old school circumcision
Monday, January 19 2004
setting: Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Gretchen and I started our roadtrip home soon after the last of the bris hangers-on had departed. We crossed the Alleghenies again on US-22, and as with every other time we'd gone this way, we encountered treacherous snowfall. This time, though, it was mercifully brief, lasting only from Nanty Glo to Altoona.
Gretchen had reserved us a room at the Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Bellefonte (pronounced "bell-font") Pennsylvania, not far from where US 220 meets up with I-80. Bellefonte is a beautiful town full of Victorian architecture, sort of like Staunton without the late-70s crap. (I'd love to see Staunton somehow figure out a way to give a Victorian facelift to their ugly parking structures.)
The guy running Reynolds Mansion was actually the son of the people who owned it. He'd given Gretchen bad directions over the phone, which didn't seem so offensive once we realized he was a stoner. I mean, how many non-stoners do you know who wear hemp necklaces and move back in with their parentsm in Bumfuck, Pennsylvania after a stint in Boulder, Colorado? He told us a little about the history of Bellefonte and the mansion. Bellefonte was founded on the site of a massive artesian well that produces some number of million gallons of water a day, thus the name. The mansion itself was a lavish work of Victorian excess, a riot of meticulously carved walnut and chestnut. The Victorian sensibility strives for an admirable design goal: detail at all levels of examination. I've always related to that idea, even when I (like the Victorians themselves) knew nothing about fractals. I think I would have been happy in Victorian times. I even find something to admire in their pathologically repressed sexuality, a mindset sure to give rise to a delightful panoply of weird fetishes every bit as ornate as the nested mouldings of Reynolds Mansion.
Our room, the Woodlands, was up on the third floor, the only floor finished with dry wall and wall-to-wall carpet. (Downstairs it was all wallpaper and various absurdly complex wood floorings.) We immediately started a bath in the room's jacuzzi. I stayed in the hot water so long that I started getting woozy, a feeling aggravated by the complimentary brandy.
All the fine restaurants in Bellefonte were closed, so we went to the next best thing, a sort of Italian sportsbar out on the edge of town called Bonafatto's. It was located in a building that had obviously once been in bank. All the waitresses there were fat and blond and the booth adjacent to ours was occupied for most of our meal by a group of four or five lesbians. This is not an every day sight in central Pennsylvania and probably wouldn't have happened were it not for the proximity of Penn State.
A major benefit of collegiate culture was the cheap menu. Huge 20 ounce glasses of beer were normally $2.25 each, but it was Budweiser night, so my Bud was only $1.50.
There was a live band performing dreadful covers of well-known classic rock and blues numbers. The main irritant was their guitar. It had a tinny nasal quality that monotonously bored into my skull through every song. I was mildly entertained to hear the sad attempt at a Carlos Santana guitar solo during the cover of "Evil Ways."
I suppose it bears mentioning that the food wasn't especially good, or at least Gretchen didn't think much of whatever it was she ordered. Our fat blond waitress, the scrawnier of the two working tonight, was so nice that we gave her a very large tip. The tab ate only a small percentage of the roll of cash Gretchen's father had given us to spend on her birthday dinner.
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