Sunday, November 29, 2020

Gas and Liquid Rage


I suppose I need to get to the bottom of what’s going on with my body.  I regularly do three, and four-day fasts.  Part of the ketosis process is you shut down a lot of ready-to-digest bacteria in your intestinal track.  When you flood it back up with food, your body needs time to adjust.  Or at least this is what they tell you on-line when you look up phrases like “Diarrhea, after fasting.” 


It never happens the first day after I eat.  Rather two or three night later, I find myself visiting the facilities, again and again.  And it isn’t the sort of runs one gets when you get giardia or some tropical bug.  In my experience when thus afflicted, the intestines just open sluice-like and a sure sign that the misery has passed happens days later when you finally feel the need to once again go and mercifully, a flatulent exhales.   That always seem to me to be the beginning of the end in those instances.  A hard-earned change of expectorant.  Not so with this affliction.  Gas and liquid rage in equal measure and I am plagued with sulfuric burps as well. 

The day after Thanksgiving was fine.  I don’t think I had much more than a turkey sandwich and some turkey soup yesterday.  But suffice to say, last night sucked.  I was off in the bathroom every half hour or so.  I finished off my Hellen McDonald book. The office room with most of my books is home to a guest this season, but I found a half read copy of the third volume of Lone Wolf and Cub in my closet.  Finished that.  Read the next chapter in the Korean History book I’d been working on with my little one.  Still, the discomfort wasn’t passing. 

The online remedies suggest that you drink a bit of lemon juice an hour before you break your fast to stimulate the enzymes, though I suspect that mine had long since been reactivated.  I don’t quite know what I’m doing wrong, but I don’t suspect lemon juice is gonna cure it. 


Could have done a lot of things today, but I spent most of the time, reading the papers and then catching up on this blog.  There is still plenty of time for a bike ride which will probably do my constitution well.  Blue skies are still around.  The day after tomorrow is supposed to be dreadful.  Tonight, for dinner, Turkey Pot Pie.  Let's go figure this out.  




Saturday, 11/28/20

Smells Like Turkey Soup


Got up early.  Had forgotten to cancel a call that was thrown on the calendar last week.  No.  Not this morning.  I’m gonna flop around in bed and try to finish “H is for Hawk.”  It’s Friday, and there is nothing I have to do except clean up after yesterday.  Once the sun is up, I set up shop in the kitchen and start emptying the dishwasher.  The bird is out on the porch, covered.   Piles of white meat, plates of dark meat remained un-carved, to be pulled from the carcass.  I filled one and then another plate and separated all the bones and plopped them into the largest pot we had.


The best sandwich of the year is the turkey sandwich you make the day after Thanksgiving.  I took down one or another half loaf we had up in the cabinet and set to work toasting all this bread and preparing a half a dozen sandwiches and eating up two and a half of them.  The kitchen smells like turkey soup.  Everyone save the vegan is digging the crunchy turkey sandwiches as they make their way out, one by one, the morning after.

A walk?  My wife suggests we head out and I’m fine with that.  I wanted to show her the hemlock that shoots twenty feet up into the air right besides a much bigger oak.  Is this just circumstance or is this a specific strategy the wily hemlock employ?  (I looked and it appears to be the case, they grow in the shade of other trees.)  I convince her to plod off the trail for twenty paces or so and contemplate this slow decades’-old drama.  The color of the hemlocks is a unique variant of dark green.  I share with her what I’d learned about the big eight-hundred year-old trees that used to populate these woods, until they were all harvested for the tanning industry. 

We went right off the trail at Cedar Lane and over to Plains Road and followed the approximate path of the rail trail to the right and the Walkill River to the left and made our way back towards town.  Plenty of young hemlocks along this path and some towering white pines and dramatic locust trees with their gnarly bark.  Woodland Drive forms a horseshoe.  I remember it being pretty non-eventful from my drive through and I tell my wife as much.  Still, we walk on along the road and consider the homes that seem to all be packed in rather tightly.  At the northwest corner we consider where it might be possible to cut through a yard and get over to the trail.  I’d have done that once upon a time, but hesitate, as an adult.  All of this must have been the property of one estate that got divided up into sub lots like this about fifty years ago. Back on the main road, we are soon curving right and joining back up with the rail trail crossing just beyond Sojourner Truth Park.  




Friday, 11/27/20

Tunes and the Reasons

Thanksgiving.  We’d had a fine Thanksgiving last year.  It was the first time in so long that we’d had all the family under one roof for the holiday.  Historically we were over in Beijing and it was all about inviting friends, next to none of whom were Americans.  No one had a strong sense of what recipe they were expecting or strong preferences as to how a meal ought be prepared.  If you burnt the bird or fixed up some lumpy gravy it didn’t much matter.

My brother called first, this year.  He and his wife and son wouldn’t be coming on account of the pandemic.  My father lives here in the same town, but he and his wife, also demurred.  The community they live in was in lock-down and they weren’t supposed to go out anywhere.  “Would it be OK if I drove by and picked up a plate of food?”  My little sister pulled the plug on her and her nephew about ten days ago and my mom and her husband made it clear that they were going to sit it out as well just a few days back.   So that leaves my wife our daughters and the guest we have visiting from my daughter’s high school, who hails from Guangzhou. 


From five till seven thirty or so I was busy beating back obligation.  Creepers and spindles had made their way into my free day over the evening.  What is essential?  What can wait?  Outside the bird is defrosted on the porch and I do the calculations for just how long it will take.  If I’m going to have the bird out by 4:00PM I’d need it in soon.  This was the smallest bird they had there and at twenty-two pounds it’s still gonna need nearly six hours.  I’ll need to head out and get the oranges and the apples that need to be stuffed into that bird.  And before I know it, I’m already behind schedule by 9:00AM.  One last note to a friend, whom I keep a playlist with.  Two tunes, and the reasons why. 

Over at Tops, I asked the two staff folks stocking the shelves if there were any whiskers that were just metal.  The blue, plastic one wasn’t convincing.  The lady looked about and confirmed, there were no other whiskers to be had.  And then, they started mocking the add, playing on the Tops speaker-system: “We’re all in this together.”  “Yeah, right.  You know.  We’re all in this together.”   I went on to get some spinach and quietly wished them a quickened pace till quitin’ time.  Today would be a shitty day to have to stock shelves. Tops would be a shitty place to be working as a middle aged, dirty blond woman with enough sense to mock canned messages. 




Thursday, 11/26/20

Every Rock and Hole

Got home last night after twelve or more hours of driving.  I don’t see how truckers can do it.  Are they obliged to stop?  They must be.  Just looked it up.  Those gents, and I suppose more than a few gals, are allowed to drive for up to fourteen hours straight, after which they are supposed to take a minimum ten-hour rest.  I was fasting so I knew I wasn’t going to get sleepy, but it was a compromised sort of cognizance, certainly after the night fell and I swore off any more double espresso fuel. 

The moment I got home I had a twenty texts on Whatasap and Wechat suddenly populate my phone, once it was reconnected to WiFi.  One of them said, “John, are you joining?”  Another wondering if the call was cancelled.  I have more than one calendar to monitor and this was something I’d overlooked.  I rescheduled the call with apologies a-plenty and got myself for the subsequent call that would start in twenty minutes. 


I imagined spending the day chopping up vegetables and discerning what ingredients missing.  I notified one client and then another that I wouldn’t be attending the calls over the holiday.  There are only a few folks I deal with that are actually from the United States.  But the folks in Israel, and the folks in China and down in Sydney all seemed to appreciate that this was important.  Here in the States though, I had one and then another and yes, then another last call to get through, beating back obligation, creating a small clearing where the weeds of must-dos lurk. 

And there was more.  Always.  But I looked it all over and determined that there was nothing there couldn’t wait till the weekend, till next week.  I fixed a gin and tonic to change the gears.  No more work.  The tonic was flat.   No matter.  There was still time for a bike ride.  Didn’t get any exercise yesterday, beyond filling the car with gas and I pedaled as hard as I could down towards Gardiner as the sun was just about disappeared.  I wondered about biking in the dark on the way home, but I reckoned I knew just about every rock and hole on this path.


Later at home we made a fire and played some chess and it felt like the holiday had finally, really arrived. 





Wednesday, 11/25/20

Growl Sounded Awfully Good


Nothing’s so far when you’ve already done it once.  Niagara Falls, New York is about a five-and-a-half-hour drive from here.  I’ve done it before, about a month ago, on election day.  But I spent the night there in Buffalo before I came back.  Today, I have it in my mind to go all the way up, pick up my older daughter and drive straight back.  I made it about five minutes down the road before I realized I needed to turn around and grab my phone that had been charging there in the wall. 


One call.  And then another.  Driving up to Albany is familiar.  The Catskills come into view.  Its misty where you cross the Platekill Creek, as it often is this early in the morning.  By the time my calls have finished, I’ve lost WFMU and try to listen to the news on NPR, but all they seem to have is “local” news.  I am tuning in to hear that Trump or some of the other prominent Republican deniers have finally confronted reality, but this is all about the New York State legislative agenda for 2021 and then a special on just why polling was once again so inaccurate, which I don't want to listen to.


What’s that over to the right?  It’s a broad, flat estuary, and I don’t know the name of it till I stop at a rest stop to relieve myself.  There in the vestibule is a huge map of New York State and I now becomes clear that this is the Mohawk River and it flows all the way from up near Lake Oneida, all the way down till it joins the Hudson, just north of Albany.  This must have been a major artery on the Erie Canal.  This broad, open plane is why cities like Schenectady, and Rome and Utica came intro prominence.  An article I skimmed in this month’s National Geographic on the Great Lakes, referred to it as America’s third coastline.  This merited some reflection. 

Classic rock radio, somewhere up-dial yielded The Guess Who’s  “American Woman,” which I immediately turned up to full blast and tried to sing along with Burton Cummings who’s white-boy grizzled growl sounded awfully good to me.  I sounded pretty good to me too, in the way that one does shredding in the shower, with no one around.  Hitting the second syllable of the word “A
merican” way up high where Burton does, was beyond my capacity to handle without cracking.  I’m confident that I sounded excellent, as I know there aren’t any recordings out there to disabuse my vanity.

About thirty minutes out of Buffalo my wife called and suggested my older one was already on the pedestrian bridge, heading back to the U.S. side.  Her phone wasn’t working.  We agreed we’d meet up at tacky glass tower they have there with Chinese and Halal, and Indian and a half a dozen other cuisines advertised there for the boisterous pedestrian traffic that’s been reduced to a trickle now.  I guess it was late enough in the afternoon so that the young kid who came up to collect fees only asked for $5.00.  On Election Day, it was $10.00.  My wife called and said she was still crossing the bridge.  Quite a bridge.  I walked over to the where the exit must be.  There were two people with luggage.  But she was solo.  Not long after she rang.  Her phone worked again, now that she was over the border.  That was her, there talking to another young lady whose dad was also picking her up.  “No.” She didn’t need a view of the Falls.  Caught it from the Canadian side.  We headed back along US 90 and had such a great talk for the next five hours.  I marveled at what a remarkable woman she continues to wax into. 




Tuesday, 11/24/20

Of This Fleeting Epiphany


Yesterday my older one mentioned that Toronto was having a snowstorm.  “Getting down to the border tomorrow might be tough.  I could take a train, but that sort of defeats the purpose of avoiding crowds and . . .”  We had sent Monday as an arbitrary day to pick her up and bring her back in time for Thanksgiving.  I immediately suspected this was a ruse, to buy an extra day and said as much.  But a blizzard is a blizzard and not long after I grumbled, I considered Tuesday for a moment and decided it would be a much better day for this long journey. 


So, I worked all day.  I didn’t cancel the two calls this morning as I’d suspected I’d have to. One call I’d imagined trying to take from the road came and passed me by.  Why wasn’t there a calendar reminder?  I pinged the person concerned and apologized and tried to reschedule.  I needed to rewrite a report.  Nothing challenging, beyond simply getting started.  I found one reason and then another and finally worked it through in time for the call that took place around noon. 

I left my bike ride go.  I don’t know why.  Cold out.  Cloudy.  Wasn’t particularly motivated to head out.  Not long before 4:00PM I finally got motivated and headed north back into town.  And while I’ve generally been playing twentieth century American composers on these rides, I dug up and decided to familiarize myself with some more of this Muscle Shoals oeuvre that that Vassar College radio station had hipped me two the other day. Strange crossroads of people showing up there at that studio, to play with the “Swampers” and the twenty-two year-old house, lead guitarist, Duane Allman. 

Riding out of town, I saw that big house at 74 Huguenot St from a distance and thought about what it would be like to make use of that building.  If you had a restaurant there, it would be a show case, an exceptional environment and it would desecrate this historical building and cause an understandable uproar in town.  On my way back I took photos of those old buildings in part to remind myself of this fleeting epiphany.  It was dark by the time I got back home. 




Monday, 11/23/20

Same Avians That Were


I don’t have access to my desk.  We have a guest over.  That’s fine.  I also don’t have access to the view that extends out from that desk either.   The view I’ve cultivated by tossing sunflower seeds out on to the patch below it for months now.  Who knows what the local animals think?  I don’t suppose they care or that they are necessarily even the same avians that were there last week.  There’s a bunch of good stuff to eat down there.  There’s a suet feeder too.  It gets popular. 

From the dining room you can’t see any of that.  You get a lovely gaze up to Mohonk.  But the yard below is obscured by the wooden fence on the porch.  No matter.  This morning I took a half gallon of the black sunflower seeds and threw them across the yard below.  For a while no one showed.  Word got out.  This is the new in spot, if you’re looking to get yourself some sustenance. 

There was some blue sky about two hours ago.  We’ve been engorged by a within the belly of an unspeakably large leviathan the ribs of whose stomach cavity I can only barely make out the logic of.  I checked.  They say rain, by 3:00PM.  It’s cold.  But it’s not freezing.  I’ll want to get that ride in as I’ll have next to no exercise tomorrow, driving up to Buffalo again. 


I’ve got a pot of Roman beans out there I cooked into a refried mush yesterday.  I’m aiming to make some tacos this morning.  I don’t want to overdue it but I’d like this young guest of ours to try some good food while he's here.  He is emphatic about how he dislikes the food at school.  I remember breakfasts in the Shandong countryside.  I can appreciate how salt-dried minnows and pickled daikon would be infernal if repeated every day for one year and then the next.  A lot of writing this morning.  Felt fine to write for hours and hours.  A sabbath day privilege, which is just about over.

Sunday, 11/22/20

Allman Was the Guitarist

Oh wow.  I’d been warned.  I haven’t the time this weekend to binge read.  But the first thirty pages or so I’ve read of Hellen McDonald’s “H is for Hawk” have surpassed my expectations and justified the hype.  Of course I’m on to Google images looking at dozens of pictures of goshawks.  Yes, I’ve gone to Wiki and tried to discern more about just who T. H. White was and I’m marveling at the language in her descent into just a bit of madness and think about the “Bell Jar” assignment my daughter had me read and of the way Robert Musil leads Clarissa off beyond the safety of the pages four corners.  She writes so fearlessly.  I’m looking forward to this. 

We’ve got a guest over from this morning.  A friend of my daughter’s from school, who’s home is back in Guangzhou.  School’s closed early.  His sister in NYC just had a baby.  Coulda gone all the way back to the Pearl River but was doing his college applications and was hoping to stay Stateside or the next few weeks.  We’re glad to have him, but it does of course mean changes.  I for one, no longer have a study. 


This morning I plodded around.  All my essentials had been moved to my closet.  So I got dressed in there and decided not to put on contacts in the closet.  Out in the dining room, I had my comfy desk chair.  This was the one thing I insisted on being able to maintain.  I swiveled around, the chord just a bit too short to comfortably reach any side of this dining table.  I used the bathroom.  Should that now be his bathroom?  I can’t remember if we decided about that.  I go inside and close the door.   He appears to be a late sleeper.  I read another ten pages of Mrs. McDonald. 

I wanted to get a turkey today up at Adams.  My wife wanted me to get three or four flagstones or her at Kalleco Nursery.  The ride up there on 213, through Rifton is really lovely.  The Roundout and the Wallkill come together by that lake.  There are some remarkable buildings along the road from hundreds of years ago and it is consistently interesting to then run into Kingston with all the abandoned industry and refurbished houses that make me feel I’ve gone through a mirror into an alternate Poughkeepsie.  Adams is a fine place to shop.  You have to resist buying so many wonderful things you don’t really need.  On the way home the Vassar radio station DJ announced he would be playing a series of tracks from the Mussel Shoals studio wherein Duane Allman was the guitarist at the session.  How is it I have never heard these things?  Glorious!  Wonderful tracks.  Wilson Picket playing “Hey Jude” with Duane on lead?  For real?   Unfortunately that Kalleco Nursery was closed at 4:15PM.  But I had a very nice drive over Marcotte Road from 209 which sure was pretty, anointed as it was, by Skydog.




Saturday, 11/21/20

The Ochre Clove Chapel


No need to drive my little one to school today.  School is on line.  I’ve been up since 1:00AM for a weekly call I had.  Tired, but not tired enough, I worked through the next few hours.  Stuff was flying around.  Calls on China Friday afternoon.  Needed to catch that guy  Needed to make sure to wish my stepson and my niece a big happy birthday.  They’re both in Beijing and they both turn a year today.  I know that I’ll need to meet my father by 9:00AM.  Why is it that 8:30AM comes so suddenly.  He calls.  He’s leaving now.  On time.  The laundry.  The pot of coffee for the Mrs.  Putting my insoles into the big winter boots like I said I wanted to.  I’ll be late. Perhaps. 

I wasn’t.  We saw one another there where we said we’d meet and drove the next mile down and off to the ochre Clove Chapel where there was a parking lot with one or two other cars already parked.  This is the head for the Undivided Lot Loop Trail and my father and I considered whether this line on the map meant the lot was not divided or if we were walking along the division.  The chapel itself is pleasant. Looks a rather Hansel and Gretel-ish.  Apparently you can rent it out.  Apparently there’s no heat.   And clearly this isn’t where the trail starts.  We plodded around the back yard and bushwhacked over to where we assumed the trail was and met it properly. 

Not too far in there is a remarkable rock face of thirty square yards or more with a fabulous view of the valley down below and the Catskills off in the distance.  I mentioned to my father and I hope that one day we will, go first to the Hard Roll deli we both like and get some subs and chips and come back here and have a feast out on this shelf.  Yes sir.  But for now we headed on.  Three miles in or so was supposed to be a turn that we could take to loop back.  Started to be a bit steeper on the incline, right around where we should have met it.  Now to turn left would mean some climbing.  It must be in the ridge right there.  But it wasn’t.  The leaves covered rocks now and some of them were loose.  I suggested I go ahead a piece.  I fooled myself once, and then again into thinking the next little ridge was certainly the turn.  Lost patrol, I reluctantly turned around and headed back, imagining the next time I visited when without a doubt I’ll find that it was indeed over the next little ridge. 


I shopped later at Shoprite.  Shoprite’s all right for me.  Know why?  They have been smart about their target audience of forty/fifty somethings I suspect.  The soundtrack is always classic rock.  They played “Hey Mr. Fantasy” by Traffic the other day, and I was air guitaring, uncontrollably shaking my ass by the pasta.  Last time it was “Who’s That Lady?” by the Isley Brothers that slowed me right down and demanded I waltz while I bought my eggs.  And that ain’t all.  Unerringly, in the most ill-opportune time, they always interrupt the songs to announce a special on pickles or to remind you about the need to wear masks.  The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Living Thing” and I struggled for a while to place it.  I always hated that song and determined for myself, right there, that I still do. 




Friday, 11/20/20


Groomed In Fine Dirt

If you leave off heading out for a bike ride till the afternoon, beware.  There isn’t much of it.  You’d better be off and on your way by 4:00PM these days or it will all fall dark on you.  My younger daughter asked of help on her paper today around 3:00PM.  Well, of course.  And as I read it over, I confess I grew tired.  My eyes started to fall.  But I stood and I strode and sat back down again and finished off some corrections, which I sent back her way.  And like a toxin, that taste of sleep lingered in my shoulders.  Should I allow for that nap. Obviously, I need it.  Certainly, it will have done me well by later this evening when China’s up and the calls start coming.   But it’s three thirty.  If you don’t head out by 4:00PM you’re ain’t gonna do that ride.  The coffee cups half full.  The bed, the pillow.  I decided to let myself lie down.


Glad I did.  Next thing I knew I was moving fast and suddenly it became clear that I was going to ski down this slope I was on that was groomed in fine dirt.  But it didn’t matter one bit because tis was some sort of magic mountain dirt that operated for all the world like fresh powder and I turned here, and cut over there, have the time of my life on these bare, open dirt trails down some agglomeration of all the slopes I’ve ever sped down.  And then up ahead I cut once and twice but realized I wasn’t going to stop in time before I plowed hard into the chairlift disembarkation spot and I did, but I didn’t because that’s not what my unconscious mind wanted to have happen and somehow my conscious mind, who was never entirely absent up and pointed out that you weren’t going to really hit it, because this was a dream and then I was awake and it was 4:05PM.  I laughed and got ready.  What a wonderful way to legitimately rest, journeying off to an insane run down a dirty mountain on magic skis. 

We had a good reading of Kang Younghil this evening.  I read aloud ten pages in a sitting of “East Goes West” which is regularly a remarkable read.  He’s sizing up Puritans and Chinese in America and African Americans and he tells us more about the sad aesthete character of Mr. Kim.  The other night Mr. Kim referred to a Chinese poet in a Su Tung P’o, a.k.a. Su Dongpo a.k.a
Su Shi


“In this poem a friend tells Su Tung P’o:  ‘You  and I have finished and gathered fuel on the river islets.  We have consorted with the fish and the prawns, we have befriended the deer.  Together we have sailed our skiff, frail as a leaf; in close companionship we have drunk wine from the gourd.  We pass through this world like two gnats in a husk of millet on a boundless ocean.  I grieve that life is but a moment of time and envy the endless current of the Great River . . .’  Listen to what Sun Ton P’o replied, ‘Do you understand the water and the moon?  The former passes by but has never gone.  The latter waxes and wanes but does not really increase or diminish.  For if we regard this question as one of impermanence, then the universe cannot last for a twinkling of an eye.  If, on the other hand, we consider it from the aspect of permanence, then you and I , together with all matter, are imperishable.  Why, then this yearning?”


Later, when I was back at my desk I searched for Su Tung P’o on Amazon and added a selection of poems translated by Burton Watson to my cart.  I have a few more books to go through on my current consideration of books on the natural world.  But then I will return for ritual China steeping.  It’s coming. 




Thursday, 11/19/20

Keep the Other Person

I don’t play chess very well.  My only stratagem is to keep the other person on the defensive, exploit even trades or better.  I can think a few moves head, trying to mount an assault on the king’s person.  But sometimes, as when I cook, I tend to be sloppy and overlook things.  Fortunately, both my daughters have come far enough along to regularly best me. 


I noticed my wife and my daughter playing the other day.  My wife doesn’t usually play western chess.  We also have a xiangqi set over on the table.  Chinese chess is similar to the western variant.  There’s a river in the middle of the board.  The king can’t do much.  There are pawns and heavier artillery.  I always need to shake off the cobwebs and lose a few games before I’m back in the swing of it.  In this case, she was audibly repeating the rules of western chess just like I would have had to do, considering the characters carved into the top of each xiangqi piece. 


Tonight, I suggested we play, and she was excited to do so.  We set up the board.  I had a half hour or so before a call.  I mentioned mnemonics like ‘queen-on-color’ and offered that she should go first as she had the white side.  I brought out my horses.  She wanted to know why, and did the same.  She thrust a bishop deep into my territory, neatly incapacitating my horsemen and I paused and prepared to castle with my king.  “Did she teach you this move?”  “Yes. Yes, I know.”   A moment later I’d carelessly sacrificed a castle and my repositioning to thrust to her right wasted time and she artfully pinned my king in and won the game.  Crestfallen, surely, I congratulated her with genuine humility. 

This morning I’d flopped around in the bed in the study, half awake, reading a novel that was finally congealing and properly demanding my attention.  “The Overstory’ by Richard Powers culminates in a crime, as response to a crime, and its set out in the Oregonian old growth that I had a chance to visit and camp and connect with folks in Earth First who were the tribe from which Mr. Powers was crafting this gaggle of heroes.  The stories touched sometimes, and other times only wafted up close, in the eerie way that trees share information across the river and over the mountains.  The Hoel family had grew a large chestnut tree.  I think I will as well.




Wednesday, 11/18/20

As Other-Than-Suckah

Biked around yesterday on my mom’s old red bike.  I know this is a dangerous prospect. Two or three months ago, when my stepdad’s bike had a flat, I used hers.  Seemed OK.  Then a few days in I woke in the mornings with a biting ache somewhere down in the cartilage that connects the femur to the tibia.  Kept biking.  Kept getting worse.  Finally I realized it wasn’t that I was experiencing rapid aging, no, something about the pedaling on this bike was askew.  The experience riding that particular bike was straining my knee. 


I moshed up the chain on the blue bike and the shop wouldn’t be open till today.  You know I must have really wanted to ride.  I took that red one out of the garage yesterday and raised the seat way up high and pedaled off.  Could I feel it?  Not yet.  Seemed cool.  I went on.  About a mile in I faintly feel it.  A bit further on it wasn’t so faint, any more.  Yup.  It’s there.  And then a simpleton’s debate began in my mind: “Power-through the pain.  Break the barrier,” was fortunately told to shut the fuck up, by the darkened image of me lying in bed the next morning saying, “this is dreadful.  Stop.”   I turned around there in the park near Huguenot Street where the flags of Belgium, and France and the United States hang at half mast.

Today’s the day.  I dropped the seats down in the Highlanders, and slid the big bike in and dutifully darted off to grab a quarter from the closet to feed the meter, there by the bike shop.  There are two guys down there and they have different personalities.  The one guy isn’t a good salesman.  I sell for a living.  You watch how other people sell.  This guy makes ya nervous, because with each new item he suggests you’ll need, he anticipates your pushback, and makes you feel as though his trade has him forever on the defense.  The other guy is better.  He makes ya feel calm, and that your money is going to be well spent.  It must be a grinding business with the thinnest of margins.  We go through the chain, and de-railer and chain wheel and though I ask a few polite questions to ground myself as other-than-suckah, I’ll pay what he asks, because I use the bike every day and I want it to work well and I feel sort of sorry for their tough business. 

Down in the back behind them, there is a bakery.  Never been.  Why not see if they have espresso. They do.  And while they’re making it and I’m social distancing from the other customer and the counter I notice that they have a few chicken pot pies.  I consider: “chicken pot pie.”  Neve made one.  I’m supposed to be fasting today, but I could try to turn the Mrs. and the little one on to a chicken pot pie.  And later, when I do, and half of it doesn’t get eaten, I dive right in and finish it.  I bet I could make one better.  




Tuesday, 11/17/20

Grand Street Nobody's Are

The American Monday is melancholy.   We do so much to build the up the weekend.  How could it be anything but, Stormy Monday.  I don’t remember this all descending down so hard in China.  They have weekends too.  Though sometimes the government messes with weekends.  They afford the populous seven days off and then say “Saturday is an official back-to-work day.”  An intolerable affront, to any religious or secular American, I’d suggest.  We all believe in the weekend and something sacred. 


This Monday morning I’m sad, not because I have to trudge back down into a coal mine, but rather because Covid 19 has helped to render me redundant and change my life once again, in another small way.  Loyal readers know that I’ve been driving my little one to school during the autumn.  We do tunes, we talk anime and I’m even allowed to go over Korean history.   The school will be going remote next week.  And this week my daughter joined many of her classmates and decided to simply take the rest of her classes on line. 

I made her a bialy.  I’d bought a bag of them at Shoprite.  They aren’t the old Kosars bialys from over on Grand St.  Nobody's are.  They’re not bad for Shoprite bialys.  I was looking for French bread on my Friday shop and the gal in the bakery department to look “over there, near the bialys.”  So, I bought a bag of eight and this morning I toasted one.  Toasted it a bit more.  Noticed there was no butter.  Nuked some brie.  Smushed it on and added a bit of honey and brought them up to her.  “Thanks Baba.  I got class.” 

Now I’m down here drinking my coffee, considering the blue jays and the squirrels who never get a weekend.  I consider the Korean text we’d been going through.  Outside a remarkable cloud shape like a tremendous whale shark maw stretching for fifty miles is slowly swallowing the Shawangunks on its way toward the Catskills.   Moving slowly from this vantage, it pulls a sheath of darkness over all behind it.  There’ll be showers in the early afternoon.

Monday, 11/16/20

I Pulled And Spun


Northbound into town.  Cloudy outside and there wasn’t much life left to view beyond the trunks of things getting ready for winter.  Chain came off the derailer.  Happens.  I was gonna pull over and call my dad anyway.  Called him.  No.  He wasn’t in the mood to come out and meet me at the Coppersea Distillery.  No worries.  It’s getting late.  Yeah.  So then I returned to getting the chain loose.  I pulled.  It didn’t come.  I spun it backwards.  Nope.  Flipped the bike over and rested it all on the seat.  I pulled and spun.  I pulled really hard.  I pedaled around backwards and they forward hard.  I had now made it all much worse.  A guy asked me if I needed help.   “Nah!”  I felt silly. 

Trudged up to the bike shop.  It wasn’t far from where I was on the trail.  I’d been thinking to head there anyway.  Seasonal tune up.  Really?  Closed on Sunday?  I would think this would be one of their big days.  Not my business.  Back down hill, toward the trail, coasting till all’s flat and then I walked for a bit.  Shall I walk back home?  Called the Mrs.  She came and met me at that restaurant that doesn’t seem to have survived Covid 19, The Statzione. 


Still needed exercise.  In the garage I cut boxes down into little foot-long squares and tossed them in a pile that grew higher and higher until I threw them all into a plastic bag.  The idea is to place these into recycling.  The pieces of tape and the bubble wrap go into another pile.  That is garbage.  But we have been told that whereas “China” used to buy the recycled waste.  It doesn’t anymore and everything picked up by county waste is dumped together now into one receptacle.  I could find out what’s really true.  But for now, I keep them separate, clinging to habit. 

After three enormous bags are full, I pause and consider the mountains of cardboard that remain uncut, unbagged.  Our garbage container at the top of the driveway can’t hold more than two of these and hope to close.  My right hand has three or four lacerations.  I don’t remember how they happened.  There is grease all over from my failed efforts with the chain as well.  It’s getting dark. One tug, two.  The doors fall shut and I bring the bags up to the Highlander and toss em’ in the back.  And when I’m back, after shoving them into the trash container, I go and wash my hands. 




Sunday, 11/15/20

Any Color Except Red

The restaurant is nearly one-hundred years old.   We drove by about two months back when we were up in Kingston registering to vote, and as I spied the name written in red on the vintage exterior right there on the main strip in upper Kingston it occurred to me that this was the same name of the place my mother had suggested was the Chinese place in Poughkeepsie, back in the fifties and immediately this lodged as something to learn more about.  Had I finally found a place in within an hour’s drive to have excellent Chinese food, beyond my own kitchen?  

My daughter and I had a few things to get today.  Worms, was why she was willing to go to Kingston at all.  It was either to the Petco there in Kingston or the one over in Poughkeepsie that we ought to head to secure meal worms for our Spotted Gecko, Barrack.  That mall commands an overwhelming view of the Catskills that seems almost a pity, heading into Petco which is exactly like the Petco over in Poughkeepsie.  Fish don’t seem to be in fashion these days.  I know a thing or two about cichlids, having populated one tank for South American fish with less alkalinity and another for the cichlids of Lake Tanganyika with the higher ph.  Most of the tanks at Petco were empty.  Over in Poughkeepsie they had only the simplest selection of tropical fish.  But they did have worms. 


Deising’s bakery seemed like one of note, when we searched the term looking for a place we might procure a birthday cake for my wife on the second stop of our trip.  We had the nice young lady behind the counter who jumped up to help us squeeze out “happy birthday vida” on the cake.  “Oh!”  My daughter interrupted as she headed off to the back, “Don’t use red.  Write in any color except red.”  It came back in shocking blue.  Looked great.  We got some cookies for the ride.  I thought of Eng’s and their red sign.  The order we’d placed was certainly ready by now. 

We’d bonded with Mr. Sit when we made our purchase, speaking to him in Chinese.  He told us a bit about the family and the tradition.  Marvelous that it really was approaching its hundredth year of operation.  A family business, they were clearly doing something right.  Mr. Sit, who was from Guangdong, but had been in America as long as I’d been in China, promised to have them make our food “Chinese style.”  We sighed.  Smiled.  Explained how hard it had been for us, without real Chinese food.  I paid and left with a big bag of Chinese takeout and the highest expectations. 


Sadly, despite the gracious engagement, vintage esthetic and rich tradition of history, it did, in the end, taste like American Chinese food, which none of us were particularly interested in having again.  The search continues.




Saturday, 11/14/20

Floating Daoist World Hemlocks

Drove my little one to school today, as I do most mornings.  But there was an air of finality.  She’ll be attending classes from home hereafter.  No one needs to drive anyone anywhere.  The school had planned to close down for Thanksgiving break and stay remote learning through till January.  Now they’re closing earlier.  And my daughter wants to move to online classes, even earlier than that.  Covid is once again surging across the country, and within our state, within our county.  


We had it all buttoned down pretty well.  She played tunes, and we discussed her manga series.  I’m up to episode 39.  What other father does this?  I can’t help but ask.  And we discus episode 39.  Lots of odd stuff has transpired.  Kids, who are also creatures are good and then evil and out of control and ultimately culpable.  When we turn on to New Paltz Road, we switch to Korean History.  We’ve made it all the way to 1953 this morning.  Turning back on to 44, she savors a last tune and then we turn it over to my tunes.  She threw on a “random baba mix” which dropped us into “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Cept for Me and My Monkey."  This was turned up rather loud.” Another Beatles tune or two and then “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks.  It was a fun ride from start to finish.  And I suppose we’ll pick it back up in January or February, the spring or perhaps next year.  One suspects the ride will also be different then.


I called my pop, expecting he’d cancel our hike on account of the rain.  “Didn’t you see my email?”  I didn’t know which one he meant.  It’s raining out there.  “Are we still on?”  Yeah?  Go there and see?  OK.  See you up at the parking lot."  He’s waiting there.  It’s raining.  He doesn’t want to walk in the rain.  He’s made that clear in the past and we consider what else we might do.  We could go to Starbucks and buy a coffee and walk outside and drink it in the rain?  There weren’t many obvious choices.  It wasn’t so bad to just sit there behind the wheel and talk for a while.  But eventually we decided to take a raincheck.  He drove back down to New Paltz and I figured I’d proceed ahead for a walk in the rain as long as I was up here, all the same. 

This is the second time I’ve done this, proceeded ahead with a rainy day hike after pop bails on account of precipitation.  I’ve probably done this particular walk when I was seventeen or twenty-two, but I don’t remember.  I certainly haven’t done it in the last three decades.  The granite cliffs are like a floating Daoist world.  Hemlocks who are making a comeback, push their way up besides older deciduous trees.  A view out to the Catskills that is completely obscured by clouds.  And like the last time I did this sort of rainy walk, I turned Terry Riley’s “C” from 1968 up-loud and created an ecstatic soundtrack through the wet, cloudy carriage way.

Friday, 11/13/20