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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   unpleasant cannabis and hospitality
Friday, February 3 2023

rural Hurley township, Ulster County, New York State, United States of America

I got out of bed on my own at about 4:20 am, minutes before the alarm Gretchen had set was to go off. We had to get up early to make our flight to Costa Rica. The first thing I did was go out into the brutal cold and start the Forester, which Ferm we would be driving with Fern to the Newark airport (and she'd be driving it back home). Fortunately there was no ice to scrape, perhaps because it was too cold for the atmosphere to contain a much moisture.
Within a few minutes Gretchen and Fern were up and I roused the dogs and made them pee in the yard (since there was no reason they couldn't come along to see us off).
I did most of the driving to the airport, and at that hour of the day the Thruway was so empty that it was difficult to travel a reasonable speed, as there were no other vehicles to help me pace myself (and I do not ever use cruise control). As always, things got confusing near the airport, where all we wanted was a cellphone parking area where we could let the dogs out for a little run. We kept seeing signs for it, but then as we got near it, the signs disappeared. Eventually, though, we found it. It was a lifeless parking lot surrounded by a fence of steel bars, and it was hard for the dogs to find anything natural to poop or piss on. It was also very cold, with a howling wind making conditions even worse.
Gretchen drove us the rest of the way while I consumed a nugget of cannabis I'd put in my pocket. I wanted it all gone by the time I went into the airport, and I put what remained in the glove compartment so it wouldn't be on me in the airport. At terminal C, we said goodbye to Fern and the dogs (and Gretchen gave Fern $100 for her troubles).
Owing to TSA Precheck, Gretchen and I sailed quickly through security and made it to our gate with plenty of time to spare. I then went to the bathroom to poop and, as I said there, I realized the cannabis was already kicking in. Usually when I eat cannabis, it takes an hour or more before I begin feeling it, and it had been a half hour at most. Perhaps my system wasn't as effective at blunting its effects because I'd drunk a bit too much alcohol last night.
When I returned to our seats in the waiting area, I told Gretchen about the cannabis (which I might have kept secret had the effects been milder, as it's been in the past). I was pretty sure she would figure out that something was up with me. She immediately brought up the day's big news, that a Chinese spy balloon had been spotted over Montana, and this was complicating a visit today by Secretary of State A. Blinken to China (a visit he would go on to cancel). In my altered state, the balloon became this cunning ploy by a money-strapped would-be superpower to surveil its biggest strategic rival on the cheap using a platform from the Victorian age as an alternative to expensive satellites. I wanted to read an opinion piece by Paul Krugman but got distracted by the balloon story at the website of the New York Times.
By the time it was time to get in line to board our plane, the cannabis was hitting me so hard that I was wondering if I was going to be able to stand at all. But the thing about cannabis is that no matter how hard imagining doing something, actually doing it is never anywhere near as hard, even when it has completely destroyed your ability to have a normal stream of thoughts. I found that I did have to sway (or otherwise dance) to stay reasonably comfortable in a standing position, but I didn't (as I feared I might) collapse to the ground and curl up like an armadillo under assault.
As we were boarding the flight, one of the gate employees accosted Gretchen and made her check her big bag, saying that she couldn't carry two bags onto the plane. In my cannabis-addled state, I initially thought they'd singled her our for something they had seen in her backpack when it was xrayed. But no, this was strictly a baggage volume issue, and, since we were seated near the back of the plane, all the overhead bins were already full. Fortunately, they didn't charge Gretchen for the service of checking her bag.
While Gretchen was dealing with all that, she and I somehow became separated, so there I was marching to the back of the plane with no idea what seat I wss heading to (all that information was on Gretchen's phone). But then she called my name from well behind me and told me the seats to look for. Since ours was a full flight, there was someone assigned to the seat between Gretchen's and mine, and I had to negotiate with that guy to offer him a window seat in my cannabis-addled state.
I thought it important to minimize my risk of contracting covid, particularly early in the trip when I would be crowded in with so many traveling strangers. So I'd been wearing my mask most of the time in the airport and also while boarding the plane. But I think the cannabis had my metabolism kicked up and I needed more oxygen than normal, and I wasn't in the airplane long before I realized I just couldn't keep wearing the mask. By that point the air seemed to be flowing nicely from that auxillary engine that runs before the plane enters the friendly skies, so I removed my mask.
The effects of the cannabis continued to ratchet up well beyond anything I might've been hoping to experience. At some point Gretchen expressed her annoyance that I had decided to take drugs before the flight and bemoaned that we weren't having the same experience at all. This made me sad, and after letting that sink in for awhile, I eventually turned to her and said that I was sorry "about it." I didn't elaborate on what "it" was, but there was so much obvious sincerity in my apology that Gretchen immediately dropped the whole issue. She and I then played a little Spelling Bee. I wasn't in top form for that, of course, but I did managed to find a few words.
When the plane took off, the feeling of being pushed back hard into my seat was coming just as an overwhelming wave of cannabis-related body-feelings passed through me. It made me feel as if I was going to either implode or explode. And then the things happening on all the little back-of-the-seat screens around me took a turn for the unnecessarily violent. I did, however, find myself enjoying glimpses of a movie I would later learn was entitled Vesper. It was set in a magical landscape with seemingly-sentient plants and populated with occasional grotesque humanoids, some of which seemed to have texture-free skin with the hue of drowned earthworms. I couldn't hear any of the soundtrack to it, but I thought I should watch it if the cannabis ever let my brain function normally again.
When the drink cart came through, all I wanted to drink was ginger ale. They'd run out of it by that point, but they still had Sprite, which was (to my way of thinking) almost the same damn thing. I ended up with two cans of it after Gretchen offered to get me some too.
After several hours of cannabis-related suffering, the feelings seemed to subside and I thought I was in the clear. Then I got hit with another full-body wave of it, bad enough for me to wonder where the air sickness bag was. After that, though, I started feeling close to normal, though I was far from comfortable. I was, I think, a little hungover from the alcohol I'd had last night (which manifested mostly in my gut; maybe I really just can't drink the way I used to). Then there was the problem of the seat I was sitting in. United Airlines had somehow produced an effective torture device that was impossible to sit in for a five or six hour flight. Something was definitely wrong in my ass near where my legs attached. I kept trying to take my weight off that part of my body by leaing far enough forward that my head was against the seat in front of me. But that wasn't really comfortable either, and for entirely different reasons. The solution to my discomfort came when the rando guy trapped against the window needed to get up and go to the bathroom. At that point Gretchen and I traded seats, and none of the things wrong with the middle seat were wrong with the aisle seat, though my knee sticking out into the aisle kept getting bonked by people and the drink cart.
Late in the flight, the drink cart came back through, and I asked for a blood mary mix. It was exactly what my body wanted. Gretchen had a sip of mine and decided it was exactly what her body wanted too.
After landing in San Jose, Costa Rica, we found ourselves in a very long line for immigration. But once we got to the front of that line, we turned around and saw that there was almost nobody behind us. Costa Rica ia a reasonable country full of reasonable bureaucrats. They wanted us to demonstrate that we had return tickets (so we wouldn't be in Costa Rica forever), and when Gretchen couldn't find hers, it was good enough that she found the email from United mentioning a return ticket.
From San Jose, we were supposed to catch a little Green Airways puddle jumper to Tambor, the airport near the south end of the Nicoya Peninsula. But for some reason we'd been bumped from our 3:15pm flight to a 5:00pm flight, something that had Gretchen stewing. She tried to get a ticketing agent to find us a seat on the 3:15, but those planes are tiny and there just wasn't any room. As it was, we had to check nearly all our luggage, which meant I wouldn't have a laptop for our four-plus-hour layover in San Jose.
As we waited at the domestic gate (it was a pleasant space and definitely not crowded), Gretchen busted out a hummus wrap she'd bought at the Newark airport. It was something to eat, which was exciting (we hadn't really had anything substantial to eat, and Gretchen had accidentally left the sandwiches she'd packed back at home). But one bit of that hummus wrap, and I could tell it was one of the worst examples of that sort of food. The hummus tasted like glue and so, somehow, did the flatbread it was wrapped in. It had a sprinkle of pickled cabbage in it that was nice, but Gretchen didn't even like that part, claiming it was "too sweet." But it was food, damnit, and we ate it.
There wasn't much else to do except read articles on my phone (for me) or practice DuoLingo (for Gretchen). There was a store where we could buy things, so over the hours I bought first a bag of not-great plantain chips (hecho in Costa Rica) and then a double shot of espresso (my only caffeine today!) and a short tube of Pringles potato chips.
At 5:00pm, a plane to Tambor started boarding, so we leapt up and got in line. But when we got to the front, we were told we weren't supposed to be on that plane. There was, it turned out, another plane to Tambor that was also supposed to be boarding at that time. But it wasn't boarding yet. Yes, somehow we'd been bumped two flights.
When we finally boarded it, the plane was so tiny that it only had room for eleven passengers and two crew, neither of whom was a flight attendant. There would've been no room for a drink cart anyway, as the "aisle" was only about six inches wide, just enough for a human leg of someone walking sideways. As we boarded, there was an open cooler containing soft drinks and beers. Both Gretchen and I had had a rough day, so we both grabbed beers. They were cans of Imperial, the lager that seems to be the most common beer in Costa Rica.
We had a short, beautiful low-altitude flight to Tambor, with me snapping occasional photos out the window with my phone. I hadn't remembered that the Tambor airport has the entrance to its runway at the beach; as we came in for a landing, people on the beached could be seeing waving at us.
It was about sunset as we climbed out of the plane and there was a nice gentleman with an old SUV waiting for us. Gretchen spent most of the ride to Santa Teresa, our destination, talking to him in Spanish. The drive across the Nicoya Peninsula was as rough as we remembered it, and it took us an hour to drive the 20 or so miles. Part of the problem was some construction happening on the south side of Santa Theresa, which we had to take brutal dirt roads to avoid.
We'd be staying at a casita run by a skinny sun-dried Canadian woman named April. She immediately triggered our "personality disorder" radar. Though she works in the hospitality industry, she came across as unpleasantly argumentative. She also had no evident sense of humor. When, for example, she asked us why we'd come to Costa Rica, I joked that it was just to get away from the snow. She looked at me with disdain and said something like, "Oh!"
April gave us a long introduction to the casita, which amounted only to a bedroom (the only fully-indoor room that could be air conditioned), the kitchen (which was open to the outside air with no screen) and the bathrooom/shower area. There was also a nice plunge pool set up as an infinity pool, with a grand view of the ocean below and practically no signs of human civilization between that and the pool. On either side of the pool were outdoor day beds, which might come in handy given how little indoor space there was. April growsed about some problem with the pool that was causing it to somehow lose a foot of water every day, something that had stumped all the pool experts. I said (only semi-jokingly) that I'd try to figure it out for her, and she took me completely seriously.
April was full of little random grievances, some of which were related to the sort of people who came to Costa Rica during the covid pandemic. She said they'd destroyed the town with their remote working, which had inflated prices while not helping the local economy (she mentioned pottery classes, yoga, fishing, and surfing). She went on to say that she refuses to rent to remote workers, which was a little awkward considering that my intention was to work remotely. When this came up later in the conversation, she said she wished she had known beforehand, saying that WiFi might not be good for "big files" and may not be all that reliable. The upshot of all this was that April was making us feel as much like shit as she could when what she should've been doing was making us feel welcome. On the plus side, she had put a sixer of Imperial, fresh fruit, and lots of coffee in the refrigerator. And she seemed to have a real love of wildlife and her three dogs (two of which were rescues). She mentioned, for example, her horror when some guys staying her the casita destroyed a nest of harmless bees just because they were, well, bees.
After April had left, Gretchen and I touched base on how unpleasant she is, wondering how it was possible she'd gotten so many good reviews on AirBnB. We then jumped into the pool to wash the travel grime from our bodies. [REDACTED]

Suburbs (or something) west of San Jose. Click to enlarge.

Countryside west of San Jose. Click to enlarge.

Our plane at the Tambor airport. Click to enlarge.

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