the useless stores of Rhinebeck
Sunday, December 29 2002
Whenever Gretchen's parents are in town, they can be counted upon to pay for everything. Lucky for them, they came late in the construction process and the only things left that need to be purchased are trivial, mostly-inexpensive details.
There are few people in this world as well-traveled as Gretchen's parents, and we thought we'd take them on an authentic international adventure while they were in town. We took them to El Salvador, or at least that little bit of El Salvador lurking behind a frozen facade on Broadway in Kingston: La Pupuseria. There were actually a few customers there when we arrived, and none of them would have been the least bit out of place at an establishment like this in El Salvador. Gretchen's father, who has actually been to El Salvador, said that the gratis pickled cabbage (a kind of bland sauerkraut) provided to our table was unique to El Salvadorian cuisine, though he thought the pinkness of the stuff served here was a little bit suspect.
Next we drove to Lowes on a mission to get little things, particularly tub spigots sufficiently long for our oversized tub. Unfortunately, though, Lowes didn't have any in stock; they're special order items costing over a hundred dollars each (and we needed two). So I decided then and there to improvise a solution using industrial brass stopcocks ($2 each when not shoplifted).
I wasn't happy about our next destination: the reliably-dull town of Rhinebeck over on the tonier eastern side of the Hudson River. The purpose of this leg of the outing was to watch a movie over at Upstate Films, but since we arrived an hour before it started, we found ourselves killing that time in the shops of downtown Rhinebeck, which at this hour of the day are actually open, even on a Sunday. For those unfamiliar with the shops of downtown Rhinebeck, one must understand that they sell absolutely nothing that anyone actually needs. Typical items stocked in stores include contemporary weathervanes, phone-booth-sized contemporary cabinets made to resemble ancient antiques, and many species of women's intimate apparel. In one such store I headed directly for the chair in the corner, an apparently common repository for boyfriends, because the woman running the store fetched it without our hardly having to ask. It had been back by the changing room, and because she didn't move it far, I got to hear all the comments exchanged between the store lady and one of her customers as this customer tried on various bra-showcasing blouses. Later this customer told the store lady that she was a little stressed out about having turned thirty and Gretchen chimed in that she was so happy to be out of her twenties. Evidently Gretchen had also assumed that the store lady was in her thirties, but I knew better. When Gretchen proceeded to dump on the twenties and what an irritatingly clueless period they are, the store lady piped up, "But I'm still in my twenties!" I don't usually observe this much detail unless I'm terribly bored, but you can't imagine how long it took Gretchen to buy a set of tiny hairclips. Her parents (particularly her father) reliably make it ten times worse, since they have to debate every aspect of every purchase, no matter how trivial. Oh yes, and there must also always be several avenues of consideration that are pursued entirely for humorous effect.
The movie we saw was called Talk To Her, which was in Spanish but had subtitles in a language I can read. It was an unusual movie about the relationship between conscious people and people who are beautiful but in a coma. It took about two thirds of the movie to build the premise, and during this time I couldn't find it in me to be interested, but then suddenly things began happening fast and furious to effect the ending, which was sweetly dismal in a way you'll never get from a Hollywood flick.
I launched myself immediately into the task of installing my improvised bathtub spigots. Sadly, though, I put them in using pipe joint compound instead of Teflon tape, and somehow the copper threads seized up in the brass fitting I'd screwed them into and they couldn't be removed. I tried unscrewing the pipe but all that happened was that the pipe twisted and collapsed like an asbestos Hindenburg. After a couple frustrating hours, I realized my only hope for salvation was Jesus Christ. Either that, or a seven-eighths-inch deep socket for my socket wrench.
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