In The Poconos

Sometimes you remember who you are.

I’m here in the Poconos.  Actually, I have no idea where I am.  I got off the plane at Kennedy and I ended up here.  Where here is?  An hour from Camelback, that’s what the desk clerk said.  I thought we’d be closer to Pennsylvania’s largest ski resort.  Then again, walking the grounds of Woodloch this morning, I saw snow.  I was on the phone with Felice, trying to describe my surroundings to someone who grew up in California, how I was in the mountains, but they weren’t really mountains, and she asked me if I could see snow.  I told her I couldn’t see a thing.  That I was standing on a dock in the middle of a lake and all I could see were my immediate surroundings.  Then, what I thought was sand by the water’s edge turned out to be snow.  I guess that’s when it hit me, I’d been here before.  Not in the mountains of Pennsylvania, but the east coast in April.

I loved to play baseball.  I lived to play baseball.  After school every day I’d walk home, change into my play clothes and walk back to the schoolyard for the game.  Which began as soon as enough kids showed up.  Oh, we’d hold a little batting practice, but when we had ten people we’d choose up sides and play, adding players as they arrived.

This almost never happened in March.  It usually started in April.  And as I got older, and better, Little League tryouts started then, the very first week of April.  When the season magically changed from winter to spring.  Oh, sometimes there’d be a flashback, a wicked rainstorm with temperatures in the thirties, but it wouldn’t last, spring would come back.  Then again, spring wasn’t always so warm.  I’d wear a windbreaker under my sweatshirt, when I hit the ball my hands would sting, and oftentimes keep stinging, even though I was now in the outfield.

Adam Goldberg was sitting in front of me on the plane.  God, I loved him in "Relativity".  He’s a great actor.  Live long enough in Los Angeles and you don’t speak with famous people, unless spoken to.  You respect their privacy.  But growing up in Connecticut, I never met a famous person.  And now I was going back to my distant homeland.

But the limo driver turned towards the George Washington Bridge rather than the Connecticut Turnpike.  We passed not only Shea, but Yankee Stadium.  And then we were in the wilds of New Jersey.

Well, I didn’t expect it to be quite this wild.  I mean when I looked up from my BlackBerry I saw stoplights!  Oh, I hadn’t been paying attention.  It was dark, and rainy.  But if it was 145 miles, and we’d only been in the car for ninety minutes, shouldn’t we be on the freeway?

The only reason I knew we were still in New Jersey was that the gas station was full-serve.  And when I reentered the Town Car with some beef jerky to tide me over for the rest of the ride, I asked the driver, Tony, where were we?

He’d taken a shortcut!  He was saving twenty miles!  He was so proud of himself, following the Garmin GPS atop the dash.

Then, suddenly, the road was turnier than the one I grew up on.  And Tony was looking in the rearview mirror.  He was uptight about the car behind him.  He remarked that he was worried he was following us.  So, he pulled over, and turned around.  Right in the middle of the street.

On what kind of highway can you pull a u-turn?

And then the road we switched to, was akin to a driveway.

I got uptight.  I retrieved my BlackBerry from my pocket.  I had no access.  I’m not talking Web-access, or e-mail access, I had no phone access!  And with Verizon, you always have access!

I got uptight.  Was this a hit?

I know, I know, I was being paranoid.  But it was like that episode of the "Sopranos" with the Russian in the snow.  The road was going up and down like a roller coaster.  We were barely moving…

Then Tony asked me if I had a cell phone.

This was a bad sign.  Did he have to pay for gas?  Had he gotten enough?  Was he worried about being stranded in the middle of the night?  I mean you’re oh-so-confident, some dude you’ve never met in New York books a limo and you don’t think twice.  Should you?

Tony was proud to be in America.  He was going to open a restaurant.  But he’d embraced the American mind-set a little too much.  I want the President to make choices.  I want the CEO to be innovative.  I don’t want my limo driver taking the reins, becoming an entrepreneur, just follow the fucking route!

Then, suddenly, we were there.  Oh, we’d crossed over to Pennsylvania, we were no longer on Bruce’s Jersey backstreets.  But there was no town, no plethora of lights, no civilization!

And the desk clerks, although friendly…at this midnight hour the place had the feel of the Bates Motel.

But it’s not.  Woodloch is like the Catskills.  Except it survives.  And it doesn’t appear to be all Jews.  Actually, at lunch I was surrounded by the White Panthers.  I was the only soul younger than 75.

Not speaking at this conference until the evening, after lunch I stumbled around the grounds.  That’s when I found the snow.  And the miniature golf course.  And the horseshoe pit.  And the batting cage.

Do you pick up a bat?  Do you risk finding out your skills have departed?

I figured I had no choice.  I was taller than the 44" required.  I could wear the helmet the sign demanded. 

But when I’d committed in my brain, I found out you needed a buck, in quarters.  I had no quarters.  I escaped, mental reputation intact.

And that’s when I realized the ground I was walking on was not flat.  And that it still contained the moisture of winter.  And that not all the grass was green.

I thought of going to the Catskills with my family in the sixties.  Not the big resorts, but a place that’s no longer there.  My parents went to see "Psycho" in Monticello.  When the car sank, someone yelled out "The gelt!  The gelt!"

I thought of how far I’d traveled, how far I’d gone.  But I realized it was not far enough to lose my roots.  They’re still here, on the east coast.  Where everything’s older, where everything’s closer.  Where baseball is seasonal as opposed to a year-round road to riches.  Where sports are avocations as opposed to raison d’etres.  Where education and place in the community are paramount.

Do you move back?


Then again, maybe.  Maybe you have to.

Woodloch Resort

One Response to In The Poconos »»


  1. Comment by John Gebhart | 2007/04/28 at 22:28:59


    I read "In the Poconos". I didn’t want to but I had to.

    I’m a native Philadelphian living in Seattle who left my birthplace 28 years ago only to decide to return 5 years ago. Whoever said you can’t go home knew what he was talking about.

    I matured as an business man, husband, and father on the west coast, a place where merit counts. Returning to the east coast I discovered just how much the old boy network counts, even for those with little or no merit. I can’t speak to Connecticut but I found Philadelphia to be on the whole a lot angrier than anything I’d experienced out west. And don’t get me started on the weather.

    It wasn’t all bad. Reconnecting with old friends and family was great, for the most part. Making some new friends that will be with me for a long time was an unexpected find. But when the window opened for me to return to Seattle I ran through it. I’m winding up my third year of being back in Seattle.

    Enjoy your visits to the east coast, but I bet you’ve changed and grown in ways that just won’t work for a longer haul on the east coast. If you ever do think about moving back there I invite you to talk to me first.

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