Toward Mexico 2, November 2009

November 5, 2009 - #2


Bloomington, Indiana: 1200 miles behind us, and a few more still ahead. After Kingston we lunched elegantly on home-made coq-au-vin with brother-in-law John and his wife Pat in Mamaroneck, and dined –also elegantly- on Indian food in Binghamton with a good friend from the SUNY Binghamton days. Our agenda in Binghamton was to deja some views and to touch base with colleagues and family. Caught up with friends and their kids, tots back in the day, and now with tots of their own. Our friend Jane Blake, mysteriously intuiting the fact that Linda has an ancestral attachment to lemon meringue pie, surprised her with one for desert. We looked in on the folks who bought the house I grew up in; got the tour and applauded the improvements that we hadn’t had the wit or the resources to pull off. Put stones on the stones in the family plot, including the newest, Cousin Sheila Gitlitz, who died a couple of years ago. Missed seeing the one remaining living Gitlitz in the Binghamton area, my uncle Carl’s widow Suzanne, who had other commitments she couldn’t elude.


We headed south by way of Syracuse, where we had the pleasure of taking my gracefully aging Aunt Natalie, the widow of my mother’s kid brother, out to lunch, and catching up on the gossip in that side of the family.


Highlights of the drive? The spots of color on the grey hills where maples and beaches that had not got the memo that winter was nearly upon us were still showing off.


We stopped for a half hour on Route 81, just south of Syracuse, along some reedy ponds –nee gravel pits-- that had been left as rest stops on the migration flyway from Canada to the south. And the air traffic was like O’Hare at Thanksgiving. Wedge after wedge of geese, honking and squawking, their prows pointing south, passed overhead. On the pond in front of us two hundred geese milled about, clambering up onto the one grassy bank to make room for the newcomers who were arriving every minute. Each new flock would subdivide into groups of about ten, and each group would circle three or four times over the pond, testing the wind and looking for a place to set down among the crowds. When they thought they had it figured out, they would make one last pass, positioning themselves to descend into the wind, lowering their fanned out tail feathers like flaps, stooping their wings, angling their heads downward like Concordes, plummeting toward the water. Ten feet above the surface they splayed out their feet like broad jumpers and then splashed down with one last loud squawk of contentment before scurrying out of the way for the next squadron.


In Olean NY we dined at a Denny’s. Linda polished of a senior’s portion of chicken-fried steak with gravy, a once-a-year nostalgia extravaganza. The sourdough buttermilk biscuits were divine. My “prime rib” fajitas came with tortillas –I would have donated them to a cobbler if I could have found one—and hashbrowns. The pico de gallo would have made a Mexican blush from embarrassment, but aside from that, it was tasty and filling, and far more satisfying than the Phillies’ performance against the Yankees.


In Richmond Indiana we bought sandwiches in a Krogers and drove to a roadside park for lunch. It was really just a pulloff, a line of picnic tables, and a vast open lawn loosely ringed by pine trees. We knew from the Krogers parking lot that it was too windy and chill to eat outside, so we unfolded our napkins in the car and set to watching the empty grass. Three bites into the hoagies a small white car pulled in and what I would still in retirement call an older lady levered herself out with the help of her cane. She wore a full-length khaki trench coat and had wound a long blue wooly scarf around her neck. He shoes – black tops and white soles – appeared to be little more than bedroom slippers. Half-stooped over, she shuffled on to the grass, using the cane in her left hand for support.


Ten steps on to the grass she reached into her pocket, took out a small white ball, dropped it on the ground, reversed her cane –which was now clearly a four iron—swung her club and lofted the ball about forty yards down the field. Turning the club around again, she shuffled off to her ball, reversed the stick, and batted the ball another forty yards. We were mesmerized: she never hurried, never rushed or missed a shot, never hit the ball more than forty yards, and never paid the slightest attention to her gallery of two. We watched her for half an hour.


What with our good friends and family, the recalcitrant maples, the geese, and the intrepid golfer, we didn’t lack for role models. We should always be so lucky.


Linda & David