Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Richard Frisbie: An Appreciation



In 1970, on the new books display at Susan E. Wagner High School’s Library, I found Richard Frisbie’s It’s a Wise Woodsman Who Knows What’s Biting Him: Advice for the Weekend Outdoorsman. 

Richard introduced the concept of “red blood density . . . describing a man’s awareness of himself as red-blooded and alive.” 

In a recent conversation, Margery Frisbie, Richard’s wife, recalled that, after he developed the concept of “red blood density,” that Richard had an appealingly subjective way of calculating red blood density points, as follows: “Suppose you drive to a state park, pitch your tent, and cook on your camp stove a supper of canned stew and coffee with butter, store bread, and cookies.  You gain points for sleeping in the tent and eating outdoors, but the meal itself is neutral and you lose points for using your car.”

He also introduced the miniaturized adventure.  A person might not be able to sail across the Atlantic, he observed, “but you can rig a sail on your canoe or rowboat and leave the shore astern.”
Richard Frisbie's author photograph on the back cover
of "It's A Wise Woodsman Who Knows What's Biting Him"
It’s A Wise Woodsman bowled me over.  It made being outdoors seem fun and something a person could learn to do.  The writing was funny and insightful.  When my father took me and my sister camping at Rudd Pond, he trailered a small, Frisbie-esque sailboat.  He also tried to convince us that hamburgers were a breakfast food; my sister persuaded him to get cereal instead.

Since high school, I’ve taken many excursions, made mistakes, learned things and enjoyed it all.  The spirit of Richard’s writing went on all these trips.
With retirement approaching, I wanted to re-read this book.  My daughter found a copy of it and gave it to me for Father’s Day, 2017.

Writing styles and reader interests change.  Books can be different when re-read.
Yet, It’s A Wise Woodsman reads as well in the 21st century as it did when I was in high school.  Despite 50 years of changes in outdoor technology and practices, it remains relevant and indispensable.  Part of the reason for this is that Richard concentrated on basics rather than on products.  For example, he focused on staying dry while hiking or camping, instead of whether the materials should be Gore-Tex, nylon, plastic or rubber.

One of my most vivid memories of It’s A Wise Woodsman was the witty and irreverent way that Richard dispensed his advice.  “All campsites,” he observed, “include a ridge of granite, virtually invisible in the afternoon, that rises during the night in the middle of your back.”
Richard related many canoeing adventures.  He and Margery vacationed on Cape Hatteras and Richard wanted to sail his canoe on the Atlantic.  “When I mentioned this to my wife,” he recalled, “she held up the book she was reading so I could see the title, Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Considering Margery’s advice and chastened by the sight of big waves every day, Richard discovered Currituck Sound.
Because the Sound was shallow, few boaters used it.  In his sail-rigged canoe, Richard discovered that “Afloat on the sound I was highly conscious that one shore was the mainland of North America and the other . . . was an island out to sea.  Currituck provided a classic miniaturized adventure - - an ocean crossing between lunch and the cocktail hour.”

After writing "It's a Wise Woodsman" and sailing a canoe,
Richard built his own sailboat and wrote a how-to book about building sailboats.
This painting of Richard's sailboat, Dawn Treader, was done by Richard's daughter, Felicity.

After re-reading It’s A Wise Woodsman, I wondered what had happened to Richard.  A Google search revealed his e-mail and I wrote him a fan letter.

Richard, who was 90 at the time, wrote back.  He explained that he no longer roamed as far afield as he had in the book.  But he continued having miniature adventures nearby, along the Des Plaines River and in the Cook County Forest Preserve.

In July 2018, Richard sent me a copy of a memoir he wrote for Write AcrossChicago.  It detailed how he came to see himself as a writer in eighth grade, when Sister Florence O.P. looked up from a story he wrote and said, “Richard, this is really funny.”

Richard Frisbie reading his memoir.  Photograph by Thomas Frisbie

Richard and Margery, who was a college press officer at Mundelein College (since absorbed by Loyola University) met when Richard was covering a press conference at the College that introduced a new faculty member.  That faculty member was Elizabeth Bentley, a courier for Soviet spies who renounced that life and converted to Catholicism.

Margery is the author of six books, the first co-written with Richard, and a newspaper and magazine writer.  It was she who wrote me this past summer with the sad news that Richard died.

With Richard’s departure, we have lost a great nature writer.

But Richard and Margery have passed on their love of nature and writing.  Their son Thomas observed, "We all still feel his presence every time we put on a backpack or a pair of hiking boots and head out the door."  And all eight Frisbie children are writers. 
Margery told me that she and Richard took their children, “a bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a gallon of milk and hied ourselves to the Field Museum.”  “We would,” she continued, “eat lunch on the picnic tables in the basement and then spend the day in the museum.”


This family lore inspired one of the family’s grandsons, to rent the Museum’s Stanley Field Hall for his wedding.  “Will they,” Margery wondered, “serve peanut butter and jelly in honor of our early glorious visits?”

Author's note: Richard had a witty and informative website on writing.  As of now, it is operational and well worth the read. The site also includes Richard's memoir on writing, mentioned above.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Next Up: Two Authors


 
In a week or two, there will be a new post.  It will be about either the late Richard Frisbie or a new book by John McPhee.
In the meantime, we got two large lemons from a friend.  The photograph of the lemons is below and has standard water bottles in it for a reference. 


If a bartender had these lemons to make twists for cocktails and if a person ordered a martini, the bartender would likely say, "Would you like a little bit of a martini with that twist?"

 
 
These glasses, which my mother gave us a few years ago, hold eight ounces of liquid, which is a pretty good size.  But even with that larger size, notice how the lemons extend over the side of each glass. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

St. Patricks Days: Past, Present and Future

 
My friend Joe Freda recently posted photographs on his Facebook page of Rafter’s Tavern, his favorite saloon in his Catskill village.  Rafter’s, named after the men who navigated long log rafts down the Delaware River, has a bartender who makes a great martini. Its lounge has an appealing fireplace and a well-stocked bookcase. 
Seeing Joe’s photographs got me thinking about my favorite watering holes, the ones that are open and those that have closed.    

Farnham’s Larkin, on Albany’s Lark Street, is the most noteworthy of shuttered watering holes.
For 10 years, the Larkin served Dorothy and me outstanding meals and cocktails.  Alfie Macri owned the restaurant.  His son Paul managed the dining room, with waitresses, Mary, Josie, Lee and others - - and Mitch the bartender.   Mitch made the world’s best Manhattan.  He took the recipe with him when he left, and it remains, if this is a word, unduplicable.
These Manhattans look nice, but taste nowhere near as good as Mitch's
Joe’s photos of Rafter’s reminded me of the wellbeing we experienced when walking through the Larkin’s door.

I also write about the Larkin because we hosted a 1988 St. Patrick’s Day dinner there and it was among the best ever. 

After visiting Ireland in 1987, I was crazed about all things Irish.  When St. Patrick’s Day, 1988 loomed, I started planning how to celebrate what I like to call The Day. 
I was taken by the “Tipperary Hill” neighborhood in Syracuse which has an upside-down traffic light.  My friend in Syracuse, John Sexton, led me to the origin of this light. 

The upside down traffic light on Tipperary Hill Syracuse with a sculpture of
the "Rock Throwers" in the background. Photo courtesy of John Sexton
According to Syracuse’s Parks Department, in 1925, the Stone Throwers, a group of young Irish patriots, “refused to allow the green to hang below the red . . . as a sign of their loyalty to Ireland. After repeatedly refitting the broken glass, the City finally gave up and permanently put the green on top, for the world’s only green-over-red signal light.”

Albany may not have that traffic light. 
However, its residents celebrate The Day in outstanding fashion, with family activities, Irish foods, music and beer.  Albanians can also participate in two parades, in 2019: one in North Albany and a city-wide parade after that one.  My friend Steve Jaffe has attended many of the city-wide parades.  Of all of them he most remembers a past parade where “a large group of marchers carried crosses and other memorial items in remembrance of Bobby Sands," the young Irishman who died after a hunger strike protesting the British presence in Northern Ireland.    



In 1988, St. Patrick’s Day was on a Thursday, the same night the Larkin served a corn beef and cabbage dinner special.  With the holiday and dinner special falling on the same day, I made a reservation.  Our favorite people were there.  We had the only St. Patrick’s Day party with two guests named “Peter Douglas.”  Two kids contributed by crawling under the table and tying shoe laces together. 

Yet no guests tripped.  Everyone loved the corn beef, cabbage, new potatoes and carrots.  There were armadas of beverage for every taste. 
Alfie and Paul hosted many of our family events.  At a birthday party for my father, the cake was larger than the dinner party and my father shared it with fellow diners.

Once, a fellow diner gestured to a woman at nearby booth and described how she would be caught up in the excitement of Reagan Republicans.  He was deflated when we told him that the woman in question was Eleanor Billmyer, the neighborhood’s Democratic County Legislator. 
Stephen Dobyns, the mystery writer, had a night cap at the Larkin with Dorothy and me after he spoke at a Friends of the Albany Public Library Annual Meeting. 

The Larkin has been closed for over two decades.  It’s a loss but we have since celebrated The Day by hosting St. Patrick’s Day parties, going out to dinner, attending sing-a-longs or having an early lunch before the bars fill up. 


 

 
Our friend MaryEllen Papin gave us a sample of Irish whiskey last year.  In the photo above, it is displayed in better weather earlier in the year and in the photo to the right, another sample is displayed in the present weather on the one of the coasts. 
Whatever you are and whatever the weather, hope you have a great 2019 St. Patrick's Day! 
To my readers: if any of you were at the Larkin Dinner in 1988 and remember anything, or remember anything different, please write and I will update the historical record!







Friday, March 1, 2019

Los Angeles: Rails, Art and Lunch


Despite its car culture, Los Angeles offers escapes from stop and go traffic.

Our family recently took an enjoyable trip on Metrolink, from the suburbs to downtown LA - - and back.  Metrolink is the regional commuter railroad serving the Los Angeles area.  In addition to LA County service, it’s seven lines and 534 miles of track extend into Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura Counties.

Photograph courtesy of Metrolink
A Metrolink consist, “consist” is the term for the locomotive and railroad cars in a train, includes a front and rear locomotive with up to six double-decker passenger coaches in between.  Passenger seating is basic but comfortable.  Coaches are accessible to people with disabilities.  Each train has a quiet car and a car whose lower level is configured to carry bicycles.  Some coaches even have space for surfboards - - but not on the roof.

A Metrolink train ride is usually smooth and quick.  The ride feels even quicker if the train is traveling next to a freeway at rush hour. 

Photograph courtesy of Metrolink
When you purchase a Metrolink ticket, that ticket allows you to transfer from Metrolink to buses in other transit system or Los Angeles’ subway or light rail lines.  Before you go, check if the transfer is free or requires added payment.  For example, a Metrolink/subway transfer is free; a Metrolink/express Metro Bus transfer requires an added fare.

We took Metrolink on the way to the Broad, a contemporary art museum in downtown LA.  According to the museum’s website, it has over 2,000 works of art, comprising “one of the world’s most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art.”

Admission to the Broad is free.  However, it’s best to make reservations in advance.   The Broad also has a standby line for walk-up museum admission on a first-come, first-served basis. However, I do not know how soon a standby visitor can enter the museum. 

We went to the Broad to see a vivid and different work of art, Infinity Mirrored Room, The Souls of Millions of Light Years, by Yayoi Kusama.  This Room is one of two at the Broad. 
This “work of art” is a small room that holds up to three adults.  Its walls are lined with mirrors; small colored lights, the size of those on Christmas trees, are suspended in the room. 

Once inside the room, the lights come on and, for several seconds, flash and then stop.  Time in the room is limited to 45 seconds per group. 

The combination of lights and mirrors is amazing.  It appears that a person is landing at an airport near a big city at night with the lights beneath or it appears that a person is standing on a summit and seeing an infinite number of galaxies and stars. 

The museum website cautions, “If you are uncomfortable with flashing lights and/or enclosed, dark spaces, please bypass this experience.” 
After seeing this installation and other works of art, we went down the street to lunch.  We chose Lemonade, a chain of 28 restaurants throughout California, which sells an appealing variety of foods, lemonades and other beverages.  Lemonade's menu has something for everyone, for omnivores, vegetarians and vegans.
Photo courtesy of Lemonade Restaurants
 
Lemonade has a cafeteria-like serving layout.  Diners take a tray and walk down the line choosing from a great variety of salads, “bowls,” hot entrees, sandwiches, desserts and many lemonade flavors.  


Lemonade Restaurant on Flower Street, Los Angeles.  Photograph courtesy of Lemonade
Food at Lemonade is fresh, appealing and served quickly.  The menu includes traditional food, such as macaroni and cheese or barbeque brisket, and newer recipes such as red quinoa and Fuji apples or kale and faro. 
A Lemonade bowl and, a lemonade.  Photograph courtesy of Lemonade
At the Lemonade on South Flower in downtown LA, manager Rockey Dominguez and his staff were efficient, welcoming and happily answered questions about the food on offer.

A person dining at Lemonade can order as large or small of a meal as they want.  One is not compelled to order one of those super-sized meals that will leave you stuffed until bed-time. 

The ride home on Metrolink was smooth, fast and on time.  As an added bonus, our seats on the upper level of a coach offered a great view of the San Gabriel Mountains and the big weather that they generate.
Thanks to Paul Gonzales, Scott Johnson, Rockey Dominguez and Kelly Hansen for their help in preparing this post!

 

           

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wader Advice


John's old waders: before the leaks got intolerable.
Photograph courtesy of Pete Howard
While trying to be brief, I left out some information that would help readers who do not have waders.  The explanations are footnoted in red, below.

In a recent post, I described the joy of buying new boot foot waders (1) from The Beaverkill Angler in Roscoe, New York.  Part of the description was an observation that these waders were more expensive than a pair purchased 25 years ago.


After spending time in these Orvis Encounter waders on recent fishing trips, I know more about my purchase.  And I now realize the waders cost more for reasons beyond price changes over the decades.

These new waders are breathable (2).  When fishing larger streams in humid summer weather, this will make fishing less of a steam bath. 

They have a capacious front pocket, large enough to hold several items.  The pocket has openings on both sides, like the openings on a hoodie sweat shirt.  On a recent trip in cooler weather, having a place to tuck the hands and get them warm was very welcome.

Despite learning more about these features, most of my other comments and advice about purchasing waders remains the same.  They are worth repeating, in case you are buying or asking someone to buy waders for a holiday gift. 

To avoid waders filling and sinking the angler, make sure the pair has belt loops, and, if possible, a belt (3).  The Encounter waders have belt loops and a belt.  Based on a quick survey of prices online, a wader belt can cost between $9.00 and $24.00.  Keep that cost in mind when weighing the comparative prices of waders.

If possible, shop for waders at a store with a big selection.  There’s a lot variation in fit even among waders labeled the same size. 

Think about where you will be doing most of your fishing.  For example, my friend Pete fishes for steelhead in the winter.  He is considering insulated waders, rather than waders where the angler provides insulation with extra clothing.

If you do not buy insulated waders, consider buying a pair that are a bit larger.  This provides room for an extra sweater, wool shirt or parka in colder weather.  In fact, if you have cold weather gear, take it along while shopping and see how the waders feel when you are wearing it.

And finally: read the directions.  In my haste to wade leak free, I did not closely read the information in the labels.  I missed that the waders were breathable and that there are special care instructions for breathable material.

Waders are a means to the end of enjoying fishing.  Even in December, there’s plenty of places to enjoy trout fishing.  Many states have streams where fishing is permitted year ‘round.  If there’s a warm, or less cold, day and if holiday preparations are under control, time astream might be just the thing for it!

(1) A "boot foot wader" includes both the wader and the boots.  "Stocking foot waders" include the wader and no boots.  An angler buys wading shoes in addition to the waders.  This allows the angler to choose a sole that provides the most stability depending on where he or she will wade. 
(2) A witty friend asked "So, the new waders breathe underwater - sort of like fish, eh?"  I think the breathable material is something like Gore-Tex.  I should go back and read the instructions to see what the material is.
(3) A wader belt is located about halfway between one's shoulders and waist.  It is a belt but is in a different position than a belt on a pair of pants.  If a person has a wader belt and falls, they will get some water in the top of the waders, but the waders are not likely to fill from the feet up to the top and drown a person. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bicoastal Oaks


The 2018 fall foliage season was a bust.
Many friends on each coast - - and points in between - - said colors were muted or the leaves just turned brown and dropped.
Even at the height of fall foliage season in October, this view in Washington County, New York was underwhelming.

Oak trees, however, saved this disappointing fall foliage season. 
Before this year, I thought that, if fall foliage was a television series, that the moment the oaks appeared it would be a great time to get food and drink in the kitchen.  So many oak leaves are brown and leathery.
Without the brighter leaves of other species, there are less distractions from the great qualities of oaks. 
Before going much further, one of the foremost qualities of oaks, according to my friend John Graham, a Forester for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Cortland, NY, is the number of different, sometimes almost wacky varieties.  “There are,” John explained, “over 600 species of oak worldwide and over 90 in the United States.”  In New York, red and white oaks are common.  The South is home to the majestic live oak.  The West coast is home to the: California black oak; coast live oak; valley oak; and canyon oak. 
A few weeks ago, Dorothy and I were driving to meet our friends Jack and Nancy.  Along the way, in the fading daylight, we saw red oak leaves spiraling to the ground.  Oak leaves tend to be long and narrow.  Their bottom edge is swept back like a fighter plane wing.  In calm air, an oak leaf spirals down rather than waft or parachute down, as does a maple leaf. 
Painting by J. Rowen
Even though so many oak trees go almost the entire winter with tough drab leaves, some oaks at this time of year have unexpectedly bright colors.  The brightness intensifies when the tree is in direct morning sunlight, as was the case in this photo of an oak after a recent sunrise.

Once oak leaves - - or any other leaves - - hit the ground, the first concern for most people is managing them.  Low-cut grassy yards are a tradition - - and a requirement for those who live in tick or snake country.  Leaves must be removed or mulched, or they will smother the grass.
As the photograph below, from my friend Ken Relation, shows, dealing with leaves can be a long task.  Of raking, my friend Steve Jaffe says “It doesn't matter where the leaves get placed. It seems we are at the intersection of the four winds. They just keep coming from all directions.”

Photograph by Kenneth Relation
During the fall, there’s a lot of pressure to get all the work done before the snow flies or the temperatures drop.  But if you have a minute to look at the leaves on the ground, you will see a great variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

The round lobes on these oak leaves are a good clue that they came from a white oak.
While researching this post, I spoke to my friend Jennifer Tiara, a landscape architect at the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS).  When she heard about Ken’s and Steve’s situation, she said, “I feel like your friends as I have 3 large oak trees in the backyard and have leaves and acorns dropping all over the place.” “But the colors are changing,” she continued, “and to see the bright yellows and reds and purples from the Chinese pistache, maples, purple leaf plum and oaks - - it’s a great time of year in northern California.”



John explained that trees have smaller leaves at the top and larger at the bottom.  “Leaves that are lower in the tree,” he said, “are larger to maximize the area to catch sunlight and sustain the tree.” 
"Some people think the smaller size makes it easier for the leaf to avoid overheating,” he said, “Others think the smaller size allows sunlight to pass through to the lower leaves."

Some Westerners have less of a leaf problem than others.  Jennifer said the coast live oak and canyon oak keep their leaves year-round.
The canyon oak keeps its leaves year 'round.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Wind and Waves: A Long Island Nor'easter!


Although a Nor‘easter is a storm not as well-known as its cousins the hurricane, typhoon and tornado, it can still pack a wallop. 

In fact, according to Montauk’s Greg Donohue, who wears the hat of Director of Erosion Control to protect the Montauk Lighthouse, that 1991 storm immortalized in Sebastian Junger’s book, The Perfect Storm and the movie of the same name was a Nor‘easter.

The National Weather Service (NWS) website defines a Nor’easter as “a storm along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast.”  “These storms,” the website continues, “may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April.”

The NWS website goes on to explain that

Nor’easters usually develop in the latitudes between Georgia and New Jersey, within 100 miles east or west of the East Coast. These storms progress generally northeastward and typically attain maximum intensity near New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. They nearly always bring precipitation in the form of heavy rain or snow, as well as winds of gale force, rough seas, and, occasionally, coastal flooding to the affected regions.

A recent family visit to Long Island put me in the path of a particularly strong Nor’easter on Saturday October 27, 2018.

The Calm Before the Storm

Thanks to modern weather forecasting techniques, meteorologists can see a storm coming well in advance.  On Friday, October 26th, while all the television stations were working themselves into a lather about the storm, the weather and water on Long Island was calm.

In the Springs neighborhood on the South Fork, the main sign of the impending storm was that a contractor for a Town government was working overtime to complete work to place protective large boulders along a vulnerable causeway.

The following photograph shows a place where large equipment has been placing stone to protect the second of two causeways on Gerard Drive.  But notice that the water in the photo is flat and deceptively calm.

 
Hitting the Fan
On television in the days before a storm, it seems the news and weather people draw morbid energy from the impending disaster.  But in the case of this Nor’easter, their concern was warranted.
Saturday morning arrived with a roaring at my mother’s house.  The sound came from wind in the trees and high waves in the bay five minutes from her house. 

Out in the open, the rain was heavy, and the wind was the strongest I can recall.
On a reconnaissance trip to check the progress of the storm, large waves were breaking on the protective rocks along the first causeway on Gerard Drive.
 
 
But on the second causeway, the score was “Gardiners Bay 2, causeway 1”.  The causeway was still there but it was covered by big waves and the Town Highway Department was soon out with cones and a truck to close the road.  Having the Highway Department watching the roads and protecting motorists was most appreciated.
 
During past Long Island Nor’easters, and hurricanes, many places lost power because trees knocked down power lines.  Since Hurricane Sandy, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and PSEG Long Island have been better about cutting limbs and trees that could fall on power lines and cut service.  During this Nor’easter, the lights in my mother’s neighborhood flickered twice, but stayed on for the entire storm.  Thanks, LIPA and PSEG!
The Day After
On Sunday, the weather was sunny with a slight breeze.  As the photos below show, the raging waves of Saturday had changed to calmer rolling ones.
 
 
The Town had closed Gerard Drive.  But in my mother’s neighborhood the main evidence of the storm included big puddles and downed tree limbs and leaf clusters.
During a walk on the beach, I looked out and saw something sticking from the water that initially looked like the dorsal fin of a large shark. 
 
The large something was moving slowly along the beach.  When a wave came along, it moved tantalizingly closer to the beach - - but then bobbed back out.
Since it was low tide, I decided to wade in and get the object.  While the beach in this place shelves off gradually, the object was, of course, in deeper water than I thought.  I pulled it in and discovered it was a kayak.
The kayak looked like a shark fin because its stern was full of sand and rocks.  Pulling the kayak to shore was an arduous process, reminding me of that saying, “Never wrestle with a pig.  You’ll get dirty and the pig likes it.”
I got the kayak onto the beach and away from the water’s edge.  Perhaps the owner will spot it there, or someone else who likes boating will adopt it.
 
Also, while walking the beach, I saw some colored things bouncing in the water, in a way that was reminiscent of bouncing lottery balls during the nightly drawing.  
I went into the water; the “colored things” turned out to be 10 golf balls. 
The Town reopened Gerard Drive and life has gone back to normal in my mother’s neighborhood.  Elsewhere on Long Island, people were not as lucky.  A road segment collapsed in Orient Beach State Park and there was big flooding in Freeport on the South Shore.
I used to think a Nor’easter was just a storm.  But after this experience, I will never again think, “Oh, it’s just a Nor’easter.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The 100th Post



Sunflowers at the garden: August, 2018

This is the 100th post in this blog about the Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes coasts.

The number “100” should inspire eloquence and insight.

Instead, it caused writer’s block.

Then on a trip to the Catskills, I realized that food, culture and fishing are happening along the shores of our oceans and Great Lakes - - regardless of whether or not I was writing.

So, I started writing and here is the latest. 

Retirement

This post was partly delayed by the preparation for my retirement from the New York State Department of Transportation in late January, 2018, after nearly 40 years of service. 

My career in State government had ups and downs.  But since 2003, I worked in the Office of Transportation Maintenance and that was one of the best jobs anyone could have.  In working with environmental stewardship, vegetation management and rest areas, I had the honor of working with some of the best professionals in the nation in these fields. 

Many assignments led to friendships and we have stayed in contact ever since.  Thanks to all for the great success, learning and fun of work the last few years! 

After retiring, I spent much time, trying to reduce the clutter at home.  Here’s my desk after hours of hacking away at the clutter and papers.

 
 Since I took this photo, it’s a mess again.  But I will keep trying for neatness.

Fishing

My wife Dorothy and I started trout season at the Capital District Fly Fisher’s excellent casting clinic.  Friends at the Pasadena Casting Club also provided lots of help.  But then, leaky waders and severe allergies kept me off the water.

The fishless streak ended in June, when my friend Joe took me, Mark, Carl and Mike on a Lake George fishing trip.  We caught bass, rock bass and pan fish steadily throughout the day.  Near a Lake George island, there were so many small bass rising to eat surface insects that it looked as if it was raining. 

For my retirement, co-workers got me a gift certificate from the Beaverkill Angler in Roscoe, New York - - in the heart of Catskill trout fishing. 

When Pete and I fished the Battenkill in April, a wader leg filledwith cold water.  After two patching attempts, I decided to use the gift certificate to buy waders.

Carl discovered the Beaverkill Angler, said it was a neat place and he was right!  At the store, Evan and Oleh used their selection of rental waders to help me find the right fit.  The final choice were Orvis Encounter boot foot waders, with felt bottoms.  These were more expensive than the last pair of boot foot waders bought 25 years ago but they have safe, useful features such as a built-in belt to keep the waders from flooding and front pockets to keep the hands warm. 

As with clothes, stated and actual sizes can be different.  Having help and service was important to make sure these waders will be comfortable and functional during long days on the water. 

The Monday that I bought the waders was hot and muggy.  But fished my favorite Catskill stream, the Willowemoc, anyway.  On the Willowemoc, I caught my first Catskill trout and my largest trout ever - - a 17-inch brown trout that took a large Hare’s Ear nymph one St. Patrick’s Day afternoon.

At 3 PM, the stream was amazingly cool, cooler than similar-sized streams were in June.   

And . . . fish were rising all over!  Oleh said Blue-winged Olive flies were hatching.  I fished a tiny Blue-winged Olive emerger that my friend Dennis tied. 

Five minutes later, a trout took the fly.  After releasing this small (six to nine inches) but feisty fish, another larger fish (10 to 12 inches) hit.  By this time, Dennis’ fly looked bedraggled, but I kept casting it.

First fish caught and released
Second fish caught and released

An hour later, a big fish hit.  The rod bent, the reel buzzed as the fish took line and the fish zig-zagged across the pool.  Mark, an angler nearby, offered to net the fish and called out that it was big, 17 inches long.  But before Mark got to it,  the fish broke off, taking the fly with it.

This surprising good luck is a reminder that it’s always a great idea to fish - - even when the conditions may not seem to be right. 

The Garden

The score at the garden is: weeds 6, John 4.  After no weeding during two trips, weeds were as tall as the tomato plants.  Weeds and animals finished the eggplant, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, many carrots, chard and all but five cornstalks.

 

But tomato plants were so productive that 80 plum tomatoes became sauce.  As this photo from Lotfi and Halimah shows, there is a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.  Three peppers were harvested, the sunflowers went wild and some fennel may reach edible size.

 
copyright Lotfi 2018

The tomatoes may have been productive because I put down GARD’N Paper, a thick brown paper weed barrier, before planting the tomatoes.  The barrier has a useful life of four to six weeks, which enabled the tomatoes to grow above the weeds.

 
Family and Friends

 
The help of family and friends has been the reason for any success of this blog.  Dorothy and daughter Lily enjoy exploring and many blog posts were inspired by trips they suggested.

Friends have offered many blog ideas and photographs.  Thank you, Dennis, Erika, Lotfi, Seth and Steve for your generosity in sharing photographs!  Thanks, too, to Bill and Tammy for sharing news about Great Lakes happenings.

Many authors and experts helped make posts accurate.  Airline staff explained why things happen a certain way when traveling.  Researchers and government workers provided information to enlarge our enjoyment of everything from lightning bugs to the sweet corn which is now arriving in markets and at farm stands.