Across the street from our office, renovations are almost finished on the former Creations Coffeehouse - a squat, down-at-the-heels, two-story box on Church Street sandwiched between larger buildings like a puny younger brother. It's been gutted and rebuilt to house an Indian restaurant, New Paltz's second to open this year. (A subcontinental counterweight to the village's two Japanese eateries?)
Walking up Church Street one June morning during the renovations, I was startled to discover that the sagging aluminum siding had been ripped off the front of the former coffeehouse. Exposed underneath it was what was left of the original wooden façade: a painted field of midnight blue paling toward dawn, and covered in clouds and stars, like a goofy wizard's hat. The building, having shed its skin, sat in the pale light like a postcard from a gone world.
I had seen the clouds and stars before. Frankie Michele, the former owner of Creations, had a framed photo in his shop of the old Cloud House, taken most likely in the mid- to late-70s. The vantage point in the photograph must be from the roof above my office window and looks down on a dozen poorly postured, eclectically dressed twenty-somethings clumped arm-in-arm in front of the painted façade. One longhaired provocateur leans out a second-story window - set inside a cloud - brandishing an antiquated rifle, surely a Civil War relic. Most in the portrait sport knowing, cocksure smiles (there are a few alienated, misanthropic looks), and their expressions radiate what I interpret as possibility; a belief that our dreams are never as outsized as they seem and that even ludicrous ideas - painting a nighttime scene on a house? Hello, resale value? - have a place in New Paltz.
Seeing the exterior of the Cloud House - for no particular reason I thought it had been painted over years before - pricked me with a thorn of preemptive nostalgia for New Paltz. You see, we're moving. After 10 years here, Luminary Publishing (the corporate entity encompassing Chronogram, Upstate House, and Healthy Living) is moving to 314 Wall Street, Kingston. Chronogram, the magazine that launched a (rather small, rather nice - as in a friendly neighbor who lends power tools without inquiring after your political beliefs) publishing empire, is leaving the nest.
The nest analogy suggests that we've outgrown New Paltz, but I've been wondering lately if New Paltz hasn't outgrown us. (Certainly the once-sleepy, provincial state college outpost is bigger than it was; according to the latest census estimate, the town of New Paltz saw its population increase 5.21 percent between April 2000 and July 2003, making it one of the fastest growing municipalities in the Mid-Hudson Valley.) New Paltz has arrived. It had its (dare I say?) coming-out party in February on national TV; it has its poster-boy mayor; it has the secrets of its scenic beauty revealed regularly in the New York Times "Escapes" section and elsewhere to claustrophobic urbanites seeking weekending guidance. New Paltz is a made scene, and as such, an expensive place to buy or rent property. It's sad to leave this way, but it didn't make economic sense to stay here. Moving to Kingston, the rising cultural hub of Ulster County, replete with Empire Zones fat with tax incentives, and a sane real estate market, was a no-brainer.
But back to the Cloud House - the spirit behind those clouds and stars is the quirky, can-do spirit that fostered Chronogram in its infancy, when two idealistic kids barely out of their teens decided to give something back to their community in the fall of '93. This town has sustained us, and leaving seems as odd as throwing out a well worn pair of shoes not past their prime.Farewell, and thanks to all who helped us on our path. Thanks to Joanie and Doug and the Bistro staff for a conference room, with eggs and coffee. Thanks to Jack at Yanni for the Corfu sauce. Thanks to Abdul at Jack's Meats for all the organic, grass-fed beef. Thanks to Ken and Henry at In Good Taste for the wine recommendations. Thanks to Ken and the staff at Earthgoods for help with the tinctures. Thanks to Jerry at Hokkaido for the sushi and sympathy. Thanks to the staff watering hole, Bacchus. Thanks to everyone. Come see us in Kingston.
- Brian K. Mahoney