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:
   tussin in Malvern
Sunday, January 4 1998

fter eggy slime time, I was back on Teri's computer, trying to coax it onto the Information Superhighway, but it refused to recognize its internal modem, no matter what I did. It was infuriating. Finally I gave up in disgust.

Jessika and I walked to downtown Malvern, to get out of the house and enjoy the unusual warmth of the day if nothing else.

We went into both the pharmacy and the Wa Wa (a Philadelphia-area convenience store franchise), but there was nothing particularly interesting to do. I just wanted to sit down and take it easy, maybe drink a beer outside on the sidewalk like you can do at one of the many cafés of Charlottesville. But they don't allow that sort of thing in Malvern. As we approached some Pour House coffee shop girls and ducked into the Pour House alley to see if Silent Andy was in, one of the coffee shop girls peaked around the corner at us. When busted, she claimed to be interested in Jessika's shiny vinyl pants.

The Pour House was hot and stuffy, and I didn't want any more coffee anyway. So we continued to the nearby pizza place. I threw open the windows at one of the booths to let the fresh air in, and we sat drinking big cans of Fosters and trying our best to ignore the football game on the teevee. "Football noise" Jessika calls it. We watched the young skater kids rolling around in the parking lot and smashing their bottles on the SEPTA tracks. One of Silent Andy's friends appeared, and we watched him as he arranged his hair in his rearview mirror. I'm sure he had no idea he was being watched. As he walked by our window, Jessika invited him in.

On the walk back to Jessika's house, we were distracted into a long stopover at Jody's House. She was packing the car for the drive back to college. Such stopovers always last much too long, and in this case I had a can of Fosters in my bladder. My using the restroom unfortunately had the effect of dragging our casual conversation indoors. I didn't really want to be inside that dreary house on this particular day, so I chose to be antisocial, going outside and sitting on the ground, petting an ancient black cat with runny eyes and greasy fur. When Jessika finally emerged, she expressed concern about how I might address this incident in the musings.


fter more depressingly ineffectual dicking with Teri's Macintosh, we found ourselves playing phone tag with Sara Poiron, who claimed to want to come hang out with us. The plan was to drink tussin and do that Grand Air Trine thing. Sara would have to come to Malvern. She had a ride and everything lined up (Dennis, who is boyfriend number one; Seph is two, Man is five, the devil is six and God is seven and God is seven and God is seven), but she was reluctant.

Teri made a run to Kentucky Fried Chicken (which is now known as KFC; the word "fried" has negative connotations) and Jessika and I tagged along. I added to the loot of chicken carcass pieces with a dozen biscuits and a tub of coleslaw. I'm particularly fond of that isopropyl alcohol aftertaste in KFC coleslaw. But Jessika doesn't understand coleslaw at all. I have no idea why.


s usual, I ate more chicken than I should have. Then it was off to Jessika's basement abode to digest food in peace, cordless phone in hand for the inevitable phone calls. First came an endless conversation with Johnny Boom Boom. He implied that Sara was more into hard drugs than we could possibly know. And he also mentioned something about strange new features of Sara's vocabulary. She apparently now uses terms like "sweetie" and "love" as pronouns when addressing friends. This is precisely the sort of nauseating crap that used to make her shriek "Ewww!" Jessika thinks she might have picked this up from her mild-mannered emotional vegan boyfriend Seph. Matthew Hart had said something about Sara calling him "love" over the phone some days ago, and I'd assumed she'd had one of her boyfriends on the other line and that she'd slipped up (still been in "boyfriend mode") when she clicked over to Matthew. But no, according to Johnny, she's like this all the time. Jessika was stunned.

Then there was a long endless call with Sara. Actually, there were several. Sara had a lot of complaining to do about Matthew. She'd been at the home of some friends of Shira's when Matthew et al had arrived. She was embarrassed to see how awful he looked: strung out, nodding off, pinprick pupils, huge bags under his eyes, the works. She'd told him to leave, and a huge fight had erupted.

In the end, Sara decided not to come hang out with us, but not after stringing us along for hours, making us wait by the phone for her inevitable dis. In Sara's last phonecall this evening, it was obvious to Jessika that Sara was sitting with Dennis, saying things to the phone for his benefit, sometimes completely out of context to what Jessika was saying. For example, Sara started shouting at one point, even though Jessika wasn't shouting or even discussing a serious issue of contention. It was creepy, Jessika thought, but this sort of thing has happened before. Some day, before too long, Sara will shed off her boyfriends, realize how pathetic she's been, and come back with head hung low to Jessika. In the mean time, though, Jessika has to deal with "Sara the actress," a fake person living a fake life, working as a dominatrix in contradiction to her essential inclinations.

I said that Sara's new pathological fascination with boys is possibly a result of the fucked-up fake sexuality that comes with her career. Perhaps she's into conventional monogamous heterosexual relationships (paradoxically though, the more the merrier!) to demonstrate to herself that her sexuality is not as fucked up as she has to act that it is. Jessika had other evidence along with another theory, but I'm straying into territory that probably doesn't belong on the World Wide Web.

We also discussed the strange phenomenon of Matthew's heroin vacations to major urban centers. Matthew's my friend in Charlottesville; when we're there we often have wonderful camaraderie. But in Philadelphia (or New York), he becomes a monster, the sort of person whom I would never get to know, let alone befriend. When he's in Philadelphia, he expects to be shooting heroin the whole time, and he expects everyone around him to be shooting heroin too. Matthew has a special fondness for Johnny Boom Boom, and when he's in Malvern, it's Johnny who Matthew wants to see. But of course, Matthew also wants to shoot heroin. And you can't hang around someone on heroin unless you are also on heroin. That's just the way it is. So whatever progress Johnny makes in trying to clean up his act is set way back whenever Matthew is in town. It's disgusting. It's just more evidence of Matthew's needy selfishness. That he's dragging Angela along, though, is the real tear-jerker. Her lack of personal identity is extremely unattractive.


ell, I was just happy that the ordeal of waiting for Sara to show up was done, that we could get on with our lives. It was time for tussin. Jessika and I walked down to the Wa Wa and I picked up four ounces of overpriced tussin DM. Then we headed over to the SEPTA station and sat on the bench looking at the tracks. According to Jessika, the SEPTA station is the only place in Malvern where someone can loiter without being driven off by police.

It took me awhile to psyche myself up to chug down my tussin. I had six ounces to work with (Jessika had brought along two additional ounces). I feared it would react badly with all the chicken meat in my stomach. For her part, Jessika had one of those Dextromethorphan pills we'd experimented with months ago. She at hers in a moment, no ordeal at all.

Unfortunately, the only thing I had with which to rinse out my mouth was a strange cocktail of Wa Wa fountain drinks, and after the horrible experience of quaffing the tussin, this cocktail tasted exactly like tussin! Talk about misery...

We came across Silent Andy just as he was returning from work, and we followed him back to his garage. The usual hippies were gathered around, but the news was not good. Andy had received word that he was being evicted from his garage by the landlord (the owner of the Pour House). He didn't know why, except for the fact that the landlord is "an asshole."

Soon I was playing music with the others. I was on bass, laying down little repetitive riffs upon which the others built their music. Besides me, we had drums, a trumpet and a guitar in effect. It actually sounded pretty good, even Jessika said so, and that was unusual.

I smoked some pot with the hippies, and after that, reality completely left me and didn't return. By the time the pot had faded from my system, I was in tussopolis, saying completely weird things and experiencing sudden intense rapturous revelations. Among them:

  • Some new tall handsome blond hippie guy showed up, insisting on hugging everyone in greeting except for me (my body language could not be misconstrued). He talked about his new job working at a Fresh Fields franchise, and the things he'd had to learn about obscure and natural food. When he revealed that cous-cous is (in fact) a form of pasta, not a grain, I realized suddenly that there was something within me, something untapped yet brilliant, that had known this all along, even though no one had ever told me. I let the others in on my revelation, and described for them the process of someone chopping up vermicelli finely.

  • The Dave Matthews Band is extremely popular at Andy's Garage, and soon enough it was being played on the stereo. Suddenly I realized that Dave was singing "All Along the Watchtower." It wasn't a very good version, but I was pleased to figure out what it was, since it wasn't obvious. Rapturously, I exclaimed "The sneaky bastard!" a line that was quoted later in the evening.

This sort of behaviour on my part led one of the hippies (a long term garage houseguest whose appearance more resembled a frat boy than a hippie) to repeatedly ask if I was alright. Even in my tussinificated state, I found this very irritating.

Jessika decided to give me a tour of the back end of the garage, and entirely separate world full off incomplete art projects, assorted lumber and tools. Normally it would have been cold back there, but the night was warm, and the place soon proved a wonderful place to tuss. I found myself swinging around on structures like a little monkey, or reciting poetry spontaneously for Jessika and the fratboyesque hippie (a steady stream of guys came back to hang out with us, or Jessika actually).

Everything sounded hi-fidelity production-quality to my tussinified ear. My poetry sounded like it deserved to be cut on CD, but so did the Amerindian drumming wafting in from the front section of the garage. I was so enchanted by the sound that I went to investigate.

The hippies were hammering away in their usual way on their African drums. I'm sure it was mediocre tachycardia at best, but I was completely, emotionally, overwhelmed. I sat and listened, bursting with a desire to relate what I was seeing to Jessika. I was particularly struck by what Silent Andy was doing. He had before him an array of small bells, laid out on the head of an African drum. He would pick them up and ring them in various patterns in agreement with the rhythm. He was limited in terms of how fast he could act simply because of the nature of the medium, but he was doing it well. It sounded almost like keys on an electronic synthesizer. I was drawn in and mesmerized. Finally I couldn't take it anymore. I ran off to describe it all to Jessika. When she heard me bubbling over, at first she couldn't tell whether I was serious or sarcastic. But the funny thing is that, in my tussin-affected state, sarcastic joy and straightforward joy had been fused into a greater, more overwhelming whole. It was beautiful in its own right, it was beautifully ridiculous, and it was beautiful because it was both at once. And it all added up to joy and almost tear-provoking enthusiasm.

After most of the crowd had dwindled away (there had even been an unsolicited additional hippie chick, believe it or not), we decided to set out on foot for an adventure.


e headed across Main Street and through a graveyard. What can I say about the graveyard? The stones sat at strange angles, and some were loosely set upon the ground. It seemed to me that these corpses were being neglected. Suddenly I realized that no one cares about people who are dead. Your body, where it lies, is irrelevant. No one loves you when you're not here anymore. There are too many important issues for the live to concern themselves with the buried. Beyond that, how much do the alive care for the alive, especially when the alive might easily die at any time. Life suddenly seemed incredibly futile. Yet, if life has any meaning, I realized, it is about the creations we make, not about our dead bodies, not about our nearly-dead bodies, not about anything body-like at all.

I stopped beside a very average tombstone and declared that it was Shira's. "No it's not," Jessika argued, "it belongs to _______ ______."

"No, Jessika, we have to act like it's Shira's. It makes no difference anyway," I explained. As you can see, I was in a very childish fantasizing mindset, so much so that even Jessika didn't want to play along. That took some doing!

We continued on to the religious retreat where Jessika recently worked as a cleaning girl. Down a shady lane through a forest of big trees, the sounds of the distant town and the highways dwindled away and we found ourselves in some sort of empty land. How it could stay so empty in this part of Pennsylvania is still a mystery to me.

As we approached the main buildings, we fell completely silent. Then we walked on a loop to see something akin to "stations of the cross." I stopped in a little munchkin house to have a look at a little plastic Jesus with outstretched arms casting benediction in my general direction. I realized another profound thing about mortality at this point: most of society was trapped in a land of hocus pocus, where such things still have meaning. How can reality, rationality, have any meaning in a world where such serious attention could be given to a plastic depiction of someone who died two thousand years ago?

Something about the tussin caused tears to stream down my face as we continued through the dark silent woods. The air seemed warm, or completely comfortable, but that might have also had something to do with the tussin. The world just wasn't very real somehow.

And still Jessika claimed not to be on tussin. That DXM pill in her stomach must have been a dud.

We resurfaced from the retreat and headed through nearby suburbs, stopping at a pile of trash in front of a pleasant house that was for sale. There were some nice couches free for the taking, and the trash was incredibly clean. We found frizbees, baseball bats and hats, and lots and lots of clothes. I put on three of the tee shirts right then and there and gathered up various items of sports equipment for Matthew.

On the way back to downtown Malvern, I found myself passing through my tussin trip seemingly in reverse, as each landmark came back in reverse order. It seemed like I'd come this way ages ago, and it all seemed only vaguely familiar.

Jessika and I left Silent Andy at his garage and headed back to her house.


n Jessika's basement abode, we sat around talking for a long time. Jessika gave me a long but fascinating account of the accident on Carter's Mountain, complete with the aftermath and her gradual recovery. What struck me most about it all was the fact that her brain was evidently severely damaged in the accident, and it required months of healing before it could adequately take down memories (or otherwise function effectively). She told me that she had incredibly low levels of ambition and initiative in the aftermath of the accident.

Jessika told other stories, things about her childhood. She flowed along. It was all interesting, but so was looking at her face. The light was shining from behind her in an unusual way, and it threw unfamiliar shadows across her face. I realized that she didn't look anything like the Jessika I knew. Sometimes she even looked like white girl trailer trash. It was refreshing in a way, and it seemed to make her more comprehensible. Suddenly she realized that the tussin pill had kicked in.

That was unfortunate. Though we continued talking for at least an hour beyond that, my tussin experience had ended and she was going to have to go to sleep somewhere in the peak of hers. Life is unfair. If you take Dextromethorphan together, folks, take the same kind for Christ's sake.

See some photographs from the Malvernia trip.

Read some more tales of tussin.

one year ago

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