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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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   Woodstock drum circle
Sunday, June 19 2005
Remember how Friday was all about showing Gretchen's parents around Rosendale? Today was pretty much the same sort of day, but instead the village in question was the much more famous one having the sign reading "Woodstock" at its entrance.
We started by attending a concert at the weird, wacky, and seasonal Maverick Concert Hall. This afternoon it was being borrowed by a local choral group called Ars Choralis performing a program mostly of South American music, both ancient and contemporary. It made for a lively and entertaining experience, though it was also interesting in all the ways it wasn't perfect. The guitarist, for example, seemed a little stiff, particularly at first, and seemed to be fighting to keep up with the breakneck tempo of the Spanish-flavored notes. As for the chorus, their voices blended into a lovely cream when they all sang together, but individual vocalists struggled noticeably at the high ends of their vocal ranges. I know this is a cruel thing to write, but these are the things you can expect when complex arrangements test the mettle of the local talent.

Our next destination was the center of the village of Woodstock, which, not surprisingly, was in the midst of a loud drum circle on the village green when we arrived. I remember the first time I saw a drum circle (or something like it) in Harkness Co-op in Oberlin. I remember being impressed at the waves of uncanny flock-of-birds order that can sweep over a crowd of untalented percussionists banging dents into an industrial kitchen full of expensive stainless steel pots and pans. Now, of course, many dozens of drum circles later, I'm cynical and jaded and am inclined to read youthful naiveté into any group drumming event, even among the professionals from Africa now living in New Paltz. When I look at a crowd of drummers, not only do they look terribly young, I find myself feeling old.
But because Gretchen's father was photographing them, Gretchen and I crossed the street to see more precisely what was going on. It turned out that this was a community "open drum circle" and a big tray of percussion instruments had been made available for anyone to pick up and make a personal rhythmic contribution. Does it get any less Republican than that? Well, yes it does. It turns out that this drum circle was a weekly event dedicated to the idea of opposing the war, the ongoing one in Iraq in case you've forgotten. (I'm guessing that there are no "Support the Troops" or "Stem Cell Research is Murder" drum circles.)
So Gretchen and I picked up instruments and joined in the din. As Gretchen pointed out later, there's a big difference between hearing a drum circle and participating in one. As spectator sports go, drum circles are pretty sad. This is why you've never watched one on ESPN. But when you join one, you feel like you're part of a something bigger than the pum of its sarts. It's expressive and social and even beautiful, until, that is, you put your instrument down and walk away. I suppose it taps into some primitive human participatory need, housed in a part of the brain that whithers and dies in the heads of Republicans, members of the party of fuck you I have mine.

Dinner happened at the reliably exceptional Bear Café in Bearsville, out on the bluestone patio on the banks of the Sawkill. At some point Gretchen's father mentioned the virtues of an intriguing book entitled The Paradox of Choice, a copy of which has evidently been languishing in Gretchen's unread books pile. It's my kind of book, finding the cause for the ails of westerners in our cornucopia of freedom.

A week or so ago Sally the dog developed a strange aversion to the act of coming into the house through the pet door. She suddenly stopped using it and would wait outside, whimpering and pawing at the door until some human being let her in. This even happened in the small hours of the morning when the chance of her scaring up a doorman were pretty remote. Meanwhile, of course, all the other creatures in the house (four cats and Eleanor the dog) continued to use the pet door without difficulty. This was because they lacked whatever had gotten into Sally's mind.
Happily, though, through a course of pet door therapy we (or more especially Gretchen) were able to train Sally to use the pet door once more. The method used was "shove and reward." We'd shove her through the door when she seemed to balk and then we'd reward her with a treat. Eventually she got to the point where she could be lured through the door without any balking. Then, today I think, she finally resumed using the door without rewards.
Interestingly, Sally never developed an aversion to going out through the pet door. Evidently something bad had happened when she was coming in one time. My guess is that she surprised a frightened cat who lashed out viciously, as cats are wont to do.

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