Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #96

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time! As decided by your votes, my wisdom, and a random walk ranking algorithm as per Freschi (2007)! But really decided by the cold empirical facts of greatness as made manifest since time began! Go!

# 96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
I think it was my friend and fellow sushi chef Dug who told me about this barn/house/shack, sometime in the mid-1990s. A friend of his had shot a film inside it, or something. It was just off a country road that led out of the town of San Gregorio. I usually remember it as Pescadero.

One fine spring San Francisco morning my girlfriend and I drove down the coast and managed to find the shack despite somewhat vague directions. It just sat there beckoning young city folk, ignoring the sneers of the nearby artichoke fields. Young people are welcome and you can just mind your own damn business, is what it said.

It kind of made you work for it, that was the appealing thing. It was hidden behind a thick fog of blackberry bushes and other thorny vines, and plus it was on someone's property. The state of neglect, which I'll get to, might make you think that the owner cared little about such matters as trespassing, but a little experience had hinted at a positive correlation between disrepair and shotgun-brandishing.

So we kind of had to sneak in, parking well down the road and then wriggling through blackberry bushes. In truth, this was not much of a tourist destination. Nobody had been here for a long time. Spider webs crisscrossed the open doorway. Sunlight shot through the broken roof like security lasers in movies. There were flowers growing on the floor. There were vines and prehistoric empty jars. Lots of dust motes waiting for decades to be cleared for takeoff. Apples sat on the floor, having fallen from an overhanging tree and jounced around, eventually finding a nice patch of sunlight to rest in. It was dark and cool but the effect was bright and green.

What really made it was the nearly pristine Model A sitting right there in the middle of the shack. I am no old car expert but I think that's what it was. There were no signs of the Late Twentieth Century or of recent trespass by hooligans: no condoms, no graffiti, no disused jetpacks or postmodern novels.

There were other rooms, too. The kitchen had ancient appliances and peeling old wallpaper: behind the wallpaper were pages from 1883 issues of the San Francisco Examiner. There were classified ads for all kinds of old-timey things that would make hipsters' moustaches stand on end. Somewhere in the kitchen there were probably articles by Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain clamoring for sunshine.

Shacks like it probably exist all over this great nation, but no other shack was there for us in 1996 when we needed it.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA