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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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   New Paltz activities
Saturday, January 29 2011
With the Eastern Correctional Facility graduation postponed (due to the off-site car crash death of one of its many guards), Gretchen decided to make us some other plans for the day. These included attending a women's basketball game at SUNY New Paltz and then a walk through the SUNY New Paltz art museum. At first I was quietly enraged. Wasn't this supposed to be a gift from God, an unexpected day returned to me that I'd already ceded to the expectations of others? I could think of a lot of ways to spend my afternoon; watching two unknown nonprofessional women's basketball teams play each other was not one of them. But Gretchen was adamant, so there we were, driving to fucking New Paltz. I was so angry initially that I didn't even talk to Gretchen for the first ten minutes of the ride. But gradually I resigned myself to my fate. It could have been worse; I'd actually written this day off already. I was only angry because I hadn't gotten it back as all my own.
But Gretchen was worried about me never leaving the house. She could see nascent characteristics of my father creeping into my personality, a set of behaviors that ultimately resulted in my father not coming to our wedding. She also saw the need for me to branch out and have "new" experiences. On the drive home from today's outing, she also said that we never really interact with each other unless we're out doing something. At home we have our separate computers, separate television preferences, and separate bedtimes; sure, we watch Jeopardy and the Colbert Report together, but we mostly just act like roommates.
So there we were in SUNY New Paltz's big indoor sports complex. In the entranceway were a number of extremely buffed-up students who had evidently just been working out in the weight room. But this wasn't a prison; they were free to come and go as the chose.
Seven minutes of the game had already happened by the time we arrived. Familiar with the way a professional basketball stadium looks, I found the New Paltz gymnasium austere. We sat on uncomfortable pull-out HDPE bleachers amid a mix of college-age jocks and older people (parents of the players?). We were perhaps the only people there from the 40-something demographic except perhaps some of the referees and other support staff. I hadn't really taken close notice of a jock since they were both older and bigger than me. Now it wasn't just that I was older than all of them; I was also less scrawny than a good fraction of them. Interestingly, I noticed that few of them (or the basketball players) had tattoos. While it's possible that kids this age don't generally have tattoos, it's also possible that tattoos are going out of fashion (at least in Upstate New York).
As expected, the level of play was a bit underwhelming, given that the only real basketball I watch is professional women's basketball (which I sometimes watch with Gretchen during its summer season). There weren't a lot of no-look passes and few heroic three point shots. Most striking of all was how bad the women were shooting from the foul line. At the rate they made their foul shots, frequent fouling would have been an effective defensive strategy, though there wasn't all that much fouling either.
The game was organized into two long "20 minute" halves punctuated by a half-time break, during which we were entertained by a large dance troupe of young women dressed in shorts and nylon hose. "This is the only reason I come to these things," I announced, to which Gretchen remarked, "You're becoming a dirty old man! That's something my father would say!"
Eventually the game ground to an end, by which point I was finding it strangely compelling. The winner, SUNY New Paltz, had rarely led by less than 20 points. The vanquished team, SUNY Plattsburgh, hadn't had noticeably worse players, though it had been interesting to note how much demographically whiter they had been.
Next on the agenda was a walk through of the Samuel Dorsky Museum, housing the humble SUNY New Paltz art collection. It's not big, though it is fully-staffed with student security (making sure we don't try to pocket the teaspoon-sized piece of cuneiform despite its being surrounded in glass). We showed up to find the museum had rearranged its collection to form an artistic interpretation of a fictional Mr. X. Such a framework made sense for only one or two paintings before it proved a nuisance. There were no real standout pieces, though there were a few by people you've heard of such as Miro and Rauschenberg. There was also an ugly Salavador Dali print.
I love art, but nothing makes me sleepier than an art museum, particularly when the art itself is a bit on the sleepy side. So our next stop was a coffee shop in the heart of downtown New Paltz called the Muddy Cup. It was a big space with a gloriously high tin-plate ceiling, big couches, and the unfortunate draft of ceiling fans hoping to push warm air back down to the floor. Despite this, the coffee shop felt cozy. This was largely an effect of the dim lighting and the warmth of the colors (the tin ceiling had been painted a brick red). We both ordered soy cappucinos (I hadn't ordered a cappicino of any kind since becoming a vegan), and I had them throw an extra shot of espresso in mine. It was the most delicious cappucino I'd ever had, sweetened as it was by the fresh espresso itself. Gretchen took a sip and said it had that rare quality she hadn't experienced since she visited Italy. As we drank our cappucinos, we read from copies of a free lefty tabloid we'd found stacked for the taking on a central table. Do right wingers publish free tabloids? I've never seen them in coffee shops. Oh, that's right, right wingers don't like to read. They prefer yelling, unsupported arguments, and simple diagrams.
Our last activity in New Paltz was dining at a downtown Indian restaurant called Suruchi. Unusually for an Indian restaurant, the entire staff appeared to be European-American, though an honest attempt had been to keep things reasonably Indian. There was unobtrusive Indian music on the speaker system (no Bollywood), and the nubile blond waitresses were dressed in Indian attire, though this made them look more like members of a cult than participants in an exotic culture.
Normally in ethnic restaurants, I let Gretchen order for both of us and then we share. But today this strategy didn't work as well as well as it usually does. I prefer my food much spicier than Gretchen does, though she can tolerate much more heat than she thinks she can. Since we didn't know the spicing factor at Suruchi, Gretchen erred too much on the side of caution. Our food ended up being hopelessly bland. She thought the South Indian dosa was excellent and agreed with me on the North Indian curry. I thought it was all almost unpleasantly flavorless. Not only did it lack heat, it lacked other spices, and it also lacked salt. (We have no such problems with our Kingston Indian restaurant.) But two good things can still be said for Suruchi: the atmosphere is cozy and pleasant, even when the place is full. And the food definitely seems as if it was made with a view to addressing health concerns; it is, for example, much less greasy than you usual Indian faire.
I asked for peppers to add to my food, and was given some slices of what appeared to be a small jalapeño. This helped, but there's a big difference between cooked-in heat and the superficial kind achieved by sprinkling it on. I don't often get cooked-in heat in my food due to the fact that I'm always letting Gretchen do the ordering. Today's extreme manifestation of this phenomenon had me thinking that in the future maybe we can order separately, at least on occasion. It will be a little like back when I used to occasionally order fish. Or like your parents when they finally transcended AOL and got themselves separate email addresses (even if they never learned how to check them).

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