Seaside

I think what you will take away from my day trip to Annisquam, Rockport and Gloucester is that the sky was very, very blue. Boats bobbed on the river and boys jumped off a bridge but only when I turned my head. Let this be your moment of tranquility before fall begins and you are tugged in different directions. Maybe you’re a student or teacher beginning a new chapter which will be unrelenting until the holidays. Or maybe you’re just someone sniffling softly at the waning of summer. I’ll keep this spot here for when you need a moment.
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Peace and love

I head to Woodstock not as a pilgrimage (though Jimi Hendrix is playing on the local radio station and I wander through the village) but to see the animals of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. From the cat that greets me assertively at the gate to the steer that, allowed to be full grown, is imposing yet sweet, I fall in love with every creature. Miss Piggy jumped off a slaughterhouse truck in North Carolina. Ducks Brian and Kath were saved from a foie gras factory. Goats and sheep sidle up to visitors for petting or a snack as volunteers provide a tour packed with anecdotes about the animals–their personalities and history of abuse or escape–and info about factory farming and how to be a successful vegan.  If I didn’t live three hours from here, I would volunteer at the farm and muck out the barn just to be with the animals, whispering to them how glad I am that they found their way to a sanctuary.

sanctuary sign

Cat greeter at sanctuary

steer

steer hide

shaggy sheep

sheep face

toy farm animals in rice

grains of rice

Woodstock sign

Woodstock flea market

Ride a bike sign

In Hudson, I buy antlers

Hudson is a not-yet-comfortable mix of super high-end antique stores and families living in poverty on the next street over. A tough mix but a reality of so many towns converting their old buildings downtown to lofts and studios. It’s a destination for Manhattanites furnishing their summer homes and for me looking for a treasure under $50. The Red Chair, a beautifully curated shop of Belgian and French antiques and textiles, invites visitors to linger, but the prices reflect the time and energy it must have taken the owner to scout out treasures in the French countryside and lug them back to the States.  The street is one long stretch of colorful shops and cafes, and it feels like scouring a flea market with air-conditioned pockets; a view of the Hudson awaits at the end of the street.

The work of artist Lee Musselman graces numerous storefronts along the main street, many in the form of doll head figures the artist calls “spiritual guides.” The shops are showing support for an artist who celebrates found objects–a man now in failing health. One shop where Lee worked has two deep bins of his art scraps: antlers, bones, dolls, tin. I dig out a pair of antlers with a tuft of fur still attached and buy it; the money will go to his caregiver. I spend a moment thinking of this artist I’ve only just learned about and about the deer who shed its antlers, unaware that a piece of it might the next day become art.

Hudson shops

Lee Musselman art

Dreams of river swimming

Beacon is still in the clutches of a week-long heat wave while I’m there. I stop at the farmers’ market by the train station and take a moment to gaze at the Hudson River, so wide, cool, and inviting. I nearly cry when I see a sign directing visitors to the “River Pool” and grab my bathing suit and a towel from the hot car and make my way through the park, envisioning along the way, a refreshing soak in a cold, cold river. I picture an Olympic size pool and recall a saltwater pool filled by ocean water I saw on TV once.

And then I see it.

The River Pool in Beacon in all its cute but disappointing glory.

The River Pool in Beacon in all its cute but disappointing glory.

A child is frolicking in the water with her father while I stand by feeling dejected and pathetic. And also hot. Still very hot.

“Is there a place for adults to swim?” I ask the lifeguard. “You can swim off the rocks, if you’re adventurous,” he says. I take one look at the thick carpet of lily pads and decide that I’m not adventurous.

Thankfully, Beacon has other things to offer: a tiny vintage shop with amazing finds, an eh flea market that is at least an interesting diversion, and a bagel shop where a dog knows just how close to the door it can sit before it is rewarded with a doggie bagel with peanut butter.

Beacon Vintage shop

Dog at bagel shop

I head over to Saugerties, another artsy town along the Hudson and linger in its sweet shops and cafes. Lucky Chocolates delivers what I need–a chocolate Buddha filled with caramel and Himalayan sea salt. What other chocolaterie crafts edible French bulldogs? The real question though, is how could you eat something so precious?

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Miss Lucy's

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I love (Tivoli) NY

Movie scouts, listen up. You should film something in Tivoli. It’s quite possibly the sweetest little town in New York. I walk past the book shop, the vegetarian cafe, the colorful Mexican restaurant, the corner laundromat and half-wonder if real people live here. Its small, four-way intersection has stop signs, no lights, and is the hub of the town–the type of place where your waiter yells out to the guy walking by, “You got a haircut!” then continues taking your order.

The library, located in a renovated fire station, is open on Friday nights for neighborhood kids to gather and make stuff. Couples bike through town on old-fashioned bikes and precocious kids order their steak quesadillas medium-rare. I realize later that Bard is down the street. The waiter at Santa Fe tells me that yes, real people live here, some families, some professors, some students who attend Bard and some who never leave. The restaurant has the requisite twinkly lights. The porches are reminiscent of New Orleans or Savannah. The street signs are funky. Gardens are in bloom. When I visit the restaurant later in the week, the waiter comes over to say hello, like we’re old friends. I really like it here.

Santa Fe restaurant

Tivoli library

Children's room at Tivoli library

Tivoli library entrance

The Lost Sock

Painting of Tivoli four corners

Murray's

Horseshoe and plaque on Black Swan bar

Country mouse

My friends give me a hard time because I don’t have curtains on my windows. They’re just . . . too much. Yes, I suppose someone walking by could see me half-naked, but the chances are slim because I live across from a cemetery. I’m cool with ghosts checking me out. So when I arrive at my vacation rental and see a wall of windows, I am in heaven (ironically, where all the ghosts are). It’s like staying in the Philip Johnson Glass House. The only difference is that my house is not in the middle of the country so when it’s lights out on vacation, it’s the darkest darkness I’ve ever seen. Fireflies are welcome little flashlights.

As you might imagine, it’s also very quiet, aside from moths batting themselves against the windows and really, really big beetles that hurl themselves at the door so fiercely it sounds like someone is knocking. Which is a scary thought in the middle of the night. In the middle of nowhere.  Insect static aside, the quiet and stillness are welcome in a world filled with noise. And serendipity being what it is, I happen upon a fantastic podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett and the first episode I hear is an interview with Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist trying to preserve the few remaining quiet places in the world. The man really listens. Also, is that not the coolest job? Anyway, he doesn’t define quiet as the absence of all noise, but the absence of man-made or non-natural noise. Even in the quiet woods there are leaves rustling and water dripping and birds singing. I hear it all this week.

Red Hook windows

House at night

The same view at night. And this is with an exterior light on.

Dark dirt road

 

The daylight trickles in, dampened by thick tree cover that keeps the house cool in the midst of a heat wave. Maple roams the house sniffing everything, while I appreciate the well-appointed house and its mid-century modern charm. I pretend that I live there, enjoying the Bose system and walk-in shower, and devour weeks of New York magazine. I’m stealing a lot of their ideas–an old hospital cart that holds toiletries, taxidermied animals that are not as creepy as they sound, and this fantastic suitcase idea:

Suitcase of books

I have a suitcase, books and magazines too. This will happen pronto.

Maple on washer

Maple finds it is coolest on the washer

Rural life

Why didn’t anyone tell me about the Hudson River Valley? What a beautiful, well-kept secret. Now that I’ve brought it to your attention, visitors by the millions will flock there–aside from Manhattanites who do seem to know about it, buying up old homes in towns along the river and renovating them into stylish weekend retreats. I rented a house in Red Hook for my birthday week, packed up the cat (no, into the crate) and headed west. A mere three hours later, we turned onto a dirt road with no street sign, signaled by a row of mailboxes on the main road, and bumped a slow mile to the end and where the house stood nestled in the deep woods. A deer welcomed us into the yard, then bounded away down to the creek flowing under an old trestle bridge. The place promised solitude and darkness and delivered both. The instructions said to bring a flashlight if arriving after dark; had I arrived in the dark, I probably wouldn’t have made it halfway down the road before turning around, terrified.

I took a leisurely drive (while it was still daylight, mind you) around the area dotted by farmland and thick with wildlife. Painted homemade signs announced farm stands or baby goats every few miles. Fresh farm breakfasts and pies abounded. Well, when in Rome.

Greig Farm

Gigi Market

Farm chickens

Deer in the backyard

Swans at rest

Because it’s spring and I work a block from the Boston Public Garden, I head over for a mini-retreat after lunch some days. When the swan boats are launched and the real swans return, it’s officially spring. No matter that scarves and gloves are still needed some days, it’s spring. Overnight it will be summer and kids on their last field trip before school ends will wonder why the swan boats aren’t air-conditioned.

Boston swan boats scene

swan boats

Ugly gift contest

Some families have sweet, wholesome traditions of hanging their stockings by the fireplace while little ones run amok in footie pajamas; others leave cookies for Santa on a special plate while trimming the tree and singing Deck the Halls; in my family we have a new ritual: the annual ugly gift contest. This is the second year we’ve scoured yard sales and thrift stores to vie for the prize: an ugly bargain.

The tradition got off to a rocky start last year when my entry was confiscated by officials at Logan Airport for being too ugly. OK, not really, but you can read the story here. This year, I skipped the whole flying thing and drove to Virginia for Christmas. I wasn’t taking any chances. With my ugly presented nestled safely in my luggage in the backseat, the TSA couldn’t touch me.

Crowning the winner would be tricky as everyone in the family offered a contender. How would we determine, impartially, who won? We tossed around the idea of a secret ballot, but when the nominees were unveiled all at once on the table, one thing became clear: no vote was necessary. We had a clear winner.

My entry: evil-eyed moon in gross mustard color with flexible joints

My entry: evil-eyed moon with flexible joints in gross mustard color. Third place.

Mom's entry: an undeniably ugly figurine / statue thing with sea life in relief, appropriately rendered in the letter "U" for ugly.

Mom’s entry: an undeniably ugly figurine / statue thing with dolphins in sculptural relief, appropriately rendered in the letter “U” for ugly. Runner-up.

My sister and brother-in-law's entry: a flamingo orb with a neon flashing and glowing ball set in an urchin-like vessel.

My sister and brother-in-law’s entry: a flamingo orb with a neon flashing and glowing ball set in an urchin-like vessel. Winner.

Yeah, the last one. While the orb (?) was the original gift—ugly enough on its own—my brother-in-law stumbled on a starfish . . . receptacle (?) that housed the flamingo egg (?) nicely. We still don’t know what to make of it. My mom tried to give an award to the winning couple from a bag of seemingly regifted items; the winners declined more crap.

In many ways I was the loser: not only did my moon come in last, it also garnered a few likes from the crowd, which was dispiriting. Regardless, I’m still calling it a victory, because when I packed up the car to come home, not one piece of that junk was in my trunk.

Mt. Washington, I will not climb you

The forecast spelled rain on a recent yoga and hiking retreat to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, so our group opted for an easier hike to Arethusa Falls: a short hike with a big payoff. Except the way I remembered the hike—taken more than 15 years ago with my then-boyfriend—was that it was grueling; steep uphills and narrow ledges that we pictured ourselves slipping off of into the ravine. I have the distinct memory of repeating “Are we there yet?” like a petulant 5-year-old and asking every hiker coming down the mountain how much farther till the end. I was 22 and had never exercised a day in my life.

But while I wasn’t looking forward to this “easier” hike, I was curious to see how it compared to the hike of my younger-self. My friend offered the right mix of encouragement (“Come on, let’s go!”), while reminding me I could stay in the lodge with a book (“The fireplace is calling…”). I opted to give it a go, and in addition to it being the perfect hiking weather (no rain, no jacket) it also turned out to be the perfect hike: barely an hour and not at all painful with a spectacular view. “We’re already there?” we said at the top. There’s something to be said for being fit and 40. But then maybe it was the snacks.

We’d been staying at the rustic and comfortable AMC Highland Center Lodge, so at the end of the weekend, we treated ourselves to a leisurely day exploring the majestic Mount Washington Hotel peeking into rooms, gazing at the mountain range, and making ourselves comfortable on the veranda. In other words, pretending we were guests at the expansive resort that’s housed presidents and world leaders, who, by our count, probably each had their own fireplace. A bit of a different feel than the lodge where rugged outdoorsy types traipse in, shrugging off giant backpacks and kicking of their muddy boots. In addition to myriad cafes and restaurants (and an old speakeasy in the basement called The Cave), the resort offers an exhausting array of activities: horseback riding, golf, biking and walking trails, indoor and outdoor pools, skiing, fly fishing, and rock climbing, but the clear appeal is its enormous wraparound porch that offers stunning views from every angle. Oh, look: another snow-capped mountain to admire amidst the peak foliage. Exhausting. I better just sit here on this wicker couch and rest.

Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire/USA in...

Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire/USA in 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it me or do the woods at night feel like we’re in The Blair Witch Project?

My friend and I are on a yoga / hiking retreat in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, eager to start the weekend off with a night hike. We’re staying at an AMC lodge where the guides usually lead you on walks around the lake, up mountains, and hut-to-hut in pure daylight, with the occasional night stroll thrown in. This year, no night hike is scheduled, but that doesn’t stop my friend and me. The youngster at the front desk tells us we can rent headlamps, so we loop around Saco Lake to get the lay of the land in the light. “What was that?” we ask, looking at each other and watching leaves fall through the trees to the ground; they have never sounded so loud. After a hearty dinner and research on bear apps (you can laugh, but we saw a bear here last year), we return to the front desk for the all-important night lights.

“I’m so sorry, but we don’t rent headlamps,” says the new guy on duty who has a charming accent we peg as French, that turns out to be Israeli. I guess it’s the kind of thing they like you do with guides when you’re in the middle of dense forest rife with bears, fox, and moose, the dark coming on and temperatures falling.

We look at each other and decide to give it a go anyway. We are brave. We are fearless.

“The moose are rutting, so give them a wide berth if you see any,” he says.

My hope is that we do not have to give any moose a wide berth. My friend is hoping that clapping will ward off any bears. We are not so brave. Not so fearless.

We walk outside and just a few feet from the lodge and its lights we’re stunned by the stars. I suddenly need to go to Montana to see the night sky in pure darkness after the campfire is out, with a horse snuffling nearby.

We walk through the field trail, realize we’re veering off into the tall grass, and feel our way back to the path and the road. It takes us an embarrassing amount of time to cross the road to get to the lake because only an occasional headlight zooms by to illuminate the way. We fumble toward the trailhead and stumble down the uneven gravel path and look into the trail, seeing absolutely nothing. Just darkness. The blackest black you’ve ever seen. We take a picture, providing a moment of illumination. We try to download a flashlight app, because this is the new nexus of nature and technology, but someone forgets her password to the iTunes store.

We pause a beat too long, think Blair Witch Project, and turn back immediately. Only we cannot run back because it’s too dark and too dangerous, and instead, we crawl-run our way back across the road to the warm, well-lit beacon of the lodge where there are comfortable, knowable places, like fireplaces and beds. Reading may not be adventurous, but it sure is a hell of a lot more inviting than the abyss. And there are no bears under the bed. Or moose. I checked.

Cover of "The Blair Witch Project"

Pathetic dreams

“I had this prophetic dream,” I tell my friend, going on to describe it. I’m driving, tired, and searching for a place I don’t know if I can reach. I wake up still searching.

“That’s not pathetic,” she says.

“I know!” I say. Who has pathetic dreams? That’s an oxymoron. “Prophetic,” I say. “Prophetic.”

In the dream, I’m looking for Weston, VA, but it’s late and I’m not sure if I can find it. When I get closer, I ask people, but no one knows where it is. I look up the town when I wake up, just in case my destiny is there marked by a star on the map. Of course, there’s no Weston, VA. There is, however, a Reston, VA, and I wonder what it is Reston has to teach me.

Olympics miscellany

+ The more I think about, the more I realize I’m not ready to win a gold medal. Not because I have no sport or a lifetime of training, but because I wouldn’t want the pictures of me in my defining moment on the podium with a track suit and wet hair.

+ Wouldn’t it be refreshing if athletes spoke their mind before their event, so that instead of the pat, “I just have to go out there, stay relaxed, and do my best” it was more like “I have to kick some serious ass and take what belongs to me.” Instead of the usual post-race response from a silver medalist who says, “I just didn’t get it done and I’d like to congratulate my opponent,” I’d rather hear “I am soooo pissed and cannot believe that chick won.”

+ There’s no crying in baseball, but there’s a heck of a lot of crying in gymnastics, swimming, diving and—I’m guessing, though I haven’t watched it—table tennis.

+ When do the boring sports start? These high-profile events are costing me sleep.

Odd lots

+ At a midweek lunch, my co-workers and I debate Iggy’s vs. Clear Flour bread while sitting in a tiny park in Bay Village taking an extraordinary amount of time to eat egg sandwiches and smell the roses. Is this phlox? Are these mosaic benches from Marshalls?

+ At Otto’s for a slice, I can’t stop laughing when a child dissolves in tears when his slice comes with no cheese, as if his bike were stolen by a thug. I’d cry too, kid. Everything should have cheese, especially pizza.

+ For three days I wear my rain boots, anticipating a flood. Gorgeous days, of course. Today will be the pick of the weekend those same meteorologists said, so I pack my beach bag in foolish anticipation and wake up to what feels like the London soup. Instead, I plan to clean the basement, which does not promise the same fulfillment.

The desecration of a library

I’m all about the ports lately. Last week was Westport, CT for the birthday. This week was Freeport, ME to see Martin Sexton at LL Bean’s Discovery Park, a free outdoor concert series that would make me like the Bean, if I were on Facebook. Anyway, the “sex” in Martin’s name is no mistake; he’s one sexy folk singer. Just look at that swoop of hair and the way he sings, eyes closed in ecstasy. Lullaby, please.

Other than sexy Sexton and the campus that is LL Bean, complete with boot mobile, there’s not a lot to Freeport. A handful of outlets would disappointment me, if I were a tourist. But strolling down Main Street, my friend Kim and I, not tourists, just naive New Englanders, encountered this sweet brick library. She snapped a picture while I pointed out its quaintness—red and solid and stout amid the trees. A classic.

The chiseled bare-chested man peering at us from just inside the door did seem an incongruous entry to the little library, but who am I to judge Down Easters? Perhaps the image helps uh, circulation.

An art exhibit, I thought, puzzled. Until my friend pointed out the sign, in alarm, confirming the desecration of a most sacred space. Freeport, if it takes me 20 years, I will strike out your entry in all guide books from Fodor’s to Frommer’s.

Westport, thunder be damned

Lest you think I’ve needed a week to recover from the big 4-0, I was actually just enjoying summer in the jubilant manner in which summer should be enjoyed: swimming, daytripping, reading (because sometimes turning a page is all you can manage in the heat), and taking days off to do absolutely nothing, which is hard because summer is about activity and the outdoors and adventure. Winter lacks this cache so utterly it shouldn’t even be a season.

But a quick wrap up on the birthday outing to Westport. First, unless one is a multimillionaire, one may only visit Connecticut, so Opal (the Toyota) and I, set out amidst warnings of severe thunderstorms with the potential for torrential rain and hail (birthday, on!). We cruised by grand stone homes and renovated farmhouses overlooking Long Island Sound, harbors dotted with sailboats and yachts, and everywhere: ladies who lunch.

First stop: Goodwill. I’d heard magical things about this new outpost (fancy wood floors, birthday month discount) and it did not disappoint. I pounced immediately on olive-green Oxford heels while pondering why someone would buy them, wear them once (from my estimation), and then ditch them. But who cares. They were mine for $12. Maple says they match her eyes. I also scored a frilly red top and a J. Crew cardigan with glass buttons I’ve been searching for on eBay (found!). And the cutest vintage French poster that has already claimed a wall. All for 20-something buckaroos.

 

Lunch at Tarry Lodge needs minimal description to get across the majesty of cheese: lightly fried squash blossoms with goat cheese and a 4-cheese pizza that melted and crisped in less than five minutes and was consumed in less.

When the sky opened up, I was at Terrain, a heavenly nursery—the Anthropologie of plants. Lilac bushes, feathery fronds, and sunny annuals beckoned, rinsed by the rain, all of us cooled. I bought a bushy birthday plant studded with purple flowers and resisted the rustic planters, colorful metal chairs, strawberry vines—all of it.

I dipped in and out of other shops before grabbing dinner, like a tween, at Shake Shack (what’s a birthday without ice cream?) and headed home, windows rolled down on a warm summer night, lightning flashing in the distance like birthday fireworks.

 

Tips for shopping Brimfield: a primer

How to tackle Brimfield

Only at Brimfield can you find taxidermied animals, buckets of toy soldiers, Smurfs, vintage shift dresses, anchors, and rainbow parasols. For the uninitiated, we’re talking about the Brimfield Antique Show. It’s Day Two of the show that runs July 10-15 this year, attracting collectors and designers (excuse me, Martha, mine!) from all over the country, so take advantage of this sublime summer and head out to Western MA for the day. Can’t make it? The show comes around again in September.

I hit the show yesterday on opening day after scanning the tips of Brimfield organizers and scouring blogs for the inside scoop. But the suggestions read a bit like those over-the-top-cautious hiking tips to bring 17 layers, enough water to hydrate a camel, and a tent and sleeping bag in case you get stranded. Here, I offer my own tips that you may find handy.

When to go

The show is held in May, July, and September each year, so pick your favorite season. In May you have the possibility of rain, and in July, the hot sun; but September sounds just right. This week promises to be sunny and hot, as evidenced by my flagging energy at Hour Two. The show runs rain or shine, and while the elements won’t deter diehard collectors, rain may dampen (ahem) your experience. You can buy a poncho, look ridiculous, and suck it up, or you could just go another day.

Strategy comes into play when planning the time of day to visit, too. Go in the morning and you’ll find yourself on the road at 3 a.m. to compete with dealers when the gates open; but you do have the best chance of seeing the goods that get snapped up first. Go at midday and it’s a bit quieter, but the height of the day could mean you’re contending with the heat. Go in the evening and you could be one happy camper; while you miss some initial bargains, you can shop at twilight and the dealers may be ready to deal. Imagine what you could score on the last evening on the last day of the show.

Parking

Pay $5 and park in the middle of the mile-long stretch. Five bucks is reasonable (you could probably pay less but have to hoof it even farther or pay more for no reason that I can deduce) and you’ll be able to walk back to the car with your purchases. Or to take a nap.

For your trophy room?

Water

Everyone recommends you bring water. And yes, it gets HOT and you get tired and no one wants to get dehydrated in a dry field mobbed with people, but you know what? Water is heavy. A buck or two will get you cold water on the spot.

Food

Experts advise packing snacks (again with the carrying) for healthier choices and to sustain you. But where there is fair food (hot dogs, steak sandwiches, and fried dough!) there is happiness. Splurge on fries. You’re gonna splurge on that stunning chandelier anyway, so what’s another $10? I found a nice variety in the food corral, actually: Greek salads, Ben & Jerry’s, mac n’ cheese and some killer apple cider doughnuts. Life is short.

What to wear

This is no time to debut the gingham espadrilles. Wear comfy shoes that you can walk all day in and don’t mind getting dirty. The fields are dry and dusty or wet and muddy. Wear light layers and check the weather. In July, dress like you’re going to the beach. May and September could go either way: beachwear or a scarf and hat. It’s New England.

Sunscreen

Wear sunscreen. If you need inspiration, read this graduation speech from 1997.

Know your prices

A little legwork in advance could put you in a strong negotiating position. But all the research in the world will not stop you from shelling out an exorbitant sum when you spot the rare, speckled ostrich feather you need to complete your collection. Still, dealers expect haggling; just do it in a respectful manner. Try, “What’s the best you could do on this old ostrich feather?” It’s like negotiating a salary; let them name the price first because it might be less than you expected.

And bring cash—more than you think you need. Then go back to the ATM and get more.

I hoped to pick up some crocks for my patio garden, after scoring this white one at a yard sale for less than $10. But my failure to research meant I had a good laugh when I realized some vintage vessels cost upwards of $80. Geraniums just didn’t seem worthy.

Grab it

You snooze, you lose. If you circle around feigning disinterest, someone will grab the item you covet before you can finish hemming and hawing. But then, you shouldn’t exclaim, “OMG, it’s a 1970s Topo Gigio doll in mint condition!” either, because you lose all bargaining power, not to mention your self-respect.

If you see something you decide to come back to, good luck—not only because it might be gone (likely), but because the place is a rabbit warren of labyrinthine paths designed to disorient you. I like to think my navigation skills rival that of a GPS, but after a while, all the booths and dealers and fields start to look alike.

A picturesque scene today, but a dizzying maze of booths tomorrow

Transporting the goods

Show regulars suggest bringing a cart. I suppose if you’re a serious collector or have an unlimited budget, by all means, bring a cart at the risk of looking like an 82-year-old hitting the grocery store. But be aware you’ll have to park your cart outside most stalls; plus, they’re unwieldy and prone to running over errant feet. If you’re just hoping to pick up a trinket or two (and not a stone urn), ditch the cart and bring a backpack. Also, there are entrepreneurial porters who will sweat for you as they wheel your bargains to your car.

Mason jars breed like rabbits at Brimfield

Bathrooms

Bring a clothespin. When nature calls, your only option is a portable restroom facility, which we all know is a much fancier phrase for the stifling little shack that shields you while you pee in a hole in the ground. Just know that the best part of leaving Brimfield is not riding home with a carload full of treasures, but the promise of a clean bathroom.

Pets

Pets are not banned from the show, but they’re not exactly encouraged. It can be a long hot day for a beagle, and one innocent wag of the tail could mean you end up owning a broken (fill in the blank with the priciest item you can think of). But if you dog is cute (and it is, obviously), put that fuzzy face to work to get yourself a bargain.

Measurements

Bring a tape measure (not an impractical ruler like yours truly) so you’ll know for sure that the red Formica table will not possibly fit in your car—or your kitchen. Take a moment to collect yourself. I know how you feel. I left these red lockers behind. Sigh.

You shiny, lovely things

Go with your gut

The most important tip: if you love it, buy it. It’s as simple as that. Don’t worry about whether it will “go” with your decor. It’s your decor; make it go! If an object moves you or raises your blood pressure in pure joy, buy it and love it unconditionally. Until you decide to sell it at a yard sale.

Sitting on the Big Apple

New York, you make me like apples.

I love hitting the city for the simple pleasures of eating and walking—an everyday occurrence to New Yorkers but the stuff of travel to me. I could make a vacation of just looking.

You know what’s underrated in NYC though (and yet another gerund in this gerund-filled post)? Sitting. Sitting is immensely enjoyable after walking up 72,000 subway steps and switching from the C to the E to the 3 to the Z (did you know there was a Z?) and then getting on an express train by mistake and doubling back. Some savvy person should charge people to sit; I would have paid serious money for an extra wooden bench in the subway or for the privilege of stretching out on someone’s stoop.

Enjoy this slideshow (taken while walking and sitting—not simultaneously, silly) of things that interested me but will probably not interest you.

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Grilled pizza

If you refuse to get on a plane, train or boat to try the pizza at Al Forno in Providence, I pity you. In light of your resistance, you can try to recreate it at home. The key, besides a little wheat flour and cornmeal in the dough, is grilling—yes, grilling—your pizza. Don’t smirk. It’s genius. New England’s mild winter had me grilling sans scarf. But trust me; once you’ve tried this ultra-thin crust pizza, you would grill in mittens. Tip: be sure to stretch the dough before donning mittens.

Shape is not important as you can see from my South American version.

Be judicious with the tomatoes and trust the chefs’ choices in cheeses. I cannot recommend Johanne Killeen and George Germon’s cookbook Cucina Simpatica enough for all its Italian goodness. In fact, I would require all Americans to buy it, if I could. But if you refuse to go to Al Forno or buy the cookbook (dead to me), the grilled pizza recipe is also here on the Food Network’s site. Serve the pie like they do in the restaurant, with charred grill marks and raw scallion snippets—and don’t plan on sharing.

An anglophile’s nostalgia

Today on the train, I am transported to the swampy fens of England and the dry, windswept moors of Yorkshire—away from the grim wetlands of Revere, the working Chelsea River, the city, and people. Spartan places a world away that geography has trouble mapping. Something in the rain, the sky silvering at the edge of the horizon, says more England than New England.

The air is heavy and British, full with the promise of fog.

A van crossing the bridge to Saugus becomes a lorry carrying cream from Devon. A white heron that alights in the marsh calls in a British accent. The tracks that run to the rail yard in Boston become tracks that extend to the outermost tip of Cornwall where they head straight off the cliff into the ocean.