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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Steve Weiner memorial
Sunday, March 29 1998

nother warm sunny day, and I'm listening to my Ohia CD. Amy Briggs from Memphis gave it to me, Jessika reminded me. I must have been pretty drunk on Friday night at the Tokyo Rose not to remember how I'd gotten it.

Another thing I learned today was that Steve Weiner had died in the hospital from complications resulting from numerous medical difficulties, including high blood pressure, a hernia, and respiratory problems. He'd been in a coma for several days before he died. One thing about dieing the American way, you get to go on a final spending spree of invasive medical procedures designed to extend your life an hour here, a minute there. Turkeys and Bangladeshis die with more dignity than that.


  got back from another rendezvous with the Internet at UVA to find Jessika and Deya preparing to head out for breakfast at Fox's Café (a cheap greasy spoon in Belmont). They asked if I wanted to go along with almost an apologetic tone. I guess I've been acting bothered of late. But I wanted to go.

The plan was to meet Ana, Nemo and Raphæl there; I suppose this all had been arranged last night at the Outback Lodge (by the way, Deya tells me I hadn't miss much for staying home). But when we got there, we found Fox's closed, so we sat in the shade beside the parking lot waiting for Ana, Nemo and Raphæl. I wasn't interacting with the others much; instead I found myself reading a printout of a new online journal by a UVA student who reads this journal. I have my ways of discovering such things, though I'm a little hesitant to mention it because it seemed so pure and human, so unaffected by an awareness of a readership. I'm not as casual with sending torrents of traffic to other sites as I used to be.

We ended up at either Ana's or Raphæl's apartment up above one of Belmont's major convenience stores. The two have broken up and moved to separate places, each above a Belmont convenience store, but they still regularly get together to network about their son Nemo. We decided to go try a place on High Street that claimed to be affiliated with "Pig and Steak" (which we took to mean the "Pig and Steak Too" of Scottsville, a place we hold in high regard for their big, cheap baskets of fries).

We walked in and found the place was really just a big nasty redneck bar. It's located in the white trash part of Charlottesville, so we couldn't expect the clientele to look like what you'd normally see on the Corner, but what creeped us out was how the scarred and tattooed customers all stared at us with something akin to hostility. We looked at the menu and, upon seeing that it was all over-priced typical super-greasy American stuff, gradually decided to leave. For some reason I hadn't noticed all the motorcycles in the parking lot as we'd been going in.

We, with the exception of Raphæl and Nemo, ended up at Bodo's Bagels, where a reliable breakfast can always be had for cheap in a friendly atmosphere. I finished before the others (as usual) and decided, instead of listening to the endless prattle of my exclusively female companions, to cross Preston and have a look in the dumpster of a computer place there. I was impressed to find a Pentium motherboard and processor cooling fan after a cursory search. I was sure that the motherboard was a dud, but it sure looked nice. I've always had an æsthetic attraction to printed circuit boards.

Deya drove us around southern Charlottesville on a hunt for yard sales, and we finally found one near the intersection of VA-20 and I-64. There was very little of interest to me there (in other words, there were no cool gadgets), but the girls managed to fuss over the clothes for what seemed an eternity. I went back to Deya's car and found a warm Schlitz on the floorboard, which I drank while oogling my dumpster-dived Pentium motherboard. I felt a real disconnect with my friends; I suddenly wanted friends with a sense of the movement of time. Maybe girls are impaired this way; I always find myself waiting endlessly for them. They also seem to have a high tolerance for offensive odours. One of the reasons, you see, that I didn't linger with the girls at the yard sale was that it smelled strongly of vomit for some reason. I guess the female tolerance for bad odours explains the female attraction for both men and babies.


hen I got home, I found that the dumpster-dived Pentium motherboard worked just fine, at least with Alan heinovision's 90 MHz Pentium running LINUX at 100 MHz with 16 megabytes of RAM. That was a major score, folks. I'll have to check that dumpster on a more regular basis. Any place that throws out good motherboards is bound to repeat the mistake frequently.

As I played with my computers, the girls were downstairs having their little time among themselves. At such times I feel a bit alienated, virtually craving some sort of male friendship. Just imagine all the things I never get any opportunity to discuss. I'm a real live thirty year old guy with all the feelings such beings normally have, but for the most part, I'm never away from a set of friends who consistently treat me like a sexless eight year old (unless they're very drunk, in which case they act like eight year olds too, not necessarily sexless ones either).

Here's a case in point. Today a memorial for Steve Weiner had been scheduled. Jessika hadn't bothered to tell me, and neither had Deya. They both either just assumed I knew, or they didn't think it important for me to know, much like they didn't think it important for Wilbur the Cockatiel to know. Thirty minutes before it was to begin, Deya said something about it, assuming I knew. I told her that I knew nothing about it. I also expressed resentment that no one ever bothers to tell me what's up. I'm out of the loop, and it's fucking alienating. I didn't put it quite this way, but I'm sure Deya got a sense of my hostility.

Jessika and I had a little altercation about this issue in my room. She said she thought she'd told me about the memorial, and then used the incontestable argument that she'd been really upset. I told her I wasn't mad, but I don't know, I might have been. I think the problem is more systemic than my simply being mad. I feel disconnected. I feel like my social arrangements are more than a little unsatisfactory and unlikely to improve with these people. But I don't feel like I'm saying anything new here. It's always the same problem, and the only real release I have is here in these musings. Well fuck you too, you unhelpfully removed reader.

Peggy, the Baboose and Zach arrived, and Raphæl came by long enough to drop off Nemo. But the men (with the exception of me, of course) all left, and I was the only man in our contingent when we set off for the Steve Weiner memorial over at Steve's house (also in Belmont). Other than myself, we were four women, two babies and a 750 mL bottle of Hungarian wine.

We parked in front of Andy Dean's house on Steve Weiner's old street. I mention this only because Andy Dean is the most famous goth in all of Charlottesville, and his car is covered with gothic bumperstickers. He works at Studio Art, the retail art outlet where I shopped yesterday, and these days he sports pink hair. Ana thinks he's unusually happy for a goth.


he memorial was in Steve Weiner's back yard. A circle of chairs had been set around a couple of blankets on the ground, and a crowd of some two dozen people had gathered. They were mostly greying middle-aged types, probably drawn from the local synagogue and Quaker Church with which he'd affiliated during his lifetime.

Steve's sister was there, though normally she lives in Paris, France. She dominated the show, reading from a few pieces of stapled-together paper. It was something written about Steve, about his dirty feet, about his bulging belly, with an emphasis on his tragic humanity, a good humanity we all seemed to think now, no matter how often we'd lifted that phone and heard that raspy voice asking about the nature of reality or, more to the point, whether Jessika was there. Others spoke at times, but between them there were long sad periods when no one would say anything. I could smell Steve's urine and his cat's litter occasionally; Steve evidently had been in the habit of pissing off his back veranda and emptying the catbox in the yard.

I'd never been to a memorial of this kind before, and I felt uncomfortable. I figetted with plant life, plucking apart a partially-unfurled danylion to reveal its artichoke-like interior, which I devoured. I also searched in vain for a four-leaf clover, a token of meaning in this sad event. I'd look over at Jessika and her eyes were puffy and red, and I'd think about Steve Weiner, not really about his death or even death itself, but that he was gone, that a network of connections was lost forever, and I'd feel tears asserting themselves around the edges of my eyes. I began to build a tiny shrine to Steve from bits of rock I found mixed in with the soil, but soon after the shrine was complete, the formal part of the memorial ended and the unnoticed structure was ground into oblivion under the feet of the rising mourners.

What came next was more of a social event, with people standing around talking about Steve or just shooting the shit. I was in an introverted, anti-social mood, and just stood there listening and eating the art-openingesque finger food, which (happy happy joy joy) included fried chicken. People were much less kind to Steve in their one-on-one conversations, the women talking of his obsessions with them, the men telling of his constant phone calls to their wives, and about what a loon he really was. When people weren't talking about Steve, they could be overheard discussing their various liberal causes.

The sky looked like a cheesy religious post card. Perfect simple clouds hung high on the air, but not too high, and they were pink and purple with the light and shade of the sunset. I walked away from the people and sat alone in a chair in the now-abandoned circle where the formal part of the memorial had taken place, admiring the silouettes of a couple of mature non-native Jack Pines. Jessika joined me and asked where I thought Steve was.

"He's not anywhere," I said matter-of-factly, "that's what makes it sad."

She tried to argue with me, but I said that it was exactly like what happens when you've been typing a paper and the hard drive crashes. The paper is gone, and all you have of it is a memory. She brought up the idea of "evidence" for past lives, but I said I'd believe that when a freshy-built computer turns out to have software pre-installed.

"You think you're a machine," she said with a dismayed form of aghast.

"I believe computers are asymtotically approaching human intelligence," I agreed.

Suffice it to say, my mechanistic reductionism didn't meet with any agreement from amongst my lady friends. But just then it just somehow didn't seem fitting to smile and agree with the hocus-pocus to please the girls. The seriousness of the event seemed to beg for true sincerity. I could have been sincere about a lot of issues, but I limited myself to the issue of what is life and what is death.

As the memorial wound down, one of the lady organizers offered us lots of leftover food which we gladly accepted. After yet another long wait for Jessika, we were headed back to Kappa Mutha Fucka. We'd lost Peggy and the Baboose, but Ana and Nemo were still with us.


e all (with the exception of Nemo) shared the bottle of Hungarian wine just before the Simpsons. The wine was strong and sweet like sherry, definitely not my usual thing. But it had come free from the antique store, so I wasn't complaining.

The Simpsons, by the way, was unusually surreal and politically satirical tonight. I knew it was over the top when the Russian ambassador to the UN flipped over his name plate from "Russia" to "Soviet Union" while, off in Moscow, Lenin smashed the glass and rose like a zombie from the dead, all following an international incident caused by Homer Simpson.

one year ago

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