An Enormous Variance In Gas Prices

This morning we left Vassar and got gas in Poughkeepsie, New York, filling our tank at a downtown station.  Then we drove back to Ohio and, at some exit just east of Akron, topped off the tank again.  The same grade gasoline in Ohio was about 50 cents cheaper than the gas in New York — 50 cents!

I recognize that there can be regional differences in prices for commodities.  In the case of gasoline, the price at the pump can depend on supply routes, competition, proximity to refineries, and a number of other factors.  But half a dollar a gallon seems like a pretty extreme variance to me.

Although I’m sure the difference in per-gallon cost is caused by the various economic factors that affect price, it still made me feel sorry for the people of Poughkeepsie.  They’re living in a struggling area anyway, and now they have to pay far more for fuel than those of us who are lucky enough to live in a state where gasoline is significantly cheaper.  How is Poughkeepsie supposed to get back on its feet if companies that might be considering relocating there have to face such dramatically higher gas costs?

Walkway Over The Hudson

If you find yourself in the Hudson River Valley with some time on your hands, you could do worse than visit the Walkway Over The Hudson.  It is an old railroad bridge that has been converted to a pedestrian walkway over the river, and it is worth a visit.

The walkway, which is about 1.5 miles in length, takes you high over the river and gives you commanding views of Poughkeepsie and the surrounding countryside on both banks.  It is a bit strange to walk on this span, so far about the water — it’s definitely not for those with fear of heights — but the views are truly spectacular.

Russell’s Senior Art Show

Yesterday we went to Russell’s senior art show.  It was held in two floors of a large, empty, decrepit building in a somewhat run-down part of Poughkeepsie, where Russell’s work was displayed along with the work of many other seniors graduating with arts degrees from Vassar.

Although the conditions were not what you might find in a museum, the venue worked because the empty building had plenty of space that allowed each student to place their pieces on bare walls in one or more rooms.  The shabby surroundings — with exposed wires, damaged floors, and cracked windows — gave the place an eclectic feel that was well-suited to the eclectic mix of artwork being shown.  And what a mix it was!  There were paintings, and ink drawings, and pieces made of wax, and pieces made with lights, and toasters, and strings and mirrors, and flimsy chairs chained to the floor.

Russell’s pieces primarily occupied two rooms, although a few of his works were scattered at other locations in the building.  As always, we enjoyed seeing Russell’s works.  One of Russell’s friends mentioned that Russell is good at creating space in his pieces, and I thought that was a really interesting observation.  It also looks, to my uneducated eye, like Russell is experimenting with shapes and working with different kinds of objects that get away from reliance on the standard, rectangular canvas.  One of my favorite pieces, shown above at the top of this post, was totally outside normal canvas-oriented artwork, and the unusual shape really added to the feel the piece created.

There was a good crowd at the event, and we got to meet some of Russell’s professors and friends.  From looking at the show, it seems obvious that the collective Vassar arts community has had a real impact on Russell’s art — and my guess is that the reverse is true, too.

Just In Case . . . .

Kish and I had a good laugh when we passed this sign in front of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Poughkeepsie.  If “The Rapture” doesn’t happen today as some have predicted it will, it proposes an alternative that it promises will nevertheless allow visitors to “be enraptured.”

It’s always good to have a Plan B option, just in case The End Of The World doesn’t happen as predicted!

Back At The “Buddy Inn”

Kish and I are back in Poughkeepsie for Russell’s show, and because there is a Vassar Board of Trustees meeting this weekend we were not able to stay at our normal lodging of choice, the Vassar Alumni House.  Instead, we were forced to return to the “Buddy Inn.”

The “Buddy Inn” is really the Poughkeepsie Days’ Inn.  In the Webner family we call it the “Buddy Inn” because of a notorious incident that occurred when Russell was still at Academy and we took a trip east to look at colleges.  On that trip, Vassar was our first destination.  As the trip started, Russell was in a surly mood, groaning about wasting his days looking at schools rather than having fun with his Academy classmates.  We got to Poughkeepsie around the dinner hour, checked in to the Days’ Inn, and walked to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner.  We then went back to the hotel and went to bed.  At about 2:30 a.m. the “Buddy incident” began.

The "Buddy Inn"

A fire alarm directly over the headboard of our bed went off, screeching loudly and waking us out of a sound sleep.  At first, I thought it was the clock-radio alarm in the room that a prior guest had set and left cranked to full volume.  After a few seconds, however, I realized it was the fire alarm.  Kish bolted out of the room to make sure that Russell was up and okay.  She left the door to our room open as I got dressed.

When I walked to the door, I noticed that I strange overweight man, about 50-something, was standing there, wearing only dingy jockey underwear and a t-shirt.  He was wild-eyed and his hair was askew; he was very agitated and saying something I couldn’t make out.  I thought he was a fellow guest who had been rudely awakened and said something like:  “Don’t worry, I’m sure it is just a false alarm.”

I quickly realized,however, that something was definitely “off” about the guy.  He came into our room and started wandering around, looking at our luggage and clothing.  He sat on the bed and started to pick up and examine things on the nightstand.  By then, I stopping caring about the possible fire and started to focus on how I could get this guy out of the room.  He weighed about 350 pounds and reeked of body odor and cigarette smoke.  I started to say things like “C’mon buddy, you need to go.”  He was unmoved by such entreaties.  He wandered to our bathroom and started to pick up things like toothpaste tubes and aspirin bottles.  In the meantime, the screeching fire alarm was continuing at ear-splitting volume, and Kish was outside, saying:  “Just leave him, we need to leave the building.”  Russell, our strapping offensive tackle who could have helped me wrestle the guy out of the room, also stood outside, chuckling at my predicament.  He wisely decided to have nothing to do with “Buddy.”

Finally, I just grabbed “Buddy” and shoved him out of our room.  Pushing him was disgusting, like having your hand sink into the spongy material they sometimes use for packing where your handprint stays visible for a few seconds after you take your hand away.  By the time I had locked the door, Buddy was nowhere to be seen.  I went outside, met up with Kish and Russell, and waited for the fire crew that had by then arrived to make sure that it was, indeed, a false alarm.  It turned out the “Buddy” had set off the alarm and also had visited other rooms during the early morning incident.  He was a developmentally disabled guy who had escaped his companion traveler.

When we got back to our room I wanted to do nothing but wash my hands.  The next morning the Days’ Inn comped us on our rooms, and I noticed that Russell’s mood had changed remarkably, from glum surliness to barely disguised glee at my interaction with “Buddy.”  He quickly called Richard and recounted the “Buddy incident” in blow-by-blow detail, and remained cheerful for the rest of the trip.  He also ended up selecting Vassar for college notwithstanding the night’s events — which is why we are back at the “Buddy Inn” today.

Snow, Snow, Everywhere I Go

Kish and I traveled to Poughkeepsie today for Russell’s art show — more about that in a minute — but of course the weather interfered with our plans.  We were to fly to Philadelphia, and then to Newburgh, New York.  Our flight to Philadelphia went off as planned, but when we landed in the City of Brotherly Love the snow was cascading down and our flight to Newburgh was canceled.  The next flight was not for another 12 hours, trying to take the train would have involved a delay nearly as long, and we therefore rented a car to drive up to Poughkeepsie.  It was slow going as we passed through some near white-out conditions and snow-covered roads, but finally we arrived.  It is still snowing even as I type this.

I think I speak for everyone in the Midwest and Northeast when I say, Spring cannot get here soon enough.