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Like my brownhouse:
   the chips and salsa of Tannersville
Thursday, August 21 2003
This afternoon Gretchen and I drove up to Tannersville in Greene County, driving most of the way on back roads. We've begun to take pride in our familiarity with the lesser roads of the Catskills. The most spectacular of these on today's route was County Road 16, also known as Plaat Clove Road. A couple miles of it is exceedingly narrow and winding and clings to the edge of dramatic cliff overlooking the deep gorge cut by Plattekill Creek. This section of road is a seasonal luxury that is closed from November through March. The scenery here resembles something out of an illustrated collection of children's fairy tales. But once you've climbed up through this primordial gorge, the countryside continues looking much the way that it had in lowlands to the east. Once again you see mailboxes, houses, villages, and dramatic ancient architecture, some of it in a spectacular state of ruin. The major difference up on the plateau, particularly in and around the town of Tannersville, is the number of Orthodox Jews. Suddenly you see them everywhere - on bicycles, in boxy twelve year old American luxury cars, or running across the street, their tzitzis flying in the breeze. Gretchen tells me that most of them are from the City and up here on extended vacations, though some members of the families may only come up on the weekends.
Our destination was Colgate Lake (actually a sort of reservoir) north of Tannersville. It was a fairly crowded place, even on a Thursday, but the main difficulty was parking; finding a private place along the shoreline wasn't difficult.
We had to walk through a crowded section of beach to get to where we were going, and this gave our two dogs plenty of opportunity for meeting other dogs and making trivial mischief. The attitude of the place is unusually dog-friendly, and most people were delighted when surprised by a cold wet nose.
At the little patch of shoreline which we found to set up our blankets and reading material, the water was shallow and its slope gradual enough to permit wide-ranging wading, which was all I cared to do. The dogs jumped in and splashed around and chewed on punky old pieces of rotting elderberry wood. But when Gretchen did some serious swimming, Sally decided to go swimming after her, well out into water where she could no longer touch bottom.
My favorite part of the shoreline was somewhat further on. Here there was a deep shade maintained by an evergreen canopy, though occasional massive diseased Paper Birches punctuated the gloom with their whiteness. Several of these had fallen over, shedding great shells of paper. Mosses, ferns, and dense clumps of primitive lycopods covered the ground. "This looks like the place where the teddy bears have their picnics," I said.
The only major annoyance for our leisurely day at the lake came when an Orthodox mother and her several bratty kids showed up and took over a patch of shoreline adjacent to ours (visually isolated by a clump of bushes). We couldn't see them, but we could hear them. One of the kids was a noisy little boy with an excessive dependence upon his mother for affirmation. He was the kind who felt the need to continuously shout out requests for his mother to watch him whenever he was about to do something, no matter how unremarkable.
On the way back home, we stopped in Tannersville for an early dinner at a cheesy little Mexican restaurant called Pancho Villa. By cheesy, I mean that someone had decorated the place with laminated paper cutouts of sombreros and piñatas suspended on strings from the stained panels of the dropped ceiling. An unrelated cheese story concerns Gretchen's enchilada. It was smothered by so much of the stuff that she had to pick it off and abandon it in a big messy tomato-sauce-stained pile. The house chips and salsa, however, were unexpectedly the best I can remember having in a very long time.

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