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:
   staffed by ghosts
Thursday, September 4 2008

setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

I'd agreed to come along with Gretchen to attend the wedding of her cousin Mel(anie) in Monterey, California this weekend. Mel had been at our wedding and seemed like one of Gretchen's more interesting cousins, and maybe I needed another California fix, even if I don't have much fondness for the state.
Normally when we fly, we leave from New York or Newark, but this time we left from Albany, which is half as far away.
In the recent past (since the "fluid bomber scare of 2006") I'd tried to smuggle a small flask of whiskey onto a plane, but it had been quickly found and confiscated. This time, partially as an experiment, I tried smuggling some gin onto the plane in a small plastic vitamin bottle. But it looked suspicious in the xray and, again, was confiscated. Evidently the TSA can see the difference between a plastic jar full of vitamins and one full of liquid, and the liquid sets off red flags. Next time I attempt to smuggle booze, I'll use an even smaller container labeled shampoo.
We flew out of Albany in a small plane and made a connection at O'Hare in Chicago to a big plane that flew us on to San Jose. That second flight was unusually empty for a modern air carrier, and we were able to move up to the exit row, with its surfeit of leg room. The entire row had been completely vacant.
After leaving the San Jose airport, we rented a car at Hertz. I've never seen Gretchen be as unpleasant as she was to the older Asian woman staffing the Hertz counter. The woman had made the mistake of failing to tell us to use the computerized self-service terminals, forcing us to wait in line for a useless fifteen minutes of our vacation. But then we had our Kia and were driving over the Santa Cruz Mountains, listening to a series of FM stations as they came and went in quick geographical succession.
Tonight we'd be staying at the Adobe, a gorgeous bed and breakfast in Santa Cruz. Outside, the Adobe looks sort of like an English cottage, but inside the rooms have a solidity that suggests they (including their ceilings) might have been hewn into the bedrock. The building had been built during a period of revived interest in adobe structures, but includes the rebar and other modern structural details that more traditional structures lacked (accounting for their general earthquake-facilitated absence in this part of California).
I'd been to Santa Cruz with Gretchen once before, to visit Gretchen's friend Jenny and Jenny's girlfriend Alison. We'd stayed at their house with their energetic toddler and had had little chance to experience the city. This time, though, we'd only be meeting Jenny at a restaurant, and we'd be walking to that restaurant through downtown from our B&B. This gave me a chance to see for myself what a lovely, laid back beach city Santa Cruz actually is. Just below our B&B was a steep grade down to an abandoned railroad track that ran into a tunnel (unfortunately gated). And every earthly surface was covered with the weird plants of California, many of them flowering.
We rendezvoused with Jenny at a Malaysian place some distance from the commercial core of the downtown. While Gretchen and Jenny caught up on old times, I tried not to eat too quickly. Jenny had a baby a few years ago and some of what she had to say kept coming back to that. At one point, as Jenny drove us back to our B&B, Jenny observed that one of the best things about having a baby was that it made one think of someone other than one's self. Of course, to our reproductive-averse ears, all we could hear was irony. Babymaking is, after all, just another form of human narcism poisoning the planet for the future supposedly being spawned. (And even then it's short-sighted; if people care so much about their children, why are they so eager to make it so there is no oil left in the ground for them to drill?)
Back at the B&B I took a hot bath in our room's generous stand-alone tub while Gretchen and Jenny continued catching up on old times. According to California time, it was still early when I climbed into the comfy bed. But in Eastern Daylight Time, it was already the wee hours of the morning.
One of the great things about the Adobe B&B is that one can stay there without ever encountering the people who run it. They conceal themselves like spectres behind a scrim, cleaning rooms and putting out breakfasts without manifesting other tangible effects. In the official B&B FAQ, they write that the reason they do this is that this is the way they prefer things to be when they stay at bed and breakfasts; it's no fun to be trapped in a conversation with a B&B owner who insists on providing the excruciating details of his extensive renovations. The Asperger's sufferer in me concurs completely, though I suspect such treatment is a little cold for the likes of gregarious Gretchen.

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