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austin_dern

July 2017

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Mar. 25th, 2017

By Friday my mother was feeling better, and we were feeling a bit more up to doing stuff. We set out to ... I forget the name of the place. The estate of some 18th-century landowner, though. The building, the docent was careful to explain, was not built to the Southern Plantation style, even as it had existed at the time. Instead it was built to the Georgian model, the ruthlessly symmetric patterns of the mother country. Most charmingly the relentless symmetry of the building design meant that some rooms, such as (I think it was) the living room, had a door which served absolutely no purpose. It was there to balance the other door in the room, and was otherwise sealed shut. It had been attacked in the past by robbers who supposed, not unreasonably, that a door which couldn't possibly lead anywhere sensible was probably hiding something worth stealing.

The house was preserved, but not restored. That is, the walls were painted with more or less the historic paint, not repainted to be fresh and new. The rooms didn't hold furniture, and the stairs were at such a point that we were instructed to walk, one at a time, at least three steps behind the next person, lest we tax the building's structure. That's more a problem for big groups, like the bunch of schoolkids brought to see what might be here.

Though the house was ancient (by American standards) and not restored, it had been in living use until quite recently. The last family members to live in it were still alive, and even came back within the past few years for burials, including one I want to say in 2016 for a family pet. One of the more humanizing touches of it was the size chart by the side of one door, with marks of who had got to what size by what age.

I'd spotted by the stairs a pulley embedded in the arch. This was, apparently, a tool used to make it easier to haul stuff into the building. In the quite large stone-lined basement were a couple of pillars which had been deposited there sometime in the 1850s and hadn't been used for anything since, which should make us all feel a little more on top of our minor building projects.

Of course the house had kept slaves. The slave quarters hadn't survived, but there was their graveyard, off towards the woods. It had a recently-installed wrought-iron arch marking its entrance. This had been donated by one of the surviving known descendants who, consulted on what to do with the remains, apparently said to ``leave 'em be'', the motto embedded in the arch.

After this we went out to eat, I think our only restaurant visit the whole trip. My parents had located a vegetarian restaurant and we'd set reservations for which we were something like 45 minutes early, owing to our overestimating how long we'd spend at the mansion and how quickly we'd get from one to the other. They were able to seat us anyway, since they seemed baffled we were making reservation in the first place. It was a fine spot, though, one with a feel much like Kaya's Kitchen, back in Belmar. I mean the old Kaya's Kitchen, before they moved to their current spot (which they did like six years ago) and got a little more upscale. Also it wasn't an all-vegetarian restaurant, but that's fine. We had plenty to pick from, which is always a delight in a new restaurant.

At night, this, the last day of our visit, we finally exchanged Christmas presents. My parents were most thrilled and hopeful for the box of Fabiano's chocolates. I gave uninspired stuff again, mostly books. I got back books too, which are always good things for me. (People worry sometimes about giving books I've already read. While I do read a lot, you know, there's a lot of books out there. Your chance of a duplicate is quite low and I'd never be ungrateful for that anyway.) I joked to my mother that one of the books I'd gotten her, a history of Bellevue Hospital, I was sorry because I hadn't had the time to read it first. This reminded her that she had been reading a book she meant to give me, and went to her bedroom to fetch it. So it goes.

Trivia: The Voyager record was made of gold-coated copper and designed to play at 16 2/3 revolutions per minute. Source: Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds In The Third Great Age of Discovery, Stephen J Pyne.

Currently Reading: A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length: More Movies That Suck, Roger Ebert.

PS: What Pinball Games Are Turing Machines? And I don't know; I'm just asking.

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