My Movie Dreams Come True: Will Ferrell and Gael Garcia Bernal Have Teamed Up

I learned the amazing news from friend Suzanne this morning: Will Ferrell paired up with none other than Mexican superstars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna to make a “overly dramatic telenovela”-style comedy — Casa de Mi Padre. Even more amazing: The movie is in Spanish!

Bernal and Luna were once known for their serious, brooding, stunningly beautiful Mexican films like Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien (y tu mama is a Joy favorite). But in recent years they’ve turned their eye toward comedy, producing the side-splitting Rudo y Cursi  — a movie so excellent I don’t know where to begin, but this video from the movie will give you a great idea. Now to think they’ve added Will Ferrell to their talent arsenal? Good god, it doesn’t get any better!

My only concern: Finding out a release date for this film was impossible, I can only hope it hits theaters soon.

The trailer (which apparently was leaked) looks hilarious:

How Hurricane Irene Affected Us in Sullivan County NY

After much hemming and hawing last week, Brendan and I finally decided to go upstate to ride out Hurricane Irene. We were nervous about spending the weekend at our apartment in Queens while our home upstate was vulnerable. Saturday was quiet and normal, but around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, the torrential rains started, which lasted for a solid 12 hours. Then, in the middle of the night, we also lost power, and it has not come back online yet — we’re told a week, at least.

Fortunately, our cabin did just fine — no flooding, no damage, nada, but our 10 acres of land are irrevocably altered by the flood waters.  The rains caused our normally placid stream to turn into a roaring brown monster that swallowed up the road in places, as you’ll see below. We don’t know what to expect when we go back next weekend, when the waters will have receded, revealing a new landscape.

We witnessed gigantic trees uprooted and slamming their way down the river. At some points, we heard a low rumbling sound like thunder that we finally figured out was the sound of enormous boulders being rolled down the bottom of the stream by the enormous force of the water.

Fast forward a few hours, and we’re now both at work today in Manhattan. There’s barely a puddle in the city, much less evidence of a massive storm! We first tried to drive back last night, but after more than three hours of driving and hitting constant detours and road closures, we came back to the cabin. This morning’s commute, thankfully, turned out better.

The scene at our property:

Thankfully the gutters near us did their job, diverting the water away from our home.

Normally, this is the headwaters for a quiet, trickling waterfall in the spring that runs dry in the summer.

You can see how debris could easily dam this up, causing major problems.

Our property is on the right here (but far from our home). It will be awhile before we know how the storm waters re-routed our stream. We expect it to be quite different. Thankfully we didn't lose any of our giant white pine "mega trees" but we did lose a few hemlocks and other trees.

Clearly, we need to invest in better rain gear.

Our water-ravaged property. Thankfully our home sits way uphill, high above all this.

The flood in action:

The scene after the storm cleared in the afternoon. The air was so clear, but the winds were still a little scary:

Need to Find an Unmarked Grave? I’m Your Gal

Hello there Frank M Smith, who died May 12, 1862!

So, part deux of our cemetery adventures gets a little weirder. You see, in a recent post, I shared how Brendan and I helped clean up a local historic cemetery not far from our upstate home. Amid copperhead snakes, mice and maybe a few ghosts, we mowed, raked and weed whacked with abandon, until the cemetery was groomed to perfection.

What I didn’t mention is what I did post-cleanup: I learned to “dowse” for unmarked graves. Dowsing is an old artform (and some might say witchcraft or quackery) in which a person uses two thin metal rods to search for things underground — especially water, precious metals or unmarked graves. How it works: You loosely hold the rods out in front of you, and walk slowly over the area you’re investigating. The rods will begin to move when you hit a sweet spot. No one really knows how or why this works, some claim a magnetic field, some claim it’s just the dowser himself making the rods move.

I’m a huge skeptic, so when Charles from the local historical society brought out his dowsing rods, I kind of hovered in the background, amused. He said he  was trying to find a few unmarked graves in the front of the cemetery, and said that’s how he found some of the graves in the cemetery when they first started trying to restore it back when it was in extreme neglect.

Charles then came over to me and insisted I try it. Maybe he could tell I was a non-believer. He showed me how to do it by walking over the grassy area in front of a headstone, while I lightly hold the rods.

And holy shit, when I walked over the area where a body might be, those rods moved.

The creepiest part was how I could feel them tugging on my skin. I was aghast. WHAT?

You can see my look of semi-panic here. This is the rods going bonkers while I do nothing but hold them.


So, while dowsing may have been largely written off by scientists, and others may call it “witchery,” my day of dowsing was incredibly real. It worked for me. And that’s enough to prove to me that it can work. (Further proof that I think it works: I posted these sweaty, unflattering photos of me! Awe trumps vanity.)


Chillin’ With Buried Revolutionary War Heroes (Or, How We Cleaned a Cemetery)

My better half, voluntarily mowing a graveyard on a hot August afternoon.

During our weekend adventures upstate, we often drive by a very old cemetery, the kind that immediately makes you think of Ichabod Crane, Paul Revere and the Salem witch trials (or maybe that’s just me). This summer, with each passing week, the cemetery appeared increasingly devoured by Mother Nature, the weeds wrapping their tendrils over the headstones, obscuring many of them from passers-by. It was spooky, and a little sad.

As it turns out, the cemetery used to receive tender loving care from state prisoners, who would mow back the overgrowth. But then the guvnah cut funding for prison workers, and the cemetery was left to fend for itself. We found this out from members of our local historical society,  who were looking for volunteers to restore the cemetery. Long story short: We, along with a family who had grown heartsick over the unkempt conditions, spent a recent Sunday happily volunteering. One nice bit of randomness: The family had shown up on their own to mow, unaware of the historical society’s plan to mow, too — on the same day, at the same time! It was definitely nice to have extra hands, and they were experienced with machines like weed whackers, while I was mostly just afraid of them.

On to the cemetery: The first thing you notice? It’s old, folks, old. Many of the dearly departed died before the Civil War, and quite a few fought in the Revolutionary War. Then you notice its size: It’s large, with more than 450 graves in various states of decay and disrepair. And there are snakes — a copperhead made a grand entrance. While one may be tempted to comment on the eerie presence of a snake in a graveyard, the snakes are presumably there to 1) bask on the warm gravestones and 2) chase down the many mice living under the headstones. It was a good reminder to wear jeans and boots when mowing an overgrown cemetery (something I hadn’t really known how to plan for, and that’s probably a good thing. Also bring water, sunscreen and more water).

And ….what it all looks like:

"In memory of Hester Simpson, wife of John Libolt, who died April the third day of 1863."

You can really see the before-and-after here, as Brendan shoves the "brush hog" (a weed wacker shaped like a mower) up a hill.

What many of the graves looked like before grooming.

Another grave, post haircut. When a headstone breaks, historians try their best to keep the pieces near each other, as shown here.

After they’ve been chewed and spit up by a weed whacker, the weeds become hay, and I spent a lot of time raking, brushing and yanking hay/debris away, so that the bottom of the graves weren’t sitting in a rotting mess. It sounds easy, but try it over, and over, and over again, until your hamstrings are practically hollering at you.

It’s a killer workout. Pun intended.

Feather Heaven

Lately we’ve been spying more flocks of wild turkeys traipsing around our property, especially in one flat, moist, grassy area we’ve dubbed the “swamp.” I don’t know what they’re eating over there, but they love it. At least they leave behind pretty presents.