Friday, July 17, 2015

Another Summer, Another Year

This is a continuation of the prior entry, written a couple of weeks and 1,250 miles ago, the flip side of the same old 33 we’ve played on the record player before.  But oh that drive up I95!  I figure that over the years I’ve driven that road some 35 times one way.  At one time we did it over one night, but as we’ve aged have chosen a more “leisurely” two night drive, although this means schlepping bags into a hotel, not once, but twice.  We try to time our drive so we’re passing by Washington at about 8.00 AM on Sunday morning, just about the most benign time to traverse that heavily travelled corridor.  In fact, this time we didn’t take the I495 bypass but went straight through Washington, to the Washington-Baltimore Parkway, and was able to enjoy the sights of Washington we don’t normally see from I495.

We listen to “books on tape” for most of the long, tedious drive and we were particularly pleased with our first choice, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  Just about a perfect book to pass the time, 85 year old Addie Baum’s recollection of coming of age in early 20th century Boston, as told to her granddaughter.  This was very competently read by Linda Lavin who balanced an immigrant Jewish accent with that of a new Bostonian.  Highly recommended as something to listen to (not sure I would want to read it though).

First stop, as usual, was Savannah, an easy six hour drive from our house, where we meet up with our friends Suzanne and George, a tradition going back many years.  Remarkable, warm people – I had recently written about them in this entry.

After enjoying a leisurely dinner with them, catching up on recent events, particularly health issues, and an early to bed, we were up first thing in the morning to get the next leg out of the way, a 7 plus hour drive to Fredericksburg.  But that morning – in spite of having run the car six hours the day before -- we were greeted by the dreaded “click-click” of a dead battery, and this at 6 AM on July 4.  Obviously the battery was no longer accepting a charge from the alternator so we immediately called AAA, but they could only give us a charge, which would not solve the problem.  They could not replace the battery as the Mercedes ML 350’s is under the passenger’s seat!  Mercedes to the rescue, their customer service dispatched a very proficient young man from a nearby garage within 20 minutes, who had the correct battery and replaced it in another 30, and we were on our way, about an hour “behind schedule.” 

One never knows what to expect as one approaches the Fredericksburg area.  I’ve seen traffic there as horrendous as Washington’s.  Luckily, most people were probably already at their destination on the 4th so we arrived at our hotel with enough time to unwind and prepare for dinner. I revere the historical significance of the 4th but without the fireworks, one of the reasons we travel over the holiday.

We’ve stayed at many of the Hampton Inns up and down I95 including this one in South Fredericksburg and remembered there was only one restaurant within easy walking distance (hate getting back into the car after all those jaw clinching hours on the road).  That restaurant is “Hooters,” a most unlikely place to find a couple of septuagenarians.  Well, on the way walking there, this only two weeks after Ann had arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus on her left knee, she slipped on some wet grass, her left leg completely folding underneath her.  Nearby people saw her slip and a young Good Samaritan came running over to help me lift her up. We thought she compromised her operated knee, but, instead she pulled thigh muscles above and behind the knee, so not only did we old folks arrive at Hooters, but stumbled in, Ann asking for ice to put on her thigh.  Talk about attracting attention to yourself.

They were accommodating, bringing bags of ice for Ann to use, and one thing we’ll say about Hooters other than the obvious, they have some tasty grilled food if you’re into that kind of thing.  I had a burger and Ann a rack of ribs.  She ordered a glass of wine and they carded her; obviously their policy to card everyone and that way they stay out of trouble, period.  You must be kidding we thought, but probably a good policy so assuredly no one under age can “look” old enough to imbibe. However, Ann’s pocketbook was in the hotel and as I don’t drink, I ordered the wine for her, she ordered my Coke, so when they carded me, I gave the very attractive young waitress who was now sitting at our table in her official Hooters outfit, my laminated university student ID card which I carry around as a joke (still in pristine condition, better than me!).  She said, what’s this?  I said it’s my official picture ID.  She said who is this?  I asked how old she was.  She said 19 and I replied that was exactly my age in the picture.  Rather than drag her head about the philosophical implications, tempus fugit, etc., I unceremoniously pulled out my license.

We arrived at the boat on Sunday afternoon and after our son, Jonathan, and his girl friend, Anna, helped us unpack, they served US dinner (for a change).  Nice to see them, one of the reasons we still do this, and we went to bed exhausted and in some chaos.

Ann’s knee and thigh needed rest and ice the next day so I was off alone to Stew Leonard’s, my favorite supermarket of all time, ideal for shoppers such as myself as it is configured as an orderly maze so you have to pass by everything.  I loaded up with groceries to get us started and began to get back into the swing of things at our boat club, first having our traditional welcome back dinner with our friends, Ray and Sue.

Wednesday nights is a family barbeque night here but it rained and as Ann was still somewhat immobile, I ended up “getting volunteered” to be a “runner” for the event, now held indoors, having to take orders and fill them in the club kitchen where other volunteers were laboring away grilling and prepping side orders. This event is a continuing testimony to the man who organized it years ago, Frank, and although he has now been partially disabled by a stroke, still overseas it to this day, with the able assistance of his wife, Barbara, and his sons. That following weekend was an antique car show in the parking lot and Ann was finally up and about for this, so here she is with a 1915 Chrysler.  There were also cars of my teenage dream years, T-Birds and Corvettes. 

So, our summer has begun here.

For me, living on the boat is increasingly complicated as at home I have my computer on most of the time and can stroll over to it and do what I need to do, managing our finances and particularly writing when I want to.  Here on the boat, the Wi-Fi no longer is “reachable” from where we are docked, so I’m dependent mostly on my iPhone’s cell connection and when I want to write anything lengthy, such as this for my blog, I have to set up my laptop and I’m dependent on the cellular “personal hotspot” to get connected.  This makes transferring photos more data intensive, expensive, slow, what can I say?  So if I post less, and some photos are compromised, that’s the reason.

Nonetheless, this is offset by more time to work on the boat (finished getting a few coats of sealer on the teak cover boards earlier in the week – they can be seen in one of the photos towards the end of this entry) and to read.  I’ve been alternating between William Trevor’s latest collection of short stories (Selected Stories) and the late Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything. 

Putting aside the Hitchens’ work for the time being -- which I’ll write about probably in my next entry -- one William Trevor short story each night is enough for the time being to satisfy my literary thirst.  The man simply never ceases to amaze me with his stories, the reader frequently thinking he is going with one part of the story, only to find the real story is about something else.  He deals with subtle aspects of relationships and his character descriptions are like photographs.  I’ve never read anyone like him.  It’s hard to read more than one story at a time as there is so much to think about.

Part of my routine – one borrowed from home – is my early morning walk.  I’ve written before about the nearby Shorefront Park, my walking grounds here.  It is an old waterfront community in Norwalk, sleepily nestled on the west shore of the Norwalk River.  When I first started walking the area years ago, mostly older homes from the 40’s and 50’s were the norm.  Over the years some of those older homes, particularly right on the river were torn down with new, much more expensive ones being built.  One problem with the area which was exposed during hurricane Sandy is it is low lying.  Many of the homes were inundated by the storm, becoming uninhabitable.  Some were repaired and raised off their foundations, insurance companies bearing all or part of the expense, while others were torn down and more mansion type homes being erected but at higher elevations.  This process is still going on, years after the storm.  So it is a place of change and I get to see it kaleidoscopically.
One thing that hasn’t changed when I walk it early in the morning is the sights and sounds of nature, so different here than in Florida.  The evening crickets are still evident in the grass, their murmur quieting by the early morning.  The aroma of pines permeates the air and the mornings can be cool, even in the summer.  A walk here is refreshing and nostalgic for me, remembering our decades in the area.  It is imprinted in my DNA by now. Then there is the view of the Norwalk Harbor, at the “turn around” point of my walk, a place where I always stop and take in the beauty of the scene. 

Still another reason to return.

The question as we age though, is how much longer?  The drive itself takes its toll.  Maybe fly up for only a month, leaving more time on the boat for our son (who has already stepped in maintaining it beautifully)?  Perhaps that will be something to consider next year.  It’s hard, maybe impossible, to just walk away from this area and our past.  Alternatively, let life dictate the outcome?

An event a couple of days ago -- at about 11.00 PM – will illustrate why boating and aging do not exactly mix.  We were already in bed as a strong cold front moved through. The boat began to bang against the port piling in a gusty NE wind. Our bow line had obviously stretched in the wind.  What to do?  Reluctantly, I decided I’d have to get out there to set up another bow line to keep the boat off the piling, as well as going down to the bilge to access another fender and setting it up against the piling.  I also thought it would be prudent to set up a redundant spring line to keep the swim platform off the dock.

I donned my jeans over my pajamas and stuck a flashlight in my back pocket.  I don’t relish walking up the gunnels to the bow, even under the best conditions and thought I should alert Ann that I’d be off the boat doing this work in the dark and under those conditions.  She had just fallen into a deep sleep – amazing given all the banging, and I didn’t have the heart to wake her up at that point.  So I rehearsed every movement in my mind and where things could go wrong and then went about my business.  Hey, what was the worst that could happen – finding a floating body at the mouth of the river in the morning? (Shouldn’t joke like that as when we were at another marina someone on our dock arrived late at night, obviously slipped trying to get on his boat, and his body was found the next morning floating between the finger of the dock and his boat.)

As the morning-after-the-front-passage photographs attest, everything went fine, but for the balance of the night the wind was unrelenting and I felt as if we were underway, the water slapping against the hull and the rubbing of the fender against the piling (better than banging though).  Ann continued to sleep right through!   This used to be “fun” when we were younger, even at an anchorage where it is exponentially more dangerous than the same conditions at a dock. With the passage of time, though, it becomes more difficult to manage, to tolerate even— and it’s certainly no fun.  So, still another factor to consider for the future.