in a zero-tolerance world
Monday, November 22 2004
setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York, USA
While walking the dogs this morning, I saw a flash of blaze orange about a half mile down the Stick Trail. Not wanting myself or the dogs to be a sobriety test for a drunken deer hunter (I assumed that was his intended target), I immediately around and headed back home.
Not even a quarter mile from the house, I noticed an unusual geologic formation about 50 feet above the trail, so I climbed the hill to have a look. What I found was clearly the remains of an abandoned small-scale bluestone mine, the kind used to supply stone for single low-use households. Such small mines are very common; this is the second or third that I've found in the area. (I've heard that there are more and larger mines on the other side of Dug Hill Road, where - presumably - the stone tends to be superior.)
This particular mine wasn't much bigger than a refrigerator toppled onto its side. Rock had been removed in a rectangular-shaped void and strata had been cleanly exposed on the mine's uphill side. The downhill side was littered with rejects, many of which would be useful in the rough stone projects I like to do. I was on the hunt for a five foot long piece of stone six inches wide (for the shelf that will go atop the heat shield), but of course I could find no such piece.
Back at the house I continued work on the heat shield, adding more dyed cement to the little voids between the rocks I've already set. As I worked, I listened to This American Life, the show about Pimps (from 1999).
At some point I dropped Sally and Eleanor off at our friend Julia's house, where they will be spending the next few days on an extended sleepover with their friend Carlos (a black "Brooklyn Terrier" who has stayed at our house in the past). Gretchen and I would be spending the Thanksgiving holidays in the San Francisco area.
Meanwhile Gretchen had spent the night down in Manhattan, but we'd rendezvous in a few hours in the Newark airport to catch our flight. Hers was a short bus ride and mine was a 100 mile drive that included some of the ugliest scenery one can see from a road not prone to congestion (Route 17 through northeastern New Jersey).
As I went through security with my various bags, a particularly glum-faced security guy saw something suspicious in my computer bag and searched it completely. Eventually he removed a pair of needle nosed pliers I didn't remember putting in there. As hijacking weapons go, it wasn't much to write home about. But we live in a zero-tolerance world, so it was no longer mine. I was given the option of mailing it home but it wasn't worth more than a couple dollars.
The flight to San Francisco was mostly uneventful. There were an unusual number of babies in the plane, and their constant squalling, shrieking, and complaining drove Gretchen absolutely nuts. ("Who would decide they wanted that?" she asked me on at least two occasions.) I made the mistake of making a goofy face at the baby leaning over the seat in front of us and she wouldn't leave me alone after that. Unlike Gretchen, I'd packed a flask of vodka, a substance I used to fortify all the drinks provided by the Continental staff. I can't say I relate to babies any better when intoxicated, but I suffer less from their tiresome vocalizations.
When one flies west, time (as measured by cell phones and local clocks) stands almost still. For this reason, we arrived in San Francisco only an hour or so after leaving New York. I'd checked my cell phone a couple times while flying, and it usually was able to connect to some tower down on the ground. I remember wishing that my stupid cell phone would display information about the location of the tower it was communicating with. That would be very useful information to have when flying; it could be sort of like a poor man's GPS. I can't believe I'm the only person who is frustrated by the fact that I never have a clear idea where I am during a domestic flight.
In San Francisco we rented a car (at the incredible rate of $17 per day) and drove up to the Mission to the place we'd be staying tonight, a co-op apartment owned by a lesbian couple Gretchen knows from back in the days when she worked at a New York City publishing house. It's a beautiful first-floor unit whose previous residents, a gay couple, spared no expense in rennovating it. It has everything: the stainless steel kitchen appliances, the granite countertops, and a gay boy's dream bathroom featuring Grohe fixtures and one of those sinks where the basin looks like a little bathtub.
The four of us went out to nasty local burrito joint to eat genuine Mission burritos, the kind that come as perfect cylinders wrapped in wrinkle-free aluminum foil. These are the burritos that all other burrito places look to as models, though their emulation is seldom perfect.
New York City skyline viewed from the Newark airport. Click for the big version.
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