P&T Surplus Café
Thursday, February 23 2012
My new friend Paul, the guy who recently fixed up a Rondout church, has what Gretchen has identified as a combination of two traits: the occasionally manic ADD-driven hyperfocused obsession of my old housemate John C. (from my time in West Los Angeles) coupled with the entrepreneurial (though not not necessarily successful) drive of that guy Dennis the dentist (who managed to convince me to develop two unsuccessful data-driven websites for him on spec). Paul has two ideas for inventions that he'd like to explore, though I'm already finding myself serving the role of wet blanket, having to carefully examine his unnecessarily optimistic assumptions concerning, say, the possibility of non-invasively measuring the pressure inside a solid-walled container.
Today I met Paul at P&T Surplus on the Rondout to look at vintage frequency generators (for our pressure-measuring projecting). He also handed off his old Oral-B Triumph toothbrush for me to examine. Did it really use Bluetooth to connect with its base station, or was the radio technology simpler than that? (Ingrid, his wife —who is currently visiting Columbia— is a dental hygienist and got him interested in meticulous dental hygiene.) To help with determining this, he also loaned me two fairly technical books about short-range wireless technology. All of this is to help me perhaps help him develop another invention Paul has in mind.
While we were there at P&T Surplus, Paul told me a story about a guy he knows in Kingston, let's call him Ted, who thwarted the annual reenactment of the burning of Kingston by the British back during the American Revolution. Ted didn't think it was right for the British get to burn Kingston every year, even if only in reenactment. So one year he snuck into the reenactors' camp as they slept the night before the "burning." He took all their supplies, loaded it up in a barge, and floated away with it down the Hudson. The next day reenactors were left with nothing, and some of them freaked out. Police investigated the incident and were unable to come up with any leads. Only recently did Ted come clean about his hijinks, the statute of limitations having run out.
P&T Surplus in a rather large, nearly-unheated building. It's grubby in there and doesn't always smell too good. Occasionally one sees the P&T Surplus cat, a chunky calico named "Momma." Recently P&T Surplus added a café to the building, and though it has a separate entrance, it's the last sort of venue one can imagine pairing with a junk shop (though the place calls itself "The P&T Surplus Café"). Paul and I stuck our heads in to have a look around. It's not what one would consider a hip place; the middle-age woman working the counter was not especially svelt, photogenic, tattooed, or pierced, and the one customer was an elderly lady sporting a timelessly unfashionable bluish-grey perm. I don't remember much about what was available for purchase, though I do remember seeing a ham and a coffee pot. Though there are a great number of junk sculptures in P&T Surplus itself, none had been used to decorate the antiseptic concrete block walls of the café. I'm just not used to cafés looking so, well, red state.
Paul and I took the dogs for a walk in the scruffy neglected urban park adjacent to P&T Surplus. But Sally didn't make it very far; she found a bread roll from the café that had been tossed into the basketball court, and she proceeded to make it her personal project. Its crust was as hard as a chew toy, and it seemed like it was going to take her awhile, so I put her back in the car and we just walked Eleanor (who has no interest in things like stale bread).
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