But I was also being a responsible adult about all this. I already had lots of ideas for boosting the tourism in that little town, starting with Roxie’s boyfriend. Leo Maxwell ran one of the Northeast’s most innovative organic farms, with teams of apprentices coming from around the country to work and learn. Based on what I’d gleaned from Roxie and the Internet, it could be a wonderful draw for people who were very much into their home gardens and being as sustainable as possible. Sustainable. Local. Homegrown. All current buzzwords that generated Internet clicks and tourism dollars that could potentially be spent in Bailey Falls.
It also didn’t hurt that Leo came from a very well-known and wealthy New York family, and looked like a Greek god from the island of Hipsteropia. Was I planning to exploit his natural good looks?
Hey, if his farm was featured in a possible future magazine spread encouraging Connecticut housewives to bring their family to the wholesome town of Bailey Falls for a weekend visit, and his smiling face was dead center? It couldn’t hurt.
I never turned over a stone that didn’t want to be flipped over, but if I thought it might give, I always started pushing. The stone usually let me know.
I also packed. As a rule, I didn’t leave Manhattan for any reason unless I was going somewhere fabulous. I’m sure Bailey Falls was charming and all, but it was definitely different from my normal business trip to somewhere with tall buildings and round-the-clock deliveries. How did I pack for the country?
I headed to REI. I explained to an oddly confused saleswoman that I was headed into the wilderness and needed to make sure I had the necessities. I was going on an adventure, and didn’t want to be caught without something that might come in handy and save my life. She led me to the survival gear, which I was surprised to realize didn’t include anything cashmere. Purification tablets, sure, but no cardigans?
I always found great sweaters at Barneys, so I’d head there next, but before leaving REI I did manage to procure a great pair of subzero hiking pants, a puppy tent with an optional starry-night ceiling, and several packages of something called gorp.
I also visited the salon for my regularly scheduled waxing (everywhere, thank you) and picked up a few last-minute glam packs to make sure that even in the sticks, I was highlighted, primed, and perfectly dewy. Should the need arise.
I was in the office Thursday morning finishing up some last-minute details when Dan stopped by to check in one last time.
“When is your train?”
“I’m gonna jump on the 1:43. That puts me in at Poughkeepsie around 3:30.”
“Sounds good. When are you meeting with the client?”
“I’m scheduled with the councilman who reached out to us tomorrow at 9 a.m. I figured I’d start with him first, get a feel for what he wants. Then I’m supposed to meet with the rest of the council over the weekend, after my official tour.” I packed up my laptop. “And apparently there’s a barn dance. Can you believe that?”
“Hope you packed your petticoat,” he said, chuckling along with me.
I patted my second suitcase. “You bet your ass I did.”
“You didn’t,” he said, blinking at me.
“Dan. When am I ever going to get the chance to go to a barn dance again? You should see the boots I got to wear with my dress!”
“Please promise me that someone will be taking pictures. I just need one,” he said, shaking his head. “I still can’t believe you’re going up there. Best friend or no best friend, this just isn’t like you.”
As I stood in the perfectly modern office in a high-rise with a view people would kill for, a slow smile spread across my face.
When I was ten years old, my family and I took a weekend trip up to Lake Erie to stay with an old friend of my mother’s. We got a late start out of the city, broke an axle on a lonely country road after dark, and ended up spending the night, and the better part of the next day, in a little town in the literal middle of nowhere, waiting for the one body shop in town to get the part it needed to fix my dad’s car.
We spent the night at the Greenwood Inn, an old hotel that had seen better days. But while my mother and father complained about the size of the bathroom and the thread count of the sheets, I was fascinated with the bell on the counter downstairs and the fact that there was a potbelly stove in the corner. The next day, while my father dickered with the owner of the body shop, my mother and my brother and I spent the day in town, walking the town square, playing in the little park in the center of town, and feeding the ducks in the duck pond. I watched the little town bustle around me, locals coming into town to pick up some groceries from the mom-and-pop grocery store on the corner, to visit with each other at the café over a slice of pie, or to shop for new school clothes at the one clothing store, over which was Miss Lucy’s Dance Studio.
My brother was bored. My mother was frustrated. I was enthralled. The little town—and still to this day I have no idea where exactly it was—came alive in front of my eyes, like a walking, talking picture book. We spent exactly seventeen hours in this town, and it forever changed my view of small-town America . . . and was the spark that lit the secret never-to-be-spoken-of-out-loud desire to one day live in one.
As the train sped along the Hudson, I watched as the little river towns flew by. I took pictures as we zoomed by, the river, the stations, the hills, everything. The train made many stops, and I watched the people getting off. These were people who worked in my city, but chose to live just up the river, in an entirely different world.