Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
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Irving housing

got that wrong

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Like my brownhouse:
   ancestors, 2001
Monday, March 26 2001
This morning Gretchen picked up an overpriced rental car from the nearby Rent A Wreck and we set out on a roadtrip into the South. Ours was a big fog-blue American car, I forget the exact model and make. It had an incurable mildewy fragrance inside. The mission was to visit my parents down in Virginia.
We headed west via Canal Street across Manhattan and then rapidly over the fetal cheek of New Jersey on I-78. After passing through Allentown, PA, we caught I-81 near Harrisburg and followed the grand central-Pennsylvania bend in the Appalachians southward, finally slicing through the necks of Maryland and West Virginia into Virginia. It only took us six hours to drive from Brooklyn, NY to my parents' rustic farm south of Staunton, Virginia, 380 miles away.

On the way we mostly listened to mix tapes Gretchen had made. When it comes to music, Gretch likes the ladies and she likes the black folks. We're talking here about Sade, Courtney Love, Liz Phair, Stevie Nicks, Lauren Hill, Sade, Earth Wind & Fire, Joan Armatrading, and, above all, Stevie Wonder. The odd song by Boston, Led Zeppelin or perhaps the Scorpions are as far as it goes with white boys, though Gretchen admits she's a sucker for a good heavy metal ballad. She does, however, like the Guided by Voices I've exposed her to, and one of the tapes she made had Bee Thousand on one side and Liz Phair's Whitechocolatespaceegg on the other. I asked Gretchen what she thought Liz meant in her song "Polyester Bride" when she asked "Why are there those kind of men?" "You're one of 'those kind of men.'," Gretchen explained, adding, "The kind who can't decide whether or not he wants to live with the girl he loves."
Periodically we'd pass a blown-out tire on the shoulder and I'd think how it might taste if it was deep fried in batter. "Calamari!" I'd exclaim.
Being the educated lefties that we are, Gretchen and I are extremely familiar with public radio, particularly the news shows such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. One of the common points of references for these shows are the disembodied voices of the anchors, hosts and correspondents, all of whom we know by name but none of whom we could recognize as a face in a crowd. Since Gretchen and I frequently communicate with each other in the form of lists, we found ourselves listing public radio personalities by name and giving our reactions.

Corey Flintoff - sort of a whiner.
Carl Kasell - been around forever.
Nina Totenberg - I'd do her.
Bob Edwards - Gretchen would do him.
Sylvia Poggioli - you sit around waiting for her to say her name.
Renee Montagne - not a very distinctive voice.
Chikdra Raddivan - is that how you spell her name?

Every time we'd grow sick of the music, we'd check the left end of the radio spectrum and rhetorically ask, "I wonder what Corey Flintoff is up to?"

My parent's house was exactly as it's always been, just another yearly freeze frame closer to the grey goo of absolute entropy. There was another layer of magazines and dust on every horizontal surface, new fissures had opened in the furniture, the details of whose fabric had warn a year smoother and darker. It's orders of magnitude more chaotic than anything I've ever seen anywhere else, and I'm sure Gretchen was shocked, but I'd given her plenty of warning.
My parents were gone somewhere when we first arrived but soon enough they turned up. They too were a year closer to whatever the future holds, but they both seemed healthy, happy and even animated beneath their whitening hair. My Dad is 77 now and Hoagie (my mother) is 64.
Least changed of all were Fred the Dog and the old black housecat known somewhat deceptively as "the Kitten." Both looked exactly as they had in January of 2000. Fred is something like 11 years old and the Kitten is only a few years younger. The Kitten, being very shy around strange men, was reticent when she first saw me in the kitchen, but she snapped out of it when I called out in the friendly falsetto that was once extremely familiar to her.
So Gretchen and my folks got to know one another, chatting about all sorts of things ranging from eco-friendly easements to how my parents met one another. One thing Gretchen carefully noted was how proud of me my parents seemed to be. I'd told her that during my childhood my parents had never been especially supportive of my interests or particularly pleased by my accomplishments. They hadn't placed any expectations on me at all, and when I excelled, it wasn't a big deal. But with Gretchen standing there, my parents went on and on about my achievements, as if they felt it their duty to make me seem a better catch. I'd planted thousands of pines on Horizon Field. I'd helped build the honey house. I'd built the Shaque entirely myself, even doing the electrical work. And of course I can do anything related to computers.
Aware that Gretchen is a vegetarian, Hoagie prepared a veggie stir fry with tofu and pasta. As usual for my yearly visits, my parents had gone out and bought alcohol of all descriptions, though much of it was simply undrunk bottles of booze left over from my January 2000 visit. I suppose this says a lot about the dissipated alcoholic inclinations of my parents.
The alcohol we drank was a big bottle of sweet cheap wine. Hoagie may not drink much these days, but Gretch and I made sure she drank tonight. We both kept refilling her glass and goading her to drink, even when she covered her glass when her hand. When we were done with the wine, the ladies stopped drinking and I moved on to shots of Gentleman Jack (the substance Senators sip). Gretchen gave me a dirty look but I didn't care. Hoagie is fun to be around when she's been drinking. She tends to laugh a lot and reveal a few too many personal things. But Gretchen did notice that Hoagie seemed to be uncomfortable with indications that Gretch and I might be in love. "Your mother sure likes Kim [Bathtubgirl]!" Gretchen observed later. Periodically my brother Don (looking something like a Hezbollah terrorist in his big scruffy red beard and wild curly hair) would intrude into the conversation and say something loopy like, "But, but, but, about the Chinese, they really knew how to fight in World War II!" I kept wondering when he was going to bust loose with something adulatory about Hitler, but most of his random WWII talk focused on how pathetic the Germans were during the Siege of Stalingrad. These days Don spends most of his non-cheeseburger funds on WWII soldier dolls. They're a little larger than old school GI Joes.
After we were done hanging out with my parents, Gretchen complained that her urinary tract was on fire. Evidently all the heterosex we've been having had finally exacted its revenge on her lezzie constitution. What she needed, she thought, was cranberry juice, immediately. So I offered to make a run to Kroger (which can be reached on a route that consists almost entirely on back roads, particularly Old Greenville Road). I was rather drunk and Gretchen said it wasn't urgent enough for me to risk a DUI, but for my own selfish reasons I wanted this particular malady fixed without delay.
Kroger, even this particular Kroger in Redneckistani bumfuck, is open 24 hours a day. I don't know what hour it was, but aside from the cashier and the pimply mop pusher, we were the only people in that vast expanse of brightly-lit store. We went directly to the juice section and had a look at the selection. They had cranapple, they had cranberry cocktail, they may have even had crangrape. But they didn't have the raw unsweetened stuff that somehow manages to get in there and mend the infected bladder of your average heterosexual girl.
Happily, though, over in the vitamin section we found cranberry tablets. So we purchased a bottle of those along with three plastic containers of different varieties of V8 Juice. (In a single-blind test we'd determined that V8 from a glass bottle is much better than V8 from a can. V8 from plastic bottles is nearly as good as V8 from glass.)
As we were going out of the door, we noticed that it was possible to get metal finger rings from the bubble gum machine. As unspiritual as she is, Gretchen still wanted to see if fate would give us a pair of rings in exchange for fifty cents. Instead, using my quarters, we got a little rubber alien. Using Gretchen's quarters we got a pair of matching plastic bracelets, the springy kind that adjust to any reasonable size. We put them on and wore them thenceforth as symbols of our love. I got the green one and she got the yellow one.

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