Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Days 4 and 5

After all the criticism and all the mocking of all those stereotypical Whole Foods crowd, I sit here, in a Starbucks, with a Vainilla Chai Latte in one hand, and a shiny aluminum MacBook Pro in the other. Owning a W123 seems to seal the deal, as the kid behind the bar gave me a compliment on the wagon and told me he had an '84 sedan. What am I turning into? Will I shop at Trader Joe's for the rest of my life, as soon as I get to California? Will I ever wear flip flops and linen shirts? Will I ever upgrade to a Prius as soon as I get to a certain income? The thought of becoming one of those people terrifies me, but only time will tell.

Day 4: King of the Road (listen here)
There is a point where the stress of routine can make a human being so machine-like that alarm clocks suddenly become unnecessary. As usual, I woke up at 9 o'clock, and after a quick shower, I had breakfast with Meredith's father, who eloquently revived his cop bike gang years before my eyes. The rest of the morning I spent under the rear of the wagon, tweaking the rear suspension valve arm a thousand times, using the power of my intuition and a 10mm wrench, to level the rear of the car to a horizontal angle. The ceremonial nature of the adjustment ritual, with its elements of mystery, made me think about the point to which a machine transcends its predictability to assume human characteristics.

Meredith woke up, and soon we headed for lunch with a couple of her friends, one of which had had a photography show the night before. Back in the house, Michael the photographer resolved to buy my Soviet uniform, an old relic I never had any use for besides occasionally goofing around. At that point, I wrapped everything up and followed Jim's red Miata to Tom's and Siduri's home for dinner, and potentially dessert.

If heaven had an actual pavement, it would be Tom's meaty burgers. Simply perfect, with their touch of pink in the inside. His Murphy bed, still in progress and regretfully not being used that night (sorry, Tom!), is also worth mentioning. I hope to get to that degree of DIY home improvement skill! Same as Jim's and his beautiful yellow palace. Good conversation, focused on relationships and condoms, added spice to the night.

The quest for Bing-Soo ended up in a rather anti-climatic goodbye in the parking lot of a strip mall. However, I resolved that, being the last time I would be in Virginia in a long while, I would stop in the way and check out the outside of the bakery in Centerville. Newport drove calmly into the parking lot, and much to my surprise, I saw people inside. I turned the key off, and rushed to the storefront. Koreans! The shop was open.

The banana Bing-Soo at Shilla Bakery deserves it own paragraph. It is a simply irresistible mix of shaved ice, banana ice cream, banana chunks and condensed milk. Simple, yet powerful enough to bring a man like me to his knees. After ordering mine, I stared at it for a good thirty seconds, and reflected on what it meant to me, and the people I had it with, and the memories we shared together, and how ridiculously big it looked for just one person, sitting in a corner of the bakery, surrounded by flocks of Korean couples. That big bowl made me miss a very special someone in my life. Walking away from that bakery was like walking out of a city one has been expatriated from...

A painful, long drive followed, authored by Garmin Sandiego, who happened to behave vile and treacherous. Sometimes it will assume that the speed limit is 55mph in a 25mph full of deer, curves, darkness and trees, so it will tell you that it is the quickest way and a good alternative to the flat, well paved interstate. Ugh, Garmin. Two hours over the planned arrival time. Thank you, little machine. One of these days you will end up on eBay and be handled by someone with Cheeto fingers for the rest of your life... how about that, dear pocket navigator?

I arrived to Weston, and passed out in my little Scotty. God bless my little aluminum home.

Driver, follow that little red car!

You sign up for a car forum and this is what you get! Amazing friends!

This is how I look like. Tall and lanky.

My prayers have been answered. It is open. IT IS OPEN!

Newport awaits while his owner stuffs his face with Korean dessert.

I really do not know why clouds could not be made of this stuff.

Footnote: Koreans do love fancy decor.

Day 5: I am a loner (listen to today's theme)
Much like a driving hangover, I woke up as if the previous day had been a blurry dream. I had happened to park in a neighborhood that looked safe and friendly at night, and when I woke up I found... a neighborhood that looked safe and friendly! Right on to the gas station, I had found out that the little water leak in my car had drenched my breakfast steam-buns. Oh, well, worse has been lost. A quick refuel, and on to the Asylum.

The West Virginia Hospital for the Insane is a (excuse the redundancy) an insane building in itself. It is humongous and solid, like a massive stone dragon spreading its wings. It is full of strange objects with dark pasts, eerie energies and peeling paint. One of the rooms, a little toilet stall where someone had been stabbed to death by a patient, made me feel nauseous in an indescribably metaphysical way. My mother's clairvoyance genes at work, I thought to myself.

Besides the deserted hallways, there are two other things worth mentioning in this building. First, the collection of art made by some of its patients, heartwarming in some instances, soul-cringing in others. The other one is Sue, the only original staff member left, who told me countless stories when I met her at the gift shop. The personnel at the WV mental hospital are so used with interactions with the in-house spirits, they speak of them as one speaks of one's pet, or a breeze in the window.

Five hours and several gorgeous landscapes later, I met Ben Hogan and his amazing 190D Turbo... what a beauty! We had some great local BBQ pork with coleslaw and parted after some great conversation on our Mercedes, their respective stories, and work.

Right now I write from a Starbucks, shame on me. But tomorrow I will be bathing in a lake, maybe deprived of internet. Until then, good night!

Awake! The smell of the moisture in the air added a nice touch.

Weston, WV, is your little American town until...

...you find this.

Many parts were very well preserved!

A nice place for a romantic date! Just add candles!

One of the numerous haunted hallways.

The building is in a continuous state of restoration and decay.

The main auditorium of the asylum.

Guide in period clothing, walking through the solitary confinement section.

Hallway dedicated to aggressive male patients. Murder, anyone?

Many of the original equipment still survives.

Cook like a madman! Oops, where is my political correctness?

Art section. The visit is recommended just for this little room!

Your favorite couple, sitting outside the hospital!

This entirely separate building was dedicated to Tuberculosis.

One out of numerous lush hills next to the highway.

The drive was getting so long I could not see the end of it!

Somehow I find the composition of this shot very interesting!

Getting closer to Chapel Hill!

Posing next to Ben Hogan and his wonderful machine!

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