Tuesday, May 27 2014
This evening Gretchen and I drove down to New Paltz for a dinner date with our newish friends Mark and Marissa (he operates a fetish website and she is baker at a vegan bakery). We drove to his house (they live separately) and then rode with them all the way down to Wappingers Falls (southeastward across the Hudson) to a restaurant Mark had discovered by looking for highly-rated places on Yelp. On the way, he regaled us with a long story about how he'd spent yesterday. He'd been in charge of Marissa's dog Lydia, and at some point they'd been hanging out in his backyard when something suddenly switched in Lydia's brain and she decided that Mark wasn't to be trusted. She ran off towards downtown New Paltz, where Mark quickly enlisted the entire village to help him catch the dog. Streets were shut down in an impromptu fashion and strangers did what they could to help. Lydia was nearly caught several times (once at the bus station and another time near the vegan bakery), but managed somehow to stay on the lam for hours, completely ruining both Mark and Marissa's afternoon. In the end Marissa managed to catch Lydia in Mark's backyard, to which she eventually returned. (Lydia had been at our house and off leash at our party on Sunday and had seemed fiercely loyal to Marissa, but they've only been together for about a year.)
Mark's restaurant was a humble strip-mall Chinese place called Palace Dumplings. The staff all know Mark by name because he is always taking friends there. Palace Dumplings appears is run by an older Caucasian gentleman with the wife he met in Harbin, Manchuria, China. That gentleman said that the food of Harbin is very similar to what Palace Dumplings serves.
Also meeting us for dinner were the vegan Isræli couple who own and operate Aba's Falafel, a food stand that appears at such places as the Wednesday farmers' market in Woodstock. Mark did all the ordering, getting kimchi, a plate consisting of an odd black gelatinous mushroom, a big noodle bowl, and numerous varieties of vegan dumplings, alternating between steamed and fried. Given all the foodies and food professionals present, conversation was mostly about food, which I find rather dull, but at least the dumplings were delicious (though the food appealed more to me than it did to Gretchen). Other than the male half of the Aba's Falafel couple, I was the only one at our table who ordered a beer.
On the long drive back to New Paltz, Marissa was asking Gretchen about where she was from, so she explained how she'd grown up in Silver Spring after an infancy that included her parents fleeing with her and her brother under cover of night from an increasingly despotic (and antisemitic) Idi Amin. After Gretchen's story, Marissa turned to me, and my origin story was almost as good, centering as it did on my father getting in trouble with his superiors at NASA after publishing the first anti-nuclear government document. From there, the story led into the sudden relocation to rural Virginia, where I experienced the culture shock of bible trailers and public school prayer.
Back at Mark's place, Mark gave us a couple bookshelves left over from a recent porch sale. He's been trying to downsize since hr got divorced from his former wife.
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