Waking Van Winkle | Community Notebook | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

Page 3 of 3

The Turtle points me to the store City Lights, and I brave the cold again to make my last inquiry of the day. It is flurrying now, and my fingers are gloveless and numb. I feel the hope burning inside me regardless. The footsteps of Thomas Cole and William Cullen Bryant echo alongside my own. I enter City Lights, and there I meet Natalie the Actress.

It’s a marvelous shop, full of light fixtures contemporary and classic, funky and unique. The place glows; Natalie glows as she asks if I need help. Michael Solomon, the owner of the store, has been in business for over 25 years, she tells me. But I want to know about her. What brought her to the pristine Greene County? Her answer is simple: a boy. Natalie was living in Hartford, Connecticut, when she met her future partner online. She moved to Athens two years ago; her satisfaction is palpable. I know now why I needed to venture past the trail Washington Irving set down for his Rip.

As usual, the magical vision I seek turns out to be all about love. About connection. Rip Van Winkle missed it in his inebriated stumbling. The Ace of Clubs, where I started my journey, just reaches toward it. The pristine Catskills can only reflect it. The greatness in Natalie’s story lies not in that she is still with the Athens man she met on the Internet, but that she met him at all, that connection happens frequently and perfectly. There is greatness in my connecting with Kathy and her daughter with no name. That I met Harry, Mark, Sandra, Chuck, and the Turtle, and that connecting with them brought me to exactly where I needed to go in Greene County: a magical shop full of light.

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