ALMOST AUTUMN AWE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK


Let this not be a scorched with boredom bla bla piece of writing as all the elements are with me this Sunday. No one is mowing their lawn, the sky is a metal grey shield against sunlight, a light freckly kind of rain falls outside, and Bill Evans and Jim Hall’s sublime mix plays into my pulse.

In upstate New York, an overwhelming enthusiasm erupts for pumpkins, apples, and cider doughnuts. Advertisements appear in my Saratoga news feed of festivals at the local farms, homemade apple cider, witches and hayrides, pick your own pumpkins, and doughnut-eating contests.

Instead of smirking at this unfamiliar custom, I took a ride out to Lakeside Farms Cider Mill to riddle my sensibilities and get into the autumn groove. It’s a short distance away but, after you make the third turn off the main road, the gladiator trees blushing with yellow and gold formed a canopy over my convertible. It reminded me of an amusement park ride. My mood melted with the colors and as I pulled into the driveway of Lakeside, packed as if the Rolling Stones were going to perform my internal stick shift went into submission. I’m guessing the farm sits on several acres, and on one side is a field of grass, with pathways to walk, and then as I moved closer to a small brown barn, I noticed a witch outfitted for the children standing with her pitchfork.

Shoppers with carts passed filled with pumpkins and apples, and as I looked for a shopping cart, a woman noticed my puzzled expression. “You lookin’ for a cart?”

“Yes, where do I find one?”

“There’s an empty one behind you.” I felt dumb as gum and thanked her. Then I had the choice of going into the open farmhouse where a display of a dozen diverse kinds of apples stacked in crates, farm-fresh vegetables, pumpkins of all sizes, and an assortment of Apple Brown Betty mixes neatly placed on shelves next to jars of honey, preserves, syrup, and pancake mixes.

It is now a full-blown bumper car amusement ride as carts are pushed by shoppers unaware of colliding with other carts. Children are jumping up and down, and screeching with sugar craving desire.  I cannot decide which aisle to choose. First, an eggplant that wasn’t the size of a dinner platter, then a few green chilis, and sexy plump tomatoes. I could have chosen a dozen more items. Since I am single, my lesson has been learned not to overbuy only to throw it away.

Apples were tied in bags, a dozen the smallest amount, so I chose one bag of Cortland amongst the other twenty-five kinds of apples! Macintosh, Macoun, Gala, Empire, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, etc.

I knew I was in the jive when I bought a two-pound sack of Buttermilk pancake mix, a jar of Vermont Syrup, and a jug of Apple Cider. At the counter, in line with half a dozen others, the clerk whom I’m sure was part of the family greeted me.

“How are you today?” He said this as if he was on stage speaking loud enough for an auditorium of guests.

    “I’m doing very well, and you?” I don’t usually project an openly loving tone but he sort of earned my delight.  With all that I bought, the bill was twenty-eight dollars. I used to spend that at Sprouts in Los Angeles for half the items.

Next, the bakery for those tantalizing apple cider doughnuts. Now I go indoors to a converted barn where they serve food and more grocery items. Another reason for this jaunt was to pick up a dozen doughnuts for the seven firemen who answered my call this week when my basement began to flood. We had so much rain my sump pumps gave up, and the water was just about to fill the hot water heaters in the pit. After they hosed out all the water, we chatted outdoors. Someone mentioned breakfast time. I chimed in,

     “Let me guess, cider doughnut!” A round of laughter and oh yes, they all love them. They would not take any money and so I thought I’d buy them what they love.

The sandwich line was twenty groups long. I squeezed in next to the bakery and was called on right away.

    “What can we get for you today?” Another gleeful greeting from a woman who looked like she grew up next to the oven. I looked at the selection of pastries oozing with sugar, cream, icing the works.

“A dozen cider doughnut in a box please-it’s a gift.”

“What kind? Sugar glazed, cinnamon, plain, chocolate covered…”

“Sugar glazed pleased. And six cinnamons in a bag.”

With a cart loaded up, I suddenly realized I would have to wheel it all the way to my car over puddles, chipped brick, and steps. Instead, I used my less-than sturdy arms. As I walked along leaning slightly to the right (my left arm hasn’t behaved since I fell on the stairs) my LA persona surrendered to old-fashioned, no dieting, family-friendly shopping at Lakeside.

As soon as I entered my kitchen, I dug into the bag of doughnuts, poured a cup of coffee, and dunked.