Weekend Edition: One step at a time

James Bornemeier
James Bornemeier

After my descent to the basement laundry room to unload the dryer, I encountered an older woman I had seen many times in the elevator line we share in our Manhattan co-op.

Usually she has a dog on a leash going out for a walk. Over the years I had noticed that she had several dogs, all utterly unremarkable mutts. They had one thing in common: Sniffing my pant leg once then turning away from me with a pained look. I found out some years ago that they weren’t her dogs.

She was a dog-walker of a handful of pets in the building and had turned to the activity as therapy after the death of her husband. It has been a successful gambit for she is unfailingly friendly and happy. The dogs, however, look borderline suicidal.

She was carefully folding her underwear as I showed up. Since I do 99.9 percent of the laundry both in the city and on the Island, I’ve become a pretty good folder of clothes. But I never fold my wife’s undergarments.

I put them aside in a clump along with stray pairs of her colored socks. I take the clump and wrap it in a nearby folded T-shirt and put it in the hamper. I call this maneuver the burrito, after my favorite form of Mexican food. Thus ends today’s segment on laundry management.

We fell into small talk and somehow discovered that years ago, when her kids were small, she would take them to Mashomack, when what we call the Manor House served as an inn. I was unaware of this bit of Mashomack history.

The kids had the run of the house, as well as the surrounding acreage, because she said no one knew that the place existed. (Someone had tipped her off.)  She said back then the place was magical because it seemed it was their private forest. It certainly hasn’t lost any magic over the years.

We took a couple of recent trail walks, and the lot was so choked with cars that visitors were parking on 114.

We usually take the green and blue trails, more often the green because you traipse by the Manor House and get some nice water views. But there is nothing quite like the promontory at the mid-point of the blue.

A couple of weeks ago, on a splendid autumn day, the beach and water below appeared so perfect that they looked like movie special effects. And the view east? It was so clear between Orient Point and Montauk that, if you peered very intently and used a little imagination, you could just barely make out the coast of Spain.

It would be cavalier to let the assumption hover that we cruised blithely through the blue without fatigue.

Three-quarters of the way in we were very interested in the possibility of clicking our heels three times and winding up at the Visitors Center instantaneously. This did not happen. (But, dummies, we never clicked our heels!) To make matters worse, just before we were entering the wooded final leg, Phil, our housepainter, comes motoring by and passes us as though we were standing still.

Without fail, I misjudge — several times!— the “final” hill before the roof line of the Visitors Center emerges, signifying the trek is mercifully over.

We have walked Central Park so thoroughly that, though glorious, there are no real surprises lurking there. Last weekend we decided to head to Brooklyn in search of some new riverside parkland we read about. We didn’t plan the excursion very carefully and wound up nowhere near the water, although we saw a fragment of the Manhattan Bridge in the distance and headed that way.

We wound up in DUMBO (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass), an interesting mix of shops and cobblestones with the bridge traffic thundering overhead. If you know your New York City territory, you know that if the Manhattan Bridge is overhead, then the Brooklyn Bridge is right next door. Walking back over the bridge was suggested and I resisted. Much like the Mashomack walk, I was ready to get on the nearest subway and had no interest in prolonging the adventure. No dice.

Ten minutes later, I found myself trudging up the steps to the bridge’s pedestrian walkway. We’ve made this walk several times over the years, and I must confess that the view is spectacular. Lower Manhattan, the boiling East River, the quirky Frank Gehry building. Over to the left, in the harbor, you can see an arm hoisting a torch, then the whole statue.

The walkway is always packed to the gills with, it seems, 90 percent visitors from foreign lands. They tend to stop and congregate, which is no big deal except for the adjacent bike lane. If you needed or wanted to use the bikeway for, say, business commuting, I get that. But if you want a pleasant recreational bike ride, this is the last place you want to be.

But they come anyway and they are angry. They shout at the top of their lungs at errant pedestrians who dare intrude in their bikeway. And these guys are really hauling. It can get tense.

Enough to make you reflect on the deep silence that envelops the blue trail.