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   insufferable dead president worship
Saturday, June 5 2004
Ray and Nancy returned from New York City by bus today and in the evening we all went out together to partake of Kingston's monthly gallery opening event. As such events go, Kingston's is remarkably well-run. Someone has even prepared a flyer with a map of the main business districts (there are three) showing where individual galleries are. We started our gallery tour in the Rondout area (known to some as Downtown), behaving in the usual manner of gallery opening visitors. Gretchen was more familiar with the galleries than the rest of us, and she remembered them mostly by the kinds of foods they'd had available the last time she'd come through.
For a city of only 25,000 people, Kingston has an impressive art scene. There are about thirty galleries, most of them displaying art as their main business (as opposed to as a side-pursuit from the business of, say, selling frames). Like many financially troubled upstate cities, Kingston retail property is cheap, and that makes it easier for people to experiment with financially-dubious businesses. Galleries that would be impossible for a rich man to pull off in Manhattan can be set up in Kingston on a middle class whim.
The last gallery in the Rondout was so far out on the fringe that we had to drive there. It was at the intersection of Abeel and State Route 213, and tonight featured a show of what looked like erotic art. Unlike the other galleries, this one seemed to have a younger crowd. Also unusual was that the gallery's owner greeted us individually at the door. It turned out that the place was more of an informal salon than it was a gallery and the guy greeting us at the door was one of the poets from Thursday's open mike event. (There aren't too many people in Kingston, so the scenes have considerable overlap.) On learning that Gretchen is also a poet, the proprietor tried to convince her to come back later to read some of hers, having no idea what kind of poetry it might be. We hung around for a little while drinking coffee and taking in the decadent 1920s energy of the place. Most of the people there were dressed up for the evening and sitting around on couches, talking. We all also took note of the fact that the proprietor's bleach blond girlfriend was one hot little firecracker.
Next we went uptown to Keegan Ales, a new brewery near the intersection of I-587 and Broadway. Supposedly there was an opening happening there, and there were indeed paintings on the wall, a tertiary attraction at best. But the main attraction there was the beer. It was being dispensed by a pair of witty brewery staffers as seemingly endless free samples in smallish plastic cups. There were a couple of cats with the run of the place, and they constituted something of a secondary interest. The beer at Keegan Ales is sold only in large containers, the smallest being two-quart glass bottles ($8 each).

On the drive into the center of Uptown, we passed a little green where the American flag is flown on a tall metal pole. A couple cops in shorts were out there in the rain lowering the flag to half mast. So I rolled down my window (on the passenger side) and shouted my question, "Who died?" "President Reagan!" they shouted back. Reflexively I shot them the most obvious signal I know that acknowledges receipt of information, the international thumbs up (used with such effectiveness by our troops in Iraq). We had a good chuckle about its inappropriateness as we drove away. And then we began to mourn, not for Reagan but for the upcoming news cycles. That bastard Reagan and his sad pretenders and henchmen have wrecked this country with their myopia, inattention, and sheer laziness, but we knew immediately that we'd be in for a couple weeks of insufferable dead president worship, just like back in 1994 when the eyes of that weasel Nixon finally glazed over.
We ended our evening with dinner at La Pupuseria, although we'd eaten so much gallery food that we could have easily avoided dinner entirely. Gretchen has been lobbying for months to get Ray and Nancy to move up to Kingston, and I have to say Kingston put on a good show tonight. If I were the one being lobbied, tonight would have convinced me.

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