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").


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   you know things have gone wrong when...
Friday, November 23 2001

Another thing which is in the research & development phase for Gretchen and me is a possible move from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh. Gretchen and I like the city. It's a real city, complete with a skyline and enlightened culture, though it has none of the pretense, expense, and terrorism-target-potential of New York City. Furthermore, the economy of New York City remains injured in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks and it's looking increasingly less likely that I will be able to find a comparable job when my Yahoo employment comes to an end on December 31st. So Gretchen had arranged for a local realtor to show us some properties around Pittsburgh this afternoon. For shits & giggles, Gretchen's mother and Brian's wife Jen came along too.
Our realtor was a real piece of authentic Pittsburgh, using the phrase "an' 'at" to conclude most sentences. Instead of saying "Down there," she was far more likely to say, "Don 'er." There was no fullness or resonance to her vowels; they'd all been squished hard into the roof of her mouth. When she talked, the bulk of the work being done by her tongue seemed to be taking place near its middle.
The realtor warned us that now was not the best season to buy a house, that most of the houses still for sale were the dregs of the market, those that couldn't sell during the height of the season (when, for example, I sold my Los Angeles condominium). We proceeded to tour a number of homes, some bigger and more impressive than others. The least impressive of these was a ranch house featuring stone veneer on a huge fenced yard, precisely the sort of house most commonly found in unimaginative formations built on old cow pastures in the part of Redneckistan from which I hail. But most of the other houses were more stately, three full stories on a small rectangular lot, some having a full kitchen on every floor. In terms of price, most cost less than the amount Gretchen could get for her Brooklyn brownstone. The only downside was the property taxes, which are unusually high in Pittsburgh. A $250,000 property can carry a tax burden of as much as $6000/year. When you own property in Pittsburgh, even when you've fully paid off your mortgage, it's almost as if you're renting the property from the city. This fit in well with a claim I made when, in a fit of punchiness, I began fucking with our real estate agent. "We're bohemian quasi-Marxists!" I declared.
After the real estate tour (which was somewhat more entertaining than I'd expected), Gretchen, her mother, Jen and I snacked at hip little coffee shop called 61c. The two guys working behind the counter had the unkempt greasy hair and sideburns you'd expect among the fashionable indie slackers of Silverlake, Los Angeles or Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A good fraction of the people in the dining room had brought their laptops and were plinking away at them. But unless they had fancy wireless network connections, I can't imagine they were doing anything very interesting. From my observations, though, it seems the laptops (and lower-tech media-display technologies) mostly served as cover for the age-old sport of people watching.

Concerning the traditional Thanksgiving feast last night, Gretchen's brother Brian had been overheard to say something to the effect that "Thanksgiving means nothing to me," and that it made sense to have big Shabbos meal tonight. Now, in theory, assuming someone's Jewish cultural inclinations are much stronger than his American cultural inclinations, this might make some measure of sense. But in practice, given the reality of Thanksgiving: the hours of preparation, the mounds of dishes, the uncomfortably-full stomachs, and the refrigerator shelves bowing with the weight of leftovers, a big meal of freshly-prepared food the following Friday is completely insane. Indeed, who wants to put such a meal together? Indeed, since no one was particularly eager to prepare a Shabbos dinner, Brian prepared one himself, single-handedly.
Both families were invited over to partake: Gretchen and Brian's parents from where they're staying (a friend's place down the street in Squirrel Hill), and Jen's parents (from Jen's sister's place 45 minutes away in Beaver). The traditional lighting of candles happened, as did the tearing of bread. For some reason there was no ritualized drinking of wine. The food consisted of several courses of pasta interspersed with other courses of salad and garlic bread.
While Gretchen's parents cleaned up the kitchen, Gretchen and I went out to a movie theatre for a little mindless upbeat entertainment. We decided to see The Man Who Wasn't There, imagining that, because it was a Coen Brothers flick, it would be something of a darkly macabre hoot. Unfortunately, though, it was a little more depressing than that. The Man Who Wasn't There was a black and white film made to look like more than just a 1950s period piece, it was made to look like a 1950's movie. So it was a little unsettling when, for example, the issue of homosexuality was addressed with an air of complete matter-of-factness. The movie failed miserably in the mission we gave it of bringing us light-hearted mirth. You know how after watching some movies you wonder at the chain of events that led our hero to the worst possible fate, being strapped into an electric chair just for trying to be nice? The Man Who Wasn't There was that kind of movie.

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