April 24, 2011

In 15 minutes, expect a dramatic weather change, unless it's earlier...

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The old joke (which isn't really a joke at all) is that if you don't like the weather around here, just wait 15 minutes for it to change.

Fifteen minutes might be an understatement.

Saturday, the day started with torrential downpours on and off for the entire morning, then cleared off with gusty 25-knot southerly winds by 1 p.m., and at about 3 p.m. the wind dropped to zero and the temperatures shot up to the mid 70s. By sunset we had rain again, of course.

Unwelcome Easter guest
Despite the wacky weather shifts (at least wacky from a California and Mexican perspective) the living is great here and spring is everywhere. I can almost hear the grass growing outside the window.

The other sign of spring has been the return of the songbirds, who are soooo cute, I put out several bird feeders to draw them closer to the casa. Or at least I thought I was putting out bird feeders. They apparently double as squirrel feeders, too, though I have started mounting an offense to keep the feeders for the birds and not lunch counters for rodents.

At the lake house in Valois, we stopped feeding the squirrels corn last summer. The little buggers started coming up on porch and attempted to chew their way through the screens into the house to get at the corn I had stored there.

Squirrel stew, anyone?

Jason Hazlitt
That almost-in-jest comment would not have been particularly welcome at the Humane Society benefit Adm. Fox and I attended two nights ago at The Hector Wine Company, owned by Jason Hazlitt (LINK: Hector Wine Company website). The winery opened its doors for a huge party that filled the new winery to overflowing.

Cousin Brett Beardslee, just back from a long winter's vacation wrestling alligators in Florida, provided the musical entertainment and ended up calling the numbers for raffle winners. He was sporting a skin color that is pretty rare around this part of New York in April, unless people frequent the tanning salons around town.

A lot of excellent Hector Wine Company wine was consumed that night by a lively crowd during a four-hour event that raised about $3,000.

Here's a short video of the benefit:

The church bells have been ringing here all morning, signaling the start of Easter services at the many churches just down the hill from our house on North Glen Avenue.

Many of our neighbors could be seen hustling out the door and into their cars today, obvious from their attire that they were heading for some religious services somewhere. Adm. Fox and I didn't go to any formal services today - my late mother's comments about 'Christmas and Easter Catholics' ringing through my head quite loudly from when I was a teenager. The only time our Catholic Church in Lakewood, New York was filled were those two holy days.

Mary Sullivan Crouch's resting place
But Adm. Fox and I did take a fairly major hike from our new house, up alongside the creek known as 'Watkins Glen' to St. Mary's Cemetery near the top of the ridge. Our late friend Mary Sullivan Crouch was buried there last August. Two years ago Mary took us up to the cemetery to show us the plot where she would be buried. She and I were distantly related (my maternal grandmother was a Sullivan from Geneva) and Mary suggested that I might want to start looking into getting a plot near the family.

I thought about that today, as I was standing in front of her tombstone. I just got my AARP card in the mail, though. Let's not rush things.

Adm. Fox and I are actually living in the house where Mary resided the last few years of her life. It was owned by her brother Bill (who passed away two years before Mary). When Mary died last summer, the estate put it up for sale and after some deliberations this fall, we decided to make the house (and Watkins Glen) our new home base.

It has a one-bedroom apartment attached where Mary lived, which has been taken over by Adm. Fox as an office and music room. When Adm. Fox heads to her office/music room, she says, "I'm going to Mary's."

It made sense to buy the house, plus, I had already bought Mary's 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis from her when she gave up driving a few months before she passed away.
Casa Fitz/Fox in Watkins Glen, New York

We affectionately refer to the car as The Merc which, the other day, I got going just a little over 110 mph on a back country road, trying to blow the carbon out of the exhaust system.

That's my story, officer, and I'm sticking to it.

Oh, and yes, I was playing 'Hot Rod Lincoln' by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen on the radio when I 'hit top end...'

LINK: Hot Rod Lincoln video

April 16, 2011

A rainy Saturday with the movie, The Magnificent Seven

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The movie The Magnificent Seven, with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, James Coburn and raft of other stars, was the perfect film for a rainy Saturday.

Released in 1960, the movie holds up as well as any western, and better than most.

Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner
Based on the Japanese movie, The Seven Samuri, it tells the tale of six American gunslingers (and one young Mexican gunhand) hired by poor farmers to go to a Mexican village to rid the village of a bandit named Calvera (played by Eli Wallach) who rides in from time to time with his 40 Mexican gunmen.

It's a classic tale of a bully getting a much deserved drubbing at the hands of a band of avengers.

In one scene, Eli Wallach tells Yul Brynner that he can rob the village at will because "if God didn't want them to be sheared, he would not have made them sheep."


The story underscores the timeless lesson that anyone who pays attention to history knows - men with guns rule. And if one group happens to be better with guns, well, they get to rule, it seems.

Of course, it isn't easy for the Magnificent Seven to rid the village of Calvera.
Charles Bronson guards the village

After an initial skirmish, Calvera and his men come back - when Yul Brynner and his crew have left the village to do some reconnaisance. Calvera sneaks in takes over the village with the help of some villagers more afraid of the Mexican bandit than anything. When Brynner and crew return they are held at gunpoint. But instead of killing Yul and crew, Calvera let's them go.

Big mistake on Calvera's part, but necessary for the plot.

And the denouement?

After being forced to leave, the Magnificent Seven are left miles from the Mexican village, their guns tossed on the ground, with the smart thing to do to ride on and let the villagers suffer the consequences of their betrayal.

But these seven aren't smart, just principled - and proud - like  James Coburn's character Britt.


Rainy day of not, The Magnificent Seven is well worth watching again if you have viewed this classic.  Maybe I'll take a look at it for a second time today, actually.

The Magnificent Seven

April 7, 2011

Back in the USSA; getting ready for summer at Seneca Lake

WATKINS GLEN, NY, USA - It was a shorter-than-normal season in Mexico this year, prompted in part by the domestic situation of son Dustin, but also because Admiral Fox and I in December purchased a home here, just a few blocks from Seneca Lake and within walking distance of town.

The pier at Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake
Watkins Glen - yes, that Watkins Glen with the NASCAR race track - has grown up in the last decade and has excellent restaurants, a nice marina and waterfront area, good shopping, all kinds of medical services and several good bars.


And, perhaps as a sign the place has come of age, this July there will be a Phish concert held at the racetrack that has the entire area buzzing, mostly about the commercial possibilities brought into town by the arrival of probably 75,000 people.

Go Phish, right?

The house has a good view of Seneca Lake
Our new house is a rock-solid brick place with one of those huge, East Coast basements that is as large as the rest of the house.

Adm. Fox has already claimed part of the basement for a music studio. I'm lobbying for making it into a den for videos, too. There's enough space for both and to build a bar in one portion.

A bar? Hmmmm....

I already commandeered one of the bedrooms for an office, where I am decorating it in early 'Chuck' decor (LINK: TV Series Chuck). Does anyone know where I can get an original poster of the movie TRON?

I arrived a few days before Adm. Fox and had a chance to equip the house. It came fully furnished (gracias Dios!) but without normal accoutrements like dishes and linens and all the other items you need to live in a house.

One of the flock
I discovered that nearby Montour Falls (home of the Harvest Cafe, another great place to eat LINK: Harvest Cafe) has a Dollar Store ensconced on the edge of town where the prices put the Watkins' WalMart to shame.

Oh! And no pink flamingos came with the house either. I remedied that immediately and we now have a growing flock. Whether the birds will go south with us next winter when we return to Arroyo Seco in Mexico is in question.

The early arrival here in the north means that, well, we are freezing are butts off (it was 85 degrees when I left Mexico, 35 when I arrived at the Syracuse, NY airport). But more importantly, we will be able to open up the lake house in Valois earlier and do projects that are best completed before the growing season.

I have at least a half dozen trees that need to be trimmed, the path to the lake needs to be rebuilt (again...) and the raspberry vines need to be trimmed back to near the ground .

Most summers, by the time we have arrived, everything has been growing for months and we are confronted with a jungle of new growth, high grass and, of course, poison ivy creeping around.

LINK: The Coasters sing 'Poison Ivy...'

The lake house in Valois - sans foliage
This fall we will return to California for our last semester of teaching at California State University, Sacramento.  It's been a great run in California, but after December, perhaps, we will be splitting our time between Seneca Lake (and Watkins Glen) and Arroyo Seco.

Or some other place, I suppose. We are subject-to-change, after all.

But for today (so far), I am holed up in my office (dubbed a 'man cave' by amiga Tina Hazlitt), organizing the place, searching online for Tron posters, and cruising Craigslist for a skiboat so we can zip from here up the lake to Valois quickly.

Summer is just around the corner after all. Really...