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   Rhinebeck as a birthday town
Sunday, January 19 2003

Today was Gretchen's birthday (a thing she shares with Dolly Parton), and I'd gotten her two gifts. The first was a "Catch-a-Call" device allowing us to accept phone calls while online. The other was an acrylic painting I'd made of Noah the cat two nights ago. I'd been meaning to paint a larger portrait of Noah for months now, but up until recently I hadn't been able to find the time. For a canvas I used a rectangular piece of wood sawn from the front door during the installation of the pet door.

In honor of this special day I attempted to take Gretchen to the other regional Indian restaurant, a place called Mughal Raj over across the Hudson just south of my Rhinebeck, my least favorite town. I'd been unable to call Mughal Raj beforehand to make a reservation - evidently their number had changed. And when we got to the actual restaurant at around luppertime, we found it was closed for renovations. There was evidence of drywall deliveries in the parking lot.
Our second choice was an Italian restaurant in downtown Rhinebeck called Gigi Trattoria, but they weren't open for lupper so we had to kill some time. We did this in a nearby bookstore and then drinking in the tavern with all the horse tack decorations. In that last place, I was one of the few men seated such that I could not see the football game on the television. Later I went home and checked the news on the New York Times website and saw the lead story was the result of a football game, perhaps the one I hadn't been watching. Sports were originally invented so people would have a substitute for killing one another in war, but now it's used as just another distraction from the facts making a case for peace.

Dinner left us, in aggregate, a bottle of wine drunker and a hundred dollars poorer. We capped off our Rhinebeck experience at Upstate Films watching the new movie Adaptation by the same folks who brought us Being John Malcovich. I don't know if it was the wine or all the effort of pasta digestion, but I couldn't follow Adaptation no matter how hard I tried. The movie kept lurching back and forth between present and various depths of past and exuding an attitude of "Look at me, I'm really post modern!" Its cinematic gears failed to mesh with the logical machinery in my mind. Call me old-fashioned, but I need a few conventional plot elements in order to get involved, but this movie attempted to replace those with what seemed like the same fifteen minutes of film repeated over and over. Wading through the swamp. Close up of a fictional orchid. Frustration at the typewriter. Wading through the swamp... Supposedly there was a Darwinist subplot, but it was an unsatisfying husk. In the end the only thing that interested me about the movie was the following question: Could Meryl Streep be a sex symbol at this stage of her career? The answer almost seemed to be yes. Maybe my problem is that I've killed off too many brain cells to "get" such deep, thought-provoking material. In confirmation of this theory, Gretchen [and all the reviews I've seen on the web] claimed to have loved the movie.
I'd like to shoehorn in here a comment about the relative niceness of people we encounter in Rhinebeck (my least-favorite mid-Hudson town) with those we encounter on our side of the river in Kingston. With the possible exception of a few Hudson Valley Credit Union employees, Kingston people are friendly, helpful, and even generous. But for whatever reason Rhinebeck people are none of these things. Overall we've found them to be impatient, untrusting, bitchy, and unpleasant. There have been many instances of this, particularly among (but not limited to) the staff at Upstate Films. Gretchen has a way of unmasking these tendencies because she is forever misplacing her Upstate Films member card, which gives her 50% off on admission tickets.

The painting I made of Noah as a gift for Gretchen. This is on a piece of wood
cut from the front door for the installation of the pet door. Note the corner holes.

How Noah actually looks these days.

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