Syracuse, Day One

Blog went on a brief hiatus because my friend Betsy McMillan and I did our annual writers’ weekend away. It was a much better trip than last year’s slog to Ithaca. It featured a direct shot across I-90 with minimal construction, no accidents, and one cop who was letting everyone go by at 80 mph. The rest areas made it look as though the entire East Coast was on the move.

The hotel stood just up the road from the biggest fairgrounds I’ve ever seen. The thought of all those parking lots full of cars was terrifying.

I struggled with the luggage cart because a wheel stuck, and a nice man helped me. After dumping my stuff, I went directly to lunch. An energy bar between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. doesn’t cut it. The enormous salad came with mahi, no second mahi, the spiciest I’ve had north of the Mason Dixon line. The other half of the salad rested in the fridge for the weekend and then went in the trash.

Before getting down to work, I took a walk through a subdivision with the friendliest people ever, waving, smiling, saying “Hi.” Well-kept lawns and flower borders, a largish boat or two, cars either new or vintage muscle. Realized later that I never saw a “for sale” sign for the entire weekend.

I managed to start organizing my current project but was not sure whether of any real progress.

We both had haddock for dinner, mine well cooked and flavorsome but drowned in sauce, which soaked the mushroom risotto. There were FIVE birthday parties, each one accompanied by singing wait staff and a tower sparkler that eventually filled the restaurant with acrid fumes. Those beasts are not supposed to be used indoors. I began to wonder if the management had paid off the fire marshal.

Began reading The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith. Decided to read Isabel first then move to Precious. Maybe I’m more attuned, but there seems to be an actual connection between Isabel’s personal situation and the “mystery.”

In lieu of a blog post, I responded to the responses on Facebook about Pem’s story on the family and James’ Pharmacy.

Once I lost radio reception on the drive, I began listening to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City. Did not realize that landscape architecture was the poor stepchild of the profession.  The book is filled with ideas big and small, an enormous sweep of history. I’m still not convinced about the organizing principle. Combining the stories of two men who never knew each other but who had a major impact on Chicago before and during the 1893 World’s Fair seems to be working, but I’ll reserve judgment. The Mudgett/Holmes sections are gruesome beyond belief.

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