doctrines and tithes at the Terrapin
Tuesday, July 26 2005
About a half mile down the Stick Trail while I was taking the dogs on the 2.5 mile "big loop", I saw a bright red bird jumping leisurely from branch to branch about six feet above the ground. It was a much more brilliant shade of red than that of a male cardinal, and it came with a distinctive black patch on the wing. Though I'd never seen it before, I immediately recognized it from my bird books as a male Scarlet Tanager. (I have heard the Scarlet Tanager both here and in Virginia, but since they're usually in the canopy, they're rarely seen.) Due to the effects of suburban manifest destiny, these birds are no longer all that common and are indications of reasonably intact native forest ecology.
Once I got back home I worked for several continuous hours straightening up the house in anticipation of Gretchen's return from Manhattan. She'd be coming back with Wendy, her friend and occasional employer, who would be staying the night. My job was to get the house tidied up, and a big part of that was to bring an end to the ongoing disaster in the north end of the basement hallway, where the linen closet wall resurfacing project has been dragging on for a month.
After I returned from some housecalls in the greater Woodstock area, Gretchen and I took Wendy to Rhinebeck for dinner and a movie. The original plan had been to eat at Gigi's, the best Italian restaurant within a 50 mile radius. But that place was crowded, yes, even on a Tuesday, completely filling even the outdoor patio area.
So instead we went to the Terrapin, in its two-year-old location across the street in a beautiful refurbished church. The building is still a place of orthodoxy, ceremony and tithing, but now it's all in the cause of food. The prices there are as high as the heavens, and even the waitresses are dogmatic about the infallibility of the cook's doctrine. Wendy wanted to make a change to her salad because she doesn't like vinaigrette, but our waitress preached and evangelized the menu as written, managing to get Wendy to see the light simply by saying "our vinaigrette is not like any other."
The movie we saw was at Upstate Films and was called Me, You, and Everyone We Know. Wendy had already seen it but wanted to watch it again. She convinced us to see it by emphasizing its casual take on pedophilia (and the grey umbra surrounding it).
We hadn't been watching it long before Gretchen turned to me and said "This movie is incredible!" That was after the amazing goldfish scene and the absurdly funny introduction of the idea of "pooping back and forth" by a preteen actor worthy of an Oscar. I was in complete agreement. As it unfolded before me I came to see it as a good test of whether or not I should like someone. If you don't love Me, You, and Everyone We Know, chances are I'll never be good friends with you.
There's so much to like about this movie I don't even know where to start. But for starters it's important to mention that all the characters are complex weirdoes, the kind of imaginative people that even a large city only usually has in dispersed ones and twos. In Me, You, and Everyone We Know, though, they all find and feed off each other, and charm us with their unexpected curiosity, their desire to understand as opposed to judge and ridicule. Scene after scene are written like distillations of dazzling conversations held between two incredibly imaginative people, one building on the ideas of the other and tapping into those quirky resonances that, when we smoke too much pot, lead us to ponder whether the concept of "past lives" might have some validity.
Another delightful aspect of the movie was a quality of subtle magical realism, where every individual seemed to be a complicated timeless ghost trapped in some arbitrary body. Nothing said this louder than the eerie scene on the park bench. You'll know it when you see it.
After the movie, Wendy talked about how it, like other great movies, seemed to be altering her perception of people and things outside the theatre. A good movie reprograms your mind and frames your reality, but the effect is fleeting, gone some ten to fifteen minutes after you stagger out into the street.
Gretchen felt the need to walk up and down the sidewalks of downtown Rhinebeck to show Wendy what it was like. God I hate Rhinebeck! It's really just a simulation of a proper village, a subtler version of what one sees inside the gates of Disney Land. It looks so much like a computer generation of reality that one expects to be able to be able to effortlessly punch one's hand right through its walls, producing a crackling buzz and spreading ripples throughout the façades.
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