Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Meeting Pen Pals

The Internet has brought back some of the skills of written communication that disappeared when people decided the telephone was the best method of communication. I think about pamphleteers and how they must have found each other in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. And what it must have been like when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met each other for the first time, after knowing each other only by the words they wrote. They didn't even have photographs in those days.

One of the fun things I was able to fit in on this trip was arranging to have breakfast with Victoria Cummings of Teachings of the Horse. I've been following her blog ever since it showed up in the list of notable & recommended blogs soon after I started writing mine. I find it insightful and I enjoy her pictures of her two mares and her farm. When she heard I was coming East, Victoria contacted me about getting together and I was really pleased to oblige.

Victoria is as delightful in person as she is on the screen. It turns out we have people in common outside the parameters of the blogosphere because she's worked in Hollywood and lived in California. The world is a very small place.

There wasn't time for more than breakfast. It was Victoria's mother's 95th birthday, and I had to get my car back to the rental office and get into New York. I appreciate the time that Victoria carved out from her busy day to enjoy some poached eggs at the dairy coffee shop and I managed to get back to Enterprise without incurring any charges for overtime.

I'm sorry that Arlene of Grey Horse Matters was out of town during my brief window of opportunity in the North East. She too had extended an invitation to get together, but she had to be out of town. I was hoping to meet Sami, her Arabian rescue, and Sami's mama as well. Perhaps next time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New York, August 15

The reunion has been fun. Actually, it has been perfect.

My friend Gloria (on the right, above), with whom I reconnected because of this blog, managed to get here. She flew directly from Madrid, where she was on business, to JFK, where her brother picked her up and drove her home. She got in about 4:30 this morning and I think that she’s lucky that the time differences worked in her favor coming here.

She looks just great, and we’ve had a fine time catching up. She left mid-way through 8th grade and moved to a small town about 60-90 minutes away. When you don’t drive, that’s just as bad as going to the far side of the moon. I saw her only once after that. I invited her to a party the summer after we both graduated and she came. I am so glad we have reconnected. Her granddaughter is into manga and anime, and is planning to be at the convention where Len’s a guest next month. Gloria is going to instruct her to be sure and go up to Len and introduce herself.

My other best friend, Valerie (center, above), from those days was here with her (relatively) new husband. He’s a little on the quiet side, but that may just be because plus-ones are at a disadvantage at a reunion, unless they went to the same school.

Even with nametags and pictures, it is a little hard to recognize people or remember exactly who they were. Sometimes, there’s the moment when you see a 17 year old face peeking out of middle age and sometimes (like people say about me) it’s because you see their parent’s face.

It’s been fun, but frustrating to be unable to check e-mail or post. When I get back to my world, these posts will be going up one after the other, and now I’ve actually got pictures to go with them. Folks suggested I drive around looking for unsecured wi-fi, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Things can wait until I get to Danbury tomorrow or New York on Monday.

There’s one more gathering to attend: breakfast tomorrow. I’ll leave after that. It’s about a 3 hour drive to Connecticut, so I’ll get there plenty of time before dark. I might even stop to buy a swim-suit—Audrey and Michael have an indoor pool. That’s not necessarily an advantage this time of year, but I will always remember being there in the heated pool in January, with a fire in the fireplace, the lights off and the snow coming down outside. It was bliss.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New York, August 14

What does “no till seeding” mean? Or “no till corn?” Is this a step beyond organic or vegan of which I am unaware.

I passed a field with those signs on my way back from a pilgrimage to Equissentials in Oneonta. There I dropped off a pair of riding britches for “recycling” (they put the deerskin seat on new britches), another pair for exchange (they were much smaller than the other pair I bought at the same time), and gave into my desire for a pair of the full-seat western jodhpurs. Those I bought off the rack. The others will be custom made.

The day is Kodachrome perfect and it makes me wish I actually had some. But then, where would I get it processed? It’s almost time for me to pull out my camera and use it. The afternoon light will soon pick up the warmth I prefer. I think I’m going to drop my car off at my mother’s house and walk for a while. It’s nice to see side walks and there are so many antique shops around. Unlike California, rents are cheap.

I find myself wondering how many of the people I’m walking past might be among those who show up at tonight’s first event of the reunion. It is scary, not knowing what people will look like. A little more frightening to realize I don’t remember their voices either. My father’s voice is vivid in my memory, and he’s been gone 31 years. I’ve seen some of these classmates more recently than that. The only one I can pull up from the data base belongs to Rodney Welch, who teaches and does research at the University of Wisconsin. I sat next to him in school for 13 years, so I should remember what it sounds like.

Yesterday, my friend Gloria called just as my nice and I were seated in a very noisy restaurant in New York. She identified herself, but it was drowned out by the din, so I had to ask for it again. I would never have recognized her by her voice, which sounded a bit like one of my aunts. She called because there is a very small possibility she might make it up from Puerto Rico for the party this weekend. My fingers are definitely crossed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New York, August 13, Evening

I am in some other when.

As I drove up Route 17 to attend my high school reunion, I found myself drawn to things I hadn’t thought about in ages:

There was the house that Gary Catella, another friend of his, and I went to, looking for help after Gary’s car broke down on the way home for Christmas vacation in, I think, 1969. Driving to get us meant my parents were late for Dad’s office Christmas party. Boy was he pissed. Turned out, someone had put sugar in the gas tank of Gary’s car. He spent the three weeks of vacation rebuilding the vehicle.

There was the exit to Liberty I got about 500 yards past when my aunt’s Volkswagon Beetle stopped working. The engine seized up when all the oil leaked out. My uncle told me that it was using “a little oil,” which is a different warning than the one I needed. On old Volkswagons, the oil warning light came on after all the oil was gone. The message it gave was “too late, you idiot.” I had borrowed the car to go home for a weekend in my last year in college when my mother was having some vision problems. Once again, Dad had to come and get me. The other thing I remember vividly about that trip was I was wearing suede-cloth hot pants. My legs were better in those days, but it was not a good choice for being stranded along Route 17 unless I wanted a whole lot of trouble. I didn’t. In the days long before cell phones, it took a while for rescue when I thought it prudent to reject several offers of “rides for help.” Eventually, I walked the 500 yards back to the exit and called AAA and my father.

There was the Roscoe Diner, a land mark for anyone who ever had a friend going to college in Upstate New York. It was THE watering hole, an hour from the nearest college city of any size and the last stop before getting on the highway to head back to New York and Long Island. It looked bigger than I remembered it, but I’ll bet the owners are still Greek and there’s a Greek salad on the menu. Today, I just stopped in the parking lot for a catnap before the final 20 miles of my trip. On Sunday I may stop in to see what swag is available.

I drove past one of New York City’s water sources, a reservoir that was built before I started school. It was very full. I’ve seen years where the water was so low you could see the remains of some of the towns that were flooded over. There are two of these reservoirs within 10 miles of my home town, in opposite directions. Daddy used to take us fishing there. I haven’t been fishing since I became old enough to need a license. My brothers now take their kids fishing in the same places when they go to visit my mother.

I pulled off the overview on the mountain going into town, expecting to take a picture of the valley below. The trees are all grown so tall that there is no longer a view. I noticed that the other view hill seems to have the same problem, and that road is a lot more treacherous. So much for a picture of the town, I guess..

When I got to town, I did a drive around before heading to my mother’s house. The first home my parents owned looked quite nice (above). It’s been repainted and it is nicely maintained. There’s now a terraced retaining wall in front where I just remember a grass hill we would roll down—and the day my 2 year old brother stripped off all of his clothes so he could get sprayed by the hose Daddy was using to clean the car. I remember Dad chasing my brother who immediately realized that standing naked was probably not a good idea.

Tomorrow, I will take the time to walk down town and visit some of the many antique/junk shops that have taken over what used to be a Newberry’s, Five and Dime, a jewelery store, and the Western Auto. What was my grandfather’s jewelry and barber shop (and was later his liquor shop) is empty, with a for-lease sign on it. For many years it was an extension of the clothing store on the corner. That too is empty.

The National Bank is still there, but I didn’t notice the full name. No doubt it is owned by some bigger banking corporation. The big surprise was the McDonalds. Mom said it’s been there a while. And I saw an ad for a Subway. I never thought that fast food franchises would ever find the town.

The town library is as beautiful as ever. Rumor has it I can get on the Internet there, which I will check out in the morning. I’ve had no luck posting anything from anywhere today. I’d feel like I’ve gone off the edge of the universe except I know I can get in my car and leave and Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were on TV tonight. Unfortunately, I discovered my mother’s choice of “news” is the Fox channel, because when I turned on the TV, the odious Bill O’Reilly’s face and voice came on. I couldn’t wait too change the channel.

New York, August 13

Back in New York State after an eight year absence. It’s overcast and humid, something we aren’t used to in L.A.

The young woman I noticed at Bob Hope Airport last night came over to me at the baggage kiosk. Turns out she is Kaitlyn, my friend Zsuzsu’s daughter. She’s here with a play that opens at the NY Fringe Festival this weekend. She noticed I was wearing a jacket from the training barn Zsuzsu ran with Gayle when I moved Ace up to Ranch at the Falls. It is a small world. I’ve asked Kaitlyn to join us for dinner on Monday night. I figured she’d like to meet Kristina & Stephanie, since they are in the same line of work. Kaitlyn is behind the scenes rather than in front of them.

The bus is now making the rounds of the airport stops. There was a police vehicle blocking traffic as we started out of the Jet Blue area. We couldn’t see what the problem was.

I realized that I forgot my point and shoot digital camera. It’s got to be sitting on my desk. Annoying, but not a total loss. I’ve got the Nikon D70 with me. It’s a little bulky for taking to dinner, but it’s faster and better for just about everything.

The flight was o.k. Some minor bumps at the beginning and bigger ones at the end. The couple sitting next to me in the middle and window seat were annoying and loud. I had to get up several times during the night to let them out. I did no more than doze occasionally. I think I might have gone out during Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Nice touch, being able to watch MSNBC in the air. I spent the rest of the night listening to the iPod. I just discovered that I can adjust the balance to the kind of music I like. I’m listening to Tom Paxton singing “The Bravest” and trying not to cry. In a few minutes I’ll have my first view of the New York skyline since September 7, 2001. It will look different.

It did. It’s much shorter in the south end of Manhattan, though the news was about some hummungus steel beam which has been moved into place for the rebuilding of Ground Zero.

Stephanie met me at the bus stop and we went into a busy restaurant across from Grand Central on Park Avenue for breakfast. “Do you have reservations?” asked the manager. Reservations? For breakfast? During the week? In New York? It turned out to be the kind of place that must be used for breakfast business meetings. I was a bit disheveled and ripe from the flight, but they seated us anyway and breakfast was fine. We had about 90 more minutes to kill after we ate and we walked around the renovated Grand Central, which has a fine market—oh the cheese and spice shops were to die for—and where I was able to buy a container with four fresh figs. Mom had expressed her desire for fresh figs, which she hadn’t been able to find at home and which I could not legally bring back with me from California.

Today is my son's birthday and I think it may be the first one I've missed since the days when he spent summers with his father. I miss him and wish that I had been able to plan ahead so he could come along on this trip.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Busy Week and Weekend

When he's standing around on his best behavior (like in this picture), you'd never know what an opinionated horse Ace can be. He's very good at letting us know something is wrong, but not necessarily exactly what isn't right.

Ace has been acting strangely ever since I went to Comic Con. While a visit from the vet/chiropractor last Sunday took care of the physical offness, our lessons this week were hampered by a mental "just not here" thing.

Ashley had a great ride with him on Tuesday or Thursday, after her own huge young horse, Waldo, almost dumped her after a big spook, a huge rear, and a turn. Ace was her comfort horse and then he took care of her when she rode him in a training lesson. Me, not so much this week.

He spooked and nailed my left foot on Wednesday while I was picking his feet on Wednesday. That did no damage because it was a quick on and off. Lucky. On Friday, while I was putting his halter on, he spooked and came down on my right foot full weight. I screamed bloody murder for him to get it off. He did the "oh, I'm sorry mom what was your foot doing there" thing, but he wasn't calming down.

Gayle was going to give him a chance to move before I got on his back, but it turned into a full-fledged join-up session. He simply refused to honestly submit. We actually had to untack him because Gayle was afraid he was so worked up, he'd stumble and go down on his saddle. (I've never, ever had to worry about Ace decided to roll when he's tacked up. He just doesn't do it.) After a long workout, we got him dressed again and I did a little work on him. We aren't use to him exhibiting this much attitude.

It may be that his little buddy the new mini got a new corral which is not as close as the old one. Or maybe there was one too many nail guns or motor cycles going off on the other side of the boundry wall. Or maybe he was unhappy that the little girl who's been fussing over him all week in camp this summer didn't come this week. She's had him all cleaned for me every day when I get there and has turned the front part of his stall into a Japanese rock garden without the rocks. She draws lines in the dirt with the manure rake, I hear. Since he doesn't speak English, although he appears to understand it quite well, we're having a hard time figuring out the problem.

He was a tired horse when he went back into his stall on Friday night, but Saturday was a new day and he was in a much better mood when I got there to tack for an 8:30 ride.

It was the best ride I've had on him in weeks. I was able to trot him long and hard for most of the half hour. At first, it was unusually choppy--his warmed-up trot is the easies thing in the world to sit--but then he got going when he realized I wasn't fooling around and he needed to get his rear legs underneath himself. I was really pleased with him and myself when I was done.

Then it was off to the hairdresser in preparation for the upcoming trip home. I even decided to try a manicure and pedicure (I earned it after Friday night) for the first time. Very indulgent. A little weird, but I'd do it again. All of my nails were about the same length and for a change that didn't mean broken below the quick. I discovered when I painted my nails for New Years that I felt like I wanted to rip my nails off. The polish made them feel funny, like they were suffocating. I don't know how else to describe it. Someone else said they think polish makes their nails feel heavy. I'm glad it is not just me. I decided I'd risk a clear coat, but nothing more. So far, so good.

So my hands looked great for about two hours, until I chipped one of the nails at the bowling alley fundraiser for Horse and Pony Rescue Ranch, Inc. , the non-profit that Gayle and some of her students set up years ago to help place unwanted horses. I had a good time anyway, and was glad to get my husband and son to come out and socialize at a horse-related event. A couple of our friends joined us and we managed to bowl two games in the two hours.

I'm a lousy bowler, but even I managed two strikes and a couple of spares, along with a large number of gutter balls. This morning my right hand, arm and neck hurt from using muscles I don't normally encounter. I'm really pleased that between the folks bowling, pledges made to sponsor the bowlers, and raffle tickets, HAPRRI got about $350 towards horsekeeping expenses. If anyone is interested and has the spare cash to make a donation (and I know what that's like these days), here's a link to HAPRRI's website.

Today, I'm doing laundry and packing for my trip, because later we are off to see Julie & Julia, tomorrow night I've got team trivia, Tuesday night we're attending the taping of the first episode of the season of The Big Bang Theory, and Wednesday, I've got to see my chiropractor and Ace right after work before I go to the airport for the red-eye flight to New York. Busy, busy, busy. But so much fun.