Tuesday, January 28 2003
After a massive check-writing frenzy, I walked next door to fix the computer of Laura, the woman whose son had sold the house to Gretchen and me. Her problem was that some of the keys had been mysteriously switched on the keyboard. She'd gone out and bought a new keyboard, but the problem persisted. I immediately diagnosed the problem: the keyboard control panel had been set to use a German layout instead of the familiar American QWERTY pattern. Five minutes later, everything was fixed. I charged a modest $5 for the housecall, and spent most of my time standing at the window as Laura pointed out landmarks on the distant horizon. She'd lived at her house for many years before finally having someone come to cut down the trees that blocked out the southern view. Like most women her age, she loves to talk and there's no getting away once she has you as an audience.
It was only five degrees Fahrenheit outside, so I let Laura drive me and Sally back home. By this time Gretchen had returned from the City bearing a very large certified check. The several-hundred-thousand-dollar check had originally been no more substantial than a personal check, and getting it certified had proved to be an enormous bother. But now we could take it into town and deposit it into one of our accounts and then draw from it immediately, which would allow us to pay off all sorts of debts, particularly the mortgage on our existing home, as well as our various maxed-out credit cards. Indeed, the check-writing frenzy mentioned earlier was largely aimed at paying off my accumulated credit card debt.
We drove into Kingston and took care of the bank business at the main office of Hudson Valley Credit Union. For a few minutes there, before the crucial wiring of money to pay off the Hurley House mortgage, Gretchen actually had several times more in her checking account than is covered by Federal Deposit Insurance. Had our luck been terrible and the bank chosen that time to go insolvent, we would have been out a couple hundred thousand dollars.
The former owners of our house had left us a bottle of champagne, and we'd been delaying its opening in anticipation of the tasks just completed. When we got home, we popped it open and drank the entire thing. This made us so sleepy that we napped until after dark.
In the evening Gretchen ceremonially burned all the paperwork related to her brownstone and then we took our celebration to the Hurley Mountain Inn. There we indulged in fancy drinks and genuine entrees (as opposed to our usual meal of cheese pizza, french fries, and - for me - beer). As part of our celebration, we decided to buy drinks for everyone then sitting at the bar (which amounted to five or six white guys). Unexpectedly, this propelled us immediately to the status of hero, and in return this one guy named John sitting at the bar insisted on buying us drinks. He also got to talking to Gretchen and seemed interested when she told him about my home computer repair business. So I went out to the car to get some flyers so he'd have my contact info.
I found myself at the bar, talking to the guy named John. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, but I stopped enjoying myself once George W. Bush's State of the Union speech came on, displacing the usual sports noise of the Hurley Mountain Inn. John, it turned out, was something of a right winger. I don't normally have to deal with such people, but the drink exchange had compelled a relationship, and now he wanted to talk about politics. I would have been perfectly happy to argue with him, but unfortunately I felt the need to leave a good impression with him, hoping he'd circulate my contact info and send some business my way.
Our political conversation all started when John made a bitter remark about France and how we'd saved their asses in two World Wars and this is how they repay us. The "this" he was referring to was their failure to support Bush in an imperialist invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq. John was worked up about it in a way that one seldom hears from an American about European democracy. I didn't disagree with him, choosing to change the subject to how boring the food was when Gretchen and I went to Paris.
John didn't limit himself to a discussion of foreign policy. He was also convinced that Bush's 600 billion dollar tax cut would somehow be good for our economy. It didn't seem to concern him that this money was going to have to be put on the federal plastic. I don't know if this guy was a religious nut - I have a feeling he wasn't because he never once brought up Jesus, and religious nuts always get around to Jesus eventually. But his (and the administration's) desire to spend the future's money without regard for how to pay for it almost demands the looming end of the world. I agree, if the world is about to end, it makes sense to max out the credit cards and pump the last dribs and drabs of oil from the ground. But the world has been "about to end" since the time people first started noticing it existed to begin with.
I did find one point of agreement with John. I agreed that Clinton had no backbone. And in turn John did have to concede that Bush was a beneficiary of affirmative action for the dissolute children of wealthy elites. And then I tried to argue that the good economy during Clinton's time almost certainly had nothing to do with Reagan's reckless economic policy. John was a hard core supply sider. He thought the rich deserved to benefit from taxes since they were the ones who had to pay them.
Meanwhile one of the bartender ladies had melodramatically put a piece of duct tape over her mouth. On the tape she'd used a Sharpie marker to draw a smiley face. This was, she said, her way of dealing with the fact that all her coworkers were Republicans.
Three or four drinks later, Gretchen and I managed to get the fuck out of there. She'd been having a much better time than me, leaving our grateful waitress a 50% tip and chatting with an older guy named Toni who promised to make us pesto for our wedding.
Gretchen burns material related to 951 President Street #1R, Brooklyn.
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