LAKE BOY TALES
(Home as a "Reset" Button)
I had lunch with a very old friend of mine at the Cedar House Lanes in Skaneateles yesterday. I really love the Cedar House. It’s one of the last bastions of the town I remember growing up in. The rest of it, with the exception of the lake, has changed and mutated much over the past 50 years.
You can still go to a place called Riddler’s. but there’s no Ed Riddler to inject a personality to the experience. You can go to the Skaneateles Bakery, but you can't saddle up to the lunch counter to get a cup of cop coffee and chain smoke cigarettes, pretending to be a Bohemian in Paris as you ditched school for the day.
You can get a glazed donut, but it won’t even come close to the glazed donuts that used to be produced there. When it changed ownership, they got rid of the ancient machinery and secret alchemy that produced the best glazed donut in the entire free world. Those donuts (and the half moon cookies) were art, not just food. Every time I would land home after an extended ramble around the world, I could always count on the Bakery to snap my brain to grid with sensory memory back to Square One, Ground Zero.
Those donuts were like a giant reset button, re-booting me to my original "settings". It’s just evolution, and that reminds me of my own mortality I guess. I’ve certainly sailed into middle age collecting curmudgeonly barnacles along with my ever graying hair.
Originally, My friend Holly and I were headed to Cam’s (now The Willow Glen) up on the tangled intersectioning corners of Jordan St., Seneca Turnpike and Jewett Road, but we were greeted with a hand lettered sign written on a paper placemat that said, ‘Closed Tuesday in March.’ I don’t know if it was every Tuesday, but according to the sign this particular Tuesday we were to be denied.
So off to the Cedar House and The Hilltop diner.
I don’t have any axe to grind against all the other potential lunch spots in town; they all serve their purposes, and they put out fine food, in a great atmosphere. I sometimes pop into the Sherwood for a drink, but frankly I’ve been defaulting to the Cedar House for all my night time libations in public lately. There’s a little too much jockeying for position in the Sherwood for my tastes, and Dusty’s mother-in-law always makes me feel like a long lost son as she tends to her duties behind the bowling alley bar. I used to wash dishes in the Sherwood as a kid, so I do have a deep rooted connection to the place. The Blue Water’s been around for awhile (Their Portabello Mushroom Sammich is particularly yummy), but again, it still has new car smell to me, and I feel like an alien when I walk in there sometimes.
Morris’s Grill is now gone, to be replaced at some un-determined time with a ‘Bistro’ when the foreclosure on the Seitz Building finally gets untangled. And when I visit Skaneateles, I crave that "reset". As I age, the options for experiencing that are becoming limited.
To walk into the Cedar House, and to be enveloped in its yellow orange shellacked walls with an old and trusted friend, is like crawling back into the womb. After getting your ass kicked by life, sometimes you need that. Instinctually, when I do, I gravitate towards that reset experience.
Tear it down and build it up again.
Here’s how I start the process: a hamburger at the Cedar House, shooting the breeze with my buddy, Holly.
It’s not just the place, but the people in it. Here are all the ex-pats of the old town, that somehow survived the gentrification process that started in full force around 1980 or so. They tore down the trailer park and put up a spa. Some of us moved, some of us dug in our heels, and some of us just got plain left behind.
But those people, the descendants of Yankee pioneers with ancient bloodlines, as I remember them, are all here; like members of an exclusive club of wizened war veterans.
It’s just progress.
The "Old Skaneateles" of my memory wasn’t all that great. I mean we did have confirmed pedophiles running around at St. Mary’s Church and at the local movie house. It was down right creepy at times.
Sometimes, change is good.
I’m just grateful that the Cedar House is still there for me when I need it, even if a gas station now sits where Fabin’s used to be. I don’t know about the rest of you, but right now I feel like doing some keggling, and I thank God that I still can in a memory that I call "Home."
Sometimes, I need a little help in reminding myself who I am, and where I came from.
Fabin's demolition photo by Jorge Battle
"a parking lot in paradise"
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