wine with the Stonehouses
Tuesday, December 16 2003
The day was fairly warm, despite all the snow on the ground. Gretchen and I went into the commercial part of the Town of Ulster to look for kitchen faucets. We've decided to completely replace all our kitchen countertops with granite (after seriously considering equally-expensive concrete, because we didn't really want to be the sort of people who insisted on a granite kitchen, the kind that are veiny with conspicuous consumption), and in the process we're replacing our sink with an undermount model, which will allow us to easily sweep water and crumbs from the counter directly into the sink. We didn't see anything that really spoke to us, but we eventually settled on a $200 Pfister model that looked nearly as good as $640 Grohe. Spending $200 on a faucet is ridiculous enough, but $640? That reminds me of all that nonsense during the 80s when toilet seats cost $500. By the way, did anyone ever do anything about those overpriced toilet seats?
After we got back home, I had to immediately dash off to a housecall outside of New Paltz. I made the mistake of taking the car, and driving up client's driveway I managed to get to get stuck in a snowbank.
The house was most unusual, a huge dome made of specially-bent wood beams (it was ribbed dome, not a geodesic dome, which is made up of triangles). The client had a fancy stand-alone webcam with an integrated web server and ethernet port. On the webpage served by the webcam's web server, there were controls allowing servo-motors in the camera to pan it back and forth and up and down. Strangely, there was no motorized zoom mechanism.
As usual, I was a little less than facile with a Macintosh running OS X, and I could tell that the client was picking up on my inexperience. Somehow, though, through sheer force of will, I didn't let it bother me. My attitude was one of "You don't think I know what I'm doing? I'm coming from a place where such notions are irrelevant." In a way this was true; the problems were with basic networking, something that transcends the particulars of operating systems. The main problem I encountered during this housecall was with the password on an AirPort base station; it wasn't the default, and the this guy didn't seem to know what it was. When he finally did get it right, it only took me several minutes more to make the webcam functional on the web. As I was going out the door, the client revealed that his house sits on a massive pivot and can be rotated to track the sun. An hour or so later it occurred to me that he should figure out a way to control the house's pivot motor from remote locations using a web page. Still later a question occured to me: how do the utilities such as wire and water get from the basement up into the dome?
After digging my car out of the snowbank with a borrowed snow shovel, I was able to drive home. I was drinking Dundee's "Original" Honey Brown Lager on the way home, and something about the wintery landscape got me confused and I took a left on Lucas, a mistake I couldn't untangle for a good fifteen minutes of driving back and forth.
Meanwhile Gretchen had been baking four different varieties of melt-away cookies to give as "holiday" presents. (That's what Jews call presents given at this time of year.) She'd also cooked up some sort of mushroom stroganoff with rice and broccoli as sides.
After dinner, we paid a social call at the residence (the stone house) wherein the Stonehouse People live. This was mostly so Gretchen could drop off a box of her melt-away cookies, but we ended up sitting around drinking red wine with Mrs. Stonehouse as she rocked her little newborn (but well-behaved) baby, Poloma. Later Mr. Stonehouse came home and started drinking Coors Lite, one of only two inexcusable acts tonight. The other was that the Stonehouses would be eating pork for dinner. Is pork still called "the other white meat" or does that term only refer these days to what cannibals eat?
We actually had a wonderful time sitting around shooting the shit with Mr. and Mrs. Stonehouse. They're funny exactly the way we're funny, but the stories they tell are full of minor celebrities and bohemian writerly excess. Topics ranged widely, and included Jewish Christmas, dissolute friends who drink vodka, shitty books churned out by publishing houses, masterpieces ignored by publishing houses, dealing with entrenched religious instruction in Redneckistani public schools, the craziness of Harkness Co-op at Oberlin College, the futility of passive aggressiveness in dealing with Gretchen, and heterosexual marriage as a form of self-flagellation for abstemious1 closet gays.
1Except that the word I used at the time was "abstemtious," which doesn't exist.
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