America, the Promised Land

The Statue of Liberty

It was exactly 52 years ago on March 13, 1967 that I and my family landed from England at New York City Harbor. The trip on the luxury liner, the Queen Mary, had lasted longer than was scheduled due to stormy weather which blew the ship off course and we missed the tide causing it to dock 12 hours later than planned.

The trip had not been uneventful as the beautiful old ship was buffeted around with stormy weather and rough seas. Our family, well the female side of it, suffered from seasickness and spent quite a bit of time in the cabin and only made rare trips for food which was a pity for them as the spread put on for the diners was out of this world. My Stepson and I had no trouble and we more than made up for for ours and their share of the meals. It was interesting to be dining and the ship would lurch and we had to grab the stuff on the table to stop it from sliding off.

We had brought out little dog, a cocker spaniel named Melody along with us and she got to stay in her own little kennel on the top deck along with several other dogs all making the trip to the promised land. We would visit her several times a day just so that she wouldn’t think we had deserted her. America does not have any quarantine laws.

The first sign and the realization of what we were about to do really hit us as we pulled into New York Harbor and saw the Statue of Liberty in all of her Glory there to welcome us. Up to that point, it was just a fun trip, except for the seasickness of course, with no idea of what exactly we had committed ourselves to do.

When we finally pulled into Pier 22 in New York Harbor, and after collecting our dog, we had to wait on the Pier before we were allowed to meet up with my Mother, who we could see behind the barricade. She was with a friend from Fort Plain who she had persuaded to make the 200 mile trip from the little village in the Mohawk Valley. That and the fact the he had a station wagon which at the time, was the biggest car I had ever seen. In all of the hurly burly of landing, we knew we were in America as everyone had a strange American accent. More than anything, this really brought it home. We collected our luggage and the couple of trunks that we had brought with us, loaded everything onto the carrier on the roof of the car and proceeded to drive back to Fort Plain at night and in the snow passing and being passed by huge tractor trailers, some hauling double trailers and travelling at 70 plus mph. I had never seen anything so big on any road before in my life. As I was not driving, I didn’t have to worry about it.

That night, it snowed 13 inches of wet messy snow. I had never seen anything more than a couple of inches before and to see that amount all at one time just added to our mixed up thoughts of what we had let ourselves in for.

That was 52 years ago and a lot has happened since then. Many in my family from that time have passed on including my Mother and Stepfather, one of my Step Daughters and my Brother. My wife of that time that made the trip with me, recently passed on. Unfortunately, we were divorced 10 years after landing, another casualty of such a huge upheaval in our lives. She was so homesick for the old country and went back. The rest of the family is spread all the way from New York State to Florida and California.

Do I regret making that trip? In some ways I would have to say yes. From such a simple beginning living way out in the English countryside to the hustle and bustle of the American way of life is a huge change and hard to get used to, all of which added to the rigors of married life and keeping the family together. On the other hand, it is great to be a part of this huge technological period which we are going through and for all of its faults, America is a very forward thinking country with all manner of “stuff” available to just about anyone. I made a good living and was able to retire quite comfortably even if it is only me and 4 little dogs. Would I make the same decision if I had to do it over? I think not. I think I would have stayed and put up with the incessant rain and bloody cold weather and lived a quiet life out in the country living in the past and to hell with technology and modern living.

Oh yes, I have never been back not even for a vacation.

Written 3/8/2019

Reflections on Growing Old(er)

Lake Placid. New York State. Reflections on Life

Lake Placid. New York State. Reflections on Life

I used to think that growing old
was one of the worst things that can happen
as we stroll through this life.

In truth, now it has arrived
it is not so bad

It has some benefits not available when we were young
things like time to pick and choose when to do things
knowing that there is always another day

In old age, we never think that we will run out of time
even though one day, the clock will stop
and we shall never know that it has.

The body may not be as spry as it once was
or the mind quite as sharp
or the memory as good
but none of this matters
because we can only live the moment
and all we have is the body, mind and memory
of that time.

Women are just as beautiful as they ever were
back in the day
The difference is that now they are strictly for looking
and never for touching and in truth
the old body is way past its prime
and the mind no longer has the urge.

The almighty dollar is worth less than it was in our youth
but again, we now have more of them in our old age
and they go further because we have no need to spend
on frivolous things.

We are comforted by our pets
who grow old as we do
and we hope that they will not outlive us.

Friends of our youth are long gone from our lives
all we have are those friendships generated since
with people as old as we
who slowly pass, one by one
and we remember them well.

It’s not so bad being old
as long as we are not just a memory.


One Man’s Story – Chapter 1

A little town in upstate New York

Upper New York State, beautiful in the spring, summer and fall but hell in the winter. Life in this small town of about 5,000 people didn’t change much from day-to-day except when the weather wrought havoc  which sometimes happened in the winter. At least, that is how it appeared on the surface but in truth, there was a hive of constant activity going on most of which was out of sight and mind of most people.

My name is Bob Morris and although I have lived in this town in Upper New York State for several years, am not a native having come here several years ago from Canada. I married a local girl, Jody and we live in a small house on the outskirts of town. I am the owner of a small construction company specializing in remodelling and general construction and although it gives me a good living, I am never going to get rich from it. It does however, give me the opportunity to meet a lot of people.

It was early June and we were already well into our construction season. I arrived at the Office at about 6:30 am which was a corner of a large shed on an acre of land surrounded by the usual paraphernalia associated with construction work. There was piles of rubble, concrete blocks  all neatly stacked, sand and stone in other piles, a large pile of carefully stacked 2×10′ and 2×12’s which were for scaffolding on projects that required it. In a larger shed close by were stored ladders, the company trucks and all kinds of construction tools. A corner  had been divided off as a workshop and inside were the saws and planers that we used for the cabinet work.

Good Morning Mike” I cheerfully sang out to the first employee for the day. “How are things this morning”?

Mike Jackson responded with a grunt which was pretty good for him as normally, he just looks at you as though you didn’t exist these early hours. This was mostly due to the fact that Mike was a bit of a heavy drinker and sometimes let it get the better of him. I had bailed him out of the local jail a couple of time before and although he was not an out-and-out criminal, he did tend to walk a tight line between good and bad. On the other hand, he was a very good and willing worker after he woke up which was about twenty minutes or so after he arrived at the office and had drunk the coffee that I had brewing there.

Mike was quickly followed by the rest of the crew for the day who composed of Bill Smith who was a bricklayer/stonemason specialist and a pretty good carpenter and my right hand man, Harvey Johnson and Matthew O’Connell both of whom were all around laborer types with some construction skills and anything else that needed to be done and Glen Smalling who was a first class carpenter and cabinet-maker. They all mumbled out their “Good Mornings” and poured themselves coffee and started chattering among themselves.

It had taken me a couple of years to assemble this group and between us, we could just about handle most of the sort of work that small construction companies work on, remodelling, masonry, stonework and almost anything we could make a buck at. Me, I joined in wherever I was needed and ran the company. I was good with all kinds of tools, more like a jack of all trades but had been trained as a bricklayer and had extensive training in Project Management.

I sat back and surveyed the scene and listened to some of the chatter and had a good laugh when Mike, who was beginning to come out of his stupor regaled us with a story of this woman he had met in the bar last night. He could tell a good yarn and had us all in stitches by the time he had finished. Turns out that she was a married woman and after Mike hit up on her, her old man came storming in and accused Mike of messing around with his wife. Mike of course denied everything and somehow managed to persuade the angry man that it wasn’t him, it was another guy who had just left where upon, the guy dragged his wife out by her hair and Mike collapsed in laughter as he did.

Mike’s problem was that he never learned by these sort of episodes as he had had many a close call from an irate husband or two. My theory was that he liked the excitement of pushing his luck and when he managed to wriggle out from under, it was like an adrenaline rush to him.

Our Office lady, Patricia Jackson, came in and was greeted by “Good Morning” from the lads as they prepared to start the day.

“OK, listen up. I want everyone down at the Brown’s job today. I would like to see if we can’t wrap up most of that job if at all possible. Bill, I will be down as soon as I finish with this estimate for Mrs Black and get it to her”. The Brown’s job was a major store remodelling and had to be done in phases as the store had to remain open. So we had to work around things which of course meant that the project was taking a little longer than expected but if we pushed it a bit, we could get back on schedule. It was a very important job as it showed off our ability to perform work in phases and under difficult circumstances and was a good advertisement for our company.

The men all trooped out and jumped into the two company trucks and drove back into town to the Brown project. I, on the other hand, needed to check over the estimate I had prepared for Mrs Black and had worked at late into last evening. I wanted to be sure that I hadn’t missed anything and that my numbers were correct.

My office was a corner desk in the same room as Patricia who was a single, very nice looking, well-developed lady who had a good head for numbers and for all of her young years, kept the books straight without too much help from me. Good job really as I had problems balancing my check book let alone keep books for a Construction Company that would satisfy an IRS audit. “Pat, can you please check these numbers over and let me know of any errors” I asked “Sure boss” she replied pleasantly “When do you want them” “Well lets see, I need to go see that job at the Alisford Estates. They want to brick in the next house and then I will go to the Brown project and give the lads a hand. Say 2:00 pm this afternoon”. “You got it” she replied and buried her head in the books as she made more entries. Me, I wasn’t much of a book-keeping expert. I could get an invoice ready but other than that, most of what I did was to tell Patricia what I wanted and then left it up to her.

I stopped by the Alisford Estates housing developement that was run by a close friend of mine. His name was Charles Vino who could trace his Italian heritage back several generations and who had bought this property and was building houses on it one at a time. As he sold one, he would build another one and so on. I bricked or stoned up all of them and had a good thing going so I made sure that I looked after Charles or Chuck as everyone called him. He had this one house that was getting close to completion and wanted to talk about it with me. When I had these sort of projects which were a little bigger than I normally handled, I took on extra help which included a couple more bricklayers.

“Good morning” I said as I walked into his office. “How are things today”? “Everything is going good” he said “we shall be ready to enclose that house in about three weeks just so you can make your plans”. We sat down and worked out the details and signed the contract. I lingered a little longer chatting to Charley’s secretary who was a very nice looking lady, the sort that you wish you knew a lot better. I liked to chat to her as she always wore these low-cut blouses and could move in a most provocative way.  She was about thirty or so, not currently married and knew what she had. I had to keep reminding myself that I was married and stay down boy…

Link to Chapter 2

One Man’s Story – Chapter 9

I was still trying to find out what the Detective had on Mike and was making some discreet enquiries around town. None of my usual suspects who would be privy to this sort of information could shed any light on the subject so I decided to pay a visit to his wife who I knew very well. Her name was Katherine and they had three kids. She and Mike had been childhood sweethearts and even in school, Mike had been a bit of a tearaway and had been in trouble for stealing. They had been married for 15 years and she had stuck by him through some pretty nasty moments. In fairness to Mike, I think he really loved her in his own way but just couldn’t stay on the straight and narrow if there was ever any form of temptation to make a fast buck.

Both Jody and I had been to Mike’s house for barbecue on many occasions and they had come to our house in return. Jody always had reservations about Mike but always made an effort to be nice to him. She really liked Katherine and although not best buddies, they would meet for coffee sometimes in our local coffee shop where a lot of towns people hung out at some time of the day. I chatted with Katherine and mentioned that the Detective Alsup was his name, had come to see me about Mike but wouldn’t tell me what it was related to. “Has Mike mentioned anything to you” I asked “Nothing” she replied but I could tell she was a bit worried. ” I tried talking to him but he wouldn’t loosen up. Kept insisting there was nothing wrong and that he had no idea what Detective Alsup wanted” I said. “Look, if he is in trouble, you know we are here to help him  and you if the need arises” She sat there and then she turned and looked at me and said “If I find something out, you will be the first to know. Thanks for coming to see me and telling me this”.

I took my leave and headed for the cellar project to see what sort of progress the boys were making. True to form, Mike was cursing under his breath about “these bloody blocks and whoever invented them should have them shoved up his ass”. The other two lads, Harvey and Matt, were moving the blocks from the stack closer to the wall that was being worked on  and they were handling them by themselves. I didn’t hear any complaining from them as they went about their work. Of course it is much easier just moving and stacking as opposed to actually laying them as they had to be lifted over the stringline and then placed down very gently and aligned with the bottom edge on the block below and the top edge to the stringline. There is an art to laying block and brick and it is not made any easier with the 60 pound blocks. The difficulty was in placing the block evenly so as not to squirt the masonry out from between the blocks.

I looked at what they had laid so far and the blocks were all square and even. I nodded to them as though to say “Good Work” and they both acknowledged. I figured they would be on this project for a few more days which would give me time to line out the next project for them which needed to be small enough for them to be ready to start the Alisford Estates job in two weeks time.

Because of our shortened construction season, I usually spent late winter and early spring trying to find enough projects to get us started and then as the summer progressed added to the list with other jobs as they came in. As I already explained, I try to get some winter work but that it sometimes hard to come by. Over the years, I have managed to build a good reputation for good work done on time and was very keen to make sure that we continued this way. Because of Mike’s reputation which pre-ceded him wherever he went, I did sometimes have to either keep him off some jobs or guarantee with the owner that he was a reliable worker. So far, Mike was true to his word and stayed out of trouble although the business with Detective Alsup was very troubling.

I went back to the office and made some calls and then made arrangements for the men to go on a new project for Mr Dingman. This was to re-build a stone staircase from street level to the front door. The existing one had moved all over the place due to the frost which has a tendency to do that especially if the foundations weren’t deep enough or the fill got wet and expanded. That was one of the problems with building in New York State. You had two choices and they were to build below the frost line which was about four feet into the ground or build on top of the ground and construct things making allowances for movement.

I know of a couple of driveways up in the mountains where large rocks appear every winter and disappear every spring, all caused by the frost. I remember that I had an event of my own when I was visiting a client in early spring as the frost was beginning to thaw. Not wishing to chance the muddy conditions, I had parked my car at the top of her driveway and walked down to the house. Upon completion of my business, I had walked back up the hill only to discover that my car was sitting on its underside as the frost had thawed in the couple of hours that I had been with my client and the wheels had sunk into the ground. I took one look and walked down the hill to a local farmer and paid him $10 to tow me back onto the road with his tractor. He thought it was very amusing as he pocketed the $10.

Link to Chapter 10

An Adirondack Mystery-Chapter 1

Adirondacks in Essex County, New York

Adirondack Mountains

Life in a small town can be very interesting as I found out after I drove through the Adirondacks in Upper New York State one Autumn day.

My name is Mike Bennet. I earn my living as a Project Engineer and I work for one of this countries largest Construction Companies. It’s one of those sort of jobs where I spend anything up to four years in one place working on a project. I build interesting things like skyscrapers and very large buildings.  Once, I was a very happily married man but my wife, whom I loved very much, got bored with the time I spent away from home and even though she could have come with me, prefered to stay close to her family in Texas. She finally left me for another guy. I guess that I only have myself to blame but I was so much in love with this lady that I saw through any faults that she may have had. I should have known that life was too good to be true and should have suspected something was amiss when she no longer ended our phone conversations with “I love you” as we used to do.  I was away for long periods at a time with my work but was usually able to manage a month of vacation every year and spend it with her.

Such are the perils of women. They have this way of sucking you in and then spitting you back out after they have chewed you over and get what they want. I suppose that I am being a little unfair as not all ladies are like that. Just my luck that I happened to find the one’s that are. It can’t possibly be my fault can it now…

I should have known better as here I am going on fifty, losing my hair and already in the clutches of wine, women and song having led a pretty boisterous life travelling around with the construction company.  My work had taken me all over the good old U.S. of A and had shown me all sides of life, some good, some bad. I had found myself temporarily out of a job as I was in between projects and the next one was not ready to start for three months. I was due a long vacation not having had one in almost a year since the last job ended and having been pretty prudent in the past, not withstanding what the wife had cost me, had some money saved to where I was very comfortably off.  I did not have a regular fixed home anymore as I was always away with my work and my marriage, had cost me any chance of retaining the home after the Judge had finished with me.
I was a little bitter at the world and women in general and blamed them for everything. Of course the fact that I was stupid enough to like them had nothing to do with it.  At least I was lucky in one respect that my ex-wife had been unable to have children so at least there were no kids to suffer the indignities of being divorced.

My last project had been a high-rise in Buffalo, New York and after wrapping it up, I decided that I would drive around for a bit stopping wherever I felt like it and seeing where I would end up. I found myself back in the Adirondacks which is a beautiful place to be except in the middle of winter unless you like the snow and cold. I came across this little village that composed of a group of houses with a few shops and a couple of bars and restaurants. I had no timetable to be anywhere and I stopped at the first restaurant I saw aptly named the Steak House and it appealed to me enough to stop to get a decent meal.

I walked inside and the waitress seated me and gave me a bright and cheerful smile. I ordered a beer to wash down the food and was busy studying the menu when into my lowered gaze stepped the most beautiful pair of legs. In my mind, I knew it was not my waitress as I already knew what her legs looked like as I followed her to my a table.

“I have brought you your beer” she said in a pleasant voice. “Let Grace or me know if you need another”. Grace it turns out, is the waitress. I thanked her and watched her as she walked back to the bar area, a thing of beauty from behind… especially from behind.

I ordered my food from Grace and thought about how things were for me at this moment in time and what I might do to change it. I finished my meal and wandered over to the bar at the end of the restaurant where the same waitress who had brought me my beer, was working and sat down on one of those tall stools. You know the ones I mean. You almost need a step-ladder to get on the thing and once there have to move very carefully as they don’t provide parachutes and it’s a long way down.

I watched the barmaid as she went about her business. I took a guess as to how old she was and figured her to be in her mid to late thirties. She had long blonde hair, legs that wouldn’t quit attached to the most beautiful body you have ever seen which got me wondering how much of it was real and how much due to modern-day surgery. She moved like a model and had a quick smile for all of her customers. She spotted me at the end of the bar and came over walking in a slow lithesome way that trained models use.

“Did you enjoy your meal”?  she asked ” and what can I get you this time. Another beer”?
“Yes, the meal was very enjoyable. No more beer, got to watch my figure” I said “I think I will have a scotch on the rocks” and watched her as she went about her work moving with an easy grace and a ready smile. She came back with the drink and said, “My name is Julie if you need another drink”.
I thanked her and made a mental note of the name.

Click on Chapter 2 for the next episode

An Adirondack Mystery-Chapter 2

For me, it was an interesting way to pass an otherwise dull evening and she didn’t seem to mind even though I knew she knew that I was watching her. She had on this tight mini skirt which showed off her legs in a good way and a low-cut blouse that exposed a lot of her cleavage especially as she bent to retrieve things from below the counter. For some reason, she did an awful lot of bending which made me a little heady with excitement at seeing such a wonderful shape. Or should I say, two wonderful shapes…

She caught me looking once more and glided over to where I was sitting. “Haven’t seen you in here before” she said making sure that I had more to see.
“No, I was just passing through and thought I could use a drink” I replied, “Can you recommend a good Hotel in town?”
She looked me up and down and went back to the cash register where she wrote something on a card and handed it back to me. I glanced at it and saw a telephone number.
“What’s this” I said “Your phone number?”.
“You should be so lucky” she responded but in a light-hearted manner as though to turn it into a joke, “No, that is the Hotel on the other side of town, You should call them as they do tend to fill up”.
I thanked her and pulled out my cell phone and duly reserved a room. The place was called the Happy Hotel. Don’t ask me why as I never did figure it out.

I didn’t think too much about it as I had many such encounters in my travels. Some ended up in a couple of dates and others lasted just a little longer either until they tired of me or because my work was at an end and it was time to move on. Some, I even got lucky and hit the jackpot although truth to say, the act of physical love is not really the same when there are no real feelings for the person you are with. At least, that is how it was for me. This girl was different. She knew what she had and was not a bit afraid to show off her wares especially if she was working a customer over for a bigger tip as she served them their drinks. You would think, that as worldly-wise and well-travelled as I was, I should not have let myself be drawn into her net. I was not adverse to a little flirting and if it ended with a night in bed, I always considered that a bonus but I was always careful not let anyone tie me down anymore.

It was a pretty little town and the people were all very friendly so I decided to stay for a few days as the leaves were turning brown and gold and the beauty of Fall in the Adirondacks was there for all to see. I knew that I wasn’t going to stay too long as the first frosts had already touched the ground and New York State and the Adirondacks were not a good place to be when the snow fell. That is, unless you were a skier or snowmobiler and liked the cold weather. My theory is that you have to be a special sort of person to be able to stand cold weather and in a country like America where it is possible to move and get away from it, why not do just that.
I had skied a bit in my younger days but was mostly in the Ski Lodge with the snow bunnies. I looked good in ski clothes as I dressed for the occasion but didn’t do so well on the slopes. Those were in my younger days when I was fairly athletic and still had hair. I didn’t ski anymore having broke my leg in a serious fall many years ago.

Meanwhile, I was spending most evenings in the bar that Julie worked at. Some of it was the fact that in the Adirondacks in the Fall, there is not too much else to get up to and besides, the regulars were good company. I sat and listened to their stories of the ones that got away or the bear that nearly killed them. They all had a different version of the same story so it made it interesting. I was always open to tales and exploits that I might be able to adapt and use in my writing. And of course, Julie was always there. Did I mention she was also great to look at? She always wore short skirts and low-cut blouses at least on the times that I saw her and that just made it more appealing to visit her place of business. Getting to know a few of the locals and listening to their tales of their hunting and fishing exploits was actually a lot of fun. There was this one guy, Jack Jones was his name and he was a big ole boy but like a lot of big men, easy-going and easy to get along with.

Click on Chapter 3  for the next episode