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:
   best Mexican food ever
Sunday, January 3 2016

location: harbor off of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

This morning we'd all be delivered to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to begin the gradual process that would ultimately take us back to our homes in the frozen north. Those with checked luggage handed it over to the Letty crew to be taken to the airplane, leaving us with just our carryon luggage. The other day I'd borrowed a tube of antifungal cream from Jeff to treat my nascent athlete's foot, but when I went to return it, he just gave it back, saying otherwise he'd be throwing it out. There's just something a bit too personal about a product like that. He was willing to accept back the cuticle scissors he'd loaned to Gretchen, though he admitted this was only because he had an autoclave in his office.
While waiting for the crew to take us on a final panga ride to the docks, we congregated in the booths in the dining area. Jeff was doing a goofy thing with the placemats, holding up to obscure most of his face and then peering out around them to say things with a faux Chinese acccent. "It's funny because it's racist," I declared. When young Peter! declined to give Gretchen some gum, Jeff insisted that he not only give Gretchen gum for right now, but also for later. That's the kind of parents they are, and it seems to be working. Meanwhile Jeff & Leah's 14 year old daughter Alexandra was wearing a black teeshirt reading, "SORRY I'M LATE I DIDN'T WANT TO COME" — the perfect balance of surly adolescent disaffection and awareness of that disaffection's intrinsic futility.
The Letty crew needed us to leave the boat as early as possible so they could quickly prepare it for the next batch of 20 tourists, who'd be flying in later today on the same plane we'd then be flying out on. So a bullshit activity had been devised for us in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. After our panga ride to the docks, we were driven in buses to the Interpretative Museum, where we were turned loose for a half hour of walking around, slowly reading placards and looking at displays, most of which concerned the history of humans in the Galapagos. Such activities number among my least favorite ways to spend time, and I wasn't alone. When I told Chloe what we'd be doing, she let out an existential moan and then, as we walked to the museum along a long curving raised walkway, declared her preference for just being under that walkway for the duration. The one thing I remember learning from the Interpretative Museum was that there had once been a penal colony in the Galapagos, and it had been administered with typical 19th Century harshness. It was merciful that we were only asked to spend a half hour in the Interpretative Museum, because we wouldn't be riding to the airport for another two hours. We'd be spending those two hour loosed in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, hopefully spending our dollars with abandon.
Oddly, though, it was difficult to find a restaurant in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno with WiFi, even there along the waterfront. We asked in a few places, including a bar (which was closed, of course, as it wasn't even 9:00am yet). Eventually we found a hotel/breakfast place with WiFi called La Zayapa, so we ordered coffee and tomate de árbol juice and beamed our attention up into the grid. This was when we first learned about the right wing kooks ("Y'all Qæda") who took over that wildlife sanctuary in Oregon. It started raining while we were out under an umbrella in front of La Zayapa, and it wasn't long after that before the breakfast counter shut down. Fortunately, by then the rain was mostly over.
We found Jeff, Leah, and their family and decided to have lunch together at a restaurant called Patagonia. There wasn't much for Gretchen and me there but weird-colored french fries, strawberry-jam-colored ketchup, and a spaghetti whose sauce might have been made from that ketchup. But that spaghetti was weirdly good anyway. When I went to the bathroom, there was a huge spider (it looked like an American wolf spider, but bigger) on the wall near the door, and just after I noticed her, she executed a weird backflip towards me, hit the floor, and scurried behind a piece of equipment, possibly counting on my having weak skills of object permanence. When she saw my reaction of horror, one of the women working in the back smiled and said "spider!" in English. There were a lot of flies in Patagonia, and I could see a big spider like that being an asset.
After lunch, we crossed the street to the waterfront, where a sea lion was lounging on a park bench. He soon decided to take a dip in a nearby pool, an algæ-choked construction containing a scale model of the Galapagos Islands. While that sea lion was in the pool, another one rose up on his haunches, climbed up over the back of the bench, and then dropped down to the sea. He wasn't there long before the sea lion in the pool came out of the water, somehow also got up onto that already-occupied bench, and loudly told the interloper to leave, which he did.
At the appointed time, Hernan and James returned, shepherded us onto our bus, and then saw us off at the airport. By that point, they'd probably already gotten the coming week's twenty tourists set up in their cabins aboard the Letty.
As we went through the internal customs line en route to air port's secure seating area, Gretchen and I were dreading what would happen when authorities discovered that we didn't have those "leaving the Galapagos" coupons. Our guides had said we'd have to pay $20 each, which, though not much, represented the pointless waste of a perfectly good pair of Jacksons. But when we got to the people who collect the tickets, Gretchen said we'd accidentally left them back on the boat and that we were part of the big family group coming through. They checked the computer (seriously, it's no longer 1977, and there's a record for everything), wrote something down, and waved us through. Tiny disaster averted!

After an unremarkable flight back to Guayaquil, we said goodbye to first the extra four who had been added to our contingent (who would be continuing on through Quito), and then to Gretchen's brother and his family, who would be staying in the airport for many hours waiting for a flight back to Miami. Those of us remaining (12 people) would be spending one last night in the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Guayaquil. After a week on a boat, hours spent waiting, shuffling around, and shooing flies in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, it was great to once more be in a clean air conditioned room (1410) with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Guayaquil airport. We had some technical trouble with our teevee, but eventually we got it working. And the WiFi was better than anything in the Galapagos.
In the early evening, we got together with Gretchen's parents and took a gypsy cab from the hotel to Victor Emilio Estrada, where a vegan restaurant called Amaranto was. But when we got there, we found that it is only open for lunch. We found ourselves in a Middle Eastern neighborhood and Gretchen's mother suggested we go to one of the many shawarma places, where at least we could maybe get some falafel. That seemed like a bad idea to Gretchen, who thought it would be a better idea to try to get vegan food at the Mexican restaurant we stumbled upon on. Interestingly, Gretchen's mother seemed to think we were as unlikely to find something vegan in the Mexican restaurant as Gretchen thought we were unlikely to find it in a shawarma place. Still, we went into the Mexican place and talking with the guy there to feel it out. Well, Gretchen talked with him; nobody else could follow his rapid-fire Spanish. Usually Spanish speakers slow down or switch to English when they hear us struggling with their language. Not this guy. Gradually we came to realize that this Mexican restaurant (a place called Tijuana Restaurant & Bar) was going to work. They had a vegetarian section, and all they would have to do would be to avoid applying the cheese.
We ordered a bunch of things, the most unusual being something called "sopes," open-faced tacos in a crunchy tortilla shaped like a shallow cup. Instead of meat, everything came with a delicious layer of smashed beans and mushrooms. I've noticed that frequently Mexican restaurants, when veganizing something, fail to substitute something in place of what is removed. Not this place. I've eaten a lot of Mexican food, and this might have been my best Mexican restaurant meal ever. And it wasn't just the food that made the place a delight; nearby was a huge poster of Frida Kahlo around which wild geckos dashed about like tiny green squirrels.
Our bellies full of delicious Mexican food, we returned to the busy streets of Guayaquil, walking back along Victor Emilio Estrada, the sidewalk of which had been ripped off for radical sewer repairs. It was instructive to see how shallow, small, and rinkydink the sewage system was. It was made entirely of plastic and none of it was more than about two feet below the level where the new sidewalk would be. In fairness to its infrastructure engineers, they don't have to worry about frost in Guayaquil.
I'm not a big fan of either the after-dinner dessert run or walking the streets of a urban environment after hours and peering into the windows of closed shops. Doing such things contributed to my ossified dislike of Rhinebeck. But here I was, with the people who love to do those things. Fortunately, we only did it for about twenty minutes before attempting to hail a cab back to the hotel. The car that stopped was not a cab, just some guy in a tricked-out car. Evidently, that's how things work in Ecuador, so we hopped in for an affordable ride back.
Back at the hotel, we came upon the non-child Greeks in the lobby. They'd just gotten back from a meat-heavy Peruvian restaurant at the nearby mall. After a little banter, we said our goodbyes for the trip and headed off to our rooms. Both my mother-in-law and I were looking forward to taking advantage of the bathtubs in our respective rooms.

A pelican in the Puerto Baquerizo Moreno harbor. The Letty is one of the boats in the distance. Click for a wider view.

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