In December 2006 I waxed euphoric, as I often do, and published this article. In light of the article above by Nary a Peep and the article below by Mariah, I decided to re-publish it. John
Having lived in many fine places, I can say with some certainty that I recognize a good living environment when I find one. Of course, everyone has their own unique perspective on what’s good or pleasing and what is bad or disturbing so I can only speak for myself … and hopefully Becki. I thought it would be worth talking from my own point of view about the simple things that I value in Woodstock (they are indeed simple).
As I said, I have lived in many fine places - for example, my first 18 years in Rowayton CT on Long Island sound; then in Bethany, West Virginia for four years at the same college as Ernie Wetzel that prided itself as the “small college of distinction.” Ernie and I have shared a chuckle about ‘the small college of extinction‘. After that there were side trips to Spain, most of Europe, Tangiers and Scandinavia; a four year stint in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh; then in rural Howard County, Maryland, for 11 years; then in Palo Alto, California, for 14 years before our arrival in Woodstock almost 13 years ago. Each of these places had, at that time, a very special ambiance that has not necessarily been preserved through the decades. I guess this is why we cannot go back, we can only look for those qualities in choosing your current and future homes. I think that Becki and I agree that – barring unforeseen circumstances - Woodstock is our final home, and we feel very good about this choice.
If I were to pick something wonderful about each off these previous homes, I am quite certain that we could find similar qualities in Woodstock. Rowayton was a small pleasant residential town where everyone knew each other. West Virginia and Howard County Maryland were more rural than Woodstock is today when I lived there. I built my house with my bare hands (no generator) in Maryland that actually still stands today. I had a screech owl in the woods near my house and red foxes sometimes pranced on my front yard. One morning at about 9AM, I was sitting on my front door step looking east and absorbing the warmth and pleasant aromas of a mid-spring morning. I noticed a woodchuck coming up the slope of my front pasture, perhaps a distant 200 feet away. There was no sign of civilization from this vantage point. I would have to drive 20 minutes east toward Baltimore or 40 minutes south toward Bethesda to find a ‘civilization’….but the woodchuck just kept coming straight toward me, and I was getting worried until he did an abrupt stop six feet in front of me. I was transfixed as the woodchuck stared at me and realized that I was not one of ‘them’, and he turned around and ran back where he came from. That was a special moment that characterizes the long lost ambiance of Howard County.
Just yesterday, I was fortunate to have the same encounter with a wild turkey that likes our birdseed. If you have ever seen a solitary wild turkey (not from the bottle) in the shade, you can fully appreciate its beauty.
Palo Alto, California, was a vibrant residential town noted for pleasant living, flower gardens and flowering trees, the beautiful campus of Stanford, the glitz of the silicon valley, and innovative public schools. The school issue became important to us there because we had Mariah in 1988. We really felt important on her first day of school five years later when a San Francisco reporter interviewed her and her best friend, Bradley, on what it was like to be in school on the first day. This is when Mariah assertively announced to the entire Bay Area that she DID NOT miss her parents…AT ALL. We moved here when Mariah was seven, so Woodstock has become her real home with the Bay Area a close second.
Then there was the beautiful morning (every morning was beautiful in Palo Alto) when I walked out onto my postage stamp front yard sniffing the eucalyptus to be surprised by a squirrel that had plummeted 100 feet down with some palm fronds from the top of a very tall palm tree (Palo Alto means ”tall tree”) landing only a few feet away. Two more steps and I would have been dead from a direct hit. A few years later our next-door neighbor took matters into his own hands a few blocks away and stepped in front of a local train headed up the Peninsula. Although we were living in what seemed to be paradise, life was not perfect, and for some it was tragic.
For the most part, my memories of Rowayton, West Virginia, Howard County, and the Bay Area are very positive and pleasant, and these experiences prepared me for truly appreciating life in Woodstock. First, I like the name “Woodstock.” Perhaps this name takes me back to the tumultuous but exciting years of the late ’60s and early ’70s at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Little did I know that while I was absorbing every minute and nuance of Watergate while working in the lab at Hopkins, Becki was 3000 miles away absorbing the very same minutes of Watergate at a nudist camp outside of Sacramento (what a stunner). And, the music was great during that time too.
Besides the local turkeys (not just the CPSers), we have the bullfrogs in March, pristine brooks, rivers, and ponds, country roads, open fields, and dark forests. We also have the Morse Farm and Randy Morse, fresh corn, Barbara Wright (she helps raise $ for the schools), Daryl Hartman’s framing (she’s a former flower child), Dean’s Harley (he’s a Hulk Hogan stand in), our rock solid Town Hall (built like a brick s…. house), local referendums that remind us of our ‘unity’, bacon on the deck on the grill on Sunday mornings, UConn and Academy basketball and football (sorry ‘girls’), and of course the Cafe.
Life is good!