Readers of lunch.com were introduced to author Carol Gregson in my review of her first stab at memoirs, LEAKY BOOTS (2003, 2007). Now in 2013 comes a second look at this legendary teller of tales of the Great North of New York State.
What has changed in WET SOCKS since LEAKY BOOTS?
--(1) There is more family background. We learn that Carol's father was a Swede who did not appreciate being called Squarehead. We learn of favorite aunts and cousins.
--(2) Carol Gregson gives us three first-class one day driving tours around her part of the Adirondacks, ninety miled north of Albany. And best of all she provides three excellent MAPS of those tours, backroads and all, recommendations of places to eat, how to find the legendary Great Camp Sagamore where the rich and famous Vanderbilts and friends once roughed it in splendid isolation at the end of a dirt road.
Reminder: this is country immortalized by James Fenimore Cooper in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS from Glens Falls to Lake George and Lake Champlain and French and British battle grounds in between.
--(3) One entire Section --Number V of VI-- of WET SOCKS is devoted to the author's experience in the kitchen. Minuscule double spaced chapters in large print include "Ode to a Tin Dishpan," "The Lowly Meatball," "Grandmother's Chili Sauce" and "Sweet Knottings" (originally a yeast dough called by Carol's friend Dot "Finnish Braids.") Carol Gregson transformed the original six long braids into 48 little knots and sold them to visitors to the family camp ground.
Finally to tempt you to read and learn more for yourself of the dry-witted narrator of WET SOCKS:
A few random gems from Carol the "wilderness philosopher"
-- "There was that song from the war years that went, "Oh, give me something to remember you by.' This is my something" (15).
-- "The whole world had been trained to expect me to be a little ditsy, and I had cultivated that image. It was a defense mechanism that was too convenient to abandon" (23).
(From the chapter "A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND" (129 - 131)
"It has been my observation that women, the so-called weaker sex, have a way of going on forever; that they can be patched up with duct tape, wired back together with hairpins and they will tick along till the end of time" (129).
"Men have decided that men need to take all the risks, do all the heavy work, and for heaven's sake, don't cry about it. ... Men need to keep proving how necessary they are ... Women don't need to prove anything. Their virtue is perfectly obvious" (130).
"I have an aunt who is ninety-two and widowed, and keeps telling me she needs to find a man to grow old with" (131).
ON EDUCATION AFTER MY FIRST FEW DAYS TEACHING ART TO YOUNG BOYS AND GIRLS:
"My personal lessons were three:
You can't teach until you get the attention of the student.
Yes, you really are an art teacher. You can actually do this!
The terror is never going to go away" (173).
ON POLITICS LOCAL AND OTHERWISE
"One thing I learned early on (here in the Adirondacks) was that if you wanted to accomplish anything in these parts, it would behoove you to be a Republican" (219).
Bottom Line: WET SOCKS is for you if you want to learn more about six million thinly populated acres of Adirondack New York. Ditto if don't mind chuckling every fourth or fifth sentence. Also if you like going down memory lane with a keen observer of Americana from 1925 to 2013. Keep WET SOCKS in the glove compartment of your car for those one-day drives around LAST OF THE MOHICANS country as lovingly detailed by Carol Gregson.