first night in the greenhouse upstairs
Monday, December 3 2012
We would be entertaining guests today, and as usual that meant Gretchen would be preparing a lavish multicourse meal and I would be cleaning up (though in this case, I'd mostly just be gathering the low-hanging fruit of filth). First, though, I'd have to make an errand into town to get some last-minute cilantro, scallions and bean sprouts (Hannaford didn't have any of that last one, so I got a bag of Julienned broccoli stems instead). I also got some more L-cross-section pieces of steel from Herzogs for my nascent custom woodcart. Luckily I remembered on the way home not to drive through Hurley.
Our guests were the artist Susan S!egel and her partner David Gord#n (who is also an artist). Gretchen has been friends with Susan since soon after being smitten by her art at a Hudson Valley Seed Library seed packet release. Gretchen had already had a sleepover at their place in Manhattan and so now it was their turn to come stay with us. Susan and David brought their dog Olive, a young white-and-brown Pit Bull whom they adopted from a shelter two months ago. So it ended up being a multispecies party of four dogs and four humans. (all the cats vanished except for Clarence.)
Just so our visitors could unwind after their drive, we walked down the Farm Road and back. The guy who owns the farm at the end of the farm road is a traffic architect that Ray and I call "the Duke of Luxembourg" (he's from there but is not a duke), and he's been having a pool installed for months. There are still some big yellow machines parked next to the pool, so David took the opportunity to take photographs of them. As an illustrator, he often finds he needs to render such machinery (one of the books he illustrated is called The Ugly Truckling and another is called Hansel and Diesel).
The lavish meal began with handmade dumplings (yes, there was a dipping sauce), soon followed by a brothy Asian soup containing tiny vermicelli-style noodles, cubes of freezer-toughened tofu, and a great variety of mushrooms. The final course was lettuce wraps that we each assembled for ourselves before eating.
Like me, David is a big fan of environmentalist doomers such as James Howard Kunstler (whose podcast seems to have evaporated when Duncan Crary, his understudy/boy wonder, moved on to bigger projects). Somehow this evening we got to talking about the limits to the human population explosion. "Do you think if the billion people in China all suddenly died, we would be able to smell them rotting from here?" he asked. I said I didn't think so, adding that a billion dead humans actually wouldn't be much for the environment to absorb. I then ran off and got a calculator and determined that if all humans alive today were piled into a rectangular solid, it would only be two miles long, a mile wide, and two thousand feet high. In other words, it would fit within Kingston's city limits and only be half the height of the highest peaks of the nearby Catskills.
The unusual need for a scientific calculator (the app on Gretchen's Droid could not perform cube roots) reminded me of how valuable and vaguely-fetish-inducing calculators were to me when I was in my lat tweens and early teens. I told David about the time I rigged up a circuit that could "press" the equal button on a calculator to make it count upwards endlessly. It turned out that he had his own calculator story; back in 1981 he'd been inconvenienced by being at a bank during a bank robbery and, as a consolation prize for having to give a statement to police, the bank gave him a calculator. He says that the calculator still works to this day on the same 31-year-old AA battery.
Eventually Deborah came over (though she didn't bring her dog) and we all hung out in front of the woodstove. A lot of our conversation was about the dogs: how cute they are, how good they were being, etc. But Olive had a tendency to start barking at someone and would have difficulty stopping, almost as if she were caught in a case of the hiccups. She'd see me come down the stairs and would catch my eye, and then the barking would begin. As with hiccups, it would take a major distraction for her to stop. As for Dutchess, the bony dog we were fostering for a few days, she was being a real sweetheart and impressive everyone with her calm good nature. The only real problem with her was that she had a way of working herself up into a lather over cats. She'd tend to chase them if they were out in the middle of the floor, and then they'd just run away or escape to higher ground. But if one was sitting on a chair, she'd nuzzle him, get excited, nuzzle him harder, and then maybe paw him. Clarence was amazingly indulgent of all this, though eventually he'd feel the need to paw back or perhaps even hiss. By this point Dutchess would be acting very inappropriately: licking her lips and pushing like a bulldozer. It would take real force to drag her away. I'm hoping these behaviors can somehow be cured.
Later in the evening, Deborah departed and eventually Gretchen opened a bottle of wine (I had a Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale).
Since our occasional houseguest Liza has taken over the master guestroom in the basement and there is no furniture at all in the Gunther guestroom, Gretchen offered our guests our bed to sleep in for the night. As for Gretchen and me, we would try sleeping on the futon in the greenhouse upstairs. I ended up having a great night's sleep, but Gretchen kept having to take Ambien because the small forced-air electric heater kept kicking on and she can't tolerate much noise when attempting to sleep.
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