Happy “Not My President” Presidents Day, everyone. I’m listening to the operatic thrash glory of West Coast metal band Holy Grail’s Times of Pride and Peril album and taking a break from the news today after the news of grade-A pig, Breitbart editor, trans and black women doxxer and now pedophile apologist Milo Yiannopoulos surfaced, where Milo condones sexual relations with boys as young as 13 and dangerously suggests it is good for them to have older men to “guide them” as they come of age. It sure didn’t sound like he meant it just as giving the underage advice, and he also mocked the idea of consent laws in the same breath. It sounds, sadly, like the guy really normalized the abuse he himself suffered earlier in life, and seems a key component in why he is so OK with disregarding that the conservative side he has allied himself with is traditionally no friend of gays. It seems like the dude has some real buried self-hate issues beneath his glammy, cocky swagger.
All that aside, it was nice to hear his CPAC speaker’s invitation and book deal have subsequently been rescinded after the comments came to light. Maybe now Bill Maher will realize he should have listened when the entire trans community and horrified progressives asked him not to book Milo on Real Time last weekend (but Maher instead yucked it up with Yiannopoulos and signal-boosted some vile transphobia Milo snuck into their “debate” where he labeled being trans a “psychiatric disorder” and Bill sort of affably said he wasn’t being unreasonable. I am probably never watching Real Time again).
Anyway, all that darkness aside, I have some really nice experiences to share from this past weekend. Wandering around Uptown the other night I was near Uncle Willy’s. Friday and Saturday nights you can always hear some cool band covering The Moody Blues or playing original, often bluesy rock. This past weekend I was enticed in by the very soulful sounds, a brazen horn section and warm vocals. The crowd was a bit older on this night as the band, the Hudson Valley’s own Soul Purpose, got everyone in the dancing spirit. Sometimes it is so much cooler to see a band with no ego doing what they love in a small room, just reminding everyone it is a pleasure and gift to be alive and share some tunes and spirits among friends and friendly strangers. That kind of good vibes is sorely needed right now and I was thrilled to hear the group’s almost borderline salsa take on Motown, swing and classic R&B hits. If you ever get a chance to see Soul Purpose I highly recommend it.
Another nice experience last weekend was finally getting to really check out a dining establishment I had heard great things about, Chops Grille at 33 John St. Chops Grille was opened in Uptown Kingston in November 2015, but I had not had the pleasure of eating there until the other night. It seemed the perfect spot to investigate as I continue this column’s look the past month or so at local restaurants we haven’t covered as much as some of the various music venues.
So anyhow, Chops Grille host Denni was gracious and bought me a drink while I looked over their expansive, but not overly expensive, menu and enjoyed the classy and spacious interior of muted dining room colors in multiple rooms contrasted with a small center bar area with Christmas lights and low-key but fun flair. Every patron I asked about their experiences there admitted they were a return customer and that it was by far their favorite spot around for free-range chicken, lamb chops, steak and fries or the popular calamari (which I can report was savory and perfectly prepared). Denni told me that the next day they had an insane number of reservations and they were anticipating a lot of foot traffic as well, so it is nice to know yet another Kingston restaurant is really doing pretty well despite a lot of competition. Personally, I have always felt that more bars, venues and places to eat inspires people to want to check out all their options and keep coming back to the area as a result.
I thought it would be cool to name the column this week after Holy Grail’s early 2016 metal release because while we live in some perilous and uncertain times at the moment, people taking pride in their local community, businesses and friendships is a good way to find redemption and sustainability amidst the chaos we are barraged with in the headlines on a daily basis of late. I can honestly say that it has been really comforting knowing there is always somewhere friendly and welcoming to go in my own city lately, and not just in that “everybody knows your name” Cheers theme song way. I mean, I know a butt ton of people around here and love you all but even yours truly still makes new acquaintances around here and hasn’t been everywhere yet. It is easy to get into the habit or groove of going to your favorite spots, but also very cool to realize that even when you expand your horizons a little bit that you are still likely to encounter a quality experience in Kingston these days almost anywhere you go. On top of that, we also have the LGBTQ center and socially aware events on a regular basis at BSP, The Anchor and elsewhere.
Sure, some nights we have more hooligans running around than others or sloppier drinkers and loud people, but you also have very consistent dining, really enthusiastic or at least wryly funny and sarcastic snarky staffers at some venues and generally people who want to help facilitate a nice time. I really feel like Kingston has the best options these days locally for a weekend on the town. Rhinebeck, for example, may have a generally fancier demographic, but we can match them for fine dining while also having awesome rock club and dive bar options, depending on your mood. Here’s to you, Kingston. We should be proud right now. It’s not a bad thing all the time.