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
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Irving housing

got that wrong

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Like my brownhouse:
   the friendliest mosh pit
Saturday, June 1 2019
Today Gretchen and I would be attending the wedding of our friends Jeff and Alana at Opus 40 (the quirky bluestone sculpture garden between Saugerties and Woodstock). For well over week, Gretchen had been working on their wedding cake, which had to be large enough to feed something like 150 people. By yesterday, she said she felt like she was coming down with something, a feeling that manifested mostly as a single painful spot in her throat. Today, though, the sore throat was gone and she was feeling a more generalized malaise. For this reason, I provided an unusual amount of assistance in the final assembly of the cake. She had to, for example, pipe orange dots at the seams between all the different-diameter layers in the three-tier stack (each of those tiers were comprised of three identical layers interbedded with layers of candied nuts and such), so I was there to rotate the cake as she did the piping. Also did all the carrying of the cake from where it had been assembled to the dining room table (where we boxed it up) and then to the freezer, where it would stay until it was time for us to actually go to the wedding. Owing to the humidity, the cake had a tendency to sweat as beads of water condensced onto it from out of the air. This might not've been much of a problem on a cake of uniform coloration, but this cake was orange and blue, and streams of blue water running down onto orange cake tend to have high visibility.
With my help, Gretchen finished the cake unexpectedly early, giving her time to relax for a few hours. I also mowed the lawn, a chore she'd been meaning to do. We'd be having a guest on Sunday, so, in addition to all the work on the cake, we had to undertake something of a house cleaning jihad. As part of that, I went down to the basement dressed only in swim shorts and used a dilute bleach solution to wipe away civilizations of black mold. That's usually a pretty straight-forward operation with immediate, gratifying results. But then I decided to do this in the Gunther Room too (the one nearest the boiler room), and the mold was so dense that all I ended up doing was smearing it around, particularly on the walls.
A little after 3:00pm, Gretchen and I got dressed up and I was getting ready to carry the cake box out to the car, Gretchen had to quickly change her dress because the ice-cream-color blue one she was wearing (to match the cake) had torn up the back. The replacement was black and no longer referenced the cake.
Gretchen rode in the back with the cake box (and other things) while I drove, Uber-style. Or, more accurately, grandmother-style. I didn't want to accelerate or decelerate too quickly or go aggressively around any curves.
The last time we'd been to Opus 40, it had been for the wedding of Gretchen's college friend Katie, who was marrying a man Gretchen didn't approve of. Perhaps fittingly, we'd remembered vultures circling overhead during the ceremony.
Our first task at Opus 40 was to get the wedding cake into a refrigerated environment so, if nothing else, it would stop sweating. Normally the house at Opus 40 is off-limits to event attendees, but obviously the wedding cake conferred special privileges upon us. The house had been built by the same genius who had assembled the bluestone outside. The halls were narrow and claustrophobic and the rooms were fairly gloomy, but it was definitely a one-of-a-kind place, a building that had grown without much explicit planning. Happily, our cake box fit in the kitchen's refrigerator, and all we had to do was remove the shelves from its door.
Before the ceremony, I made a brief walk on the terraces of the bluestone "structure" (for lack of a better term) that is the central attraction of Opus 40. As I returned from that, people I actually knew had begun to arrive: first Chrissy, then Paul and Ingrid, then Peter and Alison, and finally Ray, Nancy, and Sarah the Vegan. I didn't really know the history of Opus 40 except that a weirdo artist guy (Harvey Fite) had bought the place as an abandoned bluestone mine and then reworked the stone according to his æsthetics. What I didn't know (and I believe it was Paul who told me) was that, after 38 years of stacking stones in realization of his vision (often risking hernias and being struck by falling stones), he eventually died in a lawnmowing accident after mowing too close to one of the property's many ledges (none of which are roped off). Supposedly the lawnmower (which I understood to be the kind one rides around on) landed on top of him at the bottom of the chasm (which are ten to 20 feet deep).
My temperament is not naturally suited to weddings. I know intellectually that it's a profound event where two people commit to one another against a bleak, lonely world (even for that imagery I actually have to access a part of my brain that remembers what it is like to be stoned). But in my normal sober ground state, the whole thing seems hokey and embarrassing. Running just on cucumber water, I was actually kind of mad at myself for not fully embracing the moment. Still, the event itself had some real highlights. It was proceeded by a surprisingly long series of music performances and readings of poetry, the most remarkable of which was three women singing from high up on the artificial bluestone structure in the background. They had the voices of angels. Closer to performance art was a brief hurdy-gurdy performance by one of Alana's long-time friends while her young son (wearing faux mouse ears) stood next to her staring creepily from somewhere deep in the uncanny valley. Then came the vows, which were detailed and completely unique (they included the phrase "successes and failures").
By this point, the sun had moved from behind a tree and was shining directly on me. I was wearing my brown corduroy jacket, which was a bit heavy for the temperature, particularly with the near-solstice sun shining down relentlessly. So I got up and joined the others in the place where the shade had moved to.
I'd been paying attention the vultures to see if they ever signaled anything ominous in their circling. But I never saw more than one at a time, and they were always off in the distance, never overhead. Considering how much of the sky is visible from Opus 40, that's about as benign as one can expect.
After the ceremony, we made our way to the dining tent, which was where the bar was. There was one beer on tap, and it was a pilsner. It was pretty good (and better suited to the day than, say, an IPA would've been). Before I could finish that, it was time to move the cake from the house out to the tent. The cake felt like it weighed about 50 pounds, and I had to carry it about 400 feet. Fortunately, it was still in its box, which meant I never got any blue or orange frosting on my floral long-sleeve shirt.
Cakes are so fragile that we actually had to level the table that we placed it on to keep it from slumping downhill (despite the plastic tubes that gave it something of a non-articulated skeleton). It bears mentioning that the cake was topped with little sculptures of robots made mostly from wire and wood. Nearby was a votive candle for St. Dolly Parton. Aside from, I don't know where one goes to buy such things.
During dinner, Gretchen and I sat at table one with Paul and Ingrid and that guy Laurent who runs the Woodstock Film Festival (he apparently has something to do with the Mark Ruffalo teevee series that closed down US 209 and recently got derailed after a car dealership burned down in Ellenville). By this point I was drinking vinho verde and feeling kind of punchy. As for the food, well, let's just say that the chana masala tasted like what you might get if you gave a couple fourteen-year-olds a fully-stocked industrial kitchen and a quarter ounce of reasonably good marijuana. The chickpeas were a bit undercooked and the rice was overcooked and the flavor profile was pretty similar to that of tomato paste. There was also a quinoa dish for us vegans, as well as fish and non-vegan cæsar salad. But this wedding was prioritizing the arts, not the food.
You'd think a catering company with such chana masala skills would have some humility about their abilities, but this particular one did not have much. When they'd heard they wouldn't be in charge of producing the wedding cake, they'd gone all Caterzilla and asked the bride ominously "Aoes the person who is baking your cake have insurance?" and then adding, "Because if someone at the wedding gets sick and sues..." The Caterzilla also refused to cut any cake they had not prepared, meaning that Gretchen and Ray ended up doing all the cutting and serving of the wedding cake. From all indications, it was a big success, especially among the half-dozen or so children, all of whom hoverered around near the front of the cake line, sometimes chanting, "Cake! Cake! Cake!" Nobody had done that about the "chana masala," that's for damn sure.
By this point, I could hear the pleasant jangle of alternative rock wafting from the music tent. Supposedly a "secret" band would be playing tonight, and, given that the music didn't sound like your usual wedding faire, I suspected this was them.
The members of the band were decidedly middle-aged, or perhaps even older, and they played their music with such skill and ease that it suggested they'd been around for a long time and had many years to hone their craft. This was clearly not your average wedding band. Later I would learn that these were the Feelies (or, that is, some of the Feelies). I don't know much about the Feelies, since they had vanished from the musical scene by the time I became interested in alternative rock in the early 1990s. But supposedly their jangly sound influenced many other bands, including REM. It turned out that they were, among other things, a perfect wedding band. They even did some covers of familiar tunes from other musicians in addition to their own beautiful material.
At first people were dancing a bit soberly to the music, leaving a big space in front of the band. Eventually this space was filled by a number of dancing children, who tended to flail about randomly and occupy an outsized amount of space. As the main singer dude remarked at some point, "This is the friendliest mosh pit I've ever seen."
Eventually Gretchen and Ray were done with the cake cutting and joined the rest of us in the music tent. At some point she remarked on the fact that a little girl dancing in the mosh pit looked exactly like the six-year-old version of herself, including her choice of clothing. It really was uncanny; I'd seen photos of Gretchen looking exactly like that girl.
Like all good things, the music finally ended and the crowd dispersed to the winds. There was supposedly an after-party at the Station in Woodstock, but Gretchen felt she needed a rest after all that cake and whatever had given her a sore throat yesterday.
I should mention that there had also been a DJ, but she'd played music mostly in the brief time between the ceremony and dinner, and nobody had danced to any of it. Also, the music wasn't your typical wedding material, though it was more familiar than most of the songs played by the Feelies.

That is me on the left with Gretchen and her cake in the foreground. The color for the cake was dictated by the two robot overlords taking away the jobs of traditional cake toppers. Photo by our friend Peter.

A portal in space-time opened up to let the 1977 version of Gretchen into the Feelies' "mosh pit." Photo by our friend Peter.

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