Big Fun Morgan at Tubby's
Saturday, November 23 2019
Gretchen had a couple Mexican women come to our house this morning to do a thorough cleaning of the basement. We communicated with them entirely in Spanish. When asked if they wanted anything to drink, and when they heard coffee was an option, they opted for that. So I ended up making two french presses of regular and one of decaf for our weekly Saturday morning coffee ritual.
After the Saturday morning coffee was over, I went upstairs and tried to get Woodchuck, my main computer, to stop displaying an annoying watermark on all my screens saying that the copy of Windows 7 I was running was "not genuine." That it was "not genuine" was, of course, absurd, since it was a copy of the operating system as Microsoft had published it. True, I hadn't paid for it, but that's a different issue than whether or not it was genuine. What does "genuine" really even mean in a world of digital copies? (Some day perhaps we'll have to worry about such things with regard to entire "human" personalities.) In any case, I found the watermark distracting, since it suggested that somehow my computer was infected by some tut-tutting school marm. Normally I can just issue a slmgr -rearm, sometimes after first using RegEdit to set the SkipRearm key in SoftwareProtectionPlatform to 1. But none of these tricks were making the watermark go away, and I found myself doing things of increased desperation, up to and including attempting to resinstall the Windows 7 OS (hopefully in a way that wouldn't require reinstalling applications). One of many things that has always troubled me about the Microsoft ecosystem is how low the threshold is for people to decide to reinstall the OS. Sometimes when they claim to be doing this, it's not at all clear whether this is the kind of reinstall that requires reinstalling all the device drivers and applications. If so, on Woodchuck, that would be a job that would take days and likely not result in a comfortable environment until after weeks of tweaking. This is why I will do anything to avoid a full reinstall. This makes me generally gun-shy around a Windows installation disc, since it never makes clear precisely what state it plans to leave your computer in. Despite all this, though, I opted to do an "upgrade" with my Windows 7 disco this afternoon (even though the result would just hopefully be my system in the state it had been in, with no complaining watermarks). Unfortunately, though, the "upgrade" failed for some mystery reason. I saw the upgrade process was stuck at a certain byte count for at least 20 minutes and every couple minutes it would flash a message "Please wait" as if I had some sort of choice. The choice I made was to eventually abort the upgrade, after which a bunch of changes were rolled back and Woodchuck returned to the way it had been, that is, with that infuriating watermark.
Next I had some landlording tasks to do, so I drove out to the Wall Street house with the goal of replacing the rubber washer in the kitchen sink and silencing an annoying rumbling in the pipes. When I arrived, there had apparently been some sort of miscommunication, because the tenants had people over for some sort of mid-afternoon party that involved both booze and pudding. I apologized and said I could come back, but they said no problem, I could do whatever I'd come to do. As it happened, I couldn't figure out how to disassemble the sink faucet. But something about tightening it powerfully and then loosening it again seemed to fix whatever had been causing the problem.
Then I tried to replace a hasp loop that some idiot at the brick mansion had cut through with a hacksaw. But I'd forgotten to bring my landlording keys for that house, so I ended up leaving it unfixed.
After I'd lost yet more time to the Windows 7 vortex, it was time for Gretchen and me to begin our Saturday night activities. The first of these was in Bearsville, at the home of Gretchen's boss Jackie on Striebel Rd. I thought I'd been on every road in Woodstock and Bearsville, but I'd never been on Striebel. It goes up the east side of the Saw Kill, and there's a house on it somewhere where Bob Dylan used to live, a house that is now home to one of Woodstock's most famous contemporary authors.
Jackie and her husband Bennet were hosting a fundraiser party for a Woodstock-based arts organization, and supposedly everybody who was anybody would be showing up. For the time we were there, I mostly just knew the hosts and a few other people, as well as at least one person who is a Facebook friend but whom I had never actually met. Fortunately, there was lots of wine and even vegan cheese, and for part of the party I was all by myself in a nook with its own little bar and a bottle of Cabernet (supplied by a woman who had been in the nook earlier wishing the nook had its own wine bar). There are six or eight kids living in that house Brady-Bunch style, and one of the sons who is friendly with Gretchen gave us a tour of his room. He said he didn't want to be at the party because he didn't want to be around "old people when they're drinking" ("They're the worst!" I agreed.) His plans for tonight were to listen to music and play videogames.
After we'd been at the party for the polite amount of time, it was time for Gretchen and me to go to dinner. I had a hankering for Indian food, so we'd be going to Mountain Gate in Woodstock. I'd told a few people at the party we were going to Mountain Gate, and they'd been dismayed, saying they'd gone once and never gone back. I agreed that it's not always all that great, and that Gretchen and I went there soon after moving to the Hudson Valley and then didn't return for well over a decade. "But you have to go back," I'd clarified. "Because you might've been there on an off night, or they might've changed." I'd then gone on to tell about all the other restaurants, such as the Reservoir Inn, that Gretchen and I sample every five years or so to see if they've improved. (They usually haven't.) Tonight, though, I had high hopes that things would be good at Mountain Gate. It was unlikely they'd be processing a to-go order for an entire legislature like they'd been doing when we'd been there last time.
The dining room only had a smattering of people in it when we arrived. We were seated next to a couple who were talking loudly, though I didn't much mind because they both had English (that is, from merry old England) accents. Our young waiter was a bit on the gruff side, in keeping with Mountain Gate's traditionally terrible service. When I asked about both pickle and hot sauce, he shot down both requests as if they were absurd, even though we'd managed to get pickle the last time we'd been to this very restaurant. I didn't bother to ask about mushrooms, because I get the sense that the cook has some sort of congenital aversion to them.
The mulligatawny soup came first and was everything we had hoped it would be: salty, tangy, and even a bit spicy. But then came the curries. Gretchen had originally said she just wanted three or four servings of soup, but in the end she helped with the eating of the two curries. But that was after we'd ordered them, and one of the curries I'd selected had been a vegetable vindaloo, which I'd told our surly waiter I wanted made spicy. It came out absolutely perfect. It had such a great flavor profile that it didn't even matter that it featured vegetables I don't particularly like (I couldn't tell if the sliced orange things were carrots or sweet potatoes, neither of which I like when cooked.)
Aware that Mountain Gate doesn't have a liquor license, I'd brought a can of Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing, which paired nicely with vindaloo curry.
Our final activity of the evening would be happening at Tubby's, our favorite high-end dive bar on Broadway in Midtown, KIngston. I'd gotten a Facebook notification the other day telling me that Big Fun Morgan, who in the Big Fun Glossary is referred to as "Morgan Anarchy," would be playing with his band tonight at Tubby's. The last time I'd seen Morgan was on a visit to Charlottesville in 2002. Back in the days of Big Fun, Morgan had always behaved as if his life was disposable, as if he didn't care if he woke up the next day. He lived a life full of risks and injury, nearly all of it in an alcohol-induced haze. At some point he started jumping freight trains and exploring the country that way, which led him into subcultures one doesn't easily encounter in Charlottesville. At some point after that, he managed to get control of his life and find something to live for. He learned to play the banjo and then had a kid. Tonight I would learn that he'd quit drinking about seven years ago. He's now 41, ten years younger than me. (I'd met him when I was 26 and he was 16.)
When we parked on Broadway, I saw a skinny bearded man of about the right age and appearance to be Morgan walking a tiny dog offleash on the sidewalk. When I crushed the can of Hazy Little Thing I'd started at Mountain Gate beneath my food, Morgan looked up, saw me, and immediately recognized me. Soon I'd introduced him to Gretchen and he'd introduced us to the tiny (and still wary) dog, whose name was Stanley. We didn't have a lot of time to catch up on 17 years of not having seen each other. But the gist of it all is that Morgan's lifestyle these days is built around music and sailing. He has 26 foot sailboat that he has successfully sailed (that is, powered only using the wind) up the Hudson and that the Rondout in Kingston is one of his favorite nautical destinations. He's also done a fair amount of sailing around the US Virgin Islands (in someone else's boat). Later he told me about how he'd honed his skills as a busker in Manhattan subways. He admitted to sucking at first, but people gave him money, and over time he got good. At some point his busking hat was used in an advertisement for which he was paid $10,000, which he used to fund his European tour.
There isn't much seating in Tubby's small performance space, but there is a bench. Gretchen and I, being older than the usual Tubby's clientele, took a seat on that, coincidentally next to another older couple who also turned out to be Kingston landlords. When some time passed and nothing much was happening, Gretchen and I decided to drive over to the brick mansion on nearby Down's Street so I could fix the basement lock. That only took about ten minutes.
The opening act tonight at Tubby's was a large (~12 person) brass ensemble called Brasskill. They mostly played instruments like saxophones and various horns, though a number carried portable drum kits, and one had even managed to repurpose a briefcase into a percussion instrument. More than half of the musicians had outfitted their instruments with LEDs and electroluminescent wire, like something you'd see in an issue of Make Magazine. The performance space in Tubby's is rather small, so several times the musicians marched out into the main space of the bar and played for awhile there while people swayed to the music.
When Morgan took the stage, his band consisted of male fiddle player to his right, a female
cellist to his left, and, beyond her, a gentleman playing a guitar-like instruments with f-holes. I don't know how it was supposed to sound, but using a glass slide, the sound he got out of it sounded like a sitar. As for Morgan, not only did he play banjo, but he also played percussion, stomping a pedal that smacked a plastic box he was sitting on with one foot and a tambourine with the other. He'd clearly honed his technique from thousands of hours of busking. As he sand, he tended to close his eyes, lean back, and pick his banjo ferociously. Gretchen noted that he looked to be in ecstasy as he sang. He'd found something to live for.
In between songs, he'd tell precious little stories about travel, sailing, or the housing crisis that is sending him and his boat permanently up the Hudson to the Rondout. We'll be seeing him more now that he only lives 8.4 miles away by street.
Morgan had a lot of songs, but we're old and weren't prepared to stay up as late as all the young'ems. So at some point we slopped out and drove back home to Hurley.
Brasskill at Tubby's.
Morgan (seated) and his band at Tubby's.
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