trouble with small portions - Saturday July 28 2001

setting: New Paltz, New York

This morning our New Paltz friend Kristen drove us up to Woodstock so we could make a number of social calls and partake in a number of important Woodstock institutions. Our first stop was at the home of Katie, one of Gretchen's old Oberlin friends. Her place was a quarter of a large white building that had once been something like a miner's dorm. From her office in one of the rooms, Katie plans science curricula for non-Christian-fundamentalist children all across the United States.
We went to brunch at a restaurant called the New World Home Cooking Company, a place where Gretchen said the bloody marys were particularly good. When I saw that one of the $8.95 brunch specials featured calamari and a form of hollow pasta called bucatini, I quite naturally ordered it. (I've been something of a calamari tourist for the past several months.) But then when the others got their generous sandwiches and heaping platters of all natural this and sensual that, my dish was a glorified dog bowl with a shallow serving of pasta and a few trace fragments of squid. There wasn't even a sprig of parsley or little dash of style to make it seem exciting. Now it bears mentioning at this point that when I spend nine dollars on a brunch I usually expect to get reasonable amounts of food, not some pathetic token designed for anorexics so that they can seem to their date as if they might not have an eating disorder. So, suffice it to say I felt ripped off. It was already clear that this wasn't going to be a good day. Restaurants need to pay a little more attention to quality in this day and age; they never know when the person they're serving is going to write a bad review on a searchable web page.
In the town of Woodstock, we went to a glass shop operated by Katie's sister. Inside, glass was being melted and twirled on the end of metal rods, just like I've seen on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Some sort of soap opera was playing out in and around the glass shop, so we didn't stay, moving on to our next event, a big library fair being held to benefit the Woodstock Library.
Woodstock is a town that's just a little too cute and quaint for its own good. In the entire downtown there isn't a single building designed for business; all the businesses are forced to operate out of converted houses. Then there's the tiny sliver of land making up the Village Green, nearly carpeted with an unbroken layer of guitar strummers, gutter punks and weirdoes.
We knew a couple of people staffing the library fair. One of these was Kristen's long-time friend Amy (who I last saw in 1989) and her husband Johnny. Johnny was one of the people staffing a booth in which kids tried to score high speeds by tossing baseballs at a radar gun (three throws for a dollar). I figured as long as I could toss a ball at a mileage higher than my age I was doing okay. I'm no Ryan Dempster, and nearly threw out my arm tossing a ball at 39 miles per hour.
A big feature of the library fair was the used book sale, something Gretchen eagerly anticipated. I didn't really see anything I liked until I stumbled upon a well-stocked James Michener section. Gretchen and I had talked about Michener as we'd driven through the nighttime void of Nebraska and I told her that historical fiction of the sort he wrote was one of the few forms of fiction that really interest me. So I bought a couple oversized novels, nearly making the mistake of buying a German translation of Hawaii in the process.
The book prices were definitely reasonable, ranging from $1 for Michener hardcovers to $2 for a glossy book of trippy modern paintings. The hamburger prices were a little on the steep side; I didn't exactly want a hamburger and I certainly didn't want to pay $2.50 for one, but my choices were limited and the trivial fragments of calamari in my stomach had been digested long ago.
Katie went home and Gretchen, Kristen and I walked around Woodstock, shopping. In quaint little towns like Woodstock I never find anything worth buying, so I mostly took the opportunity to sit down in various places to rest my weary bones. Whenever appropriate, I complained about the tiny portion of calamari I'd been served at the New World Home Cooking Company. They'll live to regret that stingy portion they dished me at brunch this fair summer day!
Returning to New Paltz, Gretchen and I took a sensual power-nap in Kristen's bed while Kristen could be heard chatting with her brother Steve in the living room. Eventually we got up and joined them, the four of us eventually doing dinner at a quasi-sportsbar called P & G's. Again I ordered calamari, this time of the batter-fried variety, and mercifully it came out in a reasonably well-heaped plate. But this isn't to say that my trouble with small portions was over. I accidentally ordered a "glass" of Sam Adams and it came in a eight ounce glass and that was it. Who in their right mind would order a quantity of beer so small?
After dinner we were joined by Melissa and decided to head out to a bar. We were walking down Church Street, minding our own business, when someone ran up to us and said, "Why the fuck are you leaning on my truck?" Sure enough there was a truck there on the side of the street, and some in our party had come to a stop and were talking, leaning a little against it as they did so in a manner that would not be considered rude in polite society. They stopped leaning on the truck as its owner came bustling toward us, actually checking the spot on the truck where we had been leaning to see if any damage had been inflicted. We'd sort of thought that this guy was saying this in jest and that any moment he was going to break out of this redneck affectation and ask Kristen's brother Steve, "How the fuck are you?" and give him a big, ostentatiously non-sexual "manhug." But he was absolutely serious. "Sorry we leaned on you truck, man." Steve offered. "Douchebag!" the truck owner exclaimed. A guy like that must toss and turn all night thinking about what might be happening to his beloved truck.
This was just another in a long list of things which I put in the category of "only in New Paltz." New Paltz is a progressive college town, a folksy village, even a scenic retreat, but it's got more than its fair share of weirdoes and crazies. In some respects it's almost like the wild west. Indeed, a few weeks back someone with a machine gun went nuts Columbine-style in the downtown area and shot the place full of holes. New Paltz is such a small town that Kristen heard the shooting from her house and her brother knew everybody involved except the police officer who was injured.
I hadn't had an especially good time at Bacchus last night, so I pleaded for us to go to some other bar (since Bacchus seems to be the ho-hum New Paltz default). We went instead to that place called Snugs, which was the bar where Gretchen and I had a huge fight last time we were in town (March 30th). My drinking wasn't so excessive tonight and I managed to stay pleasant right through to the end. For Gretchen, Melissa and me our drink of choice tonight was vodka cranberry, for no particular reason other than the fact that they are easy to order. (By contrast, whenever one orders a margarita, there are questions about such issues as salt, brand of tequila, and lemon versus lime.) There was a loud rock and roll band playing in the front, but we were way in the back next to the the dartboard area, and conditions were such that conversations were possible. Steve pointed out a girl referred to on other nights as "buttcrack girl" because her pants were so loose that you could actually see her buttcrack, as if she was a plumber. What with their wide child bearing hips keeping up their pants, one doesn't often see the exposed buttcracks of women.

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