Last weekend we drove up to Vermont to see the foliage. We've been doing this every fall since the mid-`70s. Sometimes we go the first week in October. Sometimes Columbus Day weekend. Other years a little later. But no matter what the date, we've always "just missed the peak," the locals tell us. Or, "You're probably a few days early." Funny how in almost 40 years we've never hit it just right. Kind of makes you wonder. This past weekend, the landscape looked pretty good. Soft yellows and oranges and browns patterning the great walls of mountain like an Orvis wool sweater -- but still, none of that bright red we keep hoping for.
Coming home, we realize where the bright reds are. Right here in Westport. Take a look at the backdrop of trees on the visitors side of the Staples football field. Pretty brilliant. And at Winslow Park -- same. Might have to re-think our foliage plans down the road.
Speaking of Winslow Park, Ricky the Beagle and I were there earlier this week. A portly lab, a hyper poodle, a frisky Yorkie, and another dog -- I don't know the breed, but it was so big it might have been a horse -- were all dashing around in happy circles in the bright sunshine. I let Ricky off his leash so he could join in the fun. Instead, he walked slowly, but purposefully, toward the parking lot, as he always does. At various points one or another of the younger dogs would wander over to sniff and kneel down in the "let's play" pose -- bounding first to the left, then to the right. Ricky just looked at them, as if to say, You're expending all this energy, and there's not even any food in sight? It occurred to me, finally, that Ricky's really not a big fan of Winslow Park, and we probably ought to drop it from our rotation.
Driving along the Post Road toward home, I notice the pumpkin display in front of Geiger's, and realize it's time to start decorating the house for Halloween. Arrange the pumpkins on the front steps. Hang the skeleton from the tall bush near the kitchen door. Tape the "Happy Halloween" banner under the roof of the portico. Dig the spooky-looking "R.I.P." tombstone into the soil in the flower bed. As I do every year. And every year, zero little trick-or-treaters come to see my display, because they're all clustered down at Gault, or Compo Beach, or wherever it is they go these days -- but it certainly ain't my block! I'm thinking I might save myself the trouble.
Our middle son Greg was home for dinner last night. Told me he had tickets to the Jets game against the Dolphins at Met Life Stadium next month, and asked me if I'd like to go. I said yes, of course. Greg and I are the two hardcore Jets fans in the family, and I usually have first dibs on tickets if he gets extras. The thing is, the last five times he's taken me, the Jets have lost. Now it's easy to say, the Jets always lose, but that's not really fair. Their record is reallya lot worse when I'm in attendance. I probably ought to consider passing the next time Greg offers to bring me along. Take one for the team.
Ditto for Mets opening day. The Herman men have been going to the Mets home opener since I-don't-even-remember-when. The problem isn't that the Mets tend to lose: They actually have a surprisingly good record on season openers. It's more about the weather, which always feels like dead-of-winter-freezing by the sixth inning. And the traffic, which is a horror show approaching Citi Field, and even worse when you're trying to leave. And how little any of us really cares these days about the Mets, who are generally irrelevant by June, let alone September. In fact, if you've been watching any of the National League Championship Series between the Cards and the Dodgers, it's easy to forget the Mets even exist -- accept when you see Adam Wainwright and Carlos Beltran, Cardinals teammates, and recall their classic encounter: Wainwright pitching in relief for the Cards, Beltran batting for the Mets -- and Beltran watching a called third strike to end the Mets chances in 2006, in the last meaningful game they've ever played.
Yup, there's another tradition I might need to re-think.
Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, can be followed on his blog "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman. Hank can be followed on Twitter @BeagleManHank and reached by email at DoubleH50@gmail.com