All posts by Robert Burke Warren

Unprecedented Ulster County real estate boom changes landscape

Unprecedented Ulster County real estate boom changes landscape

Realtor Laurie Osmond says the newfound ability to work efficiently – sometimes more efficiently – from a WiFi-enabled home has allowed many more buyers to not only leave cramped apartments and offices, but to completely reboot in houses farther afield from – and cheaper than – the Woodstock area; towns like Catskill, Athens, Durham, and Coxsackie. “People are finding a couple more Thruway exits more acceptable now,” she says. “Especially when they’re not just looking for a weekend place, but a chance to resettle.” 

Stories on the ballot

Stories on the ballot

The weaving of stories to influence voters is more active than ever, efforts to cast a candidate as “beholden” to some entity beyond the citizenry. Even as our technology has made quantum leaps since 1960, we see more storytellers than ever – nefarious and otherwise – depending on the human need for a compelling narrative to latch onto, to accept as gospel truth in a chaotic time, undisputed fact rising above the din.

Hitchhiker’s guide to my neighborhood

Hitchhiker’s guide to my neighborhood

Seeing these lonely hitchers is like driving by the closed sign on the Upstate Films marquee, or inadvertently standing a little too close to someone and having them freak out and move away as if you’re radioactive, even though you are masked. If you’ve slipped into a benumbed state of temporary pandemic forgetfulness, these now-quotidian occurrences can zap you right back into despair.

No regrets, coyote

No regrets, coyote

Coyotes prefer those less populated spots near the reservoir, away from industry, even of the mom’n’pop variety. Much warier of humans than black bears and deer, they patrol and prowl and scavenge and yip and bark and live their coyote lives mostly in darkness, rarely venturing to back yards and streets. Their combined calls create an eerie, keening, beautiful sound, awakening an uncommon fear in modern-day humans.

Lo-fi love

Lo-fi love

I first realized we as a culture were in for a lo-fi content boom in March, when late-night talk-show hosts retreated to their homes and interviewed celebrities via Zoom, or some equivalent. Big stars with earbuds, poorly lit in their kitchens, their kids in the background, with no edits to spice up the visuals. It was chaotic and oddly intimate.

Happily haunted house

Happily haunted house

I now believe I wasn’t actually in my home for long enough stretches to feel the lingering presences of those who came before. But now, having spent so many days, nights, and weeks within and around these walls – much more concentrated time and enforced stillness than ever before – I sense them. This new pandemic-induced version of myself has much more in common with my forebears than the old me. Of course they did not stay up all hours watching movies via cable television in what was once the dining room. No, they probably slept at sunset and awoke as dawn lit up these same bay windows. Even so, we lately share significantly more common ground.

Kids in trees

Kids in trees

In the late Eighties, the band in which I played bass, the Fleshtones, led a sellout crowd from the Elysee Montmartre into the Boulevard de Rochechouart, Paris. Band and crowd chanted the refrain to a song, again and again, amid honking horns and confused pedestrians. I climbed with my bass into a tree in the median as hundreds gathered below, hollering, singing, chanting in French-accented rock’n’roll English. An unforgettable night was actually just beginning. I was 22.

Bear tales

Bear tales

The most remarkable aspect was the smell. A sharp tang, a sour musk – like a cross between sweaty gym socks and skunk; a scent you can feel on your face. Sitting in the car, my body contracted involuntarily. A message deep in my primal brain said: “You are not at the top of the food chain right now. Watch it.” It occurred to me every human should experience this deeply humbling, quiet terror. The sooner the better.