Wednesday, January 8 2003I've really started to move into my studio now. Today I built a bookshelf and moved up my few books, what I've accumulated since moving to California in 1998. I moved several of my old handwritten diaries dating from 1988 and 1989. This new bookshelf is nearly the same dimensions as the last one I built exclusively for my books (that one is under the bunk in my Shaque). Similarly, this new bookshelf has to fit in a spot with limited headroom. The walls of my studio are the same as the ceiling, and near the edges of the room the clearance dwindles away to nothing as the ceilings come down to the floor at a 45 degree angle. As it is, my four foot tall bookshelf has to stand four feet out from the edge of the room, and there's a triangular space behind it where I can put things like unused pieces of copper pipe.A month ago our dog Sally had a lump in her chest and Gretchen took him to the Hurley vet to see if it was a bad thing. It wasn't, but the vet found another growth in Sally's mouth that was a little more troubling. To be on the safe side, today Gretchen took her to the vet to have it surgically removed. We'd have to pick her up again at 5:00pm, and Gretchen hit upon the idea that we go check out the "Rondout," the historic dockside of Kingston on Rondout Creek, not far from where it empties into the Hudson. I'd been through here before without stopping once and been impressed at the dramatic topography and recent restoration of the façades. This time, though, we got out and walked around. In so doing we quickly discovered the shallowness of Rondout's gentrification. For starters, nearly every store on Broadway (the main drag) was closed and many were scheduled to remain so for the entire month of January (evidently the Rondout's off season). Others indicated that they were only open a few days each week. Even more telling was the snow on the sidewalk - for a whole block it remained completely unshoveled and we had to walk single-file down the narrow path of accumulated footprints. Around the corner we came upon a body alteration specialist coming or going to his tattoo shop, so Gretchen took the opportunity to quiz him about the area. Our friend Mary Purdy is seriously considering moving upstate, and the Rondout is one of the places Gretchen is researching on her behalf. The tattoo guy explained that he was happy down in the Rondout, but that it wasn't a very exciting place to live this time of year. In the summer, though, the place plays host to all sorts of events, including live outdoor music and July 4th fireworks displays (launched from the two bridges crossing the Rondout - one a beautiful rusting suspension bridge). He did admit that it was a sort of isolated area and that there were no nearby places one could walk to to buy groceries. Two blocks away, he explained, the quality of the neighborhood declines rapidly. He also said there was a little problem with neighborhood kids breaking into cars, particularly in the winter when they can hide behind folded-up docks along the Rondout harbor shoreline.
I should mention, by the way, that the body alteration specialist dude was sort of hard to look at because he'd installed enormous wooden plugs in holes in his earlobes. The plugs were so large that the living ear flesh around them had the size, shape, and texture of night crawlers. I understand that it takes a great deal of time and patience to develop earlobe holes of this size, since it requires gradual increase in the size of the ear hole plugs over time. But the result doesn't really jibe with my æsthetic sense. But what do I know? I think Justin Timberlake rocks - in my opinion he's the fresh-faced heir to the Iggy Pop throne! (Just fucking with you that time.)
We continued walking around the Rondout, venturing further inland to get a sense of the neighborhood's decay. For a block or so there were occasional instances of gentrification: here an antique store, there a fancy restaurant. But most of the buildings on the side streets were in terrible shape, with problems that couldn't be fixed with a coat of paint. Most spectacular of all was a big old crumbling church on a prominent street corner. It was impressively oldschool, complete with a spire and flying buttresses. All its windows were boarded up and I found myself wondering what a decaying church looks like on the inside. I've seen a lot of rotting factories and abandoned houses, but how often do you see abandoned churches? "That's usually the last to go," Gretchen agreed. (As a side note, when I was in Paris I learned that back in the early 1800s, Notre Dame Cathedral was an abandoned ruin, used to house cattle and possibly a few homeless hunchbacks. It was Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame that convinced the public that it was a treasure worth restoring.)
When we picked her up at the vet's office, Sally was all wobbly and uncoordinated from the continued effects of general anesthesia. When we got her home, we had to be especially careful not to let her fall down the stairs. We tried to get her to sleep off her condition, but she'd been "sleeping" all afternoon and wanted to run around. Later on, though, she was sleeping so deeply that we could actually open her mouth and look at the way her tongue looks when it is completely at rest (it just lies there flat like a peaceful slice of ham in a ham sandwich).
Me in my studio tonight. There's some white paint in my hair.
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