On an aesthetically perfect August Saturday night at 7 p.m., the streets of the village of New Paltz were slammed, a fanning, branching promenade of summery people who looked, for lack of a better word, expensive — of hair, of gown, of auto.
Many were having a hard time finding purchase at any of the several reduced-capacity restaurants in town with outdoor seating. At Huckleberry’s, which may be the seat of this new New Paltz, the line extended up the long gravel path and onto Church Street.
A certain chronic out-of-placeness is kind of like my superpower. I’m used to it, and I don’t sweat it. Still, I write to report that I have never, in 58 years, felt this alien and out of place in my home town.
My friend and I bailed on the Huckleberry’s rendezvous and met down the block at the Arrowood Outpost, the literally cavernous local brew pub beneath Barner Books, former site of the second of Rhino Records’ three New Paltz locations.
We got right down the work of drinking a few pints of pils and catching up, probably to the annoyance of the quiet couples around us on the patio. We have always had a way of talking — careening, sparring, playful, loud and most of all, desultory, fractal in its focus. All interruptions, re-re-outings, derailings and parenthetical digressions are enthusiastically welcomed.
Somehow, in the end, everything gets said anyway. We talked about his path back to the Hudson Valley after more than a decade in Brooklyn. We talked about music and my sudden, late-stage enthusiasm for scales and their harmonic implications. He said he had been reading my recent published writing. He called it “exhausting.”
Our jams never end, precisely. We just split when the streets tilt that way. I think we’ll both have recovered sufficiently to do this again in a couple of months. It is nice to have him back in town, as outsize personality as ever, an enlivener, of my life at least.
As I made my way home on foot at about 11:30, New Paltz was completely vacated. I didn’t pass another pedestrian, and car traffic was creepily light. On a Saturday night at 11:30. In New Paltz.
I can’t say which was the weirder — 7 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. All I can say is, man, I do not know this town any more.
Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.