The Gayest Box in Kingston, NY

7.29.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

Travel tip: A very quick trip out of the city has a lasting effect.

It's important for a New Yorker's health, both mental and physical, to escape whenever possible. And that's precisely what I did this past weekend, when I headed into the Catskills.

I could go on and on about the majesty of the forests once roamed by the Lenape people and now populated by elegant deer. Or I could celebrate the joys of friendships born in wooden cabins. And I've got plenty of things to say about the gorgeous swimming holes created by Vernooy Falls, spots so quintessential and popular that it's only a matter of time before they're on the front page of Sunday Styles. But instead I want to take a second to highlight Kingston, New York.

(Faded, moss-covered gravestones outside the Old Dutch Church and some public art in Kingston, NY.)

An old Colonial town founded by the Dutch, Kingston had a short-lived career as the New York State capital, a title it took in 1777, which in turn led the British to destroy it. Later, in the mid-19th Century, the town's proximity to cement reserves helped reverse its fortunes, as did the burgeoning raillines. But as happens, Kingston's economy slowed down again in the beginning of the 20th Century, picked up with the arrival of IBM in the 1960s, and has followed a similar cycle over the years as citydwellers and small companies migrate north, setting up charming shops and new ventures.

Surprisingly, though our chosen brunch spot, Duo Bistro, is only one-year old, it is not the brainchild of some NYC expats; it's helmed by Niels Nielsen and Juan Romero, two chefs who are culinary celebrities in Ulster County, and whose latest outpost is one of the most popular spots in town - for good reason. Its self-described "eclectic American" menu is delicious.

(An antique oven doubles as a countertop at Duo Bistro.)

After filling up on iced tea, truffle fries, and avocado-laced BLTs, our sextet headed down pastel-hued Wall Street, past the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center, where there's currently a special "Nazi Persecution of Homosexual" exhibit, and around the Old Dutch Church, with its 17th and 18th Century headstones. Then, after popping into gay-friendly Dominick's Cafe for some caffeine, we ended up at Half Moon Bookstore on North Front St.

A sprawling shop whose upstairs is brimming with used books — I picked up a paperback of gay author Andrew Holleran's second novel, 1983's Nights in Aruba — Half Moon's labyrinthine basement doubles as a cornucopian thrift shop. There were walls of VHS tapes, rusted tools, chocolate bars promoting Star Trek: First Contact, which came out in 1996, 80s-era ponchos, Vogue American Designer patterns, records galore, tapes galore, an old Tandy computer, and creepy garden gnomes, among many, many other pieces of strangers's strange discards.

And then there was this thing pictured to the right: an infrared pain relief wand gadget thingy whose packaging I had to snap and share because of its unintentional gay subtext is simply too fabulous to keep to myself. That model only enhances the effect. I didn't buy this doohickey, though. I wasn't quite sure how it worked and wasn't in any pain, especially not after such a wonderful weekend in the woods.

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