kratom bike ride
Thursday, July 9 2015
Yesterday I'd taken delivery of 100 grams of "Bali" kratom powder (which is the cheapest there is), and so today I decided to try making myself a tea of it. I made a teabag using a coffee filter around five grams of the powder (secured with a twisty tie) and then left it to soak in boiling hot water mixed with a quarter teaspoon of lemon juice. This didn't do much to discolor (or give flavor to) the water, once that tea was drunk, I reused the teabag, drenching it in about a teaspoon of cheap distilled vinegar (I keep a lot of it in the laboratory, though I mostly just use it to clean soft epoxy from my fingers) and then adding hot water. This time I seemed to get better results. I have to say, the flavor wasn't as obnoxious as it had been with the kratom powder Lisa had brought the other day. Perhaps the key to reasonable flavor was making the tea sufficiently sour.
Before long, I could feel the buzz. It felt mildly euphoric and narcotic, like 10 milligrams of hydrocodone without any of the nausea or sleepiness. I couldn't tell whether it was more of an upper or a downer. Eventually I went and gathered firewood, which was a physically arduous job that took only about 15 minutes to complete. It involved wrestling a big 121 pound piece of skeletal oak home from the staging area west of the Farm Road and then immediately bucking, splitting, and stacking it. While I was doing these things, I forgot I was under the influence of kratom and no longer noticed anything unusual with my body. But then, once I was relaxed again, the feeling came back. "Kratom, still there," as Sara Poiron might have put it back in the days of Big Fun.
I'd arranged with Gretchen to meet her at her workplace in Uptown Kingston today so we could go look at a house that is for sale (yes, we're contemplating possibly expanding our real estate empire). But at the last minute, I found myself dealing with a recurring problem on that website I work for (the one that was plagued by a possible credit card theft issue a month or so ago). This new problem involves a baroque system for dynamically resizing and copying images to a form of scalable storage provided by Amazon called S3. Images were failing to get to where they needed to be, and it was unclear why. And then, of course, Skype decided not to work just as the dude in California wanted to chat about it. I had to cut the meeting short because I needed time to ride into Kingston on my bicycle.
As I've done in the past, I'd snuck my bike and shoes down to the greenhouse so I could sneak out without the dogs ever suspecting a thing. While they slept in the laboratory, I went out through the front door (not even closing it behind me so as not to make that sound) and vanished down Dug Hill Road. I hadn't even brushed my teeth, since that is also a sound whose significance they understand.
It only took me about a half hour to pedal the 6.6 miles into Kingston, a speed of about 13 miles per hour (which, for me, is fast cycling). It certainly helped that my legs are now in great shape from all the firewood gathering that I do. The weather was also supportive; the sun was hidden behind clouds, and, though it was fairly humid, the breeze from just riding the bike was enough to keep me comfortable. Once in the parking lot outside the literacy center, I immediately loaded my bike into the back of our Prius, which, due to its hatchback, is much better for loading bulky items than our crappy old Honda Civic Hybrid (the car we'd had the last time I'd biked to town to meet Gretchen) had been.
We had a little time to kill after I arrived, so Gretchen and I walked over to a small carnival midway that had been set up adjacent to the Hannaford parking lot (this is something that comes every summer at this time of year, and years ago we went on rides there and I even won a stuffed rhinoceros with my crossbow skills). The carnival wasn't open for business yet, though a couple of grotesquely fat and/or pregnant youngish women with kids seemed to be waiting for that to happen. They were paying much more attention to their cellphones than their kids as they did so. One of the carnies, a white woman woman with dyed black hair, yelled at another of the carnies (a gaunt white man) in the way that a boss yells at a subordinate. "Bad energy," Gretchen observed. While Gretchen went to fetch literacy center mail, I climbed a maple that had been planted on the edge of the parking lot. I could feel the kratom again, and it made me want to do things like climb trees. Unlike most maples on the edges of parking lots, this one was not a Norway Maple; instead, it was a native Sugar Maple. Fifteen feet above the ground, I could see the air conditioners and other hidden utilities on the roofs of the ratty old business park that houses the literacy center and numerous other businesses (most of them related to medical care and various social services).
The house we looked at (70 Pine Street), was cute from the street and supposedly came with a large yard. The showing realtor was late in arriving, and he didn't even come; he sent a colleague instead. She wore mom jeans and permed-back wings on the either side of her face, suggesting to us that she'd lost her virginity in 1980 and was stuck forever in that year. How does one even do hair like that in 2015? And who will be the one to tell her to she might want to consider updating her look? Inside the house, there were a couple animals wandering around: a largish mutty one-eyed dog (he/she looked like a German Shepherd/Chow hybrid) and an elderly cat who was both friendly and curious. Both followed us around throughout our tour, never acting the least bit suspcious of our intentions. The house had a nice upstairs (particularly the upstairs bathroom), but parts of it felt run-down or poorly organized. There was a space at the base of the stairs that was too small and public to be a room but too large to be a hallway. I noticed that porch was roofed with tar paper, which is a dubious building material too sketchy even for me to use as a roofing on the brownhouse. The backyard was indeed large, and I suppose someone will buy the house mostly because of that. Still, at nearly $200,000, the house was overpriced. Gretchen and I agreed afterwards that it no longer interested us.
Since we were in town and it was about that time, we dropped into the Stockade Tavern and had drinks. I had the Sculpin Big Eye IPA (which was very good) and Gretchen had a precious little grapefruit-colored drink in a tiny frosted glass. There were only a half dozen or so other customers, mostly Millennials of drinking age, as well as the house poodle. I hadn't had food since before taking the kratom, so I was very hungry. There aren't many vegan options at the Stockade, though the hot pretzel is always a good idea. The mustard was so horseradishy it gave me one of those wasabi pangs that feels like the back of your head is being pried off.
We wanted to go somewhere for dinner, but I thought it was best we go somewhere nearby (as opposed to out on Albany Avenue or 9W). In the end, we settled on Stella's, the Italian restaurant on Front Street that used to be a favorite of ours but that I don't think we've been to since Gretchen went vegan (circa 2007). In that time, Stella's has expanded into the space of what used to be a crappy bar/restaurant next door (a place where we once had a David Lynchian karaoke experience). While that old place used to stink of out-of-order restroom, Stella's has its own smells. The fragrance of cooking fish and perhaps parmesan cheese (though Gretchen likes that smell) were so strong that initially Gretchen covered her nose with her shirt. Within minutes, though, she'd acclimated.
Stella's is an old-school Italian place, and nearly all of the non-preteen customers were older than us. But it hasn't completely ignored changes in the culinary universe.
Happily (and unexpectedly) Stella's had Ithaca Flower Power IPA on tap, so I ordered a pint of that. The waitress (who had served us in the past, all those years ago) didn't blink an eye when we told her we were vegan, and she even saw to it that the bread that was brought out did not include butter. The bruschetta and bread with bean dip is good (I need to remember to bring habañero sauce for the latter next time), but, as it did in days of old, it was the salad that really stood out. The mix of garlic, oil, and vinegar is somehow perfect at Stella's. As for the pasta, it's good, but it's nothing special. Indeed, we still think that the Plaza Diner in New Paltz makes the best spaghetti & marinara sauce in the Hudson Valley. Still, it was good to know Stella's is still good even for vegans, and it was nice to be able to add them back into our restaurant rotation.
We spent awhile during dinner discussing adolescent acne. Gretchen said she had it terribly in high school, though I don't remember it being bad by the time I first saw her when she was 17 in Oberlin. She remembers me having bad acne back then, and she asked if it had made me self conscious. "It did," I admitted. "You didn't act like it did," she replied. I didn't go into how embarassing it had been for me, particularly in my early 20s (I think it peaked when I was 22 years old), how sometimes it would even keep me from venturing out in public or that it was such a big personal taboo that I had a code word for it in my (offline) journal. Happily, it was mostly gone by the time I turned 24. Gretchen told the story of a friend in high school who accidentally spilled hot grease on his chin and how it had resulted in a terrible outbreak of acne. "Yeah," I said, "adolescent skin is like that. It takes almost nothing to tip the balance." I've had outbreaks from such tippings of the balance, such as that time I shaved off the hair on my thighs.
I should mention, by the way, that the last effects of the kratom seemed to disappear with the meal at Stella's. It's the kind of drug that is most obvious when other sensations (eating, exercising, etc.) aren't around to distract from it. It's a great drug for sitting around being bored; indeed, I hadn't been nearly as impatient as Gretchen when waiting for the realtor at 70 Pine Street.
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