Monday, June 18, 2007

Gone to Altamont (Near Albany)

The past weekend was spent upstate, west of Albany, with my friend Nick. Just the two of us (as several have asked), trying out our community-theater revival of Sideways. There was a good deal of driving, a reasonable amount of whiskey-drinking, and a healthy number of hours spent sitting on the porch listening to the trees in the breeze. Like a lot of my visits upstate, I ended it wishing that I had a circle of friends up there -- the lifestyle is better than NYC's for mental health in ways that are probably immeasurable.

We also spent time picking fresh strawberries. You drive off-road for a couple hundred yards and come to a wooden shed, manned by two teenage girls handing out trays and buckets to arrivals and charging the departures an exceedingly affordable amount of money for their hauls. This is the shed:

And this was our haul:

As you can tell, the weekend was more steeped in Americana than a baseball doubleheader on the Fourth of July. Or as Nick put it, "I keep waiting for John Mellencamp to step out from behind a tree."

Mellencamp never showed up, but there were three bunny rabbits on the lawn when we arrived at Nick's parents' house near sundown on Friday.

Saturday afternoon, we realized that the relaxation offered by our escape was accompanied by vast stretches of time that needed filling. We were either going to sit in matching recliners and stare out a bay window for several hours, or we'd have to figure out something to do. I would have happily (lazily) opted for the former, but luckily Nick had other plans. We ended up walking through a nature conservancy and coming upon scenes like this one:

I spent several minutes taking pictures of the trees reflected in small puddles:

In case you're not getting the picture, this was a leisurely weekend. Nick and I are happily with women, thanks for asking, but he's just a rare kind of friend who knew I desperately needed a break and offered it to me.

The one stressful part of the trip -- a blown-out front tire on our rental car about halfway up to Albany on Friday afternoon -- actually turned out to be a blessing. We stopped in Newburgh to get it replaced, and met some characters there who defy description on a blog. If you know me, please ask about them, and I will inundate you with impressions.


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