Friday, April 29 2005
Just to fill in a few low spots in my path, I went to Fording Place for one final load of Esopus sand. As I was driving back with my load to Hurley Mountain Road, I passed the headquarters of the Fording Place scales and I saw the guy who'd yelled his threat to kick my "butt" the day before yesterday. He must have recognized my truck because as I passed he was making a very deliberate effort not to look at me. It's one thing to threaten someone on a street or subway in New York City, where you'll never have to see that person again. It's something totally different to yell at someone up here in rural Ulster County. That probably accounts for most of the reason why people tend to be polite and "friendly" in rural America, particularly if you look like you might be from around those particular parts (in other words, you don't happen to be black).
One of the main urgencies that compels me to work long hours on my ditch & walkway project is the desire to have it all put together by about the time the tulips in front of the house are in peak bloom (May 10th). Also, the clock is ticking on the grass now smothering beneath temporary piles of excavated earth in the yard. If I let the grass languish too long under there, it will all wind up as blanched as cave newts and subject to sunburn when it finally returns to daylight.
Partly in hopes of reclaiming all that fill (as well as a substantial heap of asphalt fragments), I've expanded the project to include a genuine terrain-altering sub-project: a substantial stone retaining wall and the complete alteration of contours behind it. I started work on this wall either yesterday or today, setting down rectangular stones so big that I could barely lift them. (Were I an all-powerful deity, I would have set down stones even bigger than the ones I would be able to lift.)
This evening Gretchen and I went with Ray to a barbecue in Woodstock. It took place in the backyard of his friend Rich, who until very recently was a professional potter. Now he's doing something else, I'm not clear what, and he's in the process of marrying a woman who is already pregnant.
The backyard was actually a common one shared by at least three different houses at the end of Calamar Lane. They're all owned by one guy who bought them dirt cheap under the terms of the will of their previous owner, for whom the guy had worked as a property manager. Now, of course, these houses are worth a fortune. Their communal yard butts right up against Sawkill Creek and it's far enough away from the traffic of 212 that you can feel as if you're out in nature (though you're still within walking distance of a variety of overpriced restaurant experiences). Central Woodstock is full of such side-lane communities, and their tranquility makes up somewhat for the disappointment Woodstock neophytes experience upon learning that the other Woodstock ("It's a free concert now!") actually took place an hour away in Sullivan County.
Evidently it's a common thing for tourists from all over the world to show up on the triangular green in Woodstock and ask a local, "Dude, where was the concert, man?" Mike, one of the guys at tonight's barbecue, had a response to that question all rehearsed for the next time it is asked. His plan is to say, "In my pants!"
Mike turned out to be an endlessly-entertaining manic depressive whose mania had been responsible for an impressive opus of delightful absurdity. At some point he'd gone on a "bring casinos to Woodstock" kick and, using his skills as a silkscreener, had printed up a series of teeshirts that said "Support Casino Gambling in Woodstock" (complete with a depiction of a slot machine having three peace symbols and a dove resting on the lever). He gave an orange one to Gretchen and she immediately put it on (though her appreciation for its message was ironic at best). This gave me ideas for all sorts of wacky tee shirts, such as "Vote Yes on the Hurley Nuclear Plant" and "Support the Rhinebeck Maximum Security Prison."
Our other Brooklyn friends Lin and Mark happened to be house sitting in Lake Hill and they eventually joined us at the barbecue. I hadn't seen them since late summer and these days Lin is very pregnant. It's sort of bewildering how so many people we know are now arriving at that certain point in their lives where they decide (consciously or otherwise), "To Hell with the coming collapse, my genes will live on!"
Doing less well than the immortality of their genes is Mark's dog Rev, a huge Rottweiler/Newfoundland mix. He's only eight years old, but already his body is failing in multiple ways. Mark just got the news today that an xray of the dog shows his body full of tiny tumors.
In the uncomfortable chill of the evening we clustered close around the barbecue grill. I had the misfortune of being on the downwind side and smoke kept getting in my eyes.
As usual for social engagements of late, I felt as if I didn't have the skills to contribute much to the ongoing conversation. When I would go to say something, I'd have trouble formulating the sentence in real time, so I'd tend to pre-assemble it in my head before saying it. This limited me to single-sentence soundbites. These can be socially effective, but in aggregate they don't contribute much to an evening. Mind you, it wasn't as if I was on any drugs and I'd only had two beers. This is just the way I am these days. Perhaps its an inevitable consequence of my hermetic lifestyle. Still, it's frightening when I really think about it. I feel as if my IQ has mysteriously dropped about fifty points or so from the way it was at the beginning of the year.
Ray took some pictures of me working on my stone retaining wall project today. The shirt I'm wearing is something Ray gave me years ago. I wear it all the time.
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