cider and cannabis in and northwest of Staunton
Sunday, May 28 2023
location: unit #4, 201 North Madison Street, Staunton, Virginia
This morning I ate a bagel and drank my way through three cups of coffee made with the little reusable coffee cartridge in the Keurig (which, like everything else in the kitchen, was painted an unusual tone of baby blue). After I'd done what I wanted to, I drove out to the Kroger on Statler Blvd to get some beer, hummus, and, in an impulse-purchase, a California roll that I thought was vegan but which turned out to contain fish protein. Later I would offer some to my brother Don, but he's never had sushi, isn't especially adventurous, and wasn't interested. As I ate it out on the front stoop in front of the sour-smelling Creekside trailer, I was amused to think that it was one of the most unlikely and inappropriate places for anyone to be eating sushi. But that was later. When I first arrived at the Creekside, I parked the car and went across the road to look for a standard 120v power cord. This sent me exploring the honey house attic and salvaging a few more old multifunction ISA cards. For the actual power cables, though, I had to look in the Shaque. Getting around these buildings was not easy given the minefield of poison ivy, which now grows directly here and there in clumps in the remainder of the drive. At some point I ducked into the abandoned building that used to be my childhood home. Due to various searches that have been conducted in there, the paradigm of piles on either side of narrow trails has broken down, and now paper debris is strewn everywhere, even across the floor of the kitchen. In my father's old study, I managed to find five or six notebooks full of his handwriting. This included several volumes of my father's farming and firewood-gathering diary called Living. I also wanted a few of my father's artifacts, including [REDACTED] and a pair of slide rules that had amazed and delighted me when I was a small boy. I figured these would almost certainly get lost in the final disposal of the house's contents, so I wanted to save them. I also decided something needed to be done with my father's ashes, which have been languishing on a box on his old desk for nearly twelve years (if he were still alive, he would be turning 100 on November 2nd). Eventually Don materialized from somewhere behind our childhood home, and I asked him how we was adapting to his new phone. There were some issues, but overall he seemed to be taking to it about as good as could be expected. I asked DOn if he'd like to dump out our father's ashes, and, to my delight, he said okay, and that our father had said something about wanting his ashes dumped out on Pileated Peak. (I had remembered him wanting them dumped out in Folly Mill Fen, but but to get Don's approval, we were going to have to do things the way he remembered Dad wanting them done.) I'd fully expected Don to rebel against dumping out our father's remains, but apparently he realizes it's really just us now to make decisions for the legacy of our family in these decades before its complete extinction.
I told Don to get his phone so he could help photodocument the spreading of the ashes. Then we climbed up Pileated Peak along where there had once been a path. That path has been completely choked by vines and other plant growth, though I found us making our way past a numer of trees that I'd planted nearly forty years ago. These included hemlocks and a very tall, straight white pine near the old "temple," whose ring of limestone rocks still makes it clear that something primitively human was assembled there. The trail was so bad they we stopped climbing Pileated Peak even before we got to what had once been openings in the forest that we'd referred to as "the meadow." By this point I was having second thoughts. What if our mother learns about us dumping out Dad's ashes and doesn't approve? Or what if Joy Tarder, our mother's power of attorney, had plans to do something Christian with those remains and gets upset that we took the matter into our hands and did it in the manner of pagans. In the end, though, I unceremoniously dumped out the ashes, leaving them as a light-grey pile on the ground, and DOn took some pictures. And that was it. We didn't mark the moment with any particular words, which would've been how my father would have preferred things. ANd then we came down the hill and went back to Don's sour-smelling trailer.
Don called Joy Tarder to find out what old folks' home our mother Hoagie had ended up at, and she responded with a message that I could use to navigate there. We actually used Don's phone for that navigation, just to demonstrate this feature to him.
Hoagie was at a place called The Retreat in Fishersville. Fishersville is ugly community consisting entirely of unchecked, unplanned sprawl, with all the sprawling filling out places at different elevations with no real grid of streets to navigate through. The Retreat at least was at the edge of the sprawl frontier; beyond it was a tranquil undeveloped landscape that will surely be dug up and paved soon. Old folks' homes are inherently depressing, though there were a few old-timers there who were aware enough to be delighted as Maple the Dog walked through. Others, though, sat on various pieces of furniture with their eyes closed or staring off without apparent awareness. Somehow Joy Tarder had raced over to meet us at The Retreat, and she seemed perfectly pleasant and not especially intrusive. She directed us toward Hoagie, who was out of her room, walking around with a cane. Ultimately we ended up back in her room, which had been lovingly decorated with the best of her art, with an emphasis on linoleum prints. Curated this way, it showed her art in the best way possible. And it looked good in the context of an austere, non-cluttered suite. The only other major object from her life was a bronze chariot that her father Clarence DeMar had been awarded on one of the seven occasions he won the Boston Marathon.
For a woman imprisoned in a memory-care ward, my mother seemed a lot more articulate and aware than one might expect. She clearly knew who Don and I were, and she was happy to see her dog Maple. (Though Maple seemed kind of meh about her, perhaps because she no longer had the funk of her old unwashed self.) But she wasn't clear about where she was. At some point she asked us what we were doing for dinner. I reminded her that she was at a facility that provided her food. She was skeptical, claiming we were actually on Stingy Hollow Road. But then when she looked out the window, she could see (and agree) that the view didn't match that location. Also, did she really think a place this uncluttered could be on Stingy Hollow Road?
I had a few things I needed to ask Hoagie, so I asked them one after the other. Who was Bob Nutt? She said he was a friend, it was hard to tell based on what she was saying about him whether he was in the habit of visiting her. I told her that Bob Nutt had said that Joy Tarder is managing her estate in hopes of stealing money from her, to which Hoagie was somewhat non-committal. She also claimed that Bob Nutt had taken out a restraining order to keep Joy Tarder from being anywhere near Hoagie, but that made zero sense and likely fell in the category of confabulations that my mother now tells. Such confabulations are so tiresome that I do what I can to hurry Hoagie along through them. What's interesting is that Hoagie can still pick up (and comment on) subtle clues about my interest in what she's talking about. But this is in a context of not knowing where she is and thinking a lot of things are happening that don't make any logical sense. I asked Hoagie if she was happy at The Retreat, and she said she was "for the most part," which directly contradicted what Bob Nutt had been telling me. I also aked Hoagie if she would like to be in an old folks' home closer to her twin Barbara (in Woodbury, Connecticut) so that Barbara can visit her more often, but Hoagie responded immediately that no, she didn't want to be any closer to Barbara. So it seems the love between those twins is a bit asymmetrical.
I also told Hoagie that Don and I had finally dumped out Dad's ashes, and (to my surprise) she said that this was a good thing and the kind of thing our father would've approved of.
Meanwhile Don had brought his Lego "Material Handler" as a show-and-tale item to brag about to Hoagie. And she'd responded by being impressed in a way that seemed more socially aware than I would expect given both her personality and state of dementia. Don quickly lost interest in what we were talking about and spent all his time manipulating the pneumatics on his Material Handler. We weren't even there an hour before he expressed a desire to leave, and when he did I was ready to go too. I hugged Hoagie goodbye, told her I loved her, and said I'd be coming back in a few days. I then drove Don and Maple back to Creekside, dropped them off, and proceeded to have the next phase of my day.
I drove back to Staunton and parked near the art show I'd strolled through yesterday afternoon. My old Stingy Hollow neighbors Julia and her mother MAV both had tents at this art show, and Julia had said on Facebook that she'd seen me yesterday. So I walked through the show to say hello to these people. I started talking to Don, MAV's husband (and Julia's father), but he said he was in a race against the rain to take down his wife's tent. I offered to help, but he didn't want that. So then I talked to Julia, who seemed to be in less of a hurry. I also met her husband, who told me he used to hang out with Charlie Shipe over at Creekside back in the day. (Charlie was the son of the couple my parents feuded with throughout the late 1970s and most of the 1980s; after Bobby SHipe, the Shipe patriarch, died and the Shipes moved out, my parents bought Creekside from the next owners, who were, of course, named "the Shifflets.")
I was now also communicating with Eric P., one of the guys I went to high school with. His mother was my 7th Grade science teacher and more enlightened and worldly than most people in this area (and she's still my friend on Facebook). He'd told me he wanted to hang out next time I was in town, so we'd decided tonight was the night. I decided to drive the Bolt back up to the Madison Street so I wouldn't have to drive it any more. And then I went to Ciders From Mars (a watering hole near the art show) to wait for him to show up. By some miscommunication, I was there a whole glass of cider before Eric showed up. But then there he was. We talked about the hilarious old days, such as that time back in 1987 when I was hanging out with Eric and our various super square friends and decided to take 2.5 grams of psilocybin mushrooms I'd gotten in Oberlin. Eric also told me about his life these days. He's on his third marriage now, to a woman who has 60 goats. He's various blue-collar jobs through the years including a landscaping job, though recently he got hired working in a massive Amazon warehouse nearby somewhere. We'd also been talking a lot about cannabis, celebrating the fact that we now both live in cannabis-friendly states. Eric brought me over some cannabis-infused fudge, which I eventually ate all of (even though it had been made with real butter, something Eric was very apologetic about once I told him I was a vegan).
Originally Eric had proposed something of a pub crawl for this evening, but we only made it to the second place: the Byers Street Bistro, where I've been going now and then for at least thirty years. We were seated upstairs and assigned a young waitress named Miranda who I was drunk enough to be perhaps a little too flirtative with even though I was fully aware that this was ridiculous (and, even had I been 20 years younger, she was decidedly not my type). There wasn't much for a vegan on the Bistro's menu, so I ordered the "southern pickle chips." "What makes them southern?" I asked Miranda. It turned out they'd been deep-fried. By this point, the cannabis in the fudge was kicking in so hard I was having trouble assembling coherent thoughts. Fortunately, Eric has a much higher tolerance to cannabis than I do, so all I had to do was stick with him. Eventually we went out to his Jeep, where Eric offered to charge my phone (among other new-fangled social graces). He also let me take a hit from his cannabis pipe, which I really shouldn't have taken. Eric had to pick up some groceries from some sort of curb-side grocery service, so he drove us to some unknown part of the map northeast of Staunton (not a part of the area I know much about). As we drove around, the cannabis was affecting me so much that the landscape looked like it had been programmatically generated using florets of broccoli. Another thing that was weird was that Betsy Bell and Mary Gray, the two big cone-shaped hills southeast of Downtown Staunton, were mostly backwards from the way I'm used to seeing them. But that was just a consequence of the sector of Augusta County that we were driving through.
Eric ended up taking me back to my AirBnB on Madison Street. I was a little confused after we went around the block to see some things Eric wanted to point out, but once I identified my car, Eric let me out and thanked me for hanging out with him tonight.
The effects of the cannabis were such that I could barely walk. I staggered onto the porch and tried the keycode, but it didn't work. So I sat on a small couch on the porch and messaged the landlord. He quickly got back to me saying the locks should all be open, which made me think he'd somehow made that happen remotely. But what actually had happened, I think, was that the landlord had left the locks open, and that's why they had failed to open when I punched in the code. In any case, it came as a big relief to find myself in the bed I was supposed to be sleeping in.
Don holding his new smartphone with the box of our father's ashes at his feet on Pileated Peak just before we dumped the ashes on the ground.
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Hoagie and Don with Maple the Dog in Hoagie's suite at The Retreat in Fishersville.
Click to enlarge.
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