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:
   deep hangover nadir
Saturday, March 6 2004

setting: Brattleboro, Vermont

The night had ended relatively early, with us returning to Julie's house and crashing there. I say "crashing," because I slept on a love seat with my legs hanging over one of the arms. I woke up at one point during the night and both of my feet were asleep, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as John and Julie assumed it would be. They'd wanted to lay the cushions out on the floor but it had seemed like too big of a bother to me.
John, meanwhile, had become so sick that Julie had to set him up with a trashcan suitable for receiving liquid projectiles of vomit. It might have been a rough night for John, but it probably spared him from a worse hangover.
This morning everyone seemed fairly chipper, including John. Julie made us all a bunch of pancakes using oatmeal and cottage cheese as the main ingredients. Surprisingly, my appetite was rather good despite the feeling in my head. It wasn't a headache, it was the purely-psychological consequences of widespread neural ineptitude. So far the chief psychological symptom was a slight intellectual slowness. By the standards of other hangovers I had known, it was no big deal. I was particularly happy that I wasn't wracked with baseless regret, a common psychological component of most of my hangovers.
Julie's blond fundamentalist housemate prattled on for awhile about various things, how she didn't like the word "pussy" but didn't mind "vagina," how gross it was for Fernando to have been surprised by a kiss from Brattleboro's half-assed crossdresser, and of the various places she wishes to travel. "I really want to go to Isræl!" she exclaimed. Beep! Beep! My fundamentalometer went off the charts, and for this reason I was immediately disgusted, as if I'd taken a bite into a bad Brazil nut. Obviously, the reason the blond fundamentalist wanted to go to Isræl was entirely Jesus-related. For her, the Jews are just tenants in the Holy Land until their Jesus-denying souls are evicted in the Apocalypse. I could tell John was similarly disgusted by this declaration, but he had a retort ready, rhetorically asking, "By Isræl, am I to assume you actually mean occupied Palestine?" "Huh?" The blond fundamentalist obviously had no idea what John was talking about. The only stuff she knows about Isræl was written in a book that hasn't been updated to reflect modern conflicts. Hell, she probably expects to see Roman soldiers when she gets there.
I looked into the blond fundamentalist's room and saw a huge elaborate cross on the wall. In the bathroom I saw some of her spare jewelry, one item of which was golden ring with the words "JESUS OF NAZARETH" written on it. I can't understand why anyone would ever want to be in a religion that doesn't allow them to cast spells.

Back at John's college dorm apartment, I tried to jack into the campus ethernet but was greeted with a web page telling me my computer wasn't authorized to use the network. Some tightass sysadmin had evidently set things up to block computers with unknown MAC addresses.
John and I walked over to the campus dining hall and got ourselves another breakfast. I was surprised how easy it was for us to just walk in, load up a tray and start eating. There was no system of authentication at all. We could have been homeless people. As we ate, we casually watched a group of about a half dozen boys standing around trying to impress a girl who wasn't especially cute (though she had dyed her hair a provocative shade of magenta). Never had the benefit of an absurdly-inflated male-to-female ratio been on such prominent display.
The plan for today was to pick up Julie in Brattleboro and then drive down to North Hampton, Massachusetts to do a little shopping and maybe see a movie. It took us almost an hour to drive down there and along the way we were listening to one of several CDs I'd burned for John, this one featuring the schmaltziest of the Decemberists' CDs. John thought it sounded like a ballsier Belle and Sebastian. I agreed, saying "Belle and Sebastian are wussy and insipid. But I think they're great!"
With its absurdly-wide streets and fat brick business district, downtown North Hampton reminded me a lot of downtown Great Barrington. Superimposed on this dense bland cake was a heavy icing of female college students, many of them walking hand-in-hand. North Hampton is possibly the most lesbian city in the United States, and John's Subaru wasn't the slightest bit out of place. This reflects the influence of Smith College, a women's institute of higher learning.
There's a major intersection in the middle of downtown North Hampton where two of its extremely wide streets cross each other in a rectangle of asphalt the size of a basketball court. For some reason, pedestrian traffic across this intersection is handled separately from car traffic. Periodically a ringer goes off and the entire intersection is briefly closed to car traffic and pedestrians are allowed to cross the intersection any way they choose, including diagonally. It becomes a pedestrian mall in time.
There was a store that featured health food in the front and discount shoes in the back. One of my goals for this North Hampton excursion was to buy some new shoes to replace the ratty old pair I bought in the East Village two years ago. I looked around at the racks of shoes and didn't see anything that caught my eye, but then Julie pointed out a pair of Nun Bush "Keene Black with Cognac" shoes, a design I've admired in the past. They're chunky, with a muted saddle-shoe design, sitting simultaneously on several cusps: both dress-up and dress-down, somewhat black and somewhat brown. I tried on the ten and a half and they fit, so I bought them.
From there, we walked around the streets North Hampton for about twenty minutes until I suddenly realized that my camera was no longer with me. I'd been carrying it when we went into that shoe store, but I must have put it down when I tried on my new shoes. So we ran back as quickly as we could to look for the camera. It wasn't anywhere. I'd remembered that nagging feeling of leaving something behind, so I must have left it there, but it seemed someone had found it and taken it. Probably the poor klepto thought my bulky Kyocera was a video camera. Julie left her phone number with the store management, but it was pretty clear that I was never going to see my camera again. I'm not usually one to accidentally leave things behind, but I'd had two things working against me: a brain deadened by hangover and some "payload confusion" caused by a cup of coffee I started carrying soon after we got to North Hampton. Mind you, I've been all species of fucked up with that camera in the past, but it made it through even the craziest nights unscathed.
My immediate technique for dealing with the loss was one of sour grapes. I thought of how idiosyncratic and clunky that camera was, how slow its response times were and the short life of its batteries. Much harder to accept was the loss of the 256 Megabyte Compact Flash card inside it. It didn't have any data on it, but it had cost me a lot of money back in the day. [I was relieved to discover that such cards now only cost $50.]
The best way to deal with loss is to keep it out of your head. The best way to keep things out of your head is to enter an alternate reality. Drugs sometimes work, although sometimes they can turn a neurotic loss-obsession into a mental purgatory. A better alternative is to watch a movie. So we piled into the smaller of the two theaters in a funky downtown duplex to see Monster, the semi-fictionalized story of the real life female American serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. I didn't know any of this when the movie started and had never heard of Wuornos, who did her killing during the earliest phase of my post-student Oberlin experience, when my only news interest was the ongoing collapse of the various Soviet satellite republics. Interestingly, this was the period during which I did most of my hitchhiking, the method Wuornos used to hook up with the Johns she sometimes killed.
I don't know if it was the emotional vulnerability of my hangover, but I found the movie consistently overwhelming and relentless. It wasn't just the killing and the raping that overwhelmed me; so did the love story (which, I learned later, had been exaggerated). It was hard to find a moment to relax, and it when it was over the world seemed different. That's always an indicates to me that a movie was good, even if (like Monster) it was a complete downer.
We stopped in Trader Joe's to pick up provisions for a makeshift dinner at home, one that would mainly consist of free range buffalo burgers (John claimed to only eat meat from wild animals). I had to piss and only the "chick's" room was available, and I thought I was clever when I pointedly left the seat up as I departed.
On the drive back up to Brattleboro my hangover finally found its nadir, and I was appalled by how low that turned to be. At first it manifested as the familiar mental stalls and cerebral inconsistencies typical of my evenings' hungover. But then it somehow managed to get worse, turning into an overwhelming obsession. I can't really say what exactly was missing from my mental processes, but whatever it was was sorely missed. Perhaps it was one of the "voices" that contributes to my sanity (I use this term with a different meaning than the one used by schizophrenics). Perhaps it was a lack of an important neurotransmitter or a form of short term memory. Whatever it was, it made it impossible to have normal thoughts or concentrate on anything other than the problems I was having. "The watcher" - the single entity who keeps track of things and acts as my brain's spokesperson, seemed to be fine, but he was so occupied with the crazy flashing lights on the console that he couldn't really function. John would ask me a question now and then and I'd muster all the focus I could to come up with a response, but it would be slow in coming and not contain much in the way of information. I felt so damaged that it was hard to imagine I would ever be normal again. That's a terrifying feeling. Surprisingly, though, I never panicked. My heart rate never accelerated, I didn't sweat, and there was nothing wrong with my breathing. If anything, I feared I might forget to take a breath.
Meanwhile a message had come in from John and Julie's friends Aaron and Jenny. Apparently last night John had agreed to have dinner with them tonight. This agreement had been in the context of the Mole's Eye brotherliness, a context that immediately erases the things that happened within it the moment the context concludes. But Aaron was still serious about it and was cooking up a big meal of pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes. He also wanted us to try some beer he'd brewed. He was taking it all too seriously for us to stand him up, so we decided to go over there. Furthermore, Julie convinced John that it might be construed as an insult if John didn't eat some pork, something he'd never normally eat.
As for me, I wondered how much sociability I'd be able to muster given my mental condition. I gradually came to pin all my hopes and dreams for immediate psychological recovery on the eating of food. I somehow convinced myself that my neurological difficulties were being exacerbated by low blood sugar, and all I'd have to do would be eat a piece of sushi (John had bought a tray at Trader Joe's) and I'd be fine.
Back at Julie's place I desperately grabbed a piece of sushi and stuffed it in my mouth, eager to get its carbohydrates into my blood stream. But I had to spit it back into my hand. I'd been mistaken; I had absolutely no appetite whatsoever.
I did managed to choke it down a little at a time before we set out for Aaron and Jenny's place, but then it felt like it was burning in my stomach.
Aaron had bought a large rambling Victorian house a few months ago, and he and Jenny (his girlfriend) are still in the process of moving into it. When we walked into the house, the smell of pork tenderloin was just subtle enough not to make me throw up. I wondered how I'd make it through the tour without needing to lie down, but somehow I did. The comments I made along the way, done in a transparent effort to seem socially engaged, all came off as weird and unsettling. When, for example, we walked into a room featuring bright red wall-to-wall carpet, I exclaimed, "Wow, it's like Mars!"
There were things about that house, and Aaron and Jenny's reaction to it, that made swarms of question marks gather over my head. First of all, there was Jenny's manic obsessive-compulsiveness, which saw her continuing to vacuum the carpet long after we arrived. Then there was the carpet itself, an extremely zero-shag industrial kind that had been installed wall to wall in absolutely every room. By every room, I mean the bathroom (where it was appropriately chocolate brown in color) and even the kitchen, where it came right up to the center island with nary a tile to be seen. In the one room where the carpet had been removed (which, strangely enough, wasn't the kitchen), the flooring was beautiful and flawless. I may or may not have my finger on the pulse of contemporary American home decor, but it my considered opinion it's crazy to put wall to wall carpet in a kitchen or over perfectly-good wood flooring. Of course, this was all done years ago before people knew better, but there's still the question of why Aaron and Jenny allow it to remain the way it is. If this had been my house, I wouldn't have enjoyed a single night of sleep until all of that nasty carpet was stacked up in rolls out on the lawn.
Dinner was difficult, since I could barely keep from throwing up just from smelling the food, let alone eating it. But I made a good show of putting food on my plate and nibbling at it. The asparagus and mashed potatoes were edible if cut into tiny enough pieces, but the crumb of pork I put in my mouth tasted revolting.
The one thing that gave me no difficulty was the homebrewed beer, which I drank about as quickly as everyone else drank theirs. It wasn't particularly good - it was sweet and nearly alcohol-free. But it worked miracles on my hangover, rapidly restoring my brain to something resembling its usual state.
While the women washed dishes in the kitchen, Aaron talked at length about three companies in his stockmarket portfolio. Two were satellite radio services (XM and Sirius) and the other was a company that heats and cools buildings by tapping into the uniform soil temperatures present eight feet below the surface. Aaron did such a bad job explaining the underlying science of the second technology that he convinced me the whole company was an Enron-style sham. But satellite radio - perhaps there's a real future in that technology.
We relocated to the "sitting room" and were joined by the women, and the conversation moved to the topic of SUV rallies, which Aaron and Jenny love to attend. Their SUV of choice is the Land Rover (theirs has been equipped with an XM receiver), though they did concede that (like most British vehicles), the Land Rover has a perennial problem with its electrical system.
By the end of our visit, conversation had moved to the subject of being a landlord. (Aaron owns several rental properties and had been introduced to me by John last night as "a slum lord.") Surprisingly, Aaron seemed wishy-washy about strictly enforcing rent due dates and other terms of rental agreements, while his wife was much more of a hard ass. As they discussed these matters, a good-cop/bad-cop dynamic readily became apparent. I wouldn't want to cross that woman - once she takes a disliking to somebody, I'm sure they're no safer than a crumb of lint on the greasy zero-shag carpet in the kitchen.
As we were leaving, I remarked at the extent to which Aaron is a guy's guy. While there, we'd discussed nothing the slightest bit artistic, cultural, or gossipy. It had all been about cars, money, or business decisions. Interestingly, both ladies present had seemed perfectly happy with the conversation. Perhaps for them it was something of a relief from the more effeminate topics that come up in most other human conversations.
I guess it had been too much of a manly conversation even for John, because when we got back to his dorm at the college campus where he lives, we stayed up late talking mostly about relationships.

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