Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Must Be Billy

It wasn’t long after we bought our house in upstate NY that we met our new neighbor. He came down the driveway in a beat-up truck, screaming something unintelligible at the top of his lungs. Lou and I didn’t know what the hell was going on, so we left off stacking firewood to go see who was being murdered.

The blue truck stopped at our barn, and the man inside flailed his arms and yelled at us as we approached. After taking a moment to get my bearings, I realized the man was simply saying hello and introducing himself. With no change in volume, even though we were only several feet apart, he told us, in a heavy accent, that he was know as The Greek, and he owned the place next door. He apologized for not coming over sooner, and by way of explanation, opened the truck door and waved his prosthetic leg at us. He’d been in the hospital getting his lower leg amputated due to diabetes and had just come back home recently. Although there was a bit of a language barrier, I tried my best to decipher and translate this to Lou, who was completely lost and did quite a bit of smiling and nodding; it’s hard to know what to do when a stranger is waving their prosthesis at you and yelling.

The Greek told us about the elderly couple who used to own our house and what a “son of a bitch” their son was. We’d been having some trouble with the son, so he wasn’t telling us anything we didn’t already know. We talked about the trouble and The Greek told us to give the son a message if we saw him: “Tell him if he comes here, that I, The Greek, have him in my scope.” With emotions ranging from gratitude to anxiety, we thanked him, and hoped we wouldn’t do or say anything to get ourselves in his scope.

We talked and smiled and nodded for another twenty minutes or so, and then The Greek rumbled back up the driveway still yelling and waving his arms. Lou and I looked at each other, not really sure what just happened, and then compared notes as to whether or not we thought The Greek approved of us.

It turns out that he did approve of us, and as intimidating as our conversations could be at times, we always stopped to talk, or wave, or help him out if we could. He was a wealth of knowledge about our new home, and we enjoyed the gossip about past neighbors. The Greek’s volume knob was stuck on 10, but we got used to it after awhile, although the first time he had company, we thought he was being attacked and rushed up there to make sure he was okay. Come to find out his brother’s volume knob is also stuck. It was from this encounter that we found out The Greek’s real name was Billy, but he always referred to himself as The Greek. He called the other people in the neighborhood “The Russian” and “The Polish”, so I guess that’s just his thing. We often laughed and wondered what nationality he called us by, as the last name Alexander is somewhat ambiguous.

Billy’s house has no electricity and is heated with wood. Lou and I would hear his generator fire up and wonder how he survived our freezing winters, especially with his diminished health. We mentioned the electricity once and were treated to a fifteen minute tirade about the electric company. We never mentioned it again.

Lou and I were told we were welcome to walk on his property and we could tell from our walks that The Greek had led a very active life; outbuildings, hunting blinds, vehicles of every description, many unfinished projects, and an old apple orchard are scattered over his 17 acres. The Greek went from a life of hunting on his property to a life of admiring the wildlife from his window. I remember the smile on his face as he described a mother fox and her kits who had taken up residency in his yard, and the wistful look as he told me how he just enjoys watching them now.

I received a phone call from Billy’s brother today letting me know The Greek has passed away. Billy had been in the hospital for the last year with health problems and we’ve been watching his place and collecting the mail for him. We knew the odds were against his coming home again do to the severity of his illnesses, but I thought if anyone could beat the odds, it would be The Greek.

I’ll miss our neighbor and his rumbling truck and flailing arms, and I know our lives will be less colorful for our loss.

And for the record, I wouldn’t mind being in The Greek’s scope now if it meant he’s looking down on us and    nodding with approval. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Boil That Water Down


  In a fit of delirium, after 12 hours in the sugaring shack, I wrote a poem set to music, or if you prefer the more popular term, a song.
  The tune is borrowed from the old Bluegrass song “Boil That Cabbage Down”, but the lyrics are 100% about my family and me .
The chords are G, D, C, G, D, A, C, G repeated through both chorus and verses, just in case you ever feel like immortalizing us in a poem set to music.
G               D
Boil that water down
C                 G
Cook it till it's brown
G                  D
The only song that I can sing 
   A         C     G
Is boil that water down

Louis was a city boy
Who longed for country life
Got himself a piece o' land 
and brought along his wife

They worked sunup to sundown
To try to make it fine
With deer and Bear and Fox
And an occasional 'qupine


Their boy was big and strappin'
And helped them all he could
By puttin' in new windows
And stackin' fire wood

The Chickadog was happy
But sometimes tried to dine
On the deer and bear and fox
And that occasional 'qupine


One day they got an idea
To make 'em something sweet
They tapped themselves some maples
To make a tasty treat

They started in with four taps
But how the story goes
They tapped into six more trees
And watched the water flow


They boiled it in the pole barn
They boiled it in the yard
Boilin' sap's a good ol' time
The work ain't very hard

Now syrup's on their pancakes
And everything they eat
They looked for miles and miles around
Their syrup can't be beat 


So if you get an inklin'
To do just what they done
Get yourself a piece o' land
And have yourself some fun!

P1080813 P1080784 IMG_2972 P1080739

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Break out the buckets
Go find the taps
Pull on your Wellies
It’s time to tap sap!
Freezing at night-time
And warm in the day
Drill a hole in the tree
And you’re well on your way
To water that’s flowing
Though snow’s in the air
Soon in the shack
You’ll be boiling with care
You’ll sit in the shanty
While big kettles roil
With family and friends
So it wont feel like toil
You’ll laugh and tell jokes
And play some guitar
And talk of the sweetness 
You’ll put in a jar

  I would consider our foray into the world of sugaring at our new house on Three Bear’s Ridge to be a rousing success. We jarred about 4 gallons of delicious syrup, and had a great time doing it. If the weather holds, we may even be able to get a few more days in the shanty.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dog Day Afternoon

Silent, 'cept for the birds
Quiet, though the wind's in the trees
Hushed, yet the frogs croak their songs
The buzz in the air, are the bees

The ringing, I see but don't hear
As the fish break the surface to feed
A day by the lake in Springtime
Is all the peace I need

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Retreat to Move Forward

The Hilltop at Night

I walk through clover up the gentle slope amid twinkling, earthbound stars
The Summer breeze lifts the musky aroma of a well-watered Spring from beneath my feet as I walk
Courting crickets innumerable call to one another above the whispered secrets of the tall, bending grass
Silent explosions of clashing heat and cold silhouette distant treetops, mimicking the lesser flashes of light and life below
 I reach the summit and turn to look back on my ascent
My contented soul overflows, spilling down my cheeks to mingle with the tender drops of fresh rain.

  I penned this while spending five work and play filled days on the inspirational grounds of the Helderberg Writer's Retreat in Voorheesville, NY.
  I was very excited and more than a little nervous when Nanette Blake of  Vagabondage Press first invited me to attend the annual event. Although I've always loved to write, I've only just recently begun to share my work and am still quite sensitive about it. The thought of a group of writers analyzing my writing was intimidating, to say the least.
  I swallowed my self-doubts and began to prepare for my new adventure.
   Upon arrival , I found my excitement was merited, my nerves were not. I couldn't have asked for a  more supportive, fun-loving group of women to indoctrinate me.
   We started the extended weekend with cocktails, laughter and lobsters; A sure-fire way to start any undertaking right. The following days were filled with: writing critiques, "book reports", writing games, walks in the woods, drinks under the stars, and some much appreciated solitary work time.
   Sitting alone on the edge of the woods in my little chair with my dog curled up under my feet and my pen scratching away in my old notebook was one of the most personal, inspirational times I've ever experienced.

 The work time was peaceful and fulfilling and the playtime was bawdy and laughter filled, but of all the work and fun, the thing which struck me the most was how nice it was to have my brain all to myself.
Those moments are rare in all our lives.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


   While preparing for a show, I always escape to the woods near my house with my trusty recorder and headphones and walk along the lake reciting lines and/or laboring over lyrics and harmony to a song.
Today's walk so beautifully paired my work with my surroundings I felt a need to capture and share it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Lamb in Winter

Winter's cold touches not my heart
When, ahead of their time, the little lambs start

Tottering on legs, quite unstable
As each hour passes, becoming more able

 Standing with boots in two foot of snow
I chuckle and coo at the small lives below

I wish I could stand all day and stare
At the humbling antics of the little lambs there