When I moved back to Saugerties from college in 2008, I did so reluctantly, and for financial reasons. Over time, I taught myself to see the town in a new way, the way that tourists do. I began to appreciate its quaintness as a vacation spot. But it was only recently I truly began to see Saugerties as my home, for perhaps the first time in my whole life. I was able to recognize what was right in front of me all along. This is the story of how my recent stay at the Saugerties Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, as a tourist in my hometown, brought my Saugerties life sharply into focus.
Why stay at the Lighthouse?
Most residents, I suppose, have never stayed at the Saugerties Lighthouse. And why would they? It’s $225 a night to stay in your own town. For most of us, a walk along the trail is sufficient. The more curious can get a tour for the suggested donation of $5.
Access to the river is surely something most of us in this town, “Where the Catskills meet the Hudson,” take for granted. And yet, urbanites come up from New York City in droves every summer, to see the very mountains and waterways that make up the ubiquitous backdrop of our lives here.
When my boyfriend, Ben – also a Saugerties resident – happened upon a paid night at the charming Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, two thoughts came to mind. The first was an emphatic, “Yes! Let’s go!” It would be free (to us). And while most folks have to make a reservation six months or so in advance, our trip was just two weeks away.
The second thought was, “I can’t wait to see Saugerties from a new, touristy angle.” Like so many visitors, I hoped this vacation (more a “staycation”) would rejuvenate me. I hoped that some magic would touch me in my sleep; that waking up on the river would make me feel whole again.
Preparing the story
On the walk to the Lighthouse trail, Ben and I tried to guess what the other couple staying with us would be like. I pictured a wealthy couple, overdressed for the season. The husband would have a smoking jacket and tobacco pipe — that he wouldn’t smoke — as part of his costume for the occasion. The wife might wear a designer coat in a bright, plucky color more appropriate for the upbeat country. She would leave her black jacket back at her Upper West Side brownstone.
And what would we tell them about us? We couldn’t just be ourselves. We could be anybody. Where were we from? Why were we in Saugerties? Ben suggested we could be vendors, scoping out opportunities at HITS. We both laughed. I would go along with his story, should he decide to tell it, but I didn’t waste much energy coming up with my own back story. We were already almost to the door, and it was dusk.
The resident lighthouse keepers, Anna Berkheiser and Patrick Landewe, had already told Ben we could use the kitchen when he officially checked in earlier that afternoon. I doubt many vacationers take advantage of this. However, as locals, we were delighted to have the down time and clean kitchen space in which to cook. Being familiar with all of the local grocers and farmers, it was easier for us to acquire ingredients than it might be for an out-of-towner.
Ben brought some locally-raised pork, Brussels sprouts and red potatoes. He started the vegetables, then took the pork outside to the grill provided by the Lighthouse. Effortlessly he whipped up our meal, while I took in the contradictions of the kitchen space.
A refrigerator from 1932 purrs almost inaudibly. A plastic Britta water filtration pitcher sits beside it on a shelf. The stove sits against the other wall; it’s been converted to propane, but a wood fire also burns within. Organic hand soaps and detergents are grouped together on the edge of the sink — a new brand made to look old with mid-century typeface on the packaging. There’s wireless Internet at the Lighthouse, so I’m sending digital photographs of the kitchen to my friends using my smartphone, while streaming music on Pandora.
Modernity and history rub against each other everywhere in the Lighthouse. The present and the past commingle like polite cocktail party guests, despite what might otherwise seem like painfully uncomfortable small talk between two worlds.