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MARTHA SEZ: ‘You can’t help but wonder with someone like Oshkosh where he’ll end up’

August 10, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

It's August, and, as my friend Lorie Gregory used to say, the light is different.

It's the first week of August when you notice that the slant of the sunlight is different and the days are shorter. The summer solstice-the longest day of the year!-was a while ago. Those of us who wait for spring, who love summer, feel a pang, take note of a little warning shiver even as the heat stokes up once again to 90 degrees.

The fields are green after recent rain, and Queen Anne's lace umbrels nod in a breeze that feels as if someone just opened the oven door.

August in the town of Keene is busy. Tourists and summer people cheerfully overrun the hamlets, consistently in good humor because they are on vacation. The annual Keene Valley Hose and Ladder No. 1 Field Day 2018, locally known as Firemen's Field Day, was held the first Sunday of August, one day after firefighters of Keene Valley, Keene, Jay, Upper Jay, Lake Placid, Wilmington, Ausable Forks and Elizabethtown battled a barn fire in St. Huberts, preventing the nearby Slater House from catching fire.

As I pull into my driveway after work Monday, a beat-up compact car roars into the drive behind me, and a long lanky creature with orange curls unfolds itself from behind the steering wheel. It's Oshkosh.

"B'gosh!" I shout. People have been greeting him this way forever. His real name is John, but his parents, Biff and Margo, nicknamed him Oshkosh after the Wisconsin town where they vacationed by the shores of Lake Winnebago one magic summer about 21 years ago. As far as I know he has never been called anything else.

His sister, Jenni, came along about three years later. Biff and Margo hadn't been traveling much since Oshkosh arrived, so she wasn't named after some exotic vacation spot. On the other hand, she wasn't named anything as common as Jennifer, either. No, she was christened Jennings, a name that sounds plural, as if they expected her to be twins, or perhaps quints. She may have been named after William Jennings Bryan, or Waylon Jennings.

Later, the magic in Biff's and Margo's marriage dissipated, as if Lake Winnebago had never been. Still, they agree that the boy Jennings is dating is all wrong. The more they complain about him, the more she loves him.

I have changed so much. The stories I used to read about star-crossed young lovers kept apart by cruel parents I see now in a different light.

"Listen to your elders!" I hiss at the heroine. "It's for your own good, you ninny!"

"I came to return this Joan Baez CD," Kosh now tells me. "You wouldn't have any early Dylan I could borrow, would you?"

"Sure," I tell him, "come in." I'm glad he likes the music I grew up with.

It turns out Kosh is questioning whether he will go back to college. He is considering leaving the area. I guess this was bound to happen. Naming him after a farflung location on the shores of a distant northern lake has given him outlandish notions.

On the dining room table, a stack of newspapers awaits sorting. And can wait awhile longer, as far as I'm concerned. Oshkosh picks up a Boston paper, finds the want ads and starts going through them, running his finger down the page, his face crumpled with concentration.

"Antler work, antler work, can't find any antler work."

"Good luck."

"Bob run," he mutters. "Creosote buildup removal "

I give him a sharp glance. Is he joking? Impossible to know for sure. I go to get the Dylan CDs, and when I come back he is reading "Weekly World News."

"Listen to this," he says. "Alien cookbook found in wreckage of 1975 flying saucer crash. Hungarian goulash using real ground-up Hungarians. Canadian bacon "

"Yeah. That article is really interesting. They say experts cracked the secret alien code with just one word: potato," I tell him. "Here you go, three CDs. Take that "Weekly World News" with you, why don't you, I'm through with it."

"Thanks. Cool! 'Bride bursts into flames at altar ' "

Out he goes into the August heat, still reading, shoulders hunched. He folds himself into his car and reverses out of the drive. I watch him go. You can't help but wonder with someone like Oshkosh where he'll end up. Or, rather, where all he'll wander while he's getting there.

Have a good week.



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