Tonight, I'm headed to the Catskills for Thanksgiving. Here's how that happened . . .
I met a nice guy at the gym last Thursday (David Barton Gym, in Chelsea), and we swapped phone numbers. He called Sunday morning, to see what I was doing, from his "country house."
A country house. Hmmmmmm.
It was beautiful up there, he said—great for hiking, and skiing in the winter.
"Skiing? Where the hell are you?"
He said the name a couple times, but I didn't really keep track of it, because I kept chuckling over the idea of it. It all sounded so stately and Presbyterian. Pinehurst Manor? No, something more Germanic.
He said it was about two hours up the Hudson. I had no idea there were mountains that close. I'd heard of the Catskills—as the butt of jokes in NY-centric TV shows. They didn't sound inviting, and I sure didn't expect them that close. I thought it was nothing but people on top of people out here, as far as a car could roam.
"You should come," he said. It was a gorgeous day up there. Hmmmmm.
I'm loving New York City, but I also started to get why people need escapes from it last month when I went up to New Haven (which I still owe you a blog post about).
There was a train leaving in 30 minutes. Otherwise, it would be another two hours, and I wouldn't be up there until sunset. OK.
Chances are he wasn't an axe-murderer.
I grabbed a quick shower, packed my backpack, and literally ran to the subway to get to Penn Station. I had just enough time, but then couldn't find the Amtrak tracks. I used up two of my three spare minutes searching, and then a kindly woman offered to help and walk me to the platform, but frustratingly slowly, and then it was the wrong place, and she was working me for a handout.
I got to the imaginary "gate" they have set up at the top of the escalator just after the attendant switched it off. He was reaching the rope across, but I ran past waving my ticket, begging him to let me go and he said OK.
I ran down the frozen steps, toward the train, where the automatic doors were sliding shut. There was just enough time to ram my fingers in before it sealed shut, but I wasn't sure whether it would bounce back or crush them. Surely not the latter, but I only had a moment, and decided not to risk my hand.
I sped down the track, looking for a conductor inside. Nobody in the first car, but the second one—there was a woman. I held my ticket up and pleaded. She looked at me, paused, then reached into her pocket. She pressed something against the electronic pad, and all the train doors hissed again and slid open. Ahhhhhh.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"ummmmmmm. I don't know."
My ticket said Rhinecliff. Oh right.
Fifteen minutes outside the city, I was already sighing. And it kept getting better.
He was a nice guy, too. We roasted two chickens, meaning mostly he did. I chopped things and put myself in charge of fire-starting, music, consuming the Becks in his fridge and occasionally dancing in my socks on his polished-wood living room floor.
He brought in a stack of firewood, and some newspaper and said that should be enough.
I looked at the paper. "What's the fewest number of sheets you've ever started it with?"
He had never really counted.
Well what was the smallest possible number?
Two or three.
OK. I would do it in fewer than two.
I tried one, and failed. But I still had some embers. I tore off 3/4 of another sheet. I could still win.
It took nearly 30 minutes of blowing on it, and the house was so smoky we had to open the doors, but I got that thing raging.
Two of his friends came over and we had really nice time.
I actually started writing this entry on the trainride up Sunday afternoon, totally unaware of what the next few hours might bring. That was part of the thrill. The thrill of life, actually. I have roamed this planet well over forty years, and there are still an infinite number of things I have not experienced. I can never get to them all.
Once I got to Rhinecliff . . . who knew?
Obviously, I've written more since I arrived there. BTW, it turns out he lives a ways deeper into the backcountry, but best to leave it at that.
Here's what I wrote Monday morning, a few minutes after I walked back into my apartment on the upper west side:
He drove us back this morning. He gets to go in late on Mondays. Me, too, but I'll have to make it up later in the week.It's Wednesday now (right before the posting time-stamp, I hope. I really intend to post it this time.) I'm headed back up to the house tonight.
I was tired today, but happy. I might have mentioned that in a previous post. I really am.
I have to get my work done early today, because we're driving up around sunset. I guess we'll miss the beautiful drive, but I've got to get some pages done before I can let myself go.
Tomorrow I'm taking off work, and it will be a Big Gay Thanksgiving with his friends up there. I guess it's the gay cityboys who like to retreat to the mountains on the weekends, and probably some who live there full time, and some straightpeople, too.
Yet another world to explore. And nice people to meet, I imagine. We had dinner with two of his friends Sunday, and they were great.
Then I'm going to try to get some writing done up there over some of the weekend. A change of scenery often helps my work, and he was gracious enough to offer. He's a really nice guy, it would appear.
Have a great holiday, everyone. I plan to.