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
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   Millers and Mudhouse, 2001
Tuesday, March 27 2001
The Cranberry pills worked amazingly quickly and by this morning Gretchen was fully back in action as a functioning heterosexual. Now she finds herself eating an amusingly inter-related assemblage of pills.

  1. A serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (to be happy)
  2. Gingko biloba (to experience the orgasms that #1 suppresses)
  3. Cranberry pills (to maintain a healthy urinary tract in the face of life as a heterosexual)

There's only one rooster on my parent's homestead these days and this morning he was crowing. "Cockadoodle doo!" he'd say. Ah, country life. Can you believe I own a condo in LA?

After morning coffee, Gretch and I took Fred the dog for a walk around Pileated Peak, the high forested hillside across the road that my parents bought back in 1979. Nothing is much different over there, at least not in the more forested section. Some of the older Virginia pines have fallen over. "Did you see the Blair Witch Project?" Gretchen asked as I ducked beneath a branch.
Horizon Field, the adjacent 7 acre property to the west that my parents bought in 1985, continues to amaze. The bulk of it consisted of a cow pasture in 1985, but during my high school junior year I spent my evenings after school planting white pine seedlings on it. I remember in Spanish class I used to sit behind this ninth grade girl I thought was really hot and I'd get so turned on when my knee would touch her butt that I'd eventually get blue balls. I didn't know how to effectively masturbate in those days so there I'd be, hobbling around planting those white pines in complete prostatial agony. Anyway, now some of those trees have trunks nearly a foot in diameter and they reach thirty feet into the sky. There's this one straight trail through them that my mother keeps clear for riding her horses. The trees have closed the canopy over the trail and it's like a tunnel. I took a picture of it back in January 2000 when I was there with Bathtubgirl, but it's even more impressive now. For some reason Fred was a good dog and didn't wander too far away, get abducted by aliens, or any of the many other things he has a reputation for doing.
A few computer issues to solve in the Shaque while I was in town. The PC's modem wasn't working reliably and the machine was plagued by annoying pauses. I fixed the latter problem by throttling back the CPU's clock (it was overheating and pausing to cool down). The first problem was more troublesome. But since the symptoms indicated a bad connection (my Dad called the modem's problem "getting tired"), I exercised the connection, and behold it was healed!

Next on the agenda was to bid my family adieu and head eastward over the Blue Ridge Mountains to my old stomping grounds, Charlottesville, Virginia, land of Dave Matthews, UVA, Thomas Jefferson, Jessika Flint and epidemic tussin abuse.
Since moving to California, I've been getting back to Virginia an average of once every 18 months, so it made sense to pick up a few things while I was back at the homeplace. I decided to pack a few geeky programmable calculators, a SCSI scanner (complete with cables), and several volumes of my old hand-written diaries, covering every day from late March 1988 until my epic August 1989 roadtrip through the New England and Quebec. This included the entirety of my abbreviated early relationship with Gretchen in the Fall of 1988.

As we were heading out, we both swallowed recreational serotonin-unleashing substances.

On the way to Charlottesville, I took Gretchen on the scenic tour through Staunton, coming into it from the south on VA 252 (Middlebrook Road). Currently all the southern roads into Staunton are marred by massive construction projects as VA 262 (an anachronistic "southern loop") takes shape. This highway seems more of an excuse to reroute rivers, cut down trees, level mountains, employ contractors and expose buttcrack than the provision of Los Angeles-style transportation options for the denizens of Redneckistan. The cut up ground is always brown and flat and stark and lifeless, and the few landmarks left are unrecognizable in their engineered new backdrops. Along this same line, I was dismayed yesterday to see that VA-871 is being straightened and widened between the Old Mill and US 11. Someday after it's all gone these fools will miss the winding lanes and wedges of overgrown roadside habitat they clamored to have erased.
But away from the butchered cow pastures and future sites for McDonalds and Walmart, downtown Staunton maintains its resilient charm. The city has a good bone structure of steep hills and Victorian architecture and it's still as beautiful as ever. As I drove down Coalter Street, I pointed out the Spanish Mission-style synagogue and other things I thought would interest Gretchen.

We were feeling the changes in our serotonin levels as I trolled for a parking spot in both Water Street parking lots (near the Downtown Mall).
Everything was the same as before on the Downtown Mall. Hoping to introduce Gretchen to Jen Fariello, I knocked on the Downtown Artspace door, but nobody answered. When Gretchen spied a fancy little used bookstore, we went inside and looked around (because, you know, Gretchen likes books). The guy running the place looked a lot like Rasputin. "I used to live in Charlottesville," I told him, "but now I live in LA."
Just to get out of the cold, we went into the Mudhouse and sat down on a black leather couch near the front, drinking coffee and delicious fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice. We made it to our couches not a moment too soon, because right behind us was a herd of fresh-faced teenage girls just getting out of school, probably from Tandem or some progressive academy for rich kids. They milled around like gazelles, trying to look cool, shooting poker-faced glances and jockeying for position on the remaining couches. "Everytime I look at kids that age I just get tired," Gretchen said, "because all I can think of is all the stuff they'll have to go through." This was just before I discovered that there are few pleasures quite like a big mean shit in the Mudhouse bathroom when you're on pure MDMA. One of the later-arriving teenage girls was so beautiful that Gretchen felt the need to point her out and then gape at her in slackjawed wonder, exclaiming, "Look at those lips!" We both are somewhat pædophilic.
When we were done with the Mudhouse, we decided to go into Millers, the unassuming little bar where Dave Matthews launched his music career (back when his music could still pass for jazz).
The first thing I noticed in the murky light of Millers was that Raphæl was there, evidently working as a bartender. When I'd seen him last he wasn't even legal drinking age. We sat at the bar and he got us a free glass of top shelf whiskey and a cup of unpleasant Millers coffee, the sort that must be had with cream (especially if you've just been drinking coffee in the Mudhouse). So much to say, so many stories. Where to start? We didn't even try. "I'm living in Los Angeles now," I told Raphæl.
If I was trying to impress Gretchen, I was definitely doing a good job of it. Millers had just the right atmosphere, both perfect lighting and the ideal number of customers. Raphæl was giving us free drinks and playing (and chatting intelligently about) Bjork. There was even a cute butchy dyke whom Gretchen could hit up for cigarettes. "Raphæl is cute," Gretchen observed. "Yeah, and he's something of a ladies' man as well," I agreed. All my Charlottesville friends are movie-star beautiful.
When we were done with our time in Millers, we went back to the Jefferson Theatre to check if the Downtown Artspace was open again. It wasn't, but right there behind the popcorn machine of the theatre was none other than Jessika Flint of Malvernia.
So I just walked in saying, "Hey!" with that slightly angry voice I use for occasions like these.
Jessika, who is now 25, is looking alright these days. Back in October, in her typical impulsive manner, she'd managed to burn her face and some of her hair while attempting to re-ignite a pilot light in her house. Somehow this was what it took for her to finally lose her baby fat, because when she healed her face had unexpected new definition. She has remarkably long hair these days, and it's bleached white all the way to the roots. This look, along with her very public job as a theatre girl, have made her into the ultimate freak magnet. She and her fellow theatre staffers have given all the various freaks unofficial names. Some of the freaks are old timers and others are "new." The "new freak" I met today was an African American gentleman with an almost completely unintelligible cadence to his voice. He had an interesting rhythm and repetition to his delivery, but, like most freaks, his big problem was figuring out when it was time to go away.
While Gretch and I were drinking free soda and chatting with Jessika and her colleague Chris, I noticed Jen Fariello emerging from either her upstairs apartment or the downstairs Downtown Artspace. So I ran out to say hello and freak her by my unexpected presence in town. She was with a gentleman she introduced as her boyfriend and he even knew who I was though I'd never met him before.
Jen and I went down into the artspace to salvage a painting called Soviet Rape Refuge, which had been hanging in one of the bathrooms for the past two and a half years. While downstairs, she found me a copy of the C-ville Weekly from August 1998, the one featuring my face on the cover. I mentioned a $100 debt she owed me for the sale of a painting and she said I could take it off the bill when I get her to photograph my wedding (to Gretchen). Evidently Jen Fariello's photography is being seen far and wide throughout the country these days; it's even appeared in People Magazine. Another interesting bit of news was related to an Artspace door upon which I'd painted a huge rooster back in February of 1997. Someone came along the other day and bought it for $300, even springing for a bare wooden replacement. I wonder if Jen will figure in any of that money when she "photographs my marriage"?
I took Jen upstairs and introduced her to Gretchen. After Jen left, I resumed my conversation with Jessika while Gretchen decided to leave us alone together and go off and explore the downtown on foot. At about this time my old housemate from the Dynashack, Andrew, appeared. I'd sort of expected him to have some kind of high-powered job by now, but no, he's just a humble employee of the theatre, focusing more on art than income, working on low-budget film projects on the side.
Jessika got on the phone and called up Leah (Matthew Hart's erstwhile on-again-off-again lesbian girlfriend-turned-wife) and her housemate Shonin, telling them that there was a surprise waiting for them at the theatre. They came over in a hurry, thinking perhaps Wacky Jen was in town.
Leah and Shonin looked different. They'd gained weight and aged and stopped being teenagers. People seem to age faster when they're in their early and late 20s than they do in their mid 20s. They were in the process of preparing for Shonin's birthday party tomorrow and wanted me to stay at least through tomorrow night. But all I'd managed to arrange was to stay in Charlottesville through tonight. Our East Coast schedule was inflexible beyond that. "So when are you moving back?" everyone wanted to know, and all I could say was "I don't know." When I'm talking to these people it just seems obvious that I'm moving back. The question isn't if, it's when.
When Jessika had to start a film, she took me in the projection booth and demonstrated her skill with threading the film onto the projector. I've never seen such a complicated procedure executed so quickly and with such precision before. The film had to be run from a horizontal platter up and around a set of pulleys and then across the room eight feet away to the huge projector (which looked like a regular high school classroom projector sort of, except it was six feet tall). Then it had to be passed over all the little wheels within the projector itself and snapped down. As Jessika did all these things, she had to reach up and grab things and duck under things and bend down to grab things, all while dressed up in her full length tawny brown coat, longish dress and high heeled boots. Still, even with Jessika's apparent skill, something was fucking up. The "brain" - a little lever that keeps the film from over/under extending itself on the takeup reel, wasn't functioning correctly and we had to babysit it until the brain smartened up and served its intended function. I was thinking about all these skills Jessika was demonstrating and I realized it wasn't any less difficult than the programming I do. Indeed, while I've been off in California becoming a big shot web developer, she's been perfecting her projectionist skills. She's actually been working in her field longer than I've been in mine.
I went over to Millers to track down Gretchen and she was sitting at the bar chatting up, flirting with and smoking unfiltered Camel cigarettes belonging to Raphæl. She was happy to see me though and eventually dragged me back to the ladies room to fuck, but it's different when you're in a place you know and you're being overwhelmed by old faces, so I couldn't really muster the necessary enthusiasm.
Later we were joined by Jessika when she got off work and I bought her a few drinks. Jessika told us about the new crop of gutterpunks in town, including a young Russian gentleman named Vlad. They all lived together in a house with Johnny Boom Boom for awhile, but of course eventually they trashed the place, infuriated the neighbors and were evicted. So now Johnny is living in a guest room at Jessika's house and working as a dishwasher at a new restaurant/pool hall on the downtown mall near Chap's. Suddenly Gretchen was inspired and ran off to find Johnny (this is typical Gretchen behavior, even if it also sounds sort of Sara Poironesque). She burst into the kitchen of this unnamed pool hall, and there he was, the one guy leisurely bent over the sink, looking like he always does, resplendent in his fading black homegrown tattoos. "Are you Johnny?" Gretchen snarled at the bewildered dishwasher. "Because I'm Gus's girlfriend and I came to get you!" In typical form, all Johnny could do was whine. "I can't come now, I've only been working here three days and I have to stay here until three." Actually, Johnny was already aware I was in town; Leah and Shonin had told him. "That's how small the town is," Gretchen would later say when telling the story.
Back at Miller's we were joined at our table by a couple of the new gutterpunks, including Vlad. He didn't have much of an Ruski accent, but he had all the necessary gutterpunk bravado. When the check finally came it was only for a little over $20, so we must have been drinking things we weren't paying for. So when we settled up, Gretchen left Raphæl a $20 tip. I think they also exchanged phone numbers.

We went to Johnny Boom Boom's place of employ to beseech him to join us, but he was pretty sure he couldn't be acting quite so irresponsibly at this stage of this particular job. Indeed, Johnny didn't even want us stealing tomatoes from the kitchen's tomato pyramid.
Back at the Jefferson Theatre, Gretchen, Jessika and I tried to scare up some pizza. We called Gumby's on the Corner and tried to order a Gumby's Dammit (which, according to Jessika, should be a large pizza with any number of toppings on it for $6). Evidently this was a Jessika-only special, because the best I could do was order a pizza that was half one topping and half another and cost $8.
I was drunk when I drove Gretch and myself to the Corner in the rental car to pick up the pizza. Evidently my drunk driving skills are still in top notch condition; Gretchen was not freaked out by my driving even though she half expected to be.
We rendezvoused with Jessika back at her house, (she rode there on her motor scooter, a vehicle just underpowered-looking enough not to require a license to drive). Jessika's house wasn't easy to find, lost as it was in the sleepy suburbs on the far side of Belmont, out where real estate is cheap and there are even a few people living in trailers.
Can you imagine what a house owned by Jessika would look like? Not only does she own a house, but one of her jobs is that of "recycling technician" at the Charlottesville Recycling Center. She's stocked her house with all sorts of bizarre things: mannequins, masks, odd furniture, rusty little antique metal platters, clothes, you name it. We stood around eating our pizza and Jessika and I also split a cheap beer.
Gretchen and I spent the night in Johnny Boom Boom's uncomfortably non-Euclidean upstairs guestroom bed, beneath an assemblage of mannequin heads and rubber masks. Poor Johnny; when he rolled in at 3am he had to sleep on the couch.

Pictures taken by Gretchen with her cool little non-digital camera:

My cute parents.

Those people again. Photo by my father I guess.

My old man and me.

On Pileated Peak; Fred is in the right background.

On Pileated Peak.

My Horizon Field White Pines.

Don, my father and me.

Hoagie in the kitchen of my childhood home.
That's the French press I bought her back in December 1999 when I was still rich.

Gretchen with Fred in the backyard of my childhood home. (Photo by my father.)

The barn.

Gretchen likes books; Charlottesville is hosting a festival of the book.

Me, Jessika and Johnny Boom Boom at Johnny's place of employ. Click for a bigger version.

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