University students, bundled like pigs-in-a-blanket, pull stocking caps and darned hats over their ears, while women with long hair and unadorned faces maneuver strollers with toddlers and babies and large dogs on leashes.
Off in the distance, the early morning sun bounces off the Gunks— the preferred name for the Shawangunk Ridge because no outsider pronounces it correctly the first time. It’s usually spellbinding with its lush forest greenery, or autumn montage of color. Today on the cusp of winter, it offers nothing more than the grunge of brown decay.
A catchy rhythmic bass beat tumbles out of one of the open windows of the apartments surrounding the parking lot on the upper level of the Water Street Market. Leaves scuttle across the blacktop and collide with a rusted Jeep, which appears to be fueled by a lethal dose of country music as it speeds toward the exit.
A man in jeans whose brick red flannel shirt, which might’ve come from the same dye lot as the crayon in Crayola’s 64-Box, hurries to his office. Propelled by stiff legs, his body leans like a slanted explanation point as if doing so will shorten his journey and keep the beverages in the disposable cups he’s caring from turning tepid. Or, perhaps he rushes to return because his thoughts never left the warm shelter. But just before stepping into the shade in front of the building, he stops. His face tilts towards the sun, eyes closed, to soak up the warmth, or perhaps, to bask in memories of climbing the Gunks— the most common reason residents moved to the area following the Woodstock festival in ’69. His body relaxes, as a body often does before changing direction, then he chooses not to play hooky.
Evergreens with long needles that hang in leaf-like clusters wave to a pudgy woman, in a light grey sweater, who’s headed towards the craft shops on the lower level to spend, spend, spend. The sky is a cloudless blue, but her eyes are fixated on the ground to avoid encountering someone she knows who will tattle to her husband about how she’s defying his edict to adhere to his strict monthly budget.
The backend of a navy-blue pickup is plastered with so many bumper stickers it’s impossible to see the actual tailgate— like Dave Chawszczewski’s jeans, which were patched in so many places, the only visible parts of the original material were the seams, zipper and waistband. Dave would’ve been happy to wear handmade sweaters, knitted from freshly spun wool yarn, to ward off the crispness in the air, while his feet chilled in Birkenstocks as he popped in and out of the organic food restaurants and yoga centers of this Retro town.
His offbeat humor, flair for archaic languages and passion for books and all forms of art would’ve allowed him to settle in nicely here— if it hadn’t been for that war in Viet Nam.