silence of the Maritime
Saturday, April 27 2013
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
Today Gretchen and I would be driving down to Manhattan for a number of things, including one of her two book release parties. So while she walked the dogs in the forest, I loaded boxes of books, prints, and packets of seed library seeds into the car. When Gretchen returned home, she called my name in a way that immediately suggested that something bad had happened. Of all days Ramona could have chosen to be initiated into the world of dogs quilled by porcupines, she had chosen today. She had hundred of quills in the left side of her face, with additional patches on her chest and neck. As always happens when the quilling is this bad, there were also quills in the roof of her mouth, on her tongue, and on the insides of her shiny black lips. I've seen quills as thick as an eighth of an inch, but all of these were much thinner, a sixteenth of an inch or less, suggesting that the porcupine responsible had been an unusually small one.
I'd brewed up a french press of coffee and toasted bagels for Sarah the vegan and me, but now it was looking like I wasn't going to have much time for any of that; it's best not to wait when porcupine quills are in need of extraction. I managed to pull many dozens of them out, first using my hands and then my teeth (which could get a better hold and occasionally extract several at a time). Ramona was initially cooperative, but as I moved on to tenderer places on her face, she became more reluctant. In the process of all this, I manage to stab myself with a few of the quills I'd removed. I didn't find them as painful as expected, though there was an unpleasantness to the resistance they offered as I tugged them out.
On any other day, I might have been able to extract the quills. We could have given Ramona a leftover sedative from her knee recovery period and then I could have gotten into her mouth and done what I needed to do. But this particular morning we were on a time crunch, so we dropped Ramona off at the Hurley vet on our way down to the city. Sarah the vegan would pick her up in a few hours nearly quill-free. [Gretchen would find a few quills days later.]
Usually when we visit Manhattan, we stay with friends, but this visit would be different. Gretchen had reserved us a room at the Maritime Hotel near the corner of 9th Avenue and 16th Street in Chelsea. (It would cost about $350 for a single night.) Driving down 16th Street, we saw a building with circular windows and asked a bellhop where we should park. Just as he was coming up with suggestions, he noticed a car across the street getting ready to leave its spot, so he told us we should try to get that. It was a meterless spot we could occupy until Tuesday. As we waited patiently for its occupant to drive off, some other car tried to sneak up to it from behind, but I hopped out and was about to get all crazy. Its driver gave me a "Don't have a cow, man!" gesture and drove off. It was ours!
Checking in to the hotel, the woman at the desk noted that she didn't have a reservation for a Gretchen Prιmack. That's funny, thought Gretchen, but then it turned out we'd come to the wrong hotel. This was one called "the Dream." The Maritime was next door. Gretchen sheepishly admitted this to the bellhop who had helped us and he exclaimed, "What a failure!"
While the Dream seemed like a hip and happening party endlessly unfolding, the Maritime was more dimly-lit and less seemed to be happening, at least in the entrance area. Off to the side were several bars and restaurants and they all seemed to be full of people, though their bustle and laughter somehow didn't penetrate to the dimly-lit serenity of the lobby. Its main spectacle was a perpetual fire roaring in a dome-shaped fireplace.
Our room was in a sixth-floor room looking out westward across 9th Avenue through one of the Maritime's trademark circular windows. The room was smallish, but plenty big for what it needed to do. Being made of high-quality materials, it was nearly silent until we opened the window, which could rotate about five degrees on two horizontal pivots, opening a ten-inch-wide crescent-shaped gap through which the sirens, honking horns, pigeon chuckles, and the giggles and gossip of the people in the restaurant below could all make themselves experienced. [REDACTED]
In our haste to hit the road, I'd forgotten to unplug the serial cable from the solar controller box, a precaution I've been needing to take to keep it from entering an endless reset loop (something that might have been a side effect of the real time clock battery issue that I recently fixed). So I called Sarah the vegan and walked her through how to do it. Sarah is one of the least technological people I know, and it was hard to grope my way to the words I needed to explain where, directionally, I needed her to look. The first cable she pulled out was the power cable, and the thing went dark. No problem; she plugged that back in and somehow found her way to the serial cable (a D-sub-9). Explaining that it had the shape of a D and nine pins didn't seem to help Sarah at all, but from what she told me it sounded like she managed to get it.
Next on our agenda was a lupper at Blossom (one of Manhattan's premier vegan restaurants) with Gretchen's parents (who had come to New York for Gretchen's book party) and Gretchen's paternal uncle and his wife (both of whom live in a part of Manhattan that no neighborhood has ever claimed, just north of 14th Street near the East Village). [REDACTED]
I've been to a lot of vegan restaurants that are supposed to be great and then either disappoint me or don't really do what I want in my mouth. That wasn't true of the food we had at Blossom today. I also had an Ommegang Witte beer that tasted like mead (and I mean that in a good way).
After lupper, Gretchen and I went our separate way and ended up down at the Highline, which, on this glorious sunny day, was mobbed with so many people that it was difficult at times to move. It has already become a New York City landmark. Given how popular it is, it almost makes sense to create new ones and extensions from scratch in other parts of the city (and in other cities). But according to James Howard Kunstler, some day there will be no more truck traffic into Manhattan and such rail lines may need to be used for trains again. In the meantime, it gives guests at nearby hotels an opportunity to be exhibitionists.
From the Highline, I spotted a very cute greyish-brindle Pit Bull puppy on the sidewalk near a sprawling indoor/outdoor restaurant called the Park, so we returned to street level just to say hello to that sweet little dog. And then, just because it is so awesome, we found a table inside Park and ordered drinks (a Brooklyn IPA for me, a bloody mary for Gretchen). Gretchen noted that at Park "bottle service" for a bottle of Jack Daniels is $300. Evidently there are people who will spend that kind of money for the privilege of drinking a whole bottle of Jack in semi-public (or perhaps there aren't, and to keep it from happening, $300 must be the price).
Over our drinks, Gretchen and I talked about the promotion of her book Kind, and about what its intended audience is. As far as she knew, it is the only collection of animal rights poems written by an actual poet. And, while she's managed to scare up a fair amount of interest in it, it's all coming from the animal rights world. If one has to depend on the poetry world, there just aren't enough people to drive any sales, and the few that are there really only care about their own careers. All one can hope for is winning a prize, but to do that, one usually has to be an active member of the poetry world, part of the cocktail party circuit (as Newt Gingrich might say), but the whole thing is, at its heart, a meaningless circle jerk. That's always the problem with artistic establishments.
This evening Gretchen and I took the subway up to Midtown and met her parents at City Opera. They'd bought us all tickets to see an Offenbach operetta entitled La Périchole, written in 1868. It was all in French, though there was a real-time translation projected onto two screens to help people such as me. In the opening party scene, all the actors were shown in schlubby casual modern attire and I feared at first it would be a modern adaptation, but it was a bit odder than that. Costumes and set details went back and forth through several different phases of history from the past hundred years. The set design was unusually sparse, with an archipelago of nearly-still piñatas to convey the idea of forced merriment. There was also a persistent faux-stone pattern (it had the abstract look of 1970s wallpaper) that eventually took over the entire stage for the dungeon scene. Hideous as it was, I studied it in detail and noticed that its patterns never repeated (except when it appeared on a large-screen teevee used in an anachronistic scene that included footage supposedly from a surveillance camera). At this point Gretchen has taken me to a fair amount of theatre, and though I never really want to go, sometimes I end up enjoying myself. This particular adaptation of La Périchole went on for something like three hours and dragged a bit at times, but I gradually grew to enjoy it, culminating in the RECALCITRANT song, which, because the key word is the same in English and in French, was genuinely funny (especially with the performers all pantomiming the shapes of the letters as they were sung). Most of the other humor, however, seemed needlessly slapstick and boorishly bawdy.
Even after the show, neither Gretchen nor I were hungry. In case we did get hungry, though, we ducked into a grocery store and bought some chips, cashews, and some store-brand antacids. [REDACTED] Within a half hour, I had eaten most of the cashews as well as two or three calcium carbonate tablets. Our bed was very comfortable and sleeping in it was utterly without incident in the womblike silence of the Maritime.
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