February 6, 2008, High Atop Storm King Mountain, New York

A pretty good day at work. Several new projects popped up and I am very excited about working on them next week while at home. I am more excited about being home than anything though.

Right now I am experiencing the first real thunderstorm since arriving. It is a good one too. This mountain lives up to its name, “Storm King.” I have a small skylight and it is getting hammered pretty good. I turned the lights off and opened the blind on the front window. (I knew I’d get glare from the lights.) About 7 feet wide or so. Just wanted to see if I could actually see the rain. Well, if you have a fear of the dark, you do not want to live here. It was pitch black. There were some lights from the houses across the road, about 120 yards or so away. This is deep, deep seclusion. I half expected to see some weird form of deep sea life float past the window with a bioluminescent lure bobbing off of its nose like in Finding Nemo. Would not have surprised me in the least. So this is what it feels like to be in a submersible …

I have been carefully crafting a new playlist in iTunes for drive home Friday. I was just clicking and dragging song after song into the list and figured I’d have to do some weeding out when I was done. Well, I ended up with nearly 1.5GB, more than double what a CD would hold. I had a lot of work ahead of me. Started the process before talking with the Lisa and the boys last night on Skype, then painfully dropped off some Beatles and XTC tonight. I was just about to drop a blank CD into the drive when the blood flow to my brain resumed. If you have been keeping up with the blog, you’ll note from the last extended rant my friggin’ optical drive on the computer is dead. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

So, thanks to USMA (United States Military Academy) and CTE, I checked out a 60GB iPod and sync’d my entire library (about 50GB to it). I resync’d it with the new list and will try to burn a CD on my USMA laptop. I love having a backup in these situations …

So, I’ve been meaning to write about some of the stores, towns and other elements of my new surroundings I am exposed to on a regular if not daily basis. Mostly wanted to compare what I see and do hear with things any of you who know me would be able to understand. If you are an “outsider” who has stumbled on my blog, some of these might not make much sense unless you are also from Pittsburgh.

We’ll start with Pittsburgh. There is really nothing within 40 or so miles that compares to Pittsburgh. Most of the towns are really pretty small. More on the order of Munhall, West Mifflin or smaller hamlets (Whitaker, west Homestead). Although there is a ‘burgh here, it’s Newburgh. Strange though it does have the “h” at the end, unlike most other city or location names ending in just burg.

Newburgh is a scary little place. There are some good shopping areas on the fringe of the town (village, city, not quite sure). Those shopping areas are OK, with a Wal-Mart, Target and other stores conveniently located within 20 minutes or so from Cornwall on Hudson. But driving through the residential and old central business district is simply sad. It reminds me more of Braddock or McKeesport. Someone told me that it was a pretty good place to live at one time years ago, but is a railroad town and business in the area has dried up, much like Braddock and McKeesport. I had been looking at apartments at one point there, before I visited, and am glad I did not set my sights there. The rent was generally cheaper, and for a good reason it turns out.

My daily commute to work and back from the cottage takes me onto New York Route 9W. Most roads here are designated with some kind of letter. There is 17K, 9E, etc. As for 9W, the part I drive is from around Highland Falls to Cornwall. It goes up and over Storm King Mountain. And let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. Not only does it have substantial grades up and down the mountain, it is as windy as a mountain stream. And many days, like today, the top of the mountain, and therefore 9W, are shrouded in fog.

Now, that might seem cliché. I have been in fog before, but what I drove through this morning was like pea soup. Solid, frozen pea soup. Those of you who know me know I am not one to exaggerate, so imagine visibility of about 20 yards or less. Traffic travels at between 50 and 60 MPH and there are twists and turns to deal with on top of that. It was somewhat fun, somewhat scary, only because these people are a little on the crazy side. You have half the drives who want to go 65 and the other half going 35. Trying to maneuver around the slower ones without bringing the wrath of the speed demons down on you is a true art form. I am slowly learning to master it though.

Anyway, 9W could probably be most closely compared to a combination of Route 51 and the Parkway North. It is much more windy than Rte. 51, but it is only 4 lanes, two each direction always separated by a median or guardrail. At least the section I drive twice a day. The comparison to the Parkway North is for the important channel it provides for getting someplace and the light traffic on it. I never wanted to live in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, but always envied to a degree those who do when listening to the morning traffic reports. “Parkway East backed up to Penn Hills, Parkway North, well, damn near empty.”

Beyond 9W is the Palisades Parkway. Beautiful drive, not much more crowded and leads almost all of the way to NYC. Could go all the way there, but until I take the leap to head into the city with my car, I won’t know. It does go to the Palisades Center though (via one or two exits nearby this mall, touted as the second largest in the country – really look it up on Wikipedia).

I decided to go to the mall Saturday as I was both bored and wanted to stay away from the cottage for fear the loneliness of not being home over the weekend would out me over the edge. OK, it was not that bad. But too many of them (weekends without getting home) could be.

This fear was valid as I bought my first bottle of wine Friday night at the liquor store in the Cornwall Plaza. It was a nice little pinot noir from New Zealand! Could not believe it. It was more than I like to spend for a 750ml bottle (only about $15), but I had to have it. Another deciding factor was that it had a screw top. I’ve bought too many corkscrews while on vacations and at conferences that I really did not want to pick up yet another one. If I remember I will grab while I at home this weekend.

I came home that night with my bottle of wine and my 6-inch Black Forest Ham Subway (also in the Cornwall Plaza) and broke out my finest Dixie cup to enjoy a lonely but tasty dinner while watching The Simpsons Movie. It was then, by the way, that I first got a notion that my DVD drive was failing.

Luckily I did not have a hangover from the half or more of the bottle I downed that night and was ready to head to the Laundromat the next morning … but that will have to wait for now. Getting late and I want to try and burn that CD before Lisa and the boys call.

Sorry to leave you hanging. I will finish this up tomorrow night as it might be a while before I get back to this as I’ll be home.

Just an update on the steps as reported by the pedometer:

Friday 9,480 steps
Saturday 6,637 steps
Sunday 5,868 steps
Monday 8,194 steps
Tuesday 9,407 steps

Now, what did I learn the last couple of days … not to sweat the small stuff at work. The people I work with are genuinely nice and seem to trust in what I am doing and that I can handle things without them having to worry about me or check in on me. I’ll tell you a little more about Kermit Allen later as a polar opposite (perhaps, but I may never know). More thunder outside. Sure is dark out there …

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