Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   Hudson in the rain
Saturday, April 26 2003
Today Gretchen and I drove up to Hudson, New York to attend a reading by a couple people Gretchen knows from the literary world. These people are much further along in their careers than the people I've heard reading in the past. They also happen to be associated with a publishing house for gay authors. Gretchen's connection to these people is from having worked at that publishing house back in the day (when she was still in a same-sex relationship) and partly from her MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College.
For its part, Hudson is developing a reputation as something of an upstate gay Mecca. It's located about halfway between Kingston and Albany, on the east side of the Hudson across from a town with the giggle-inducing name Coxsackie. Hudson is an old rust-belt town full of ostentatious 19th Century architecture (some of it crenellated) as well as many rotting Victorian houses.
It was raining by the time we rolled into Hudson. Aside from the architecture, Hudson was actually rather depressing. The sidewalks were crumbling away and many of the buildings were boarded up. It looked like a larger version of Kingston's Rondout neighborhood, but in a blander setting. One could understand the interest of New York City gays. It's cheap and has definite gentrification potential. But for now its shabby and forlorn. Perhaps, though, it was just the weather making it seem so sad.
Prior to the reading, someone connected to it hosted a brunch at his or her house, a gloriously sagging Victorian. Whoever lived there was a prolific painter of large canvases. The paintings appeared to be oils which had originally been designed as small-scale collages. In addition to the paintings, the house's walls were crowded with overpopulated bookshelves. In many places the bookshelves were blocked by yet more paintings.
I didn't know any of the people at the brunch, but the ritual was familiar enough. There was a spread of food in the living room and another of beverages in the kitchen. The space was fully-occupied by people standing around holding paper plates and engaging in the sort of chit-chat preferred by well-educated adults. Most of the people there appeared to be in their forties; aside from a couple blond kids in orange sweatshirts, Gretchen might have been the youngest human there. There was also an old dog there named Olive; she belonged to Joan, one of the two people who would be doing the reading, a poet who later told Gretchen something juicy about her recent love life. She didn't say much, but it was revealing, "I don't know what it's going to do to my reputation as a lesbian feminist writer." The implication was that she had done precisely what Gretchen had done to ruin her gay-world street-cred. By this point in the conversation I'd moved from coffee to white wine. Why? Because it was there.
The readings took place at an industrial art space a few blocks away. It had the hallmarks of a place where lefties feel safe enough to eat meatless foods and not fly the American flag. One room was completely sealed but I could see through a crack that it had a set for the presentation of mock news conferences about military matters in Iraq. In another room, a group of dreadlocked hippies and brown men dressed in turbans were listening to the Dixie Chicks as they packed a greyish powder into short lengths of steel pipe. No, actually there was relatively little going on aside from Joan's frenzied skimming and bookmarking. She was sitting alone in the main lecture room trying to figure out which poems she would read.
Joan's poetry dominated the first half of the presentation. I tried my best to pay close attention to it, but something about it failed to resonate with the catalogue of references in my head. I'd be grasping a particular phrase, viewing it as having potential, and then, with the very next word, she'd say something that would leave me somehow disappointed and unimpressed. Perhaps it was too cerebral and devoid of imagery.
The second reader was J____, a gay h!spanic man, widely regarded (so I read) as one of the most significant gay h!spanic writers in America. J____ read some of his prose, excerpts from a still-unpublished book about Manuela Saenz, one-time lover of Simon Bolivar, Latin America's answer to George Washington or (more accurately) Saladin. English wasn't J____'s first language, so perhaps he could be excused for the unfocused blandness of his prose, at least initially. When he described sexual matters, though, suddenly he brought the imagery into sharp hyper-real focus in the refreshingly shocking way to which all good writing should aspire.
After the reading, Gretchen and I hung out with both Joan and J____ at the residence belonging to J____'s s on-again/off-again boyfriend, Bill. Bill had been living in city but decided to move to Hudson and simplify his life after experiencing a heart attack. Gretchen and Joan were both in agreement that he looked a lot better these days. Now Bill can kick back and do what he loves best, painting oil landscapes caffeinated with lavish use of pink and orange.
After that Gretchen and I decided to venture into Hudson's downtown district to do some clothes shopping (I need something nice to wear for the wedding). We'd been warned that there's nothing much to buy in Hudson except antiques, and this proved to be the case. There was, however, one store that sold a few African crafts and novelty items. That's where we bought a yellow rubber ducky with scary eyes and red devil horns.
We continued our drive northward up the Thruway all the way to Albany, stopping first at the Crossgates Mall, the place where a guy was arrested for wearing a pro-peace teeshirt. After buying a couple hundred dollars' worth of clothes in the Banana Republic (that's the kind of guy I am these days), we retreated to the food court to do something about Gretchen's low blood sugar.
There are few things to rival a shopping mall food court at dinner time on a Saturday. The place was crowded with families. In some circles, it is actually considered a treat for the whole family to go out to a shopping mall food court for dinner. One of the few things Gretchen could eat was a Taco Bell bean burrito. As she ordered one, I stood there with my Satan ducky, squeezing it over and over and holding it at eye level for children in strollers as they passed. I was doing what little I could to confound to the sociological machinery of this delightfully awful place.
Gretchen found her bean burrito much more disgusting than she'd remembered them being back in Wisconsin. Either they've gone downhill or she's become fussier. Perhaps both. In either case, as I pointed out at the time, a Taco Bell bean burrito is the closest thing to a dirty diaper that people eat without a gun to their heads.
The mission of the bean burrito - the reason those particular beans were harvested and than smashed into pulp and squirted from a bean pump - was to hold Gretchen over until we could get to an Indian restaurant. The presence of quality Indian food actually constituted a large fraction of our rationale for driving all the way up to Albany. We ate at a place called Gandhi's and the food didn't disappoint. Noting the presence of beef on the menu, I wondered if it was actually a Pakistani place.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next