Lush Valley at NACL by talyarden
August 4, 2010, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Events | Tags: ,

I’m long over-due to post about our wonderful retreat at North American Culture Laboratory (  It’s a wonderful place in Highland Lake, somewhere between Port Jervis and Liberty in Sullivan County.  Our lovely hosts Tannis Kowalchuk and Brad Krumholz have worked tirelessly for the past 10 or so years restoring an immense house and the church next door into the perfect workspace for people like us.  It’s really a testament to what the performance making community  can and should be.  Open, peaceful, provacative, evocative, focussed, dreamy, etc.  Morning swims in the lake across the road, amazing food made by wonderful people, leisure, reading, talking, interviewing, writing, playing – all of it – just wonderful.  10 of us were there together for varying lengths of time.

Highlights included a series of interviews we did with people waiting for the annual Port Jervis Firefighters Parade to go by. We asked them about what the American Dream meant to them; was it being fulfilled; was it realistic;  was it different for each generation, and so on.  Answers ran the gamut from great despair to determined hope.  This is one of the oldest Firefighter parades in the history of the USA and takes place in this town on the Delaware river where NY meets, NJ meets PA.  It’s a very economically depressed area.

Some thing I just found out:  Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Journalist, lived near Port Jervis in Cuddebackville early in his career, until he was fired from the local newspaper after physically assaulting a vending machine.  It’s relevant because “Fear and Loathing” was one of the many books being read as the actors developed stream-of-consciousness texts for the camera’s eye segments of Lush Valley.  Among the many things we talked about, when not staying up late drinking and playing poker, was the relationship of the “road” and the “grid” as icons of the American Dream.  Think Las Vegas – a grid carved out in desert valley at the end of the road.  A capitalistic mecca/mahagonny where all dreams seem possible and the boulevards are littered with a million broken ones.  I suspect that what’s left of his cannonball ashes are still settling to earth and that his spirit had joined us to give us a clue.  “Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men’s reality. Weird heroes and mould-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ”the rat race” is not yet final.”


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