Thursday, September 26, 2019

River - Book Signing in Rhinebeck, Sunday, 9/29/19

Further to yesterday's post about this new Scholastic title that I'm so excited about - if anyone from the Rhinebeck area happens to stumble across this within the next 2 days, and you're interested in getting a signed copy of the book, meeting the author, AND supporting Riverkeeper, all at the same time, Oblong Books has got you covered. Click here for details and to RSVP. Wish I could go!

note: I am a Scholastic employee but this blog is purely a personal hobby - I'm sharing this here because I just love the book.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

River, by Elisha Cooper

Well, how perfect that I have been in a Hudson River vein for the last couple of posts - because today I'm going to stay in that vein to tell you about an absolutely gorgeous book about a woman's solo paddle down the Hudson that's coming out next week. Here's Elisha Cooper's cover for River

And here's Trusty Romany looking south on the Hudson River back in August 2014, when I was able to make a long-held pipe dream of a solo paddle down the Hudson into reality.

I've worked for Scholastic for 18 years now and of all the books we've published in that time, this may be the one that gives me the most personal delight.

I found out about it from Nikki Mutch, a lovely Scholastic sales rep with whom I'm Facebook friends. I'm in finance, and not high up in finance, which means that I don't really hear much about books we're publishing. Nikki shared it on Facebook back in April as she was getting ready to sell our Fall 2019 list. I saw the cover and her description and just about fell off my chair - she told me who I could talk to about getting an F&G (Folded and Gathered, an unbound preliminary print run allowing for adjustments before the final version) and when I read it - oh, it just gave me chicken skin. Here's what I had to say after the first reading:

ok I might be just a tiny tiny tiny bit excited about a book that Orchard Books is publishing this Fall. 

It's a story about a woman doing a solo paddle down the Hudson River. Friends will understand exactly why this just makes me smile from ear to ear just saying that! No, no, no, it's not actually about me, but reading the F&G of Elisha Cooper's book and seeing the glorious watercolors with which he's illustrated it just brought memories of my own voyage flooding back!

Fall seemed so far away then - but now here we are, and it comes out next week, and check out this great review from Kirkus!

This book would give a kid some great paddling dreams of their own to dream -- and it definitely gives this grownup an itch to go do it again - and maybe take more time this time, I only did a part of the trip described in the book.

Glorious. Elisha Cooper truly captures the river that I (and so many other boaters) love.

PS - for trip reports from my 2014 paddle, click on the "My Hudson Voyage" link below. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Back to the Hudson, 9/7/2019

So what's nicer than a beautiful weekend day getting back on the Hudson? Another beautiful weekend day back on the Hudson the next weekend!

This was a Sebago trip that my friend Laurie B. planned. I help out with the Sebago calendar and when she asked me to put the trip on there I emailed her right back saying "OK, and sign me up!"

We put in at Englewood and paddled up to Alpine, just under 5 miles north (and directly across from Yonkers, the location of the prior week's festivities), looking up at the magnificent cliffs of the Palisades. The link goes to the website of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission; this park, running from just south of the George Washington Bridge to just north of the border between Bergen County in New Jersey and New York's Rockland County, is a real local treasure, with the amazing cliffs, beautiful woods, a couple of marinas, a number of nice little picnic and recreation areas, and then a spectacular hiking trail from end to end (mostly easy, level hiking with one challenging scramble area at the "Giant's Stairs" section).

Englewood used to be a favorite day trip destination for the crew back in my Pier 63 days - it's about a 10 mile paddle but timed correctly you had a strong current assist both ways. I always loved setting out from our seriously urban rusty barge launch and then paddling up and having a leisurely lunch in all the natural beauty. Alpine has good memories too - there's a grand old stone pavilion there (it's in the picture of us on the beach at Alpine), and back in the days when Irish music and dance was my main hobby, one of the highlights of the summer was always the Alpine Ceili, which was put on by Manhattan's Irish Arts Center and always featured great local musicians. I don't think that happens any more, but there was an overlap between my taking up kayaking in 1998 and the end of the ceili, and there was one year when the ceili just happened to be on a weekend when the tides were perfect - and I 
threw some dancing clothes and shoes in a drybag, jumped in my shiny red Seda Glider (a faster boat that I used to own), and paddled to the ceili! Oh, the looks on people's faces when I turned up that way - priceless! Such a great day.

So it was so nice to get back to this much-loved stretch of the river for a day. It was a much grayer day, and a bit breezier, but the Hudson is beautiful in all sorts of moods. With the wind and current at our backs, we absolutely flew from Englewood to Alpine; we took a nice long leisurely lunch break there and then had a good strong current sending us home. It did get choppy enough from the wind against the current that if we'd had less experienced paddlers along, they might not have enjoyed the trip back as much as the trip up, but we had a small and solid enough group that the conditions were just good fun. And just the first hints of fall foliage!

And speaking of playful conditions - as soon as I wrap this up I'm off to play in some small surf with Kayak Dov and my fellow June IDW participants. I haven't gotten around to a writeup for that, but I will at some point - it was great and a really good next step in my continuing progress of getting my paddling act re-built after cancer (as mentioned in the last post). We were supposed to have a surf day during the workshop but it got thunderstormed out - Dov and Dale Williams (Georgia based instructor, great teacher) came up with some solid alternatives, but Dov went above and beyond what most instructors would do and offered us a makeup day later in the year. That's today! This will actually be my first time out in surf since my surgery. Surf report according to "The surf is small and inconsistent but enough for the bigger boards if you are motivated to get wet" - well, sea kayaks can count as "bigger boards", so I'm hoping that this ends up being the perfect re-introduction. Fingers crossed, knocking wood, wish me luck!

All pictures after this - click on any for a slide show view. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

9/7/19 - Yonkers leg of the Joe Glickman Cup, plus the Yonkers Mayor's Cup

Playing catch-up a little bit today! The weekend before last was an absolutely gorgeous day for the Yonkers leg of the Joe Glickman Cup.

Sebago had too many fun things going on that day. There was this, and then there were two camping weekends, one in Greenport and one on Staten Island. Both of those sounded like fun (although it was very windy on the Friday as Hurricane Dorian was passing offshore), but I decided to stick with the races.

Joe Glickman, also known as Glicker, was a much-loved member of Sebago and the paddling community at large, especially the surfski racing world. He was a kayak racer and a very good author. If you're a paddler, there's a pretty chance you've heard of him - and even if you don't know his name specifically, you've probably heard of what I suspect is his most popular work, Fearless: One Woman, One Kayak, One Continent, his excellent book about Freya Hoffmeister's circumnavigation of Australia. An amazing feat by an amazing woman, and Joe did a wonderful job of retelling her story.

Joe had a great gift for making anyone he ran into feel like a rock star, though. The last time I saw him was at the club - with Oscar Chalupsky. I'm a solid sea kayaker, but Joe did things like the Molokai Hoe, an annual race from Molokai to Oahu, and Oscar is a surfski god. So I am nowhere up with these guys. And yet Glicker, introducing me to Oscar, came up with a story about the day he ran into me out in Jamaica Bay during a tropical storm. "So I'm out there, blasting around, having a great time, and I'm thinking I've got to be the only person crazy enough to be out there, but then I see another boat and I paddle over to see who it is and it's Bonnie, and she's bobbing around in the waves -- taking pictures!"

A similarly experienced friend and I had gone out together to test ourselves out; conditions were at the lower end of tropical storm levels, the day and the water were warm, and the wind was from the south so if anything went awry we would blow towards home while we sorted things out. We actually had a great time out there and just cracked up when Glicker went tearing past us on his surfski, throwing a shaka as he went by. He was flying and went considerably farther than John and I, but we all ended up getting back to the dock at the same time, which was just as things were starting to get a bit feisty out there.  

So the story was true, but that he chose that as the story to tell when introducing me to one of the best surfski racers in the world was just so very, very, very Glicker.

Tragically, he passed away from cancer in 2015, far too young. But I think he squeezed more living and joy into his too-short life than some people do into much longer lives.

The Joe Glickman Cup was begun between the 3 oldest paddling clubs in NYC - the Sebago Canoe Club, the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club, and the oldest of all, the Inwood Canoe Club to remember Joe in that spirit of friendly competition and fun at which he excelled. All three clubs have a history as serious racing clubs, and all three have some serious racers who participate, but it's also fun for anyone else who might want to give it a try. The way the Cup works is that over the course of the summer, each club hosts a day. We start out with group paddles, then there are 6 races: 100 meter, 400 meters, and 800 meters, women and men. The first 3 finishers score points for their club, and at the end of the season, the club with the most points takes the cup home.

At Yonkers, the 800 meter races are also the Yonkers Mayor's Cup, with Mayor Mike Spano making the awards. I'm afraid I have no pictures of the award ceremony -- because I was in it!

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Then we feast!

The event has been going on for 4 years now. The first 2 years Sebago got the cup; last year Yonkers won. The mens' races are always pretty exciting - Sebago has some veteran racers, Yonkers has some enthusiastic young men. The first year I think the veterans pretty much mopped up, if I'm recalling correctly - then the young men really got to work on their training, and these days, you just don't know who's going to win. Especially on the longer races - the Yonkers guys have powerful sprints, but on the longer races the experience comes into play. Adding to the fun, one of Sebago's racers, Yossi, loves coaching, and loves seeing people have fun racing, and he started helping to train the Yonkers guys!

Glicker would've loved that part especially.

The women's races are not always as competitive - in fact I try to attend these partly because I have picked up a point or two for Sebago by coming in 3rd out of a field of 3 - all I had to do was find my way across the finish line. Sebago and Inwood each have a serious racer who go to as many of the events as they can; Yonkers also has some great women racers, they don't come out to the other clubs as much but they do turn out for the Yonkers races, and that can really change the outcome. So what can end up happening with the women's races, that's way more fun than the 3 person field, is a setup where there are 2 serious racers and then us more touring-type sea kayakers fighting it out for 3rd.

I did actually manage to take 3rd place in the 400 and 800 at Yonkers with that setup, with some very good competition, and was quite delighted as another reason I've been attending and racing regularly is that I've realized that doing these races is a really good way to gauge my recovery after my own bout with cancer back in the fall, winter, and spring of 2015-16. That took a good bit of the wind out of my sails. I was back on the water one month after my mastectomy in October 2015, and kept paddling all the way through chemo, but I still remember one of the first Sebago group paddles I went on in 2016 - I stopped to take pictures as the group went by, then tried to do my usual "photographer's sprint" to catch up, only to discover that high gear was simply gone! That was a bit jarring.

I haven't been super disciplined about getting back in shape, I always seem to have too much going on to just get myself out on the water for workout paddles with anything approaching regularity, but each summer I've tried to push myself a little bit farther. It's working, I'm making slow but steady progress, and doing these 3 set distances 3 times a year gives me a really good sense of that where I might otherwise be getting really aggravated with myself because I'm not getting faster fast enough to actually tell.

The first 800 meter I did, I think I just did it because it was one of those 3-racer setups. Julie and Julia dwindled into specks in the distance while I came whimpering along behind - still no high gear.

This year, high gear is definitely coming back. I'm still not racing for 1st or 2nd - but I'm also not seeing them disappear in the distance the way they did back in 2016, and I'm able to set what feels like a respectable pace and hold it steady without running out of steam.

I'm pretty happy about that.

Here are a few more pictures from the day, click on the first for a slideshow view. Want to see more, with better quality? visit Flickr.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sept. 11 - Dust to Deliverance and my own story

I have been doing a 7 book covers in 7 days challenge over on Facebook, invited by my wonderful Aunt Kathy. She challenged me last week and I realized that my 7th day would be September 11th, and I knew what cover I would be sharing today.

In doing so, I ended up sharing a short version of my own story, so I thought I would just share that here today.

 Jessica DuLong is an old friend from my Pier 63 days. She's an engineer on the Fireboat John J. Harvey, which, although retired, served so well at the WTC site. She is also an author, and after untold hours of collecting stories from so many of us who were there on the waterfront that day, she crafted an amazing retelling of the story of the maritime evacuation that went on that day.

I had fled the WTC during the attacks and ended up at Pier 63. I was a partner at the Manhattan Kayak Company at that time, and we were based at Pier 63. I was in the subway station when the 2nd plane hit and managed to get onto a train that pulled in moments after the boom. I didn't care where it was going, it just seemed like the safest way out. It was northbound, so I got off at 23rd street, still not really knowing what had happened. I had been going into the WTC's ground-level mall from outdoors when the first plane hit, fled into the building for shelter without looking up to see what had exploded above my head, and gone into the subway station when the police began evacuating the mall and stopped me from going out the same way I came in - so all I knew was the sound of screaming engines ending in a noise like a gigantic firework, and then, a few minutes later, another boom that set everyone in the subway station running again.

I'd ducked into a turnstile to get out of the stampede, saw the train pulling in downstairs, and made a run for it. When I got off the train at 23rd street, I first stopped at the Moonstruck Diner, where I would often stop for breakfast on my way to a day of teaching or guiding at MKC. Everyone there was looking at the television and that was when I saw what had happened.

 In those days Pier 63 was like my 2nd home so that is where I went next. John Krevey, the owner, saw what was needed and called some of the party boats that would use Pier 63 as a boarding location. The funny thing there is that I didn't actually know how we ended up running a ferry to Weehawken that day until Jessica interviewed me - I think I was still a little bit in shock and just didn't even think to wonder where the boats came from - there they were and that's what we were doing. And to this day I am so grateful that I was there. It was so good to be given a purpose on a terrible day.

Full version of my own story, as written for my family that evening: Link

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Unintentional Neil Simon Tribute Weekend

Saturday - Yonkers

Sunday - Brighton Beach

Actually made for a wonderful weekend. I was in Yonkers yesterday for the 3rd leg of the annual set of races for the Joe Glickman Cup (of which the longest is also the Mayor's Cup) - the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club are great hosts and ran a great day of racing and paddling. It's always so nice to see old friends at the YPRC, and this year I was very happy with how I did in the races, too, taking 3rd place in the 400 and 800 meter -- and this time not because there were 3 of us in the race and all I had to do was find the finish line - that's happened more than once.

I have to say that I am getting quite a collection of 3rd place medals. OK, I did have to throw in my 1st from Empire Kayak's old May Day on the Bay race That was a fun one.

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The Neil Simon connection just hit me as I was on the train to Brighton Beach to go swimming today. We had another beautiful day and I thought about going for a paddle, but the end is in sight for my 2019 outdoor swimming season as the water is cooling down fast. I once again got there early enough to swim as long as I wanted to, and that turned out to be 1.2 miles.

More pix from Yonkers coming soon! 

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Paddling Cayuga

My friend Louise shared this on my Facebook page after I started sharing recollections of the lovely weekend I spent with her helping out with another great Women Swimmin' for Hospicare.

Unfortunately, I did have to hit the road back to NYC on Sunday the 11th of August, but I didn't particularly need to rush off, so we were able to get in a lovely paddle from Taughannock Falls State Park to Lake Ridge Point and back. Conditions were much calmer than they'd been for the swim on Saturday, too bad we couldn't have switched days!

Our original plan had been to paddle and then get in a short swim ourselves before heading back to Louise's place for a light lunch before I headed out, but we had such a good time beachcombing at Lake Ridge Point that we skipped the swim. Cayuga is famous for "lucky stones", smooth beach stones with holes in them. Louise has a very sharp eye for these and I found a couple too, plus a stone bearing the fossil impression of a tiny, ancient clam.

Here are a dozen photos from that lovely afternoon.

Louise's happy little dragon figurehead was inspired by the travels of the Draken Harald HÃ¥rfagre and her Norwegian heritage - she got a local ironworker to craft him for her, with the specific request that it be a friendly dragon, not a mean or scary one. The ironworker succeeded admirably! This was the first time I was seeing the figurehead in person and it's absolutely charming.

Click on a photo for a slideshow view. 

Rainy Labor Day Cooking Post - Venison Stroganoff!

This was a really interesting experiment. I think that for a lot of us middle-class suburban Generation X kids, stroganoff was a dish made with an inexpensive cut of beef and a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.

 My mom is an excellent cook in the hearty Pennsylvania Dutch tradition - she learned at her mom's elbow and then passed it on to me. Outside of baking, where there's some precision required, recipes are more suggestions than rules, and with the exception of foods I just plain didn't like (like succotash, lima beans kinda just suck) I don't remember her ever serving us something that wasn't basically yummy.

The Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup was definitely part of her repertoire. She made stroganoff and also a chicken dish, both of which I loved as a kid, both of which I cooked for myself for quite some time when I was starting out on my own, and both of which I would enjoy if my mom made them sometime when I was visiting them in NC.

But as cooking got to be more and more something I would do for fun (my mom enjoys cooking but she was feeding the family every day, so shortcuts made life easier), and as I started to get better about reading nutrition labels and realized that there was a lot of sodium in the canned soups, I got away from having them as a cabinet staple.

 I haven't made stroganoff since then, but recently, when I was thinking of something other than chili (good, but I'd done that a couple of times and was ready for something different) to do with some of my prized Jonesville venison (hunted by my own cousin Sharon's husband Scott on the farm that's now been in the family for two generations), stroganoff just sprang to mind. So that's what I did with my lovely free and unplanned day today!

 Not the Campbell's Soup version though. Not for the venison. This was entirely from scratch. Instead of the canned soup, there was heavy cream, homemade stock, a bit of brandy, and 2 kinds of mushrooms (the fresh oyster mushrooms I'd gotten yesterday and then some very expensive dried morels that jumped into my bag while I was waiting out a rainstorm at the Flatbush Food Co-op, a dangerous place to wait out a storm, especially if your last meal was a few hours ago). Which I think is basically your cream of mushroom soup right there. Only with way better mushrooms and a lot less salt. And then of course some spices, and thickened up with sour cream and yogurt at the end (that stayed the same). 

Ingredients on hand in the morning - just needed to get sour cream and yogurt

Perfect rainy day cooking project and came out absolutely delicious. TQ loved it too. Neither of us are sure that we've ever had a stroganoff that didn't involve Campbell's but I will definitely do this again!

BTW, like my mom taught me, I didn't really follow a recipe, but I did look at the one in my Grandma J's Fanny Farmer cookbook and then also a few on line just to plan out what I was going to do with the ingredients I had to create something stroganoffish. This one had a lot of the elements I was looking for. 

Early in the cooking
Dinner is served!

 ps the asparagus jumped into the bag at the co-op too. It was flavorsome but disappointingly stringy. Must be past asparagus season.