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:
   moss toilet paper
Friday, June 30 2006

setting: Adirondack Hotel, Long Lake, Hamilton County, New York

I sort of had the hope of maybe getting a little nookie this morning, but Gretchen was so desperate to get out of the Adirondack Hotel that I had to take a two week raincheck.
On the drive back to BMC from Long Lake, I pointed out the distinctly boreal nature of the forest in the area. It was mostly comprised of evergreens: spruce, fir, White Pine, hemlock, and tamarack. There were also Red Maples and some White Birch. Many of the larger trees had the distinct banner-appearance (all their branches in a single plane leaving the trunk in only one direction) indicative of stress. In the pass between Long Lake and Blue Mountain Lake we not have been terribly far below the treeline.
We arrived at Blue Mountain Center while there was still coffee, though it had long since been oxidized to a bitter flavor. I drank it with toast out on the front porch, watching the lake. And that was it; Gretchen had to go back to her monastically creative lifestyle and I had to drive back home.
On the way back east through the Adirondacks to I-87, I found myself wondering about the subtle differences in the white cultures that had settled these mountains versus those who, 150 years before, had settled the Catskills. Why are small Adirondack settlements called "hamlets" versus the Catskill/Hudson Valley term of "village"? In the Catskills I've seen a lot of schoolbus turn arounds, but in the Adirondacks their turnarounds are for a more fundamental government service: snowplows.
Then there are the black flies. I'd managed to get to the Adirondacks during the tail end of black fly season and, on the drive home, had four welts to show for it. They were all in the back of my neck near the hairline. I thought those four welts were uncomfortable, but I'd gotten off lucky. Most of the residents at Blue Mountain Center looked like they were suffering from chicken pox, at least on their arms and legs. (Gretchen maintains a diet so high in garlic that she'd managed to escape relatively unscathed.) Black flies might seem like a minor inconvenience to someone not familiar with them, but they're so bad in the Adirondacks that the tourist season doesn't begin in earnest until the black fly season is over.
I stopped near the subscontinental divide between the St. Lawrence and Hudson watersheds because of an urgent need to use the facilities. There were, of course, no actual facilities, so I had to use the kind patronized by chipmunks and bears. Such animals never have a use for toilet paper, but a human is rarely comfortable using the facilities without it. Initially all I saw that might serve my sanitary need was spruce needles. But then I noticed the thick, moist moss covering every square inch of soil and rock. It actually proved better than toilet paper for the unpleasant task I gave it. It was such lush moss that I thought I might be able to use it for landscaping around the house, so I gathered a bunch of the still-unsullied stuff and put it in the car.

After I got home I went out with the Tillsons for dinner at La Pupuseria, the usual place we dine when we get together. Afterwards we walked up and down the Strand while a bad cover band (the kind folks have for budget Bar Mitzvahs) played familiar moldy rock and roll standards, including "Brown Eyed Girl." "If I never have to hear this song again it will be too soon for me," observed Ms. Tillson.
I let the dogs off leash at the construction site at the east end of the Strand, where an old factory made of bricks has been completely demolished down to the bedrock. Sally and I explored that factory some years ago and I remember thinking that, what with its commanding view of Rondout Creek, it might make a good shell for some expensive yuppie condos. Evidently, though, it was a Superfund site, or something damn close to it. As we walked along, the Tillsons and I kept seeing things we might be able to salvage, like lengths of PVC pipe and old brick. But the possibility of PCB contamination was something we didn't want to risk. "But maybe," I said, "It will be like homeopathy, and protect us." Ms. Tillson, who actually believes in homeopathy and has a homeopathic vet for her dog Sadie, laughed heartily.
A cop cruised through the construction site while we were there and I'd already composed my excuse for us being there when he rolled up, but he just kept on going. I guess when you get into your thirties cops don't really care so much what you might be up to. Unless, of course, you're in Charleston, West Virginia, where the Tillsons and Mr. Tillson's mother were accosted by not one but two squad cars for walking on an embankment near some expensive houses in broad daylight. The cops thought they might be casing the houses for future robberies. In Kingston, on the other hand (as Mr. Tillson put it), "as long as you stop beating that guy and put your baseball bat behind your back as the cops drive by, you're cool."

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