Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Cleanup on Isle 9."

One day, as I walked along Route-9, close to the Hudson River, near Hudson and The Rip Van Winkle Bridge, a man stopped in a large parking area in the frontage of an industry. I was away from the road but still fifty yards from him. The man asked if I was the same person he had seen in Nebraska a few winters ago.
I was.
He travels to middle America twice each year and recalled the road, the town, the conversation he had with his wife that day and how impressed he was that I was pushing the World in the middle of nowhere. He was excited that he now encountered me in Upstate New York, in his home town. This time he wasn't going to miss the opportunity to get a picture and hear my story.
We had a lively exchange, from a distance, until we had to get to where we were going. I continued across the frontage of the industrial property toward Schenectady and he went back to his work.
The roadside was steep through there and it was safer to walk in the newly resurfaced field of the industrial property. As I came to the edge of the property, next to a bridge over a tributary to the Hudson, I noticed vent pipes protruding from the freshly graded, newly seeded ground.
My thought was that this property was undergoing a major cleanup and I recalled how I had, long ago misunderstood the term Superfund Sites to be Super-Fun sites. I clambered up the bank of the roadside, amid stumps of recently felled trees and brush, to then run the bridge over the "kill" that bordered the industry.
I thought no more of it.

That evening I stayed in Hudson. Where I parked my van that night happened to be where the local youths spend their evenings next to their cars, flexing their prowess at one another and otherwise throwing their garbage around the parking lot there at the strip mall complex.
That's another story...

The next day I encountered a man. Rather, I was cut off by a man while crossing a gravel driveway. He came in fast, at an awkward angle. When he applied his brakes his truck slid a little farther than he seemed to have intended. Looking slightly over his shoulder he asked if I was the man he saw the day before. He said the name of the property and grimly asked if I were with the Nature Conservancy (I couldn't even spell it without spell-check).
I said no, that I was fulfilling my lifelong dream of walking from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady...
His face twisted up as he said he had seen me and a man in a pickup truck yelling at one another, that he thought I was with the Nature Conservancy.
"No, we were talking about the time he saw me in Nebraska on my way from Sheboygan to Muskogee..."
His head cocked to the side, perplexed. " So your not with the Nature Conservancy?
"... I don't know a thing about the Nature Conservancy, I'm walking for diabetes awareness to get people to walk everyday while fulfilling my lifelong dream of walking from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady..."
He really wanted to give me an "earful" about the Nature Conservancy.
Now that he has put that idea in my head about the Nature Conservancy I may have to look them up on one of those search engine thingies.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


When I awoke at dawn I realized that the laundry I had washed In Woodstock had begun to sour the inside of the van. I hadn't had clothes smell worse after washing since I mixed my teenaged son's clothes with mine years before. This time I didn't smell of teenaged boy, but suddenly felt I had, overnight, gone through Old-man-a-pause. Before I started walking I draped the clothes I had worn the day before outside the van, but the damage was done. When I had made my way to the northern side of Rhinebeck I found a laundromat, got a ride the few miles back to the van, and I washed everything I could. I washed all the clothes, blankets and towels, even the backpack. I used bleach, even on colors, to get the smell out. I bought air-fresheners and sprayed the interior of the van. When I was finally satisfied there was no more I could do, I still had enough of the day to walk so I continued on to the far edge of town and ended at the Rhinebeck Roadhouse. The business was closed but the large parking lot was perfect to have a two gallon bath late that night. The next morning the van, and I were smelling clean.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Sisyphean Task, or, What I did on My Summer Vacation

The morning I began walking from Poughkeepsie toward Schenectady I was feeling philosophical, as I tend to be, walking for miles alongside the busy highways lined with sidewalks. Sidewalks which we have all to ourselves.
Walking from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady would not be the furthest distance I had attempted, in fact, it was the shortest of the long-distance walks. No less important than any other.
I was excited about the unique people and experiences the journey would bring. The good and the challenging roads, the historic sites, the beautiful views, overlooked while speeding along the highway in an automobile.
I knew it was going to end, all goals do.
Like the Myth of Sisyphus, I knew this lofty height would return me to another beginning.
Some interpret that Sisyphus, by being condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain (only to have it roll back each time he reached the summit) for eternity had tricked the gods into what he wanted all along, to live forever. He, it has been written, happily embraced the futility.
I had just walked from Nashville, Tennessee over the Smokey Mountains through Asheville, North Carolina. The southern heat and humidity forced me to do much of the trek under the darkness of the early pre-dawn hours. The warm Poughkeepsie sun was no comparison to the muggy climate of the southern
springtime. This much more mild climate, in Upstate New York, was already feeling like a vacation getaway.
As I entered Hyde Park a patrolmen stopped me. Already the "Hens" of the area were calling about a man "in" the road. I had been enjoying a wide shoulder on the four-lane and at no time had I needed to cross over the white "fog line". The Chief pulled in just as I had finished talking with the patrolman. After I practiced saying "Poughkeepsie to Schenectady" one more time (I have a hard stutter and had trouble with Schenectady), I told the rotund chief I was walking to encourage people to walk to prevent and control diabetes. He stopped looking me in the eye, he then quickly sent me on my way.
In Hyde Park, with the historic home of the Roosevelt's and Vanderbilt's, I passed a congregation of local law enforcement officers, apparently training their service-dogs in a large field within the rock-walled perimeter of the Roosevelt Home property. They called to me from across the road, asking what I was doing.
I replied. "I'm fulfilling my lifelong dream (truthfully..it had been my dream since the previous Saturday) of walking from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady for diabetes awareness (the names were flowing by then, not a stammer saying Schenectady). Trying to get people, like your Chief, to walk to control diabetes!"
I hadn't noticed that among the K-9 SUVs with barking dogs (jealous of the dog and his giant ball rolling by), was parked the Chief. The half dozen men standing outside their vehicles all laughed and did the equivalent of whistling and pretending that I had not just "called him out". They all looked up to the sky and walked in different directions...
I walked on.
After walking through the heart of Hyde Park and just before the Vanderbilt Estate I was called onto the porch by the woman who owns The Surviving Sisters, a boutique. We talked for over an hour. Her mother came with sandwiches. We laughed and talked as if we were old friends. When I got up to leave she noticed my old, stretched out belt hanging out of the belt loop. She owned a boutique, as I said, and as I tucked it in the pant-loop, making excuses for the souvenir of my day in New York City years ago, she "lit up" with excitement. She ran into her store and came out with an abstract belt-buckle of a man rolling a giant stone...Sisyphus,. She said she had just put it out on display and now knew why. She gave me the belt...
It just fit...
The belt was just long enough for me to catch the last hole in the leather strap.
I was touched...
(I hope you are catching these double-entendres)
The remainder of the day was not lined with sidewalks and wide shoulders. The roadway narrowed with more hills. The shallow ditch became my walkway, while I rolled the world tight against rock embankments around turns. By the end of the day I was tired and hungry to the point of delirium.
Luckily I had met a man who guided me to the fire station at the edge of the next town. He gave me a ride and took me to the Indian restaurant where we talked for a long while about family and other things until closing time. It was the best food, beautiful presentation and friendly staff.
I am always surprised at the close connections I have to/with so many of the people I meet.
This day was filled with them.
If the first day was any indication, my "lifelong dream" would be a memorable one.

Joseph, Mary and Father Dan

A few miles out of Kinderhook we were caught in the rain. We were walking by an old church, Nice (the dog) pulled toward the front entrance with its shelter from the downpour. Sometimes I let him have his way, the dog has a good sense of things.
Once out of the rain I noticed the door was ajar so I entered and called "Hello!", a voice from an office replies in kind.
It was Father Dan, newly assigned to the church whose name had recently been changed from St. Mary to St.Joseph, a young man with the good nature of the priesthood. His warm heart was just right to pump new blood to the newly named old congregation.
He allowed me to stay in the parking area through the rainy night ( in the van ) and even gave me access to the rectory, a shower and the washer and dryer if I needed. After I had arranged a ride I returned, bathed and washed a small load of clothes from the two days since I had last cleaned clothes.
After washing my clothes in Woodstock and making all my clothes smell of old Hippies, I was not surprised when the load I washed at the rectory later smelled of "a man of the cloth".
I appreciated it for what it was, a gift from God.

Helping Hands

From Poughkeepsie to the outskirts of Schenectady my interactions with the men and women who keep us safe were as friendly as any. I am grateful for their vigilant service.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


I arrived in the city late in the afternoon and drove the van along it's perimeter roads before loosing myself on an inner-city cruise. Before settling-in by the riverfront, I stopped in at a fire station to ask for a business card as a souvenir of the beginning point in "upstate". Surprisingly, the Captain gave me a patch.
The riverfront in Poughkeepsie is a perfect area to relax by the river, picnic or walk the pedestrian walkways. An elevator can take you to the deck of the recently completed walkway over the Hudson River, or you could walk a little further to the base of the repurposed train trestle and walk the longest pedestrian bridge path in the country. I walked the dog. From plaques along the pathways I learned some history of the families who made Poughkeepsie great. Back at the park area I sat at the van, with an awesome view of the river between two tall bridges, and did some work on the phone while Nice (the dog) lay on his blanket beside the van sleeping. The people in the park, families with children, joggers and tourists gave way to the local men with polished rims and modern sound systems. Several of them synced together their devises, filling the parking area with hip-hop and rap with base so deep it rattled my windows. Nice was born in the West end of Louisville in a similarly loud area, the waves of sound acted like a lullaby to him and he refused to even lift his head from the blanket when I asked him to get up and get into the van. It would not have mattered, the van was blocked in by the young men's cars. As more congregated under the shelter beside the parking lot some looked suspiciously at the stranger in the purple van, wearing a feathered cowboy hat. The music was turned up, Nice (the dog) was immovable and unconcerned. Overhearing some of their conversation it was decided that the dog was "chill", therefore I must also be. (Or something along those lines...I'm old, and white.). The wind picked up and the sky darkened with clouds. It wasn't until large rain drops began to fall that Nice arose from his blanket. Rather than going to the van he walked toward the shelter where the men were standing. I coaxed him into the van as the front blew through with a fierceness that made the tall trees overhead creak and sway. Half of the men ran to their cars and drove away while the others stayed in the small corner under the shelter that remained dry though the lightening and thunder claps that had been six seconds apart. The lightening and thunder were now on top of each other. Soon Nice and I, closed in the van, had the parking lot to ourselves.
As darkness fell over Poughkeepsie I drove to the nearest large parking area along the road out of town, where we would begin the next morning. I parked at my home away from home, Home Depot.

Poughkeepsie to Schenectady

I walk everyday. No day goes by where I don't meet someone who is diabetic. Often it will be the first person that stops to talk. Many have taken charge of their lives. They stay active, eat wholesome foods and enjoy good health. Others are not so fortunate.

Two hours later...

I had bloggers-block, didn't know how to finish with the line of thought.
Getting my things together, after feeding Nice (the dog), I began to walk.
The first person I met was a prime example!
Take charge! Go out and walk.
Even though I am only a few miles from Schenectady people are still amazed that someone would walk all that way.
You can walk around the World, by taking those first steps.

The Woodstock Establishment

I spent the night, two mornings and a day in Woodstock.
I washed my clothes there. Days later as I wore the clothes I had washed they became sour smelling. Perhaps it was the town water, it couldn't have been that I washed into my clothes the residue of all the aging Flower Children who come down to town to wash the same clothes they have been wearing for decades, using the smallest amount of soap to save the environment and certainly no bleach.
Let me call it my souvenir I took with me from Woodstock. A gift that lingers through several washings. It was pleasant, though, to talk with the elders of the town around the "wash tub". An experience I would not change, despite the olfactory surprise. It was there I met a woman who introduced me to some of her friends there at the laundry. She invited me to a poetry reading that evening and shared with me some of the rich history of Woodstock. History which reaches centuries past a concert in a field in 1969.
Then I parked in the large public parking area located just steps from the town center, with all its trendy' and nostalgic shops, mixed in with the essential business's that make up any other cozy small town in America.
I inflated the World, a walk through Woodstock was an opportunity I couldn't pass by. There I Met some of the characters on the fringe. The Rainbow Children who have made Woodstock their home and mainstay with the help of The Family who run the local half-way house. It's back entrance empties to the pubic parking area, so often the tourist's first blush is being panhandled in a nostalgic fashion in the dialect of "Peace and Love".
I walked though Woodstock to the edge of the town limits, then turned around and walked back. I met many fascinating people along the way, the old guard and the new. Many of the original flowers have given way to the next generations but they are not giving up. I met many elder-hipsters involved with the daily routine of their small community. A restaurant owner with a pony-tail and vintage sixties attire chasing his defiant son off the store property because he was smoking a cigarette, yelling to his boy from across the road that the coarse he's on will lead only to hardship or death.
We become our fathers.
We made it back to the van just in time to let the air out before a rain. Had the world become soaked I would have needed to stay there until the canvas dried. I didn't want to invade the Space for too long in The Families' back yard. I would leave Woodstock to its established "norms"...
Before I left Woodstock the next morning I picked up a newspaper. During my afternoon stroll to the edge and back. I was able to spread the message to Woodstock, a symbol of Peace and Love. The Airy-fairy message of Love yourself, go for a walk.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

You Say Goodbye

My oldest friend passed away the day I left home two months past.
Before she parted from the mortal coil, surrounded by family at the hospital, I came to say "hello". Unable to open her eyes she forced a smile at my light-hearted jokes. Her daughters thanked me for coming to "pay my respects". I retorted that I had not come to say goodbye, but rather to say hello to my oldest friend and give her my love.
A devout Jehovah's Witness, she had been telling her loved ones Jehovah was calling her. Aged ninety-five, it was time to go.
Along my journey I have often thought of Mrs.Helena Carter as I pass a Kingdom Hall.
Yesterday I was walking and thinking about my old friend when my eye was attracted to a rainbow-colored folding paper fan lying in the gutter. Raising my gaze, I was standing before a Kingdom Hall. A cool wind rustled through the breezeway of the hall entrance, the shaded bench by the door invited me to sit.
The Walkman radio then chimed The Beatles song, "Hello, goodbye".
Was it a coincidence, my imagination, or was Helena saying "Hello"?


Open-mic Night

Asked to come for poetry readings at The Wok and Roll
I stayed for the night in Woodstock
after we had the obligatory through- borough- stroll
The New-Age activists rage against the establishment still
The last of the night's orators ended the night on and urgent note
He collapsed to the floor, combative and delirious
A diabetic, he was given a drink of orange juice
All was well
Thus ended the night