Thursday, August 17, 2006
Sunny and pleasant
I gave myself the day off from writing yesterday.
Let me rephrase that: I gave myself the day off from writing what I was supposed to write.
The trip to Maine was cancelled; the original revamped plan was to visit a garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll for a possible article. However, the garden and house were open for such a short time, even in the summer, that I would have driven nearly two hours to be rushed around and then drive back, and I would have been cranky, thereby not doing justice to the place.
I simply wasn’t in the mood to be rushed, by anything or anyone.
Change of plan: spent the day at Mohonk House.
I took about one hundred photographs – once the computer’s been fixed on Friday, I can post some of them. The place is beautiful and amazing, built in the late 1860s by a pair of Quaker brothers originally from Vassalboro, Maine. (Every time I hear “Vassalboro”, I remember all those jokes from the comedy team “Bert & I” in the 1970s).
It was a stunningly gorgeous day. We walked the bluffs around Mohonk Lake, wandered the lovely gardens, walked some of the trails, sat for hours in the large Adirondack rocking chairs on the wide porch overlooking the water.
Lunch was a disappointment. The meal was a buffet in the main dining room. The food was good, but not brilliant, and, at $50/person, I wanted brilliant. Maison costs less and is better. I realize you can’t do much as far as brilliance when you’re doing a buffet for several hundred, but I would much rather have had the option to order a la carte. Unfortunately, in the summer, that option does not exist. I rather wish I’d gone to the barbecue instead.
And the other guests – the day trippers who come up by the busload – pushing and shoving, behaving badly – I expected them to stick their heads in the food troughs any second. This is not the $8.95 All You Can Eat at Lucky Bob’s. This is an elegant, Victorian dining room. In the evenings, women must wear dresses or skirts, and men (over age 12) must wear jackets. There’s plenty of food for everyone, and there’s no need to shove people out of the way and trample someone because you think they’re getting five slabs of pork to your four. You can always get more if you’re still hungry. However, these people weren’t hungry – they were greedy. There’s a difference.
The worst was a woman there with her church group (big surprise). When one of her fellow travelers suggested she was, perhaps, behaving rudely, her response was, “It don’t matter. These heathens is all goin’ to hell anyway. They ain’t saved like us. Jesus wounna bother with them.”
I was ready to break my plate over her head. Especially when she went on to make disparaging comments about the African Americans and Asians she saw in the room.
In spite of idiots like that, the staff was incredibly kind and polite, all day. I don’t know how they do it. This is why I am not in any sort of job that requires customer service – I have no patience with the General Public.
Once we got away from the dining room, however, all was good. The porches are beautiful, and we kept returning to various areas and rocking chairs and simply relaxing.
The staff really went out of their way. I missed the turnoff to the parking lot because I was looking at the view and not paying attention, and ended up with my own valet parker. I arrived at the greenhouse after it was closed, and the guy opened it up to show me around. And then, walking back up the hill, I took my shoes off (I’d worn the wrong shoes for that much walking) and was walking on the grass, because the backs of my heels had blistered and started bleeding. One of the workers in a golf cart stopped and drove me back up the hill. That was so sweet. I mean, it was my own damn fault, and it was only blisters. Uncomfortable, but hardly life threatening. With all the terrible things going on in the world, I’m not going to complain about a few blisters!
Very funny: A west coast vineyard had their sales meeting at the resort. If you’ve ever experienced a half a dozen wine salesmen trying to pick you up simultaneously, you know how funny it is. Highly, HIGHLY entertaining. If they don’t make it into a book, they might have to get their own story.
I have to say how impressed I was with the teenagers – much more together and much better behaved than their parents, all the way around. Gave me hope for the future!
We visited the Barn Museum, where I was ready to buy a hand-made writing desk and various other bits of furniture (in spite of having no place to put them), and got knocked over by one of the cart horses who decided I was paying too much attention to a mule. And then the littlest horse felt left out and stuck his nose in the water barrel and splashed water all over me. It was very funny. I took lots of pictures of sleighs and turn-of-the-century carriages.
I took lots of photos of everything. In addition to articles, some of the places on the grounds would work well in the Casherick Drualtys books. Next week, when I’m up in Saratoga, I have to photographs the boulevards leading down to the town from Skidmore, because, in Shallid, when Elise and Maddie walk to town to buy supplies, those are the streets that were the inspiration. Mix some of the universities I saw in the UK, and some of the grounds here on the mountain, and I’ve got my location.
Also, sitting on the porch, I did a rough outline for a new story. Not sure when I’ll get to write it, but it’s such a great location for either a mystery or a suspense or a romantic comedy with a little bit of mystery thrown in. I have the characters, the location, hints of story – but I have to weave it together into a plot. It’ll percolate for awhile. I’ll print up the pictures and put them up on a board and it will all evolve.
I even toyed with the idea of moving to the area. It’s relatively inexpensive; there’s a huge arts community; it’s beautiful; there are, literally, several thousand businesses in the area I could approach to pitch myself as a writer for the business. However, there’s also quite a large homeless population, and the unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state.
House-wise, I feel I can get more house for the money further up in New England, and also, more the type of house I want – something that’s been around for awhile, not new construction. The only home listing I saw that wasn’t new development construction was built in 1791, and needs more work than I could put into it at this time.
The world of the Mountain and the world of the town are in too much opposition, vibe-wise, for me to be comfortable with the area.
There’s also, in the main town, a sense of passivity and waiting rather than the positive type of atmosphere I seek. That sort of predatory “you owe me because I exist” with which I disagree.
One of the things I like about the area of Massachusetts I’m considering (and the New England coast, in general) is a sense of coping. That region is similar to New York City in that, when something needs to be done, the majority of people don’t whine about it. They assess what needs doing and they do it. No drama, no whining. Action. Even out here, in this suburb, where there are too many spoiled, over privileged housewives who don’t work for a living (i.e., they’re not raising their kids, their husbands pay someone else to take care of the kids and clean the house), there’s more of a sense of dealing with things than in many other areas of the country in which I’ve lived. I need to live in a place where life is approached with a certain work ethic and a dry humor that I find along the New England coast. Where people actively participate in their lives instead of waiting for someone else to handle it. A sense of “go get” rather than “gimme”.
I had to pull over while driving home because I got another idea for a piece. I used to the Ren Faire over at Stirling Forest for years – I even cast one of my play reading series almost entirely out of it. I haven’t been for years. But that, too, would be a great setting for a story. I could have some fun weaving in Shakespeare and pseudo-Shakespeare references – spice it up with some Marlowe, Kydd, and Jonson, if I really want to get fancy, and maybe a few stanzas of Spenser.
So it was a good day, a productive day on many levels, but nothing was done that “should” have been done.
And that’s just fine.
Because today is a new day, and I am refreshed.
Geek Squad is sending someone over on Friday. They think someone’s hacked into my system and either let a very sophisticated worm loose, or keeps coming in and messing with stuff. So they’re going to fix it and customize the system so it does what I want. I told them I have to tell them what I need in writer language and they have to translate it into computer language. And that they have to send someone who’s cat friendly, because my cats are very friendly and will be all over them after the first ten minutes, where they stare at the stranger from under the sofa or on top of the bookcase or something.
Elsa and I had to have a serious talk. The cats are allowed almost anywhere, but NOT on the kitchen counters or the kitchen table. However, Elsa has taken to sleeping on the kitchen table during the day and sitting there watching the neighbor-in-the-next-building’s obscenely large new flat screen television that faces my kitchen window at night. No means no, and she is simply not allowed on the table.
So sorry my own television screen is too small to please THE CAT.
The Diaries of Dawn Powell arrived from Strand today, but six other books I ordered are on wait list. So I’ll have to hunt them down elsewhere. Or I’ll be waiting for a very long time. These are obscure, out-of-print books. They are unlikely to wind up at the store again.
Some friends and I plan to go out of town on 9/11. We prefer to honor the dead in our own way, rather than under forced media scrutiny.
I’m putting up the link here again to help a fellow writer – if you haven’t “gotten around to it”, please do so now:
PS Um, Tim Burton is directing Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd? I’m definitely . . .interested to see what they come up with. I like them (their work) both a lot. But theatre people are highly proprietary and protective of Sweeney Todd. Sondheim is somewhat of a satirical god amongst us. So I’m . . .interested . . .to see how it comes out.