December 04, 2016

I Feel Like A Ford

I Feel Like A Ford
By John R Greenwood

I only owned her for a of couple years. I let her go to a good home.
Maybe we'll meet again someday? 

Let me start off by saying I've owned many of Henry Ford's finest automobiles since I began driving in 1971. The first car registered in my name was a 1968 Ford Galaxy and it was a beauty. It was a brilliant white with a deep-red leather interior and was trimmed with more chrome than any car I've owned since. If I had that car in that same condition today it would be a highly prized investment. I acquired the car from my mother. She worked in the business office of Trice Juron Ford in Saratoga at the time and had never learned to drive. The Galaxy was a trade-in with low miles. Mom bought the car under the premise of learning how to drive. That plan never materialized and when I got married in 1974 the Galaxy came along. 

Throughout the 70's, 80's, my wife and I owned the 1968 Galaxy, a 1974 Ford Pinto wagon, a 1980 Mercury (fancied up Ford) Monarch, a 1984 Mercury Comet, and a couple of Ford pickup trucks along the way.

 As you can see I kept coming back for more so I must have liked Henry's work. The problem with the Fords of that period came in the latter years of their lives. The acronym "Fix Or Repair Daily" is as accurate an acronym as you'll ever run across. In Henry's defense I never owned a brand new Ford. Every Ford I ever owned may have been purchased with low miles, but when they were born someone else got to peel the price sticker off the side window. Again in their defense my Fords were never pampered with a garage to sleep in. Not until after some thirty years of marriage did I finally get a two car garage clear enough to get one car in it. "Ford Tough" had to earn the right to bear that logo by enduring the Northeast's elements night after night, year after year. But, if you've ever owned a Ford from that era you know that after the last payment, garage or no garage, they begin to show their age. Each week would reveal a new creak or groan. Muffler leaks, broken knobs, and dripping water pumps begin to creep into your life like crab grass. Each tax return or hefty overtime check would get sucked up by another mechanic. Dropping off and picking up cars at the garage becomes part of your daily ritual and you develop a twitch every time the service manager calls you to the counter. 

This is where I begin to compare myself to a old Ford. Every day reveals a new problem. The engine still runs but the parts surrounding it begin to show signs of aging. Hair loss becomes that broken air vent on the dash. The arthritis in your back becomes the reoccurring pulley squeal coming from under the hood. Cataracts are the oil leak that you pretend not to see and the cute little melanoma on the tip of your nose becomes the wheel wobble that threatens to force you off the road. All these things are repairable but aggravating. They're expensive and time consuming. Appointments and phone messages overwhelm you. You know you should have done a better job keeping up with preventative maintenance. Better diet and tire rotation are like twins. Putting off that dentist appointment for a achy tooth you know needs attention is identical to ignoring that metal sound coming from the passenger side front brake. Pretending that tightness in your chest is just indigestion is a mirror image of pretending you don't see the antifreeze puddle in the driveway every morning. At some point we have to take responsibility for our own health and well being. Was it the pickup's fault that she never got the same wash and waxing that the Mercury did? No, it was my fault for treating it like the dump-run, leaf collecting, topsoil hauling workhorse it was hired for. I had no right to complain about the rusty tailgate and seized latch. I should have appreciated what a gift an 8' truck bed is to a homeowner the same way I should have appreciated what a gift a strong back and 6' frame was to this author. Eating better and exercising my brain and body more may have lessened some of the aches, pains, and stress that has been nipping at my heels for the last decade or so. When I say I feel like a Ford, I say it with fondness and reflection. My Fords and my body have served me well. Any shortcomings or breakdowns in both cases are more than likely the result of the owners failure to follow the directions carefully. It's easier to point and complain than it is to stop and think. That disease is crippling our country. I'm becoming more and more aware that I can't fix others. I must start in my own driveway by changing the oil and exercising regularly. I promise to do a better job of reading the owners manual and following the doctor's orders. There's a reason they went to the trouble of writing that thing and putting it in the glove compartment. Just like there's a reason it takes years of expensive education for a doctor to diagnose a rare disease. 

I may have to fix or repair myself daily but when the odometer passed 60 years I began to realize that whether your a Ford or a Mercedes if you don't maintain the equipment you can't complain when there's a knock in the engine. 

Drive smart. Be happy.

August 30, 2016

The Morning After

The Morning After 
By John R. Greenwood

"The Morning After" 

It's 4am the morning after the Washington County Fair 2016 has come to an end. There are a few signs of life in a place that a few hours earlier was filled to the brim with dusty children and weary parents with empty pockets and sore feet. Another county fair ends as quickly as it arrived. Sweet corn season is peaking and carved pumpkins are rolling around the bend. 

"Two old friends share an August sunrise" 

I was here to pick up the last milking of fair week. The cows were all back home in their own barns enjoying more familiar surroundings. The farmers while enjoying the weeks festivities have a weeks worth of work to catch up on. The kids were still suffering from too much cotton candy. Some were bugging mom for a spot to display their blue ribbons and stuffed animals. A few rare birds were anxious for school to start.

Reserved Seating 

 After the milk tank was emptied and my truck was buttoned up I took a minute to walk around and click a picture or two. I enjoy taking night photos in quiet settings with varied lighting. What could fit that criteria better than a fairground the morning after? 

Table For Two Hundred 

I have an affinity for picnic tables of all persuasions. I'm particularly drawn to green painted and sliver filled weathered ones. I encourage anything that brings people close together and face to face. 

Hear the kids?

This scene called for the simplicity of black and white. The vacant judging arena was now silent. I sat at one of the tables and recreated the events that took place there over the last five days. It didn't matter that I wasn't there in the flesh. I could hear children of all ages, in all tones, at all levels, talking, yelling, and crying. Little ones in strollers sucking on bottles, midsize ones tugging on mom's arm begging for one more handful of money, teenagers whispering to each other, making plans to escape to the opposite end of the fair to sneak a cigarette. It was all so vivid at 4am. I was grateful to have lived in a place where county fairs surrounded me and I had enough neighbors and friends who were kind enough to bring me along. While my father lived to take me trout fishing I don't recall ever going to a fair with my parents. He hated crowds I guess. As I savor the serenity of the morning void of people, I realize maybe the apple didn't fall so far from the tree after all. 

Stillness Of Light 
As I scanned my surroundings one of the empty barns caught my eye. There was a calmness oozing out of it. Dry hay and bright lights created a unique texture that fit the stillness of dawn perfectly. I wanted to end my work day right then and go sit in a folding chair in the middle of that barn.

It was time to get the milk back to the Plant. As I drove out through the maze of campers, trailers, empty barns and folded up rides I tried to freeze frame the images in my head. One more fair to go I thought--just down the river in Schaghticoke. I'd be picking up milk there in a few days. I better get my camera on the charger.

August 28, 2016

Thanks Again Washington County

Thanks Again Washington County
By John R. Greenwood

Foxfield Farm - Granville, NY

I owe a lot to Washington County NY. It has come to my rescue time and time again. It has been a tough summer for me. There has been some family losses and more work than play, thus making it more difficult to recuperate. But, as it has in the past, the green pastures and farm scenes of Washington County have revived my spirit and brought me back peace of mind. The resuscitation began with the 2016 Washington County Fair. I didn't get to enjoy the rides, tractor pulls, or the displays, but that’s okay. It was my visit at 3:30am to pick up milk that brought my pulse rate and my outlook back on track. Passing by the darkened rides and curtained midway games was therapeutic. Picturing the change that would take place in the hours ahead brought a smile to my face. As I pulled in the back entrance to the waving flashlight beam of a man that had probably manned that same post for years, I waved back in a semi-salute of mutual appreciation for being early morning sentinels at this yearly late summer event. As I backed in to the milking barn to prepare the milk tank for pickup I scanned the dimly lit barns looking for an early riser. The cows stirred quietly, mooing a welcoming good morning to me. I saw the familiar sign of Lincoln Hill Farm right next door. The same farm where a tragic farm accident was overcome by the miracle of prayer and the farmer strong will of Lenny Austin. Lenny who just months earlier teetered at heavens gate refused the invitation and decided to stick around for what we all hope will be decades more county fairs. The strength of Lenny, his family, and the close knit network of friends and neighbors was an inspiration for any one with a ticking heart this summer. I can’t express how deeply I was affected watching the farming community rally around one man and his family. It was uplifting and the high point of the summer of 2016. My admiration for farmers and the communities where they reside has always been of the highest regard, but in this, my 61st year, it quadrupled. 

Heide Merecki and Sara Kelly
at Lovejoy Hall on the Hubbard Hall Campus 
Today I enjoyed another spirit quenching experience in the town of Cambridge NY. The Cambridge Valley Fine Art Tour was in its second day and there was one artist in particular that I had been wanting to meet. Matt Chinian was one of the seven artists in town who were displaying and selling their work all within the city limits. I apologize for not getting to visit all seven artists but heat and time took a toll and my wife and I had to cut our tour short. Before meeting Matt we did get to meet artists Heide Merecki and Sara Kelly in the Lovejoy Building on the Hubbard Hall Campus. Their work was wonderful as were their welcoming personalities. It was like reacquainting with old friends. Two more examples of Washington County hospitality that has been so supportive of my own work. 

Artist Matt Chinian 

We left these two lovely artists and headed out to meet Matt Chinian. Matt’s gallery is located next to his home. It’s a beautiful piece of property right on Main St. I’d been by it dozens of times on my way to Bedlam Farm, Battenkill Books, and Hubbard Hall. I knew where it was because I’d seen the sign out front. I never would have stopped by unannounced or without an invitation. The tour was the perfect opportunity to introduce myself. I’d become interested in Matt’s work because not only did his work resemble my favorite artist Jack Lewis, much of it was done along the banks of the Hudson River. For over a year I’ve wanted to show Matt, Jack’s work. I knew in my heart he would be as drawn to the painting and writings of Mr. Lewis as I was. I pulled into Matt’s back yard and parked the car. My wife was not feeling well so she relaxed quietly while I headed into the gallery to introduce myself. Matt came out of the gallery door as I approached. I instinctively said, “Hi Matt, I’m John Greenwood, aka “Raining Iguanas” from the blog and Facebook.” Although we hadn’t met before, it seemed like we had. I was the only visitor at the time so I took full advantage of it by blasting Matt with both barrels. I couldn't  explain why I was so interested in his work fast enough. Matt is a quiet and mild mannered man. I was rattling on like a four year-old on Red Bull. The poor guy didn’t know what hit him. He was gracious and genuinely interested in my Jack Lewis, Hudson River connection. This was better than any ride at the fair. It was better than any ride at Disney for me. “I just happen to have a copy of,  “The Hudson River” in the car Matt,” I interjected. He nodded and with two strokes of a paint brush I had it spread out on a table in Matt’s gallery looking for a similar painting in Matt’s collection. It didn’t take long to locate one. As I gently flipped the boxes of prints one scene stopped me in my tracks. It was a painting of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and the Hudson River done from the banks below the Olana Historical Site. It was almost an identical match to Jack’s painting in the Hudson River book done from the same location. There were over fifty years between the two paintings and I was enjoying them both equally. I had to have Matt’s rendition. I said, “I’ll take it!” Before we could go any further more visitor’s showed up cutting our talk short. I didn’t want Matt to miss an opportunity to make another sale so I stepped back. Later we made a commitment to get together at another time so we could talk in more detail about his work and the painting I wanted. It was like Christmas morning with a room full of presents you have to wait to open. Our meeting was much too short but it had enough content to pump me up for another week or two. I couldn’t wait to get home to write about it. That’s a bonus! 

So, tomorrow morning when I return to the Washington County Fair Grounds to pick up the last milking I will scan the empty barns and the disassembled rides. I will replay my Sunday art tour. I will make a list of thank you’s to all the great people from the area who have decorated my life over the last few years. Jon Katz and Hubbard Hall got the ball rolling and it looks like it has no signs of stopping anytime soon. 

A sign found in Matt Chinian's Gallery
Good advice I'd say