Sunday, July 08, 2012

How to Turn a Loving Papa into a Monster (or revisiting the scenes of the crimes)

To be fair, I must preface this by saying that we did have a wonderful time at Tall Pines during our near week-long July 4th vacation. My wife Dale, grandson Julian (9), and grandson Gordon (8) traveled to the locale of my newest mystery series on the Saturday before Independence Day with Amber, one of our sweet dogs. We left Balto home (much to his dismay) to keep watch over my wife's mother and the boys' mom, Jenn, while we were in the Adirondacks. It wasn't until the ride home that I fell apart, but more about that later.

My daughter, Melanie and her husband Jay came up for a few days. We hadn't seen them since Thanksgiving, so that was a treat. And the boys were so happy to have playmates! We had a ball on the Speculator boardwalk called the Speculator Pathway on the Kunjamuk River.

The experience was exactly what I'd envisioned -- my grandsons and I played army and hide 'n seek in the woods around camp. We went for walks with Amber every morning. We spent hours every day in the "Jacuzzi," a small dammed up swimming hole on the Tall Pines property, where we rebuilt the dam with smooth, round river rocks and cleared the bottom of the swimming hole to make it easier to walk. Fortunately, we survived the horsefly and deerfly attacks with only a handful of war wounds. Julian and I hopped on river rocks on the West River while searching for the elusive White Face trail, and we all roasted marshmallows and hotdogs over the fire.

We also crossed the river (which was very low this year) and explored several small islands in the middle of the Sacandaga, exclaiming over deer and paw prints (probably black bear) and just enjoying the camaraderie of hanging out together. There were endless card games of go fish, several intense games of Battleship, a few fun variations on Scrabble, and nightly routines of planning and preparing healthy meals together.

When I was doing dishes, they went down to the river's edge near the cabin and threw rocks. That seemed to be the biggest thrill of all.

I also had a successful book signing at Mountain Memories, a gem of a cafe/gift shop in Wells, NY, which is featured in all three books in my Tall Pines series. Donna Bureau, the owner, was especially gracious, and my grandson Julian (9), helped me by passing out book marks and taking down email addresses for the Lazar newsletter. It was so nice to meet the locals who'd read FOR THE BIRDS and wanted to buy ESSENTIALLY YOURS, the sequel. We had some lovely chats and were offered invitations to several homes in the area.

While we were up in the Adirondacks, scenes from my Tall Pines mysteries kept greeting me. I stared out at Blackbird Island (named by me, who knows if it has a real name? It's not on the map!) and imagined poor Thelma being tied to the tallest pine on the island. The very same tree towered above all the others, standing proud, unaware of its dubious fame.

While sitting at the ledge overlooking the Sacandaga, I imagined Earl Tiramisu, one of the villains from FOR THE BIRDS, waving the gun at Marcella and Quinn and the fall/fight that followed. I pictured scenes from book 2, where Marcella and Quinn tried to crack the code on their MacBook Pro at the water's edge, doing everything in their power to figure out why Sky gave Callie the essential oil collection and the poignant chapter where Marcie and Callie talked about Callie's crush on her.

Oh, yes. It was a peaceful vacation. I was a good grandfather (called Papa by my boys), sharing my passions for the area with them one by one, and catering to their every need. I didn't yell (too much) or get too frustrated. As a matter of fact, I was starting to feel almost virtuous. They didn't fight much, either, which was a joy. Keeping kids busy with imaginative games all week and spending every waking minute with them was the secret.

Until I caught a nasty head cold on Thursday (starting with a sore throat) and decided it might be a good idea to get out of dodge early. I was a little worried about getting everything packed up and the cabin all cleaned up by 10 AM on Saturday, anyway. So leaving Friday seemed like a good idea. We'd had a great time and it felt right.

Everything was fine until we stopped at a little store/gas station for a bathroom break and the van's sliding door fell off.

No kidding.

I'd spent a lot of time deciding if we should rent a new van or fix up the old one for this trip. When I saw the prices of renting for over a week (around $800.00 with tax), I blanched. I might as well get the van fixed, I thought, and put that money to good use, since it's my winter car. It ended up needing far more than I had expected, however, and after $2700.00, it was "road read." What I didn't have them look at was the sliding side doors that occasionally stick. But there always was a solution for that - I turned the doors to "manual mode" and slid them myself. Big deal, right? Anyway, I figured it would be another thousand dollars to fix that nuisance, so I let it go.

Big mistake.

The door actually swung off it's hinge on the rear. I spent a half hour wrangling with it in the 94 degree heat, finally forcing it to close, but with an inch gap in the rear. Now there is a two foot long deep and ugly gouge on the side panel, really ugly. I tied it up with the nylon dog leash, but didn't feel safe about the whole thing at all. So I moved Gordie to the rear, and repositioned all our junk in his seat, another nearly impossible task since I decided to do it after I secured the door and couldn't open it again. Sigh.

So, drenched and thoroughly scared and angry now, I got back on the road. We'd already been driving for over an hour, and should have been home within 3.5 more hours if we followed our usual route. But I kept picturing the thing flying off into traffic, and couldn't imagine us driving on the thruway. So we got onto an alternate route (route 5) and for the next 6.5 hours, tried to keep my sweet grandsons from going crazy in the back seats, while I glanced back every ten seconds to check on the door to be sure it hadn't shifted at all.

After numerous potty breaks, dog walks, pizza stops, and more, we were finally almost home. Within twenty minutes from home I lost it.

They'd been laughing and screeching with each other for the past hour, and I kept telling them that my wife had a headache, but they just couldn't help themselves, they were so tired and silly.

I screamed at them. "I'll give you FIVE DOLLARS if you just shut up for the rest of the way home!" Yep, I yelled like a madman and said "shut up" to my precious grandsons! I'll never live that down in my own brain.

But guess what? They were totally quiet until we rolled in the driveway. ;o)

Occasionally, a little bribery works.

Hope you all had a wonderful 4th and that your travels were safe.

Best wishes to all,

Aaron Lazar

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