keeping track of my bottle
Thursday, August 12 2004
I went up to Saugerties early this afternoon to attend to one of my housecall clients. On the Thruway (the same one that was famously closed during Woodstock '69) back to Kingston, a massive downpour slowed traffic to 45 mph, at least among the vehicles that decided to keep going. I was driving one of those vehicles.
When I got home, I could hear the mighty Chamomile River roaring behind the house. It had come back to life, having been still for months. I immediately went into the woods and constructed cairn to memorialize its renewal. Only this morning I'd suggested to Gretchen that we throw a party when the Chamomile started flowing again.
Mark and Lin came over for dinner tonight and we had a several course meal beginning with pesto-covered portobello mushrooms and ending with handmade pizza. Everything was delicious of course, a predictable result of Gretchen spending what seemed like the entire afternoon in the kitchen.
We boys were drinking beer while the girls were drinking red wine. When drinking beers with Mark, one has to be very careful to keep track of which beer is actually yours. Mark, you see, also dips snuff. I haven't known anyone else with this revolting habit since I was in 7th grade in Redneckistan (when I actually dipped a little myself). Snuff produces copious amounts of saliva, and Mark spits in beer bottles when they're around, sometimes when they still contain appreciable amounts of beer.
Later the four of us all went to the Thursday open mike event at Backstage Productions in Uptown Kingston. Mark was now in a surly mood because he seemed to think that his wife Lin wouldn't let him drink any beer. When I went and bought him a beer, he was so well-trained that he ignored it completely, drinking it in gulps when she was otherwise distracted.
Normally I don't much like the jazzy/singer-songwriter music at BSP's open mike. But tonight a real rock and roll band took the stage. It was a youthful trio named The Flying Dutchman, an amazing Rush cover band. Their drummer looked like one of those goth rejects one sees on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, complete with the stooped, rotund body, chin-length hair, and not-quite-cowboy hat. But he beat the hell out of those drums. The singer/bassist was a big doughy teenage girl who was an amazing bassist and a capable singer, faithfully aping the high-pitch vocals of Geddy Lee. Though she wasn't photogenic, she had that essential rock and roll frontman quality of seeming to channel the Rock and Roll Muse. The guitarist was the oldest, least-goth member of the band, and he look like a throwback to an earlier time with his poofy hair and fake tie-dye Pink Floyd teeshirt. But his solos were perfect. Their first song was "Limelight," the only song with which I was familiar, and it blew me away. Unfortunately the guy running the mixer seemed unfamiliar with the music and mixed it completely wrong.
The oddest thing that happened tonight involved Gretchen's friend and hair stylist, Mark the Heterosexual Hairdresser. He was talking about his Italian ethnicity and the common stereotype of Italians as being connected in some way with the Mafia. According to Mark, Italians are more pleased than annoyed with this perception. Then, using Gretchen's Jewishness as an example of the same sort of thing, he talked about how "Jews run the arts and entertainment industries," that "they're really smart," "they're good with money," and other common perceptions that have been responsible for a lot of Jewish grief, certainly more than the Mafia stereotype has caused the Italians. He claimed these stereotypes are largely true, but that he saw them as a good thing. He then went on to mention examples. A close artist friend of his, he said, had told him that if only he had a Jewish name he'd probably be a lot more successful. "That's just the way it is," Mark insisted. "The Jews have helped me a lot in my business," he added.
We all looked at each other in disbelief that anyone would say such things in polite company. The last time I heard sentiments like this being spoken was probably when I was a kid back in high school. You can view a stereotype any way you want to, but nobody likes to be told that his ethnic group "runs" anything. To run something means that you're responsible for its bad things as well as its good things, and it also implies (as exemplified by the supposed marginalization of Mark's artist friend) that your controlling ethnic group might well be unfairly discriminating against people who do not belong to it. Certain things are true about Jews as a group: they do have a disproportionate (but not necessarily controlling) effect on some things in this country, mostly because they tend to be better educated and more worldly than average. But it's probably truer that largely-male WASP elites are the ones truly calling the shots; one only needs to look at the last names of American Presidents to see this.
Somehow we wrapped up that conversation without coming to blows and Gretchen drove us all home.
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