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“Cliff” … Likeable and friendly … asset to the Music department … fiddles around … plans to concentrate on music after college … “The Greatest Guy in the World”.
From Cliff’s 50th reunion greeting to classmates…
In 1996 my wife, Ronnie, and I left Westport for a simpler life in New Hampshire. I had taken an early retirement from Eastman Kodak two years earlier to go off on my own professionally. Apparently I went WAY off, because I am still working doing contract web development/programming for an internet company. Alas, my lovely wife is still working, as well, as a real estate agent. Fortunately, she enjoys it. (She was never much of a housefrau… :-)
We have three daughters: Lisa, living in Sydney, Australia with her RAAF husband (she needed to get away from home); Leslie with her husband and two boys in Norton, MA; and Julie and husband in Weston, CT.
Aside from an occasional visit to MA and CT to see family, we can usually be found on Cape Cod in May and September. This coming year we’ll be taking our dogs on vacation with us (first time at the Cape), where we hope to enjoy watching them running along the shoreline biting the waves!
The way we were…
Ronnie and yours truly in a photo taken at Phillips Crab House, Ocean City, MD, in the summer of 1970. We had recently met in a bar or “disco” called “The Bastille” (French for jail house) on Wisconsin Ave., in Washington, DC. Not long after we fell in love, dated for a year, and then married on April Fool’s day.
A classmate singalong…
Sometime in the mid-90s Leann Walker had a leading role in a professional drama in Westport. Leann and I were both Westport residents at the time and saw each other with our spouses frequently. The production took place at the old Greens Farms Elementary School—the very auditorium and stage that I remember performing on sometime just after, I think, the Civil War… After the show, Leann said there was an old friend in the hall, come see. I did and there stood Chuck Banks, slumming for an evening in Westport with his wife, Suzanne, down from their home in Westchester to see our old high school mutual friend, Leann.
In any case here we were after the production: Leann, Chuck and I at a long-standing bar/restaurant at the corner of State Street and Myrtle Ave. across from the funeral home, singing a 50s-era tune along with the live entertainment. All in all, a grand “mini-reunion” for me seeing Leann perform and seeing Chuck again (who sang baritone in my high school quartet) and finding out that all was forgiven… :-)
New Hampshire years…
Some photos from our years in New Hampshire.
Cape Cod or bust…
In 2008 I came up with the insane idea of moving to Cape Cod. Why the hell not? Winters were getting too long in New Hampshire (snow still in yard in May…!). Temps too cold (average coldest day in this climate zone: -20F to -30F; the Cape is three climate zones warmer). We also missed the easy access to salt water we’d both known most of our lives.
OK, bust… :-)! We didn’t like the Cape as a permanent retirement home. Never move to the same place you vacation! So, in 2011 we moved to western NC, to a city called Hendersonville—a small town, really, just 1/2 hour south of Asheville, close to the SC border. We love it and this is where we’ll stay.
(For now… :-)
Holiday dinners with lawyers…
For the last five years or so it has been our custom (Ronnie and I) to trek southward to Westport at Christmas from our (then) home in New Hampshire to visit family and friends. Three or four years ago I suggested to Chuck Banks and Bob Walton that we get together with spouses for a holiday mini-reunion dinner somewhere convenient to the three of us: Bob and Terry on Long Island, Chuck and Susan in Katonah, and Ronnie and I visiting daughter, Julie, in Weston. It’s been three years in a row now—each time more rewarding than the previous as we get to know each other all over again. Amazing the changes that life has visited upon each of us; kind of amazing, as well, at how we have not change…
Late December, 2006… The Banks were unable to join us as Chuck was off shooting wolves in Saskatchewan or equally frozen environs in the Canadian northwest (I’m assuming a judge’s life can be stressful from time to time, so far be it from me to pass judgment on Chuck’s stress-reduction practices. “Hey Chuck, no people to shoot?”… :-). Instead, Bob and Ronnie and I (Bob’s wife, Terry, couldn’t make it, either) hooked up at Pasquale’s Ristorante in Port Chester, NY—an Italian restaurant serving delightfully authentic (you guessed it!) Italian cuisine.
We arrived about 7pm, Bob driving up in his old, beat up (but reliable) chevy wagon that he uses to tool around New England with Gryphon, his overweight but lovable yellow Labrador Retriever. Bob and I had a great time reminiscing about some of the wilder times at Staples while Ronnie quietly looked on, wondering if, indeed, the two of us had actually matured any in the ensuing 50-plus years… :-)
Sunday, December 27, 2007 In 2007 we all managed to get together at Frankie and Johnnie’s Steakhouse in Rye. Frankie & Johnnie have several restaurants, including two in Manhattan—in one 2005 poll voted best steakhouse in NYC and one of the best in America in the 2004 Zagat rating guide. Food was excellent, fastidiously served, and—as you can well imagine—a tad pricey. Hey, but what the hell. It’s Christmastime and you’re just happy as hell to be alive and able to enjoy a night out with your old buds from high school! (And spouses, of course!) Here are a few shots commemorating the event.
Sunday, December 28, 2008 Back to Pasquale Ristorante in Port Chester this past winter. Excellent, authentic Italian cuisine served in generous amounts. A 2007-2008 Zagat rating and “Restaurant of the Year” for 2008-2009. Less pricey than Frankie & Johnnie’s Restaurant in Rye, but not as spacious and comfortable as the latter, either. Wonderful meal, again, with at least 12 conversations going on simultaneously… Only one photo from that evening, alas, with insufficient lighting. And, yes, there is Walton again in that ridiculous baseball cap proclaiming he’s a retired Marine…! In one way or another I think we’re all starting to lose it.
Mike Hyman’s 2007 visit to NH…
Here are a few shots from Mike’s 2007 visit to our home in Grantham, NH. In one of them you can see my canoe. It was a windy day on Eastman Lake (our community lake) that pretty much blew me and my sidekick, “BJ”, all over the lake. Mike came to my rescue, threw me a rope and towed me in. If Mike hadn’t been there, BJ—a very strong swimmer—would have been proud to tow me and the canoe to shore.
P.S. “BJ” was anywhere from 13 to 15 years old when he made his final visit to our vet. He had three homes with us: New Hampshire (five years), Cape Cod (three years) and then western North Carolina (only five months). As with my first Lab, “Buddy”, not an hour goes by that I don’t think of BJ. How much I miss him. How much he enriched our lives…
Mike Hyman’s 2008 Cape Cod visit…
Here we are—Mike, Ronnie and yours truly (taking pictures)—docking Mike’s trolling boat after a tour of Bass River (central Cape). This was Mike’s first visit to our new home in South Yarmouth. It was a pleasant fall day—naturally a bit chilly while sitting inactive in an open boat for an hour or two.
At 1.5 miles per hour…
Visiting a Bedford Junior High classmate…
En route with “BJ”to St. Johnsbury, VT, (see next post) to meet Bob Walton and “Gryphon” at Dog Mountain, I had arranged to stop off for the night for a mini-reunion with an old classmate none of us had seen since the 7th grade: Don Freeman (or “Donny Ohanion” as he was then known—see his Classmate Update page). Don and I had begun corresponding some months previously when he had stumbled across our blog.
BJ and I were welcomed with old-fashioned Yankee hospitality by Don, his wife, Margaret, and their irrepressible Border Collie, “Moss”. Situated in the Berkshire foothills of western Massachusetts on several acres, Don and Margaret had acquired this Federal style farmhouse some years ago and turned it into a combination home and place of business. Don and Margaret, by themselves, have more advanced degrees than your typical small-college English department. Their business is called “Myrifield”, devoted to cognitive research. (Don’t ask… that’s all I know).
Here are some pix I took the afternoon of our arrival before dinner and after breakfast the following morning. Note the playful antics of Moss. He was quite emphatic about wanting to play “fetch stick” and insisted that I keep at it until my arm fell off. Never before having had the pleasure of getting to know a Border Collie (“BC” for short), I left the following day with the distinct impression that BCs were clearly more “purpose driven” than your average mutt. I am quite certain that this breed believes that it is they around whom life revolves rather than us humans. Were it not for my long-standing love of the sweet, loyal, lovable Labrador Retriever, I would be tempted to adopt a Moss of my own. (And lest I forget to mention, Moss was very tolerant of having BJ as an overnight canine guest. Another male at that!)
Take a look at that enormous kitchen stove, as well. Built with old-world engineering, the thing does everything without electricity…! It weighs so much they had to knock a wall down and lift it in with a crane. Cost more than my car, too.
A day trip to Dog Mountain, St. Johnsbury, VT…
For several years Bob Walton had been busting my chops to join him on his annual fall trek to “Dog Mountain” in upstate VT. As a resident of New Hampshire’s Upper Valley, the trip would have been easy for me. For a couple of years I passed on the opportunity. But then, in 2009, I decided it was time to make the trip with my ever-loyal, ever-present companion, “BJ”. Ronnie and I had been talking about a move south, so I didn’t know when or if the opportunity would present itself again. It turned out to be the first and last overnight adventure BJ and I would enjoy together.
For dog lovers a day trip to Dog Mountain can be a wonderful outing for you and your favorite pooch(es). Bob can tell you more. A special place (an actual mountain) in New England devoted to the wonder of canis familiaris. Created by artist, Stephen Huneck (now deceased), visitors come every fall to attend the special “Dog Party”, where humans and their canine pets can enjoy a day of inter-species fun and frolic, including contests like “Best Leap Into The Pond After A Thrown Stick”. Of course no Dog Party would be complete without a hearty (and free!) picnic lunch cookout of franks and beans and a soda (“love the hot dogs, daddy…”)!
In addition to Stephen’s unique animal-centered paintings, sculpture and furniture (on sale, of course), the center piece of this amazing place is a “Dog Chapel” where visitors from all over the continent have come to leave a photo or handwritten note about their departed pooches. There are even a couple of carved, wooden pooches “in prayer”. People pin their memorials to the walls (there is barely any space left to pin anything new), or leave them standing on the floor against the walls. Bob showed me the montage he had placed there on an earlier visit in memory of his departed Labs.
Last year Stephen Huneck took his own life. He was convinced he would not be able to keep his life’s work and homestead on Dog Mountain due to financial worries. What an awful ending for a man and his family whose love of dogs was so manifest. Still, Dog Mountain continues on, under management of his wife.
Here are a few of the photos I took on that special day:
Bruce Wilson’s 2009 visit…
One day in late December (by coincidence, my birthday), Bruce dropped in following a trip to Westchester to visit daughter, and then to Newport, RI, to see old friends. “I was in the neighborhood”, he said, “and thought I’d drop in…” (Bruce now lives in Coconut Grove, FL). We spent two or three days catching up, having a wonderful time. Here are a couple of shots I took of the occasion at a local restaurant.
Mike Hyman’s 2010 Cape Cod visit…
Mike spent most of the summer of 2010 caring for his daughter, Linda, in Brookfield, CT, following a knee operation. Linda is an avid skiier and all-around outdoors girl and—over the years—has put some stress on her knees. Mike has a second daughter, Cary, living in VT with her husband. When finished visiting with family he usually finds his way up into northern Maine for some serious fishing. Following all that—time permitting—it’s been his custom in recent years to squeeze in a short visit with us, depending on where we live (we like to move once a year or so… :-).
On this cold October visit we were denied our annual boat ride. We did give it a try at Smuggler’s beach at the mouth of the Bass River, but decided it was a bit too chilly. Instead we walked for a bit on the beach, recalling old (not so “fast”) times back at Staples. That evening the three of us had dinner at The Yarmouth House in West Yarmouth. (In this photo I am just about six months recovered from an eight-hour, life-saving operation courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital. At one point I was down 1/3 of my normal weight.)
2011: Western North Carolina: Our Final Home!
Final? Hah!… Since the wedding Ronnie and I have lived in northern Virginia (two homes), Greenwich, Westport (two homes), New Hampshire and Cape Cod. After three years on the Cape—never really feeling “at home” there (never buy a home where you vacation they say…), we decided to head south. In the spring of 2011 Ronnie and I moved to beautiful western North Carolina. The Asheville area had been recommended to us a couple of times. We did quite a bit of online research—carefully considering the coastal and “Piedmont” (midstate) regions, as well. Ultimately we decided that western NC with its mountains, low humidity and relaxed lifestyles were the right ticket for Cliff and Ronnie and pack.
And so, on May 21, 2011, car loaded up and packed to the roof (moving van already gone), “BJ” in the back seat, “Rudy” in front on mommy’s lap, we headed south for our next adventure. We rented a condo for a year to check the area out and then found a nearly perfect three-bedroom, two-bath ranch in a well-maintained senior sub-division.
That fall (2011) Mike Hyman dropped in for his customary visit on his way home to Florida. Following Shirley’s death in 2005, Mike has sojourned north annually—fishing boat in tow—to spend the summer with daughters in Connecticut and Vermont. On many of these visits Mike would honor us with a visit on the way back.
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2013: Gift of the Forest…
DuPont Forest is the backdrop for this photo. “Rudy”—our Bichon-Poodle rescue—is now in his 11th year with us (my Lab, “BJ”, died at age 13 or 14 in 2011). Less than half an hour’s drive from home, DuPont Forest boasts some 50,000 acres of pristine wilderness. Beautiful waterfalls attract Hollywood filmmakers for background. Recent examples: Last of the Mohicans and Hunger Games.
“Max” (friend’s Beagle in photo at left) and I hike here nearly every weekend. On a clear day from this Cedar Mountain peak you can see a bit of eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia. Maxie just loves the views… (But he pleaded with me not to show any photos of him wearing this pink leash when mommy can’t find his blue one… :-)
One summer’s day coming back to the car after a long hike in 2013 at DuPont with Max The Beagle, we spotted a little dog in the parking lot. It was a small dog—maybe a little terrier. It looked lost. It was looking for someone—probably its owner(s). It was painfully thin—maybe 10 lbs.—and filthy. Exhausted, too. No tag. No owners present to claim her. Clearly she wouldn’t survive any encounters with nighttime predators here in the forest. And so, a no-brainer decision: we’re taking her home with us! (Max understood and gave me his blessing…)
In the car I told Ronnie we were on the way back from DuPont, and that I had a little “surprise” for her. Somehow Ronnie knew what the surprise was (no doubt because I’ve done this before and since…) and so was waiting on our front lawn for my arrival.
We took her to our vet who said she was a Rough-Coated Jack Russell Terrier, anywhere between ten and 15 years old with no microchip (a much, much too-common shortcoming here in Dixie…). She was, indeed, undernourished. Not much hearing left. Also, as shown on the X-ray, walking about with a dislocated left hip.
Over the next few days we tried to find her owner(s) with no luck. Little by little I watched Ronnie bonding with the pup until she announced to me on Day 3 that this was a little senior soul that needed a loving new home and gave her the name, “Scout Marie”. Since that day Scout Marie and Ronnie have been inseparable…
And now let’s let Scout tell her story in her own words (this appeared in the winter edition of our subdivision’s newsletter):
My name is Scout Marie Clifford…
I am a rough-coated Jack Russell Terrier. My ears stand
all the way up, not folded down like most Jack Russells. I
am a partially deaf senior citizen—15 years old. Who
knows? I lose count…
Anyway, I have a new home now—a house full of love for
doggies. Even a new brother, “Rudy”. A bit stand-offish
for my taste, but he doesn’t bug me while I sleep all day
and that’s good.
I am the latest addition to the Clifford rescue collection.
No. 7, they said. Daddy found me on a weekend hike in the
forest last summer. I had no tag or microchip and daddy
couldn’t find my owner.
I was lost. I couldn’t find my way home. I was dirty and
hungry and scared. It was growing dark and I don’t think I
could have lasted another night in the woods here
(monsters come out at night…). So he brought me home
and mommy named me, “Scout”!
A week later I was to have my dislocated hip fixed. At
the last minute they called it off due to worry about the
anesthesia (on a senior girl like me). Besides I’m not in much
pain and I get around pretty good on three legs.
Anyway I love my new home with mommy and daddy and
little Rudy—a Bichon Frise/Poodle. I have a yummy breakfast
and a yummy dinner every day—all healthy food. I’ve
gained 20% in body weight. I get walks every day with
Rudy. When I’m not eating or walking I like to sleep
(daddy says about 19 hours a day), and be cuddled at night
in mommy’s and daddy’s bed. At Christmas I got a
“Thunder Shirt” which I love.
I hope all lost and neglected doggies get a loving forever
home like me.
And so here we are (in photo) at the end of 2015. Our beloved little Rudy left us late last fall after a valiant fight with Cushings disease. He was 15 years old. To heal the sadness over his loss, Ronnie found a little Jack Russell Terrier, “Ms. Daisy”, at PetFinder.com (she was smitten by her resemblance to Scout…). Here is the greeting that accompanied the photo in our annual, best-selling Seasons Greetings card:
Dear friends & family…
Hope you are all well. Please forgive the belated greetings. We’ve been busy traveling. Lotta’ trips: Trips to doctors. Trips to the pharmacy. Trips to the bathroom…
The end of the year was heavy with sadness. Our little Bichon/Poodle, Rudy—age 15, succumbed to a fatal kidney ailment in November. He fought this disease with the heart of a lion for four long years.
As you can see we now have a new little one in the family. We kept her shelter name, “Ms. Daisy”, as she loves riding in the car. (From the movie. Get it…?).
Aside from doggie news, Ronnie and I are still as active and out of focus as ever. Here’s hoping that 2016 isn’t a whole lot worse than 2015…
Gotta go now. Feel another trip comin’ on…
—Cliff & Ronnie
December 31, 2015