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   New Years at Skytop
Friday, December 31 2010
Gretchen made a run to the dump for the first time since this summer. I know, because it included a bunch of Tecate cans dating from September (when Penny and David came over to go over the final details of David's website). The idea was to start our household free of trash for the new year.

Near the intersection of Route 28 and US 209 is a bluff (part of the same escarpment system our house sits at the edge of) and atop this bluff is a motel-and-restaurant complex known as Skytop. Generally Skytop doesn't register in our consciousness except when we're driving at night on 209 in either direction in the Esopus Valley. Traditionally at night, Skytop would illuminate ten-foot-tall neon letters perched atop its roofs. One set read "SKYTOP" and the other set read "STEAKHOUSE." But because neon is such a fickle method of illumination, it was rare for all the letters to be lighted. Sometimes it would spell "SK OP OUSE" or "YTO TEAK SE." In recent weaks it simply declared "KY," which put lightened the moods of those familiar with name-brand intimacy lubricants.
The other day we were sad to see that all the letters had been turnoff and a new, smaller sign had been erected. This sign was a corporate logo of a sort antithetical to neon tubes. It read "Rodehouse Inn." Evidently Skytop had been purchased by a motel chain.
As with any dark cloud, the one blotting out Skytop's imperfect neon sign came with a silver lining. Back when Gretchen had been doing the logistics for our wedding, she'd been sad to discover that the Skytop Inn does not allow dogs (her reaction at the time was, "Fuhhk yeeeou!"). But Rodeway Inn, it seems, has a friendlier dog policy. So Gretchen thought maybe it would be fun to spend New Years at Skytop with Sally and Eleanor. She even did some research and found a few vegan things on the beef-heavy steakhouse menu.
So in the late afternoon, I stoked up the fire for the cats and we drove over to Skytop, about five miles from home. As we drove, there was a running joke that derived its humor from the fact that most road trips are to destinations hundreds of miles from home, whereas this one was to a place barely outside our township. If it had been a cold night, I could have driven home and fed the fire (and gotten more booze) later this evening, but as it happened the night was unseasonably warm, with temperatures remaining above freezing.
Normally we assiduously keep our carbon footprint about as low as possible, but this was a vacation from all of that. The first thing Gretchen did was to crank up the heat in our room. And then we took a long hot shower together. And then, well, let's just say that at some point we started playing a rousing game of Scrabble. I made an incredible 52 point play with the word "quince" across a triple-value-for-a-word square, and ended up trouncing Gretchen.
At some point we decided to go to the steak house for dinner. We hadn't made a reservation, so we sat at the bar. Unfortunately, the usual menu had been pruned down considerably for New Years, eliminating both possible vegan entrées (a portobello club and pizza that could presumably made cheeseless). So we made do with first fries and then the house salad. Both were incredibly delicious. I also experienced success with the IPA they had on tap: Ithaca Flower Power IPA. Aside from a slight hint of old socks, it was absolutely perfect. It had that strong grapefruity flavor I keep seeking and not quite finding. Our conversation at the bar kept returning to the subject of how generally unhip, conventional, and dopey the other steakhouse customers appeared to be. At one point I felt the need to explain basic thermodynamics to Gretchen after she wondered why an electric car couldn't be built that recharged its own batteries with its own motion. I broke it down in a way I've seen it described somewhere online:
  • First law: You cannot win.
  • Second law: You cannot break even.
  • Third law: You cannot stop playing.

We got some restaurant menus at the main office and went back to our room to order Chinese food from a place called Hong Fu out on Broadway. While waiting for that to arrive, we played Boggle, another favorite word game. Because both players have equal luck, Boggle is actually a better test of word intelligence than Scrabble. Gretchen beat me in all of our Boggle matches, though my points did gradually improve.
Once the food came, it was time for television. Though we were rapidly approaching 2011, suddenly having to watch a handful of standard-def stations without a DVR was as of we had traveled back to the 1990s. We ended up bouncing back and forth between episodes of House and The Office.
In terms of booze, all we'd brought were three nearly-empty bottles from our liquor cabinet. Finishing them off would just be part of our cleanup for the new year, however, it didn't make for a particularly drunken evening.
Before we went to sleep, I took the dogs for a final run around the Skytop grounds. Sally has grown batty with age, and again she showed this side of herself when she decided to trot off down the Skytop entrance road. She did this in complete defiance of an SUV which mercifully stopped and let her pass. But I had to run after and retrieve her. I was shouting the whole time, partly because I know Sally is not entirely deaf. This was enough to freak Eleanor out, and she ran back to our motel room. I found her waiting anxiously in front of the door. It was amazing how quickly she'd become aware of which room was ours (something Sally didn't ever seem to grasp).

As we were going to sleep, we could hear other guests through our walls. They weren't being especially loud, but the walls were so thin that we could actually hear the voices of the people they were wishing happy new years on their cellphones (they were on speaker phone, but still!). Word to the wise: though the motel rooms only look to be about ten years old, Skytop Rodehouse in Kingston has paper-thin walls!

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