“We usually come down here on Monday to avoid the weekend crowds”.
Beth had introduced herself, and husband Jason, as we share a bench (and a relaxing view of a placid Ohio River) in Old Dam Park.
“They’re young. And noisy. And it seems they feel a need to be ‘seen’, right honey?” Beth continues. Jason closes his book with an air of a man tempted to suggest “Beth, maybe this gentleman is not INTERESTED in when we come to Newburgh?”. Discretion, being the better part of valor, he contributes that “mostly everything is closed on Monday, so we have all this to ourselves”.
Choosing to share “their” bench had been an accident of wanting to sit and follow a barge’s slow, steady sojourn “up river”. Overhead, cloud flotillas float on a sea-blue sky; uninterrupted green forest lines river’s opposite bank, semi-sultry sunshine shines on me, and my world seems truly peaceful.
We chat comfortably about how refreshing escapes from “urban life” can be; Jason contributes some arcane local Civil War history; they show polite amazement that my cross-country journey could be one of soul-satisfying solitude. We break a social taboo and slip into politics: concerns about education; concerns about unemployment; concerns about “social safety nets”.
Jason’s eyes speak a wordless “It’s time to go”, so, apologetically, point out my desire to wander about town, and “maybe, take some photos”. Walking away, a thought about this delightful “old couple” stumbles over a reality that they are probably a few years younger.
Wandering around this tiny town, realize its charm.
At the west end of a “riverwalk”, Ohio River “bends” and, much later, on their website (newburgh-in.gov), find an achingly beautiful photo of sunset.
An old Evansville-Newburgh railroad depot now provides commercial office space,
and an old ice house sits nearly empty
Ohio River view pleases al fresco diners, but, today, collapsed “table umbrellas” offer no sense of vitality.
Empty Old Dam Park’s long greensward, in a burst of filmic, magical imagination, fills, suddenly, with young people, unfettered dogs, and smoke-signaling Webers (reminding me of a contemporary “Afternoon at Grande Jatte”). Laughter, loud-voiced “digs”; unbounded exuberance dins… and, as quickly, empty quietude returns.