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
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Irving housing

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Like my brownhouse:
   stoop sale spider web
Saturday, October 5 2002

Today Gretchen and I hosted our own open house, the first of two we'd be doing this weekend in an all-out push to sell this place. To tap into the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market crowd, I put lots and lots of flyers on all available surfaces along the west side of Prospect Park West and then down Union Street and back up President Street.
Well before the open house began, someone showed up and asked if she could check it out. We weren't even done cleaning up the bathroom yet, but since this was the only time she could come, we said alright, have a look around. Everything seemed to be going well. She really liked the place and seemed anxious that we might sell it before she could make up her mind. But then, after she left, Gretchen happened to go out the front for some reason and happened upon a maddening thing. Marie, one of the other residents of the co-op, happened to be having a stoop sale just then. Marie is also trying to sell her place, and here she was, talking to the woman who had seemed so interested in our place. Then Gretchen found out that woman was intending to look at Marie's apartment too! We'd spent all this money to advertise in the New York Times, and here was one of the other tenants in the co-op snapping up our potential customers in the spiderweb of her stoop sale. It was terribly unfair. What, did Marie intend to snag all our potential clients and completely ruin our open house, taking parasitic advantage of our advertising campaign? It was an infuriating thing to contemplate. So Gretchen went out to confront Marie.
Marie was totally apologetic, blaming the whole thing on one of the other co-op residents who had taken the liberty of pointing our potential buyer in Marie's direction, at which point she'd felt obligated to follow through. As for actively stealing our potential buyers, Marie pleaded she "would never do that." Whether or not she was being sincere, we had no real choice but to amiably accept her story and allow the incident to serve notice that we wouldn't stand for any more such parasitic nonsense. Mind you, Gretchen has maintained a friendly relationship with Marie going back years, a friendship built mostly upon their mutual hatred of Jane, the co-op psycho. But everyone knows full well that friendships of this sort are worth nothing when sums measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake.
Just before the open house began in earnest, I went down to 7th Avenue briefly to get a slice of pizza to keep my glucose levels above their critical lower threshold. As I have often done lately, I sat to eat my slice on the flagstones paving the sideyard of the Old First Reformed Church, a soaring vaguely-ornate stone structure in the American Gothic tradition. In front of me, between the paved sideyard and the Carroll Street sidewalk was a low concrete wall, and spaced every 30 feet along this wall sat various overweight women. As I sat there, I found myself experiencing a mild instance of the tragedy of the commons. There wasn't enough atmosphere for them to have the right to wear cheap perfume while also allowing me the right to breath unperfumed air. But this is the City, a place where the social contract dictates that residents shouldn't complain unless common resources are squandered flagrantly.
The open house went well enough. People came in clumps, punctuated by long quiet interludes during which Gretchen would ask, "What if nobody comes to our party?" When people were touring the apartment, Gretchen did nearly all of the talking. As expected, she handled the people perfectly. She has the temperament of a natural real estate agent: an effusive self-effacing charm hardened with a dash of sociopathy. My job was mostly to take people up to the rooftop deck and down to the basement.

In the evening, Gretchen interrupted her viewing of an old Betty Davis film so we could meet up with Sarah the Korean at Lentos, our favorite flawed Italian restaurant in Park Slope. Sarah the Korean, who is not actually Korean, was running a little late as always. We ordered a carafe of nameless house red wine and a large pizza as an appetizer. Later I ordered an appetizer of fried calamari as my main course.
Lentos pizza features the thinnest pizza crust I have ever seen anywhere, or, as I exclaimed at the time, "This stuff is kosher for Passover."
The waiters at Lentos are all pale scrawny young men lacking any of the pretense and attitude of a real New York waiter. They look like drowned sparrows, the sort your cat might drag in. "Maybe there's an orphanage in the back of this restaurant," Sarah the Korean postulated. She and I discussed this further while Gretchen was off in the restroom and Sarah the Korean admitted that she was attracted to sad charity case guys like these. "What were you just talking about?" Gretchen asked as she returned. "Oh, what Sarah is attracted to in a guy," I replied.
At some point we were talking about what we wanted to have done with our bodies after we die. I never much care about my dead body, since it lacks the one thing I care about. Sarah the Korean was saying she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread on her parents' fields. Gretchen thinks cremation is a great idea for non-Jews, but to her there's something wrong about loading Jewish bodies into ovens. She'd prefer to be buried on some piece of ground that appealed to her in life, even though it's not really possible to have this done legally. (Friends of Edward Abbey did manage to spirit away his body upon his death and dispose of it at an unknown desert location.) We deliberated on this for awhile and one of us jokingly suggested she pay a serial killer to handle the job.

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