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:
   auspicious aurora
Saturday, September 7 2002

setting: Brewster Inn, Cazenovia, New York

Gretchen tossed and turned all night long thinking about her contribution to today's wedding: the cakes. Yes, cakes. There would be not one, not two, not three, but four wedding cakes, and Gretchen had made them all. Actually, some of them were still in pre-fabricated components that required assembly. So Gretchen got up somewhat early this morning so she could construct cakes in the Brewster Inn kitchen. She called me a few minutes after she got there because she was experiencing an unforeseen problem: she'd poured a dacquoise out onto a sheet of aluminum foil and now she couldn't get the foil off of it. It was coming off in tiny pieces and she was using up all her time trying to deal with it. So I got out of bed and came over to help.
Man, having been through this experience, I'm surprised Dante didn't assign some especially tortured soul the task of peeling aluminum foil from a dacquoise for all eternity in one of the lower levels of the Inferno. I'd be pulling at the foil and only the most pathetic of slivers would come off, often leaving tiny isolated islands of foil behind on the sticky surface of the dacquoise. When I'd go to retrieve these islands, they'd frequently embed themselves further into the sugary quagmire. I knew it was essential to remove all the aluminum foil because I'm only too familiar with the unpleasant experience of chewing on the stuff.
After a half hour of this nightmare, I decided it was best to just excise the parts that still had aluminum foil stuck to it and fill in the voids with fragments from another ruined dacquoise. At the last minute, Gretchen decided to reorder the layers so we could get by with a reduced number of dacquoises. This wasn't the only spur-of-the-moment variance from the plan. When it turned out that all the fresh raspberries had gone moldy, Gretchen decided to replace them with a pool of raspberry sauce. Throughout this craziness, we benefited greatly from the expert (and completely unanticipated) help of one of the Brewster Inn's chefs.
By now it was time for the wedding, so I hurried off to get dressed while Gretchen handled a few lingering details.
Today was a beautiful day for an outdoor wedding. The air was absolutely post-cold-front-clear, though the sun was still plenty hot. It all began with Bill (Debra's boyfriend), acting in the capacity of a flower girl, melodramatically tossing flower petals down the length of the aisle. Then Ray and Nancy walked up to the front to tune of some familiar funky late-70s groove. It was so goofy and unexpected that it scared up a flock of laughter from the audience. The wedding itself lasted only a few minutes, presided over by a local justice of the peace reading from a prepared text that was both businesslike and not-especially-inspired. Happily, it was entirely devoid of any religious overtones.
After the ceremony, Gretchen and I arranged the cakes. This involved not only the placing them on the cake table, but it also involved putting little couples on top of them. Two of the "couples" were actually abstract zinc-anodized copper sculptures that I'd made. When all was said and done, the cakes looked absolutely perfect. There was no indication whatsoever of Gretchen's earlier moments of cake-baking despair.
For much of the rest of the afternoon, people mingled around eating a wide variety of finger food and drinking all sorts of fine beverages. Gretchen declared that the Bloody Marys were the best she'd ever had in her entire life. Outside there were two separate fondue stations, one with chocolate, the other with cheese. In a lavish display of decadence, Mark dipped a huge chocolate chip cookie in the chocolate fondue.
At a certain point we were all given glasses of champagne and then an official toast was held out on the patio, presided over by Ray's oldest brother Kim.
An early supper (or lupper, if you prefer) was followed by the cutting of the wedding cake. Sometime before that happened, Mark and I slipped off behind a row of trees near the lakeshore and smoked part of a joint and then made fun of a tiny beach made of dirt. It turned out we were then trespassing on the grounds of an adjacent (and highly exclusive) club, accounting for the suspicious stares we got from a woman some 200 feet away.
Inspired by the lake, Mark and I were the first to change out of our formal clothes into attire suitable for swimming. It was sort of a radical move, even in this decidedly progressive crowd. I decided to act like I didn't know I was dressed any differently as I waded back into the throng of familiar people in unfamiliar clothes. At that point the cakes were in a whirlwind of devastation and Gretchen desperately wanted me to take pictures. By no everybody with a functioning mouth was talking about how beautiful and delicious the cakes were. Nobody had any sense of the drama of the morning.
Soon after Mark and I escaped our formal clothes, there was a general movement of others to do the same thing. Some woman tried to organize an orderly relocation to a nearby Cazenovia beach, but knowing how long those orderly relocations take, Gretchen and I decided to go over there on our own. We ended up being the first people there, though we were soon joined by a number of people, including Hot Tom and someone who appeared to be Hot Tom's girlfriend. We all waded far out into the water (which, like Lake St. Clair, remained shallow hundreds of feet from shore) to where the weeds were no longer dredged. There Hot Tom searched for snails on the bottom using his toes. I found bigger things: an old-school small-mouthed forty bottle and a pair of swimming goggles. Someone was wondering aloud what was so fun about what we'd be doing later (drinking and bowling) and I commented that it was like mixing heroin and crack.
Eventually I'd had enough and went to the shore to find Gretchen, who was sunning herself with a bunch of girls. [REDACTED] I felt sort of uncomfortable being the only guy there, so I went back to the hotel room and took a nap.
I was awaken by phonecall from Mark, who called me from his room. He told me there were a bunch of people in his room's Jacuzzi and that I should come over. So I got off my ass and went over. His Jacuzzi was indeed crowded with people, many of them with asses considerably fatter than my own (somehow I'd managed to get in my 50 situps today!), so I just stretched out in the La Brea Tar Bed as the others got saturated with the heat and throbbing jets of water. One by one they filed into the shower (a "ten-manner," as Mark described it) to cool off.
The night ended with a trip to a bowling alley out on the east edge of Cazenovia, out where Gretchen and I discovered we'd gone the wrong direction last night.
Gretchen, Mark and I started out on foot, walking through the center of town. On the way, we kept encountering little scenes involving subgroups from the diverse throng that had descended upon Cazenovia to attend Ray and Nancy's wedding. It was easy to believe all these outsiders were having a profound, if brief, effect on the town.
One such subgroup was a small cluster of people eating dinner at little card tables in a sliver of public square. They'd bought their dinner from a little makeshift sandwich stand selling things like $6 eggplant sandwiches. It was a real microcosm of the kind of capitalism one sees in a relationship of asymmetric information, a situation typical of such transactions as vendors selling to wedding tourists or Enron selling shares to its low-level employees. It takes a ballsy vendor to charge $6 for a sandwich under any circumstances, particularly one sold from a temporary sandwich stand.
The walk turned out to be a little longer than we'd anticipated, so we caught a ride with Debra and Bill when they drove by.
When we got to the bowling alley, I saw more pickup trucks parked out in front than one normally sees at a Klan rally. Bill joked that we probably shouldn't talk about how he'd been the flower girl at today's wedding.
Mark and I lingered for in the parking lot long enough to smoke part of a joint, and as we were finishing up, I happened to notice odd lights in the sky to the north. They looked like vertical search beams, the kind deployed by used car dealerships to draw attention to their totally awesome pre-owned inventory. But these beams were odd. There were too many of them, they were too far apart, they were too vertical, and they were too immobile to be spotlights. Maybe I was crazy, or perhaps just stoned, so I asked Mark if he could see them. When he said he could, I thought we should investigate. So we walked some distance across the bowling alley parking lot until we weren't blinded by a bright electric lamp and could watch the sky unhindered.
As our eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, we gradually became aware of huge moving curtains of colored light hanging in the north. They hung close to us, some of them dangling from directly overhead, though they bunched together in the distance, where they continued onward to the northern horizon, forming an eerie glowing polar cap. Sometimes out of the corners of our eyes we could see rapid flickering in the illumination.
By now we'd been joined by Gretchen and some anonymous guy on a bicycle. It was clear to all of us that we were seeing the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis. None of us had ever seen this phenomenon before. I was astounded that it was so clear at this latitude (42 degrees, 56 minutes), particularly given the fact that I'd never once seen it during all the time I lived in Oberlin (which is 41 degrees, 18 minutes). Since I'd been smoking pot, I was in a sort of paranoid mental state and I began to worry that perhaps something really bad had happened to the Sun.
Eventually we went into the bowling alley, but now I was in no mood to bowl. I talked to some other Ray and Nancy person about the aurora and he said he'd just seen it too. Worked up with a renewed mutually-reinforcing fervor, we spontaneously went back outside, followed by a gaggle of others, including Ray and Nancy.
This time we walked over to a field adjoining a housing complex and stood for a half hour or so watching the streaks of light form and dissipate. Various people wanted to know how the aurora was generated, and of course I had a ready answer involving the magnetic poles, the solar wind, and the quivering magnetosphere. But nothing I knew could explain why we were able to see such a distinctly northern phenomenon so far south. Perhaps this was it, the end of the Universe as we knew it, and I felt anxious. It was so vast and awesome and terrifying that it made my heart pound.
Gradually the aurora (and our interest in it) started to fade, so we all went back into the bowling alley to continue where we'd left off.
Where we'd left off was in the ordering of food, and not much progress had occurred as the aurora performed its light show. Somehow the entire bar and kitchen area of the bowling alley was being attended by one scrawny little blond girl, who frantically fetched beers, fried burgers, operated french fry equipment, and cooked pizzas. I thought for awhile she might also be the one spraying bowling shoes and assigning lanes, but that turned out to be a different, older, thicker woman. Perhaps the bowling alley was a little short on hands tonight because employees had been delayed by the rare spectacle of the Aurora Borealis. More likely, however, was that they were drunk and stoned and firmly planted in front of another kind of fluorescing display: a television screen.
Ray was in charge of organizing the people bowling at the lanes we'd commandeered, and I found myself playing with Nancy and three or four complete strangers. I didn't bowl especially well, but with a score in the 80s, I nonetheless did considerably better than all the other times I'd ever bowled in my life, except the first time (when I somehow scored over 140). Meanwhile the alley's sound system played an entire compilation of southern rock's greatest hits, including tunes from such bands as Molly Hatchett, Lynard Skynard, 38 Special, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Allman Brothers.
I craved a beer but thought it was inappropriate to just go get one without offering anyone else one. But since I didn't know many of the people around me, if I got one of them a beer, where would the beer run end? After an hour or more of bowling (which mostly consists of standing around), I could hold out no longer, so I went and got myself a Newcastle from the serious little blond bartender. I also got one for Mark, who had been denied a beer at the outset for lack of a proper ID. Amazingly, the Newcastles were only $2 each.

People at the wedding (Brewster Inn, Cazenovia, NY)

People at the wedding (Brewster Inn, Cazenovia, NY)

Nancy and Ray, doing the ring thing.

Gretchen's cakes.
My anodized sculptures are also visible at the top of the two bigger ones.
Conventional plastic couple sculptures are visible on the pineapple upside down cakes.
Note the support sticks behind the one chocolate-colored groom.

Nancy, Ray, and Ray's brother Kim at the toast.

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