This Sunday I journeyed to Glimmerglass Opera to find out why Alexa thinks upstate doesn’t suck. To get there I was forced to drive from my folk’s place on Long Island and felt like I was traveling the entire length and breadth of NY State. The first snafu occurred because internet and print maps haven’t realized that the last exit before the Tri-Borough Bridge is 45, not 3 anymore, and I was stuck going into Manhattan at 5 mph when I wanted to stop in Astoria, so doubling back took almost an hour. Good thing my Mom’s Audi’s free month trial of Sirius satellite radio has been going on for over a year now (sadly, after 12 hours/700 miles of driving I’ve exhausted the 80s, 90s, and modern alt rock stations’ play lists). No matter what the time, traffic in or out of the city is a nightmare that leaves me tense. A note for all other drivers on how to make the world a better place: use your turn signals, pick a lane and stay there for at least a minute, and stop being a jerk. About an hour north of NYC things started to clear and I calmed down some, and another hour later the majestic views of rolling, forest covered hills becomes quite spectacular. Even though I was only halfway to Glimmerglass (NY is ridiculously big), the stress was gone and I took in the sites while sucking down the first of my daily Stewart’s chocolate milkshakes (get extra thick or don’t bother).
Number one of the agenda was to take in the Secret Caverns. It may not be as great as Howe Caverns, but attitude is everything. Secret Caverns advertises by having painted billboards of their caveman mascot, usually featuring his friend dinosaurs and bats, in a parody of pop culture images, such as rock album covers, comic books, etc. which are hilarious! The site itself is manned by college kids with laid back, good humored manners who take neither themselves nor their charges too seriously. For someone like me, who has to touch everything and just wants to have a little fun, this is worlds better than the stuffy tour of Howe. The caverns themselves were found by two cows, Floyd and, ironically, Lucky, who fell to their deaths when they stumbled upon the riff some hundred years ago. The caverns were formed by glaciers that cracked the earth open with their weight and dripped enough water in to form the fascinating structures which includes a hundred foot, underground waterfall. As I traversed the often claustrophobic chambers hunched over, I was glad to think that there are places in the world still to be discovered as there is no evidence of anyone knowing of the caverns before the cows.
After lunch by the pond next to Secret Caverns, it was onwards to Glimmerglass. The opera house is quite pretty with a manmade pond in front and a larger natural one in the back which I wandered around looking, unsuccessfully, for frogs and turtles. Alexa went looking for former workmates in order to catch up and I eavesdropped on various conversations, learning that the opera has a stalker, and that the interns are as promiscuous as ever (boy, did I pick the wrong career). Next we picked up Jodi, the Wardrobe Supervisor who we were staying with and headed to her opera provided, kitsch filled apartment, after a brief stop in the opera’s warehouse where I played with stored props, including draping myself with bandoleers. Down the block from her is a sulfur spring where I bathed my feet in the rotten egg smelling water before continuing on to shop for dinner. Before calling it an early night we strolled to another Stewart's for ice cream and I filled a bowl with the free toppings which I promptly chucked across the store and miraculously caught without spilling a single sprinkle.
Jodi’s sofa bed was disgusting, so I slept on an air mattress which was shockingly comfortable except that whenever I moved I felt like I was at sea during a storm. Also, it was FREEZING at night. It’s August; get with it, upstate NY. The next morning Alexa took me around the area. While the scenery is beautiful, the area is economically depressed. Any house that wasn’t falling down was modular. Supposedly there are luxury houses owned by tourists, but I didn’t see them. Every place we passed had the same description of “This once was X, but they went out of business and it became Y until it closed, so it was Z and now it’s nothing.” If it wasn’t for Copperstown’s baseball exhibits and the opera house, the population would have nothing. Yet for all the disadvantages upstate NY has, I’ve never seen a more wasteful group since the castaways of Lost. People think us city folk are spoiled, but the carbon footprint there is a crater made through a complete lack of recycling and huge families leaving all the appliances on and burning wood while they each drive their pickup truck to the 24 hour Wal-Mart past flactulating cows. Not once did I see a solar panel or a bicycle.
I visited Ian Gil’s art gallery to see what local artists were working on and the New York City-ite in me marveled over the fact that I could have stuffed my pockets, grabbed some murals and walked out the door without a problem. Life is different in the country. I finally got Gil’s attention and bought a cute bowl (it was one of the cheapest items; I wanted to support art among the locals and have a souvenir more than I actually wanted the item itself) and was a little pissed that Gil couldn’t remember who created the piece.
Arriving in Cooperstown, I went for a walk by the plethora of baseball paraphernalia shops after making the world’s most perfect U-turn parking job—in heavy traffic too—had a couple of doughnut holes and checked out a used bookstore. The last part was the only thing that really interested me there (sorry, Sally, I told you I liked baseball in order to date you; I’m a bad person), but I couldn’t find anything cool. For the sake of world economics, the internet is awesome, but it also is the death knell of going to some out of the way store and discovering hidden treasure whose owner is ignorant of its true value.
Returning to Glimmerglass, Jodi managed, after a brief snafu, to procure tickets to that day’s show: Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. This summer’s theme is the legend of Orpheus and the opera is rotating various shows. L’Orfeo is one of the first operas ever made and the music is incredible—it even has three theorbos!—as are the performers, and we had seats so close that I could see and hear every vocalization, even if the superscripts were painfully out of view; however, director Christopher Alden was retarded to throw a hodgepodge of hipsters on stage and have them wallow in emo enveloped ennui. What he tried to do didn’t and I regretted not seeing a different performance. We ended the day by heading to Kirby’s place and having an evening picnic replete with other Glimmerglass personnel Andi, Abby, and Joel. At first I was nervous being an outsider to a dinner filled with people sharing a common history, but those moments were few and we all enjoyed each other’s ill behaved company and I even got to chop wood with a dull ax.
On my final day I went to the Herkimer County Fair where I got to see rabbits, and ponies and pet cows and sheep! Did you know that cows have really scratchy, huge tongues and runny noses? Alexa’s favorite pastime was wiping their droll and mucus on me. I bought some lemonade and asked what I got with the large collectable cup and the married teen told me “you get refills”, so before I left I handed her my half filled container so I could enjoy the beverage for hours to come. She then charged me! When I hear you can get you container refilled, it means for free, not that the physical possibility exists that it could be refilled with additional purchase. I hope she dies of anal warts. I also suffered through the strong man’s bell ringing. I know it’s a scam and the idea is to use both gravity and the hammer’s weight to ring the bell, not your own strength, and I still couldn’t make it more than ¾ up. Shenanigans I say! Alexa was master of hooking toy fish for a prize, yet they fooled her by not placing the cool prizes in the hard to reach inner circle (I am happy with the penguin she won me). Jodi is a killer shot and I’d advise people not to piss her off as she could score more than some temporary tattoos. My moment in the sun was playing wack-a-mouse as my aggression had an outlet. I was so engrossed in winning the toy Penguin (DC, not Antarctic) and smashing things that I ignored the fact that we were there to savior the moment. Still, a rousing time.
Next was the Fly Creak Cider Mill, recently recovering from last years flood, where I got to see a film on how cider is made and sample some, although the real thrill was feeding ducks (including ducks with feather afros), geese, and turkeys. I bough a cup of corn and, placing a single cornel at a time in my hand (that’s the trick to make them last), enticed the various birds to come and peck them out of my palm while I attempted to grab their beaks. I’ve fed ducks before, but have never been so close to turkeys and geese. Let me tell you, those suckers look and act straight out of Jurassic Park. Alexa got a blood blister and some flesh taken off by the overly enthused turkeys, while I was fine due to a hand as callused as my heart.
Leaving the area, and just before my final milkshake, I pulled over to the TePee to take in one last look at the valleys bellow which appeared to stretch on forever as well as browse the exploit-the-Indians aisles. Some four hours of driving later, two of which were predictably stressful, I returned to NYC and realized that after another hour and a half of driving I’d be back above my parent’s garage and recording this adventure. I am definitely glad I went, and would totally do it again, although I’d try to work it out so that I could see more opera—provided I can scam tickets—, take in a demolition derby, have a swim in one of the many lakes, and attend a sheep herding exhibition. I figure a week could pull that off. It might also be neat to see the splendid forest vistas in the fall. Miles of yellow, orange, red, brown and green must be incredible, as would be the whole area covered in snow. The problem is, past that, what else would there be to do? It would be different if I was working at Glimmerglass, spending my days in the artistic field and hanging out with likeminded people at night during the season, but then what? My life may be dull as anything and total crap, yet I know that I’m close to various events and can always take one of them in. Upstate just doesn’t have that, which explains its high drug use and teen pregnancy. Considering I’m stone cold sober and hideously, I’m better off in the city.