shed repossession rabbit hole
Wednesday, September 14 2022
It was a Wednesday rich with meetings, so I began my day with a recreational 150 milligram dose of pseudoephedrine. I'd hoped this would propel me through some tricky software development, but I never got to it today.
At around 5:00pm I carried Neville outside to make him piss and then drove without the dogs to Kingston's Thruway exist traffic circle park & ride, where I met Gretchen, who was driving directly from the Woodstock bookstore. I rode with her to the nearby Moonburger so we could get vegan hamburgers and fries. Last time we'd gone there, they'd screwed up order in multiple ways, but this time they seemed to have their shit together and not only got us what we'd ordered, but did so on a schedule comporting with the expectations of fast food. We then drove back to the park & ride and had a little picnic on a grassy berm near some actual trees. While we were finishing up, Sarah the Vegan and Nancy arrived separately from wherever they'd been, and all of us carpooled together in our Chevy Bolt up to Catskill (the village in Greene County). I was driving, and both Nancy and Sarah seemed impressed by out zippy little electric car, despite a weird fungal smell that seems to be coming from the knot of cloth grocery bags in the way back.
I don't know that I've ever been in the Village of Catskill before, and I'd certainly never gotten out of a vehicle there and walked around. Gretchen had coerced me into leaving the house tonight to attend the showing of a new film entitled Moonage Daydream, an artsy documentary (sort of) about David Bowie's life and art. It was being shown in Catskill's Community Theatre (in the center of the village on main street) as a part of a collaboration between Upstate Films (whom Alana now works for; she was there tonight) and the Woodstock Film Festival, a yearly festival of early autumn. Before the film, though, we were treated to the songs of a youngish normcore gentleman named Stephen Bluhm. Superficially, they sounded vaguely like songs by the Smiths, though they were significantly goofier and more lushly produced. Bluhm performed alone on stage with a guitar, having all the other instruments play on a pre-recorded backing track. Bluhm's voice was kind of terrible and pitchy, but Nancy and Sarah seemed to think Bluhm was a sweetheart all the same.
As for Moonage Daydream,
I like some David Bowie songs, but I'm nothing like the Bowie fan that Gretchen is. I find much of his music overrated and his personas perhaps a bit self-obsessed. I prefer a bit more humility from my entertainers. Interestingly, Bowie's outrageous makeup and outfits early in his career (in the early 1970s) trigger my anti-1980s revulsion, whereas his appearance in the 1980s (considered here separately from his music) doesn't have this effect. This suggests that Bowie really was a fashion pioneer, looking like something from the 1980s a decade earlier than everyone else. The film didn't really work as a documentary, as it didn't provide such essential information as dates. And the decisions for what to include seemed to have been design to show Bowie in the best possible light. Nothing was said, for example, about his cocaine use or his first wife. The film also included plenty of unnecessary artsy fartsy filler and, despite the huge volume of material to work from, chose to show, for example, a grainy clip of Bowie descending an escalator not once but twice. For all these reasons, the film seemed to drag for me. When it was done, it felt like I'd been sitting there for four hours. But Gretchen said it had only been two, but that didn't include Stephen Bluhm's performance. Fortunately, I'd smuggled in a travel mug containing orange juice laced with gin.
Back at the house, I made myself another drink and continued watching a new strain of videos that the YouTube algorithm has been putting in my stream. These began a day or two ago as videos showcasing pours of concrete to make residential driveways. The videos were of good quality, made by professional men wearing GoPro cameras attached to their chests so as to give the viewer a similar view to the one that they had. Eventually HVAC repair videos started entering my feed, and by tonight I was being exposed to a profession I didn't even know exists: men (and they're always men) who conduct shed repossessions. It made for one hell of a compelling YouTube rabbit hole.
The profession of shed repossession was amazing for several different reasons that hit all the notes I like in a YouTube video: interesting technology, talented humans doing things with photogenic cleverness, and people whose misery highlights how lucky I am not to be them. One of these reasons for amazement was that it's evidently common in America for people to be so broke that they are forced to obtain storage sheds on a rent-to-buy basis, signing onerous conditions that allow the sellers to repossess the sheds for a single missed payment. And missed payments are a common thing, though for the cases I watched tonight there had been many missed payments. Another thing that I found fascinating was that some of the sheds being repossessed were not being used as storage buildings. No, people were living in them, which isn't much better than being homeless. Typically there will be improvised wiring in such a shed, but little or no insulation and no plumbing whatsoever; they're basically like the Shaque I built and lived in at my parents' place back in the 1990s, though with unfinished walls, usually no windows, and huge piles of beer cans. The third thing I found amazing was the equipment. The guy doing the repossession would show up at some random sketchy location (on the channel I was watching, it was usually in rural Ohio) all by himself with a flatbed truck, a trailer, and a tiny-but-powerful remote-controlled fork lift on tank treads called a "Mule" (I think it's a brand) that is able to jack up one side of a shed and push or pull it to the truck to be loaded once a set of detachable wheels were placed under the opposite side of the shed. This tractor automated away much of the work, leaving the repossessor to do other tasks like get junk out of the way, figure out a workable path, and hook up and pilot the Mule.
Ramona and Neville on the laboratory beanbag today. It's one of the two I took from the Red Hook office when it was closed down. Click to enlarge.
The larger cat fur balls in my collection as they were today.
A tiny painting of Neville I made today. It's only 1.5 by 1.5 inches.
Stephen Bluhm performing tonight at the Catskill Community Theatre before the showing of the film about David Bowie.
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