As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.
– Proverbs 27:8
Sky over Keeseville, NY
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you probably know about the intense manhunt going on in upstate New York. Specifically, the two escaped convicted murderers on the lam from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
The dramatic events at Dannemora cannot help but bring to mind the road trip JC and I took in October 2014 in upstate New York.
A brilliant blue sky and skein of geese dappling the sheer of cirrus clouds is how I would prefer to remember the out-of-time, carefree days of our drive through the Adirondack Park Preserve, Champlain Islands, and state of Vermont.
But my recollections of abundant waterfalls, Slippery Elms and rolling acres of emerald green have been darkened by the you-can-run-but-you-cannot-hide reality of the escapees in upstate N.Y. and sorry fate of the sad-faced woman who aided and abetted them in their escape.
Below is a map pinpointing Keeseville, NY in Clinton County (see the southeast corner of the white area), where I photographed the heavenly sky above in an open field. Notice its proximity to Dannemora.
Our itinerant getaway took us all around the Adirondack Park Preserve. Through Elizabethville going north, through Keeseville, Schyler Falls, Eagle Bay, Lake Placid, visiting all the lakes (and there are many), and spending two nights in Saranac Lake, which we used as a departure point. Old school paper map spread across my lap (my favorite way to travel — I’m an explorer/navigator at heart), we covered practically all of the backroads — north, south, east and west inside the park.
On one particular day, riding Rte. 3 on the way to Plattsburgh, we passed to our left a sign for Rte. 374, the road that leads to Dannemora. Which, if you’ll notice, rhymes with Gomorra.
I was no stranger Dannemora. Not in memory, anyway. In my 20’s, I worked in a business office in Queens, NY bristling with crazy people. One Friday afternoon, Grace, our supervisor, another 20-something, a gum snapper from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, confided a secret to me, totally unbidden. We were not exactly office friends or friends of any kind. I didn’t know why she chose me as her confidant. Truth be told, her lacquered, spidery fingernails; large presence; long, straight, jet black, Morticia-like hair (her best feature); and “moldy elbows” kind of spooked me.
She whispered to me that she and her boyfriend, a guy from her neighborhood who was doing a stretch in Dannemora for armed robbery, were getting married that very weekend. In prison. She swore me to secrecy.
During the course my 4-year employment in that office, her secret spouse got sprung from prison. Immediately, Grace began planning a wedding reception, to be held in Bensonhurst. I was invited.
There would be no redundant ceremony, only a reception. About 100 guests convened at a catering hall (which looked like a reincarnated high school auditorium) for the reception. At one end of the vast space was an elevated stage. The heavy, carmine velvet curtains fronting the stage were closed. Tables were set up in the place where rows of auditorium seats used to be.
After cocktails, the guests were seated at their tables. Cued by a minor fanfare played by the band, the carmine curtains slowly parted. The happy couple, Grace and her shifty-eyed, ants-in-the-pants husband, were seated onstage in two respective thrones, kingly and queenly, overlooking their new kingdom. The house lights dimmed. Pinpricked with theatrical stars, the backlit domed ceiling flickered above our heads.
Grace’s husband carried off the mien of a crafty, sociopath without trying. If you squinted, he sort of resembled the older of the two escaped convicts from Dannemora; namely, Richard Matt, in his younger days — just another James Dean, Clyde Barrow, Pretty Boy Floyd, gangsta wannabe — except, the real thing.
A couple of weeks after the reception, Grace’s father telephoned her at work. In keeping with the time-honored Italian tradition of families and their offspring living in close proximity, sometimes under the same, roof forever and ever, Grace’s father lived right next door to her.
Grace raised her voice. She yelled into the phone. She swore into the receiver. “What!” she said. “I’m gonna f*ckin’ kill him!”
We figured out from Grace’s responses that she had just been informed by her papa that Mr. Shifty had arrived home with a strange woman in tow . Both of them were now inside her house.
Bang! Slam! Back! Grace grabbed her enormous purse and scooped up her brass ring sporting a hundred keys and a rabbit’s foot. She jangled past us in a huff, swearing to herself and was soon out the door.
Exciting as it was to work there, I made myself quit.