TRR photos by Jonathan Charles Fox

I have to admit, this particular Slipper Room performance was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Be my guest!

Yep, it’s that time of year again, when days grow shorter, the nights grow colder, and summer takes up residence in the past. I’m doing my utmost to follow my shrink’s advice and just “Embrace it—the good, the bad and the ugly,” while dusting my incredibly dusty house and waiting for company to arrive. “Look at it this way,” I said to the dog, who blithely ignored me and barked at a fly. “It’s always refreshing to see my reality through someone else’s eyes. I bet she’s never seen a real, live burlesque show,” I wheezed, referring to my impending guest and the reservations I had made at the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) to catch their “Special Guest Artist” presentation of “The Slipper Room”—a real, live, burlesque show, tinged with some downright disturbing, sometimes cringe-worthy, modern-day grit.

“May I quote you on that?” my house guest asked, when informed of my plans for the weekend. “Ooops, looks like my dog just peed on your carpet. Got any paper towels?” And so it began. Our first excursion was to scope out the inaugural Catskills Fiber Festival held on the grounds of sponsors Dancing Cat Saloon, Catskill Distilling Company and Rosehaven Alpacas in beautiful Bethel, NY.

While Dharma is accustomed to all the excitement that our glamorous life entails, my guest’s dog is not, so she peed on the carpet in anticipation of the festival. Thankfully it was being held outdoors. Truth be told, my guest’s poor dog had a slight infection and was on antibiotics, so it wasn’t really her fault. “Whose fault is it then?” one might ask, which makes me cock my head to one side and ponder. Whose, indeed? “What’s that girl? You wanna go out?” I said, while opening the door for my pooch, who has the good sense to ask.

Where was I? Oh, right—the Fiber Festival. Between the many vendors’ booths brimming with fiber-related goodies, the felt-loom needle demonstration, woodcarving demo (by master craftsman Paul Stark) and tour next door at the Rosehaven Boutique, the festival was thrumming with activity. Co-sponsored by Buck Brook Alpacas,  the event also served as a fundraiser for Pets Alive, Inc., an animal shelter in Middletown, NY.  My guest made some purchases inside the distillery, while I stayed outdoors with her dog, afraid to venture indoors where the inevitable would happen—and here I was, fresh out of paper towels.

Having fulfilled my fiber requirement for the day, I toured my guest and her dog around the neighborhood, admiring White Lake and its environs, while touting the many splendors of the region, before reaching home and my beige carpet, which was innocently lying there, waiting to be peed upon, a dubious fate at best.

After shampooing the rug, I took her dog for a walk before grabbing my guest and heading off to Highland Lake and “The Slipper Room.” Described in the program as “The brainchild of performer/producer James Habacker, [allowing] performers to reach their full potential and push themselves without fear of censorship,” the troupe has visited the Upper Delaware River region several times, and I’ve witnessed the spectacle before. The show (IMHO) is growing a little tired, not unlike an aging burlesque queen ready for retirement, but still shaking her moneymaker in order to pay the bills. While the alluring and outrageous outfits might rotate, and there’s always a new routine or two, the old jokes are just that, and I joined in the merriment and heckled the host, which seemed befitting the circumstance but was utterly sincere. “Welcome back for the How-manyeth-time,” the program remarks. I have enjoyed this traveling show on more than one occasion, but I think I’ll take a break for now.

While my guest used more paper towels upstairs, I remained on the lower level in my office, checking my schedule for the next day. Sure enough, another festival was on the list, this time the harvest variety, held for six weeks yearly at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. While one might think that once would be enough, not so for me, as the festival has different themes each weekend and a wide variety of entertainment, food and vendors. I even bought something, which is out of character, but I felt like splurging after spending so much money on paper towels. Happily, there are dozens of festivals on the horizon, featuring pumpkins and honeybees before the first frost, with ice carving and snowshoes right behind. As I waved at my guests in the rear-view mirror, Dharma whimpered and pawed me, suggesting that I pull over.

“What’s that girl? You wanna go out? Be my guest.”


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