Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Family Vacation Day 1

We started our day as losers.

Well, not quite. Actually we started the day with the kids doing their main weekly (mandatory) chores, followed by my son and me practicing the 12-Bar Blues we just learned yesterday. I love the sound of it and the fact that it feels really natural to play. I'm looking forward to getting so fluid with the basic 12-bar that we can add on some neat sounds to go along with it.

From there, we packed a picnic lunch (in an authentic Yogi-Bear-Style pick-a-nick basket) and headed out for fun with the kids. Our first stop, though, was the Great New York State Fair. My wife and the older kids had entered a pile of art into the various competitions at the Art & Home Building this year and a whole lot of it had actually won. But my wife had two photos and two drawings that weren't accepted and we had to pick them up. It's a good thing she's not sensitive about it, really. We pulled up to Gate 2 and a grizzled-looking security guard walked up to the van. I told him "We're going to the Art & Home Building to pick up our losers" and he nodded solemnly - that slow, single nod you use when you're at a wake and don't want to seem overly enthusiastic about anything because it's supposed to be sad. My wife only chuckled at my choice of words.

I love the fair. Love it. I love the sounds and (most of) the smells and everything that there is to see and do there. I enjoy walking through the buildings, especially the ones that don't have stinky animals in them. I enjoy watching my children on the rides, their faces lit up with pure glee as they spin and twirl and bounce.

Boy, you know what I really used to enjoy? This was before we had kids. I used to drag my wife over to "Empire Court"(which, at one point, was (and possibly still is) the name of the lawn between the front stage by Gate 1 and the Dinosaur BBQ tent. It might be Chevy Court now, or that might just be the part right by the stage. I dunno.) and take a nap for a half-hour or so in the afternoon. I'd fall asleep to the sounds of the people and the smells of the food and the grass, and I'd wake up refreshed and ready to dive back into the Fair. I think my wife would spend the time pawing through the bags of pamphlets and crap we'd picked up in the Center of Progress building, but I don't really know. I was asleep. Sadly, the kids have no patience for naps and I don't get to have one anymore, but the few years I managed to take one were glorious.

Anyway, I love the fair and it was a bit of a mild thrill to be driving around the grounds as everything was being assembled in preparation for Thursday's grand-opening. We picked up our rejected art and then walked back across the grounds, marveling at the dry fountain at the center of the NY State Park at the Fair. Here's a little piece of trivia - the property on which the State Fair sits was, at least to begin with, given to the State in perpetuity as long as they continued to operate the annual State Fair on it. However, one little chunk of the fairgrounds is actually a designated New York State Park. Unfortunately, that little park is about 50% fountain and the rest is covered in park ranger and state police exhibits, a miniature golf course and a Parks Gift Shop, so I didn't nap there. Nope, sorry, too much crap in the ol' State Park at the Fair, so I took my naps to more welcoming territory.

After strolling through the State Fair (some assembly required), we headed to Shove Park (pronounced with a long O), a really nice area in the town of Camillus with a baseball diamond, quite a few picnic tables (most of them under a roofed pavilion), three separate playgrounds (an ancient one, a new one and one for toddlers), and - best of all - a stretch of Geddes Brook passing through it. The kids had a wonderful time wading up to their knees (or, in the case of the youngest, up to his waist) in the cold water, floating pieces of bark through the twisting course and digging up a wide array of interesting (to them) rocks. We easily spent a couple of hours there while they got all wet and dirty and happy.

Next, we paid a visit to Fairmount Glen miniature golf course. I never played mini-golf too much when I was a kid, but my wife's family had an annual ritual of golfing at Fairmount Glen so it's a special place for her. The kids just like it because it has all sorts of creative and fancy holes including a windmill, a castle, a plinko table, and a bucket of flowers hanging above a "secret passage" that sends your ball shooting straight at the hole. I had a lousy game due to my general lack of coordination, and my older son came out the big winner for the first time ever. He was especially elated to have beaten the rest of us.

My daughter needed some cheering up after her devastating defeat at the hands of her brother, so we made a quick stop at the Camillus Municipal Building playground. With her joy-meter reset to "high," we headed to Pizza Hut, to take advantage of the coupon on the mini-golf scorecard. Our waitress looked really familiar, so I asked if she had worked at that restaurant for a while. She laughed and told us she'd been there for twenty-six years. That's why I'd recognized her - my old friend Bill and I had eaten there all the time and she'd waited on us as often as not. And that was more than fifteen years back. As much as the face of West Genesee street in Camillus has changed since I got married and moved away, this woman represented to me everything that's still the same there. It was comforting in its way, not least of all because she's a pretty decent waitress.

We finished the day with a trip to Peter's Polar Parlor, an ice-cream stand that I can remember visiting when I was barely more than a toddler. My parents would sit me up on the counter to tell Pete what I wanted. Pete - the original Pete, this is, not the more recent Pete who owned the place after it had changed hands once or twice - was a friend of my Dads' so he always took a moment to say hi to us when we'd visit. He seemed to take a real pleasure in serving his customers - I don't think I've ever seen anybody happier at their job than old Pete.

We got home full, tired and happy. Day 1 was an unqualified success. Let's hope the rest of the week goes as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment