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

got that wrong

appropriate tech
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Backwoods Home
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(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   Thanksgiving, 2014
Thursday, November 27 2014 [REDACTED]

We'd be doing Thanksgiving this year down in Park Slope, Brooklyn, only a few blocks from where Gretchen and I lived together for over a year in 2001 & 2002. It would be at another brownstone, though in a full building (not just a co-op fraction there of) belonging to the vegan family who have that multi-house compound up near Palenville (the place where I always get stoned, feel like I'm making a fool of myself, but also somehow enjoy myself at the same time). Though they wouldn't be happy about it, we'd be leaving our dogs at home with the woodstove stoked and the heat turned up a bit.
This was to be the first drive Gretchen and I did together in our newly-purchased 2010 Toyota Prius. Initially we'd thought the weather would require us to take the Subaru, but the roads were plowed and word from the City was that there was little if any snow there at all. I'd filled a microSD card with podcasts for our roadtrip, and so for most of our drive, we listened to the This American Life spinoff show Serial, which the cultural cognoscenti has been going apeshit over for weeks. I'd tried to listen to it while doing work on the Wall Street house, but the acoustics were bad in there and I hadn't felt like I was paying enough attention. On the drive down, we managed to hear most of four episodes (including one we received off the phone network using Gretchen's Droid when it didn't turn up in our MP3s), and I have to say that I don't really get what's so great about Serial. I think it would work as a This American Life segment, but I don't feel invested enough with the characters to be comfortable dedicating as much time as the producers are insisting I dedicate. Not that I hated it; I guess I would just have rather listened to something else. That's the thing about roadtrips; because Gretchen's tastes are different from mine, on road trips I often end up listening to podcasts I normally wouldn't hear and liking them anyway. (This is particularly true of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, a podcast I'm a little surprised that Gretchen likes so much.)
Traffic was light going southbound on the Thruway, but we got stuck in slow-going congestion just north of the Garden State Parkway, so we gave up on reaching the Palisades Parkway and took the complex series of highways to the Lincoln Tunnel instead, eventually crossing into Brooklyn via the Battery Tunnel. We both agreed as we passed it that the new World Trade Center tower is an improvement over the old ones (thanks Osama!) but it looks a bit unfinished the way it suddenly truncates down to nothing and continues on as perfunctory a spire to 1776 feet (because God doesn't think in metric). Someone needs to come along and finish the tower as a slowly-tapering pyramid of glass. That would look much better (and it might be less prone to leaks).
We arrived a little early to the Thanksgiving festivities, so Gretchen played a hand in helping with final preparations. The first floor of the brownstone had recently been redone such that the walls had largely been eliminated and the kitchen expanded to occupy about 40 percent in the center of the floorplan. In the middle of that kitchen there was now a long island which was great for keeping the serious cooks (Gretchen) separate from people such as myself whose effect could only be to spoil the broth. Every full floor of a brownstone is like a shotgun shack, and in this one, the dining space was near the door. In that dining space today, a lavish array of vegan cheeses and crackers had been set up as appetizers. They came from multiple vegan cheeseries, including Punk Rawk and Miyoko (though our new favorite, Chao, was nowhere in evidence; that one is still percolating into the vegan subculture).
Eventually the meal came, and there were something like fifty different dishes brought (or locally prepared) by the 30 or so attendees. There were at least three varieties of fake-meat loafs made of things like seitan (and replicating meats such as ham), several pasta dishes (one prepared by Gretchen with pasta shells, mushrooms, and tempeh in a cream sauce was definitely the best), and all sorts of other things of various quality. As with any buffet, one could pick and choose and assemble a delicious meal perfectly matching one's tastes. I want salt in my food, so I steered clear of the penne with pesto once I'd had some, but our friend Amy hates, salt so that was perfect for her. Before long I was full, sipping my glass of wine without much to say or do. I was at the end of the table and I couldn't hear anyone well enough to contribute to the conversation.
For whatever reason, the alcohol wasn't making me feel particularly relaxed. In fact, drinking was proving a lot less pleasant than I expected it to. I hadn't had any alcohol of any sort since Saturday night's final Torpedo; Saturday's unpleasant marijuana experience had more or less scared me off of alcohol because it had felt sort of like what I imagine delirium tremens is like. Part of my problem this evening was that I wasn't drinking very much or very fast, and I was feeling too shy to interact with anyone. For awhile I went over to the far end of the floor, where a "living room" type area of couches near a massive flatscreen teevee provided the one place for comfortable lounging. Nobody I knew was there, so all I could do was watch teevee or watch people watching teevee (which, when I sat under the screen was easy; they sat directly across from me looking over my head as I watched the programming in a reflection in a window). There was a football game on initially, but for most of the evening it was the children who had control of the programming. There were six or seven kids present, and at first they watched some sort of Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special that imagined the Charles Schulz's characters arriving with the other Puritans on the Mayflower. The kids watched with rapt attention despite the fact that the large-headed children on the screen looked to be from a time before iPads, Walkmans, helicopter mons, or perhaps even videogames. Maybe it was just the dazzle of the picture that had them hypnotized, because they continued watching spellbound (with mouths slightly agape) even during the advertisements. (I've observed this before when children have visited our place in Hurley, and it's a creepy thing to behold.)
I spent a lot of time on the couch, and by now I'd switched so something a little stronger: Tito's vodka flavored with a dash of sorrel. This made it possible for me to socialize later when I rejoined Gretchen. There was a couple there (the male half of which was the only African American present) who took a shine to me after I'd made a crack about how the diarrhea our old cat Marie used to leave next to the litterbox was always cleaned up by the dogs. Later, as they ate dessert and I continued sipping my drink, I told them about all my zany projects and (the worldview that underlies them). This included the brownhouse, the urinal, and the absurd excavation in the greenhouse basement.
Later, A, who has a reputation as being a little crazy, waved me over to where she and her boyfriend were kind of being a bit too boyfriendy-girlfriendy, and we proceeded to have a long, fun conversation about everything from the 2001 stargate effect to the etymology of "orange." The great thing about A is that she is extremely agreeable, and hanging out with her is a little like participating in improv. Periodically, A's boyfriend (who had relocated to the teevee area) would go fetch a bottle of cava and refill my glass, even when A and I were sitting on the floor (something one of the needier of the dogs present had encouraged us to do).
At around 11:00pm, Gretchen decided it was best that we head home, if only for our dogs. We could have spent the night, but if we had, perhaps Ramona's protest would have extended to more than the destruction of a single slipper [the wreckage of which we would find the next day]. Gretchen did the initial driving out of the City, but I was sober enough to take over after we bought gas at the Sloatsburg Rest Area.

From left: Gretchen, me, and the guy who made the sorrel. Photo by our friend Stacy. Click to enlarge.

A large fraction of the 30 or so people in attendance today. That's me in front on the left and Grechen is the fourth face back on the right. Photo by our friend Stacy. Click to enlarge.

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