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:
   web-teated Molly
Saturday, April 4 2015

location: near Sligo Creek Park, Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland

Late this morning, Gretchen went with her father, sister-in-law, and the two kids on an errand to Costco. I probably should have gone too, since I've never actually set foot inside a Costco. Instead, I stayed back at the house and had a long conversation with my mother in law as we straightened up the kitchen after a matazah-heavy breakfast. We mostly talked about the origin of the atomic theory of matter, which was fresh in her mind after reading some book.
At some point I went out to the bathroom near the pool, which (perhaps due to its detachment from the house) reminds me of the brownhouse. I was sitting on the pot with my laptop running hot on my lap when my brother-in-law hollered for me. Gretchen was on the phone and wanted to know if I wanted a shitload of AA and AAA alkaline batteries, which were super cheap at Costco. I said sure.
In the early afternoon, while the rest of the household walked over to the open field near Holy Cross Hospital (my birthplace) to play soccer, Gretchen and I opened up the indoor pool and went for a swim. I'd never actually been in it before. It was almost as warm as bathwater. Since I don't really swim, I chose to paddle around lazily while using three flotation noodles for additional buoyancy. The pool ranges only between three and five feet in depth but is long enough for swimming laps. It has been part of the house since before my first visit there in December of 1988 (when I was 20 and Gretchen was 17).
This afternoon, Gretchen and I drove south into the District of Columbia to spend the bulk of our day. We started at a museum she wanted to visit, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (one of the few non-free museums in Washington). In particular, Gretchen wanted to see the Doris Lee exhibit, though it ended up being just a small show in a corner of a library that is part of the museum. It was totally dark and unstaffed when we arrived; Gretchen actually turned on the lights so we could see the handful of drawings, a few paintings, and a half dozen books she'd illustrated. Her paintings have a whimsical simplicity or a studied folksiness to them. They generally don't do much for me, but they tend to make Gretchen moan with pleasure. It bears mentioning that the painting I did for the cover of her book Doris' Red Spaces was inspired (through Gretchen) by a Doris Lee postcard (though my painting technique cannot produce paintings that minimalist even when I try).
Our next stop was Shaw Dog Park, which Gretchen and I have visited twice before (in 2009 and early 2012). While this was Eleanor's third visit to Shaw, it was Ramona's first. Both seemed a bit overwhelmed by dropping so suddenly into such a complex web of canine social dynamics, though Eleanor (surprisingly, given her anxiety of late) seemed to handle it better than Ramona. Both kept mostly to the side and didn't interact with the several ball-obsessed dogs who kept trying to field a ball tossed for an incredibly fast brown dog the size of a large housecat (but with shorter legs). One of those dogs was Molly, a strangely-proportioned Pit Bull with huge webbed teats. At some point a disagreement about a ball with another dog (a white Pit Bull) caused an eruption of violence, and this led a number of other dogs (including Ramona) to converge on the fight. Instinctively, I dove into the fight and used my foot to push Molly away from the white dog and also to keep Ramona from doing anything to exacerbate tensions as other dog owners came in and helped to end the disagreement. Gretchen and I noticed that nobody had specifically reprimanded Molly (the instigator), and we wondered if perhaps her human had dropped her off here temporarily while running errands. A half hour later, though, we saw an elderly white man (a member of a decidedly unexpected demographic) lead Molly away. We hadn't noticed him at all and we suspected he'd been playing like he hadn't seen the fight go down, much as other dog owners do when their dogs take a massive dump which really ought to be cleaned up.
Our last destination in the District was Adams Morgan, where we went to Gretchen's favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Meskerem. (I'd say it was mine too, but I come to Ethiopian food through Gretchen, and she'd worked out that Meskerem was the best Ethiopian restaurant well before I came along.) We sat in the balcony overlooking the main floor, eating our vegan wats from a big platter placed in a knee-level basket. We ate absolutely everything that came, as well as some additional injera we had to order half-way into the meal. The platter was nearly clean, the final few crumbs having been sponged up with stray pieces of injera.
As we prepared to cross 18th Street to get back to our car, I heard someone hailing someone else with a cry of "Hey-Hey, Hey-Hey!" I turned and looked, and, as expected, the person calling out this way was a squatly pear-shaped woman.

Back at Gretchen's parents' house, everyone else had left to attend a second seder (they take their Passovers seriously in this family, as Gretchen used to do as well back when she used to have me attend two seders every Passover). We took advantage of the empty house to watch reality teevee, specifically two episodes of Cupcake Wars. It's a testament to how addictive reality teevee is that I found myself wanting to watch the complete episodes even though the details of cupcake preparation are of no interest to me at all. One of the shows featured Chloe Coscarelli, a rising young star in the world of vegan cooking, and of course she won. When she did, the vanguished cupcake baker said, "I can't believe I lost to vegan cupcakes!"
Eventually Gretchen and I loaded up Ramona and Eleanor and drove over to Dina's house (because Dina's father had specifically invited the dogs). When we arrived, Dina and Gilauds' kids had just been put to bed, but their lanky 13 year old cousin Alex soon woke them up because, well, it would have been a crime to let them sleep through the presence of the dogs! So as not to wake up Alex's infant half brother, we all located out to the front porch, which is glassed-in and has an electric heater for nights such as this one (which was significantly cooler than last night had been). At Dina's parents' house tonight in addition to Dina, her parents, her brother, her brother's family, Gilaud & the kids, was Val, a childhood friend of Gretchen and Dina's. The first half hour we were there was dominated by a lovefest between Alex, Dina & Gilaud's young son Lev, and Ramona the Dog. The kids, particularly Alex, could not get enough of Ramona. She allowed Ramona to lick her face as much as Ramona wanted to, and then Ramona indulged Alex by doing something I've never seen her do before: repeatedly retrieving a baseball that Alex kept lobbing the length of the porch. I remember Alex being similarly excited about Ramona some years ago, but I would've thought the transition to being a surly teenager would have changed all that. Don't get me wrong, from what I hear these days Alex is obsessed with her iPhone and has, among other things, been enforcing a total social embargo on her infant half brother (something apparently handed down from her mother, who similiarly embargoed a half-sibling after her father remarried). But something about Ramona allowed Alex to be a fully-social kid again. It should be mentioned that Eleanor did not take part in any of this aggressive play; she kept to a furry blanket on a couch.
After Alex and the other kids went off to bed, Gilaud offered me a whiskey, which I gladly accepted. Most of the conversation was among the ladies; I don't remember much about it, though there was a surprisingly long scene in there where they wanted have a picture taken of them. When my picture made Gretchen look like she had excessively-large breasts and a mustache, it was Gilaud's turn to try to capture the scene. And when that wasn't good enough, they tried several times to take a group selfie. Dina and Val kept taking their glasses off for the picture, but that interfered with their ability to operate the phone. At some point they had a picture they could live with, though I don't think it ever made it to Facebook.
Somewhere near the end of the evening, Val told us a bit about her job and social life. She's working for a virtual firm, an underdog kidney dialysis company whose educational programs (mostly for techs) is something she administers. She can live anywhere she wants because her work is all done from home, and so she has decided to live in Atlanta (which would never be my first choice). Vals says she loves it there, that the night life is great, and that she usually goes out twice a week, staying up sometimes until 4:00am. For those of us who haven't done such things since our early 30s at the latest, it was mind blowing. Val is in her mid 40s like Gretchen and Dina, but she says she never socialized so aggressively when she was younger. She says that surviving cancer some years ago was what it took to realize that life should be lived to the fullest. [REDACTED] By this point, Gilaud had gone into the house and come out with snacks. They were weird: almonds and sliced raw agaric mushrooms. But I actually like raw mushrooms, so that was fine with me.

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