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:
   no sex 'til Brooklyn
Friday, March 23 2001
I stepped out of John F. Kennedy Airport and Jesus X. Christ, New York City was cold! Making matters worse, a strong wind was howling across the parking lot from the not-so-distant arctic. My little brown jacket, the heaviest clothing I normally wear through a Southern California winter, was not anywhere near enough protection from the elements. I'd held out the romantic (perhaps nostalgic) hope that it would be springtime in the East as it normally is at this time of year, but it seems I was wrong. My Dad down in Virginia had told me that this is the single most relentless winter he's ever experienced anywhere (and he grew up in central Wisconsin) so I really shouldn't have been surprised. Also, Gretchen had warned me about the weather.
I waited in the taxi cab line until my turn came and I was given a cab. Like all cabs in New York, this one was driven by a Pakistani. I'd practiced reciting the directions Gretchen had emailed me so I could give a smooth delivery and not find myself on a rambling Odyssey through Queens, but still I found them hard to deliver.

Take the Conduit
To Atlantic
Then take the Eastern Parkway
To Grand Army Plaza.

It didn't much matter what I told the cabby because he insisted on taking his own route. Not being from these parts, I trusted that the cabby knew Brooklyn better than I did. So I didn't complain as he proceeded to drive completely around the oceanic limits of Brooklyn using the occasionally gridlocked Belt Parkway. Gretchen's neighborhood is Park Slope and I didn't really know where it was in relation to the southern limits of Brooklyn. I just assumed that at any moment we'd bust a hard right and be at her brownstone. Alas, this was not the case. I knew things were going badly as we passed under the Verrazano Bridge. I'd begun to recall the grim fact that a great majority of those beheaded every year in Saudi Arabia are Pakistani guest workers. I even found myself imagining how difficult it would be to slice off my driver's head with the single stroke of a sword.
Once we became thoroughly ensnared in the traffic of I-278, such sadistic visions were no longer enough. I began to complain. "Why are we driving all the way around Brooklyn?" I demanded. My driver tried to explain that there were several ways to go to Park Slope and his way would surely take the shortest time because it involved the "fewest lights." But after several tens of minutes had passed and we'd only advanced a mile, he began doubting himself. I started cursing and even demanded to be let out "at the next light" at one point. I was tempted to just leap out of the car and leave him behind, but we were way up on one of those stilt-supported concrete causeways. The cabby didn't like my attitude and beseeched me to stop cursing at him. Finally he even said, "You people are all the same!" "What people?" I demanded, and he hedged a bit, saying, "All people!" "I wonder which is going to cost more, my plane ticket or my cab fare?" I mused. "Is it the money?" he wanted to know, perhaps hoping to put me on the defensive about being cheap. Finally he just turned off the meter. It had already run past forty dollars.
Somehow he found himself on the wrong side of Prospect Park, in a bombed-out part of Brooklyn on the west side of Washington Avenue. We found Gretchen's street, President, but the street numbers were 500 too high and somehow I couldn't imagine her being such a hard-core gentrifying colonist.
When we finally made it to Gretchen's place on the correct side of Prospect Park, the cabby told me I could pay him whatever the friend I was visiting had told me it would cost. So I gave him $30 and thanked him for being cool about it.
After I buzzed to be let in at Gretchen's brownstone, I found myself blinking in the half-light of indoors, barely able to see an ecstatically happy black Labrador-Pit Bull mutt at my feet gyrating silently back and forth with each enthusiastic wag of her tail. This dog had never met me before but she was very pleased to see me. It was Sally, Gretchen's dog. Gretchen's co-op apartment was right there on the first floor.
It was a sort of gloomy place, the only natural light being what little manages to filter through grime-clouded windows from narrow age-textured alleys and grey winter skies. But it was also a cozy place, the electric lamps, steam heat, and various animals providing complementary forms of warmth. Most of the furniture was in the tasteful earthy style of Pottery Barn, exactly as Gretchen had warned me. There were several sets of bookshelves and they were all completely filled. Gretchen loves books and reads a great deal of both poetry and fiction.
Gretchen's children, the ones who stayed with her in the aftermath of her autumn breakup with her girlfriend Barbara, are Sally the dog and her two cats, the extremely fluffy grey Noah and the zero-pound kitten Edna. All the animals seem to enjoy each other. Edna likes to play with Sally's tail and somehow Sally avoids crushing her underfoot. Noah lies around like a potentate, looking you straight in the eye and occasionally meowing. Every now and then Sally lets out a vocal yawn of frustration, "Ohh-yeoah?" It's her way of asking, "When are we going to the park?" But when she's happy she can be counted on to lick and lick and lick and not stop licking until told.
Gretchen wasn't wearing anything except a tee shirt. Soon she and I were in her bed with all her animals, making up for the many lonely moments of our prolonged separation. [REDACTED]

I slept on and off throughout the day. Gretchen would periodically leave me behind to take Sally for a run in Prospect Park.

In the late afternoon I finally rallied and got out of bed. The plan for the evening was to head across the East River to attend a book party in a loft south of Canal Street on the west side of Lower Manhattan. To get there, we rode with one of Gretchen's brownstone neighbors, a 37 year old female New York Times reporter who recently bore the child of her 28 year old husband. Today was the neighbor's first major venture from home, and she seemed excited. She'd be going to the doctor soon to establish whether or not she could resume relations with her husband, a subject which the husband has evidently been monitoring closely. Gretchen talks to the husband all the time and he's been complaining that all the lack of sex has been taking a toll on his lower back. [REDACTED]
On the ride into Manhattan, I sat in the front while Gretchen was in Hetero Hell, riding in the back with the squalling newborn. Like me, Gretchen is no fan of babies, finding them absolutely repulsive and unredeeming. Still, she did her best to placate the larval being, encouraging it to suck on a pacifier and perhaps shut the fuck up.
Driving on the streets of Manhattan, I found the sights and sounds of the city vastly more vibrant and inspiring than anything I've ever seen in Los Angeles. The architecture of New York alone makes up for any deficits in the weather. In contrast to the pre-fab monotony of Los Angeles, New York looks positively medieval. Then there are the marvelous protocols of New York. It is, said the 37 year old reporter, "a lawless city." The first thing one has to know about driving in New York is that the dotted lines indicating lanes are merely a suggestion. And when you're stopped at a stoplight or stuck in the middle of an intersection, it's perfectly okay to attempt a sideways exit through any space available. And pedestrians can do anything they want so long as they stay out of the way. "I love living in a lawless city!" enthused the 37 year old reporter.

The loft party was at the top of an elevator ride, beyond the coat rack and the cracked open window in front of which the smokers congregated (yes, people smoke in New York!). All the party attendees were Manhattan-bohemed out in their blacks, greys, and olive drabs. And everyone had really really nice shoes. Shoes are perhaps more important in New York than they are even in Los Angeles (if only for the fact that in New York the status symbol of the car is frequently absent).
The book being celebrated at this party was about police abuse in New York City and it was edited by Tanya, a friend Gretchen had met while serving as a camp counselor in California, just before both of them realize that they don't really like kids. More recently, Tanya has been investigating the "Ex-Gay Movement," an organization of devoutly religious zealots who seek to bring gays back to the righteous ways of heterosexuality. A recurring joke of late has been that I'm a secret agent of the Ex-Gay Movement sent undercover to reform Gretchen and convince her to abandon her carpet-munching ways.
I drank a good amount of wine, ate a reasonable amount of cheese and crackers, and met lots of people. But we didn't stay very long.
Walking to a restaurant from the party, Gretchen bought a pack of Parliament cigarettes and we continued on as smokers, just because it's fun to smoke when you're in New York (and the filters are recessed). We passed a lezzie bar called Henrietta's and Gretchen said her old girlfriend Barbara was probably in there, since she likes to hang out there every other Friday.
We did dinner at an Italian place along the Hudson waterfront called Uguale. Gretchen had been there before with her friend Mary and found the food so yummy and the staff so warm and accommodating that she'd taken a bunch of business cards to pass out to friends and strangers.
I ordered penne pasta and calamari and helped Gretchen pick out a bottle of wine. We sat back against the wall in something approaching seclusion (made easier given the dim illumination and the twinkling lights of the Jersey shore clearly visible through the window on the other side of the dining room). I suppose I was already fairly drunk from all the wine I'd had at the loft party, because I was I kept breaking into tears as Gretchen and I held hands and gazed lovingly into each others' eyes. The waitstaff did their best to be accommodating, but for the most part left us alone, apologizing every time they intruded. When we were done with the wine we moved on to shots of Frangelica, four in total. Finally the management came over and offered us a round of drinks on the house, which we drunkenly accepted. I ordered a Manhattan of course, since that's what I always order when I'm trashed.

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