My first home was in Gage Hall. After a few stints in off-campus housing, my bridegroom and I bought a house in town and we still live in it. My bridegroom is now 67 and I am 65. We have spent the past 44 years living within two square miles. When we were young and traveling around the world, we considered ourselves adventurous. Actually, had it not been such an adventure to live here, we might have travelled a greater distance. New Paltz is definitely an exciting town with a unique reputation
The controversy about our school board president has opened up discussions about the perception of New Paltz in the world. I did some research and found only three fictionalized references to New Paltz -- one in film, another in literature and my favorite reference from a television series:
New Paltz was the place in which the character Penny Johnson got an abortion in the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, which was set in the early 1960s. That wasn’t right, a totally false perception! I lived here through the sexual revolution and the women’s movement. New Paltz was never a place that outsiders came to have abortions.
New Paltz is the town of residence for Zipporah and Tyler James, main characters in V.C. Andrews horror story Secrets in the Shadows. Her novels are primarily about murder and incest. I actually visited a small town in upstate New York that a social worker told me was the incest capital of the state; lots of violence and secrets. That’s not New Paltz.
In the television series The Sopranos, main character Paulie Gualtieri spends a weekend in New Paltz. Tony, who needs Paulie for some dark deed, angrily belts, “Where’s Paulie?” The reply from Tony’s nephew, Christopher Moltisanti, is a nonchalant, “New Paltz.” This I can believe.
Because you see, I ran into Paulie while he was munching on a sweet potato roll outside at Neko’s Sushi Restaurant on Main Street. I recognized him instantly in spite of the sunglasses and blond wig. He told me that he is leading a double life -- murder and mayhem with Tony down in Jersey and the opposite up here. “Look,” he told me, “Tony has a secret life going to therapy. New Paltz is my secret, my therapy!”
I asked him why his choice was New Paltz and this is what he said:
“When you have killed and maimed as much as I have and you need an escape, it’s great to be in a place that values social justice. In case you didn’t notice, I am the only member of Tony’s crew who never married (wink, wink) so I first came up here to attend the gay marriages. Now, no matter how you feel about it, New Paltz really started something the whole country is into. That’s what New Paltz is known for -- justice, certainly not drugs -- after all, I can get all that in Jersey since I am in the Mafia.
A typical day in New Paltz for me begins with a walk down Huguenot Street. I have always had a passion for French Huguenot history. That’s one of the oldest streets in America founded in 1678. Then a little brunch with my partner at one of the dozens of epicurean eateries here. After that, it’s time for my cello lesson at the college, followed by my favorite African dance and drumming class. A little shopping at Water Street, or maybe a hunt for some unique antique, and it’s nap time.
After a stimulating nap in the great country air of New Paltz, I have the strength to go for a hike to the Mohonk Tower. In the evening, it’s a little free-style dance frolicking, or maybe I can try my hand at reader’s theater; so much art in this town!
I have recently been contemplating taking a course in conflict resolution at the college. This could help me in my work, or maybe brush up on my Italian. All in all, New Paltz is a great place. It’s got a great school system, beautiful playgrounds, people here love children. We are trying to adopt, but its not happening -- trouble getting through the background check. Hey, talking to you I got an idea. This is the best community in the world to live in, so much to be proud of -- I got it -- I’m going into the witness protection program and hiding out here.
Then Paulie thanked me for inspiring his life change with my questions. He offered to do me one last favor before leaving his life of crime.
“That’s okay, I’m good,” I said.
Now he lives here incognito. He’s got a brand new identity. I think he and his partner live outside of town and run a bed and breakfast known for its décor, food and old-world hospitality.