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:
   down on Main Street
Friday, August 28 1998

oor Sophie continued to itch all morning while Kim and I went around packing up her belongings and fixing problems with the apartment. The latter was my department, and I began with the troublesome task of patching a hole in the wood paneled bathroom door. It wasn't exactly something I could slap some filler in and paint over. My solution was to cover the hole with a little piece of packing tape, painting it one colour of the two-tone woodgrain, then painting the other tone and scratching through between them to simulate wood grain. When I was done the patch looked (from the distance) like a little harmless warp in the wood.

We didn't have any spackle or dry wall compound, so I filled all the apartments' many nail holes with oil artists' paint tinted to resemble the colour of the wall. Oil paint is better for expedient hole filling since it doesn't shrink as it dries; it hardens by the process of oxidation, not by the loss of a volatile liquid.


im and I took Spohie on a walk across the Huron over to downtown Ann Arbor so she could carry out some bank business. For the first time I noticed the plaque on the commemorative boulder just north of the Broadway Bridge over the Huron. It said that the bridge had been built on the site of a well-traveled Indian ford of the river, and that at one time this had also been a major stage coach route linking Detroit to Chicago. As we walked across the Broadway Bridge I could look down and see a prominent concrete pillar alerting hotheads in bulldozers that an important MCI cable also crosses the river here, a major trunk line of the Internet. There you have it: several generations of human communication routes passing through this one seemingly unremarkable location.

I was most inspired by the idea of Native Americans fording the river and broke into anachronistic song: "Hey-yay-yay-yah, High-yah-yay-yay, Umpa Lumpa, Hey-yay-yigh! Be-um careful on the tracks! Look-um both ways for trains! We lost-um fifteen braves last time we came through-um here!" (A railroad track travels along the south shore of the Huron, you see.)


  sat on Main Street with Sophie as Kim went into the bank. I found myself considering the fact that this was the very same Main Street about which Bob Seger wrote his famous song "Down on Mainstreet." When I heard that song back in the day, it sounded like Seger was singing about a much bigger, much more lived-in town than Ann Arbor. This city must have changed a lot since Seger drew inspiration from these streets; I looked north and south and couldn't see any of the seedy figures he sang of. I was in the heart of a gentrified yuppie business district now devoid of any capacity to inspire music.

Periodically people, especially young children, stopped to admire the irresistible if human-hewn cuteness of Sophie. Her unsightly pink hives and histamine-filled plateaus lay concealed unseen beneath her groomed grey fur.

Kim, along with Aaron (a former co-worker) returned from the bank and we all went the half block west down Washington Street to Café Zola. When Kim wasn't exchanging addresses and phone numbers with old friends and co-workers, she joined me drinking coffee out in front with Sophie. The sky was grey and an occasional drop of rain fell.

Kim pointed out the various Café Zola employees to me. One of the waitresses was a thin blond woman who looked to be about 25. Actually, though, she's 36 and a writer for a pop culture magazine. She only dates 19 year old boys. She and Kim's exuberant friend Missy went to a recent Metallica Concert and had journalist back stage passes.

Both Missy and the older, somewhat serious manager of Café Zola are currently on unrelated vacations in Turkey (they both are ethnic Turks, as are many Zola employees), so the place had a laid back feel as management duties fell to a youngish slacker dude who sat smoking a cigarette on the steps of an adjacent business.

Since Kim has the obligation of personally exchanging goodbyes with many of her Ann Arbor friends before departing with me for San Diego, we ran yet another social errand before heading back to her place.

She also had to stop at a New Age boutique to pick up a 50th birthday present for her stepmother Linda. I sat outside with Sophie and watched a black male-female panhandling couple spread out down the street begging pedestrians for money until a while male-female team of Ann Arbor police showed up to harass them.

Back at Kim's apartment, I painted a quick landscape in acrylics on a brown paper bag in which Kim intends to wrap the present she'll be presenting to her stepmother. The present is a little stylized female figurine designed as a celebration of menapause.


other and Chuck came over in the afternoon in a big pickup truck to help Kim move the bulk of her possessions out of her apartment. Kim and I were hungry and cranky, and this didn't mesh well with Mother's schoolteacherly banter. She's not my mother, so I could live with it, but Kim (and even Chuck) snapped at her several times. When the first load headed out (no easy feat, what with Wall Street being completely dug up for the laying of new utility pipes), Kim and I walked over to a nearby Chinese sub shop and ordered a Philly mushroom & beef thingamabob. The sub shop was a quaint dingy little place. The one customer, an eccentic-looking young white guy, was wolfing down an enormous bowl of what appeared to be an exotic Chinese soup. Little hand-written signs in both Chinese and English advised people to put their trash in the trash cans when they were through eating.

Outside, a construction crew was rennovating the gutted shell of a dead supermarket. One of the workers had an extremely foul mouth and shouted the most appallingly obscene insults you can imagine across the vast parking lot at another of the workers. People in an adjacent laundry mat were gathered out in front witnessing the bizarre spectacle.

On the walk back to Kim's apartment, we rounded a corner and a huge vicious lupine dog suddenly appeared (almost cliché as the very picture of scary dogdom), leaping towards us at the end of his chain as if perhaps this time it might not hold. It was a momentary fright for all of us, most especially little Sophie, whose hives dimished greatly thereafter. Adrenaline is a powerful antihistamine.

After Mother and Chuck picked up the second load, we headed back to their place to help them unload.

Their house is a disaster in the aftermath of the dryer fire. The art (including a Joan Miró print) is off being professionally restored, the walls are being scrubbed with caustic compounds, and a massive pile of supposedly damaged goods is piled up in the garage to be inventoried and replaced by insurance money. The loot all looked perfectly good to me, but I suppose I'm a peasant when it comes to determining these things. Insurance is expensive for a reason.

Kim couldn't take the residual fumes in the house (not that I could notice anything), so she went out to the car, where Mother and I joined her. The plan was to go out somewhere for dinner, but of course it couldn't be as simple as just going somewhere. For Mother, you see, the fun resides in the decision making. She wants to weigh and consider the options. But there's no real debate; I have a feeling she has her idea in her head and she's just waiting around for us to say it. She didn't want to do as Kim wished and eat sushi. Eventually we decided to go out to an Irish pub down on Main Street.


he Irish pub was crowded and noisy, but we were in a corner away from the heart of the action, enough to leave me ignorant that it was really just another meat market on a Friday night. Kim and I drank Guinness, Chuck had his usual iced tea, and Mother had a lite beer. We ordered a variety of food. I'm not big on flavourless Irish food, and though the fish & chips were really very good, the cooked vegetables and chicken were more of a desert of blandness, an ordeal to get through.

Mothers have a way of embarrassing their progeny, and of course Mother is no exception. At one point she proudly took me aside to tell of how Kim made it all the way to finals in the Miss Teen Michigan beauty pageant, a little fact Kim had never seen fit to tell me.

At a certain point Mother became very serious, making me promise to take good care of her daughter, that Kim is "very precious." It was touching in a surreal David Lynchian sort of way.

All dinner long, Mother kept her personal lapdog, a long-haired micro-terrier named Casey, in a little deceptively purse-like pet carrying bag at her feet. Mother takes that little vaguely-disturbing beast everywhere she goes and delights in sneaking it into places it shouldn't be every bit as much as I delight in sneaking a bottle of Mad Dog into a movie theatre. Wasn't Mary, Queen of Scotts, beheaded with a little dog hidden beneath her gowns?

Kim took me on a tour of the rest of the pub. It was full of nooks and crannies, all lined with narrow little shelves where the zillions of young adults could set their Miller Lites as they stared longly at one another through the Irish smoke and haze.


im and I were hanging out at her apartment when suddenly came a loud knocking at the door. It was Spunky Lisa and Josh come to socialize. Since all the furniture was gone, we all had to lie together on the futon. Seeing a need for alcohol, Lisa and Josh went on a run to pick up a small bottle of Bushmills. But they made a point of not smoking pot when Kim offered it, so no one actually ended up smoking any.

Lisa and Josh will soon be staying at a house in Stratford, Ontario, and the running joke is that Lisa will be "strapping it on in Stratford." Har har.

one year ago

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