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   New Years with Pitunia
Friday, December 31 2004
It was a remarkably balmy New Year's Eve in the Catskills. People were seen strolling about without jackets and they weren't the slightest bit uncomfortable. Normally such warmth at this time of year would be accompanied by rain or high winds, but the worst claim you could make about today was that it wasn't especially sunny.

The afternoon saw me driving back from a brief housecall in New Paltz with a ghetto burrito in my hand. I have to give credit where credit is due: the Taco Shack on Main Street in New Paltz makes a pretty good facimile of a Mission Burrito. Not only that, but the restaurant even feels sort of like the Mission, or (failing that) one of San Francisco's quasi-hippy, post-internet-boom neighborhoods. The ambience is unsanitary, the burritos come wrapped in aluminum foil, and when I was there, there was a flyer on the bulletin board advertising a used iPod with 40 gigs of storage pre-populated with over 700 songs. The main feature the restaurant lacks is genuine salsa; the stuff you get with your burrito comes in a little plastic blister pack not unlike the kind used by Taco Bell for the distribution of their "sauce." It can't get any less Mission than that.
Meanwhile Gretchen had taken our dogs to the Ulster County SPCA to visit Pitunia (the pit bull puppy who looks exactly like Eleanor) and, on a whim, decided to bring her own for the long New Years weekend. Being something of a SPCA VIP, Gretchen can do things most people can't, like foster shelter animals on a whim.
Like any puppy, Pitunia finds every detail of her world fascinating. She wants to know, to lick, to smell, to taste, to listen, but only long enough to be distracted by the next detail that commands her attention. Her enthusiasm can build to its natural limit at a moment's notice as she dissolves into a thin cloud of rubbery puppyness, a foam comprised of large amounts of air and very little dog. The truth is, she actually spends a lot less time in this state than most puppies her age. What really seems to bring out her crazy side is her doppleganger Eleanor. They play exactly the same way and they never seem to get bored with one another. Inevitably, though, one or both of them ends up collapsing from exhaustion. A puppy in its lowest energy state doesn't occupy any room to speak of.
We soon discovered that Pitunia wasn't housebroken. The evidence was a puddle on the floor at the entrance to the kitchen. I kept cleaning it up and it kept reappearing, every twenty minutes or so. Who knew puppies contained so much water?

Our New Year's Eve festivities were to be a low-key series of events at our house. Gretchen prepared one of her multi-course vegan meals and we were joined by Nicky (she's the vegan who works with Gretchen at the SPCA) and our two friends from Tillson (the erstwhile Meatlocker People). Nicky would be going to something else after dinner and she was dressed up (her shirt featured a punk rock logo with a mohawk-sporting skull). Completely independently, both our Tillsonian friends were also dressed up. I'd been wearing pajamas when Nicky arrived and by the time the Tillsonians arrived Gretchen thought we should change into something nicer.
Later on, after the vegan nutloaf had been devoured and Nicky had taken off, the photogenic Buddhist couple from Hill 99 (in Woodstock) showed up with a bottle of champagne. Conversation quickly moved from whatever it had been to the subject of animal rights and stayed there for a very long time until Ms. Tillsonian got around to leading the conversation in a totally different direction, one related mostly to her work with troubled teenagers.
At the stroke of midnight, give or take a minute, we drank champagne from the big red wine glasses Gretchen and I had bought yesterday at the Pottery Barn in Albany. Not long after that, everyone headed home.

Clarence (foreground) with Gretchen (midground) and the Tillsonians with Pitunia (background). I used to refer to the Tillsonians as "the Meatlocker People" back when they lived in a former meatlocker a quarter mile up the road. Now that they live in Tillson I call them something more appropriate.
Click to enlarge.

More Tillsonian goodness. Both Mr. Tillson and Pitunia appear to be sacked out.

Sally with the photogenic vegan Buddhists from Hill 99. She claims she's 40 years old...

...but look at her! Those vegans might be on to something.

Gretchen said I looked like a Republican in the red white and blue ensemble I chose tonight.
That tie, by the way, used to be worn by a current member of the US House of Representatives.

Lulu found a new place to hang out atop the cabinets in the kitchen.

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