a range of Kingston real estate
Friday, July 25 2014
This morning Gretchen got up early to take the new kitten Celeste to a spay/neuter clinic at the Ulster County SPCA to get her autism-causing vaccinations, a feline AIDS test, and, most importantly, make it so she can never reproduce.
For some reason Gretchen wanted decaf coffee, so we had a sort of faux extra Sunday morning coffee ritual out on the east deck, complete with crosswords for Gretchen and unfocused web surfing for me. That chewed up more of my day than I expected to lose, so I didn't have much time to do anything before the next thing Gretchen had placed in my schedule: looking at possible rental properties in and around Uptown Kingston with our old realtor, Larry. Larry brought along his life partner (for the time being, at least) Elliot, a youngish Puerto Rican man who is just beginning a sort of real estate apprenticeship with Larry. The goal today was more to get a sense of the circa-$100,000 market in Kingston than to find any actual houses we would want to buy. That was clear at the first house we visited (41.926858,-74.009941), a largish house on a large corner lot on a somewhat-sketchy stretch of Clinton Avenue. The house looked somewhat imposing from the outside, but inside it was a warren of tacked-on additions with a dreary, claustrophobic feeling that Gretchen immediately wanted no part of. The owner was there when we arrived, and he apologized for the clutter (he said he was moving), but he was strangely-reluctant to turn on lights so we could see things. It was a lot of house for $140,000, but it looked like it was hiding a lot of traps for a potential owner.
The next house was a nondescript moderate-sized house in a blue collar neighborhood. The main thing I remember about it was its stinky basement with amazingly thick masonry basement. And the neighbor's cat, who rolled around on a concrete slab on the other side of a fence while meowing at us seductively.
The third house of the day was a largish Victorian with a wrap-around porch on the corner of Smith and Elmendorf. Despite its impressive size and fancy detailing, its price was only about $110,000. The reason was clear: the neighborhood was a bit shabby, as was the house. Though structurally it looked to be in great shape, it really needed a few coats of paint and the removal of some nasty industrial carpet. The house showed evidence of a long-term decline, most recently apparently as communal housing for a group of care-free young adults. WDST stickers were on a number of doors, as was the graffito "KNOK PLEASE" on a door whose handle and lock had been broken off (along with a slab of wood). Still, the basement was a marvel of long-forgotten bricklaying techniques, and the attic was a gorgeous assemblage of exposed timber and lathe arranged with symmetry along both the north-south and east-west axes. Still, this was not the sort of house we were looking for, that is, one that we could start renting immediately.
We didn't have high hopes for the last house we'd be seeing today, a one-bathroom on Van Buren selling for only $78,000. We expected a complete diaster, but the house looked to be a great shape. It had even been freshly painted, which can (of course) be a warning sign; before buying her co-op unit near Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, she'd considered a unit in the South Slope that had also been freshly painted, but a structural engineer who looked at it said it was as if someone had put a nice suit on a terminal cancer patient. And while the neighborhood on Van Buren is about as sketchy as they come in Kingston, it's within walking distance of Keegan Ales, and perhaps other centers of gentrification creeping down Broadway from Uptown. The house even had a non-trivial fenced-in backyard. My only real question about the house concerned the basement; parts of the foundation seemed to be cantilevered out over other parts in ways that did not look to be structurally sound. But the house has been there for over a hundred years and there are no signs of movement or buckling. It was all a bit of a headscratcher why the house was so cheap; Gretchen and I (as well as Larry and Elliot) wondered what we weren't seeing.
We had some time to kill before picking up tiny Celeste from the UCSPCA, and Gretchen said she wanted to "show you something." She parked us near the low-rise office complex where she works (near the Uptown Hannaford, aka "Ghettoford") and we set off on foot eastward down a gravel road (41.934905,-74.013718) along a mostly-abandoned railroad track into what looked to be undeveloped land gradually being reclaimed by the forest. The gravel road and tracks passed beneath Colonel Chandler Drive (or, as it's also known, I-587, the shortest interstate in the United States). After passing some moderately-developed graffiti spray-painted on the concrete Chandler overpass, the road peters out and joins up with a side path opening into an enormous field centered around a large (though somewhat funky) artificial pond behind one of the fancy Victorian mansions on Albany Avenue (41.93433,-74.009496). It was odd to see so much private open space within walking distance of the Ghettoford. Evidently, we're not the only people who stroll along this undeveloped (and somewhat sketchy) greenway; on the way out we encountered a young man coming our way, and just as we were loading up the dogs back at our car, a couple other gentlemen could be heard coming up from behind us (one of them shouting angry, menacing things into his cellphone).
They run a tight ship at the spay/neuter clinic, and when we showed up there 15 minutes early, they told us we'd have to wait to pick up Celeste. To kill that time, we went on another walk across land of uncertain ownership off Barbarossa Lane (), this time through small forest tracts (some of which contained structures that looked to have once provided housing for squatters) and corn fields. I'd been back here once before, and the mosquitoes had been terrible. They weren't as bad today, but they still made the walk a somewhat miserable experience. As we were loading the dogs back into our car, a red pickup truck driven by two youngish tattoo-slathered young white men rolled up and asked if we'd seen a black male walking back here. Evidently they were in pursuit of him for some reason. These young men didn't look to be part of law enforcement, and in any case I hadn't remembered seeing a black male on foot. The young men in the truck didn't appear to believe me when I said I hadn't seen anything, but I stuck with my story, which Gretchen confirmed. As far as we knew, all there was back there down that road was corn fields and mosquitoes. Still, I've seen enough movies with villains similar to the men in that truck for me to run a scenario in my mind that had them pulling out a gun equipped with a silencer and shooting us both in the head. Once the men had driven off, Gretchen told me that there actually had been a black man on foot near the Ulster County SPCA, but there was no way she was going to tell those guys about him. Since they hadn't looked like law enforcement, we wondered if perhaps they were local citizens from the area who were concerned to see a black pedestrian in their neighborhood. Despite Obama, we're hardly a post-racial society.
Back at the spay/neuter clinic, a line had formed of people wanting to pick up their dogs and cats. That explained the narrow half-hour window of pickup and dropoff. Evidently the staff necessary to handle the workload is only present at those times. Gretchen has been shy about going to the Ulster County SPCA since the incident with Keira, the cat who escaped from our house last summer, lived across the street in a plastic igloo at the Fussies' place, and was ultimately returned to the SPCA. When Gretchen saw some of the personnel fetching the various cats for the people picking them up, she had me go in to retrieve Celeste. Our kitten was all taken care of (and FIV-negative), though I had to pay an extra $15 for the elimination of mites that had been found in her ears. Celeste seemed a little groggy still, but she became increasingly active on the ride home, which included a $10 stop at the farm stand on Hurley Mountain Road. There was a young woman there with blue hair who asked if we were there for the CSA (which that farm also has). Earlier today Gretchen and I had been talking about the new wave of hip young farmers coming into the area and supplanting the stuffy old New England Republicans who have dominated Hurley politics since the 19th Century.
The spay/neuter clinic people had given us an informative sheet on how to care for our kitten post-spaying. It said she should be restricted from food and movement until this evening. We figured it would be enough restriction from movement to lock her up in the bedroom with Oscar (since he never bothers her; the bothering only goes the other way). Soon enough, though, she was lively enough to do those flying tackles she loves to land on Oscar. He's a long-suffering type when it comes to such antics.
As for the neutering wound, Gretchen couldn't even find it on Celeste's belly. After some examination, I discovered it: a tiny 3/8 long incision that had been put back together with super glue (probably the medical-grade stuff; I'm using the term generically). Evidently veterinary science has advanced to the point where a neutering operation can be done almost laparoscopically.
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