Saturday, November 11, 2006


Several weeks ago I spent an interesting and enjoyable few days pooting around the Upper Hudson with a Toronto chum. Here, at the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga, she gets a better understanding of the lay of the land.

We followed the routes of ancestors, pored over old land records, visited museums and historic sites, stomped through old cemeteries and visited locks along the waterway connecting Lake Champlain and New York City. She taught me the value of "trying on" a locale to better understand one's ancestors; I taught her that ice cream cones are sold in Stewart's shops and can be found in nearly every village.

Here's to fun with a purpose, and here's to friendship!

Friday, November 10, 2006

"You Broke It, You Own It"

Barry Blitt's cartoon for this week's New Yorker magazine cover, used without permission.

Water, Water Everywhere...

Most in this country take water for granted: you turn the faucet, and out it flows. You use it for cooking, bathe in it, flush it, and drink it without any worries about its safety.

Where I live, water comes from the ground. There is an old stoned-up spring in my pasture that gushes an icy-cold, clear overflow even in the driest of summers; a 58’ drilled hole in the granite underpinnings of our hilly landscape has been supplying delicious, chemical-free water to my house for about thirty years.

Some time in July, our bodies became possessed by aliens. It took nearly six weeks to diagnose the “beaver fever” (giardia lambia) that gripped us, in part due to the fact that we had eaten some rare tuna on the night before getting sick. Ironically, the tuna was a red herring, not at all related to our malady, but for the first couple of weeks it was the prime suspect. We couldn’t look at food; our intestines roared and raged; we dragged ourselves around; we avoided social situations (giardia can make even the most swell person very bad company). We had our well water tested, and it flunked.

The summer of our intestinal discontent progressed into the autumn of my close acquaintance with the NYS Health Department, local and far away laboratories, and eventually what feels like a PhD in Water Quality Assurance.

I listened to the water treatment specialists, but the high tech methods of “purifying” water are so Rube Goldbergish as to be amusing, not to mention expensive. You can treat giardia with UV light – if your water meets a long list of criteria (turbidity, suspended solids, color, sulfide, metals content, hardness etc.) - and ours didn’t. No problem... you buy a large $1500 greensand filter, a $1000 softener, and then pass it through the $3200 UV light (a method that works as long as you don’t have a power outage, at which time the little giardia weasels infest your pipes and faucets...) Of course there is also the monitoring, hauling of salts to the softener, bulb and filter replacing etc., but here’s the catch: the UV light doesn’t KILL the giardia; it affects its DNA, so what you end up drinking after all of this treatment is mutant giardia. Sound yummy? The people promoting this method assure me it’s fine, but I remember when x-ray machines were installed in shoe stores so you could look at the bones of your feet for the fun of it. That was thought to be perfectly safe too. Okay, so add an $850 reverse osmosis 1 micron carbon block drinking water system with non-electric booster pump to keep pressure high enough. And oh yeah, you might need one of these for each drinking water faucet. Skol!

But here’s the real kicker: we don’t know if there is giardia in our well because you can’t test water for its presence. Tests have shown bacteria in our water, but that only confirms the possibility that giardia could also find its way in. We still don't believe we got it from our water because other people drank the water and didn't get sick.

So here you see a photograph of the well-driller and his rig boring a new, deeper, cased and grouted, up-to-State-standards well in my front yard. Will this solve the problem? Would anyone like to visit us next week and be the canary in the coal mine?

The rig arrived, the well-driller set it up, and drilling began. Rock dust filled the air, and within two hours the well was 60 feet deep. Soon it will be cased, grouted, and drilled another forty or more feet in search of a water source deep in the ground and - hopefully - clean and clear.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Pamily Wedding

Last Saturday, my daughter married. Her husband is a wonderful man who has been “Papa” to her four-year-old son, fixer of household things, confidante, occasional chauffeur, and all-around good guy – her “best friend” for many years. Everyone in the family is glad for them, for it is clear they love each other and will share happiness.

He is a widower somewhat older than she and has a grown daughter; otherwise, there are few relatives on his side of the family. The horde of her relations made the trip north from New York, Washington and Arizona - the usual jolly, hard-to-miss army.

The wedding was beautiful and personal. The best man, matron of honor and I each read poems written by other family members; her next-door neighbor sang beautifully as my next-door neighbor played the piano. The array of guests included many members of the local Bike Club (the couple met peddling) who feel a sense of surrogacy, the parents of one of my daughter’s patients, and many loyal and long-time friends and co-workers.

There was a simple but lovely reception held in the church, followed by a dinner for family and the wedding party, and on Sunday evening I hosted the final event of the weekend, a dinner for family at my house. As the bride and groom and their entourage were leaving, I hugged the groom’s grown daughter and warmly exclaimed, “Like it or not, you’re a fart of our pamily now.”

Yep. We’re now one big happy pamily, and each one of us is a special fart of it. And this fart needs some sleep!