Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   the long snowy road to the cabin
Sunday, January 6 2002

setting: Charlottesville, Virginia

Today was the day Gretchen and I planned to drive back north from Virginia, but the weather wasn't being cooperative. Sleet and rain was pouring down so hard outside that it wasn't even suitable weather for walking dogs. So we kicked back and watched a couple Charlie Brown movies. Subtle little racist slights that would never be acceptable today were distracting us from the narrative. Poor little Franklin, the ever so token black kid, is forced to sit alone by himself on one side of the Thanksgiving table while the others are crowded on the ends and other side. He doesn't complain and we're not supposed to notice. That's just how things were in the 1960s.
Yanis, the master of discretely smuggled alcohol, arrived early in the afternoon with Budweiser and Yuengling Black & Tan (which appears to be sweeping Charlottesville by a storm) and then we sat around doing something that always seems to happen at Huxyz and Faxxa's house: telling jokes. Here's one that Huxyz told:

A guy was in a terrible car accident and he miraculously survived. Everything was fine except for one thing: he'd had the misfortune of losing his penis. The doctors examined what remained and estimated that a proper penis transplant (one taken from a cadaver and requiring a lifetime of immune-suppressant drugs to thwart rejection) would cost $100,000. But there was also a new experimental alternative that only cost $10,000. It was a little weird but it had a high likelihood of success: transplanting the trunk of a baby elephant onto the old penis attachment site.
The guy hemmed and hawed and thought about it, contemplating the alternatives, including living out the remainder of his life without a penis. Then he said "What the hell, gimme the baby elephant trunk."
The surgery went well and the trunk assumed its new purpose without rejection or complaint. To celebrate, the guy went out with his friends to drink some beers and eat some hot wings.
But as they were all sitting there, talking and laughing, damned if that elephant trunk didn't come alive with a mind of its own, reach up out of its trouser prison, and seize a cracker from the table. Hmm, that was weird, but no one had noticed, so perhaps it was just a fluke.
But a few minutes later, it happened again. Then again. Then, mortification of mortification, the elephant trunk grabbed yet another cracker and this time, one of the friends was a witness! The friend asked for an explanation of what he'd just seen, so the guy decided to come clean, telling about the miraculous new experimental surgery he'd received. The friend was intrigued, asking, "Why not have him do it one more time so we can all see it?" The guy hemmed and hawed and then explained why this was an impossibility, "I would, but my asshole is completely full of crackers!"

Okay, so the punchline was lamer than the rest of the joke.

Somehow we got to talking about fetishes, and Gretchen mentioned how one of her gay friends in Milwaukee enjoys collecting used men's underwear. Yanis wasn't very drunk from his smuggled beers and was still his usual somewhat repressed sober self. He couldn't for the life of him fathom why anyone would do such a thing. "Come on, everybody's got fetishes," Gretchen cajoled him, but he was unmoved. Then I asked, "Who doesn't have a Catholic schoolgirl fetish?"
I don't know if this did anything to Yanis' prudishness, because by now it was time to hit the road. We packed our stuff, moved Sally out to the car, said our goodbyes, and then hit the road, westward down I-64. By now the sleet had changed to rain and road conditions didn't seem all that bad.
Once we crossed the Blue Ridge, the rain changed to snow and the road gradually became hazardous. Our goal for tonight was Gretchen's parents' cabin up in the Blue Ridge of Maryland, and this meant 130 miles of northward driving on I-81.
Conditions weren't really scary until we reached Harrisonburg, but after that we started seeing cars littering the median and facing the wrong way on the shoulder. Actually, a surprisingly large fraction of these appeared to be SUVs, an indication that people driving SUVs tend to have something of a cavalier attitude regarding road conditions. No one seemed to have had a really serious accident except for one unfortunate smashed-up pickup truck and an overturned semi. By now we were only going 40 miles per hour, so there wasn't much metal- crunching momentum to be found.
Then it happened. A car was passing us and Gretchen eased slightly into the right shoulder to allow him past. The right front wheel of the car got slightly bogged down in the inch or two so of wet snow, and that whole side of the car was slowed down. But since the other side of the car kept going as before, the mass of the car swung around the right front wheel as though it was a pivot. It seemed to take forever, and Gretchen screamed three or four times before the car eased to a stop. It was pointing the wrong way on the shoulder, just like the other cars we'd seen. No one had been hurt and nothing had been damaged. We were a good four or five feet away from the guard rail. We were also lucky that no one was behind us for at least a mile. Since Gretchen was all shaken up, we switched places and I began driving, still shaking from the stress of our little "accident."
Once we made it to Hagerstown, we drove east for 17 miles on I-70. I was hoping the weather would improve in that direction, but it actually seemed to get worse as we headed into the Blue Ridge. Since there were no longer so many semi trucks (I-81 has the most semi traffic of any interstate in America), the specter of imminent death seemed to loom less large. Unfortunately, now traffic was only going 30 miles per hour.
After we got off the interstate, we still had six miles of winding primary road (State Route 17) and then progressively shorter but increasingly treacherous, mountainous roads from there. Somehow we managed to get about a mile from the Gretchen's parents' cabin before the mountain grade became too steep for the car (a dark green late-model Mitsubishi) to climb in the snow.
Since the forested hillside was absolutely dark and we didn't have a flashlight, landmarks (as given on the map) were not going to be visible, so I put in a mighty effort to get the car as far up the hill as I could, but the process that probably put 1000 miles of wear on the tires only bought us one gentle switchback closer to our goal. So we abandoned the car on the side of the road and set out on foot. The cabin wasn't difficult to find.
Wow, now this wasn't just some cute little log cabin in the woods, this was a full scale house formed of rough-hewn logs. It featured such amenities as a pantry full of food, a wine rack full of wine, two bathrooms, a television set, a VCR, and several different heating systems, the most important of which we didn't discover tonight. The one thing it lacked was a telephone (and, of course, the internet), so we were utterly cut off from the world. Gretchen's cell phone didn't work either, not even with several improvised antennas.
While waiting for the house to heat up (something it wasn't going to do, since we hadn't found the main heating system thermostat), we huddled under a blanket with an electric space heater blowing on us, trying to make the best of a number of food, alcohol, and entertainment options we found unexpectedly disappointing. Trader Joe's spaghetti sauce was weird, the wine (vintage 1993) tasted like pickle juice (it just needed to be aired), and the videotape (The Squeeze, with a depiction on its cover of the World Trade Center being cracked to pieces in the grip of a large human hand) featured all the most annoying traits of movies from the late-mid 1980s.
But the bed upstairs (one of four to choose between) was just right, in the Goldilocks sense of the word.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next