Sunday, October 10 2004
This morning over many cups of coffee, Ray and Nancy told us about their recent experience with a bed bug infestation. They'd had to fog their apartment with insecticide and throw out their bed before the infestation ebbed away. As they were telling us these things, I felt something crawling on my right wrist. I reached down and grabbed it, and damned if it wasn't a flea. I'd grown up with fleas and never thought they were any big deal, but this was the first time I'd ever seen a flea in our house.
Later, after a walk in the forest, I was combing Sally in search of ticks and in the process I found a half dozen fleas. By now it was pretty clear that we had an ongoing flea infestation. Where could they have come from? I have a good idea, but the culprit is a house occupied by a woman who is the kind of person who advertises my journal to her friends and then takes offence when I write things that aren't flattering about her.
Gretchen, Ray, Nancy, and I launched an immediate multi-prong assault on the fleas. I vacuumed, Ray swept, and Nancy helped Gretchen with the laundry, one of four or five loads she ended up doing today. Gretchen and I also applied Frontline to all of our animals. It's a powerful insecticide designed to kill ticks and fleas.
For much of the day, Gretchen drove Ray, Nancy, and me around the Town of Marbletown so we could participate in a town-wide "open gallery" event for members of the Marbletown Arts Association. Just so you can have a sense of where this Marbletown is, it's a mostly-rural political entity within Ulster County. Our house is in the similarly-rural Town of Hurley, which is just north of the Town of Marbletown. Since our place in the south-central part of Hurley, Marbletown isn't far away; in fact, the Stick Trail comes to within a thousand feet of the Marbletown line (where it coincides with the Catskill Park proclamation boundary in the southeastern corner of the park).
Since Marbletown is rural, there's no way one can have the concentrated artistic experience familiar in places like Charlottesville and Kingston. If one wants to see artists and art, one must drive, and one mustn't drink much wine (should any be available).
The first place we went was a gallery on the Esopus Valley off Hurley Mountain Road. The gallery itself was in an outbuilding behind a beautiful house on the edge of a vast field extending as a perfectly flat, treeless plain for miles southward. The artist here had lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and had bought her house at about the same time we'd bought ours. She'd actually looked at our house while house hunting. She said she'd thought it "had a lot of potential."
Our next stop lay beyond the other side of the Town of Marbletown, in the Village of Rosendale (which lies in the heart of the Town of Rosendale). The Cement Company, Rosendale's hippest, most expensive restaurant, was hosting a literary brunch, and it would coust only $15 each to attend. That's an incredibly inexpensive brunch at the Cement Company, and this had convinced even me to come. Normally I hate the very idea of brunch and all the eggy greasiness that sticks to it, but when conditions are right, I'm sucker for a good deal, even when it's for something I don't particularly want.
The literary brunch began with an ultra-ernest folk duet. Their tunes were so literal and idealistic that they came across as parodies and it was hard not to laugh. One of their tunes was called "Idiot at the Wheel" and it was about George W. Bush, whom they never actually mentioned by name.
The other readings continued in the same bland, hyper-literal vein. The only interesting thing that happened came when a woman read from some writings she'd written while purposefully isolated in nature. She paused in the middle of her reading to draw a Cottonwood tree and it wasn't half bad.
Meanwhile I'd pretty much drunk my anemic bloody mary and I'd ordered the one thing on the brunch menu that didn't have eggs in it: a "breakfast burrito" (the very sound of that term turns my stomach) that I'd specifically requested be prepared without eggs. Chirp, chirp, here came the perky little waitress with our food, and she first gave Nancy a conventional breakfast burrito before giving me mine, saying it didn't have any eggs in it. I started out by eating the rice and beans that came with the burrito on the side. They were virtually flavorless, and this made me all the more sensitive to the odors in the room. I caught strong whiffs of cooked eggs, a smell I find repulsive even when it doesn't smell like a diseased person just passed a hot poof of intestinal gas. I figured the smell was coming from all the disgustingly yellow eggy plates in the room, so I stopped breathing through my nose and continued eating. Sounds like a delightful restaurant experience, no?
Finally, I got around to cutting into my burrito with my fork. A fluffy white substance seemed to have spread like a cancer throughout it. I held up a piece of this revolting material to ask Gretchen what it was. "They must have switched your burrito with Nancy's!" Gretchen exclaimed. Nancy, calm as a brain surgeon but with a hint of concern, was in full agreement. So we traded our burritos and I began work on what Nancy had started. She'd taken a large bite-shaped hunk out of the middle. The burrito was nearly as flavorless as the rice and beans had been.
This was, to put it mildly, a difficult experience to recover from. The stink of eggs hung heavy in the air. Practically everywhere I looked, plates were besmirched with eggy yellow slime. My only comfort was to look down the basement stairs towards the kitchen, where a mortared rocks formed an impressive foundation wall. But I had to be sure to look away whenever a waitress brought more food up those stairs. Fighting a feeling just short of nausea, I vowed to never ever again attend any meal calling itself "brunch."
It was a great relief to get out of the Cement Company. To no longer breath that greasy eggy air (and to no longer maintain a respectful silence for mediocre prose) was like a gift horse, the kind whose mouth one never even considers inspecting.
After a couple of yard sales, a pottery purchase, and a trip to the Johnny on the Spot, Gretchen was buying an wormy chestnut picture frame at a Stone Ridge antique store manned by a Jew for Jesus. We ended our tour at a gallery on a Ashokan Road, talking to the guy who organized the open gallery event. On learning that Gretchen was a writer and I "am" an artist, he extended an invitation to us for next year's event. If we agree to participate, they'll have to change the tour map, since its northern edge runs somewhat south of Dug Hill Road.
After dropping Nancy and Ray off at the bus station, I drove to Hannaford and bought a variety of flea-killing compounds, including flea shampoo, flea powder, and a kit containing three ærosol flea bombs. When I got back home, Gretchen and I launched a massive anti-flea jihad. We gave both dogs a bath, dusted nearly all our upstairs furniture with flea powder, and set off three flea bombs in the basement. At first I was in enough denial to assume the cats were flea-free, but then I combed Julius and found one of those little fuckers. Not willing to risk bathing a cat, I dusted Julius with a little flea powder instead. Later Gretchen found fleas on Clarence and dusted him too. The powder's instructions made no mention of cats, so we were a little worried they'd poison themselves by licking their fur. But when they pulled through the night in good health, Gretchen dusted Lulu too.
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