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:
   coronavirus vaccines for my nearest relatives
Wednesday, July 28 2021

location: room 202, Hotel 24 South, Staunton, Virginia

I had partied kind of hard (mostly by myself) and not eaten anything last night, so this morning things were a little amiss with me. After drinking some coffee down in the lobby and getting a couple granola bars, I drove out to the Staunton Walmart to charge up the Bolt while I spent the time in the Lowes next door, mostly to look at power tools. (I've been liking the Ryobi One+ cinematic universe, but it seems Home Depot sells those, not Lowes.) My next goal was to get an Impossible Whopper at the Burger King on Greenville Avenue, but I first had to wait until 10:30am, when Burger King switches from making breakfast to making lunch. (If capitalism is so great, why can't it produce a restaurant that serves lunch 24 hours a day?). When I got my burger and fries ($10.09), I drove over to the parking lot of the old Staunton Mall (now surrounded by a fence and falling into ruin), parked right in the middle of the main entry road, and ate my trashy vegan lunch in the shade of a surprisingly-large tree. A fair number of cars went past as I was eating, perhaps driving from the Belk (the only functioning store in the mall; it's at the north end) to the McDonalds (which is separate from the mall but is surrounded by mall parking lot and all its ever-widening fissures).
Out at Creekside, I was delighted to see that the pile of rotten food and refrigerator doors near the front door was all gone. Don had bagged it all up as I'd told him to and it had been taken away this morning by a garbage truck.
The plan for today was to meet with Don's social worker DeeDee at Creekside at 1:00pm. I showed up later than usual, after my brother Don had eaten and fed our mother, Hoagie, so I didn't prepare them any food. I'd brought a bottle of kombucha, which I offered to both Don and Hoagie, and (no surprise) Don didn't want any. But Hoagie, problematic though she is, is more adventurous, and she wanted to try it (she'd never had it before). Somewhat surprisingly, she liked it enough to want even more of it from my bottle.
Hoagie remarked at some point that she was feeling good. (I forget the precise term she used, but it was musty synonym for mild euphoria.) That made me feel better about her; that's a bit of my mother I actually like, and it's still there. But then she'd try to make polite conversation with me by asking "how are your folks doing?" and I'd turn and say, usually with a completely flat affect, that, "well, one of them is sitting right here" or "one of them is you." This would cause a moment of cognitive dissonance and then she'd realize, right, this guy is Gus, her son. Other people she thought I might be included my childhood friend Nathan and perhaps the man who married Gretchen (a man who might not actually be her son).
Meanwhile, Don had made a number of discoveries about his new phone. Google Assistant wasn't just for looking up facts, he'd found. He could also ask it to play music. "Play MC Hammer Can't Touch This!" he said forcefully, and then that song started playing. Other songs he would play this morning were a series of hitherto-unknown favorites: Janet Jackson's "Nasty Boys," Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk," and "Holiday in Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys. I told Don not to play too much music, because I didn't want him to exceed his data limit. I thought he'd be fine if he kept it down to five songs a day. Don semi-jokingly referred to the Google Assistant as his "girlfriend," and even asked her to change her name from "Google Assistant" to "Pamela," a request she apparently ignored. Sometimes she has a British accent and sometimes she doesn't, though I think Don prefers the British version. This isn't Don's first experience with digital assistants; apparently he'd spoken with an Alexa at someone's house once. But this direct experience on a device Don owns has him thinking virtual romance might be a viable option for him. When I brought up the movie Her, he knew of it immediately and said he'd love to see it.
I had some time to kill, so I did yet more rummaging around in the chaos of my childhood home in hopes of finding sufficient identification to get Don and Hoagie a coronavirus vaccine. I also managed to scavenge some more electronics from the honey house attic.
I'd been avoiding using the bathrooms both in my childhood home (where the toilet appears to feature a turd stalagmite) and Creekside (where Don's bathroom looks exactly as one would expect a bathroom to look that hadn't been cleaned since 2006). But there's still the big bathroom that is part of Creekside's master bedroom suite. Hoagie's dementia has convinced her that numerous "little people" live in both of her houses, and that for some reason they're concentrated in Creekside's master bedroom. This causes her to avoid it entirely, and for some reason Don does too. The only one using it routinely is Maple the Dog, who likes to lie in its doorway. Today when I needed to perform a biological function that can't simply be directed into a bush, I went back into the master bathroom and found it nearly as clean as the last time I'd used it back in 2011. As for the bed, it was surrounded by a wall of boxes and other clutter, but it was so clean that I felt comfortable stretching out on it for a time. It even smelled okay in there; for some reason the stench from the failed refrigerator had failed to infiltrate it much.
DeeDee has been a disappointing social worker for Don, and she didn't do much to improve her position with me today. About ten minutes before 1:00pm, she texted me to tell me that she was having babysitter problems which was keeping her from leaving her home (where she's been working remotely during the pandemic). So instead we had a phone conversation. I described the situation as I'd found it at Creekside and my childhood home, including the story of having to drag a stinking dead refrigerator out into the yard. I mentioned my desire to get Hoagie and Don vaccinated against coronavirus, and DeeDee eventually texted me a list of nearby venues for doing that. She also sent me a sheet of Don's essential Medicaid information. One other interesting thing was that Don qualifies for someone to visit him periodically to provide basic assistance and perhaps make sure he's doing his chores. It would be a paid position, though it would only be $10/visit.
The best option for getting Hoagie and Don vaccinated looked to be at a free outdoor bluegrass event taking place this evening in Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park, but that wouldn't start until 6:00pm. So I drove back into Staunton for a little downtime in my hotel room.
A little after 5:00pm, I returned to Creekside to pick up my two closest living relatives. Initially Hoagie didn't want to come, because she couldn't find any of her Medicare documents, which she assumed would be necessary given what had happened a couple days ago at Walmart. But I thought she (and Maple) should come; the rules at a tent outside a bluegrass event were probably different than in a commercial pharmacy.
I hadn't been to Gypsy Hill Park in many years (perhaps since the early 1990s), and I'd forgotten that has a road going all the way around it that is fun to cruise if you're on something equipped with wheels. We entered at the beginning, and I drove us slowly past the duck ponds and such, with me jokingly pointing out various women who could potentially be Don's girlfriend. The bluegrass venue was near the end of the road, which is very close to its beginning (but engineered in such a way that it's difficult to keep driving around and around the park). We saw a lot of wholesome all-American types parking and lugging their coolers and collapsible camping chairs. But it was Don who first spotted a woman in an all-blue uniform who looked to be the sort who might be involved in a public coronavirus vaccination effort. She was indeed, and she quickly offered us a menu of vaccination brands. When I learned that the "one and done" Johnson & Johnson vaccination was an option, selecting that was a no-brainer. (If I didn't get all the vaccination done today, it was unlikely it would ever be completed.) The blue-uniformed woman handed some documents to fill out, which I was able to do entirely from memory. There was no need to present any evidence of health insurance or even to produce identification; indeed, an illegal alien could've gotten a vaccination there. Don was the first to be vaccinated, and it went pretty quickly. Hoagie, on the other hand, is something of a drama queen and crybaby, and she kept telling me and the long-suffering woman in the blue outfit about her history of passing out when receiving an injection. She prattled on long after the woman had moved on to other business, and eventually even she figured out that the woman was sick of her. By then the fifteen minute post-injection wait was over, and we could go. As we drove back through the center of Staunton, Don suddenly wanted to get out to check on a book he was interested in at a bookstore. He told us he'd be walking home on his own (that's a 5.25-mile walk).
After dropping Hoagie off at Creekside, I immediately returned to Hotel 24 South for the me-time phase of the evening. I did some drinking by myself, though not as much as last evening, and I headed out on foot before darkness so I'd have a chance of getting dinner at a restaurant on Beverley Street and not repeat last night's mistake. As I walked east-to-west on Beverley, I took note of all the restaurants, trying to figure out where I could get a vegan meal with a minimum of negotiation. The best chance for that looked to be a fast-casual Vietnamese soup place called Laughing Bird Pho. (That's definitely a new-Staunton kind of business; for most of my life in the Shenandoah Valley, one couldn't even get Indian food.)
I continued to a fun-looking bar, where I waded through the crowd and took a seat by myself at the bar. Unfortunately, this was a real bar that didn't serve food (such a thing was unheard of in the Staunton of old), so all I did was drink an IPA and fiddle with my phone. Gretchen called me while I was there, but it was too noisy to have a real conversation.
When I got to Laughing Bird Pho, it looked like the place might be closing, but I was just the first person of an after-8:00 wave. I told the cashier that I was vegan, and she recommended the mushroom pho with vegetable broth ($12.34, which included a $2 tip), which proved unexpectedly good. It came with sprouts, which I suspect pho usually does, and that was something my body was craving after so many days of mostly-crappy food.

The Bolt where I parked it as I ate my Impossible Whopper in front of the abandoned Staunton Mall. Click to enlarge and for a wider view.

The woman in blue after giving Don a shot. I made Don change his pants before we went to get the shots;
his black ones smelled like homeless guy.

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