"Hi-ho, neighbor!" a man chirped metaphorically the next morning. A cute blonde family wearing Keds and Dockers were up at the crack of dawn. This version of Ned Flanders was smiling as he cooked, his four (yes, four) kids were under ten but were silent, smiling and looking fondly on Dad, who was whipping up made-to-order omelettes for his perfect family.
"Oh, my head," Jesse and I both said in unison. And then, "Coffee."
While Ned smiled some more and deeply inhaled the evergreen-smelling Catskills, Jesse and I boiled water and squeezed it through torn coffee filters to make our own version of French press coffee. Hmph, we both grimaced, we can make eggs, too, just like Ned.
"Honey?" Ned called out, beaming in our direction, "Fried or sunnyside up?"
Mrs. Ned had a choice of eggs? Jesse and I didn't even have a pan to cook ours in. Not to be thwarted, we made runny omelettes and pretended like they were delicious, praising each other just loudly enough for the Ned and Mrs. Ned to hear.
After securing our Monopoly game-pieces with paper-weight rocks and candles, we set out for Kaaterskill Falls, one very steep foothill of the Catskills.
Kaaterskills Falls is a double waterfall in the eastern Catskills. At over 250 feet, they are the highest falls in New York state. Yes, taller even than Niagara Falls, but nowhere near as wide. Jesse and I drove to the base of the falls, and started climbing. Negotiating footfalls over craggy rocks in a cool pine forest, we reached the top in no time. After playing in the cold pools and splashing the mineral water on our flushed faces, we hiked the cliffside of Kaaterskill, then drove to Woodstock for lunch.
Old hippies with long hair and beards played banjos on street corners, women dressed in black protested war, and a grizzly but cheerful Vietnam vet sold creative smoking products. Sounds like a cliche, but it wasn't. This was the real Woodstock, with perhaps a few coats of paint and some new-age Sufi wisdom offering you the chance to view your aura (we ate pizza instead).
After spending a few hours getting lost in the maze of green that is Route 32 North, Route 32 South, Old Route 32, and Route-32-off-Route-212, we napped on the shores of North-South Lake, a crystal blue heaven whose calm was only interrupted by quiet little angels being screamed at by their incredibly overweight parents.
Jesse and I left to hunt and gather at the supermarket. Prime steaks and a fine wine in hand (again), and we returned to our campsite. We'd finally invested in a disposable grill, and on it we slowly grilled our kill over a charcoal fire, marinating them in a local exotic mixture of nothing special but everything delicious. The Ned Flanders family had left, which was a real shame, because Jesse and I had finally hit our culinary stride. Tucking in to steak, buttered corn, and grilled asparagus, we ate until it hurt. And then found room to polish off half a bag of jumbo marshmallows.
We didn't stop there. I had a Monopoly championship to win.
Sidebar: The only time I've ever lost a game of Monopoly, or ever come close, I was about 13 years old and faced with being bankrupted by my younger brother (my own brother!). In protest, I overturned the board and its contents and stormed off. Although my undefeated reign is disputed, I (alone) stand by it.
As I wrote in my last post, the night before, Jesse had suggested trading my Boardwalk for his Pennsylvania and North Carolina Avenues. I'd readily agreed, pouting and acting sorry that I had to make such a big concession. Eyeing each other warily, we both bought little green house after little green house, building up our Monopolies (oddly, the rest of the board's real estate was divided equally between us). Finally, we invited the developers in and paid for hotel complexes. Like suburban America, it was the beginning of the end of someone's empire.
Jesse landed on my North Carolina.
I didn't land on his Park Place or Boardwalk, instead passing to Go and smiling wickedly in the process.
Jesse landed on North Carolina, again.
I didn't land on Park Place or Boardwalk.
Jesse landed on my Pennsylvania.
I didn't land on Park Place or Boardwalk.
One last time, Jesse landed on North Carolina, and it was all over. America took the Monopoly cup in her hotly contested match with one fantastic kiwi.
I comforted my opponent with the second half of the bag of marshmallows, trying to toast them to a crispy golden brown, but mostly getting impatient and setting them alight.