Wednesday, February 16 2005
I turned thirty seven years old today. Gretchen had asked if I wanted a birthday cake and I'd said no, I'd actually prefer something delicious like a homemade pizza. So sure enough she baked me one. If getting a birthday pizza offends your value system, how about the fact that she served it to me as breakfast in bed? It had a burning candle on it and everything.
At some point today I took a break from the computer and went down the Stick Trail with the hand truck (rated as being capable of moving an 800 pound object). The weather was still relatively warm and the thaw was continuing, so I thought I'd get a nice big slap from the Dead Deer Bluestone Mine for use in the "cat heater" I've built into the teevee room bookshelf. The heater has been operating for over a month and has been a big success with Julius and Lulu the cats, but the rocks I'd positioned atop the radiant copper pipes had been smaller and less flat than I would have preferred, so I've been in the market for a replacement.
I managed to bring home a very heavy slab of rock, one that probably weighed 150 pounds. The worst part of the haul came when I had to cross the mighty Chamomile River, which was swollen with meltwater. As rivers go, the Chamomile is tiny (we refer to it as a river mostly in jest) and it's usually possible to jump across it at the Stick Trail ford. But today it was a good eight feet across and as deep as six inches in places. Pulling the hand truck, I had no choice but to wade through. Incredibly, though, water only found its way into one of my shoes, the same pair of hiking sneakers that I've worn on safaris in Africa and hikes in the Galapagos.
Since it was my birthday, this evening Gretchen and I enjoyed dinner and a movie, perhaps in compensation for the waste we'd laid to tradition this morning. Gretchen knows about my fetishistic interest in women's underwear, particularly slips. But she rarely acts on this knowledge. Today, though, since it was my birthday, she wore a white slip. It was the first time I'd ever seen her wear a slip of any description and I found it very exciting. It was a bit long for the skirt she wore over it, and over time it would descend to show as much as six inches of delicious silky whiteness. Who knows why the sight of such things fascinates me so; I know it's just woven fabric made by an impersonal machine probably somewhere in China. I'll steal a glance at lesser amounts of slip shown by anyone, even grandmothers, but with Gretchen it was an embarrassment of riches and I had to look away; I feared what it might do to me.
In the dinner phase of the evening, we went to a Southwest-style restaurant called Santa Fe across the Hudson in the village of Tivoli. Neither of us had ever been to Tivoli, which is more or less across the Hudson from Saugerties. But since there is no bridge or ferry at Saugerties, we had to cross the river at Rhinebeck and then drive north on 9G. Tivoli is a tiny, sudden little village. One moment you're driving through something similar to a field and then the next you're at the Tivoli crossroads, surrounded by bookstores, restaurants, art galleries, and the Lost Sock Laundromat. Evidently the village has figured out something about enforcing zoning restrictions that has escaped the rest of the United States. Because of Tivoli's proximity to Bard College, it tends to be the kind of village that caters simultaneously to both cheap and expensive tastes, with little middle ground between the two. This corresponds to the two major demographics of shoppers: students and their parents. So, for example, while Santa Fe where we'd be eating tonight is the kind of place a student gets treated when his wealthy parents come to town, there's a nasty-looking pizza place almost directly across the street. (If you're curious about the places I ate when I was a student in Oberlin, it bears mentioning that neither of my parents have ever been to that town.)
I must have still been suffering from corn chip withdrawal in the aftermath of my ordeal at the hands of the corn-chip-free diet of Ecuador, because the chips and salsa brought to our table when we arrived were delicious. They were so delicious, in fact, that I ignored my margarita for far longer than is normal for a guy like me.
After that, though, the meal wasn't especially exciting. I ordered a shrimp stuffed chili expecting it would be like the shrimp chili poppers at the Armadillo on the Rondout. It's hard to appreciate what an achievement those Armadillo poppers are, far more than just the sum of their parts. But then I ate my shrimp stuffed chili at Santa Fe and the magic just wasn't there. If anything, it was somehow less than the sum of its parts. As for my entree, a portabello-containing burrito, it was an anemic little thing that left me pining for San Francisco's fat Mission burritos (which, since the late 1990s, have been successfully -if not flawlessly- duplicated throughout the east).
For the movie phase of the evening we drove to the nearby village of Redhook and went looking for its multiplex theatre south of Main Street. I'd never seen anything like it: it was a stand-alone multiplex out in the suburban fringe. Usually multiplexes are either at a mall or in a downtown, but this one had a site more typical of a bowling alley. Like a bowling alley it had an integrated "café" Everything about the place was vintage, from the "Delicious Candy" display to the worn carpets to the water-stained ceiling tiles. Before the show began we were treated to a slide show of advertisements for local business. There was exactly one preview before the feature.
The movie we'd come to see was the comedy Hitch about a übercool "date doctor" (Will Smith), his various nebbishy clients, and a too-cool-for-romance tabloid reporter he decides to seduce for himself. It was a hilarious movie, marred only somewhat by the final fifteen minutes and by the swelling strings used to signify occasions when we should seriously appreciate the romance (as opposed to coughing up a lung on the hilarity). My favorite scene was the one where Will Smith cautions his most difficult client about dancing. It was the perfect combination of physical humor and a well-cued soundtrack.
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