The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Monday Monday July 30, 2013

I live a mere 5 miles from the cosmopolitan hub of downtown Saratoga Springs, New York. And from The Hillhouse to town, it’s all one downhill shot. Pretty easy: a right, a left, another left and a final right and you’re on Broadway at the Riggi’s place. Can’t miss it. It’s a Disney-esque mansion on the corner. It’ll be on your left hand side. Then you make your final turn (right – and due South) and now you’re on Broadway, ready to do the cruise. Ready to see and be seen…

Right now, at the end of July, we are in the midst of racing season. For some folks, this is a Very Big Deal. There is a lot of money floating thru ‘the system’ right now; one doesn’t have to look long or far to see evidence of it. The Mercedes-to-Honda ratio has risen dramatically almost overnight, and so too has the number of people casually walking up and down Broadway in search of their next shamefully over-priced dinner.

I’d had a full day of appointments and errands, and in that they required I wear ‘town’ clothes (the nitty gritty work will happen tomorrow and will require a much humbler wardrobe) I thought that I might as well take advantage of bein all prettied up and take a walk up and down the strip just to see what was a goin on…. Now I don’t really know too many folks in town these days – my life is a rather cloistered one out in the country – yet as it turned out, the few people I might have run into I actually did run into. Such a lovely surprise is life.

At the risk of sounding like an embittered local, this town has changed. Even though I can agree that it’s a much cleaner, healthier town than it was some thirty years ago, much of the soul of the town seems to have disappeared along with the grit. And while Saratoga still has the overall aesthetic feel of a late nineteenth century town, nonetheless I feel its true charm to be waning with each season; each year it seems the large town moves closer towards the status of small city as it loses some of its most iconic, irreplaceable treasures and enormous new structures edge their way in. The Aldelphi Hotel, the very last bastion of old-world elegance, was Saratoga’s last authentic tie to the culture that gave birth to this town almost two hundred years ago. But it’s gone now too. We can only breathe out and through the pain as we ready ourselves for the anonymizing renovations being done presently behind the blackened-out facade. The gold hand-lettered name on the lobby doors from years past remains, and it gives us hope that the Adelphi Hotel will be back again one day, just as it has been for the past century and a half. But those of us whose hearts have been broken before by far less hopeful signs, we know better. It’s really best to remember the grand Adelphi of yesteryear, to savor those memories and then relinquish that lovely vision into the ether of all fond remembrances…

The grand promenade. Not so grand these days, but an evening’s entertainment, no less.  Not a long walk: four blocks up, four blocks back. I say hello to some friends, watch the people and smooch the dogs. An extended and friendly chat with Jim and Gerry, two very kind gentlemen who belong to the resident motorcycling population, then it’s back to the shadows of the country, just in time to get the chickens secured for the night. A quick call in to mom and dad, a brief and enjoyable conversation with each, and I’m ready for a glass of wine and a quick post before I tuck into bed with a book. As Mondays go, this was a nice one.

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This is the 150th season of racing at the Saratoga flat track. I was born in 1963, and my mom tells me I attended the tracks’ centennial celebration. Me and MaryLou! (Whitney, that is.)

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Just a corner of me – but look! It’s our pal Cecil! At least ONE of Saratoga’s ‘historic’ treasures is still around!!

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The new building’s up – but he’s not playing favorites – he splits his time between the Cantina side and Lillian’s…

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Don’t we love Cecil? Elihu and I sure do; his CD is a permanent part or our car’s audio library

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And look! It’s my buddy, Seamus! I’ve known him since before he was born. His dad and I were jazz-loving college kids who piled into cars and made road trips to shows all over the East… This kid’s doing well in college (pre-med now I hear) and also plays pro-level pipes. Plus he looks damn good in that outfit. Oh the hearts he’s yet to break…

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I’ve seen some twenties in his case at times…

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Handsome, talented young man…

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These guys are having fun across the street. Even the cop (at right, leaning on the column) was digging it.

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Not a lot of coin yet, but there’s a lot of competition too.

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This is Saratoga’s new thing this year. The giant en pointe shoes. Strikes me as kinda silly. Or maybe it might be better to say pretentious; the New York City Ballet was here at SPAC for less than one whole week this year. In my youth they were here all summer long, and this was truly a ballet town. Now it’s just posing as one. IMHO.

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You can see some of the artists’ names…

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And here, of course, you can recognize Balanchine’s name. I remember watching him direct the dancers at open rehearsals. Many of my summers as a youth were spent as an NYCB groupie.

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The beloved Adelphi Hotel. Such an interior – beautiful trump l’oeil paintings on the walls, the coziest, most densely-green walled-in garden patio you could imagine in back. And each floor had its own collection of antiques and treasures. The floors creaked, the stairways leaned. And I smelled the distinct scent of hyacinths one night in the salon by the main balcony. But now its interior is being radically changed. Likely very little of its historic charm will remain. Progress, you say? Hmm. I have another, far different opinion. Could ya tell?

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These are the two final grand hotel fronts on Broadway (the Adelphi’s brown awning in foreground). The one in the background with the white pillars was once the Rip Van Dam Hotel – and as the grand, historic hotels of Saratoga went, this was the lowest one on the totem pole. Appartently is was downright small in comparision with the giants of old, but today it looks fairly regal with its two-story portico. The hotel finally closed a good decade or more ago and became office space. These days it has been restored to a higher station in the city scheme and enjoys its newest incarnation as a high-tag, top-tier restaurant.

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There’s always a cluster of bikes in front of the coffee house. Those are my new pals, Jim and Gerry standing guard.

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I had an enjoyable visit with two of the riders, Gerry and Jim. This lovely machine is Jim’s ‘third last bike’. ! Love it. My last bike was a long time ago. Maybe when lil man’s a bit older I’ll give bikes another spin. But for now, walking the strip on foot is more my speed. And these days I think I’m less about weekends – and more about Mondays.

 

4 Responses to “Monday Monday”

  1. Laura Lynn Says:

    Feel as if I were there walking beside you. Wonderful town, lucky girl.

    • wingmother Says:

      Thanks, Laura. While I complain sometimes about the way it’s changing these days – honestly, I
      do feel very lucky to have such a lovely destination so close to home. Glad you enjoyed your
      armchair visit to Saratoga!

  2. Very nice post about how Saratoga has changed. I have been vacationing there for more than 25 years and always loved it – your perspective is refreshing.

    • wingmother Says:

      Why thanks! See my newest post “Town and Country” for a few more pics of the bustling town. I’m seeing the place more as a tourist might these days, and can certainly recognize how picturesque a place it is. I feel lucky it’s so close to home.


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