I bid farewell to the State of Old New York, my home away from home..

Posted October 16th, 2010 by Anna

Was my sister in the battle? Yeah.

On New Year’s Day 2009 a bunch of us were getting ready to go for an outdoor skate at the park in St Sauveur. Kate, who wanted to go, had been on strong anti-cancer drugs for the past 2 years and these in combo with the disease had greatly weakened her body. The year before she and Rufus had done a 4.5 hrs cross-country ski trek and as a result she suffered terrible hand-foot syndrome that landed her in the hospital for 5 days with cellulitis. We reminded her of that. But she insisted on going for just a short skate, and it was short, with Martha and Brad before they left to return to NYC. She was tentative on her blades and before long she went down like a bowling pin, breaking the fall with her left arm. An X-ray and blood test revealed a serious compound fracture of the shoulder and upper arm plus a non-functioning thyroid. They ruled out pinning it because her bones were like powder and instead fitted her for a sling that kept her arm tightly in place against her body and gave her some synthroid. I should mention that she looked quite dashing in her navy sling with her big grey russian military coat, picked up 10 years before in Anchorage, thrown over her shoulders the left sleeve tucked into the pocket like a war hero.

In early March of 2009 she was strong enough to travel to NYC to oversee the editing of the Knitting Factory Xmas video that was shot in Dec 2008 and to meet with our new publishing people at Kobalt. The Sun was going down just as we were leaving the Big Apple to return to Montreal in what is normally a 6 hr trip. I was driver because Kate’s arm had not yet healed besides her car was a BMW Mini with a shift. We were 2 hrs outside of Montreal, still in the mountains, when she said she really felt like driving. She was anxious to get home and would push it a little harder than I was. Kate with one good arm was a better driver than most two-armed, besides she could drive the 87 blindfolded.

We were back out on the road for only minutes and going well over the speed limit of 65mph when we were pulled over by a state trooper who appeared out of nowhere. The cop was young and courteous but he had a serious job to do here. After taking forever checking out her license on the cruiser computer he returned to the Mini and said ‘Catherine McGarrigle, you are under arrest by the laws of the State of NY.’ Turns out she had 2 outstanding speeding tickets dating from 1990 that she had not paid because the notices were going to a house she had vacated in 1990 and they had suspended her license in the state of NY without her knowledge. We were incredulous. Many’s the time Kate’s been pulled over for speeding on the 87 over the last 19 yrs and this had never happened. ‘Was there no statute of limitations?’ we asked. Not where driving offenses were concerned. The trooper then made her get out of the car into the cold so he could cuff her (with her still broken arm and shoulder) and led her to the backseat of his cruiser, locking her in. She looked ticked-off but resigned whereas I was frantic and crying, ‘You can’t do this to her, this woman is very sick. She has terminal cancer.’ The trooper was unfazed but polite (I guess he’d heard that one before) and told me to drive to such and such a town where she was to be arraigned at the courthouse. When I arrived at the sorry one-story prefab building some miles away Kate and the trooper were waiting for the judge to show up. I was expecting a wire-rimmed somebody in a white wig and black robe when in walked this self-important little geezer in a shirt with no jacket who was being addressed as ‘your honor’ by the cop and clerk. After much back and forth legal banter twixt trooper and judge, laced with inanities about what the judge had had for dinner, my sister was given a court date in May. Our interjections of ‘How much do you want?’ or ‘Do you take Visa?’ were ignored. We knew a shakedown when we saw one. But first they had to book her. I imagined her in an orange jumpsuit. Again the trooper led the cuffed plaintiff back out into the cold to his cruiser. This time he drove to the jailhouse in a neighbouring town and I followed dutifully in the Mini. The trooper took her in through the jail entrance for a mugshot and a search while I was told to enter the building by another door and wait for her to be discharged. You get booked then you pay them 650. bail which is the sum of your outstanding fines and they take Visa. Good old ‘mountain’ due process.

It was midnight when they released her, her license now reinstated. She looked strangely liberated. She’d been in Purgatory and now she was free. I can’t help but wonder in retrospect if she’d thought of this as a dry run for what was certainly coming. What would the fine be then? and would they take Visa?

So when a request came in recently from our publisher wanting to know if we would approve the use of Kate’s epic ballad ‘Talk to Me of Mendocino’ in a radio/TV ad for of all things the NY State Board of Tourism I was struck by the irony. A fan saw the song’s commercial potential and rewrote the lyrics making them more upbeat and lauding the state. I commend her on her nicely sung version. Of course she doesn’t know the story. It goes without saying, we could not under the circumstances approve the change in lyrics to suit the NY Tourist Board but here they are anyway. There’s something really funny about all this, now.

Talk to Me of Mendocino
by Kate McGarrigle

I bid farewell
To the state of Old New York
My home away from home
In the state of New York
I came of age
When first I started roaming

And the trees grow high
In New York State
And they shine like gold in autumn
Never had the blues
From whence I came
But in New York State, I caught ’em

Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes I hear the sea
Must I wait?  Must I follow?
Won’t you say, “Come with me.”

Amended Lyrics for the NY State Tourist Board

I bid “Hello”
To the state of Old New York
My home away from home
In the state of New York
I came of age
When first I started roaming

And the trees grow high
In New York State
And they shine like gold in autumn
Found I had the blues
From whence I came
But in New York State I lost ’em

Talk to me
Of mountains and meadows
A place where the ocean
Meets the stream
Must I wait?  Won’t you join me?
We’ll make memories of our dreams!

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8 Responses:

  1. campbell says:

    October 16th, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Kinda like editing sunrise to sunset into a 60 second spot.
    “Can we have Romeo & Juliet get married and move to Boca Raton ?”
    All this for what Harold Ross (New Yorker founding editor) used to refer to a
    “The little Old lady in Dubuque”
    The Empire State Strikes Back indeed !

  2. Phil Allen says:

    October 18th, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    The Times did a large expose on rural New York justice about a year or so back replete with horror stories of unsupervised Justices of the Peace (Pieces?) engaged in all manner of unorthodox applications of the law. I imagined a scene out of Breugel while reading it! Poor Kate…what a stupid ordeal! Did they really handcuff the arm in the sling?! Shit!

  3. anna says:

    October 18th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    She may not have been wearing the sling and we did tell the trooper her arm was broken so he handcuffed her in the front and not the back which she would not have been able to stand. He was courteous but it was overkill given the characters and situation.

  4. Sarah says:

    October 18th, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    thanks for sharing the story- you are a great story teller!

  5. nikki says:

    October 18th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Meandered on the blog and was smiling because my husband, daughters (19 yr old twins) and I drove to NYork for his 60th birthday. Leaving the parking lot of a store, he forgot to put his seatbelt on. A trooper stopped us. Similar story – my husband had an unpaid ticket from 1989. He was cuffed – in front of us – we kept telling the trooper this was my husband’s actual birthday – that he was 60 ! – and that the ticket had been issued before the birth of our twins! I followed the trooper to Peru. We waited for the judge to show up. And, had to post bail.

    How inhuman can some people in uniforms be?

    Love your music. It has always a big part of our lives. I cried when I found out about Kate.


  6. Peter F says:

    October 26th, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Just came to the website today to see if there was anything new about an Oddities CD and saw this story. I’ve lived in New York (upstate) for all but 10 years of my life and this really makes me ashamed of the place.

    I only hope when my time comes, I have even a fraction of Kate’s courage.

  7. Anna says:

    December 14th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    I wonder if it was the same trooper. He certainly worked hard at filling the coffers of the state.

  8. George Vecsey says:

    February 16th, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Dear Anna: Just catching up with this story, so well told, as everything you both have done. In college I had a friend who drove up to see his girl friend at Cortland, On the way back, pre-credit card, he got a speeding fine in…seriously….the aptly-named Deposit, New York. Be well and thank you again. GV

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