Bump In The Night
Nonetheless, my wife stirred; her maternal instincts were
No, I said. It is probably rowdy milk deliverers.
The sounds - now a racket - persisted. Two minutes had
passed, although it seemed an eternity. Reconnaissance can
only give a man so much cover, I thought. Besides, if
it were a milk and egg drop, two minutes would be more than
sufficient from tailgate to porch.
I resigned myself to the reality - I had to get up. Dad had
to investigate at closer proximity. Lightly clad, unarmed,
I cautiously approached the exterior door of our rooms en
The voices were clearer now: male, nasal, enthusiastic, hurried,
slurred. Clearly the whole deliveryman theory was blown
And now- levity. Yes, laughter- quickened laughter.
I would have said girlish giggling, but this was emanating
from a pair of youthful males emboldened, no doubt, by drink.
More horseplay than gunplay, I thought. They had an
odd confidence, betraying forethought and a modicum of planning,
this further evidenced by the dog's instinctual, resigned
quietude. He thought it routine, and went back to sleep.
I could go out there. I thought. But Hanes boxers and
a literary bent would hardly be a match for double-teaming,
alcohol-emboldened fisticuffs. No, this calls for a
cocked shotgun and buckshot, not underwear and a sharp tongue,
Also, it was like 15-degrees Fahrenheit or something.
Then, like a shot it came. Now - more quickened, more
clear, more empathic, more laughter-riddled, terse-syntax-ed,
and, oh, so bold - I heard "Let's get the #$@* outta
More metal on metal, gruff yet exultant voices muttering mutually
congratulatory somethings, and then still more metal on metal.
Footfalls. Vehicle doors slamming and- the quick get-a-way.
Acceleration, from zero to 40 or 50 miles per hour, an automatic
transmission but with no change of gears, a light body pick-up
with a high-powered engine, perhaps.
In all, five minutes had passed.
I returned to my bed, gave my wife a reassuring short version
of the above mentioned events ("Whoever it was, they're
gone-"), kissed the baby, patted the dog, then after
a bit of fussing and speculation, sleep, blessed sleep.
Later that morning, at approximately 6 a.m., I arose, dressed,
and accompanied Astérix outdoors for his first-of-the-day
territorial marking session. I noticed out of a sleep-blurred
eye, an ice machine outside, roughly in the same area from
which the commotion had emanated. "Ah, ha! Yes!
The ice machine.
They just wanted ice, I trumpeted to my wife.
At 7 a.m., after a rather satisfying egg, ham, and cheese
sandwich with coffee from the now open-for-business American
General Store, in casual conversation with the breakfast cook,
I mentioned my "ice" story. He said, yes-
and the sign is missing.
Hmmmmmm. The sign-. And, he said, the ice machine
looks pretty worked over, too.
I suggested we go outside and see the ice machine. He
politely suggested I might want to incorporate the obviously
missing three-feet in diameter hand-painted American General
Store sign into the chain of events I had so confidently laid-out.
Sure enough, I had earlier failed to notice that the top of
the ice machine was in pretty bad shape. It had once
read "I-C-E." Pummeled and crushed, it now
read "CE," and I am being generous about the "C."
The sign was completely missing. I understood the situation
A trail of footprints from parking lot, through muddy tire
tracks, to the ice machine with boot prints in the snow, to
the ice machine compressor and its plastic ICE sign, and to
the low shed roof, then the porch roof, and - the big American
General Store sign.
Yes, it was the alleged American General Store Sign swipe.
I had been a witness to history.
The officers came at about 8 a.m. and I relayed the entire
affair to them.
After the barebones facts, I allowed myself a certain amount
of speculation. It may be about the whole "Rednecks
Versus City People" drama that had played out in the
Olive Press last summer, I said. Something about duck confit
versus food you can pronounce. Liquored-up and on a dare,
the alleged perpetrators had planned the whole thing, I surmised.
The sign swipers now had bragging rights: capture of the perfect
Later, I was on the way back from a 2-hour jaunt to Woodstock.
Tooling down 28A, I was now re-enacting the incident in my
own mind. I even figured-out that if they had stolen
the Post Office sign (the American General Store harbors the
West Shokan Post Office, too) the Feds would be involved,
and there would be black helicopters, crime-scene tape, and
FBI agents all over the place..
Then I saw it on the side of the road, about a quarter mile
before the scene of the crime.
The "Town of Olive" sign was missing, too.
The best part is- the "alleged perpetrators" returned
the sign in the dead of night a couple of days later.
Only in Olive-.
To Large Parcels
The property's worth has been a bone on contention between
Olive and NYC almost since the Ashokan Reservoir, which dominates
the center of the town, was built in 1915. Currently assessed
by Olive at $292 million, the City's most recent lawsuit argued
for a $115 million assessment before Judge Bradley threw out
their case with the comment that they'd have to pay more than
that for land at Love Canal. After a series of quiet meetings
with Leifeld and town attorneys, the City quietly dropped
their appeal of Bradley
's decision late last year.
What is New York City's extensive property holdings in Olive
and Hurley truly worth? The answer to that question, if the
estimations of both Olive and ORPS comes within 5% of each
other, is key to escaping a considerable tax hike under the
Large Parcel bill.
A $350m appraisal for the Olive properties was set in a study
by Statehouse Realty of Albany during a former conflict with
the City but a more recent estimate of worth, which includes
DEP land in both Olive and Hurley, runs between $375 and $393
million. When New York City's Mayor Rudy Giuliani did his
utmost to privitize his City's water supply system in 1995,
he was confident that he could raise over $2 billion in cash
with a sale to the proper corporation before State Comptroller
Carl McCall and Alan Hevesi blocked the deal with a lawsuit
reported in the New York Times on July
27, 1995 and the NY Daily News on June 28th of that year.
Of course, the Ashokan is only one of seven reservoirs in
the system but, with a capacity of 122.9 billion gallons (currently
96.9% full), it is second only to Pepacton Reservoir's 140.2
billion gallons and considerably above Cannonsville's third
place total capacity of 95.7 billion. The larger question
might be how quickly Giuliani's corporation would have made
back their investment. If we had that figure, we might begin
to get closer to the worth of a priceless resource.
Since the establishment of its 1997 Land Acquisition program,
New York has
been gobbling up more parcels to environmentally buffer its
water system- over 53,000 new acres, in fact. Most recently,
it paid $25 million for "up to 700 acres" near Croton
in December, acquired an additional 463 acres in Shandaken
in January and scooped up another 481 acres in Wawarsing earlier
this month. If these figures have any bearing on what has
been discussed between Leifeld and ORPS in a series of meetings
leading up to this one- and we don't know that they do- we
might have a clue as to why the Supervisor deems it possible
that the agency might boost its estimates to within what Olive's
attorneys could consider a reasonable range.
If the ORPS numbers come up enough, Leifeld noted, the town
would agree to a re-evaluation of its own figures.
Since many observers, in Leifeld's view, feel that the Large
Parcel bill (which appears to have been designed with sizable
industrial sites in mind) should not have included reservoirs
in the first place, it would take a meeting of the minds within
5% of estimated worth, to arrive at a destination somewhere
within the boundaries of a plain he could call Justice.
The couple has been in the area for what averages out at a
decade. They were drawn to the mountains by a wish to simplify
their lives and put more focus into projects of their own
making. They had had enough of the metro area's corporate
world, even though Robison notes how he's been pulled back
into it somewhat by a decent-paying job that's got him commuting
to Newburgh on a daily basis.
Both feel that Prima Materia would never have happened anywhere
but here. It's their attempt to create something of the region,
which could also possibly set up a means for them to eventually
be working here full-time.
The publication got its start after Robison noted that there
was a shortage of outlets for short fiction writers. Poets
had a scene. Visual artists and non-fiction writers were well-served.
So he started posting notices, and placed an ad in the Woodstock
Times, seeking submissions.
"I was very conscientious- too conscientious," he
recalls, noting how he tried sending detailed critiques to
all those he rejected at first, until he found such efforts
time-consuming and often more hurtful than anticipated. "I
was learning as I went on."
Robison printed his first two volumes of Prima Materia, originally
intended to come out twice a year - along with two books he's
published under he and Klein's BlissPlot Press, with a web-accessible
printing press in Tennessee. The new volume, he adds, is his
first to be actually printed in Kingston with Tri-State Litho,
a choice he feels comfortable with, even if it is slightly
The way things work is that Robison gets his manuscripts in.
He reads all, chooses what he wants to publish, edits the
pieces, finds an order to put them in, writes an introduction,
finds art work- all with Klein helping at all stages. When
things are in order he e-mails Microsoft Word and Photoshop
documents to his printer.
"My whole childhood was about reading and drawing,"
Robison says. His career has involved years of professional
writing in the corporate training world; his creative output
has included recognition in New York City writing circles.
Klein adds how enthusiastic she's felt about Robison's seeing
the project through, and how rewarding it was to work more
closely with him on their Autumn, 2003 book, The Other Face:
Experiencing The Mask.
Both comment on how it was important for them to realize that
the joy of setting up their publishing company was not monetary,
They talk about the concept of Right Livelihood, and of the
pleasures each has found having found a new level of maturity
while making the Catskills, and Mt. Tremper, their home.
They are currently in the process of expanding their family
by adopting a daughter from India.
They are committed to where they live.
Both see the future of the area being in the unique livelihoods
people build for themselves, moving beyond looking at employment
as a passive entitlement with no guiding ethics. They want
to make their income from things that give back to, and reflect,
the community they live in. And most of the people they know
think similarly, and have built up their own livelihoods in
a similar fashion.
"You have to look into the soul of what you do and ask
if it is destructive in any way," Robison says.
"Our view of this area is that it can thrive on cottage
industries, arts and crafts, internet businesses, and heritage
and eco-tourism," Klein adds.
By focusing on bringing the region's literary accomplishments
to light, just as its arts have gained world attention, what
they're believing is more than viable. It's a right likelihood.