Saturday, March 23 2019
I remembered a dream this morning that had me crossing the Hudson River like I do every day, but I was crossing a bridge that closes periodically so it can be lifted out of the way for passing boat traffic (which the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge does not do). As I drove towards it in the dream, suddenly a great iron iris closed around the roadway in front of me and a gate went up, closing the highway so the bridge could open. Later I was at some sort of retreat presided over by my tenth-grade health teacher, Ms. Scott (the only African-American teacher at Riverheads High School in the 1980s). In reality, Ms. Scott had been an interesting combination of a coachlike hardass and an admitted fuckup (she once admitted to routinely driving home during drunken blackouts). In the dream, she was being the hardass, demanding of me some documents I had promised as part of a job I was doing. The job was some weird dreamlike mashup of my present job and high school homework I hadn't done (a common thing for me in high school). Wrapped up in this dream was a recurring dream I have about returning to college to finish my degree at my current age and ending up slacking off even more than I did when I actually went to college. In this case, there were a bunch of Ds on my report card, though at Oberlin College, the lowest passing grade was a C. In the dream I found my poor achievement depressingly wasteful and hopeless.
This morning during Saturday morning coffee, we got yet another call on our landline from an entity claiming (via caller ID) to be a credit card company. In this case, the credit card company was Capital One, a company which has indeed extended credit to Gretchen and myself. The problem, though, is that nearly all phonecalls coming in via our landline are junk. A good half of them are either phishing attempts or other scams. The fact that this problem keeps getting worse and nothing has been done about it is one of the scandals of the 20-teens. I get why people don't want to do anything about global warming: it's a sciencey problem people like driving big stupid vehicles, and, well, winter still seems to be happening. But the junkification of the phone network impacts nearly everyone. But for some reason there's no urgency by, say, Verizon, to take any measures to stop it. And Congress isn't exactly meeting in a special session to address it. All of this is to say that we've been ignoring these calls from Capital One with the assumption that they were phishing schemes. But this morning Gretchen actually answered the call to see if perhaps there really was a problem with one of our Capital One cards. Though the person on the call sounded legit, there was no way to be sure when we hadn't called a legitimate number. So Gretchen hung up and called Capital One directly to ask if there was some reason they might be calling us. It turned out that there was indeed a reason for them to be calling us: the credit card we'd been using in Costa Rica was past-due. Gretchen had wanted to get the card before we left for Costa Rica because we could use it without being charged for foreign currency conversion (or something, I forget the specifics). But because Gretchen had recently signed up for another card, she'd been rejected when she'd tried to get it. So she'd had me sign up for the card. And then, because Gretchen normally handles all the household bill paying, I'd promptly forgotten about it (and assumed any emails from Capital One to be spam, because nearly all forms of communication are now junk, and when they aren't, they're hard to pick out of the noise). We'd run up over $4000 on that credit card and for some reason Gretchen hadn't been unsettled by not ever having to pay. But no matter, she was perfectly happy to pay now. And so she did, the entire balance, no complaints. She was a bit chagrined about having to pay interest and a probable late fee, all of which were arguably my fault for not having paid attention to those Capital One emails. But no matter; if our credit rating was dinged, it doesn't matter since we don't really use credit. But it probably didn't hurt our credit rating much anyway; bills occasionally get overlooked even in the most responsible household.
This afternoon the clouds parted, the sun came out, and it was time for me to get some exercise. I gathered a large, unweighed load of firewood (most of it smallish pieces of red oak) from just east of the Stick Trail a couple hundred feet south of the Chamomile. With this, I managed to finish the refilling of the woodshed's third tranche, meaning that if none it gets burned over the rest of this heating season, there is enough in the woodshed to last into January of 2021.
I took a rare mid-afternoon bath, and as I did so, we received our third and fourth spam call of the day from a genuine grifting operation, a tech support scam claiming (in the caller ID) to be Apple Support, Inc. I answered it once and got all the way to an Indian operator before telling the guy he wasn't Apple Tech support (because I didn't have it in me to take it any further than that). Perhaps that was why we were bombarded by calls for the rest of the afternoon. At this point, every time the phone rings it's a reminder that we live in a fallen, post-authentic world, one where Donald J. Trump is President instead of in stocks being pelted by rotten tomatoes for his Trump University scam (among others).
It being Saturday night, it was our household's weekly date night. The plan was to see the new Jordan Peele movie Us in Saugerties and get dinner somewhere nearby. There were a few dinner options in Saugerties, including the new Indian place and that diner, both on the motor mile south of the village. There was also Rock Da Casbah and Love Bites, but Gretchen wanted to try a new place and I was okay with that. So the plan was to go to Black Eyed Suzie's, a new healthy alternative type restaurant in Saugerties. On the way there, we stopped at Adam's Fairacre Farms, mostly for produce and fruit juice. That place is full of temptations for the impulse shopper, and we fell prey to three different things we hadn't intended to buy: a plastic container of delicious-seeming "butter lettuce," very expensive organic asparagus from an outfit calling itself Hippie Organics, and two different exciting pasta shapes from a boutique pasta company called Compagnia San Remo. The ziti looked like drink straws, and the gigli resembled chantelle mushrooms. Holy fucking shit!
Black Eyed Suzie's was just a little restaurant with only a few tables, and it was too bad we didn't have a reservation because the next table wasn't going to become available until something like 6:30pm, and we had a movie to see. Gretchen thought perhaps the table with the harried parents and the kids would finish up faster than predicted. All that had to happen was for them to not order dessert. So we waited for a time out on the bench in front in the shade, where it was a bit cold for comfort. We were joined there by another couple that had come to Black Eyed Suzie's for the same reason: to get a vegan meal before seeing Us. But when the lingering diners ordered coffee, we gave up on getting their table and headed to Rock da Casbah.
Earlier today, someone on the Hudson Valley Vegans Facebook group had been complaining about the GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) in the Impossible Burger, a sentiment I'd mocked by posting, "oh noes gmos! and autisms from vaccines! let's all live in a time when witches were used for fuel." It had me craving an Impossible Burger. So you can imagine my delight when, on walking into Rock Da Casbah, Gretchen pointed to a sign saying that they now served the Impossible Burger. We'd been planning on ordering the Hey Jude, which is what we always get at Rock Da Casbah, but seeing that we could get Impossible Burgers, we both ordered those instead. They come with fries, so we were able to have the vegan take on true 'Merkin classic. I also ordered two beers over the course of the meal. This was the first time I actually looked up beers on my phone before deciding what to order. That led me to the IPA with "fire house" in its name instead of the one described as "extremely bitter."
It bears mentioning that in addition to the familiar woman who owns Rock Da Casbah and our waitress, a woman cut from a similar (but, dare I say, more Jersey) mold, there was a younger woman working there who was wearing what can only be described as mom jeans, like something out of an early-90s episode of Seinfeld. To see a woman no older than 30 wearing such trousers made me wonder if perhaps they had come back into fashion. The last time jeans like those had been in fashion, the young woman wouldn't've even been a teenager. Once I'd pointed them out to Gretchen, all we could do was marvel as every time she walked past. Gretchen thought maybe what made them look so odd was that the young woman's fly was down, but I didn't see that. Seeing mom jeans in the wild again reminded me of something I'd heard recently: that Britney Spears was the one who spawned the low-waist jeans revolution after wearing them in one of her videos (circa 2000). I think I only became aware of them one memorable day on a subway platform in New York City in the summer of 2001.
At the Lyceum Theatre, Us was playing in the shallow upstairs theatre that has a stage in front of it, allowing one to comfortably put ones feet up on the stage if one is in the first row, so of course that was what we did. Compared to Jordan Peele's earlier movie Get Out, Us was a more straightforward horror flick, and its presentation was full of unsatisfying voids in a way that Get Out was not. At its heart, Us was built on a quasi-science-fictional basis, one where somehow each person in America was to be controlled somehow by a double kept imprisoned in a subterranean warren of tunnels resembling high school hallways. The horror of the movie was what happens when those doubles find their way to the surface and go after their twins. The "science" here was much less coherent than it had been in Get Out, as were many other things. What were those rabbits all about? What was happening when the formerly-subterranean doubles formed their own Hands Across America? I get that that some of their behaviors and stylistic choices were artifacts of the 1980s, a consequence of the backstory of their leader (as revealed in the movie's big twist), but leaving so much unexplained seemed a bit sadistic. Maybe it's a kind of cinematic mumblecore, where the best explanation is the one we individually form in our own heads.
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