Thursday, April 05, 2012

I am not a generally superstitious person. Oh, I do have a few OCD qualities; some are rational (such as closing windows during thunderstorms); others are neurotic (such as checking to see if the door is locked even though it always is). But I don't put any stock in the "step on a crack break your mother's back" variety. If Bob knocks over a salt shaker, he has to dash it once over one of his shoulder (can't remember which), and if I knock it over - he practically jumps over the table to grab it so he can satisfy his superstition before I put the shaker right side up again (apparently once the shaker is upright it is too late? Not sure). During one of the many meals we shared with family between funeral services for my mother-in-law, our sister-in-law chuckled that Bob's brother has the same trait. It is something they learned from their mother. I'm not sure they believe in the superstition -- but it is still second nature.

However, I love ghost stories. (Not horror stories.) I like to read them, to hear them, to write them. I imagine I see faces on the trees during foggy, moonless nights. I have a friend who grew up in Castleton and shares my fascination. He has told me great stories about Castleton, and some of them have variants that happened in other places. Louis Jones, who was once the New York State historian, wrote a wonderful book called Spooks of the Valley that was a favorite when I was a kid. I didn't know it then, but after I moved here 25 years ago, I re-read it and was delighted to discover that it is set in Castleton. I think Washington Irving and his fantastic tales have had a lasting influence on the Hudson Valley and Catskills.

Years ago, we were driving through Brookview (a little town between Castleton and East Greenbush that no longer has its own post office). There is a handsome, large, old brick house that was once abandoned, but has been renovated for quite a long time now (and has been "flipped" more than once since its renovation). Both of us did a double take! Walking along, in the ditch near the road by the house was a man in some kind of historic uniform. The look on his face was other-worldly. We took to calling him "Civil War Man." It was like a rip in the fabric of time. A few years later, we saw an old tractor from the ~'20s in that same spot. Again, the man driving it was other-wordly; even his clothes were vintage. Is Civil War Man / Tractor Man the reason the house turns over so often, rather than the market or relocation?

The elevator shaft of the building I work in allegedly is haunted, and when I worked downtown, I heard there were several ghosts from different time periods  whom were routinely seen. (By others, I never saw anything.) I always joked at the telling, since I often was there until the wee hours, "if I see them I will put them to work!" I certainly could have used the help.

This is a very long lead-up to my story from today. I was walking back to my office after class, thinking about the crashed computer in the classroom, and about how well I am doing without the ankle brace (stopped wearing it except when walking the dogs). I always think about my ankle when I am climbing stairs, since it is a good gauge for how it feels. A man was walking down the opposite side. He was old-fashioned looking, the kind of guy who might have been in the Blazers singing college drinking songs.* Argyle sweater and penny loafer kind of dude. He also was snobby-seeming. He was complaining in an arrogant voice on a cell phone to someone that "there is no rugby, no polo, no cricket, no croquet...I kid you not."

And I kid you not. Granted he was talking on a cell phone, so unless he ripped the time-space continuum and managed to snag some modern technology along the way, that can't be it. But somehow he transported himself from an Ivy stereotype to UA -- and was sorely disappointed.

* A dear friend LOVED this album, which we own. (Our copy has the Blazers on it instead of the jacket, as the "More" one does above -- that's the reason I linked "More" rather than this one.) Listened to it last time we were in Samsonville, where we still can play vinyl. RIP, Frank -- coincidentally, today is very near to his birthday. (No, Argyle Man was most definitely not Frank.)

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