Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Memories of Monadnock


Today I drove around Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire while revisiting my past. Nearly thirty years ago I came here for the first time to stay with Steve Avery who was living in Dublin and selling ads for Yankee Magazine which is published there. One evening we drove to the Mount Monadnock Inn for an evening of fine food, good wine and songs around the piano. The next day we climbed up to the top of the mountain where you can see six states from the summit. The wind was blowing hard that day but the view was stupendous.

Indian summer is on way out and a cold front is headed toward New England. Today was cloudy and the reds, oranges, golds and yellows of the leaves were muted. I drove through Dublin and found the house were Steve had lived. He died two years ago of a heart attack while campaigning for reelection as the state representative for this region. A mutual friend sent me a clipping. Steve, one of the most sociable guys I've ever met, was at a barbecue, no doubt pumping hands and asking for votes. He was wall eyed and had a slight speech impediment, but he was the raconteur par excellence, and could mesmerize a room with his enthusiasm. We never talked politics, for Steve was a conservative Republican. His father had been the press officer for the National Association of Manufacturers, a bulldog for corporate capitalism.

Steve and I met in the early 1960s when he ran a coffee house called The Cat's Pajamas in Arcadia, California. It was the heyday of folk music and I recall that Jim Kweskin played there before he formed his infamous jug band. David Lindley, just out of high school, played at the Cat's with his group, the Mad Mountain Ramblers. Steve needed a place to live and we had an extra room in our rambling house in Sierra Madre Canyon so he came to be my roomate. After a few months he moved back east, where he'd grown up in Port Chester, New York, and went to hotel school at Cornell. When I moved to the Big Apple in 1962 he was my only friend and we got together frequently. And when I returned to the states from London in 1964 he was working at Rutgers and I stayed with him in Cherry Hill, NJ. Not long after that he gave up food for advertising and moved his family to a large house in Dublin. The last time I saw Steve was when I was living in Connecticut in 1982; he came with his daughter to visit us after my youngest son was born.

So Steve was much on my mind as I drove down highway 101 through Dublin, past his old house, and then south to Monadnock. His marriage ended, and his two daughters grew up and away, and not long before his death he remarried, but I never had the opportunity to meet her. My plans to visit Steve six years ago were incomplete at the time of my own breakup. We never talked again.

I couldn't find the Mount Manodnock Inn, but I traveled as far as Jaffrey where I saw dozen of scarecrows along the side of the road. Obviously there was a contest for the most creative, or the scariest. In Madison and in Sonoma (and I heard Boston is doing it as well) there are cows, dozens of cows decorated by artists (you can see pictures if you scroll back a couple of months). I've learned that Keene, New Hampshire, is the pumpkin capital of the world. A week before Halloween there will be upwards of 30,000 carved and lit pumpkins surrounding the town square.

Even without the sun, southern New Hampshire is beautiful. I drove within sight of Monadnock for miles, through Marlborough and up to Keene, my destination for the evening. Here I am staying with Adriana and her husband Bruce and their three kids, Morgan, Elias and Cora. I've known Adri since she was four. She was the daughter of Diana and her husband Peter, my oldest friend. Adri and I sat around Peter's bed as he was dying of prostate cancer several years ago. This afternoon we walked to the nearby Waldorf School and she showed me around the old building after we met her children. I met the "hand work" (art) teacher, and the wood shop instructor who presides over a paradise of tools, projects and wood smells. The Waldorf method sounds incredibly creative and I wanted to be back in school again. They have a wonderful life in this small New England town, and dinner included corn from the farmer's market and wild mushrooms gathered by a friend.

1 comment:

Mystic Wing said...

Great story, and great photos. I happen to be wandering Connecticut at the moment sightseeing in much the same way as you, but unfortunately don't have my camera with me. It's good to know there's no reason to pay the pilgrimage to Walden.

Let us know how the Kerouac visit goes.