half-filling the Kleinert
Friday, April 8 2011
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
I was a little concerned today when I looked at the data logged by my solar controller during my weeklong absence. According to the logger, it had stopped functioning the day I'd left and hadn't come back to life until I'd powered up my computer after returning. It would later turn out that the logger had failed and not the solar controller and that any sunlight the system could collect had been collected. But the prospect that such a catastrophic failure might happen propelled me to begin the process of building a system that could automatically reset the solar controller if it failed to do its normal routines for some number of seconds. I envisioned a couple of 555 timers (perhaps together in the form of a 556). One would be a missing pulse detector and other would be a one shot. If the regular pulses of normal activity should fail, the one shot would trigger the reset pin (but, given the way a 555 works, this would have to happen through a logical inverter). I was eager to start breadboarding such a system, but the day quickly grew late and it was time for me to drive to Woodstock.
The Woodstock Writers' Festival had begun, and Gretchen wanted warm bodies at the two poetry panels she'd be moderating.
So I drove over to Woodstock and, after Gretchen introduced me to some of the panelists and I chatted with friends (there were more there than I expected, partly a result of Gretchen's warm-body-gathering efforts), things got going. About forty people had shown up for this shittiest-possible panel, which was a celebration of the life of the recently-deceased poet Lucille Clifton. Four youngish poets, only one of whom was white and only one of whom was male, spoke mostly of how Clifton's poetry related to either race, womanhood, or not being "one of the boys." In addition reading Clifton's poems (which are much shorter than the poems normally performed in Woodstock), the on-stage poets also read some of their own works. Most unique of these were those of Mahogany Browne, which managed, with words alone, to pull off complicated nested rhythms that were fascinating outside what the constituent words actually meant. It was the most enjoyable poetry event I'd ever attended.
After running back to the car to give the dogs a piss break, I rejoined Gretchen back at the Kleinert. She was hanging out with the panelists in the green room; they were all drinking white wine. When Gretchen re-introduced me to them, I found I'd developed a little case of Tourette's Syndrome, the kind that once had me casually using the expression "final solution" in a non-Nazi-discussing context in front of Gretchen's very-Jewish mother. Tonight in the green room I said, "I'd met you people before," at which point Gretchen reflexively said something to finesse away the "you people." It's just bad form for a white man to use the expression "you people" when talking to a largely non-white group of people. I knew that, of course, but that's how Tourette's Syndrome works: it sneaks up on you and makes you say precisely the offensive thing you're trying so hard not to say. (Not that I have anything close to full-on debilitating Tourette's Syndrome; it's a spectral condition like Asperger's Syndrome and other personality quirks.)
After the panel, Gretchen and I went across the street to Oriole 9, where a fancy buffet dinner had been prepared for organizers, volunteers, writers, and members of the public willing to pay $50 each. Gretchen and I took a corner booth and sat with all the poets from the panel. Ours was the "it table" and it was awesome. There was much poetry talk, and I couldn't contribute much, but when I had something to say, it was never completely stupid. As for the food, the buffet had enough vegan options to keep Gretchen and me perfectly happy.
I didn't go with the others when they went for a round of "scotch" at the next place. I hadn't paced myself drink-wise, and I was worried about the dogs. Gretchen stuck her head into the Kleinert to see how the next Writers' Festival event was going (featuring the famous upstate writer and occasional Slate.com contributor Jon Katz)
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