treacherous Dug Hill Road
Sunday, December 21 2014
Gretchen and I got up late, and since she had to hurry and go to work, it was my job to walk the dogs. I brought the GreenWorks battery-powered chainsaw with me so that I could cleared trees that had fallen across the trail. It was my first use of this saw since the end of my firewood gathering jihad back in July. It had sat in the laundry room with a full charge on its lithium battery for all of that time, and evidently the charge had leaked away, because I was only able to make a few cuts before the saw was exhausted and could cut no more. I should mention that for some reason Eleanor didn't join me on the walk any further than where the Gullies Trail leaves the Stick Trail (just south of the Chamomile crossing). Evidently she considers the Gullies Trail bad mojo, because from all indications she turned around and headed for home the moment I started down it.
This evening, Eva and Sandor picked me up and drove me to a little gathering at our friend Dawn's place in Woodstock. Dawn is the vegan activist who is also a professional lighting designer. Furthermore, she's something of a landlord; her house contains several rental units in addition to her apartment. Dawn had recently adopted a wily middle-aged Pit Bull with lots of large teats and named her Polypore (or something similar; it's a mushroom thing). Poly (as people referred to her tonight) was a constant presence, though she mostly kept her distance from everyone but Dawn. Evidently her life had been unpleasant until recently, and humans had given her little reason to expect them to be anything other than cruel.
Dawn is not much of a drinker, so I'd brought a mixed six pack of beer and others had brought wine. There was a lot of food, including falafel balls, various soft vegan cheeses (made by one of the more annoying people at the party), and a big pot of curry soup to be poured on rice noodles (brought by Eva & Sandor).
Eventually Gretchen arrived after closing the bookstore. For awhile I wore a festive holiday necklace studded with blinking green and red LEDs. And in another room, a flatscreen displayed a video of a fireplace full of burning logs so convincing that it seemed prudent to move paper items away from it. Eventually Dawn brought out a pair of huge beanbags that could be configured as chairs or somewhat-uncomfortable beds. I've been thinking a huge beanbag might be a good addition to our teevee room since lying on a much more comfortable one at Carrie & Michæl's house the other day.
Near the end there, a group of us went out on a makeshift deck to hang out with a big kerosene heater (the kind they have for outdoor seating at restaurants in Los Angeles) and smoke some pot. Dawn had wanted the deck to be completed by tonight's party, but since it hadn't been, she'd erected enough scaffolding to support four or five people. The railing wasn as low as my knees in one place, and I as a little worried someone might lean backwards and fall the ten or more feet down to the ground.
Gretchen was coming down with a cold, so we left kind of early. I was so stoned by this point (on pot that I'd brought to Eva & Sandor's house back in November) that Gretchen had to drive.
Something about being stoned makes me want to just keep partying. But my rules were pretty clear: for me, the party had to end once I left the social engagement. Well, I wasn't happy with that, so (like the banking industry chipping away at Dodd-Frank), I decided to loosen the rules just a little. Now the amended rule was that after social engagements during which I get stoned, I am now free to continue drinking and smoking for the rest of the evening no matter where I go. This gave me license to crack open a Gennessee Cream Ale, smoke some more pot, drink a big glass of scotch, watched some teevee, and do all the other things I do when I'm throwing a party for myself. At some point the Arctic Monkeys played on my streaming radio station, and the pot allowed me to listen past the annoying quality of the vocalist's voice to the tightness and virtuosity of the musicians.
Then the phone rang. It was Ray (of Ray & Nancy). He'd been driving home to his house in Old Hurley after his shift at the Red Onion, had hit a slippery patch on Dug Hill Road, and had crashed his Jeep into a tree. He was pretty sure it was totalled. Amazingly, he claimed he was only about a hundred feet below our house. So I ran down the road to see for myself.
Sure enough, the Jeep was against a mid-sized tree, its bumper and radiator crushed inward 12 inches or so along the vertical line of impact. Its lights were still on and some electric motor under the hood was still humming away. Both airbags had deployed, and if Ray was injured at all, it was from them. He said he hadn't been going very fast.
Ray hadn't been exaggerating when he said he was about 100 feet from our house. From the accident site, we could look southwestward on Dug Hill Road and see my laboratory window glowing white in the darkness. We both walked back to my house and I gave Ray a Gennessee Cream Ale and we chatted with Gretchen while waiting for the tow truck to arrive. When it did, I went with Ray again and watch his Jeep get winched up onto the flatbed, where it leaked radiator fluid. It was after midnight, but three cars showed up during this procedure, when the road was completely blocked by the flatbed truck. The first car got discouraged and made a U-turn (a big detour), though the other two waited. The drivers of these other cars were curious about what had happened, so, after the truck drove away with Ray and his totalled Jeep, I told each of them what had happened as I made my way in the darkness back to my house.
I should mention that the other day, I hit a slippery patch on this very same stretch of road, throwing my Subaru into a series of fishtails. On that occasion, the slipperiness had been due to gravel put on the road to add friction in prevously-icy conditions, not ice; temperatures had been in the upper 40s at the time.
There's a symmetry to tonight's events that bears mentioning. The only occasion in Upstate New York when I've had serious enough car trouble to require assistance, I was within walking distance of Ray & Nancy's house. That time, my Subaru's battery died and I needed a jump start.
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