Despite the fact that Michael Korda was city born and bred (and, as editor in chief of Simon & Schuster and a bestselling author, part of Manhattan's elite), when he decided it was time to put down roots, he wanted land, trees, and a place in a community with history. The house he bought with his wife, Margaret, in Pleasant Valley, two hours north of New York City, was built when George Washington was president. It came with two barns, 20 acres, a backhoe, a bush hog, a York rake, a dozer blade, a bluff, and a slightly deaf old man named Harold Roe. Since Korda couldn't handle a hammer (plumbing and heating problems in his past merely involved calling the building super and keeping a 20-dollar bill handy), Harold became a permanent fixture, wielding large equipment, destroying the flowers, and showing the couple everything they needed to know about the real country.
Pleasant Valley, it turned out, was on the "wrong" side of the Taconic Parkway. It was "red and black plaid hats with earflaps and insulated bib-front overalls country," as opposed to Ralph Lauren estates country. Despite the blue-collar atmosphere (or rather because of it), the Kordas have been there for two decades. Becoming locals hasn't been easy, however. Korda relishes the moments that mark him as an insider--hanging out at the local diner, buying a Harley-Davidson, and most importantly, buying pigs. Pig watching in a place like Pleasant Valley is a truly bonding experience, which Korda describes with his characteristic dry wit:
Pig watching is not something anybody does in a hurry, as we came to learn. You have to shift your trousers down a bit, loosen up your belt a notch or so, give your belly a little breathing room, light a cigarette if you're a smoker, and look at the pigs for a good long time. Then you sigh, nod your head, and say, "Them's nice pigs, them pigs." Then you look at them some more. You get the idea. A natural raconteur, Korda makes the quirks of living in an old house and the quest for local status in an insular community highly entertaining, and he proves once again that, while he may not be handy with tools, he certainly knows his way around the written word. --Lesley Reed [via]