Readuponit: Travel and voracious reading

Max Hartshorne, travel website editor, sharing some of the stuff I read, hear and see with you. Updated every day. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Callie, Caro, Peter and Leslie Heller.

Callie, Caro, Peter and Leslie Heller.

Caro Watkins Heller passed away last night. She was my god mother and she was a big part of my childhood growing up in Blawenburg, New Jersey.  Caro and then-husband John Heller used to come down and visit us in the New Jersey countryside, and we would go and visit them often in Brooklyn Heights.  Their kids were the city mice and we were the country mice, we used to joke.

There are many memories of  Caro that I carry with me. She was someone who was genuinely interested in everything someone was saying, she was an avid listener, and a fascinating person too.  She indulged in a passion for finding lost people and  found many souls whose relatives thought they had vanished. She was clever like that.

In the 1970s, when the Hellers would descend on our family house in Blawenburg, it was an exciting time.  It was special because they were special.  Once Caro and my mother, fast friends to the very end, decided to stay up all night, and they capped it off by riding bicycles to Mountain View Road to watch the sun come up over a ridge.  I had lots of adventures visiting their family in their big apartment at One Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights, and Caro and John were wonderful and kind hosts.

Later in my life as I spent time in New England, I didn’t see Caro in person, but I kept up a tradition. She would send me a birthday card with a $50 bill in it and I’d always take the time to write a long and detailed letter updating her on everything I was doing. It was a fun exercise to recount what had happened that year and her cards to me kept coming year after year and I’d reply with what were long thank you notes about my whereabouts.

We got a chance to visit with Caro and her partner Peter Beveridge about 12 years ago, in their apartment next to the river on Old Fulton Street.  She took special delight in showing us her impressive collection of handguns, including her favorite, a Glock 9 mm.  She was  a liberal, and someone you wouldn’t think would carry a handgun, but she had her permits and she had pistol range training and she was proud of the arsenal she kept in her safe.  She got a kick out of showing us.

Caro had a long life, and is survived by three wonderful children, Callie, Peter and Leslie, who have all become good citizens and made her proud. I am proud to have known Caro and a testament to what a wonderful person she was is how close my mom and dad remained to her and John since they first met in the early 1950s.

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The Big Wedding Weekend of 2014

by Max Hartshorne on August 14, 2014

Today I had to put down the duties of publishing for far more important work, with a much stricter task master. We are getting ready for a wedding. A big one. The daughter!  And thus was there a list created and on that list were many things that would not  wait just one more minute to be done.

Guests in my house get credit for being the reasons we clean, clean and clean like we should all of the time, when we know visitors are coming. We want to have a clean house, and now, motivation arrives when the countdown began. So I’m squeezing in a break between washing all of the wood floors,  vacuuming everything, mowing the lawn and picking up my suit at the dry cleaner’s.

Weddings are special, important and for us it seems, rare. We don’t have that many weddings to go to, so it’s fun to pull out all the stops and have fun.  This wedding will take place on a farm, and a beautiful tent and set-up has been long planned and orchestrated. The family is coming in from far away, many from Pittsburgh, others from New England, to celebrate with Emily and David.  I don’t have to give a speech, just enjoy the visiting family and the ceremony. Weddings do always elicit a tear from me, the vows and the rituals are dear and cherished.

After the wedding we can resume our normal lives and deadlines. But for now, plan to look good, host good and be ready for the Big Wedding Weekend of 2014!

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Bill Bernardt, a local fishing guide in Pittsburg New Hampshire.

Bill Bernardt, a local fishing guide in Pittsburg New Hampshire.

Our tour of New England’s tippy top continued as we said goodbye to Pittsburg and made our way down blue highways out of the Granite state and up into Vermont’s lakeside town, Newport, on Mephremagog. Before we left we Bill Bernhardt, a fishing guide with Lopstick Outfitters, who makes his living taking visitors out fishing in his favorite trout streams and on the First Connecticut and other nearby lakes.

Movie star handsome with bronzed arms and a serious mien, Bill relaxed as we chatted about his eleven years as a fishing guide and his experiences casting into trout streams in Patagonia, Montana and Wyoming. He always hires an guide when he goes on vacaction, and he said he doesn’t even tell his local guides that he himself is a guide. He let’s the local guide show him the way, ‘because nobody knows their local streams like that local guide does.’

I was impressed by his humbleness–who but a very confident man could resist spilling that he guides for a living too?

Bill helps Jack cross the swift flowing Connecticut River.

Bill helps Jack cross the swift flowing Connecticut River.

We made our way wearing waders and carrying well-crafted Orvis rods down to the narrow roiling waters of the Connecticut. The Connecticut!  We crossed the clear flowing stream by foot–never thinking in all of the years we have lived beside this giant body of water that somewhere we could do that.  Bill affixed tiny nymph flies onto our 8 1/2 foot long rods, and we casted out into the water, letting the bobber float and the flies work their magic six feet down the thin leader.

The feeling of the water compressing our legs as we waded deeper is just one of the things that makes fly fishing so enticing. That and the complex nuances that Bill shared with us about water depth, behavior of the landlocked salmon, brown and rainbow trout we were pursuing, and the sunlight glinting off the beautiful Connecticut as it flowed out of the First Connecticut lake.   The saying “a day of fishing beats a day of work’  could never have been more true.

Only four other fishermen were seen on this Saturday morning in August.

Only four other fishermen were seen on this Saturday morning in August.

Only four other fishermen were on the river on this Saturday morning, quite the contrast from the crowded streams I’ve seen before. It helped that Bill had taken us down a ways from the more crowded positions right under the dam. I hooked an 18″ rainbow trout and my heart pounded as I listened to Bill coach me to whip the rod up to set the hook…but I didn’t do it fast enough and that big one got away.

I understand now why so many men my age spend thousands on rods, reels and guides to pursue fish that they don’t even bring home to put in a frying pan. The crisp air, the feeling of solitude on a river, the expertise that Bill demonstrates as he casts his flies and the multitude of other calming effects of a morning fishing are easily explained and understood once you’ve done it.

You should have seen that big rainbow I almost landed!

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Some of the People in New Hampshire’s Far North

by Max Hartshorne on August 9, 2014

Verlaine Daeron, who runs a bakery called Le Rendez-vous in Colebrook.

Verlaine Daeron, who runs a bakery called Le Rendez-vous in Colebrook.

Beaver Brook Falls, outside of Pittsburg NH.

Beaver Brook Falls, outside of Pittsburgh NH.

Georgie Lyons

Georgie Lyons and her husband run Murphy’s Steak House in Pittsburg. They once came here for vacation and now they enjoy the social aspects of running the restaurant which their son owns.

We have met many people up here in the far north of New Hampshire, people who as much as anything have adapted and grown to love this giant county so far far away from the rest of the world. Interstate 91 stops at Littleton, about 90 minutes south.

That’s quite a dividing line, it’s where the nearest Wal-Mart and large stores are. It’s where you go if you have to buy something big, but for Georgia Lyons, it means she does a lot of shopping online in her jammies.

Many people here simply use Amazon and UPS and don’t bother making the long trek south. They do have a few good lumber yard/hardware stores here, since 2x4s and ladders are yet to become UPS packages.

We learned that the town of Pittsburg has the largest town area on the east coast, with only 700 inhabitants. It’s a fact that there are so few people here that the graduating class of Pittsburg high school is two or three students.

Georgia runs Murphy’s Steak House with her husband John, and she’s been up here for about 15 years. They say they love working in the restaurant that their son owns, comparing themselves to ‘missionaries for their children.’ She loves being social with the patrons, and said it’s like a dinner party every night with so many interesting people coming in for dinner. Pittsburg was always their vacation spot when their kids were growing up, and now it’s home.

Verlaine Daeron and her husband Marc Ounis own a wonderful French bakery and chocolatier called Le Rendez-Vous in Colebrook. In 2009, an article came out in the NY Times about how the town rallied to help her get her green card and not have to go back to where she born, Paris France. They make baguettes and macarones and croissants fresh every morning, and Verlaine said that after the Balsams resort closed a few years ago, business has been much slower. “People used to come from the Balsams and enjoy our products, they’d come after skiing there, and now it’s all empty.” There is talk of ski mogul Les Otten taking over the decrepit hotel and bringing in millions of dollars and rich guests from Europe to make it better than ever. But it will take a many millions because when the grand hotel closed down fixtures were ripped out and it’s in pretty bad shape.

The location up here so far away is either a blessing or a curse.

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In Coos County NH, Two Moose Crossed Our Path

August 8, 2014

Tweet When we met our host, Karl, here in New Hampshire’s North Country, he told us about the many moose that live in these parts. But he didn’t guarantee we’d see one, even though the sign on the highway warned that “hundreds of accidents” have resulted in people meeting moose with the fronts of their [...]

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Other Desert Cities: Family Secrets and Family Shame

August 1, 2014

Tweet New Century Theatre’s latest production, Other Desert Cities, hits hard. It’s like the worst of awkward family Christmas reunions, and from the very beginning it’s clear that Mom’s claws are still sharp and they can scratch you at any moment. Brooke Wyeth (Cate Damon) is out in Palm Springs, visiting her parents. It’s clear [...]

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