I was brought up to believe unquestioningly that reading was healthy, good for you like spinach, and virtuous. I now see reading as entirely neutral, the absurd claims of its inherent powers little more than middle-class social-mobility propaganda, as well as a puritanical reaction against the rise of electronic media in mid-century.
Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh have tinderboxes where gentrifying areas sit next to long-decaying neighborhoods that have been forgotten, labeled as gang-ridden. Hudson and Beacon have built dream communities along long main streets filled with increasingly upscale businesses, plus loads of fancy restaurants. Ellenville’s long had a sense of divide to it.
A New York state senator’s picture made the news this week. The picture was taken by a Reuters photographer. He’s in agony, his eyes tight shut against the pepper the police have sprayed in his eyes, his arms pulled behind him by police officers taking him into custody.
Alternative spirituality still seems to be a way for the upper classes to feel purified, cleansed of complicity in the disgrace of runaway capitalism and wealth. Throw in a dash of specious we-all-make-our-own-realities self-deterministic philosophy and you see how it is possible to feel very good, very healthy, about one’s bank account.
We picked the free school our son attends for its ability to assuage his tics, build his socializing skills, get him street-savvy in an urban environment, and yet offer a wilderness element and farming acumen. He’s made friends for lifetime, wows older people with his conversational skills and ability to confidently look a grown-up in the eye while talking on most subjects, even when he admits knowing nothing.
I’m seeing my family tomorrow. It was their idea. I’m delighted. I’m also concerned.
On the occasions he could be convinced or coerced to drive to New York City at all, my father hugged a one-road route that I now recognize as fabulously misguided and fear-based. As a result, I grew up believing that it took two to two-and-a-half stress-saturated hours to get from New Paltz to Manhattan neighborhoods that I can now make in a buck 20 in light traffic.
One time we unspooled a thousand feet of extension cord and dragged a piano up onto a small mountain in the Catskills, where The Wind was shown among aeolian harps; star Lillian Gish sent a message to be read to those who assembled. When we showed Huckleberry Finn, half the kids, all boys, knew Mickey Rooney’s lines by heart.
When I was young, I spent three years dating a guy who wasn’t very nice. But his father was a lovely, kind man. Each week, his dad scrubbed the kitchen floor of their home with Murphy’s Oil Soap. He did it because he liked to do it. Every Sunday, we’d go there for dinner and underneath the cooking smells was the lingering smell of that floor soap.
I live in a city with working vegetable gardens. It’s as urban centers that no longer thrive on commerce, the