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This house.

Hideous, isn’t it?

Of course, it’s a Livingston mansion.

Well.

Sort of a Livingston mansion: It dates back to the late 1800s, a renaissance period for truly hideous Gothic architecture. It replaced a Livingston mansion called Massena, built in the late 18th century, that was renowned for its classical lines.

Massena was acquired by someone called John Lloyd Aspinwall who had no genealogical connection whatsoever to the Livingstons. Mrs John Lloyd Aspinwall ordered up the replacement. When she saw it for the first time, she hated it so much that she fled to Europe, never again to return to American shores.

I stumbled across the house on my Steely Dan nostalgia tour of Barrytown yesterday.

###

Barrytown is a deeply weird place.

After hiking for an hour or so around the grounds of Massena – which is now owned by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (talk about deeply weird), I drove slowly down Barrytown’s main drag. Past decrepit 18th century houses that would not look out of place in some horror movie about swamp monsters in the bayou except that Bard students were sitting on their crumbling porches.

Then I saw this red brick early 19th century Federal-style house with a big sign – For Sale By Owner – and thought: Valerie! In case the Bennet Road property doesn’t work out. I got out to take pictures of the property:



And I decided to explore.

I walked down along a bend in the road, past the Red Hook marina – small; unprepossessing – and came to a series of tall box hedges with a gate. The gate was open, and through it, I glimpsed a table set with a white linen cloth, bowls of vividly hued dahlias and glittering brass objets d’arte

How could I resist?

I walked through the gates, and…

OhmyGAWD!

Edgewater!

This was Edgewater!

Gore Vidal’s old Hudson River Estate!

I’ve been trying to find Edgewater for ages and ages and ages!

Gore Vidal sold the house in 1969 after losing a race for the 29th Congressional District in New York. In public, he shrugged the loss off, but clearly it rankled since it precipitated his flight to Europe. Just like Mrs. John Lloyd Aspinwall before him!

Close friends Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward maintained that it was this move that caused Gore Vidal’s life to fall apart, and I can see it: The magical terroir in these parts is very strong and very… protective.

Some garden party was going on at Edgewater, a lot of men in suits and ties, a sprinkling of women in cocktail dresses.

I, of course, dress like a bag lady on practically all occasions so there was no question of trying to blend in with the crowd and cop free alcohol.

I just stood there and gaped
.
Nobody noticed me. Or everybody pretended not to notice me.

I felt a little bit like Rip Van Winkle stumbling into the magical dwarves’ bowling party.

After a minute or so, I stumbled out.

Edgewater is another Livingston mansion. Built in the 1860s or so by the original owner of Massena as a wedding gift for his daughter.

Architectural trends in the 1860s were far superior to what they would become 30 years later:



Railroad tracks run almost parallel to the property. While I was standing there, an Amtrak train went by.

And it dawns on me that the real reason why millionaires may have stopped building Big Old Houses in the Hudson Valley and started building them instead on Long Island has much more to do with the construction of that railroad track than any preference for the island. Who wants those types of disruptions at their cocktail parties?
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Apparently, I tried to poison myself yesterday by eating a berry from this plant.

That’s what happens when you take Big City Girls out of the Big City.

I often take tiny nibbles out of plants I find when wandering around the countryside here.

If birds can eat berries, then why, oh why, oh why, can’t I, right?

This one looked a lot like the wild grapes that grow all throughout Tompkins County. But it’s not. It’s poke weed.

It didn’t taste good. Very… foxy would be the word.

But I didn’t get sick.

###

In other news, I continue in my dyspeptic mood.

It’s brain chemistry.

I mean, there are proximal causes: I am the most insignificant human being ever to be spawned in the 100,000 year evolution of human beings on this planet – which is ironic, no? Since that degree of insignificance is surely a distinction!

Also, I worry about money.

What if I don’t get paid Friday? What if the Scut Factory simply decides not to pay me? How will the cats eat?

And what if I have some fatal disease? I loathe doctors. Haven’t gone to one in years. I try to eat right, exercise daily, and get lots of sleep. Every week when C comes to visit L, he lugs this suitcase, which is filled with prescription drugs! He takes all of them! And I just think, Ugh! Why? What’s the point? Why would anyone want to live till they’re 100? Either you end up like those poor people in that famous photo out of Houston, sitting around in the nursing home, waist-deep in sewer water, or you end up like the ones that dropped dead from heat prostration in that nursing home in Florida. Or you end up like Bob Zeigenhirt, whom frankly, I think, would like to die – only his kids won’t let him.

My kids wouldn’t care if I died. I mean – they love me. But I’m the Velveteen Rabbit. More a part of their memories than of their everyday lives.

These worries preoccupy me to such a degree that I find it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything else.

###

I owe you a phone cal, emailed Max.

You don’t “owe” me anything, I emailed him back. Of course, it’s always nice to hear from you.

They found a box filled with my stuff in the basement of the house Max used to live in in San Francisco. There’s a Miles Davis album and a Muddy Waters album I wouldn’t mind having, the owner of the house emailed Max.

The Great Diaspora and subsequent Storage Follies means hardly any of all the possessions I used to own do I own now.

So, of course, no random stranger is gonna get my Miles Davis and Muddy Waters albums. I remember when I bought them. Never mind that I don’t own a record player.

Yes, I want those back, I emailed Max.

I mean – Why wouldn’t I?

So, they sent Max the box.

Same way it is with friends – it’s odd the possessions you end up keeping. They’re never necessarily the possessions you once cared about the most.

Some old journals from around the time that Max was born. Pictures of my mother. A framed picture I once drew – back in the days when I still drew – that used to hang in Max’s nursery on San Lorenzo Street. Pictures of you when you were a kid, Max wrote. Except there are no pictures of me as a kid, my mother having not been the least bit sentimental about me. So they must actually be pictures of Max.

I guess I’ll pick them up when I’m in California in November.

It was a very odd feeling thinking about Max going through that box. Like I was dead, and he was sifting through my personal possessions.

So funny. I remember doing exactly that after my mother died. Trying to find something, anything, that would explain the enigma she ultimately was to me.

I didn’t find anything.

Dream On

Sep. 13th, 2017 08:29 am
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Three people showed up for my Intermediate English class last night.

One of them was the belligerent Jordanian whom I do not like.

Another was a young woman who’s a full-time student at Dutchess Community College and has two kids under the age of three.

The third was Tony whom I adore.

Down four people in two weeks.

Down from an all-time high of 14.

I attribute this most recent attrition to the DACA rescind. I’d heard way back in November that the Trump administration planned to use the Dreamer data to go after the Dreamer parents. Most of the students in my class were undocumented refugees, economic and political, from Mezo-America. Understandably, they’d like to keep a low profile. In fact, they’d like to be invisible.

Lois Lane – to her credit – refuses to collect any kind of personal info at all on people who use the Literacy Center’s services. So far, New York State has tolerated this. Cuomo and Schneiderman are actually bringing a suit on behalf of the Dreamers.

(And I will say here that while I have mixed feelings about Cuomo personally, he has proven to be a very able administrator as Governor of New York State. I am thinking he’d be a strong Democratic POTUS candidate in 2020.)

Sooner or later, one imagines, some bureaucrat is gonna crack down, though. That personal info is a requirement under the various types of state grants through which the Literacy Center supports itself.

“It’s not worth my time to continue doing this,” I told Lois Lane after the class was over.

“I know,” she sighed.

“Adelina doesn’t really need this. She can do ESL through Dutchess. I’ve talked to Tony. He wants to be an electrician. He could do that through Dutchess. But he needs to improve his reading and writing skills to take classes there. I want to do one-on-one tutoring with Tony and stop teaching this class.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” said Lois Lane. She looked sad, though. “But what about Bilal?”

“What about Bilal?” I said.

And we both laughed.

###

In other news – This is actually funny in one of those It-should-have-happened-to-someone-else kinds of ways…

The problem with the car was a very easy fix.

But my check engine light was on.

My check engine light goes on and off a lot. I always figure it’s something having to do with my gas tank cap.

This time, though, the check engine light had been on for two weeks. I’m very paranoid about this car because many, many cars have crashed and burned on me before because I have a tendency to neglect maintenance.

Maintenance and upkeep are not among my strong points.

So I told the guy at Makem Begfer Mercy Auto to run a diagnostic on the check engine light.

And when he called back, his voice was grave and concerned. “It’s a vapor leak,” he announced. “But we won’t know where the vapor leak is until we run a smoke test.”

“A smoke test?” I screeched feebly.

“It’s the only way,” he said.

All righty, then! Smoke test it is!

A hundred dollars later, he called me back again. “The smoke test allowed us to diagnose your problem!”

“Which is… ?”

“Your gas cap was loose.”

You greedy fuckers, I wanted to scream. You couldn’t have tried tightening the gas cap first?

It’s kind of embarrassing to live in a world where $100 is a significant sum of money.

But, you know. My life is what my life is.

A few short years ago, $100 would have been a make-or-break sum of money. At least it isn’t that anymore.

Really. All you can do is laugh.

###

And as if to reaffirm my ascent into a Real Human Girl-hood again, yesterday’s mail brought me three new credit card offers!

###

I went for another long hike. This time on the grounds of the old James Roosevelt holdings that were not sold to developers of mobile home parks:



This part of the Hudson Valley was once famous for its apple orchards.

You still find a few ancient apple trees around here and there.

Flying the flag come harvest time.
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aaawoods


Now that my car is fixed, I can get back to my real passion in life – which is road trips!

Trip to the Southern tier planned for Thursday, and I spent yesterday tromping around through the thick undergrowth of the Norrie state park and the trail along the river to look for arrowheads and the Hoyt House.

Found the latter, not the former.

In fact, tromping from the trailhead to the Hoyt House turns out not to be a very efficient way of getting to the Hoyt House although you do get more exercise, and I saw two foxes – one red and one grey, rather odd in the drowsiest part of the afternoon considering that foxes are crepuscular.

For years and years, I searched in vain for the Hoyt House – considered by architects to be one of the finest examples of Calvin Vaux’s skills. Vaux designed huge swathes of New York City – the more attractive swathes – before dying mysteriously. If only Vaux’s body hadn’t been found, I could imagine him haunting the Hoyt House, a guest at an interminable party whose ghastly attendees also included all dead Livingstons going back to the grim, inexorable Signer of the Declaration of Independence himself.

But Vaux’s body was found, and the Hoyt House is easy to find if your start out at the Mills Mansion and walk a mile around the point:

aaamills_mansion





aaahudson


The Mills Mansion itself is most impressive for its Beaux Arts neoclassical façade. Once upon a time, one imagines, its impressive greensward was dotted with statues but one by one, when the moon was full, they all came alive and wandered away to snag low-paying jobs as prison guards or liquor store clerks in the surrounding hardscabble towns.

Except for this one:

aaastatue

And here is the incomparable Hoyt House itself, a small bit of Ozymandias in the deep forest:

aaahoyt


I just LUV it when I can work that cautionary moral edge into my road trips!

###

Today, I have a shitload of work to do – housecleaning and yard work in addition to the usual sit-in-one-place-and-make-$$$$ work.

And no interest in doing any of it.

Though that’s not so unusual.
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I did absolutely nothing of any substance all weekend, I mean ab-zo-loot-leee nada! And felt very guilty about it, too, which detracted considerably from the mindless pleasure of nada.

I watched all 10 episodes of The Good Fight and liked them.

I watched a heartwarming movie about a woman and her bomb-sniffing dog, Megan Leavey. And cried. And thought about Milo.

I played The Sims for hours. I’m currently fleshing out the backstory of an autistic genius, so that’s taking up a lot of time.

I read two (count ‘em) biographies of Jerry Garcia and mused for a long time about what an altogether unpleasant little man he was albeit an extremely fine guitar player.

Really, one of the most fascinating things about Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead is that so many of us started out like that – going for adventures in painted buses, dropping vast quantities of acid, cramming together in rat-infested Victorians in the Haight. While a tiny fraction managed to turn that backstory into iconography, the vast majority turned it into failure.

Of course, “failure” is one of those words with no hard definition. I’m alive and in relatively good health two full decades after Jerry Garcia’s expiration date.

But I don’t have the money to plan a spree trip to Cuba let alone to maintain an aggressive heroin habit.

Isn’t that failure?

Can I mention here how much I loathe Jack Kerouac? And Ken Kesey? How I think On the Road and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are two of the most over-rated books in the 20th century bibliotheca? Badly written and misogynistic.

Meanwhile, it’s summertime in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley. I have to get out of the house by 8am if I want to go running since by 9am, it’s 80 degrees.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon sitting on a grassy bluff high above the river, occasionally looking up from my books to take a sip of water and take in this view:

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Very long labyrinthine dream, which I mostly can’t remember, except that I had a friend, otherworldly and innocent – like Bibbit only much, much prettier – and this friend had a lover to whom I, too, was passionately attached. The lover was an artist, Danish or Dutch, very handsome, and equally unworldly, and he and my friend were very happy together: two dormice living in a cupboard, dining on cheese rinds. I wasn’t jealous exactly; more regretful: Nobody would ever love me the way the artist loved my friend! Although, of course, I couldn’t help noticing he wasn’t a very good artist.

###

I’ve been in a mood… I hate the 21st century.

###

Lots has been happening but mostly, I haven’t been noticing it. I did notice the landscape when the sun finally came out yesterday after 10 straight days of rain and gloom. A sere beauty; the underlying architecture of trunks and stones and water. I hiked five miles. After three months of inactivity, that’s the most I’m capable of.


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