January 29, 2008, Cornwall On Hudson, New York

Well, I know you’re dying to know … so yes, I went home last Friday. It was real last minute too. I was at work and was a little distracted since Lisa and the boys did not call the night before (Thursday). I was talking to them on the phone and wanted them to call me later on Skype so we could videoconference. They never called.

So the next day, mumbling to myself all day, debating on whether to call and vent a bit, I decided at about 3:30 to make the trip home. So after work I zipped to the cottage and packed up what I needed and was on the road a little late. My phone was dead so I charged it with the converter I bought for the Universal Orlando trip, but even when it was done charging, I did not turn it on. I knew Lisa would be calling and being a little mad still but also not wanting to give away my location (car noises in the background), I left it turned off.

Anger? Loneliness? Love? Lust? What drove me to drive that day? I am still not sure. But I am glad I did. The trips aren’t getting any shorter, but they are getting a little less tedious. I have it down to a formula at this point.

Fill up in Vails Gate, drive 5 hours to the Bedford Service Plaza on the Turnpike, gas up and grab a grande half-caf at the Starbucks there, and it’s about an hour and 45 minutes to home. Reverse that on the way back to the cottage.

Connor was probably the happiest to see me, followed by a close second between Lisa and Max. I know Max misses me more often than Connor, but when he (Connor) misses me, I feel the worse. It was great being home and the bonus was having Zach come over too. I was able to set up Max’s new computer and that’s working out very well. Left Vista on it for now so we’ll see how it works out.

Lisa was not feeling good, another reason that compelled me to head home, but she was able to go the family wedding over the weekend. Aunt Helen Detorre’s granddaughter (Jerry’s daughter) was getting married. Lisa got to dance, dress up and see her brother. A great night for her. I got to hang out with the boys, a great night for me.

But, I’m back at the cottage now …

The week at work has been good so far. A few new things going on and able to help a lot of faculty in a bind this week as classes are a good two weeks into the term and the late starters are desperate. So when I can help at the last minute get them up and running, they really appreciate it and I fell like I am making a difference.

But I’d rather get into some stories about things I have been experiencing, mulling over, and otherwise observing at this end outside of work.

When I got back from home the weekend I was there for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I got a call from Mr. Fusillo while I was at work. I did not know this until I went for my lunchtime walk and my cell intoned that I had a voice message. Thinking it was Lisa, I called to check and it turns out it was Joe who said he needed to talk to me. He mentioned something about one of the neighbor’s cars. I was hoping they did not think I hit one of them. When I called him back, he said there had been a party somewhere on Maple Road over the weekend and some cars had been tampered with or broken in to. I did not notice anything amiss at the cottage when I got back, so I reported that to Joe.

However, I did see something strange that morning on the way to work. It was cold that morning, very cold. Cold enough for a heavy coat, gloves and a head wrap. But as I was leaving Bellwood Road and driving down Maple toward Mountain Road, I saw a young man sort of walking, standing on the road in front of Joe’s house. He was mid to late teens at the oldest, I guessed, and wearing jeans, tennis shoes and only a blue hooded sweatshirt. Very odd I thought. What was he doing out in this cold with only a “hoody” on. Did he live on Maple Road? Was he heading for a bus stop for school (he was not carrying a bag or anything to indicate he was making his way to school)? Was he at the party the night before and wondering around still sort of drunk? I could see he was looking at my car as I drove past him and I did not worry about the cottage as I had double locked it for some reason. Normally I only lock the door, but had also locked the deadbolt that morning.

I thought nothing of it after that until Joe called and reported this to him, which he said he’d pass along to the police. Turns out several other cars around the area had been broken in to as well but not much was taken in our area. Details of these are at the Cornwall On Hudson newspaper site.

Anyway, the young man’s face haunted me for the rest of that day most likely because of two things. Joe’s call about the break in to my neighbors car (not much was taken – maybe some loose change), and the fact that my boss sent around a note that a cadet was killed over the weekend. No details, just a name: Mitchel Tisdell.

Being the curious type and having the power of Internet available to me, I Googled the name and set up a Google News Alert to see what, if anything, would be reported about this young man. Turns out he was from Colorado and was apparently hit by a commuter train while in New York City. The details of the accident are available at this link.

So, why does the passing of Cadet Mitchel Tisdell, whom I had never met, to my knowledge, command so much of my attention? Why do I have this uneasy feeling that maybe, just maybe, I did meet him. And maybe it was that morning on Maple Road, after he had already passed, and was wondering around looking for passage to the other side. Perhaps the young man, who was poorly dressed for the weather and did not seem sure of where he was or was supposed to be heading, was looking to me for help when I passed him, which was why he followed my car not with menacing eyes, but with a somewhat sad but hopeful look. Was I supposed to stop? Was I supposed to ask him if I could help him or offer him a ride?

Later I thought he was likely on his way to school and, like most kids I remember seeing while walking Connor and Max to Park School on my way to the bus stop, just did not like overdressing for the weather. And if I had stopped and asked him if he wanted a ride I would be appearing on the police blotter as someone trying to abduct a child along Maple Road. I will probably never know for sure as I have not seen that young man again. I’ll just call him “Mitch” for now …

More action at the cottage as I was forced to physically evict a visitor yesterday. Seems as if my place is very popular with the ladies. Ladybugs that is. I don’t think they are actually ladybugs, but an Asian beetle of some kind. I remember there were times at DU when the wall of Rockwell Hall would be covered with literally thousands of these beetles, which look like ladybugs, but turns out they are seasonal or not native. Could be the same ones I have as roommates or these could be the real deal. Anyway, I find carcasses of them here and there and there is one who calls my kitchen home. I left a small piece of bread and some orange for it last night because I was worried I am not sloppy enough for it to survive otherwise. Yeah, I am that desperate for company.

But while I was working on the computer last night, low and behold some bug began flying around my lamp. Very distracting and I was a little afraid it was going to fall into the lamp and get killed. It was a beetle and I figured the one that lived in the kitchen. I grabbed a newspaper and was able to knock it onto the food ad and tossed it out the front door. I would miss him, um, her. Not sure of its gender.

But when I went back into the kitchen, low and behold, there was my little friend still crawling along the counter. I had sent a different beetle out into the cold. But now I had guilt. Was it a friend of the one in the kitchen? A bother? Spouse? Sibling? I could evict the one in the kitchen so it could join the other one in the frozen hell that is the shadow of Storm King Mountain, but I think I’ll let him/her stay as long as he just chills in the kitchen. Hope he eats the bread.

One last observation for the day … I stopped yesterday to check mail. Joe, bless his heart, put my name on the mailbox for the cottage. He did his best, but it read “Veche.” Oh well, I think anything destined for me will get here. One things that is arriving each week now is food ads. Now, you would think they would go right into the garbage, especially since I shop in Pittsburgh where I find it is generally cheaper for food, but I read each one from cover to cover. I don’t know, it made me think of home. Anything to make the connection is comforting.

OK, another last observation. Kitchen sponges. I find it really strange to pick up a dry kitchen sponge. Why? Have I lost it to the point where I need to write about dry kitchen sponges?

Here’s my observation. When, at night, when I finally get around to washing the spoon, knife, fork, Starbucks travel mug and Martha Stewart reusable food containers I take for lunch every day, the sponge I use in the kitchen is dry and stiff. A little water softens it up and usually there is still enough soap on it to get the job done.

So why is this significant? I don’t think I can ever remember a time at home when I picked up the sponge in the kitchen when it wasn’t still damp and soapy from cleaning dishes throughout the day. There is always something that needs cleaned at home. Dishes from breakfast, cups from the boy’s room, sippy cups from Connor. That sponge never gets a chance to dry out. Lisa and I must have used it 8 times a day, and even the 6 or 7 hours over night when it goes unused while we’re in bed was not enough time for it to become the light-as-a-feather brick I pick up every night here.

Yeah, it is just another indication of how lonely it can be here. There is no one to use the sponge throughout the day (unless I train the ladybug or Mitch needs to clean up a bit), but at the same time it is extremely reassuring that my powers of observation are still honed to pick up on small things like this and find meaning and significance in them.

So … what have I learned the last couple of days? Maple Road could possibly be a path to heaven (or hell, depending on how you might have spent your life), ladies love MAV (ladybugs at least) and the deer, while still skittish around me, will let me toss them bread from the kitchen window. Too cool.

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