I can remember lying on the shaggy gray carpet of my living room on cold Sunday mornings watching the weather channel, even as a kid, before my love of jazz kicked in, I can remember being drawn to the funky yet soothing music of the weather channel. Sunday mornings where always started with H and H bagels, philly cream cheese, lox and red onions with the weather channel turned up and my father asking my brother and I if we wanted to take a ride.
A ride was not just a ride, a ride meant multiple things, it meant that we would leave the city behind for a short period and search for snow in upstate, I remember my father driving us over 2 hours north just to see some snow once, he truly loved the adventure of wandering the back roads of upstate, NY.
A ride could also mean going to the restaurant in the park, which was a small cantina Mexican restaurant located just off the Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County. It could have been in the middle of nowhere as we were concerned, for we would walk on this abandoned railroad track and look for old pieces of coal and rusty spikes. My father instilled the love of all things old and abandoned at this small county park just north of the city.
A ride could also mean a little farther drive to Harriman state park, where we would wander around, knocking over dead trees, checking out the ice fisherman and go sledding. In high school we would go shoot my BB gun and cross bow and later my .22 rifle. We never actually hiked, we parked and went into the woods, nothing was official. I don’t remember actually taking water with me into the woods until I got into my later teenage years.
We always ended up falling asleep on these long rides into the country with my father listening to the news or nothing, as we wondered why it was taking us hours to get home. He always took the “scenic” route, which sometimes meant going 80 miles out of the way. He would stop at the oddest of attractions. Old cemeteries were high on the list, as were abandoned railroad tracks, flea markets, main streets filled with old Victorian mansions and any time there happened to be a 57 Chevy in any condition sitting on the side of the road. I could tell my father longed for the days when he would own one of these beauties again, have a barn to store it in, in some off the beaten track barn in Vermont, and be able to walk out of his front door, with a piece of long grass in his mouth, humming Carlebach classics as he hobbled down the road in the dead of winter.
My father was what you would a call a four seasons man, but he loved the crisp cool air of winter. He would tell us random facts like, the clearer the night the colder it would get or how to tell how old a milk bottle was based on the way the glass was formed at the edges. He seemed to be a bottomless pit when it came to information and looking back on it now, it really formed who I am today.
Everything that he loved and that he shared with us, I took and went more extreme then he would ever have done. He instilled something I have grown to accept and this is what John Steinbeck has called Insatiable Wanderlust.
After those rides we would inevitably wind up at the Chinese Restaurant in Teaneck or at Ratners on the Lower East Side, with a warm bowl of French onion soup and melted butter dripping off of those incredible onion rolls they used to have.