Saturday, February 6, 2010

Welcome to Beacon, Gateway to Poughkeepsie

People often ask me, referring to the small town in New York’s Hudson Valley in which I have lived since mid-2008, “Why Beacon?” Because it’s a 75-minute train ride from Manhattan, where I’d hoped to work (and did work, for three months) as an art director or graphic designer. Because housing prices were lower here in mid-2008 than in other commutable necks of the woods. And because it’s a darned nice place to live, full of chic and affordable bistros and nitespots, art galleries, antique shops, filling stations, a post office, a predictably overpriced ghetto supermarket with supercilious, incompetent checkers, hair salons offering services demanded by a mostly black clientele, and the friendliest folks between Fishkill and Newburgh.

Folk legend Pete Seeger is often glimpsed doing this or that errand on Main Street, on which perfect strangers are never too busy to say, “Yo,” when you pass by with the missus’s greyhound. There are two coffeehouses in which you can sip a latte or what-have-you while staring at your laptop or just, catatonically, into space, and even a Thai restaurant of scant distinction.

When I first came here, before Claire joined me from the UK, I spent most of my time in the topless bar between the soul food joint and the nail salon, and became so friendly with two of the girls, Krystalle and Britain’ee, that they would slip me free lap dances whenever the place’s manager, Tommy, sneaked outside for a smoke. I was surprised to discover that Krystalle works during the day as a sales clerk at the big adult book superstore that opened a few blocks farther up Main Street early in 2009 — at least until she explained that she’s supporting three little ones, and this at age 22. An implacable wearer of midriff-baring tops, she pointed to her caesarean scar and said, “Didn’t get this in no knife fight, yo.”

In a spirit of reciprocity, I began removing my own shirt — to show her the ugly scar from my shoulder replacement surgery — but one of the place’s over-zealous security guards hurried over to eject me. I was handed over to the Beacon police department, to which I have complained often of a summer weekend evening about bands playing Tom Petty’s "I Won’t Back Down" and other offensive music on the patio of the Egyptian restaurant just around the corner, down the hill.

It was from the Beacon PD that I finagled a ride home because I couldn’t walk the fateful evening of September 13, 2008, when a young local woman motorist got too busy sending a text message to see me crossing the street in front of her, and hit me with her Japanese sedan. (My left meniscus was torn, but I’m fine now, except when I walk or when it’s cold.)

They acted as though they didn’t recognize me — which was pretty hurtful until I realized it wouldn’t really do for them to fraternize with the public — and beat me savagely. The same attorney who handled my claim against the young woman’s insurance company will tell me on Monday whether he thinks we can sue the city successfully. I am mindful that doing so will surely mean that the trash collectors will just happen to forget to collect ours every Monday morning, and somebody else will have to lead the fight to get the Egyptian restaurant to pipe the fuck down on Saturday nights in July, and none of my neighbors seems to mind nearly as much as I.

I am trying to do my part for the community. When I offered to offer an acting class for teens at the local community center several months ago, the Whoopi Goldberg clone who runs the place rhapsodized about what a thrill it was to get A Person of [My] Caliber to make such an offer. I think maybe she mistook me for the tall guy from Seinfeld I was so mortified to be told three times in 1999 that I resembled, because she thereafter returned no more of my calls than yours, and you never called her.

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1 comment:

  1. You have now attained special status in my Beacon universe that you offered to teach a teen acting class. What idiots that they did not take you up on your generous offer.

    Working outside to restore my building, I witness Beacon's teens walking home from school every afternoon around 3. It's the usual stuff, but sometimes they ask me what I'm doing and let me know that they appreciate it and like art, too. It makes my heart ache that they the best they can do is a job in the mall or local Subway. They need your acting class and maybe a dream or two!

    When we restored the first floor, my then-business partner and I hired a group of black 20 year olds. Some of them had talent; most of them did not, but they were interesting to be around. Two of the most attractive were ex-cons and one of them (unbeknownst to us) was on the lam for armed robbery. Later when he was caught and shipped back to North Carolina for trial and eventual incarceration, he wrote to let me know that working for us was the best experience of his work life. I was the only person who testified by letter and picture that he had held a job and been a useful citizen somewhere else in the world. "When I get out, if you're still in business, I hope you'll hire me again", he wrote. I saved his letter.