What I want is a New Paltz of diversity, a New Paltz with room for the down-on-their-luck, where people can still discover themselves in shambolic, affordable and undistinguished ways, a SUNY where a kid can act the dilettante without accruing a prison of debt, a New Paltz where doing nothing — big nothing, like what Marriott and Con Ed got done here — really means something.
In an inversion of normal that is par for the Covid-19 course, emails from several local venues in recent weeks have explicitly requesting that their events and who is performing and when not be mentioned. Actual billable hours are being spent on audience deterrence and show denial. The state is serious about enforcement.
Owner of Coldbrook Productions in Woodstock, Julie Last has seen it all. The California native came up as an audio engineer at the legendary Record Plant in New York City, the woman manager of which told her on her first day, “I don’t think you’ll last two weeks, but come back tomorrow.” She worked there for four years.
Here we look at the unique case of three returning natives, dual citizens of sorts who made a life and an identity elsewhere and are now in various states of return, perhaps driven here by urban hellscapes and the loss of sustaining work, perhaps pulled back by the place and the past. The question for them, as for us all, has never been why live here but how to make it work here. The traumatic Covid era is one in which societal and personal transformations intertwine. It is a time of reinvention.
With their facilities indefinitely unavailable, or available on terms so reduced it is nearly impracticable, arts organizations like New Paltz’ venerable Unison Arts Center are asking and answering the toughest questions about survival — economic and creative. Where is the soul of an arts center? Does it lie in the actual physical space, with the high ceilings, wood beams, track lighting and acoustic treatment? Or does it live in the curatorial and community impulse?
I don’t require a break from the daily writing interval itself. Flexing sentences each day keeps them plastic. Feeling out the form of a thought, or half of one, every day alerts you to your own habits and clichés, the most worn pathways of expression and ones you still might blaze. I do see growth as a result of the discipline, but growth in things like writing is never a steady plot. Like golf, lose confidence in your swing as a writer and you can go from a run of bests to a rut of worsts and have no idea what even happened.
In everything I do I am improviser per force and not by choice. Plans and designs do not take well in my neurological soil. There is a layer of static between conception and execution that has always been there. The blood that carries thought to action doesn’t make it to the tips of my mental fingers with all its properties intact. There’s a leak in the line.
Ringo once said that they pitied their friend Elvis, for he endured the disfigurations of extreme fame alone. They had each other, as well as a little coterie of confidantes and gofers with names like Mal and Viv, now immortalized in approximately 1347 exhaustively researched books on the subject.
In some ways, D. James Goodwin, owner of The Isokon studio in Woodstock, is a perfectly illogical place to begin an exploration of recording in the Hudson Valley. The self-described contrarian Goodwin is a conundrum: from local stock, his work with many national acts speaks more to a Brooklyn experimental sensibility, the antithesis of the fundamentalist Americana for which the region is most known. And yet he poses a far more subtle and complex problem than that. In his work with Blitzen Trapper, Kevin Morby, Rhett Miller and many more, Goodwin’s imprimatur is all over the re-imagined, experimental roots rock of the 21st century. He can go as weird as you want, but he has also been behind the board on generational music by the likes of The Hold Steady, The National, New Pornographers, and — get this — Bob Weir.
A self-described quarantine honor student who practiced Covid precaution book and letter for four months, withdrawing hermetically and seeing no one, the 61-year-old Los Angeles journalist Bill Plaschke says he let his guard down twice and ventured two outdoor, distanced, and compliant dinners with friends over the course of a single weekend. And then boom.