Monthly Archives: October 2013

Bennington Writers – Boston Night

Monday, November 25th  –  6pm
Cornelia Street Café
29 Cornelia Street, between Bleecker & West 4th
Subway Stop – West 4th Street

Alden Jones will be tonight’s featured reader. Joining her will be Steven LaFond, Erin Trahan, and Ken Harvey.

Alden Jones is the author of the recently published book, The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013) and the story collection Unaccompanied Minors (New American Press, forthcoming in 2014), winner of the New American Fiction Prize. She holds degrees from Brown University, New York University, and the Bennington Writing Seminars, and now teaches creative writing and cultural studies at Emerson College.

V. Hansmann, host

$8 cover includes a drink

Saturday Drive

Several years ago, I went with my mother to a ceremony honoring the deceased uber-boss. A mountain in the Hudson Highlands was to be named after him. I took the 8:45am bus from Port Authority and was picked up on Route 17 by Mom in her Prius. I had volunteered to drive both my parents to the event, as my father’s back was giving him mucho discomfort. Though I might earn brownie points in heaven by pushing the good-son altruism envelope, he wisely decided to stay home due to miserableness.

“Would you like me to drive, Mom?” She proved incapable of relinquishing the steering wheel, so I became the designated navigator while she observed the speed limit and less.

This boss, who died just several weeks short of his 98th birthday, had been the prime mover behind the establishment of 4,000-acre nature preserve bordering West Point and the Palisades Interstate Park. The celebrants gathered at the Lodge building for several minutes of muted conviviality, then were bused to the foot of the formerly anonymous ridge. Respectful words were spoken into a light breeze, then a bed sheet was flung aside and an inscribed rock revealed. This was followed by aimless milling, fly-swatting, idle chitchat, and even a couple attempts at crypto-hiking as people wandered to the top of the ridge. One such hiker was my mother who took off up the hill, oblivious to her recent bout with Giant Knee Syndrome. I didn’t realize she had bolted until my gaze wandered and I saw her gimping down the rocky path held up between two strapping gents. Presently, we were herded back onto the school buses and departed the shadow of what will be known in perpetuity as ‘Old Jew Mountain.’

Back at the Lodge we were feted with canapés and video testimonials, a combo designed to simultaneously promote and defuse conversation. Images of gratitude and appreciation were underscored by placid munching. Had all this nonsense occurred at any other time than the most perfect day of the year so far, there might have been an epidemic of crabbiness among the assembled multitude. It was classically gorgeous – cloudless sunshine, seventy-two degrees, and the endless yellow/green froth of the mid-spring forest. The party dissolved around two and I was back in New York by four o’clock.


We pulled up to the bus stop with fifteen minutes to spare.

“Good-bye, Mom.” I gave her a peck. “This was a lovely day.”

“I’ll just wait for the bus,” she said.

“Mother,” I said, “I’m a fifty-eight year-old man. I can wait for the bus by myself. And if by chance one doesn’t come, I can figure it out.”

She let me out and drove away, not because I asked her to, but because she was getting honked at by a line of cars trying use the highway exit ramp.

Parker Dorman on the Lake

Parker Dorman died on September 23, 2013. Both of us were Wavus campers, earning our Gold Medals thirty years apart. I knew him for fifty years as the father of my friends, Brad, Joan, and Tom, and as a generous and compassionate friend and neighbor on Damariscotta Lake. This is but one thing I remember.

In the summer of ‘96 I was making a promotional video for Wavus and I asked Parker to help me. I wanted to capture the magic of camp’s shoreline via boat. Parker’s stable, old Whaler was the best bet. The morning was bright and hazy and the Lake was like glass. Calmness was paramount to ensure a smooth take with a minimum of pitch and yaw. We began at the Boys swim dock and, with deliberate speed, motored the length of shore to the end of the Point, and turned into the Cove, a distance of over a mile.

After a second pass, our task complete, we headed back to Hemlock Park. Off Pinewood Cove somewhere, the Whaler’s motor sputtered and died. Hefting the gas tank confirmed its emptiness. A quick inventory revealed not a single oar. The Lake seemed suddenly very big and very flat. And very empty. No boat traffic was visible; the crack-of-dawn fishermen had all gone home to go back to sleep. The haze burned off. We sat chuckling and muttering for what must have been a half hour or forty minutes. Two Gold Medal campers in a nautical pickle.

But we were indeed moving inexorably southward. It was no illusion: a breeze was coming up from the northeast. Well, we agreed, at least we’re headed in the right direction, but the rate we were going it would be dinnertime before we made landfall. How can we capitalize on this momentum? What could we use as a spinnaker? I stood up, faced into the breeze, and held my life jacket open, providing enough wind resistance that our speed increased. Then I took the thing off and lifted it over my head. In a majestic ridiculosity, we coasted to Joan Dorman’s dock at Hemlock Park, too embarrassed to be embarrassed.

an excerpt from ‘Fall’ by Donald Hall

The first taste of October’s cider always recovers for me a single afternoon in the autumn of 1944, a long walk with a new friend and a day I cherish. There are days in a long life that are carved without pain in the heart’s chambers, or with pain as sweet as cider’s. In September of 1944, I left home for the first time and lived among the barbarians of adolescence all day and night at a prep school in southern New Hampshire where I studied Latin in hopeless panic and wept tears of solitude and loathed the thicklipped sons of lawyers and brokers who glared at me with insolence, with frigidity, and without acknowledgement. Once I asked directions from someone who looked depressed – the only facial expression I wished to address – and when he proclaimed his ignorance we began our friendship to the death.