27 May 1987
Hey, there, Udo!–
You may have noticed that my previous letter was dated 30 April, which was actually one week after the date n which I wrote it. Shows you the pressure I am under. Anybody who claims that retirement is stress-free has never retired. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. The National Defense Program will still have to find somebody else to carry it.
Now, just one little second, there Udo: who never heard of Stamford, New York? You’re on very thin ice. As Dave Rabinowitz, who ran the cut-rate liquor store in Santa Fe used to say, “Lemme tell ya a little story about…” Stamford and enviorns. How did Mary and I meet? Like this: our families took summer vacations on a farm near Franklin, which is not far from Oneonta. We were six years old. Stamford is 27 miles from Oneonta and 39 miles from Franklin. Our families became close friends. Their horizons expanded. They decided to rent cottages for the entire summer. The place they chose was Palenville. Mary’s family had a big house on the side of the road (4 girls) and mine had a “lodge” on the other size. If you look at a map you will see that Palenville is east of Stamford. Just take 23A where it branches off from 23 at Prattsville (named after Anne’s ancestors). Palenville is near Saugerties, Catskill and Kingston. Subsequently my parents bought a 1½ acre farmhouse at Quarryville, which is not exactly the crossroads of the world. It is 5 miles below Palenville. This farmhouse had no electricity, no running water, no heating system, no fireplaces, and no gas. In front was a well with a bucket (not even a pump). I understand that it is still standing, although the Thruway took part of the land. Since you and Anne plan to drive over there immediately, let me tell you that it was across the road from the Quarryville school, which actually rang a bell to call the pupils. Tom Sawyer stuff. Mary’s family continued to take the summer cottage in Palenville after we bout the Quarryville place. When the war came, everything changed. My parents sold The Old Old Farm after Leslie Grives asked me to help him on the (deleted for security reasons).
What all this comes down to is this: if there’s anything you and Anne need to know about the area around Stamford, just ask. Our information will be 50 fears old, but should still be useful because all we hear from family relations who drive around that region occasionally is, “It hasn’t changed a bit.” You have lucked into a veritable gold-mine of New York State lore by knowing us. We don’t think you can go wrong if you buy up there. The population was probably 1200 fifty years ago, too. There will be no developers putting up high-roses to block your view of your neighbor’s pig sty. Back to nature. (For guidance read “Acres And Pains,” by–who else?–S. K. Perelman, who bought a place in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and learned to love poison oak.) You mentioned Hunter. It is 12 miles from Palenville, but I don’t think there was much skiing there when we patronized the fashionable resorts of Greene County.
You are puzzled by Thomas’ reactions to Mt Vernon (graves) and his puns on the man who doesn’t drink liquids. Thomas is a “natural.” Don’t force him to be an electrochemist. Let him earn his millions in his own way, and he will be a consolation to both of you in old age (you’ll notice I did not say “retirement”). He may want to know if Washington is really in the mausoleum because he saw how Gerardo opened Al Capones’ secret storage room and found nothing. What ever happened, he wonders, to the Old Values?
Have you considered that if you buy this farmhouse in Stamford, Thomas may turn it into something like the Serengeti natural wildlife preserve, which will put your domestic zoo to shame? Of course, you could always supplement your income by driving visitors around in Land Rovers for $500 each, and feen them”Colonial” lunches out of wicker hampers at no extra cost (ale, venison pie, etc., from Zabar’s).
We had a hot spell here (ahead of the season) with temperatures over 100 for six or seven days, and a comfortable 99 the other days. Naturally, the Chief Ranger at Death Valley was on his pogo-stick again about “unfairness.” His latest claim in the unfairness department is this: it’s not fair for the local papers to sow somebody frying eggs on the steps of the Capitol, because–get this–there’s no Capitol building in Death Valley to fry eggs on on, so all the tourists who might go to Death Valley come here for the fried eggs. Did you ever hear anything so ridiculous? Would you ear an egg fried on somebody’s dirty concrete front steps? On top of that, eggs are full of cholesterol.
MEDICAL UPDATE FROM SANTA FE: John’s vision in his new right eye is 20/40. It was never better–all his life–than 20/400. His left eye is 20/60 or 20/80, with its new implant. However, a problem has developed with astigmatism in the right eye, which sawbones is trying to correct by “snipping stitches.” John says the eye “runs constantly,” which I take to mean tears, not eyeball fluid. Anyhow, his vision is now better than mine. But that’s not saying very much. You will recall that in the mess hall at The Forbidden City I was always ladling SOS on my cornflakes. In spite of all these infirmities, John will appear at the Santa Fe Opera for some benefit performance that he says he joins “every year.” He plays the role of “Da Ponte,” wich is unfamiliar to me, but who is apparently a figure in some opera or other. (You have to take into account the fact that my most recent exposure to opera was a balcony seat at the Hippodrome to hear Mme Ernestine Schumann-Heink.) Anyhow, John is leading a rich, full life in The City Different.
We will now put this in the hands of the Post Office before they raise the cost of stamps. Our best to everyone at 11 Bank Street, which–as everyone knows–is thruway-close to Stamford, hope of Utsayantha Mountain which soars to the incredible height of 3214 feet, and from which–on a clear day–you can see your neighbor’s pig sty.
Fred C. (“you can take the boy out of the country…” Dobbs