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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Like my brownhouse:
   back to the common trunk
Sunday, May 23 2010

location: Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

There was a brunch this morning at the brother and sister-in-laws' place in Squirrel Hill. Before people arrived, the kids and my brother-in-law sat out on the front stoop strumming away at guitars and banging on tamborines. The little guitar being used by my young nephew was scuffed up but remarkably resiliant, considering it was often casually tossed aside and allowed to slide down the concrete steps, strings facing downward. At some point I saw my nephew using the tip of his guitar's headstock as the wrath of a sadistic and not-particularly-empathetic God against an innocent little ant trying to make her way across the sidewalk. Happily my brother-in-law used this as an opportunity to teach a brief lesson on empathy, which is what makes the difference in the upbringing of young Democrats, as contrasted with that of young Republicans. Back in 1994 I had an idea for a teeshirt: "A right-winger starts out stomping ants."

Aside from the lox and cream cheese, the food at the brunch was vegan. And the bagels were actually homemade[REDACTED]. The med-school-graduate cousin was there, as was her family (including an infant with eyes the size of dinner plates). That branch of Gretchen's family (well, to some extent, the entire family except for Gretchen) is a pretty mainstream Jewish liberal Democratic bunch. There's not a single tattoo to be had on any of them, and their concerns are mostly about family, career, and tribe (in that order). There are opinions but not much idealism, and cultural references don't stray far into the alternative or avante garde. (This was not, for example, the sort of crowd with which I'd feel comfortable talking about my brownhouse, and it probably would have been pointless to namedrop our new famous friend.) It's rare for Gretchen or me to find ourselves among such conventional people, but one's family is, among other things, a connection back to the common trunk of all humanity (though I actually feel like I am my family's connection back to the common trunk of all humanity).
At a certain point the brunch began winding down and Gretchen and I went for a stroll down to Forbes Avenue, the local commercial street. It was a glorious sunny day, and it made no sense to stay indoors any longer. [REDACTED] For some reason I was already feeling peckish, so we had a quick second lunch in front of Alladin's Eatery, a restaurant catering to Middle Eastern appetites. I had a falafel roll-up built like a burrito, though it featured pickles and turnips inside. It was delicious. As we ate, there were a couple kids nearby sawing away on guitars and earning pocket money, and it made me wonder what my economic circumstances would have been like had I grown up in a city with such easy access to money (and dumpsters to dive).
We did the whole slow commercial stroll thing, ducking first into an art gallery and then into a record store (such things still exist!) that mostly sold video games. There Gretchen managed to find a somewhat-obscure vinyl double album by Stephen Foster Wonder for only $6. Later in the stroll I bought a pair of flip flops for about $26.

After a multi-hour nap down in the basement, it was dinner time, and the entire family would be going out for Indian food.
The restaurant was Taste of India, and I managed not to make a complete glutton of myself. The food was good, but not quite as good as our hometown place in Uptown Kingston. Much of the dinner conversation from those near Gretchen and myself was devoted to the subject of veganism (as contrasted with the eating of paneer, which was popular at our table tonight) and beer (the second husband of Gretchen's aunt only drinks Coors Light, but when it's not available he'll drink Bud Lite; I suspect he would find my interest in IPAs weird).

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