virtualDavis

Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan’

Serene, Patinaed Fantasy

In Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Memoir, Renovation & Rehabilitation, What's the story? on September 29, 2011 at 11:41 am
Apartment buildings lining the south side of E...

East 57th Street between First and Sutton (via Wikipedia)

Accustomed to living out of a suitcase, I pendulumed back and forth between Manhattan where Susan was wrapping up a degree in interior design following a decade-long career in video production, and Westport, New York, where both of our parents owned homes and where we’d met a couple of years prior.

Susan had recently refinished a one bedroom apartment in The Galleria, and she was itching to sell it and start a new project. I was intrigued by the prospect of collaborating on a project and plugging my recent Paris experience into a tired but dignified New York apartment, but the Adirondacks were pulling me. After almost half a lifetime living in cities, I yearned to return to the rhythms and pleasures of rural life.

My idealized notion of a country house had its roots in a small farm that my parents had bought in Washington County while still living in New York City in the 1970s. Initially a getaway for my recently married parents trying to balance life and careers in New York City and later, albeit briefly, a full time residence, The Farm underpins my love for countryside and provides my earliest childhood memories.

The perfect place, I explained to Bruce, the friend and realtor who shuttled me from property to property, would be a small, simple farmhouse in the middle of fields with a sturdy barn and some acreage, maybe a stream or a pond or access to a river. Barns, in particular, pulled me. Secluded places with good light and views, forgotten places with stories still vaguely audible if you slowed down long enough to hear the voices. No loud traffic. An old overgrown orchard, perhaps. Asparagus and rhubarb gone feral near the barn. Stone walls, lots of stone walls and maybe an old stone foundation from a building long ago abandoned, the cellar hole full to bursting with day lilies. A couple of old chimneys in the farmhouse with fireplaces. A simple but spacious kitchen. A bedroom with plenty of windows. A room to read and write and collage the walls with notes, lists, photos, drawings and scraps. Someplace I could tinker at myself, gradually restoring the walls and plaster and roof. Timeworn wide plank floorboards of varying widths that I would sand by hand to avoid erasing the footpaths and dings and cupping from a burst pipe years before.

Although I’d painted the picture often enough, my budget and unwillingness to abandon the serene, patinaed fantasy resulted in a few false starts but mostly a very clear idea of what I was not interested in buying. On the upside, I came around and helped Susan select and renovate a coop in a 1926 McKim, Mead and White prewar located on 57th Street just off Sutton Place. An elegant apartment in a handsome building. Great bones, view and sunlight enhanced with a top-to-bottom environmentally responsible, non-toxic renovation. A success!

Though there were occasional fireworks when our aesthetics and convictions clashed, we enjoyed working together and decided to look for a North Country property that would suit both of our interests…

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See you at Depot Theatre Tommorrow

In Daily Munge, Monologues, What's the story? on August 2, 2011 at 8:52 am
Rosslyn boathouse, Essex, NY

Rosslyn boathouse, Essex, NY

Adirondack storyteller and writer, George Davis, needs you to help him kill a few stories on Wednesday, August 3 at The Depot Theatre in Westport, NY. Prepare for a pell-mell parade of vignettes, monologues and readings ranging from a wader-wearing Amazon named Rosslyn to a perennially pickled bathtub yachtsman… This solo performance pokes fun at the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities) of renovation, marriage and North Country life while inviting the audience to participate in editing a memoir… “Along the way I collected too many stories to fit in one book. The audience will help me decide which stories live. And which stories die. Basically, I’m asking otherwise compassionate, peaceful people to commit story-cide… It’s quite a unique opportunity!” (Adirondack Almanack)

I’m almost ready to redact Rosslyn Redux tomorrow night in Westport. Still playing with timing, transitions, and trimming. Always room to cut it shorter, shorter, shorter. If you come, you can help by “gong” editing… What? I guess you’ll have to come to see what I mean…

When I step onto the boards at the Depot Theatre tomorrow night, it will mark the first time that I’ve shared any of the material from the Rosslyn Redux manuscript, much less asked my readers to help me figure out what direction the final draft should take. Of course, much of what I’m reading will not make it into the final draft, and some of the vignettes aren’t even in the manuscript, instead created specifically for the performance. Suffice to say, this is an experiment, inviting readers and audience into the creative process, into the revision and redaction process. It could get very messy… Or it could be wildly successful. I’m gambling on the latter. In either case, I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

An exuberant Adirondack bear hug to the good folks at Adirondack Almanack for posting “Storyteller, Writer George Davis at Depot Theatre August 3“.

Update: I’ve just received some dapper Rosslyn Redux embroidered caps that will find their way onto the pates of some participants, and a stack of gift certificates to the finest dining establishments in Essex sit on my desk beside me. Participants will be entered into a drawing for caps, gift certificates and one-day-some-day books!

Totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced

In Adirondacks, Boathouse, Carriage Barn, Daily Munge, Historic Essex, House, Ice House, Lake Champlain, Renovation & Rehabilitation on July 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Today’s question from Al Katkowsky‘s Question of the Day book was the perfect invitation to reflect on Rosslyn Redux, the “big picture”!

What should you definitely not have done that turned out okay anyway?

In the summer of 2006 I definitely should not have purchased a dilapidated, almost two hundred year old house in Essex, New York. Definitely not. Not if I wanted to stay sane, solvent or married. Not if I wanted to do anything else in my life except for renovating, babysitting contractors, and nurturing this handsome old house back to life…

But I was totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced by Rosslyn, a sagging-but-still-stately, almost two century year old property on the Adirondack shores of Lake Champlain. My new bride and I swapped Manhattan for North Country bliss.

Our plan? Renovate a home. Grow a garden. Plant an orchard. Raise a dog. Swim, sail, ski, hike, bike and live happily ever after.

Or not…

Over a hundred carpenters, tradesmen and artisans later; over four times our budget and planned timeline later; and over countless marriage-testing misadventures later we finally finished our renovation. In time for the biggest flood in over two centuries to swamp our boathouse and waterfront for two months…

We should definitely not have undertaken this wildly ambitious project. But we did. And it turned out okay anyway. So far!

Check out RosslynRedux.com for a vicarious plunge into the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities) of our renovation, marriage and North Country life.

Almost Logical

In Memoir, What's the story? on June 10, 2011 at 9:35 am
What if? Wondering what life would be like living full-time in the Champlain Valley...

What if? Wondering what life would be like living full-time in the Champlain Valley...

Within minutes we were tripping over each other, drunk with excitement, imagining one whimsical “What if…” scenario after another. No filter, no caution. Our reveries flitted from one idyllic snapshot to another.

“What if I finally sat down and finished my novel?” After dawdling self indulgently for a dozen years – writing, rewriting, discarding, rewriting, shuffling, reinventing – my novel had evolved from failed poetry collection to short story collection to novel to a tangle of interconnecting narratives that loosely paralleled my life since graduating from college. Too much evolution. Too little focus. But what if I made time to sit down and knock it out? Reboot. Start over. Find the story. Write it down. Move on.

“What if you weren’t sitting in front of your computer all day? Every day?” Susan asked, returning to a common theme. “What if you went outside and played with Tasha? Took her swimming or hiking or skiing every day?”

“What if all three of us went swimming or hiking or skiing every day? What if Tasha and I went jogging along Lakeshore Road instead of the East River?”

We could waterski and windsurf for half the year instead of just two or three months, starting in May with drysuits and finishing in the end of October. We could sail the Hobie Cat more instead of letting it collect spider webs on the Rock Harbor beach. I could fly fish the Boquet and Ausable Rivers in the afternoon while Tasha snoozed on the bank. We could join Essex Farm, the local CSA, supporting a local startup while eating healthy, locally grown and raised food. I could grow my own vegetable garden, an herb garden, an orchard. Susan could work for an architecture firm in Burlington and volunteer at the animal shelter. We could buy season passes to Whiteface and downhill ski several days a week. We could cross country ski and snowshoe and bike and rollerblade and kayak and canoe and hike, and maybe I would start rock climbing again. And how much more smoothly the Lapine House renovation would be if we were on-site every day answering questions, catching mistakes before it was too late.

“I could interview candidates for Hamilton!” Susan said. She had recently become an alumni trustee for her alma mater, and her already high enthusiasm had skyrocketed. She had become a walking-talking billboard for the college. “You know how much more valuable it would be to interview candidates up here? There are tons of alumni interviewers in Manhattan, but in Westport? In Essex? In Elizabethtown?”

Suspended in lukewarm bathwater, our collective brainstorm leap frogging forward, it all started to make a strange sort of sense, to seem almost logical.

Postprandial Soak

In Memoir, What's the story? on June 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm
Postprandial Soak

Postprandial Soak

After dinner Susan opted for a postprandial soak. Quiet. Languid. Sybaritic. Tasha curled up beside the bathtub, sighed and fell asleep. A breeze carried the faint smell of pine trees through the open window. A whippoorwill called in the distance.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could live here?” Susan said.

“Why couldn’t we?” I asked, vaguely aware that my response might abbreviate the placid mood we were enjoying.

“Really?” Susan sat up abruptly. “I mean, of course we could, but we can’t just leave our friends behind. And the apartment?”

“Our friends would visit. And the apartment? Well, I don’t know. We’d have to figure that out.” We only recently had found and renovated the co-op on East 57th Street, our first home together. Located on the twelfth floor of an understated pre-war with a southern exposure, tons of sunlight, a working fireplace and beautiful hardwood floors, we knew we were incredibly fortunate. The neighbors and staff were friendly, and the neighborhood offered excellent restaurants, grocers, wine shops and even a knowledgeable and well stocked fromagerie.

“We can’t just sell the apartment. I mean we’ve barely lived there. And besides…”

“You want to work in green design, right?” I asked. “Why not get a job in Vermont? They’re all about green over there, aren’t they?”

“How did you know I was thinking about my career?”

“I didn’t know. I guessed.”

“I know I haven’t exactly gotten around to starting my design career yet,” Susan said and went on to remind me that soon – very, very soon – she anticipated a high profile job with a world renowned firm, designing hotels and proving that commercial interior design could be environmentally friendly, healthy and affordable.

“Sounds good,” I said softly, definitively and tried to sink back into dreamy limbo. Susan was quiet. Tasha ran in her sleep, thumping against the side of the tub.

“I need to spend a few years with a big firm first, for the experience. Then, maybe…”

“I’m just saying, if you’re serious about green design, Vermont might be as good a place as any to start your career. And besides, you’d actually be living a green lifestyle in the Adirondacks, right?”

“But what about you?”

“What about me? I’d be living a green lifestyle in the Adirondacks too. I love it here. I’d be thrilled to live here for a few years.” Peripatetic by nature, I enjoyed relocating every three to four years. Having grown up in the Adirondacks, mostly in the Champlain Valley, I had long yearned to reconnect, not just for vacation or a weekend.

“Really? But what about your career?”

“Which one? Teaching? Ecommerce? Renovating real estate? Writing? Susan, my career is adventure!” I said melodramatically. “And right now my adventure is the Margaux Project and ShipStore,” referring to two websites I was currently working on. “I can do that anywhere. And, frankly, if we we’re up here I might find more time to write. This’d be the perfect place to finish my novel.”

“And my screen play.”

“And your screen play.”

Vintage Adirondack

In Adirondacks, Daily Munge, History & Heritage, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am

My bride and I credit the Adirondack lifestyle for luring us away from Manhattan in 2006 to become North Country full-timers. But what exactly is the Adirondack lifestyle?

Actually it’s not so easily defined, perhaps because there are so many different perspectives on what makes living (or even vacationing) in the Adirondacks desirable. High Peaks, Great Camps, cozy little lodges, Champlain Valley, agriculture, hunting, fly fishing, ice fishing, back country adventures, extreme sports, and the list goes on. Although a portrait of our Adirondack experience will evolve out of these blog posts, I won’t attempt to define the Adirondack lifestyle. Though often attempted, any single face of of the Adirondacks is an abstraction. The real Adirondack experience is vast, rich and dynamic. It is precisely this richness and diversity which appeals to us. It is precisely this evolving character which inspires us to get involved with the people and organizations that have welcomed us.

Griffin by Lake Champlain

Image by virtualDavis via Flickr

The video above, the first in a series of three, is called Land of My Dreams and it was apparently created by Joseph J. Harley in the late 1940’s. It captures a nostalgic (if extremely dated) caricature of Adirondack rustic “camp” lifestyle during the mid 1900s.

The story takes place on Bluff Island in the Adirondacks, Saranac Lake, New York. My great grandparents had a house that Joe built himself from scratch. The DEC took the house down after a law was made that people could only camp on certified islands in the lake. Joseph J. Harley was an amateur film maker who made many other movies and won awards for them. (YouTube.com)

Douglas Yu (@tourpro) over at Adirondack Base Camp put me onto this quirky vintage short, but he wasn’t able to share much more about the film or Harley.

I couldn’t find much information about the filmographer, but at one point he was President of the American Cinema League.

Many of the artifacts that I’ve collected since purchasing Rosslyn fall into this hazy no-man’s land of vintage collectibles (postcards, magazine advertisements, newspaper articles, brochures, videos, etc.) It’s challenging or impossible to determine the background for many of the artifacts, and they occasionally include dated or peculiar elements such as the “black face” character in the the second video. And yet, taken together they provide a context for the quirky tale I have to tell. I’ve decided that this blog is the perfect way to preserve and share these artifacts, characters and stories which don’t find their way into my Rosslyn Redux memoir or the Redacting Rosslyn monologues.

By collecting these artifacts into a “digital museum” I hope to showcase some of the esoteric ingredients of the Adirondack lifestyle which seduced us, aggravates us, intrigues us, perplexes us and inspires us in this new chapter of our lives.

Lingering Longer at Rock Harbor

In Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain, Memoir, What's the story? on May 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm
Rock Harbor view of Lake Champlain and Vermont shoreline

Rock Harbor view of Lake Champlain and Vermont shoreline

Back at Rock Harbor I packed the car while Susan prepared tuna melts. The temperature had warmed to the mid seventies, and a light breeze was blowing off the lake. We ate lunch on the deck, one last indulgence before locking up and heading back to Manhattan.

Perched a hundred feet above the lake, the deck offered a stunning panorama of Lake Champlain’s mid-section, known as the narrows. At just over a mile across, the narrows are the wasp’s waist of the 125 mile long lake that at its broadest spans 14 miles across. Across the field of sparkling topaz Vermont farmland extended to the Green Mountains. The Basin Harbor Club’s whitewashed cottages winked through heavy foliage along the shoreline. Several sailboats glided north. A motorboat buzzed lazily, weaving in and out of the coves along the New York shoreline.

I remembered the summer five years ago when Susan and I first explored these same coves together – waterskiing, drifting, skinny dipping – enjoying a whimsical summer fling before heading back to separate lives and responsibilities on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

“I was thinking,” Susan interrupted my reverie. “I don’t really have to be back in the city until noon tomorrow…”

I smiled. We both knew that she really meant, Do you want to stay another night and drive home tomorrow? Though not habitually subtle, Susan had a tendency to suggest rather than request. So, an offhand, “It’s getting late, we really should feed Tasha,” actually translated into, Can you please feed Tasha dinner? Or, “It would be nice to have a fire in the fireplace,” meant, Would you build a fire?

“Great! Let’s stay.”

“Really?” Susan sounded surprised.

“Sure, it’s a perfect day for tennis.”

My work was portable, so Monday mornings rolled out more or less the same whether we were upstate or downstate. Up early, take Tasha out, feed Tasha, feed myself, fire up my laptop and get to work. In Rock Harbor I could let Tasha out the front door in my bathrobe and then let her back in five or ten minutes later when she barked at the door. In Manhattan, I got dressed, chatted with the doormen, walked Tasha around the block on a leash, chatted with the doormen again and then scarfed down a banana or some cereal at my desk in front of my computer. Breakfast at 430 East 57th Street and Camp Wabetsu might have tasted the same, but the view from the kitchen window in Rock Harbor – this same IMAX movie we were experiencing right now – tipped the scale. Often Tasha and I were accompanied by a bald eagle sitting in the dead pine tree 25 feet away, waiting to plunge down and grab his own breakfast. Or a fox patrolling for mice. Or a herd of white tail deer browsing saplings and tender spring shoots.

“You won’t be anxious if you can’t work tomorrow morning?”

Translation: You won’t be annoyed if I sleep in and we get a late start? Now we were getting to the crux of it.

“No problem. I’m okay with missing a morning’s work while we drive down in exchange for some tennis this afternoon and another relaxing night here. But let’s make sure we get up early and leave on time, okay? I don’t want to miss a whole day’s work because we got a late start.”

This was a familiar conversation. We always craved more time at Rock Harbor and always found it hard to leave. The Champlain Valley effect. It kicked in each time we drove up, right after passing the last Lake George exit on Route 87. It felt like the first few deep breaths after a good visit to the chiropractor. Maybe it was the clean air or the spectacular views. Or the absence of traffic. Or the anticipation of a slower rhythm.

We agreed to postpone our departure, and I unpacked the car while Susan cleaned up from lunch. A couple of phone calls and a change of clothes later we headed up to the tennis court to burn off the tuna melts and Doritos.

Rosslyn for Sale

In Adirondacks, Boathouse, Historic Essex, House, Lake Champlain, Memoir, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 16, 2011 at 11:16 am
Rosslyn for sale, November 2004

Rosslyn for sale (photo credit Jason McNulty)

Susan and I were driving back to Rock Harbor after visiting Rosslyn, an early 19th century home in Essex, New York, which our realtor had just shown us for the second time in several months.

It was spring. At least a dozen sailboats speckled Whallons Bay as we wound south along the edge of Lake Champlain. Small white caps, light wind, bluebird skies above. Two fishing boats trawled between the beach and Split Rock where a glimpse of Vermont was visible within the cleft.

We veered away from the lake and up Couchey Hill toward one of the most picturesque views of in the Champlain Valley. Hurricane, Giant, Dix and the Jay Range were silhouetted against cloud specked blue skies to the east. An undulating patchwork quilt of hayfields and tree lines stretched to blue green foothills clumped against the Adirondack Mountains.

Half an hour can vanish in a single breath while watching a sunny day expire here. Even at midday the view is an open-ended invitation to linger.

But with minds and mouths racing, we did not even slow down on our way back to Rock Harbor. We were sorting engagements, worrying over deadlines and synchronizing schedules for the week ahead. After a quick lunch, we would drive back to Manhattan. Although the trip could be as quick as five hours, Sunday afternoons were typically slower with increased traffic around Albany and returning weekenders adding to the congestion.

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