Sliding down cellar doors, slapping a hand ball against cement stoops, drawing on steamy, black asphalt with chalk bought at the corner deli ... these were my day-to-day adventures growing up in Queens, New York. Any sign of greenery was sparse; four sycamore trees that lined our corner row home, a 10 foot patch of "grass" in our tiny yard, and the occasional dandelion that found its way into the cracks of the endless sidewalks. Skies rarely brightened beyond smoggy, pale blue and the only likeness of a stream was when the street gutters overflowed during a major downpour.

Nothing was more exhilarating than when my parents piled us in our Plymouth wagon and headed for the extraordinary landscapes of the Catskill, Adirondak or White mountains. I couldn't jump out of that car fast...

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