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


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   Gretchen vs. Jon Stewart
Tuesday, October 8 2002

I was doing a little cosmetic work on the apartment today, replacing some rotten floorboards under an apparently leaky steam radiator using replacement hardwood boards found on the street. This work required all sorts of crazy cuts in the boards, and at some point I managed to cut through the center of my left thumbnail using a handsaw. It must have cut all the way through because it resulted in a tiny drop of blood.
At around 4pm I caught the Q into Manhattan. Tonight was to be a second attempt at being in the studio audience of the Daily Show. After waiting in line and failing to get in some weeks ago, Gretchen and I had graduated to the VIP line, which would assure us seats as long as we got there by 5:20pm. Frighteningly, though, today proved to be one of those rare schedule-nuking "bad Q days." The Q, you see, is normally a very fast subway line that cuts diagonally across Manhattan from Chinatown to the Empire State Building with only one or two stops in between. Today, though, there was "a stalled train on the express track" forcing my train to "go local." It could have been worse; I've been on the Q when it was sent from Brooklyn down to the tip of Manhattan instead of starting in Chinatown. Nonetheless, it was running slow, with lots of mid-tunnel stops, periods of crawling progress, and even a couple useless halfway-into-the-station stops. By the time I got our at 57th Street, I was in a panic about how much time I had. I ran most of the way from there to the Daily Show headquarters (between 10th and 11th Street on 54th Street). Manhattan's long blocks seem especially so when you have a place you need to be.
When I got to the studios, the only other person in my contingent who'd yet arrived was Mikila (she and her boyfriend Drew were to be our +2). A little later Drew showed up, obviously having run a large fraction of the distance. Last of all was Gretchen, who said she'd been forced to run all the way from 14th Street. I could tell Gretchen had a plan up her sleeve to ask Jon Stewart to be a witness at our wedding, because she was nervous and was carrying an envelope that obviously contained the letter she'd written for him.

Gretchen P____ and Gus Mueller
9__ President Street, #1R
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 623-_____,

September 19, 2002

Dear Jon Stewart,

My sweetheart Gus and I would like to invite you to play witness at our city hall wedding. We would provide you with not only the warm-belly feeling of having done a whimsical mitzvah, but also all the beer you care to drink following the humble ceremony.

The idea occurred to me as Gus and I were tuned in the other night. We'd been faithful and enthusiastic watchers for years, and I dreamed two lovely moments into one: Jon Stewart in the municipal building as Gus puts the big plastic eyeball ring on my finger. Though he loves the idea as much as I do, Gus thinks I'm crazy for even asking you—let's show him!

Gus is a computer nerd, painter, and brilliant essayist (It's fair to say he's all-around brilliant, actually) with a passion for evolutionary biology, soldering, alcohol, our dog Sally, and our two cats, Noah and Edna. He hails from Redneckistan, a part of Virginia where prayer in public schools was in energetic operation. His back-to-the-land intellectual parents somehow dodged several bullets from neighbors' shotguns. I am a union organizer turned poet (no really, I have an MFA and manuscript everything, dumb as it sounds), yet another lefty Jew from boring suburban Maryland.

Gus and I are profoundly in love, and our story is fascinating, touching, and very strange—but you only get to hear it if you respond to this letter….

We both appreciate your work very much. Jon, and would be honored if you'd go against your saner judgment and meet us at city hall.


The original plan had been to have my old Charlottesville friend Sam get one of his friends (a purported Daily Show staffer) to hand deliver the message on our behalf, but that saucy-ass motherfucker hasn't responded to either of the two emails I've sent him.

At around 5:20 pm, we in the VIP line were each handed special pink admission cards. Next, the riff-raff in the other line got their blue admission cards, followed by yellow cards. At the end there they were giving out a handful of white cards for the shitty seats that barely had a view of the stage. All one hundred of us were shepherded into a small room where the VIPs could sit on chairs while the others were forced to stand. A woman staffer climbed on top of a chair and did her best to rally us into a frenzy while presenting the basic schedule and audience protocol.
When at last we were herded into the studio, I couldn't help but be impressed by how small everything was. The stands of chairs were only a few feet from the desk where Jon Stewart would be sitting, and the entire set consisted of nothing more than a few layers of plastic with colorful designs stenciled upon them. The only stuff that looked expensive was the array of lights and other equipment attached to a framework overhead. It took up the entire ceiling.
Before the show, one of the show's writers came out for a few minutes to warm up the audience. This mostly consisted of witty repartee with various people in the audience who raised their hands when he asked if anyone was from out of town.
Then there he was, Jon Stewart. He walked out from somewhere off in the sidelines, seeming somewhat shorter and bigger-headed than he looks on teevee. He launched immediately into a back and forth with the audience, asking if anyone had any questions. As I expected, Gretchen was the person with the most pressing question in the house. She didn't just raise her hand and wave it side to side. She stood up as well. Jon Stewart acted like he was ignoring her at first, but I guess her enthusiasm piqued his interest, because he took her as his first questioner. Gretchen asked Jon directly if it was at all possible for him to, at his convenience, serve as a witness at our marriage. Despite his comic training, Jon wasn't prepared for this. He hedged a bit, said that he'd be delighted to, but of course his saner faculties prohibited such things. He then launched into a comic riff about how he'd been ordained as a holy man in some obscure religion and that he'd be willing to just marrying us, but we'd have to do it right there and then.
If Jon Steward thought Gretchen was going to be satisfied with that response, he badly misjudged her. Indeed, she was remarkably adept at reaching into the armor of his perfect comic timing and mild put-downs to find a chink. Into this she ran the lance of her next line of rhetoric. She asked if Jon would at least read a letter she'd prepared. This he said he would do, adding that we'd even get his response, or at least the response of someone on his staff.
From there, Jon went into something of a counter-offensive, asking rhetorically about the imbalance in verbosity of our relationship. He wanted to know if Gretchen was the sort of bossy chick who just stormed up to me one fine day while I was minding my own business to demand our first date. Next he asked us how long we'd been together. At this point I piped up and said "thirteen years, but with a twelve year hiatus." Jon comically exploited my first comment with comic agility, cupping his ears and asking "Where is that voice coming from?" He seemed momentarily befuddled, asking how we could have possibly known each other thirteen years, looking as young as we do. "So wait," he asked, "You [indicating Gretchen] were a cheerleader..." "No," Gretchen interrupted, "I was dating cheerleaders." Suddenly it was all very Sally Jesse Raphæl, and Jon didn't really know what to say, but one could see his cogs a'twirling.
Jon took one more audience question of no consequence and then launched directly into the taping of the show, opening it with this comment, "Man we have a fine show tonight. Tonight's show: women who date women and yet marry men." There we were, immortalized on the Daily Show! See the clip for yourself.
It was great show, for what it was. It had a hilarious pre-taped segment where Mo Rocca interviewed the guy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill responsible for the new reading requirement for incoming freshman: Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations. The segment featured the reliable gag of making English words and American place names into Arabic-seeming terms by careful insertion of apostrophes and segregation of the syllable "al," as in "Chap Al-Hill" or "Al Nig'ter." Unfortunately, tonight's guest had been pre-recorded, so the taping session only lasted about fifteen minutes. That was plenty for me. Since my attention span was devoured by the World Wide Web, I've been mostly incapable of enjoying entertainment lasting more than a beerless half hour.
I was entertained by some of the visual tricks the producers used both going into and coming out of commercial segments. They tended to use a cantilevered boom-arm camera that could go up and down smoothly ten feet or so. Directly in front of this they'd place little framework pedestals with various small three-dimensional The Daily Show logos. As they zoomed over and shot through such structures, it gave the illusion that the set was far bigger than it actually was and featured much more massive equipment than it actually did.
After the show, Gretchen, Mikila, Drew, and I walked south down 9th Avenue for a few blocks and then ducked into a Hell's Kitchen bar whose advertising featured the words "Rock-Bottom Prices." It was a delightfully authentic dive bar featuring $8 pitchers of Stella Artois, the beer I've been drinking the last two times I've been to bars. In reference to her exchange with Jon Stewart, I told Gretchen that she has "more balls than I do."

Back at the house. Gretchen and I showed our house one more time to one of the young couples that had liked it so much back on Sunday. This time they brought a father and an uncle to make sure they weren't making a massive six figure mistake. But no, everybody loved it. It made us feel much better about the prospect of actually selling this place.



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