Dunga Brook Diary: BINGO

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June 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary 

Vicki Whicker

May, 2011

After a sparse farm to table dinner, and after a mean (Jim=ruthless) game of BOGGLE, in the semi-dark of his “rustic” farmhouse (because, no electricity/no running water), right before I’m to trudge up the dark and dusty stairs for an unsteady sleep on an unstable old bed, Jim nonchalantly says, “I’m leaving at four a.m. for The City, can you feed Ichabod, tomorrow?”

Did he say leaving? At four a.m.? He’s leaving? For The City? This house has no locks, is missing windows, and he’s leaving at four a.m.? For NYC? That means I’m going to be asleep, no, scratch that, lying awake in the dark for at least two more hours before sunrise…ALONE. And then, if I’m not murdered, I have to go to that barn? For three feedings? Holy F! I can hardly say no, right? I can’t be responsible for the death of a baby goat, can I?

“Sure, no problem.” I hear myself saying. “But I’m staying at a BNB tomorrow night, so…I won’t be around to take care of Ichabod after that…I’m catching my flight back to L.A.”

His face is odd in the shadows of the flashlight, the nose looks piggish, his glasses and teeth have a weird gleam.

“Great, I’ll leave a baby bottle on the counter, goat’s milk is in the fridge.”

I wake at six a.m. and run downstairs to see…yep, his truck is gone. I’m alone.  Have been for hours. Yet, somehow, the house seems friendlier, brighter even. I make a bottle and head to the barn.

Ichabod is in the crook of my arm and drinking his breakfast like a champ. It’s good to be in a barn again. I rode horses as a kid and I miss the smell of hay, the warm fur of barn animals, the rustling straw, and don’t get me started on the sweet eyelashes of this tiny goat.

When Icha-baby stops pulling on the bottle and falls asleep, I lay him in his stall, brush the dirt off my jeans, and head for breakfast.

The closest town, Smithton Springs, is thirteen miles. Yelp points me to a $ diner.

I pull onto the narrow two-lane road they call a “highway” and check out the scenery. Lots of ancient houses, a few collapsing barns, tons of green, as in millions of trees budding into leaves and acres upon acres of spring hay, the tilled fields are dark and rich, and there are brilliant splashes of tulips and daffodils everywhere. Finally, an eyesore, a gas station at the crossroads…mile seven.

I make a left and, after a mile or two, there’s a small lake with cute cabins built tight to the shore, then more land, then the town. Basically, a street with a gas station, a grocery store, a pizza place, a bar, a liquor store, a junk store, a bank, a park, and the $ diner.

Oh, and there’s a stink, near the park. I recognize that stink from living in Florida as a kid…it’s sulfur. This town stinks like an egg fart.

The diner is across the street. I lock the car and step into the park (sad gazebo/stink fountain) to read the historical plaque.

Apparently, this was once a fancy spa town with “healing” sulfur waters, circa the late 1800s. Apparently, that didn’t last. Who wants to visit (and then revisit) a town with spas and fountains and parks that stink like that?

The diner is a shoebox with booths on one side and a formica counter and stools on the other. The grizzled waitress is making her way with coffee, none too fast—mind you. She couldn’t even be called slow—molasses might be the word. I resist the urge to wave my coffee cup in the air (careful, girl, lest your L.A. be showing).

Breakfast arrives before my refill does and what a breakfast it is…a truck driver would be proud— big fluffy fried eggs with perky orange yolks just waiting to gush, a mountain of hash browns, the sizzling pork sausages, alone, are a meal, maybe the pancakes are a bit of overkill. Nah. I’m in.

After breakfast, I call my lawyer’s cell. I have a lawyer. In L.A. I had no such thing. Who in L.A. can afford a lawyer? Not I. But out here, they come with the territory, literally, every real estate closing has to be handled by a lawyer, it’s a rule, so Jim gave me his. This lawyer’s name is Daniel. And he’s cheap, just like breakfast.

“Hi Daniel, I’m in town, can I stop by?”

“Vicki! How’s farm life treating you?”

(I really like his voice. Why do I like his voice?)

“Great, except I’m a little dirty.”

“Of course you are, you’re from LA.”

“No, I mean, Jim’s house doesn’t have running water, so, I’m dirty, dirty.”

“Wait, no running water?”

“No electricity, either. And, no running water means no shower…for two days, so…”

“You’re more than welcome to stop by dirty, dirty.”

“OK, but I don’t smell so great…”

(I wish I had showered, somewhere, I want him to see the LA Vicki, not this…)

“Nobody showers up here.”

“Really?”

“Look around! This is Upstate. If you took a shower you’d stand out. But if you really have to, you can use the shower at my house, it’s down the street.”

“Your house?”

“Sure! It’s open, you can walk right in, no problem.”

(What the F? Does anyone lock their doors around here? And, who does that? Who invites strangers off the street to use their shower? Is that a super-friendly Upstate thing? Or is that just weird? Visions dance in my head of me, the shower, and him nonchalantly walking in, and…)

“Do you have missing windows, too? Never mind. No thanks on the shower. I’ll see you after I go back to Jim’s, I’ve got a baby to feed. By the way, I’m checking into a BNB, tonight, to SHOWER…know any?”

With Ichabod squared away with meal two, I’m on my way to see Daniel at his firm, Glenn and Clapton, in Blacksmith Village. Mapquest says it’s 14 miles from the farm.

This time, I turn right at the gas station. More farms, more barns (mostly standing), lots of big houses. This end of the “highway” is hill. At the bottom of the biggest hill sits the village.

Now we’re talking! A bank, another bank, roads shooting off to the left and right, lots of cars, cute motels, gas stations, grand BNB’s, and Main street still has its original buildings, some modernized, but most have the flavor of the place as it was way back when, only better. And it doesn’t stink. Not even a little.

Best of all, a huge lake, glimmering, with a marina and a lighthouse.

Suddenly, I feel very lucky. This is my new home.

Daniel, btw, is a tall drink of water with strawberry blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, and freckles on his nose. And, from our phone conversations, N.Y. to L.A. and vice versa, I know that he’s a single dad, close to, if not exactly, my age.

BINGO.

This leaving L.A. thing is fun!

What could go wrong?

(To be continued…)

 

Vicki Whicker is an iphoneographer living near Cooperstown, New York. In 2011, after 25 years in LA, she quit her fashion job and decamped for the wilds of central New York. Without a job, not much forethought, and a vague plan to remodel an 1820’s farmhouse, she had no idea what was ahead. https://www.instagram. com/vicki_whicker/

 

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