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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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   Shakespearean adderall
Saturday, January 18 2014

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

After days of not finding Walter (our most recent feline acquisition), last night Gretchen sent an email to the woman who had handled the adoption. Today that woman (G) came over to try to find him. G had it in her mind that Walter hadn't gone far and that perhaps she could find him if she poked around in enough places. I would have thought that absurd were it not for the example of Keira the cat, who had simply moved across the street when she found our house not to her liking. G spent a couple hours around our house and over at our downhill neighbor's place (where a profusion of outbuildings make for numerous potential cat hiding places), but came up empty. These sorts of things happen with cats, and perhaps we're not completely blameless, but it's unlikely that our relationship with G will survive this fiasco. Walter was a very charismatic cat, and from now on we'll be known by a certain group of cat fanciers as the people who lost Walter. It's too bad. One of the many lessons of Walter's disappearance is that we should restrict our cat adopting to crappy overcrowded shelters run by people we don't know (such as Dutchess County SPCA, where we got Eleanor the dog and Nigel the cat). We don't have great luck with cat adoptions, but up until Walter, we'd thought this was because we were adopting neurotic antisocial creatures. Nobody told us, for example, that Keira was known to get along poorly with other cats. And Wilma was so antisocial we had to rehome her with Sarah the Vegan. As for Nigel, over the two years he spent with us, his propensity for indoor urination was a recurring source of unpleasantness.

This weekend Gretchen and I would be celebrating her 43rd birthday in Manhattan. This afternoon, after handing off our house to Sarah the Vegan (who would be spending the night with the dogs and cats), we drove down to the City. I hadn't crossed the George Washington Bridge since the Chris Christie Bridgeghazi scandal, so I paid special attention to the coils of access ramp on its Fort Lee side.
Since we'd be staying with Susan the Artist and David the Illustrator on 103rd Street, it was great that we managed to find a parking space on 104th Street near Riverside Park. An older woman was in her car getting ready to leave, so we just waited patiently in front of a fire hydrant until she finally got her ass in gear and drove off. The great thing about parking on streets in this area is that there are no meters and one can leave a car there until the next street cleaning. The bad thing (at least at this time of year) was the brutal winds that seem to be concentrated near the west ends of the streets. I hadn't brought a hat, and in order to keep my ears from freezing solid, I had to cup my hands over them until we'd walked to West End Avenue and the winds had died down. We ducked into a number of stores looking to perhaps buy a hat, but there was nothing simple and cheap in Urban Outfitters and no hats at all in Walgreens (though they did have jackets, socks, adult diapers, and sexy underwear).
In the subway station at 95th and Broadway, we were dismayed to find that our Metro cards had expired. Mine had over $20 on it, and the loss of that balance felt like larceny. In the process of buying new cards, we saw that we were going to be charged $1 just to get a new card with no balance on it, so we tried inserting one of our old cards, at which point we were relieved to discover there was a mechanism in place allowing us to transfer the balance from our old expired cards to fresh new ones. (Why this needs to happen is a bit of mystery; perhaps they're worried about the card reading equipment being gummed up by old dog-eared cards.)
We took the subway down to Chelsea, suffering through clouds of flatulence emitting from one of the many nearby anuses. During the ride, Gretchen asked if I ever look at people's faces while I'm walking around in the City and I said that usually I do. She said that she never does, and that when she tried doing it, it felt weird. She figures she avoids looking at people because doing so would be mentally exhausting. I said that I find it effortless because in a big city like New York, everyone is anonymous and there is no consequence for doing so.
Our destination in Chelsea was Blossom, where we met Sarah the Korean (whose last name sounds like that but who is ethnically Irish) for dinner. Post chemotherapy, her hair is growing out bushy and grey, making her look like middle school substitute teacher. (She's not the only one who's getting older; this morning as I put on my nice clothes for a day spent in the City, I saw my reflection in the mirror and was dismayed to note that I resembled a high school vice principal). The food at Blossom was delicious as always. I had the "calimari," a breaded and deep-fried trumpet mushroom, and they were so convincing that I later placed a second order for "dessert." I also had a "tofu salmon" with such a convincing charcoal grill fish flavor that I ate it in tiny pieces, never wanting to see it vanish. The problem with such good food is that is expensive. Gretchen, though, had a $150 dollar gift certificate. Our waiter took the certificate and later came back to say what our balance was without ever giving us a bill, leading Gretchen to later suspect that we'd been ripped off at least $10. We like to make fun of the stuffy rituals of restaurant eating (for example, the uncorking of the wine), but they all exist for a reason: to promote honesty in the underlying financial transaction.
After dinner, Gretchen and I caught a taxi for a ride up to Times Square, where we'd be attending a performance of Twelfth Night at the Belasco Theatre. Unusually, our driver was a long-time New Yorker (he seemed Puerto Rican), and he spent the entire ride talking shit about cab drivers from other countries (particularly Bangladesh). I'd never heard a cab driver talk so much, and even he seemed to be aware that this was unusual; he kept apologizing and attributing his talkativeness to all the coffee he'd just drunk. His xenophobic rant wasn't having the desired effect on Gretchen, who pointed out that she too was a child of immigrants. Perhaps, though, this particular driver finds that he gets good tips when he emphasizes his Americanness, particularly when driving tourists to Times Square.
Soon after arriving and making our way past a bitchy woman in our row to our seat, the show commenced. This particular production had been designed to be as faithful to Shakespeare's original as possible; all the actors were men, they applied their makeup on stage in front of us before the show, and there was some additional seating (though it looked very cramped) on the stage itself in a special two-tiered human bookshelf (throughout the performance, the actors would occasionally interact with these members of the audience, asking them to hold things for them, etc.). I've made it clear in the past that Shakespeare doesn't do much for me. We were there because Gretchen loves that shit.
For the first half of the play, I kept trying to figure out why I wasn't enjoying what I was seeing. It partly a problem of language. Though the words were all familiar, they were arranged in such a way that my brain could not parse them in real time. They were missing all the modern glue words that simplify language processing (most of them contractions such is "isn't" and "don't"). Perhaps, though, if the material had been more engaging I would have paid closer attention and gotten more out of it. But the intrigue between a shipwrecked woman, the man she works for in the guise of a man, and a morose woman morning the death of a different brother didn't interest me. There was, it turned out, no receptive pocket in my brain to nestle this story down into. So instead I alternated between momentarily dozing off and daydreaming about things that interest me. One of those things was a Wikipedia entry I'd read last night about the Portuguese Man o' War. I'd known for a long time that a Portuguese Man o' War is technically a floating colony of separate animals (zooids), but what I hadn't known is that all those zooids are genetically identical and ultimately bud from a single founder zooid. The Portuguese Man o' War is, then, a meta-creature, much like a swarm of bees if, that is, the individuals in that bee swarm were all stuck together in an organized fashion and specialized bees in that swarm produced enormous wings to fly the whole colony around.
During the intermission, I went to the downstairs bar and ordered a ginger ale in a container suitable for taking back to my seat. It cost $10, the most expensive soft drink I have ever purchased. But I didn't get it because I was thirsty. I needed a little something something to help me through the second half of Twelfth Night. Back at my seat, I carefully fetched the small glass flask from my coat pocket and added a generous splash of 160 proof Devil's Spring vodka to my drink. You would think that alcohol would be the wrong drug of choice when Shakespeare was already putting me to sleep, but you'd be wrong. Instead, it was like Shakespearean adderall. Once the vodka was in my system, I paid much closer attention. I started getting some of the word play and even finding a few of the 400 year old jokes funny. I still lacked the receptors in my brain necessary to actually care about what was happening in the play, but I definitely got more out of it in the second half, somewhat salvaging the $137 I'd spent on my ticket alone.
Gretchen and I caught a subway up Broadway to the Upper West Side, stopping on the way at a wine store so we'd have a gift for Susan & David. To get to that wine store, we had to jaywalk across Broadway, which (in this area) has a generous bushy median. That turned out to be the perfect place for an emergency urination; all the side streets had had dog walkers and other pedestrians, but the median was completely unpopulated with macroscopic vertebrates.
Susan and David stayed up with us a surprising long time after we arrived a half hour shy of midnight. We talked and laughed and joked about all the usual things, freely letting our conversational topics slide towards the scatological and pedophobic. They'd set us up with an air mattress and let one of their dogs (Darla) spend the night with us. Darla's head is still recovering after being superglued back together last weekend; tonight it looked like it was missing a pea-sized divot.


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