A different summer.
For the obvious reason, this has been a different summer for everyone.
It has affected this columnist as well, of course, which is my focus this week.
When I first met the lovely Jamie, she invited me to spend some time at the Drinkwater family cottage in Alexandria Bay, NY…the Heart of The Thousand Islands.
Well, it started as a short visit, but it became much more as we became a couple. Ultimately it became my place too.
We were married there and have celebrated every anniversary in Alex Bay.
Until this year.
When I first set foot on this gem, I was a bit taken aback. Why not? Being a city guy, I never spent time on the water. So, I took it in step-by-step, and paid close attention to life on the River.
What still amazes me, is the fact that folks who either live on the River, or spend a few summer months, are totally steeped in the rich history of the Islands. They know the names of the various islands like the back of their hands, and can relate who lives where, in an instant.
I hear the stories every year, many for a second or third time, and appreciate the passion of those who tell them. I also know it would take me about 100 years to learn the lore, or, if I’m lucky, to understand it all. But I’m getting there.
The River is a way of life.
But this year, there is no River time for us due to Covid restrictions and Border closing.
Under the tent at GICC
Our go-to golf, tennis and Saturday night dinner hangout is a no-go at this point, and likely to remain so. I’m talking about Grenadier Island Country Club (GICC) which is in Canada, and off limits to Americans.
This is where I hum the tune, “My Favorite Things”, from The Sound of Music.
Let me express some of our favorite things of life on the River.
Now, to get to Grenadier, and to really experience the unique attractions on the River, is to travel by boat.
That means you have to learn to drive one, which frankly, was a scary proposition for me, who only knew the East River and the Hudson River for a good part of my life.
Boats were foreign to me. Jamie, of course, grew up on them, and is a master at maneuvering them with ease.
I had help learning how to drive them and dock them from some of Jamie’s relatives and a great friend.
I can say that while I am decent at best doing both, I consider it a sense of pride that I learned at an advance age to actually drive my boat to play golf at Grenadier Country Club, dock the boat, play golf, have a post-round beer, and go back to our cottage and dock the boat there.
So we miss doing that.
My First Boat!
We miss playing our Monday morning round of golf, which has become a tradition.
We call ourselves, the Fearsome Foursome and have jackets to prove it.
Three girls, and yours truly. Jamie, Barb and Patty Bresnahan play our 9-holes, sit under the tent and have a sandwich and beer, or wine, and then head home.
If you’re snickering over the make-up of our group, play golf with Patty some time. Good luck. She coaches the sport, and can beat virtually anyone at the Club.
The Fearsome Foursome
Grenadier has been a fun spot for the various tournaments held there. But, alas, not this season.
I love the Can-Am battle between members from Canada and the USA.
Believe me, the competition is fierce, as well as the gamesmanship.
We wear blue, the Canadiens in their red.
The Saturday of Turkey Dinner is our favorite.
In the beginning, Jamie asked me to help spray turkey footprints leading from the dock to the dining room.
A great effect, except she asked the wrong person. Spraying footprints is not my strength. They didn’t look very good.
So I was fired. She was nice about it. Said something about going in another direction.
I was next assigned to serving the dark meat as the members and their guests passed by for the buffet.
That was more my style. It’s a job I’ve not relinquished.
We miss many things on our side of the channel.
Happy hour in the gazebo facing the River at sunset.
Gazebo at Sunset
Watching the boaters cruise by. The jet skiiers zip by. And the huge tankers roll majestically across, as the light from the sky diminishes, and the lights from boats and the islands grow more distinct.
Tanker in the channel
We miss the special events. In particular, the annual John Russell Tennis Tournament.
A day of competition, marked by visitors from outside the area. The matches which take most of the day.
The wonderful teamwork by so many people who live in the area, contributing their time, their refreshments, the water, the equipment, the tables and chairs, that make it one of the most memorable days of the summer.
John N. Russell Tennis Tournament
We miss Mel Busler, who has been an iconic figure in Watertown as a reliable, and solid sports reporter on the evening news.
We’ve appreciated Mel making the trip to Alexandria Bay to cover a story that gives our area exposure in the larger market.
With Mel Busler
We miss our relatives and our friends. I’ve mentioned Barb and Patty Bresnahan.
The head of the family, is Mike, who owns Admiral’s Inn, downtown.
We might enjoy six or seven meals a week at Admiral’s, but I might be underestimating that number.
We sit at the bar, order a cocktail and our favorites, the steamers for an appetizer. And go from there.
With the Bresnahan’s at Admiral’s Inn
When Mike, who is a treasure trove of stories which make up the glorious history of the town first makes eye contact with us, our cocktail is on the bar. In a matter of seconds. That’s a lot of pressure. But Mike Bresnahan always delivers.
We visit other dining spots too, but when we visit Admiral’s, it’s like walking into a clubhouse.
I could go on an on. But you get the idea.
We’re doing fine where we are. Actually having as good a summer as can be expected.
But it’s not the River.
And this week, our thoughts are with the things we miss.
Just a few of our favorite things.