Monday, July 14, 2008

"The Garden Spot of the Universe"

My father would make that observation that every time he drove past the decaying factory town of Amsterdam (NY) - and not entirely ironically.

Because my mother was born-and-raised in Amsterdam. She had to drop out of high school to go to work in the carpet mill - and I seem to recall that she started at four dollars a week - as it was the depths of the Hoover Depression, and her father didn't make enough to keep them fed. (Now that I think of it, it's more likely that the mill wouldn't take him back on - not at seven dollars a week - not when they could hire teenaged girls at four dollars a week.)

When the war broke out, she went to work down the valley at GE's Schenectady Works, where she met my father. (And by then, she was then making more than her father, a laborer in the carpet mill.)

When my parents married in '45, they lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years; my eldest sister was born there. My mother's brother - who was, after her father died, her only living relative - raised his family in Amsterdam, and lived there until the day he died. (He's buried right behind Ft. Johnson.)

We visited my uncle probably about monthly for most of the '60s; I've been to several weddings up in Amsterdam, of my cousin and of my mother's friends' kids.

So I have a connection there; heck, it's not far to the alternate universe in which I grew up in Amsterdam. (My uncle was in school with Kirk Douglas, who wrote books about growing up poor in Amsterdam.)

Anyway, on Saturday, Alice and I were headed up the valley, and were stopped at the traffic light in the center of town (at the light at the intersection of Routes 5 and 30)... and the shift linkage let go.
Nice strangers jumped out to push the Miata into the fire station's parking lot; a half-hour later, it was towed to Dudka's Garage over on the west side of town.

It was a sunny and hot Saturday afternoon - not the worst conditions to be stranded. And I noted that I am not the first of my lineage to be walking around Amsterdam.

Eventually, my daughter and I walked over to the Amtrak station and took the last train of the day down to Schenectady, where Maggie and Mary rescued us.

The conductor thought this was hilarious - "It'll take me that long to write up the ticket!" - as it's all of a 15-minute train ride. (However, let's note that Amtrak was fully thirty minutes late for a 15-minute ride....)

Back at the lodge, we toasted our adventure...

(I got home to learn that the Miata doesn't have "linkages" - if the shifter is busted, it's inside the transmission case. This is going to hurt....)

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