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:
   unpleasant Charlotte airport
Wednesday, May 6 2015

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

I did some last-minute straightening up of the yard before Gretchen and I abandoned our critters and drove up to Albany to catch a plane to North Carolina. The flight to Charlotte took about two hours, and, though it was too short of a flight for ambien, it wasn't for alcohol. Gretchen had expressed alarm to see a young man in a business suit buy two beers simultaneously, but of course that drinking paled in comparison to what I did: mixing 160 proof vodka with two different free drink-cart drinks (orange juice and cranberry-apple). Unfortunately, Gretchen took note of that as well. It's easy to drink too much when making drinks with Devil's Springs vodka, and for awhile I was nervous I'd overdone it, but by the end of the flight I was a perfectly competent traveler. (Technically, alcohol this strong is forbidden from airplanes, but so far the TSA has ignored my little three ounce bottles.)
Unlike the last time we'd been in the Charlotte airport, we had plenty of time for our connecting flight. Still, getting from one terminal to another in that place is an uncommonly-arduous trek. As we struggled to get through the crowds of travelers (many of them slow-moving land whales), we realized something about Charlotte: it must have outgrown its infrastructure. The hallways are too narrow for the throngs moving in them, and, though the airport sprawls, there is no system of mass transportation to quickly get people from one terminal to another. Instead, people (many of whom appear to be unfamiliar with walking any further than the width of a 7Eleven parking lot) are forced to trudge everywhere on their own two legs. There are motorized sidewalks intended to help with this, but they tend to be clogged with unmoving fatsos, so for anyone who needs to get anywhere quickly, it's best to just bypass them.
As our pilot promised, the flight from Charlotte to Asheville (our ultimate destination) took significantly less time than the time spent taxing from and to the gates. We were in the air in her smallish jet plane for maybe twenty minutes, though it saved us a two hour drive.
Gretchen and I had discussed whether or not to spend $50 more on our car rental for the convenience of not having to take a shuttle to the discount car rental places. Her opinion was that we could afford that amount and that it might well be worth it. My opinion on matters like this is always, "but do we want to be the kind of people who spend $50 for a slightly more convenient service?" In the end, we went with the cheaper car rental service, in this case Dollar. The inconvenience immediately began manifesting when the shuttle that had been ordered by the nice guy in the airport's customer service took a long time to arrive. We sat out in the front of the airport in the gorgeous sunny weather waiting. And waiting. An unnecessarily-large pickup truck arrived to pick someone up and its invisible-hot-vapor-spewing tail pipe pointed directly at me. Somewhere someone was smoking a cigarette and it smelled like the 1990s. Or maybe just North Carolina. By now Gretchen was having something of a melt down. When she melts down, her face relaxes into an inscrutable mask and she says almost nothing.
When we finally got to the Dollar desk, the woman working there was defensive and mildly apologetic, explaining that the circumstances had been unusual and that normally we would have been picked up right away.
But then we were in our rental car, a snappy little white KIA whose satellite radio could only receive one channel of pop music seemingly curated for its infuriating inanity [the best song they would ever play would be Meghan Trainor's "Dear Future Husband," but that would be days from now in the Great Smoky Mountains, when we would be unable to receive conventional FM stations].
Our destination was West Asheville, a region of old and seemingly-unplanned suburbs cut by very narrow winding streets running uncomfortably close to a riot of different house designs (ranging from makeshift Craftsmans to ranch). Whenever we saw men, they were mostly fit 20-somethings with surprisingly well-developed beards. Evidently that is something of a uniform in Asheville. If they were walking dogs, they were either obvious mutts or Pit Bulls. We'd come to Asheville to celebrate our 12th anniversary because we heard it's a cool town, and so far we weren't disappointed.
Remember, I'd been to Asheville once before eighteen and a half years ago. But the magical thing that has happened to it: the hipster gentrification, the boutique clothiers, the brew pubs, the organic mechanic, the widespread use of tempeh, all of that has happened since then. Of course, we were just in West Asheville, where the wave of gentrification has only recently begun. Still, it has the look of a fun and promising place. So far its residential neighborhoods were reminding us of a poorer, more improvised version of Portland.
Our AirBnB place was a full basement apartment with a living room, bedroom, kitchen, and nice bathroom. The floor was a concrete slab, but it was tastefully stained a rust red and there wasn't any of the funk that basements normally have. As I set up my laptop's WiFi, I noticed birds being drawn to a bird feeder just outside the kitchen. One of the birds was a Brown Thrasher, a normally-shy resident of the deep forest. The neighborhood wasn't exactly deep forest, though there was a deep undeveloped gulch nearby full of long grasses, bushes, and wildflowers, all of which were a couple weeks more advanced in their growing season than similar plants had been back in Hurley.
For dinner, we drove to a hippie vegetarian caf´ in Asheville proper called Rosetta's Kitchen. Our waiter was a friendly, skinny, flamboyantly-pierced African American guy. The food was a little hit-or-miss (as it often is in hippie establishments), though my tacos were pretty good. The best thing on the menu is the Tempalo Wings (made using a locally-sourced tempeh).
After dinner, we walked up and down Lexington Avenue, marveling at how unrelentingly hip it is. There's actually a dress store there named "Hip Replacements" and it had a cute neo-vintage dress in the window that had Gretchen wanting to come back. I told Gretchen that when Jessika and I came to Asheville nearly 19 years ago, I'd taken a picture of a black-and-white cat on a black-and-white checkered floor somewhere downtown, and so from then on as we walked around, we were looking for such a floor (though the cat would surely be dead). We didn't find it, but we did find a bar where a group of gringos were performing Mexican folk music to the enthusiastic appreciation of onlookers. They'd sorted themselves according to age, with baby boomers nodding their heads in semi-rhythmic appreciation across the street, and everyone younger at the actual bar (and spilling out onto the sidewalk). It was all very Portland, Oregon.

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