Go east!

“20 on 3”. “25 on 1”. Is this a gambling house?? No, it’s a gas station in Buffalo, NY. Before filling your tank, you need to prepay. It’s like that a lot here in the states, apparently they’ve had some trouble with gas thieves. I rarely ever have seen this elsewhere. Maybe once, in France, near Paris. So I put 40 on 4, and fill up the tank of my rental Ford Focus.

I drive over to my host’s house, only to find he is in the hackerspace. No problem, I have a tank full of gas and a TomTom satellite navigation. So I head down to the space: Buffalo hacker space. As I drive around the city, it becomes apparent that the economy is not at its strongest around here. I see a lot of abandoned businesses, windows shut with plywood plates.

I park my car in front of what looks like an abandoned industrial complex. I walk in, sign my name and take the elevator to the 4th floor. The elevator is clearly retro-fitted, it stands out in the grimy maze of brick and mortar. The building is amazing, as I zig-zag my way to the space following directions put up by the Buffalo hackerspace team I am enthralled by the sights. If only I were a photographer, I could have captured every corner and last trace of long-gone industrial activity. Ramps big enough to bring trucks up the entire building, chutes and trash compactors, large spaces, dimly lit corridors.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s suffice that it is a very beautiful building in all its rawness. After a brisk walk I find the entrance to the hackerspace. It’s a nice space, and I have some good conversation. Just like the town though, they have some problems finding members. I hope they get some new members coming in, it’s a nice place to hang out and work.

The next day I find myself in Rochester, again in an old industrial building. Here I find interlock, where a broken mechanical candy vending machine proves to be an interesting project. Together with some of the members we fix it and figure out how the configuration settings work. Had a great night here!

Syracuse, Dinosaur BBQ. 1/4 ribs and pork.

From Rochester, I go east. It feels like driving into Germany. The highway is sloping up and down over green hills. Over the railings of bridges taking the road from top to top, I look down on the rooftops of villages in the valleys down below.

I make a short stop for lunch in Syracuse, where I meet the Syracuse Innovators Guild. They just got themselves set up as an organization and are about to sign the lease on their space. Over meat & root beer we discuss how to set up a hackerspace. I feel a good vibe in this group, and leave with a good feeling about their space. Must come back sometime to see how they fared.

The toll-roads are bleeding me dry. When I think I’m finally on the freeway (free as in free beer), there’s another bloody toll-plaza. Despite that, I make it into Boston, MA. As it turns out, they have some unique experiences lined up for me. To start with, I spend two days in the basement of the computer science building of Boston University, which is where hackerspace “builds” is. It’s a funny experience, waking up and walking to the restroom with your toothbrush and toothpaste seeing classrooms full of students attending classes.

On the second evening, I decide to try my luck and go for an unannounced visit to The Sprouts, where I should find Bosslab. Unfortunately, there is no-one there that evening. The drive down is not wasted though, as I discover Rosebud’s diner. It’s one of those classic diners in a trailer (although here is a whole back-area with a stage and everything). Great food and not too expensive.

After dinner, I decide to head over to Artisan’s Asylum, the Joy Street location (they have two locations, one workshop and one classroom facility; Joy Street is the former). When I arrive in Joy Street, Boston, I’m confused. It looks like a regular apartment complex. Not a workshop. Double-checking. The space is in a bloody suburb! So I head to Joy Street, Sommerville. I should really pay more attention to those little details.

Luckily, I find the space. I walk right into a managers meeting, so am left to my own devices. I don’t really mind, and explore the huge 10.000 square feet 1st floor space. I meet some random people that are also hanging out to wait for the end of the managers meeting. I even meet a fellow dread-head, and we share compliments and maintenance tips.

Also going on is a welding class. Had I known earlier, I would have signed up! Welding is surely on my list of things I want to do. Not tonight though. Next to the class a girl named Echo is working on a beautiful metallic bird, and I try to lend a hand. After balancing it out, it has a beautiful flying motion. Nice work!

I leave content.

Did I mention driving in Boston yet? It is crazy! Roads stacked on top of each other, crazy intersections, insane drivers. Try this for example: get on a 6-lane highway on the left then make an exit on the right half a mile along. It’s like the ancient computer game frogger. The other cars are all speeding at least 20mph over. At times like that you’re happy with a car that actually accelerates when you hit the pedal.

My final experience is a tour under and over MIT: I meet up with a friend-of-a-friend who shows me what ‘hacking’ means here. We take a side door and end up in a service tunnel. In a giant room, there is a mural of the ‘hacker ethics’, which I take to heart. We then move on to another equipment room, where a ventilation duct opens up near the ceiling. D. (the friend-of-a-friend) climbs up, and hints me to follow, which I reluctantly do. The inside is all smooth metal, but I learn a trick to descend to the bottom of the vent, where we crawl into a corridor that is called ‘hell’. So named because it is hot from all the pipes carrying heat in the form of steam all throughout the campus. Anyway, after much more climbing and crawling, we end up on the roofs where we enjoy a beautiful view of Boston’s skyline.

Off to New York City, and then down to Philadelphia, Washington DC and into redneck country. Stay tuned for more on that!

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One Response to “Go east!”

  1. akb427 Says:

    The AA welding classes generally meet three or four times, so you’d have needed a much longer visit to take the class, and Ecco’s class on Sunday is for women only (not sure of your gender).

    Yep, Boston driving is an impressive experience for a first-world country :)

    Rosebud is a style of diner known as a barrel vault, it’s one of the earlier designs and most commonly encountered in New England. I think Rosebud is the oldest one still operating on its original site. While pre-fabricated offsite and trucked in, it’s not exactly a trailer, it would have been moved on a trailer and unloaded. The back building was added much later; originally, the grill would have been on the wall behind the bar. Elsewhere in Massachusetts you can find places that still are just the initial building where they cook right in front of you.

    Sorry I missed your visit!

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