(no subject)

This is basically a writing diary where I write all kinds of stuff that will be immensely boring to anyone who stumbles across it.

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

That Etruscan Design Aesthetic

Nothing of any significance happened to me yesterday—for which I am simultaneously grateful and resentful, I suppose.

I read, I remunerated, I exercised.

In the evening, I got distracted and somehow ended up getting lost in a bunch of jewelry designs by a jeweler called Elizabeth Locke who specializes in designing expensive Etruscan-style jewelry. It’s a design aesthetic that really appeals to me. My last wedding ring was an Etruscan-style emerald.





Then I looked up Elizabeth Locke’s house in Architectural Digest:





Day-em!

What do I have to do in Bardo to get reincarnated as Elizabeth Locke?

And who do I have to do it to? Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Odi et Amo, Plus Personal Best

Yesterday was still hot.

I did a bunch of weeding. My garden plots are a lot wilder than the garden plots of my compadres. Clearly, I’m not interested in optimizing my vegetable yield.



I did a bunch of remunerative work.

I thought some more about the Gore Vidal Gothic story. [personal profile] johnny9fingers made an excellent suggestion: The first line of the poem should always remain the same throughout every iteration. Something like, Odi et amo it is then…

And I thought, Perfect! Since the opening line I had devised for my rough, rough, rough first draft was actually, It had shocked Eugene to discover Latin could be used to write about smut.

This would make the title of the story, Odi et Amo.

Palimpsest was not in the library, so I put in a request and instead checked out a book called Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal, which I first read some years back, memorable for an excruciating description of Vidal in his declining years when the writer was confined to a wheelchair and racked by Korsakoff's syndrome:

He looked like a down-and-out panhandler who had sneaked in off Duval Street to swipe a drink and a fistful of peanuts. A sad, shrunken doll in a rumpled blue blazer with an antimacassar of dandruff around the shoulders, he wore stained sweatpants and bright red tennis sneakers and sat slumped to one side in his wheelchair, as if the bones had been siphoned out of his body.

Whoa!

I guess the sad fate of Gore Vidal in his declining years teaches us that love is the only currency that means anything.

###

In the evening, I watched Personal Best. Probably the best movie ever made about athletes.

The narrative showcases two female decathaloners training for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics, of course, so the glory was all in the effort.

Early on in the film, the girls become lovers, so the film was slipped into a CriterionChannel lineup tagged Queersighted Breaking Taboos. So beside the point for this particular movie. I mean, yeah: There are sex scenes. Graphic sex scenes. Rather beautiful sex scenes, not at all sensationalistic or exploitive.

The sex scenes total maybe two minutes of screen time.

The scenes where the athletes train total at least one hour of screen time.

Because basically, the film is about the drive to compete. And what happens to your own performance when one of your competitors is someone you care for.

The sexuality in the film is very fluid and reminded me of my own sexuality earlier in my life: I was one of those people who always had to love the people I had sex with; however shallowly, however briefly, at the moment of consummation, there had to be love. But the objects of that love were never classified according to their genitals: Sometimes they were men, sometimes they were women.

That fluidity feels very different to me than today’s “bisexual” category of the LGBTQ taxonomy, which so far as I’m concerned is strictly a marketing category.

Honestly, I think the whole same-sex attraction thing was so much more fun when it was marginalized. I mean, apart from the physical sensations, isn’t what makes sex fun its transgressive nature? Isn’t that why most people get bored with their husbands, wives, officially sanctioned sex partners?

The young Mariel Hemingway who plays the POV character in the film looks startlingly like my dear friend Barbara Angell in her youth. Oddly enough, I was never sexually attracted to Barbara, though she was quite beautiful and we were very close. But it did remind me—gotta get in touch with Barbara about the upcoming California pilgrimage so we can spend a couple of days at the Petrified Forest while I’m out there. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

The Real Housewives Do Critical Race Theory

Woke up early so I could see the eclipse, but the eclipse was MIA.

Tromped five miles yesterday in the really horrifying heat. Whatever possessed me to do that?

Wrote 200 words on the Gore Vidal horror story. Every single one of those 200 words was awful, terrible, the worst fucking thing ever written. That includes the articles and pronouns!

But something is better than nothing, so you know. I’m not gonna give into the temptation to tear it all up and start afresh.

###

The various Real Housewives franchises have decided to get into critical race theory this season.

On RHONY, Eboni and Leah are getting into it with Heather and the Countess. Heather isn’t really a Housewife, so I don’t really see why they’re bothering. The Countess is—well. The Countess. She told Eboni that she (Eboni) seemed “angry.” Clearly, the Countess has not read Robin DiAngelo!

On RHOBH, Garcelle and Crystal are getting into it with Sutton—who admittedly is bat shit crazy (but then, isn’t “bat shit crazy” an actual casting requirement for Real Housewives?) Sutton has a very strong Southern accent, too, which I think makes her an automatic target because all white people with strong Southern accents are racists, right?

It’s good that conversations about racism have become part of the national discourse at this level because this is the level—campy pop culture—that actually makes everyday people examine their automatic reactions and behaviors.

Nevertheless, it remains my belief that the reason the neoliberal political class has clothed itself in the banner of identity politics is because they’re too chicken shit to have a real conversation about resource allocation.

And Matt Taibbi does a most excellent takedown of Robin DiAngelo here:

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Peonies and Yellow Spring



Violent thunderstorm came up out of nowhere yesterday.

Took out the last of the peonies.

Peonies are my favorite flower.

Of course, the peony growing season is short to begin with. How long do peonies bloom for? Ten days? Two weeks? The end of peony season always presages the end of spring to me, the end of spring and the beginning of summer since it coincides with the opening of the various U-Pick-Em berry fields and orchards around here.

Summer has its attractions. Fruit!

But I prefer the spring.

###

I can’t decide whether it’s better to write from an outline or to bivouac across a blank page (or an empty MSWord.doc as is more likely in my case.)

Blank pages can be very intimidating. Although, of course, if one is an adventuresome writer, they can expand or contract to accommodate the size of one’s imagination.

Plus, one can always ignore outlines.

Anyway, I am thinking Yellow Springtime has six segments.

Segment 1: 1939. Has to be written at the time that callow Eugene is a student at St. Albans in D.C., in emotional thrall to Jimmie Trimble’s calloused palms. Must have flashbacks to blind, doddering Senator Gore and incredibly hot rooms where young Eugene had to figure out a way to read The Congressional Record in something other than a drone.

Nina would still be married to Auchincloss, I think. So, the setting for this segment would be Merrywood. Some time during this year, he makes his first visit to Europe, to Rome.

I think maybe we see him change his first name to “Gore.” He writes the poem.

Segment 2: 1945. Gore is a warrant officer on a U.S. Army freight and supply ship berthed in an Alaskan harbor.

I think the enlisted men steal one of the novels Gore is writing and begins reading it out loud to a room of drunken guys. Gore doesn’t much care, joins in the general laughter. But when it turns out that they’ve also stolen the poem, he gets very emotional, protests loudly. An enlisted guy reads the poem out loud, and Gore realizes: It’s not the poem he wrote. Gore grabs the poem from the guy who’s reading it: It’s in his own handwriting, and there’s the tell-tale blotch—his own blood? (If I want to get really gross) Jimmie Kimble’s cum? But it’s changed from what he wrote.

Segment 3: 1960. Party at Edgewater in Barrytown, the mansion Gore now owns. Lots o’ famous guests! Paul Newman! Joanne Woodward! Hilarious, drunken banter! Gore is the Democratic candidate for the New York 29th Congressional District seat! One of the guests jeers that Gore’s past is entirely too checkered for the campaign to be successful; hilarious takedown of sleazy JFK antics ensues during which Gore pulls out the poem to read for the amusement of the guests—but look! The poem has changed again! Only Gore is too drunk to be frightened or alarmed; he just laughs and remarks the poem is his very own version of Dorian Grey’s portrait.

Segment 4: Sometime in the 1970s. The famous showdown with Buckley is at least a decade in the past. (Or should I say “Once famous showdown” ‘cause it’s the Millennials’ turn to control fame now, and I’m pretty sure not one of them has the faintest clue who Gore Vidal or William F. Buckley Jr. are.). Gore is fuming about something, seething with hatred over imagined slights.

Maybe this would be a good time to insert the (true!) story about how Gore stalked up to Rod Serling at a party, accused Serling of stealing an obscure and uncharacteristically sentimental story he’d written, and turning it into a Twilight Zone episode. When Gore gets home from the party, he drunkenly rifles through old file boxes, trying to find a copy of the obscure magazine in which the sentimental story was published, only to find—yep! you guessed it!—a copy of the poem.

Segment 5: 2003. Gore is about to sell his Italian villa. He is very drunk and miserable. Some Who’s-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf?—like banter between Gore and the long-suffering, soon-to-be-dead Howard Austen.

I think Gore must keep forgetting that the poem changes. He goes looking for the poem to prove to Howard Austen that yes, he is too capable of having his deeper emotions engaged, that Howard Austen is just too much of a loser to engage them!

The poem by this time is like something out of 1984:

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me


Segment 6: 2012. Just after Gore dies. Orderly who was with Gore when he died listens to the last Cheyne-Stokes gasps and then quickly begins rifling through Gore’s stuff. Sees an ornate wooden box. Figures something very precious must be inside the box. Discovers the poem, which by this point has degenerated into something you might find scribbled above a glory hole in a Greyhound Bus terminal lavatory. Anonymous male orderly then flushes the poem down the toilet. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Not a Buddhist

Yesterday, I was up and driving at the crack of dawn to go and rescue black-eyed Susans that someone was giving away on Trash Nothing.

The rescue mission took me into the foothills of the Taconic Mountains, which aren’t really mountains—at least not on this side of the New York border—but a series of oscillating hills, cut through by narrow, twisty country roads. Gorgeous! The incredible green of the northeastern spring! Bitch to drive in the wintertime, I’ll bet.

Landscape has that Kentucky hollow feel to it—entirely appropriate since the Taconics are actually the northernmost spine of the Appalachians. I passed multiple crossroads that are all that’s left of weird little towns with names like Frost Mills and Mabbetsville and tried to imagine what life was like for Mssrs Frost and Mabbets back in the day. The big city was Poughkeepsie. They might visit it once in a lifetime.

By the time I got to the garden, temperatures were flirting with 85°.

So, you know—awful.

And wayyyy too hot for weeding.

Though God knows the garden needs it.



Day proceeded serenely from there.

I talked with Claude about the best way to get rid of woodchucks.

“I prefer to shoot ze leetle fuckers,” Claude told me. “Or drown them.”

Claude grew up on a farm in post-World War II Normandy. He is not a Buddhist!

I did remunerative work.

I tutored Lola in English.

She was having trouble with the idiom, “I used to…”

“It’s kind of the English language equivalent of the imperfect tense,” I told her. “Like the Italian imperfetto.”

Actually, I have no idea whether this syntactical explanation is true, strictly speaking, but it did make me feel like a veritable font of grammatical knowledge, so I basked throughout the rest of the lesson in a warm self-congratulatory glow.

In the evening, we did Family Zoom.

Family Zoom has been on ice, lo, these three weeks past in hopes that time would pour Roundup on the various grudges, resentments and rancor. I forced myself to behave—even as we discussed the Origins of Covid, and Alicia told me that the virus couldn’t possibly be manmade because she didn’t think it was, and she is a scientist!

Annie was as out of it as I have ever seen her. She began talking about David—“He’s my nephew,” she told me.

“I know, Annie,” I said. “I grew up with him.”

“You did?” she asked.

And I realized it was entirely possible she didn’t have the slightest notion who I was. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

That Double CGG Sequence in CoV-2

At Sam’s b-day party, Neighbor Ed and I got into This Year’s Wrangle, which involves the origins of the novel coronavirus, Covid-2.

Long-time readers may remember our last merry wrangle some years back, which involved my refusal to vote for Hillary Clinton.

“You’re the reason why Donald Trump was elected!” Neighbor Ed shrieked, skewering me with the j’accuse forefinger.

Whereupon I got up and stalked out of the house. I can’t remember whether I slammed the door or not on my way out.

###

From the start, I’ve thought novel coronavirus was manmade.

We’re supposed to believe the fact that the virus first emerged in an area where there was a large laboratory devoted to studying exactly these types of viruses was mere coincidence?

Nope, sorry. Don’t like that flavor Kool-Aide.

Anyway, this is was not the party line in the liberal, progressive circles with which I am mostly aligned, and the few times I opened my mouth about this opinion, I was roundly excoriated—“And the earth is flat, too, right?”—so I learned to keep my mouth shut.

Now the theory is gaining more traction on all sides of the political spectrum, so it’s safe to use it as a reference point.

Which I did last night. In a conversation about the plummeting rate of vaccinations here.

Vaccinations appear to have reached their saturation point. Nobody wants to get vaccinated anymore.

I cannot understand it.

“It’s kinda like the deal with the origins of the coronavirus,” I said. “It’s obvious to me that the virus was manmade—”

“No, it is not obvious,” Ed said. “The theory has been raised, not confirmed. You do not have all the information because nobody has all the information. It is merely an opinion you have—”

“Well, obviously, it’s an opinion I have. I said it, didn’t I?”

“—and to insert your opinions into a scientific discussion—”

“La, la, la!” I sang. “I do not wanna have a discussion about the origins of the novel coronavirus! I merely brought it up as an example of the way in which the current political climate operates! The polarization has reached toxic levels! Until very recently, if you even entertained a suspicion that the virus was tweaked in a lab, you were promptly accused of being a Trump water carrier! I am thinking that the same thing is happening with vaccinations, that the whole reason why people are refusing to get vaccinated is because they hate Biden—”

“Oh, that,” Neighbor Ed said dismissively. “Of course, that’s true. In the alternate universe where Trump won the 2020 election and the Democrats are stewing in the-election-was-stolen! mishigas, it would be the Republicans who'd be lining up for vaccinations and the Democrats who’d be refusing to get them.”

Whoa! I thought.

Of course, he’s right.

And the fact that he’s right is one of those human fallacies that’s gonna be looked at by future historians as they investigate the reasons why human civilization abruptly imploded and disappeared in the 21st century.

Note: Those future historians may not be human.

###

This morning’s Wall Street Journal contains a fascinating piece that delves further into the theory that novel coronavirus is manmade.

Interestingly, the piece appears in the WSJ's editorial section. I’m not exactly sure what that implies.

The piece is well worth reading, but it’s behind a paywall, so it may not be accessible. Here’s the money quote:

Collapse )

I am not a microbiologist, so I cannot analyze the veracity or non-veracity of this argument.

But if it is true, a thousand different things, previously banished to the realm of conspiracy theories and unicorns, suddenly become possibilities.

Like if every expert can see the double CGG sequence in CoV-2, then Fauci et al must have known about the probability that a "gain-of-function" sequence is at the heart of this disease.

Which means that everyone in the political hierarchy that the scientific community serves—the World Health Organization, the CDC, the U.S., China, Russia etc, etc—knew about it, too.

So, why the massive sales campaign to sell the animal transmission story? And the suppression, the censorship, the wholesale ridicule and denial of opposite viewpoints? What political and economic ends are served with this?

Well, obviously, it protects China trade.

The world is completely dependent on Chinese trade.

Everything is manufactured there. Not just washing machines and your smartphone and the computer chips that now control most of the functions in your car.

Pharmaceuticals.

###

My argument with Neighbor Ed was not the only disquieting thing that happened at the b-day party. That was almost part of the scheduled entertainment, we do it so often.

First, my chocolate-covered strawberries didn’t turn out so well.



I mean, they tasted okay.

But they weren’t very pretty.

I made them with strawberries I grew in my very own garden (sniff.)

Second, I was out on the deck chatting with Sam and her boyfriend Dan. We were talking about a volunteer Japanese maple that’s sprung up alongside the deck and that needs to be taken out.

“For someone who grew up in the city, you certainly seem to have bought into the country lifestyle,” Dan remarked.

The remark struck me as vaguely hostile though Dan is not an innately hostile guy.

I shrugged. “Well, you know. As you get older, your life begins to slow down.”

“That’s not true of everyone,” Dan said.

“It isn’t?”

“No. My grandmother’s 94 years old! She’s still out there, driving around, living life to its fullest. She has a 99-year-old boyfriend!”

“Where does she live?” I asked. Because I wanted to make a mental note: Avoid driving in this area whenever possible.

“Florida!” said Dan.

Florida. Of course.

“Well, let me rephrase that then—I’ve found aging to be a slowing down process—”

And at that moment, I realized I wasn’t a real human being to Dan.

I was kind of a caricature: a boring old person he was forced to talk to because I’d helped organize a boring party for his girlfriend.

It was one of those 180° pivots you get sometimes when the world tilts and you suddenly find yourself looking at it through someone else’s eyes.

I flashed on my mother’s legwarmers.

Legwarmers were a style during the ‘70s, but they were a style for young people.

My mother, most embarrassingly, wore them into her 40s. As though wearing legwarmers established her cred as youthful. So-o-o inappropriate, thought judge-y little moi!

Even so must appear my attempts at sprightly, philosophical conversation to comparative strangers who are Dan’s age (mid-thirties), I realized.

And right then and there, I made a resolution: As God is my witness, I will never utter a single fucking word to anyone under the age of 45 ever again!!!!!

Unless they’re related to me by blood. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Storm King



I went to Storm King yesterday.

It’s a vast sculpture installation on the leeward side of the mountain called (you guessed it!) Storm King. Storm King on the western bank of the Hudson River, together with Breakneck Ridge, just north of Cold Spring, are the official boundaries of what are called the Hudson Highlands.



I’m not a big fan of abstract sculpture.

In fact, I’m not a big fan of abstract anything, come to think of it. I’m too superficial, too bourgeois, too representational, too tied into narrative. Or too something. I find all philosophy tedious, and the beauty of form without specific function is entirely lost on me. As far as I’m concerned, the oil derricks that line La Cienega Boulevard are abstract sculpture installations:



But the abstract sculptures at Storm King worked for me—not as much for the sculptures themselves as for the way they are integrated into the natural landscape.





These were my favorites. Not only did they fit into the visual landscape, they also caught the wind:



Although I was also fond of this one because the Eyes of Cthulu, right? (See! I told you I was representational!)



By the latter part of my excursion, it was stultifyingly hot, mid-90°s. I’d taken the train and then a shuttle bus, so public transportation was part of the adventure, too. You can’t live where I live and not have a car, but increasingly if there’s a reasonable way to get somewhere that doesn’t involve driving, that’s what I’ll opt for.

###

What else?

I made up the last three lines of the poem that’s the centerpiece for the Edgewater/Gore Vidal story—

Springtime was yellow that year
Drained of the greenness
You took from me


—so obviously the story has to be called Yellow Spring.

The story only works to the degree that I can turn Vidal’s own creation myths on their ear. So, the kindly, blind grandfather, a Senator from Oklahoma, to whom the 10-year-old Eugene reads the Congressional Record in some sort of weird classical fantasy that informed Vidal’s entire subsequent adult life must metamorphose into a mouth-breathing racist scumbag. Also, I think maybe it’s his stepsister, Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis—whose lifelong obsession was Oscar Wilde—who explains homosexuality.

Of course, the young Eugene’s idealized platonic love, Jimmie Trimble, is a complete moron.

Not sure what the opening of the story should be. Mutual masturbation with Jimmie Trimble seems a bit lurid though certainly no more so than Vidal’s own recollections in his memoir, Palimpsest (which, I suppose, I’m gonna have to reread.)

Maybe begin with Jackie explaining homosexuality and segueing into some sensational encounter with the demented grandfather?

Decisions, decisions.

There’s lots on the To Do list today—water my garden, water Buff-Ken-and-Lorraine’s garden (they’re on vacation), make chocolate-covered strawberries for Sam’s bday party, attend Sam’s bday party, and remunerate—but I will attempt to squeeze writing Scene 1 into the mix somehow. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Strangely Haunted Houses of the Hudson Valley

So! The eeeee-vil Livingstons story cycle should have six stories, based on six of the historic estates.



Oak Terrace: Elliot Roosevelt’s Motor Car. Already written. Edits: Alice actually has to drive the car, and the scene where Eleanor is seduced by the ghost of her father has to be a bit more horrific.



Edgewater: No title yet.

Between 1950 and 1969, the writer Gore Vidal owned a Barrytown estate called Edgewater.

As a sidebar, I will note here that most of my ideas about what constitutes good writing were gleaned from Gore Vidal; I used to cart his doorstop-sized collection of essays, United States: Essays 1952-1992, around with me everywhere.

Vidal’s life definitely went downhill when he left the Hudson Valley for Italy.

This will be a Dorian Gray-ish story. Instead of a painting, though, the central conceit will be a poem. And the poem keeps changing!

Originally written in Wordsworthian iambic pentameter by a boy who fell in love with him at Philips Exeter Academy, the poem keeps changing as Vidal sinks deeper into alcoholism and depravity until finally it comes to resemble some graffiti scrawl on the walls above a Greyhound urinal.

Since I’m a terrible poet, this one oughta be a challenge!



Steen Valetje/Poet’s Walk: No title yet. I want to do a time shift story here, something along the lines of the Moberly–Jourdain incident.

Backstory: Back-to-back wars in the latter part of the 17th century spurred a mass emigration of Protestant German peasants from the western lander of Catholic Rheinland-Pfalz, first to England (where they were promised religious freedom) and thence to the New World (where they were promised land.)

In fact, the village of Rhinebeck gets its name because these emigrants thought the Hudson in these parts looked like the Rhine.

These Palatines (as they were called) were illiterate and completely impoverished. The British needed hemp and tar and pitch for their navy, and it was thought that the Palatines could help provide them. Unscrupulous government agents were sent to prey upon the Palatines, promise them passage to the New World—a paradise! All they had to do? Work off the cost of their passage for a few years.

The Palatines arrived in New York in December, 1710. Their settlement on this side of the Hudson was called “East Camp”; today, it’s called “Germantown.”

A group of them were relocated south to the area that’s now the park called Poet’s Walk. Unfortunately, New York pine trees are the wrong variety for tar and pitch, and the soil was not suitable for growing hemp. The British government withdrew its support of the project, leaving the Palatine emigrants destitute. Many starved or froze to death. The lucky ones fled.

Fast-forward 140 years, and kazillionaire Franklin Hughes Delano wants to build a Big House. He wants to call this house Steen Valetje (Dutch for “little stone valley”). If the name looks familiar, it’s because the 32nd President of the United States—a traitor to his class, by the way!—was named for him: Franklin Hughes Delano was FDR’s great uncle.

Somehow a child from the relatively prosperous 1850s encounters a Palatine child starving to death in 1711.

This one has a logistical problem—the historical Franklin Hughes Delano died childless.

But I’m sure I can come up with something.



Rokeby: No title yet.

I'm fairly sure Scott Spencer’s novel, River Under the Road, was inspired by Rokeby. Alexandra Aldrich also wrote a terrific memoir called The Astor Orphan about growing up there.

I took a wrong turn off River Road and trespassed onto the grounds once, covered with the type of trash—rusted washing machines, battered furniture, black plastic bags of uncertain provenance and the like—that a Hollywood art director might rustle up for Hillbilly Elegy: The Musical.

Feral Astors still reside there. You run into them every once in a while in one of the rundown liquor stores on the other side of Route 9 from the historic part of Rhinebeck.

I seem to recall that one of these feral Astors was an artist who made giant puppets.

So, this story will be a kind of Benito Cereno homage in which the giant puppets of Rokeby control the humans.



Wyndcliffe: No title yet.

This is the house that inspired Edith Wharton’s lifelong loathing for Gothic architecture.

It also inspired the phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses”: Wharton’s aunt, socialite Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, built the mansion to which Wharton was banished every summer while she was growing up, and I guess other members of the Livingston dynasty in parts surrounding (Rhinebeck, Clermont) were jealous of it.

I’m not exactly sure yet what happens in this story, but Edith Wharton wrote what to my mind is the most perfect ghost story ever composed, Afterward. So, possibly, the story incorporates some of that ambiguity and mystery.



Hoyt House: No title yet. Calvin Vaux’s mysterious death by drowning.

I visit Hoyt House at least once a year. Actually paid $30 once to the preservation group that is trying to restore it so I could tour its interior. It sits smack in the middle of Margaret Norrie State Park.

(For the record, there are all sorts of weird things in Margaret Norrie State Park.)

The house was designed by the very famous architect, Calvin Vaux.

The house was actually occupied until the early 1960s when Robert Moses—the same guy who destroyed New York City by building all those hideous crosstown expressways—exercised the state’s right of eminent domain to evict the Hoyt House’s owners. Robert Moses wanted to build a swimming pool there. Of all bizarre things.

The swimming pool did not get built, and the house fell ever deeper and deeper into disrepair and decay, which is a pity because Calvin Vaux was a very talented architect who partnered with Frederick Olmstead to create all that hardscaping—the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, for example—you admire so greatly whenever you visit Central Park. Hoyt Hoouse was very beautiful.

Calvin Vaux died under mysterious circumstances in 1895: He drowned in Gravesend Bay.

I’m not sure how I’m gonna connect up Calvin Vaux’s drowning death in Brooklyn with the Hoyt House in upstate Staatsburg. Maybe this story takes place in the 1960s, and Robert Moses with his weird swimming pool idea relates to that drowning death somehow. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

The Eeeeevil Livingstons of the Hudson Valley.

Z misinformed me about the Apple Pie Café: It is not open. So, I lured BB across the river on false premises.

We repaired to the local Mexican restaurant instead.

(This restaurant was started by one of Paul D_______’s high school civics students. I met this student back in the day when I helped out on Paul’s unsuccessful campaign for a county supervisor seat, and I was quite impressed by her: She did not want to go to college; she wanted to open a restaurant! The Hyde Park location has been so successful that she’s since opened two more—one in Pine Bluff and one in Poughkeepsie.)

The restaurant was having an off day. Food was merely meh but the conversation was inspiring as it always is with BB.

His new beard makes him look really different:



Afterwards, we tromped in search of coffee.

Hyde Park is a relatively old village for these parts, founded 17something. But it has no discrete downtown district as such, on account of the only reason it exists is so that all those forelock-tugging servants who staffed the Big Houses of the eeeeevil Livingston dynasty and their lineal descendants would have a place to drink on their day off.

One of the dilapidated old houses on the old Albany Post Road, gussied up with fresh paint and new windows, had been turned into a vegan coffeehouse.

“Boy, there’s someone who did not do their market research,” I remarked.

We kept tromping.

Eventually ended up at Cranberry’s, which—pre-Covid—had been a nice enough little eatery. Now it only appears to be open on alternate Thursdays when the moon is full.

So, not good food and no coffee!

Hyde Park is such a weird little place, though, once you break out of the labyrinthian suburbs that surround it like Saturn's rings. I always enjoy tromping around in it.

Like we passed this house that appeared to have Edgar Allan Poe peeking out at us from over the shutters—



Except that’s not Edgar Allan Poe; that’s a mask that someone painstakingly attached to the shutters.

Who does that? one wonders.

There’s always weird shit like this going on in America’s small towns. If you just look.

That’s the reason why I like them.

###

I really oughta write a complete story cycle about the eeeeevil Livingstons of the Hudson Valley. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.