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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   geodes as large as children
Friday, February 8 2008
I awoke this morning with a mild sore throat and recognized it as the disease that had afflicted Gretchen a few days ago.

This evening Gretchen and I went out for dinner at Café Mezzaluna, a restaurant and small-scale performance place west of Saugerties on the road to Woodstock. It's a cross between a cappuccino bar and a southwest fusion restaurant, but without (for the latter) the requisite liquor license. I don't know if this has anything to do with the car we parked behind, which featured a bumper sticker reminding us of the dangers of drunk driving. (On the cheat sheet of life, I can imagine some would include "Don't drink and drive" along with "Christ died so that you might be saved.") Mezzaluna sits right alongside a stretch of Route 212 where traffic is going the full speed limit, so it's just as well that no one ever stumbles out of there drunk.
We'd come to Mezzaluna because Phil, Gretchen's "boss" at Bard, would be doing a reading, mostly of the translated poems of Claudia Lars, an obscure Salvadoran poet who died in 1974. Phil has been to a couple of Gretchen's readings and she thinks he is "totally awesome." (Gretchen, though an English professor at Bard, frequently uses phrases like "totally awesome" and "oh no she di-n't" in normal conversation.)
The crowd tonight was your typical Woodstock literati scene - mostly everyone was white and had a touch of grey in their hair. Nothing was going to shock them or cause them to burst into inappropriate laughter.
Gretchen, after making the requisite stops at all the tables where there were people to greet, came back to join me in the back and we both ordered veggie burgers and soups containing beans.
Before the main event, we heard a few others read poetry, both in English and (for, perhaps as a multicultural in-your-face to the Minuteman movement) Spanish. I actually know enough Spanish for the Spanish translations of the poetry to be something other than wasted on me, but what came next was truly bizarre (and not in a good way). A young ethnomusicology major came out in an elaborate Indonesian dance costume and proceeded to read a couple poems she'd written, both in Indonesian and English. I have to give the young woman props; she knows Indonesian, and (other than the simplicity of its vowels) it didn't sound like an easy language to master. Still, she had about her the air of an overachieving show-off which really got its grove on when she went on to perform a little dance for us. While a pre-recorded traditional Indonesian song played on the sound system, she whirled about and made little Indian-style hand gestures, keeping what seemed like an "I'm so clever" smirk on her face. Periodically she would kick a banner up over her shoulder, and often it would ricochet off the ceiling. The moves all had a stylized quality that she seemed to have added to the original, like the physical manifestation of throwing quotes or italicize tags around text. Not only that, the dance went on far longer than propriety should have dictated. The music would slow down and start to grow quiet and I would think it was about to end, but no, it would build back up again and she'd be making those ridiculous moves and kicking that banner up over her shoulder with that souless smirk on her face. I looked at Gretchen at one point and almost made her burst into laughter, but we were at a sober Woodstock-area event, and it would have been unseemly for either of us to have done so.
As for Phil's presentation of the poems of Claudia Lars, I have to say that I wasn't so much drawn to her poems as I was to her life's story. She'd been born of an Irishman from Scranton and a native Salvadoran woman, gone on to live an upperclass life of poetry and volcano-eruption-avoidance. She stayed out of the thick of the class struggle that rocked her country during her liftime, only to feel regretful in her later years.
I should note, by the way, that by this evening my sore throat had worsened and I'd developed sniffles, so I probably should have begged out of this social call. But then I would have missed that Indonesian dance.
One final interesting thing about Mezzaluna is that its dining room and bathrooms feature some of the largest bisected geodes I have ever seen, with some as large as a six year old child.

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