Rhinebeck

We set out to find the farmer’s market. We, meaning my two friends and I. It was not there. I’m not sure why it wasn’t there. Last time it was. But this time it wasn’t. I whipped out my protractor, we did a 180-degree turn—almost bumping into two casually-yet-well-dressed grandpas—and headed down the street. It was daytime. There were unlit lights carefully tangled around trees, un-lighting the way down each block. I was in desperate need of a mason jar. Who isn’t nowadays? I hate being one of those people, but it was urgent. We opened the door to A.L. Stickle, a sort of old-style general store, and were greeted by a massive stuffed lion. I perused through their jar selection, but nothing jumped out at me. However, a towel with an embroidered farmer with a corn cob as its head caught my eye. I didn’t buy it. I regret that decision.

 

I decided to abandon my search for the mason jar, which would seem like an easy thing to find in a town like Rhinebeck. It wasn’t. I even checked the out-of-place CVS smacked in middle of town. We ended up roaming into this very bohemian, Buddhist-type store, which was packed with overpriced candles, flowy clothing, various Zen-themed knick-knacks and a jovial llama keychain. I’ve had my eye on that llama for months. Dropping anything over $10 for a keychain seemed absurd to me, as it did each previous time I pondered the purchase of that llama. So, again, I left empty-handed. However, the mere thought of my impending breakfast burrito at a nearby café, Bread Alone, got me through that tough decision.

Bread Alone was comfortably crowded. Let’s just say there was an over-abundance of fedoras and expensive denim. We scooted towards the back through the slim pathway between the booth seating and the bar; the line for the single, tiny bathroom was already looped around the corner. At our table, we were swimming in open water. Being seated in the middle of a restaurant has an unnerving feeling to it, especially when there’s no buffer between your table and the next. Conversations lap onto one another and soon you’re mentally knee-deep in a conversation about the trials of real estate. That was to the right of us. Luckily, two men walked in and sat at the table to our left. They spent the entirety of their lunch in silence. It was a pleasant silence, though. I wondered if they were at the point in their relationship where they didn’t need to speak or had just undergone a dreadful argument and refused to cancel their reservations. Nevertheless, they were great restaurant neighbors.

In front of us, there was an old woman reading the New York Post, her plaid scarf draped over the empty chair next to her. She took up a table for four by the window—prime real estate—and read her newspaper, alone, in Bread Alone. I don’t care if that’s a cliché. It’s not a universal knowing, so I’m not considering it a cliché. I’m also not one for ordering tea in restaurants, but one of my friends decided to. However, the tea arrived at our table in its own teapot, which was very cute of it to do so. I ordered my usual breakfast burrito, fit with “Chihuahua cheese,” an ingredient I apparently neglected to realize each time I ordered my breakfast burrito in the past. Chihuahua cheese is a Mexican cheese, deriving from the Chihuahua area in Mexico, and is known for its “salty, mild and slightly sour flavor,” as well as its ability to melt well.

The old woman eventually left. I left Bread Alone as I always do, pulling the door instead of pushing, pushing the door instead of pulling; I don’t remember which is the correct way to leave that coffee shop, but I know I will always leave in the wrong manner. And I will always cause a minor hold-up in front of the door. And, after fumbling and figuring out the correct way to exit, I will turn to the person standing behind me, whether it be a friend or a stranger, give a wretched, nervous-while-trying-to-appear-normal slight laugh and say, “Dammit, this always happens.” And then, the person standing behind me will give me a sympathetic smile; a smile that makes it seem like I don’t properly know how to navigate through life, let alone a door. And it will be true.

Our last stop was Paper Trail, an adorable homeware store located about two blocks away from Bread Alone. We left the café, and I promptly noticed that I had a slight Chihuahua cheese stain on my jeans. We finally reached the corner of the street and, before crossing, were met with a decision. A decision that we all have to make from time to time: “Do we jaywalk?” The light was taking an abnormally long amount of time to change and there were no cars immediately in the vicinity.

A woman with big, curly hair, fashioned in a way to almost resemble the state of Wisconsin, had been standing next to us this whole time. While we were deciding to take the plunge, she jaywalked across the street. We initially hesitated upon seeing that she had made the move, but we followed, anyway. We followed the woman with hair like Wisconsin. She sensed that we weren’t from Rhinebeck so she hurried ahead, almost to distinguish herself from our pack. I’ve never seen anyone hurry away in such a fast manner in such heavy-duty boots and such a slouchy, long A-line skirt. She vanished down the alleyway of Upstate Films and we never saw her again.

My mom and aunt take their annual pilgrimage to Rhinebeck in the fall each year; they drive up from New Jersey, pick me up from school, and we head about 15 miles north together, simply to feel as though we’ve lived in the shoes of the Gilmore Girls. Freshman year, I convinced them—and their devoted Facebook friends who pay witness to our pilgrimage each year—that Rhinebeck is the closest we, as a society, will ever get to Stars Hollow. We walk through the entire town, meandering through each shop and strategically leaving our favorite, Paper Trail, for the end. We somehow always spend about an hour in there.

My aunt and I, since our very first visit, have become entranced with the store’s overused theme of birds wearing flowers, fruits and other odd objects on their heads. This theme appears on napkins, cards, ceramic plates and placemats, the latter of which we always buy for our upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a cultural phenomenon that only my aunt and I know about, or seem to care about. “I don’t get it,” is what my mom says about the birds. “What don’t you get?” we say, “It’s a bird. With a strawberry on its head. It’s funny. It’s cute.” My mom laughs, pretending to understand, and the next year, this same line of questioning continues. Nevertheless, she coughs up the $12 for napkins of birds with pinecones on their heads. Oh, well.

 

Elizabeth PaganoComment