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Category Archives: Adirondacks

Tupper Lake (1998)

Segal had slipped on a wet rock near the top of Sawyer Mountain on Day 3 of the Great Escape. Sawyer Mountain barely merited the name; only an 847-foot climb, there was no challenge here for Rafi or Jezebel, but none of the little family had been up a mountain since Rafi had hiked up the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado.  Rafi did not need any prompting from Segal to pack a first aid kit; in fact, it was he that double-checked that it was in his backpack, under the water bottles. The best he could do was field-dress the gash, and even though Jezebel ran down the hill to get help, Rafi knew that Segal could do this with his help. He grabbed a gnarled beech branch,  snapped off the small part to fit Segal’s build, and handed it to her.
K’chi – ani e’ezor otach. Take – I’ll help you.”
Rafi interpreted the scowl on Segal’s face as a good sign. She had almost thrown him down the hill when he was trying to debride the wound, and now she expressed way too much embarrassment, cloaked as hostility, to be in shock. The two of them and the beech staff made it down about halfway when they were joined by Jezebel, with a dad named Charles and his two boys, about ten and eight years old, in tow. Charles took the arm that had been holding the staff. Segal shot a quick glance at the older boy. 
“Is it OK if your son takes the walking stick?” she asked Charles.
“Barry?” Charles looked down at his older son, who had Jezebel’s leash, limply, in his hand.
“Thanks, Dad! Thanks, Ms. …”
“Segal.”                                            
“Ms. Siegal. It’s such a nice stick. Dad, I think it’s just your size!”
“It’s broken a little rough, sorry,” Rafi apologized.
The Adirondack field medical station was staffed by a male nurse with the body of a distance runner, which of course, he was. Fortunately for Segal, he was able to administer injectable anesthetic above the wound site before he started debriding. Still, Rafi and Jezebel both jumped at the yelp emanating from the procedure room. In all, the nurse put eleven stitches in Segal’s knee, and sent her home with a note that specified that her outdoors activities be limited to canoeing and horseback riding, and then only with waterproof bandages if she were to be around water.
When they returned to the Indian Lake Motel, Segal threw on the TV, which divided time between CNN and Animal Planet. It was on CNN. The next thing thrown was Segal’s pack – on the full-sized “parent” bed, as a foot rest. Before she even got her damaged leg up on the pack, Rafi turned around with a start.
“At approximately 10:35 this morning, the US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya were pulverized in devastating, apparently coordinated attacks. A shadowy terrorist group calling itself Al-Qa-Ida claimed responsibility.” 
“Shit. Od pa’am, here we go again.”
“What!?” Segal, still stung by her embarrassment over the accident at Sawyer Mountain, misinterpreted Rafi’s comment.
“Just last time I was on a vacation with Margaret and the Soviet Union fell apart. We got married, and the half of Rwanda slaughtered the other half. Now what?”
“Let them kill themselves for all I care.”
“Segal, think. This is…”
“Right. I wasn’t thinking. The damn Percocet hasn’t kicked in yet. I’m sorry for how I’ve been acting.”
“It’s OK. We can still have a good time here – we can go back up to Blue Mountain Lake, you can canoe, we can go to the museum – and then Jez and I can go up the mountain and you can take a day trip. Where would you like to go where they don’t want dogs?”
“This is the ‘Dacks. Where don’t they want dogs?” 
“I don’t know. Maybe if you go to Old Forge, you’ll see Anne LaBastille. Maybe, you’ll just have a good time – you’re the one who likes Thoreau, after all.”
“And you’re the one who is keeping his head on his shoulders.”
“Where else should my head be?”
“It’s an expression.”
“I know. I always wanted to ask someone that.”
Chamor.”
“I love you, too. Now let me make an icepack for you. Do you want a snack before you pass out?”
“I don’t know – whether I’m gonna pass out or not. But I would like a snack. Do we have any tuna salad left from yesterday?”
Rafi was happy that he let Segal take them grocery shopping before lunch yesterday. He was happier that, whether it was tuna salad or a ten course dinner, he always doubled the recipe. Kibbutz cooking was for twenty, never two.
* * *
Itinerary for the rest of Week 1: 
Rafi: Blue Mountain, Castle Rock, and Chimney Mountain (with Jezebel), one golf course, a half-day at the Adirondack Museum, eight hours vocal practice (motel manager likes Mozart, but guests have a problem with high notes plus hangovers).
Segal: One car tour of the Western Adirondacks, a picnic lunch at Singing Waters Camp Grounds (with Jezebel), one paddleboat cruise on Raquette Lake (with Jezebel), one dinner at the Old Mill Restaurant (with an autographed copy of LaBastille’s Woodswoman), two half-days at the Adirondack Museum, and a half-day at the Adirondack Center for the Arts. 
All Participants: A boat trip through the Blue Mountain Lake and connected bodies of water.
Jezebel: Three mountains, a campsite picnic, a paddleboat cruise, and lots of good charcoal-grilled meat in the evenings at the Indian Lake Motel.
On the way up to the much more touristy Saranac Inn in Saranac Lake, at the intersection of Rts. 28 and 30, sat the old crossroads town of Tupper Lake. Rafi and Segal wanted to visit the historic synagogue there. The village was founded in 1844 as a lumber center, but its Jewish history began in 1905, when Mose Ginsburg, a small dry-goods trader, suffered the death of his horse there. After burying the animal, he set up shop at the train depot, creating Ginsburg’s, the largest department store for a time in upstate New York. Wherever Jews establish themselves, they create a cemetery and a religious school, so says the tradition. The latter became Beth Joseph Synagogue, which maintained a museum of Jewish life that was open year round. Mose Ginsburg’s daughter was visiting the synagogue when Rafi and Segal came in. Jezebel waited outside, providing a friendly welcoming committee. 
An octogenarian named Mr. Joseph served as docent that day. He seemed pleased to have visitors, particularly Jewish ones. When Rafi let on that he was studying to be a cantor, the old man grabbed his tie-dye and, looking up at Rafi with hopeful, almost pleading eyes, he urged, 
“You are staying close by?”
“Yes, we are staying in Saranac Lake.”
“Then you must davenwith us Friday. Our services start at seven. The whole Jewish camps are here as our guests. We would be proud to have you as hazzan.” 
Rafi and Segal looked at each other, puzzled.
“Let me show you our prayer book. You take it; you bring it back Friday.”
The nonagenarian daughter of the synagogue’s founder entered the museum wing at that moment. Almost as tall as Rafi and Segal, she could have given Joseph a rub on his bald pate. At ninety one years of age, the woman stood straight, and walked without a cane. She seemed ready to launch into the canned speech she gave tourists whenever she graced the museum wing, but Mr. Joseph turned quickly and grabbed her dated polyester blended jacket with mint and yellow checks on a beige background.
“Muriel, do you know who we have here?”
“Who is it, Jacob?”
“It’s Hazzan Ben-B’rak, from Temple Beth Sholom in Philadelphia.”
“Hazzan Ben-B’rak, what a pleasure! Welcome to Beth Joseph!” The doyenne of New York retail west of the Hudson remembered the passage from the Haggadah, the telling of the story of Passover well, in which a dozen revolutionary rabbis plotted the Bar Kochba Rebellion against Rome over a Passover Seder in the town of B’nei-B’rak. 
“May I introduce my wife Segal Gottesdienst?”
“Mrs. Ben-B’rak, a pleasure.”
Rafi stepped up. “Ms. Gottesdienst. I was stubborn, and I kept my name under the huppah.” That was Hebrew, or Yiddish, for “altar.” Sort of.
Quickly, the information was exchanged, and it turned out that the Grand Lady of Retail had taken a call from a rabbi from the Reform Movement who was also vacationing in the Adirondacks and looking for a place to pray that weekend. Of course, Mrs. Ginsberg had extended the offer to the rabbi that Mr. Joseph had given Rafi. 
“How long has it been since there were two clergy on the bimah at the same time here?” Segal asked. 
“I was only a very young girl when my father started the shul, but I don’t ever remember it happening.”
“Not even on the High Holy Days?” Rafi asked.
“No, not even then.”
“Well, with your permission, Segal, we accept! Let’s make history.”

Indian Lake (1997)

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Rafi had been married to Segal for six months when the whining about wanting to go to the Adirondacks became a little too loud. Segal was a big fan of the naturalist and writer Anne LaBastille, author of Woodswoman, about her experiences living in a log cabin with no utilities in the forest at an undisclosed location, somewhere outside of Old Forge. Readers of the book thought they could identify the locale as on Six Mile Lake; even though they were wrong, the specter of a throng of hero-seekers drove LaBastille into the forest on whatever body of water allowed her to receive her mail by motorboat.  Segal was as fired up about spending time in the woods as she had been about making aliyah, emigrating to Israel.
Not satisfied with the student’s year abroad, or even finding a job through an agency, Segal had lived on a kibbutz. No, make that two kibbutzim.She went once out of a Jewish nationalist fervor, with the intention of returning. The second time, she had made aliyah. This second time, she joined the governing body of the kibbutz, drove a tractor, became fluent at Hebrew, and even dated Orientals. Not Chinese pilgrims, learning about the triumph of the New Socialist Woman. In Israel, the term referred to Jews from Arab lands. This guy was an Iranian, an irooni. She liked him because he was shy. Rafi was a little like the irooni. She couldn’t tell why she found his social clumsiness attractive. Why do some women prefer facial hair, some prefer clean-shaven men, and some like three days’ worth of stubble?
“I don’t think we’re ever going to do something unless I do it myself, are we? ARE WE?”
“You said that, not me. Why are you saying this now? We talk about this over Pesach; I agreed we’ll do it this summer.”
“But it’s JUNE!” Segal raised her voice. It was reaching the level of annoyance that it had when he had just dumped Margie six weeks before and then he turned down a request for a dinner party so that he could attend a stargazing party at the Cricket Club. Strictly secret; a friend of a friend worked there, and he would unlock the gates if everyone could get there at the same time. Late arrivals would have to climb an eight-foot-high fence. The lights on Willow Grove Avenue didn’t stay on past 1 am, so it was very dark, suitably flat for telescopes, and manicured beyond the possibility of tripping and damaging valuable equipment. By the end of the fight that ensued when Rafi was demonstrating that he would not meet Segal’s every demand, she half-yelled, “I think this relationship has gone on long enough, don’t you?!” Rafi did not. He had fallen madly in love, and as far as he could tell, so had Segal. Best news? It was with each other. So ma yesh?
Rafi tried to defuse the current situation.  “Let’s walk up to Borders, get some coffee, and buy a Lonely Planet guide. We can make our reservations when we get back.”
Borders, to the annoyance of all their Mt. Airy clientele, closed at 6 on Sundays. Mt. Airyites always laid the blame for that one on the twenty society ladies who ran Chestnut Hill. Rafi and Segal were renting a house right next to Jenks School. Segal, who worked mostly from home, would lug her laptop on some days, or just take a tablet more often, to the Borders three blocks away at the top of Chestnut Hill. It was Rafi’s job, when he would let their Norwegian Elkhound Jezebel (the name was Rafi’s idea) out to pee, to toss the basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, and Nerf balls back to the kids waiting at the picket fence. Conveniently, it was 4:30 on a Sunday, so the school yard carried the usual weekend variety of basketballers, kids playing dodge ball, a young woman pounding tennis balls against the wall, and a few kids on bikes, several with training wheels, riding in circles while one parent watched. Jezebel relieved herself; Rafi had taken her running earlier in the day. No basketballs to worry about; the players were too old to control the play that poorly. Segal shut down the computer. Jez came in. Rafi gave her a biscuit. Rafi slipped on his Birkenstocks and Segal tied her shoes. Up the hill they walked. Rafi surged ahead, and remembering himself, slowed down and let Segal pull even. Rafi held the door open at the big bookstore. Segal started, by habit, to the magazine section. Rafi, heading off to the back of the store, shot off, “I get the guidebooks. See you in the coffeeshop in ten minutes.” Rafi felt Segal’s glower on the nape of his neck. She makes the money, she makes the decisions. But she would make his year hell if they did not go, not to mention that the whole marriage might be endangered.
Rafi knew not to order until Segal was on the way up the steps. He started browsing The Adirondack Book. History of the region. Boring. Geography. Lo ichpat li. Guide boats. Blorcz. Okay, okay, the index. Here we go. Camping – she’d never go for it. Bed and breakfast – too nice for me. I’d rather let her stay at a hotel and I’d camp on top of Mt. Marcy. Well, maybe Blue Mountain Lake – half as high. Well…
Segal materialized with her normal array of writing and tech magazines. She asked for Rafi’s coffee order.
“I’ll take a café mocha, cold, no ice. Would you like to stay at a bed and breakfast, a campgrounds, a motel, or some combination of the two?”
Ma yesh, Rafi, anachnu y’cholim livkhor acharei she’anachnu osim kamah zayin kri’ah! Maduah chayav l’cha ish rutzi-rutzi? Ben kamah atah, hamesh? (WTF, Rafi, we can make that decision after we do some fucking reading! Why do you have to be Mister Hurry-Hurry? How old are you, anyway, five?)”
Breathe, Rafi. “I will look at the books. I will make some lists. You order the coffee. Rak anachnu tz’richim la’asot mashehu b’itim k’rovot (Only we have to do something soon).
That evening, Rafi made lists of high-end, middle-range, and low-budget choices for each of the five geographic regions in the Adirondack State Park. He knew that Segal would make the decision in any case, but he would damn sure not take the blame. Segal was not going to work Monday without the decision being made.
* * *
The first stop was a detour to Cooperstown. Actually, below Cooperstown, on I-9, at the Viking Kennel, specialty breeder and boarder of Norwegian Elkhounds.  Jezebel was the first Elkhound that either Rafi or Segal had ever met; now, as she bounded out of the Saturn to meet the permanent residents of Viking Kennel, she was surrounded by silver doggie butts with tightly curled white, silver, and seal-tipped tails, wagging like icy circus hoops, the front ends being spade-shaped noses all sniffing her rectal cavity for a personal postcard.  The breeder remarked that Jez was a “stunning exemplar of the breed, clearly the work of a master breeder and a miracle of Nature.” Rafi and Segal would laugh at this on the way into the historic baseball village. Jezebel came from the Montgomery SPCA, Conshohocken Branch.
Rafi was not much of a baseball player. The game was not popular on the kibbutz. But Madonna had just costarred in the movie A League of Their Own, which told the story of the All American Girls’ Baseball League, and Segal wanted to come back with a Negro League souvenir for her boss. Plus, Segal, who had grown up Anastasia, was from the town that was “first in war, first in peace, and last in the National League.” Neither spouse had any illusion that Cooperstown was going to be the highlight of their trip, but as Segal had discovered the Viking Kennel, both thought that it would have been a shame to pass up on the opportunity for a pilgrimage. Neither one thought that the sun would be setting by the time they retrieved Jezebel and headed north to Indian Lake. As New York Route 10 droned on and on, and the sun dipped lower and lower, Segal grew testier and testier, and finally exploded with the phrase that serves as the ultimate rejection of a man,
Eizeh GEVER!What a (stupid, worthless, arrogant, ignorant, brazen, morally suspect) man!”
Rafi jutted his jaw against the barrage of buyer’s remorse as well as against the treacherous winding and lack of illumination on Rt. 30. Whenever Segal got too loud, Jezebel would trumpet her disapproval. Otherwise, the dog nuzzled the back of her parents’ necks, first Rafi, then Segal.
Finally, Rafi dragged the car into the Indian Lake Motel. The host’s cabin was dark, except for a clip-on flashlight that illumined a paper ripped out of a spiral notebook. On the paper was scrawled, “Rafi, Segal, Jezebel.” When Segal lifted it out of the pitted aluminum screen door, a dog biscuit fell out.
Suite 6 sported a double bed, a bunk bed, a TV with cable (this fact, advertised prominently in a laminated card with 1” stenciled letters reading, “CABLE GUIDE,” convinced Segal that she shouldn’t go with the cabins), a kitchenette, and a dining table. In short, a palace by Manhattan standards. Sadly for Rafi, Segal had never lived in Manhattan, and she didn’t grow up on the kibbutz, either. These were the Adirondacks, for heaven’s sake, thought Segal. She resolved to have a miserable time. She did not tell Rafi that she was planning to fall back to CNN instead of springing forward into her adventure. Rafi was already planning the first day’s hike up Sawyer Mountain, a little “stretch-your-legs” outing to make sure that everyone was adjusting to the altitude. “Everyone” included Jezebel. Elkhounds were bred from before the Dark Ages to be vanguards. Rafi had trained Jezebel to run at an 8:30 pace for five or six miles, but neither they nor Segal were much adapted to hills.
Segal threw her backpack into the lower bunk and began directing Rafi.
“Get the crate.”
“Where’s Jez’s bag?”
“Do you have your meds?’
“Where’s the ID? Where’s my purse?”
Ma yesh? Al tid’f’ki alai!
D’fok alai” is a cognate, roughly speaking. Very roughly speaking.
It was all that Rafi could do to keep from moving Segal’s backpack and curling up with Jezebel in the lower bunk to go to sleep.