Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Going by the Weyside

UPDATE: The Weyside did close after I wrote this post, but now it is back open, under new management.  Check its website for more information.

Another thing: my blog does not have a large readership, so I was surprised to see how high up it appears in a web search for "the Weyside." If you check my other posts, you will see that my blog is intended to be humorous.  Some of the Weyside's "handicaps" below (like the thin walls) have been exaggerated for that purpose.  However, my feelings about the Weyside's magic are sincere.

This past weekend, Jennifer and I celebrated our seventh anniversary by going here with Kyle:

This little oasis, nestled in New York's Catskill Moutains, is called The Weyside Inn and Cottages.  It's a charming place, with cottages along a small lake, and a few other rooms across the street (we always stay in the cottages).  I discovered this place through an internet search back in 2004, when Jennifer and I were looking for someplace peaceful to celebrate our first anniversary, and we have been going there for each anniversary since.  When you find a place you like, why change?  Unfortunately, this past weekend might have been our last trip there.  That's because the Weyside is for sale.

(Above: First Anniversary, 2004)
I've always felt there was something magical about the Weyside.  It somehow has a way of giving you a peaceful stay despite the fact the two pairs of lakeside cottages are each adjoined by walls so thin you could almost walk through them.  The cottages' furnishings are magical, too.  A couch in our favorite cottage has springs poking into the bottom of its cushions, and yet it's remarkably comfortable.  A pillow on it has an everlasting blue stain that has somehow survived for years, perhaps centuries.  Incredible.  From the couch, you can see the beauty of mountains through a window that magically attracts an unnatural amount of flies. 

Okay, the Weyside isn't exactly a luxurious resort, but at least its rates ($80 our first year!) have reflected that.  We figure the place was furnished in the 50's or 60's and hasn't been touched since, outside of a few improvements in the kitchen.  Still, the place is always clean, the sheets on the bed are fresh, and toilet still flushes.  Being able to sit out on the back deck facing the pond and stare at a gazillion stars on a clear, silent evening made up for the lack of room service.

(Above: Fourth Anniversary, 2007)
Jennifer and I are a bit heartbroken over the imminent loss of the Weyside.  We have a lot of fine memories there.  Life slowed down for us at the Weyside, and we would relish doing simple things, such as cooking on the grill, walking around the pristine lake, or scaring birds by throwing rocks into the river.  You can't scare a bird in the city, and a lot of the lakes here are often covered with a greenish goo.  As for grilling, I hardly ever get to do that in New York, as the smell of charcoal really stinks up an apartment. 

We associate a lot of important moments in our lives with this place.  Jennifer studied for the LSAT and many of her law school exams here.  I received a major promotion just before one of our weekends there and had to take part in a conference call on the way home (that was the only way I could use my cell phone, as there is practially no coverage in the area).  When work became difficult in the month before I had to leave the company, a weekend in the cottages provided a much-needed break.  In many ways, the Weyside has served as a brief sabbatical before a new, often tougher, part of our lives was about to begin.  And then came Kyle.

(Above: Fifth Anniversary, 2008)
Kyle was just three months old when he first visited the Weyside.  He immediately trashed the place with all his baby gear and incessant drooling.  Somehow we were not banned from coming back, and each year we've enjoyed seeing the little guy's excitement when we first enter our cottage.  This past weekend he discovered that the rooms have doors, and he spent much of his time practicing his opening and slamming skills.  He also ran around the Weyside's little playground and attempted to terrorize birds by throwing rocks into the water (he's his dad's son).  By the time the weekend was over, I think the little guy was ready to move here.

(Above: Seventh Anniversary, 2010)
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we'll be moving in at all.  I dug through my wallet and realized I was several dollars short of having the $800,000 asking price for the place.  The friendly owners of the Weyside believe anyone who does end up buying the cottages would shut them down and put something else there, like a music school, a McDonald's, or a monster truck arena.  It's simply not making money as a vacation rental spot.  We're not really surprised, either.  The Catskills aren't exactly booming, thanks in part to the sour economy.  Many places around the Weyside are for sale, and a restaurant near the place has been closed and on the market for at least five years.  It's a rough neighborhood these days, with squirrel and moose gangs taking over many of the streets.

So, on Monday, we packed our bags and said "good-bye," probably for the last time.  There's always a chance we'll be back, but I'm thinking we'll be spending our next anniversary at some other place.  That place might have fancy things like thicker walls, but I know we won't regard it with same kind of fondness we have for the Weyside.  Not yet, at least.  It just won't be able to compete with all the wonderful memories.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's a Twister! It's a Twister!

Late Thursday afternoon, after my daily session of staring into space and drooling as Kyle napped, some thunderstorm clouds rolled our way.  "Hmph," I thought, "Looks like we might get some rain."  I checked, the never-fail source of inaccurate forecasts, and it said the city was under a flood watch.  I shrugged it off, since a drizzle can trigger a flood watch in New York.  It seemed as if we were about to have your typical September thunderstorm: a little bit of bark, but not much bite.  I shut down the computer just as Kyle woke up from his nap. 

At around 5:30 pm, Kyle and I were at his bedroom window, watching the oncoming storm.  It was one of those classic father-son bonding experiences.  As the little guy stared at the darkening clouds and listened to the thunder, I knelt down beside him and talked about how exciting thunderstorms can be, recalling the days when I was told that thunder was simply "angels bowling."  He seemed confused by the bowling reference, and, in hindsight, I realize I probably should have updated the story for modern-day New York, saying instead that the thunder was an angel driving by with his car's bass up way too loud.  Still, it was a fun experience together, and I seemed to be dissuading any belief he may have that thunderstorms are something to fear.  Little did I know, about ten minutes later, I'd be awfully close to needing my own underwear changed as well.
Suddenly the sky turned a dark green, as the sun checked out early.  I put the lights on in the apartment as I moved Kyle away from his window.  I felt a twinge of nervousness as the skies became even more foreboding.  It no longer felt like we were going to have an ordinary storm.  Then the rain came and removed all doubt.

Water gushed from the sky like a waterfall.  The wind picked up and slammed our open windows, making our blinds flutter inward like white flags of surrender.  I ran around the apartment, quickly closing the windows, and then, with Kyle in one arm, I stood at the entrance to our apartment's small hallway, keeping the windows in view but far enough away.  We waited there as the storm thrashed everything outside.

I did not realize then that a tornado was hitting our street.  We did not see a funnel cloud approach us from the distance, so there was no time to let the horses and chickens out of the barn and run into our underground shelter.  No, this twister seemed to land on us from above.  While the wind did roar, I couldn't say for sure that it sounded like a train, a tornado's definitive sound.  As I looked through our third-floor window, it was hard to see or hear anything clearly, and there was no way to tell if this was the real deal, or just a very intense storm.   I probably should have been suspicious when I saw a woman on a bike flying past us and laughing maniacally, but with the city being overrun by bicyclists these days, that didn't surprise me one bit.

Kyle knew something was up. As I stood there holding him, he remained still, and watching the storm through our windows.  He didn't ask to be let down.  He didn't ask for food.  He didn't bite my arm or slap my face (lovingly).  No, the little guy was absolutely silent.  I don't think he likes the way angels bowl.

And then, it was over.  I figure the whole thing lasted less than ten minutes.  The winds died down, and the deluge became a drizzle.  Shortly afterwards, our neighbors knocked on our door to see if we were okay.  They then asked, wide-eyed, "Did you look outside yet?"

While still holding Kyle at my side, I walked out our building's front door and immediately saw the damage.  The tree directly in front of our apartment remained, but the trees to the left and right of it were gone.  The tree to the left of us had smashed through an SUV, which was parked in a spot where I frequently keep my car, but hadn't that day.  A section of the sidewalk there was ripped apart by the tree's roots.  The tree to the right of us looked like it was cut in half lazily with a chainsaw.  The bottom part of the tree was still firmly in the ground; the top part was lying in the middle of the road.  From end to end, our street was blocked by downed trees and branches.  I was grateful that my car was parked on another street, untouched by the storm.

(Above: Our street after the storm.  To the left is the tree by our place that was cut in half.)

(Above: Nature mistakes a tree on our street for a banana)
Outside of a few water leaks, our place was not damaged by the storm.  Unfortunately, that could not be said for the three buildings adjacent to us.  The top of a massive tree behind those buildings, which may have stood there for more than one hundred years, crashed down on the back of the buildings, blowing out windows and destroying a deck and part of a fence.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt on our street, and that's a miracle in itself.   

Clean-up of the mess was swift.  Chainsaws buzzed at 250 decibels well past midnight, forcing Jennifer and I to get out of bed and move to the sofa bed.  Just seconds after we took all the cushions off the couch, pulled out the bed and put sheets and blankets on it, the noise finally came to an end.  By morning cars were once again driving down our street. 

The crushed SUV became an instant circus, with crowds gathering and gawking throughout the next few days, some posing for pictures in front of it with their kids (I am not kidding).  News crews were there, too, and helicopters circled the skies for an entire day, ruining the concentration of outdoor chess players and crossing guards.  The media could not get enough of our block, as the SUV was the early Christmas gift for television producers, wrapped up in police tape and topped with a big shiny tree.  The image appeared all over the web, on the front page of The New York Times, and in newspapers across the country and around the world.  Everywhere, people were seeing the pictures from our street, spitting out their morning coffee (or tea), and exclaiming,  "NEW YORK was hit by a TORNADO?!?!"

Then they exclaimed even louder, "NEW YORK has TREES?!?!"

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it.  I spent nearly four years living in the South, but never saw a tornado there.  Who would have guessed that I'd experience my first one in New York City? 

Today the neighborhood is looking a lot better.  Most of the downed trees and branches have been cleared away, and the famed SUV is gone, headed for the Smithsonian.  Kyle now has a new activity, too.  He likes going around the neighborhood, pointing at the remaining tree stubs and saying, "Broken tree!"  To him, the tornado has become a part of everyday life in New York, like riding the subway, driving past the Empire State Building, or selling plasma to pay the rent.  He might come to expect tornadoes every year.  I sure hope not, though. One tornado is enough for me, thank you.  I don't need a trip to Oz.  I already have a munchkin.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pet Peeves

Will Kyle ever have a pet?  I like to think he will.  Not now, of course.  Our current apartment building has a strict "no pets" policy.  We had to pay off our landlady to receive an exemption so that we could take Kyle home from the hospital.  We plan to move eventually, perhaps to one of those fancy places with a dishwasher, and maybe then we'll get a pet. 

Kyle seems ready for one, and he seems to like dogs.  He bonded with two of them on Saturday, as our family met with some of our friends for a picnic in a park near the beautiful and aromatic East River.  One dog was Penny, a Jack Russell Terrier belonging to our friends Mickey and Bonni, and the other one was Bailey, a lab-beagle mix belonging to our friends Matt and Amanda (and supposedly their two-month-old son Evan, though Evan has yet to do owner duties such as walking and feeding him).  Kyle knows these dogs well, as Bailey was the first one he ever met, and Penny was with him when he took his first walk.  The little guy spent much of his time playing with the dogs and handing them things to chew on (sticks, leaves, smaller animals, dad's arm, etc.).  He was having a great time, and, as we left the park later that afternoon, I couldn't help but wonder how long it'll be before we have a dog of our own.

Yet, there's still a question as to whether Kyle wants a dog or just enjoys playing with other people's pets.  He might not welcome one in our home.  It's no secret that dogs don't always welcome new babies.  Maybe the reverse is true.

For example, each morning, as Jennifer and I eat our cereal in front of the morning news (we have a thing for local murders and fashion tips), Kyle stands by us, whining and pointing at our bowls, waiting for us to drop him a scrap even though he ate a full breakfast a short time earlier.  I often give him a few Cheerios after he rolls around or balances a ball on his nose.  With a dog in the house, Kyle would have to compete for the scraps, and, considering that dogs have sharper teeth and claws, the little guy might end up sitting in the corner and sulking.

Then there's the whole toy problem.  Right now Kyle's toys are scattered throughout the apartment, ready at a moment's notice for him to grab and shove into his mouth.  Enter a dog, and most of those toys will have to be put away to make room for the pet's new chew toys.  We'd probably have to put Kyle's things on a very high self so that the dog wouldn't be able to reach them, and chances are we'd have to keep our son in his crib or the fire escape as he played with them.  We wouldn't want his stuff getting mixed up with the dog's.

And, finally, there are the walks.  Each weekday morning and afternoon, the little guy and I explore the neighborhood.  Kyle really enjoys these trips outside, and he often points out all the trees and fire hydrants along the way.  Should we get a dog, I probably would have to give it first dibs on the trees and fire hydrants.  And because I'd be busy walking the pet, I wouldn't be able to give Kyle as much attention.  The obvious solution would be to send Kyle to school.  Then, after a long day of classes and avoiding bullies, as the little guy looks at a large pile of homework to do, he probably will ask me why I am sending him to such a wretched place, and I'd have to be honest and say, "Because you wanted a dog."

We're still debating whether getting Kyle a dog would be a smart move.  At least we still have some time to make a decision.  I don't think we will be moving out of our pet-free apartment any time soon, and there's always a chance Kyle could have a little brother or sister by the time we leave.  If that's the case, the little guy might be too busy feeding him or her sticks and leaves to even desire a pet.  I guess we'll just wait and see what happens.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Water Fight

Apparently I am a very bad parent.  And so is Jennifer.  Just ask our son, especially after bedtime or nap time.  One night last week, at around 10:30 pm, this was the sound echoing through our home:


As he lay in his crib inside his darkened room, our child begged us for the substance that is essential to all life on this planet.  Kyle was not asking for diamonds, rubies, Legos, or other expensive treasures.  No, on this hot summer night, all he wanted on his dry lips was a sip of water, and yet his parents refused to give it to him.  Such inhumanity!

"Waaaaatteerrrr...teerrr... eerrrrrr.  Waaaaaaaah." 

Here's a little detail Kyle might not tell you: about two minutes prior to his pathetic sobbing, his mother was in his room, letting him drink from a full bottle of water.  Fifteen minutes prior to that, his father was doing the same thing.  Not too long before that, one or both of them helped him drink.  All this came after the "going-to-bed" ritual, during which he drank the equivalent of a small town reservoir.  Now, I understand that children his age have a very short memory, but there's no way he could have forgotten all the water he just drank.  It became apparent to me that something else was at play when he started asking for water less than a second after he handed me back the bottle.

"Water please.  Wahhhh-wahhh-wahhh.  Water, water please."

This is Kyle's latest maneuver in the so-called War Against Bedtime, and it's his strongest one yet.  I'm impressed.  Earlier tactics to get his parents to stay in his room involved relentless cries, begging for a blanket or toy he did not have, or throwing up (a rarely-used tactic often followed by the maneuver of actually being sick).  The previous tactics could be easily remedied with a washcloth or ignored.  But when your child is crying desperately for water, and even as going as far as asking nicely with the magic word, it's very hard to sit back, relax and eat dinner, which is what Jennifer and I were trying to do during that night last week. 

Jennifer had come home about a half-hour after Kyle went to bed.  She was tired from a long day of shaving monkeys (I'm really not sure what she does, so I make my best guess).  I had an exhausting day with our own little monkey, and I was in the middle of cleaning up the landfill replica Kyle had created in our living room.  We were both hungry for dinner.  That's when Kyle made his first request for water.  Since Jennifer hadn't seen him yet, we thought that maybe she could give him something to drink and say "hello."  Big mistake.  If you're trying to undermine the War Against Bedtime, the last thing you should do is make personal contact.  It shows weakness, and it makes the little guy act up even more the next time you leave.  We kept hoping that eventally Kyle would get his fill, but he did not quiet down, even after a half-dozen more water deliveries.  We ate our food to the sounds of the screams.  And, even though we knew he had enough water inside him to make it to morning, it was hard for our hearts not to break as the desperate cries echoed throughout the apartment, especially on that hot night.  Kyle had us right where he wanted us. 

That night was a victory for the little guy, and he was certainly eager to celebrate.  He had a big grin on his face as he guzzled down the water, and occasionally he'd pause to chew on the straw and mock us.  The fun, playful Kyle always returned once he had the water in his hands.  Once we pulled it away, he once again acted as if we wrapped him in chains and threw him into the desert.  Had it not been for the body's natural tendency to actually want some sleep, he could have gone throughout the night.  Fortunately he did doze off before eleven o'clock.

Since that wildly successful night in the War Against Bedtime, Kyle has been trying this maneuver every time we put him in his crib for a nap or for the night.  What was once a sweet moment, with one or both parents wishing our little guy a good night's sleep as he smiled and buried his head into his blankets, has turned into boisterous pandemonium, with Kyle crying for his water and kissing him good-night, flinging his blankets into his crib, and running out of the room before he could fling everything back out.  He cries for a little bit after that, but he's starting to notice that we're not coming back.  I think recent days have exposed a miscalculation on his part, too... as the days have become much cooler, we have become less sympathetic.  We know now that he has plenty of water, and he shouldn't be thirsting for more.  Kyle will just have to come up with a new trick, though I'm sure we'll eventually find a way to beat that one, too.  The little guy will certainly win more battles, but there's no question his parents will win the war.