Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Never by choice. It's always by accident, and invariably the result of a self-planned holiday in which everything goes absolutely fucking wrong from Day One.
Usually it's my fault, but this time, I swear to God, it wasn't!!!
This time my R&R weekend went so viciously off the rails that I was left banging my head against this super-quaint, lacy, wallpapery, Shaker country style wall --
-- that should only be head-banged in tandem by a hot young couple enjoying deep dickin' among the perfumed pines.
Pretty sure that's in the brochure.
Okay. Let me go back. I just moved out of sleepy Prospect Heights, Brooklyn --
'cause it was getting boring and I was spending too much time dodging dismissive looks from eco-dykes, to an area of New York City called The Lower East Side:
And I know it looks all nice and all - totally historical downtown New York complete with pickle salesmen and tallis tailors. Thing is, most of the time it's overrun with post-pubescent hipsters in day-glow Reeboks and striped V-necks, all looking like they jumped out of an American Apparel billboard just to hang out outside my apartment and drink, talk on iPhones, buy expensive sunglasses and grow out their beards. The streets are narrow, the minds are even smaller, and a recently mounting unanswerable existential crisis (a.k.a. "Why do I get up in the morning?") was making me think I had to get the hell out of dodge.
And so I chose to go to The Omega Institute
Where you should never ever go.
The Omega Institute is one of the top rated retreats in the country, according to Travel Magazine. Normally I'd just rent a car and go driving somewhere - but this time I thought it might be beneficial to do something against my nature. At the Omega, situated in the heart of Hudson River Valley --
-- one can pay for what they call their "Rest and Relaxation Package." This means you can just hang out on your own, enjoy the beautifully green campus situated on a great big lake, go canoeing, swimming, lie in a hammock, what-have-you - WHILE also having at your disposal free classes in meditation, yoga and tai chi. I thought this was the one for me, even though it sounds like the exact opposite of an Eli-holiday. I'm not a big fan of hippies - and this sounded like the hippie mecca of the Eastern seaboard. However, I was determined to do things differently. Sit in a different chair and see the world from a new perspective. I recently started learning meditation and I thought this might be a good opportunity to exercise that part of my soul.
How was I to know that they’d be sold out of R&R when I got there?
All they had left was a lot of, an army of, a whole New York City’s worth of obnoxiously loud hippies. Not the blissed out, noble silence, quietly munching vegan scones between meditation and yoga hippies. This was the fucking Woodstock crowd, who thought they were at Woodstock. There was even a fucking rock concert. I did not attend it, but only absorbed the jarring aftereffects, the after-parties and the ringing ears and the sleeplessness.
Called the day before arrival to secure my seat on the shuttle bus from the train station to the Institute. “There is no shuttle on Thursdays.” I had to call a cab - $25 ride, as opposed to the $10 for the shuttle. Call me old-fashioned or unreasonable, but I always think it the height of good business to inform a customer of such circumstances when they’re booking a room with you on a Thursday. “How much will a cab be from the train station?” “You’ll have to discuss that with them. Do you want their number?” I remember feeling bad about muttering, “So helpful. Yes, I’ll take their number.” I remember feeling silly about my negativity. I felt bad for communicating my annoyance with her, for feeling that if you’re booking my holiday you should know how much getting there and back is.
Arranged the cab. Arrived 4:51 PM in Rhinecliff, NY. Picked up by an outgoing cabbie whose name I didn’t catch, but whose personality was warm and welcoming. An NYC transplant. He allowed me to stop at a CVS to pick up sunscreen. He talked about how the shuttle bus from Omega is very unreliable, but that’s the only black mark against the institute. EVERYTHING else is heaven, he said. Everyone comes back again and again. It’s the most relaxing, peaceful weekend you’ll spend. There’s no phone, no news, no TV, no noise. (Well no phone and no news was right on the money. But I could have used them for getting the hell away from Omega.) Omega is the best, yatta yatta – I was getting increasingly pumped about it. A weekend of clearing the old bean. Summer breezes over a giant lake, wholesome food, organic coffee, meditation classes, and a top-class Wellness Center where I would partake of at least two massages (I already had one scheduled for post-dinner that night) and perhaps even a life-coaching session. The driver gave me the skinny on Rhinebeck village as we passed through it. “See that house? That’s the oldest inn in the United States.”
Things that are ‘the oldest’ always astound me, after my initial doubtfulness has had time to pass. Old things, with the exception of McSorley’s Ale House:
and giant urinals from the early twentieth century...
... are almost always cool.
“Goes back to the 1700’s,” he continued, and then without a beat: “I’ll tell you what. George Washington had a shtup there.”
I went from loving this guy to hating him.
“He didn’t stay over. He didn’t have time to stay over, ‘cause he was on a march, you know? But… that’s true.”
“Uh huh. Lovely.”
I was saddened by his coarseness. Especially about George Washington. But it’s not because I hold onto some idol worship of our founding fathers that doesn’t include shtupping. It’s just a matter of manners, really. Just because I’m not some old lady with white hair – do you think I want to hear about George Washington bonking some ho-bag on the way to my R&R retreat?
Shit like that doesn’t amuse me. I wonder why. I wonder why I can’t just go – “Oh – yeah? Tell me more? Where else did he shtup? Maybe General Howe jerked off in that outhouse over there?”
For the non-Jews out there: "Shtup" might sound cute and stuff, might sound all Yiddish and quaint – but it’s no different from the verb “fuck.” Actually, now that I think of it, no Yiddish word ever sounds quaint. The ones that have survived into American English all sound like they mean “fuck.” Shiksa, gevalt, verputzt, challah. They all sound like words invented by people who live in puddles of piss in the subway.
“I’ll tell you something else. That traffic light right there? Made entirely of testicles.”
See? Just a word you don’t want to hear on your country holiday, a thing you don’t expect to picture.
Anyway – that was fine. He was fine. He stopped at CVS so I could buy some sunblock.
Most of the ride, along the river, through the woods, over little bridges – blissful. I was feeling blessed already, just smelling the air through the car window. I didn’t even think about the twenty-five bucks plus tip. Well, I thought about it a little. I thought about what to tip. Good service is always a little distressing.
Arrive at the Institute. Cabbie pointed to a big long wood paneled house running along the end of the huge parking lot and said, “That’s the eco-house. See that right there? That’s an entirely green house. It’s the grand opening. People are here from all over to see it!” Uh oh. From all over? How many is that?
A greeter with a brown hat and a strange grey cat eye peered into the car with his hearty Hudson Valley “Welcome!” And instructed the cabbie to wheel me over to Guest Services. I tipped him heartily and bid him farewell.
A cute dark-haired young hippie gave me my welcome package, in a manila envelope marked with my name. I assume that they assume that a guy named Eli Finkelman desperately NEEDS r&r. It just sounds like an uptight name. Well, of course, that’s my take on it, not theirs, but I was hoping it would help. Maybe they’d step it up for me.
That’s my problem. I always assume that everyone is going to ‘step it up’ for me in some way. That’s led to some real problems along the way in my short existence.
“Dinner’s at 6:30. Actually it just started. Um… they blew a conch.” (ch pronounced as in ‘punch.’)
“They blew a conch shell at the dining hall. (pause as she stared at me) “It’s the dinner bell around here.”
“Oh! ‘They blew a conch shell.’ Sorry, you made it sound like there was an accident. They blew a conch at the dining hall and it was a big mess, so dinner won’t be ready for another hour.”
She gave me the hippie laugh – which is absolutely no laugh at all, followed by turning one’s head away from the speaker.
“Um, yeah. No, it’s them blowing through a shell.”
“Yeah, sorry, I was just kidding.”
“No no no, it was actually a good joke.” (awkward pause). “Um… I’m just waiting for a golf cart to show up to ride you up to your dorm.”
I swore I would not make any jokes for the rest of my holiday. If I was joking, it meant I was talking too much. And if I was to be talking at all, it was not to impress people or make anyone laugh. It was only to communicate with my inner child and to say, “yes more organic half and half please.”
“You’re here on a R&R. Not for a workshop. And some of our R&R guests just want to hang out by themselves and lie in hammocks by the lake and just chill, and some wish to participate in group activities specifically for the R&R crowd. It’s totally up to you.”
Great. That was what I wanted to hear. Plus three free meals a day and a café with wi-fi if I needed it. Hello, weekend. Huh. Lot of people around. I guess they’re coming to see the super-green house and then leaving.
I got into a golf-cart with a guy called Keen. I don’t know if that’s how his name is spelled. He held onto my book bag with one arm and up the hill we went to my dorm. And just the breeze across my face made me feel at ease, despite the increasingly visible army of frizzy-haired granola headed fifty-something ladies cackling on their way to the dining hall in their muumuus and pink glasses. Um, whatever. I’m in a golf cart and it feels good.
Saw a woodchuck the size of a tree stump playing in the grass.
Dorm room was even smaller than I expected. Just some wooden beams, a single bed, and a few feet of floor. I dump my bags and get back in the golf cart. Keen was waiting.
There was to be a performance that night in the Main Hall. A “showcase” celebrating the end of Arts Week. Dance, singing, mask work, music etc. I thought about going, but was fairly adamant that I wouldn’t. I could see a showcase in New York City any night of the week, and usually don’t want to. What’s the point of doing that here?
Keen got me as close to the Dining Hall as he could before a twisted downhill slope full of tree roots necessitated the end of my golf cart journey. I thanked him and headed off.
That’s when things got weird, and a presage of the night to come was in full flower before my eyes.
The place was goddamn packed. There was indoor and outdoor seating, all community tables, all bustling with people who had hungrily answered the call of the conch shell.
All women. I mean, literally I spotted one or two men among HUNDREDS of ladies. And every one of them was in their late forties to mid-fifties. I didn’t quite peg them as escaping New Yorkers. They could have been from Brooklyn or The West Village, sure, but just as easily they could have been those artsy fucking hippie types who buy bodysuits and green glasses and prescribe ONLY to crew cuts when getting their hair done – who live in New York state or Connecticut or Vermont or possibly northern Virginia, with their African tribal masks hanging on their walls and their favorite instruments (strictly rain stick and Theremin) on display in the living room.
Um… thank you, reader, for indulging my taste for generalities and stereotypes. They’re just so fun.
Seriously there were like three hopeless middle aged men trying to (or sensibly having given up on) getting a word in at the table.
I sat down with a bowl of mushroom soup and a misshapen pile of vegan “Scrapple” at an empty table. Pretty soon three or four old ladies descended upon me. “Hi. Ruth!” she said to me in an extremely reedy loud voice. Already my hopes of calm and quiet were starting to evaporate and I was getting scared.
I answered my name in the quietest tones, hoping to appear uninterested while still being polite. Her friend next to her had bright green glasses and the same tone of voice, compounded in unpleasantness by an Ohio accent. Of the regional accents, nothing gets under my skin more than the mid-to-northern Midwest. It totally fucks up my ears, especially my bad one. So fucking reedy and nasal, and apparently there must be an incredible amount of tractor and brewery noise out there because I’ve never met a northern Midwesterner who speaks softly. All they do is bark. They all sound like megaphones. “Where are you from? When did you arrive? Are you here for the workshop?”
And that’s when I felt stupid. I said, “No I’m here for the … R&R weekend.” And once the words came out I felt I had made a ridiculous mistake. That little old born and bred urban Eli had come to exactly the wrong place.
“Oh? So you’re here on your own?”
“Oh, okay. Great! That’s great. We’re all here for the arts workshop. We’re performing three or four Senegalese songs tonight in the showcase at the Main Hall.”
“More like five songs.”
“Oh, ok. Five songs. I hope I can keep them straight. We have these classes twice a day. Sometimes it can really feel like work. But you’re here to just relax. That’s fantastic. You’ll love it. Is it your first time?”
I finished up as a few more short-haired menopausal guests pulled up to my table.
I bussed my dishes (no trays at the center. I asked the one and only guy I saw if there were trays around, and he said they did away with trays because they found people would take more food with trays and would throw half of it away. I actually think that’s a really smart simple innovation. Whenever there’s a buffet, I invariably load up my tray with more food than my stomach can handle.) So I used my muscle memory to invoke my waiter-skills. I went down the steps, across a basketball court, down a dirt path toward the big lake. The lakeside beach was equipped with a lifeguard and hammocks tied to trees.
One young lady, an anomaly in her twenties, was swimming around in the roped off safe section. An equally young lifeguard climbed into her high chair. I looked as the storm clouds gathered to the east, or whichever direction I was looking.
The lifeguard and I discussed the possibility of rain. She was dead certain of it. “Thank God,” she said. “it needs to cool off!”
But I had just arrived and was afeared for my weekend.
The bikini-clad, extremely svelte hippie girl in the lake started talking to the lifeguard about the eco-house and how spectacular it is. How she brought “this friend of mine from Germany” and how he thought it was the best eco-house in the world, “and he works for a sustainable architecture firm!” She was joined by an equally lithe young man and a little blonde girl of around eight years old. The bikini girl started teaching the little girl to do flips and they were both having a marvelous time. I asked the lifeguard about getting a canoe for the morning and then proceeded to lie in a hammock. Already the fun-time babble between the girl and the little girl and the dude and the eco-house was too much for me. It was not quiet. Now, I hadn’t been under some illusion that I was going to have the place to myself. But so far it just seemed like the grounds were crawling with people and none of them pensive or placid or sane.
I was killing time before my first massage. It started to piss down, signaling a right downpour soon to come, and I walked up the hill toward the Wellness Center. As I did so, a golf-cart containing two bespectacled biddies came speeding past me. The ladies in it spotted a friend of their running up the hill for cover from the rain and one of them shouted, “Go Sylvie go!” Then her friend joined in, “Go Sylvia Go! Yeah!!!” and they cackled with delight, knowing they were spreading such joy to their friend. The words “I fucking hate this place” passed through my mind. It was scary but not hopeless. Once those words actually passed through my lips and made sound, that’s when I would be in trouble. I made every effort to wipe the scowl off my face and give this place a real try.
The Wellness Center massage was thankfully a highlight of the trip. The woman who gave me a therapeutic body massage, with special attention to my woefully pained neck and right shoulder did excellent work. She encouraged me to see their chiropractor before I went. I expressed my hesitation based on experience with Chiropractors, but she said that a great chiro can make all the difference. He could give me exercises and set me on a path for life that would stop me from continually aggravating my stupid right side. I contemplated it, along with her other recommendation: reflexology. Which I’d never even heard of before. Her name was Kate. I liked her. I asked if she did reflexology. She did, but she was leaving for the weekend for a family event in Louisville. As she massaged, the sound of the rainfall was outside the window. Much better than the New Age music most therapists put on, and which I always very politely ask them to leave off.
I asked her where I can go to have quiet, and she described all the places that appeared to be only bustling when I saw them. She said, “hmm. Yeah, you know, you kind of picked a weird weekend for R&R. So many people are here for the arts week, and it’s like the one crazy weekend of the year. It gets a little much.”
I started to think I had to be the ONLY person on the campus for the R&R package.
Okay. Clothes back on, money in tip envelope, on my way, feeling much better albeit soft and greasy from massage oil. Momentary fleeting worry about how much money I would end up spending, but it passed.
The grounds were still bustling as ever, and the “showcase” had already started. I heard the cheering and the drumming from the Main Hall as I passed it toward the Guest Services hut.
I inquired inside about where I could go to be alone and have some quiet. Is there anywhere I could walk? Keen was there and suggested I try the Lake Drive to the right. A nice walk past a horse farm. He gave me an umbrella and his coworker warned me to be mindful of cars. It was about to get dark. It was about 8:15 or so.
I would only go for a little bit. Just while there was light. I had no desire to walk through the woods in the dark. I wanted to see and smell trees and fields. I was grateful that the staff so far seemed to be nice and accommodating.
I enjoyed the walk immensely, actually. I remember. Feeling like this was exactly what I’d wanted. A quiet country road on a hill, past green fields, bright green, with soft raining only occasionally spitting on me and everything. It was fine. I saw the sun disappearing behind the clouds and over the horizon, and I thought to myself about the solar system, for about the first time twenty years. Right, so, the sun right now isn’t going anywhere. The planet I’m standing on is simply turning away from it. And I thought about how we’re on the part of our orbit that’s pretty close to the sun, and that’s why it feels like summer.
Weird, I know. Silly. But it pleased me to think about these things. To think about the Earth and sun and not my career or what to do once I get back, or even about the coolest scenes from The Godfather or The Simpsons or the lyrics of Morrissey. I thought about the movement of the planet on which I and a couple of quiet horses and these trees and a few passing cars were sitting.
Oh, yes, our lives are so important aren’t they? Good, that feeling was already starting to fade.
But but but but – I still want my life to important to future generations and how do I make that happen?
Aaagh – forget it = here’s a field of willows, go look at it.
Saw on a sign posting that their world-famous sauna was open ‘til 11. It was about 9:30 now, so I jumped on it, as the show was still going on and I didn’t want to know what might happen to the sauna once it let out.
I nervously got out of my clothes as a young girl got into hers in the changing area. Cool. There are young women here after all. Wait a minute. That’s no good. I mean, it’s good in the respect that I’d rather see a young woman than an old woman in the sauna area, but I don’t wanna even think about that shit. Now is not the time to think of my body and its relation to others’. Nope nope nope – that is not what I’m here for. I am NOT here to think about sex. I don’t wanna think about sex for a minute. Remember, this is a holiday from your routine. That’s why you came here and didn’t pick some ordinary holiday like a beach. You are here to do nutritious things you don’t normally do – like not think about your wanger OR about the love handles you hate around your waist, or your saggy glutes. None of that means anything. That’s like thinking about money.
Found the sauna room. It was totally dark and there was one naked dude in it already. I sat opposite side. The sauna immediately felt great, but I wondered why it was dark, just a fragment of light spilling in from the hallway. Had this guy turned the lights off? Or was it supposed to be like this? Promptly stopped worrying about it, and started realizing why people sit in saunas. I’ve only done steam rooms in the past. This – this was pretty great. This was the other and the only other thing that wound up being good (in the moment at least) about this trip.
Then another dude came in, who was friends with the first dude, both in their forties, and they started yakking away. They were there for the eco-house. They talked about the concert, they talked about MONEY, their paychecks, they talked about all kinds of shit, when I just wanted to sit in the silence. I remember it bothering me. But what could I do? I live in a society. I just didn’t think this place would just be a city society in the woods.
Took a break for a minute, went back in for a minute, endured more talking, showered, dressed, left.
It was after ten. I went to the Café, got a vegan cookie named after a style of yoga and then went back for some kettle chips. Used the internet, why I don’t know, and wondered why the hell there were so many people around. Other than that, it hadn’t crossed my mind that I would leave this place. I was feeling at least okay and at best pretty good.
I even felt okay as I got my dinky little bed ready in my paper-thin-walled dorm room with the shared bathroom. The women in the cabin across the way was talking on her cell phone (how??? Let me get her provider). Talking in French. And of course it carried across the park. It cut through the silence. It was ridiculous. I thought about having a word with her, or just giving her a finger-to-mouth gesture. These were the quiet hours. 10pm-7am in the dorms everyone was to observe silence. What the fuck was this lady’s problem?
She got off before I had to cowboy up, and I was glad. I put my sheets on the bed, (the sheets I was required to bring from home) and decided I would get up at 6:45 am to get myself to the sanctuary for a morning meditation class. I was here to do lots of things I don’t normally do. Getting up before 8 and practicing meditation.
Then around 1 or 1:30 am music started blasting. It was some kind of African, maybe Indian, dance music, and I was like, Wha-??? I thought it was coming from across the campus, part of a post-show party but on closer inspection found it was coming from a fucking radio in somebody’s room right across the dorm hall. I tried to ignore (yes, I had earplugs in, to answer the absurd question of everybody I complained to in the morning) but of course couldn’t. I’d been jarred from my sleep and can’t block out music. Then some totally stupid bitch came through and started chanting in the hallway and in her room. Talkin’ paper thin walls, people. If I can be quiet, anybody can. Again, this was at 1:45 in the morning.
I went to the radio-asshole’s door and knocked. It was at full blast. No one came to the door. And I’m pretty sure the music went up louder, though it might have just been my anger rising. I knocked again, more aggressively, no answer.
I went out on the porch, miserable, my brain hurting. Not knowing what to do. Just miserable. Now I actually said it, “I hate this place and I want to leave.” That meant I was in trouble. Everything about it seemed WRONG. The hippie vibe, the noise, the eco-house – I felt trapped.
Somehow I made it through the night. Maybe caught another hour. I was sure I was going to skip meditation and just go straight to the office to complain, but went to Zen meditation anyway. I thought it might be a good idea before going to an office to complain in the strongest possible terms. It was no good. I was ruined, totally brain dead, I couldn’t cooperate, though I really tried. I even participated in the “walking meditation,” a new one for me. It sort of made everything worse – which is no fault of the meditation teacher. By the way, she assured me that the craziness of last night was a real anomaly for this place. “It should calm down around 2 pm today, those people are checking out.” None of her invocations or prayers worked on me. The pleas for loving kindness and gentleness and appreciation for all living things – it all just made my brain hurt more ‘cause I just couldn’t do it.
Went to the office, they referred me to reservations, I told my sob story about the dorms and the woman was really sorry. “It’s arts week, so it’s actually full of very expressive people, they express themselves vocally – but you know if you were here when Pema Chodron is here everyone is walking around in noble silence.”
Lucky and unlucky for her that I just recently learned who that is. Lucky ‘cause she was spared my wrathful, “Who the fuck are you talking about, you idiot?” Unlucky because the fact that I know who Pema Chodron is only intensified the fact that she has NOTHING to do with my situation. The fact is a staffer named Becky booked me for an R&R weekend when the usual Pema attitude has been traded in for that of some pack of sorority sisters.
Okay, so I was in the middle of a hippie zoo. She said there were tent cabins I could move into, that they were very rustic, but maybe a little more isolated. For just twenty dollars more a day. She said I should probably just go lie in a hammock and catch up on sleep. (She pronounced it ‘ham mock,” which drove me absolutely nuts. “Ham. Mock.” Where did she learn that? She had the damned Ohio thing going on too…) I took her advice and saw that the entire ham mock area was lousy with tractor mowers. Seriously, three of them going at once, loud as any jackhammer in New York City.
I even tried to lie in the midst of it.
I went back to the office, informed the lady of the tractor situation, and she put her hand to head in a Homer-like “doh” and said, “Oh, that’s right! Friday’s lawnmower day!”
I talked to her supervisor and asked for my money back as contritely as I could. After a conference with one of her superiors, she said I could move to a tent cabin for FIFTY more dollars a day, or they could give me a refund and I could leave. I opted for the latter.
The woman applied money back toward my card – “give it six to eight weeks.” She was at least very sympathetic and sorry that I had the exact opposite experience of everybody else that comes to Omega.
I waited two more hours before finally getting a hold of Enterprise rent-a-car in Kingston, NY. Amenable Southern man said he’d send a car out to pick me up as soon as possible. I waited while the café filled up with more and more people. I was dead tired and miserable. The woman who had awarded me my money back had said, “I don’t like the idea of you driving. Why don’t you rest? Why don’t you lie down by the lake.” Instead of slapping her I reminded her too that it was lawnmower day. She recanted. She said I could get the Omega’s charter bus back to New York City in an hour. It costs thirty-five bucks. I still had my train ticket. And, really, I didn’t want to go home to New York so soon. I wanted to experience the valley. I wanted to go swimming. I wanted R&R.
I went to the café and looked up possible escape routes once I got myself a car. I thought about driving to Cape Cod. Over five and a half hours. Probably not a good idea. What about this other beach town I’d heard of, Narragansett, Rhode Island? Why don’t I find a place there? It’s only three and a half hours. No cell phone service, so I was at the mercy of the pay phones. I called a couple of these places and asked around. Some were fucking expensive. Some had rooms, some didn’t. I didn’t know what I should do. My spirit was sagging.
A kindly young girl who worked in the cafe, and whom I got a bunch of quarters from and some coffee, asked me what was wrong. (Amazing how everyone always knows there’s something wrong with me. Always. The lady in the paint store knew, shortly before I left, before I had planned the trip. She could tell I was beset. I am a sleeve-wearer.) She informed me I picked the ONE weekend of the year when the place is kind of a mad-house. Thank you. Thank you, yes, I heard that somewhere.
Woman from the front desk saw I was still there. I said I was still trying to figure a way off, but for now I was stuck. She said there were still those tent cabins available if I wanted to change my mind, and that the arts crowd would all be gone by 1. “Though, that being said, we did just book in a whole crew of camp counselors, and most of them will be moving into the tent cabins, so… I don’t know. It could also get a little crazy.” Fuck you, Omega. This was not what I signed up for. And you knew it. Shame on you.
“Yeah, no thanks. It’s just not what I signed up for.”
“Okay, she said, with a kindly smile. You’ll figure it out. I have faith.”
The rental car finally came, with a woman named Toby in the driver’s seat. I told her my sob story and she too was shocked. Good thing was, she wasn’t part of the Omega cult, so she was entirely sympathetic and yet down to earth. She said that every other person she’d ever picked up from Omega was creepily quiet and utopia-d out. She suggested I try some of the little beach towns in southern Connecticut once I get my car.
Got to Kingston over the Rhinecliff Bridge. While in the car I waited for bars to rise on my cell phone so I could call one of the B&B’s on the printout the lady at Omega gave me. I had called the Clinton Hollow Inn before I left the campus, but needed time to make up my mind. The woman in the Enterprise car urged me to stay locally, so that I could be sure of where I was staying, THEN fan out to somewhere in the area to go exploring. Of course, she was right. So I called Clinton Hollow back and the woman dictated directions to me that sounded unbelievably complicated and scary, not least because they required me to go back toward the Omega Institute.
The Enterprise place squeezed me out a car at their special Weekend Rate, 35 dollars a day. It was Friday. I had ‘til Sunday. But I’d get charged through Monday anyway because they’re closed on Sundays. Something like that. Fine just give me the fucking wheels so I can get out of here and start enjoying myself. Don’t I look like a guy who’s ready to have some fun? I asked, pleaded rather, that my car be fitted with a GPS system, ‘cause I knew my track record with following directions down twisted unfamiliar country roads. I’d be lost eighteen times a day without it. They had none left.
Set about my way in my new-looking white VW bug. Okay. First stop, the Clinton Hollow Inn, back over the Rhinecliff-Kingston Bridge, toward the Omega, and down a dozen little turns that seem to go on forever. Stealing looks at my scribbled directions clasped by thumbs against the steering wheel. This was why I wanted the GPS, mainly ‘cause there’s almost nowhere to stop along these roads to look at the paper with the directions. But hey – you know, that’s what adventure on the road is about. It’s not about having all the modern conveniences at your fingertips – GPS, iPod (I’d purposely left it at home – was worried about my attachment to it), Sirius satellite radio. cold drinks, cool snacks, friends. This trip was suddenly about resourcefulness. Figuring shit out. Winding your way through happy accidents. Finding out how self-sufficient you really are.
To make a short story as long as possible, I wound up getting caught in a series of electrical storms, lost and out of my mind on caffeine. Shortly after checking into a bed and breakfast next to a "General Store" in Clinton Hollow, after the kindly proprietress had written directions down for me of how to get anywhere from this buried burg, right after I'd laid my head down to sleep at 4 in the afternoon, half the valley lost power. The landlady called for me at the General Store and said, "You can come stay in our camper." Meaning I could pack up, get back in the car, drive "a piece" down the road and stay in her and her husband's RV, hitched up in the backyard. "It has everything you could want. It's very comfortable." At this point I just didn't want to go anywhere. I said, "I'm actually okay in the room you gave me. I've grown attached to it. Can't I just stay there with a flashlight?" "Oh, I don't think you'll be very attached to it when it's blazing hot in the middle of the night with no AC. Don't worry, we've got a nice camper. It's full size."
I drove to see the camper, shortly after fielding a random cell phone call from my agent in New York, confirming an appointment for a Wendy's commercial. Rain continuing to come in drabs, and of course my car continuing to get lost, because it doesn't have a brain.