The Camel’s Hump (Third and Final Part)

photo 5Morning came into the chamber of solitude.  Snoring bodies and shifting legs all uncomfortable from a night sleeping on wooden planks, how our ancestors from various points on the globe would have unanimously resounded in condemnation of our mushy softitude and inability to be content.  What we call “roughing it” and they would have considered luxury and comfort.
photo 3(1)No bears for the night.  Some strange forest noises but other than that there wasn’t a Deliverance meets Evil Dead last stand at the cabin that night.  We hid in a cottage provided by the Green Mountain Club and guarded by a caretaker, a rather sour woman of a certain age [the author means young and not Femme d’un certain âge], and a block against the door marked bear-a-cade which should have been marked, REMOVING THIS TO PEE IN THE NIGHT MAY HAVE YOU MISTAKEN FOR A BEAR.  But it wasn’t.  But it did wake us.  No bears.  After all that work to keep the bears away, the bears actually stayed away.  Some of our party was disappointed.  Others weren’t.  I won’t tell you which where in what camp.  It doesn’t matter.
We made the last of our complicated breakfasts.  Less complex than the day before but still involving coffee and tea and hot something. One of our party had had a tough two days and had hurt his ankle so took a pass on the Final Assent, the summiting of the Camel’s Hump Mountain.  We left him behind at the cabin.  The cabin wasn’t the usual lean to that one may find in camp trails, but was an actual cabin with windows and fully enclosed.  It was a very cute.  As said above, uncomfortable for the Modern Wo/Man but better than being out with the [not] bears.
photo 1(1)We carried light since we could leave our packs at the cabin.  This still meant walking up the mountain after two previous days…. one and a half days to be precise, but those were hard days.  For the start, the travel was simple.  Easy.  Then, about .2 miles from the camp, we let on to the trail to the mountain.  The Mount Mordor we Hobbits had traveled so far to see.  The trail started to go up and up and up.  I fell back.  The climb was impossible and I wondered if I would make it.  I set off to the side of the trail to lay down.  I was dizzy and short of breath.  As the oldest of the party, perhaps this was beyond my years… Yet, much older people than myself were bounding up the trail so I figured so could I.  After laying prone a while then moving to higher ground to again lay prone, my body seemed to grow accustomed to the torture I was enduring and I started to hike up, at first slow, then at a normal pace, and in time I came to join my friends as they crawled along a rock scramble.
photo 1This was nothing like the previous day-and-a-half journey.  For one thing, there were scads of people. It seemed that at every turn I was letting a party ahead of me.  Clearly the majority of people were day hikers.  This was the route from the parking lot to the mountain, the path most traveled.  The heat of the day broke early and the exposed sections were quickly a chore added to the list.  The views were still enraptured by the summer funk and valley mist of late summer.  While we were baking up in the sun, the higher we went the cooler the wind that blew.

photo 2Down below we heard from those hiking up that it was well close to 90 degrees in the valley, even warmer than the elevation we had slept the night before.  Summer, the hottest of human existence was upon us. However, far above that, we worried about ozone and sun cancer.  The sun beat down on us on the rocks yet the thin wind blew with a refreshing cool that as we climbed seemed stranger and stranger, at least to me.  The trees at time gave some succor but for most of the trail I was alone, and exposed.  I would meet my company and then loose them.  Finally, I was able to keep up and we traveled up higher and higher.  Suddenly, we crossed the tree line.  This is not a gradual process but is an almost exact line where the trees just turn bonsai and then succumb to alpine altitudes and rocky faces.
We walked up the stone face and the flowers and greenery was left to the cracks and fissures where the rare plants of so many ice ages ago would sprout and in their way, thrive.
photo 3At more-or-less exactly 11:49.04, give or take a few hours, we had come to the summit of Camel’s Back Mountain.
The group of so many expectations and verisimilitude dreams of the generations before had made this small thin line on the map, both printed and from The Googles, come alive.  We had, in our way, met the challenge and from far far far away goal of what seemed like so long ago, moved through the woods and in inches made miles.
photo 2(1)From the summit we could see other far off distances and in all directions, however hampered by the late summer haze so typical of the Northeastern regions of the United States of America.  From this vantage point, we then returned down, to the cabin, loaded up our packs and met our friend and walked the seemingly short distance to the parking lot in order to return to our civilized world, the jobs and positions we hold, and the many offerings and comforts of the Peak Oil Age.

photo 4

Mad Men & Oyster Bars

photo 4(1)There are a multitude of licensed libation interlocutors lavishly or in grunge serving all manner of spirits and at about any hour except for a few on Sunday morning. In my time in Gotham I have seen the bars proliferate and to a one be packed crowded on a Wednesday so that the only way to get a seat is to arrive at the opening bell of hour d’jolly in order to ensure a spot of some comfort. These bars come in all brands, concepts, and attitudes but few these days have history and even fewer offer what you can find at The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal (TOBGCT).
TOBGCT is an historical establishment dating back an hundred years or more. Sadly, I missed their centennial celebration which I feel was just a few months ago but since I’m older that could be 1-6 years ago since, dear reader, that’s how memory and age work as you get up there.
photo 3Of TOBGCT there are two sections: the counter and the saloon. The counter area is set up like I remember the automat or a number of basic eateries now to a one vanished. The ceiling is a grand vaulted number made with Italian tiles of some note for their design and particular functionality. The saloon, however, was modernized sometime in the early 1960s and for reference watch a few season 1 episodes of Mad Men. The space hasn’t been updated ever since.
The theme is a fake rustic with wood panelling and a nautical theme because of course in a train station boats right? However the fare is primarily pescetarian and because boats we can sample engorge and nom abundant and the freshest selection of oysters, clams, and shrimp.

photo 2(1)The ceiling is dark painted dropped acoustic tiles punctuated by nautical-looking lights and over the entrance to the toilets a huge stuffed fish stands guard. Inside there is an antechamber that once held a couch and within the gender specific bathrooms an old [at the time of writing this] pay phone (kids ask your parent or guardian or ward what that is).

photo 5At peak hours there is a bathroom attendant indeed a toss back to the days of yore when high end joints ensures their facilities were up to date and if you needed to shave before returning to work or needed to brush the taste of hooker out of your mouth you could do so and with polite assistance.
While I am not there frequently, this is the one spot in town where I know the bartender.
photo 1(2)Hi Alex, and he says, martini dirty one olive, and I of course agree since if one is to oyster right it with the classic drink of Raceclassgender:WMP (White Male Privilege) edition. But, in this safe chamber of 1962 there is no cell phone service so one can detach from all issues and politics and focus on XXL blue points served on a bed of ice and whatever conversation and company you may bring there for a professional business netting, first date, romantic encounter, family feud, post-termination drink, pre-jumping on a train and rocketing upstate booze fest, or just because you’re in the area and Alex remembers you and knows what you drink perhaps because of the above list of reasons to stop by, all of which have been occasion enough for this author to hide a moment from the world and pretend to be a Mad Man.
And should you be in Gotham, do stop in. Do whatever you want, but I recommend asking Alex about the blue points.

photo 1(1)

Camel’s Hump Day (pt. 2)

11997030_10154363802459657_656257614_nMorning comes early for those sleeping outside.  The happy campers who we had entertained with our antics the night before were up and out proverbial door before we had fully come to.  There was coffee and breakfast to be made.  Other campers may be content with a few handfuls of nuts, some dry bone chew squeak toy to chaw on, but not us.  I had hiked in a dozen fresh eggs and that had arrived to our campsite unbroken and ready to use.  Of the ridiculous foods I have brought camping, I think this raises the bar.  Next time we are in the woods we may have to make a cake or create some other unlikely meal.  Yes, there will come a day where the camping and hiking is too extreme for anything but MREs and those expensive camping foods like powered guava and monkey brains (may contain nuts) or whatever it is that the campers seem to have to fill their tucker bags.
We made to the trail by 9AM.

photo 2A late hour for most hikers I am sure, but we are soft city people for the most part, out in the woods to harden up but not too much.  And to the trail we went and of a sudden it became difficult.  For the most part this section of the Long Trail follows a pattern of being extremely difficult for a while and then having a level (by mountain standards) run for a time where one can gather one’s breath, regulate one’s heart, and commune with nature.  This simple jaunt is then again interrupted by a scramble up or down or a rope or a ladder or some other unlikely terrain.
11950969_10154363803504657_1716949339_nThere was afforded stunning views from each mountaintop (although the summer murky haze was present and cut down a view that should afford the Presidential Range to the Adirondacks).  From the top of Burned Rock this view was a majestic panorama and a rock outcropping allowed our group a space to spread out and enjoy the sun.  We did not take too much time, however, since it was slow going.  One of our party had no experience in camping nor hiking and he started to fatigue but still pressed ever on.  Others of us had snack attacks, or had to rest after a climb to re-regulate the heart or allow muscles to recover.  This was not a simple walk in the woods.
photo 1Our group pressed on.  Up rocks.  Lowering down ropes.  The ladder was an interesting feature.  I am not sure what we would have done had someone not hiked in several miles carrying an aluminum ladder and then secured it to the living rock with chains and strong wires.
The Long Trail is older than the more storied Appalachian Trail.  The southern end is well used but as one goes further north, at least after Camel’s Hump, I am told the trail gets more wild and unused and fewer people are met along the way.  As it was we met four hikers on the trail for the entire day.  An incredibly low number, I think, considering it was a holiday weekend and the weather was textbook perfect for a walkabout.  The Long Trail is maintained by a private charity and crosses private lands as it also dives right through state forests.  All the infrastructure for the trail is built and maintained by the Green Mountain Club and much of the trail is in far superior condition to that we experienced at Mount Marcy earlier in the year (I am now convinced that the Lake Colden trail is straight up ghetto… or as “ghetto” as something can get in the wilderness). If you get a chance do check out or donate to
11997029_1166983913316943_315846627_nFrom Mount Allen our party became disconnected.  Each of us had to draw on some super power of our own.  Two of our party struggled in the back, I took the middle to scramble, pant and puff and be in pain, and then scramble again, and the rest pushed ahead as the advance team.
Our struggling friend was being helped but they fell back farther and farther behind.  I got a second wind after I used the last of my water to choke down some food and when I caught up with the advance team they too were out of water.  Of the things we did not plan for, and after the more than moist Mount Marcy expedition, the polite summer weather had left the woods dry and the many little tributaries were just damp paths through the forest undergrowth.  From our camp to the next there was no water and since we had a purifying pump with us, we did not take as many bottles as perhaps we should have, had we really considered that climate change would have found us out here in these pretty little woods.
photo 4I was the first to the campsite.  I had read on the Intertubes that the campgrounds had been closed due to bear activity.  This was proven incorrect by two hikers who had passed through the area and were able to confirm that the cabin was open.  Unlike the lean to before, this was a true cabin with a door and windows.  The door was fastened shut with a number of fittings and inside we could see a wooden bar with the legend “bear-a-cade” painted across it with two images of bears.  This was a last stand against the bears.  While there was a picnic table covered by a tarp, the campsite was fortified.  Two large metal boxes were at the edge of the camp to provide a secure area for all things food.
There was also a guardian, a keeper of the cabin who worked for the Green Mountain Club.  She was nice enough if not a little sullen. I could understand why since we were a noisy lot.  I quickly made to preparing the dinner as our party arrived in dribs and drabs.  We wondered about our two friends who had fell behind.  Suddenly, one of them (the more experienced since he had been to Marcy), emerged from the woods and informed us that his companion had fallen farther and farther behind.  The hikers I met had given him water, but we were sure he was out by now.  It was getting  dusk.  Which quickly leads to night.  In the woods there is little transition between day and night.
We pumped water and sent off a one-person search party, however, it was not long before our struggling companion made his triumphant entry to the camp.  Of all of us, he was the only one to have seen a bear.
To wit we made merth and made dinner and there reached a point where I was no longer functional and we struggled under the baleful watchful eye of the caretaker as we attempted to keep the site immaculate and bear-free.
And piling into the cabin, to sleep we went again.   Having made 11 miles since our last camp it may not be much to those who have joined the 47 club of the Adirondacks (and summer and all season just to add another bragging level), but to us this was an accomplishment and had we thought to bring a flag, we would have planted it right there.
11998574_10154363800499657_1549015383_nEditor’s Note: Additional photos by M. Abedi and M. Gafary.

Camel’s Hump Day (pt.1)

photo(3)The Camel’s Hump is way north. Almost on the Canadian border in many ways, and well past the resort towns and villages of Manchester, Vermont and Killington. The area about the mountain is yet wild, so much so that it makes the area about Stranton mountain appear downright built up and overdeveloped.
Our little hiking group is comprised of persons of various experience from zero to novice. This writer had not embarked on such a journey to-date. The trip involved mapping out the route, making park arrangements, car arrangements (important for through hikers and having had so many poor or car free friends limited my range in the past), and hotel arrangements. Maybe simple to many, perhaps second nature to some but arranging for a camping trip is not a simple affair to most. Food, water, shelter, safety and in this modern age, timeliness so we all arrive fresh-faced at our respective jobs least we are docked our pay or terminated since New York State is, as are most, a right-to-work-state and one can be “let go” for any or all or no reason.
This camping s hit takes some serious planning and guts in this day and age. Despite that REI and EMS and Cabellas and Dicks and Gander Mountain are all full-time selling new technology that allows to travel in greater comport.  I imagine we are the last generation who will be allowed or even can “rough it” in any way.
Our first stop was the resort town of Killington where we rented a condo. Three bedrooms. Fireplace. View of the mountain. Balcony on the upper floor from which we watched the shooting stars. For a moment I sunk into the feather bed and wondered about the journey ahead. I love you feather-bed.  Oh bed, you feel so good, but I must leave.  Why? Were we really going to do this?
The next morning out party awoke. Leisurely we started to pack. Still an hour from the trail head but no rush. It was a Saturday. One of our party had never hiked or camped before. Ever. In his life. I had looked at the maps but… Another member of the party had forgotten to print them out and in the 40-70 hours each one of us works, it is understandable how we can miss little details.
photo 3(3)Reluctantly, we dislodged from our… Uh… Lodging, and set out to drive up and up and farther north. The trailhead is close to Mad River Glen and the ski lodge of the same name.
Up up up up our little car chugged. And up up up up the second car followed. We crested the mountain without any effort on our part, we just sat there and let the baby dinosaur juice pump through the engine and explode us up ever higher. At the parking lot at the top we saw a number of visitors, view enthusiasts, cyclists a plenty, but no tent-baring back packers. No wooden signs. No gates or markers or anything to justify that out journey was to take us on the fame and fabled Long Trail. Nothing but brush. We were pointed out the trail by a cyclist.
And, there it was but a break in the trees nothing more than those creepy patches of forest at roadside stops where drivers go tinkle in the woods.
So, two drivers abandoned the rest to start the trail since, our dawdling had left us well beyond the sun’s zenith. We drove to the second parking area. Our destination. And it was further than I expected.  We thought, we just left the least experienced of us to ford ahead, locate the camp, and tent up, and we had yet to buy maps. Which we did.
We parked the second car at the end trailhead and returned. The road was worse than any I have experienced. Washboard that led to dirt.  But we drove on and then up up up up and parked the second car…. Or was I driving the first. We donned our packs, mine was the kip bag, his had the fire making equipment, and we swigged a little wine and pressed on into the cleave within the brush…
And at once were in the forest.
photo 2(3)Primal. Forgotten. Layered and a sudden quietude although for a time we still could hear the rankings of some fat Harley pipes and the above drone of a pleasure airplane.
Up we pressed on until it felt my heart would pounce out of my chest.  After days of inactivity, weeks of less than stellar gym attendance, hours and hours in a car, this mountain was no joke.  We climbed up and over rocks and moved quick with I having to rest from time to time as I felt rather short of breath and ill out of shape. We two did continue to attempt to catch up, perhaps pitiable puerile hubris but it was the gaunt green flame that fanned our spry fortitude so early on in this journey. From one vantage we saw our destination. The Camel’s Hump.  It seemed so very far away even as the crow flies and indeed it was since between us and our treasures goal lay valleys and some additional humps of note.
Then it grew twilight.
Then dark.
photo 4(2)We lit lanterns and set them upon our heads and pressed on.
Finally, the forest opened up to show a fairy tale cottage of there closed sides – a lean to. Not of such as I built as a child of branches and twigs and I would lay there shuffled in from the snow with a cat or two tucked in my arms, but hewn logs placed long ago by my ancestors who pushed that Long Trail above the trees where natives tread not.
Our band of novices had well beaten us and were upon the wine and some cheese much perhaps to the chagrin of the campers, the normal campers, who had normal gear and planned the trail so as to rest well before the ungodly hour of 8pm. Not us. We moved into the woods and flitted open directions on how to pitch tents, opened instructions to stoves, as well as opening more wine and Of course someone brought Fireball(tm).
We feasted on beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes Alfredo, and snacks and wine as we may be campers but why not enjoy unplugging from the world in comfort, especially since tents and sleeping bags have come a long way but camping food still tastes… Terrible.
And to sleep and rest we went in pitched tents and the lean to and slumber was not in he feathers and comfort of the morning but we had made it. To wilderness to away to unplug from our lives and so many engines turning and the intertubes churning and we listened to the whistle of the stars – and the sonorous breathing of this author.

End of Part 1.

photo 1(3)

Bridges of Manhattan County

photo 3(2)It started innocently enough. A hiking group on the Bookofface, many denizens of Gotham unable to make extensive trips to far flung areas of the mountains, why not hike New York City? Why not hike every bridge that spans the East River? Major bridge. Sorry Macombs Dam bridge. And yes, the East River is not a river… It is not really a river.
We gathered early for any day, as all of us agreed as part of the designer class we don’t get up at that time, and so early on a Saturday that many were just getting to bed.  Still by hall of city and in the golden rays of a late summer dawn, four of us gathered and exchanged pleasantries. Two of our party had an ugly Uber experience and had rocketed past our meeting point at Brooklyn Bridge station and had been taken across the Brooklyn bridge itself. Not yet 7:14 on a Saturday and already we’d lost two.

photo 2(2)After some planning we started across the bridge. There is nothing more iconic, at least for a New Yorker, as dawn breaking and shinning that light on the marble, copper, glass of many shades, and didn’t that one guy with the twisty buildings use titanium or such.
And the bridge was relatively silent. A few joggers. One or two aggressive cyclists (missing one testicle/one labia majora I am sure a la Lance Armstrong) whizzing by yelling “cyclist”! For the most part this famous but infuriating span was crossed in resplendent quietude.
We had we completed our first bridge and as true New Yorkers, at once set upon coffee and snacks. Joined by a few additional members, our band set out to return to Manhattan.
photo 1(2)DUMBO, or Drastically Unaffordable Move or Be priced Out, is not so much a neighborhood as it is a collection of investment boxes owned by successful capitalist families, power suits, corporate apartments, and technology companies lured to what is essentially as bad a food desert as can be found in some of the worst neighborhoods of the city, albeit on the other end of the point of sale spectrum.
Years ago, in my lifetime, DUMBO was still a smelly industrial area of large trucks and unpaved roads. At 5PM when the day was over it was vacated by all occupants at the end of the work day other than large fat water rats… and skinny models and the photographer-molester-rapists that fed off of them.
IMG_0246For my money the Manhattan Bridge is superior to it’s more traveled sister/brother/inanimate and un-gendered artifice to the south. For one thing, those aggressive cyclists and all their gear can argue and yell “cyclist” on the other side of the bridge. Walkers can safely parade across the bridge at any speed. Also the walkway while close to the subway rails still has a feeling of enclosure and between trains, a calm where one can take in the city skyline. Morning was rising up and we marched along. On the other side we strode through the penumbra of China Town/city/world and then up to the boarder of the Lower East Side to find our next bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge.
photo 3(1)The Williamsburg bridge walkway was once a frightening set of metal plates loosely tossed over a structure held above traffic and by extent the churning waters below by coat hanger wire and bits of deli twine. Thankfully, it was gentrified and made into a broad and forgiving avenue that while it rises in a hump is still a simple bridge to walk. There are more walkers than the Manhattan, more cyclists yelling “cyclist!” as they zoom past in their douchtarded getups and matchy matchy overpriced special alloy bikes… Ahem …. Cycles. Nonetheless, the sky berthed the sun and morning crept to day and we all started to feel the warmth of summer and the walk was pleasant and uneventful.  The bridge walk left us out on surface roads and a section of Gentrifying Williamsburg that is still in flux, still trying to fully gentrify in a proper tone.
photo 5(1)The wreckage of the once-mighty sugar factory loomed over us and we picked our way between torn down edifices and memories of out young city selves and all those stories from The Levy, R Bar, Black Betty, Monkey Bar and so many other spent hours of our singular and collective lives.
We as a group paused at a park, the one that once was a factory and abutting the once and current incinerator, a vestige of the former minority-majority neighbors, the lungs that were meant to process all those particles into clean air were gone, pushed out by the high rents and lux apartments. Today the trust fund kids (Trustifarians) have stopped the operations and the air was a dull clean as far as that word can be used in Gotham when discussing air, water, and cement one encounters.
photo 2(1)After our rest, we gathered. We could t be late for our brunch reservation. Already the morning seemed so long ago. The bare naked pile of Williamsburg was just waking up from slumber and nocturnal transgressions and here we were – at the brunch place exactly as it opened.
At brunch more joined us. Our group shaped and reshaped. We lingered for a time. It was comfortable. We had some accomplishment behind us. Three bridges. Noble Spans, each one of them.  Let’s go, one of us exclaimed (not me, I was two deep into a cucumber cocktail). So we obeyed. Did the whole group-paying-the-bill-thing, and removed ourselves to the now hot day and expanding sun and crowd. We needed hats. We didn’t have enough water. Short on cash. Some of us needed booze. Sunglasses. Love and rockets and all those hugs mom didn’t give us. Bedford Avenue has all those things and more and for a strange and dangerous time, our group seemed destined to banish, to break under these needs and confusion but after the Turkey’s Nest, our group reformed with more reserve.
photo 1(1)We crossed from hipster-Trustifarian Williamsburg to still-Polish Greenpoint although (blah blah blah years ago I this and that I remember but you don’t care) it had changed from what I once knew.
Another bridge crossed. The simple span between Brooklyn and Queens is a forgotten conduit of import but the Pulaski Bridge is yet notable. We entered Long Island City. Yet another developing wasteland of a neighborhood rising from the wasteland of what whence had come before. Finding no shade by PS1 we pressed on. It was now officially hot. And most if not all had to pee. As a group we had some existential moments in trying to determine the most best place to urinate. Some had diner issues, other non-bar issues, some of us just hated Queens, but we set upon a historically Irish bar that had a smattering of patrons. All blue color males it seemed, at least from the hard hats and attire and gender identity. We took over the bar. Liquid out. Libations in. Then it was time for the real journey. The morning had been fun. A jaunt through territory familiar and much in Time Out/Gothamist. Now it was on to the 59th Street Bridge and on on into the – for us at least – unknown. Things were getting serious.
photo 5The 59th Street Bridge has been renamed for Gotham’s first not openly gay mayor Ed Kotch.  Kotch the crotch we used to call him when we were kids… But not to his face. We were nobodies out in Lawn Guyland. Later, and for reasons too complex for this venue I met him. I just called him sir then…  Anyway, he has a bridge named after him now. But to me it’s still the 59th street bridge.
A majesty of construction and either industrial gothic or some other style the spires and decorations truly make it an unsung bridge that has fewer visitors than those of further south. At times we were alone on the span sans walkers, moms jogging with their kids in those power strollers, and where were those aggressive fixie-obsessed cyclists? No one to bully on the bridge I guess, so here we were allowed to pass unmolested.
We returned to Manhattan and the madness. We rested before taking our one cheat… A cable car to Roosevelt Island in order to properly cross the river back to Queens and back to our final set of bridges today know as the RFK bridge, or Robber barons and Financial backer of Korruption.
photo 3Roosevelt Island is but a mystery to me. I’ve seen it my whole life but this may have been the second time in my whole existence I have been on it and certainly for the longest duration since we walked from the dock (port?) of the cable car to the bridge that connects the island to The Queens section of Long Island. This bridge is as glum and Berlin as the rest of the island. A mallesque cement shopping center and car park with an elevator and busted escalator to the bridge which was unadorned and even the span of the Pulanski seemed ornate and grand by comparison.
The heat of the day was upon us. And in a not becoming way. There was no doubt this space between Roosevelt Island and out next neighborhood, Astoria, was anything but filler, the stuff poured in to the city to ensure cohesion. Ancient signs seeming to date to one of the Worlds Fairs seemed to indicate we were on a walking trail. The heat and dust and general bland suggested otherwise. Our group grew stringy and disconnected. We had lost one on the island to a birthday party or such. The rest of us were wearing thin and small clusters formed, each waking at their own speed. It seemed, as back on Bedford, we had a group Sargasso Sea – at ugly tulgey morass and would we join together again?
photo 2Thankfully, we did meet again at the Queens Bier Hall, the only one of several in he city and oldest in Astoria.
We as a group had officially come so far and indeed it was time for celebration and some redressing of the sun burn some of us suffered. The beer and food flowed and the outdoor space was full of so any types of hipster and we again became lethargic. We lost a few more. This time to housewarming parties, birthdays and [redacted]. Nevertheless, the brave and tired band that had been together since it now seemed so long ago gathered the energy needed, had a few shots of nasty booze, chased down a few energy pills with large gulps of water and made for our last span. The long and dreaded RFK bridge – that technically is two spans.
A little euphoric from our consumption and perhaps giddy from the sun, we still pressed on – one of our party had to negotiate verdigo as the safe surround of the walkway gave out to an open and unguarded railing, right above the angry boiling waters of hell’s gate. There was no way back now.  We gathered to encourage and it worked as our band was able to make it across the first span unharmed and to Wards Island, a park that once housed insane New Yorkers and… Still does to a lesser extent to this day.
Pushing on the day light was now fading and took on that red-gold, corresponding to the yellow-gold of the morning. We had walked from early morning and now the weekend was coming to an end as were the spans for us to cross.
It was sad to see the end of our journey, but we were that day to walk 22 miles and indeed it was time to rest. Families were gathered in the part as we passed and the route to the next span was unclear and we had to involve a few groups in locating it, the last of which were two men who shared their very fine Dominican rum with us. Just in case we had not drank enough for that day.
And in time… we found our way across the last span of the day.  True, to the north were a number of blinking lights and true many could have fought us on our definition of “major” “East River” “Crossing” but today we can fight about just about anything from serifs and fonts to Raceclassgender but in our day we made it across those notable bridges upon which the bards of the city ring out to the world and upon which the slaves of New York tread, even if just when visitors from out of town ask.

And to the last party, our merry band found a new energy and into the night we celebrated.  It was a great day and I hope to again walk the bridges with so many friends if but for no reason that to say they were there and so were we.

photo 1Editor’s Note: Photo Credit for Williamsbug Bridge, Jonathan Swerdloff, 2015.


photo 3I was sure I had seen it in an episode of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Jack Palance was the host, no? The episode featured the largest tree house. Not that I was intended to ever visit, not that I even remembered or that this monument occupied but a deep subconscious space brought up from storage as some smell of a distant childhood. Jack Palance was the only father figure I had at that time, oh so long ago.  When I think of him, that tacky show the kid me loved, I think of the dry smell of a shed, the one with the tar paper and the door that was hard to push open. The one next to the house of my female grandparent, now all gone.
photo 1Everything seems to be vanishing these days, and quickly too. It’s like you look at something, find this cool spot, and the next week your new spot has been bulldozed.  There are blogs aplenty that attempt to capture the ebbing not-so-distant past as it is replaced by scores of urinating masses breeding freely, cookie cutter mega stores and churches, chain casual dining centers (triple fountain of yum), and the geography of nowhere. Vanishing New York. Vanishing Ireland. The Lady Vanishes (that last one may be a film).
photo 1(1)One thing that is certainly being evacuated into the gray water treatment plant of history is the old Vacationland of America, the grand pappy/mammy/othery of our current state of being in our century old love affair with the car.
Gone are the Alligator farms, panther zoos, the Catskill Game Farm, Frontierland, and Carson City, that I grew up watching pass by as my parent drove on some Mission and that my greedily little kid self wished to visit. Even then it was the godderdamerubg of Roadside America. The plywood was needing paint, the billboard on Walter’s farm was missing a few boards, the panther was bizerk from too many years in a small pen and no positive stimulation. I had missed the Golden Age of driving (among other things too far in number to even have a cameo in the context of this space) and the space age of roadside crap-o-la.
photo 2So, unexpectedly, since we had no map, the road turned from huge leviathan trees with nothing between but this primal wilderness to reveal a huge tree with a sign and accompaniment of crap as one may see about the settlement of any group of poor people… “Featured in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not” the letters written in blood exclaimed. Or I imagined they were blood since in a way this was the impact upon certain lobes of the brain controlling fight or flight.
The tree was certainly alive but all else of manfolk was dead as generations of dust before us. Past fun is creepy. The bottles littering the yard. The fun park now rusting away. The wreckage of fun is always death and maggots. Whether house party or sea side vacation land, cabin community or lakeside resort, old former fun always takes on the pall of Leatherface, the gloom of The Hills Have Eyes, the Evil Dead breeding ground of nightmares and sadness. The world, we are told, requires balance. And that is the veil of tears of existence … Or the scary clown painting in your closet. Take your pick on philosophy. Or knowledge of Film Threat and Fangoria.
photo 3(1)Bethatasitmay, I turned the car around. And parked. In front of the wreckage of a gift shop that inexplicably had several statues of Asian men in the window. Lined up and silent. There was another car in the lot. Two men, appearing to be very familiar with each other, were also amazed at the spectacle of vanquished happy and “daddy can we stop here?!”  They appeared as frightened and joking as we were. They chatted about the strangeness of rotten old roadside America. I knew enough ASL from my college days to catch the drift of their giddy conversation but with my dead eyes and now limited PSE ability I dared not do more than smile and gesture vaguely least I interrupt their time together. My eyes said, “can you f  ucking believe this?” To which their reply was “I know, what is going on here,” but they spoke only with their eyes. They seemed in love. “I should have kept up with my studies,” my mind thought.
photo 5The car was idling in case we had to make a getaway. I crept closer to the treehouse. The tree in majesty had been but a twig when our Lord and Savior was born. The Bethlehem star grew and faded upon the spindly branches as it unfolded from the seed. And from that distant start light we were redeemed, but then fell into confusion and loss of Grace, the Dark Ages, we stumbled and fumbled to the Age of Contact, the Age of Discovery, the Industrial Age, wars and more wars, and then some asshole came West. They carved a Tree House, the worlds largest, and in the blink of that tree’s life with a ring at the center that breathed the same air as Jesus…. The epic treehouse was ruined and left to molder as was the many, many, many preternatural perhaps Fortean chain saw sculpted bears that gathered about it, minstrels in the sacred manger in the Garden of Gethsemane, the garden of good and evil.
photo 4(1)Down the steps I went to the door. Ignoring the NO Trespassing sign. Ignoring it all.  I could not see inside but there were… Things…. Inside. Crepuscular thing wavering between the worlds of the quick and the dead but indeed and accompanied by many exclamation points in my mind subjects alarming and installing fear.
We tread lightly.
The tree was indifferent. I slapped and killed some bloodsucking insect. I was, we were, the deaf couple, every visitor, my female grandparent that had come though this area in 1943 and had driven her car through the Chandelier tree as we had but moments ago… We were those insects to that tree. Blips along the timeline.
So. We returned. To our car. And drove off. On to the byways and highways of an ever flattening nation roasting and burning and frozen in time.

photo 4

The [very] Public Market

photo 1(1)There are many markets out there. Day markets. Night markets. At one time each village had a town square and on a special day of the week all the makers in the land would convene to bring their hand made transmographiers and artisanal turtle jerky to let it fester in the sun.

photo 1In time, these markets were covered affairs made sanitary and no longer an occasional affair but keeping regular hours and often every day of the week. The age of the sanitary market began.  Stalls. Vendors. The chaos of the fair and carnival was tamed, there were hours of operation, bathrooms, even windows to keep the flies at bay and inspectors to ensure some hill billy wasn’t poisoning the population selling Ebola infected bush/street meat. I’ve seen these markets in Mexico, Peru, Russia, and Detroit. Smaller versions are cropping up as millennialists and Gen XYZ-ers turn to Slow Food, backyard chickens, and scrim shaw door handle production as a more fit lifestyle that yet allows for social interaction among friends.
Then there is The Public Market in Seattle. It is a little of everything.

photo 2The more favorite child of urban renewal and what the failed South Street Seaport (SSS) wishes it could be had the SSS it not developed a bad drug and Sharper Image habit. The Public Market is both old and new. The old is that it actually was a market since Hector was a pup. The new is that somewhere in the pink colon of the 1980s maybe early 1990s it was retro fitted, ADA’ed, and reinvented as a mallish beast of many levels and pumped up into a tourist attraction.

photoYet, there is a true nature to the place that come through the murals, parking decks, and bright banners that afflict most places of commerce and one can still ample along wood floors and ramps and see the layers of history and neon signs lit along the way.  The Public Market may have bobbles and restaurant brew pubs, but raw food is still at the center if the pageant. There is fruit and vegetables plenty as must be at any market. Piles and delicious piles as far as the eye can see of the best produce. Flowers so cheep and plentiful – a benefit from being restively close to California’s still fertile lands and ample supply of refrigerated trucks and drivers willing to pilot them.
photo 4Fish too were represented.  Great piles of overabundance.  One fish, two fish, red fish blue fish, all on ice and staring into eternity proclaiming “enjoy the oceans while you still have them.” There was this one fish place which was made famous in the film Sleepless in Seattle or perhaps Cocktail or Big Fish.

photo 3The fishmongers have a routine of sort. Like the show Stomp or The Blue Man Group but not blue not involving trash can lids. It seems that after a fish is bought the wo/men take to yelling and tossing it from hand to hand, high up in the air, then let the fish crowd surf, make it dance in some ritual or other from the Days Of Yore. Or maybe not as we never saw this happen. A crowd had gathered and was maintained throughout the duration of our visit all waiting for this spectacle – selfie sticks, iThingies at the ready, old digital cameras held high, but none wanting to buy said fish in order to initiate this mechanical Rube Goldbergian POS packing process.
photo 5The Public Market also has shops selling things you can’t eat and stuff children will attempt to swallow. Polish Tupperware for grannie, magic tricks for socially awkward kids, clothes and lamps and tee shirts and antiques and junk of all stripes for Hipster and any remaining Grunge kids all growed up. Each level was a wonderful avenue of so many shops and the crush of people relented only in certain far flung areas where the shops more eccentric and I can only assume the rent cheeper.
While the fair gave birth to the market, which in turn sired the Main Street and then the mall, the Union Market is not just a mall but a unique spot on the map and perhaps worthy of the attention given to it.
Not that this place isn’t home to the first Starbucks…
The Queen Alien of egg laying poop sucking replicant coffee houses.
So. There’s that too.

photo 3(1)