Road Trip (part 1)

Wednesday the 10th was a shift away from the same-old same-old. It started with my semi-annual doctor’s appointment, where I have to get bloodwork done and have to fast beforehand. (so I usually aim for a treat-level restaurant or bakery breakfast as soon as I walk out that door)

When I moved to town in ’94, I did the recommended thing of ‘call the gay community center for doctor recommendations’. May not be so true any more, but back in the day, it was a good idea to get a doctor who was used to dealing with gay patients, and can recognize some specific medical issues that can happen specifically from the types of sex men have together. (Not that I’ve ever had those sorts of issues, koff koff.) The doctor I picked from that list was Dr. Weiner (heh heh. heh heh), a funny, irreverent, no bullshit straight guy who totally knew his stuff and was totally blunt in his conversations about your sex life and everything else. And he was my doctor until he retired a while ago.

Meanwhile, C’s doctor (Dr. D) was an amateur pianist we’d worked with on a benefit Broadway-scene show the first year we’d met. When Dr. W retired, I switched to him. Dr. D is nice and competent, but not the delight Dr. W was, and the sort of doctor who doesn’t really remember who you are, just looks at the chart. So I’d come in with a list of things to discuss, top of which is that C (who’d found a more local doctor a couple of years ago) had passed away. I gave him the whole rundown on what had happened – the mobility issue, the hernia surgery, the ‘event’. Dr. D remembered C enough, but I showed a picture to remind him. And we had this conversation:

Dr. D: wasn’t he involved with St. Vincent’s somehow?

E: yeah, he was in the St. Francis church choir with all those St. Vincent’s doctors. That’s how we met you, doing that show. (remember?)

Dr. D: Oh, yeah, what did he do in that show?

E: he was one of the opera guys in “Prima Donna”, we were the two fathers in the mini Fantastiks scene…

Dr. D: What did you do?

E: I was the white guy who sang “Ol’ Man River”.

Dr. D: Oh yes…

For the record, there was no African-American bass in the cast, it had never occurred to me that I’d ever get to sing “Ol’ Man River”, and I had a blast. Arrangement straight out of the Show Boat vocal score, four-part men’s chorus backing me up.

Now we had a timing issue. It was about 10:15 or so now, but I was going to end up at Chelsea Piers for our company picnic at noon, where we’d be fed. But I needed coffee and I was starving, so looked around for a restaurant where I could hang out for a while, eat, and at least give a vague pass at getting work done. I ended up at Jack’s Wife Freda, fancier than what I’d been picturing in my head, but very nice. Had their version of a croque madame and a cappucino or two. I did open the laptop, read email, but didn’t get a lot more than that done. Then strolled over to Chelsea Piers, about fifteen minutes away, tops. (We were coming off days and days of high heat and unbelievable humidity. This day was not quite as hot, quite tolerable, but still humid as fuck.)

PLI had rented the catering space on the water side behind the ice rinks. One big room with open bar and a buffet table of cookout-like lunch food, and a whole series of planned activities like bowling and rock climbing, although I didn’t do any of them. The space was inside, but open to a wrap-around balcony, where you could look out over the Hudson and watch the boats. (and, so, not air-conditioned. Still quite humid.)

I mostly hung out with my own teammates, but said hi to a lot of people, playing the ‘are you the live person I’ve seen on my computer screen in a 2 inch box from time to time?’ game. Figured at least one higher-up person would ask me how I was dealing with recent events, and that did happen, had a very nice discussion. I didn’t drink very much, a couple of glasses of wine. They put out dessert for the last hour. And it all wrapped up at 3:00. It was super-nice – my organization is very good about putting stuff like this one, but they’d mostly been cancelled from COVID for the last couple of years. (Oh, I just had my own two-year anniversary in the job. And did I mention I got a promotion? Not a new position, but “Senior” added to my title, and a raise. Nice to get that validation.)

And I walked up the river to Hudson Yards and took the 7 back home and did some prep for the next day.

I’d taken Thursday and Friday off to go to the Catskills to visit my in-laws. Older niece Samantha lives with her husband and grade-school-aged kids in Minnesota, but she brings them all in for a visit in August. Last year we’d all converged on younger niece’s home in Beacon, up the Hudson and not far from NYC, but this year the plan is that I would go to Roscoe, where my brother- and sister-in-law live on land that used to be C and Rich’s maternal grandparents’. I would be staying with my friend Van, who lives in the next town over and has been pushing me to visit for decades.

Thursday morning was about packing and closing up the apartment (close the storm windows, wind the grandfather clock and so on). It wasn’t that hot, but still humid and at some point, I reminded myself to bring a jacket or something. I ended up bringing the absolute lightest jacket I could find, because when you’re dripping with sweat looking at a row of jackets, it doesn’t make sense to you at the time to bring anything with any weight. (this turned out to be a mistake)

Off to LaGuardia to pick up the car, then to East Elmhurst to pick up some cakes from Cannelle, the amazing bakery that made our wedding cake, and also some car snacks and water and soda from the drugstore. Back to home to pack the car for the trip. Not only suitcase, but bags of gifts and some family stuff to hand over to the K’s – framed photos, old Bibles, jewelry and so on – a lot of little totebags and stuff. This all took way more time and effort than what I’d seen in my head, oh well. And then getting out of the city took forever – silly me thought that noonish on a Thursday wouldn’t be that bad. Once I got across the GW Bridge, it cleared up and I had another couple of hours drive, listening to music, podcasts and audio books. (bitch point: for some reason the car’s media display didn’t really want to talk to my phone, even though I plugged into the USB port. I could play audio through it, but the navigation map didn’t display. this was seriously annoying.)

First to Livingston Manor to check in with Van and clean up a bit. I met Van back in the late 80’s when I was one of the founding members of the Philadelphia Freedom Band. We’d started small, of course, and so whenever we performed, we put out the word and guest musicians from the other East Coast bands would come to fill out our ranks. Van and his partner Bruce, from NYC, were always there to help, usually Van playing drum set and Bruce playing bass. They were an odd couple, 27 years apart in age, but clearly right for each other. They’d eventually bought this little cabin in Sullivan County as a weekend home, and ended up moving up there permanently. Van ran the local paper for a while, and ran several businesses, including what he does now, Mountain Bear Crafts. They expanded the cabin, lifting it and installing a basement, adding other rooms and so on. Van eventually sold his downtown business building and moved his equipment to their home… and then Bruce passed away this year in his early 90’s. So Van and I have been commiserating since C died, and I was really eager to visit and see the place.

Lovely reunion. I handed over the wine, a gateau Breton from Cannelle, and some hand-knitted coasters, and had Van give me a tour of the cabin. It’s charming, but rustic and filled with stuff – not quite hoarder level, but definitely the kind of place where sometimes you want to put a glass or a book down and there’s just no obvious place. Much like those number puzzles with 15 tiles that you have to slide around to get them in order. I got to see his work setup, and later watch him embroider hats and print shirts, very interesting.

Then I got cleaned up to head over to the K’s, promising to come back after dinner for cocktails and so on.

I’d expected the GPS to take me back to ‘town’, but after some sputterings where the phone lost connection with the GPS (I was in the mountains), turned out I went the wrong way. Back toward Van’s street, passed it, and trusted the GPS when it told me to turn on what looked like an unprepossessing road. This road was definitely mountainous, miles of hills and sharp curves and potholes and, yes, the occasional deer I had to slow down for. And then it deadended on another road… oh, this is the road that the K’s live right off, about a mile away. So it turns out that Van and Rich really do live an easy drive from each other.

Found the house (I’ve been there many times, although never before without Mr. C.) and pulled in. Pretty much the entire family came out to greet me: Rich, Dottie, Sam, Branden and the two kids. I unpacked the car and handed off things to everyone to carry in – gift bags for the kids with Legos and Hot Wheels, cakes and wine and coasters, and those boxes and bags of family stuff. Once inside, mostly just sat at the table talking to folks and drinking wine, until Sam and Dottie served up dinner. (The vibe there tends to be traditional gender roles.) Tacos, yum! And my cakes for dessert.

Many things were discussed, but at some point I did get into the nitty-gritty of some estate stuff and money, which was probably a mistake, and Rich got upset and had to walk away for a bit. Sam told me sotto voce to probably avoid that stuff while Rich was around. OK, point taken and I’m not that good at reading social cues anyway. Otherwise, a nice evening, the kids loved the Legos (I love Legos too, the perfect gift), and the cakes were fantastic.

Goodbyes until tomorrow, then me back to Van’s where I got to watch him embroider hats as we talked about all sorts of things, then had a cocktail back upstairs. I bugged out and went to bed around 11:00.

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