Small Wonders: Exploring the Adirondacks

I'm always saddened when I see a front porch with no one sitting on it. I notice them most often as I ride my bike through town, or on the rare long walk. You see so much more of the world when you're not in your car.

The overabundance of vacant front porches is made more depressing just before dinner or sunset, times when everyone should stop, sit in front of their house and watch the world go by for a few minutes.

Not long ago I was standing in my front yard watching the daughters do the silly things they do, when I was joined by my neighbor Scott and his daughter. Normally, the girls play in one place for about two minutes before moving on to their next playing field like butterflies with OCD.

But when it appeared they were happy in the front yard, I brought a couple of rarely used, wooden Adirondack chairs from the backyard and set them on the front lawn. Scott and I sat and relaxed.

That night I left those chairs where they were because I'm generally a very lazy person and hate cleaning up after myself. Though I knew they were defenseless against the elements and automatic sprinklers, there was something so pleasing about the sight of them in that corner of the lawn; the Birds of Paradise hedge behind them, the palm trees and neighbor's olive tree providing an arbor overhead.

It's an area the kids hardly explore, making it a perfect place from which to sit and watch them. It's shady and offers a pleasant view of the neighborhood; a great spot from which to yell at the cars speeding down our residential street.

Scott followed his kid down the next day after school, and a bottle of wine magically appeared. The scene repeated itself a few days later. His wife and mine visited, and we found a few more chairs. I dusted off a dilapidated old bamboo end table to set our drinks upon. The chairs are now a fixture on the front lawn. The gardeners move them when they mow, but always place them right back where they belong.

My grandparents were married some 60 years, qualifying them as experts on just about everything in life. They had a name for their evening cocktail: the Shibobby. Legend has it the name was how my oldest sister pronounced the mysterious concoction of Bourbon and water. They liked theirs served tall, in a generic plastic glass. No buckets or tumblers for them.

It was their evening ritual, something these retired folks looked forward to each night. In nice weather we'd sit on their lushly shaded patio as they enjoyed their Shibobby, and we enjoyed their company and their ping-pong table.

When I was a boy playing with my friends around the house, my mother would often call her friend across the street and chat while each made dinner. A parent's diverted attention is a child's invitation to torment.

So we'd use the long cord to the wall-mounted phone as a jump rope, tangling it horribly and preventing any civilized conversation. The following was something my mother said frequently to her friend: "Why don't you just come over for a quick drink?" It was a statement, not a question.

Minutes later the two women would be cackling away over a glass of chardonnay while we kids did everything possible to get their attention. If it was one of "those" days when report cards came home or police were involved, that glass of wine turned into five fingers of Jim Beam. Wild Turkey was poured if the report cards were good or the charges were dropped.

Ever notice how kids lose interest in that thing they simply couldn't live without if it sits in one place too long? The most important toys in the world fade into the background of their ephemeral little lives. But move that Malibu Barbie Beach House just 3 feet, and it jumps off the screen begging to be played with as if it were brand new. It's kind of like that with those chairs on my front lawn now.

Some mornings I'll be working at my desk and look out the window to see Scott already sitting there with his coffee. I'll grab mine and join him to start our day. Like Fantastic Sam's, there's no appointment needed.

The other evening I saw him approaching with a cheese plate. On cue, I pulled that special bottle of merlot I had chilling in the fridge for just such an occasion. And on "those" days, when I see him approach with a tumbler full of Scotch, I pull my Dewar's from the back of the cupboard, pour myself a sympathetic draw, and join him in the Adirondacks.

Maybe it's the melancholy of summer's impending end, as autumn's tentacles creep in. Or a desire to wrestle the last few nights of warm weather sitting outdoors in the twilight. Maybe it's just a good spot to keep an eye on the kids. Or maybe it's just nice to have a friend to sit and have a Shibobby with as we watch the world go by.

Seasons are changing; time slips away faster than we want. But I think I'll be leaving those chairs on the front lawn a little while longer.

PATRICK CANEDAY "likes" bacon. He can be reached on Facebook, at http://www.patrickcaneday.com and patrickcaneday@gmail.com.

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