Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

Three Stooges No More

Posted By on June 20, 2009

These two actors are alarmingly close to my house with that very large machine.

These two actors are alarmingly close to my house with that very large machine.

When I met my actor husband in 2001, the only tools he owned were nestled in a small leather kit inside a medicine chest. Imagine my alarm, then, when he climbs up a ladder with a screaming chainsaw under his arm.

You see, last winter in the upstate garden of a friend, a hundred-year-old apple tree fell down.

The buzz started immediately: “We can take it out….I’ve got my new chainsaw…it’ll take us an hour, max.” This dialogue took place in a round robin between New York City and Los Angeles between three good friends who, just three years ago, hadn’t even owned one power tool between them. If they could have hung a shelf evenly, I’d have been impressed. Then, these fifty-something men who had been in and of the theatre all their professional lives turned their substantial energies to creating less ephemeral productions. Like buildings.

They talk as men about the pitch of the pergola. With wine.

Bob and Casey talk as men about the pitch of the porch pergola. With wine.

Two summers ago, they built a pole-barn which, while it’s straight and in no danger of falling down, contains perhaps three times the number of nails necessary. Last year they moved on to decks and pergolas, designing and erecting several with only a few hiccups. My house is immeasureably improved by its new front deck with pergola and pitched-roof entryway. More pergolas are on the way for all three houses. What sounds like a three-acre deck is now slated for the back of my own.

In the far-off urban days of memory, our dinnertime conversation tended to the purely erudite. Now, it ranges from couture to manure, Plato to potatoes, actors to tractors, hay to Broadway.

When the lovely spring afternoon set aside for removal of the massive, fallen apple tree arrived, I turned up late. I have a sort of morbid love-hate fascination with watching these guys wield chainsaws. The first time they’d taken out a fallen tree, half the tree had been submerged in the pond of Bob Lupone (day job: Dean of the New School of Drama). I’d watched him standing thigh-deep in water waving around a chainsaw, then seen it come down a little too low and produce a burbling, Jacuzzi-like effect in the water (narrowly missing his leg). Bob’s wife Virginia and I just stood up and turned our beach chairs around to face the Hudson, i.e. available for a hospital run, but not willing to watch the macabre scene play out. When Bob’s little pickup truck failed to get enough traction to pull out the huge, now severed trunk, a passing local took pity and trundled up with his tractor to help.

Larry, Moe, and Curly, you say? Not anymore.

Larry, Moe, and Curly, you say? Not anymore.

In fact, many of the locals have expressed concern over the power-tool exploits of these three: Bob, my husband Casey (day job: actor, directing teacher at The New School, artistic director of the Greene Arts Foundation), and Jared (day job: owner/manager of Broadway’s preëminent costume house, Barbara Matera Ltd).

“Are they being careful?” I am constantly being asked.

“Um, I think so,” I can only respond helplessly (my badgering the guys to “Be Careful” having some time ago clearly become less than constructive).

Who am I to argue with the drive that builds up in these guys during the week? They must field impossible people, improbable deadlines, and the crushing weight of their messages and e-mails. They could collapse on the sofa and eat comfort food all weekend, but they don’t. And they get so much glee out of these baby-contractor-steps that I’d be a cad to deny them. So I simply pray a lot and look at the bright side: Hey, at least we all have good health insurance. And think of the money we’re saving. (Though, after you subtract the cost of equipment, it’s not as big a savings as you’d imagine—sort of like my home-grown tomatoes.)

Suddenly, I have a porch. Where did these guys learn to do this?

Suddenly, I have a porch. Where did these guys learn to do this?

In fact, up here we are surrounded by people who’ve spent most of their lives straddling an office chair and now drive bulldozers larger than a corner office. Over cocktails, they compare horse-power, add-on attachments, and narrowly-averted disasters the way Wall Street types used to discuss their trading day.

Arriving at the first big project of the season, the apple-tree dismemberment, I was impressed to see them working in graceful, ballet-like concert, all wearing earphones and matching hardhats. I waited by the pool on a bed-sized lounger (with a super-structure for hanging Moroccan-style curtains), that Jared had built all by himself over the winter. I gazed at their most recent pergola, which was 92% perfect. In less than an hour, the apple tree was in fireplace-sized pieces in the back of Casey’s pickup, destined to become fuel for my hearth cooking projects, and the lawn was completely clear of tree debris. In one of those transformations that you don’t notice until it’s complete, they’d suddenly become Really Capable Guys.

The next project, of course, is the Big-Ass Garden.

The next project, of course, is the Big-Ass Garden.

All winter long, they’d been chafing to get back outside to build, clear brush, cut down trees, and generally play around with an alarming number of expensive and very dangerous toys. Except that as I’d just—perhaps belatedly—realized, they’re not playing anymore. They’re building useful and beautiful things, increasing the value of their properties, and adding to the quality of the time we spend in these precious havens away from the city. But most importantly, these once soft-skinned men of the arts are exponentially improving their mental and physical health. And I am very, very proud of them.

As long as nobody gets hurt.


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