January 4, 2007, Cornwall On Hudson, New York

So, not sure where to begin. The holiday season seemed to just be a blur at this point. We had everyone from Lisa’s side over for Christmas Eve. Usually Paulette hosts the family but Nick has not been feeling well lately. It was a full house but we all had a great time. Maggie and Marnie and the kids, Helen Donahoe and Mark & Ann came over Dec. 30 for another family gathering. We had a blast with them too and it was great seeing everyone before heading out.

Even up to last night, even after buying new sheets, pillows, blankets, an inflate-a-bed and other necessities, it just did not sink in that today I was going to pack up my car with sparse belongings and head for New York to begin the next chapter in my life. Yet here I am.

I spent most of yesterday getting the den cleaned/packed up and did not want Max and Connor to have to see me jamming boxes into the car. We went to the Red Lobster last night and had a great “good bye” dinner. Then a trip to the Waterfront to get some last minute things, and home for homework, reading stories, a game of Madden ’06 with Connor, some eBay madness with Max, and off to bed. I slept surprisingly well, still not thinking about the major changes I was about to face in my life as the new day dawned.

After packing clothes and jamming everything into the Saturn, it was off to Starbucks and Giant Eagle for a few more last minute items including a cool Cuisinart travel coffee maker.

The drive up was rather uneventful, except for a truck whose inside rear tire was disintegrating in front of me at one point. I could smell rubber burning and see bits of debris flying off of the rear of the truck, and noticed the tire wobbling badly before the driver either noticed or some warning mechanism made him aware of the problem. He was pulling off the interstate the last I saw him. Could have been worse if larger chunks began flying off …

I made one stop in New Jersey at a Staples. I really had to go to the bathroom but figured I’d also see what kind of desks they have. I need to buy one tomorrow before the cable guy comes so I can get my Internet hookup. The GPS brought me a different way than I normally come but it took me right past the Woodbury Commons outlet mall. Hope to get there soon. I need shoes and hope they are actually a bargain there and not overpriced because of the tourist draw of the place.

Anyway … when I arrived at the cottage, Mr. Fusillo, Joe, was busy with damage control When he came over to the cottage to turn up the heat he noticed that the kitchen and bathroom pipes had frozen. He was trying to thaw them with a heat lamps and a heat gun. The water in the toilet tank and bowl was frozen – the top layer at least. Never saw that before.

As Joe worked on getting me a working toilet, I noticed that the window blinds, that were sitting next to the windows when I looked over the cottage initially, were still sitting next to the windows. Hmmmm, I would really like a little more privacy than this, I thought.

Joe was convinced I would need to sleep in the main house of the estate for the night. I was not so convinced. He seems nice enough but I am really looking for some solitude and privacy. Still, he convinced me to come to the house for dinner as the folks up the driveway in the old carriage house apartments were coming and it would be a good time to meet them.

We eventually made our way to the house (after taking care of the frozen plumbing and hanging the blinds), and it was the most surreal night I have spent in years.

Joe’s wonderful wife, Magda, whom I had spoken to on the phone several times, is extremely charming and very hospitable. I met here in the spacious kitchen of the house, which is the biggest house I believe I have ever been in. Lisa would love this kitchen. Almost at big as our living room. Someone made a comment at some point that there were 17 rooms in the house. Joe lead me to the living room where there was gathered a most eclectic group of people, all very happy to welcome Joe and me.

Ed Clark (Mr. Ed, Col. Clark as he was referred to by different people), a stately looking gentleman with a strong jaw and nose only slightly less pointy than mine, works somewhere in HR at West Point. He had been there previously, I believe, and is back now as a civilian. Emily, 18, petite and world wise, is his daughter. She was in for the holidays from Tulane University in New Orleans. I did not catch her major.

Jenna (Jennifer?) had two of her children there, the limber Rachel (11?) and obviously advanced Alden (12?). Both very nice children. Rachel is an accomplished gymnast and did some handstands and splits for everyone’s enjoyment and had a competition in the morning. Alden, as I picked up from the conversations, had designed a rather impressive fort of some kind that now resides beneath some kind of porch at his house. Jenna used to work at West Point and, like Ed, is back. I get the feeling that she was married to Ed at some point, but cannot be sure. That was the one of the more confusing relationships to dissect on the evening.

Bob is Jenna’s fiance. Bob is from England, London I take it. What I know of Bob is he may be up for a judgeship in England (I assume, but it could be here). He has the most infectious accent and seems like a real down to earth guy, someone I’d love to spend more time with and visit England with. I bet he’d be a great person to show you around the real sites, not the tourist attractions. He loves red wine and seems to genuinely enjoy Jenna’s children.

Magda made a wonderful meal. Aside from a pasta dish (penne) with vodka sauce (tomato sauce, heavy cream and vodka), she had real parmesan chicken (breaded, fried, slathered in sauce and cheese), a light salad and fantastic desserts. The appetizer was a wedge of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto. Joe began the meal with a thoughtful prayer and we all ate too much. After the meal and the homemade creampuffs, Bob made a traditional British dessert of Christmas pudding, complete with flaming brandy topping. It was different, and even tasty. You have to pour heavy cream over it though to get the full effect.

Jenna had left earlier with Rachel so they could get up early enough for the competition, and Ed, Alden, Emily and Bob left together. I hope Ed was driving. Bob was enjoying wine all night and Ed only had a small glass early on.

It could have been a play and all of us actors, but it would not have made for an interesting three act production. There was some discussion of ghosts and experiences the others have had, but nothing out of the ordinary. I should not probably make much of it, but I swear (whether it was the exotic food, a little liquor, or the new surroundings and the fact I slept very little) someone was sitting on my bed at some point and whispered in my ear. I was sleeping under the covers as it was cold, and did not dare look out, so we’ll see how the next few nights go …

Joe and I returned to the cottage and he tried to fix the leaking J pipe beneath the bathroom sink. When he could not get it to stop leaking, he again asked if I wanted to sleep in the main house. I politely declined and started inflating the bed. It is large and comfortable. I am a little cold and hope I can get the cottage up to a comfortable temperature in the next day or two.

The water smells like sulfur, something Joe said would go away. I do not have a towel so I will not be able to shower until tomorrow. I sure hope the water smells better by then … lots of shopping to do.

What did I learn today … All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

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