Caldwell House

Cornwall House
Caldwell House
Is there anything prettier? A field of corn near the Cornwall House.
Is there anything prettier? A field of corn .

I stayed at Caldwell House in Salisbury Mills, NY. It was a perfect get-away. I love the city, but only because, occasionally, I get away to the country too.

See, it was the night before I was about to host a writing weekend at Kirkwood House in Cornwall-on-Hudson (and there will be another —  in June — check it out at boot camp for writers upcoming stuff), and I was nervous.

But spending one night in this charming B&B made me feel like everything was going to be all right. (Yes, cue the Bob Marley music — “Don’t worry ’bout a thing.”)

Every cozy bedroom room was stocked with a comfy robe and an iPad! What!

On the Thursday night, at the suggestion of the innkeepers’ daughter, I walked through the backyard of Caldwell House, rounded a corner and there I was at an Irish pub, Loughran’s. I sang Irish songs along with the locals. And the songs made me laugh and brought a tear to me eye. And so I needed the beer to chase it all down — to make me forget me troubles. Or, me ole anxiety about how me weekend would go.

One patron at the bar noticed me eyeing her IPA (I’d never tried one) — and so this older gal pushed her frothy mug over to me and told me, “Try it!” Thank you!

What! People are like that when you leave NYC. Strangers tell you to try their drinks and they don’t want anything from you but a bit of conversation and a laugh. (Kids, don’t do that. Only adults can drink from strangers’ mugs.)

The hosts of Caldwell House, John and Dena Finneran, are super nice and smart. John totally encouraged me to have confidence about my venture of writing weekends. He’s a corporate marketing dude from California who, with his lovely partner, moved back east to run this family biz. He gave me some needed advice on how to use social media — like use it regularly and use Google+.

The breakfast was lovely and abundant and my room was pretty and comfy. I felt refreshed to offer my own hospitality at Kirkwood House in Cornwall-on-Hudson, the next town over.

Part of the reason I want to host another writing weekend at Kirkwood House is so that I can stay again at Caldwell House on the Thursday night and sing along with the locals and snuggle into a big comfy bed and go for a walk in the country.

A walk in the countryside in Salisbury Mills.
A walk in the countryside in Salisbury Mills.

You know, when I see tourists dragging a suitcase from a Manhattan hotel to an airport bus, I say – to whomever I’m with – or inside my head, if I’m not with anyone, “Those poor people have to leave New York City. And I get to stay.” Maybe I shouldn’t be smug about NYC. Because one reason I love NYC so well is because I get to leave it. Regularly. And there are so many beautiful places and people to visit nearby. And Caldwell House is one such place.

Sure, there's no place prettier than Central Park in NYC, but you have to leave to remember this.
Sure, there’s no place prettier than Central Park in NYC, but you have to leave to remember this.

Talking Transitions

One thing I love is curiosity. The other night, on the way home from my co-working space, new work city, I spotted this pop up tent at Canal and 6th Avenue. I wanted to know what this random townhall was all about.

It is a place for New Yorkers to say what matters to them about the city. I didn’t talk to anyone. I felt shy. Some dudes were drumming. The Talking Transition tent didn’t seem a real social place when I stopped by. Though I’m sure the place gets hopping with cool events, panels, and cultural offerings.

I just played around with an iPad questionnaire. The Talking Transition tent is not affiliated with the new mayoral team; it’s a private effort to get people to converse, especially the less-than-affluent people who have not felt they were heard in the Bloomberg years.

I voted for di Blasio. We went to college together though he was a year ahead of me. We lived in the same NYU dorm — super-nice guy. Back then, he went by the name Bill Wilhelm. He changed it because his father suffered post-traumatic stress and was cruel, so Bill took his mother’s name. Sometimes, my kids want to go by my last name. So I get that. That’s cool.

And the transition tent was cool. You’re invited to write on a sticky note what you want to happen in the city.

I wrote that I wanted more bike lanes and Citibike extended to the Upper West Side. Sure, it’s great for me to use my own bike. But sometimes, if I stay late somewhere, I’d like to subway or cab it home. Citibike is perfect for that.

That’s another thing I love about myself — in some small way, I have been a leader in the bike culture in New York City. I have been riding a bike in the city for decades.

The city just keeps getting better for bicyclists. And biking is such a cheap, healthy, and eco-friendly way to get around.20131117-152933.jpg


“Talking Transition has created a new gathering place for New Yorkers to talk about the future of the city. Open 9AM – 9PM daily November 9th – 23rd, join for events, activities, food, and culture, and come to talk transition.” At Sixth Avenue and Canal, right by the #1 Train.

Earlier this summer, Cat and I were biking in Riverside Park
Earlier this year, Cat and I were biking in Riverside Park

Fondle My Kindle

With all the hype today about the iPad, the Apple tablet, I want to tell you about my love for my Kindle.

I’m on my second one because my first was stolen about a month ago at “Once Upon A Tart” in SoHo. Cute place, literary thief. Of course, I should never have left my purse hanging over the back of my chair.

Any way, about the Kindle, when you read on it, the words and meaning still penetrate, though perhaps not as deeply. But these days, who wants to go deep? Better that words, like ink, should float on the surface.

I wonder how writers will write differently knowing that a majority of their readers will be reading on an eBook.

I am always in the middle of writing a book. The heft, the immortality, the importance, the perfection, the editor who corrects my problems with sentence fragments and too many dashes — Brilliant!

I still want to write a book, but now I want to write an eBook.

I’m falling out of love with the printed word. It’s been a great ride, books, magazines, newspapers, but farewell. I’m moving on.

Except, of course, for longhand. Every morning I still write my three pages, longhand. And after a couple of months, when the journal’s filled, I throw the journal up to the top shelf of my closet and then I duck. Because sometimes the journal doesn’t land on the shelf — but hits me on the back of my head and conks me out and I die (just kidding about the dying part!) But in all seriousness, notebooks falling from a few feet high can really hurt! Words can hurt, just so you know!

I wonder how my writing will be different if I writing my Great American Novel for the Kindle instead of for the hardcover, Booker Prize. (I may have to be English to be eligible for the Booker Prize, but I do love the name of that prize. What better name for a book prize than the Booker Prize?)

Writing for the web has changed my style — shorter, sassier, punchier at the beginning — more fragmented and boring the more you scroll down. Because, really, most people don’t read any more, they skim. And they don’t mind sentence fragments either. Not at all.

Another important question — what about the trees? All those books = all that paper = all those dead trees. Yes, the Kindle requires a little zap of electricity now and then and that can’t be good for the environment either.

Random question — Do words from the Kindle go to another part of the brain than printed words? Have scientists done those pretty fluorescent MRI scans — like a Peter Max poster — to show which areas of the brain light up when reading a book versus the areas lit when reading from a screen?

Random point — I love the feeling of reading the Kindle on the subway when people look at me enviously. (I should’ve known my first would get stolen.)

Some smart-looking guy on the subway invariably asks, “Is that a Kindle? I want one!” I gush, “Yes, look at how you can change the font size. Listen to this ‘text to speech’ feature. One of my nine-year olds is reading The Mysterious Benedict Society, and I’m reading — well, I do hate to admit it, “Dumas Key” by Stephen King. And I’ve downloaded “White Tiger.” And you can have like 200 books on the Kindle. And you don’t go by page numbers, you go by percentage read.” But by the time I’ve finished my little sales pitch, that handsome guy on the subway and I have both missed our stop at 116th Street. We’re too busy fondling my Kindle.

Okay, honestly? Most of the time, no one notices my Kindle. I get lost in reading. That’s why I miss my stop and land in Harlem at 125th Street. Because, hey, no matter the conduit, the story’s still the thing.

For they record, my Kindle wasn’t stolen in Harlem, it was SoHo.