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:
   Todd the horse guy
Thursday, April 23 1998

  had to recover my bicycle from the Downtown Mall, where I'd left it last night. This entailed walking all the way from my house, but I did so in two stages so it didn't feel like such a big deal.

When I got to the Mall, I first bought a Two Moons burrito. I wasn't going to make the famishing mistake I'd made yesterday. "Two Moons" has, I've been told, some sort of symbolic relationship to lesbian subculture, and this is no surprise. With the exception of dreadlocked Cory, Two Moons hires exclusively brunette girls with long, straight hair.

After eating, I quickly came upon Raphæl with his young son Nemo. I noticed just then that Nemo looked exactly like his mother Ana, nothing at all like his father. Anyway, Raphæl pointed out that the naked baby statue (an oversized bronze baby, complete with penis) had been stolen from its marble pedestal in front of the Jefferson Theatre. It's a locally famous statue, and what's more, Raphæl himself served as its model some 19 years ago. This made the theft "personal" as Raphæl put it. He called out to a nearby lady cop and asked for a moment of her time. Did she know, he asked, who had stolen the statue? She replied that she didn't but that it had been carried some hundred feet or so and then abandoned near a flower pot. Since it was somewhat damaged, it was being repaired. What's more, some local special interest group had seized on the opportunity by printing up flyers claiming responsibility, saying the baby was held hostage until City Council passed some pet resolution.

I continued on to the Downtown Artspace to touch bases with those folks. Nikolai and Jen Fariello were there as always. Jen is going to be living in one of the Jefferson Theatre's upstairs apartments (in the same building as the Artspace) and she's convinced the landlord to have a mural painted in the dreary wood-paneled stairway. She asked if I was interested in doing the mural, and I said sure. Perhaps I can have Jessika help me.

Out in front of the Jefferson, I was standing with Nikolai during one of his many cigarette breaks. These cigarette breaks, like everything else Nikolai does, seem to have their purpose. The force him up out of the theatre to the surface, where he can see people he knows (however vaguely) and invite them down to his little nest of paintings. There are other reasons to be seen here of course. Opportunities come and go with the pedestrian traffic. This is the place in town you go to find acquaintances, exchange gossip, plan your evening, and otherwise perform your unscripted civic role. People with strange deformities are not unusual sights. One guy walking by had huge bowl-sized huge bump on the side of his face and I had to look away.

One of the guys who works the counter at the Mudhouse, a little guy with a pretty face named either Eric John or John Eric (so I've decided to call him "Eric John Eric"), was hanging out with us. We were mostly making introductions since he was kind of a new face for me.

Nikolai came from a momentary absence and proclaimed it was time to go move a set of shelves for Todd, the nationally-acclaimed painter of psychedelically heroic horses. Since it was such a big set of shelves, he asked me and Eric John Eric to help him. It sounded like fun to me; maybe I'd get a chance to look at some of his paintings (an honour for anyone looking in this town, since Todd only shows in the big cities).

The set of shelves was over at Todd's old studio, the Advance Auto Parts building just a little ways east of the center of the Mall. The Advance building is being completely restructures internally. Today we found a couple of blue collar working stiffs in there setting up a network of iron I-beams designed to divide the space into two floors. They'd been working around Todd's shelves for weeks. I was alarmed when I saw how very big the shelves were.

Nikolai rounded up his little brother (a tall skinny goth kid with pronounced canine teeth) to help out and Todd backed his truck into position while Eric John Eric and I removed all the construction debris from the shelves. Then came the lifting, pushing and shoving. The shelves, which came in one indivisible unit, must have weighed 300 pounds. Once we had it loaded, Todd wondered whether he should just drive it to an Antique store. When a pedestrian expressed passing interest in it, Todd quoted $500 as the price.

Getting the shelves up a set of stairs into Todd's new studio (a very tall room at the back of the Jefferson Theatre) was its owns special kind of struggle, but eventually we had it where Todd wanted it and we could look around at the space.

I don't quite how to describe it. It was a fairly large room in terms of floorspace, but the floor itself was dwarfed by the incredible height of the walls to the perspective-shrunken ceiling, which was itself pierced by a skylight to the infinite heavens. The room must have been at least four stories tall. The walls were rough and rustic, vast expanses of naked brick and occasional flourishes of ironwork and ancient time-darkened wooden beams. A huge solitary off-white heating duct sprouted up from a massive furnace, snaked up along the wall at an angle and disappeared into the back of the theatre. Given the primitive architectural technology in evidence, it was hard to imagine such a high brick wall being very stable (especially after news I'd just heard on the radio saying a phenomenon that had rattled Kappa Mutha Fucka the other day was actually a small earthquake - 2.3 on the Richter scale). Overall, though, the place felt almost holy, like a darkened cathedral or a spooky grove of ancient trees in the forest.

Then there were the paintings. None of them were as large as the huge blue horse I'd remembered seeing through the gaps between the curtains covering the windows of Todd's old Advance Auto studio, but they were similar in style. They were mostly big serene beasts viewed in profile. On close inspection, I found that the beasts hovered some distance below a surface layer of plexiglass which had been painted to mask all but the details. Some of the creatures had weird little substitutions of mechanical objects for body parts: a lamp for a head, or a bit of cable for a leg.

As I came back through the dark hallway at the back of Downtown Artspace, I made a sinister laughing sound that seemed to go with the creepiness of the place. Jen Fariello came out and told me sternly that her gallery was not "a playground."

I was thinking about leaving the mall, walking back east to find my bicycle, when I ran across the rogue folk musician Phil Ginini. He's a loveable sociopath, and true to form, he invited me to buy him a beer at the Jewish Mother. I'm a firm believer in supporting starving local musicians and I like to catch up on all the latest gossip, so I said sure.

I'd never done anything but buy coffee at the Jewish Mother, but today we went to the saloonesque upstairs. It was about 4pm and not much was going on up there: one of the older regulars was sipping a drink while some young blond girls and their male artist friend (who has studio space at the Artspace) were at a booth eating food. As you'd expect given the name, the Jewish Mother is a fairly indulgent place; customers are encouraged to write on the wall in crayon. Pitchers of Red Dog were only $4, so I ordered one from the young, very affable waiter. Phil and I discussed a few thing, including his music career, the untimely death of Steve Weiner, and Sara Poiron's dominatrix career. Sara and Phil used to wake up and smell each others's socks (mostly his) back in the day, see.

We further discussed Phil's most perennial of interests, girls. He's got a girlfriend with whom he lives these days, and he predicted that his taking the time to drink a beer now would get him in trouble with her. But anyhow. She wasn't much of a factor just then; he went over to the booth full of blonds and flirted with them for awhile, and returned expressing disgust that he hadn't even gotten laid. He then launched into this long detailed description of XXXXX and his fondness for her. He proclaimed her the most beautiful girl in all of Charlottesville, and said that the only reason he'd been on the mall today was the odd chance he had of running across her. Phil (who is very thin) seems to have a thing for thin girls: Senna, Sara Poiron and now XXXXX.

I was in the Mudhouse for a little while drinking a cup of coffee, waiting for a hippie to get off the computer. But he wasn't going anywhere. He kept trying to interest one of the counter girls in the material he was reading and I noticed that he moved his lips as he read. Disgusted, I headed back to the Artspace.

Nikolai had wanted to work some more on his ridiculous web page, but Jen Fariello was getting kind of sick of indulging him, letting him monopolize the phone and use her computer. She reiterated that the Artspace was her business, not a playground. That was fine with me. I told Nikolai I'd just upload his Busride site the way it was.

When I got to the top of the Artspace steps, I saw a downpour falling from the sky. Two people where under the theatre overhang, seeking shelter from the rain. One of these people was a 20-something black man, the other was that horrible friend of the tough guys, the increasingly plump former raver girl referred to in this entry as "Helga." They were being friendly to one another, but she turned around she caught me staring at her coldly through the glass door. It would have been nice to will her to burst into dramatic flames; surely (despite how much her wealthy parents must love her) that would be the highest use of her personhood. When she saw me, she made some complaint to the black guy and he asked if I had "a problem." "No," I said, "I'm just watching the rain. Do you have a problem?" "You," he responded vacantly, but he didn't really feel like fighting about something he didn't understand, so his attention returned to Helga and the rain. As the rain slacked, I walked through it back to my bike. On my ride home I realized that I should have told the black guy that my problem was that Helga had given me [insert name of venereal disease here].


ack at Kappa Mutha Fucka, I found myself watching World's Scariest Police Videos on Fox. I love shows like that, and I don't feel even the slightest twinge of embarrassment in admitting this.


 my from Memphis had told Jessika about a big award ceremony for staff members of WTJU, the university non-profit radio station where she does volunteer work and occasionally serves as a D.J. She'd said we could go, and so we decided to. Deya, as usual, did the driving.

But we had trouble finding the ceremony or any of the landmarks we'd been told to look for. We ran across Darius and a number of other Tokyo Rose types in Newcomb Hall, and they were as surprised to see us in this unlikely place as we were to see them.

We figured the ceremony must be over (since Darius would have no doubt been in attendance), so we headed for the Corner, hoping to catch the Hogwaller Ramblers at the Buddhist Biker Bar.

But we came too early, so we decided to kill time by drinking Mickeys Malt Liquor on the nearby railroad tracks. We discussed our respective middle school experiences and our earliest drug experiences. Needless to say, Jessika was taking drugs at a considerably younger age than either Deya or me. She and Peggy were both on the "teens at risk" list in their school. Jessika also told about how her principal in middle school ran the place like a fascistic Pink Floydian penal colony. She says students actually had to salute the principal with outstretched hands at assemblies.

We ended up having one of those increasingly common discussions in which Deya and Jessika nag me for not doing enough tidying up around the house. They seemed to require of me some sort of humiliating prostration.

At the Buddhist Biker Bar we ordered a pitcher of "swag" beer and sat near the Ramblers as they played their tunes. They sounded significantly less folksy than I'd remembered them, perhaps because they had two electric guitars and covered a number of rock and roll standards. During a break, Jamie Dyer (the vocalist and lead (acoustic) guitarist) came and sat with us and told us the following joke:

Q: How do you know when a Dead Head has come to visit?
A: He's still there.

Mel (the very black crooked-toothed wise man) showed up, as did Utkhan the Turk. They ordered an ice bucket of 7 ounce Rolling Rocks and handed them to my housemates. Things were getting kind of weird and expensive, and Deya wanted to go home, so I left with her. Jessika stayed behind to hear the rest of the Hogwaller set while benefiting from the generosity of male attention.

one year ago

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