Thursday, November 16, 2017

Loose Ends

Hey, Friends.

So, I thought maybe I should try to wrap up events from my last much as possible.

We'll start with the very sad and disturbing events surrounding my neighbor, Walt. If you don't remember that story just go back one post. I'm sure you can handle scrolling on your own without a link to it.

First, thank you to everyone who had any kind of advice for me. I truly do appreciate all of it. Probably not going to get a dog (Jazz-kitty would not be happy about that idea), but I'm not going to say it will never happen. An alarm system is most definitely in the works, so if you have a recommendation (Simplisafe is already on the list) please let me know.

I went to Walt's funeral last week. I felt like I needed to be there to say goodbye, but also to apologize again in my own way for not having thought to check in on him. Everyone has told me that it wasn't my fault, that there was nothing I could have done, etc. Logically I know this, but he was right next door.  And I mean right next door.

This is the view from my dining room window. That's Walt's car and his house.

There really is no "just try not to think about it" option, since I see it any time I'm at home. His family and friends have been there cleaning out the house. I don't know if they plan to sell it or not -- apparently it was their childhood home. I can't even imagine how hard this has been on his sisters. One of them told me he had pushed everyone away the last couple of years, just shut them right out. If I feel bad about not having checked on him I can only imagine how it must be bothering them.

I still don't really know why the police had asked if I had heard any gunshots, and I probably never will know. As much as I hope it had nothing to do with Walt, I'm not sure that an alternative reason would be much better. 

I think this is probably as much of an ending as this sad event is ever going to get. I'm certainly not going to pester his family with questions, and I don't know that they have any answers either. I have let them know that I will do whatever I can to help.

The rest of this post is mostly going to be photos of High Banks Preserve, and a couple from Esopus Meadows Preserve. 

I know, Friends. You're probably wondering what the hell the one has to do with the other. I considered making a separate post about High Banks with the pictures, but it's all kind of connected in my brain. I had been out hiking and enjoying the beautiful weather, and Walt was....well, you know. The two events are indelibly linked in my memory. I don't want to bore you with too much navel-gazing and dwelling on it. The best explanation I've come up with for myself is that I went from the one thing right into the next so quickly. I went hiking to enjoy the beauty of the world, to relax and get away from all the constant bad news, and came home to a harsh slap of tragedy. Feel free to analyze away, Friends. Let me know if you come up with anything.

Let's end this with the pictures. I'm going to try to remember that while there are bad things that happen to good people (poor Walt), and the news is a constant barrage of horrible things happening all over the world, the world is still a beautiful place. Find that beauty -- whatever it may be to you -- and embrace the hell out of it. Enjoy life. Make the most of it. 

Hudson River from High Banks Preserve

Autumn leaves on the trail

It had rained earlier

Some parks have power lines, this one had a gas line

There were a few pine cones

Mountain view

Esopus Lake

The Hudson River from Esopus Meadows Preserve

Esopus Meadows Preserve. That's the lighthouse in the background.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Oh No

Hey, Friends.

So, I have a story to tell you. It's kind of long, and it might ramble a bit. I'll try my best to keep it in order and coherent. I'm warning you up front that it's not a happy story, and it doesn't have a good ending. Basically, don't read it if you don't want to be bummed out. You've been warned.

It all started back on Thursday morning. I was at home, and I noticed a guy walking up and down my neighbor Walt's driveway. I didn't think anything of it at first. I thought maybe it was Central Hudson coming to read his electricity meter, or someone that was coming to do work on his house.

A few minutes later there is a knock on my front door, and it's the guy I had seen walking around Walt's yard. He tells me he's friends with Walt, but since he got sober a couple years ago he hadn't really hung out with him since Walt still drinks. Understandable. He had stopped by to visit, but had become concerned when he saw Walt's mail hadn't been taken in for a few days.

We went outside to look at Walt's house. I told him I hadn't seen him in a week or so. That's not unusual. I really only ever saw him if he was getting home from work when I was leaving in the morning, or if we both happened to be out in the yard working at the same time. I knew he had been parking on the street in front of his house because he seemed to be having a lot of trouble walking the last time I had seen him, and that would be the easiest way to get into the house.

His friend proceeded to tell me that Walt had cancer, and he had undergone a few surgeries on his leg to have things removed. I had no idea. He had never mentioned it to me at all. He told me he had tried calling, but that Walt wasn't answering the phone. Apparently that didn't surprise him in the slightest. He said Walt was kind of a hermit. He wouldn't answer the phone if he didn't feel like talking to anyone, and he could be sitting in the house and wouldn't answer the door if he didn't feel like having a visitor. The mail not having been brought in was concerning him.  We went to check his garbage can and see if he had brought anything out. I honestly couldn't remember if he had brought the cans down for pick up this past Monday or not. I told him I hadn't seen him coming or going to work recently, and thought he might have retired. He told me he left his job a while back because of his health issues.

He was worried enough that he was going to call Walt's sister. He was considering calling the police to do a goodwill/healthcare check on him, but he didn't feel like it was his place. I promised I would keep an eye out for him, see if I saw any lights on in the house at night to at least indicate he was home.

Walt's a very nice man. I never would have considered him a "hermit". He just liked to keep to himself. He was always very friendly when we saw each other, and we would chat. He started, without ever being asked, using his snow blower to clear out the end of my driveway for me in the winter. He'd be getting home from work and have to clear his way into his driveway, so he just started doing mine so I could leave for work. I'd buy him Heineken (his drink of choice) as a thank you gift. He also gave me my potentially pilfered presidential flowers because they were running rampant in his yard, and we always chatted about our gardens. He also fed the feral cats in the neighborhood (I do as well), and he had a litter of kittens that were born nearby that he let live in his garage this summer and he took care of them. He's a nice man, is my point.

This brings us to yesterday, Friends.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day outside, and since I was still on vacation I decided to go across the river for a hike. That's originally what this post was going to be about, but I'm going to save that for another time.

I finished my hike and ran a few errands before heading home. I got in the house, fed the outdoor cat who was on the back steps looking for food. I was wandering through the house, opening all of the doors and windows to let in the fresh air. I opened the front door, and saw this:

Ignore my Halloween decor

What the hell is going on? There were now 2 police cars parked in front of my house, and they literally were not there 5 minutes ago. Did someone get robbed? Accident on the highway and they parked up here to be out of the way?

So I go outside, and I see a woman with 2 officers standing in front of my neighbor's house. Oh no. Walt!

As I head over to talk to them, the officers head down the driveway toward Walt's back door.

I asked the woman if everything was okay, and she said she hoped so. We introduced ourselves, and it turns out she is Walt's sister.  She told me he wasn't answering the phone or the door, and I told her about the friend looking for him the day before. She confirmed that he had called her. I told her what I had told him -- hadn't seen Walt recently, etc. She said she had called the police to check on him, and then said, "He's kind of a hermit. Doesn't like a lot of people. He's going to be so pissed at me if he's in there just fine and I called the cops on him." She said the cops were trying to find a way in to the house.

The officers came back and asked if everything was okay. I explained that I was Walt's neighbor, just asking what was going on. They asked if I need them to move one of the patrol cars since it was blocking my driveway. I told them it was fine, and went back into my house. I didn't want to be one of those people who stands outside gawking at the scene. Plus, his poor sister didn't need an audience if it turned out to be bad news.

That doesn't mean I wasn't trying to watch from the windows in my house.

It gets dark out pretty early at this point, and a lot of the lights on our street aren't working at the moment. (I just reported them all today. Let's get that shit fixed.) Jazz-kitty is spazzing out in the house, I've got the feral cat curled up and hiding on a rug on my back steps, and I'm just trying to cook dinner and figure out what the hell is going on.

At some point a fire truck and an ambulance arrived.

I see a guy with an ax or a hammer -- some kind of big tool -- walking down Walt's driveway. And then I can hear them breaking down his back door. Oh, God.  This can't be good.

A short while later I noticed that the ambulance had left. Oh, no. What if Walt was really sick and needed help and was stuck in the house? I felt terrible for not having thought to check on him.  And then I saw a guy with a camera walking up Walt's driveway. Maybe they had to take a picture of the damage done to his door?

All the lights in Walt's house were on now. I turned on my front porch light, since they were operating by the headlights of one of the police cars and it was really dark out. They had been there for almost 2 hours at that point, so around 7:30 at night.

I started messaging my friend (and neighbor) down the street, as I had seen that she had been outside earlier. I said that I thought something bad had happened to Walt. She said she thought he had passed away. She saw the officers tell the woman outside something, and she said "Oh no!" really loudly.

And then she told me all of this stuff about our neighborhood that I had no clue had happened. Like before I moved in, I guess there used to be people who hung out and slept in the little wooded area just beyond Walt's house. They would yell and throw things at people. She saw them when she was walking her dog, and they would get scared and run away.

She also said all kinds of people come wandering through our neighborhood now. She always sees a purse, or a piece of clothing just thrown by the side of the road. How have I not noticed any of this? I walk around the neighborhood on occasion when it's nice out and I have never noticed any of this. Not giving me a case of the warm fuzzies, Friends.

So I text my friend because, what the fuck. I'm kind of bugging out in my house while all of this is going down, and he knows how interesting my neighborhood can be.

I'm still kind of hoping that Walt just had to be taken to the hospital at this point. Not looking good, as why would the police still be there three hours later, but I was hoping.

I was still messaging my neighbor, texted my Mom to tell her what was going on. She stops by my house frequently while I'm at work. Maybe she had seen Walt more recently than I had. Nope.

Eventually I get a knock on my door with the announcement that it's the town police. I was kind of expecting that.

The officer said he had an unusual question for me. Had I heard any gunshots recently?


I know I must have looked shocked, because that was not what I thought he was going to ask. I assumed it was going to be more like: did I know Walt? Had I seen him recently? When did I last remember seeing him, etc.

I told him no, but I would be a bad judge of that anyway. Gunshot, car backfiring on the highway - I honestly don't know that I wouldn't have heard a gunshot and assumed it was something else.

And then I said, "Walt's not okay, is he."

And the officer confirmed that he had passed away.

I said I felt horrible, that I should have checked on him. The officer said not to feel bad, wasn't my fault, and from what he had gathered Walt didn't like many people.

I told him Walt liked me, and the short version of how he would remove the snow from my driveway and I would give him Heineken in return.  The officer said, "Well, there was certainly plenty of that in the house."

Whoa. Alrighty, not going any further down that route.

Apparently the gunshots were not the unusual question. He wanted to know if I had a power drill and screws they could use to secure the back door. I told him I didn't think so, but I could check out in the garage -- I have my brother's tool box in there. (I got it when it didn't make the move to Texas with him.) He told me not to worry about it, he'd ask around.

Screw that. I grabbed a flashlight and went out in my garage to look. Pretty soon the officer joined me. We found a power drill, but no battery to go with it. I had a hammer and some nails, told him he could take whatever he needed. He said they'd find something else.

I went back in the house and then it hit me -- Walt had a bunch of tools in his garage. I remember our neighbor behind us telling me that Walt had lent him some of his power tools once. So I went outside, saw a different officer, and I told him that Walt should have some tools in his garage, that he had lent them out to people before. He told me they had looked but couldn't find anything. That seemed odd.

I went back in the house. I was freaking out a little bit at this point. I felt horrible that Walt had passed away, right next door, and it had never crossed my mind to check on him and see if he was okay. But what the fuck did gunshots have to do with anything? Was Walt murdered? My friend down the street had said she was worried someone had robbed him or something.

So I called my brother. He can totally be helpful from all the way down in Texas!

I tell him the whole saga of what's been going on. First, he said I would know if I heard a gunshot. It does not sound the same as a car backfiring. I would have been able to tell the difference.

And then he made an excellent point: murderers don't normally lock the house up after they kill someone. They just flee the scene. The police had to break down the door. If there were gunshots involved, it was probably because Walt had committed suicide. They were probably trying to establish a timeline.

Oh God.

I mean, I felt better hearing the logic that there probably wasn't a murderer running loose in the neighborhood. But, holy shit. Not making me feel any better about not having checked up on Walt.

We talked about Halloween and some other things. I felt a little better after I got off of the phone with him.  Thanks for being there, Bro!

The police eventually left. I had still been messaging my friend down the street. She told me to keep an eye on Walt's house -- make sure nobody tried to steal his stuff.  On it. That's the least I could do at this point.

A little after 9 pm I hear four loud bangs. Oh hell, no. That better be someone setting off fireworks. We can hear them from everywhere -- Marist has them at times, I can see when Vassar shoots them off from my house, and we can hear them from down by the Hudson River when they have them. I get a message from my friend down the street immediately asking if I had heard that.

Yup. I definitely did. So I take a quick peek at the back of Walt's house, just to make sure no one is trying to get in there. Thankfully the moon was pretty bright last night, so I could see that no one was near his house. It was First Friday in the city of Poughkeepsie last night. Maybe they were shooting off fireworks? That was my hope. Two more bangs, but I can't see any sign of fireworks anywhere.

So I text my friend again. He'll probably know. I'm pretty sure he was probably at First Friday.

And then I tried to distract myself enough for the rest of the evening to be able to attempt to get some sleep. I was super paranoid that every odd sound was someone trying to break into Walt's house, and I just felt bad that I hadn't done anything to help him and had no clue what had happened right next door.

This morning I went out and got the numbers off the streetlights and reported them as being out. After all the stories I heard last night about the crazy shit that has gone down in this neighborhood over the years, I want some damn working lights. 

I saw my neighbor across the street, who was out working in her garden. We discussed what had happened last night, tried to remember the last time either of us had seen Walt. She liked him too. Said he was very nice man, and his mother had been a lovely woman. I barely knew her -- she was sick and passed away not too long after I moved in.

We went over to Walt's together to check the back door -- make sure it looked at least shut and like no one had tried to get inside. It looked okay. Didn't seem like anyone had tried to get in.

And then I was telling her all of the crazy stories I heard last night about what had gone on before I moved in. She said that's why she has an alarm system. She wasn't even going to tell me how many times her house had been broken into over the years.

What the hell.

How can I possibly not know any of this had gone down?! I mean, clearly I couldn't have known about the shit that happened before I bought my house and moved in, but still. I'm a little creeped out, not gonna lie.

Walt's sister is at his house now -- I heard voices in the driveway and went out to see what was happening. I told her I had tried to keep an eye on the house, and that I was so sorry for her loss. She thanked me and let me know that a crew from ServePro would be here today, and possibly Monday as well. I didn't ask any other questions.

I told you, Friends. It wasn't a happy story. 

Goodbye, Walt. I hope you are at peace. I'll think of you every time the lilies in my garden bloom.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

It's Peachy Keen, Jelly Bean

Hey, Friends.

It's a gorgeous day out here -- almost 70 degrees in November! Since I am lucky enough to be on vacation this week, I decided that I had to get outside and enjoy it. It was also pointed out to me that there are probably hunters out at this time of year, and to be careful. Seeing as I already scared the shit out of myself last year by forgetting about the possibility of hunters, I decided to wander in  a more populated area.

I chose to visit Peach Hill Park: safely within the town borders near lots of houses. Should be a totally hunter-free zone, but I wore a bright colored shirt anyway to be on the safe side.

Turns out I didn't have to be too worried. I was literally the only person there. Granted school is in session and people are at work, but I was kind of surprised that I was the only person there. This might have been one of the last nice, warm afternoons we get this year. Worked out well for me!

Here, Friends. Let me share the ambiance with you. It was just me and the woodland creatures frolicking about on a lovely afternoon.

I took a few pictures, of course. That's how I roll. For those of you who didn't bother to click the little link above, Peach Hill used to be a big apple orchard before it became a park. (No, there are no peaches there, Friends. I know the name is confusing. Apparently there used to be peaches and pears grown there as well, back in the day.)

I walked a couple of the different trails today. I started with the Orchard Trail. It's my favorite. I love walking the trail with all of the old gnarled and twisted apple trees. It always makes me feel like I've been transported into a forest from a fairy tale. Why yes, I do have a very active imagination. You might also think I'm a bit weird. Whatever floats your boat.

Totally looks like an enchanted forest.

See how cool the trees look?

You can also make them look a bit sinister if you try hard enough

I really enjoyed the fact that it was a bit cloudy out today. Clouds + sun = cool light for pictures. I'm pretty sure it was also helpful in not getting a freaking sunburn. I wish I was kidding about that. I cannot count the number of times that shit has happened on days when I didn't think it was all that sunny, or that I was outside long enough for it to be possible.

Enough rambling about my sunburn issues. Let's move along to more pictures, shall we? Excellent.

Loved the clouds! Looked almost pink like sunset in the middle of the afternoon

Different part of the trail

View of the mountains from the summit of the park

Sun and clouds

Did I mention there are also some power lines that run through part of the park?



So pretty!

One of the few blossoms still lingering on a tree

Crows flying over

No one is going to reach those apples

Power lines with a view..and a leaf that very helpfully fell into view

And that is how I spent my afternoon. I don't know about anyone else, but sometimes I need to just take a break and unplug. Get away from all the bullshit that is going on in the world. Take a few moments for myself to just enjoy how beautiful the world really is. Breathe the fresh air. I highly recommend it, kids.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Feeling Sheepish

Hey there, Friends.

How is your Sunday going? Good, good. I had a very nice day. I went to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival with my Mom.

Now, those of you who know me may be wondering, "What the hell were you doing at the Sheep and Wool Festival? You don't even knit!" This is very true. My Mom, on the other hand, knits and crochets like crazy. She can cruise through a pattern, watching television or talking to her friends, paying no attention to what her hands are doing. She's tried to teach me, but it didn't go well. I made a grand total of one holey, totally misshapen scarf. It took me forever. I gave it to my friend Ryan, and since I saw him wear it at least once I feel like I accomplished something. It was a feat that shall not be repeated. Once was more than enough for me to determine that it is not my thing.

So why was I there? I give advice on what colors look good for projects that my Mother wants to do, and to keep her from only buying the same colors for everything. I also excel at picking out yarn for her to make me things.

I also like to go and see the animals. I get to pet the sheep, llamas, and alpacas? I'm totally down. Everyone else is showing off their knitting skills, wearing some dazzling piece of work that they have made, oohing over all the yarn. I'm wandering around like, "Where can I pet a llama?" I like to look at all the pretty colors of the yarn, feel how soft it is -- it's interesting. I feel like a big faker the entire time because I have no idea about the difference in weights and thickness, but I can see the appeal if you actually have a clue about this stuff.

I took some pictures. Shocker, I know.

This seems to be absolutely true for everyone I know that knits.

Checking out the yarn

Skein of Thrones. 

They had yarn made from corn, soy bean fiber, and mint fiber. I didn't even think that was possible!

So many colors

Totally got called out while trying to get this picture. Owner of the stand asked me if I liked skulls. I said yes, which probably makes me seem like a weirdo, but it looked really cool next to the wool. She told me it was from one of her sheep that had died of old age. :(

Before we get to the next two, I should mention that I did not purposefully set out to find cool and/or creepy (depending on how you feel about them) things. I have a gift when it comes to finding them.

Can I interest anyone in a felt clown head? Made by Weston Hill Farm

Belphegor - can be worn as a mask, or as a centerpiece. 100% wool felted sculpture.  Also by Weston Hill Farm

No, we did not eat any of that. 

Because sometimes the animals just need a little cuddle

Totally got kisses from this one (That's my hand in the very bottom corner)

My new buddy. Loved to get petted on the head.

Looking for a way out? Just watching the world go by? Your guess is as good as mine.

Another new friend

Judging. Kept hoping one would fight the power and break loose.

Llamas! I found it amusing.

I thought it was a rather regal looking llama, just watching people come to visit.

Total player! Would run over like you were its new BFF, and upon determining that you had no food and nothing it desired? Drop you in a hot second and move on to the next person.

This concludes my version of a visit to the Sheep and Wool Festival. I'm sure people who actually know how to knit enjoyed it from a very different perspective. It was a beautiful day, I got to wander around and pet animals while spending time with my Mom. What's not to love?

And now you all know that you can get me to go pretty much anywhere if you promise that I'll get to pet a llama or sheep.

Monday, October 9, 2017

It Was Grape!

Hey there, Friends.

So this past weekend I got to do something pretty cool. I got to go stomp some grapes at Benmarl Winery. My friend, we shall call her Gertie for anonymity, asked if I wanted to go. Who wouldn't want to go stomp some grapes if given the opportunity? Such a silly question! (You may recall Gertie being mentioned before, Friends, like in this post where she opted not play in the abandoned building and look for graffiti with me because she's responsible and stuff. She's my BFF although we tend to be polar opposites a lot of the time.)

What do you think of when you hear the phrase "grape stomping"? I know my brain went directly to this:

Admit it -- it looks pretty awesome

I was ready to link arms and dance around in the big vat of grapes with Gertie. Sadly, my dreams were crushed (ha!) when it turned out to be two smaller vats side by side. It has been pointed out to me -- several times now -- that this is probably to keep fools like myself from trying to recreate the above scene. Probably true. It was still cool.

The views from Benmarl are gorgeous!

Hello, Hudson Valley!

It also has some cool decor

We started out by tasting a few wines. Every time we go to a wine tasting some variation of this discussion occurs:

Gertie: I'm going to try the white wines. I love them!

Me: I'm going for red.

Gertie: I hate red wine.

Me: It's my fave. You're a freak.

After a few tastings, we went on a tour of the winery. It was really very interesting to see the behind-the-scenes process.

Grapes waiting to be separated and crushed.

Bottling machine

While we were in the room with the bottling machine we also got to hear about the process of how they make the wines. We even got to see them preparing the yest mixture for the fermentation process. You could hear the yeast working, and it kind of sounded like Rice Krispies in milk.

Then we got to go to the wine cellar and hear more about the history of Benmarl.

Barrels hard at work...well, rest.

More wine

I had no idea prior to going that it is the oldest vineyard in America. Since we were a small tour group, we got to go and see the old wine cellar as well. 

The guide said they aren't drinkable - probably mostly vinegar at this point.

Gertie was not nearly as thrilled as I was to be playing in the old wine cellar.

Gertie: Ugh. It's all musty in here.

Me: I know. Isn't it awesome?

Gertie: No, not really.

Me: I love it. It feels like there should be a secret tunnel, or catacombs or something hidden behind the shelves.

Gertie: You are so weird.

Bottles in the old wine cellar

Decor between the old cellar and the one they actually use

As we were finishing the tour and exiting back outside, we got to see the machines in action.

Gotta keep 'em separated

We went back to taste a couple more wines, and then we decided it was time to go stomp some grapes. We watched a couple of people go, and then two tweenage girls went right before us. The one was kind of uncertain about sticking her feet in there, and the other loudly exclaimed that it felt like walking on eyeballs.

Gertie: Eyeballs? Oh, God.

Me: What, you don't want to stomp on eyeballs? It'll be great!

Gertie: You are so weird.

And then it was our turn, and we got to stomp some grapes!

Why yes, those are my feet covered in grapes.

Honestly, it wasn't like squishing eyeballs....not that I ever have squished eyeballs, but you know what I mean. It was kind of like a mushy, juicy, foot massage.

And then a guy who was there taking pictures asked Gertie if he could shoot some video of her feet while she was stomping the grapes. She said yes, of course. She was dressed all cute in a skirt, with her pink pedicure. I had on jeans and my toenails are polished black. Not that you could tell under the grapes or anything, but there was a slight difference in style between the two of us. Maybe this will spark a new career for Gertie as a foot model! Ya never know. I'm kind of curious to see if they ever post the video. I was babbling away in the background about how much younger our feet were going to look after being submerged in all the antioxidants. I'm guessing they will probably edit my blathering out if they do use the footage somewhere.

After getting our feet hosed off and trying to remove the purpleness of it all, we decided to have a proper glass of wine instead of just a tasting.

I think we all know which glass is mine at this point

It was a really enjoyable time. I can cross "stomp grapes" off the bucket list now. If you ever have a chance to do it, you absolutely should! There really is no good way to explain what it feels like. 

I'm pretty sure my feet have now returned to normal color on the bottom. Not going to lie -- it took a couple days and some scrubbing to get all of the purple off. Still no reason not to do it though. How many people really look at the bottom of your feet on a daily basis anyways?