06/09/2010 (9:32 am)

Pizza tastes better than thin feels

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Moving to Rosendale has had many positive effects on me. The one I’m noticing right now: it has adjusted my previously seriously warped sense of body image, for myself and other women. Now, on the occasions that I venture into the city, everyone looks anorexic to me. Well, not everyone, but many women.

We found ourselves in Manhattan on Sunday after one of Brian’s clients had an I.T. situation. It seemed like something he could fix quickly, so I thought I’d go along for the ride and see if we could do something there afterward. Now that we are bridge and tunnel, we can do touristy things! Things we almost never did when we lived there, like go to exhibits at the Met.

Before we ventured up to the Picasso show, we stopped at Slice, a sort of artisanal pizza place that has gluten-free varieties. The pizza was great. It had a chewier crust than I’ve found in most other gluten-free pizzas. They use a combination of rice flower, potato and corn starches, and of course that g.f. wonder ingredient, xanthum gum, whatever that is, plus other things I’m not remembering now.

Toward the end of our lunch, two women who seemed to be in their twenties walked in. They looked like stick figures. After scrutinizing the menu for five minutes and then asking a bunch of questions of the guy behind the counter, one turned to the other and said, “Do you want to eat?”

“No, but I’ll watch you eat,” said the other after thinking for a second.

“No, I don’t need to eat now,” the first one responded. “We can come here another time.”

It was like an outtake from Henry Jaglom’s “Eating.”

04/23/2010 (9:23 am)

No nail clippers for you, either…

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So, apparently violations of common courtesy and decency aren’t limited to noisy and stinky riders on the Aridondack Trailways line from Rosendale to NYC.

Jason Shelowitz, the artist brother of a friend of mine, has started this campaign on the New York City subways. Maybe we can get him to make some placards for our buses.

02/28/2010 (2:16 pm)

Let all the children boogie

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In Patti Smith’s memoir about her symbiotic relationship with creative soulmate Robert Mappelthorpe, she writes about the adrenaline rush she experienced the first time she performed her poems and songs at the St. Marks Poetry Project. She found herself so overstimulated afterward, she couldn’t sleep.

I read that passage just yesterday, and here I am today having a similar experience. Brian and I are completely wired after performing for the second time as “Altar Egos” at a David Bowie “Tributon” event at Market Market Cafe. (The first time we did “7” at a Prince tribute.) We did goofy, shticky, hammed-up versions of “It Ain’t Easy” and “Starman” while dressed as a nun and a Hassidic rabbi, and even though it’s a dumb joke you’d only get if you knew us (Brian’s oldest sister says we are “cross dressing”) and which is stretched too far, and despite that fact that our musical technique and comedic improv chops leave much to be desired, people seemed to really love our performance.

An audience showing you the love is cause alone for a serious buzz, but I think there’s more to it. I feel like I’m also buzzing off of everyone else’s spirited performances, but more than that, off of the encouragement and acceptance that are such a vital part of the creative scene here in Rosendale. From one event to the next in this town, whether it’s an 80s-themed Prom party or a night of original monologues, I am consistently amazed by not only how much originality and talent there is here, but also by how mutually supportive people are.

You won’t find any attitude here – no in-group sneering sideways at the wanna-be’s. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join in the fun. It makes for an environment where people are unafraid to take creative risks – even people brand new to town – and that naturally breeds exciting, original art and entertainment. (Sure, it paves the way for some serious clunkers. But it’s still all in good fun.)

It’s thrilling to witness and take part in that. No wonder we slept only four hours.

02/25/2010 (4:55 pm)

Apples to apples

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We got this much more snow today. At least in this one spot.

02/24/2010 (4:35 pm)

Counting the snowflakes

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On days like today when it snows in the mid-Hudson Valley, friends and family from other areas want to know how many inches we got. We tend to get a lot more than people to the south of here.

I try to give an accurate answer, but it’s hard to say. Drifts will cause greater accumulations in some spots, and drippings from the trees will tamp down the piles in others. I am reminded that the Constants, the house’s owners-twice-removed, had the job of measuring precipitation and reporting it to the National Weather Service when they lived here from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. In fact, until our garage came down a couple of years ago, their special yellow measuring cup was attached to it.

Today I planned to go outside and measure with a ruler in several places, then average my findings. But I can’t find my ruler. Using my show shoes as yard sticks seems a little unscientific, but they’re what I’ve got. Somewhere at the bottom of some landfill, that special measuring cup is mocking me.

01/20/2010 (5:35 pm)

Breaking (gluten-free) bread with an old friend

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Hello, readers. Happy 2010. I’m back – sorry for he hiatus. I was busy ghostwriting a memoir. I do that. It’s my bread and butter.

Speaking of which… This week, Jenifer Constantine, proprietrix of Market Market Cafe, was so kind as to bake a loaf of gluten-free bread for me to have my sandwiches on.

Jenifer’s bread turned out great. Firm but a little springy, tasty, fresh – not cardboard-y like so many gluten-free loaves. On Monday, I had a ham and cheese presse on it and it was quite good. Not only did I enjoy the taste and the texture, I also took pleasure in feeling like a normal person eating a sandwich on normal, white, fluffy bread.

Today, I had a toasted, buttered slice with my soup and salad. I felt like standing up and showing everybody, “Look! I have toast!” (You’d probably have to have celiac or some other condition that requires you to eat gluten-free in order to appreciate that feeling.)

Ironically, I bumped into an old writing workshop cohort there today. It turns out she eats gluten-free, too, and was thrilled to have some of the bread as well.

In a few weeks Jenifer will likely bake more of this bread. If you’re gluten-free, you’ll definitely want to stop in and give it a try.

12/08/2009 (9:04 am)


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Rosendale bills itself as “the Festival Town,” and with something like eight of them each year, it seems as if this might be truth in advertising. It probably tarnishes my image as a jaded New Yorker to admit this, but I am a sucker for each and every one. Sure, at root they’re just commercial, promotional efforts by the town’s chamber of commerce. But the festivals are all so small town and hokey, they have a certain ernest local authenticity that truly appeals.

The one that probably gets me the most is Frozendale Day, the pre-holiday event that was held this past Saturday, 12/5. I was working all day, but took a break to have lunch at The Big Cheese and quickly survey the festivities and gifts for sale up and down Main Street. Our bleak-chic grey little town with very few operating stores took on a completely different hue. It didn’t hurt that it snowed, big glistening flakes.

There were kids everywhere, in town for the free showing of Polar Express at the Rosendale Theater and the puppet show at the Redwing Blackbird Theater. They were there to see Santa as well, and my heart melted when a little girl of about three or four jumped up and down at the sight of him riding up the road on a hay ride. “It’s SANTA!” she shouted! Maybe it’s a result of all those pre-Brian years I spent as a lonely Jew on Christmas, but I couldn’t help getting excited, too.

I was only out for about a half-hour, but it was the perfect uplifting break from my work.

12/02/2009 (11:38 pm)

The 32 bridge is open

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32 bridge

I just picked up Brian from the bus depot and to my surprise, after something like 19 months, the route 32 bridge over the Rondout is finally open. It was actually a little thrilling driving over it. Rosendalians – rejoice.

12/01/2009 (7:51 pm)

Get to know a Rosendalian: Eric Stern

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Name: Eric Stern
Profession: Stylist to the Stars

Rosendale attracts the most eclectic mix of offbeat characters – including some you might not expect to find in this rough-and-tumble rural setting, but who somehow fit right in.

Case in point: Eric Stern. He works as a fashion stylist to the stars – he dressed Marisa Tomei for the Oscars this year, and is the stylist for The Real Housewives of New York City reality show. He posts sartorially-minded declarations on Facebook, like, “Today I am dressed head-to-toe in vintage Hermes!” And he can frequently be found prancing up and down Main Street in a bright blue fur coat, dripping bling, telling colorful stories about growing up in Queens and then Lawrence, New York, where he dressed his mother from the time he was five.

What’s he doing in a place that feels more like Sicily, Alaska – the rustic, fictional setting for Northern Exposure – than upper Madison Avenue?

“Nobody judges me here,” says Stern over lunch of an egg and cheese sandwich on semolina bread at Market Market. (He’s been known to show up there for three meals a day, plus cake.) “Nobody judges anybody here. Everybody fits in – bohemians! Lesbians! Celebrities! You’ll be sitting eating lunch and Willem Dafoe will walk in, and then you’ll see John Leguizamo’s kids jumping on the hood of his car. Nobody makes a big deal.”

But it’s more than that. “Rosendale has been very good to me,” he says, switching from his usual playful tone to a more serious one. “People here took good care of me when David had his accident.” He’s referring to his partner, David Meidenbauer, who was seriously injured while working in San Francisco.

“I had been living here two months,” Stern recalls, “and then suddenly I had to go out to San Francisco to take care of David. People immediately stepped up to help me. One person took care of my apartment, another took care of my cat and my mail – for five months. And every morning, I got a call from Woody Pirtle just checking how I was. I barely knew the guy. I had just met him having coffee here. I couldn’t get over it. People really care about each other here. It is the most tight-knit community of the nicest people anywhere. It’s not anything like living in an apartment building in Manhattan, where you don’t really know your neighbor.”

Stern knows a thing or two about that. Before moving to the new construction behind Bill Brooks’ shop in 2007, he lived for many years in a large junior-four in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. “It was an amazing apartment,” he says. “It had this outdoor space that I’d enclosed and turned into a smoking room. It had been rent controlled, and then I bought it – for nothing. But eventually I got tired of looking at the same four walls.”

He’d had his eye on Rosendale for a while. “My brother Ira has lived in Accord for many years, and when I would take the bus up to see him, I’d get off in Rosendale, and we’d drive through town on our way to his house,” he says. “Every time we drove through I thought, ‘I’d like to live here some day.’”

He heard through local lawyer Sarah McGinty that barber/contractor/Picklefest impressario Bill Brooks had an apartment to rent. “It was a non-smoking, no-pet apartment,” Stern recalls. “The only thing worse would have been if it was no-shoes – I’ve got 600 pairs.” He showed up on move-in day with a cigarette hanging from his lips and a cat in his arms. “Bill Brooks said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll have to still let you move in.’ I promised him I wouldn’t smoke in the house. I don’t do that.”

After two years in that apartment, Stern and Meidenbauer moved last month – a whole eight miles – to Alligerville. While they are no longer Rosendale residents, they remain fixtures here, often frequenting Market Market and the Red Brick Tavern. From a computer set up in the guest room in the new house, he picks clothes for his Housewives.

This is his third career. After graduating from FIT with a fashion buying and merchandising degree, Stern went to work in his father’s printing company. He married young and had two sons, who are now 20 and 21.

“Then, one day, I decided to quit my job, get divorced and come out of the closet – all at once, like that.” he says, snapping his fingers. He found himself working in a completely different field: as a counselor in hospital psychiatric wards, for seven years.

Then, a few years ago, when Meidenbauer was running a photography studio, he asked Stern if he could help out one day by ironing clothes during a photo shoot. “It was for Ralph Lauren,” Stern recalls. “A week after I started, one day while the stylist on the job was in the bathroom, the producer said to me, ‘Why don’t you send down the next look?’ I did it in my own signature style – I unbuttoned the model’s shirt to the navel, had her take her bra off, put on 30 bracelets. After the shoot, David said, ‘I need to talk to you.’ I said, ‘Am I fired?’ And he said, ‘No, they want to know if you are available to style next week.’” That led to three years in a full-time job styling for Ralph Lauren, which gave birth to his freelance career.

Fashion styling is clearly Stern’s calling. His signature super-glam look has been in his blood since he was a small child.

“My mother and I used to go to the theater once a week, after she went to Bonwitt Teller to get her hair ‘did.’” he remembers. “One day when I was six, she said, ‘I’m taking you to Radio City to see Liberace, a pi-A-nist,’ because she was from Queens. We get there, and we’re sitting in the audience, and out comes this mirrored Rolls Royce right on the stage. Liberace steps out wearing a white mink cape with all this jewelry, and there’s this candelabra. I said, ‘I know what I want to be when I grow up!’ And she said, ‘Mother of God, why did we come here?’”

10/19/2009 (7:59 pm)

Walk this way

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One upside to the year-and-a-half LONG 32 bridge rehab? To compensate us for our suffering, the D.O.T. or somebody is installing sidewalks on rt. 32, the intention being to connect Main Street to the Rec Center. Here’s the beginning of it. It’s nice to be able to walk along rt. 32 without fear of being hit by a car. Which is something I unfortunately know a little bit about.

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