We visited Ridgewood, New Jersey over the holidays. The best part of these trips is going back to some of our favorite places from 20 years (or more) ago. This trip saw visits to McSorley's Old Ale House in New York, the Great Falls in Paterson, and a run on the old "Lower Cross" course, a favorite from high school days.
McSorley's hasn't changed (if it did it wouldn't be McSorley's, I suppose). It was, however, amazingly crowded at 1:00 PM on the Friday after Christmas. I ended up standing at the bar, in a corner by the front window. The ale, onions, and cheese were all just as I remembered. The winter sun, low in the sky, poured in the windows and warmed everyone all the way to the back room. The payphone by the door, which is the only number listed in the phone book, rang occassionally, and a fellow beer-drenched patron in the adjacent seat picked it up and dispensed important information, like hours of operation and directions. I was reminded of the time my friend Jack sat in the same chair and took "reservations" for later that night. He was about to tell the guy that McSorley's doesn't take reservations, when he proudly announced "you'll know me - I'll be the guy with TWO fabulous women." That was too much hubris to take, so Jack promised him a special table in the back at 7:30. We didn't wait around to see the look on his face when he arrived and the bartender surely pointed to the payphone. Happily, in the spirit of the season, the bartender presented me with a free 2004 calendar, commemorating 150 years of continuous service.
The Great Falls in Paterson is a very interesting place. With the second-greatest volume of any waterfall east of the Mississippi, it can be a very impressive sight. Alexander Hamilton considered the falls an industrial opportunity, and had Pierre L'Enfant, the designer of Washington, DC, lay out a water raceway to divert some of the water around the falls. Factories were then built along the raceway, using the flowing water to generate power for manufacturing machinery. Over the years, locomotives, Colt revolvers, and silk fabrics were all manufactured in the area. It has since fallen into disrepair, but a historic preservation group is attempting to restore the area as a tourist attraction.
"Lower Cross," named after the road at the three mile mark, was our most-often run route in high school cross country. The six mile course passes a convent at about 3 miles, and has a steep hill shortly thereafter. Lacking hills in Norfolk, that upgrade was pretty painful. The dash diagonally across the intersection in Hohokus was also more daunting than it seemed 25 years ago. Incidently, I finally discovered that Hohokus was named for the Chihohokies Indians, who lived nearby.