Excerpted from John Kawie's column "Life At The Curb" in the January/February 2009 issue of Stroke Connection Magazine.“Maybe you should try the paddleboats,” MaryJo said.
MaryJo runs the stable and books trail rides for a popular upstate mountain resort where Marilyn and I were escaping the New York City heat. We always end up here at some point during summer, and every time I swear I’m going to try horseback riding. This trip I meant it, so we found ourselves down at the barn.
We figured when she discovered I was a stroke survivor she might give me an easygoing older horse (you know, one that would be eligible for Medicare Parts A and B.) or a pony, or maybe even a burro. But a paddleboat?
I tend to be drawn to westerns with loner/outsider themes like the old TV show “Have Gun Will Travel,” or those Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns where Clint Eastwood plays the rugged, ghostly man with no name. Paladin or one of Clint’s characters might opt for a pack animal to replace their trusted steed, but not a paddleboat. “Have Gun Will Paddleboat”? I don’t think so. A stubbly bearded Clint in his poncho, chewin’ on a stogie riding a tricycle on water? Not a chance.
Still, I wanted to be challenged. Marilyn must have sensed this because she turned to me and said, “Let’s hike up to the stone tower. It’ll be a good workout.” Although I had my doubts about dedicating an entire afternoon to hiking up a mountain, I carefully weighed my options: mountain… paddleboat… mountain… paddleboat. The moment of truth was at hand: Paladin or Pee Wee Herman?
So off we went to conquer a mountain. This tower is located on the highest peak of the resort. In order to get there you have to hike up some rugged terrain. Well, maybe it’s more like a steep gravel path, but to me if you can’t get there by subway it’s rugged terrain. After what seemed like 1,000 sessions of physical therapy, we finally reached the tower. The first words out of my mouth were, “Ah, there’s a bench,” and I collapsed onto it.
The path we took up was called Huguenot Drive, in honor of the French Huguenots who explored this place in the 17th century. While I tried to imagine hiking up here wearing a frilly velvet coat and tights, Marilyn was studying the map. “Let’s go back down this way,” she exclaimed, pointing to a trail that wound around the mountain like linguini around a fork. I asked sarcastically, “We’re not going back the way we came, because…?” “There’s no adventure in that,” Marilyn responded, finishing my sentence. “We’ll just follow Reservoir Trail,” she continued.
Trail? They should call it Reservoir Fire Pole, because that’s how narrow and steep it was. Even the chipmunks avoid this route. As we cautiously descended I happened to kick a stone and I bet it hasn’t reached the bottom yet. I had visions of being found years from now by some archeologist on vacation: “Fossilized Tourists Found Embedded On Side of Mountain.”
When the sun sank into the trees the lodge finally swam into focus. It could have been a mirage due to my weakened condition, but at this point I didn’t care. Three-hundred years ago some guy named Jacque probably took the same trail and said, “Theese place is tre hazardous no? Next time mon ami, the paddleboats.”
* NOTE: “Theese” is not a typo. It’s my version of French.
Editor's Note: For information on booking John Kawie's one-man show about stroke recovery, "Brain Freeze," contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.