat at the only restaurant that was still open, a place called Johnnie Appleseed’s. This was in Luray, Virginia. We learned from a waitress that this was the last of what used to be a chain of Johnnie Appleseed locations. Perhaps my Eggs Benedict were this location’s last gasp !

When it comes to eating, I am admittedly of the old school, that is the “Eat what’s in front of you” protocol. Given my parents, how could I not be? I wolfed down those eggs, even though their appearance may have suggested a name change for the dish : Eggs Misbegotten

FREEZER BURNED

I should know better. No, wait a minute, I do know better. Before pushing the “Publish” button on these occasional missives, Jude should first have a read. The chance that I’ve forgotten something is real.

She reminded me of a key epicurean detail of our lunch at the restaurant in Luray, Virginia. But before that, a note about the statue. Outside on the lawn of Johnnie Appleseed’s is a monstrous, plastic statue of the man himself. My best guess? 16 feet tall and hokey beyond description. Assuredly it has often been said, however, “you can’t miss it”.

But, there we were, dining with a stellar view of his likeness out the window. We should have put it together before entering, but it wasn’t until the waiter told us of this place’s impending demise that the fare might be a tad suspect.

Nonetheless, I ordered the dish that posed the greatest chance of post-traumatic freezer burn: Seafood Medley ! Yes, it was marginal. Yes, I finished it. No, I’ve never been allowed to forget my choice!

A BEGUILING SEASON

Mother Earth bestows on her floor this morning an ample filament of her chosen russets, her leafy scarlets and auburns that annually defy the poet’s best effort. Surely they will suffice ‘til the morrow’s breeze stirs again and adds to the phantasm that is Fall, the apparition that is Autumn.

Indeed, I wondered. How many leaves fell from that tree until it was totally baron ? How many trees were on the farm ? Do kids really need those fractious video games when nature already provides the challenge ?

The leaves, dancing in their descent, effortlessly remind us of carefree childhood days. Should I say, the dubious extent to which my childhood was carefree ? Funny how the dalliance of descending leaves made that illusion easier to believe. The world was a wonderment, after all.

HUNTING

— I have never found the companion as companionable as solitude.

Henry David Thoreau

I had dinner last evening with a gentleman who mentioned that he would be deer hunting this morning. He certainly chose a glorious Fall morning to do so. He might well be drawing his bow right now or, perhaps, just sitting patiently in a tree as I write these words.

Although Hunterdon County born and raised, I am not a hunter. I have no conviction against it. In fact, I have butchered more deer than most twenty deer hunters combined, but that was by occupation. In the meantime, there is one aspect of hunting that I’m all about.

I relish what the hunter does for most of his/her time while sitting in the tree, that being the quiet contemplation of the immediate surrounds. Thoreau probably would have called it ‘drinking in the soft influences of the canopy’.

And yes, I say “his/her” to expel any notion that deer hunters are male only. Regardless, if one sits ever so still, the entertainment is not always what was expected. Not long ago I was down in the woods sitting on my farm wheelchair (John Deere Gator).

Presently, along came two Possums, if nothing else on a morning stroll. They seemed to just be hanging out there in the woods, silently. Do Possums have conversations with each other? I suppose so, but I don’t speak Possumese . They sauntered by, not but five feet from the Gator, as though it had been there for a hundred years. Even up that close, not a word of Possumese was spoken.

How close, dear reader, have you ever gotten to a Possum ? You might well agree that few creatures are as ugly as your average Possum. And there’s nothing they can do about it. They can comb their spindley hair as much as they want. A coiffed Possum is still butt ugly !

Damn. Now I’m unsure where I was going with this. Distractions will occur with Possums. Interesting how an iPad will pick up on how the writer has spelled a word , even if misspelled or not in the dictionary.

Possumese is now a word, as rendered by my iPad. I’m not sure if that will make it any easier to learn. Joel Chandler Harris would have had a field day !

PESTILENCE … No, the word is Pleurisy

It has stricken my dear wife with a vengeance, even rendered her to the hospital for a brief visit. An inflammation of the outer lining of the lungs, it has visited her with an egregious, hacking cough. She describes it as an Elephant resting on her chest.

There is medication, but none that weaves magic. The most welcome words that the Doctor offers are: “It will go away , eventually.”

The cough subsides briefly, then there it is back again, sounding more sickly than before. If I didn’t know better, the cough evokes the prose of Poe’s ANNABEL LEE. It is not pleasing to hear, even more discomforting.

What brings it on? Judy was battling Pneumonia in the hospital. Apparently Pleurisy is the second cousin. I’m not sure which is worse. Neither are good, but no match for a good woman. Jude is hanging in there.

OLD TIMER

My wife, Judy, is amused sometimes when we pass someone’s house and I mention that it is So & So’s old place.

Judy inquires who So & So is. Often my reply is “Grade School”, meaning that I was talking about someone whose path I crossed as much as 60 years ago in the classroom.

It then occurs to me just how dated that seems. It’s one thing to live in the old neighborhood, but I live in the only neighborhood I’ve ever had, excepting brief stints of vagrancy. My farm is my old neighborhood . I guess that credential separates me a little from most others. They flew the coop long ago.

It is very grounding to still have the names of folks from that long ago still at the tip of my tongue, even though many are not around anymore. A sense of belonging and permanence remains, if only in my fermenting mind.

The Pilot Truck Stop on I78 will always be Johnny’s to me. It always will be. Memory is a remarkable human property.

Yes, as a matter of fact, that is still So and So’s old place and I can still see him getting on the school bus every morning. Life is good.

MOMENTOUS

This won’t be a long post. I don’t wish to dwell on the subject for too long. No, it’s not because I don’t love my dear sweet granddaughter. It’s just that her status today is a bit ponderous.

Maria is the youngest of six of our grandchildren and today is her birthday. Happy 17th birthday, Maria !

You see. I said it was a milestone. Maria will forever carry this banner and I further note: In the near future we’ll be celebrating her birthday when the clock begins ticking its way through another year. Can anyone slow the pace a little?

ABANDON

No, not really . I suppose just a bit of a lull. Indeed it’s been a while since a blog post has appeared here, but who’s tracking, anyway?

Join the throngs of others who’ve voiced their dismay with my scant number of posts recently. They’ve reached such a critical mass that I must write something!

I’ve researched this a bit. It is some sort of treacherous condition that besets old retired newspaper guys, a little known pathology we call Deadline Delirium? They say it will go away eventually, but I’ve been retired for 18 years. That damned publication schedule still has a grip on me !

But, I’ll snap out of it soon. The thought occurred to me just yesterday as I watched the hay being loaded into the loft. These bales are my “copy” anymore. The threat of rain, my only deadline. What kind fortune that these metaphors of the farm have replaced the past vexations of ad production. Life is good.

PAPER’S GOTTA GO

As an old newspaper guy, I was reminded this morning of what a gnarled mess the pages of a newspaper become when navigating from page to page, jump to jump.

Sad but true, it’s the way we used to get our news. Some still do. Compared to the TV or computer screen, this paper play has issues . And my former product used to torture people this way? Sorry folks for your inky fingers.

This morning the most hideous version of newsprint malfunction beset me. Upon turning the page, the paper found every possible unintended crease that had to be straightened out before the next page was attempted. The most practiced contortionist stood no chance of returning the crumpled broadsheet to its original flow.

Some day, ages hence, one can only imagine how our technology will have been eclipsed. Newspaper. What’s that? “All the news that’s fit to print” is no longer printed. Words aren’t read. They are “impressed” on our minds to the extent of our “prescribing capacity “. Reading has become a “robotic consumption”.

The role of teacher’s unions take new shape. Determining acceptable “teaching impressions” is the new foray. Huge swathes of knowledge are inculcated on the mind in a millisecond and accompanied by capacity for critical thought regarding it. Our minds have evolved to near incalculable extent.

Of course, this new capability in learning is hugely controversial. The less progressive educators aren’t yet sold, gushing concern about the yet deficient “power teaching” methods. What took us so long to fully appreciate the benefits of ultra-violet rays in education?

Surely by now, dear reader, you have arrived at the conclusion that I’m just having a little fun here. Some day I’ll learn.

Sinister Party

Alexandria Township approached its loss of innocence the other night. The Town Fathers are yet to examine the Police reports, but they won’t be pretty. A party unfolded with strange markings.

Full disclosure: I was asleep. I only know what I’ve heard or read, but even a blind pig occasionally finds an acorn. A Facebook entry implored would be partygoers to a “secret location” that apparently yielded an address in the Rapp Development.

Years ago the Rapp farm, with its magnificent views and vistas, was one of the first Alexandria farms to acquiesce to the developer’s backhoe. Like so many of us, Rapps were dairy farmers. I went to school with Rapp kids.

Meanwhile, the Facebook invitation to this party on Labor Day photographically featured an obviously naked woman sitting poolside with back to camera. The suggestion here was left fairly bare.

The Alexandria Twp. Park was utilized as a gathering point to shuttle partygoers to the Rapp location. That, in and of itself, tainted this party with a whole separate dimension. After all, in Alexandria who catches the A train to the neighborhood party? Who trashes the park while at it ?

Chances would seem ample that plenty of loose-lipped revelers are still out there praising the wonders of the party the other night, sufficient to blow the whistle on the party masterminds. They deserve a little reprimand.

HURRICANE IDA 9/1/21

Or at least the remnants of.

I would hate to have witnessed it in the peak of its fury. Last night was bad enough as it dithered up toward New England and dribbled an incidental 10 inches of rain on us in a few hours over New Jersey. Serious water!

We stayed in, thank goodness, but certainly there were reports of cars floating down the road. SIL, Marianne Romano got out of work around 8:00. She never made it home from Flemington. She was a road rescue and slept in a hotel last night. Who was it who said it’s all in a day’s work?

In stark contrast, this morning it’s sunny and beautiful!