Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tapping Tivoli

On a walk around the Village these days, you'll find taps on a few of your neighbors' maples. With the cold earlier this week, there was just a smidgen of sap in the bottom of the buckets, but the 10-day forecast has daytime temps above freezing all next week. With a little boiling, this means maple syrup in our near future. Life is worth living again.

And, this being Tivoli, you will find all manner of taps. With our can-do attitude (and a little plastic twine and an old water jug or two), we can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, or sap into syrup, anyway.

Do I even have to say it? I love this damn make-do bucket.

Friday, February 27, 2009

iloviT iCandy

When it's rainy outside, it's always warm in the bakery. Didn't get there today? Enjoy this little morsel for now, and get on over there tomorrow.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Joel Griffith, Painter of Tivoli

Tivoli has a few painters, but none more identified with the Village than Joel Griffith. You've probably seen him beside the road under a big straw hat with his easel and brushes. You may even have wondered - how could he be painting... that? He is engaged by the details of this place, and not just its obvious postcard shots (which abound).

Joel's style is documentary and experiential. Yes, it's realism, but with a point of view. His canvases are quiet and still. That stillness makes you see the beauty of a landscape and its all-too-human interventions. Having grown up on Broadway, Joel has had the luxury of time in observing his subject. Rusty train tracks are as beautiful as the Catskill sunset they frame. Utility poles and worn black top enliven views toward the river.

If you have a keen eye, you will have noticed a deepening of his technique as time has passed. His rendering has become so sharp that it is hyper-real. His more recent paintings of trailers fit uncomfortably within the genre of house portraits. And, the discomfort works. The shipping container quality of these little boxes plopped on their lots catches you off guard. This is Joel at his best.

These days Joel is as likely to complete an entire painting in his studio as out in the elements. While he loved having us peer over his shoulder and make inane and witty comments, he has tired a bit of painting in public. You will still find him contemplating a view, perhaps sketching a detail, but his painting is done largely in his studio. He's often working on six or more paintings at a time. He says, "It's like dating a bunch of people. You get tired of one and move on. When you come back, you remember what you liked about it in the first place." His studio is above the Black Swan, pub extraordinaire. It is tiny and smells of oil paint, Lestoil and last night's beer (the last two contributed by the pub). His palette is just an old pizza box, which he flips over and uses twice.

This would be a good point to mention that Joel makes his living largely with his art. When I visited, he was nearing completion of a lovely wedding gift commission, a big canvas of farm fields where the couple were married. Over the course of two mayors' terms of office, the Village of Tivoli commissioned seven paintings which are on display in the entry of Watts DePeyster Hall. On your next trip to the Library, take a closer look.

Joel has just come to the end of a two-year period of intensive painting. He hints at a possible stylistic change, which has happened before in his 20 years of painting. For now, he's packing his bags for a month in Brazil. He may paint while he's there, but as he says, "I could paint one church, or visit ten; and I'd rather visit ten." Have a great trip, Joel. We'll be looking for you under your straw hat again in spring.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The ice is melting. And, this week the maple sap began to run. If your taps are in, you know that already. It's a little early, but we'll take it. Cold weather in the next few days will slow things down, but by late month collection (and boiling) should hit high gear. My friend Jo will be out there flipping pancakes and drizzling them with fresh maple syrup in a few weeks. Go over to the farm and get some. Really. If you miss it, you'll kick yourself.

And, there's green out there if you know where to look. Believe me, I've been looking. These little beauties will surely open their snowy faces very soon. Don't worry. I won't let it pass you by.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ice Yachting

There's a sheet of clear ice locked in place on the banks of Athens, just 20 miles north of Tivoli on the Hudson's west shore, and ice boats are taking full advantage. If you've been around here any length of time, you've heard about ice boating. You may even know that FDR had a boat named The Icicle. You probably also know that the ice just doesn't set up every winter, but this year the wicked cold nights have been kind to the yachting set.

The ice in Athens is so good, in fact, that cars from as far away as Maine and Quebec are parked in the DEC Boat Launch this weekend. And a half-dozen boats from the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat & Yacht Club are in the mix. (I hear the guys from Montreal are itching to race, and they were just pulling in when I left.)

If you don't know ice, you'd think this year's snow would make skating along in an ice boat impossible; but sunny days melt fresh snow, thickening the ice and forming a perfectly level surface. Good thing, too, because these boats can get up to 70 miles per hour with the right wind.

Today was a little gusty, but tomorrow's another day.

The guys ('cause it is mostly guys) who own these boats love the history of their sport as much as they love wind, ice and speed. You'll see rigging that reminds you of the schooners that used to grace the River, and the sound of wind-whipped sails will make you grin. The Hudson River Ice Yachting Club keeps tabs on ice conditions off Rhinecliff, Tivoli Bays and Athens, and the guys can fill you in on the local lore of their sport, which has been going on here since the 19th century.

Parking's tight this weekend, but don't let that deter you. Head up to Athens, now. Cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Turn right onto 385 North. Through the Village to the DEC Boat Launch just north of town, and get out on the ice. Dogs, kids, sleds and skates encouraged.

Addendum: The guy out on the ice with the big camera must have been from the Times. Camera envy.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Get Out There

This time of year if you don't get yourself outside, you're just going to be cold. Reverse logic, but with the thermostat set somewhere around 60, it's always chilly inside. (Clearly, I am living without a woodstove.)

At the house on the hill east of the village, we've been sledding. And, this week, if you're on the toddler side of the scale, you don't even need a sled. You can skim right along on your back on this amazing crust.

So, come on over. We've got about a quarter mile run out back, and it's FAST. Just remember, you'll have to stomp your way back up the hill. (Think of it as cardio.)

Oh, and be patient. Your cross country skiis will no doubt get more powdery stuff soon enough.