A Plesant Day in B’ville

I haven’t written much about the town in which I live. I suppose that’s not fair. We’ve lived here since 2015, and while I’ve found something to love about everyplace I’ve lived from New York City, NY to Potsdam, NY, there’s something about Baldwinsville.

Now let me quickly clear up the slogan on our sign. Lock Into an Experience is what happens when you let Aunt Bev pick your town’s catch phrase. While you may be tempted to believe it may be a town full of people hell-bent to locking you up, (not everybody wants to), it’s actually a reference to Lock 24 on the Erie Canal which is still in operation because the portion of the canal that passed through B’ville (as we locals call it – I’d propose a new slogan: Baldwinsville, One Syllable More Than We Care to Deal With) it was actually part of the Seneca River. Rivers, by and large, endure. Canals can be filled in, turned into a street lamely dubbed Erie Boulevard, a very pale version of the canal that revolutionized travel and commerce when it opened in October of 1825. So that’s all it means. Nothing naughty.

There were a couple of errands I needed to run today. I had to to go to the drug store and the post office. Relatively easy when compared to the days when my wife and I really head out for errands and don’t return home for five or six hours. In fact my goal was to get everything done and get back home in time to ride with my daughter to take her kitten Elliot to the vet for his second round of vaccinations.

I did the drug store first. I go to Rite Aid, a chain that was recently purchased by Walgreens. Many of them have actually been rebranded under the parent company’s name. This one wasn’t changed because there was already a Walgreens about a block away. I often wonder if they pretend to hate each other or play pranks, escalating in seriousness until Chet Walgreen himself [Ed. Note: No such person] has to sit everybody down and remind them they all work for the same company regardless of the sign over the door!

The lovely woman who cashed me out would never play pranks on anyone, I’m sure. We had a few laughs together as she was ringing my items. and her sense of humor was very similar to my own, so now that I’m thinking about it she most definitely could be a prankster. I could even see her doing “flaming bag of dog doo,” a perennial favorite when award season rolls around, and Prank of the Year voting picks up.

From there I was off to the post office. The good ol’ USPS. Who would have ever believed something as iconic as the Postal Service would become such a controversial hot topic of late, especially considering the folks there are just trying to do their jobs, but I don’t want to get into any of that except to say I completely support the USPS.

What I do want to talk about is the conversation I had with the girl who helped me.

I was mailing a box to Iowa. As I handed it over for weighing I was asked if it contained anything that violated the laws of the United States of America, (in so many words – I think it had more to do with hazardous materials than anything.)

“No,” I said. “Worse! It is a Detroit Tigers baseball cap.”

I was wearing the same mask that you see in the picture above, (in fact I took the pic just before I took it off and left the Post Office’s parking lot), so she could see plainly that I, unlike the person whose name was on the shipping label, was a sensible baseball fan.

“Really!” she said. “I’m a little surprised.”

I nodded.

“No more than me,” I said. “These are the sort of sacrifices you make when your best friend grew up in Michigan, and was just not given the proper information.”

“But it’s going to Iowa?” she asked.

“Yeah. Exactly. No help there. The closest baseball to him is in Cedar Rapids, about 20 miles away, where the Minnesota Twins have a High-A affiliate , and when I visited in 2018, back when there was still such a thing as minor league baseball, I went and saw a game. The most compelling aspect, other than a great night of beer and baseball with my friends, was the third baseman who looked like he’d earned the starting spot by eating all the other guys who tried out.”

“Oh dear,” she said.

I nodded, and it was only because I had the Yankees mask on that she didn’t see the sadness on my face.

But then she give me a receipt and I was on my way, happy once more.

I may not have mentioned it but it was a lovely day, the last one of August, with the sun managing to avoid the clouds and although the village was fairly busy in terms of road traffic, there wasn’t much going on in the way of foot traffic. So both stops went quickly. Everyone was in a good mood, (I was nervous about the frame of mind of the folks at the Post Office, but they were just wonderful.

It takes me about twelve minutes to drive from downtown B’ville [Ed. Note: In the history of the world no one has ever claimed that Baldwinsville had a downtown. With just under 8000 inhabitants there is just barely a town, let alone a downtown] to our apartment in the Radisson Community, which gives us a B’ville address, but it technically outside of the village limits and my Google Mini refuses to admit it’s in Baldwinsville, insisting that we are in Lysander, which it mispronounces to add insult to injury. This is technically true. The village of Baldwinsville is in the Town of Lysander, but there’s more town than village. It’s complicated but not unique by any means.

Part of my drive takes me near the Budweiser plant which made a cameo appearance in one of the company’s recent Superbowl ads. (“Stole the show, highlight of the entire boring night.” – S.J. Varengo, if they had reviews on Amazon for beer commercials). I don’t know if you’ve ever driven by a big brewery but there is a distinctive aroma on most days. It could be the malting, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering, or packaging that produces the warm grain scent that permeates the entire area, but I’ve always loved it. Far more than I love Budwiser beer itself. The plant is right across the street of the place I buy Miles’s dog food, so I smell it often as I’m bringing home tons of food to my just shy of a hundo houndo. But this prodigious amount of food doesn’t bother me too badly, considering I get to smell the barley and he sometimes looks at me like this:

Just beyond where you first pick up the scent is a four-way stop intersection. Historically this is not my favorite place in the world. I’ve been driving a long time now, and learning the rules of four-way stops was one of the first things I was taught in driver’s ed. So I get a little aggravated sometimes when people don’t wait their turn, especially the ones who are belligerent about it.

But today when I arrived there was only me. There was nothing but semi-blue skies and a carefree right turn.

As I got closer to home I saw the bike lady. I don’t know her real name and she doesn’t seem inclined toward conversation. In the years we’ve lived here she’s become a familiar sight. She never rides her bike but walks alongside it. There are shopping bags hanging off of every available inch of the bike. I’ve never seen her do anything but walk, although I’ve always assumed the setup had something to do with collecting returnable bottles. She never looks up, never looks around. She just pushes the bag-laden bike.

I passed her and turned onto my street, into our parking lot, and came inside.

My daughter was due to arrive momentarily and I didn’t have long to rest before we were off again. But it was enough time for me to reflect that there are some days when everything just feels okay, and this was shaping up to be one of them. Things that often annoyed me didn’t materialize today. Even the vague sadness I always feel when I see the bike lady wasn’t there.

And the trip to the vet did nothing to change that happy vibe. Because of the virus they do everything curbside, so we pulled in, called the office, and a young woman came out and took Elliot inside, then brought him back out, we paid her, and that was that. Painless. Well, for me and Mariah, anyway. Elliot got two shots.

They stayed for a visit afterward, but Elliot was feeling a little tired, as you can see in this picture of him recouping from the twin needles.

Even this represented a good outcome, as it was the most relaxed Elliot has ever been during his visits. He finds Miles’s size a little intimidating despite the fact he is the most gentle dog I’ve ever had the good fortune to belong to. They got to within about one calm foot of each other today. Miles, although he desperately wants to be friends with the cat, has learned to not approach too closely, (“Dad, that little gray thing has a lot of pokey parts!”), and to walk away after a few seconds.

The last time they were together I saw no future in their friendship.

Today, the combination of the lovely day, the ease with which everything went, the warm scent of barley, and all the rest, along with the little bit of progress the fur kids made, I am a lot more bullish on their eventual accord.

And so it was a good day to live in B’ville, and as I sit here tonight, hoping the Yankees have a rally in their bones, keeping in mind that we are still in the grip of a pandemic and there are still people dying every day, it seemed to me it is good to live anywhere, as long as you’re alive.

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