Thursday, July 31, 2008

alumna nurse here now

Marianne Black (now Marianne Norelli) is here working in the new Wellness Center as a nurse. The networking must be doing its job. Here's Marianne:

"I was a camper/CIT in 1975, 76 and 77. Both of my daughters are at camp this year Rachel is in Tacoma (her 4th summer) and Juliet is in Lakota (her 1st summer), my other daughter Cara did not attend this year since she is travelling. I am also working as an RN at the new Health Center. Staying at Frost Valley has brought back many memories and I was looking forward to coming "back to camp" for the 2 weeks. As always the girls are having a great time and are always busy. The new health center is beautiful, I do not know how the nurses handled so many kids the summers before. I have some old FV books incase you want to post any old photos."

once and always

Conversation in the dining hall late last week. At the table there's Vi, Dave Mager's 4-year-old daughter, Dave Mager himself, me, and Melissa Pauls. Vi had been attending day camp and can't wait until she's old enough for resident camp.

Vi to Al: "Is it true that you were my dad's camp director."

Al, looking at Dave: "Yes, it's true. Your dad was a camper here when I was the camp director."


Vi: "Are you still his camp director."

Smile comes over Dave.

Al: "Yes, if your dad wants me to be his camp director I will always be his camp director. Whenever he wants."

Pause. Four-year-old ponders.

Vi: "When I come to camp, will I have a camp director?"

Dave: "Yes, Vi, you will."

Vi: "And will he always be my camp director?"

Yes, we say in unison. Yes, yes, yes.

- - - - -

And from Andy Wiener in response to the above: "What a great exchange. I've had similar conversations with my kids. You will always be our director, Al. Always."

Jon Coates

International counselor from England (York, to be specific), fab soccer player, great counselor who became the Hemlock VC, early to mid-80s...Jon Coates...emails me out of the blue this morning. Here's Jon:

"Discovered your blog by chance a couple of days ago and have thoroughly enjoyed the happy memories it has brought back. Hard to believe it's 26 years since I was first introduced to FV and 18 since I last visited. I was last there in 1990 when I drove up from New York where we were on a football (soccer) tour with a team from the Bahamas. I spent the afternoon with the Swains and a very young Bradley who I now see is not so little and has joined the staff ranks.

I'm now back in York (have been for about 12 years now), married to Liz with 2 beautiful kids, Maya (9) and Joel (7) and working with the Youth Service."

look on the sunny side...

Here's a video recording of the version of "Look on the Sunny Side, Always on the Sunny Side" John Butler and I did at opening campfire a few days ago. Ah, the pie in the face. The oldest funny joke in the book. Kudos to Harry McCormack who did the camerawork, and of course to John and Theo who each took a pie.

notes & thoughts

Good morning, good morning - and a good one it is. Clear skies, a bit of high haze, already in the high 70s (at the start of first period - 9:30) and going to maybe 90. Everything is still dewy wet.

[] Out behind the Ad Office (sorry - the "Admin Building") is a beautiful flower garden, maybe 25 feet by 15 feet, full by now of gorgeous tall flowering plants. The top of the top is a stand of very healthy bright red bee balm. This was built and dug back in 2005 by many of our Family Camp families, conceived and led by our own Stu Alexander (here with his family since '85). The Admin folks, Carmel Dorn most happily, lovingly water it every morning and so we actually have a flower garden here, one that the deer can't get to and which survives droughts (not that we've had one this summer). Where I typically work I look out onto it. Under the beeches along Biscuit Creek, it presents a gorgeous prospect along with the sound of the stream.

[] The stream. Biscuit. We've had good rain and the falls is flowing pretty well. Today as I say it will hit 90 and by afternoon kids and their counselors will be lounging around in large black inner tubes. What could be better on a summer's day?

[] My daughter Hannah isn't here in camp this session. She's with camp but New Orleans, of all places. Yes she and several of her closest camp friends went on the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity adventure trip for two weeks. She'll be back fourth session. Meantime every morning she and her friends get up from their air conditioned digs at a YMCA in Metairie and go over to the house they're building. Hot and humid but the work is good and Hannah is learning a ton about caring, responsibility and stewardship. I can't wait to hear her stories about this experience.

[] I can distinctly remember when, as a camper, we were not allowed to "cross the bridge." That is, the bridge over Biscuit that leads to Pigeon and Biscuit Lodges, Reflection Pond, and the Castle. It was mainly the Castle, of course, that made us wish we could cross. On the other side, as I recall, staff could have their periods off (in the staff lounge, which was located in Pigeon Lodge). And I remember sometimes sitting on the main-camp side of the bridge, on the low stone wall there, seeing staff taking their break, smoking cigarettes. Not a very positive image, I suppose, but it intrigued me. Would I ever get to cross that bridge? It became a metaphor for growing up--not the smoking (I've never so much as taken a puff on a cigarette) but the period off. Doing work that meant that being "off" meant something. And of course the Castle. What an allure. I went there on holdover weekends when my parents booked a room there and it operated summers somewhat like a country inn. Lunch and dinner served. Quite nice. And we went to Reflection Pond once in a while for programs, but other than that it was terra incognito.

[] The administrative top of the summer camp staff is crackerjack--really, really good. Efficient, on top of every possible crisis, communicating well among themselves (by radio--boy oh boy what I would have given to have had that means of getting word around). Many things they do impress me. Left-behind luggage, for instance. It's identified quickly, and mailed home to mom and dad within a day. The other night, while I sat in the office catching up on work and had the Mets game in the corner of my computer screen, I hear the tell-tale sound of mailing tape being unrolled in the main hallway. There was Bob Eddings, one of our two Directors of Camping, himself packing up a big package: a sleeping bag and a duffel, on its way the next morning back to Morristown or Brooklyn or East Orange.

[] Last night at 9 I told a story to Susky after their successful Lip Synch evening program. My story is my new one, "Winky Tandler & the Maltese Bell." Winky was here in the early and mid 60s, eventually as Girls' Camp Director. Winky, where are you? It's a mystery, not so much a "scary" story but the Susky kids dug it. Then up to Outpost where at 10:30 (yes, that's late) they were ready for me, sitting quietly around a roaring fire built in the firering in front of cabin 40, way up the hill (40 is old girls' cabin 10). Nice. Starry night, good fire, kids sitting around hearing a story. Eric Blum joined me. After that, Eric and I walked around under the stars and overhead radio chat about chicken wings at the staff lounge. Ummmmmmm, I realized how hungry I was. Something wrong with this picture? A 52 year old guy, walking around outdoors at 11:45 PM, getting the urge for wings? Unfortunately--or fortunately, depending on your point of view--they were out of wings when we arrived. But the lounge was full of counselors and VCs and directors, chatting and playing games and eating various miscellany that had been brought back from days' out - spicy green beans from New World (a good Chinese restaurant to the east). A number of people were playing Guitar Hero, a JC (Jordan Cole) getting outplayed by a director (Kevin Terrell). Black Sabbath but no spicy wings at midnight, the crowded warm lounge, cool night and stars outside....and out I went into the night and home to a good night's sleep. Camp to a t.

[] Tom Holsapple was our conference programs director for a few years when he was asked by Jerry to move up into the role of overall operations director, where he utterly excels. What a good guy! What he doesn't know how to make happen, he figures out. Last summer he was the guru behind our response to a minor but potentially major episode of bed bugs. I myself, just watching and participating in the response slightly, learned a ton about this problem, which plagues many camps. We were good in response and it's largely owing to Tom's focus. He's liked by everyone, which is good when one minute you're thinking through wellness philosophy with a Brown University-educated LSE-trained political scientist who's doing a stint as camp director and the next you're talking stuffed toilets, bear scat, and trying to get NY State Board of Health approvals for the new dialysis wing. It took me everything I had to get Tom to leave his desk this morning and let me snap this pic of him sitting in front of his office with the gorgeous view of the camp's main entrance. Tom makes things work.

[] I've gotten to know all the VCs. They range from very very good to utterly historically rarely extraordinary. Not a weak VC in the bunch. I find that remarkable, especially when I take time to remember how many summers I had one or two or even three chiefs that need serious hand-holding (or firing, for that matter). Many of this summer's VCs are new to the job but not at all new to FV. I think there's just one (the excellent Dave Sedden in Forest) who's new to VC and to FV. The photo here at right shows you Meg Hoover of Sacky and Jess Hallbrecht of Tacoma--both amazingly good. Jess has been here forever, starting as a Pokey camper in '96 (several of her friends from that summer are still here on staff). Meg came more recently, but is already deemed a superstar; she worked with Jeff Daly at his day camp in Philly and he recruited her here, lucky for us.

[] There's the Olympic stage and lights, waiting to be removed after last week's Olympics. Behind it, across the Olympic Circle, stands Smith Lodge. The Health Center is gone from there...up to the amazing new Wellness Center on the hill near the dining hall. Summer camp offices are upstairs. Downtairs, experimentally, is an extra staff lounge room. Dialysis is still there in the back, as I've commented before. But dialysis moves very soon, so what then for Smith Lodge? Should we renovate it? Would it be worth it? Should be put a new building on the spot - perhaps one that looks just like Smith? One can imagine 1,000 good ideas. Ponder....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

old songs

I've been leading old camp songs here and there. I've done "Father Abraham" and "Deep & Wide" at Camp Wawayanda's opening campfires, and "The Hoola Hop" (old-style) too, and led the younger kids in a revival of the "Waddat-'n-chew" cheer. At the most recent opening campfire for Camp Hird that camp's director, John Butler, and I did a rousing version of "Look on the Sunny Side." I hope to post a video of that in a few days.

Here's a photo of me at the most recent opening campfire, leading "Deep & Wide." The photo captures me apparently at the moment when I'm doing the widest of wides.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

driver extraordinaire

Eric Blum is back for his usual month-long stay as a volunteer. (He's amazing. This is his entire annual vacation.) Tonight at dinner he mildly complained that I haven't put up a new blog entry every day (he checks the blog every day when he's home in Charlottesville). "Well," I responded, "the total number of July entries far exceeds the numbers of days." "But you've done these in flurries. I like something new every day." Ah well, ya can't please FV addicts.

One entry I cannot believe I've missed so far mentioned another alumnus who is volunteering here this summer - all summer. And that's Dave Lockwood. Dave (English by birth) came as an international counselor sometime in the '90s, met his wife here (now former), got married here, was a camp director in his time, and has been on and off active with the Alumni Association and in organizing the 1990s generation through Facebook.

And he, like Eric, has taken his vacation to be here and help here. He does a lot of driving (adventure trips, hospital runs, etc.) and is very generous about it. The photo above here shows Dave (at right). Thanks, Dave.

new home for dialysis nearly ready

Regular readers of this web log (did you know that the term "blog" is a contraction of "web blog"?) will know perhaps more than they want to about the new health/wellness center. The lower floor (where Arts & Crafts will be housed, as well as a 150-seat theater with stage, curtain, video display equipment, a backstage, etc.) is not ready and won't be until September--and not until next summer for summer campers. The upper floor is divided into two sections roughly, the southernmost two-thirds is the health center and on the northern end of the building is the dialysis/renal center. The health center has been open since the beginning of the summer and is functioning beautifully. This has to be seen to be believed. How much simpler it is for kids and counselors who take medications to get them, get the attention they need--not to mention how relatively nice it is for kids feeling ill to wait comfortably in the (ahem....) Alumni Reception Room.

The dialysis center is very nearly ready to be opened. So far--two full sessions and the first few days of a third--the dialysis program is operating out of the old facility, the extension Chuck White built onto the back of Smith Lodge. The moment the furniture is in and health officials from the State of New York has given their final complex approvals (that's the slow part), Maureen (our fabulous coordinator of the unit) and her staff will move up to the new building.

One of these photos shows you the bathroom in the middle of the large main dialysis room. With a genial campy sense of humor the architects and Jerry Huncosky designed this bathroom superficially resemble on old camp outhouse. Like it? I do.

The other photo is of Rick Kaskel standing in the same room, deliberately looking forlorn and lonely (hoping for furniture to be delivered soon). Blog fans will know Rick, a prominent nephrologist (kidney doctor) who has been associated with our program since the late 70s. Rick will be spending his annual turn as dialysis camp doctor next week. Come on home, Rick!

Dave's diptychs

Phyllis Caputo is here this session - an early-to-mid-80s alumna and now the mom of a camper - whom we remember as Phyllis Gherardi. (Phyllis's sister Denise, a bit younger, was here in the 80s too.) I just came indoors after leading Tacoma and Lenape (some 88 people in all) in an hour-long game of Geronimo. What fun! Phyllis was out there taking pictures. Maybe I'll get a few of her shots for this blog.

I've mentioned that last session Dave Mager was here taking photographs too. See this earlier entry. Anyway, toward the end of last week Dave was working on an informal project that intrigues me. In an attempt to feature individual camp people in a portrait but not deprive the view of the picture the active natural context, he created a series of two-piece photographic portraits - diptychs. Here (below) is one of them. There are six in all and I urge you to go to Dave's site to have a look.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ynez arrives home, will be back next summer

Over the weekend there was a story in Newsday about us. (See below.) Well, I learned this morning from our amazing marketing director, Karen Rauter, that Newsday put up on its web site a little video that goes along with the story.

Here is Ynez, a camper last session, just after she's arrived home on the bus, met by her happy dad. Turn your volume up and listen to what Ynez says. She'll be back next summer.

Ynez has a kidney transplant. Thus she's obviously not on hemodialysis. So what's the big deal about sending her to camp? Well (this will be old news to many reading this entry), she needs to take scads of meds and these have to be monitored and occasionally adjusted. She might need some light (or intense) supervision on her diet. And, having been understandably and perhaps necessarily sheltered--a kid who's spent more time with nurses, doctors, social workers, parents and adult family members than with people her own age--she might need special attention in her effort to be just one of the kids in her cabin. So while Frost Valley may be one of the only camps where a young patient on dialysis can attend "regular" summer camp (be mainstreamed), it's probably also true that this is one of the few places where a young transplant patient can attend safely and confidently and have the normal camp experience while renal experts are in the background, making sure that on the medical side everything is hunky dory.

Here's the link to the video.

big-time lawyer a camper at heart

They harbor memories for years, for decades. Every summer there's that latent thrill. Something's happening up there in the mountains. Can I be a part? Then the children start to come of age and latency turns to consciousness. I know. I'll send the kids there. And then for months dinner conversations include village cheers, stories about stories, tales of super-tall, super-wide, super-funny strange and beautiful now-mythic counselors.

This has been happening. There are more former campers and counselors, now in their late thirties and forties, showing up on check-in day with their own kids, the parents more excited (if that's possible) than the kids, than I can recount or document in this blog.

One I can.

Jeff Gold was here from 1972-77. He never forgot its impact on him. Now he's the managing partner at a law firm. But he's a camp guy deep in. He found me on the 'net and has been corresponding with me. Yesterday he brought his daughter. It was a big moment.

I asked him what he learned from camp. Here's his response:

1. I learned to appreciate that which I have.

Upon arrival in Camp in 1972, I met my bunkmates in cabin 15, two of whom were on scholarship. Each came from the inner city, and it was evident that they had little in the way of material means. Coming from middle class Long Island, I had minimal contact with those from different economic strata, and it was an eye opener. Looking back, my liberal political beliefs began forming that summer.

Over the next five years, I had quite a number of bunk mates (and tent mates) who spent two or three days a week on dialysis. I spent many hours visiting with them while they underwent the procedure. Today, I’m a regular blood donor, and should I pass prematurely, I will be an organ donor.

2. I learned to share.

Long before there was the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, there was the Brotherhood of the Traveling Rugby shirt (Red and Yellow) which Albert Szabo I wore interchangeably during the summers, and which we each took home in alternating years. Albert and I shared a lot of laughs during our Frost Valley Years. Only recently, I used the one Hungarian word he taught me while playing poker on the Queen Mary 2.

3. I learned about soccer

My first exposure to soccer was at Frost Valley. I played throughout high school and have coached both my daughter in the sport for six years and my son for eight. I doubt I ever would have played the game if not for Frost Valley.

4 I learned about the weather.

Thanks to Miles [Weaver], I can still tell a day in advance if it is going to rain. Myle also taught me about fossils and I actually found one on one of his field trips. He also taught me to fish.

5 I learned about competition and that I don't like lake swimming.

During [Olympics], and while on a bicycle trip to the Montreal Olympics. The summer of 1976 bicycling from Albany to Montreal remains one of my childhood’s best memories.

6 I learned to appreciate the moment

There are events in everyone’s life where time stands still, and if you close your eyes you can picture the event as if it was just happening i.e. their wedding day, the birth of child, etc. At Frost Valley and on the bike trips that I took, I had many such moments. I still remember the day, I spent in the woods as part of the CIT training. It was a wondrous experience being alone in the woods with my thoughts. In 1975, I remember seeing Tommy at a theatre in Wolfsboro NH, and knowing that my taste in music would never be the same. I remember eating my first lobster while on that trip. From my 1976 bicycle trip from Albany to Montreal, I remember my first concert at Saratoga Performing Art Center (Seals & Croft). It was a great concert, but I knew I liked the Who better. I have wonderful memories of the Olympic Village, of watching Israel play Spain in Soccer and of watching Olympic Volleyball, Field Hockey and weightlifting. I remember Tom Roseberry (Rosebud) being one of the funniest people I’d ever met. I remember eating clam chowder on Cape Cod while it rained outside, and I remember Provincetown.

7 I learned about the country and the world from the counselors and campers I met along the way.

I think the most important lesson I learned at Frost Valley is that everyone is different, and that different wasn’t bad. I met campers and counselors from all parts of the country and from abroad and came to appreciate the diversity.

8. I learned to appreciate music.

The first time I heard an Elton John song was at Frost Valley (“Daniel” and “Goodbye Norma Jean”). The first time I heard the "Piano Man" was on bike trip from Frost Valley. (The last time was at Shea Stadium last week. I learned the Lord’s Prayer made a great song. I saw my first live concert while on a bike trip. I learned that some guy lives under the streets of Boston, and that even though we ain't got money, love is important.

9. I learned to appreciate comedy.

I still crack up at the thought of “The Important Papers”, The Three Thousand Year Old Man, or the "Looks like Dog Poop – good thing we didn’t step on it" skits. I remember Robert Pollard letting me listen to George Carlin’s seven dirty words. From that day on, I loved George Carlin.

10. I learned that its important to have fun when you’re young

Because it will bring a smile to your face when you no longer are.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

'70s kid, now mom, returns

In the dining hall this afternoon during session 3 check-in, from left to right: Stacey Jennings (known here as Stacey Gregory), our CEO Jerry Huncosky, Carolyn Connell, Ben Connell (counselor), Ladd Connell.

I've mentioned the Connells a few times across the entries, but Stacey is new to the scene. She brought two kids with her - one is in camp tonight and the other will apply to be CIT next summer. Stacey was a camper here from 1972 through 1975, Susky to Tacoma. She is now a resident of South Orange, where she serves as a town councilperson and works nearby at Hewlett Packard. Welcome back, Stacey!

return after 23 years

After an absence of some 23 years, Jim Neilson showed up today, the first day of session 3. He and his wife Jeannie brought their daughters to camp for the two weeks. Jim's been talking about Frost Valley the whole year. Leah's in Sacky, Brea's in Susky.

Jim now lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he works for Army Intelligence.

Jim was here from '82 through '85 - four summers. He was a counselor in Forest the whole time. That last summer, or maybe the last two summers, he worked in the bike shop repairing bikes (a thankless task as they kept getting pretty beat up).

He was ecstatic to be here!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

the pure smell of Frost Valley in the air

The southernmost of the two tops of Doubletop Mountain can of course be seen from the main part of camp, now as ever. Yesterday (how gorgeous was it, huh?) we see Doubletop between Hayden Lodge on the right and Margetts Lodge on the left, the flagpole between.

The weather was good across the region. Even in Massachusetts where our old friend Bob Whirty (and current dad of a camper) went out for a run. Here's Bob: "...was running yesterday on a glorious blue sky, low humidity, relatively low temp day (~85) when a semi-cool gust of wind blew up with the pure smell of Frost Valley. All these years later, it still (luckily) happens regularly. Couldn't be truer to say it becomes a part of one's self...."

we're in Newsday today

This morning's Newsday - on page A12 - has a very good article about our dialysis program. Here's the link and here is the text:

Camp gives kids with illness a chance to be just kids

July 26, 2008

Ynez Brooks never felt comfortable with the idea of going to a sleep-away camp. The 12-year-old Mastic girl has kidney disease and takes four medications daily.

"A lot of camps aren't prepared for the what-ifs," said her mother, Linda Serrano.

But on Friday Ynez returned home after two weeks at a camp in the Catskills, where she went rock-climbing and roasted marshmallows over a fire.

"It's really fun," she said after arriving on Long Island on a bus with other campers. "You have nothing to worry about there."

Since 1975, the Frost Valley YMCA camp has included children undergoing treatment for kidney disease, some who have received transplants. Organizers believe it's the only sleep-away camp in the country where kidney patients are in the mix with other campers.

There's a dialysis center on-site and doctors and nurses equipped with GPS have been known to follow children on hikes to check vitals or dispense medication.

But mostly, camp is meant to give kidney patients a summer memory that's not focused on the worries that come with rigorous treatment regimens, said Bob Eddings, a Shirley native who is the camp's director of youth and camping services.

"We want them to have the feeling that they're at camp like every other camper," he said.

Carol Evans of Bay Shore said knowing there's medical staff at the camp puts her at ease. Her son, Keyshawn, 10, has gone to the camp for the past two years.

Keyshawn, whose kidney disease requires that he takes medication each morning and night, said his favorite camp activities are the chants and swimming in the lake. "You can see salamanders," he said.

Thanks to the Ruth Gottscho Kidney Foundation, campers attend for free. "The reality is if a child is going through all these medical issues, they don't have the financial means," Eddings said.

This was the longest time Ynez has spent away from home. "The first two days it was scary because you get homesick," she said. "But the rest goes by quickly because it's so fun."

done with Olympics & 2nd session

Brendan Leonard has been shooting video all summer and is a master at editing it down, putting on an apt soundtrack, and, in all, conveying just the right spirit. Here is the first of two Olympics video montages he's put together.

The "Olympic session" - session 2 - is now done and everyone has scattered to parents' homes, friends' apartments, borrowed digs in The City, for a full 2 days of rest and other not-camp activities. The place closes down completely between 2 and holdover campers at all. The full rest, the complete stop. As I left myself yesterday afternoon, at around 4 PM, there was near total silence in the dining hall, health center, fields. Floors swept, litter picked, tables up, meds locked away, cabin doors closed, lost and found gathered...a bit of directors' radios squawking some last-moment coordinatings, the flag flapping gently in a perfect 5 mph westerly breeze, pointing my car toward Liberty and beyond.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dave Mager, photographer

I've mentioned that Dave Mager is in camp volunteering these two weeks, while his wife Stacey is doing evening shifts at the health center as a nurse and their two kids are campers in day camp.

Dave's been all around camp taking photographs, some of which we hope to use in brochures, ads, marketing. I just looked at maybe 50 fabulous photos Dave snapped during the Olympics and picked out three of my favorites. Below that is a great shot Dave caught of Dave King telling of Frost Valley history to Tacoma in the living room of the Castle.

Visit Dave Mager's site:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ruth's twins

Ruth Krotchko DiGiacomo's daughter's Rebecca and Jessica are here for a month (in Windsong). Here they were enjoying the cool (cold!) water of Biscuit Creek Falls. (Bill Abbott gets the photo credit.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

talkin' with Dave

Dave King's visit ends tomorrow. I'm glad we had a chance yesterday to walk around and talk. I recorded our conversation and am delighted by all the Olympic-style interruptions. We walked pretty much everywhere, from the Olympic Circle to the Big Tree Field and beyond. At the Big Tree itself, someone snapped a picture of us. Please have a listen to the recording here.

making friends (redux)

At several of the Challenge Nights recently, pairs of friends (friendships formed here) talked about the meaning of these friendships. Listen to several of them: LINK.

Olympic sounds

The rain held off (mostly) this morning, the full day of Olympics. Ten teams gathered in Filreis Field (oh geez--more about that name another time), showed tons of spirit, and then went in 5 different directions. Each event or set of events features two teams playing each other.

Now it's 1:35 PM as I write, and the sun has come fully out. So it seems that we will have an outdoor all-camp program straight through to the end. Last night we were in the dining hall during a deluge for the Opening Ceremonies, which were beautiful except for the fact that we couldn't light the torch (couldn't do so without bringing on the wrath of the fire inspector who might reasonably have asked us, "So you lit a wooden home-made torch with kerosene-soaked charcoal at the top in a room with 700 people sitting in it?")

I captured two brief snippets of FV Olympics spirit. First here is Nigeria cheering. And second here's a little exchange several of us on the host country had with Botswana.

Dave King on diversity (video)

Dave King at Morning Reflection, July 20, 2008.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

iconic Olympic scenes

Some classic views of Olympics, opening afternoon.

Ten teams spray painting 70+ t-shirts each, all on the lawn in front of Arts & Crafts. Phew, the fumes. By the end there were a lot of dopey staff weaving and bobbing around.

Japan's shirts laid out to dry.

Maddie, an Australian coach, sports a flag on her cheek and a wild gritty intent to win. And note the kangaroo earring.

Gary, usually a Totem counselor, dressed up as Mr. Super-Ireland.


So far as anyone can tell, Nigeria has never been represented at the Frost Valley Olympics. And yes there's a counselor here this summer from that country. We stopped by to see how Nigeria was doing and they treated us to some wise thoughts about their adopted country as well as a glimpse of their spirit. Below are two photos of them as they gathered in the field, and also a short video.

tribute to mom

The theme at this morning's Morning Reflection was "tribute." CIT Briana (Bri) and her sister Kira, a Tacoma camper, sang a song together in tribute to their mother. Everyone there was much moved by it.

making friends

was a man with a great big nose, and KINGO was his name-o

Yes, your eyes tell you rightly: that's Dave King, standing by one of those tall beech trees at the old Wawayanda Chapel. Just this morning, the middle Sunday of session two...always a slow day: late wake-up, "morning reflection" organized by the CITs.

Dave and Shirley King - and daughter Kathy and her three kids - have been here visiting. I anticipated Dave's visit by telling a story, called "Sawmill, 1958," for days, weeks ahead. Dave is one of the main figures in the story. It's a gesture toward celebrating 50 years of Wawayanda camping at FV - as is Dave's visit itself.

He and I have already been to countless village campfires, telling stories. Dave has met cabins and villages at the Castle to talk about FV history. And yesterday, Dave led songs at the dining hall after both lunches. As a throw-back (part of the 50th year celebration, I take it), the directors had the boys eat together and then the girls eat together - first time that had happened since the early 80s. He ended with Kum-ba-yah, one of his favorite songs. By all accounts, it was a beautiful moment. There were tears in Dave's eyes as he realized that such a figure - nothwithstanding the legend - could be so warmly and openly welcomed after all this time. One Dave started to tear up, so did Shirley and then Kathy too. (I missed all this, sadly, as I was at the Board of Trustees meeting taking place under a tent at Reflection Pond. I hope someone has recorded it.)

Then at dinner Shirley and Kathy presented to Dave - as a surprise - a Frost Valley Memory Book. The gave it to him in a white laundry bag, with the orange WAWAYANDA lettering and dark-blue canoe-and-pine-trees logo.

I have the Memory Book here with me, having borrowed it for this blog entry. It's full of old photographs, words from old camp friends, lyrics to songs Dave loved to lead, etc. My favorite among the pictures - I think it might be my favorite of all the shots of early camp here at FV - is the one in which we see Dave (on the drum - really a trash barrell) leading the fife-and-drum corps as part of the July 4 celebration in (maybe) 1959. That's Mike DeVita holding the flag, by the way. (Mike wrote me to tell me this. The third guy is Bob [last name?], a village chief, Mike says.)

Let me quote from a few of the friends' remembrances:

"It was the teamwork and long-lasting friendship between Dave and Halbe forty-seven years ago that set the stage for what Frost Valley has become today." - Halbe and Jane Brown

"You, Dave King, made the harmony possible for me. And I've passed it on, singing your tune, with all my heart."--Al Filreis

"Just before the magical first summer at Frost Valley ended for us [1958], you walked with me to a quiet spot along Hemlock Brook behind Cabin 18. While the passage of time has erased the words you shared, it cannot erase the fondness I felt for you then and now. Your gift to me was a small book of the New Testament that I cherish to this day." - Mike Ketcham

"Dave inspired us. I remember in particular a sermon he gave to the staff one time at all-camp chapel just before the kids arrived. He spoke of the phrase from the Sermon on the Mount: "You are the light of the World." You as counselors, he said, will be the light of the world for the campers coming into your care. Slo "hold high the torch" - be the best example you can be for them." - Doug Cresson

"...and then the Big Arm would swing through the air and smack flat against a table as we all cried out: PATsy orey orey ay, PATsy orey orey ay, PATsy orey orey ay, Working on the railroad!" - Rick Cobb

"As I write this I can't help but wonder if you were actually hiding in the bushes when we returned from staff lounge over 35 years ago or it that's just what you led us to believe." - Jody Ketcham

"Before I even met him I was told Dave had this big flashlight, which Kathy later told me she called "The Bat Beam." If you were out after curfew, his beam might catch you. The beam never caught me but I was very much aware of it." -- Carolyn Shelburne

"...the really big man with the really big voice. I have never forgotten him or the experiences I had at Frost Valley. Congratulations to Dave on 50s years at Frost Valley!" - Bill Starmer

The sun came out and dried up the landy landy
Sun it came out and dried up the landy landy
Everything was fine and dandy dandy
Children of the Lord

Click here for a short video of Dave. (Be patient, as it will take a minute to load.)

dancing with a real star

At Challenge Night recently, a camper (my daughter Hannah!) dances with a younger camper.

Tacoma / Lenape

The kids here seem to be born knowing the village cheers. They seem spontaneous when performed in the dining hall. But of course they are taught and practiced. Two days ago I was walking by Pigeon and Biscuit Lodges, on my way to the Castle, and noticed Tacoma and Lenape sitting under the shade of the Reflection Pond pine trees, their staff forming an informal line in front of them. They were practicing a cheer together. (Yes, the brother and sister villages learn each other's cheers and thus support each other during after-lunch hoopla.) Click on the image above and watch a brief video of this.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

mists at White Pond

Lately I've been stopping by Chuck White Pond at 6:30 am or so. It's one of the most peaceful places I know. On the recent morning when I snapped these pictures, there was a mist across the surface of the water until around 7:45.


Here's Dan Weir, our terrific Director of Wawayanda, with his parents. Steve Cornman, a former camper (Steve was a camper here when I was a director--which makes me feel frighteningly old), is at right.

Dan's aunt Helen Cornman threatens to visit for a few days later this summer. We hope so.

dawn leavings

Yes, fresh bear scat on the road near where High Falls Brook crosses under it, about 1.5 miles from the main part of camp.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

fine memories on clear days

Another clear day and fine memories. Not a cloud to be seen. Temps in the 80s, coming up from cool 50s at dawn. Beech trees' leaves shaking in a 3 mph breeze. Sound of Biscuit Creek coming over the falls and of course kids squealing on the soccer field, hardcourts, on the way to the waterfront with dry (for a change) towels. The two photos below this entry were taken just five minutes ago.

Reading these entries, I realize, makes a lot of folks remember such days precisely. I got about a dozen messages just yesterday. Below is one, from Mette Osterby, a Danish counselor who come back again three times after a first summer. Addicted. There's a little FV in Denmark at Mette's house. Here is a pic of Mette and her two girls taken this summer.

And here is Mette's nice note:

Just read your blog today about old staff sending their kids to FV. Got so nostalgic. My kids, 8 and 11, know all about FV and heaps of cheers and tales as well. Reading about the clear nights and bright days just makes me want to go back so badly. Think I´ll work on returning with my family next year if we can find a way to do so- I went to Fv during the same years as Dave Gold and Dave Mager, so your blog really got me. Make sure to send my love to those guys. Especially Mager, whom I knew the best being co VCs of Pokey-Totem. Have a wonderful summer. I´ll be thinking of you all wondering if Denmark has an Olympic team this year. - Mette Osterby, Denmark (86, 88, 89, 90 )

Claudia Swain adds this: "When Mette U. returned to camp in 1988 she had knitted [the Swains' older son] Bradley the most adorable outfit --(in Danish flag colors!) of his life. Danny [younger Swain son] wore it, though he never met Mette, and it is folded carefully, in the memory box, waiting for the next little boy....GREAT to see Mette's picture and to see her beautiful children!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

dialysis program featured on CBS

Just a few minutes ago, New York's CBS TV affiliate aired a story on its 5 PM news show - a story about our dialysis program, with an emphasis on how extraordinarily mainstreamed these kids are. It's a really good piece. Frost Valley's summer camp program comes off seeming as good and positive as it really is. I don't have a video of it yet, but I did capture the audio directly from the TV (actually, I use "slingbox" on my Mac laptop, even here at FV). So here is the audio only. You can hear Jerry Huncosky, our CEO, speak several times. And you'll hear Maureen Eisele, our amazing coordinator of the dialysis unit, and also counselor Jesse Glicker.

Here is the link to the CBS site, where the text of the story is given.

And here is a link to the CBS video. (Be patient when viewing this. It takes a while to load.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dave Gold redux (video)

Pac man back

Buy me a ring and a Dave Gold that sings.... The Pac VC (later the Hird Director) who couldn't sing a note. Aw well, folks who can't keep a tune can become camp directors. Yes, Dave Gold was here today, dropping off his 9-year-old daughter Lily for session 2. Lily's in cabin 22, Pocohontas. I had the chance to introduce Dave, who was the first-ever VC of Pac in '85, to the current Pac VC, Harry McCormack. It was a good meeting.

Jeff Daly was a CIT when Dave Gold was the director. Jeff remembered that it was Dave who picked up the CITs after their 9-day hike. Jeff, Dave and I have a love of the Mets in common, and Dave noticed that this summer's staff shirt is Met blue and the directors/admininstrative shirts are Met orange. That's for real. Let's go, Mets!

Dave Mager (and his wife Stacey and their two adorable kids) are here all two weeks. Dave will be taking photographs the whole time. The kids will be enrolled in our day camp. That's Mager, shaved head in orange shirt, arm around Gold.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

all things connect, if you just ponder long enough

A little while ago I posted a photo of Sequoia Village taken in 1981 (in an entry called "googling Robinov"). Marc Robinov is in that picture and it was Marc who sent it to me. Since then two others in the shot have emerged.

One is Rob (Robbie) Iverson, shown above. The following summer he and Marc Robinov were CITs and that year ('82) was Dari Litchman's first season at camp; she's the one who, just today, remembered Iverson, who was truly a camp star, a great kid. Rob, where are you now?

Another figure in the old Sequoia photo emerged coincidentally. About a week ago I saw a small van parked by the Neversink River down by the old Haunted House camp site. Being vigilant, and worried about trespassers especially on evenings when many of the villages are out on overnights, I slowly passed the van to see if I could discern who these folks were. Anything amiss and I'd say, in my best Chuck White as Sheriff voice (The Voice), "May I help you? You do know that this is not public property. This is a summer camp and please pardon us but we must be very careful about visitors passing through. Please move along if you have no business here." Etc. This speech was rehearsing in my mind when the driver got out of the car and wandered toward me, slightly hunched over to catch my visage as I sat behind the wheel of my own car, and then a surprised expression, and then a gleeful shout. "Al! Al Filreis?! Could it be you?"

The guy surely did look familiar. But he was a guy I'd known briefly 27 years earlier. I met him somehow in Charlottesville, VA, and somehow he applied to be on the staff for the summer of '81. Andy Huttner. He was a counselor in Sequoia, among other things (I think he also led an Adventure Trip). And now that I've been staring at the Sequoia group shot, I realize that he's in it. The connections are crossed an interlaced. Two things converge here: the coincidence of him passing by on the road in 2008 and my being there at that moment, and feeling the prosecutorial urge to investigate his reasons for stopping; second, the emergence, via Robinov, of those old Sequoia shot.

Proust, you go. There are no discrete memories. If it's not quite a family (Huttner and Iverson unrelated, thrown by together by accident) it's certainly a community. Not 6 or 7 degrees of removal from each other, but 2 at most.