June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Editor’s note: The staff of The Jewish Link were deeply saddened last week to hear of our friend and longtime columnist’s passing. Please see Moshe Kinderlehrer’s article about his regard and affection for Joe on page 8.

Here, we present Joe’s last story for our paper, which he turned in before his petira. We hope that it will be of comfort to his family and friends. Baruch dayan emet.

Just 200 miles northwest of New York City lies the world-famous Adirondack region. Studded with high mountains, intricate networks of dozens of lakes and streams, and legendary villages such as Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, this enormous winter playground has attracted millions over the last century. Several summers ago, Jake and Belle Rabinowitz added to the large number of visitors. The Rabinowitzes, who had traveled extensively abroad in the past, decided to spend a week sightseeing in Lake Placid. Jake had visited Lake Placid 10 years earlier for a Can/Am ice hockey tournament, so he knew nice places to stay in the area. Jake chose Mirror Lake, centrally located near the village of Lake Placid, as their base. Accordingly, they booked a July stay for a week at the well-known Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa.

The Inn met all their expectations, except, of course, it provided no kosher food. So the Rabinowitzes packed enough prepared meals to carry them over their stay, utilizing the large refrigerator in the room to keep everything fresh. Jake, as mentioned, had previously visited the town during the winter when the area, renowned as a winter sports venue, offered activities like skiing, skating, bobsledding and ice hockey diversions. But there was plenty to do during the summer months as well, so Jake and Belle planned a full schedule of activities. Their vacation, as was typical for the Rabinowitzes, would contain an equal number of unpleasant surprises and very pleasant memories.

Our travelers reached Lake Placid at about 1 p.m. on their date of departure from Teaneck. First stop after checking into their inn was a nearby ATM. Jake always liked to carry a little extra cash when he arrived at his vacation destination, and he filled his wallet. Problem was Jake absentmindedly had left his debit card in the machine, which he only discovered several hours later. A frantic return to and search of the ATM turned up nothing—his card had disappeared! By that time calls to the now-closed servicing bank went unanswered.

So Jake would have to await the following morning to retrieve his misplaced card, or so he thought. Jake was waiting when the doors opened at the Lake Placid branch of Citibank the next morning. To his shock, the bank teller informed him that the bank had destroyed the card when no one claimed it the previous day! There would be little time to order a replacement card, but Jake asked his home bank to expedite delivery to their hotel. (It arrived in time for checkout and souvenir shopping.)

On their first day of sightseeing, the Rabinowitzes headed for the most spectacular landmark in the area: Whiteface Mountain, the fifth-highest peak in New York State at 4,867 feet, which rose 20 miles to the north of Lake Placid itself. With its classic freestanding pyramidal shape, it seemed a lot closer. The summit of the mountain could be reached at the end of the amazing Memorial Highway, which took travelers to within 300 feet of the top of the mountain. That last stretch to the summit could be traversed on foot or by means of an elevator ride. The elevator had originally been installed in the mid-1930s for the express use of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his visit to Whiteface. The Rabinowitzes utilized the highway and the elevator to emerge on the summit, which was fairly flat and which gave them an unparalleled 360-degree panoramic view of the Adirondack High Peaks. From an unobstructed height of nearly 5,000 feet, they could see at least 50 miles in every direction. Breathtaking!

With Whiteface Mountain off their bucket list, the Rabinowitzes decided on an afternoon visit to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Facility less than 30 miles to the south. This was the home of the world-famous Olympic bobsled run, which operated year-round. As he drove toward their objective, Jake had visions of tackling the historic run in record time; as he got closer and closer those visions melted away as a snowball in July! Within minutes, Jake and Belle stood next to the steep, challenging bobsled course and Jake sadly decided not to ride the bobsled. As the Rabinowitzes walked back to their car to return to Lake Placid, they spied clearly across the valley of the Sentinel Range wilderness, the majestic outline of Whiteface Mountain many miles to the north.

As evening loomed, Jake suggested to Belle that they try for some last-minute tickets to a musical performance in Lake Placid itself. By 8 p.m., they were seated in a small musical theater where the local symphony performed selections from Ravel and Mozart. After the last strains had ended, they headed back to the inn and a well-earned night of rest.

Both Belle and Jake arose the next morning early. At breakfast, they decided they should try to be more active than they had been the previous day: less sightseeing, more doing! In Lake Placid in the summer, that meant only one thing to Jake: fishing! He had brought some fishing gear with him from home, but he’d need to buy bait. After inquiry from the concierge, Jake got directions to a boat rental service on Lake Placid itself. He called the first number on his list, and was able to book an inboard motorboat that afternoon. The marina would provide all the requirements for one price: a three-hour rental, bait and fishing map. When Jake brought Belle up to date, she agreed to accompany him, so long as she could bring a book or two along to read.

At the appointed hour the Rabinowizes arrived at the marina on Lake Placid where a wizened seafarer greeted them at a cluttered desk in the reception area.

“Howdy,” he began, “have you done this before?”

Jake, channeling his best Clark Griswold imitation, tried to act nonchalant.

“Not exactly,” he responded. “I have a lot of experience fishing from row boats, even on big bodies of water, but I’ve never exactly operated an outboard motorboat.”

“It’s real easy. If you can drive an automatic car, you can operate this baby!”

Jake was relieved to hear that, and soon he was motoring away from the dock, having been directed to a section of the large lake considered most promising by his fishing map. Belle was enjoying the pleasant breeze as Jake maneuvered the boat closer to shore.

Jake began to get a little concerned about whether he knew exactly how to start and stop the motor in the event he had to stop for some reason. In short order, they reached the proper location on the lake to begin fishing, so Jake arranged the bait on the end of his line and cast it toward the shore about 200 feet distant. Within minutes Jake felt a familiar tug on his line and soon landed a very respectable largemouth bass of about 16 inches.

Belle beamed and returned to her book.

Just one fish wouldn’t do, so Jake carefully released his first catch and put on a fresh worm. To his surprise Jake discovered that, in the process of landing the first fish, the boat had drifted about 300 feet from where he had made his initial cast. He labored to reach the spot where he had started out and made his second cast. Minutes later, the same result, this time a more sizable 18-incher.

“This is great,” Jake smiled, “but we’ve drifted even further away from where the fish are.”

It was only an hour later as he brought the boat safely to dock that he noticed behind Belle a conical-shaped piece of whitewashed cement at the end of a coiled rope. It didn’t take long for Jake to recognize the object as an anchor! Exactly the piece of equipment he had needed to avoid constantly drifting away from the prime fishing grounds.

Belle thought it was funny. Jake did not.

Having succeeded in catching fish on Lake Placid, Jake decided to go out on Mirror Lake the next morning at 7 before breakfast on a rental rowboat; he didn’t want to wake Belle, so he left her a note telling her where he was going and that he’d be back for breakfast around 8:30. After fishing for a while, surrounded by a flock of the ever-present loons, he decided to row further out than he had originally planned. The results were poor and soon Jake lost track of time. To his surprise, at about 9:15, who should come by vigorously rowing her own boat, but Belle!

“I also need some exercise,” she shouted. “I was worried you might have been lost at sea when you didn’t show up for breakfast!”

After several minutes, Jake stopped fishing and the Rabinowitz flotilla moved side by side in the gentle breeze. Suddenly, Jakes mobile phone rang:

“Hello?”

“It’s Jed, Daddy.” Jed was the Rabinowitzes’ middle son.

“I’ve got some great news. I just got a letter from NYU Law School informing me I got into the school off the waiting list.”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Jake exclaimed. “Belle, fantastic news, Jed got into NYU. Here, I’m tossing you the phone!”

A curious loon approached. Belle caught the flip phone cleanly and congratulated her son. She was so excited that she instantly forgot to be upset with Jake for causing her to worry earlier.

Later that day as the Rabinowitzes drove to the nearby town of Saranac Lake to see an evening performance of the classic Goldoni farce “The Servant of Two Masters” at the Pendragon Theatre, Jake observed how lucky Jed had been to make it to the law school of his choice while on the waiting list for four months.

“Jed sure didn’t just sit around praying to be accepted,” Jake said.

“You’re right, dear,” Belle said. “How many of the candidates on the waiting list undertook a rigorous postgraduate course of study in philosophy like Jed did, earning a scholarship and fellowship from an accredited university. No sitting around on the beach waiting to hear from the law school admissions office. Good for him!”

As they filed into the theater, they chose seats in the fourth row orchestra on the center aisle. While waiting for the curtain to rise, Belle suddenly nudged Jake and indicated to him not to speak out as she pointed uncertainly to the middle of the row ahead.

“Do you see who’s sitting there? she whispered.

“Yes, that’s crazy!”

It was none other than Dr. Caleb Klein, the principal of Jed’s high school in New Jersey, and his wife.

“Wow, what a coincidence that we’d run into them in Saranac Lake of all places.”

Jake and Belle decided to wait until intermission to reveal themselves, reluctant to shatter this hardworking principal’s assumption of anonymity hundreds of miles from home. Meanwhile, the theater management announced a 50-50 raffle lottery that would be drawn before the curtain went up. Jake, a gambler at heart, bought several chances for $5, never expecting to win. To his amazement, his number came up and he was informed he had won $80 to be disbursed to him at the end of the evening’s performance. He was elated.

When the play ended, the audience gave the performers multiple curtain calls. At last the patrons started to file out, all except Jake and Belle. Jake suddenly asked if he could address the actors and announced that he had decided to donate his lottery winnings to the performers, rather than keeping the money himself. At Jake’s generous gesture, the actors gave him five minutes of applause.

The next morning the replacement debit card conveniently arrived at the inn, just in time to cover the bill.

Joseph Rotenberg, z”l, was a frequent contributor to The Jewish Link, and resided in Teaneck for over 45 years with his wife, Barbara. His first collection of short stories and essays, entitled “Timeless Travels: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor and Enchantment,” was published in 2018 by Gefen Books and is available online at www.Amazon.com.

By Joseph Rotenberg, z”l

 

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