Saturday, January 18 2003
This morning the temperature was down around eight degrees Fahrenheit. On something of a whim, Gretchen and I went to the Rondout area of Kingston for breakfast, which we had at the Alternative Baker. It's a tiny place with only two tables, but the bread is excellent. I don't know how typical this was, but nearly everything we bought (from focaccia to olive bread) was still oven-warm.
Next stop was P&D Surplus, an eccentric scrap hardware store down in a particularly low-rent part of the Rondout. We'd learned about it from Kristen Ma$$on; she'd said it is the favorite store of Melissa, her former housemate. Tonight Melissa and her husband Bryan were having a belated wedding reception, and Gretchen wanted to get Melissa a P&D Surplus gift certificate. When describing P&D Surplus, Kristen had told Gretchen "Gus will love that place." She was right.
P&D was full of the kinds of things one normally finds in junk drawers, though some of it was much too large to fit in a drawer and all of it was neatly sorted and stacked according to size or function. There were huge bins of esoteric nuts, sheets of copper, odd plumbing fittings, electrical motors, valves, and a surprising variety of Macintosh computers dating from the mid-90s. There's still a kid in me somewhere, and to that kid this was a candy store. My immediate interest was to find better rubber bands for use as drive belts in my disco ball implementation, but P&D didn't seem to have much rubber in stock, at least not right now. We got the impression that the things P&D sells varies from day to day depending on what comes in. Some days it's boxes of knives decorated with confederate flags (Gretchen was horrified), other days it's eighteen inch lag bolts.
P&D is such a favorite store for regional sculpture artists that periodically the store hosts art exhibits. Some sculptures were still on display from whenever the last show happened.
In the end I bought a couple AC motors, the kind used to power record turntables. My thinking was that I could use these to replace the weak DC motor in my disco ball setup and then not have to be so concerned about the high tension of overly-stretched rubber band drive belts.
Gretchen had been intrigued by my description of the picturesque landscape around Darren's house, so we drove through his neighborhood (which is less than a mile from the Rondout). Eventually we parked at some sort of facility at the mouth of the Rondout and went walking along the shoreline. Though the air was still bitterly cold, the sun shone brightly and being outdoors wasn't unpleasant. Off in the distance was the beautiful Rondout lighthouse and the Hudson beyond. The water was frozen in an array of shifting tectonic plates, none of which were strong enough to support the weight of large land mammals. Sally tried to run out on the ice at one point but broke through and fell into the icy water. This didn't seem to make her even the slightest bit uncomfortable. She turned her attention immediately to the task of unsuccessfully digging a small mammal out of a tussock of grass.
A couple of Gretchen's friends from out of town had been scheduled to arrive last night, but they had alternator trouble and didn't get in until this afternoon, whereupon we finally got a chance to eat a chicken pot pie Gretchen had made last night (instead of chicken it contained cutlets made out of the convincingly meatlike Quorn meat substitute, which is actually derived from a European soil fungus).
In the evening we left our guests behind to fend for themselves and we dressed up and went to Melissa and Bryan's wedding reception. It took place at Le Canard, a fancy French restaurant in uptown Kingston. The whole place had been commandeered for this reception, and everything was paid for. The meal came in something like six courses, though (in keeping with French convention) none of these were particularly large. Since this was Le Canard, I ordered the duck, which was presented as a sort of duck sculpture, with a small slab of meat as the body, grid potato crisps for wings, and a strawberry for a head, all of it slung over a hump of mashed potatoes and decorated with squiggles. Being a French entree, it wasn't much food, so I augmented it with some of Gretchen's pasta (which was somewhat overcooked in the classic French style). The peaceful restaurant proved a good place for a reception. Strangers and friends alike could meet one another and be introduced without feeling the need to shout, though they could also avoid each other if need be. The lighting made everyone look fabulous.
I noticed that many of the details in Le Canard had been made from copper - either rolled copper sheets or copper pipe and plumber fittings. The bathroom contained the largest-diameter copper pipe I'd ever seen, something like three inches. I wondered if it was a sewer pipe. Do the French plumb sewage lines with copper?
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