There is something sentimental at the heart of any museum, whose reason for being is to celebrate the affection we feel for objects that were once part of everyday life.
What We Wanted Here, Redux
Are Looking For Somewhere
Are In A Lucky Position
To Be Able
To Look For Somewhere
To Leave Where We Are
To Change Where We Belong
When We Consciously
Not So Consciously
Un isn’t Right
Begin to Search For Some Place
Not To Belong Exactly
But To Feel A Certain Way
What Way Is That
Asked Martha a Policewoman
When I Told Her My Theory About Why
She and I
Both Chose This Place to Live
And I was Guessing It Was
To Feel A Certain Way
I Wanted Something Different She Said
Easy To Clean Ranch
Where I Wouldn’t Have
To Walk Up and Down When I Got Old
I’m Old Now And I’mv Walking Up And Down
I Didn’t Know I Had Knees
Until I Turned Sixty Five Said Martha
Why Did You Come Here
I Asked Martha
I Fell In Love She Said
You Wouldn’t Think I
Was The Love Type Would You?
The Catskills is a hoary place, wirey and old, eternally
vacationed, a draw for so many of us, year after year
after year: Communists, Hasidim, Macy’s workers, fire
fighters, Irish musicians, poets, historians, iron
workers, police, housecleaners, teachers, builders
and electricians have all been drawn to these very same
hills, for beauty, for respite, for summer hamburgers
made on a simple grill. For hamburgers that
absorb a lot of ketchup. Unlike the Berkshires, lyrical,
manicured, well-landscaped, well-scrubbed, where
Yo Yo Ma’s renditions become an unexpected part of the
daily landscape, these hills hold a different song.
The Berkshires, on both sides, New York and
Massachusetts, is liberal and forgiving, one of those
places full of used book stores and passable restaurants.
Not so our side, where opinions are vociferous and
flinty, and where neighbors don’t agree about too much.
In between the East and West sides of the well-painted
Hudson River, right on top of the river itself is the odd
town of Henry, a first name town where Henry Hudson
himself sailed, in his Half Moon boat, and settled, at
least for a while.
What makes one place more appealing than another?
Places could be are just like people that way. Maybe it’s
all just a question of taste, and class, and culture, and
the books you read, as well as the books you didn’t.
A woman came to dinner last night and because her
name was Sophie I assumed I would like her who
wouldn’t like someone anyone named Sophie but as she
entered when she walked in I knew I didn’t like her and
wasn’t going to either.
We liked Henry in the beginning. It could just be a
Question of mood, or season. One person’s paradise is
Of course another’s hell. We loved Henry even, loved
It from the start, years ago. It was too poor a city for
urban development, for beautiful old brick buildings to
be knocked down. Years ago, it was a small city in
disarray, shabby and chaotic, more poor than rich,
fried fish, cheap liquor stores with four dollar bottles
of wine. Nobody used the word varietal. There were
no hipsters or small straw hats on men.
A big Salvation Army sat next door to a Burger King.
There were one or two outsiders in town, but very few.
We visited an interior decorator once, in a spectacular
old house, 1790 is what he said.
He’d painted the outside a memorable pink. A difficult
man with a beautiful eye, I know not one of us even Zen
masters who espouse simplicity as a credo not one of us
is simple. His relationship to Henry was non-existent.
Although Henry was his address, where he was and wasn’t.
He lived inside his bright pink house, eating big meals
With city friends, who’d visit all the time.
Over the years, Henry changed, from Salvation Army to
high end furniture, to 50’s modern emporiums, to wine
shops with vintners. The old Main Street, still charming,
no longer shabby or disgruntled, has become a
destination: restored, preserved. There’s even a spa
and an expensive downtown hotel.
My friend Mitchell, a legal services lawyer who works
with poor country people calls us seconders, people who
have second homes. He said that last Saturday he was
in an Italian grocery store with beautiful bread and
home cured olives. Many people were waiting in line.
Mitchell walks between two worlds himself. A well-pressed Pilates looking mother who used the word abs
In conversation with her friend was annoyed, Mitchell
Said, because of the crowds so she announced, “why
don’t some of you come during the week.” The crowd
In line for olives looked unhappy, but no one answered.
No one moved over either.
When we started it we were four adults and two very
small children. Two adopted boys from Paraguay
and Guatemala. Adam and Eli. One year apart.
Nick and I live with
the boys in a very small apartment that could be
described as charming if charm means small and
picturesque. It’s a long thin line with rooms down
the middle and windows on the western wall.
The boys have
always shared a room, and their room has a window
facing a courtyard, a city courtyards with a
tree smack in the center. The tree looks a little like an
art object: some famous conceptual artist’s idea of what
a city tree might look like if it weren’t quite a tree. The
title easy to imagine: Maybe A Tree.
All four of us are anxious nervous city types.
We aren’t a hiking camping family. We have never
Canoed and my guess is we probably never will.
We are happiest walking around, just walking.
The house impulse was not in our DNA. I have an
aunt who told me years ago that you need a house
to have a life. I never wanted a house. Nick didn’t
either. A house represents so many things that neither
of us know. Plumbing for instance. Even the word
makes me nervous. To plumb sounds ominous, as
in plumbing the depths.
And yet. There is always an and yet.
We each have a very good friend, a friend we talk to
every single day. Nick and I went to different
colleges, but our every day friends are from that time
when we were young, when we had time and when life
was more or less unpredictable.
Nick plays guitar but he earns his living working on
music in movies. He’s a sound editor, and sounds are
his life. His life has always been well-scored, which may
be one of the reasons why I loved him in the beginning.
Can you love someone’s soundtrack? Maybe yes.
His college friend Aaron is a labor historian,
one of those thin mustachioed men with earth colored
clothes who is infatuated with the past. With workers
struggles and especially workers victories, with
Wobblies and all the speeches of Emma Goldman and
My oldest friend is Manuel Clemente. Oddly enough
that’s exactly how he looks. We met in Milton class in
college. Neither of us liked Milton all that much.
Not liking Milton bound us together. For life.
When we four decided that we wanted a house, it
Was a half-hearted decision. One of those decisions
you don’t realize until many years later could change