masked up at Blackbird
Friday, December 23 2022
The first big chore of the day was removing ashes from the woodstove, something we only do on something like a monthly basis even in the peak weeks of firewood burning. The ashes were full of small rusty nails from the pallets I'd burned, but I didn't bother to remove them, considering them part of the mineral potpourri. I dumped the ashes on a low spot on the swail-wall in the yard that keeps surface runoff from pouring into the vicinity of the west side of the house.
I had the day off from work, so Gretchen and I treated it like a Saturday. The panagram for the New York Times Spelling Bee proved particularly elusive, and we didn't find it until late in the day (it was "annhilate"). The plan for the day was to go look at a couple items Gretchen had found on Facebook Marketplace, and, if they were any good, buy them. I had to come along for this, as my strength and skills with tools would likely be necessary.
Our first stop was at the bank to get cash. While Gretchen was picking up the Benjamins, I was having a robot brew me a cup of coffee.
After that, we drove into Uptown Kingston and stopped at a white house on Fair Street. It was a shabby place, thrown into stark relief by the surrounding fully-gentrified neighborhood of beautiful Victorians. Nearby was a rainbow flag, but this house sported an American flag (which these days has fascist-adjacent connotations) and a Ukrainian flag (which implies reasonableness, or perhaps a trace of Ukrainian ancestry). The guy who answered the door was a little husky and in his thirties. He looked like the sort who might not be comfortable with the gay-friendly gentrification happening around him, something made clear by the "thin blue line" baseball cap he was wearing (it could've been worse, though perhaps he reserves his Make American Great Again Hat for space spaces of like minds). None of this mattered, of course; we were there to look as his Ryobi 6500 watt generator, and who he was mattered little. I mentioned all of this because Gretchen kept bringing in up, both verbally (when the guy went to get the generator) and non-verbally the whole time we were there and eventually I had to tell her that I didn't want to hear any more about it. Whatever the guy's politics were, he seemed nice enough, and the price on the generator was good ($400). We told him we'd take it, but that we'd have to come back for it later; Gretchen said that the elliptical machine we'd be looking at next would be a beast.
We then drove westward through a part of Kingston I'd never been through before, eventually cresting out on a hilltop with a good view of Hurley Mountain and then arriving at Lucas Avenue near Di Bella's Pizzeria. At that point Gretchen realized she'd entered the wrong address into Google Maps and we'd overshot the place with the elliptical by about six minutes of travel.
The elliptical was being sold by a woman in a newish (90s) development on Twin Ponds Drive. This was the cluster of anomalous triplexes Gretchen had described the other day. It had the look and feel of a gate community, but there was no gate. It was no surprise, then, that the woman selling the elliptical was of a certain age and was from Flordia and had had lots of "work done" (that is, on her face). The elliptical (a Schwinn 430) was out in her garage. The thing was huge, and there was no way it was going to fit into the back of our Forester unless I managed to break it down. Taking off the arms (the "ski poles") was easy, but even with those gone it was was still 51 inches tall, which, as the second-shortest dimension, meant it would not fit in our car. Fortunately, though, I managed to unclip a plastic apron that gave me access to some bolts that allowed me to disconnect and collapse away the top 24 of those 51 inches. After that, it was simple matter for me to load it into the Forester all by myself even as Gretchen and the Florida lady were talking about how I should wait for her son in law to get off his phone and help. (Another interesting thing was that the Florida lady kept talking about how cold it was. But with temperatures in the low 50s, it was actually unseasonably warm.) The only real problem in all of this was desperate desire I had to piss, but at a crucial juncture I told Gretchen what I was about to do and then went into the Forester and relieved myself into a cut-off half-gallon plastic liquor bottle that I keep there for that very purpose. Once I'd loaded the elliptical into the car, I said "pay the lady," and Gretchen handed the Florida woman two crisp hundred dollar bills. As we were leaving the ugly development, I dumped my urine out the window.
We drove back to home to Hurley Mountain and unloaded the elliptical and put it safely in the garage. And then we immediately went out again, stopping again at dingy house on Fair Street to get the Ryobi generator. Once we'd loaded that up and paid the nice ungentrified gent his $400, Gretchen drove us down beautiful South Wall Street all the way down the sparsely-populated canyon to Abeel Street, where a new vegan-friendly coffee shop/anarchist community space called Blackbird now exists. There we'd be eating some pastries, drinking coffee, and eventually (when they arrived) hanging out with Sarah the Vegan and her longtime friend Ellen (whom I'd previously met in or near where she lives in Washington, DC). Blackbird is one of the few businesses still requiring customers to wear masks as if we were still in the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The owner guy was the only other person there, and he was wearing his mask. Being an anarchist community center, the policy at Blackbird is that customers can either pay the provided price or "what they can." I don't know how well that model works when in contact with reality, but so long as they attract mostly upper-middle-class customers such as us, they won't have much to worry about. Our concern, though, was that it was the Friday before Christmas and we were the only customers, at least for most of the time we were there.
We took a table in the back room, far from the guy running the place, where the rules were that we could be unmasked while eating and drinking. I don't normally eat anything containing sweet potatoes, but the sweet potato spinach pie I ate was pretty good and reminded me of a samosa. I also drank an oat milk cappuccino and ate a vegan croissant. When Sarah and Ellen arrived, Ellen kept her mask on between sips of her coffee and bites of her food, exhibiting the zeal of someone who has yet to actually get covid. She asked me how I was liking my "new" job (the one I've had for four years, ignoring the reassignment of a year ago), and I explained what I liked about it (particularly the working from home part). As for her, she works mostly remotely doing some kind of science education thing for the US government.
The four of us weren't together long at Blackbird, and, unusual for Sarah the Vegan, there wasn't a long lingering goodbye in the parking lot outside.
Back on Hurley Mountain, we could feel the winds picking up and the temperatures beginning to plummet with the arrival of a vast frigid air mass from Siberia (thanks, Putin!). Using a little shelf I'd made as a step, I was able to unload the Ryobi generator all by myself and get it into the garage, which I'd opened up this morning to gather some of the unseasonably warm air that was about to be wedged high into the troposphere.
Given the predictions of the storms that cold air mass was predicted to cause, Gretchen decided we should prepare for a power outage. This meant charging up all the battery-containing equipment we would want to be using and filling up containers with water. I also turned on the heat in the laboratory so we'd start any power outage with a fully-warmed house. I said that I thought there was 60% chance we would lose power.
But we never did. We ate leftover Thai food and watched that last episode of the third season of Barry and then I went to be fairly early.
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