a woodchuck stakes his claim
Saturday, September 9 2006
Since a drive through the Catskills back in June I've had the pieces of a newfangled vacuum-tube-based solar collector. The garage and laundry room floor projects came along to interrupt the installation of this collector, but now, while the tail end of warm weather remains, I want to finally get it up on the roof and operational. In order to do this, I'll need to add some structural support for it, outriggers projecting southward from the south side of the solar deck, where they will position the collector below (but in the same tilted plane as) the existing collector, the one I made using conventional roofing and plumbing materials. At various times today I took measurements or just stood around, looking and thinking. Projects like this should never be rushed.
As a social/political obligation, Gretchen felt the need to attend the grand opening of another farm animal sanctuary, not the one she is (and, for web things, I am) affiliated with. This other one is run by... well, let's just say relations can be rocky at times. This is the way it is within any lefty activist community.
I came along because Gretchen was going to need moral support. We drove out to Willow, found a parking spot in the shade (we'd brought the dogs) and walked around the place, shaking hands and hugging people as necessary. The barns were tidy, there were huge pigs wallowing in the mud, and there was a crowd of people standing around eating vegan food or (when they played) listening to a singer/songwriter or two. I was hungry but decided to forgo getting something to eat when I realized that two personas non grata from the other farm animal sanctuary (they'd come to be regarded this way either through psychotic behavior or violence towards animals) were serving the vegan food. This is the kind of crappy politics I'm talking about, where one organization in the movement rejects a volunteer for having some untenable trait, and he's snapped up by another organization in the movement and then this volunteer proceeds to destroy leaflets and trash the reputations of his former organization. It makes for great gossip, but it's no wonder liberals can't win any battles with the right wing neanderthals in this country.
This afternoon as I continued thinking about my upcoming solar collector expansion project, I kept encountering a woodchuck. He was small for his species, no larger than a gallon bucket of paint. I first encountered him coming northward on the stone walkway leading from the steps down to the Stick Trail. Julius the cat saw him and did a massive double take, not really sure whether the woodchuck was predator or prey. I supposed this was a young woodchuck who had moved here as part of his dispersal from his ancestral homeland. I figured the moment he realized he was at a house with two dogs he'd find a better place to live and leave. But no, when the dogs saw him he retreated into the tiny crawlspace beneath the house's front entryway (the only part of the house not seated on a concrete slab). This crawlspace is big enough for a cat or a woodchuck but not a 40 pound dog. Sally did what she could to expand the entranceway, but there wasn't really much she could do since the bedrock wasn't too far down and I'd made a habit of disposing of concrete detritus in the entranceway to that crawlspace.
Later, though, the woodchuck had evidently found his way out of the other end of that crawlspace and into the narrow channel between the house's western basement wall and a retaining wall just uphill from the house. This is the same retaining wall I completely rebuilt with a fancy drainage system in the late summer of 2004. So I was understandably pissed when Sally started a frenzy of digging along this wall. She knocked off the rocks I'd carefully piled atop the ugly concrete blocks of the wall itself and then continued her mayhem under the south deck at the southwest corner of the house, where she managed to tear a piece of a plastic wrap from beneath portland-cement-based stucco, exposing a patch of asphalt waterproofing the size of a 9 inch television screen. Now I was really pissed.
I patched up the basement wall with more asphalt and plastic and restacked the rocks on the retaining wall, cursing the whole time that I was being distracted by such nonsense.
Every now and then it comes up in conversation, the short documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot It was shot by a small film crew in May, 1986 in a parking lot outside a Judas Priest concert in Maryland, and it's supposed to be brilliant, or hysterical, or perhaps historical. Being a movie, my first inclination was to try to rent it from Netflix. But no, Netflix doesn't have it. So then today I finally got around to searching for it as a BitTorrent (nope!) and on the Gnutella network. I know Matt Rogers thinks Gnutella is so 2003, but it was there. By tonight it had downloaded and I'd burned a video CD of it, which Gretchen and I watched while waiting for a Buddhist friend from Rosendale to come over to visit and pirate Macintosh software.
On first viewing, it's hard to see what is so remarkable about the film. Gretchen was completely underwhelmed, but I saw something there. What was unusual was that this was history, not the way people deliberately preserve it, but the way it actually was. 1986 really wasn't that terribly long ago, but in Heavy Metal Parking Lot it seems somehow more remote than the Roaring 20s. Perhaps it was just that working class heavy metal subculture, but their style (poofed-up hair, acid washed jeans, and a peculiar hatred of sleeves) were so different from those of today that I'd be hard pressed to say who in that film was attractive and who was not. And the cars! I'd forgotten how ugly cars used to be. It's only after reading online reviews and then re-watching parts of the film that its true entertainment value becomes apparent. Unlike a planned production, this film is rich in details. Every moment contains many things, all happening at once, many of them revealing. While, for example, Zebraman expounds on how punk sucks and metal rules, his friend to his right nervously attempts to make contributions and then flails away, acknowleding his lack of worthiness. This makes you wonder, what is their relationship? It seems Zebraman has a follower, one who quails in spastic drunken fear from a loudmouth fond of making assertions without backing them up. (It comes as no surprise to learn that Zebraman later settled down in suburbia and now listens to country music exclusively.)
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