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

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Like my brownhouse:
   Mt. Mitchell
Saturday, May 9 2015

location: AirBnB in a basement in West Asheville, North Carolina

The plan today was to drive to Mt. Mitchell, the tallest mountain in the eastern United States, which lies 20 miles to the northeast of Asheville. First, though, we drove into downtown Asheville and returned to Rosetta's Kitchen for breakfast and also to get lunches (tempeh reubens) to go. To begin my day, I had the hippie chili, though the only options for spicing it up were sriracha and Texas Pete; evidently Asheville is being as slow to be hit by the wave of habañero revolution (oh it's a revolution alright) as it is to be hit by the IPA one. Our orders were processed by a grumpy lesbian woman (the kind who had shaved a random third of her head), and she managed to screw up Gretchen's order, giving her chips instead of slaw with her reuben (something we didn't discover until we were picnicking on the side of the highest parking lot in the East). She was the first definitively unfriendly person we'd come across in Asheville.
The easiest way to get to Mt. Mitchell is to drive there on the Blue Ridge Parkway, an exquisitely-engineered two lane highway running along the ridgeline as much as possible. I've driven on parts of it near my childhood home in western Virginia, and it's pretty much the same down in North Carolina. There is one major difference, though, and it has to do with the different scale of the mountains. In central western Virginia, the mountains never rise much about 4000 feet, and the ridgeline itself ranges from 1900 feet to a little over 3000 feet. Down here in this part of North Carolina, the ridgeline is often over 5500 feet, high enough for the forests to take on a completely different character. On the ridgetops, the mountains are capped with forests of spruce and fir, though many of these trees are now bleached white skeletons, the victims of acid rain, insect infestations, and perhaps climate change. Where there are deciduous trees in the highlands, they hadn't leafed out yet, giving the season a resemblance to early April. It didn't take long to get to Route 128, a spur road that took us nearly to Mt. Mitchell's 6699 foot summit. There's a parking lot close enough to the stone tower at the summit even for waddling diabetic land whales to make it there. Though temperatures in Asheville had been in the 80s, temperatures at the summit were in the low 60s, though the wind wasn't as strong as I'd expected. There were a half dozen others at the tower when we got there, and a couple with a pair of rescued Greyhounds on the way. People love their dogs in western North Carolina. The view from the tower was good, but nothing like the view from a volcano in the Cascades.
The walk to the tower had been so pathetic that Gretchen wanted to go some distance down the trail towards the southeast. We passed a large nearly-vertical rock so full of handholds that even I could climb it, and then continued downward through the orchard-like forest of stunted trees. The rock was heavily flecked with shiny metallic pieces of mica, and occasionally there would be bigger chunks of mica (I gathered one for a souvenir, though apparently that is illegal). At some point, Gretchen realized she probably shouldn't be hiking so much with a headcold, particularly if she wanted to be able to power through the rest of our vacation, which would include the Great Smoky Mountains and Dollywood.
After our hike, me ate our tempeh reubens in the grass next to the parking lot, though Gretchen soon realized she wasn't going to be able to eat hers due to the caraway seeds in the bread. She fucking hates caraway seeds. While there, Gretchen struck up a conversation with a friendly couple about the cute little rescued hound dog that was with them. Meanwhile across the parking lot, there was an ongoing drama involving a sullen teenager and what I took to be his grandparents. That kid looked like he'd been ordered to leave his iPhone back at home and had no idea how to process a world coming to him without the intercession of an LCD screen.
On the way back to Asheville, we stopped for trinkets (boxes of animal cracker gifts for our house sitters and a stainless steel backpacking mug for me; it had a carabineer where the handle would normally be). Closer in, we went into an Ingles to stock up on cold medication and fruit juice in hopes of battling Gretchen's cold to a manageable malaise. [REDACTED]
This evening, we went to the fancy vegan restaurant Plant for a second dinner. We'd attempted to reserve our favorite seat (two bench seats meeting at a corner table in the southwest corner of the dining room), but found it was taken. And then Gretchen noticed that Robert (one of Gretchen's former prisoner/students and current house sitter back in Hurley) had just sent a text. It seems the Subaru, which we'd loaned to him in our absence, had experienced a spectacular failure and was in the process of getting a tow. I don't know what it is about house sitters, but they always find a way to destroy things on a massive scale whenever we entrust our house to them. In January of 2013, a housesitter stupidly broke the glass on our woodstove. In September of 2013, a house sitter hit a deer with our car (which, honestly can happen to anyone). And now this. With the exception of the time Gretchen totalled the Honda Civic and my old Toyota pickup almost seized up, these things just don't happen to us when we're using our equipment. In any case, in talking to Robert on the phone, it seemed that the failure of the Subaru had been spontaneous and age-related. Somehow the front passenger wheel had broken free (Robert hypothesized that it was a "a broken axle") and the car could no longer be driven. It had died so completely that it had blocked traffic on Route 212 between Saugerties and Woodstock, necessitating police intervention. Later in the meal, Robert texted with a clarification of the Subaru's problems. The tow truck operator had diagnosed the problem as a "broken ball joint." According to Google, that might be the sort of thing I can fix myself in the driveway.
We had another great meal at Plant, though the waitress (who looked a little like a taller, skinnier version of the way my old girlfriend Leslie M. had looked back in the early 1990s) wasn't as good as the bearded hipster who had waited on us last time.

Me at the summit of Mt. Mitchell.

Me climbing a large rock along the trail below the summit.

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