September 30, 2013

Dreaming of Lincoln?

Dreaming of Lincoln?
I'm not sure if it was a dream or I really met Lincoln last night? It seemed so real. It was high atop a mountain. There was a cottage. Grant's Cottage I think the sign said. I was still very tired when I woke up this morning. I kept hearing his voice. I recall seeing a large gathering of people. 

Maybe I need more rest. I think I will lay back down. Hum? This has me very confused. It seemed so real?

September 28, 2013

I Found A Book

I Found A Book 
By John R. Greenwood
I found a book I can not shake. It occupies my mind day in and day out. I found it here in the Lyrical Ballad Bookstore. I love books but I wouldn't say I am an avid book reader. It takes me a long time to read a book. It's not because I have a problem reading, it's because reading relaxes me to the point where I fall asleep a chapter or two deep. My love of books is more about what they have given me. They have provided inspiration, knowledge, encouragement, joy, and in many cases they have given me a reason to get up in the morning. This is about one of those books. The book I found is from 1962. It's not a rare book but it's priceless to me because it's trying to tell me something and I can't be sure what it is. I've written about the book before. It's called 'The Hudson River' by Jack Lewis. Ever since I pulled this book from it's nest at Lyrical Ballad it has been trying to tell me something. It's coming in my future. It keeps pulling me forward-pushing me ahead. I am afraid to miss any opportunity that brushes against my pant leg for fear it may hold the answer to what Jack's book is saying to me. Books have placed great things at my doorstep. One was author Jon Katz. Jon then brought me the Hubbard Hall Writing Group. Being involved with the group gave my blog an injection of creativity and interest. I now have fellow bloggers from all over the world stopping by for visits. They leave messages of support which fuel my passion for writing and sharing even more. Lately I feel the answer is up around the corner. I keep leaning my head slightly to the left trying to see what might be coming. It's a premonition of something good, something alive and colorful. A new chapter in my life. A new adventure to feed my hungry mind. I want to bring you along for the ride, so stay tuned. 

Cantilever Bridge at Warrensburg
by Jack Lewis
June 24, 1961

September 27, 2013


By John R. Greenwood
port town pictures color our world 
stacked edge to edge 
each chimney brick bears his weight
no finer eyeliner graces a windows frame
saturated planks of burnt umber laid out in longitudes
delight the senses
sooth the eye
breathing out across rooftops

September 26, 2013


Autumn chores abound
squirrel like I scamper back and forth
cleaning up
taking down

that never ending list flutters
like a lone leaf
a constant
"hurry up"
hangs heavy on my mind

sporadic accessories of green
 tease the eye
as if to say
perhaps winter will misplace the invitation?

September 24, 2013

My Terms

"Time on the horizon keeps calling me. I refuse to listen.
Instead I choose to snub my nose and change direction"
It is after all- my time...

September 22, 2013

Two Hours Early

Two Hours Early
By John R. Greenwood

Two hours early made all the difference. Today wasn’t about two roads diverging and having to choose one. Today it was about timing. Today I chose to be two hours early and that made all the difference. 

I was feeling nature deficient. My spirit was weak. I felt fresh air and autumn leaf deprived. My ears needed to hear the sound of early morning water lapping against a wood draped shore. I shut off my alarm, packed my freshly charged camera, grabbed a small pad and pen and headed for nearby Moreau Lake State Park. I parked in the lot just inside the main gate. It’s mid September and at 5:45am it was still midnight dark. I grabbed my pack and headed down the access road to the beach. My hope was to be there before the sun came up. Off I went. 

Pre-dawn sounds rustled in the dark thickness along the roads edge.They soothed me like a fountain with some magic power. A moon, two days past full, hung on for dear life and filled the morning with gasping light leftovers. After a short walk I arrived at the beach and stood at the edge of the shore. With a slight tilt of my head I heard a sound I hadn’t heard in many years, maybe decades. It came from atop the ridge above. A wise owl sang a song for me. The melody softened my heart like a newborn listening to his mother’s whispered song. I stood there stump-still and savored each note hoo’ed from above. Fish splashed in the shadows, just out of sight, teasing me like playful children peaking around corners, giggling as they disappear before my squinting eyes can catch their joy. Visions drift by, of a lonely fishing pole parked on the back wall of the garage. Hopes of catching that last September trout will taunt him till spring. 

This is the world we need to share. Peace and quiet, always such a cute couple, yet seldom do we see them walking hand-in-hand anymore. 

I sat on a damp picnic table near the water’s edge and weaved myself into the sand and sky. I was invisible to myself yet tall unto the world. I was two hours early on that September morning, and that made all the difference. 

September 21, 2013

Saying Yes (Chapter #2)

Saying Yes (Chapter #2)
By John R. Greenwood

Circa. 1982
The day I said, "yes" to the challenge of overseeing a 70 year old man's life long family business changed my life in ways I will try to describe here. To understand Chapter #2 you should read Chapter#1 but it isn't necessary. 

It's hard to recall the details of those first few days running Price's Dairy for Vic Price. I was up to my eyeballs in a business I knew nothing about. Vic had three men working for him at the time. They knew what needed to be done, so from that perspective the business was in good hands. My challenge was to be sure I collected the receivables and not miss a payable. With zero business experience I would find this harder than loading and unloading a milk truck twice a day. 

I did survive the next few months. So did the men, the trucks, the accounts, and Price's Dairy. Vic was up and moving again. He was a tough bird and he proved it. His first questions when he returned were about money and who hadn't paid their milk bill. He ran a business for over forty years and had every inch of it tucked neatly in his head. There were no computers to help with billing or inventory in those days. You could hear Vic's mind humming when he spoke about his accounts. 

I continued helping Vic until he was back on his feet. Although a bit slower and more cautious he was functioning as well as any one-lung man of 70+ could function. 

After a couple months and what seemed like a couple of years Vic approached me with his second life altering question. He had an office in his garage. It was a comfortable space with an old oak desk, black rotary phone, and a drawer full of Saratoga phone books that dated back to the 1940's. Vic sat at his desk and asked me to sit down. I knew this was the end of the line. I would soon be returning to work at the Saratoga Dairy leaving Price's Dairy behind as a memory. What happened next was something I will never forget. Vic turned in his chair, looked me in the eye and said, "Do you want to buy Price's Dairy?" 

I stood there trying to absorb the question. I was married, twenty-four, paying a trailer payment and lot rent, with two little ones and bringing home less than $200 a week. We had $30 in the bank and I'm sure the car needed a new muffler or brakes. 

He said don't worry, we could work out the details. He said he wanted $10,000 dollars for the (vintage) trucks and routes. All he wanted was $100 per week in cash until the loan was paid. I would rent the cooler and office space in his garage on Caroline St. and he would continue to help me make the transition. He'd already spoken to my supervisor at the plant. They said they would support my decision. I sat there trying to comprehend what was happening. Being too young and too foolish to say, "Let me think about it" or " I need to talk to my wife." I simply looked the future in the eye and said, "Yes, of course!." 

I'm sure my memory has blurred some of the details of that period of time. I think I recall someone suggesting I ask Vic for his income tax returns so I could be sure I was acquiring a profitable entity. I also seem to recall a response like, "Do you want it or not?" All I know for sure is I bought a milk business with zero money down plus a $100 week. That decision would begin a ten year long adventure in and around the streets of Saratoga Springs. I encountered character after character. I made hundreds of friends and a couple of enemies. I learned how to make money and lose money. My sons got to ride in trucks while standing on milk crates. They sipped the end of Mom and Pop corner stores. They enjoyed Hattie Mosley hugs and Mr Ed's hot dogs when he was on Broadway. They knew all the Palmetto Fruit drivers and where every Pac Man machine in the city was located. I learned how to protest a bad check and fix broken milk trucks. I had a ball and in the end I learned the greatest life lesson of all. 

If fear of the unknown is why you always respond, "No thanks, not today." You will always regret that, "What if?"

I never wanted that in my basket. I know the answer to that question because I said, "Yes." 

I rediscovered one of my old trucks earlier this year.
Read about it here: The GMC
Eventually increased stress, decreasing profits, and growing debt brought me full circle back to Saratoga Dairy or what is now Stewart's Shops. I had my go at the American Dream. I did the best I could. I carry no regrets. In the end the security and stability of working under a larger umbrella proved to be a godsend. The rising cost of health care and the never ending hours self-employement carry can take a toll on you. A business that can run profitably and efficiently without a 24/7 commitment is rare. I can however enjoy the experience and lessons that being self-employed provided me and my family. 

Would I do it again if I could? 

"Yes, yes I would." 

September 18, 2013

Saying Yes (Chapter #1)

Saying Yes (Chapter #1)
By John R. Greenwood

This post was literally 'prompted' by my friend and fellow blogger Kim Gifford over at Pugs and Pics. Being a teacher and a natural rock of encouragement for others she posted a writing challenge to document a time you just said 'Yes' and didn't look back. The idea was to share a moment that without hesitation or taking the time to talk yourself out of something you simply threw caution to the wind and went for it. Here is my story and what the word 'Yes' did for me. 

The year was 1979. I was twenty-four years old, married, and the father of two baby boys. We were living in a mobile home, in a mobile home park. I was working at a milk plant making about $7.00 per hour. I would go with delivery drivers after my shift and work another eight hours for an extra few bucks under the table. That little bit of extra money would provide formula, diapers, and a stop a McDonalds. Times were sparse, but I was as alive as I've ever been. I was carving out a life for my family. I could go for days without rest. Relaxation was a trip to the state park with the boys for some fresh air and a sip of nature.

Part of my job at the time was putting up milk orders for outside vendors who would buy their milk and other dairy products from the plant where I worked. They were called milk dealers at the time. They would resell those products to restaurants, homes, hospitals, schools and places like the Saratoga Racecourse, Skidmore College, and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The dealers would place their orders the day before and I would pick and stage them for the next day. One of those milk dealers was named Victor Price. At the time he was 70 years old and in poor health. He was about to have a lung removed. He would need someone to run his business for him while he recuperated. Vic was a man tall in stature and frugal with money as well as words. He had lived through the Depression and it showed. He knew where every penny he ever earned came from and went. He didn't part with a buck easily and his milk trucks proved it. He was a little intimidating to me but I liked him. He had a confidence about him that kept my attention. One day he stood and hovered over my shoulder. He looked me in the eye and said,"Do you want to run my business for me? I need someone to manage the guys and the routes. You will collect money, pay bills, and maintain the trucks while I'm out." I stood there dumbfounded. It was a question I wasn't prepared to answer but I knew one thing--I had never refused an opportunity to better myself. I had only worked at the Plant a short time but I grabbed every chance I could to learn a new job or machine. I understood early that the more jobs you could do the more valuable you were. Vic must have seen that in me. Growing up through the Depression he saw it as survival. I was twenty-four, feeding a family of four on a shoe string. I had some sense of what he'd been through. He told me he had already spoken to the Plant Manager and asked if he could 'borrow' me for a couple of months. I would remain on the payroll of my employer and he would reimburse them for my wages. I would retain my benefits and at the same time be accepting a challenge that would provide experience to help fatten my work resume. What did I have to lose?

With an air of new found confidence I looked Mr. Price in the eye back and I answered,"Yes." What I didn't know at the time was another question would come charging at me a few months later. Again my courage would be tested, but for now I had survived my first test of dad courage. I took the security of the known and gambled my family's future on an unknown. Sometimes you go with your gut. It was a good feeling--but I was scared to death. 

* If you would like to read other posts related to Price's Dairy and my days working as a milkman at the end of an era, click on the Price's Dairy label below. Some are related more than others. 

September 16, 2013

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time
By John R. Greenwood

"Grandpa," the little one said, "What kind of world lies ahead? What can you tell me about my future." Tough questions little one but I have answers that might surprise you.

Once upon a time the world went crazy. When it did I backed up and hid behind a tree. I watched as people ran themselves ragged. They wanted more and more and then they ran aground. I swore on that day it would be different for me. I cranked down the dial and made the decision to breath deep and deliberate. I vowed to never follow the masses, never clamor for more than I need. The gift of gold upon my knee is all the joy I'll ever need. That is my happiness. Yours is baked in tomorrow's sunrise.

Here is what I see for you my little man with big boy dreams. I see magic carpet rides and sails upon a deep blue sea. I see endless walks down paths lined with dear friends and loving family. I see climbs to mountains high where the view of the world widens and ignites your spirit. I see opportunity and wonder. I  see happiness beyond your wildest imagination. I see warm puppies jumping their cute puppy jumps entertaining you until laughing tears flood your happy cheeks. I hear your mother singing softly some sweet private song no one else will ever hear. I hear your father speaking patient words of encouragement that will morph into a lifetime of nonjudgmental pats on the back and rides to the park. I see dancing fish and singing frogs playfully teasing you to come out and join them. I see diverse friendships that meld into rivers of optimism overflowing their banks. I see negativity as an unknown player who never makes the team. Your days will explode with creative fervor and your night skies will glow from full moon smiles and starstruck grins. Most of all my little man in you I see goodness. It radiates from those sparkling eyes. It will surround you and protect you always. You will spread that goodness with every wish you make for others, with every step you take for you...

September 12, 2013

The Land

The Land
By John R. Greenwood

the land beneath my feet
the land beyond my eye
the taste of life
invades the earthy heart 
farmland once thought giant strong 
now stands tender to the touch
tread lightly next in line 
my depth once measured by shoveled hands
seems thin and frail 
hold me close to your chest
squeeze gentle the soil
like tiny eggs 
in a tiny nest

Submitted to Poets United's Verse First:  Places you love

September 10, 2013


By John R. Greenwood

A kind man once set me on a journey. The path I was on was not wide enough. The road I walked not long enough. He spoke confidently as if he'd just returned from there. He had. He was going back for more he said. He urged me to begin the journey soon. The view along the way will breathe new life into your soul. I knew he spoke the truth. I had tasted the joy of a journey's edge. To hear his words spoken so surely engrained the vision, nudged me forward. I took a step, then two, then more followed. I have gone far enough from the beginning to feel distant from the past but miles from the finish. The journey always changing scenery, I open my arms and welcome every day. Let's go see what's in store today, Tuesday, September 10th, 2013...

September 06, 2013

Sons By Dad

By Dad

who knew the joy, who knew the joy
my heart young son you’d bring
with glimmering eye and tiny pulse 
my own heart sang with pride
the secret to happiness 
swaddled and sweet smelling 
cooing in loving reciprocation
changed my vision of happiness 
turning it inward to my own blood 
as it flowed through me to them 

September 05, 2013

Aunt Ann

Aunt Ann
By John R. Greenwood

Dear Ann,
I’m sorry. I should have been here long before now. There are no excuses. Too busy doesn’t cut it. It’s so far away, holds no water. All I can do is apologize and tell you I love  you. It was good to see you today. It took a minute for you to recognize me but when you heard my voice you smiled that great Aunt Ann smile and said, “Oh, Johnny!”

You looked nice in your white sweater and pearl necklace. You showed me your watch and said, “Debbie gave me this.” We sat and talked for quite some time. I held your hand and you squeezed mine. I needed that. It reminded me of mom and how she would squeeze my hand so hard when dad and I would visit her in the hospital. We talked about a lot of things today. I told you what relatives I’d seen and when. We reminisced about Uncle Steve and how he loved to get out his banjo and play it for me. I always loved the banjo because of him. We talked about your beautiful Angora cat that was so big it looked like a lion stretched out on the sun filled window sill. You said you missed the old house and I assured you it was still green and white. I explained that it looked a lot different inside now but it was being put to good use as a community center for seniors. You liked that idea. 

You said I looked good with no hair. I told you that when I tried coloring the grey it turned red and the guys at work kept calling me Big Red. You laughed. I told you I decided to just cut it so short you wouldn't be able to tell if it was grey or missing and you laughed even harder. It felt good to hear you laugh. 

I think I tired you out. I was drained from worry. I thought you might be upset to see me. That wasn’t the case. You made me feel special like you always did. I wish I could turn back the clock for us both but it won’t work, I’ve tried. All I can do is hold your hand gently and kiss your forehead. There is no time machine for us, only a book of memories. It was good to see you today Aunt Ann. I love you. 

If you have someone you have been meaning to see, whether they are young or old, don’t wait until next week. Go now. Go yesterday. Just go.

Here is a photograph of Aunt Ann. It was good to see that smile today. 

Ann Pasek circa 1940's

September 04, 2013

Two Friends

Two Friends
By John R. Greenwood 
Ed Covell (L) and Ron Petit (R)
I ran into two friends today that I haven't seen in twenty to thirty years. It was a strange set of circumstances that brought us together. I was at a local fairground picking up my company's fiberglass cow. It is used as a promotional prop and is the size of real cow. As a coworker and I were preparing to load the cow on a trailer a pickup truck pulled up and asked if everything was okay. I replied it was, and thanked the driver for stopping to ask. As I looked closer he seemed familiar. He was also smiling from ear to ear like an elf. It was obvious he had more to say. I then realized it was someone I knew from a couple decades ago. He didn't think I knew who it was but I did, it just took me a minute to digest and calculate his name. His name was Ron Petit and he once drove a milk truck where I worked. I hadn't seen or heard from him since his last day some 20 years ago. It was great to see him. I stood at his driver side window and reminisced for several minutes. He had a passenger who sat patiently waiting. I couldn't really see him clearly. I assumed he was a friend or family member. Ron finally said to me,"You probably know this guy." I leaned down and looked across the cab only to realize it was another friend I hadn't seen in almost 30 years. His name was Ed Covell. We lived in the same town and we were both volunteer fireman. I instantly envisioned a fire call where Ed slipped on an icy driveway while running with the hose. He hit his head knocking him unconscious. Instead of fighting a fire Ed found himself in the back of an ambulance headed for the hospital. All I remember is jumping in the passenger side of the station wagon type ambulance in full firefighting gear. My door wouldn't close and as we raced to the hospital at 70mph I clung onto that door for dear life. In the end Ed was fine. The door latch was fixed. And the trailer we raced to extinguish that night burned to the ground. No one was injured. Memories were made. 

It was a double injection of nostalgia as I stood there leaning on the door of Ron's pickup. It turns out Ron and Ed have been friends for quite sometime now. All three of us shared fifteen minutes of ear to ear smiles and lots of, "Do you remember?"'s I could have stood there for hours. It was like hitting two $50 scratch-offs in one day. I think it was the unexpected thrill of reuniting with an old friend that made it special. To get a double shot out of one Dodge pickup was worth the ride. 

It was a good prelude to my day tomorrow where I plan to visit an aunt I haven't seen in many years. It won't be slap on the back fun, but I am looking forward to a good long hug. I am hoping my mother is there watching over us from above. I will need a little help. It is a long overdue visit. I have some apologizing to do. 

Just in case you didn't believe me. 

September 01, 2013

Cloudy Heights

Cloudy Heights
By John Greenwood

I stopped aside a country road
a voice told me to
It was Mary Kellogg softly whistling these words:

Slow down young man and raise your eyes to the clouds.
There atop that hill so high, a tree stands silent waiting for your greeting.

I waved an Andy Taylor wave and then
the tree that graced those cloudy heights
lifted leaf and limb and waved right back to me 

*Inspired by a Mary Kellogg poetry reading at the Bedlam Farm Open House on September 1, 2013. 

Country Visit

Country Visit 
By John R. Greenwood

Bedlam Farm view from afar
An Open Group gathered in open air at a place called Bedlam Farm today. Familiar faces, new faces, happy faces, faces so recognizable they seem to speak to you without words. Inspiration spread across a gentle farm, led by the sweet and tasteful words of poet Mary Kellogg--Mary a pillar of confidence reading us her poetry in the shade of a generation old apple tree. 

Poet Mary Kellogg and Emma's dog Pearl 
Animals at every corner of the farm watch with content as their provider sings their praises. A glorious afternoon dotted with people from distant places like Baltimore Maryland, and Edina Minnesota. All arrived in a Bedlam Farm pilgrimage to this real place swarming with real people who emanate such a creative aura you could feel it as they pass by. 

Quiet time with dad
Thank you once again Bedlam Farm and all who wandered her grounds today. You filled up the well once again. My thirst now quenched, my pen filled to the brim. 

-Unidentified Farm Occupants-
Soaking in the magic of Bedlam Farm

Hanging out at Bedlam Farm 

I Know A Woman

I Know A Woman
By John R. Greenwood

I know a woman don't you? She's fighting a fight. She's stronger than any man I know. Her gloves are off and her heart is cranked up high. Do you know her? She's your neighbor, your relative, your coworker's mother, wife or sister. She's the woman that waits your table, takes your reservation, writes your prescriptions. You know who I mean. That woman with the larger than life spirit who does for everyone around her without hesitation. That woman you just passed in the market, that's the one. She's on her way to war today. They call it chemical warfare-- a war on her body. Inside that body another war rages against a formidable foe. One who snuck up while she wasn't looking and tried to kick her legs out from under her, but she jumped and it missed. It kept kicking and she kept jumping until they both collapsed in exhaustion. You may not have recognized her but you passed a women today who's been battling for her life. You couldn't tell because she was smiling while shopping for her family. You might have walked by her on the street as she headed to pick up her little ones at day care. The little ones who don't even know what cancer is, they just know every mention of it elicits hugs and tears and I love you's. Then there's that other women you stood next to at the bank last week. She was there drawing cash from her secret savings account. She told the teller she was going on vacation. The teller smiled and said she was jealous and told her to have a nice time. The teller had no way to know the cash was going to pay the power bill. Missed work lightened the family income and they just hadn't planned on going to war with a disease. The woman I know is everywhere. She needs to be. She can't just call a timeout. Be mindful when you pass a smiling face, it may be a mask with tears underneath. 

Dedicated to a woman I know; a woman you know; a woman we don't know...

* This piece is for anyone fighting a battle with cancer. It was written for a someone outside my family but always in our thoughts and prayers.