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:
   Porsche from Alaska
Friday, September 24 2021
For the last year and a half or so, I've been in regular contact with one of my cousin's daughters, a 30-something living in or near Oklahoma City named Christine. Her mother, my cousin, is named Carol, is nearly 60 years old, and lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Carol's mother (who was my aunt and my mother's older sister) was named Dorothy and lived in California. She died several years ago. (Dorothy was at our wedding and famously played a funeral march on our piano as part of the festivities.) Christine is a fun person with a similar sense of humor to mine, though her mother and grandmother always seemed kind of awkard and blunt in a distinctly DeMar kind of way (this all has origins in Clarence DeMar's genome). In recent months, Carol has been planning a transcontinental road trip with Christine from Fairbanks to Keene, New Hampshire, where she planned to run a half-marathon at the annual event named for our grandfather, Clarence DeMar. Originally Carol's plan had her building her own trailer on a trailer frame she'd bought, but she eventually scrapped those plans to buy a tent that folds up into a small pod on the top of her vehicle (an all-wheel-drive Porsche Macan from the 2020 model year) and a small cantilevered platform attached to the rear.
Carol seems to enjoy connecting with members of her family, even people like me whom she has never actually met before. So she'd arranged her travel plans so that she'd be stopping to visit me, my aunt Barbara and Kent, my cousins Diedre and Bumble, and my mother and brother at various places along the route. I was the first of her DeMar relatives she'd be visiting, and Christine told me from the road they'd be arriving at about 4:30 this afternoon, having driven all day from where they'd spent the night, a campground somewhere between Toledo and Cleveland. Last night I'd gone on a mild mold-fighting jihad in the basement and today I went a vacuuming jihad in the living room and on the steps both to the upstairs and the basement.
Carol and Christine arrived about ten minutes early. I'd forgotten that Carol had changed her plans and had made room for her to pull in with a trailer, moving the Subaru out to the side of Dug Hill Road. We stood around awkwardly for a few minutes while the dogs broke the ice with their friendly wiggled greetings. They're both dog people, so Neville's initial skepticism immediately melted. I don't come from a hugging family, so I assumed hugs were not in order.
Gretchen normally fulfills the role of host, but she was down in Westchester County visiting Powerful in the hospital, so it fell to me to offer drinks (everyone wanted SporTea) and snacks. I got out naan crackers and some sort of Miyoko's cashew-based "cheese" and we sat for a time out on the east deck. The conversation wasn't bad, but I found the whole thing exhausting because I was required to be fully-present in a social setting. Of course, standards for such things are modest among those with DeMar genes, so expectations weren't high. Christine is a genuine extrovert with good social skills, though she must've gotten those traits from Carol's ex-husband, who, these days, is some sort of Trumpy conspiracy theorist.
Eventually I took them on a walk with the dogs down the Farm Road, through the abandoned go-cart tracks, and back homeward through the scrubby forest atop the plateau west of the Farm Road. Along the way, Carol showed surprising interest in nature, and they both took lots of photographs of the abundant diversity of wild mushrooms. I even found an enormous Lactarius indigo at the go-cart tracks (which, I noted, my father used to collect and cook for us), though it was a little far gone and its blue-blooded cap tasted bitter when Carol urged me to try it. Later I gave her a tiny puffball and she ate it without question. Other things that Carol found photo-worthy was a spectacular shag-bark hickory and the big bluestone "egg" made by Georges (the man who owns the farm at the end of the Farm Road). Meanwhile, the mosquitoes attacked us relentlessly, leaving a large lump on my forehead, among other things. They were bad but they could've been worse had it been a bit warmer.
Back at the house, I gave Christine a tour of the laboratory and even the laboratory deck, [REDACTED]. Then while Carol ran three and a half miles up and down the Farm Road repeatedly (as part of her training for the half-marathon), Christine and I hung out in the living room talking about various things. Christine is in a different life-stage than I am, so it didn't surprise me that her financial condition is an order of magnitude less comfortable than mine. She, her husband, and dog Olivia (who looks almost exactly like Ramona) all live together in a single-wide trailer in a trailer park. Her husband works in the physical security department of a massive online payroll company, something Christine consider "a good job." But she's been troubled throughout her life by the kind of issues that seem to prey on the working poor. For example, at one point she got in trouble for supposedly using a cellphone while driving on a military base (perhaps when she was still living with Carol, who used to work in the Air Force). But she hadn't been using a cellphone, though she didn't fight the charge in court. As result of that charge, her auto insurance increased $100/month, costing her $6000 by the time the incident scrolled off her record five years later. Another situation similar to this happened when she applied for a Social Security card and the misinformed agent marked her down as "not an American citizen" because she'd been born on Guam (an American territory!). Because of this, she had to play numerous surcharges because her Social Security number was listed as "fraudulent." It turns out people are more than happy to work with people with supposed fraudulent social security numbers, but they always do so for a price. It's one of the many taxes "illegal" aliens pay that people such as me never face.
Meanwhile Gretchen was driving back from the south, stuck in traffic in I-84 between the Taconic and the Thruway. We'd had plans of maybe going our for dinner to the Garden Café for dinner, but Gretchen was now running so late that we'd have to meet her there to get there in time to be served. And meanwhile Carol was still running and couldn't be found. So we ended up having Gretchen pick up a vegan pizza from Di Bella's on Lucas Avenue. The pizza turned out to be smaller than Gretchen expected (she was thinking it would be the size of the pizza that ended up on the roof in that one scene in Breaking Bad). So I didn't make the glutton of myself that I usually do when pizza arrives. We ate it while I kept feeding a roaring cardboard fire in the woodstove.
Over pizza, Christine told Gretchen and me more details about the trailer park she lives in that threw into stark relief how grim life can be for those of modest means, particularly in states like Oklahoma where only the wealthy have rights. It turns out that Christine and her husband own their trailer (which isn't much of an asset) but rent the parcel it sits on. Under Oklahoma law, a tenant may not break a lease, but a landlord can evict a tenant for any reason or no reason at all. This gives landlords grotesque, despotic powers, as the owner of Christine's trailer park has demonstrated. This landlord has decreed that nobody may sell their trailer to anyone she does not approve of, which in actual practice means they can't sell their trailer to anyone except her. But of course, being the only buyer, she gets to set the price, which is typically less than half the market value. For example, when Christine and her husband bought their trailer, they bought it from the despotic owner of the trailer park for $18,000. But then Christine found out that the previous owner, an old woman who had lived in it for years, had sold it just months before to the despotic trailer park owner for only $8000, which was all she could get because, well, she was locked out of a free market. The despotic landlord does other things that are equally unsavory, such as threatening some of the tenants (most of whom are Hispanic) that she will report them to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The owner's racism comes out in other ways, such as the fact that she especially "likes" Christine and her husband for reasons that probably don't extend beyond the fact that they are white. This all sounded like a horrendous situation, one that should be blown open on an episode of 60 Minutes or in the New Yorker.
At about 10:30 pm, I wished everyone good night and headed off to bed. Carol slept in the basement while initially Christine decided to sleep in the living room, though she might've found somewhere else to sleep later on.

pictures taken by Carol later sent to me by Christine

Me in the laboratory.

Gretchen with Neville in the dining room.

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