Monday, June 12, 2017

Here Comes Pac-Man

My husband and I just returned from a mini-vacation in New York's Hudson Valley, surely one of God's favorite hangouts. As proof, the vegetation there is almost sarcastically lush, with flowers fairly bursting out of their buds and trees so ridiculously green, it's like He spray-painted them just to wow the tourists. We stayed at a lovely inn run by gracious hosts and the weather was perfect for three days straight. Things couldn't have been better. Well, maybe they could have.

Having owned a second home in the area for more than decade, then selling it 14 months ago since we were going there less and less, this was our first trip back. We arrived with the intention of visiting our favorite haunts from all those years gone by, but apparently that was not to be. What we found after such a relatively short time had passed was that the future steals the past like Pac-Man eats dots and snatches up Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde on the way, which is to say hungrily, stealthily, uncontrollably and before you know it. Following are just a few of our once-treasured experiences lost to the relentless future.

1. The Rhinebeck Department Store, a quaint, dimly lit, old-timey purveyor of timeless classic clothing at affordable prices had been remodeled. No longer the slightest bit quaint, instead it was now bright and bland, with can lights suspended overhead and the old wooden flooring replaced with that laminate impersonator, Pergo. Racks of clothing for sale at every boutique were offered at laughably high prices. "We updated," was the explanation from the sales clerk.

2. Williams Lumber, a combination general store-hardware-clothing-shoe-gardening-housewares-candy shop -- think Home Depot with heart -- where I spent countless happy hours lost among the endless aisles was a shadow of its former self, having suffered a collapsed roof during a brutal snowstorm last winter. Fully half the place was shuttered with that much of the merchandise missing, and the stuff that was still there had been crammed into all the wrong places. We took a quick tour and left feeling cheated.

3. Max's Barbecue, the scene of many fun dinners with friends and family, was just plain out of business, leaving no trace save for a faded M visible from the old sign out front.

4. The Stop & Shop, a favorite supermarket where we loaded up our carts with all the fixings each Thanksgiving, had closed down and reopened as TOPS, part of a mega-chain of nationwide markets. I don't care what their reasons were, I just know that even saying, "I'm going to the Stop & Shop" was fun.

5. Del's Burgers, a roadside operation selling the best burger I personally have ever had anywhere, along with some great fries and a perfectly respectable Greek salad, was still standing but not open for business. A sign declared it would be "Opening Soon." We wondered when that might be since it's a seasonal business and we're already well into June, and we clearly remembered going there shortly after the last snows fell.

6. The Schultzville Store was the biggest disappointment. The local Mom and Pop grocery store just about a mile from our old house was truly a historical landmark we visited daily when we were in town. Besides its great in-house deli and classic bacon, eggs, toast and hash browns breakfasts, it was chockablock with tacky home decor items including tasseled pillows, ashtrays, doll houses and wall plaques, many of them declaring, "Home is Where the Heart Is" and "The Best Part of L-U-V is U," as well as all those necessary items you always run out of but suddenly and desperately need, like mayo, paper towels, milk and matches. The place had changed hands and was now bland and virtually empty, retaining none of its earlier charm or, for that matter, groceries. The new owner, busy behind the counter making sandwiches, obviously lacked a soul and, as I learned that day, a decent tuna salad recipe.

7. Arielle, a lovely and convincingly French bistro with a rustic, country-house feel where we had celebrated several anniversaries nestled comfortably among its red velvet banquettes, sheer lace curtains and faux, gold-framed Renoirs and Monets was now Cinnamon, a minimalist Indian restaurant with vinyl tables, hard chairs and not a speck of art on the walls. (At least the food was good.)

8. The Rhinebeck Drug Store. Gone. Space to lease. Need something? There's a shiny, heartless CVS down the block.

Which is all a very long-winded way to say you truly can't go home again, so pay attention to the small stuff and be sure to savor whatever it is you value while you still can.

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