Gunther room's latest occupant
Monday, May 11 2020
Gretchen got up at 6:30am this morning so she could be at Fishkill State Correctional Facility at 8:00am this morning for Powerful's release. He's entering parole after serving 24 years of a sentence that logically must've been even longer than that. Meanwhile I was doing my usual workday.
At around 10:00am, Leah (the woman who owns the Garden Café in Woodstock) and a friend appeared in the driveway and proceeded to decorate the front door of the house for Powerful's return. There was a big "WELCOME HOME" sign and a half-dozen or so yellow smiley-face balloon, each anchored by hand-painted river stones. They also brought a welcome-home cake. As they were doing these things, a light rain was falling. I went out through a side door to get the cake. The original plan had been for us to have a socially-distanced welcome home party in the yard, but the rain made that impossible.
Just before Gretchen and Powerful returned home, a woman named Desire showed up to test our water. She'd been referred to us by Rycor to provide possible non-anode solutions to the sulfur problem with the heat-exchanger-based hot water heater. Since the pandemic is still raging, both she and I wore cloth masks. Desire ran some some tests, quickly determining that our water has very few dissolved minerals in it, but that its pH was over 8, which is surprisingly alkaline for well water lacking much calcium carbonate. She apparently hadn't gotten the memo that our problem was that we couldn't remove our hot water heater's anode, and her advice was to simply remove that anode and not replace it with anything. When I explained that the anode couldn't be removed, she didn't know what to say. For some reason, she didn't try to sell us some sort of bacteria-killing ultraviolet system like I thought she would.
Desire was just leaving when Gretchen came rolling up. While she was giving Gretchen the same brief she'd just given me, I Powerful and I made our socially-distanced mutual introductions. He and I were both wearing cloth masks (his being one that Gretchen had given him and that he'd worn for the entire ride back to Hurley, since his coronavirus status was unknown). Powerful is a big thick guy, a little taller than me and nearly twice my weight. It took awhile for Neville to lose his skepticism of him, but Ramona liked him immediately.
While Gretchen and Desire kept talking, I showed Powerful through the side door to his new room in the basement. When Gretchen met up with us, she told me about all the troubles she'd had trying to drive to Fishkill (44 miles away) and back in an electric car with only a 100 mile range. This morning had been cold, so Gretchen had been blasting the heat, and car definitely needed juice around Newburgh. She charged it a second time after picking up Powerful, and that took so long that they went for a walk together, Powerful's first walk as a free man in 24 years, on a rail trail. Even with all that charging, by the time Gretchen got home, the car wasn't only showing three dashes instead of the pathetic remaining miles in its battery.
At lunch today, I fried up a bunch of onions, mushrooms, and faux bacon and made Powerful a BLT-style sandwich using that stuff along with pickles, avocado, and vegan mayonnaise. Meanwhile Gretchen had made a creamy broccoli soup. For social distance, Gretchen and I sat at one end of our dining room table while Powerful sat at the other. Powerful's sudden, dramatic shift from prison food to an all-vegan diet was probably a bit of shock, but a bit less than expected. It turns out that most of the state prisons have gardens, and he was more familiar with fresh vegetables than either Gretchen or I had expected.
Late this afternoon, Gretchen took Powerful to a coronavirus test at the Rite Aid near the northeast end of Flatbush Avenue in Kingston. It was the kind where Powerful got to swab his own nostrils (as opposed to having a professional reach well up into his head with a long-handled swap (the way the first coronavirus tests had been done).
For dinner, Gretchen cooked up one of her amazing lasagnas. Her goal with Powerful was to shock and awe him with the sheer possibility of vegan food. Her hope is not only to convert him to our ways, but to also improve his health. Prison food and its restrictions on his exercise had left him with a bad heart. (Indeed, one of the reasons we were feeling good about his coronavirus status was that, if he'd already had it, he would not have been symptom-free.)
Powerful today, soon after arriving.
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