Posted by: dougery | August 25, 2011

The Weekend I Lived as Someone Else

It has taken me several days to come to grips with the singularly wonderful weekend I have just spent in the Adirondacks. I have my doubts as to whether I will be able to thoroughly explain just why my experience was so difficult to write about, but I’ve never been one to back down from this kind of challenge.

Some time ago L and I were invited to stay at a friend’s family vacation spot in a remote part of New York state. We didn’t really know what to expect. Was it going to be hyper-rustic, with no running water, baked beans over an open fire, everyone going unshaven and sort of naturally aromatic for a few days? Would there be some sort of series of cabins? Hiking trails? Canoeing/kayaking? Ghost stories? Bears snuffling about tents in the dark?

Information was sparse as all we received was the note to not bring anything save for some changes in clothing, bathing suits, and hiking shoes that could get muddy and wet. Also, a staggeringly long list of lefts, rights, and various directional turns on how to get where we needed to go. Mapquest told us it would take 3 and half hours to get to the town nearest where our friends were staying, so we budgeting 4 just to be safe. The plan was to arrive at 11.30 in plenty of time to have lunch with everyone at 1pm.

We left just before 8am and watched as our rural roads became more highway-ish as we entered NY state before reverting back to general ruralosity as we entered the Adirondacks. Those mountains, we were soon to discover, a basically a series of lakes around which small towns and vacation destinations have sprang up, littered with antique stores and country goods stores and woodcarving stores where every vehicle has a kayak or 3 tied to the roof.

We made it to town in 3 hours, figuring to be a little early. Here we were supposed to call ahead and let everyone know we’d arrived in town, as cell phone service would promptly end as we made the final approach. The only problem was that phones were down all over the area, and the Verizon employees were on strike or something, so there was really no way to let anyone know we hadn’t driven into Big Long Blue Mountain Lake (or any of the many other lakes with slight variations in nomenclature).With few other options we forged ahead.

Here the directions got… interesting. Drive half mile until road becomes unpaved. Drive 4 miles until you reach gate house. We did this and came upon a decidedly locked gate, whereupon L and I looked at each other with worried expressions. One of the things out call ahead was supposed to do was alert the gate house that a guest was near. Would there even be anyone around? Time, namely seconds, stretched out and felt much longer. Nobody was coming out. We’d just have to sit here until some other visitor with access arrived.

No we wouldn’t. A kindly looking old man came out and opened the gate. Without knowing procedure we asked if we needed to ‘check in’ or anything which thoroughly confused the Gate Keeper. But the name of our host’s family was the magic word and he helpfully pointed the way forward, “8 miles, straight ahead.” I briefly wondered if the gate were keeping something in and that at any moment our Jeep was going to get sideswiped by a triceratops or ambushed by some velociraptors. I dismissed this notion as out of hand, mostly because of the lack of any Jurassic Park font back at the gate house.

8 miles on a rough dirt road turns out to take far longer than you’d think. With each and every turn I thought, “surely, it’s just around the corner.” But no, just pine trees, streams, signs saying “No Tresspassing,” more trees and an utter lack for any indication that people actually lived anywhere nearby. After more than a half hour we saw outbuildings and what had to be the ‘main house’. The main house in this case being a big lodge that we would later find out was rumored to have been used by the Vanderbilts once upon a time. So yeah, it was, like, nice. Really really nice.

The lodge looked out over a small lake completely surrounded by woods. There wasn’t so much as a canoe on the water. We were introduced to everyone and shown our cabin which was cleaner than our apartment and had a shower with hotter, and stronger water than we enjoyed at home. All of the guestswho were our age (of which there were about 6-8) were ‘our kind of people’, namely book nerds and movie nerds, aspiring screenwriters, comicbook authors, or otherwise literary minded and not just mega-smart but kind as hell.

There was no set schedule or activities, save for the meals served at the same time each day, otherwise people came and went, sat around reading biographies of Patti Smith and critical companions to Romanticism, playing pool, ping-pong and bridge, or just staring out at the stunning landscape on every side of us. I kept wondered how on earth I was possibly here, certainly this kind of thing was for someone else. It had been so long since I’d been on a vacation where I didn’t have to consider anything, not what to do, not where to eat, not anything but how best to relax at any given time. It was amazing.

The weekend flew by and L and I just sat there quietly while driving home. When we did talk we wondered what kind of alternate reality we had just emerged from, how we had really just spent the past 48 hours, how we could possibly thank our hosts, etc. I’m still not sure it actually occurred and wasn’t just some sort of extended dream sequence.

Reading: the Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen



  1. very kennedy!

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