Where’s My Wonderland?

Written by | Columnists and Letters, Lifestyle

Paul Hagen, Editor of Metrosource

Paul Hagen

A few years ago, my fiancé Justin and I decided to get out of town for a snowy long weekend. Our destination was Lake Placid, scene of the 1980 Winter Olympics. I pictured us getting bundled up to play in a winter wonderland then heading inside to snuggle and sip hot cocoa. I even considered trying to ski for the first time, even though I generally have the coordination of a newborn giraffe, even on flat, ice-free surfaces.

We arrived at our accommodations: a cluster of buildings designed to feel like little log cabins, complete with rustic homemade quilts and woodsy Adirondack furniture. We decided to celebrate our arrival with slices of a local specialty, Meyer Lemon Pie: a lemon custard pie topped with slices of lemon (rind and all) that had been soaked in sugar water until they could be eaten as easily as apples. The result was a tongue-tingling combination of sweet and tart so good, we couldn’t resist buying a whole pie — ostensibly to bring back to NYC. Soon after, I fell asleep picturing the hours of snowy fun that lay ahead.

It turned out we had a very different kind of weekend in store. Rather than the temperature plummetting the previous night (as tends to happen in January), it had risen — and would continue to rise, making its way to a snow-obliterating 60 degrees. Apparently local skiing conditions were already less than ideal from the fairly warm and dry winter we’d been having; so there’d be no first trip to the bunny slope for me. We had also hoped to try some sliding about in big rubber tubes, but were told that area had basically turned into a mudslide. Justin suggested we visit the Olympic Museum to snap photos from atop the picturesque ski jump. I pointed out that without any snow, they would look like we were posing over a giant gutter.

Increasingly frustrated with our lack of options, I headed out to the porch with a book. At the time, I was reading Guts, actress Kristen Johnston’s very funny memoir about how years of abusing pain medication came to a head when her stomach ruptured while she was in London. She was rushed to a hospital where she was stuck spending months recovering from life-saving surgery — far from her home, friends and family — with little to do but reflect (hilariously) on the decisions that had landed her there. Surely, I reasoned, if she could face such dire circumstances with good humor, I could make the best out of my melted pudding pop of a weekend.

As the warm weather wound on, we began to figure out ways to enjoy the place, sans snow. Since the hiking trails had been reduced to mud, we headed into town to visit the quaint little shops there. I had initially laughed at the fact that the proprietors of the cabins had advertised their lending library of films (on VHS, no less!), but we soon found ourselves hosting a classic film festival for two, catching up on cinema we’d never quite gotten around to like Arsenic and Old Lace. And then there was that pie: Over the course of the weekend, we ate one piece after another until the entire thing was gone. And by “we,” I mostly mean me.

Our much-hoped-for winter chill finally began to creep back into the air — just as we were finally packing to head home. My first instinct was to curse our bad luck for inadvertently choosing the two warmest days of the season to “go play in the snow.” But as we settled in for the drive back, I realized that the utter disruption of our itinerary had led to indulgence of a different kind — the freedom to kick back and accomplish little more than eating pie. I had eaten so much pie, in fact, that I soon started wondering if I’d burned a hole in my guts like poor Kristen Johnston; apparently there are limits to the amount lemon rind that the human body can comfortably process. And thus our weekend ended with a final lesson: Don’t try to make up for something that’s missing with too much of a good thing.

Last modified: May 15, 2018