Saturday, November 1 2003
Gretchen and I had plans to drive to Boston this weekend, possibly even to leave today. So Gretchen had asked our Brooklyn friends Ray and Nancy if they wanted to come up and housesit. They'd said they could, but it turned out that they couldn't really housesit for the most important time period. It didn't matter; they came up anyway. We met them this afternoon at the 209 Diner, a diner in Ellenville (30 miles south down US 209). From the outside it looks like a miserable tarpaper shack, but inside it displays an authentic stainless-steel-girded 50s-style wholesomeness, with an added flourish of 2001-style me-too patriotism: lots of little American flags hanging from the ceiling, presumably presenting a message of "God prefers America to all the non-American alternatives." I don't know this for sure, but my guess is that Ellenville is George W. Bush Country. Half the people living there presumably work at a job supported by the nearby correctional facility, the most beautifully-foreboding structure of its kind I have ever seen.
Despite my expectations to the contrary, the 209 Diner had a wide selection of vegetarian burgers, and I was not compelled to order myself a pastrami sandwich.
Throughout the meal, I kept being bothered by the tooth pains I'd begun suffering from the day before yesterday. By now Gretchen had obtained me a little bottle of Ambesol, but the relief it providing was fleeting. The solution was to eat a horse pill containing some sort of analgesic.
The plan for the afternoon was to hike in Sam's Point Preserve along the Shawangunk Ridge. We'd brought all three of our dogs, intending to ignore all posted leash laws.
The drive up to the top of the Shawangunk ridge provided spectacular views of the Rondout Valley below. Interestingly, there's a sort of a town (Hamlet) at the top of the ridge. It features a post office and a library that claims to be free.
The parking lot at the Sam's Point Preserve trailhead was jammed with cars on this unusually warm November day. Just a little ways up the trail we passed a series of vertical cliffs composed of rock from the Shawangunk formation. It's a tough white rock made up of marble-sized pebbles welded together by quartzite. From one place on the way up to the plateau we had a commanding view of the entire 12588 Zip Code, and a few others as well.
The top of the plateau was a mostly featureless pine barren. At one point I had to take a piss, so I waded into the forest of eight foot tall Christmas trees. I had some difficulty walking from the dense interwoven accumulation of branches, grasses, and heaths. The dogs, however, managed this terrain without difficulty.
Oddly, there was a lake, Lake Maratanza, tucked away amid the pine barrens. Across on the distant shore there was a nest of antennas looking like the architectural embodiment of an excessively-influential military-industrial complex.
The last place we went on our hike was to a trail through some "ice caves." Ice caves, at least in this area, are formed when water seeps down into cracks along the edges of a cliff and then, when frozen, wedges the cracks wider. Rocks tumble into the cracks, more water percolates in, and the process repeats itself until fairly large voids form. Ice can accumulate here in the winter, and it can remain well into the summer.
When we got to the start of the ice caves, we decided to break up into two groups so that one set of us could stay with the dogs outside while the others explored the caves. We'd been led to believe that the caves involved too much climbing for a dog. So Ray and I did the first shift of dog sitting while the womenfolk searched the caves. A random couple also entrusted us with their dog, some sort of small-brained purebred. Our plan for keeping all of the dogs out of the icecaves went awry when Sally snuck off with Gretchen and Nancy. As it turned out, she could climb the ladders of the ice caves without difficulty.
So when it came time for Ray and me to go through the ice caves, we took Suzy and Eleanor along. Sally initially acted like she wanted to go through a second time, but then she disappeared and headed back to hang out with Gretchen and Nancy. Ever since we got Eleanor she's acting much more mature about things. Not wanting to go on a fun adventure two times in a row is a sure sign of dog maturity.
Suzy and Eleanor weren't as agile as Sally had been on the ladders; Suzy (weighing 60 pounds) had to be carried up the first ladder and Eleanor (weighing 35 pounds) had to be carried up the second.
The ice caves were much more elaborate and interesting (and even frightening) than I expected. Something about all those loose boulders wedged into the crevasses overhead gave me inklings of the headache I'd feel if one of those were to land on my head. But it might have just been my toothache, the pain of which seemed to be coming from constantly changing locations in my right lower jaw and propagating from there into my cranium.
The sun was setting as we headed back down the trail to the car and I was talking to Nancy about toothaches and experiences with dentists. I had to stop at one point to apply more Ambesol.
On the drive home I was feeling so miserable that Gretchen and I decided to cancel dinner at La Pupuseria.
But by the time we were home I was feeling much better. Gretchen cooked up an elaborate meal involving chili, rice, and cauliflower covered in a cheese sauce. Meanwhile I was installing some essentials on Ray's new laptop computer, which he's had for only about two weeks. In the midst of this, I gradually became aware that it was severely infected with spyware, adware, and even some malware, all things about which his Norton Anti-Virus software was being blissfully unconcerned. Every time he opened Internet Explorer, for example, he had to look at not one but two unrequested search bars. These search bars sent their queries, should anyone have chosen to use them, to a uselessly ad-choked search engine. One of the search bars took up an unusually large amount of space because it also featured a bunch of pulldown menus with such headings as "casinos" and "sex." Perhaps there are people who would willingly give up precious screen real estate to see such things, but Ray wasn't among them.
Though I could easily see what the problem was, this adware proved nearly impossible to root out. AdAware was useless, and every time I'd nuke the malevolent registry entries with HijackThis, they'd "grow back" with the next reboot. Eventually I found that the files causing the trouble were in the Application Data folder inside Ray's Documents and Settings folder. The two folders that kept growing back were WinLink and WinShow. I finally had to open the winlink.dll and winshow.dll files, strip out all their content, save them, and make them read-only, thereby rendering them inert, much like the empty shells of cowpox viruses used to inoculate against smallpox.
I'd been telling Ray that the worst spyware infections I find are usually on the computers of teenage girls. Having seen me struggle to clean up his computer, Ray confessed, "I'm a teenage girl!"
A view of the Shawangunk Ridge from Ellenville.
Ray on the edge of a Shawangunk cliff.
Nancy and Gretchen in front of the misty Walkill Valley.
Gretchen in front of Maratanza Lake.
Gnarly white birches on the shore of Maratanza Lake.
Ray in an ice cave.
Inside an ice cave.
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