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

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Like my brownhouse:
   not remembering Shira
Saturday, January 3 1998

he Aquarian mother of Jessika, Teri, came down to Jessika's basement abode to alert us that a somewhat impromptu memorial for Shira (the girl who died three weeks ago from a drug overdose) was soon to be starting and that we should get up and prepare for the arrival of our ride. This was somewhat unexpected, but that's how things always seem to work in my little world.

Jessika was jokingly terming the morning "eggy slime time," in reference both to the fact that eggs are a common breakfast food and the reality of my congenital aversion to them.

We hadn't drunk much coffee before our ride came. It was Joanna the reluctant Malvernian Charlottesvillian complete with the Peggy-Zach-Baboose Family (like me, on vacation from Virginia in Malvernia). But the arrival of our ride and the fact that Joanna left her engine running had little bearing on when we actually departed. Jessika first had to get ready (it was a long silver dress kind of day), and she also had to have a phone fight with Johnny Boom Boom. None of this was unexpected. It's kind of fun waiting for Jessika if you have no strong interest in going anywhere. Not that hearing Joanna complain about a painful new zit on the bridge of her nose (and its possible connection to a sinus problem) is anything too entertaining.

Shira's memorial was to be held at Upattinas, the small hippie school from which she and the other Malvern girls graduated. On the way we'd be picking up Naomi Mushrock, one of the friends of the Malvern Girls.


oon we were heading down small Pennsylvanian roads into increasingly rural countryside, making our way west. At a modest mansion, we stopped to pick up Naomi Mushrock. She's a weird one: a slender girl with long bleach blond dread locks, a fondness for heavy makeup, elegant clothes, and jacked-up clunky black shoes. Sort of an alternative fashion-horse type, if you will. These days she walks with a cane; she has, you see, a severe problem with sleepwalking, and often injures herself doing so. Not long ago she crushed her siatic nerves (these control muscles in the lower legs) during a sleepwalk, and now she has difficulty walking. For a long time Naomi was one of Philadelphia's many heroin addicts, but of late she's cleaned up her life. She's been sort of adopted by a nice wealthy older woman; that accounts for the mansion.

Towards Upattinas, the countryside became increasingly rural. I had a pretty bad hangover from last night, and it was good to just sit there and passively watch and feel and smell the scenery race by. It was a warm day and the sun shone brightly.

The only irritations came from Joanna. First there was Joannas's obsessive fascination with vehicles and the idea of buying herself a new pickup truck. Then there was her road rage, her constant nasty criticisms of all other drivers on the road. Her obsession with the idea of buying a truck really wasn't so bad; I myself entertain my obsessions and use them to bore my friends. Joanna is planning on buying a pickup truck and moving once and for all to Charlottesville, but Jessika is doubtful. Joanna has been "about" to move to Charlottesville for three years now.

It was the road rage that was most irritating. Not only did Joanna criticize real flaws in the driving of others, but she criticized them for committing such offenses as driving no faster than posted speed limits. She wasn't happy unless others were driving with her aggressive driving style. Interestingly, I notice that Joanna doesn't manifest road rage when she drives in Charlottesville (unfamiliar territory). On subsequent reflection, I realized that road rage is a form of territorial behaviour. I've noticed that I feel the most road rage when I'm nearing my childhood home.


t Upattinas, there was already a small group gathered, including such people as Turtle, a vaguely familiar girl named Amanda and the forever-upbeat Gabe (a Pisces and one-time fascination of Jatasya).

It turned out that our gathering was based on a big misunderstanding; Shira's memorial wasn't to be until sometime this Spring. We'd all gathered in vain. Now, pragmatically, of course, we could have remembered Shira anyway. We were all there, weren't we? Well, most of us were. We could have held hands and gone "Ohmmmm" or whatever one does at a non-denominational celebration of the life of a fallen one. But no, it was too uncomfortable of an issue or something. Instead, we chose to mingle, socialize and amble about aimlessly. In my hungover state I was particularly capable of the latter. I wandered down to some pens in the back, one of which housed a pair of dogs, the other housing a smelly billy goat, complete with horns. It looked much like the pens at a familiar Community College where experimental animals were housed, although I knew that at this hippie school these animals were probably spoiled rotten, deprived only in terms of the amount of meat in their diets.

Nearby were a series of primitive structures: a sweat lodge and a lean-to made of branches and twigs. It was the "lab" part of some sort of stone-age housing class. "Only at a hippie school" I thought, though it reminded me of my unstructured play as a child. I used to build dwellings like this when I was a bored kid lost in fantasy back on the farm. Jessika said that this was the sort of thing that made parents wonder about the relevance of the school to modern times, but as she saw it, these classes taught the kind of knowledge that would one day be essential in a post-technologic world "after the shit goes down." In a way, something within me agreed. I learned a hell of a lot more as a kid when I was building things like this than when I was wondering what was going to be on the pop quiz. The nostalgia alone affected me deeply.

Gabe, Zachary and I went into the main building and got ourselves some old lukewarm coffee while various people chit chatted. Gabe told me at a certain point that the idea of Jessika was much more comprehensible if she was "viewed as a drug." In a way that made some kind of sense, but when he made the revelation to her, he worded it badly and made the mistake of adding that he was "addicted to her." As expected, Jessika expressed irritation.

Eventually I reposed in the high-ceilinged library talking with Jessika. I was chewing on a Black Cherry branch, making an abstract little stringy object. I called it a "marionette" and made it walk around on my leg, jokingly asking people if they liked it. Jessika said it looked like something out of Eraser Head. That was high praise coming from her.

About this time, Johnny Boom Boom, Matthew Hart and Angela showed up. Matthew looked horrible: big dark bags under his eyes and pupils shrunken to mathematical points. Angela wasn't acting normal either. I don't know Johnny Boom Boom well enough to say if he was acting oddly. Whatever, it didn't matter. This was a tragedy. Here we were gathered ostensibly to celebrate the life of a girl who was tragically taken from us by a drug overdose, and here were some people who were so infantile they couldn't stay away from the drugs for long enough to do honour to the dead. It was disgusting and horrifying. None of them said anything to either Jessika or me. I guess they were embarrassed with themselves, and resolute in their greed for chemo-happiness no matter the cost. Jessika finally called Angela aside and made an attempt to address the distinct possibility of her being lost to heroin culture, but suddenly it seemed completely futile. Angela was an empty soul; whatever we were looking at had been put there by Matthew. She was not her own person, she was an automaton, programmed to follow the dictates of a boyfriend. I'd thought I'd already seen a great enough tragedy, but this was far worse. Here was a girl who was being pushed into a culture for which she had no understanding or desire, one she had no business entering, a place she would never have gone if she'd been wise enough to make a shrewd selection of lover, or if she'd had enough independence to choose to refuse. She had neither. She was weak, she was stupid, and she was lost. Jessika gave up her conversation after a sentence and a half. Angela was but a pod person.


ith such things going on, Shira was but a distant memory, a dead body whose relevance on our lives was infinitesimal. We broke up and went separate directions. Those who had come in my car, along with Gabe and Turtle, continued on to a nearby American family restaurant known as the Black Horse. The heroin pod people went off to their own numb form of private fun.

The food at the Black Horse was dull and bland, though the portions were large. The waitresses, wholesome blue collar white girls, wore denim skirts and the men, bus boys and bartenders, all looked like they'd been recruited from the Aryan Resistance. An enormously fat customer kept distracting me with his opulent bounty. He no doubt relished the size of the portions.

After lunch, we stood around in the parking lot, admiring a monster truck. Joanna posed beside it for a photograph.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the residence of yet another Upattinas friend, a strange individual named Pierre. He lived on a farm even further to the west.

Road Rage and interesting humpy topography (the kind that make your viscera experience interesting G-forces) lead us down Pennsylvania Route 401. One of these roads is referred to by Jessika's mother as the "Throw Up Road." I understand why. But I loved the way it felt.

And as agricultural as the setting, it seemed that every few miles we crossed over a major interstate high on a bridge. The land is broken into tiny triangles by enormous four lane roads.


ierre lives within earshot of one such highway, but other than that, it's a peaceful bucolic land. Peacocks strolled about leisurely and looked at themselves in the reflections of a shiny truck while kittens wrestled and chased under low bushes. Pierre is a large guy with big hands, and today he looked like a down-home farm clown, with bib overalls, huge shoes and hair dyed blue and green. He looked at least as old as me, though he can't possibly be. His father is smaller, but he too has big hands, along with an unenviable reputation.

A constant stream of older people kept appearing, hanging out for awhile and disappearing. They were a heavy smoking, heavy drinking crowd that had been carrying on since the sixties at least, and they looked far older than their already substantial years.

I didn't really have much to do or say. I sat for a long time outside enjoying the unusual warmth on this January day. Then, as evening fell, I moved first to the porch and then inside. Out on the porch, Naomi Mushrock filled the air with words that at times contradicted earlier things she had said. She expressed fears about money and then said she that for the first time in her life she hasn't had to worry about money. She went on to express a desire to one day be a fashion designer, but ended up fantasizing about being a counselor. Much of her talk seemed designed specifically to cancel the silence. Everyone except Jessika and me had smoked a lot of pot by this point.

Eventually I found my way back to a room where a group of guys (along with the girl Amanda) were playing instruments. I joined in on vocals, making up lyrics as I went along. It was a wonderfully creative and satisfying experience, especially since my lyrics seemed to unify the music and inspire the musicians. Among the lyrics I sang were:

[a song about a parade of chickens unsuccessfully crossing a busy highway]

"Hairy arm and the band aid stick! / For sisterly love! / For motherly love!"

"Swerve and hit the 'possum boogie / The happy furry frizbee with a smile frozen on his face."

Time dragged on while Naomi, Turtle, Gabe and Pierre wrestled playfully with a hopeless jigsaw puzzle. I felt weird and spacey from my continued hangover. Eventually someone made noises that we should go. After much more time passed, we finally mustered the necessary motivation.

There was the usual hugfest goodbye. Something weird happened in the midst of it. I hugged Amanda goodbye and she stood there expectantly, looking at me directly as if I should say or do something else. I had no idea what to do and I just shuffled my feet and said nothing and giggled nervously, as did she. This had been going on all evening. Every time I said anything to her, she wouldn't let me free of her attention, and this gave me an extremely uncomfortable feeling. There's something in human protocol that was lacking, I don't know exactly what. I think it had something to do with the length of time one pays attention following a brief chunk of dialogue. She stayed fixated just a little too long. I've never had this problem before in my life.

Ah, those windy humpy roads. Then Jessika and I were back at her house in Malvern.


he next thing I knew, I had launched into the task of trying to make Jessika's mother's (Teri's) Macintosh operate successfully with a scanner. It was a complete nightmare. I'd barely done anything at all before the hard drive had crashed so hard that the machine refused to boot. That's a pretty serious problem, one normally remedied only with the aid of Norton Utilities. As you might recall, this very problem necessitated one of my infrequent recent trips to Staunton. But I didn't think I even had Norton Utilities on my portable hard drive.

Teri was amazingly unflustered by this development. She seemed to view it as a delicious challenge, and she set out immediately to a computer store to purchase a fresh new copy of Norton Utilities. But even with that in hand, my troubles continued. I had to back up the what I could recover from the Mac's hard drive and reformat it completely. Then it turned out that I'd had Norton Utilities on my portable hard drive all along. Argh! It was very frustrating all in all, and despite hours of work, I couldn't get the computer to be completely operational. I felt guilty, since the computer had fucked up while I was working with it. It wasn't my fault, of course, but the appearance of things was that I'd had something to do with it, and I wanted to make everything whole again.

Jessika was very patient through all this. She hung out with me during the entire time (while I essentially ignored her), spinning me interesting tunes on the stereo. A recent favourite of hers is The Bloodhound Gang, which she seems to be almost embarrassed to admit she likes. It's sort of a rap-metal-geek rock hybrid whose originality lies almost entirely in the cleverness and shock value of the lyrics.

Jessika and I were pretty tired (and after hours dicking with the computer, I was weary) so we went to bed relatively early.

See some photographs from the Malvernia trip.

one year ago

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