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:
   hard work is fun
Thursday, March 26 1998

n the morning Jessika and I rode our bikes across town to the antique store where Jessika and Deya have been helping with an ongoing move. Today Deya couldn't go because she had to work (as usual) at Rebecca's Natural Foods, but, of all people, Morgan Anarchy was up and at 'em bright and early. Jessika had suggested that he come over and help out, but when she learned he'd chugged a beer and actually was headed over, she became somewhat apprehensive about what our "employer" would think about his gutterpunk appearance. But the "employer" was cool and had plenty of warning; Dave Sickman had described Morgan with the phrase "wild style," meaning, it seemed, anything outlandishly out of the mainstream. I found that term hilarious and quickly became obsessed with using it in all kinds of inappropriate situations.

The plan for all of us was to provide bullwork for the big move. All day we hustled boxes, furniture, big fragile display cases, and assorted odds and ends that antique stores regard as merchandise. Much of it was extremely fragile and half-broken or had almost completely disintegrated, I wondered what value it would be to anyone, but like a death camp guard, I asked no questions. It was hard work, and I didn't take many breaks. But it felt good to use my muscles all day in this way.

But I didn't just use my muscles, I also got to use my mind. It was like playing Tetris sometimes as I figured out how best to arrange strangely shaped objects inside a rental truck. There's a satisfaction in getting a small pot to fit snugly under a chair which itself crouches sideways beneath a table, a satisfaction that life doesn't often provide. I was having fun.

The new location for the antique store was way up 29 North across from Walmart. There, a dismal antique mall housed in a newish building overlooks the muddy Rivanna River. I got a chance to ride with the store's owner as we took the first load up to the new location. The whole time, we discussed the Internet and its potential as a sales tool in the antique trade. As an underemployed freelance webdesigner, this constituted real marketing. Of course, there're no contracts being signed quite yet.

Two cool dudes I know work at this currently moving antique store on a fulltime basis. One of these is Nikolai the jolly artist. Nikolai recently got into a prestigious Chicago art school with a good scholarship, and this seems to be making him particularly jolly. I like Nikolai. I don't say such things lightly. But I also like Dave Sickman, a guy about whom I've already made passing mention in this entry. He's the other cool dude who works at the antique store, and in addition to that, he's

  • The singer/guitarist for local (and rather popular) "lowfi" band the Ninth
  • The former husband of Jamie Dyer's current wife
  • A former resident of Belmont, Charlottesville's "town within a town," a place held in great esteem by Joanna Road Rage (among others)
  • A former familiar sight at the Jefferson Theatre, where he did a lot of house painting, among (I feel sure, but I don't know) other things

Dave showed up at the new place quickly in his Volvo and he and I did most of the unloading of the first load.

I should mention something about the politics of the new location. Unlike the old location, it isn't a whole building. It's a section of floor. Antique merchants are unusual in that they don't come to view other antique dealers necessarily as competition. The chance of having the same wares or specialties is low, and since consumers have varied interests and enjoy having a lot to choose from, antique vendors frequently combine their displays in centralized locations. This particular space however, lacked a certain something, a sense of (here's a tired word) soul.

Overseeing the whole space today was a skinny little man with crumpled skin. I didn't noticed until Dave pointed it out almost indiscretely, but the guy wore a beard-shaped nicotine stain of yellowed skin. After Dave made such a big deal about it to me, that nicotine stain was pretty much all I could see when I looked at the guy. I was actually more entertained by how obsessed Dave was by the beard than I was by the beard itself.

On the ride back for the second load, I rode with Dave in his Volvo. He played me some four track demos he'd been tinkering with on the car stereo. He's thinking about sending them to several record companies, including the biggest low fi label, Matador Records. The tunes were timeless little anthems cocooned in accumulated noise, though the vocals sounded a little fruity with excessive digital reverb. Little toy keyboards could well have been flutes (or else the birds that chirp in the heads of the insane and those who fall and hit their heads). I have my own personal appreciation for these sort of arrangements.

In the mid-afternoon, the antique store owner bought a big stack of Dominos pizzas to feed the troops, which also included a young woman co-honcho named Nora. While we ate, Dave went on and on about G. G. Allin and other artists who make use of their own feces. Nikolai, calmly regarding the slice of pizza he was eating, suggested maybe we should discuss this at a later time.

After a final load was packed, delivered and unloaded, our day's mission was done, and we were all paid in crisp high-denomination bills. It was, for example, the first money Morgan had earned in month, but he'd worked hard for it. It was the first actual labour I'd done in a long time, but it had felt good and the money kind of felt like icing on the cake. How much was I paid? Was I actually paid? Should I declare it on my unemployment forms? Don't you love the anonymous nature of currency? I might say, I might even brag, that I was paid thus and so, but there's no proof in the world, and I could always dismiss such statements or even these musings in their entirety as a hearty work of fiction in the court of law of your choice. I live in a my own underground world and only occasionally poke to the surface patina of bureaucracy, marriage, school, police-enforced law, taxes and benefits.


essika and I ate some cold pizza before we began the slow process of heading back home. I say "slow process" because several things had to take place first.

First Jessika had to go through lots of things she'd put aside that had been earmarked by our "employers" for the dumpster: suits, fabric, dresses and lamps. I scored an olive green sports jacket that matched the pants I was wearing at the time, and this pleased me a great deal. I'm hard on my sports jackets because I wear them (until they are completely destroyed) to things like blackout-spotted drinking binges, punk rock shows and fights with tough guys (and occasionally their neotonic wenches).

Then, once we hit the road, Jessika found herself still craving 12 ounce Mickey's Big Mouths, and last we checked (a year and a half ago) they were still available at the little convenience store near the corner of Wertland and 10th Street. Serving a largely black clientele from the adjacent 'Hood, this convenience store usually is a big hangout spot for adolescent black guys (and their girlfriends, both black and white), especially on a warm day. Today the temperature had climbed well into the 70s, a perfect hangout day. Unfortunately, these black adolescents have a lot of misplaced racial issues, especially when white folks (such as Jessika and myself) come into their "turf." If you ride your bike by them and you are white, you are pretty much sure to be heckled with some sort of slur against your whiteness. You're outnumbered, so as angry and humiliated as you feel, you keep riding. I gave them lip once about a year ago and had to pedal my bike away from them at high speed, turning quickly onto Wertland where I knew I was home free in a lily-white college kid neighborhood. I'm not happy to admit that that time I thanked the gods for the firm boundaries on Charlottesville's unofficial racial districts.

Well, this time, the only offense we made besides straying into their turf was locking our bikes up. After we'd bought our overpriced beers (the cashier was, paradoxically enough, an old white guy) and were unlocking our bikes, we could hear one of the adolescents saying that locking our bikes wasn't a good way to show respect. True, there were all kinds of little bikes littering the sidewalk, all of them unlocked. But they belonged to the neighborhood kids. Not locking our bikes there would have been sheer insanity. Whatever, we said nothing and headed up Wertland.

While we walking out bikes past the house of Freedom, Patrick, Dave Mack, Matthew the Funkster (and others), the house wherein the excitement of the 21st went down, we heard a voice calling to us quietly. We turned to look and beheld Patrick perched like a cat atop the wooden fence under the trees at the uphill edge of his yard. He came down and chatted with us a bit. The lip that was spit open on Saturday night was healing and the damage was concealed under a big multicoloured scab. It was still a nasty injury but didn't look disfiguring anymore. According to Patrick, one of the guys who busted through his door during the final assault had been charged with felony breaking and entering and assault and ended up spending three nights in the slammer before the necessary bail was raised. You'd think this guy's overlord, the mansion-dwelling city councilman's son, Chaz, would have deep enough pockets to bail out his idiot friends more rapidly than that.

As Jessika and I discussed these things (as well as dumpster diving) with Patrick (who is, it turns out, a fellow dumpster diver), a number of people from Blond House across the street sauntered over to chat with us about things. These people included the likes of Ches, Elizabeth and Natalie the German Girl, none of whom had been present for Saturday's ruckus and all of whom claimed to be "very busy" of late.


hile the others went off to play soccer, study and such, Jessika and I rode our bicycles home.

Before leaving for our day of heavy lifting, Jessika had me start watching a movie called Santa Sangre, which Deya had picked out and rented. In the evening, I set up two VCRs so we could make a duplicate of it. In the midst of my frustration with coaxial cables and incomplete functionalities among various dumpster-dived consumer electronics, Jamie Dyer randomly appeared. Jamie has never come to our house before, so this was a special occasion. He hadn't brought beer, but he did have tea-tree oil flavoured toothpicks from a hippie health food store, and I immediately found them addictive. We chatted about a number of things, he bummed a couple cigarettes off of Morgan (it's rare that Morgan isn't the one doing the bumming in a cigarette transaction, but today, of course, he was loaded).

When Jamie and I are together, the subject quickly turns to computers, a subject twist that immediately excludes everyone else present. Today was no exception. We went upstairs and had a look at my equipment and discussed an exciting project he's behind, to co-locate a UNIX box over at Cornerstone (a local ISP). With such a box somewhat under my control, I'd be more able to serve potential web clients. I announced interest in getting involved in this project. It has a potential to be a win-win project for both of us.

I watched the whole of Santa Sangre not knowing whether or not I really liked it until the very end. The implications in suddenly tied-up loose ends were so deep and evocative that I suddenly decided the movie was great. It takes place inside a strange amalgam of American and Mexican culture, but the real setting is within the mind of a deranged young man who is convinced that his arms are controlled by his mother (who lost her arms in the heat of confronting her husband for dalliances with another woman). On of the key questions that the movie forces you to keep asking is, "did the mother die during that double amputation?"

I denied myself socializing the rest of the night. Or else, I denied my friends my company. The glass is half full but it's also half empty.

other things that happened today

thing one

    Jessika noted that Nora had a way of looking at me while I wasn't looking back, then, upon noticing Jessika had seen her looking at me, she would wink at Jessika.

thing two

    Nikolai told me that today had given him "an appreciation for your roommate." This was a reference to Jessika, who doesn't exactly live in my room but whose special intoxicating charms continue to take their toll on mankind.

    "You're not the first one," I answered.

    "And I'm sure I won't be the last," he added.

one year ago

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