Out of place

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.

There are 5 comments

  1. Sarah LaMoy

    This descriptive essay is really good! It made me feel a little closer to home (I left New Paltz for Montana in January) as well as wistfully aware of the changes you captured well without over-editorializing.

  2. Richard Rizza

    It’s not the town, man. It’s the so called “leaders” of the locality and state. They are trampling your freedom.

  3. butch

    52 years in New Paltz and I am thinking about leaving for the 1st time EVER.
    The “progressive” movement has destroyed my town.
    No jobs for our young folks just tourist places.
    Shameful “leadership” by 🤡🤡🤡🤡

  4. Fed up in NY

    60 years, and all my life in New Paltz, I started Campus School in Nursery school and went to NPHS right out of the 8th grade there. Lived here my entire life. As a child in the 60’s, my parents used to have 8 college students living at our large home on Main St. I lived through the Civil rights movement, Vietnam protests at SUNY, and Woodstock coming through town. (My father had a restaurant at the time). The town has always been very diverse because of the College. We did not have racial problems like other towns around us did at the tme. There were hippys on the street hanging out. Naked people up in the mountains at the falls. I do not know what happened to the town suddenly. to divide people with identity politics and hatred of anything that is good for law and order, our country’s history is now bad ? ? Why are they teaching the youth that America is a bad place ? Hundreds of thousands of people have left NY for good. Cuomo needs to resign in shame for what he did to NY State. Now we will be paying HUGE school taxes for schools to be closed. All the town, state, county, workers as well as teachers will be getting their full pay and benefits. Paid for with my taxes. Yes, its time to leave NY.

  5. Travel On

    Hello Old People.
    You DO sound out of place.

    Been here 27-years and it is the same town I know—welcoming, to locals and visitors alike. Students, passionate diversity, fearlessness, no fear of the “other”.

    The blatant elitism in the editorial and the ridiculous comments – “Not In My Town” attitude is shocking and horrible. You should move. Towns that remain static, that don’t attract new blood, that don’t grow their businesses and their diversity are TOWNS THAT DIE. There are thousands of them scattered across this Nation.

    Your point of view is very, very sad.
    Your tropes about “rich people” or “hair” or “cars” is beyond ignorant.
    Your judging a book by its cover, well, it is pathetic.

    Luckily, most of us love it here and we are not going anywhere.

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