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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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   another bowling bachelor party
Friday, June 5 2015
Gretchen wanted to go biking on the rail trail tomorrow, so she wanted to get both of our bikes into operational shape. For her bicycle, this meant perhaps replacing an inner tube or two, but for my bicycle, which I hadn't ridden in perhaps ten years, it would probably require the replacement of the tires as well. I've been meaning to get my bike working for many years, but I never remember to actually measure the tires and inner tubes before going into town, and I never remember which bicycle shops are still ongoing concerns. In my mind, the bike shop down in Old Hurley near the Hurley Mountain Inn was still in operation, but Gretchen quickly determined that it wasn't. It was looking like my best option was a place called Bike Brothers out on Boices Lane (on the way to Home Depot). So this afternoon, after Gretchen got back from her social errands, I drove out that way, though before going to Bike Brothers I went to three other places. First I went to the credit union to withdraw 300 dollars in cash. Our main credit card was recently compromised and used to make unauthorized purchases in California, so until we get replacements, I'll be living in the kind of cash-only economy in which I dwelt before late 1997 (when I was, depending on how you count, one or two orders of magnitude poorer). I also needed particular edible staples (bread, corn chips, bloody mary mix, grapefruit pieces, etc.) from the ShopRite and some outdoor electrical supplies from the Home Depot.
When I arrived at Bike Brothers, the guy who runs the place was talking to the kind of chatty older customer who is slow to wind down his conversation even when it's a clear there is another customer waiting for service. While I was waiting for that winding down to happen, the customer made a snide remark about Bruce Jenner's recent carefully-crafted metamorphosis into a woman and asked the bike shop guy if he knew what Jenner's new name was. Perhaps playing to his immediate audience, the bike shop guy said he didn't even want to think about it. This all sounded awfully intolerant to my ear, like banter heard on Fox News. It indicated that perhaps America was having more trouble assimilating Jenner's transformation than the banter on a recent Slate Political Gabfest had insisted. As for the bike business, that was easily transacted. I had a wheel from each bicycle and the bike shop guy quickly identified the sizes necessary. The old tires on my long-unused Trek had been flats (that is, with no treads at all). I didn't want that, but I didn't want super knobby tires either, since my intention is to ride it mostly on paved roads. In the end I went with fairly knobby tires having a good center ridge suitable for efficient rolling on pavement. I spent a little extra to get a steel belt under the tread to help guard against punctures. Somehow I ended up spending $75 for two tires and four inner tubes, which seemed expensive. But then again, the last time I bought an inner tube might have been 25 years ago.
Back at the house, it took me only about ten minutes to replace the tires and inner tubes on my old Trek. I hadn't performed any bike repairs of even this modest magnitude in over 20 years, but evidently, like riding a bicycle, fixing a bicycle lives on in muscle memory long after the last time the act is performed. As for Gretchen's bike, it seemed that perhaps the rear inner tube had a very slow leak, so I replaced it and then inflated all the tires to an acceptable pressure.

One of Gretchen's co-workers at the bookstore in Woodstock is a somewhat younger man named Q who lived in Harkness (the co-op dorm in Oberlin) about ten years after Gretchen and I did. More recently Q was infamously involved in a scandal involving his debut spy novel. He's been living in Woodstock for a couple years now, and soon he will be marrying the woman with whom he has been living. (Gretchen and I will be going to the wedding.) Since Q is relatively new to the area and doesn't have a car, he's been slow to form friendships, especially outside the cloistered, socially-awkward world of the Woodstock bookstore. For this reason, Nick, the gentleman organizing Q's "bachelor party," invited me to participate. This would not, of course, be a traditional bachelor party. All of the people invited were either nerdy, bookish, or some combination of the two.
Somewhat before 8:00pm, I drove to where the "party" was to begin, the Armadillo on the Rondout. I went the back way, that is, DeWitt Mills Road eastward to the south end of Abeel and then north to the Armadillo. There was a surprising amount of activity on Abeel when I arrived, and I was forced to park in the isolated parking lot west of Hone Street, though I noticed that lot had been paved and marked since the last time I'd used it. Now were even curbs one had to avoid driving over (particularly in a car like a Prius).
Other than Q, I barely knew the other people invited to Q's party. So I'd actually studied Nick's face on Facebook so I'd be able to recognize him should he be the only one there when I arrived. I found him, Q, and another guy named Nick (let's call him Greek Nick) out in the Armadillo's outside area (where, a little over 12 years ago, Gretchen and I had had our big wedding meal). Unfortunately, they were seated at a table adjacent to a large table surrounded by a motley assembly of young drunk women given to screaming, taking group selfies, and loudly talking about how they weren't even drunk yet.
When our waitress came around and took drink orders, everybody but me ordered stuff like soda pop, but there was no way I was going to be doing this thing sober. I ordered a frozen margarita, no salt. I'm always uncomfortable around people I don't know well, so I didn't contribute all that much to the conversation. Part of the strangeness of the situation was the absence of women. Sometimes when only men are present, the absence of women liberates the men to say unnecessarily sexist things, though (with one exception) that didn't really happen tonight. The conversation kept coming around to strip clubs and how, given that this was a bachelor party, we probably should be going to one. But that wasn't used, as with other men it might have been, as a launching point into a discussion about how women just tie us down and aren't much fun for anything but fucking.
The last two to arrive at our table was a little guy named Dan and a quiet younger man named C who used to play in a band with Q. Of late C has been working as a sound man for reality shows such as Jersey Shore. In fact, he'd invented a microphone designed specifically to be clipped on to the kind of gold necklaces commonly worn by members of New Jersey's Italian-American community. I was a little surprised then when only Q was familiar with the ongoing molestation scandal involving the Duggar family, a media-obsessed clan of deeply-repressed Christian conservatives whose goal is to convert all the carbon on Earth into Caucasian protoplasm. Other topics discussed included the nation of Greece, of which Greek Nick remains a citizen. Greek Nick talked about how friendly the Greeks had been when he'd visited. One had seen him walking around alone during a feast of one of the saints and invited him into his house with the promise of food, booze, and even his beautiful daughters, and he'd had a great time. By contrast, though, Q had a story from Athens that sounded a bit creepier. A guy had come up to him and asked, "Are you American? Come to my shop and I give you Coca-Cola!" He'd then tried to lead Q into a dark alley, at which point Q had fled. That was more in keeping with Gretchen's experience in Athens back in the early 1990s, when it was rare to find a Greek column that wasn't concealing a public masturbator.
I was the only vegan at the table, of course, and I got what I always get at the Armadillo (not that I go there much these days): the black bean burrito with no cheese or sour cream. It's amazingly mediocre burrito, especially in contrast to all the delicious burritos I routinely make for myself these days. I was able to get the waitress to fetch me a bottle of Yucateco habañero sauce. It's an alien bluish-green liquid, but when drenched copiously onto an overly-dry burrito designed with the idea of cheese, it can make it a bit more interesting. The others had things like shrimp, chicken, and beef. Greek Nick ordered a vegetarian plate, but he hated it so much that he ate very little of it.

Since there weren't any good ideas for anything else to do, the next thing we all did was go bowling. We drove out to the old site of the Hoe Bowl on 9W south of the motor mile sprawl. It's now called Patel's Kingston Lanes (named after its new Indian owner), and it had just reopened after a massive renovation. Indeed, it was so scrappy in the front with dumpsters and bits of wreckage that we wondered if we were at the right place. I was wearing Keens without socks, so I had to buy $2 socks along with my shoe rental.
The lanes had been set up fro something called "Cosmic Bowling," which happens after 10:30pm every night. With Cosmic Bowling, the lights are dimmed, colorful lights are illuminated between the lanes, and black lights turned on, making my tiny little $2 socks glow a sky blue, as did the pins. As you may know, I've bowled less than a dozen times in my life, and I'm a terrible bowler. I just don't care enough to bowl well. So of course I started the first game with a series of appalling gutterballs, though at some point I decided to bowl slowly, and at that point my game improved almost to the level of the two guys I was sharing the lane with (C and Non-Greek Nick). By the third game, there was even a whole frame in the middle of the game during which I had the lead. But then my bad luck returned precisely as the two others started hitting strikes. By this point, three or four of us (including Danny, C, and me) were drinking actual beer (Q doesn't drink at all). Amazingly, Kingston Lanes actually has some good beers in its bar, including Ithaca Flower Power, one of my favorite New York IPAs.
Though I'd had a single margarita and two Ithaca Flower Powers, I considered myself sober enough to drive once I'd been returned to my car in the Rondout. Some of the others had gone on to C's house somewhere along Albany Avenue, and I said I'd meet them there. But I drove up and down Albany without finding either the graveyard given as a landmark or street numbers less than 400. It was a bad time to be driving around semi-drunk without an immediate destination, so I gave up and drove home. By this point, the fog was coming in thick and I had to use my lowbeams at times.

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