Amidst the first summer storm we’d had this year, I left Brooklyn on Monday, June 1st. Three friends texted me that day to point out that New York was crying. It sounds real lame for me to write that as opposed to actually reading it via text, but there was some poetry to it. My last few days in New York were pretty incredible and also wildy busy, so it really wasn’t until I got in my car that it all hit me and the tears I’d been impatiently waiting for finally came. Driving out of New York was weird, man. There was a fog over the city as I was heading up the FDR, which made all of the buildings look out of focus. There’s probably some poetry in that, too. But, really, this is all I’m going to say about my NYC departure, because in the end, I think sappy writing can be trite. I left some good people - a family, really - and I miss them all hard.
I arrived into Howe’s Cave (just west of Albany) at 8:30pm, which was way later than I expected. Walking into my friend, Sam, and his girlfriend, Jane’s, home was exactly what I needed. Sam had made this incredible chicken pot pie situation and sitting down to welcoming conversation after that drive was like a little hug.
Sam’s folks had bought this old farm back in the 60s and his family came up most weekends from New York City when he was growing up. He’s lived there on and off over the years, but came back again permanently about four or five years ago. I’d wanted to visit ever since and it took finally leaving Brooklyn to get up there (hence “going up to go down”). Their house was incredible and weird and old and amazing and all of the good shit a farmhouse in upstate New York that’s been around for too many years to count is. I can only imagine how awful the winters can be up there, but right now, it is every shade of green in the Pantone playbook. Walking that property was inspiring and, coincidentally, is the same acreage as our family farm in Louisiana.
On Tuesday, we drove into Sharon Springs, which was a huge Borsch Belt destination back in the day. A lot of the town was left to decay for several years, but has since seen some revitalization and a few of the magnificent hotels that were rotting away have started to be restored. We explored the outside of the Adler Hotel, which was a contender for the location in The Shining. It was up and running until the 90s and has since been abandoned. Man, what a spooky ass place that was. I kind of wish we could have gone inside, but since I don’t have great health insurance anymore, it’s likely I would have fallen through a floor or something. so probably best we didn’t. The rest of the town is a mix of grand old homes that have been cared for and dilapidated buildings that are literally on their last leg. I’m a sucker for weird old shit like that, so it was real cool to drive around.
My stay at the farm was not long enough, but I hope to someday come back. It was so incredible to get to hear Sam tell stories (and he’s got quite a few), to create a friendship with Jane, and to get to know their friend, Bernie, who lives in a cabin behind the house. Really, I couldn’t have had a better start to my trip. Sam and Jane are heading down to her home in Charlottesville, Virginia in about a week for the summer and, while that wasn’t originally in the plan for me, I’m going to try to come through and see them when I head back north through the South.
On Wednesday, I took off and headed down to Newark, Delaware to spend the night with my friend, Scott, and his husband, Tom. My friendship with Scott was built on one of the best things two people can come together over: bourbon. For the last few years, he and I, along with our friend Coy, have had this bourbon trio going where we share bottles, talk about new bourbons we’ve tried, and occasionally get to hang out in person. I was so excited to spend a night with him and finally get to meet his husband.
The best way Scott could possibly have welcomed me in was a trip to his fabled liquor store, State Line. Most liquor stores worth a damn outside of NYC are like candy shops for me - they usually always have way more bourbon than I’m used to seeing. State Line did not disappoint. The owner, Rick, was incredible - totally down to earth (which is always a welcomed surprise) and really knew his stuff. There was a new distillery out of Pittsburgh called Wigle that they’d recently started carrying. Scott bought a bottle of their new bourbon (literally Batch 1) and we all went to the back tasting area to give it a shot. I’m always weary of new distilleries nowadays, but this was a great little bourbon. I might have to make a stop in Pittsburgh for a visit. Rick also brought out a bottle he’d received from a patron who’d just come back from the Bourbon Trail - Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. It clocked in a little over 140 proof and goddamn was she hot. A little water helped to reveal a really complex bourbon, though, with a nice spice level and a depth throughout the whole palate. This now concludes the portion of this post where I geek out over booze.
When we got back, we all sat down for cocktail hour (with the 2014 George T. Stagg as the base for an incredible Manhattan - Scott is a hell of a bartender) and it was really great to get to know Tom better.
Scott, Tom and I had dinner at this fantastic and unassuming little spot they frequent. I ate a pulled pork-like sandwich with a fried pickle on it. The end.
I am forever grateful to have spent the first few days of this trip with old and new friends. It really eased me into being on the road and, undoubtedly, having some company at the get-go, will help balance all of the solo time I’ll have.