Hudson Valley

Gnome Mountain in High Falls, New York

Ellenville-based artist Sam Tufnell created this colorful display of illuminating garden gnomes in April 2017. He told Hudson Valley One, “I wanted to do something satirical on some level, but a little more playful. The gnomes and the still-lifes are pretty much my reaction to public art, figurative art, high-end art in general; sort of taking things down a notch, ‘de-elevating’ it.”

There are 13, 32-inch tall resin gnomes on the mountain. Each lights up at night in a different color. The gnomes are located on a bluff at the intersection of Highway 213 and Old NY Highway 213, in High Falls, New York along Rondout Creek.

Hudson River Valley in Summer

The Hudson River flows 315 miles from the Adirondack Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean at New York Harbor. It’s named after Henry Hudson, a seventeenth century English navigator, and its beauty inspired an entire school of landscape painting. The Hudson Highlands are particularly picturesque in the vicinity of Bear Mountain, Peekskill, and Fort Montgomery, where I took these photos.

Super Dark Times: A Harrowing and Tense Coming-of-Age Thriller

In Super Dark Times (2017), a teen must come to grips with his increasingly psychotic friend in this harrowing and tense coming-of-age thriller. Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, and directed by Kevin Phillips, this indie film’s competency highlights why Hollywood is failing. Younger, more creative filmmakers are using technology and innovation to craft solid, beautifully-rendered films that put big-budget studios to shame.

Director Kevin Phillips is mostly known for his short film cinematography, and he’s spent the past twelve years honing his craft. Nearly every scene in this film is beautiful, but it’s not another example of “style over substance.” The movie is structurally sound, competently written, and the dialogue is believable. It reminds me of films from the ’80s and early ’90s, which tried to ground fantastic or extreme situations in reality.

As Super Dark Times opens, a buck has accidentally crashed into a high school and severely injured itself. Two police officers clear the scene and put it down. This dramatic and brutal scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. Enter four acquaintances, childhood friends Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan), Daryl (Max Talisman), and an 8th-grader named Charlie (Sawyer Barth). Zach and Josh both have a crush on classmate Allison (Elizabeth Cappuccino), but she eventually chooses Zach.

The kids discover a bag of marijuana and a samurai sword in Josh’s brother’s bedroom and take it to a park to mess around. Josh and Daryl get into an argument and Josh accidentally stabs him in the neck, killing him. The teens hide Daryl’s body in the woods and try to forget about the crime, but Josh’s increasingly erratic behavior stokes Zach’s guilt and paranoia. The film’s sickening climax is disturbing and difficult to watch, but the entire film has you on edge from start to finish.

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All-American Diner Tour: Center Diner in Peekskill, New York

Situated on Peekskill Bay on the Hudson River’s east bank, Peekskill is a small river town with a modern downtown. The Center Diner, opened in 1939 on Bank Street off Route 202 (Main Street), is a classic greasy spoon wedged between an alley and a plasma center. It is a rare, true diner. Classic diners were prefabricated buildings modeled on train dining cars and mass produced by companies out of New Jersey. This model is called a “National diner,” and it inspired the Sunset Diner in Little Lulu comics.

On my visit, I ordered the Golden Brown French Toast, which came with two sausage patties and a can(!) of Coke for $5.95. Restaurants selling cans of soda, rather than having a beverage fountain, is a pet peeve of mine, but it came with the meal so I guess I can’t complain. Two potbellied old men sat at the counter, talking about politics while an industrial fan whirled in the background. My waitress was a grandmotherly lady who, if she was the same waitress mentioned in countless reviews, had been working there a long time. The French toast was good, price was reasonable, and service efficient.

The Center Diner has a typical menu with a few surprises. There is a small Greek section, offering gyros, balboa, and something called chicken souvlaki served in a pita. According to Wikipedia, souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. I’ve eaten this before but never knew what it was called. That’s only $6.50, or $8.50 with French fries.

Center Diner has a 4.3/5 average out of 34 Google reviews and 4.0/5 average on Yelp. Customers generally enjoy the nostalgia and affordable prices. In a typical positive review, Google user Jeff Altorfer wrote, “This place is downright great! It’s the real thing: This is an OLD fashioned NY diner. I mean that in every way. Run down, neglected, NO artifice what so ever. Hard working almost painfully efficient staff that have ZERO patience for modern customers that have no idea what they want, how they want it, or that need 50 options on everything…”

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Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Located at 310 Genesee Street in Utica, New York, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is an enjoyable art museum with several notable pieces, including a Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dalí, and Picasso. It also has a fine collection of 19th-Century American painting and sculpture, as well as an annex showcasing the 19th-Century home of James and Helen Williams, “Fountain Elms”. I’m not a fan of modern art, but it was nice to see some pieces by prominent artists at a smaller art museum. Similar institutions would charge visitors to see such “high profile” pieces, but the M.W.P. Arts Institute only takes donations to see its general collection.

A special exhibition of Steve McCurry’s photographs will be on display until December 31st. Steve McCurry is best known for his haunting photograph of a young Afghan Girl with piercing green eyes taken in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1984.

The World through His Lens: Steve McCurry Photographs is an exhibition of more than 60 large-scale photographs by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. It costs $10 general admission, or $5 for students, and is free to children under 12.

According to their website, “McCurry’s evocative images reveal collective human struggles and explore diverse societies across the boundaries of language and culture. Organized around universal themes of personal adornment, place, and ritual, exhibition will include unforgettable images from across six continents and spanning ancient traditions, international conflict, and vanishing cultures.”

This a unique opportunity to see his photographs up close, as the M.W.P. Arts Institute is the only venue for this exhibition.

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