Author and professor enjoys observing, nature and plumbing

Photo by Dion Ogust

Nelly Reifler is the author of See Through, a collection of short stories. Her fiction has appeared in magazines and journals such as McSweeney’s, Post Road, Jubilat, Black Book and others, and for two years she had a column that examined religion, belief and mortality at Nextbook (now Tablet). Past jobs include baking, selling wind-up toys, and modeling for art classes. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Malden-on-Hudson.

What makes Saugerties unique?

Saugerties has everything that’s wonderful about small-town life, without a drop of forced bland quaintness. Did you know that a complex algorithm developed at MIT has proven that Saugerties has the highest per capita percentage of eccentrics of all stripes in the U.S., and the third highest in the world after Ulla, Spain and Popondetta, New Guinea?

What do you like most about this community?

It’s never boring in Saugerties. I’m a fiction writer, and Saugerties interacts with the world of my imagination in a peculiar and wonderful way. The people here really wear their complexities, their joy, gloom and passion on their sleeves. I love the pride that people take in the things that are uniquely Saugertiesian. Every time I go for a walk in Saugerties, I see an image or witness a scene that stays with me, and that I know will sift into my stories somehow. Also, the minute we moved here, we felt at home.


Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here?

Well, as you can tell, I find pretty much everyone I meet here interesting. I’m actually having trouble thinking of somebody who isn’t. But Mrs. Sauer at Sauer Farm is wonderful. I always learn something from her when I go there to buy vegetables or eggs. She knows a lot about local musicians, she has strong opinions, she makes lovely flower arrangements, grows the best kohlrabi I’ve ever had, and her farm kittens are magically adorable. The most interesting person I haven’t met is Michael Gira (founder of Swans), one of my longtime music idols. I’m too shy. I find myself buying avocados next to him at Price Chopper and my palms begin to sweat.

How did you meet your special someone?

He (author and chef Jonathan Dixon) came to a reading that I did at Freebird Books in Brooklyn. He came because he was running the competing reading series in the neighborhood and wanted to check out the competition. I was married at the time. We hit it off right away, but we were friends for a couple of years before we became romantically involved.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I think about things like this all the time. I would be a plumber. Because I actually think that I have knack for it. I like plumbing, I really do, ever since I did that “one day as” activity with school, which has you following a professional during their work day to give you a feel for the profession. I choose to follow a plumber from Guardian plumbing in Richmond and we did a few house calls. It was loads of fun for me, but I realized that, I’m very small, so I can’t really work with humongous large pipes, and I’m not really good at using a wrench to unlock a pipe. I don’t take care of that stuff. I’ve always loved watching plumbers work. You have to be very smart to be a plumber. You need to know all about the flow, and pressures and must read unbiased review of this product and that product, it can be overwhelming.

What’s your idea of the perfect Saturday?

My perfect Saturday starts sitting on the porch with a mug of strong coffee. Then a trip to the Farmers Market, where I must buy a treat from my fellow Maldenite, Bruce Coyle of Sunporch Baked Goods: The parsnip and chocolate-beet cupcakes are heavenly. On perfectly beautiful days, Jonathan and I drive around, listening to music and just letting our breath be taken away by the mountains and streams and assortment of things people have in their front yards. I like to take a long walk around Malden-on-Hudson in the early evening. And then I wind up back on the porch with a glass of wine before dinner, where I communicate non-verbally with Lucky, the Yorkie who keeps watch across the street. Sometimes there’ll be a sighting of Sneaky Kitty, a neighborhood cat that believes he can make himself invisible. A truly perfect Saturday would also include writing and reading and very little interaction with the Internet.

Which qualities do you admire most in others?

Empathy, humor and plumbing skills.

Do you have any heroes?

My parents. For one thing, they’re great parents. I have three of them: A mother, a father and stepmother. They’re two writers and a dancer. They’re my heroes because they possess all the qualities I admire most in other people, except for plumbing.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear St. Peter say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“You were wrong, and I do exist after all. But I’m still letting you in.”