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The Hudson Valley

ChroniC volume 2, no. 4 • July 2009

INSIDE: Food Fight! Fresh Local Produce Battles Fast Food Nightmare! SUDOKU on Steroids! MORE!

ON thE Web at hvChronic.com

Burlesque rises again as New Paltz-based troupe takes to the boards

The aptly named ‘Lady Legs’ performs a classic fan dance as part of Alpha Psi Ecdysia’s three-act burlesque show at Joe’s East/West in New Paltz recently.

By Steve Hopkins

On the waterfront

A

Continued on Page 7

Plucky Poughkeepsie perseveres through thick and thin

By Steve Hopkins

M

Photo by Paul Joffe

traveling college-based performing troupe called Alpha Psi Ecdysia is busily re-introducing the nearly lost art of burlesque to audiences from New Paltz to New York City and beyond. The group, led by a longterm student code-named Lucida Sans (a moniker she shares with an obscure printing font), is nearing 50 strong these days and includes both men and women in its ranks. They put on a rousing full-length, threeact show last month at Joe’s East/ West in New Paltz. I caught up with Ms. Sans recently, and she got me up to speed on what’s happening with the neoburlesque movement that began in New York City in the late 1990s, and which she took up in earnest in 2006, as she was finishing high school. “Neo-burlesque is about taking the classic striptease beyond mere titillation and into storytelling. Yes, it routinely involves the shedding of clothes, but the stripping is employed in the service of a three-minute-long character portrait. A routine can be humorous; or it can be sad. It can be beautiful or horrific. It can be uplifting or downright sick. But it always strives to be sexy in some way.” Sans got into burlesque as an extension of her love for avant garde theater. “I had been a performer of another kind, you know, with traditional actor training,” she says. “I was always into the avant garde, and also really into physical theater

The former Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge is getting a new lease on life as a regional attraction

ore than 11 years ago, I penned an article for the now-defunct Taconic Press lifestyle imprint, Dutchess Magazine, attempting to give voice to a sense of hope I’d detected in dozens of people attempting to bring life to the City of Poughkeepsie. There was a fair amount of history in the article as well. Today, despite the dampening effects of the Great Recession, Poughkeepsie remains in the game. In the spirit of the financially hamstrung but still feisty Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial, it’s as good a time as any to re-visit the Queen City’s status in the historical firmament, as well as give it a little nudge toward what should yet be a fabulous future.

Poughkeepsie prologue

A mere 300 years ago, unlike most eastern American riverfront cities, the place where Poughkeepsie now

stands was nothing more than a decent spot to park a boat on an otherwise forbidding shoreline. During the brutally industrious Dutch Colonial era currently being celebrated, bargeloads of heavily armed frontiersfolk transporting their precious beaver pelts swept busily past the small notch on their way downriver between Fort Orange and New Amsterdam much like an Amtrak express train; there was next to nothing going on inland that would warrant stopping at that particular spot. Except for the Poughkeepsie landing and a few others (notably those of present-day Peekskill, Continued on Page 3

Warning! Highly Opinionated Historical, Social and Psychological Analysis! Read With Caution, and Try Not to Blink!

Photo by Andy Uzzle

Show and Tell


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Page 2 • July 2009

I

Was

I Was Just Thinking ...

I

By Harry Seitz

My Name is ‘I Hate You,’ and I’ll be Your Server

’ve worked in several restaurants throughout my life, and there are two things that have always remained consistent: • The customer is always an a**hole; • If the customers knew how the food was handled, they would never eat in any restaurant ever again. One thing that patrons have to understand about waiters is that we don’t like you. We couldn’t care less about you. I’ll laugh at your stupid jokes and smile like a sycophant, but once you’ve left your tip it doesn’t matter to me whether you live or die. And yes, it does bother me when your autistic brats run me around like a fool fetching little cups and high chairs for them. Some parents have no shame. I’ve seen children drinking from ketchup bottles, slobbering all over them while their parents, fully aware of this, do absolutely nothing. Apparently they go out to eat to show the entire world what lazy, unhygienic slobs they are. The most amazing thing to me is that these people still have the gall to be absolute pricks to their servers. Somehow they haven’t made the connection that we have unsupervised access to whatever hulking plate of garbage that they’re about to consume. The food is filthy enough by accident, or by highly illegal cost-cutting restaurant policies. Tainting the food intentionally just makes me feel better. It might make it a little bit more dirty and unhealthy than it already was, but it’s really done for sentimental reasons. Watching some rude behemoth shovel fettuccini that’s been laced with your spit and urine into his gaping hole can be oddly satisfying. The last restaurant I worked in had a policy of doling out free cottage cheese as an appetizer. No matter how long the cottage cheese sat out in the dining room being sneezed on and fiddled with, if there were no visible cracker bits in it, back into the bucket it went. That should clue you in right there. People who care about their food do not store it in massive plastic buckets that they never clean forever. That bucket never left the cooler. In the four months I worked at this place, nobody touched it except to dump more cottage cheese into it or to scoop out an appetizer. The chains are no better. I worked at a prominent taco chain just as this particular location was opening. In the beginning, the managers pretended to care. After the first week, they realized the situation was hopeless. It’s frustrating working at any restaurant, because you clean all this crap time and time again, several times a day, and it is never clean. It just keeps getting worse and worse. So eventually you do the only reasonable thing there is to do: you give up. Maybe if someone is watching me like a hawk and demanding that I clean this disaster, I’ll pretend to work on it. Otherwise, the thing can do whatever the hell it wants to with itself. It obviously wants to turn itself into garbage, so who I am to argue with it? The obvious advantage of working in a fast food place is that the cows are left to fend for themselves for the most part. They tote their little trays, they have unrestricted access to the bins that hold an infinite amount of highly questionable condiments, and to the soda machines. They

CHRONIC The Hudson Valley

Editor & Publisher Steve Hopkins Associate Publisher Emeritus Paul Joffe Contributors Molly Eagan Harry Seitz Advertising info@hvchronic.com Steve Hopkins Matt Rohr Carrie Ross

Contact us at: phone 914-388-8670 fax 866-800-4062

steve@hvchronic.com Photography Paul Joffe Fionn Reilly Andy Uzzle Steve Hopkins

The Hudson Valley Chronic PO Box 709 Pleasant Valley, NY 12569

make a mess of themselves, as almost all patrons do, but it isn’t any worse than anyplace else. The obvious disadvantages are that you don’t earn bubkes and that you still get a steady influx of psychotic prima donnas. Your way, my ass, where the hell do you think you are, the RitzCarlton? Look around you, for God’s sake! Gorge on your 50-cent tacos like everybody else and shut up. If something tastes funny, dump more hot sauce on it. I make minimum wage. I am not here to make you happy. I am here to help you kill yourself by eating this poison. One event that surprised me, maybe because I was still young, just beginning in the food service industry, was a burdened female voice placing the following drive-thru order: Lady: I’ll take 10 meximelts, four steak burritos, a fish fry ... Me: Ma’am, we don’t have those here. You’re thinking of McDonald’s, across the street. Lady: Scratch that, then; make it two bean burritos instead, and a fribble. Me: Ma’am, you’re thinking of Wendy’s, right down the road. Lady: OK, make it a super-sized diet Mountain Dew.

The line people building this twisted experiment in food gone horribly wrong busted out laughing. This lady just ordered 1,000 percent of the FDA’s daily recommended allowance of lard and she thinks that a diet Mountain Dew, of all things, is going to save her? And the order of a single beverage foreshadowed a dark side to this meal. It was indeed for just one person. As the battered old van pulled up to the pickup window, I saw that this lady was indeed a beast, a real monster. The deuce was an ancient memory to her. The interior of the van was littered with fast-food wrappers, an empty KFC bucket, and several massive empty paper cups. It looked like I was handing her a week’s worth of groceries. That’s another warning sign, people: if you spend over

Nobody’s Business Greetings fellow food lovers!

I

n deciding to launch the Hudson Valley Chronic at the dawn of the Great Recession as the local journalism firmament was crumbling around me, I had to make some hard choices. By Steve Hopkins Number one, in order to give the paper a fighting chance, I had to commit to resisting the impetus to get a full-time job. This in turn has led me down a serendipitous path, in that I recently landed an incredibly rewarding part-time job as manager of the Poughkeepsie Main Street Farmers’ Market, which occurs rain or shine every Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 pm in Mural Park on Main Street, just east of the intersection with Market Street. The market is a delightful, bazaar-like affair, featuring three local vegetable farmers, two local fruit farmers, an incredible local baker, a bunch of tasty ethnic hot food, and a local winery, among other attractions. We have entertainment, cooking demos, a schedule of major events, and all the rest. But that’s not the point right now. I’ve been out to most of these farms over the past few weeks, and believe me, the recent prolonged deluge of

$20 on yourself at a fast-food restaurant in 1992, you are doing something horribly wrong and unnatural to yourself. I used to wonder what would happen to a person if they ate nothing but fast food, and now I know. First they explode; then they die. Right before I quit, I was pissed off at one of the managers, so while he was watching me work the line, I reached barehanded into a huge vat of meat and crammed a fistful into my face, making sure to allow most of it to fall out of my mouth and back into the vat. The manager said nothing. He knew that we all ate out of vats like that all the time; it was garbage, but hell, it was free. That was the day that any illusions of even pretending to handle the food properly evaporated permanently. Think about that the next time you bite into your chalupa. This is really only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve walked in on dishwashers hiding in the cooler, eating ice cream out of a bucket with their filthy scumbag dishwasher’s hands. I’ve seen pizza dropped face-first on wet, muddy tile floors only to be scooped up, paper-toweled off, popped into the microwave for five seconds (to supposedly kill any insects or germs), and loaded into a box, “good as new.” I’ve heard managers instruct dishwashers to fluff up the salad with their ruined hands to make it more appealing to the customers. Personally, food that hasn’t been mauled by a dishwasher’s perpetually filthy and waterlogged hands appeals to me a hell of a lot more than a fluffy salad. There is a new trend; it started in the major cities and now it’s spreading. Restaurants are bringing the prep areas out from behind closed doors, so the patrons can watch as their food is prepared hygienically. They see some bit of meat dropped on the ground, and they see some poor bastard scoop it up and throw it out. Still, you have to be extremely skeptical. From the slaughter yard to the meat wagon to your plate, how many people have dealt with your food? How many times has it been dropped, pissed on, sneezed on, defecated on (I am not exaggerating) before it got to your plate? How many insects have been mashed into it? How many rodents got sucked into the meat grinder with it? Traveling in some third world sh*thole, my father saw a load of mashed coconuts slowly rotting on a dock. It was due to be exported to the U.S.A. Alongside the mashed coconuts were several water buffalos, and as buffalos or animals tend to, they felt free to take several liberties with the coconuts. They pissed on them, shat on them, ate them. All the while some poor Asian slave is shoveling the coconuts into the hold of some creaking wooden boat. He is completely indifferent. He makes almost enough to afford one value meal a year. Why the hell should he care? It’s probably the only thing that keeps him going; the thought of all the American slobs gorging themselves on violated coconuts. He imagines that someday he’ll kill them all, and then he won’t have to shovel mashed coconuts into a boat ever again. If you want a decent meal, this is my advice. Buy a gun and a knife. Start a garden. You’d be better off eating your average diseased neighborhood squirrel. You couldn’t be doing any worse.

Soggy Farmers Need Your Love rain has really hurt them. Jose Rodriguez of Three Sisters Farm in Gardiner, for instance, has had to move whole fields, and has lost entire crop yields. The bases of lettuce and other leaf crops are under water and rotting. Vegetables that are supposed to have a f lavorful kick are waterlogged and tasteless. The season is close to being a washout for at least two of our farmers. But all is not lost ... yet. They do have product, and they are committed to getting it to the market each week, by hook or by crook. That’s why I’m appealing to you to get down to the Poughkeepsie Farmers’ Market -- or if you can’t, to another truly local farmers’ market -- EVERY WEEK to support these men and women, buy their vegetables and fruits, and KEEP IT LOCAL. Every time you buy a head of broccoli or a bucket of strawberries from ShopRite, Hannaford, etc., you’re unwittingly hammering another nail into the coffin of local food production -and by extension into the livelihoods of hardworking local families and their children. If you’re already patronizing a local farmers’ market or CSA, growing your own, buying from all-local purveyors like Cafe Bocca and The Wild Hive, etc., good for you. If you’re not and I’m making you feel guilty, that’s good too. Hope to see you this and every other Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Municipal parking is free (see me and I’ll put a sticker on your ticket). By the way, we can handle credit and debit cards, and there are a bunch of ATMs right around the corner ... so there’s no excuse.


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Poughkeepsie

July 2009 • PAGE 3

From Page 1 Dutchess County’s three principal towns; both Fishkill and Rhinebeck were more populous by a third. There was but one dry goods store, one grocery store, one hardware store, one lumber vendor, and a general store at the river landing. The town boasted a graceful courthouse with a short but rich Revolutionary history and an annoying tendency to burn down, but not much else. With a small hat factory and intermittent ferry service to Highland, 18th-century Poughkeepsie couldn’t hold a candle to 20th-century Millbrook. By the century’s end, however, Dutchess County as a whole had flourished agriculturally, and trade began to burgeon through its port towns, especially Poughkeepsie. The daunting, brambly forests had succumbed to the ax, and the rolling land underneath and around the countless beaver ponds, swamps and mires proved surprisingly fertile, once it was drained. By 1800, released from the threat of war and the stifling influence of provincial patent disagreements, Dutchess’ agricultural, mining and manufacturing output had streaked to the top spot among New York counties. Yesteryear’s Wayne Nussbickels, John MacEnroes and Charlie Norths were doing cartwheels.

Poughkeepsie past

In 1799, Poughkeepsie was incorporated as a bona fide town, and during the next century, from 1800 to 1900, it became the transportation nexus for the now booming Dutchess region, which underwent a swift depletion of its natural resources to feed the voracious appetites of the city to the south and a growing U.S. military gearing up for the Civil War. Iron ore was discovered and exploited in the Taconic hills, feeding the Poughkeepsie Iron Works and, starting in 1860, the Fallkill Iron Works. Untold tons of grain, sheep and hogs were shipped to New York City and beyond by sloop, train and steamboat. In 1810 the area, already a breadbasket, was ripe for the vision of someone like Matthew Vassar, who transformed his father’s small business into one of the largest breweries in America and built a fortune vast enough to singlehandedly bankroll his dream of a women’s college. By 1825, grain production began to wane and was replaced by forms of agricultural production higher on the food chain. Sheep, wool, beef and milk production grew. All these things continued to require transport by the river, and an elaborate ground transportation system was developed, linking the shipping port of Poughkeepsie with Dutchess County’s vast and far-flung farms. In 1832, an ill-fated whaling company was established that managed to lose a pile of money. During this heady, confident era, slavery in New York State was abolished due to the valiant efforts of Dutchess’ John Jay and his son Pierre. Most freed slaves congregated in Baxtertown and Lithgow, working on country farms and avoiding congested Poughkeepsie. Years later, after the Civil War, a large group of African-Americans was recruited from the South to replace striking workers at the city’s riverfront brickyards. A good percentage of the African-American

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community living in Poughkeepsie today are descended from this influx of Southerners, many of whom fell on hard times in the 1930s when the brickyards went belly up. In 1854, a scant 144 years ago, Poughkeepsie finally got around to anointing itself a city, and got down to serious business. Between 1850 and 1900, the waterfront became a mass of smoking factories and warehouses built to take advantage of the railroad and the river. Besides the two iron works and the brewery, the Poughkeepsie waterfront has been home to Adriance, Platt and Company, a maker of mowers, reapers, and later plows; Caire Pottery Works; the Poughkeepsie Glass Works; the Innis Dye Works; DeLaval, a manufacturer of precision tools and measuring equipment; and the William T. Reynolds Company, a major purveyor of grain and feed. The waterfront in its late-19th-century heyday was not deContinued on Page 4

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Fishkill, Rhinebeck and Hudson), the entire eastern shore of the Hudson consisted of high, stony banks, thick with trees and swarming with revenge-prone Native Americans who were not unaccustomed to taking out one or two white folks during frequent beaver-hijacking expeditions. The intermittent traveler who managed to pierce the virgin-forested interior was unimpressed with the future Dutchess County’s untapped bounty. In 1694 the Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth, a proper Bostonian on the way back from a powwow with some Iroquois chiefs in Albany, inadvertently veered south into Dutchess and found a wild, untamed landscape that he took the time to dismiss on paper as “very woody, rocky, mountainous, swampy; extreme bad riding.” Most other people felt the same way, and it took another 100 years for things to get rolling. Initially colonized by a very few hardy Ostlanders, what is now Poughkeepsie and surrounding Dutchess County were, not surprisingly, jump-started by pure power politics. In 1664, the (Catholic) Duke of York blockaded New Amsterdam with a spanking new fleet of state-of-the-art warships and bullied the flinty old Dutchman Peter Stuyvesant into handing over the keys to the New Netherland colony. The Duke, apparently not one prone to self-effacement, promptly renamed his new toy “New York,” and set about trying to hold onto it in the face of encroachments from the north and west by the wily French and from the east by the hated New England Puritans. After nearly 20 years of monkeying around, the aging Duke, with the help of a new (Irish) colonial governor, Thomas Dongan, finally got his act together. Dongan placated the colony’s predominantly Dutch populace with a nifty new constitution that was radically fair-minded by existing New World standards. In addition, Dongan in the late 1680s began doling out “patents” to wealthy and well-connected pals, so as to line the newly strategic Hudson River with private bastions of property, keeping the Puritans locked up behind the Taconic hills to the east. No “blue laws” were allowed, and no one had to pay an extra tax to fill church coffers. Thus was born New York’s reputation as a “liberal” stronghold. Settlement increased moderately until the end of the Revolutionary War; Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County were unscathed by mainstream bloodshed, as there was nothing strategic to fight over and it was an excellent place for statesmen/warriors like Gov. George Clinton to hang out and plot moves against the British. As Poughkeepsie was a stronghold of anti-Tory sentiment along the safest stretch of the Hudson, it was rewarded with the status of default state capital in 1777 following the British broiling of nearby Kingston, bringing in an influx of lawyers and politicians who have never really left. They all had a whale of a time in 1788 at the old courthouse, arguing over whether or not to ratify the U.S. Constitution. As late as 1795, Poughkeepsie was still the smallest of

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The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Page 4 • July 2009

Poughkeepsie

From Page 3

signed to be a fun place. Recreational activities – ice boating in the 1800s, the Intercollegiate Regatta (oars competitions) between 1895 and 1949, the old Exchange House hotel at the foot of Main Street and the excursion steamboats – all vied for shoreline access with heavy industry and its transportation needs. Something as frivolous as a riverfront park, a boardwalk or an outdoor amphitheater would not have appealed to the city’s conservative psyche in those no-nonsense times. From the time the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad track was first laid across Main Street in the mid1800s (Main Street and a few other east/west thoroughfares have since been lifted up over the tracks via bridgework) until fairly recently, Poughkeepsie was unwittingly engaged in the slow process of cutting itself off from the river, its former lifeblood. The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, completed in 1888, was primarily a conduit for shipping coal and steel from Pennsylvania east to New Haven and Boston. Its existence did little if anything economically for the city for which it was named. Since opening in the mid-1920s, the Mid-Hudson Bridge has carried automobile traffic overhead past the waterfront, at the same time eliminating the need for ferry service. The Route 9 Arterial, built in the 1960s, was the final nail in the coffin of riverfront isolation, effectively chopping the city in half in order to afford easier access to suburban malls. For decades, bereft of a reason for existence, the waterfront area deteriorated into another sad urban wasteland, dismissed even by crack addicts and winos as a proper place to hang out. And like a cancer, the devastation spread from the severed riverfront out along Main Street, as if the city was slowly losing its soul.

Poughkeepsie past perfect

Grand designs for the River District are nothing new. Ever since Poughkeepsie fell into a prolonged mid-century funk following the same flight to the suburbs that left many other American cities rudderless and economically depressed, its residents and leaders have harbored dreams for a dramatic resurgence, trying to attract a single major waterfront developer that, like the Holy Grail, would be the impetus for a renaissance. The plaque adorning Victor C. Waryas Memorial Park sums up the irony of it all. “It is not an exaggeration to say that Poughkeepsie is on the threshold of a complete rebirth,” goes the Jan. 4, 1963 quote by Waryas, then mayor of the newly ailing city. “The coming year, and the years to follow, will see a physical change so vast as to make our city unrecognizable to those who have known it in the past.”

These expensive Hudson Pointe condos have a birds-eye view of the DeLaVal property toxic remediation process.

Well, not quite. A $25 million ’60s-era urban renewal project undertaken by Corbetta Enterprises, Inc., may have been the source of Waryas’ ecstasy. “Poughkeepsie, like the legendary Rip Van Winkle, has awakened from a long slumber,” trumpeted the Corbetta PR package. “The City has awakened to its destiny as the center of a rapidly growing region. Poughkeepsie is replacing the old and worn out with new and beautiful housing for its people, new arteries of transportation, and new office and commercial facilities. Symbolic of Poughkeepsie’s awakening, the first Urban Renewal structure, an 18-story apartment house for moderate income families, has been named the Rip Van Winkle House.” Thirty years later, the gray slab of the Rip Van Winkle House and the ’70s-era River Terrace development are the only visible remnants of Corbetta, Inc.’s plans for a datedly

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futuristic waterfront Jetsonville of concrete, steel and glass Bauhaus architecture, including an “ultra-modern 100,000 square-foot office building,” a shopping center, a “200-room hotel with convention facilities” and a “300-boat marina,” among other urban renewal-fueled development calling for the complete razing of all but one historic building. Properties marked for destruction according to this plan included the old Vassar Brothers’ Home and the Vassar Brothers Institute of Science, Literature and Art, both part of the pivotal Cunneen-Hackett complex today. Another, even more extreme solution called for much of the city to be knocked down and rebuilt inside a gigantic translucent bubble.

Poughkeepsie present

In 1997, the Dutchess County Planning Department, abetted by its forward-thinking Development and Design Coordinator, John Clarke, managed to get a lot of people and entities onto one page (more like 10 pages, actually) in producing a seminal document, somewhat misleadingly titled the “City of Poughkeepsie Transportation Strategy.” Included in the ambitious blueprint were a number of important projects that have come to fruition, as well as a number that have not. Metro-North built the most critical component in the late 1990s: a new multilayer parking garage and intermodal center, with a covered walkway and river overlook that links the station to the waterfront. Where crackheads once palavered in Waryas Park, there is now a lovely Greenway promenade along the riverfront, with period lighting and a textured walkway. The historic Reynolds warehouse complex, originally slated to be razed for yet another surface parking lot, was successfully renovated in 2004 into Dooley Square, a vibrant mix of retail, restaurants and offices that serves as a commercial anchor at the Main Street end of Water Street. The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum now serves as a busy counterweight at the north end of Water Street, along with a well-utilized skate park. All of these improvements have had a stabilizing, rejuvenating effect. Lower Main Street is dotted with thriving businesses that didn’t exist in 1996: Soul Dog. Amici’s. The Demitasse Café. To the south, although the less inclusive architecture of Shadows, The Grandview and Martin Ginsburg’s Hudson Pointe do little to warm the aesthetic soul or promote civic populism, they serviceably fill in the once yawning post-industrial gaps, providing luxury housing and quality meeting/entertainment space. The waterfront’s biggest eye- and nose-sore, the toxic 13.4-acre former DeLaVal property, is currently undergoing a $9 million remediation and is slated to someday be transformed into a recreational and commercial wonderland, including a waterfront park, marina, canoe launch, parking and retail and office space. Along the city’s northern shoreline, a quieter, more Greenway-oriented aspect of the waterfront has begun to supplant the post-industrial. Marist has constructed a park, a walkway, a boathouse and a floating dock. Vassar built another boathouse adjacent to Marist’s. Dutchess County Executive Bill Steinhaus authorized a $9.9 million plan to carve out a nice riverfront park called “Quiet Cove” on 27 acres of stateowned land north of Marist, as well as to link the Dutchess Rail Trail to the Walkway Over the Hudson. Back on Main Street, going east up the hill beyond Market, a major goal of urban re-designers was achieved when what used to be the barren, post-apocalyptic pedestrian “Main Mall” was re-opened to two-way automobile traffic. The jury is still out as to whether that was the district’s only problem, but there has been quite a bit of re-shuffling of the deck, some of which resulted in positive results like the beautiful renovation of the Luckey Platt building. Despite the opening up of the Main Mall and the Luckey Platt success, upper Main Street still languishes. Newly shuttered facades of businesses like Muddy Cup that had hoped to Continued on Page 5


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Poughkeepsie

From Page 4

cater to an influx of a young, pioneering creative class, stand in testament that things may take a bit longer. The Great Recession surely has had a role in things, reducing consumer demand, thinning the daily commuter herd, causing downtown businesses to trim staff and cut hours and so on. But putting dreams on hold doesn’t mean they’re dead, and there are still reasons for long-term optimism. New businesses are still opening here and there. The Friday farmers’ market is thriving. People haven’t taken their eyes off of the future.

Pedicabs, anyone?

The jewel in the crown, many Poughkeepsie advocates agree, will be the fabulous Walkway Over the Hudson, still on schedule to open with a grand ceremonial flourish in October in a frenzy of Quadricentennial pageantry (knock wood). Hopefully the little turf dustup between Steinhaus and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer can be worked out and they can avoid spooking CSX Railroad CEO Michael Ward into refusing to let anybody get on or off of the thing from the Poughkeepsie side. The sky-high pedestrian park is certain to be an enormous boon to local tourismC (I’d love to get the CHRONI pedicab concession on the bridge – can you imagine?), and has to be good news for Poughkeepsie’s North Side, including promising, on-the-edge neighborhoods like Mount Carmel. In fact, Mount Carmel has been holding its own of late thanks to the efforts of a young visionary entrepreneur named Erik Morabito, who is busily stepping out of his fine Café Bocca and into the breach, promoting a weekend farmers’ market and other initiatives to spark things. Other facets of Poughkeepsie’s long-awaited renaissance seem to be on hold, at least for the time being. Some of the hopeful projects envisioned by planners in the late 1990s that have stalled at least temporarily include an initiative by Chris Silva, executive director of the Bardavon 1869 Opera House on Market Street, to have a permanent riverfront amphitheater built, and another intriguing proposal to resume riverboat service on the Hudson from a Poughkeepsie-based terminal. County planners are themselves mixed in their assessment of what has happened in the years since the transportation strategy was adopted. “While the pace of implementation The Hudson Valley

has been unsatisfactory for some of the strongest proponents of the plan, most agree that delays resulted largely from changing directions in political leadership,” maintains the author of an updated version of the City of Poughkeepsie Transportation Strategy document currently on the county website. “The Transportation Strategy retains considerable support and momentum for moving into Phase 2 of the Plan.” With apologies to what was certainly a brilliant planning team, I have to insert an opinion at this point. Unfortunately, in my experience, with virtually every long-term study of a problem that ends in a document being produced, as well done and valuable as that document may seem to be at the time of its creation, it quickly gathers dust on a shelf somewhere as reality shifts beneath the planners’ feet, completely changing the rules of the game. This is what the planners in this case admit happened. The political realities of successive administrations were not aligned with the findings of the transportation strategy team. Someone had other ideas. The best-laid plans – call them “transportation strategies,” “comprehensive plans,” whatever – don’t guarantee action. Still, I heartily applaud the effort, and would urge Mayor Tkazyik to take a look at the county’s old Poughkeepsie Transportation Strategy report sometime, if he hasn’t already. Speaking of the mayor, he, the city council and other Poughkeepsie movers and shakers recently had their hands full dealing with a hot potato in the form of a proposed business improvement district (BID), centered on Main Street, which if enacted would have OCTOBER covered 71 acres and FRIDAY, involved an increase in19, taxes2007 on properties within the district, including the Civic Center, the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel and One Civic Center Plaza. Those taxes, said proponents, would have financed improvements ranging from the physical enhancement of the streetscape to better security. Opponents, however, took citizen action against the council proposal, organizing a revolt among the district’s 200 property owners of record. More than half of them – a disputed 107 individuals – voted it down in March by

ports Beat

s m

Sick Sudoku

Puzzle # S0006

As any die-hard puzzlehead knows, Sudoku is not a game; it’s either a means of warding off dementia, or a form of dementia in itself. Either way, this seemingly harmless little pastime has become an unspeakable facet of daily existence for millions of silent addicts, and a likely root cause for the simultaneous and precipitous drop in the GNPs of several the world’s leading economic powers. Enjoy this fifth in a series of brainstoppers. Again, for the solution, go to hvchronic.com. If you figured it out, go buy yourself something so you can add a little to all the economic stimulus going on.

7 3

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July 2009 • PAGE 5

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each returning a form to City Hall stating that they were against the measure. The outcome is still in limbo, with threats of lawsuits hanging in the air.

Poughkeepsie psyche

But all of the above: the history, the land use questions, the politics and the frustrated dreams of planners, are really just stage setting for the people who call Poughkeepsie home. And the populace of any town, as a rule, has a collective point of view, no matter what the disparate views of each individual constituent might be. As a former lower Main Street resident and current part-time Poughkeepsie Farmers’ Market manager, I can say from experience that Poughkeepsie’s psyche can reliably be described Continued on Page 6


The Hudson Valley

The Hudson Valley

Page 6 • July 2009 CHRONIC

Poughkeepsie

MIDDLEMARCH-APRIL 2009 tPAGE 9 CHRONIC

From Page 5

as “slightly damaged, but resilient.” The damage comes from intermittent spasms of bad engineering, red-lining, racial segregation, industrial pollution and municipal corruption at the hands of incompetent and/or nefarious individuals in positions of power and influence. That sort of thing seems not to be happening now, but one never really knows until after the fact. The damaged feeling is exacerbated more than a little by the realization that lurks in every Poughkeepsie resident’s subconscious of his or her city’s well-known and not particularly upbeat place in the popular zeitgeist. It’s no mystery as to why the Brothers Dowdle — by all accounts a pair of real smartypants film and culture students — chose the city as a backdrop and namesake of their serial slasher/killer film, The Poughkeepsie Tapes (which, by the way, has never darkened the screen of a theater, as far as I know – but that’s another story). Xenia, Ohio was already taken by Harmony Korine, for one thing. Poughkeepsie as an iconic horror locale was open and available. Parts of Nobody’s Fool were made here, but the city wasn’t featured; nor was it anything but a nameless, hyper-realistic post-apocalyptic stand-in for Tromaville when Lloyd Kaufman filmed his gag-inducing classic, Citizen Toxie: Toxic Avenger IV back in 1999, before Main Street was opened back up to car traffic. Poughkeepsie, as much as we love it, is swimming in bizarre and ultra-violent lore, especially around the waterfront. There is nothing that happens in the Dowdles’ movie that can top what has already happened here. Let’s see: 6-foot, 4-inch, 300-pound Kendall Francois with his kiddie pool and garbage can in the attic filled with decomposing prostitutes. Then we have poor Tawana Brawley crawling — or perhaps not — out of a garbage bag filled with human excrement. OK, it didn’t happen in Poughkeepsie per se, but the trial that made Al Sharpton a household word did. Another young black woman runs screaming out of the woods on the riverfront near Water Street, yelling that she’d been raped by a white cop. Within two weeks, both she and the cop wash up on shore, dead — she first, strangled; he days later, a bloated mass brimming with cocaine and alcohol. Neither crime has ever been solved. Does anybody remember water department honcho Fred Andros, who blew his chin off in a misguided attempt to snuff himself as he was about to be arrested for conspiring in the murder of his married mistress Susan Fassett — a public employee who was also a federal witness in the widening Paroli corruption scandal? Fassett was gunned down in a church parking lot after choir practice, allegedly

by a stocky, masculine-looking rube named Dawn Silvernail, another Andros sexual “conquest.” Only weeks earlier, Andros and Fassett were both happily dallying with Silvernail in an improbable menage-a-trois — one magical session of which was videotaped for posterity at the local pumphouse, a few short blocks from Water Street. And then there’s the nearly forgotten old cannibal Albert Fentress, a Poughkeepsie high school teacher who in 1979 got lucky when Paul Masters, a recent high school graduate, wandered into his backyard. With a continuously playing highlight loop of the movie Deliverance dancing in his head, Fentress lured the kid into his basement, tied him up at gunpoint and had his way with him before mutilating him, shooting him a couple of times in the head, chopping him up and cooking and eating his genitals and other morsels. Now in his 60s, Fentress was found not guilty by reason of insanity and is living out his days at Pilgrim State mental hospital on Long Island, presumably dining on lighter fare. G. Gordon Liddy also got his start here, along with his seriously twisted worldview from being an ADA handling the sort of cases Poughkeepsie provides when not hounding Dr. Timothy Leary and his underage minions out at the Hitchcock estate in Millbrook. Monty Python’s Eric Idle, who couldn’t think of anything to say when asked on the Daily Show what his favorite place in America was, blurted out “Poughkeepsie,” and got a big laugh. I could go on. Suffice it to say, Poughkeepsie residents have more experience handling this sort of thing than most people do. But the resilience I spoke of earlier comes from more than being the butt of 30 years of jokes and tabloid stories. There’s a sweetness of character here, too. Poughkeepsie people genuinely care about each other. Cultural institutions abound, many of them reaching out to children of the less fortunate to teach them skills to transcend their circumstances. No one sits around and complains; they try to figure a collective way out. I’ve had rewarding experiences with any number of organizations trying to make things better: the Chamber of Commerce, the Dutchess County Arts Council, the tourism people, the Nutrition Advisory Committee. Then you come across individuals like Nobel Johnson, who occasionally plays songs on a Casio keyboard at the farmers’ market on Fridays. Almost everyone who passes by knows him, gives him a wave and a smile. He draws people in. The poorest among them throw a coin or two in his tip bucket. When a child comes by and stares at his fingerwork, he invites him or her to sit down with him and play a few bars. It’s awesome.

The Merchant PRICE.

Wines and Spirits

SERVICE. SELECTION. VALUE.

730 Ulster Ave., Kingston -- (845) 331-1923 Cabernet

Reg.

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Chardonnay

Reg. Sale

Ex Libris .................................... Cartlidge & Brown ................... Rodney Strong ......................... Sabastiani ................................ Wyatt ........................................ Sterling ..................................... Clos du Bois .............................

19.99 11.99 18.99 18.99 12.99 13.99 16.99

16.99 10.19 14.99 15.99 10.99 10.99 14.49

Liberty School ............. Rosenblum ................... Sterling ......................... Kunde .......................... Coppola ........................ Rodney Strong .............

13.99 12.99 10.99 14.99 14.99 18.99

Pinot Noir

Reg.

Sale

11.89 10.99 8.99 12.74 10.99 14.99

Liberty Orchards is one of the newer vendors at the weekly Poughkeepsie Main Street Farmers’ Market.

Poughkeepsie party time

And that’s why I’m bullish on Poughkeepsie, and why I’ve used my little farmers’ market platform to plan a party that celebrates what’s best about the city. It’s not really about projects, shrinking budgets, open space vs. development or where this or that one-way street is going to go. It’s about heart. It’s about soul. It’s Friday, July 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., right on Main Street just east of Market in Mural Park. Janet will be there, making faces behind her scrumptious jerk chicken, along with the smiling crews from Molé Molé and Twisted Soul. All the quirky, twinkle-eyed farmers will be there, plying the freshest and best-looking vegetables and fruits the Hudson Valley has to offer. There’ll be bread, wine, desserts, and a whole slate of great homegrown entertainment, including Quandesha, an up-andcoming R&B songstress whose f lawless voice, songwriting ability and stage presence evoke memories of a young Beyoncé. The ReadNex Poetry Squad will bookend Quandesha’s set with a series of blisteringly relevant spoken word performances. The award-winning Poughkeepsie High School Step Team, Alpha Gamma Rho-North, will stomp the park into a polyrhythmic echo chamber. I’ll be there, too, glad to be in Po’town, the spunky, funky heart and soul of my beloved Hudson Valley. See you there.

Cafe, Art Gallery and Music Space 14 Mount Carmel Place Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 845-483-7300 www.CafeBocca.net

Miscela D’Oro Espresso Harney & Sons Tea Vervacious Hot Cocoa

Fresh Baked Scones & Muffins Cookies & Biscotti Cakes & Pies by the slice Imported Sorbetto & Gelato New York Spring Water Calypso Lemonade Harney & Sons Iced Tea Boylan Soda Knudsen Spritzers Teany Iced Tea

Hours of Operation

Savignon Blanc Reg. Sale

Bogle ......................................... 15.99 Mirassou ................................... 9.99 Morande ................................... 9.99 Wyatt .......................................... 18.99

13.59 8.49 8.49 15.99

Red Zin

Reg.

Sale

Pinot Grigio

Joel Gott .................................... 16.99 Ravenswood ............................. 10.99

14.49 9.35

Reds

Reg.

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Il Sogno ........................ 9.99 Franco Todini ............... 11.99 Kris ................................ 11.99 Voga ............................. 10.99

Masciarelli Montepulciano ........ 9.99 Zaccagnini Montepulciano ........ 14.99 Villa Fassini - Sangiovese/Cab .. 8.99 Monte Degli Angeli - Sangiovese 7.99 Les Garrigues - Cote du Rhone ... 10.99 Martin Laforet - Bourgogne ........ 9.99 Chateau Vieux Meyney ............... 13.99 Crios - Malbec ............................. 15.99 Urban - Malbec ........................... 10.99

8.49 12.75 6.99 6.79 8.99 7.99 10.99 13.99 9.35

Mudhouse .................... 11.99 10.19 Indaba ........................... 8.99 7.64 Morande ....................... 9.99 8.49 Groth ............................ 18.99 15.99

Reg. Sale 8.49 10.19 10.19 9.35

Merlot

Reg. Sale

Montos .......................... Clos du Bois ................. Ch. St. Jean .................. Oxford Landing ............. Rodney Strong ............. Rock River .....................

9.99 15.99 13.99 9.99 17.99 13.99

Tell them the

CHRONIC sent you!

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Monday - Thursday 10am-10pm Friday & Saturday 10am-11pm Sunday 11:30am-7:30pm

Wild Hive Farm has Opened!! • Your Neighborhood Bakery: Fresh baked breads & pastries all prepared with 100% of our own freshly stone milled organic flour. • The Wild Hive Café: Serving breakfast & lunch exclusively with local eggs, dairy, meats, fresh pasta and grains. • A Local Food Store: Providing the best of our area’s honeys, jams, maple syrups, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, meats, beans, fresh organic flour, cornmeal, fresh pasta and home-cooked meals to go, plus much more! The Time is Now! It’s a New Age! This is your neighborhood space! Help us support our local economy, farmers, and communities!

Wild Hive Farm Store

2411 Salt Point Tpke. Clinton Corners, NY 12514 wildhivefarmbakery@gmail.com Don Lewis (845) 266-5863


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

July 2009 • PAGE 7

Photos by Andy Uzzle

Flanked by her able-bodied assistants, Izébel Vivant enacts “Anatomy of a Pin-Up.”

Burlesque

An artificially enhanced Miss Elixir lulls the crowd into a false sense of cartoon reality as she gyrates like Jessica Rabbit.

From Page 1

of various kinds, specifically the Polish Laboratory Theatre, really gritty, visceral stuff. My interest had always been sort of using the body for storytelling. So doing burlesque was kind of a natural departure, actually.” The New Paltz show featured women and men of wildly varying physicality, performing a wide array of theatrical clothesshedding. There were fan dancers, fire dancers, nurses, schoolgirls, theatrically violent knife- and chainsaw-wielding punks, religious figures, and caricatures of emcee icons. There was a magician, who extricated himself from a reasonably securelooking hogtying job performed by a couple of surly-looking audience members. Audience surliness, it seems, is apparently de rigueur. “Yes, there were hecklers,” says Sans. “There are always hecklers – I like them. They’re a throwback to another era when that was an acceptable form of feedback. So I dig that. Because they’re being nostalgic in the same way we are. Plus, you know, we need the feedback.”

Ginger Snap performs her patented “Mary Mary” routine, in which she takes liberties with a plastic infant.

Lucida Sans channels Salome.

An impromptu dance party breaks out at show’s end, featuring, left to right, Spartacus Rising, Lucida Sans, Coco Corset, Ophelia Diphthong and Et Tu Boote.


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Page 8 • July 2009

1998 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E430 Sedan 4D

2001 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E320 AWD Wagon

1963 Porsche ‘90’ Cabriolet

2000 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet 2D

Original wheels are included with this sleek, dark blue sedan. Powered by a 4.3 liter V8 automatic. Blue Book suggested retail is $15,285.

This silver wagon with 89,097 miles has a smooth-running 3.2-liter V6 with automatic transmission. Blue Book suggested retail is $21,505.

Freshly restored from a rust-free original, including black leather seats, flawless Heron Grey paint finish and famed Super 90 engine.

A 6-cyl., 3.4 liter engine w/ Tiptronic auto transmission powers this black beauty, Only 64,442 miles. Blue Book suggested retail is $39,355.

Dealer’s Selling Price: $8,500

Dealer’s Selling Price: $14,900

Realistically priced at $7,500

Dealer’s Selling Price: $32,900

(845) 452-3137

16 Freedom Plains Road (Rte. 55) Poughkeepsie

www.mitchellmotor.com

A Celebration of Downtown Poughkeepsie Life

Featuring

E

Scrumptious.

very week this very special downtown urban-flavored farmers’ market exerts an inexorable pull on the community, as people are drawn in by the sights and smells of fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits, fabulous artisan breads and baked goods, zesty ethnic hot meals, beautiful flowers and plants, great regional wines, and a convivial, bazaar-like atmosphere. On every single Friday from now until late October the market will offer a nonstop menu of wonderful happenings to feed the heart, mind, soul and stomach.

Quandesha

ReadNex Poetry Squad

Fridays, 10 am to 3 pm in Mural Park on Main St. in Downtown Poughkeepsie, just east of Market St.

And Poughkeepsie High School’s Legendary

Alpha Gamma Rho Step Team Plus an all-day

Afro-Caribbean Bounty Food Festival!

Just go to www.facebook.com/hvchronic and click on the contest link. It’s that easy!


HV Chronic Vol II No 4