Sunday, May 23, 2010

Walk On

I let my feelings get the best of me today, which in turn brought out the worst in me. Mindless chore completion and a trip to the gym did nothing to soothe the savage beast. Nonsense spewed from her foaming mouth and when it became clear that she would remain until day's end, I decided it might be prudent to leave her to her own devices. Why not take a walk? Why, it's right up there with the daily apple or prune juice to combat attitude malaise. Add a dog to the prescription and you're on the road to recovery.

I packed up the canine and drove to Poughkeepsie. Hardly the Disneyland of the northeast, it does boast of a marvelous new attraction- the Walkway Over the Hudson. The longest pedestrian bridge in the world, its 1.28 mile span offers unobstructed views of the river set to the heartbeat of scores of walkers, joggers and cyclists. From the moment our feet and paws hit the pavement, I could feel my inner monster loosen her grasp. Just what the witch doctor ordered.

Walking with Gracie makes me laugh. She is a fur-covered dose of Prosac without the side effects. Her goofy grin set to full power, she scores head pats, butt rubs, and at the very least, charmed smiles from our fellow walkers. A party waiting to happen, she issues countless invitations to her festivities and receives few refusals. Her guest list grows exponentially as I follow in her four footsteps. "It's okay-I'm with the dog."

The realization of 20 years of reclamation efforts, the Walkway Over the Hudson is the rebirth of an abandoned railroad bridge damaged by fire on May 8, 1974. Failed attempts to save it led to popular opinion that it would eventually be torn down. Bill Sepe, a local handyman obsessed with the idea of a pedestrian walkway, formed Walkway Over the Hudson in 1992. While his original plan to restore the bridge with volunteer labor and funds didn't work, the organization took over ownership of the bridge in 1998. In 2004, a new board with a greater vision was in place, and in 2007 joined forces with the Dyson Foundation to raise the necessary funds. The project took 16 months and $38.8 million dollars to complete. Managed by the state as an historic park, the handyman's obsession stands as a glorious tribute to the tenacity of its supporters.

In our precarious economic times, even the most successful projects face the pressures of downsizing. New York State is considering the closing of 41 state parks and 14 historic sites, and the Walkway may feel the sting of that decision. A charge for parking may be in place by summer and the winter may find the Walkway closed on certain days. One trip across this masterpiece will prove that these problems are well worth tackling.

As we finished our stroll, I realized I no longer carried the weight of my miserable mood. Unable to stand the euphoria brought on by clear air and spectacular views, she must have hurled herself into the river. A glass of Cabernet and a salad at one of my local haunts would keep her there.

Like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz", I had found what I needed in my own backyard, or more specifically, in Gracie. Sweet and short-sighted, she offers immediate relief to anxiety and access to the simplest of pleasures. When in doubt, listen to the dog.

For more information on the Walkway Over the Hudson, visit

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Please Don't Eat the Daisies

I sat in my father's kitchen and stared at the wallpaper. Daisies. Crazy daisies. Avocado and harvest gold crazy daisies. Elvis may have left the building, but the building never left the seventies.

Classic fodder for an HGTV episode of "House Hunters", I hear the paper-hating moans of prospective buyers. Were it another house on another show, I'd be right there with them. I found my present home nestled in a time warp and diligently brought it up to date, unencumbered by the memories of former owners. The family manse, however, is another matter. While I question how much work I want to do to stage the home for sale, I wonder if I'd rather keep the museum intact as long as I can. I have the luxury of visiting with these artifacts and listening to their stories. Call me crazy, but those daisies sure can talk.

They remind me of the Tuesday night I stood in the kitchen with my Mom as we finished doing the dishes. "Marcus Welby, M.D." was on TV ( The television is also still in the house and would willingly corroborate the daisies' story.) and I noticed the ceiling light flicker. "Mom! It's a bat!" She channelled her inner shortstop and snagged the creature with her dishtowel. It lay in a ball on the floor and Mom grabbed its edges and ran through the living room. She threw open the front door, snapped the towel and released the invader onto the porch. As I caught my breath, I turned and looked up the stairs to our second floor. Bats swooped back and forth like barn swallows. I sounded the alarm for the second parent. "Dad!"

He ran into the living room to find two clearly distressed damsels and a growing formation of bats. They had begun to descend down the stairs and one had attached himself to the dining room wall. Armed with a tennis racket, Dad decided against its use. "Too messy.", he said. He ran to the hall closet and returned with the vacuum cleaner. Before we could read the animal its rights, Dad had sucked it into the canister, his eyes fixed on his next victim. The Nightmare on Vonderheid Street had just begun.

About a half an hour into the skirmish, I went down to the basement in search of a sweater to cover my halter top. The thought of a scantily clad pubescent Barbarella might be titillating, but I felt underexposed. I opened the door and was horrified to find another airborne visitor. If Chicken Little thought his sky was falling, then this was the end of my world. My brother and father responded to my screams, manned the vacuum cleaner and motioned me upstairs to guard the second floor.

Holding two tennis rackets, I nervously stood at the bottom of the stairs. Within seconds, I had trapped a bat on one of the treads and stared at his beady eyes through the grid of the strings. Another circled my head as I kept it at bay with the other racket. Just as I began to review my life, my Dad and brother relieved me of my duty. Batman and Robin were going to save Gotham City.

Well after midnight, the battle appeared to be over. Nineteen bats, an exhausted family of four, and one hardworking Electrolux. We concluded that the bats had come in through the ceiling of the unfinished second floor bathroom. Workers had finished putting up our aluminum siding that day and covered up the hole that had allowed them to come and go as they pleased. Two stragglers surfaced over the next few days and the official total stands at twenty-one. Months would pass before I could open my closet without fear, but I had survived "The Trucksville Horror".

My thanks go to the craziest of daisies for their retelling of this tale. I'm dying to hear what the shag rug has to say.