Green Frog Cafe

"Living in nature, listening to the rain, Green Frog Cafe, that's where I want to be. The hemlocks are green, the creek is tricklin, there's geese on the pond, the forest sighs. Green Frog Cafe that's where I want to be, home of my soul, spirit of the mountains." Ruminations of Rhona McMahan

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Here is a little clip showing the dogs  from the garden apartment barking at the back door of the upstairs duplex apartment.

In the past year my main income source has changed from Hofstra University, where I was a tenured Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business for 33 years, to being a landlord of the property at 214 16th Street (and to a much lesser extent, a landlord at 9050 Rte 28).  There is no comparison between the two roles in terms of security of income.  Every month I worry about he rents coming in on time to meet my heavy expenses related to carrying two mortgages and keeping open a bookstore which has yet to break even.  The 9050 property is probably underwater, and probably will be so for many years due to the decline of the Catskills as an economic region.

The big problem is juggling the wants of tenants, which sometimes conflict with each other.  I look to the example of my great-uncle P. M. Moore to steel my resolve in dealing with these issue. (see earlier posts on this blog concerning PM).  He was able to keep a reputation for fairness and humanity at the same time that he prospered through the steel boom times in western Pennsylvania in the first quarter of the 20th Century, and then the "great depression", and then the inflationary times of the mid-twentieth century.  It is not easy to be tough and fair.  It is one thing to be so as a professor assigning grades, and another thing to be making decisions affecting the rules for tenants.

Monday, July 02, 2012

I have been lost in a hellish maze created by Google which has blocked me from posting on my main blog for several years.  Trying to resolve this periodically leaves me with an enraged frustration that what was once so simple has been made unintelligible by the process of corporate takeovers (of blogspot by Google) and by "adding value" to the product for the user (but really for the owner of the service ie Google).  This post made sound bitter, but I am so frustrated by the Google loops I keep getting caught in that I feel like crying or screaming.  Maybe, finally this post will go up, and I can continue on my simple chronicle of my thoughts as I used to for the past 8 years before being "Googled".  Adding this peaceful photo of a state park (Doc Riser's in local speak) which is a bucolic bike ride of 3 miles up the mountain on Lower Birch Creek Road along (guess what) Birch Creek, which eventually runs through Pine Hill on the way to joining the Esopus Creek in Big Indian.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring Break 2009

Spring Break (from Hofstra University) 2009 was enjoyed in Pine Hill, New York, working on various projects designed to make the property more like a homestead. Friends Morgana and Kenneth Toglia and their son Tristan came to visit from Erie for several days. Tristan, 12, is a mime. Kenny worked with us on planning the layout of plantings and beds, and we discussed future projects and plans. A big step was to create and install the signpost for our bookstore sign, the "Pine Hill Book Bunny" as we presently envision it. We excavated some areas of the terraced area on the steep slope behind the house, moving soil down to the new raised beds in the front of the house where the sun is best, and prepared to build retaining walls out of uncovered field stones to frame the new terraced beds we are creating on the hillside (ala Peru and Indonesia). We more or less decided on the location of the soon to be built chicken coop, and thought about whether we should get some goats and bees. Chelsea is enamored of Mirabelle Plums which are a specialty of the Alsace-Loraine region near Metz, France, where some of her (Merovingian??) ancestors originated. Kenny suggested that we ring the property with a hedge of black and red raspberries, and put in a whole orchard of Mirabelle plum trees. Ideas, ideas!!

After the Toglias headed back to Erie, I returned to my procrustean bed, building bookshelves for the thousands of books now occupying the living room floor.

Today, Easter, I took my tradition Easter hike in the woods. It is nice at this season of the year when it is not so cold, and the forest is open since the leaves are not yet out. I hiked up the mountain behind the house, following the ruins of an extensive network of stone fences, built at great labor sometime in the past 300 years, and now apparently not in use. We found some bear scat in our back yard, so I was acutely aware that I might run into a bear at any moment.

I just finished reading the third volume of Elizabeth Cunningham's "Maeve Trilogy" last night , so I have been thinking a lot about Easter and early Christianity in a highly emotional way today. I thought of Maeve (Mary Magdalen) living out her life in a mountain cave in southern France as an old woman as I climbed through the forest on the mountainside with the cold spring wind blowing through the trees.

When I named myself Mae 15 years ago I did not even realize that Mae is a form of Mary, which was my mother's first name.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Family Christmas Photos

David and Colin decorated this Christmas tree in their place on 16th Street in the South South Slope (Park Slope, Brooklyn) which they shared with the immediate family. David had a job which included the decoration of Christmas trees when he first came to New York, so the tree had a very nice aesthetic aspect. The rest of us added a few ornaments which were new or old family traditions, and put our various gifts to each other under it. Amanda, Gabe, and Caleb flew in from New Orleans, Caleb's fourth Christmas, Chelsea and I came down from the Catskills, and Jonica was already close by in her place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

We had our traditional Christmas eve party before a subset of the group went to the candle light service at the Park Slope United Methodist Church. Old friends Amber and Rahmin came over as usual, and Colin brought some new friends from the Institute of Culinary Education.
One of the nicest decorations was the adorned dressmakers form which David uses in his work as a costume designer/maker for off-Broadway shows and his own performances. Caleb took a series of shots from his 4 year old perspective which were interesting. Similar to many families these days, baking cookies, cooking in general, and taking pictures are all past-times shared widely.

The man in the Santa Claus hat is Gabe Soria, the father of Caleb, and the co-author of the vampire oriented graphic novel entitled "Life Sucks." Amanda, the mother of Caleb who teaches sustainable food topics in a charter school in New Orleans, is sitting on the piano bench in the picture next to Amber (her high-school chum). In the background on the walls on the right you can barely see the portraits of Amanda Milan and Sylvia Rivera, which have hung in this house for years.

Dress forms make wonderful decorative props. Every time I come into the space from my in the tranny cellar below I am fascinated by the various costumes worn by the dress form.
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This is a forest scene taken near the Pine Hill Lake in early January 2009. Gina and I had just walked under the old Delaware and Hudson Railroad trestle, and were looking up the mountain at the beautiful winter scene. Spending winter vacation in the Catskills reading books on local history makes me wonder at how the residents in the 18th and 19th centuries were able to get through the cold winters. It is a heat wave when the temperature goes above 32 F at the warmest part of the day. Yet our rabbits are able to survie just fine in there hutches under the spruce trees on the hill behind the house. Many days are so dark and misty/snowy that we cannot even see the mountain across from our living room window. At the same time there are hours when the winter sun is delightfully bright, making everything glisten. I like it best when we are in the midst of a snow storm, and the snowplows are the only intrusion on the soft silence as they appear out of the storm with their flashing yellow lights before they disappear again.
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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Applying to College at 67

I have been going through retirement angst for the past several years. I have also been searching for alternatives for post-retirement employment with increasing concern in the past year, and especially since the collapse of the economy in recent months. This morning I was searching the web for information on teaching distance learning courses, and then switched to looking at the course offerings of schools near Pine Hill to see if they offered things I could teach. I checked out the SUNY-Delhi website, and found that they have little in the business area, certainly not international business. But I did find that they have programs in cabinetmaking, construction technology, and architectural technology. It suddenly came to me "hey, I could actually get a certificate or a degree in architecture.

During the process of designing and building the Green Frog Cafe over the past 34 years I have been aware that this project is the single most enjoyable work I have experienced in my life. I have often thought ruefully that I should have been an architect rather than an economist. That I did not go to school for certification as an architect is a testimony to my lack of imagination and self-knowledge as an 18 year old person.

I have just sent off an application to SUNY Delhi to take AECT 100 "Introduction to Architecture, Engineering, and Construction" in the Spring 2009 Semester as a non-matriculated student. I hope the timing works out, because I will still be teaching 3 courses at Hofstra in the Spring, but who knows, I may be able to work something out.

I have had several friends and colleagues earn extra degrees while on the Hofstra faculty, but I never have been motivated to do this as I had no strong interest (or perhaps I had no gumption). But this morning I am excited to think of actually studying architecture.

I wonder how this will turn out.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Retirement Anxiety

I am often surprised when I talk with friends and family around the country and abroad to find that some people actually read this blog. For the past year various people have said to me when I see them after an absence that “I wondered what happened to you, I checked your blog but you have not posted for a long time.” This always makes me feel sorry and a little bit disgusted with myself, because the truth is that I compose paragraphs for the blog all the time. The problem is that I usually move on to other things before I actually sit down to write. This is probably an example of the tendency toward attention deficit which older people sometimes exhibit. This morning, having struggled for hours to penetrate the simple instructions of Google on how to reclaim my blogs, I am finally in the position to write a new entry. Actually I already did: the one about agreeing with Chelsea to get married. Now I want to make a more general post.

Just about everyone these days is taking stock of their lives and wondering what the future will hold as we enter a worldwide recession. I am among those people who have been especially upset to have financial meltdown occurring just as they approach retirement. The past year has been one in which my mind turns constantly to thoughts of how I will survive after August 31, 2011, which is the final day of my employment at Hofstra University, roughly two months before my 70th birthday. Writing today 4 weeks after my 67th birthday I have various alternative plans, but no certainty as to which way to go.

One of the changes in attitude which have come to me in my 60’s is that my vision of my future life course has become so foreshortened. He sense of the contingency of life has come to the fore or thought. Long range planning may be needed, but then again it may be irrelevant since there will actually be no long term. The current economic miseries afflicting the economy will go away someday. Property values will rebound, employment will increase, commerce will once again be buoyant, but no one knows when. In the great depression of the 1930’s things did not come back until around 1941, coincidentally the year of my birth. There was a decade of hardscrabble and human hardship in spite of Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. Is this what we face today? If we do, what will it mean personally as we try to cope?

Here are some of the things I am considering as I try to plan my future over the next years. Becoming a journalist, a novelist, a writer of children’s stories, a junk dealer/recycler, landlord, operator of a bed and breakfast, maker of ornamental detail for Victorian houses, proprietor of a bookmobile to go with our existing on-line/flea market bookstore, opening a bricks and mortar bookstore, a part time college professor, purveyor of second hand bicycles, writer of economic/market studies, writer of history/biography, organizer/leader of educational tours, creator/operator of a micro-homestead, renovator of things (furniture, buldings), beekeeper, and so on and on. Some of these things I do now, but probably not at a professional level in some cases.

As I wrote the list above an idea occurred to me that a journal on the possibility of creating a micro-homestead would be a project with magazine article potential as well as an eventual book. I am already committed to growing more food on the .81 acres we have in Pine Hill. This would inevitably lead to doing some canning. I do not know what the potential for raising food our place has. We are envisioning something on the order of a Victory Garden approach. Chelsea wants to acquire a burro to live in our backyard ( a steep slope upwards from directly behind the house for about 150 feet). What would we do with a burro to make money, we ask ourselves. I am more oriented toward raising a few goats or sheep. We already have rabbits, for companionship, not meat.

Thinking about it, I realize that I have never commented n the blog abut the place in Pine Hill, New York, which we “bought” last March with the help??? of the Ulster Savings Bank. Pine Hill is a dull and peaceful hamlet located along the Route 28 corridor about 35 miles west of the Hudson River, Kingston and the NYS Thruway, and 20 miles west of Woodstock. The culture in this area traces back to the Revolutionary War, Dutch Colonial period, and earlier native periods. It has been the home of the “Hudson River School” of art in America. It has been affected by serving as a vacation spot for people from New York and New Jersey for 150 years. Today there is a strong cohort of 1960’s counter culture people (The Woodstock Generation) mixed in with the local people accustomed to living in an economy dominated by tourism. Local agriculture has died off in the past 50 years, but the local food movement, the CSA Movement, and general concern for food quality has suggested the possibility of a rebirth of farming in the area. The farmers market and farm stand economy is great during the summer.

Our house is an 1890 Victorian “cottage” with 5 bedrooms, two baths, and three porches. It lies along the “new” Route 28, which cut through the front yard in the 1960s. When we tell local people about where we live they say “Oh, that’s a nice house.”

The house has a very good feeling, and we hope to avoid destroying this in the way we affect it during our stewardship.

Chelsea runs our bookstore out of this house, and also does Tarot readings.

Adjusting to living part time in Pine Hill, about 3 hours from Brooklyn and Long Island, has dominated our lives in the past 8 months (actually for the past three years). Commuting weekly between Brooklyn and Pine Hill is a strain. I am usually in Brooklyn (while teaching at Hofstra on Long Island) on Sunday through Wednesday nights, and then in Pine Hill on Thursday-Saturday nights. This life-style is actually easier than the one I lived in 1974-79 between Manhattan/Brooklyn and Paddy Mountain (Central Pennsylvania). The flow of traffic and transportation is so much easier between the Catskills and New York City than it is between Union County PA and New York City. The Trailways Bus from New York City stops right in front of our house. The Right-Wing Christian influence is much less in the Catskills than in Central Pennsylvania. But no Amish. The Hasidic Jews take over Fleischmans, the next town west of Pine Hill, during the summer, so that it almost looks like the set from Fiddler on the Roof. Our family room/dining room looks out on the ski trails at the top of Belleayre Mountain.

I am trying to figure out if a retirement life is possible for me in Pine Hill. Employment seems to be much easier to arrange in NYC than in the semi-prosperous Catskills. My mind is in a fever about this which ebbs and flows.

I always remember the saying from Arabia which goes something like “we say that a person who tries to see into the future is either insane or irreligious…God will determine the future.” Or impersonal chance in the course of nature, say I.

Engagement and Rights of Citizenship

Gay Marriage is a human rite
Gay Marriage is a human right
Gay Marriage is an American right
Love and Family Values
Loving Partners Rights
Resonance With the Cosmic Ecosystem

This is a little poem, or is it a T-shirt epigram, which occurred to me this evening as Chelsea and I hashed out Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our respective approaches to our respective families. Along the way I agreed to get married with Chelsea. We have been together 17 years in February, and we feel that our relationship deserves the same social and civil respect and status as all other marriages. We have been talking all day about how my children do not take our relationship as seriously as marriages which are currently sanctioned by the state.

The passage of Proposition 8 in California has raised the energy of the queer community and allies right across the country. NYC City Council President Christine Quinn wrote in a message to the GLBT community that the demonstration last Sunday in front of City Hall amazed her. She said the crowd (estimated by the police at 20,000, which means it was closer to 50,000) stretched in all directions from City Hall as far as she could see. The vote on proposition 8 (which outlawed “gay” marriage in California) has been a wake-up call to people that full-fledged American citizens are being deprived of their civil rights by a vote taken in the largest and most progressive state in the union. We are not going to stand for it anymore.

I was not able to attend the rally. One of the organizers was Rev. Pat Bumgardner of the Metropolitan Community Church of New York, of which I am a fallen away member. My old friend Sylvia Rivera is the patron saint of the MCC-NY. Her ashes are placed on the altar each Sunday, and her memory burns brightly in the congregation’s commitment to social justice. I am sure Sylvia would have been there in the flesh as she was in spirit.

I am not anxious to remarry, after two failed attempts over a span of 25 years. Nevertheless, it is the right thing to do. I have written elsewhere that Chelsea and I are living one of the great love stories of the ages. Certainly it begs to be commemorated in a marriage sanctioned by the state and recognized by all of the myriad religious and spiritual believers of all the myriad beliefs out there in the universe.

Friday, February 08, 2008


I pushed the wrong button. The last post should have appared on my blog, Commissioner Straight Jacket. Sorry. Chelsea

letting go

The rest of the previous post would have gone on to talk about the seventies and the so-called 'me' generation.
Perhaps the most appealing and apalling thing about the feline person who finally is moving on was the way she constantly challenged 'me" ism--the whole idea of putting oneself first. Carried to one extreme it is the philosophical position of the Anton Levay school of "Satanism" Put another way it is the basis of so much pop psycholog from "Looking Out for Number One" to the song "The Greatest Love of All" which can be anything from an Anthem to an all time low in self indulgent camp
I am thinking a lot about forgiveness. I feel that there has been a lot of abuse going on around me, from my father's abuse of my mother and myself, to the abusive relationships that I've been in (my ex wife, her boyfriend my ex best friend from high school who was physically abusive, an alchoholic transy ex navy seal, the feline, the cult leader, etc. etc. etc. I realise that I need to explore what it is about me that up to the present moment left me prone to falling into abusive relationships, while at the same time to start right now to forgive and let go.
I thought that my friend who has as many personalities as Howard Johnson has flavours of ice cream was a little bit beyond reason with her unrelenting critique of "borderline' thinking which is to say the idea that there are good guys and bad guys and that it always makes sense to take a side. There are times when I still feel that it is right and necssary to take sides, but also things are always more complex then they seem. I am a recent survivor of a war between two people each of whom has accused the other of abuse and both of whom who are quite guilty. I've seen them do terrible things to each other, and they've both done terrible things to me and to other people around them.
And now it is time to start to put the whole thing behind me. I need to detach myself from both of them and to allow the process of understanding to lead to the kind of forgiveness which does NOT say that what these people did is okay, but rather that I do NOT have to let the pain and anger keep me bound to people from whom I need to be truly FREE. In my father's case I did this when I realised that I was older than he was at the time he died, so that rebelling against him any further would be pointless.
It seems that there is a trend of making an identity out of victemhood. So-called "survivors' of everything from various so-called "addictions" to various kinds of real and imagined abuse, etc. seem to get stuck in the moment that a particularly grievious insult or injury occurred. I have been known to carry grudges and to never let go of anything myself. I need to make today the day I resolve to just let go of stuff. The past two years need to end. Now.