High Falls lock
Saturday, June 25 2005
As regular readers know, I'm not a big fan of the popular upper middle class ritual known as "brunch" (which I'd never even heard of until I went to college). Today, though, I participated in a brunch at Chefs on Fire in High Falls. Chefs on Fire is located in the basement of the historic stone Depuy Canal House, one of many fine old stone houses in the greater Kingston area. The main floor of the Canal House is home to another, fancier restaurant, but Chefs on Fire is plenty elegant (but by way of funky and expedient). The handles of the doors are made of soldered copper pipes and the ammonite fossil tiles in the bathroom are actually sheets of some sort of manufactured laminate.
In addition to our two houseguests, we'd also brought the dogs, and we were able to have them with us while we ate by eating out in the patio area, surrounded by stone and coexisting generations of repaired windows and paint. It created an archæological ambience rich with the ghosts of people, events, and artifacts, an ambience that's uncommon in the America's paradigm of obliterate and build. It definitely appealed to Karsten, who is from Germany and finds much to dislike in American architectural æsthetics.
Later, after brunch, while the others ducked into shops catering to overpriced-product-buying visitors from Manhattan, I walked around the Canal House and looked at a remnant lock from a canal that used to allow barges to bypass the falls on Rondout Creek on their way from the Hudson to the Delaware. The canal itself is now mostly filled in with sediment in which large trees grow, but at one time it was a 19th Century equivalent to the interstate system. Though today it couldn't handle anything much larger than a modest pleasure craft, the single lock near the Canal House is an impressive structure, with sheer walls made from massive cubes of accurately-cut stone. At either end of the lock there are vertical slots in the walls to accommodate the lock's massive gates, which must have operated like guillotine blades and hung from stout wooden towers. I'm curious about the mechanism that was used to move them. The massive stone walls have shifted little in the many years since they were stacked, but nothing else remains of the lock. At the bottom is a disgusting grey-brown pool of water and debris, the known universe to a single lethargic three foot long carp.
As I continued my wandering, I noticed that Sophie, a fat old chocolate Labrador, was waddling unhurriedly from his home near the Canal House across "2nd Street" to the doorway of one of the shops catering to well-heeled customers. He stood there for about ten seconds and then a lady came out and gave her a doggy biscuit. Sophie ate the biscuit and then leisurely headed back the way she'd come. Both times, as she passed our ruby-red Honda Civic, Sally and Eleanor (who I'd put back in the car) barked a torrent of insults, all of which Sophie completely ignored.
On the way home, we stopped for a couple hours at "the secret spot" on the Esopus just upstream from the Hurley Mountain Road bridge. We weren't there long before four other people showed up. They were complete strangers, but evidently they had been given permission to use the spot. (Of course we never asked them and they never asked us so, from our respective perspectives, we could have all been trespassing.)
As usual, Sally and Eleanor had an excellent time, each swimming back and forth across the creek at least once and Sally charging into the water multiple times to come to the aid of people she feared might be drowning. I myself did a fair amount of swimming, which is necessary for crossing the Esopus in many places. As always, I swam the same way beetles fuck: doggy style. I've never been able to swim any other way for longer than a stroke or two.
Later this afternoon, after the guests left and I'd accomplished something worth celebrating, I ventured into the woods behind the house and made a very large cairn atop a bluestone boulder the size of a refrigerator.
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