Playtime in Saugerties
Monday, March 27 2023
When I got out of bed this morning, I could tell I didn't have many steps in me before I would need to explosively decompress into a toilet. So I went down to the master guestroom in the basement where I could relieve myself without having to hear about it later. Fortunately, the diarrhea pour out of my body painlessly, like I was pissing from my asshole. I wasn't clear on what had caused my intestinal issues. But later in the day, after eating a pouch of Indian food into which I'd added chilis and chopped-up shitake mushrooms, I wondered if perhaps it was from eating insufficiently cooked shitake mushrooms. I'd used some to increase the textural interest of the last of the broccoli & "cheese" soup Gretchen had made for our Saturday lunch party.
Partly to get away from the cats, I went down to the greenhouse for awhile this afternoon, though even with the muted sun shining through the altostratus clouds it wasn't quite warm enough down there.
This afternoon I went on a short walk down the Chamomile to the trail that Crazy Dave uses to get to our part of the forest and then came home via the Stick Trail. On the trail connecting these two trails, I found a nice piece of cow bone left by Crazy Dave's dogs, so I brought it home and put it in the living room for our dogs to find. This ended up being a small mistake, because later Neville found it and decided it was so awesome that he started guarding it.
Tonight our friend Jeff would be belatedly celebrating his birthday with a showing of the classic French film Playtime at the Saugerties theatre. He'd originally planned this showing for weeks ago, but the first date was canceled due to snow and the second due to his wife Alana coming down with covid. As part of my contribution to the celebration, I decided to paint him a small (though, with a measure of 5.5 inches on the longest dimension, it's larger than the format I have been working) painting of a cape buffalo I'd photographed in Uganda back in July of 2017. I liked the shape of the negative space around the buffalo's head in the crop of the image that the painting represents.
At 5:30pm, Gretchen got home from her bookstore shift and we drove north to Saugerties via Route 9W. Gretchen had the time a little wrong, and we arrived at the theatre at 6:00pm, a half hour early, when Alana was still vacuuming. To pass that half hour, we went to the Inquiring Minds Bookstore next door, which is in such a big space that it also includes coffee making equipment. Both Gretchen and I ordered coffee drinks that contained oat milk and then walked around browsing the store. Gretchen kept remarking how big the store was and how it allowed them to do things that were impossible at the Golden Notebook. [REDACTED] At some point we found a wall of fame showing the small photos and names of dozens of dogs, presumably those brought in by people shopping for books. I noted that the names were mostly very short, limited to five characters or less.
Back at the theatre, a fairly large crowd was milling around, and there were some faces I hadn't seen in years. These included that of Peter, the movie-maker who lives off Wittenberg Road. His face was covered with two masks that filtered the air in series because he's still taking the covid pandemic seriously. He's also taking his health seriously in other ways, claiming to be nearly 100% vegan at this point. By this point I was drinking red wine from a small can. I think this might've been the first time I'd ever had wine in that form.
Then we filed into the theatre itself and Alana took the stage to introduce Jeff, who introduced the movie, Playtime, as his absolute favorite. And then it began.
I watched it with an open mind, hoping to appreciate the many things that I'd been told would be happening on screen simultaneously. Jacques Tati, the movie's director, never zoomed in on individuals, choosing always to show them as small details of scenes. Playtime doesn't really have a plot; it's meant to capture 24 hours of time as a flood American tourists are taken from the airport out into a somewhat dystopian modern Paris of impersonal modernist boxes of concrete and glass. Then there is a very long scene that takes place in a restaurant on its opening night. This part plays out as a very slowly unfolding comedy of errors in both the restaurant's management and construction, though most of the diners nevertheless appear to have a grand time. The movie was long and at times it felt, well, excruciating. Fortunately, I was not alone in this feeling. Gretchen turned to me at one point and said she bet I wished I had several more cans of wine, and that she wished she had a can of wine too. Then she took a sip of mine. She said that parts of Playtime (particularly the first scene set in a primitive version of a cubicle-based office layout) reminded her of how much I'd hated seeing a local theatrical performance of Waiting for Godot. Throughout the entirety of its two hour length, nothing all that interesting happened, no character development took place, and the humor was pretty basic slapstick at best. Why then were so many people around us laughing so much? Still, it wasn't as bad for me as seeing Waiting for Godot had been. There was a visual spectacle going on, and it supplied some of the entertainment of, say, people-watching. That said, my guts were still far from settled, and at times I wondered if I would be able to hold out without needing a bathroom break.
For me, my greatest interest in Playtime was figuring out when it had been made. Outdoors, all the men were wearing fedoras, which implied the early 1960s. But the hairstyles, a few representations of hippies,. and the musical sequences (both the music itself and the occasional hippie-style dancing to it) suggested the late 1960s. Eventually I decided it must've been produced in 1967, which turned out to be right on the nose.
Mercifully, Playtime eventually came to an end. And it seemed we were the only ones in the room not amazed. Even Sarah the Vegan and Kate (who had been seated in the row in front of us) said they'd thoroughly enjoyed it.
The final activity of the belated birthday celebration took place at the Dutch Alehouse down Main Street a block or so away. Gretchen had looked at their menu and wondered what we were going to find to eat, because even the french fries had to be special ordered to make them vegan. We ended up fries, a hummus plate, and roasted brussels sprouts. Gretchen briefly considered the soup, which sounded good, but it had been made with a pork stock like we were back in 1983. The fries were pretty good, but the hummus place was horrifying in terms of how much oil had been used. The pita bread looked to have been fried in oil, something I'd never seen before, and the pool of oil on the plate after we'd eaten through the top layers was about 3/8 of an inch deep. I had a glass of pinot noir that was pretty good.
We were sitting with Peter and Alana and someone brought up ChatGPT. Then someone asked me what if I was worried about the rise of AI. So I laid out an abbreviated version of my very dark view on the matter, ending with the part about how we'll have an advantage for a time because we have bodies, but even that advantage won't last. Nobody said anything much in response. There was just a glum moment of silence and the conversation moved on. Later Peter said something to me on the subject, but I can never really follow what he says because he himself would have difficulty passing a Turing Test.
Eventually the cake came out. It was made of layer of pistachio intercut with layer of coconut frosting. It was entirely vegan, though it was an oily in its own way as the hummus plate had been.
Back at the house, Neville was on a dog bed in the teevee room guarding that cow bone I'd found earlier today. But at least he hadn't peed on the bed. Later, though, he eventually abandoned the bone and came to bed like the good boy he usually is.
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