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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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   tussin at the Jimmy
Saturday, July 13 2013

location: Off 5th Street (Ridge Street), Charlottesville, Virginia

Last night while watching old video at Aaron's office, I realized I'd somehow lost the magnet bracelet I'd found earlier that day in the Mystery Woods. Unable to find it there, I assumed I'd left it at Mono Loco, so this morning I drove to the vicinity of the Downtown Mall to see if I could retrieve it. Mono Loco was closed, but I could get to the semi-outdoor area where we'd sat. Unfortunately, though, the magnet bracelet wasn't in evidence. But my morning drive was not a complete waste of time; there's now a Staples across Ridge McIntire Road from the Omni, and I was able to buy a generic power brick for my laptop there (I'd grabbed the wrong one on my way out the door yet again).
On this Saturday morning in the parking lot adjacent to Mono Loco, there was a bustling farmers' market happening, and, remembering that Jessika and Aaron lacked onions, I decided to buy a couple, along with some attractive-looking tomatoes. I would have also bought lettuce, but evidently that wilts quickly in the hot conditions of a farmers' market, and nobody had any for sale.
As you know, I'd managed to rip some old videotapes of Big Fun before heading to Virginia. But I'm not the only one who ended up in possession of those tapes; Jessika had at least one of them. So I'd brought the digitizer with me in hopes that we could rip Jessika's tape as well. Yesterday she'd managed to find the tape, labeled simply "100% Bad Beef." And Aaron had found us a working videocassette player. But the videocassette was cracked and the tape wouldn't play. So this morning I undertook the tricky job of transplanting the tape and reels from the old tape into another cassette sacrificed for the purpose. The sacrificial tape was one Aaron had bought for fifty cents at a thrift store entitled something like Secrets to a Healthy Relationship.
I attempted the transplant several times without success until I realized a special wishbone-shaped piece of plastic serving as a clutch had to be included. The key to successful videocassette rebuilds, something I didn't realize until the end, is to do the rebuild into the part of the cassette containing the spool holes (that is, holes downward). The cassette reassembles easily that way, and after the top is snapped on, you just turn the thing over and install the screws. But even with a working tape, the damn thing wouldn't play, at least not when attached to my digitizer. Aaron searched the whole tape for video and found nothing. We almost gave up but then Aaron tried attaching it to a television set, and at that point snatches of voices could be heard. And then, miracle of miracles, it just started working. I don't know if it was a severe tracking issue or something about not having been played in 17 years.
So the four of us immediately watched the whole 40 minute tape, all of which consisted of Sara, Matthew Hart, and me trolling (in the modern internet sense) a large big-haired gentleman named Andrew whom we called "Bad Beef." The trolling consisted of me unabashedly claiming to be a pedophile, Matthew Hart defending me, and Sara expressing revulsion. But since defending me was more fun than expressing revulsion, Sara vascillated incoherently back and forth between the two. But it was all in the service of getting Bad Beef to say classic one-liners in that Cookie Monster voice of his: "I'm gonna hurl!" and "Gus, you need help, man!" I don't know if it was just the nostalgia of it all, but I found it highly entertaining. As for Aaron, who had a somewhat more objective view (indeed, Jessika was nowhere in the video), he thought editing it down would be a fun, worthwhile project.

The plan today was to have a classic tussin experience on the James River. Mind you, I don't think I've had a dextromethorphan-based tussin adventure since May of 2002. But we were having a Big Fun reunion, so why not a little tussin for old time's sake?
[REDACTED]
We drove down to Scotsville, turning (as we always do) to look at Big Fun (the place) as we passed it. It's still there, although the land around it seems to be more intensely agricultural than it was back in the days of Big Fun (the time). The big grocery store these days in Scotsville is the Food Lion (the IGA having long ago been replaced by a more marginal business requiring lots of floor space). Our goal there was to buy beer and snack food for whatever we ended up doing on the James River. While I was off looking for bean dip and Aaron and Jessika looked over the beer selection, Sara, who had been talking on her phone, excitedly ran up to me and announced that for the first time in 12 years she actually felt happy. The epiphany had happened in the Food Lion parking lot after some guy had made a vaguely-lecherous but inoffensive comment. It was now becoming clear that this vacation really was turning out to be a good thing for Sara.
Sara followed me as I walked back to Aaron and Jessika, and kept telling me about her epiphany as I occasionally said things to them. "I have to tell Jessika," Sara proclaimed, still staring at me but not noticing who I was standing next to. She then turned around and began walking away, intent on finding Jessika. But then she stopped, turned around, and asked me, "Where do you think Jessika is?" By now it was clear she wasn't joking. She was so focused on talking to me that she just couldn't see Jessika and Aaron were right there. I don't know what snapped her out of it and made her realize they'd been there the whole time, but that's the kind of thing that happens when you're hanging out with Sara Poiron.
Once we had the necessary provisions, we drove along the north bank of the James river until we got to Warren Ferry. There were some rednecks there getting ready to do some kayacking, but it was clear that there was no way any tubing could happen. The river was basically in some sort of flood stage, with roiling currents and brown water. You could go down to the edge and stand in it, but even then it was just wrong. It was far colder than it normally is at this time of year.
So then we drove down to Hatton Ferry, but the situation was even worse there. Not only was there flooding, but there was no good place to enter the water. So then we drove back to Scotsville, crossed the James on the Route 20 bridge, and eventually ended up at Hatton Ferry, though this time on the south bank of the James. Conditions were far from ideal here, but we had the place to ourselves and there was a road bed that allowed us to wade into the water. So it was there that we decided to do our afternoon thing. We started by snacking on our snackfood. Once that was out of the way, it was tussin time.
I've been told not to say who exactly took the tussin. It turns out that not all of us did for reasons that it would be an overshare to say. [REDACTED] Those who took the tussin ate between 15 and 17 tussin tablets to get an approximately 345 milligram dose of dextromethorphan. I used beer to help me swallow mine, though generally one is advised not to drink alcohol when attempting to tuss.
Once those who wanted to tuss had taken our tussin pills, we waded out into the water on the Hatton Ferry roadway. The water was muddy, so we couldn't see the steep edges on either side of the road. Sara fell off the roadway at least twice, getting all of her clothes wet and in one case having to backstroke back to shore after being pulled a short distance out by powerful currents. By this point Sara and I had started referring to the James as "the Jimmy."
At some point a couple (in the southern context it bears mentioning that they were black) arrived, parked their car, and began fishing in the churning brown water. Their technique was to cast far downstream, prop the pole up, and then wait for activity. The first fish they caught looked to be 15 inch catfish. And then they caught a smaller fish. Sara fell into the water and had to save herself during this time.
I can't swim very well, so I was careful not to feel my way as I walked on the submerged roadway. At some point after the tussin began to kick in, I produced a cheap disposable razor blade from my pocket and began to shave without any later or even dampening of my face. Sara warned me that I was going to fuck my face up something terrible, but I was careful and meticulous, chatting casually with Jessika the whole time. I don't think I'd ever had a conversation while shaving before. As I finished up, I asked Jessika if I'd missed anything, and she indicated a place on my neck near the corner of my left jawbone. I always miss that fucking spot!
After awhile the tussin started doing odd things with the accelerometer inside my head (the last time I did tussin, accelerometers were unheard of outside of satellites, though now they're inside every smart phone). At about this time, those of us who were tussing decided to take three more tablets.
On the drive back to Charlottesville, everything seemed pleasant at first but at some point near the end of the drive, a quick wave of nausea grabbed me and I almost vomited out of the car window. Jessika was driving and she pulled over to see if I needed to get out, but by then the wave had passed and I felt okay. Now I was covered with a thin film of sweat. I decided to lay down in the seat with my legs out the window. Sara decided at this point that I was a dog and started scratching my head with her blunt little fingernails.
Back at the house, I was feeling a bit out of sorts for a bit, feeling best if I just lay down wherever I happened to be. I was picturing the 18 or so tablets I'd eaten slowly breaking down in the chain of my digestive plumbing, and it wasn't a pleasant thought. It seems the syrup or the gelcaps work better with my constitution. Or perhaps I'm more sensitive to guaifenesin (the active ingredient that is useless for tussing) than I used to be.
As bad as I've ever felt while tussing, I've always felt better just by getting up and walking around. It's counterintuitive but it's true. So the four of us decided to drive down to the Mystery Woods and walk around in the forest for awhile. It was right around sunset when we arrived and part of our walk was in complete darkness.
Though the Mystery Woods is part of the same Brood II periodic cicada range as Hurley, New York, the periodic cicadas themselves had disappeared about a month ago, since, given the earlier spring, they'd begun much earlier. (There had been a few back in Hurley on the day I left.) Their nymph husks were still strewn throughout the forest, some of which Jessika had collected for some future project. On this particular evening there were a number of cicadas making sounds, but they were all Dog Day Cicadas, a species that had yet to appear in Hurley. As darkness descended, the cicadas were gradually replaced by the cha-cha-cha-cha of katydids, an ominous harbinger of autumn that I've yet to hear in Hurley.
As always when walking in the woods while tussing, it felt a little unsettling but also wonderful and in some way profound. At some point Sara, who had decided it was best to walk with the assistance of a stick, declared that Aaron was the perfect mate for Jessika and that he had been in some way pre-ordained. Elaborating on this point, she said that they had always been married but had spent years unaware of it. [REDACTED] I support Aaron and Jessika's marriage, but this was a bit hokey for me even on the tussin. Nevertheless, mostly because of the poetic way the words felt in my mouth, I continued this line of thinking by saying that not only had Jessika and Aaron always been married, but indeed they would always be married until the end of time. Sara thought something like that coming out of my mouth was probably bullshit even on the tussin, so she asked, "Why do you have to make fun of me?"
Back once again at the house, Jessika put together a salad using the leftover couscous and lentils from the other day, but I was in absolutely no mood to eat anything. Eventually I stretched out on the couch where I'd been sleeping for the past two nights and fell asleep for a third.



From left: Sara, Jessika, and me in the Mystery Woods tonight. Photo by Aaron (he's a professional). Click to enlarge.


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