United States of Summer

Perhaps the summer theme is not over- the season certainly isn’t.  In fact, if anything, I would say that we’re only just entering on high summer.  That’s what my garden says, and the weather, the heat, the downpours and lightning.

Perhaps resuming from a spot near where I left off is the best way to pretend that I didn’t take a short break from posting somewhere in the middle.  By way of an explanation but not by way of an apology, HA! I was in the middle of nowhere, backwoods, hinterland Pennsylvania.  Where I’ve gone every summer around the 4th of July for as long as I can remember (and in utero, though less memorably).

As I’ve become an ‘adult’/a more physically developed child with more responsibilities, I’ve had to leave a lot of the places that I traditionally visited in the summer by the wayside, to clear room for working (and novel trips abroad, which my family is, for myriad reasons, in a better place to take now than when I was younger.
Despite seeing Venice last summer and the prospect of visiting Paris for the first time only a few short weeks away, I miss these familiar destinations and their imperturbable permanence in the face of the passing years.

Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY: There is a lot to say about Watkins Glen and Farm Sanctuary in particular, and I hesitate to boil down all of the happy memories I associate with the place into one or two short paragraphs, but it must be done. At least until I have a moment to do better justice to the place.  Trips on the Finger Lakes aboard the Malabar X, getting caught in a pounding thunderstorm that swept toward us across the water; the countless trudging trips to wineries on the heels of my enthusiastic amateur sommelier parents, brightened only by Shalestone‘s black dog (though he disappeared many years before the present); the stunning natural beauty of Watkins Glen State Park and the other gorges; and all of the briefly glimpsed pastoral happinesses of staying on Farm Sanctuary’s property- hearing the cocks crow in the morning, the cows low, bring your fingers deep in the thicket-like tangle of sheep fleece.  I’m going to cut myself off, the impossibility of saying all that I want dawns on me more and more.

Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY:  I think I can keep this one rather shorter, there’s not much else in Corning beyond the famous glass museum. Or even in Elmira.  But the museum itself is gorgeous.  Ancient things to Chihuly-modern, the chance to have your child’s own design realized as you watch, the workshop craft area for the creation of decidedly crafty beads, frames, ornaments, and glass flowers, not to mention the deliciously sketchy Evergreen Chinese restaurant next door.  Could it still be there? I’m a fraud to hope, but I can’t imagine such an old cockroach of a business going under.  If it has survived this long, I can envision nothing but it scuttling along through the next millennium.



New Paltz, NY: So perhaps this list, which I visualized as more of a sweeping paean to intra-US summer travel, is coming more to resemble the Northeast-centric (with a  focus in Upstate New York) perspective of an insular New Englander with a superiority complex regarding the region in which she has been born and bred.  If this is so, then be calm.  It’s only that I am giving myself away.
New Paltz is a lovely little college town-village with a nice main drag and one of the most perfect antique shops I’ve ever been in.  It’s a shame, but an old and weathered hutch is decidedly to large for our car, no matter how flawlessly it would fit with the upstairs bathroom once said room has been torn apart and renovated.  There are lovely bed and breakfasts, and lovely beds as well, if you’re one of those people who can tame the cereal and corral it in a bowl on your own.  Sometimes I’m so adventurous.  And when I am, there’s a little piebald cat named Pinto I like to see.  But the breakfast is really only secondary to the amenities that come with my favorite New Paltz B&B– visiting masseuse, anyone? Hot tub?
But the area is better known for the beautiful Catskills and the Shawangunk Ridge.  I wish I could extoll these mountains properly, but since childhood I’ve tried to be outspoken about my hatred of hiking and mountains (the only way to temper my parents obvious and grueling demands) so I’m depressingly out of practice.  But be assured that they are beautiful.  Other people have written about it who haven’t handicapped their tongue son the subject in the way that I have.
One last thing?  Karma Road, fantastic earthy-crunchy nature food, bright and colorful space, everything made with love (literally- they list ‘love’ as an ingredient for everything).  I’ve heard from reliable sources that Lagusta’s Luscious makes commendable vegan chocolate (perhaps I need a return trip solely so that I can try a piece- I can’t insist that all of my vegan chocolate come from Sjaak’s forever, delicious as it is).

UVM Morgan Horse Farm, Weybridge, VT:  I haven’t been here since The Sweet Onion Inn, the most homey of bed and breakfasts, closed many years ago.  I remember skipping rocks there, and a cream-colored room with a window seat.  A hammock.  Eating on a screened porch.  The room I shared with Mom that had two smaller beds.  I fell out of mine.  I think it wa sonly the second time I had fallen out of bed in my life.  And of course the horses.  Horses are just extraordinary in every sense, but you can’t credit the farm with that.  But they do run an amazing operation and the horses are quite proud and taken with themselves.  Good old Lash, who trotted along side me when I ran next to his paddock, as though he imagined himself in one of his old in hand competitions.  He must have won many of them before he was put to stud.  And from his supercilious dignity, I got the fancy that he was quite well apprised of the price of his services.

Disney World, Orlando, FL: I can tackle the scope of museums and farms, villages and even cities, but worlds?  I tremble at the presumption.  Especially Disney World, which I hope will provide ammunition for many many more posts.  The House of the Mouse is a singularly rewarding list subject.
I used to perform at Disney every two years when I was in middle school and high school as part of my dancing.  Few tactile experiences stick with me so strongly as the slapdash changes in the sweltering heat, the infernal minutes under the hundred scorching lights (Was it 206? No, that’s bones in the human body).  But it was all good fun.  And I am and always will be a roller coaster girl.  The image of one’s gruesome death only adds to the exhilaration of the scream.  We stayed at Coronado Springs, a decidedly tacky place, but when it comes to Disney, it’s best to put aside what is tacky and what is not, for the sake of enjoyment.  After all, it’s a children’s world, and their pure, innocent eyes don’t see tacky.



Coudersport, PA:  And at last we’ve come to my rambunctious backwoods that pull me back year after year.  There used to be more of the family that would come, but now it is only the last hangers on.  My Pop Pop’s hunting cabin, vacant in the off season, though we sometimes have indoor chipmunk visitors (politely treated but discouraged from further droppings-in), evenings of reading, mystery movies, and puzzles.  A diet consisting substantially of watermelon, cherries and pie.  When I was younger, freezy pops and root beer, for both of which I’ve since lost my taste.  Fluffy mopsy bunnies and peter rabbits, deer, beavers, the yappy dog down the road, and the battalions of moths that descend in the evening, drawn to the porch lights.  Antique stores, yard sales, and a particular species of Independence Day celebration.  I am referring, of course, to the woodhick festival.  The Barkpeeler’s Convention is the last real standby of our old traditions.  St. Bibiana’s and the Strawberry Festival have been lost to the mists of time.  Perhaps the old ladies who served the strawberry sundaes at sloth-like speeds have all met with the final inaction which they were so long visibly approaching.  Galeton has one of the best fireworks displays on the Eastern seaboard. I travel to see it from Boston, and though Boston’s pyrotechnics are nothing to sniff at, I never feel that I’ve missed out.

Cape May, NJ: I used to stay for a week or so at my aunt’s summer place on the shore and I loved every bit of it.  She has a smaller place now that two of the three kids have left the proverbial nest, and the new place is lovely, I’ve seen it.  But there is of course, that soft spot in my tenderest of childhood hearts for the place I knew when I was younger.  For the koi pond and the hermit crabs (How like me to think first of the animals! I’ll also throw in a mention of the beach’s sand crabs and jellyfish, to add the finishing touch. And the gulls.)  The old-fashioned, colorful, and bustling pedestrian mall.  The salt water taffy and fudge.  My cousin’s pink shag carpeted bedroom with the enormous ape cut out that she had made hanging from the ceiling light, calming rather than frightening me in the dark because it was she who had made it.  The hot air balloon wallpaper.  The arcade on the beach with the skee ball.  Sandy boogie boards, hanging towels to dry.  Groaning while my younger cousin watched Spongebob and eventually being held prisoner by the screen, entranced by the show’s stupidity and deceptively light-hearted malice.  Sobbing at two am with my favorite cousin (the one who made the ape) as we finished watching The Titanic and chewed on our last few cheese balls.  The Cap’n Crunch cereal that I fell in love with there, that my Mom positively guaranteed wasn’t sold in Massachusetts. She was lying.

This has been a longer post than I thought it would be, but once you start on memories they keep coming, like the clown who pulls the scarf out of his hat.  I frequently wish I had kept a journal when I was young and I suppose eventually I’ll look back and wish I had kept a journal at present and recorded my college days.  But you never know what will be important and memorable to you in a year, two years, a decade.  I imagine two decades, but that is pushing it for me.  I can’t even legally drink yet.  There are other places to list.  (Knoebel’s, a beloved amusement park) and other things attached to those that I’ve listed (the ghost tour at Cape May).  But I had to stem the flood of memory somewhere.

To be continued?

Edit: Evidently yes.  I can’t leave out Knoebel’s, my conscience twinges.

Knoebel’s, Elysburg, PA:  Home of the classic pickle on a stick and the site of my first foray into pierogis.  Carnival food is a special thing, for better or for worse.  It’s the periodic flooding and old-fashioned rides that stick in my memory.  Knoebel’s an old and respectable parts with nice wooden coasters and kiddie rides that are this side of death-defying.  The Phoenix is my favorite coaster there.  It’s filled with swoops of up down, guaranteed to blow through your hair, put a tingle in your stomach and, if you’re me, lift you free of the very loose safety belts.  I remember my Dad’s hand on my head, pushing down on me so I wasn’t lifted completely free of the plunging car.  It subtracted from the experience of the wind in my hair, but it’s best to live through that sort of thing.  There are two excellent water rides, when you’re in one of those log cars, rather than an inflatable raft sort of thing.  The Flume and the SKLOOSH (I’m not sure how many O’s that last should have).  I remember calling my younger cousin Captain Jack while on the Flume, imploring him to guide us through the dangerous and panic-inducing rapids.  I remember his pipsqueak voice piping up manfully: “Just be calm!”.  He’s a big man now.  Though four years younger than me he appears much older.  Although I also appear much older than I think I do.  The Sklooosh was a calm ride, like all rides really just a circle, though this circle was very abbreviated.  It was straightforward about its real purpose and had no bones about being so.  The purpose being the drop at the end.  And the purpose of that drop, the result, the high wall of wave tat rose up before you and washed over you in one drowning deluge.  It also inundated the bridge you had to cross on your way out of the ride area.  All exits had to be perfectly timed to either avoid or capitalize on the flood, the force of which required us to grip the railings of the bridge with all of our strong to avoid being knocked off of our feet.  Or it did when I couldn’t see over the railings.

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