CHAPTERS

Screenshot (1)This is my son Adam and his dog Ladybug. Ladybug is 15 years old and Adam is 22 leaning on 23. Today Adam moved out of our home to pursue his life. As it should be. In fact, Adam did this a few years ago but the timing wasn’t right so he came back home. No problem. In fact we were happy that he was back.

You see Adam is quite creative, and you never know what direction that creative talent is going to go. I wish I had a nickel for all the times that he had his mother and me rolling in fits of laughter. Today he packed up his stuff and moved about an hour and a half away. Not far but far enough to be Adam. And isn’t that what counts most?

As a parent, we are supposed to be prepared for this. I mean, after all didn’t we all do the exact same thing? We woke up one day and decided that the time had come to move on and explore what life, and what the world had to offer. Some of us had children and some of us didn’t. Some moved across the Continent and some didn’t. But either way, whichever fork we traveled, we indeed traveled.

Those of us with children kinda sorta always knew that the day would come when  we would be turning this page, closing one chapter and beginning another. By the way, did I mention that Adam is our youngest son? Well he is. Our oldest moved out also some years ago, got a job and career, married, and blessed us with a grandchild. They live about ten minutes from us. But they too have their own lives, doing exactly what we did, and then some. The wheel is turning and it won’t slow down.

So now it is just me and my wife and our two dogs. Adam left his with us. We prepared for this day and at the same time we weren’t prepared. All that I know is that when I look at my children, deep in my heart, I know that we did our best in raising them and teaching them. Their actions remind me of that every time I see them.

And along the way, they taught us also.

So with sadness and pride and loads of other emotions all wrapped up inside today is the first day of the rest of our lives. And Adam’s too.

Advertisements

CHAPTERS

A strange thing happened this morning. For the first time in our 34 year marriage the day after Labor Day neither my wife or I got up at ‘0 dark hundred’ to go to work. I am almost 61 and my wife is almost 58. Actually we have been rehearsing for this day for a couple of weeks now but for some reason Labor Day made it official. Yes too early in our lives not to be working, but I am not going to go into the gory details in this post.

We always knew that this day would come. The turning of a page in our book of life, the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. It is exciting.  And yet?

We have been preparing for this time in our lives for a couple of years now. Oh we will have to work as we truly cannot afford to retire but the days of killing ourselves for ‘The Man’ are over. My wife and I are planning on pursuing things that we love in life and make money along the way.

We have raised two fantastic children. One married with a child and the other unmarried and sorting out his path in life. And us? We are learning, or should I say relearning, how to be alone together in the same room. How to not necessarily fill the air with talk. That it is okay for us both to read and just be. Sometimes  one of us will look over, catch the other’s eye and will say, “What? Is everything alright?” Of course it is, we are just getting to know one another again. We made a spaghetti sauce the other day and for the first time ever I did not get out the mega pot to make a mega sauce (if we had some meat to put into it it would have been ‘gravy’) because we didn’t need a mega sauce. Our Costco membership just ran out. That became a topic of discussion. Do we really need to buy in that quantity anymore? No, we decided but aren’t ready to give it up yet. We both love the Costco Buffet. I spent a good part of the weekend in what has become my ‘happy place’ when not staring at waves at the beach, my hammock, and my wife spent her time doing art, reading, and just relearning how to chillax.

Today I was going to make a special day as it is the first one after Labor Day when she was not going to return to a classroom. But my plans changed. It was even more special than I could have ever imagined. Our daughter-in-law asked us to sit for our 6 month old, first Grandson while she and our son had to work.

Yes this new chapter in our lives is starting off just great. I can’t wait to see how the next 20 years turn out.

Deadhead1155                                                                                                                                                  September 6, 2016

 

BEAM ME UP SCOTTY.

Yesterday I thrilled you all with how my world tipped in 2015. Today my wife and I were out shopping and she made a remarkable observation concerning changes in our life.

Okay let me go back a bit and fill you in. I have been a hyper person for my whole life; a nervous person (although this doesn’t always shine through as I try to hide it). A person that is really a slob, but also someone who must have certain things neat and orderly. Everything must have its place or it screws up the Feng Shui of a room. On the other hand, I can lose something that is right in front of my face and blame it on the rest of the human race. I’m a person that has had ADHD before anyone had ever heard of it. It used to drive me nuts that while walking with my wife, in the woods, stores, beach, etc.,  I would have to slow down to her pace. She was the calming factor in my life. While the neurons in my brain were flashing here and there, setting off firework displays that would put Macy’s to shame, my wife worked for decades to slow me down so I could “smell the roses”.  Bless her for not leaving me for a Yoga instructor. I think that you have the picture.

 As I posted yesterday, our lives have changed drastically within the past year or so. It’s hard to believe that I am actually slowing down now to take in the world around me and watch the show. I don’t find it necessary to “be” the show all of the time anymore.  As John Lennon once said, “I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round” and I find myself loving it. A work injury to my knee was the catalyst of all this change.  I see now that life is more then just working for the man to pay bills, sleeping, and starting all over again the next day.

 These days,  I  am the slow one, the one with the time to stand and figure out if an item in the grocery store really is the bargain that they want us to believe it is. I can sit on the gas line at Costco and not get aggravated at how long it is. Once the initial kick of my morning coffee wears off, I am content to lay in the hammock and read.  You can forget asking me a question, because you might just get an answer that you don’t have the time to listen to. One yarn leads to another and I am okay with this, and hopefully the feeling is mutual… In fact, regardless of what some people tell me, I am okay.  

This brings us back to today. My wife and I were shopping and suddenly she started to giggle. I asked her what she was laughing at and she replied  that she saw men following their wives around looking lost, beaten and downtrodden;  like they have just given up. She was laughing at the absurdity of it. I too used to laugh inwardly at these oppressed,retired men. Monday was dairy day, Tuesday was meat day, Wednesday was pasta day, Thursday might be frozen food day, and Friday, well who knows, maybe it was for things forgotten before the new circular even came out.

Many of these men looked so  miserable. Perhaps  it all started decades ago on a quiet night when the husband  announced that he was going out for a six pack and his wife asked those fateful words, “Honey, while you are out, would you please pick me up a box of tampons?”  He didn’t even realize it , but his transformation started at that very moment.

And today I saw them schlepping their wives pocketbooks around the store trying to be invisible, staring out into space, adding insult to injury.  Is this what I have to look forward to in my “Golden Years”?? Beam me up Scottie, for I am surely doomed.

AS THE LORD IS MY WITNESS, I WILL NOT, CARRY HER POCKETBOOK. A MAN HAS TO DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE!!!!!      deadhead1155

 

2015 THE YEAR THAT THE EARTH TIPPED ON IT’S AXIS

Like most people that write blogs I feel that it is necessary, or expected to do a ‘Year in Review’ piece. Originally I was going to do this strictly with pictures (and may yet tackle that) but so much has happened in the deadhead1155 family’s world that it is only fitting to do this the old fashioned way, with keyboard in hand and LED screen in front of me.   So here goes.

2015 came in with me sitting at home dealing with a work related injury to my knee. And this was after 2 surgeries and physical therapy earlier in 2014. Long story that won’t really be that interesting until an end is in sight. So after a quarter Century I found myself not heading out to work every day. This took some getting used to as I have been working since I was old enough to get working papers.  Suddenly I found myself trying to figure out what to have for dinner every night. This gave me an appreciation of what my wife had to deal with for decades. 

We then had a few harried months while our oldest son and fiance worked out their plans for their nuptials. This they did in a very unusual way. In May they got married, on the anniversary of their first date, on top of a mountain at a ski resort. Well I know that others have done this before, but many others, that wanted to ‘do it their way’ never did, and found themselves standing in a Church, Synagogue or Catering Hall, exchanging vows the way that their parents wanted it done. Ultimately it went off without a hitch and they will always have the memory of having done it their way. Bless them.   No sooner did we catch  our breaths from the wedding when we found out that we were going to be grandparents. Oh my. Neither of us felt old enough for that. But then again we didn’t feel old enough to have two grown children making their own way in life. Which brings me to our youngest son. He was living in California for a while and felt that the time for that wasn’t right so late in 2014 he returned home. We missed him dearly and although he was returning to find his path in life, deep down inside it was good to have him around again.  And when he got back we laughed, cried, and hugged. This carried over to 2015 and it was hard to watch him work two jobs to put money away (to try and move out again), struggle with the transition from boyhood to true manhood and all that goes with it.  But watch we did, and through it all we watched with some pride in knowing that he will be okay. I stopped teasing him about living in the guest house on the future Estate, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t forgotten.

My wife slowly got used to me being home when she got home, and I learned to give her the quiet time that she was used to before I was here all of the time. Over the summer she had the greatest gift a mother-in-law could ask for. My wife and daughter-in-law worked together running a pottery program at a Summer Day Camp where I think that the highlight of the day was stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts for that afternoon pick me up.

I spent the summer working at a Boy Scout Camp running the Scoutcraft area. What a learning  experience that was. They treated me really well because of my bad knee. The days were long and it was literally 7 days a week for 6 weeks. It was a killer but I loved it just the same.

In November I turned the big 60. And I survived. Okay so maybe I am a bit slower, my knee hurts still 2 years after the initial injury (and will forever, I think).  My betrothed and I sit and do  a lot of ‘Remember when…….’ or ‘Remember this……’. We learned that it is okay to sit quietly and just enjoy each others company. We quietly make plans for heading South to escape winter while at the same time making sure that we are around to watch our family grow bigger, and older, and share in their lives. The good, the bad, and everything that comes in-between.  I realize that although I have much to look forward to that suddenly I have much to look back on as well. Middle age? Came and went and I never bat an eyelash. My 60’s? Now that will be something else.

Earth RotationYes 2015 was the year that my world tipped on it’s axis a bit. No biggie, there is still gravity. And that, my friends is another story for another time.

 

 

 

A Healthy and Happy New Year to you all.         deadhead1155

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

While I was growing up in New Jersey I got into the habit of reading the newspaper everyday. Even when it was to large for me to hold, like my Dad did, I would lay it out on the floor, and work my way through the paper page by page. In the beginning I couldn’t understand why in the middle of an article I would have to skip to other pages to finish it but in High School I learned that the press used that as a ‘hook’ to get us to read the whole paper. Eventually, I stopped skipping around and when I finished part of the article, I would move on to another on the same page. Then later, upon reaching the page with the original article, I would pick up where I left off. I would always save the Comic pages for last as they were the best part of the paper.  As I got older, I continued to read the paper everyday. When traveling, I would seek out a New York paper, and a local paper so that I could compare the different ways in which the same news was presented.

NY Times on My BirthdateNY TIMES FROM MY BIRTHDATE

I continued to read the physical paper until about three years ago. Then my wife was offered a weekend subscription to the NY Times at a reduced rate as she worked in a school. This subscription came included the online edition of the Times as well. So even if I could only hold the paper in my hands three times a week, I could, at least read the rest of the news daily on my tablet, phone or computer. It took me a long time to get used to this. At first I kept thinking, ‘Man these online articles are much longer then the printed ones. But I was wrong, the difference was that I was now able to read an article without looking for the rest on another page.

Just as they hoped, slowly my habits began to change, I looked forward to reading the paper online daily, and less and less to reading the hard copy.  This morning my Friday edition of the NY Times arrived and I began to read it. First off the pages are more narrow then before, second, I found that having to change pages to finish an article annoying. So, with my second cup of coffee in hand, I put down the print edition, and booted up my tablet to read the paper there. And so I did.

And you know what? I have given up reading paper books and now use my Kindle exclusively. A few years ago I would have sworn that that would never happen.  Is a simple twist of fate, my 25 year old son still insists on reading books in print on paper, and my 21 year old uses a Kindle.

Who says that you cannot teach an ‘Old Dog’ new tricks?  Poppy cock.

deadhead1155

CHOOSE TO BE GRATEFUL. IT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER.

Many of my readers know that at times I will post things that I read that I feel need sharing. What follows is one such article. It appeared in the NY Times and was written by Arthur C. Brooks.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and never forget what you are Thankful For. deadhead1155

 

updated November 21, 2015

TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month, my wife and I married in Barcelona, Spain. Two weeks after our wedding, flush with international idealism, I had the bright idea of sharing a bit of American culture with my Spanish in-laws by cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner.

 

Easier said than done. Turkeys are not common in Barcelona. The local butcher shop had to order the bird from a specialty farm in France, and it came only partially plucked. Our tiny oven was too small for the turkey. No one had ever heard of cranberries.

Over dinner, my new family had many queries. Some were practical, such as, “What does this beast eat to be so filled with bread?” But others were philosophical: “Should you celebrate this holiday even if you don’t feel grateful?”

I stumbled over this last question. At the time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. This point will elicit a knowing, mirthless chuckle from readers whose Thanksgiving dinners are usually ruined by a drunk uncle who always needs to share his political views. Thanks for nothing.

Beyond rotten circumstances, some people are just naturally more grateful than others. A 2014 article in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience identified a variation in a gene (CD38) associated with gratitude. Some people simply have a heightened genetic tendency to experience, in the researchers’ words, “global relationship satisfaction, perceived partner responsiveness and positive emotions (particularly love).” That is, those relentlessly positive people you know who seem grateful all the time may simply be mutants.

But we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.

This is not just self-improvement hokum. For example, researchers in one 2003 study randomly assigned one group of study participants to keep a short weekly list of the things they were grateful for, while other groups listed hassles or neutral events. Ten weeks later, the first group enjoyed significantly greater life satisfaction than the others. Other studies have shown the same pattern and lead to the same conclusion. If you want a truly happy holiday, choose to keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, whether you feel like it or not.

How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions. In one famous 1993 experiment, researchers asked human subjects to smile forcibly for 20 seconds while tensing facial muscles, notably the muscles around the eyes called the orbicularis oculi (which create “crow’s feet”). They found that this action stimulated brain activity associated with positive emotions.

If grinning for an uncomfortably long time like a scary lunatic isn’t your cup of tea, try expressing gratitude instead. According to research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).

It’s science, but also common sense: Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things. As my teenage kids would say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” In the slightly more elegant language of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.”

In addition to building our own happiness, choosing gratitude can also bring out the best in those around us. Researchers at the University of Southern California showed this in a 2011 study of people with high power but low emotional security (think of the worst boss you’ve ever had). The research demonstrated that when their competence was questioned, the subjects tended to lash out with aggression and personal denigration. When shown gratitude, however, they reduced the bad behavior. That is, the best way to disarm an angry interlocutor is with a warm “thank you.”

I learned this lesson 10 years ago. At the time, I was an academic social scientist toiling in professorial obscurity, writing technical articles and books that would be read by a few dozen people at most. Soon after securing tenure, however, I published a book about charitable giving that, to my utter befuddlement, gained a popular audience. Overnight, I started receiving feedback from total strangers who had seen me on television or heard me on the radio.

One afternoon, I received an unsolicited email. “Dear Professor Brooks,” it began, “You are a fraud.” That seemed pretty unpromising, but I read on anyway. My correspondent made, in brutal detail, a case against every chapter of my book. As I made my way through the long email, however, my dominant thought wasn’t resentment. It was, “He read my book!” And so I wrote him back — rebutting a few of his points, but mostly just expressing gratitude for his time and attention. I felt good writing it, and his near-immediate response came with a warm and friendly tone.

DOES expressing gratitude have any downside? Actually, it might: There is some research suggesting it could make you fat. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology finds evidence that people begin to crave sweets when they are asked to express gratitude. If this finding holds up, we might call it the Pumpkin Pie Paradox.

The costs to your weight notwithstanding, the prescription for all of us is clear: Make gratitude a routine, independent of how you feel — and not just once each November, but all year long.

There are concrete strategies that each of us can adopt. First, start with “interior gratitude,” the practice of giving thanks privately. Having a job that involves giving frequent speeches — not always to friendly audiences — I have tried to adopt the mantra in my own work of being grateful to the people who come to see me.

 

Next, move to “exterior gratitude,” which focuses on public expression. The psychologist Martin Seligman, father of the field known as “positive psychology,” gives some practical suggestions on how to do this. In his best seller “Authentic Happiness,” he recommends that readers systematically express gratitude in letters to loved ones and colleagues. A disciplined way to put this into practice is to make it as routine as morning coffee. Write two short emails each morning to friends, family or colleagues, thanking them for what they do.

Finally, be grateful for useless things. It s relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life- a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America. But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles. Ponder the impractical joy in  Gerard Manley Hopkins poem “Pied Beauty”:

Glory be to God for dappled things —

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

Be honest: When was the last time you were grateful for the spots on a trout? More seriously, think of the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks.

This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds you back from your bliss. As for me, I am taking my own advice and updating my gratitude list. It includes my family, faith, friends and work. But also the dappled complexion of my bread-packed bird. And it includes you, for reading this column.

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing opinion writer (to the New York Times).

Magic Mountains

FROM: THE REPUBLIC

Stephen Silverman / Alfred A. Knopf
Magic Mountains
A new history explores the making and unmaking of the Jewish Catskills.
BY JASON DIAMOND
November 13, 2015

There’s a moment in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing when Max Kellerman, owner of Kellerman’s Mountain House, a family resort in the Catskills, reminisces about the long history of his establishment. “Bubbah and Zeda serving the first pasteurized milk to the boarders, through the war years when we didn’t have any meat, through the Depression when we didn’t have anything…You think kids want to come with their parents and take fox-trot lessons? Trips to Europe, that’s what the kids want.” It was the best summation of the slow decay of the region that had begun during the time when Dirty Dancing was set, in 1963, and had nearly finished by the time the movie premiered in the late 80s. “It feels like it’s all slipping away,” Kellerman concludes. It’s a speech that serves as one of those schmaltzy looks back at early 1960s innocence that filmmakers were so fond of in the 1980s, but it also perfectly summed up the uncertain future for a region that established the all-American vacation destination.

The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America is a sprawling new history of the mountain range that sits about 100 miles from the mouth of the Hudson River, where in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, European immigrants and American Jews, many experiencing financial prosperity for the first time, spent the warmer months at resorts, summer camps, and bungalow colonies during an era when many leisure spots were closed to them. Kellerman’s was modeled partially on Brown’s, one of many enormous hotel complexes in the “Borscht Belt,” which flourished from the 1920s to the 1970s. It was a time that helped reshape American entertainment for a new age and also saw American Jews rise from second-class citizens to a new, albeit still uncomfortable, position of acceptance. Brown’s decline began in the late 1960s; by the 1980s, most of the area’s largest hotels had closed, and in 2012 the abandoned Brown’s burned to the ground, a fulfillment of the fictional prophecy of Max Kellerman. The rise and slow fall of the Catskills mirrored what Americans had come to expect out of their leisure time, with warm beaches and hot deserts and fancier resorts replacing the family-owned businesses in the mountains. But for American Jews in the twentieth century, the creation of the Catskills was as necessary as the leaving of it.

Although there had been Jews living and owning property in the region since 1773, when a lessee known as “Jacob the Jew” took control of land near Woodstock, it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that those who had escaped the shtetls of Eastern Europe made their way first from Ellis Island, then through crowded New York City streets, and finally to the region’s peaceful farms, an area similar to their homeland. In 1883, the Hungarian-born Charles Fleischmann, founder of Fleischmann’s Yeast, (“the present-day equivalent of an industrial, biotech empire,” explains a Fleischmann descendant) purchased 60 acres of land, thinking the mountain air would be good for his respiratory problems. While the Catskills boasted plenty of mountaintop hotels that were popular among people of means, they were reserved for “the Wall Street and Tammany Hall power brokers who partook of the rarefied Victorian elegance at the Christian resorts.” The gentile hotel owners banded together, producing a sort of gentleman’s agreement summed up in 1877 by the owner of the Grand Union Hotel, Judge Henry Hilton (no relation to the hotelier), instituting the rule that “no Israelites should be permitted to stop at this hotel.” Several more hotels followed suit with similar slogans: “No Hebrews Need Apply” and “Jews and Dogs Are Not Welcome.”


The Mohonk Mountain house maintained a Christians-only policy and shared information about guests with other Catskills hotels.Stephen Silverman / Alfred A. Knopf
By the turn of the century, a new sign would start to appear outside of up-and-coming hotels: “Dietary Laws Observed.” As Jews slowly started to buy up inexpensive property in the area, families realized they could make a living by entertaining fellow Jews who couldn’t afford to move out of the city, but who wanted a little time to relax in the country. The Grossingers owned a popular Lower East Side restaurant that served kosher food, and like Fleischmann before him, Selig Grossinger, suffered from fatigue living and working in the city and saw the Catskills as the perfect place to resettle. Grossinger was of more modest means than the wealthy Fleischmann, and he purchased 35 acres of land in the town of Ferndale, moving his entire family to a landscape that looked just like his birthplace in the Austrian Empire.
When Prohibition ended in 1933, the Catskills had been developed in large part by a number of Jewish gangsters and bootleggers, some of whom, like Waxey Gordon, filtered the money they made into new resorts and hotels. During the World War II, Grossinger’s would become the gold standard, other resorts, including The Concord, Hotel Brickman, and many others, prospered as a playground for upwardly-mobile Jews who came to enjoy fresh air, golf, dancing, great food, and most of all, entertainment. The list of comedians who tested their material out on the notoriously tough crowds is like a who’s who of twentieth-century American comedy: Jack Benny, Joan Rivers, Shecky Greene, Woody Allen, Phyllis Diller, and nearly every big name from the vaudeville circuit, radio, the early days of television, and the Yiddish theater.


The Stardust Room at the Nevele, 1969.Stephen Silverman / Alfred A. Knopf
Ellis Island may have been where many Jews started their paths to citizenship, but the Catskills provided Jews with an opportunity to feel more authentically American—it was where Jews went to get away from the city and be themselves, away from gentiles, and maybe most importantly, away from other Jews who didn’t wish to familiarize themselves with the ways of their new country. The Catskills may not have been a training ground for assimilation, but it gave Jews a better opportunity to see what life was like away from the crowded streets and prying eyes of their New York neighbors, to cut loose and have fun. The Golden Age of the Catskills also took place during a time that saw more American Jews assimilating into their country, no longer observing kosher dietary laws, marrying outside of the faith, and in some cases, changing their names to sound less ethnic; old world traditions were left behind in the streets of the Lower East Side and Brooklyn.

However, for the next generation, Europe was no longer the place to escape but rather the destination of well-to-do gentiles; the charms of the Catskills were nothing to those of Paris or London. “Immune to their parents’ values, including those formed by tragic memories of Europe that might have discouraged them from visiting there, a younger generation … sought different outlets for spending their leisure time,” the authors explain; the younger generation had the means to travel and was curious to explore the world beyond the pool at Kutsher’s. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 contributed to the decline as well: hotels that had previously shunned Jewish families were no longer able to say who could and couldn’t be guests. The Catskills had given many Jews a place to assess their comfort level as Americans, how much they were willing to keep and what they were willing to give up in order to gain wider admission into American society.


The ruins of the pool at Grossinger’s, which closed in 1982.Marisa Scheinfeld / Alfred A. Knopf
This newfound acceptance was a large part of why the Catskills started seeing a decline in tourists beginning in the 1960s. In an attempt to lure new visitors, some hotels enlarged their nightclubs and added tennis courts; the Nevele resort, which had been strictly kosher for over 70 years, started serving bacon, shrimp cocktails, and lobster. In 1985, after the family sold the property, Grossinger’s was shut down, and while the golf course remains open, the ruins of the resort—still with many of its original details, including poolside lounge chairs—have become their own attraction.

Even though it was no longer a major tourist destination, people still kept moving to the Catskills, seeking peace, quiet and fresh air. Some were hippies lured there by the utopian promise of the late-1960s—the Woodstock music festival was held in the town of Bethel. Others have been lured by the capitalist promise of the late-2010s—fuel companies have started trying to lease land around the area, hoping to tap into the region’s natural resources through fracking, and New York state approved plans in December 2014 for a resort casino near Monticello costing upwards of $750 million. And then there’s the claim of a Manhattan “nightlife guru” who just this past June proclaimed to the New York Post that the area once known as the Jewish Alps was now “the new Montauk.” He might not be wrong: look up the Catskills on Instagram and you’ll find thousands of pictures of beautiful 20 and 30-somethings basking in the splendor of the natural surroundings, wearing Pendleton flannels, hiking boots, and perfectly-slouched beanies.

Jews never totally left the Catskills; the close proximity to New York City makes it the perfect place for dozens of Orthodox summer camps, and recently, a plan to build 396 townhouses for Hasidic Jews in the small village of Bloomingburg, which has nearly as many citizens living in it year-round, has run into heavy opposition for locals, one of whom told The New York Times in 2014: “It’s no longer my village…It’s a Hasidic village.” Shut out of the New York housing market, the Satmar community was no longer able to find affordable apartments in their Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the Catskills have once again provided an inexpensive solution. It’s a strange addition to the latest chapter, but whatever the future holds, for better or worse, people are returning to the Catskills once again.