Did I mention it’s winter?
Yea, it’s winter. I woke up a few mornings ago to a dusting of white crap all over my lawn. And there were a couple inches out there this morning. My car. She’s out in the elements. I hate subjecting my car to this weather.
But, most of all, I hate having to subject myself to this weather each year, though I could never move far from New York – say, to Florida, California, Hawaii, anywhere warm and sunny year-round…
Anyway, it’s winter. And I have to accept it. Or battle it. And I battle it by wearing layer upon layer of clothing, socks, and scarves.
Point and case.
So, of course, I’m plottin’. In my brain. Figuring out my next move. Imagining myself somewhere else, as usual. I never seem to be happy where I am. I’m never in the moment, which, I guess, could be the subject of another post, as I could go on about the enigma that is my mind. That post would probably end up being more stream-of-consciousness (honestly, my stream of consciousness comes through in most of these posts – I can never just be straightforward). Maybe writing it out will finally help me pin some things down and figure myself out. Maybe.
But yeah. It’s winter. The holidays are over, which is depressing, but I have to say, they were extremely hectic for me this year, which is unusual. Every weekend I was either in New York (which I was very much happy about) or just had stuff going on, and of course, during the week I worked and came home and attempted to keep my workout “regime” the same (generally failing). The holidays are a hectic time for most people. Well, most adults, anyway. The kids get to skate by doing nothing, with the only responsibilities eating what everyone else bakes and opening what everyone else buys. Why does anyone want to be an adult?
But, I will say this also: I got to spend some valuable time with family I rarely get to see, the result of my weekends in New York.
I also spent a weekend in Pennsylvania, which I do yearly, but I always look forward to it. It’s something different, though I hate the woods. We drive down the highway and things get darker and darker. I can see the rolling silhouettes of the hills and the outlines of the trees. The many, many trees. I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed this, but every once in awhile, when I look deep into the side of a hill that we’re whizzing past, I notice a small light in an indeterminable spot. I can never tell if it’s a house, or a fire, or God knows what. I always see one of these lights going upstate New York, too, when we get all the way up past the city. It’s mysterious, unsettling, probably nothing to worry about, but I’ve seen way too many movies to be complacent in assuming that it’s nothing.
“Nah, there’s no such things as ghosts.” And then they become demonically possessed.
Not that any of those movies actually scare me, but I just do not like the woods, so anything to do with the woods freaks me out and makes me uncomfortable. To each his own – I know the woods are a place of solace for many people who want to escape the concentrated, fast-paced society in which everything has to occur “right now” and everyone is always in such a hurry and is, therefore, generally off-putting and somewhat rude (mainly in the Northeast). And I really can’t say I haven’t ever wanted just to abscond to the desert with my car and a few belongings and, well, disappear for a while.
So I get it. But the woods and I aren’t friends.
Anywho, it’s always a good time visiting our family in Pennsylvania. We always find some sort of fair or market to go to – where I usually spend money on food, food, and more food. I wander and glance at the merchandise – I linger, mouth watering, by the food. This year, we went to the Christkindlmarkt (it’s German) in Bethlehem. We’ve been before. It’s a Christmas market that has all of these crafts and, of course, a whole area with tables and food (I got stromboli). There is glass blowing and a guy who carves sculptures out of ice. There’s also an area with all handmade ornaments and figurines made in Germany – very delicate and ornate, some a little strange (and yes, there’s German chocolate). But, what’s most interesting about this fair is that it’s situated right next to an old, obviously retired, steel-making plant. They recently constructed a walkway next to the dormant stacks and vents, now shells of what they once were when they burned and growled like the bowels of Hell. (Maybe that was a bit dramatic, but judging by the descriptions on the placards on the walkway, I’m honestly not far off.)
The old vats, vents, steel spiral staircases, and smoke stacks (alliteration!) meander toward the sky, as the sprawling factory, now a morose memory, remains as if a ghost town, hauntingly silent; dolorous, desolate, dark, and deserted; rusted, hollow, and in disrepair. Somewhat depressing, especially after reading about the boisterous, terrifying, and almost sinister place it once was. But it’s fascinating. All of the soot from the incinerators and whatnot, during the plant’s heyday, used to rain down like snow upon the town, and the people living within its radius would have to sweep it all off their porches. And, let’s not forget the deaths that occurred – some fell into the vats, resulting in immediate death, and others got maimed in various ways. But, around Christmas time, that market opens up next door, the people wander and peruse the kiosks and food tent, and everyone is in a cheery mood.
Quite the juxtaposition.
It’s so interesting, though, and just knowing what those workers had to endure (even women) makes one appreciate his cushiony lifestyle today (almost anything today is “cushiony” compared with that plant life). It makes me glad that I actually had the experience of working in a factory for about three years, albeit not as dangerous of one, nor was I undertaking life-threatening tasks every day for about 12 hours. But, it wasn’t some soft, easy job, and it definitely jolted me out of naivety. But, those people, working in that plant, were seriously the definition of “tough.”
And right next door, at the Christmas market, everyone is milling around and generally in a cheery mood; and, of course, it is Bethlehem – a holy city. I mean, obviously not the actual Bethlehem, but nonetheless, it’s Christmasy. It’s actually pretty frenetic compared with other Pennsylvania towns. There are some towns that remind me of the dusty, almost ghost towns out in the Southwest – where the speed limit goes from 65 to 30 and there are maybe 10 buildings total on both sides of the road, with a vast expanse of desert on each side and high-ridge mountains over yonder, stabbing the purple-orange evening sky, outlined buy a halo of yellow from the setting sun.
Bethlehem has many shops and restaurants, buildings, and houses. It’s actually pretty congested on one of the main roads. I always like looking into some of the novelty shops, wherein they have handcrafted figurines and homemade candles, things of that nature, things you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Everyone seems to be there for the same reasons, so they are generally pleasant and well-mannered. I do like the bustling nature of this town.
My grandfather grew up in a very small community in Pennsylvania that was called “the patch.” Only a few houses – I think there was a school, pretty sure there was a church. Don’t really remember, haven’t driven through in awhile, but you’re through the town in one minute. Definitely not bustling. My mom’s aunt had train tracks running through her backyard. I remember walking over there when I was younger. Nothing but the verdure or trees, the few surrounding houses, and the orange-brown rust of the tracks. Just waitin’ for a train.
On the flip side, my dad is from Brooklyn. Gritty, frenetic, noisy, highly populated, diverse in food and culture, sub-home of hip hop (I guess that could be debated), hipster-y in some places, ghetto in others, mafia infused in still others (probably many others – my grandmother would know, pretty sure her neighborhood has some stuff going on), but basically the place I want to be always.
What’s interesting is that I’ve gotten to see both sides of the spectrum, and many other points in between, which I think is extremely important. It makes a person well-rounded and open-minded. Appreciative of everything.
But, back to what I was saying – after immersing ourselves in crafts at the Christkindlmarkt (and then more wares at Boscovs), we spent our second and final day visiting alpacas at the Picnic Woods alpaca farm. The woman who owns the place is a friend of my mom’s cousin. It was like 65 degrees that morning, which was wonderful for me, but not so wonderful for the alpacas – they were a bit cranky. They are covered in this thick, soft fur that, as everyone knows, is sheared off and used to create these incredibly warm and soft blankets and hats and scarves and gloves and socks (there was a store there – I always buy stuff – I bought socks). So they were hot and uncomfortable, and not so welcoming to outsiders coming to gawk at them. A couple of them literally would just stand and stare, as if they were silently judging us for putting them on the spot, objectifying them. But there were a few that meandered over to the fence and grazed on hay, while us tourists stuck our hands through the chain link to touch the alpaca fur, soon-to-be-turned commodity.
Last time I was there, I actually played with their dog the most – this big, white, furry dog that, I believe, sort of rounds up the alpacas and keeps other animals at bay. He’s still there, but he was kept near the house because there was shooting going on somewhere in the distance and he was getting freaked out by the sounds or something.
The place is situated on almost a kind of slanted hill, with a broad field on one side and a thicket of trees on the other. Driving up to it, there are many fields surrounding the area, with patches of woods here and there, as well as some houses and roads. It’s open, spacious, definitely not city or suburban-like. But beautiful, and when the sun crests over the ridges of the hills – it’s definitely not a scene you’d get in a city.
So, we commenced our four-hour drive home after a stop in Jim Thorpe, nestled in the middle of giant, rolling hills with small streets lined with quaint houses, inns, restaurants, and little shops. There’s even a little theater, situated in the middle of a sort of intersection, almost Flat-Iron-building like. I always love driving down the long, curved road and looking down into the small ravine to follow the flowing river that cuts through the town and parallels the train tracks, at least for a ways.
I remember eating at a little restaurant there one other time we visited. Good salad. Before officially hitting the road on this trip, we stopped at one more place to grab food before our long drive. Can’t think of the name of it, but it’s actually a venue where big names have performed, 3 Doors Down one of the bands that have an upcoming performance. There are posters and framed pictures of bands and performers and their signatures. The food was good, but the best part was the house-made chips that they brought to the table as an “appetizer.” I have no idea what was even on them, they make them with like spices and onion, I have no clue, but they were amazing. And my mom ordered a cherry coke, which I generally love anyway, but again, it’s like a house recipe or something for which they use like actual cherry juice – something to that effect, and they put cherries in it sometimes, as well. I tried my mom’s and it, too, was amazing. Also, the place overlooks the rolling Pennsylvania hills, the Jim Thorpe mountains visible in the distance. There is a big, wide deck, which we walked out on for a few minutes to take in the view.
Then began our road trip home.
It’s always nice to get away, even if only for a couple of days. I go stir crazy if I don’t get to travel somewhere, anywhere. I need a change of scenery. Though my distaste for the woods generally keeps me away, it’s nice to be somewhere different from what I’m used to. A change of pace.
We always have a nice time visiting Pennsylvania. And its alpacas.
Plus, it’s winter. Too bad Hawaii can’t be a four-day weekend.