gringo party at the pupuseria
Saturday, June 30 2007
I've been pretty good at maintaining both of our cars, but recently the red Civic has been demonstrating poor gas mileage, and since I was stumped as to how best to remedy the situation, we decided to solicit the help of an expert. We'd recently been turned on by a local friend to a cowboy mechanic who works out of his raised ranch down on Hurley Mountain Road, so we'd scheduled an appointment for him to do a few things with it. This morning I drove down there with Sally and dropped it off. Since the mechanic's house is only a little over a mile from our house, I'd decided to walk home with Sally through the woods. Starting at an elevation about 180 feet above sea level, we dove into the floodplain thicket near the sharp turn at the bottom of Dug Hill Road (where it curves around a low bluff crowned by a 350 year old stone house, now on the market for $1.9 million) and then gradually started climbing the hill, following a mysterious gorge occupied by an unexpectedly active stream. At the headwaters of this stream we found a long, narrow opening in the forest occupied by a treeless marshland. It hadn't seemed like we'd climbed all that far before I unexpectedly came upon one of my stick trails (an outlying segment running several hundred feet southward from the "Overlook Trail") and from there the walk home (600 feet above sea level) was absolutely familiar.
Back at the house, we were sooned joined by Ray and his brother-in-law Adam as they dropped off three dogs, who would be spending the day: Ray's dog Suzy, Adam's dog Libby, and a big block-headed rescued Pit Bull named Bruce who belongs to one of the executives of DoubleClick.com (for whom Ray's brother Kim works as a personal assistant). Some years ago Bruce had surgery to repair his cruciate ligament (the same operation Eleanor recently had).
The reason these dogs would be spending the day was that the people in their lives would be venturing to a relatively dog-unfriendly place, Minnewaska State Preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge south of Mohonk. But because she's relatively well-behaved and athletic, Gretchen and I decided to bring Sally with us.
Ray had thought "Mr. Google's" directions for getting to Minnewaska were too brief, so he also wrote down "Ms. Yahoo's." Following the latter ended up getting us hopelessly confused and we were forced to ask directions from a tiny guy living in a tiny house off US 55.
While endless logistics took place in the Minnewaska parking lot, those who would be hiking set off, confident that those of us on Mountain Bikes would be able to catch up quickly. As we left the parking lot, the Minnewaska staff made us leash Sally, but since the trails are unsupervised we soon released her again.
There are two lakes in the preserve, a crowded one near the parking lots and another reachable only via four miles of trail. We were headed to that second lake, which few children and obnoxious adults are capable of reaching. We did have two children in our large contingent, but they were toddlers riding in baby seats on their parents' bicycles.
Along the way, I was surprised to see abundant Sassafras seedlings. Preferring a milder climate, Sassafras is a rare tree in this area, but conditions on the Shawangunk formation must be favorable for it, even at an elevation of 2000 feet above sea level. I kept pulling up seedlings and chewing on their roots, the part of the tree where the sweet rooty essence is strongest.
It takes a long time to hike four miles, but the trail was actually a road suitable for vehicular traffic, so the hike was hardly arduous.
It was a cool, sunny day, with haze-free blue skies, and the lake below was even bluer. Shawangunk quartzite doesn't really break down into anything you'd consider soil, so there's hardly any sediment available to sully the water.
The park authorities staff the lake with lifeguards seven days a week during the summer time, and these lifeguards mostly serve as law enforcement, keeping people from drinking alcohol, letting dogs run around unleashed, and swimming outside the tiny square swimming area (demarcated with floaters).
Since the weather was so cool (in the lower 70s), there wasn't much initial interest in swimming, so we spread out blankets on the beach (which consisted of a hard natural pavement of Shawangunk conglomerate) and ate lunch. Eventually some of the women broke out various gossip magazines, which they read unapologetically. These had much to say about Paris Hilton's latest antics.
Eventually a few of us started swimming and came back to report that the water wasn't all that cold. But I was already cold just from being blasted by the winds, so I had no interest in immersing myself water deeper than my knees.
On our walk back to the parking lot, Gretchen and I were witness to a horrible bicycle accident that happened in a tight curve right in front of us. A woman was taking this curve entirely too fast and looked up to see us and Sally and immediately crashed, tearing a deep bleeding gash in one of her elbows. It was such a serious accident that the life guard eventually called for a truck to come retrieve the woman. After we left the scene, we solicited updates about the woman from others in our group when they later came through on their bicycles. The reports were these: "She's sitting down." "The lifeguard gave her bandages." "She looks bad."
Adam and his wife Linda dropped Gretchen and me back off at our house and we waited for the arrival of more of Ray's birthday celebrants. These would be Michelle and Dave, Brooklynites who often borrow our car when we leave the country. Dave and Michelle have a similar sort of humor to that shared by Gretch and me, and Dave is a serious Linux geek as well. They would be staying in our guest room (most of the other Ray birthday celebrants were staying in a set of cabins south of High Falls).
In the evening came Ray's grand bash, which was happening, improbably enough, at Mi Ranchito, the pupuseria on Broadway in Kingston (a favorite restaurant of all of us). Gretchen drove Dave, Michelle, and me to the pupuseria in the Cooper Mini Zipcar Dave and Michelle had rented for the weekend. Zipcars are expensive, but since gas is "free" with the rental, Dave calculated that the price is the same as a conventional rental, with advantage of being able to get fun cars like a Cooper Mini. One interesting thing about Zipcars that defies normal American expectations of rental cars is that they're not cleaned very often and so tend to be a little dirty inside - sort of like the car would be if it was yours, except that it's with someone else's dirt.
Ray's party had most of the back room, but we weren't the only table of gringos there tonight. Word about that place is spreading beyond the Salvadoran community. Our waitress was the same waitress we've had there for years, and she did an amazing job of taking orders in both English and Spanish and keeping chaos at bay. By the end of our meal she'd earned a $100 tip from our group.
As usual I had five bean and cheese pupusas, although I also took advantage of the trays of fried calamari that unexpectedly appeared as well. I was sitting at the end of the table with the two toddlers, who (having exhausted themselves running around and screaming on the slightly-elevated Mi Ranchito dance floor stage) were now well behaved. The father of one of the kids was Mark, the laid-back anti-corporate dude imported from California. He says the news is so depressing these days that all he concerns himself with is issues of personal sustainability. On the other side of me was Kim, Ray's oldest brother, who at some point asked me if I had an older brother and whether or not he was "cute." "Sure," I said, "but you'd probably want to put him on medication."
At some point the main course was over and Gretchen brought out the chocolate birthday cake she'd baked, which included a decorative disk of black raspberries that I'd picked.
On the drive home, someone in the car was already fondly reminiscing about the scene she'd witnessed in the pupuseria's kitchen, where "granny" kept "making" pupusas one after the other. Michelle heard this and said that the picture it called up in her mind was of someone laying pupusas like eggs. "Oh look, it's a bean and cheese. Oh, now this one's a beef!" This was a perfect setup for a joke capable of being carried to a grotesque extreme. "Oh no! I think that one's a liver pupusa!" "Oh no, this one's a hair and teeth pupusa!" When one is ramping up levels of disgust in terms of strange manifestations of body parts, one inevitably concludes with "hair and teeth."
Back at our house, Gretchen somehow managed to get Dave and Michelle to watch most of a game of women's basketball. This was hardly surprising; they seem like the kind of guests who, when in Rome, do as Romans do. They could, I think, be convinced to do just about anything, and do it with enthusiasm.
Mark and Gretchen on the Minnewaska beach. That's Ray's brother Kim in the background.
Penny and David on the Minnewaska beach.
Ray after swimming at the Minnewaska beach.
Ray at Mi Ranchito. In the background from the left: Woodstock personality "Chief" with "Hot Tom" and Hot Tom's wife.
A sunburned Gretchen with Dave and Michelle at Mi Ranchito.
The two kids playing on Mi Ranchito's dance floor.
Michelle poses as an alcoholic at Mi Ranchito.
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