Being back where I’ve been conjures many thoughts, and a few nice memories. The other Portland. Wondering how it is I got here, and if I’ve learned anything along the way. My Belknap house is still there. The same coat of warm gray and faded yellow trim, but someone’s built a treehouse out back. What a damn good idea. I may have more to say about this, but now off to enjoy the rugged coast and trying sun.
- After five relaxing days on Martha’s Vineyard, we took the ferry back to Woods Hole, MA and started north.
- Hooray! I’ve landed at Plymouth Rock! Now I just need to make friends with the natives, settle down and procreate.
- Spent a couple days in Portland, Maine, and walked around the Back Cove with Wes. A route I used to run everyday when I lived here.
- Went to a minor league hockey playoff game between the Portland Pirates and the Connecticut Whalers.
I arrived Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday afternoon and will be staying through Wednesday. The initial ferry ride from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven was pretty stormy and made Wesley uneasy, and it was also very, very expensive. The consolation of all that is being able to take refuge in paradise for a few days. Instead of a Motel 6 or the back of a Toyota, I’m staying at a remote beachfront residence in the 633 acre Long Point Wildlife Refuge on the south shore. Several days ago, I pinged my Oregon pal, Jenn, the queen of the information supa highway, asking her for some tips for visiting the Vineyard. I knew she had several times before. Well, lucky me, not only did she provide me a few tips, she provided me her brother—the earnest caretaker of this place. Chris and his girlfriend, Elaine, have been wonderful hosts, making Wes and I feel right at home. Sam, their little Boston Terrier is relentless in his pursuit of Wesley, trying his very best to get a rise out of him. He’s loving it here as well. Life is not hard at all at the moment.
Left Northampton early this morning and made a big loop south to Manhattan, then out to Long Island, took the ferry back north to New London, Conneticut, and now, we’re in Newport, Rhode Island for the night. Heading for Martha’s Vineyard tomorrow to spend a few days. Gradually working my way north through Maine, Nova Scotia and onto Newfoundland.
I arrived Northampton, Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon, a place that I grew quite fond of 12 years ago. My plan has been to stay in town for the week and work on finishing some writing related to an Egyptian picture show. On Monday, while holed up in a coffee shop researching some slightly better lodgings than the Motel 6 20 miles away, I bumped into a guy I met a couple months prior in Fargo, ND of all places. Despite calling him Matt, Kevin was generous enough to offer me a guest room in the big house he shares with Shelby, Dan, Lauren, Sey, and others. Indeed, the world works in mysterious ways. On evidence of this bright, good-natured collection of grad students, that world is in very good hands.
Though I’m finding myself thinking more and more about settling down in a nice spot and feeling a little more productive in the coming months, I am very much looking forward to the journey north to Newfoundland. Wes and I will head out in a couple days. Until then, I’m here at the Hay Market with a carrot cake cookie and a cup of joe, plucking at my 15″ MacBook Pro with the high-res glossy screen.
On my way out of New York, I visited with Eric & Amy at their farm in Owasco, just south of Syracuse, and was treated to a delicious omelet and a tour of the headquarters, factory and distribution center for Lucky Goat Soap. Wesley had fun chasing goats, chickens and horses around the farm, stopping just long enough to leave a little present in the barn.
As you may already know, I had been kicking around the old home place since the third of February. When I left to gallivant around North Africa and Europe for a month, it was Sue that I counted on to look after my dog, Wesley. And given everything she’s already doing to care for others, I knew this was asking a lot. But I also knew she was happy to.
Once upon a time, Sue was the other woman—an unfit title to be sure. Growing up, my family’s house was always interesting, but rarely filled with love. Even so, when my dad sat my sister and I down at the kitchen table in 1984, I remember us feeling so grateful and relieved that he’d found her.
Over the years, Sue has become caretaker, homemaker, financial planner, cowgirl, mother, friend and teacher to so many. She asks for nothing, but doesn’t lack for much either. Sue is thoughtful, patient, sensitive, genuine, gracious, positive, quick to laugh, and brave. If you ask me, she has an unfair amount of each. She is a stoic model to the group of selfish-leaning men that surround her. Myself included.
Five years ago my father was found to have an invisible cancer, which was promptly debated and then treated in Seattle. The after effects of that treatment have altered his and Sue’s life greatly. He’s a walking petri dish, though an outcome far better than the alternative. Instead, he now has eyes made of sandpaper and skin that does strange things. There’s a welcome mat for blood clots and infection, and a pharmacy of drugs organized and administered several times a day. Caring for him is an occupation and one that Sue performs with grace.
When not attending to others, Sue will find peace in the mighty fine sewing room she pieced together in an unused corner of the basement—quite useful in the making of seat covers for my truck. When not sewing, she’s taking piano lessons, adding a new melody to a house of guitars. Gordon Lightfoot and country-western tear-jerkers are her favorites. She joins good friends in golfing, horseback riding, and when spring comes, cheering on the Rochester Red Wings—season tickets, just above the dugout down the first base line. She knows all the players, and has the kit and autographs to prove it. And yes, she will even talk a little trash, but does it in a way far too endearing to offend.
Over the last several weeks, Sue’s job description expanded further, with no raise or corporate benefits to show for it. Not only did she care for Wesley in my absence, and me when I was present, but dad went and added a broken arm to his medical chart and now requires his dinner cut and pants buttoned. One of her dear horses is now crooked, and amidst all the chores and ailments, her best buddy passed away. Riley was a big, beautiful Irish Setter—the perfect antidote for Sue when she lost her previous dog to a fire that brought the house and many memories to the ground.
Every morning, despite darkness, rain or harsh winter, Sue and Riley would wake just before five to trudge out to the barn to care for the horses. I got the sense that Riley offered that little extra sanity and love whenever Sue needed it most. On top of keeping everything and everyone else around her together, she cared for Riley when he finally succumbed to twelve good years. No vet bill was too big and no decision too light. In some small way, maybe it was good that Wes was there.
My father has been a research photographer and professor for as long as I’ve been alive—an interesting guy, carved from the same logical mold as his father. He’s now at a crossroads and I wish he would have accumulated more confidence in his own ability to navigate a path through it. Though he’s not really a philosophical guy and seemingly oblivious at times to the work that goes on around him, I got to hand it to him for finding the best possible woman there is. With her, he has every reason to feel optimistic.
Sue and my dad have been together for 30 or 40 years now, far before I knew anything of it. They go on walks together, swim together, sail together, watch Jeopardy together, and enjoy cheap food—together. But most importantly, they still hold hands. Though dad is not without his charms, when it comes to all the good going on there in Honeoye Falls, I blame Sue.
A rather hastily assembled summary of my road trip thus far, or rather just the actual modes of transportation. I will no doubt improve upon this at some point. Somehow missed the airplanes, and gave the Amtrak train to NYC and the NYC subway little to no mention. Although Mickey the camel makes a cameo. Watch carefully and you just might see me ride a bicycle through the frame in Amsterdam. Music by Cat Stevens and The Innocence Mission.
1) I’ve enjoyed first rate service here in Hungary, courtesy of Krisztina and my eccentric uncle John. Much better than Motel 6.
2) My usual dinner brought to me. Cheese toast and fruit, cut to perfection.
3) Turned in my Hungarian citizenship papers this morning.
4) Visited with a distant aunt and uncle, Erzsi and Kalman.