This weekend was enjoyable, productive, and – most of all – much needed. Yesterday, I ventured to Sleepy Hollow with my good friends Dom and Raina, and Raina’s parents, and Raina’s parents friends. I met everyone at Raina’s house, which was an adventure in and of itself. I was pulled over on the parkway by a State Trooper for speeding, but he was understanding, and patient, and because my driving record is close to impeccable, he cut me a huge break. Still, the experience was somewhat nerve-rattling because I had never been pulled over before and I was anxious just to get to Raina’s house and out from behind the wheel. The issuing of the ticket made me late, as did generally leaving my house later than I would have liked, but I did arrive. Dom showed up after I did, so my lateness was forgiven, and then the seven of us piled into two cars and hit the road.
The scenery was absolutely beautiful. The leaves were all different shades of flaming red, burning orange, and resilient green and the mountains and hills we passed were covered in trees and seemed to go on for miles. Dom frequently mentioned that it had been quite some time since he had smelled grass and he swore the sky was different in that part of the country. We rode over bridges that provided safe travel over beautiful, dark water. Dom, Raina and I caught up, shared snacks and were anticipating spending the evening in a historically creepy geographical location such as Sleepy Hollow, New York.
The town caught us all by surprise. We thought it would be … well, sleepier. It was a “blue collar” town that was diverse in population as far as wealth and ethnicity. We parked at Phillipsburg Manor, but traveled into the heart of Sleepy Hollow for dinner. The meal was good and we survived the perilous task of parallel parking, and the gift shop had several interesting items for purchase. I bought two books (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter) and a witch hat with a celestial theme. I enjoyed hot chocolate and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I also thoroughly enjoyed the company and the scenery. The walking path from the parking lots to the manor was lit by candles encased in glass lanterns. It would have been romantic had we not been able to hear the blood-curdling screams of tourists venturing through “Horseman’s Hollow,” the very attraction we had purchased tickets for.
Dom has a talent for conversation; he is one of the most eloquent people I have ever had the distinct, intellectual pleasure of meeting. When we were waiting for our turn to line up for the haunted walk, he engaged one of the security guards in conversation and we learned interesting tidbits about the history of the town, the attractions, and the origin of the commercialism surrounding Sleepy Hollow and its legend penned by Irving. He mentioned Irving’s estate, named Sunnyside, and I made a mental note to visit it as soon as possible. I also hope to make it to the cemetery, which is purported to be an entertaining, interesting tourist trap. Dom also engaged the young man checking tickets at the entrance and he was a writer, working on a fantasy/adventure piece for about six years – since he was in high school. For the first time in a few months, I introduced myself as a writer instead of as a teacher and it felt right. I felt fulfilled and – for lack of a better term – cool.
The walk itself was definitely creepy and I did scream through most of it and maintain a quickened pace. The costumed and makeup were remarkable, nearly everything seemed authentic, and we laughed as much as we shrieked. Our biggest disappointment was that there was not more to do; we had hoped the town would fully and enthusiastically embrace its place in spooky folklore but as it turns out, this is only the third year they had done something to recognize Sleepy Hollow and its legend on a grand scale. In particular, Dom had wanted to be immersed in history and after talking about that, we decided to make a try for Salem, Massachusetts. The festivities there do have a historical authenticity and the three of us have yet to travel there and have yet to hear someone speak ill of Salem around Halloween (except for some strangers behind us on line, who claimed Sleepy Hollow was more entertaining than Salem, and that surprised us).
I really hope Salem works out, but I do not want to miss my cousin Cory’s visit. One day last week, he quit his job because his boss was unkind. He walked right off the job and embarked on one hell of a road trip. He has kept me updated through messages, pictures, and Facebook statuses, and I am incredibly jealous. I would love to be able to just leave, to shirk all responsibility and do exactly what I want. I would love to get behind the wheel and see the country. Cory explained that he only has one life and he will not waste it, will not let days go by without having seen and experienced “cool shit.” I could not agree with him more. I am so glad I went to Sleepy Hollow.
It was not just for the Halloween fun and atmosphere; it was to travel with friends. Dom, Raina and I ended up at the Bridge View Tavern at the end of Beekman Avenue. While the restaurant was all out of appetizers, the view of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge was breathtaking. The beer and wine were cold and tasty and the fries hit the spot. We talked of people we know, some we still know and others we wish we could forget. We were appreciative of the gorgeous night and the seasonal radiance particular to fall in October.
If I am to be perfectly honest, the ride home was my favorite part of the night. Raina drove and to help keep her awake, Dom and I took turns reading from The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. The short stories were disturbing and entrancing, but I think the coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts takes the most credit for keeping us up. Although, when we returned to Raina’s house, we all stayed up to hear the end of the longer story and I cannot even begin to express what that meant and still means to me. Picture it; three twenty-somethings lounged on couches, attentively listening to a story being read aloud. The television was not on. We were not wearing ear buds to hear iPods. There was an occasional perusal of the iPhone, but for the most part, we were totally engaged by the written word. That is how I want every night to end.