the dosage of Lobelia
Friday, May 10 2013
location: Rodeway Inn at Skytop Steak House, Ulster Township, Ulster County, New York
This morning after I woke up, I took the dogs for walk counter-clockwise around the until containing our motel room. In so doing, I quickly discovered that the Skytop is a popular place to spend the night for people traveling or working with dogs. Ramona and Eleanor ran across first a pair of on-leash dogs (the people leading them seemed initially a bit taken aback and flustered, as people often are when they see the casualness with which I let Eleanor and Ramona run around off leash, particularly in settings like parking lots). A little later Ramona insisted on investigating a motel room with an open door. The woman inside, who may have been a cleaning contractor, was surprisingly delighted by the unexpected guest, and indicated her own dog in her car. Then she initiated a conversation about the weather. Temperatures would hit 80 today but be down in the 50s by Monday. She also warned me that one of the cleaning ladies at Skytop is terrified of dogs, even little ones like hers. Ramona eventually did terrorize a woman by running up to her and jumping up on her in that way we've been unable to convince her not to do, but nothing much came of it.
On the short drive back to our house, Gretchen suggested we drive up one of the roads leading westward up the escarpment from Hurley Mountain Road. There are four or five such roads between Dug Hill Road and Route 28, but the only one we've been up is Eagles' Nest. So I busted a right on Station Road, whose paving was in a somewhat dilapidated state as it scaled the escarpment, which in this area is called "Gallis Hill." Gallis Hill includes the highest point on the West Kingston USGS topographic quadrangle, which also includes our house; its the second-highest point, "Funky Pond Summit".
What lay at the top of Station Road was a complete surprise: a dense settlement of more than two dozen trailers. For a trailerpark, it wasn't actually all that dense, but by the standards of suburbia it was, with little in the way of yards or intentional landscaping. The landscape was essentially a large clearcut in the plateau, with a few scraggly trees planted here and there, indicating that whoever had "planned" this development had approached it from the somewhat anachronistic perspective that trees are always an impediment to the highest use of real estate. The presence of an civilization here in a part of the map that I'd assumed to be an expanse of forest reminded me of the discovery of advanced pre-contact stone-age agrarian civilizations on the inaccessible interior plateau of New Guinea, a discovery that required the invention of the airplane (and that I read about in Jared Diamond's Collapse).
After some driving around on oddly-named streets such as "Trooper," we came upon the main building, a larger permanent structure that claimed to be the headquarters of the Hudson Valley Velodrome; evidently the trailer park is just a side project of someone whose main interest is racing bicycles on a banked oval. Judging by satellite photos, another interest might be old derelict boats.
Why had we never heard about this hilltop civilization so close to where we live? The main reason is socioeconomic; when we were looking at houses for ourselves or for others, they were never in the "sub-$50,000" category. The people who work at Stewarts and Hannaford have to live somewhere, and this remote trailer park, as ugly as it is, is cheap and far away from busy roads. And while we didn't know about it, I'm sure that's not true of the local constabulary.
Back at the house, Gretchen took advantage of the sun (which hadn't been predicted for today) to correct her farmer's tan problem. After slathering the already-tanned parts of her arms with sunscreen, she lay in a chaise lounge and hoped that some form of human photosynthesis would do something to darken her lily-white shoulders.
This evening Gretchen and I went to a music show in Woodstock. The wife of a local celebrity musician had recently taken an interest in Gretchen's poetry and would be coming to her reading on Saturday. But tonight, her son (whom she had with that celebrity musician) would be performing with his own band, and attending his show seemed like the right thing to do. When we arrived at the venue, it was full of grey-haired hippie relics, the kind that Woodstock is full of but who only turn out on the most authentically-hippie of occasions. Additionally, the celebrity musician was there, as were a few lesser celebrities (people who have performed or recorded with Bob Dy1an or Levon He1m). As for the music itself, it was a sort of folk rock, occasionally layered over various electronic instruments. The musician's vocals were miked a bit high and the whole performance seemed a bit Emperor's-new-clothes, especially during the cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares to You." Mind you, the other musicians in the band were great, and during a later segment this charismatic young female vocalist more or less took over and the guy we'd come to see relegated himself to backing vocalist while slapping a set of tablas. (At this point, several of the old timers in the audience got up and started dancing in that arrhythmic swirly way that hippies always do.) The whole spectacle led me to suspect that the entourage was humoring the son mostly as a way to get closer to the celebrity father. That father, by the way, was a good sport, and joined his son on stage for a few songs to play guitar or harmonica.
Normally I would have required a good bit of alcohol to endure such a thing, but I'd had some Lobelia tea, and it was suppressing my normal cravings. It was good enough to just be sitting on a comfortable couch with Gretchen. Eventually, though, Gretchen got us beers: an Anchor Steam for me and a Bud Light for herself.
Gretchen ended up talking at length to a number of people there, including one of the semi-famous guys. She also bought the CD of the guy we'd come to see. [Our expectations weren't high, but actually the music recorded in the studio turned out to be much better than what we'd seen tonight, and some of the songs are actually good. So perhaps the equipment at the venue should take some of the blame.]
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