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").


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Like my brownhouse:
   fences and neighbors
Tuesday, May 6 1997

Perhaps untrue, but no one will know: What you cannot say you cannot feel.


  drove the Dodge Dart back to Staunton where my parents live. Today was brightly sunny and the car was running kind of hot. My guess is that it needs more coolant. That worked last time it got hot.


ack at the old home place, the parents and my brother Don have been dealing with an unexpected new difficulty.

One of these fences was a hasty structure erected by our upstream neighbors as a means to allow their chickens access to water.
You recall in early September when the howling winds of Hurricane Fran came like a undefeatable Confederate Panzer Division northward through Virginia? The wide agricultural Shenandoah Valley (where Staunton lies) suffered extensive flooding damage from the unprecedented rainfall. Folly Mills Creek, an 8 to 15 foot wide stream that flows past my house, turned into a great and angry river, destroying the trailer of the downstream neighbor and wiping out the Folly Mills Bridge on route 871. It also destroyed numerous fences as it made rare use of its floodplain. One of these fences was a hasty structure erected by our upstream neighbors as a means to allow their chickens access to water. It was an incursion into our property that my parents had tolerated because of a mutually amiable relationship.

My mother, Hoagie, has a light brown mare named Willow. She's a bastard monstrocity, the daughter of one of Hoagie's older mares and an AWOL stallion. Willow isn't even green broke despite her 13 years. The only things she is capable of doing is destroying fences and asserting her freedom. Last week Hoagie was trying to round up Willow as the horse pranced about farting and mocking her across Folly Mills in the upstream neighbor's field. When Hoagie finally managed to coax Willow into crossing the creek, the horse became hopelessly tangled in barbed wire, the remnants of the upstream neighbor's water-access incursion fencing. After untangling the huge useless horse, my mother decided that she no longer wanted the dangerous fence incursion to exist. She's always been a horse lover, and she is very protective of her charges. Besides, the incursion no longer serves a purpose. The upstream neighbors have many other places to access stream water and they no longer have chickens.

The female half of the upstream neighbor's household is named Mary Ann. She's an accomplished folk artist with roots in the deep south. She's also a bit high strung. She quickly lapses into hysteria whenever forced to cope with change. Thus my mother decided that writing a letter was the best way to announce that the incursion must go.

Mary Ann called back in hysteria, shrieking incoherently about the hostile tone of the letter. Hoagie was forced to hang up.

Nothing more was said, initially. My brother Don was employed to help create a new fence along the frontier, and barbed wire was tacked up. The incursion no longer existed.

Some days later, my parents were incensed to discover that the upstream neighbors had torn the entire fence down, filled all the holes, cut the barbed wire into tiny segments and tossed everything half-hazardly into our field. Not only had they destroyed the fence, but they'd left all their gates open, presumably to encourage our horses to go out in the road and get hit by cars. As my father put it, they showed themselves to be "complete social wastrels" because they obviously don't care at all for the lives of the animals involved. It had always been our impression that Mary Ann loves animals. After all, she has maintained a veritable Noah's Ark through the years. She's had cats, dogs, geese, guinea hens, many varieties of chickens (including a six-toed rooster), both mallard and muscovy ducks, and numerous horses. When a guinea cock lost both his legs to frost bite, she saw to it that he was fed. But with her casual disregard for Willow it's clear that animals are just toys for her.

My brother was hired to install the fence a second time, and the short wire segments were spliced together. Meanwhile, the landowners had a shouting match across the Folly Mills. Mary Ann, apparently now fancying herself an elite estate holder, was concerned about the unsightly barbed wire forming a border for what she called her "paddock." Her husband, Don V., who is much more level-headed, tried to convince my parents to allow some sort of better constructed incursion, but my parents would not be swayed. They also had a deputy from the Augusta County Sheriff's Department come out to tell Mary Ann that the fence must stay. They could overhear Mary Ann telling the Sheriff about "water rights," a right she presumably believes she can seize herself.

When I showed up today, my father was on the horn with a lawyer.

Don V. was blacklisted and thus forced to work menial jobs to support his family of four.

y family's relationship with the upstream neighbors had always been good in the past. Well, at least, it seems my family was very good to them. In the early 80s, Don V. used to work at the Western State Mental Institution as a counselor. He saw many instances of patient abuse and, along with six others, became a whistleblower of sorts. All seven whistleblowers were fired. They filed grievances, and a three-person grievance panel was appointed. My father was given the third "neutral" chair. The State of Virginia, which was even more Stalinistic in those days than it is now, decided at the last minute not to recognize the authority of the grievance panel. They also failed to send the panel member sympathetic to their position. The two-person panel decided against the State, but nothing positive came of it. Don V. was blacklisted and thus forced to work menial jobs to support his family of four. It was only with the rise of Mary Ann's folk art career that they found their way out of poverty. In the lean years, my parents provided them with free baby sitting (often employing me) and care packages.



It was a typically over-engineered welfare project for the destruction industry.

n the early 90s, the Virginia Department of Transportation, another Stalinistic Virginia bureaucracy, decided to condemn land for the widening and paving of Stingy Hollow Road, (route 693), a road that goes up the narrow Folly Mills valley past my parents' house and the houses of the neighbors. Most neighbors, rednecks that they are, reflexively supported the widening and paving. Many offered easements and rights of way for free. They considered a bigger harder road to be progress. Pavement would add to the value of their land, and possible lend a sense of civilization to their remote properties. They were blind or indifferent to the fact that a widened, paved road would bring more development, higher property taxes and greater roadkill. My parents and the upstream neighbors, however, had lived in other places and knew exactly what dreadful particulars would attend the paving and widening project. They refused to give up their land without a fight. My father and I submitted numerous freedom of information requests to the Corps of Engineers, the State of Virginia, and various Federal agencies. My father also retained several lawyers and received support from his environmentalist contacts, especially Jan Lundberg of the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium. (Lundberg is a member of the famous family that tracks American fuel prices.) It was all in vain. The road was built at enormous expense and with phenomenal earth moving. It was a typically over-engineered welfare project for the destruction industry. But the experience of battling the Highway Juggernaut once again created an alliance between my parents and the upstream neighbors.

With all this history, it amazes me that the upstream neighbors have suddenly become so hateful. It's like Canada suddenly declaring war on the United States. I can only assume that Mary Ann has completely lost her mind. The irony here is that it is the redneck downstream neighbors, the Shipes, who have been our traditional enemy. That animosity dates back to when my parents complained about an auto body repair shop the Shipes began operating on the Folly Mills floodplain in the late 70s. Concerning that matter: in the midst of lawsuits, arrests, vandalism, and lots of gunfire, the good-ole-boy Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals granted Mr. Shipe a zoning variance, and he has operated his toxic paint shop ever since. In recent times, especially since Hurricane Fran, there has been some detente between my parents and the Shipes.

By the way, my mother has requested that I say nothing about the fence skirmishes with the upstream neighbors on the Internet. It is extremely important that any of you who read this never mention this matter to her. She found out from the lawyer today that, according to Virginia law, someone can claim water rights if he has been using a water resource on another's land for at least fifteen years. While the upstream neighbor has maintained the incursion for many years, it probably hasn't been quite fifteen years. In any case it would be difficult for them to establish when they created the incursion. Still, the lawyer told my mother that the case should not be discussed in public. My parents intend to hire a surveyer, shoot in a new fence, and make no more of the matter. Earlier today they'd considered having the upstream neighbor arrested on charges of fence destruction.


  took a nap in the Shaque, though I woke up relatively early. Since I was restless, I drove directly back to Charlottesville. I took some canvases along with me so I can do some more painting.

At Plan 9 I bought an $8 used CD called Candy Apple Grey by Hüsker Dü. Coming out in 1986, it was their first release on the Warner Brothers label. Listening to it today, I noticed that there is something always missing from Hüsker Dü that I really like in Bob Mould's other projects. I don't like Grant Hart (the other major Hüsker and no relation of Matthew Hart), but he's actually better than usual on this album. Perhaps it's the production that is lacking, because I can hear Mould's guitar in there, and I like it just as much, but it is lost in his over-delivered lyrics. My feeling is that as he grew older and calmed down, his voice sounded better.

I watched Bad Taste yet again, this time with housemate Andrew. He was so grossed out he had to stop watching. Monster Boy and Cecelia the Brazilian Girl came by towards the end. They were to be doing a music show at WTJU coinciding with my Comet shift tonight. I said I'd listen, but I really couldn't, because the radio noise in the server room overwhelms all radio stations at WTJU's frequency. Besides, after Monster Boy and Cecelia insulted me by telling me not to call in and request Guided by Voices, I preferred to just listen to my own music anyway. I don't mock them for their musical tastes, some of which are pretty bad.

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