Tag Archives: personal

A is for Abode

Remember how I went on and on about those little A-frame houses and how quirky and neat we thought they were?

Be careful what you wish for.

We’re moving to downtown Saranac Lake. A small A-frame apartment has become available to us, and it’s a very generous, kind offer.

We adore the apartment, it’s in the village, walking distance to the library, grocery, shops, friends, restaurants. And even with all that, it’s still a bit hidden – off the main road, and overlooking trees. If you’re familiar with the backyards and alleys of downtown Saranac Lake, you might recognize it. (And no doubt, a few readers are very, very familiar with the steeple in the far distance of the photo.)

We will be keeping the Gabriels property. It will become our Summer putter project, much like our neighbor. Perhaps we’ll sell the RV next Spring. Maybe. However, the little cabin will be staying put, and our names will stay firmly printed at the top of our deed. (And tax bill!)

The thing is, the RV is hard. We like it, but it’s hard and it’s expensive. As you know, we take a well-cover off and fill a cistern every day, even when it’s twenty below zero. Every day. We heat an uninsulated RV with propane. It’s a gigantic bill, which takes the rest of the year to pay off.

The pipes freeze a few times a year and have to be thawed and/or repaired. The RV has to be insulated in the Winter, but the insulation can’t stay there for the Summer. We had to have an RV tech in to fix the furnace a month ago. Now the thermostat is now broken … again. I put in a new pump last year – hanging out of the hatch outside on a 20-below day. We carry around a blowdryer because the RV door freezes shut twice a day. I have to defrost the condensation off the windows and mop it up with a towel each day or we get a one-inch-thick window sill made of ice. And of course, we live in about 260 square feet. (Plus 130 sf in the cabin, if you’re willing to go out to start a fire in the stove.)

Compare that to, as I mentioned, a very generous offer.

Little A is four rooms – a bedroom in front, a living room 12×18′ in the middle, a small-but-not-too-small kitchen, and an oddly large bathroom (which I love). There’s a 10′ wide wall of deep closets, and most of the “corner” parts of the bottom of the A-as-in-A-frame have built-ins. The living room has a fireplace and mantel, and although we won’t be using the fireplace, it’s pretty nifty. I want me one of those fakey woodstove electric heater things for it. And our “stuff” will look terrific in there.

That’s right. No more storage unit bills. There will probably be overflow (remember we once had a 1700 sf house full of bric-a-brac, wall things, hundreds and hundreds of books, and general stuff, other than the furniture we got rid of), but the overflow can go into the cabin, because most of the cabin furniture and whatnots will come with us.

Further reason that I love it? It was once the home of Isabel Smith, a tuberculosis curing patient, who became rather famous when Eisenstadt photographed her in Saranac Lake for Life magazine. Isabel was also a memoirist, who wrote about her time in Saranac Lake. Elise Chapin, who ran The Pot Shop on Main Street in the 1950s (and who was also a cure patient and author) also made Little A her home.

Sweet place. There will be plenty of the outdoorsy work stuff I like so much, lots of opportunity for my obsessive snow shoveling habit, and plenty of chances to get in my messing around with plants and fanatical grass mowing.

In sadder news, we had a weasel (or something) attack earlier in the week. Three of the hens were killed (but not eaten). Another had no marks, but seemed very listless and strange. We ran to the store for some StressEez, gave her some extra feed and corn, and we warmed her up. She rallied a little, but she didn’t make it. My favorite yellow Gwen (my Orpington) is still alive and doing perfectly well. Although she seemed sick, she’s now fine. She will be adopted by one-or-another friends when we move.

Good news and bad news. But life is good, and that’s how it comes, right?

You all give me a holler when you see me hop-skip-and-a-jumping the to the library, or down to the Left Bank for a bite. But don’t bother coming up the hill for a visit and knocking on the door … when not playing my piano indoors, I plan to spend most of my time soaking in that big clawfoot tub.



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Merry Christmas from Saranac Lake!

I’ll catch up with you later in the week, friends.

It’s Christmas week and I’m super busy!

This morning was the Christmas Pageant at St. Luke’s in Saranac Lake, and it was absolutely awesome. In addition to the really beautiful work done by Barb and the pageant crew, I had the honor of playing the entire service as a piano & pipe organ duet with our former organist and good friend, Curtis Mercier. It was absolutely wonderful. I wish everyone could have heard the music filling the church and ringing through those historic rafters this morning. It humbles me to know that Dr. Trudeau and generations of Saranac Lakers have been seated in the very same pews, listening to and singing the very same traditional melodies for many, many, many years.

If you’re in the area, up in the morning this week, or you’d like to stop by on your way to work this week – Monday through Thursday mornings, I’ll be playing quiet chants and music of the season on St. Luke’s beautiful pipe organ, from 8 to 8:30 am.

Please feel free to stop by if you’d like to sit quietly, escape the hustle -and-bustle for a few minutes, meditate, or simply enjoy a few tunes. No need to stay the whole time, and you’re invited to come on in whenever you’d like.

The candles will be lit, the red front doors will be open, the accessible ramp and side door from the driveway side will be open, and as always, all are welcome.

*   *   *

A special Merry Christmas this week to Irish45 – a fellow Saranac Lake lover, a fellow student of local history, and someone who is always super kind to this humble correspondent. Thank you so much for the lovely email. Wish you were here, but in lieu of a long trip, here are a few photos – the one of the church in the snow is from earlier this week.


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Blueberry Cake Donuts and Controlled Substances

Well, well.

I feel fan-freaking-tastic. As noted, the second week of not smoking was not going well. Didn’t cheat at all, and frankly, I didn’t even consider it. However – Very real anxiety, and actually, a serious panic attack while playing one day. (I know that sounds terribly sad, but if you conjure up a mental image of someone freaking out while seated at the console of a 3,000 pipe organ, I’m positive you’ll giggle.)

Are you giggling? Good. You’ll need your sense of humor. Because I found the panic attack fascinating and I wanted to tell you about it. I’m sitting there playing a (rather simple) hymn, and then, bam! Like someone pulled the rug out under from me. My heart starts pounding, I’m flushed, dizzy, I suddenly wonder how my fingers are going to get where they’re supposed to go. (And in fact, some of my fingers don’t get where they’re supposed to go.) I loose a few seconds, and then I’m back. Now, I’m panicking, and trying to find a way out of the musical mess I’ve gotten myself into. (God bless relative chords.) Of course, I’m terrified. I finish the tune, and spend the rest of the hour trying to make it through the other pieces without hyperventilating.

Clearly, something is not quite right. I do some thinking. I realize that at one point last week I did not leave the house for 48 hours. I move up my doc visit. We chat. We figure. He does his Doc thing. The theory is that I had been self-medicating, via smokes. Although I always operated at a low boil and always had smaller panic issues, the smokes kept the pot from completely boiling over. When I took them away … blammo.

So. I now have a daily med, and I have a bottle of panic pills, in case I need them for a specific moment. Reactions have been amusing. When I’ve mentioned the daily meds, one friend said, “Every musician and actor I know takes that stuff.” On the flip side, when I mentioned the name of the panic pills, another friend said, “Jeez! That’s serious medication!” What has been most interesting is this – Once I mentioned all this to friends, I realized that lots of people have problems. Being as most of my friends are actors and musicians, it goes with the territory. Performers. Standing on a stage, Elaine Stritch once put it so simply. “It’s scary up here.”

I’m not much of a pill person. Never was. I figured, sitting in front of an orchestra waiting to signal the downbeat, if I was panicking, that’s just how it was. Suck it up. When I frequently got so worked up that I became physically ill, that’s just how it was. Part of the deal. When my blood pressure went way through the roof because I was displeased with this-or-that? High strung, I guess. But my opinion about medications has been changed. Drastically.

I love my current Doc. He’s friendly, asks questions, I feel like he’s someone I might know otherwise. Super guy, and a really good fit. I wondered though. My other doctors (especially back in the city) knew I had these problems. Why didn’t they ever look into it? Ask questions? If this is the way I was supposed to be feeling all these years, I’ve missed quite a bit. And I wonder what I might have done differently if I hadn’t been in a panic.

But, so what.

It’s fixed, and that’s awesome. And my prescriptions were covered and cost a total of forty-four cents. And I had a blueberry cake donut this morning. And there were lots of church friends visitors in the building today.

I am having a terrific day, and I hope you are too.


Filed under adirondacks

Always a Surprise at the DMV

And don’t mistake me – I don’t mean the DVM, the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Our particular Department of Motor Vehicles is pretty tame compared to most. You’ll rarely find The Angry Lady or That Screaming Baby. And there’s usually no real wait. I walked right in today. Sort of. I still had to “Wait in line AT THE DOOR to be called to the next available window.” (Emphasis theirs, not mine.)

A little back story. I had an out-of-state license, and I was pick-pocketed back in the city. Not the end of the world, but – being as the original was an out-of-state ID, I had to do the whole six-points-of-identification thing to get a New York State replacement. You know – certified copy of you birth certificate, Social Security card, credit card, pay stubs, utility bill in your name, a DNA sample, and fifteen recent home improvement or sportswear catalogues with your home address printed on them. Perhaps I exaggerate. But again, no problem. One must do what one must do. I checked the DMV website, followed the instructions, and put my precious documents together in a folder.

Oh, I had it all totally organized and done up right. Everything checked off. Multiple copies. I don’t quite know why I bothered bringing multiple pay stubs and utility bills, but I’m a firm believer in being over-prepared. I mean, you never know when a band of thugs will come rampaging through downtown Saranac Lake, holding people at gunpoint for a copies of their utility bills.

I am called from the doorway to a window. Proud of my organizational skills, I state that I would like to get a New York State ID, and that “I believe I have all my documents in order.” (I figure they like it when you talk official-like.) The young, rather pleasant DMV employee looks at me as if to say, “Yeah, I bet you have all your documents in order.” Still, she was perfectly pleasant. She asks for my birth certificate and Social Security Card. Check. Okay. Those look good. I hand over the other required items. I hold my breath as she looks at them. She ponders. I sweat. Finally she speaks. I can’t use some of these things. I’m turned away. Why, you ask?

My utility bills, credit card, and health insurance card do not feature my middle initial.

Does it mention anywhere on the application or on the DMV website that my insurance card and utility bills (and/or whatever) have to have my middle initial on them? Nope. Does it even mention that all my various forms of ID have to match exactly? Nope.

To push matter over the border into ridiculous, I’m told that I have two choices – I can get those non-middle-initial items re-issued with my middle initial – or – I can have everything re-issued without my middle initial on it all, and bring that back.

I gotta go now. I have to call the utility company.


Filed under adirondacks

A Letter to My Former Self

My friend Granny Sue (who is totally awesome) always asks the best questions. She’s a storyteller and a true artist. You need evidence? Check out her blog – it’s just a click away. GS wonders about a compare/contrast between our life in New York City and our life now. What’s best and worst? What would we do differently? And so, I had an idea. I think I could best explain the differences between City Me and Country Me in a letter … to my Former Self. So, here goes.

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September 13, 2o1o

Dear Former Self,

If I were to tell you that you are going to be a completely different person after your move to the mountains, would you understand? I know you might believe it, but I wonder if you would understand it.

If you’re having in doubts about relocating to that charming small town in the mountains, don’t worry. You’re going to feel more open, more valued, and prouder of yourself than ever before.

Would you believe that you wouldn’t care if you ever directed another play or musical? Crazy, right? After twenty years! It’s true. You’re going to turn a bit of a corner, burnish some long forgotten skills, and you’re going to principally be a musician. (I know, it sounds ridiculous. But it’s true.)

Get involved. Don’t be afraid or nervous. You know that charming little church with the pipe organ that you always felt like you belonged at? You’re going to work there. And you’re going to play the clarinet in the community orchestra and in a few pits. And you’re even going to conduct a decent sized orchestra for a show or two.

In the city, I wonder if you realize that perhaps, you don’t have a lot of existential space to think and breathe and just plain play. It’s hard to explain, but trust me. Once you’re on your own land, where you can do whatever you want, in an area where you can swim in lakes and walk in the woods and build snow castles, you’ll feel less tugged-at. You’ll have room to just be. Does that make sense?

Keep in mind – The grocery isn’t going to have your favorite imported tea, a decent bookstore is going to be a forty-mile drive, and no one is going to pick up your garbage at the curb. However, those pricey veggies from the green market are going to come from your own and your neighbors’ overflowing gardens – no charge. Oh, and you won’t have to worry about clothes – Up here, as you as you don’t look like a hobo, you’re good to go. You’ll be all set in the culture department too – we have plenty of that. And that tiny cabin with the woodstove you’ve thought about? It’ll be right out back.

Keep in mind, Former Self – You won’t be having a ball right off the bat. You have a house to tear down. Your first car will constantly break down. Although you’ll be happy in the RV and the cabin, things will break. A lot. The furnace will stop working, the pump will quit, you’ll have to replace it yourself, and you’ll spend two weeks of Winter pulling water out of the well with a bucket and heating it for baths on the stove like Laura Ingalls Wilder. But you’ll live, and you’ll have some good stories.

Money will be a little tough for a while, but eventually you’ll buy a decent, reliable car. You’ll start figuring out now to get that blasted van repaired. You’ll start considering building or buying a house. You’ll feel appreciated in the community, and you’ll love it when most often, people on the street know your name. You’ll adore the community events, where you feel like you run into everyone you know. You’ll get totally into participating in Winter Carnival, standing out in the freezing cold with the rest of the town. You’ll realize that you have more time with your partner, and you’ll rediscover things you like to do together. After a while.

Former self, give it time. Trust the process. (You’ll be familiar with that phrase from your work in the theatre.) Nothing is immediate, and every completely new situation requires a good deal of settling-in and figuring-out time. It’ll be an adventure.

And isn’t that what you’re looking for? An adventure?

Most Sincerely,
Your Future Self

*  *  *

This was really fun, and super introspective! I’d like to encourage all of my blog friends to write a letter to your Former Self. Or, heck, if you’d like to keep it personal, just write one on paper. I thought it was a pretty neat experience. Have fun with it, and please be sure to let me know if you’ve written one.

You have a great day too!


Filed under adirondacks

Fall Bounty

Albeit a little early.

I’m looking out the kitchen window, thinking about tomorrow’s cooler temps, and daydreaming over my bowl of batter. The summer lilies have lost their bloom, and the maples are already turning. It’s at this point that I realize – perhaps fully, for the first time – what The Harvest means. For me, anyhow.

I’m putting a batch of zucchini bread in the oven, and I’ll be making another tomorrow. Zukes abound in these parts. I took an enormous salad (homegrown lettuce, parsley, basil, tomatoes, onions, boiled eggs from the hens) to a gathering at a neighbor’s home last week. Our church hall sports bushels full of gorgeous vegetables each Sunday. Workplace desks around town are fairly loaded with squash and lettuce.

This is one of my favorite things about living in a place full of gardeners – the sharing. Of course, this is all part of something larger – the rural/small town tradition of lending-a-hand and being neighborly. Of truly being in a place with each other. I think the late Summer and early Fall sharing season brings that collective way of life into very clear focus.

My neighbor just gave me some huge zukes, which combined with some flour, sugar, spices, and fresh eggs will become zucchini bread for our Wine Night tomorrow evening. (We all bring a wine we want the others to try.) I’m going to make him an extra loaf of bread to take home. That’s a pretty nifty metaphor to boil it all down to.

“Give me a few of those zukes, neighbor; and I’ll make you dessert. And we’ll have some wine.”

You have a great day too!


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It’s time to catch up, huh Friends?

No post in how many days? I’m supposing I haven’t had much to say, other than simply, Life is Lovely. Summer is beginning to wane.

Of course, around here, you hear a quip or two about that, but we don’t mind it. Late Summer and Fall are our very favorite seasons. So, you see, noticing that the maples are just beginning to turn … That’s a lovely thing, I think.

Town festivals abound, organ work at the church continues in a lovely manner (I have a heck of a Beethoven Variations postlude planned for this Sunday), evenings are a little cooler, we’re eating out of the garden, I’m beginning to plan our Halloween Display Spectacular, and the sunflowers are just beginning to bloom.

Oh, yeah. That’s gonna be a lot of sunflowers.

You have a great day too!


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