Sunday, September 26 2004
Mr. Meatlocker came along with us when we went to the annual Saugerties Garlic Festival today. We didn't prepare very well though, because Gretchen had bought our tickets at a discount beforehand but had left them back at the house. And then, much more to her horror, she realized she'd forgotten to tape an essential WNBA basketball game. Neither we nor anyone we know has Tivo, so we have to fall back on antiquated equipment whose operation has remained something of a mystery for most people. Gretchen called Ms. Meatlocker (using a modern cell phone) and asked her to do "a huge favor" - one that was possible only if it didn't involve programming the VCR to do something in the future (has anyone ever done that successfully?).
There's not much to say about the Garlic Festival that hasn't already been said. The Jersey hair, the glittery Jersey patriotica on the Jersey teeshirts, the pasty Jersey skin holding in the Jersey flab like a Jersey retaining wall at a Jersey superfund site. I don't know why it all struck me as so terribly Jersey - what I mean is that it didn't seem particularly New York City. As for the food, once you got past the obligatory pulled pork and blooming onion stands, there were a few good ones, including one for a new Indian restaurant in, of all places, Big Indian. More so than at the last garlic festival we'd attended a year ago, we sampled varieties of raw garlic. The diversity was astonishing, ranging from mild waterchestnutesque garlics to the kinds that inflicted pain in tiny quantities. The "Music" variety fell into the latter category, and of course I ate a big hunk of it. I felt as though I had taken some sort of illegal mind-altering drug for a good half hour afterwards. We'd met Katie on the way to the garlic festival but somehow we lost her in the crowd.
I got to thinking about how the beach balls of gas in an atmosphere rattle around like beach balls, smacking into each other and then ricocheting into something else, always jiggling and never finding a clear shot to just bounce off into space. This is especially true where the atmosphere meets the earth, at the bottom of a massive pile of increasingly constrained but still bouncing beach balls. I then imagined a fan blade turning at the bottom of this stack, each pass of its blade hurrying beach balls along sideways, with others gleefully bounding into the gap left by their absence.
You know the bumpersticker that reads "Visualize Whirled Peas?" Well, if you're as old as I am perhaps you can remember the tail-end of an era when the bumpersticker it is based on, the one which reads "Visualize World Peace," could be found on just about every VW Microbus. Have you ever visualized world peace? I've read the bumpersticker dozens of times, but I took its advice today for the first time in my entire life. I was in the bathtub and looking up at the ceiling when I imagined a world in which all its people were going about their business with no standing armies or fighter jets dropping bombs. Mind you, even in my visualization things weren't perfect. Hogs were being butchered. Women and children were being raped. Doctors in hospitals were mistakenly cutting off non-gangrenous feet. But all these bad things were happening in the context of world peace. Human tragedies came on a small, person-by-person level. It's a powerful image, and it's definitely one that is educational to have. It's a clever bumpersticker, if people actually act on its advice. It's really too bad its message has been smothered in the noise of cliché.
I took the dogs for a walk down the Stick Trail late this afternoon during half-time in the second-of-three LA-Sacramento games. I was thinking about how I might go about writing a novel from a purely character perspective. The novel would be written like a piano concerto with the characters acting as notes on a keyboard, to be voiced in a series of repetitive sequences. Things would happen to them and their characters would develop, but each would speak throughout with a very consistent voice.
Heading back home on the trail, it occurred to me that it is to the benefit of a creature with self-defenses to foil but not kill its attackers, but only if those attackers have the ability to learn from experience. For example, imagine a bear attacking a porcupine and getting quilled. If the bear dies from the experience, another bear will soon move into the old bear's territory and, if he hasn't learned about porcupines, then the porcupine will have to quill that bear too. Every incident with a predator is risky for both parties, and it is to the benefit of a porcupine to have as few predatory encounters as possible. By merely injuring an attacker, an animal with defenses stands a chance of educating that attacker about the folly of attacking a particular kind of potential victim. If the now-educated attacker then remains in the area, he will tend to keep others of his kind away because of the competition for similar resources.
This evening before The Wire on HBO, Gretchen and I decided to go on a cultural expedition to the primetime dreck being programmed on a mainstream broadcast network. The network in question was ABC, and the show in question was Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a sort of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for dimwit Christian families uncomfortable with the idea of gay men doing gay things and who find the Family Circus hilarious. With QEFTSG, the thrust of the show was always about cleaning up poor hetero slobs and setting them on a more refined path. Only gradually does it sink in that these slobs have won the lottery when the Fab Five show up at their door. The QEFTSG guys have no budget, so there's no telling what miracles they can work.
With Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the lottery aspect is the main story. We're held in suspense about such moronic details as what incredible vacation spot the family will be sent to while their house is demolished and replaced with something twice as big. The humor never rises above the slapstick variety understandable by an eight year old. And instead of gay sexual innuendo and clever double-entendres, we're treated to scenes from the family's church, where producers go to recruit volunteers for an Amish-style house raising that must happen within the space of six days. How this is possible given the speed at which foundation concrete cures is anybody's guess.
Evidently the families selected to have their houses replaced in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition all have something dreadful that happened to them which warrants the program's charity (and suitable background music when references to the tragedy are made). In tonight's show, the family had nine kids and a fat, hapless father, but the mother had died (perhaps in childbirth?). The old house was so tiny that some of the kids were forced to live in the garage. ("It's simple! Use birth control!" Gretchen hollered at the screen several times.)
There were plenty of creepy moments in tonight's show, particularly when red-state ideas of humor and propriety clashed painfully with the reasonable course of action. But nothing was as creepy as seeing how gleeful the children were to watch their old house being torn down over a live video feed. No real child would have that reaction to seeing his home destroyed. They must have been coached. Indeed, the smiles on their faces weren't convincing.
Perhaps the funniest thing about Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is the fact that some of the consultants who help with the design and planning of the new house are flamingly gay. It's an elephant in the room that cannot be referred to in any way. But straight designers are either impossible to find or prohibitively unphotogenic.
Crowd at the Garlic Festival.
Shadows on the grass. I'm on the left, Mr. Meatlocker is in the middle, and Gretchen is on the left.
Gretchen discussing the rock climbing concession at the Garlic Festival with Mr. Meatlocker.
Corn fields of Hurley viewed from Wynkoop Road (looking north). Hurley Mountain Road runs along the base of the forested hill.
Hurley corn field, viewed from Hurley Mountain Road (looking south).
Dug Hill Road, perhaps a half mile from home (looking north).
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