Looking back on my summer with my date book beside me, I’m not sure, specifically, where I went wrong. Some days I had conflicts with personal obligations, some days it was work. Other times it was the desire to fiddle in my garden, or fire up the barbeque and spend an uneventful evening at home with Lee Anne.
And then there was that week at beach in Rehoboth, Delaware.
Sometimes it was general inertia, the inability to break the surly bonds of home and get in the car and go. Sometimes it took all my strength just to ignore the projects around the house I was supposed to be tackling this summer. Often, my desire to spend as much time as possible outdoors, in preparation for the varsity tanning team tryouts, trumped all. Many an afternoon was spent lolling in the sunshine, either in a canoe or just on our back deck, feet soaking in our inflatable kiddie pool. Either way, it added up to a season that flew by.
Here’s a partial list of what I had hoped to attend this summer:
Stone Ridge Library Fair, June 14
Making it to the Stone Ridge Library’s mammoth book sale (there are other events attached to the fair—readings, music performances, and whatnot—but they’re not the point, as far as I’m concerned) was a bit of pipe dream ever since Lee Anne and I put a moratorium on bringing more books into our house. Unless, of course, we removed a corresponding number. As we are reluctant to part with even our oddest titles, like Say It in Swahili! or Gout: The Patrician Malady, we decided not to tempt ourselves. If you are looking to expand your library, however, the Spencertown Academy’s third annual Festival of Books is coming up this month, September 5 to 14. Readings by Russell Banks and such, and over 10,000 books for sale. Amy Lubinski’s preview appears on page 119.
Clearwater Festival, June 13-14
Luminary Publishing, Chronogram’s evil corporate overlord, publishes the event guide to Clearwater’s annual fundraiser, the Great Hudson River Revival, featuring multiple stages of music, storytelling, and general hijinks. I have worked on this project for the past five years and yet I’ve never been to the festival. Bound and determined to attend this year, I set my sights on Sunday. Torrential rain and flash flooding, however, washed out Sunday’s festivities at Croton-Point Park in Westchester. Weather Gods: 1, Brian: 0.
Eric Bogosian’s “1+1” at Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater, July 1-11
For the July issue of this magazine, I interviewed comedy writer Alan Zweibel, about his career in comedy—Zweibel was one of the original SNL writers, writing for Gilda Radner and John Belushi—and his one-man show, “The History of Me,” that he was bringing to Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater in July. I can’t recall how I goofed to miss Zweibel, but I did catch Eric Bogosian’s latest play, “1+1”, starring Kelli Garner. The actors made an uphill trek through Bogosian’s plot, but the summit hardly seemed worth it. The experience reminded me that Powerhouse is a workshop environment. Oh to see Mark Linn-Baker’s one-man tour de force in Lee Blessing’s “Chesapeake” again!
“Uncle Vanya” at Bard’s Fisher Center, July 11-20
It’s the multi-day events that really make you feel lame when you miss them. Peter Dinklage, best-known for his portrayal of a misanthrope train enthusiast in The Station Agent, received good reviews for the title role in the Chekhov play. Just not from me, who had written down the wrong dates in his planer. I do plan on attending a performance of the site-specific choreographic work Noémi Lafrance has created for six dancers on top of the Fisher Center that will debut later this month. A preview of Lafrance’s Rapture appears on page 121.
“Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” July 22- August 28
Jay Blotcher previewed this production of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival for our August issue. Created by the Reduced Shakespeare Company for the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 1987, it’s all 37 of the Bard’s plays in 90 minutes, including a version of “Hamlet” backwards. A student production I saw 10 years ago was hilarious, so I imagine that in the sure hands of HVSF, it’s gut-busting. Luckily, additional dates have been added for the first week of September. www.hvshakespeare.org.
Hudson River Swim, August 3
Last fall I read Akiko Busch’s Nine Ways to Cross a River. In it, Busch, who lives in Dutchess County, details swimming across a number of bodies of water, one of which is the majestic Hudson. When I had the opportunity to meet Busch last fall, I expressed my admiration for both the meditative engagement of her prose style and the accomplishment of fording so many rivers under her own power. Busch, a modest woman with two teenage children, assured me that I, too, could swim across the Hudson, and that I should join the mass swim to benefit Pete Seeger’s Beacon River Pool on August 3. Suffice to say that when the date arrived, I felt more like a chicken than a shad. I stayed home to train for the tanning team.
For those up for a late-season Hudson River crossing, the Hudson River Swim for Life will take place from Nyack to Sleepy Hollow on September 7. www.hudsonriverswim.org.
Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, August 20 & 21
One of the more idiosyncratic projects I set out to see this summer, Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea is a flotilla of seven boats crafted out of salvaged materials and scrap wood by the artist Swoon and her troupe, what the artist calls an “invented landscape.” The boats set sail down the river on August 15 for a series of performances, staged on the boats themselves and accompanied by music from the neo-Gypsy ensemble Dark Dark Dark, at towns along the river in Troy. I missed the first performance at the Saugerties Lighthouse. The second, at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston’s Rondout, less than a mile from my house, I had to skip due to the fact that—irony of meta-irony—I had to write my column. Switchback Sea will be landing at Deitch Studios on the East River in Long Island City on September 7, with performances September 11 to 13. www.switchbacksea.org.
Better luck next year. Maybe I’ll get an iPhone to help with scheduling my roster of events.
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