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Open Studios Art Tour

The AMR Open Studios Art Tour will be held July 8-9 in Stamford and Delhi and July 29-30 from Margaretville to Roxbury and surrounding communities.
This is a great chance to visit some really fantastic Catskill Region artists at the places they create….and maybe pick up some art while you’re touring. Pick up one of these brochures, produced by Locust Grove Enterprises, at a local business and get ready to tour!

Open Studios Tour

Catching some porch time

Catching some porch time

“How was your weekend?” It’s a common pleasantry, designed to take the edge off the back-to-work grind of a Monday morning.

The question, of course, is not meant to probe. It’s more of a greeting. Grouchy on Mondays by nature, I usually respond that my weekend was lousy. That’s not usually the case, but it makes me feel better about being relegated to an office for the next eight hours. I’m not a confinement kind of guy. Must be my tendency towards claustrophobia.

Anyhow, I recently started giving more thought to the “How was your weekend?” inquiry. Not all weekends are great, naturally, but mostly they are pretty good.

Our weekends took on a different tone a few years back when we moved to greener pastures. Or, more accurately, rockier pastures. The Catskills are well-known as having a high rock content. When you relocate to the side of a mountain the “two stones for every dirt” theory is multiplied by about 100 on the stones end. And they are likely big ones.

I’m providing this information as background for how I spend my weekends. “Starting over” is work. A lot of work. I’m not complaining, just explaining.

Turning forest into lawn is not an easy task. Fortunately, most of this labor was performed with the assistance of huge pieces of equipment. Still, there was plenty of digging left for the “finish work.” And my heavy machinery ownership is limited to an “experienced” garden tractor that demands the word, “Whew!” every time I complete a mowing without a call to the repairman.

No shortage of work

As with any house not covered in vinyl or constructed of brick, there’s always a fair amount of painting on the “to do” list. Porches with bright southern exposure are great for sitting, but harsh on the paint. In fact, I dedicated a good chunk of time last weekend to scraping and reapplying a few fresh coats of paint to the front porch.

I’m pretty sure my inspiration for completing this project (which I successfully ignored last season) was jumpstarted by a visit from friends over the summer who commented, “Oh, the porch is looking well-used.” Ouch.

The never-ending pursuit of firewood also occupies much of my weekend “spare” time. No matter how much wood I have on hand, the arrival of autumn sparks a mini-panic in me and I feel an urgent need to add to the collection.

Or, maybe it’s the fact that this is the time of year that I try to get the oil tanks filled that creates this firewood urgency. It’s probably a combination, but firewood chores cut deeply into my weekends during each autumn.

I guess a ‘good” weekend is a productive one. It makes one appreciate “porch time” more. Of course, there’s not much room on the porch now with the bulging racks of firewood. Plus, I have to worry about marring the new paint job. When it comes to relaxing, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

— Brian Sweeney

(Return to Humorous Columns…)

If the hat doesn’t fit…

If the hat doesn’t fit…

OK, I’ll admit to not always being on the cutting edge of trendiness. So, when I do venture out of my self-imposed seclusion, I’m often a bit shocked at what I’ve been missing. Or not missing.
 For instance, last week I went to see one of my favorite musicians, Nicole Atkins. Because I prefer musicians who are “on the way up,” the venue was not large. But, the place was packed with beer/music lovers.

And guys with tiny hats.

Yes, that’s right — tiny hats. One can assume that these fellows also had tiny heads, but that’s not for me to judge. Still, the hats were pretty small.

There were so many of these tiny-hatted fellows that, after awhile, I began to think I missed a memo about proper attire for the event.

“Do you think there’s a late-night tiny hat shop around here?” I asked my wife. 
She didn’t think so, but assured me that as long as we paid the cover charge she was sure we’d be allowed to stick around.

In reality, as much as I wanted to hear Nicole in person, I doubt that I would have stayed if management had demanded that I don a tiny fedora. I think they are, well, dumb looking. And, when you get a room full of fellows all wearing undersized hats…it’s not good.

As we hung around in the bar for the music to start — my confidence given a lift by a full-bodied ale — I finally turned to one the mad hatters and asked, “Where do you get such a hat? And, more importantly, why?”

Uh, oh

You’re probably thinking that my next words were incoherently mumbled to 911 personnel as we raced to the hospital, me having suffered a pretty good beating.

Fortunately, the tiny hat fan whose taste I had questioned must have had his hearing squelched by the pressure of a tight-fitting hat.

“Huh?” he responded.

By now I had noticed that this fellow’s biceps were much larger than his headgear. Maybe, I thought, I should lower the risk of an old-fashioned thumping.

“I said, ‘Where did you get your hat — it makes your face look thin?’” I smoothly lied. He smiled and tipped his cap. I quickly melted into the crowd and tried to fit in — as much as I could without the aid of a miniscule fedora to assist my cause.

As mentioned earlier, the concert area was not large, but a lot of people could fit in there — if they were packed tight and no fire inspections were occurring. I realized that it might get pretty hard to see the show, with all those tiny hats sticking up in front of us.

Then, something wonderful happened. Maybe Nicole realized that, since neither my wife nor I were wearing tiny hats, that we were there for the music — not the scene. Right before the show started, she announced, “Let’s make room up front for everyone without tiny hats — so that they can see the show.”

The tiny-hatted folks were very polite and let us (and the other two hatless spectators) move close to the stage. High-energy, great Rock-n-Roll followed.

A few hours later, when the last note had been played, Nicole told the crowd. “Hat’s all folks.” Well, not all, but quite a few.

— Brian Sweeney

(Return to Humorous Columns…)

Things will never be the same

Things will never be the same

It’s the end of an era here at the Catskill Mountain News. This week’s paper marks the last one on the job for jack-of-all-trades Esther Snyder of Roxbury.

At a few years north of the traditional retirement age, Esther will be stepping down from her twice-a-week chores as typesetter/proofreader/obituary editor. I doubt, however, that she’ll be slowing down much.

As noted, Esther has worn several hats in her quarter-century of work at the News — her second career after an even longer stint performing office duties at Roxbury Central School. Back in the “olden times” there was plenty of type to be set here, as most news items arrived via the post office. As the trend of e-mailing news rose, Esther shifted her focus more to proofreading duties.
Anyone who has ever proofread knows that this is a thankless task. In the office, there are plenty of comments like, “Wow, glad you caught that one before it made its way into print!”

A few always slip past

Unfortunately, there are always some typographical errors that elude every set of eyes that glances over them. Despite the fact that the errors originated on someone else’s keyboard, the proofreader is a common fall-guy/girl.

As much as I would like to blame others for my typos, I have a hard time pinning my mistakes on Esther. Oddly enough, Esther takes care of this task for me. You see, even though she’s already read the entire paper, she does so again with final product. The following week, she’s fond of saying, “Did you see the error(s) that got in?”

Being a big fan of “ignorance is bliss,” I usually am unaware of the typo(s) that Esther is about to point out. Naturally, I am thankful for her sharing the knowledge that these errors made their way into print. Forever.

Along with plain, old-fashioned typos, she politely points out common grammatical errors to the writing staff. Esther makes certain that the comments being delivered are not actually coming from her, but from “Mr. Webster.”

Wrote the book on it

Ironically, after 25-plus years on the job, Esther has no real need to refer to Webster’s dictionary — she has compiled her own volume of notes regarding certain spellings, rules for hyphenating, etc. For instance, are you aware that “firehouse” is one word? We weren’t either. Until Esther corrected this mistake numerous times.

And speaking of the aforementioned hyphens, I love them like I love baseball — but Esther is not nearly as fond of these little devices. I’m not taking that last one out, however.

She’s also a stickler for the proper spelling of names. I’m willing to bet that she knows how to spell the first and last names of just about every man, woman and child in the Town of Roxbury. Her diligence in this department has saved countless errors over the years.

I noted above that Esther was the obituary editor. This was an unofficial title, but well-earned. Of all stories in the paper, Esther has always had a grave concern about errors in obituaries. She is always very respectful of the dignity of an obituary. These pieces are no place for mistakes — or puns like “grave concern.”

Bringing back the past

Being from the “old school,” Esther grew up reading this paper when it was dominated by “social” news about the comings and goings of neighbors. That side of the paper has been in steady decline for many years and has largely disappeared.

However, Esther has done her part to keep such news alive. When the scarce amount of news to be typeset is finished, she often “heads downstairs” to make some calls to see if anyone in her community is interested in sharing their activities in The Roxbury News.

Esther’s diligence usually nabs a few folks, but there aren’t many residents who participate. I like to joke that Esther’s persistence has spurred an avalanche of Roxbury residents opting for Caller ID.

It’s only natural that Esther wants to see the news she has collected make its way into the paper, but when it’s tight, this column sometimes gets left out. I like to remind Esther that she could ensure The Roxbury News makes it into print, if some “Andrew Jacksons” make their way to my wallet. Darned if she didn’t track down a supply of counterfeit mini-Jacksons that she funnels to me upon request. They are hard to spend, but I appreciate her effort.

Late-night writing

Esther’s day doesn’t end when she leaves the office, either. She often arrives and tells us she was up until the wee hours — writing letters. In fact, her letter-writing volume is so legendary, I think she may single-handedly be keeping the post office afloat.

Over all the years, Esther’s quirky personality has spawned many memories. I think the one that will always stick with me occurred several years ago when her car was in the shop and she borrowed a family member’s Monster Truck for a few days. I’m not sure how she got in or out of this hulking, mud-covered beast, but she did.

Plus, there were mechanical problems with the Monster Truck, as well, and I believe she could drive only in second gear. I’m sure that cut down on her opportunity for doing some donuts in the cornfield on the way home.

I could go on and on about my years with Esther as co-worker and friend. Anyone who knows her is aware of Esther’s devotion — to family, friends and newspaper readers.

Even though she won’t be coming into the office each week, I’m sure we’ll be able to keep tabs on her by reading The Roxbury News — as long as the Jacksons keep flowing, of course. Thank you, Esther — I sure hope there are no typos in this piece.

— Brian Sweeney

(Return to Humorous Columns…)