Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

Sunday afternoon rides that fueled my love for the outdoors

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 20, 2009

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.

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Posted in general Outdoors, Harriman State Park, NY metro area, Rural America | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Funny how things turn out

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 3, 2008

I was definitely not a nerd growing up I just wasn’t liked when I got in group situations. There were several causes of this, some of it was my having to deal with people who talked about what their moms had made them for dinner- basically I couldn’t get around being the kid with a dead mom which is a terrible embarrassment for any kid. I was also real crappy at sports, until I discovered I had a knack for “extreme sports” I was always that kid who wasn’t necessarily the last kid picked, but I wasn’t the first either. Finally there was the fact that I stuttered, in fact I couldn’t really say anything without breaking out into a stutter- which always caused kids to make fun of me.

These three things attributed to the fact that I grew up an outcast. I couldn’t talk, had no mother and sucked at sports- life wasn’t too great for me. I don’t really remember much about these years because they have probably been blocked out of my memory, but I do remember several things.

First off I was a terrible student in school, by being terrible, I was not only a poor student academic wise, I was also very poorly behaved. Poor enough in behavior to have gone through 4 elementary schools each one being less frum then the last. I commonly answer that I attended Manhattan Day School for my grade school years, but I started out in Bruers, then yeshiva katanah of Manhattan and finally I had to be shipped away to Providence Hebrew Day School where I finally did ok.

My behavior patterns were interesting because I wasn’t really a bad kid, I was just doing it for attention, now I blog and do stand up comedy for attention. Back then I cursed out anyone of authority, broke things and caused all sorts of disruptions that got me in all sorts of trouble. Attention was needed for several reasons, first I stuttered, so I wasn’t that eloquent, second I had no mother and third I was bad at sports.

By bad at sports I should say I wasn’t that bad, I just hated getting up there and having all the attention focused on me. When I say get up there I mean during the upper west side Jewish little league known as Sunday Softball where every kid was guaranteed a trophy and hence the only trophy I ever got was from the Sunday Softball League. But I always struck out or did something that meant I would not get on base or get on base only to get caught off base. To this day I dislike sports probably because I was kind of forced into all these after school sports programs by myself who wanted to be like all the cool kids. I am sure there are plenty of kids who dislike major sports today because of their experiences as kids.

Of course somewhere along the way I actually became good at something and that something was very popular at the time so I started to become cool in my own way. I remember my first rollerblades, they were Zetra 303 and you could not detach the brakes like so many of the more advanced roller blades, so I sawed them off. I remember when we got our first skatepark in Manhattan on 108th street and Riverside drive. I used to hang out there and in central park and downtown and all over really- in a way rollerblading gave me this sort of freedom and independence I never had before.

I was also good, good enough to be one of those guys doing the cones backwards by the band shell in central park, good enough to always be the best Jewish kid through on rollerblades throughout high school.

Of course that never changed the fact I had a horrible stuttering problem. Any chance that I may have to get up and speak in public was greeted with a horrible knot in my stomach, I remember during 5th grade I had to play Lyndon Johnson in a school play, it was the shortest line of any character 2 sentences, I held my breath while I said it, I couldn’t breath anyway. The next time I had to get up publicly was when I said without trup the hafotorah at my bar mitzvah- it was pretty intense and I remember getting stuck on one word for about 15 minutes or so- painful as well and probably one of the reasons I do not get up at the amud ever- never have as of yet unless it is for an aliyah.

Its funny to look at my youth and wonder how I developed into something of an opposite figure of what I was growing up. As a kid I wanted to be cool, as an adult I want to lead and do my own thing. As a kid I couldn’t speak without stuttering and now I love to speak and talk publicly, I think I am making up for all the times I couldn’t speak as a kid. As a kid I hated sports and as an adult I have come to enjoy sports immensely, just not those sports that are popular. Sports like rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, wind surfing and kayaking are what I love to do with me free time.

I have no idea why I wrote this post, maybe as a little insight into where I come from or just for myself- who the hell knows.

Posted in general Outdoors | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »