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:
   spontaneous actual roadtrip to Oxnard
Sunday, July 8 2001
For most of the morning Gretchen and I slaved away, cleaning the parts of the house that still needed attention. It's amazing how much more dirt you can see under the full illumination of daylight. The bulk of the work was concentrated in my room, where zillions of unsorted items such as tiny screws, tools, business cards, pocket change and black plastic electrical jumpers littered most surfaces. In the course of all this cleaning I managed to knock over the penny jar twice. Pennies are a bitch to pick up from a hardwood floor, especially when your fingers are raw, red and painful from scrubbing oven parts soaked in ammonia. Gretchen, however, had a tool for this task, using a business card to scoop them up. I was impressed, declaring, "Ape uses tool!"
When we were done with everything, having even swept the sidewalk out in front, we needed to vacate the house for today's open house (hosted by my realtor Jesika).
So we took the Punch Buggy Rust up the Pacific Coast Highway all the way through Malibu to Zuma Beach, the place I went for a daytrip with the ill-fated UK team back in January.
By the time we made it to Zuma, both Gretchen and I felt as if we were starving to death, so we went into a supermarket and made a beeline for the deli section. We were doing the thing one should never do, shopping on an empty stomach. We had no interest in the sorts of items well-fed people buy: wheat flour, rice, dried beans, and uncooked pasta. We were all about items such as pasta salad with sundried tomatoes and marinated tofu.
After eating most of our food out in front of the supermarket, Gretchen and I walked down to the ocean and sat for a brief period with our backs to a low concrete wall. An uncomfortably cool wind was blowing steadily from the west almost parallel to the shore and a flock of hundreds of seagulls all stood in an array on the sand with their beaks pointed into the wind. Some kids a dozen or more feet upwind were goofing around in the sand and periodically a grain of it would hit me in the side of the face. I'd brought my videocamera but had forgotten to bring a battery, so I couldn't film anything.
Our day's outing turned into something of a shakedown cruise for the Punch Buggy Rust. When we'd had enough of the cold wind, bright sun, and spitting sand, we continued north on the Pacific Coast Highway, battling strong oceanic head winds all the way to Oxnard. Then we caught the Ventura Freeway into the San Fernando Valley.
There's a wide flat coastal plain in and around Oxnard that appears to be under fairly heavy agricultural use, though the latest, most fashionable thing to grow appears to be tract housing. It's such a popular crop that someone saw fit to erect a large sarcastic sign reading, "Thanks Oxnard For Destroying This Farmland."
I'd always been sort of curious about what happened to the San Fernando Valley as it approaches the Oxnard coast from the east. Today I finally got the opportunity to see. As we raced eastward on the 101 across the coastal plain, off in the distance we could see the freeway rising steeply up the side of a mountain. I wasn't too sure of my car at this point and was intimidated into shifting down to third gear and not exceeding 45 miles per hour, precautions that appear reckless when compared to the timidity I exercised in tackling eastern mountains in the Punch Buggy Green. But that car never ran anywhere near as coolly as this one.
On the east side of this slope there was little discernable downgrade; we'd made it to the top of gently eastward-sloping plateau, the west end of the San Fernando Valley. On this end it wasn't anywhere near as flat as the parts more familiar to me near Encino. Here the terrain was a series of rolling hills, none of which were difficult for my car to climb. As we drove further and further east the air temperature became hotter and hotter with that dry desert heat my California experience has largely avoided. I was a little concerned that this might actually be the heat of my car, but Gretchen stuck her arm out the window and assured me it really was that hot out there. It was getting pretty uncomfortable by the time we reached Encino, at which point the temperature started dropping, especially when we passed groves of trees.
Gretchen was on her cell phone talking to her good friend Annie who had just moved to Hollywood from Silverspring, Maryland. Annie invited us to stop in and visit, so we said sure and set our coordinates for the Hollywood Bowl exit of the 101.
At some point Jesika my real estate agent called and Gretchen did all the talking. "Gus is so shy and you're so talkative!" oozed Jesika. Then Jesika said favorable things about the tidiness of the house, saying it looked like it had had a woman's touch. Truth be known, however, most of the "woman's touch" observed by Jesika had actually been executed by me before Gretchen's plane ever touched down.
Annie lives with her boyfriend in a two-story apartment building centered around a swimming pool, motel stylee. Annie fetched us Cervesa Sols and we sat around talking about Annie's spiritual turmoil. She's been in the process of shopping around for a new spiritual scene to join since losing her enthusiasm for the stylish Hollywood religious movement of the moment, Cabala. To Gretchen's horror, Annie even mentioned Messianic Judaism (so-called "Jews for Jesus") as a possibly suitable religious movement. Gretchen's take on Jews for Jesus is that they are a cult whose purpose is to destroy Jewish culture. But then Annie explained how her spiritual upbringing was partly Christian and that she could see a use for Jesus in her life, along with the trappings of cultural Judaism. My opinion, one of the few I contributed to this discussion, was that since Jesus didn't bother to write anything down, he'd missed his boat as an important spiritual player.
I was so tired from the late night and the early morning that all I wanted to do was take a nap, so Annie pulled out her futon and I took a two hour nap while Annie detailed her spiritual crisis to Gretchen by the side of the pool.

When I woke up, Gretchen and I had to hurry to the next call on our busy social calendar, doing dinner with Gretchen's Aunt Jane and family. Aunt Jane lives down in Palos Verdes and she was the person who hosted a brunch we attended back in March. This evening's dinner was to take place at an Indian restaurant only a block from my condo, so after changing our clothes all we had to do was walk to get there. But no one was there; the Bombay Café had moved down to Pico and Barrington, leaving another Indian restaurant in its wake and Jane and her husband and two kids had gone to the other place. We didn't know this so Gretchen ordered me a beer and the friendly staff even brought us out a serving of that crunchy puppadum (lentil bread) with chutney.
But then there in his Mercedes was Tandy, Jane's husband, sent to get us, so I had to chug my beer and crunch down the puppadum while Gretchen settled up.
The Bombay Café has an unusually informal feel with bare wooden tables and hip alternative staffers. I don't really remember much of the wholesome family-oriented discussion, but we all laughed a lot and had a great time. The portions were shockingly small. Eight dollars for a couple spoonfuls of this or that is not my idea of a hearty meal, but at least we weren't paying.
The older of the two cousins, a twenty five year old woman who just broke up with her freeloading boyfriend, drove us back home in her unnecessarily large four door F-series pickup truck. We lingered for a time in the truck out in front as the cousin told us all about the ordeal of evicting the boyfriend and finding a replacement housemate. It rather reminded me of the series of events that led to John's moving in to live with me. Meanwhile a swimming dolphin screen saver played over and over across the tiny screen of the truck's stereo system.

In keeping with our busy schedule, next we hung out with Gretchen's friend Jacob, the dryly funny New York expatriate living in Hollywood and working on a film script. He and my housemate John had become basketball buddies, but John had left town in such a hurry he hadn't even bother to tell Jacob he was leaving.
We walked down Wilshire to McClean's, the Irish pub, and drank beers. Gretchen wanted to order a glass of Jameson but the bastards don't sell hard liquor there. One of the things we talked about was Jacob's interest in shiksa-looking women: big blue eyes, blond hair, small mouth, button nose, and lanky Barbie Doll figure. "That's a pretty common interest among Jewish men," Gretchen lamented. This got me to thinking, "Perhaps the Barbie Doll ideal is foisted upon our culture by Jewish men, seeing as how they 'control' the entertainment industry!" We also spent some time discussing Jews that other Jews as a people are reluctant to admit as their own. These included Henry Kissinger and, more jest, Sigmund Freud.

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