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:
   dinner at Bardo Rodeo
Friday, May 29 1998


rian and Nancy went off to their respective jobs and I stayed behind in their house, mostly working on musings-related material on the computer. In the first phase, I was rocking out to Dirt by Alice in Chains (not to be confused with Sonic Youth's Dirty, which came out the same year, 1992; thanks Kosta). Later, I listened to Should God Forget, a compilation of music by the Psychedelic Furs. Ah, the joys of someone else's music collection: so unfamiliar, so in need of exploration. It rather reminds me of when I'd have the job of watching the neighbors' house back when I was a teenager. The neighbors, the Vesseys, would go on long vacations and hire me to feed the horses, dog, chickens, cats, guinea hens, and whatever other critters they happened to have. At the time I was sharing a room with my psychedelic brother and didn't have a lot of personal space. I used to move in to the Vessey's house, taking long leisurely baths (being sure to clean my hairs out of the tub), reading up on art history, watching teevee, and listening to interesting records. That was back when I had a strong interest in late-60s and early-70s psychedelic rock and roll (no, I don't mean the Grateful Dead), with a particular interest in the Moody Blues. I was so impressed with their album To Our Children's Children's Children when I first played it on the Vessey's turntable. Ah, how the times change. All these years later, my Moody Blues records do nothing but gather dust while my parents are at war with the Vesseys over a border dispute.

This house is a lot like the Vessy's house in overall feel; it has wooden floors and a warmly unusual complex of visual diversity. And due respect has been paid to the past; a large rhyming prayer painted primitive-stylee on an overhead beam in the dining room was left intact despite its smarmy tackiness just because it obviously took a lot of trouble to do.

In the early afternoon, Brian's mother came by to prepare for some completely different vacation. It was a little strange to find myself interacting with her. She seemed like such a completely normal and not especially unusual older middle class woman, right down to the permed grey hair and shiny new car. And there I was chit-chatting with her about who I am and what I do, that I'm unemployed and homeless (well, for the sake of the argument, I am) and that I have a not-especially-reliable 1975 Dodge Dart. I didn't bother to go on at length about my other weirdnesses, that I drink tussin on a recreational basis, or that I upload to the Internet an account of my daily business every blessed day.

Nancy had loaned me a mountain bike before she set off on her own bike for the 12 mile commute to work. In the afternoon I decided to go on a bike ride into downtown Bethesda. The road I traveled was kind of busy, and I wasn't used to riding a lumbering droning bike equipped with full knobby tires. It's macho, it's tough, and it can cross grassy medians without complaint, but it's a lot of work to pedal. Happily, downtown Bethesda is only about two miles away.


ethesda is a bigger city than I'd expected. It has really big buildings in the central downtown, and the cars all zip around with that aggressive impatience one normally associates with only the really big eastern cities. It looked a lot like Washington D.C., right down to the stylish suntanned elegance of the people on the street, though, for all the buildings and cars, I didn't see very many pedestrians. Bethesda is not a college town, and it lacks a large demographic fragment that I've come to expect from my experiences in most other places.

It would have been impossible to get a sense of the place from a car; indeed, even trying to take it in from a bike was difficult. I needed to move much more slowly. So I resorted to walking the bike everywhere. I wound my way all around the downtown until at last I found my way to Bethesda Avenue, what amounts to Bethesda's strip, where people go to see and be seen (and, incidentally, buy liquor, bagels and coffee). It doesn't really compare with Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, especially with half of it hidden in a chrysalis of construction. But it's an important place, if only because it is the jurisdiction of the only street in America to have its own Mayor.

I did a little shopping at the Giant supermarket on Bethesda Avenue. In the city, and Bethesda is the city I guess, supermarkets have much narrower aisles than they do where I'm from. Urban real estate is too expensive to build the lavish aisles one encounters in Shenandoah Valley supermarkets, which are usually built on cornfields, Civil War battlefields, Indian burial grounds or convenient flatland adjacent to rivers (praise be to God for putting so much prime building land on the banks of His great rivers). A toothbrush was mainly what I sought, but also beer. I wandered around for awhile looking for the glorious beer section, neglecting to realize I was in Maryland, where beer must be bought in special stores (much like special people riding on short buses).


ack at Nancy and Brian's place, they both eventually came home from various places and interacted with various visitors (who I seemed to have an irrepressible desire to shock; saying I keep an "online journal" fits the bill perfectly, by the way).

While Brian went off to do other things, Nancy and I decided to sort of, um, hit the town, in a manner of speaking. Nancy did the driving in her little Honda Civic.

I wanted to buy some beer, but we got to the liquor store a whole hour too late. Yet, as we turned down an alley from the not especially dense Friday night crowd on Bethesda Avenue, I encountered a bag that looked to contain full beers. It was three full cold Heinekens just sitting there untended. When God deals me situations like this, I'm not one to ask questions. I scooped them up, we went back to Nancy's car and drove away. I find stuff in college dumpsters, I occasionally find small amounts of money. But it's very rare to find free beer on the street, especially the street of a real city on a Friday night.

Somehow the free beer made me think about other free things, like free food from dumpsters. I told Nancy how most gutterpunks are perfectly happy eating half-finished sandwiches found in trash cans. At this point I had a revelation. You know how the dirt of other people always seems much dirtier than your own dirt? well, when you're dirty enough (like a gutterpunk), other people's dirt starts looking kind of clean.

Nancy decided that the best place to go tonight for dinner was over across the Potomac barely back into Virginia, at Bardo Rodeo in Arlington.

Bardo is amazingly big, bigger certainly than any restaurant-type-place I've ever been. On a hot clear night like tonight, it was also a busy place. A long, broad open-air tunnel full of tables passed beneath a third of the building, and the vast number of diners and drinkers between the heavily-muraled concrete walls created an deafening din. We decided it was best to eat inside, in a much more manageable space that resembled a conventional bar.

Not that the interior space didn't have it's, uh, characteristics. Every surface seemed to be covered with a sticky film. The music blasting from a jukebox inside a vintage Plymouth (stuck through the glass wall) was all either Led Zeppelin or Led Zeppelin covers (one was obviously sung by Henry Rollins). Nancy suggested I go check out the bathroom, but I never mustered enough nerve. According to Nancy, the place used to be a car dealership. That accounted for the glass-walled rooms and large bleak spaces. I have a certain fondness for businesses that crop up in completely unlikely buildings. For example, there's a church in Staunton that now holds its meetings in an old movie theatre that had more recently been serving as a nightclub.

We ordered chicken and black bean burritos, as well as beers from the beer list. Bardo Rodeo is a brewery as well as a seedy bar, and all the beers were unfamiliar to me. There was a long list to pick from, all with detailed descriptions. The top of the list had the strongest beers, and it was one of these that I picked, the Dremo Tibetan Sasquatch, number three on the list. It was so hoppy that it resembled grapefruit juice. That's a flavour that I like, so I had two of them. Two beers, two strong beers, and I was drunk, likely to do things I normally wouldn't. Our waiter would have been happy to get us more, but I was concerned about Nancy's capacity to drive (even if she can handle her beers, in her own sort of way).

We talked a lot about how we came to the mindset where we could publish our lives online. I came to lose my inhibitions about exhibitionism gradually, and I explained these steps to Nancy. She admitted that the first time she read my journal, she "didn't get it." But later on it all made sense and she found herself wanting to do something somewhat similar.

We also discussed certain important discoveries we made in childhood, such as the existence of certain words and the time I learned that the middle finger was a bad sign:

It was first grade and I was on the playground at recess. One of my friends suddenly freaked out about an inadvertant gesture one of my other friends had just made, claiming it was bad and threatening to tell the teacher. I asked what sign it was and the tattle-taler said that it was made by sticking up the middle finger. I didn't believe him, and stuck up both my middle fingers. Nothing bad happened, but the tattle taler freaked out anew and threatened to tell on me as well. By this time I really was curious, so in music class that afternoon, I sat as I normally did, but with both my middle fingers prominently raised. The teacher calmly asked for me to please not do that. Whoah! My friend on the playground had been right, it really was a bad sign. I obediently refrained from making the sign for the rest of class, content to know that for some reason, people consider certain hand signs to be offensive.

In a similar way, when she was little, Nancy's older siblings told her to yell fuck and shit real loud, and she did, wondering what the big deal was. She says she learned to walk fast when she was a kid, because her older siblings were always walking fast to escape her bratty presence. They were five and six years older, and no matter what a drag they considered her, she thought they were cool and wanted to do whatever they did.

Nancy paid the tab because she insisted. I guess she makes more than I do, so I'm not complaining. She then took me on a tour of the upstairs, which is a whole other kind of vastness. There are two large pool table rooms, each with at least a dozen tables. One of these was the non-smoking pool room, and it was completely deserted. We stood around marveling at the wall murals. They're all very strange, with an unusual (for a restaurant) focus on anatomy. There are pictures of skinless muscle guys, others with neurons exposed and a strange man with a little red baby controlling him from a tractor-like cabin in his head. Several skinless human-headed dogs were frozen in mid-bound, as were embryos trapped in frozen teardrops. The place was a king's ransom of weirdness riches, but it was also evidently very popular.

We sat around in the non-smoking pool room as various customers passed through, taking in and contributing to the weirdness. We also went around back to look at the massive kegs, vats, silos and such that go with any major brewing operation. In stages, we made it home.

Read Nancy Firedrake's account of today. But to have been a fly on the wall...


one year ago

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