The Visitors

It's been one cultural experience after another since Eric's mother arrived from England last week. That's one of the great things about having a visitor - getting to do all the activities you know are out there but are often too busy to get to. The hosts get to be visitors too. Dorothy had never been to the US before. We were excited for her to see our new home, a little of the area, and spend a day in New York City. As for the home, this meant looking at the calendar ten days ago, saying "Ohmygod, she's arriving next Tuesday!" and working like demons to make the kitchen more Better Homes & Gardens, less third boxcar midnight train.

kitchen before Kitchen Before

wheel captain Wheel Captain Eric hoists the sheet rock (It's going to take a few more months to get to the full "After", but we have a sink, stove & counters!)

By the time we went to pick her up at Newark, we were paint-and-plaster-spattered wrecks but the new walls, ceiling and Eric's handbuilt countertops were gleaming.

"It's all so exuberant," Dorothy exclaimed on the ride back from the airport - even the New Jersey roadway system was a hit.

We showed her the town of Catskill, then took in Titanic in 3D at the movie theatre in Saugerties. Sitting there waiting for the movie to start, they were playing The Band through the theatre PA: Levon Helm had died that day. One of the few musicians every musician could agree on, what was there not to love and admire about him? Since we moved here, a favorite game of me and Eric's has been imagining which places The Band hung out, even approximating dialogue and situations they might have found themselves in (everybody does this type of thing, right?). "Do you think Levon sat here watching a movie?" I pictured him looking up at the screen, eyes shining, eating popcorn, tilting his head back in that way we all know, where he'd lean in to the mic. "He had to have! Maybe not Titanic..."

Went to a bar in Philmont to see my brother Riley's band Spottiswoode & His Enemies. I love this band, and Dorothy did too. We left after two fine sets, unfortunately missing an unruly ex-convict (who'd earlier been fixated on Dorothy, repeatedly striking his heart and unconsciously grabbing his crotch every time he passed our table) starting a fracas after splitting a toilet in half.

Took in the magnificent view of the Hudson from the grounds around Olana, the painter Frederic Church's house we see daily from the other side of the river.

Dorothy and I went to a life drawing session at Hudson Opera House. It's something I've been wanting to do since we moved here. I remembered how much I love the challenge of drawing. I do a lot of sketching, but there's something about that focused standing in front of a model discipline that rewires the brain. I hope I can go back again.

Lots of cooking and red wine (I'm always eager for an ally in wine appreciation and Eric's mother is a worthy one) and then Monday we drove to the city for a trip to MOMA. We took in some of the greatest hits but my biggest high came from the Cindy Sherman exhibit. I had a kind of "I didn't know how much you meant to me" moment in front of the Film Stills. How did she know what was in my head? I wondered, then started to think she'd been responsible for putting some of those images there in the first place. (Admittedly there was stuff in the show I would never harbor in my brain, preferring to replace that kind of darkness with pop music and light comedies starring Drew Barrymore and/or Hugh Grant.) Exhilaration, inspiration. Awe. I'd visit again tomorrow if I could.

There was nowhere else to go from there but down - to the Lakeside Lounge. After a spin through Lower Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge, through Williamsburg and back over the Williamsburg Bridge, Eric and I dragged Dorothy along to the beloved East Village watering hole about to disappear forever. I've had wonderful times playing there, Eric has too, we played together, it even features in "Do You Remember That?", a song we've been playing for a while that'll be on our soon forthcoming album. All month I'd been seeing mentions of how it was closing but it didn't sink in until we were sitting there by the photo booth one last time. Likely the last place in town I could get a free drink or call up to book a fun "neighborhood" show, if Dorothy wondered why she was spending valuable NYC time sitting in a humble dive on Avenue B instead of the top of the Empire State Building, she didn't complain. She thought it was all more humble, charming and characterful than she'd ever imagined America could be. Thank you Hound and Roscoe.

lakeside farewell Amy after one last drink

And thanks to my brave, creative mother-in-law for traveling across the ocean and giving us a chance to show her, and ourselves, where we live.