three social even Saturday
Saturday, September 8 2012
Ray and Nancy came over late this morning to help us mourn the recent death of Sally, the dog with whom Gretchen spent the last sixteen years of her lfe (and with whom I'd spent the last eleven). We wouldn't even know Ray and Nancy were it not for the walks Gretchen took Sally for in Prospect Park, where she met Ray back when his dog Suzy was a puppy. Ray and Nancy had brought over some delicious focaccia from the Alternative Baker in Rosendale (a place whose psychotic energy is worth braving for the value of its bread). Gretchen attempted to make some coffee but ended up breaking one of the french presses, which put me in a foul mood. Ray and Nancy (and others) had all chipped in to buy us a bush with beautiful purple fruits for us to plant in memory of Sally. While they were here, we all visited the grave, which already looks like completely undisturbed soil save for the ring of pine cones I'd put around it.
This evening Gretchen and I went to not one but two social functions. The first of these was a 50th birthday party in Rosendale for a newish friend named Hope. She and her husband Shawn live in a house right on the south bank of the Rondout just east of the Route 7 bridge. There's an incredibly ugly 60s-style church across the street from their house that they'd rented out for the party, and when we arrived the potluck part of the evening was well underway. There was cheese, but the meal was vegetarian. I ate nothing but chili and rice, spicing it up with some garden-fresh hot peppers I'd brought in my shirt pocket (leaving what I didn't use for others). The party included both children and dogs, making us sad we hadn't brought Eleanor (Ramona wouldn't have been able to come). As for the interior, it had the æsthetics of a Lions Club or public middle school in a low-income school district. There were dropped ceilings and they were stained, and the religious art, such as it was, looked like it had been crafted by industrious fourteen year olds. I turned to Gretchen at some point and mockingly compared it to the cathedrals we'd seen in Italy. As a country we might be maddeningly preoccupied with religious absurdity, but it's not like we lavish much æsthetic attention on it.
We left the party before it turned into a square dance event (complete with live musicians and a caller); evidently that is one of Hope's big interests.
Our next destination was Rhinebeck, to visit the house of two Bard professors who are also involved in the Bard Prison Initiative (from which Gretchen was unceremoniously fired back in May). They were having a small dinner party and wanted to show Gretchen support in the face of all the vague excuses and other passive aggression Gretchen has had to deal with from the oligarchy that administers BPI. We'd already eaten, which as good because there wasn't anything vegan for us to eat. There was beer and wine, though, and Gretchen had baked and brought one of her fancy cakes. Dinner party conversation was unusually good at this party, focusing on such amusing topics as flawed translation, why it is that anything but an absentee deity would create a priest and a nun with the capacity to fall in love with one another, and the many things wrong with this year's Republican presidential ticket. At some point near the end, Gretchen mentioned that we'd recently had to bury a dog we'd lived with for years. Such subjects are tender and best excluded from the normal conversational impulse people have to top every story they hear with one of their own. But there was a woman at tonight's dinner party who had already flagged herself as suspect by blaming the uninsured for clogging America's emergency rooms and our brief mention of Sally's death launched her into a long-winded tale of a friend of a friend (or was it her son?) who had annointed his dead cat with oil and then taken its corpse for a final walk in the woods until it somehow showed him where it wanted to be buried. On the drive home as we debriefed each other about that part of the evening, Gretchen declared, "I felt trapped." Another thing that bears mentioning: if you're a philosopy professor in your late 50s/early 60s and you don't want to fulfill too many stereotypes, perhaps you shouldn't play exclusively cool jazz throughout the course of your dinner party. It would have been awesome, however, if his cool jazz playlist had been interrupted once (and it need only have been once) by Slayer's "Raining Blood" or even just Sweet's Fox on the Run.
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