I could have survived without my immediate family for longer. A month. It was nothing. My friends were missed, some of who kept me company via cell phone during long hours in the car. In fact I may have had to had I known what I would come to know. I came back for her and for the yard sale. The situation with her was…uncertain. The yard sale was this weekend and that was certain.
Year after year, we’d gone with few exceptions. Me. Mom. Dad. My sister. My brother-in-law. My cousin. My friend. Some combination of this listing of people had gone for nearly a decade with few exceptions. September 11, 2001 did not prevent our going some weeks later. Live life as normal. Fuck the fear. Spend money. Enjoy capitalism, materialism, orgasm. Aftermath.
Lake George means more than any of those. I have no intentions of spending much money since I am recently returned and without gainful employment. I go to spend time with my family and friends, whoever makes the journey. Lake George usually means Best Western. It means cold nights when Long Islanders are used to humid days followed by still humid nights. It means the lake sparkling under light of the sun and then moon. A continuous luminous cycle. Lake George means waking up before the sun rises. I love it.
The yard sale is actually in the satellite town of Warrensburg, but to us, it’s all simply called Lake George. This weekend in the small Adirondack town means food vendors baking, cooking, sautéing, frying and deep-frying things like pizza, funnel cake, sausage and peppers, popcorn, candy, cookies, hot dogs and hamburgers, homemade lemonade, roasted in the husk ears of corn with a cup of melted butter, corn dogs, French fries, blooming onions (heartburn included), ice cream, and whatever new surprises may come with each new year. It means porta-potties with no toilet paper. Every year, this weekend on the lake means going out to eat at night. Same place as last year (service and food were great last year!), or someplace new (give it a shot!)? These weekends mean threats from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so watch what you eat!
Lake George in early October means the crisp smell of cold when the sun is still revolving back into the hemisphere. It means the smells of fall and the colors of leaves losing their fill of chlorophyll. Green to yellow. Yellow to brown and then they all fall down. Weeks later, in Lake George, you might hear the crunching of those once lush leaves below your feet, but in early October they exist to please the eye in colors of yellow, red, and orange. This weekend means foot soldiering around town in search of treasures hidden on backstreets. Lake George means walky-talkies bellowing strange sounds and snippets of others’ static-filled conversations. It means pranks and anonymous fake threats carried on radio waves, threats that will never be birthed into existence. They’ll never hurt us, but they’ll make us laugh. This weekend means thriving crowds from out of town. Throngs of people before these crowded streets. It means haggling. It means dirty hands after sorting through other people’s junk. It means finding cheap parking in a good spot, central to the festivities. No one wants to drag pounds and pounds of the good stuff through several miles of the horde to get to the car parked in someone’s muddy front yard, for five dollars. Lake George means a four or five hour drive with my father behind the wheel. It means my mother yelling at my father to slow down or back off someone’s ass. I love it.
Lake George means the arcade where Mom rocks the pinball machines without tilting, playing on fifty cents for a good twenty minutes, much longer than my two coins last. Then we shoot invisible beams of light from rifles chained to the counter. I hit the spittoon and the man plays a ditty on the old timey piano. He never lets me down, year after year. Dad rolls the ball into the slot, hoping to make a Full House and get maximum points represented by paper tickets. What kind of prize can we get this year? One hundred tickets for a bouncing ball that we could have got for fifty cents from a vending machine? It was all worth it. Mother and son, side-by-side, picking off furry varmints and snarling desperados. Father and son playing poker. Mother smoking, walking next to father on the sidewalk behind me. On the lake means the wax museum, and the haunted house. Two-for-One pricing!
The yard sale crowds mean trouble for the ambulance trying to get to someone who must have found that nick-knack they’d been hunting for decades, overwhelmed that they’ve found their holy grail. He turned the water into wine. Weekends on the lake mean somebody might get to the good stuff before you do. Fuck you—It’s mine! Lake George means blankets, tables, tents, tarps and barns. Neon stickers, tags on string, markered up masking tape telling us how much. Negotiate. Bargain. Haggle. Araby. I love it.
Crowds and crowds mean people of varying looks. Check her out; she’s got huge boobs. There’s the guy with the voice box, here every year. Were I a kid, I’d be scared. Lake George means the cell phone rings at least ten times and dad asks you where you are at all of those ten times. If you’re not near a street sign, you tell of some landmark that you forget about all year, but once you get into town, it all comes back to you. I love it all.
Lake George means if you’re a melancholy teen and you sit in one spot long enough, strangers who are your peers may come up to you, you who is sitting there in your headphones waiting for your parents and trying not to look alone. These strangers will ask you if you’re okay. After you tell them yes, but don’t necessarily mean it, you want to go with them when they leave. You have so few friends and fewer good ones and maybe that cute girl with them will make out with you. You’re young enough to be satisfied with that and not desire much more, the way you will in the years to come. You watch them go off and are satisfied that someone, who is maybe like you, has shown concern. They cared enough and it got to me. Hit me in the heart and I loved humanity those minutes after, until my parents came around and I was soon digging through a box of G.I. Joe action figures and hoping they’d have their corresponding weapons.
I love those kids, now adults, somewhere in the world, maybe still there, waiting to invite me for a night on the town, as small as it is. Are they still alive, dead, perhaps joined the Army, or Marines and went to Iraq? Did they go to college and move to the city? Albany, Boston, or New York? Did she get pregnant at eighteen or nineteen and go to work at the grocery store that bears no name that anyone outside of the upstate region would recognize? I hope for only the best for them. I love them.
I’ve been returned for a mere week and I’m off again, but not alone. Not alone. My parents and I are heading up to Lake George, New York in a few hours. World's largest yard sale and all that, every first weekend in October. Miles of wares. Miles to go before we sleep.
Son, a better shot, gets more headshots than mom.
The world outside of lower New York can be found lacking. Exotic New York foods such as bagels and pizza do not truly exist outside of New York. There are rare pockets in the outside world beyond the intangible walls of civilized New York where these delicacies occasionally form themselves from up out of the earth. Before we leave I'm going to get some bagels, because I've been without them for a month. Real bagels made with New York water. I think that is really the key to many of our fine foods. Pizza and bagels. Bagels and pizza. Thoughts of them bring me to the verge of gastrointestinal orgasm. It's the water that goes into the dough and makes them good. I've only eaten pizza twice since returning, so I must have more of it. Umberto's and then Giuseppe’s with their sweet sauce. A good sauce helps too. Francesco's is next, a family favorite for over thirty years. Mountain Mike's Pizza in Cali is dreadful. I fear Mountain Mike had his balls cleaved off, or perhaps caught in a meat grinder, because he takes no chances with his food. No flavor. None. I might as well go to Sunday mass and eat the wafers coated in flavorless cheese. Is "mass" supposed to be capitalized? I'm agnostic now, so I don't care in the sense that I could go to Hell should that exist, but for grammar's sake I want to get it right.
I just watched Layer Cake (L4YER CAKE on the box). It's a British crime film. The director was supposed to direct X-Men 3: The Last Stand, but "did not want to uproot his family to film in Canada." I think he would have done an excellent job.
I must away now.