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September 19, 2006


The waitress was right, of course, but we all reach out for connection and like minds. We blog our personal details, and let slip information that could be easily used by a predator. The risks are stupid, but we keep opening up because the chance for friendship is stronger.

I'm rather fond of bats.

Wonderful narrative. Thank you.

I grew to love the I-81 corridor in the years I lived in Central New York, but in since then, my memories of Pulaski are mixed up with those of similar towns except for the village's great attraction, the salmon-snagging, when a great run of fishermen with snagging hooks used to come to the Salmon River to try to catch fish that were on their way to open water after a summer spent in the upper reaches.

Maybe they don't even do it anymore; snagging was controversial 20 years ago. But I have clear memories of stopping in local diners all along the way up there, where their bright windows were beacons in the gathering dark when we were hungry.

If you like byways, consider taking NY 67 from Ballston Spa, on I-87, to Amsterdam, on I-90. The number of miles saved will about compensate for the slowness of the route, and if Amsterdam isn't pretty, it's picturesque.

Or spend the night in Alexandria Bay -- Everyone should spend a night of their lives in Alex Bay -- and detour down Route 12 from Watertown through Boonville, to see what the *other* side of the Tug Hill looks like. I once attempted a piece of automotive bushwacking from there, trying to find my way from Boonville to Big Moose via an uncertain black line on a Mobil map. I'd be up behind the West Canada Lakes to this day if a kid on a beat-up bike hadn't pointed out the right dirt road among the miles of featureless pines.

But I loved those towns best for their history, for in the days of water power they were vital, busy places, each with a mill or two that turned out some product or other for the regional market, and sometimes shipped them farther. Electricity and good transportation did them all in, of course, but they have come back a little as crafts workers set themselves up and tried to snag a few of those fishermen as they pass by. (A salmon snagger could be counted on to respond to the lure of a plastic-resin outhouse with an arrow -- his, hers, unoccupied -- the door and "Pulaski, NY" on the base. But to see the real mecca of tourist tchotchke you need to go to the mother nest, the central hive of all such things in New York, which I believe is Alexandria.)

Happy trails ...

Damn fine slice-of-life post, Beth. I can't help wondering whether you still would have been inspired to write it if the food hadn't been delicious?

Zhoen, you're right.

Thanks, Dale.

Peter, thanks for this terrific addition. We often drive NY 67 from Ballston Spa to Amsterdam, and also like NY 30, which continues from Amsterdam to Rt. 20, past old Dutch barns with their faded-red-paint arched doorways. But I've never really been on the back side of Tug Hill and I've never been to Alexandria - sounds like a great omission in need of correction!

Dave, yeah, I would've written it anyway. The food was good but it will fade into memory long before the human stuff does. It was the impression of these lives - the cook's, the dark-haired waitress's (who was really pretty,very nice and still young) and that kid's - all very much stationary, and mine, passing through - that made me want to write about it. Because I grew up in a place like that, and I know what it feels like, and what it feels like to leave, and to come back.

I have been in the diner, I am sure. My Dad was a manufacturer's rep who traveled what we called "the North country" and he and my Mom bought a place in Theresa NY just south and east of Alex Bay. It was on Moon Lake.
Anyway, we would drive 104 from Rochester on our way to the Moon, and always went through Pulaski. Even now my bros and srs and I will mention Dad's route through Pulaski and the pie at the diner.
I liked reading your piece. It would not have been complete without the edge of violence when the boy mentions the murders. The open faces, lazy conversations and the potential for violence fit my memories of the North Country..

I was there, I could see it all, and what the young man said about his father sent shivers up my spine. This is really wonderfully written. Gave me more of a small-town diner than all the similar scenes in all the American films I've watched.

A very nice narrative indeed! This is my first visit, but I'll be back.

Terrific post. Thanks.

When I read "riding" I thought of horses, and had an image of a squad of 2000 riders on horses on snowshoes. (or maybe Clydesdales, as in those winter beer commercials. Normal horses, I think would sink in the powder,) But I've never done that sport where a horse pulls you along and you're on x-country skis. (it's called something Swedish, I think)

Thanks and welcome, Susan and Larry. I appreciated what you said about the open faces and conversation and violence, Susan - that's my feeling as well.

LH - glad you liked this one!

Jack - wow - that never occured to me, but what an image it would be! (And I don't know the name of that Nordic sport either, but I know what you mean - Scandinavian immigrants used to do it in New England as well.)

The web calls it Ski-Joring. Something I should know as I've got Norwegian blood, and was touring on wooden skis since a tot.

Thanks, Jack! Now that I see it again, I remember the term but I'd certainly forgotten it. Let us know if you ever try it!

Oh, Beth, you have a terrific eye and ear, and the perfect pen for such writing. This is lovely. It took my breath.

Well, I wrote that one with you in mind, Tom. I felt like you were sitting there with me in that diner, too!

Great narrative. I will surely be back when I have time to browse. I wish I could write as well. I grew up on The Tug, and you capture the small town feel perfectly. I know the area very well. thanks,

Hi John - delighted to hear from you! I looked at your blog and was glad that someone is writing from and about the Tug Hill Plateau - I don't think there are very many central New York bloggers to begin with, and there is so much that could be written about. The wind farms are an interesting experiment, both scientifically and sociologically. There's one near my father's home, in Madison, and the residents have pretty much accepted it. The windmills have a certain kind of beauty, too, even if it is startling to see them towering above the hills.

I hope you'll keep reading The Cassandra Pages, and I'm always grateful for comments and feedback.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.