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
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Irving housing

got that wrong

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Like my brownhouse:
   non-sidewalks of Edison
Friday, August 28 2009

setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

I was going around the house doing minor cleaning in anticipation of the arrival tonight of our house/dog/cat sitters (Ray, Nancy, and Linda), who would be staying here this weekend while Gretchen and I would be down in Philadelphia. At some point I noticed a strange dark smear along the bottom of the wall leading out of the smaller of the two basement guest rooms. I went to see what it was and found that it was a snake skin, one that must have been shed fairly recently (because Gretchen cleaned that room only yesterday). The skin was in two pieces and, when put together, was three and a half feet long. That's not a large snake but it's a lot bigger than the snakes I've been seeing this summer (including a sixteen inch Ringneck that slithered across my foot the other day at the entrance to the greenhouse). From the shape of the skin, it looked to some sort of rat snake. The bigger question, though, was how had it gotten into the house? All the basement doors and windows are kept closed, although until I blocked off a hole under the front entrance a week ago, there was snake-compatible outdoor access to the ceiling above the basement. And I've left a number of rectangular holes in the basement ceiling (after installing a hydronic loop to Gretchen's library), although a snake would have to hurl himself out of there to reach the floor, as there's no snake-friendly way to climb down. It's possible that the snake entered through the front door (which stays open for hours at a time all summer long) and then just slithered down the stairs.
I went looking for the snake in various places in the basement, but it was a fool's errand. There are just too many of places for a snake to hide. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more evidence of him in the future. Hopefully he won't grow big enough to consider Marie (aka "the Baby") food.

At around five we bid our very disappointed dogs adieu and started driving south. Our goal tonight was Edison, New Jersey, a destination Gretchen had prepended to our trip after Ray said he'd be coming up a day early.
We were driving the Honda Civic four door, and it was making an unpleasant rumbling noise at low speed. At first Gretchen thought it might be the passenger-side rear brake, but a few tests determined that the sound was coming from the exhaust system at low engine RPM.
More potentially-disastrous was the "low fuel" light, which started blinking on and off a good 30 miles before our destination. Though she's never run out of gas, Gretchen likes to push the limits of what a gas tank can hold, and, though nervous, wanted to try to make it to Edison before gassing up. But our car performed a Hanukkah miracle and we made it to Edison with only occasional protests from the low fuel light. We didn't end up getting any gas today at all, mostly because all the convenient gas stations were Exxons and Gretchen is, understandably, "still upset about the Exxon Valdez."
After getting to Edison, we dined in a strip mall restaurant called Sukh Sagar, a vegetarian Indian place where all the customers were actual Indians. Perhaps more striking was the fact that a good fraction of the cars on the road out in front were piloted by Indians too. Edison is a surprisingly Indian place, and it probably has something to do with lightbulbs.
That said, not all the "Indians" eating at the table next to us were all that Indian. A woman looked Indian and was with an Indian man and has a seemingly-Indian baby, but they were clearly second-generation Americans, because their preferred language was English (spoken with a generic television accent). And the woman was asking questions about the food that even I could have answered.
The food was good but unusually messy. I ordered a cup of coffee and wasn't asked how I liked it. It came out pre-mixed with milk and spiced up a little like chai tea.
We found a motel on Route 1 called the Edison Motor Lodge. As we were checking in, the guy behind the counter asked if we wanted our room for the whole night. Gretchen asked what the room would cost for an hour, and he said the smallest time unit available was three hours. For him it was all very matter-of-fact, but I couldn't keep from giggling. It's not just in the movies: people really do rent motel rooms just for a few hours.
After we'd moved our stuff in, Gretchen and I went for a walk down Route 1. This part of New Jersey isn't a particularly pedestrian-friendly place, and this stretch of Route 1 was particularly unpleasant for the would-be walker. But many had come before; we found ourselves walking a well-rutted sidewalk-free dirt path along a segment of utility cable that hung at shoulder-level.
I thought maybe we'd buy a six pack at a gas station and take it back to our motel room, but evidently they don't sell beer in New Jersey gas stations. Instead we ended up at the Skylark Diner, a cheerful restaurant with a big U-shaped bar and several hot lady bartenders (one of whom had a tan that we couldn't decided was nature or tanning bed). The drinks, however, were poorly executed. My beer had too much head and Gretchen's cosmo was acrid but strong. It turned out that Gretchen likes Dos Equis, so we switched our drinks.

Back at the motel, we surfed back and forth between two movies: The Pursuit of Happyness (the perfect motel movie) and one of the showcases of Keanu Reeves' dreary acting nuances.

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