Little Falls Garlic Festival
Saturday, September 13 2014
location: west shoreline of Kyser Lake, Herkimer County, New York
There's often at least one full day of rain when we visit the Adirondacks, and today was that day on this one. I actually like the experience of being holed up in a cozy little cabin on a rainy day with the pitter-patter of rain drops on a metal roof. It's a situation conducive to reading or (in my case on this trip) debugging and extending the features of a complex server-client web application. It was good to be running the whole application in the relatively slow environment of my favorite subnotebook (the Compaq 2510p) because it drew glaring attention to the functions that were a bit slow. Because of my annoyance at the speed of some AJAX calls (the bottleneck being the execution speed of MySQL queries), I further elaborated an existing server-side caching system right there at the kitchen table.
In my headphones, I've been trying to listen to songs from Rush's golden age (late 70s to about 1981), but I'm finding it deeply unsatisfying. Hemispheres from 1978 is bombastic and not very good, and there's a steep decline after Moving Pictures (from 1981). Back in the late 1980s, I used to listen to a 90 minute tape with Permanent Waves on one side and Moving Pictures on the other (I'd copied it from my first girlfriend's tape collection; her musical tastes struck me as sophisticated at the time). Now, though, I think the only value this music has for me is nostalgic. Indeed, the only song I really want to hear is "Spirit of Radio," though "Freewill" is fun if only for mishearing the lyrics as "I will choose a bathysphere" in a song that in reality is an unsophisticated teenage celebration of the views of Ayn Rand.
Despite the rain, in the late morning Gretchen and I loaded up the dogs and drove southwest to the village of Little Falls on the Mohawk River so we could attend their annual garlic festival (held rain or shine). Little Falls is a considerably prettier and more prosperous village than Dolgeville (though both are in attractive settings). At least around the garlic festival, it has attractive well-maintained old brick buildings and a lovely backdrop of steep-sided hills. Despite the cold and the rain, there was a fair turnout of people, though most of them seemed to be there in a mostly utilitarian capacity. Garlic stocks needed to be replenished. Somewhat surprisingly (and unlike the massive garlic festival held in Saugerties) there were no blooming onions. There was a stage (it was covered) and the band on it was named the Dharma Bums. Gretchen had done some research on the Dharma Bums and had learned that it is a Portland alternative rock band and that Kurt Cobain had actually met Courtney Love at a Dharma Bums show. For some reason, though, we happened to catch them in the middle of a breezy country swing song. [Later I would learn that the Dharma Bums in this case was technically the Dharma Bums String Band, "the Mohawk Valley's leading family string band" and that they had nothing to do with either alternative rock or the Pacific Northwest.]
The Garlic Festival had porta-potties, but nobody wanted to use those, so there was a long bathroom line at a nearby coffee shop that seemed to also be in the business of selling antiques. Gretchen is great at figuring out a solution to such problems, so we went to a nearby art gallery. Once there, Gretchen found that there was a bathroom behind one of its unmarked doors. We both took advantage of it and rewarded the gallery by sticking around afterwards to appreciate the art (most of which was better than at a typical KMOCA show).
In terms of purchases, Gretchen and I bought $9 worth of seed garlic, an additional couple of cloves for immediate use, a quart of sauerkraut that had been prepared with cauliflower, and six dill pickels that had been prepared with a weird spice (it seemed like cloves). Those pickles were a bit too weird for sandwich use, but they were cheap and seemed to work when eaten all by themselves.
An unusual thing that we did while at the Garlic Festival (something that neither of us had ever done before) was to attend the festival's beauty pageant, which was happening in a smallish tent a bit too close to the brownish-pink noise of an electric generator. We crowded inside the tent (just inside the drip zone from the roof) and watched a series of girls (some as young as eleven and others who looked to be in their early teens) get up from the audience, shed whatever jacket was covering the bare shoulders protruding from their polyester pageant dresses, go to the front, twirl around so we could check out their bodies as if they were heifers at a county fair (that was a little disturbing) and then respond to questions from the middle-aged mistress of ceremonies. Most of the girls aspired to be veterinarians, though one hoped to design video games some day (that girl bungled the idea by saying it was to "help people.") None of these girls were especially striking; they looked like ordinary little girls with a bit too much makeup. Nevertheless, it was interesting, and I could have watched it for longer than we did, but there was something repulsive about it that made me want to leave the moment Gretchen asked if I wanted to.
On our drive out of Little Falls, we stopped at a drug store so I could buy antacids. As always, I did my purchasing based entirely on how much active ingredient (calcium carbonate) I could get per unit of money. There is no reason for brand loyalty when it comes to medications.
As we crossed the agricultural countryside between Little Falls and Kyser Lake, I smelled a weird fragrance in the car. Driving my old Punch Buggy Green made me acutely sensitive to smells and what they portended. The smell of burning oil meant one thing, the smell of sulfur or exhaust meant something else. But this smell was more like something electronic burning up. Eventually the smell was joined by a hissing sound, and in a panic I stopped the car and turned off the engine. Gretchen agreed that the car didn't smell right, but there was nothing obviously wrong with the car. Even back at the cabin, I couldn't find any system that was failing. One of the struts attachments I'd made for the rear hatchback had failed, though, and that sent me searching the cabin and adjacent structures for scrap wire. I tried a piece snipped off of some abandoned cyclone fence, but it was too thick. Eventually I found a stretch of abandoned barbed wire along the camp's southern boundary, and managed to extract a strand of wire from that which, once wrapped around the base of the strut, seemed to work perfectly. It's never easy fixing things far from home, but it always seems to be possible. It's just that sometimes I have to use the tips of barbecue skewers as brakeline plugs.
This evening I made a rich chili for our dinner. It was a bit watery (despite my having used crumbled corn flakes as a thickening agent), so Gretchen used it as a sauce on leftover pasta. I put some on pasta too, but then wrapped it up in a tortilla. I'd taken a recreational dose of pseudoephedrine, so I didn't have a huge appetite. Perhaps this is what kept me from overeating, and thus needing to resort to the antacids I'd bought earlier in Little Falls.
Tonight I hooked up the laptop to the cabin's flatscreen teevee and Gretchen and I watched five episodes of Broad City, a new comedy show about the antics of two economically-marginal young women living (and smoking lots of pot) in New York City. It's a fairly trippy show, and at some point Gretchen reminded me that I'd brought marijuana to the Adirondacks. Gretchen didn't actually like the show as much as she thought she would. She found it deeply and distressingly derivative, with obvious, almost unprocessed references to Sex and the City, various cliché tropes about such things as cute boys down the hall, and even Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. There's also a character who is trying so hard to be Zach Galifianakis that he is actually painful to watch. I liked it more than Gretchen, and, in my stoned state, explained what it was that I liked. I found the premises of each episode to be wildly clever, but the details of the execution to be somewhat under-realized. For example, one episode explores what happens when you get locked out of your apartment and you call a locksmith who is so profoundly creepy that you don't want him knowing where you live. What do you do? That premise was brilliant, though the overacting and other problems with the episode made it less than ideal. Part of the problem with Broad City is that, in a huge break from comic tradition, there are no straight characters.
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