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:
   Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Tuesday, July 17 2001

setting: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A thunder storm was booming away this morning and Gretchen feared she wouldn't be able to show me around Milwaukee. But the storm gradually burned itself out like I said it would and the sun broke through, so we were able to go for a little walk down to Beans & Barley, her favorite grocery store/restaurant, where we'd be meeting up with Jason and other representatives of her old Milwaukee scene, all of them gay men. I ordered a bowl of chili and a tempeh reuben; Gretchen's vocal cravings for the latter had whetted my appetite for that particular sandwich.
I didn't share any of the culture or context necessary to understand or contribute to the lunchtime conversation, so I was free to eat. When Gretchen last lived in Milwaukee she was living with her girlfriend Barbara and hanging out with others in Milwaukees gay/lesbian scene. Now she's got a boyfriend and he, me, was the only straight man at the table. It's enough of a freaky circumstance for one of Jason's friends to say, prior to our arrival, "I want to see the lesbian who is now dating a man."
Jason drove Gretchen and me to his family's pasta factory after lunch. It's a low-key sort of place sitting on the eastern bank of the Milwaukee River, not far from a cluster of new condos optimistically priced at $300,000 (since they overlook the river). I noticed several themes in the pasta factory, and only one of them was pasta. The others included dinosaurs (there's a metal Tyrannosaur on the roof), old classroom maps, crescent-shaped objects, and piles of white cat hair from a friendly old bob-tailed stray who has moved in. While in the factory, we took advantage of the fax machine to exchange paperwork with my realtor Jesika.
When we were done hanging out at the pasta factory, Gretchen took me on a walk around her old neighborhood. First we went to a punk rock coffee shop called Fuel, an establishment where nearly everyone, customers and employees both, were pierced and tattooed. This one rather overweight woman had taken advantage of the vast real estate available on her upper arm and wore a big detailed black-ink tree design. Looking around, I felt sort of old, but in a good way.
In a more residential area nearby, Gretchen showed me the various apartments where she had lived. None of them was far from the others. Some of the landmarks had changed in the five years she'd been gone, for example the dog living at her first place may or may not been the same as a certain Sophie she'd known before. And the place where a factory had once stood was now a fenced field of mowed grass.
The last place Gretchen and Barbara had lived had been upstairs from a family that had included two girls, a boy, a Doberman Pinscher, several cats, two big cages of birds, a lizard, numerous neon light sculptures, and probably a few things I'm forgetting. The family had evidently been comfortable with a lesbian couple living upstairs because they let their kids go up Gretchen and Barbara's apartment to play all the time. When we walked by the place today, Gretchen could see the family patriarch (and neon sculpture artist) through the window, so she gave a knock. And then we were all standing around in the garage with the neon sculptures glowing, the now one-eyed Doberman wagging her tail, cats risking electricution as they passed too close to naked neon tube terminals, cages full of twittering birds, and the three human children all looking so much older and bigger to Gretchen after all this time. "Do you remember me?" she asked the girls, now about ten. They paused for a moment and then they said in unison, "Oh yeah, I remember you!"
Back out on the humid tree-lined streets of Milwaukee, Gretchen kept in constant contact with several different people via cell phone. One of these was my realtor, who had several different offers in the works. The other was Gretchen's old Milwaukee friend Mildred. We arranged with Mildred to pick us up at a corner so we could go to some local bar and talk about the old times that I know nothing about.
Mildred, Gretchen and I ended up at this mangy little neighborhood bar that probably looked a little worse than it actually was, since I was seeing it in the full unflattering light of daytime. The girls sipped their beers and talked about their common interest, union organizing and the personalities behind it (most of whom have either died or been fired since Gretchen moved to New York) while I grew increasingly bored with my videotaping. I don't often hang out in bars at 4pm, and I can tell you right now that I don't want to start. Gretchen and Mildred were the only women in the bar and the other patrons were a damn sorry lot. I'm not usually a snob about such things, but one of the guys was actually wearing an Iron Maiden tee shirt.
After two afternoon beers I was ready for what is known in the party hard world as a "glamor nap." After Mildred dropped us off at Jason's house, I went straight to bed and slept the sleep of champions.

Though Gretchen lives in New York City, she's not a big fan of New York style pizza. She likes a more midwestern form of pizza with thicker crust and more sauce, the kind one can get at the Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee. Pizza Shuttle pizza is Gretchen's favorite pizza in the world. I might never have learned this, but Gretchen and I played a game somewhere out in the wilderness of the West where we listed things we loved and things we hated, and one of the things I'd said I'd loved was pizza. So tonight Gretchen had arranged a double date in which Jason and Mike would accompany us to Pizza Shuttle.
Pizza Shuttle is fairly punk rock place, staffed by obviously skateboard-loving pizza cooks and patronized by plenty of sixteen year olds and people on cheap dates. Strangely, though, the music on the jukebox is exclusively odies and there seems to be a sort of retro diner theme in the dining room.
As is apparently usual for Pizza Shuttle, about a third of the things we got with our order came free: a hearty serving of garlic bread and an extra pizza when the cooks figured out at the last minute that they'd made one of ours too small. It was a lot more than we could possibly eat, and we would have had a whole extra pizza for the roadtrip tomorrow except that towards the end of the meal Jason started plucking large air bubbles off the crust and eating them.
Next we went to a gay-friendly bar called the Y-Not II and sat in the window booth. A whole slough of Gretchen's gay male friends turned up, but unfortunately none of the dykes could make it. We drank a couple pitchers of local Milwaukee beers I'd never heard of, and then moved on to some other bar after the entertainment (a band that sounded unpleasantly like the Grateful Dead) started getting on the nerves of some in our contingent.

Streets of Milwaukee

Gretchen at the pasta factory.

The pasta factory cat.

Crow on a building in Milwaukee.

Me in the Fuel coffee shop.
For the story on the green thing around my wrist, go here.

Nixon resigns, on the wall of the seedy bar.

"With love, J" on the wall of the seedy bar.

Patrons at the seedy bar.

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