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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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   D&H Canal
Friday, April 7 2023
During lunch today I took my 25 foot drain snake to the second floor of the brick mansion on Downs Street and attempted to unclog the kitchen sink. I managed to get the snake about ten feet down the drain, to the junction where it turned from being a horizontal pipe to being a vertical drop down to the basement. But I couldn't get it beyond that point, and it never seemed to encounter any blockage. I kept hoping maybe it would incidentally dislodge any blockages it encountered, but evidently it never did, because every time I experimentally added water to the pipe, it drained at about the same pathetic rate, which I would estimate to be about one tenth of a cubic inch per second (about 1.6 cc/second). After multiple snaking attempts (trying to get the snake to continue past where it was stuck and go down the vertical pipe), I gave up. Before leaving Downs Street, I went down to the basement to see where that pipe ended up. I found what I assumed to be that pipe just above the entrance to the basement from the back yard. I figured I could come back tomorrow, cut that pipe open, and try snaking from below. But that would mean any plans I might've had to go up to the cabin in the Adirondacks wouldn't be happening this weekend.
After some not-great (but not completely zero) progress on the dismal tasks in my Jira pile in the remote workplace, Gretchen and I drove out to this evening's social call. Fern, the Australian woman who house-sat for us back in February, is living in yet another place, a house along the remnants of the old D&H Canal in High Falls. It belongs to an elderly professor she knows from Columbia University who is away for a couple months. As we were driving out there, I assumed we'd drive down to Route 213, the main road through High Falls. But this house is not on the south bank of the Rondout, which is the only part of High Falls I know. We had to take a side-road (Fairview Avenue) off of Lucas to get down to the north bank. Once we got to the bottom of a steep grade down the escarpment, we were driving parallel to Rondout Creek with the clear remains of the D&H Canal between us and the creek. The canal was only about 30 feet across and lined with impressive walls of large rectangular-cut stones. The canal is just a ruin of its former self, with the stone walls having collapsed in many places and the canal itself completely filled in (as it was in from of the house Fern is staying in).
Fern was outside as we arrived, and the dogs were especially delighted to see her. After dropping off some stuff in the house (more on that in a bit), we went for a walk along the tow path, which runs between the remains of the canal and the Rondout, which down at the bottom of a steep bank. We walked all the way to where the canal apparently crossed Rondout Creek to run along its south bank. But for it to have done so, it either needed to cross the Rondout on a sturdy aqueduct or there had to have been a dam across the creek. I saw some iron loops sandwiched together in what looked like the anchorage for a suspension bridge cable, but perhaps these had supported the lip of a dam. In the area where the bridge or dam would've been, the remaining structure we were standing on had a number of sheet cliffs that I was concerned Gretchen or the dogs would absent-mindedly stumble over the edge of.
Back in the house Fern is staying it, I had to have a look around. It had the rough-hewn look of a European home, with exposed timbers and thick basement walls (they were on the order of two feet thick), all of it covered with the accumulated grime and smoke of decades. It had been a serious mess when Fern moved in, but she'd put a lot of effort into cleaning it up. There were two additional floors above the stone-walled kitchen/dining basement, and up there the floors were made of wood and the walls were conventional plaster, all of it so lived-in and time-worn as to look out of place in America.
Fern and I sipped wine while she prepared dinner and chatted with Gretchen about various things. [REDACTED] What Fern was making was pasta with bolognese sauce (its chonkiness coming mostly from onions, carrots, and Impossible "hamburger"). Unfortunately, Fern hadn't gotten the memo about penne pasta being the worst possible shape. Gretchen tried to find another shape in the pantry while Fern was off taking a pee (before the pasta had been cooked) but there was no other kind. Still, it ended up being a good meal even if the penne component only strengthened our dislike of it. Over dinner, Fern talked at some length about what learning martial arts (first karate and then aikido) has done for her. She noted that in particular she has much less inclination to "freeze" when the options are "fight," "flee," "freeze," and (the new one) "fawn." We then talked about a passing romantic interest that seemed to have developed in the aikido class between Fern and some man who already has a partner, an issue she recently defused by bringing it up with the man in question.
Before we left, Fern offered to let Gretchen pick through the clothes she will be donating to whoever accepts them. This led to a brief back-and-forth on the subject of a clothes exchange for transgender people wanting to get clothes appropriate for a new gender while donating clothes for an abandoned one. My pithy summation of this idea was: "Take a gender/leave a gender."


Gretchen (left) and Fern where the remnants of the old D&H Canal used to cross Rondout Creek (running 30 or 40 feet below). Click to enlarge.

Steel anchor loops near where the canal used to cross Rondout Creek.

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