20th anniversary in Albany
Friday, February 26 2021
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
March 28th would mark the 20th anniversary of Gretchen coming to visit me for the first time in Los Angeles, the date we consider the end of our twelve year estrangement. So this weekend, Gretchen arranged for us to spend a couple days in Albany. She'd also arranged for us to go to a big flooring/utility store in Johnstown to select things for the Adirondack cabin we're building.
We left a little after 4:00pm in the Prius (since the Nissan Leaf doesn't have quite sufficient range), stopping for gas first at the QuikCheck closest to the Kingston traffic circle (where I also got some trash energy drinks for the road). From there, we drove directly to the place we'd be staying, the Washington Park Inn, situated in a beautiful Victorian looking across busy Madison Avenue at Washington Park. The houses on that side of Madison Avenue are all big and in great repair, suggesting that real estate values near the park provide an incentive for upkeep that appears lacking in many other parts of Albany.
Owing to the pandemic, we did a contact-less check-in, and our room was nothing special. I had to piss like a racehorse, but it took a moment for me to relax the muscle holding back my urine due to the 150 milligram recreational dose of pseudoephedrine I'd taken this morning. Interestingly, at Washington Park Inn food was provided in a shared kitchen, and we'd been told to help ourselves. There was bread, various forms of milk, beer, and both red and white boxed wine. Gretchen had told the inn that we are vegan, so there was both oat milk and Earth Balance (a faux butter). The temptation to take advantage of the free alcohol was strong; I spent a decade or so being broke, when any form of free alcohol was like winning the lottery, and that has evidently left a deep imprint on my internalized sense of reward. But somehow I made myself stick to my alcohol fast. That pseudoephedrine combined with a little kratom tea this evening gave me a mildly euphoric buzz, which was celebration enough.
Next we went for a walk through Washington Square Park to get dinner at D.P. Dough, a restaurant specializing in calzones and having lots of vegan options. Getting there was a longer walk than we expected, though the weather was about as pleasant as one can expect for February in Albany. While waiting for our calzones to be prepared, we walked around the neighborhood, discovering an unexpected Ethiopian restaurant that had injera but didn't seem to have any wats (stews).
Walking back to the inn, we passed a Mexican restaurant that was a crowded with people as restaurants were in pre-pandemic times. This made us wonder: what kind of person would eat in a restaurant like that? Were they all Trump voters? Gretchen and I won't be eating in a crowded restaurant until we've both been vaccinated at the rate of infection drops enormously, probably not until cold weather comes in the fall.
Back in our room, we fired up the teevee, initially looking for home improvement shows. Our teevee had lots of channels, but
not many regarding homes and gardens. Somehow we came to rest on the Vevo pop music video channel, which is provides the service that MTV provided back in the early 1980s. Gretchen and I had both been obsessed with videos back then, and it turned out that we still are. Pop music had changed since the last time I'd paid attention to it (about two years ago). These days, the big names are Billie Eilish, Madison Beer, and Olivia Rodrigo, along with more familiar names like, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. We marveled at how ugly the costumes were in most videos, though, I suggested, it was possible we were judging them by dated standards we'd absorbed in the 1990s. Many of the videos had clearly been recorded during the pandemic, often featuring the artist all by him or herself or in a window separate from a window containing another person. The pandemic's mark on culture was much more obvious in this medium than in others. Another interesting thing about contemporay pop music is how multicultural and diverse it has become even in the age of Trumpian backlash to such trends. These days theere are at least as many female pop stars as male pop stars, some musicians are of indeterminate ethnicity, and there's now a surprisingly strong undercurrent of Korean culture creeping into American pop, something just short of a full-blown Korean invasion. We saw two different videos featuring Korean text on-screen.
And as for the D.P. Dough calzones, they weren't actually all that great. Their dunkers, though (a vegan alternative to hot wings) were incredible.
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