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Friday, August 14, 2015



     Last Sunday I participated with my wife in a nature walk at the Angle Fly Preserve. I wanted to find out why Angle Flies needed to be preserved, and thought it would be a good opportunity to interact with the community while learning about our surroundings. I didn't have any delusions that I would be at one with nature; I just didn't want to be at none with it. Maybe I would see a great blue heron, or even one that wasn't that great.

     Angle Fly is a huge 654-acre park presided over by the Somers Land Trust. The park is named after the Angle Fly Stream, which flows to the Muscoot Reservoir. Our guide Michael, Lori,
Brendan, and Jan and some of the other directors from the Land Trust  took us on one of the many trails on the way to the brook to learn about the different components that make up the water table.

     As we walked along, I recognized that pesky plant that keeps making a mess of our garden, and I was about to rip it out when Michael said, "That is a milkweed plant there, very beneficial to the butterfly population. You certainly don't want to remove those from your property." "Of course not," I said, "how are the baby butterflies going to get their milk?"

     We made it down to the stream, and I learned a lot about how the stream and all the plants and animals that live there actually support it and help it to remain healthy. I couldn't see into the stream because of all these bugs running around on top, and I was about to whack four or five of them on the head with my shoe when Michael said, "Does anyone know why these water-striders are so important to the stream?" "Because the water needs to be strode?" I offered, helpfully. "Actually, it's because they are a plentiful food source for the water life indigenous to the habitat," he said. "That's what I meant," I salvaged.

     Ann from Teatown, another environmental organization, reached into the stream and picked up a crayfish, which looks like a teensy lobster. Soon she had it eating out of her hand. Actually it might have been eating her hand. I thought you could make a nice crayfish bisque out of that thing, and it would only be about 5 calories since it only makes about two tablespoons.

     I was just thinking that you sure could see a lot better if they chopped down some of the trees and let some sun in, when Michael said, "The most unique thing about this stream is that this great canopy of trees keeps the water cool, and allows one of the few migrations of brook trout in this area."

     As we were all standing around in a semicircle I fantasized about tossing my empty lemonade cup over my shoulder into the woods, just to see what would happen. But I realized that the intense, wordless stare of their piercing eyes would cause me to disintegrate into a cloud of smoke. And instead of missing me after I was gone, one of them would say, "Smoke isn't really even good for the environment."

     Brendan is a forester, the only one I ever met that wasn't a Subaru, and he was pointing out some of the local tree varieties on our way back to the car. There was a large beech, thank god, because it was a hot day. "That tree over there is poplar," he said. "I can certainly see why, it's very nice," I replied.

     We didn't see much local fauna. It reminded me of the time we went to the Bronx Zoo, and we decided to take the monorail that circles the big park so that you can observe animals in their natural habitat. I don't know how many wild animals have a monorail in their natural habitat, but I do know that we didn't observe any living thing for about 20 minutes, until a rabbit darted across an access road and received a lengthy ovation.

     Back on the trail we heard a loud chirping noise. A red-eyed vireo? Nope, it was somebody's cell phone. I was thinking it would be great to see a bald eagle or something. Even a bird with a combover would be nice. Then I noticed some movement around me. I looked closer: it was humans! They were friendly, dedicated and knowledgeable people who cared enough to procure and improve this fantastic natural space for all of us to enjoy. Even my wife was impressed; she judges everything, animal, vegetable or mineral, on how it would do in a salad.

Friday, August 7, 2015



     We just got back today - there's nothing better than getting in the car and hitting the road for a fun-filled Fourth of July weekend! The thrills! The action! The excitement! And that's just trying to get to the freeway. On our way to the Poconos this year we encountered just about every dangerous and time-consuming misfortune that it's possible to endure in a motorized vehicle. The only thing worse would have been to drift onto a street where they were having the running of the bulls.

     We weathered an attack from girl in a Subaru who decided to change lanes into the lane where our car was, and thought better of it just in a nick of time before she nicked our car. Then there was the guy who decided to jam on the brakes and pull a Steve McQueen U-turn onto the divider and over into the eastbound lane, forcing four of us behind him into an array of evasive maneuvers performed on the shoulder of the highway. The final perilous oddity was an entire WHEEL sitting in the middle of the exit ramp. Some guy probably bragging that his car has front-wheel drive has no idea where it drove to.

     When we were kids we used to kill car-time by counting the license plates from different states. There's one from Colorado! Look at all the smoke coming out of that car - looks like he blew a piston ring. But why is it coming from the passenger's side? Here's a car from Hawaii! How did it get here? We went to Hawaii two years ago, and all the plane transfers took so long we probably could have driven there faster.

     All we saw this time were license plates from the tri-state area, and we had finished the Times crossword puzzles for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So there was nothing left to do but argue about what route we should have chosen that would have been better than this one. "We should have taken the Tappan Zee," my wife offers. "Sure, we would have gotten slammed, but it's better than THIS." "No - the Newburgh Bridge would have been the right choice. NOBODY goes on that piece of crap," I counter. "Yes, but there was construction last time." "Yeah, but it was in the other direction." "The Rip Van Winkle Bridge would have done the trick - we could have gone two hours north, hit the Winkle, then BOOM we're right back on 22 in no time flat."

     In the future I can picture my self-driving car in hours of traffic, arguing with the GPS lady, while I sleep comfortably. Self-driving car: "I told you the Bear Mountain would be a disaster - everyone left early because of the rainy forecast!" GPS lady: "I factored that in with an algorithm! All this traffic is from people trying to leave early to beat the traffic!"

     I heard the situation was even worse in other states. The roads were filled with people trying to get away from Iowa and New Hampshire, where all the presidential candidates had massed, forcing people to take "selfies" with them. Even in Pennsylvania, before every photo I took of us with the beautiful Pocono Mountains in the background, I had to make sure Ted Cruz wasn't in the frame, making that face where he looks like he's about to cry.

     Then miraculously the traffic cleared, and I started driving at 90 mph to make up for lost time. I threw our SUV into four-wheel drive, because I figured we would go faster if all four of them were on the case. By the time we made it to the rotary near Bear Mountain we were going so fast that centrifugal force almost threw us off at the wrong exit.

     But I've learned my lesson, and from now on, on the Third of July,  I'm setting the alarm to get up an hour before we go to bed. Then we travel at four AM and get there in jig time. We hit the beach at 10 PM to avoid the crowds. After a quick nap, we get up in time for dinner at 3 in the afternoon, get the best table in the place. Afterwards, we arrive at the fireworks five hours early and get a great spot. We leave just before the fireworks start to beat the rush, and then it's off to the concert in the park. We find a great seat for that and use the time to catch up on our sleep, and PRESTO! We're back in the car at two in the morning! We may not even need to unpack.