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   Appalachian trauma
Saturday, December 2 2023
Gretchen's condition with respect to covid seems not to have worsened overnight, though it hadn't improved either. She's now stuck with an occasional cough that she finds annoying, but beyond that she's pretty much normal. As for me, my sore throat is completely gone and the only symptom I have is a cough that, every 20 minutes or so, produces a hunk of phlegm that I then have to figure out what to do with. Earlier in this covid experience, the phlegm I was producing felt like mere divots of mucous from somewhere in my lungs (I use the term "divot" because they seemed like incidental bits of pulmonary turf) which were small enough that I just swallowed them. But now the coughs are less frequent and the lumps of phlegm are bigger. As I recall from the other time I had covid, this phase can last a month. But as lingering symptoms go, it's a lot better than long covid.

There has been a property on the market for a long time on nearby Eagle's Nest Road, and it includes a tiny off-grid cabin and seven acres of land. Gretchen thinks it would be an ideal starter home for our recent housesitter Fern, who aspires to live somewhere out in nature. Gretchen had heard from the listing agent (a woman who was candid because she knows Gretchen) that the house isn't a place anyone would actually want to live due to unpleasant neighbors. But Gretchen still wanted to check it out. So today she planned an outing for us that involved visiting Eagle's Nest and also drive out to Poughkeepsie to visit Little Loaf Bakeshop, a vegan bakery that has pop-up events at a community kitchen in a place called The Underwear Factory. Gretchen wanted to go to Poughkeepsie first because she was very excited about a cranberry cream cheese croissant and she wanted to get one or two of them before they sold out. Since Gretchen (despite her symptoms) was still nominally covid-free, I decided to wear a mask during the drive. Gretchen drove us south from Kingston through ugly Port Ewin and then along the Hudon on 9W (that part has many beautiful sections and showcases some stunning architecture built by people who could afford views of or access to New York's most storied fjord.
The Underwear Factory is a big old brick building similar the kind we've seen repurposed for contemporary uses in Kingston. Interesting, the walls aren't always plumb and the windows are often set in them with an orientation that makes for tall thin triangles where one surface aspires to plumbness and the other does not. Gretchen knew all the people associated with the Little Loaf Bakeshop and after cheery greetings were exchanged, we got the bad news that the cranberry cream cheese croissants were all sold out. But not all was lost. The bakery folks said they could earmark some of those croissants for Gretchen and send them to Sweet Maresa's in Kingston (since they sell some of their baked goods through Maresa's store). I was more interested in the various savory baked goods, particularly a sort of pizza tart made on a croissant-like "crust." It was so delicious we had to order another one. I don't know how they did it, but in the middle it actually had a sort of anchovy flavor, which is something I don't get to experience as a vegan. (When I was a kid, anchovies were an important component of homemade pizzas.) The bakery people knew we'd been on a vegan cruise in Portugal and wanted to know how that had gone. I said that it was great but that I'd caught covid while on it, which explained why we were wearing a mask. I said that I was no longer infectious and that the masks were out of an abundance of caution.
For covid reasons, we sat in a distant corner of the dining area and drank our cappuccinos and played Spelling Bee on our phones. Something about today's combination of letters caused Gretchen to get to genius much faster than me, which today felt a little humiliating. Part of my problem was that I never remember to play words like "chia" and "canna" (the panagram I found was "MACHINING," though "CHIMICHANGA" was another we could've played.
On the drive back to Kingston, we mostly listened to songs from Dolly Parton's new album Rock Star, which is her reaction to being inducted (unfairly, in her opinion) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Well, she figured, if she's going to be in the hall of fame, she should probably produce a rock album. Some of the songs were really good; her voice in "Magic Man" was at least as solid as Ann Wilson's (though Wilson is only four years younger). Her cover of "Purple Rain," which is one of the few songs she sings by herself, is also a standout.

Though there are people living up on it that used to be our friends (before Gretchen decided they were some combination of annoying and unworthy), we hadn't driven up Eagle's Nest Road in more than ten years. It was largely the same as we remembered it, at least on the lower part. Some of the old rotten buildings behind our old realtor Larry's handmade house were being replaced by more modern-looking structures. And there's that one really inappropriately large house just above it. I don't remember if there had been an Eagles Nest Extended beyond the house with the astronomical observatory (the widow who owned that died something like 15 years ago, leaving much of her considerable land in a conservancy trust), but there is one now. The house we were driving to turned out to be some distance up that, so we kept driving despite the ugly signs saying it was a private road and that we should not proceed.
The tiny house was a cute boxy design with a couple small solar panels on its roof. Supposedly it's only 300 square feet, but it looked like the kind of place that gutsy self-reliant woman like Fern could make her own, especially with a little consulting on how to inexpensively obtain things like reliable water (I would collect it from the roof).
We then turned our attention to the the neighbors. Just downhill from the little house was some sort of redneck activity involving torn down trees and a flatbed truck. That alone might not have been much of an issue. But in the back of the property, another neighbor had labeled and posted the boundary with such obsessiveness that it suggested a personality problem. We walked along that boundary until we found a large swath of land that this neighbor had cleared (and was still in the process of clearing) of all trees to produce a view for their house. But because the amount of land they'd had to clear was so long, the view was mostly of a foreground of stumps and rocks. As for the distant view, it seemed to end up on a fairly ugly clearcut a little beyond Thielpape Road. As we were heading back to our car, I said that the little house was cute, but that the neighbor situation brought up a lot "Appalachian trauma." Gretchen immediately noted, as Fern probably would've, that "Appalachian Trauma" would be an excellent name for a band.

Back at the house, we went inside dreading what we'd find. Charlotte acts out in appalling ways when just Gretchen leaves the house. But with both of us gone, we expected devastation. We'd prepared for this to some extent, with me blocking access to the laboratory, hiding all the shoes in the entryway closet, and putting away a bowl of small items (such as a lighter) we keep on the living room coffee table. But Charlotte had been a good girl and there was no devastation at all. She and Neville were lounging in the bed upstairs.
Later, though, Gretchen was sitting on the living room couch doing something and said she could smell piss. I picked up a nearby dog bed and found a big dog piss puddle underneath it. Damn it Charlotte! So then we ended up doing two or three loads of laundry to clean all the dog beds (along with other clothes). The foam core of one of the dog beds was too bulky to put in the washing machine, so did an initial cleaning in a somewhat muddy puddle along the side of the driveway and then did further cleaning using soap in the upstairs bathroom.

A house that Gretchen thinks might be the ugliest house in the world. It's in Poughkeepsie at 419 Maple Street. Click to enlarge.

The ongoing operation to produce a view for a house of unpleasant neighbors along Eagle's Nest Road. Click to enlarge.

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