Monday, September 6, 2010


Sometimes, a picture can sucker you into reading an article you otherwise would have passed. Case in point: Last Friday’s Weekend Arts section of the NY Times showed a young couple standing in front of Kutsher’s, artwork for an article on a rock concert the two were staging at the legendary Catskills resort (

Ordinarily, I avoid reading about rock concerts. But the picture drew me in. Like me, the young man in the photo is lean and bearded. He is 38, a year younger than I was when I was first sucker-punched by a Times photo of Kutsher’s. Let me explain:

In 1988, when our son, Dan, was 9, he went to sleepaway camp for the first time for eight weeks. With the assistance of a neighbor who agreed to watch the then 6-1/2 year old Ellie, Gilda planned a romantic weekend getaway for us. Having never experienced a Catskills resort when growing up, Gilda craved the experience. She had seen an article in The Times describing a renovation of Kutsher’s in Monticello. She made a reservation and sent a $50 deposit.

Now, I had accompanied my parents to many Catskills hotels when growing up. They were generally pleasant, but by 1988 I had been exposed to, shall we say, a more refined world. I traveled across the country for my job, staying in many first class hotels and resorts. Gilda had often shared the resort trips with me as they centered around conferences where the presence of a spouse was a definite advantage in meeting and mingling with sources. Despite Kutsher’s renovations as described in The Times, I was less than enthusiastic about trekking off to the Catskills. Having just mastered riding a bicycle at age 39 (a subject of a future blog), I was happy to learn Kutsher’s had it own bike trail around its lake and provided bikes free of charge.

The fateful weekend in early July came. I admit I did not muster much enthusiasm. Gilda was rightfully upset with my attitude. As we pulled onto the hotel driveway, the same canopy depicted in the picture in last Friday’s paper appeared. It was not the equal to the Del Coronado outside San Diego. Or the Boca Raton Country Club. Or the Arizona Biltmore, the Scottsdale Princess or the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, all hotels Gilda and I, often with our children, had enjoyed. I sensed her trepidation as we entered the small registration desk just inside the front door.

She wanted to see the room before we officially checked in. The registration clerk asked why. Just to be sure. We didn’t want a room with double beds. Reluctantly she agreed to show us the room. As we walked across the lobby, I detected a strange odor. It reminded me of a used kitty litter box. I suggested perhaps the carpet was mildewed and was immediately rebuffed. It was new flooring, I was told. New or old, I said, the carpet smelled.

I glanced out the picture window and saw the “lake” with the bike path surrounding it. It appeared to be about a half acre in size. Yes, bikes were available, but they couldn’t be ridden anywhere off the paved path around the lake. So much for any biking expedition.

We arrived at our room and stepped into the 1950s. It had separate beds; the carpeting was a long shag of deep orange. We demanded a different room. Reluctantly Kutsher’s agreed. We asked to see it. Again the clerk was less than enthusiastic. The second room had a single bed and decent carpeting. But its only window was higher than six feet from the ground. Standing on the bed I could see out the window. If I craned my neck I could see part of the pool. But most visible was the building next door. Had I wanted to see a building when I looked out the window, I told the clerk, I would have stayed in Brooklyn.

Gilda was now convinced Kutsher’s was not going to be part of our weekend escape. We were prepared to forfeit the $50 deposit, but amazingly Kutsher’s refunded it. We weren’t ready to return home, so we decided to check out the Concord in Kiamesha Lake. Before registering, however, we opted to scope out the hotel. It seemed acceptable until we came upon a yoga class in progress. How can I say this delicately? The yoga instructor could be a contestant on the show, The Biggest Loser. No way, Gilda said, was she staying in a hotel that disrespected its clientele with such an instructor.

Disappointed, we headed homeward till I remembered about the Inn at Lake Waramaug in Litchfield County, Conn. It’s a beautiful setting, with individual cottages. No TVs. No phones. Just the opportunity to commune with nature. That is, unless it’s pouring rain, which started to fall right after we arrived and kept coming down well into Saturday morning, by which time we decided that White Plains wasn’t too bad a place to spend a romantic weekend by ourselves, with Ellie down the street playing with Issa and her mother, Angeles.