Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath


I just got back a few hours ago from a nice little weekend in upstate New York with Sarah and her friends Guy and Scott. They have a place in High Falls. It’s hard to explain directions and locations upstate to people, because to some, upstate means Lake Placid, and to others, it means everything above 125th Street. This is, for lack of a link to google maps, in the same general ball park as Woodstock. (The actual city, not the location of any of the concerts.) Guy has a fabulous place up there, and we spent part of the time driving around the country, looking at the leaves that have turned, buying apple cider at the roadside stands, and all of that nature-y jazz. We also spent part of the time shopping.

As far as the nature, it sure is wonderful to be in a place where everything is spread out, with lots of winding roads and hills, and trees in every color of the rainbow, but mostly gravitating to the reds and yellows and oranges. It was cold up there, not freezing, but enough that you really needed a coat. I especially liked, though, that at night, you could hear absolutely NOTHING. And it was so damn dark. I got up in the middle of the night to get some water, and I was shocked that I actually had my night vision. A small part of that was the 10000% RDA of vitamin A I’ve taken in the last few weeks to fight colds, but I just never get to be in a place this devoid of light pollution, unless I’m in a Vegas suite with the bomb shelter blackout drapes.

The other part of the equation, of course, was driving into Kingston and shopping at the mall. I love my malls, and since there are none in Manhattan, that further fuels my need to go to suburban shopping centers. We went to a huge Target for a round of buying stuff, then walked through the small connected mall, mostly to see what stores were there and what was new. There were a few places selling Halloween gear, but most of the retailers were bracing themselves for a huge holiday season. We finished off the trip with some lunch at an Applebee’s, and then the crown jewel, a trip to Hannaford’s, the local grocery. That place was about as big as an old Indiana Marsh store from my college years, with a produce department bigger than most New York grocery stores, and a cereal aisle with stuff that I didn’t even know existed. The frozen section also contained a deluge of products I wish I could have at my convenience on a regular basis, except that it would eventually involve me getting cut out of my apartment by paramedics. But overall, the shopping really hit the spot.

Another strange thing about the area is that I’ve been up there before, and it was a weird sort of worlds-collide thing for me. Back when I was 17, my dad and stepmom Diane took me and my sisters to upstate New York for two weeks. Diane’s family in “the city” vacationed up there in the summer, at one of these little resort-camp things that has a bunch of little bungalows and a center building with a kitchen facility that cooked everyone three meals a day and had some AC and a TV room and whatnot, in case you got bored of bocci ball and complaining about your various nephews and grandkids and medical ailments. We did not stay at the main compound, but rather at a motel that was made of a bunch of cabin-type rooms. That was just west of Cairo, which is a bit west of the actual city of Catskill.

I distinctly remember hating about 80% of the vacation at the time; hating is actually a pretty strong word, but if you can imagine being 17 and not having your car, your CDs, your job that lets you buy CDs, your phone, and everything else, and then being in this weird land that’s mostly the same as Indiana and isn’t some monumental scene-change, like going to a desert or an island in the Bahamas or whatever, and that sort of sucked. And my dad’s cool and all, but every morning, we’d pile into the truck and drive an hour to some random thing and look at the historical plaque or whatever and then turn back around. At the time, I did not appreciate that sort of thing, but now, 20 years later, it’s the kind of thing that’s totally stuck in my head, and it’s also the kind of thing I’d pay thousands of dollars to do.

And we did some neat stuff, like going to downtown Woodstock, and going swimming a lot, and cruising through these little one-horse towns in the mountains and sort of absorbing in as much of it as I could at the time. I remember we went to Hunter Mountain and rode up the lifts and looked at the bare August mountains on the way up and then back down. And then we went into these huge lounges that were built for thousands of people during the height of ski season, except the place was totally empty except for us, and it totally made me feel like I was in The Shining. And the first time I ever flew was up there, at this little podunk airport that advertised 15 minutes for twenty bucks or something, so me and my sisters went up in a Cessna and did a loop or two over the hotel and above the Catskill Creek. So in the end, I did like our time up there.

And so it was weird driving around the hills and valleys, looking at the trees, and knowing that I probably drove around some of the same roads with my dad two decades before, and those kind of weird worlds-colliding moments always get me in a good sort of way. And at some point, I’ll have to drive around up there a bit more, and find the old swimming holes, or maybe the diner we always went to for lunch, and maybe even see if that pilot’s got his plane going up there so I can put down a few more twenties and get some good pictures from up there.

A few other things – yes, we are supposed to go on vacation in Cancun on the 9th of next month. Yes, we’re aware of the hurricane. We’ve gotta call back in a few days and see if the hotel is still standing, and if not, we get to plan the vacation a third time. This time, I’m not announcing where we’re going, even though we have decided, just in case one of you is fucking with the weather somehow. And on Friday, I pick up a ten-foot moving truck and we begin the heavy lifting to get the books, AV gear, and bookcases into the new place. So that will be fun. Okay, that’s all.