Froggy and Britney
Tuesday, January 20 2004
setting: Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
We were only people eating breakfast this morning in the lavish Reynolds Mansion dining room (directly across the hall from the "snuggery" where the complimentary brandy is kept). The hemp-necklace-wearing dude brought us our food in a series of courses, starting with a grapefruit beverage not altogether different from Sunny D (if we'd been in South Africa, we wouldn't have been so surprised). The main course was a thick pancake containing some sort of fruit, far more than either of us normally eat for breakfast. (Actually, Gretchen doesn't normally eat any breakfast at all.) I was happy with the meal, mostly because it included coffee and wasn't rich in eggy slime. Strangely, the coffee served for breakfast was of a much lower quality than the cup I'd made myself using a completely automated coffee robot in the third floor hallway.
We hung around the mansion until checkout time (11am), mostly reading from The Prehistory of the Far Side. I also took a few pictures in and around our room. Interestingly, I hadn't felt any desire to take pictures of my new nephew in law; it had somehow seemed a bit premature. It seems tasteless to take pictures of somebody so inert - it's like photographing passed-out sorority girls.
On the drive back to Hurley we mostly listened to CDs, but sometimes we'd listen to the radio instead. One of the stations was Froggy 98, a central-Pennsylvania country music station. I'd never before heard such heavy-handed branding on a radio station. In nearly every phrase uttered by the DJ there was some reference to frogs or ponds. "I'm Chris Croaker hoppin' along with you here in the swamp and next we'll be jumping into another 10 songs here on Froggy 98!" It was both unbearable and weirdly fascinating at the same time. If you're a fan of the mental exercise of reductio ad absurdum, this was an interesting edge case for saturation branding.
Later, near Scranton, we were listening to a pop music station when the latest Britney Spears hit, "In the Zone," came on. It featured her usual vapidly croaky sultriness layered over delightfully perky techno-Indian instrumentals. This must have been the song that got her to tell an interviewer about how into Indian spiritual religions she was, only to be asked if one of these was Hinduism, only to clarify, "What’s that? Is it like Kabbalah?." Anyway, both Gretchen and I agreed it was a good song, even if it was just another Janet Jackson rip off. I'm a sucker for South Asian and Middle Eastern influences in Western pop.
Back home, everything was pretty much the way we'd left it, except somebody had made some serious inroads on the liquor cabinet. More disturbingly, somebody had smoked cigarettes in the upstairs bathroom. You could smell it strongly if you put your nose up the window sill, where some idiot had stood and smoked, convinced that all of his or her smoke was blowing out of the house. Gretchen had made it clear to our house sitter that there was to be no smoking in our house, so it wasn't as if there had been a misunderstanding. It's yet more proof that smokers are desperate people willing to pull desperate stunts. And they either have no idea of or are in denial about non-smokers' ability to detect their activity days after it takes place. The problem with house sitters is that the people whose lives are unsettled enough to be available for house sitting also tend to be unreliable, sociopathic, lazy, or a combination of all three.
In the evening I took my Vaio laptop computer apart with the conviction that I could install a new 40 gigabyte hard drive inside it. But I was wrong. Oh, I could physically install it okay (although getting an ultra-slim Vaio open wide enough to slip in a new hard drive is an unusually delicate operation, even for a professional). The problem was that no matter what I did to that hard drive before installing it, it refused to boot. Using a DOS shell, I copied every file from a working Windows 98 installation onto the drive, but something fundamental was wrong and the Vaio refused to boot.
The picture of Eleanor I painted as a birthday present for Gretchen.
It's based on a photograph taken on October 29th, 2003.
The robot who made me excellent coffee this morning.
A view from a window in Reynolds Mansion.
I found a door leading to a secret unfinished room behind our room's fireplace.
Here I'm looking back through that door from just outside the Matrix.
Using leaves for natural details, a cost-effective stand-in for real Victorian ornateness.
Glasses and such available in the hallway outside our room.
I-80 in Pennsylvania. The steam on the horizon is from the cooling towers of a nuke plant.
I-80 in Pennsylvania. Note the presence of our radar detector on the dashboard.
A rotting factory in Scranton.
Fast food and budget accommodations beckon near Scranton.
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