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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   Ithaca, NY
Saturday, September 4 2004

setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

Today Gretchen and I drove to Ithaca, New York, to see a performance by Julius, and old friend of hers from her union organizing days. Julius is an 88 year old merchant seaman who for the past few years has been half of a two-person folk music outfit known as George and Julius. They would be appearing tonight at the Moosewood, a world-famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca. (The Moosewood Cookbook was perhaps the most important written document underlying Harkness cuisine back when I was member of that co-op in college, although the recipes weren't always perfectly executed by the inexperienced teenage members.)
To get to Ithaca, we decided to go just north of Catskill State Park starting with State Route 28, and that meant taking a left out of our driveway (instead of the right that we usually take when heading out of town).
Once we got to the northwest edge of the park, we headed southwestward on State Route 30 along the south shore of the long and narrow Pepacton Reservoir, part of New York City's jealously-guarded water supply. Aside from Route 30, the shoreline of the Pepacton reservoir is devoid of evidence of human settlement, although periodically one drives past a sign announcing the former site of a town that was abandoned to a manmade deluge fifty years ago. (These signs were all erected recently; the similarly-abandoned town of West Hurley received its commemorative sign just this past spring. It is along Dike Road at the very eastern end of the Ashokan Reservoir.) There were a surprisingly large number of towns sacrificed for the Pepacton, a fact all the more surprising given how recently the reservoir was created. Route 30 through this region is extremely curvy, though the curves are all wide enough to permit fast driving.
Somewhere along State Route 17 (which will eventually be renamed I-86) we saw a young woman driving an SUV with a BUSH/CHENEY '04 bumper sticker (the only other one of these I'd seen before had been on a car parked in Woodstock). As I passed her Gretchen shouted her derision out the window.
As we approached Ithaca on State Route 79, we were amazed by the number of political signs we saw in yards. Most of them said either Kerry {American Flag} Edwards in the Kerry/Edwards serif font, though there were also a lot of BUSH MUST GO signs in a sans-serif fonts. Occasionally we saw sinister BUSH/CHENEY signs with their fat sans-seriff fonts, the first such signs I'd ever seen in anyone's yard. But these were nearly always shouted down by the signs of neighbors. It was heartening to see so much interest in the presidential politics, even if none of it matters in a swing state like New York.

We made it into Ithaca relatively early in the day, and that gave us a chance to do a lot of exploration on foot (after checking into the seedy Meadow Court Inn on the southwest end of town and taking advantage of a buffet of Indian food). Our walking quickly took us to Ithaca's downtown mall, a commercial street closed to cars similar to Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. There we went into a couple of used bookstores (because Gretchen is researching the possibility of maybe buying an Kingston bookstore that is for sale). In one of the stores there was a hippie with such bad body odor that one could smell him from fifty feet away.
I sat for awhile out on the mall waiting for Gretchen and watching people. There were a couple of goth-looking young men hanging out and I suddenly noticed that one of them had what appeared to be a diminutive set of male sexual organs dangling from his right ear. This wasn't an ear ring either, it was made of flesh from the ear itself. He'd altered his body, perhaps by inserting progressively larger metal objects inside his ear lobe. The grape-sized "scrotum" looked to be red and moderately infected, and its owner kept rubbing it while the half-inch-long "penis" bobbed about in a perpetual semi-erect state. When Gretchen materialized, I had to tell her to go take a look for herself. The spectacle led us to sing little commemorative ditties about Ithaca, with words such as "Ithaca, where penises hang from our ears."
Later we lounged for a long time on the grass in DeWitt Park (after first finding a shady spot without swarming yellow jackets). I even dozed off for awhile.

In the evening walked to the Moosewood Restaurant and found the place crammed with people waiting for a seat. For a little while we were worried we weren't going to be able to see George and Julius play. But then we ended up at the bar with prime seating for the show. Julius was overwhelmed with delight to see Gretchen, and he kept hugging both of us. He was a tiny man whose age in years might actually have been greater than his weight in pounds. He was wearing a black teeshirt with a picture of a dopey George W. Bush with the word LOSER written in huge letters. He told us all about the recent demonstrations at the Republican National convention. Julius had been a pallbearer for one of the thousand flag-draped mock coffins. These had actually been hollow cardboard boxes weighing only a couple pounds each.
Julius sang for about two thirds of the songs, but he didn't quite have George's energy. Julius sounded about the way you'd expect an 88 year old man to sound, but those years added more to the performance than they took away. For a performance of political music preached to the choir, the two hour show was probably a half hour too long. There's only so much Bush hatred, pro-union ballads, and folksie standards a human being can take in one sitting. As I pointed out to Gretchen later, George and Julius probably should avoid performing in the model of a rock band playing to its fans, where everyone is stoned out of his mind and every encore is a gift from God Almighty.
As for Moosewood's celebrated cooking, we both picked items from the limited and ever-changing menu. I thought my burrito was delicious, though if I hadn't stuffed myself on Indian food five hours before, it wouldn't have been enough. As for Gretchen, she seemed to think they'd overplayed the cumin, a common complaint she had about Harkness cuisine all those years ago.

Freaky sculptures in an Ithaca shop window on the pedestrian mall

People queuing up for something on the Ithaca pedestrian mall.

It looks just like Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, but this is actually downtown Ithaca, New York.

A diversion for children inside a small indoor "mall" near Moosewood Restaurant.
On seeing this, I naturally made a comment about E. coli.

Behind the bar at Moosewood.

Julius and George performing. Click for some video of them performing "My Name is George W."

More Julius and George.

Gretchen demonstrates her drink, a "Harvey Wallbanger." She said it was strong.

Gretchen demonstrates a Moosewood teeshirt.

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