One fine Saturday afternoon, some friends and I were on our way back from the Hampshire Mall, walking along the bike trail. As we were walking, something catches my eye; it’s a sort of path leading away from the paved trail. On it, someone is walking from it and rejoining our trail.
Intrigued, we head over to investigate. I remember; on my many bike trips to and from the mall, I have seen the occasional walker, jogger, or biker on this path. Looking at the trail, we see that it leads down a rather steep embankment, then winds through a cornfield, opening to a meadow on the other side. We all chuckle, because right before we had come across this, we had been talking about corn mazes.
After a quick consultation, we decide to explore this new path. Ducking under the top bar, we scurry down the bank, and enter the jungle of corn.
We come across a family of bikers on our way, and stand to the side to let them pass. Suddenly, the end of the path is visible, and we find ourselves in the meadow. Looking back, we see a solar farm right next to the corn farm.
We contemplate having a makeshift picnic in the meadow, but the only problem is that a meadow is all it is; it’s rather boring. Up head, we see a gap in the bushes, and decide to explore further.
Stepping through, we are greeted with young forest. It seems to have been planted by people, as the trees are in evenly spaced rows, arranged in a grid. We reckon it is a timber farm, probably someone’s retirement fund. The ground is littered with poison ivy, so we step carefully, avoiding the crimson leaves. I climb up one of the trees to get a shot from above:
Walking past that grove, we are greeted by a fork in the road. We start marching in opposite directions, then, seeing that we weren’t being followed, change course, and start marching the other person’s direction. We consult, and decide to take the country road to the left:
We wander down it, and find ourselves in another timber stand. Our road seems to be leading into some private property, so we decide to turn back before we trespass.
Arriving back at the fork, we wander left, and come across a farm. We walk along the edge for a bit, then turn back around. We are getting hungry, and have walked many miles carrying our groceries. As I’ve been experiencing this summer, Amherst is full of adventures!
“Turn left,” I say, simultaneously pointing right.
Elliot presses harder on the brakes. “Which way?”
Forgoing relative directions, I say “that way!” emphasizing my pointing fingers.
“That’s not left”
“True,” I respond, “just follow where I point, not what I say.”
After a few more backwards directions, my friends and I land at Knight's Blue Maple Hill Farm.
“Alright, we’re here!” I announce.
“Where is it?” asks Elliot, surveying the rows of houses surrounding us. “There’s nowhere to turn off the main road.”
With a hint of cheerful sarcasm, I say “I don’t know, the internet says we’re here, so it must be true!”
Then Jacob adds, “Yea, mine says we’re here too, but I don’t see it either… Let’s keep driving around and maybe we’ll see an entrance.”
We wander around and after a turn, a turnaround, and another turn, slowly discover a road to the farm stand.
We park, and as we walk up, a bored high schooler puts down his thick paperback novel.
“Afternoon,” he says.
“Hey!” I respond. Then, stating the obvious because I’m excited, I say “We are here to pick Blueberries? There’s six, no- five of us, and some of us have never done this before, some of us haven’t been in over ten years (That’s me…), and some do this pretty often. How do we do this here?”
Grinning a little bit, he gestures to his left, no – right no – left, and says, “There’s pails here, grab one, and the blueberries are that direction.” He gestures to his right.
“Awesome,” I say, and we head to our left.
The blueberry bushes stretch ahead of us for what feels to me like forever.
I reach out and grab a handful of the biggest, bluest, freshest berries ever.
I roll them quickly, scanning for anything I don’t want to eat that might have decided to accompany the berries, and roll one between my fingers. The pale blue dusting trades the blueberries’ skin for mine; the dust reveals my fingerprints canvassing the blueberry, and the negatives are visible on my fingertips. As I add pressure and roll more, the dust completely leaves the berry, and the skin shines, reflecting a purple-blue sun. Its rigid firmness disintegrates, leaving a dense blueberry juice encased in a taut glowing capsule. I pop them all into my mouth. My canines first pierce the berries, their thick plump skin offers little resistance. The cool textured flesh pops out, assailing the roof of my mouth with tart, slightly acidic, blueberry juice. As I continue to bite down, the other berries are crushed by my molars, their insides flying horizontally, blanketing my tongue with their sweet natural sugars, their small amount of fiber quickly dissolves like cotton candy over my taste buds. My teeth meet each other lightly and begin to reset, and my tongue rearranges the medley of skins, seeds, and flesh that hadn’t been fully pushed out. I bite down once again – harder this time, and the skin, now folded over itself, gets crushed, releasing its bitterness. The small seeds resist the bite for a moment, but just as the full berries that came before them, don’t stand a chance, and collapse inward; with their bitterness, I get a full realization of the blueberries’ flavors: the light bitterness of their rich blue skin, the dark sweetness coupled with a slight sour of the inner flesh, and the sharp tangy bitter of the few seeds inside. I roll what solid remains are left around in my mouth; the crisply defined edges of the seed hulls press into my palate like a quill against parchment, my palate remembers their pattern the way paper remembers the path of a pen run dry. I chew once more, twice more, and, satisfied that I have removed all the flavor readily available, swallow the liquidated berries.
As the taste fades – first the sweet, then the sour acid, then, lastly, the bitter – I pick another handful and plink, plunk, kerplunk, thump drop them into my pail. I do this a few more times, and my pail looks like this:
I compose a short, low-quality parody about picking blueberries, some sort of medley between Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and my own inspiration, and then Kai begins reciting – by memory – ‘Blueberries’ actually by Frost himself:
"You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!"
Read the whole poem here...
Frost actually taught at Amherst for about 40 years, and our main library is named after him, so it was fun and a bit more meaningful to hear some poetry by him.
As he recites, I repeat the cycle of pick, eat, plink, plunk, kerplunk and thump. Soon, our pails look like this:
Shortly after, the sun quite a bit lower in the sky than it had been when we started, we call it a day, pay for our blueberries, and drive back to Amherst.
A few limericks about some places to get coffee around town:
There once was a shop called Starbucks
To drink there you had to pay big bucks
But when it is sipped
The barista gets tipped
And you often go up there for more cups.
You can always get coffee at Share
The ambiance is ‘Study’ there
And then you get hyped
Many papers are typed
Until you decide not to care.
At The Works there’s room to study
There’s always a place for a buddy
The tables are wide
Sit in- or outside
Although the coffee’s a little bit muddy.
*As in it's not the best tasting – I’ve never heard of any muddiness being found in there
Image Source: amherst.edu
Frost Café’s I’ve never tasted
Although some money there I’ve wasted
I’ve gotten water for tea
And more snacks for me
To find it look for their name - it’s pasted
My accelerometer updates me: I’m going 15mph, and my altimeter quietly adds as a side note that my distance from the standard accepted sea level is slightly decreasing. “Where am I?” I ask my gps.
“Thou goest easterly on Barrett Hill Drive”
I calculate a 70% chance that Aahnix is on his bike, “Camera, do you have sights?”
“You betcha, here you go!”
Confirmed, cycling down Barrett hill drive.
Chief, we’re slowing down!” another timely report from Accel.
GPS? “Thou art situated at thine Campus Police Station.”
Microphone? Why would he be here?
“Searching all conversations with Keyword Police… … … … He’s getting his new dorm key.”
I follow in my owner’s back pocket as he gets his new room key, to…. “Greenway C.”
The ride up the hill is much more arduous, Aahnix makes an average of 6 miles an hour and burns several hundred calories more.
He arrives at Hitchcock, panting slightly, and rushes up the stairs, as he always does.
Cam? What’s he up to now?
“No visuals, sorry bro, jeans in the way.”
“Searching databank of sounds…
… … he’s opening or closing cardboard boxes.”
This continues for some time, and when he turns around to leave the room, Cam finally gets a good visual:
Cam loses sights shortly after Aahnix climbs into a car and starts driving.
He useth a rather circuitous route…
All components: any thoughts?
“I found something that might could explain it” pipes up the mail app. “There was an email sent about having to reroute traffic because of the construction of the new science center!”
“Any time!” replies Mai.
I follow Aahnix to his new room, where he promptly begins unloading a box.
Cam, any sights?
Leaving the room, I am pulled from his pocket, and messenger is opened.
What’s he doing, Messenger?
“Texting two friends who are supposed to meet up with him and help move,” says Messenger.
I notice that my battery is very low. “Your battery is running very low, 4%” I tell him.
Aahnix taps ‘OK’, and doesn’t do anything. How Frustrating… It’s not even his battery, I think.
He then drives up back to Hitchcock, and packs more boxes. Mic picks up some of his conversation with his friends, but apparently none of it is worth telling me, and I’m not interested; I worry about not passing out from exhaustion.
Finally, I feel electricity flowing through my system, revitalizing me, and I pay more attention my surroundings. The room is emptied, and I hear his friend talking about moving the last boxes into his van. Although I still feel very depleted, I am torn from my charging cable, and Cam feeds me this photo as Aahnix leaves:
“He’s cleaned his room out well…” says Cam
Before I know it, an aux cord is plugged into me.
“Ho…wdy, … Young’un…” I hear the car radio trying to talk, but his aux chord is, quite honestly, rather plebian, and his gravelly voice is distorted a bit.
“I’m looking for some sound data, do you have any?”
I feed him the song Aahnix pulls up from his playlist, just in time for Accel to inform me that we have started driving. Just as my apps start to fall asleep, and I prepare to shut down, I find myself sitting on a new desk, slowly soaking in more charge, and giving more songs to a much higher quality Bluetooth speaker.
Question and answer panel, the questioner (Aahnix), will ask the resident expert (Aahnix) about places in Amherst he has eaten over the summer!
Aahnix: Where are some good places to eat in Amherst?
Aahnix: I’m so glad you asked! The three most recent places I’ve visited are Ichiban, Valentine Dining Hall, and Flayvors of Cook Farm –but we just call it Flayvors.
Aahnix: That’s quite an array! Tell me more about Flayvors, you called it?
Aahnix: Gladly! Flayvors is a local dairy that serves ice cream, sherbets, and sorbets. What makes it unique from other local ice cream shops (like GoBerry, Bart’s, or Amherst Ice Cream), is its line of production. The cows it uses to make the ice cream live right next door to the shop! You can order the Inez ice cream flavor, then feed the cow named Inez some hay!
Aahnix: Wow, I’ve never heard of a place like that, it’s really nifty! What is your least favorite part about Flayvors?
Aahnix: Yes, Flayvors most certainly is something that adds to this areas uniqueness… My least favorite part?? I’d have to say, that because the cows live right next door, when you go outside to eat your ice cream on the picnic benches, you can sometimes smell the cows pretty strongly. But the ice cream is so good, that it doesn’t prevent almost every Amherst College student from wanting to go there!
One of our deans feeding a cow at Flayvors!
Aahnix: Thank you for talking about this popular place to eat! Can you tell me about Ichiban?
Aahnix: Of course, and of course! Haha. Ichiban is the best place to go if you want good sushi.
Aahnix: I have a large appetite, so I assume you must too. This makes me ask, how are the portions sizes at Ichiban?
Aahnix: You bet I eat a lot, how did you guess??
Aahnix: Just a hunch.
Aahnix: A friend and I split two meals in half, and it was just enough for the both of us. Some of my other friends there ate about three-quarters of their meal, and took the rest home. Because we went just as it was opening, they also gave us some free food alongside our meal, which tasted great and was super awesome.
Our first time at Ichiban!
Aahnix: So you’ve talked about Flayvors and Ichiban, what about Val?
Aahnix: Our dining hall?
Aahnix: Val is the best dining hall on campus! Everyone actually chooses to eat there…
Aahnix: Yea! Because it’s the only dining hall on Campus, hahaha.
Aahnix: What?? Amherst only has one dining hall?
Aahnix: You bet! Being the only dining hall, Val has lots of different options though. For example, the traditional line is on a three week rotation, and that is where everybody’s favorite meals show up. I am a big fan of the taco nights and quesadilla lunches. My absolute favorite, though, is the salmon salad. Of all their meats, Val cooks their salmon the best. If you want to skip the traditional line, the lighter side offers similarly themed food and includes many of our vegetarian or vegan options.
Aahnix: Wow, it seems like there’s a lot going on in Val…
Aahnix: Yea, I wasn’t finished mentioning the options, hang in there. The soup bar has some really good soups; I like their split pea soup with bacon pieces from the salad bar. I also hear that their clam chowder is incredible. If I ever get bored of all those options, there is a sandwich bar I can always turn to.
Aahnix: Do you have a favorite part?
Aahnix: Of course! I actually joke that this is the reason that I came to Amherst.
Aahnix: The smoothie bar! It’s every morning until 10:00, and we make our own. They put out frozen peaches, mangoes, blueberries, and strawberries. We can put literally anything in Val in those blenders except the peanut butter. We can be pretty creative.
Aahnix: Of all the smoothies you’ve made, what was the most challenging to think about and pull off?
Aahnix: Great question! My friends and I were talking over lunch one day about the different unorthodox but realistic smoothies we could make, and we thought about fruits that might go well with chocolate. We thought about mangoes, blueberries, and strawberries. The next day, we added chocolate soy milk and those fruits together. It tasted… interesting… Definitely showed promise, but we had our ratios wrong. We haven’t tried it since.
Aahnix: Well, we are out of time today, thank you for joining me tonight on The Blog Show.
Voiceover: The Blog Show will return, tune in weekly at random indefinite times for more!
Some friends and I took a trip to Lake Wyola, where we swam, tossed around a beach ball in the water, made a sand castle, and read, soaking in the sun. It was a blast, and I've written some haikus about it, sticking with an exact 5-7-5 syllable pattern.
The lake? Wyola.
The goal? Explore locally.
How did it go? Great.
Lake, though big and deep,
Reveals cloudy depths of sky.
In those clouds, we fly.
Dips in Wyola’s water
Bound in bright round ball.
Sand, worlds in each piece,
Pressed, a crowded galaxy
Built for royalty
Diluted by spent rain clouds
Still warms our faces
Ideas, absorbed by
Eyes, looking at book and skies,
“Oh, World War One just started!”
“Wow, and now Europeans are arriving in America!”
Four friends and I are walking ‘back in time’ down a gravel lane. Our destination? Mutton and Mead, a medieval festival.
“King John just died!”
A little farther in, and we enter a large clearing full of huge crowds of people, around half of which are dressed in pretty legitimate medieval-era clothing. We follow what seems to be the road to one end of the grounds, where we see a man juggling flaming hatchets in an elaborate set up:
Pretty awesome, right?
We wander over towards the concessions area, and find a quesadilla stand, where I order a ‘Steak bomb.' It’s incredible. The slightly blackened tortilla is just thick enough to maintain its shape amidst the thick, steaming cheese and well-done steak cubes crammed inside. Savoring our quesadillas, we wander in the bright heat of the sun towards the jousting arena. Two knights and their pages are battling in this tournament, one competing for his lost kingdom, the other defending his spoils.
There are contests of brute force, where they hit a rotating panel, contests of precision, where they catch rings tossed in the air, and plain jousting, where they lance each other’s shields, with enough strength to add some decent sized dents. Near the end, a woman in a flowing purple dress announces that there will be full armored combat, with ‘real weapons’ beginning at the top of the hour.
“That sounds interesting, let’s go to that!” several of us say in agreement.
Thud… My friends and I wince as the knight’s sword clashes onto the other’s helmet. Undaunted, the second man in armor steps forward, and swings his sword at his opponent’s side, then leans his body forward. A well placed foot circles behind the knee and pulls the first knight down. We cheer with the crowd for the victorious combatant. The victor, Squire Gilgamel, helps the fallen knight to his feet. They remove their helmets to reveal a grizzled man in his late 40’s and a rather baby-faced man around the same age. Taking a bow, they retreat from the strong heat to their shaded tent area. I pause my cheering to check that I got a decent video. It’s not every day that I get to see two armored combatants swing swords at one another in real life.
We wander past the jousting arena and enter into the Gypsy Glen seeking shade for a respite from the glaring sun. We sit on some small hay bales, slightly damp from the brief morning shower we had driven through on the way up. There is a band playing, two bagpipes and two drums, all members dressed in what appears to be full medieval Celtic garb. Some people dance in front. Listening, we stay for a bit, then decide to explore further.
A little way into the ‘glen’, we encounter what appears to be a game of nine-pins. We take a couple of rolls, but the game was more difficult than we thought; the large, uneven wooden ball seems to want to roll around the group of pins… A middle-school aged kid takes a shot, and somehow knocks them all down! Not to be outdone, on my turn, I roll the ball as fast as I can at the pins. Without the time for the ball to get sidetracked, I also roll a ‘nine-ringer.’ No one else wants to try again, so, satisfied, I follow them down a path to another area. To our left, a mother gently admonishes her toddlers as they start running through a little fairy village; they slow down and join the others carefully walking through and looking at the tiny hand-made houses. We eventually make our way back to the first act that we saw, but this time, he is performing knife throwing.
Mr. Obadiah is quite accurate, contrary to what the video appears to show. His assistant has a lot of courage and trust to be able to do that, I’ve got to hand it to them. Shortly after, we retire, driving back to Amherst after a full day spent centuries ago.
Ka-chk, ka-chk is the click created as my bike’s gears grate, gliding from low to high. The rate of the world passing by accelerates, as I pedal harder and faster, cruising down my rote passage, the asphalt route, the main road to connecting Hampshire, Amherst and Umass. Gazing to the side, I notice Glazed, undoubtedly containing the best doughnuts in town -that I’ve found-, as I blaze past it. I refuse to be fazed by the days misty, drizzly feel. While today’s light beaming from the sun on this teeming-with-life town might not reach me, I still manage to leech some energy from the refreshing moist mist.
Ka-chk, ka-chk, I upshift once more, racing the cars past the High-Horse Bar. The centrifugal forces from my wheels attract a mystical but real myriad of scattered drops from the rough ribbon of road I’m roaming, splattering the smattering of drops onto a liquid coat on my raincoat, and bounce off my brown leather boots. The familiar flavor of last fall’s superb last lick of sorbet from Amherst Ice cream falls on my tongue, The summer is young, I will find time to visit soon.
Krkk-chnk, Krkk-chnk, I downshift a bunch and brake as green light turns yellow with fear as the winning cars quickly draw near, then blinks red with dread as the cars defy its cautionary color, roaring through its yellow warning. My foot floats to the ground, I look around; the orange high-five has turned on an invisible door-hinge into a white walker, and pedestrians from their shore binge, walking left, right, diagonal, one bemused, perhaps confused, walks an odd trigonal. As the high-five is revived, I prepare to push off.
Ka-chk, ka-chk, chk chk chk, the race has restarted, and I score, the first victor, I make it to the end of the intersection before the leading car. I pass the Post Office, and its busy bus stop. Under the weather, the wet waiters wonder when the public transport will arrive at this port. Leaving them to their sport, I hang a left, streaking through a side street; there is where the Frat house district begins. Their red bricks, strictly stacked into square red walls, reveal little of the unrestricted festivities that befall on the weekends.
Krkk-chnk, Krkk-chnk, I reduce my speed, looking around, I deduce it is safe to re-merge with the main road, then emerge back on track. Casually coasting into the parking lot, I gently collide with the grey colored bike rack, on the edge of the grass. A quick lock, and a double look, assure and reassure me, assuaging my concerns about common thievery. Weary, I wander up the wet walk way, stepping up the irregular concrete stairs, and greet my fellow friends, who woke up early enough to walk the way to church.
I hear those words coming from a friend on Saturday. I grin and agree, even though in Kansas, I don’t call it hot unless it’s above 100°F (95° if it’s especially humid). Brushing off the volleyball court’s sand from my face and arms, I walk with my friends to join with the rest of our group. The grass crinkles underneath my bare feet as I dash forward to catch a Frisbee thrown my way. My return throw, a flick, is wobbly and inaccurate. Yikes – I grimace. I should work on that.
“Obi, Pablo, you guys want to come to Puffer’s Pond with us? We’re leaving like, now”
“Uhh, maybe,” Pablo replies, “How cold is it?”
“Last week it was pretty cold, but we were able to swim in it.”
“Pretty cold? It was Freezing last week!!!” Namita exclaims.
“Sure, but it was swimmable then, so it’s swimmable now, surely?” I respond to her.
“Yep, that sounds O. K.” Obi says with finality. “Let’s go.”
Namita, Grace, Josh, and I are the first of the 7 to gather in Hitchcock Dorm. “Let’s run to GoBerry and get some froyo while we wait for everyone else!” Let the record show that it was Grace’s suggestion.
Taking a shortcut behind the main street, we walk the whole 150 yards to GoBerry, and proceed to order our selections, and walk slowly back. Finishing just in time to throw away our bowls, we meet Seyoung, who’d just arrived. We pile into my friend’s SUV that I’m taking care of over the summer, and pick up Obi and Pablo.
Upon arriving at Puffers, I’m astonished at the number of cars parked along the road. I hadn’t realized Puffer’s was this popular. I carefully navigate behind a cyclist as two skateboarders pass on my left, and I approach mom pushing a pink stroller on my right. “Keep it slow, stay predictable…” I think to myself. We park, and my flip-fuh-lop step of my flip-flops joins with everyone else’s; together we flip-flop-flip-fuh-lop through the dappled cool shade cast by the tunnel of overhanging branches.
People cover the beach like polka-dots on pajamas. We find a nice spot, and begin to settle in, only to pick up everything and move 10 feet over to a ‘better’ place with a little bit more sand. Approaching the water’s edge, we gather, all preparing ourselves for the chill we are about to enter. Josh, rather surprisingly, is the first to brave the cold, slowly stepping in. “Is it cold?” we ask.
Grimacing, “It’s pretty chilly,” he replies.
Obi decides to be the second, running at full throttle, his splashes giving us a taste of the cold we are about to face. Waist deep, he takes one more leap and submerges. Shaking the water off his flat-top haircut, he says “It's way better if you dunk!”
Even though I swam last week when it was colder, my apprehension is no less than anyone else’s. I go for it anyway, taking my first few steps in slowly, gauging with my toes the slightly-muddy sand floor, feeling the pebbles for sharp edges, looking for sticks or other things I don’t want to step on. I feel the cold seep into my legs, chilling my skin first, and then penetrating into my calves. My body grows slightly cooler, and can tell that the water around me is slightly warmer when I stay in the same location than when I move a few feet away. Then, taking the same approach as Obi, I run and dunk myself as fast as I can. I feel the frigid water filling in the pockets of air in my hair, pulling the heat from my skin behind it as it rushes past my face. I surface, finding somewhat firm footing on the muddy floor. Some pond water plants wrap around my toes – I shake them loose - ugh. The world blurs as a shake my head, showering my surroundings with raindrops. “It’s true!” I exclaim, “Just go all the way under!!”
Everyone else either wades in or joins us with a dunk. We swim a bit, then gather on the beach, and relax. None of us have made time to read for ‘fun’ over the semester, so we can all hear our books calling. Snacking on some fresh carrots and a cucumber from the farmers market, we start reading. The sun baking us, the scattered clouds give us some respite. Even with our snacks, our stomachs start to let us know they want a dinner. We pack up, and leave Puffer’s until another day.