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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Black Mirrorish movies on a plane
Wednesday, February 14 2018

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

For the first time in weeks, I spent the night in the bed in the upstairs master bedroom. During the time of Neville's recuperation fort, I think I'd only slept in my actual bed once (or, at most, twice). I'd slept well initially. It certainly helped that Ramona (or, as less frequently happened, Neville) woke me up needing to come or go through a gate. We're so trusting of Neville that so far the only times in the post-recuperation-fort regime we've locked the pet door was last night when Gretchen and I went out for pizza. Despite all this, I woke up a little before 6:00am (while it was still dark outside). This might've coincided with the arrival of the boys who purr loudly (Charles and Oscar), though it might've happened a little before that. In any case, I couldn't get back to sleep. So at 7:00am I got up and leisurely did the last packing and preparing for my trip. Then I kissed the sleepy dogs and sleepy wife goodbye and set off in the Subaru. Shortly after I got on the Thruway, I cracked open a Sierra Nevada Torpedo. The morning-beer-when-I'm-flying-somewhere ritual is becoming a thing.
I was flying out of Stewart Field in Newburgh, which has traditionally been the most trouble-free airport I've ever used. Today, though, for some reason there was a long line in front of security. It wouldn't've been so bad, but there was a bratty tweenage boy saying lots of annoying things to his neurotic mother. My leftover pizza from last night caused the woman scanning my bag to inspect it, but once she saw what the big wet triangles were, her concern evaporated.
I ate those pizzas at an abandoned gate, then mixed gin into a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice and began to drink that. I had a window seat in the smallish plane that flew to Philadelphia (its rows had a 2-aisle-2 arrangement), and I read the New Yorker along the way.
In the regional terminal (F) at Philadelphia, I was sure to buy a burrito at the Chipotle I knew to be there before doing anything else. Then I rode the shuttle to A, where my flight to Los Angeles would begin. It was a big burrito and the tortilla had ruptured when the burrito artist had assembled it, causing her to add another tortialla to the outside. Amazingly, that extra layer of tortilla almost ruined the experience of eating it.
Yesterday when I'd checked in, I'd thought I'd secured myself a window seat on the flight to Los Angeles. Evidently, though, there must've been a "save" button I'd overlooked. I won't be making that mistake again. Still, as middle-seat experiences go, today's flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles wasn't bad. I was between a young woman at the window and a middle-aged man at the aisle. The woman mostly read a book while the man edited some boring insurance document on his windows laptop. She needed to use the bathroom four hours into the flight, and I took the opportunity to do the same. The plane itself was bare-bones and lacked amenities like 120 volt outlets and even videoscreens. I had Hyrax, my trusty laptop, and filled my time mostly by watching movies I'd downloaded a week or so ago because they supposedly resemble episodes of Black Mirror. The first of these was entitled Circle and was set in an uncertain space, with dozens of random people finding themselves arranged on a large electronic game board. Not know how they got there or what the rules are, a few of them kill themselves (via lethal bolt of electricity) by leaving their illuminated spots. Others are killed seemingly at random until the inadvertant "contestants" come to realize they've been voting to kill off various of their numbers. From there it turns into a game of prisoner's dilemma, which a lot of moral torque placed on the fact that one of the contestants is a pregnant woman and another is an innocent little girl. It might've worked as a movie had there been some way to better develop the characters so we would have sympathy for them, but usually any large speaking part was immediately followed by that character's death. There was also the suspension-of-disbelief problem of many of the characters being both so certain of how to deal with the scenario and not incapacitated with terror. It was the sort of movie I would watch on an airplane, though in any other situation I would've abandoned it after about twenty minutes.
The second movie, Limitless, was much better. Its premise is the existence of a drug that gives superhuman mental capabilities to anyone who takes it, and the perils (sociological, personal, and physical) that come with reliance on such a drug. In showing the promise and danger of a such a "technology," Limitless was very much like an episode of Black Mirror, though it also reminded me both of my life back when I lived in West Los Angeles (and took both Adderall and ecstasy to enhance my weekends) and also the first year of my employment at The Organization (when I used Vyvanse on a weekly basis to help me master a complex corpus of undocumented code). Unlike the characters in Limitless, though, I knew full-well the state of my Vyvanse supply as it dwindled to nothing (with the last few pills being stolen by a house sitter).
The airplane touched down at LAX just before 5:00pm local time, just as rush hour was getting underway. So it seemed prudent just to hunker down in the terminal and wait until the highways opened up before ordering an Uber. I found an empty gate with 120v outlets to recharge my equipment (though somehow my laptop Hyrax still had over 50 minutes left on its battery) and deal with all the Slack messages that had accumulated during my nearly-6-hour flight. As I did so, I resumed the drinking of my gin & orange juice cocktail, which I hadn't touched since the Philadelphia airport. (Something about drinking starting at the break of day, coupled with airplane-flight dehydration, makes me feel slightly ill and panged by acid reflux, though that latter symptom might've just been a consequence of eating that enormous Chiptole burrito).
When I finally did decide to catch an Uber, my phone kept having trouble communicating. Was the airport really in a WiFi dead zone? Was there some problem with this eBay-purchased phone that was only now manifesting? Then I realized what my problem was: I'd set my phone to connect to LAX's free WiFi, though that only lasts for a half hour, after which one must log in again on a web page. But I was using the Uber app, not the web, which was incapable of telling me the nature of my connection problems. Once I disabled WiFi, Uber roared back to life, and I quickly hailed an Uber X piloted by a portly white man named Daniel. There was a Spanish-speaking couple in the back seat so I took my place shotgun.
For some reason at this hour (which was now about 7:00pm local time) the fastest route from LAX to Hollywood was via Downtown. Intermittantly checking in on the ongoing Slack conversation, I mostly kicked back and watched the lights of the city. The music was some sort of mostly-instrumental poppy EDM, with an interplay of rhythm and whispery synthetic lead instrumentals. I usually like EDM, but there was something deeply unsatisfying about this stuff.

My walk took me up to Sunset Blvd, where I was (by now) craving something from Veggie Grill. So I walked to the little mall across from the Laugh Factory, remembering where everything was from the last time I was here. Happily, Veggie Grill is open until 10:30pm. I ordered a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (the closest thing to my kind of beer they had) and the Buffalo Bomber, which (having sampled most of their stuff) really is the best sandwich on their menu. As with other fast casual restaurants, there's something about dining (and even drinking) alone in a Veggie Grill that doesn't feel depressing. I could flip through all the relevant feeds on my phone and stay abreast of late-running workplace issues as well as the latest school shooting. 17 kids had died in Florida, though the only interesting thing for Donald Trump and his henchmen would probably be that the shooter had a Hispanic surname.

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