Written by: Matthew Wexler via Edge Media Network
Originally Published: 27 October 2020 - Click here to view the original article
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Better question: "How gay am I in the middle of a pandemic when solitary confinement has limited my gayness to the ponderings of queer celebrities like Todrick Hall, Gus Kenworthy and Nico Tortorella?"
Such were the philosophical, existential and cultural questions I asked myself on a recent Hudson Valley 48-hour getaway. There was also a lot of Tinder swiping, binge-watching the final season of "Schitt's Creek" and consuming several bottles of red wine.
New York's coronavirus cases have been relatively stable since early June (though fears of a fall spike are sending waves of fear through the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area), so I rented a car, threw a change of clothes in my dusty weekender bag and headed north with one thing in mind: looking at anything besides the four walls of my apartment.
Time Out at Time Nyack
Though I plan to drive further north to take in some fall foliage, I opt to set up home base just outside of the city at The Time Nyack. A mere 45-minute drive from midtown Manhattan (or 75 minutes by train from Grand Central Station), the loft-like hotel offers a modern vibe with all the charm of nearby of a typical Main Street with its independent small business and restaurants.
The former plastic and metal warehouse's transformation began in 2012 under the watchful eye of Michael Yanko, co-founder of development company WYINC. The Dream Hotel Group became partners early on, and after a careful brand evaluation and analysis, the team determined that Time Hotels would be the perfect fit. Their slogan is "detours as destinations," after all, which seems about right as I gaze out my window at Nyack Rural Cemetery. Hopefully, just a detour and not the destination, I think.
The lobby, quiet these days, features tufted black and brown leather sofas, with color accents of oxblood and deep teal. The high-impact original art makes for plenty of selfie opportunities for the solo traveler and also harkens to the region's rich artistic history.
The on-site restaurant, The Grille, has a few customers lingering about but I can imagine the good times that have been had, along with the pool parties and outdoor events on the adjacent patio. Socially distant seating offers diners a chance to dive into the straightforward menu, or grab it to-go for an in-suite slumber party. I opt for a seasonal sangria, which makes for a delicious mid-afternoon refresher before heading out to explore the town.
Nearby, the Edward Hopper House gives insight into the early childhood and inspiration of one of America's greatest 20th-century artists. (Need a refresher? "Nighthawks" (1947) is one of the artist's most notable works.) The hidden gem includes archives from the artist, original works, a self-guided walking tour, and temporary exhibitions such as "Adrien Broom: Holding Space" (Spring 2021).
Main Street is walkable from the hotel, its charming shops and restaurants a welcome reprieve from the ghostly urban jungle of New York City. I enjoy dinner at Prohibition River, an upscale pub with craft beers and a well-executed comfort food menu including items like "Home Sweet Home" dry rub wings and the namesake burger, piled high with Guinness-braised short rib, molten beer cheese and onion jam. Nearby, Julia Dillion's Tree of Chocolate showcases an array of confections sure to satisfy the sweet tooth.
Nyack is also home to the Rockland County Pride Center, which produces an annual directory of LGBTQ-owned and -friendly businesses. Due to the pandemic, the Center's services have migrated online.
Nyack also attracts visitors for its convenient location to a range of outdoor activities, from summertime boating to year-round cycling, hiking and walking tours. Whether you're interested in civil engineering, a fan of New York governor Mario Cuomo, or simply want to take in the expanse of the Hudson River, the newly opened cycling and pedestrian path on the bridge's northern section provide ample places to take in the sights.
Storm King Art Center's Diamond Jubilee
Storm King Arts Center (Source: Matthew Wexler)
The following day, I head to New Windsor (about 45 minutes north of Nyack) for a long afternoon of creative meandering among Storm King's 500 picturesque acres. Star Expansion Company co-owners Ralph E. Ogden and H. Peter Stern put the wheels in motion for what was initially conceived as a home for Hudson River School painting but quickly shifted to become a sprawling enclave for modern large-scale sculpture with the purchase of 13 works by David Smith.
Away from endless Zoom meetings and the hamster wheel of pandemic work life, I wander among the soaring works and undulating landscape. Surrounded by these massive towering sculptures that somehow convey a precarious sense of balance, I can't help but feel a sense of optimism. The dichotomy reminds me of my gayness. My aloneness. My strength and fragility that come from a queer lifetime.
The landscape is as much a part of the Storm King experience. Native long grasses and wildflowers were introduced in the mid-90s. Referred to as "artistic farming," the result is an ever-changing seasonal tapestry for sculptures that populate it.
The silhouette of these towering structures is very much a reflection of my gay experience. From coming out during the height of the AIDS epidemic to the more inclusive narratives emerging from our LGBTQ community, my queerness is a living, breathing entity.
I spend time mesmerized by Lynda Benglis's "North South East West," a collaged bronze and steel fountain that gurgles and sputters water from a circular pool. Her work is simultaneously stoic and rich with movement. It parallels my armor and fluidity as a queer person, what it takes to navigate my queerness.
Other works capture my attention as I meander the day away. Ronald Bladen's "Three Elements," three geometric slabs emerging from the ground; Alexander Calder's "Five Swords," a sheet metal masterpiece in fire engine red; and, perhaps, my favorite, Zhang Huan's "Three Legged Buddha," a 12-ton steel and copper work inspired by the artist's 2005 trip to Tibet.
A Beacon of Light
Main Street, Beacon, NY (Source: Matthew Wexler)
As the afternoon wears on, I drive across the Hudson River to meet a friend for a late lunch. Once my borough neighbor (she Brooklyn, myself Manhattan), Kelsy has—for the time— swapped New York City for the quaint and queer-friendly town of Beacon, which is home to its own art attraction, Dia: Beacon, one of eleven locations and sites committed to contemporary art.
But today, we opt for a leisurely al fresco lunch at The Beacon Daily, which serves all-day breakfast along with tacos, fried chicken and homemade pies. The eclectic bites mirror our friendship as we reminisce about our past adventures as travel writers, the shifting landscape of LGBTQ media, and what the future holds amid the pandemic. Short answer: nobody knows.
This sense of the unknown has long been the plight of queer Americans. With few anti-discrimination protections or same-sex marriage rights, many in the LGBTQ community know what it's like to live day to day with little sense of security or protection. Still, much progress has been made. Queer voices are being heard, with LGBTQ voters and candidates potentially making major impact in November's election. States like Illinois are rolling out state-mandated LGBTQ-inclusive history. Yet we still face unprecedented numbers of homelessness along with disparities in mental health and transgender crime.
Hanging with a longtime friend reminds me how much power our family of choice holds. Not to mention her donut recommendation. Glazed Over Donuts, recently named "Best Donuts in the Hudson Valley" by Hudson Valley Magazine, is a sweet finale to a much-needed getaway. The endless, made-to-order combination of glazes, toppings and drizzles is a confectionary rainbow. There's no Pride parade down Main Street while I devour my maple-glazed, chocolate-drizzled treat. Time away from the daily grind has brought me closer to my gayness, even if it's mostly solitary for the time being.