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").


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Like my brownhouse:
Friday, September 11 1998

im had an awful phone conversation with her Mother this morning, the sort of exhange that cements in my mind exactly what I find so distasteful about this woman. By the time it was over, Kim was in tears.

It seems that after we left Aunt Rhonda's place in Scottsdale, Arizona, Rhonda got on the horn with her sister, Kim's Mother, saying all kinds of malicious things about us, some of which had no actual basis in fact. She said we'd never showered the whole time we'd been there and that we'd smelled bad. It was just picky little stupid gossipy back-stabbing superficial things, the kind that wouldn't have mattered for a moment to my parents, or even most people; we'd been on the road for days, so perhaps we didn't smell like roses, but we gladly took showers, believe me. Indeed, I felt we maximized our wastefulness of desert water resources while at Rhonda's.

But Kim's Mother is all about superficial impressions. She wanted her daughter to be a beauty queen, go to finishing school, and join a prestigious sorority. Now, ideally, she would like Kim to have a wealthy husband, wear fine clothes and live as a kept woman in a mansion. What goes on in Kim's mind, what she contributes to the world, and her overall happiness don't seem to concern Mother in the least. Mother is like some sort of simplistic literary construction, a superficial, vain, materialistic rich-woman wanna-be, the opposite of everything I am. Her sisters, Bettie and Rhonda, are the same way to a greater or lesser degree. Kim thinks it all comes from being raised by a domineering immigrant Sicilian mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. The Sicilian mother, or "Grandmother" (as Kim and I call her) taught her daughters that they needed to be fancy, have fancy tastes, and that they needed to find rich men to support them in this manner. Money, and the things that can be flamboyantly purchased with a whole lot of it, is the ultimate goal of life. The three sisters ultimately succeeded, more or less, in fulfilling Grandmother's wishes for them. But along the way, they endured constant manipulation as Grandmother pitted them against each other, using money as a manipulating force. To hear it described, it all sounds very cruel, though that may not have been intended.

Now, between them all, they have but one descendant: my girlfriend, Kim. Increasingly Kim has felt herself becoming a part of the drama between Grandmother and the three sisters. When, for example, Grandmother decides to give money to Kim directly, the various aunts become jealous and do their best to stir up trouble. Kim's education in massage school is to be partly funded by money from Grandmother, and perhaps this is what lies behind the latest familial explosion, especially Rhonda's seemingly unwarranted involvement. We did nothing to that woman to deserve this sort of thing. All I can say is that Rhonda is awful. I want nothing more to do with a spoiled, vain, superficial, bratty "kept woman" such as her. She talks about having dinner with Charlie Watts, Stevie Nicks and other celebrities, and to me they're all diminished for having given her the time of day.

But beyond Rhonda's untrue, malicious cattiness are the other issues it stirred up with Mother, who has her own special set of neuroses. Over the phone today she accused Kim of being a "beatnik," and proceeded to spin contentiousness out of thin air, by, for example, chastising Kim for supposedly saying she'd prefer to work at a run-down sushi restaurant instead of an upscale one. If Kim ever said such a thing at all, she'd said it to Rhonda in jest. But, as already stated, Rhonda doesn't understand sarcasm. You can have all the money in the world and still not understand the nuances of English conversation.

Mother went on to say things that suggested she was dissatisfied with the wealthiness of Kim's romantic choice, me. Her impressions were entirely based on superficial things, such as how old my boots appear to be. I'm not kidding here. Mother is pretending to be an arbiter of modern fashion! Kim says Mother would prefer her to marry someone rich, a doctor or lawyer.

By the end of the conversation, Mother was so enraged that she told Kim to just tear up the checks she'd written for massage school, that she hadn't raised her to be... whatever is is she raised her to be, an unpleasant superficial materialist creep like herself.

I was left almost quivering in rage from this turn of events. I felt that if I ever talked to any of these awful sisters on the phone again, I'd tell them off in no uncertain terms with something eloquent and well-rehearsed.

Rita was most sympathetic. She's a practical woman, and she knows there is much more to life than sucking up to crazy people for their money. Kim and I can surely live our own life without being some side project in the life of a lunatic. No amount of money is worth that. I'm just glad we're far away from those people and their stupid pointless games.

It occurred to me that this story is very similar to Cinderella. When I mentioned this to Kim, she said she often identified with that fairy tale. I guess this would make me Prince Charming. Oh dear.

Kim felt the need to point out the differences between herself and her maternal relatives. She said she'd gotten a lot from her father's more practical, creative side of the family. And it's true; I'd have no attraction for a younger version of her mother, and it's doubtful a younger version of Rhonda would have any attraction for me.


im and I went on a series of exploratory drives around San Diego today. The first was a mission to try to get Rita's computer scanner working. The guys at CompUSA were hopeless; Rita is going to have to get a refund for want of a few software drivers.

Next we drove down to the vicinity of Balboa Park, a big hunk of public space in the middle of the city. I put up a few musings promotional flyers and we walked up and down the street. I was most interested in the diversity of palms in the area. There were even a few banana trees. At a juniour high school, a group of dark, bored teenagers were being shown how to fold a flag by a militarist gymn teacher. It looked like surefire way to manufacture a fresh crop of punk rockers to me.


e drove over to Hillcrest, a largely gay neighborhood somewhat southwest of our own. Rainbow flags were everywhere, so we knew the food would be good. For whatever reason there's a strong correlation between good restaurants, cultural interest and percentage of gays people in the population.

We got lunch at the Bombay Express. The owner-operator guy told us his "medium hot" was much hotter than most Americans will eat. But Kim and I like hot food, so we wanted our chicken-whatever medium-hot. Bombay Express is just as fast as its name implies, and the owner-operator had our dishes out to us in only a matter of minutes. It had to be the hottest entré I've ever eaten, and believe me, I've had hot food. Once some years ago I went into a Thai place and told them not to hold back on the spiciness, and that was hot, but really, this was so much hotter. I like hot food since it restrains my normal inclination to inhale my food like a shopvac. But this was ridiculous. Still, with the help of lots of ice tea and water, I ate all of mine and then all of what Kim couldn't eat. When I turned in my clean plates, the owner-operator said, "You make me prode!" Evidently he's not used to Anglos with such a capacity for spice. Next time I'll get the extra-hot and see if I can take it. Perhaps I'll take pain killers first.

As we continued down the street, Kim stopped in various massage and holistic health places to get a sense of the massage industry in San Diego and to put out feelers for employment opportunities. I mostly found myself looking at the vegetation.

Palm trees with huge accumulations of dead fronds in the median strip of the Cabrillo Freeway (under the overpass). Most homeowners trim these dead fronds away, though I suspect they're important habitat for native creatures.

Street scene in Hillcrest, complete with motorcycle, punch buggy and antenna nest.

On the way back to the car, we stopped at a funky little health supermarket called Trader Joes. Everything was incredibly cheap there, at least by the standards of groceries in the East. They even had a liquor section, with a half gallon of cheap vodka costing only $9.99. It was called Vodka of the Gods and was bottled in California specifically for Trader Joes. I had to get myself a bottle of it. For the rest of the drive home, it was a source of considerable humour for Kim and myself. These days when we pronounce the word "vodkatea" we don't bother to pronounce the "d" - it's Kim's innovation. We call it "vokkatea."


e had some vodkatea when we got home, using vodka that I bought back in Ann Arbor. For various reasons I was having trouble FTPing to Spies or doing much of anything useful on the internet. Perhaps it was jammed with people interested in the lude & ludicrous Starr Report on our president's sexuality. I don't care about the sexuality of my garage mechanic, so why should I care about the sexuality of my president, other than to be jealous of the sexual opportunities his high office affords him? But I'm not jealous. Clinton is an old man, essentially just somatic tissue on the hoof, and no power or prestige will ever change that simple fact. Still, later at night I found myself listening to right wing talk radio to get the skinny on the scandal.

Towards evening, Rita, Kim and I exercised the three Schnauzers around the neighborhood. We walked down past a monestary to the edge of the cliffs above Mission Valley, where brush fires had raged back in 1985. Some houses are still being rebuilt. Among the interesting plants growing near the edge of the cliff were jade trees and Century Trees, a kind of yucca that throws up a twenty foot seed mast only once every hundred years, so they say. Several seed masts were in various stages of decline.

We encountered numerous dogs on the way home, and every time it was like a party for the Schnauzers. They seem to get intoxicated by just the prospect of sniffing each others' asses.


onight in its downtown, San Diego was having the first day of it's multi-day "Street Scene" event, where they fence in several blocks and charge admission to numerous stages of music and other entertainment. Kim was eager to go, and since it seemed like a major local event, I tagged along as well.

We drove down into Mission Valley and, after lots of wrong turns and frustration, eventually found a trolley station at a big shopping mall called (of all things) "Fashion Valley" (best pronounced with a valley girl accent). The trolley is a new mass-transit system for San Diego. It stretches from the end of Mission Valley all the way to the Mexican border and is entirely above-ground. The cars are painted bright red and arrive as regularly as subways do in the East. We were unclear about how exactly one pays to get on the trolley. For the most part it looked like it could be ridden for free, though a laid-back dude working only with a cash box somehow extracted seven dollars from us for a two-way trip. That was the last we saw of anyone concerned with either money or tickets.

Kim hit it off right away with a couple of older guys also headed for Street Scene. Typical of my behaviour this time of night in this time zone, I was bored and tired and didn't want to deal with anyone really.

When we climbed off the Trolley in downtown San Diego, it was a madhouse of people trying to get into Street Scene '98. Tickets, we soon learned, were $30 each, too expensive we decided (especially given today's Mother-induced financial panic). I thought there would surely be a way for us to sneak in for free, but we didn't search very hard for a chink in the armour. Guards in yellow vests were everywhere, and where there were no guards there was chain link fence and concertina wire. As we walked downtown to find better things to do, we were happily sour grapes about the whole thing. For once Matt Rogers' term "faketopia" seemed to apply. There couldn't possibly be anything real going on in a place that charged $30 admission.

We ended up at a sushi bar within a raver-dance place called E Street Alley. Kim originally thought she might like to work in a place such as this, but she eventually concluded that it was "too glossy." We consumed $30 worth of sushi and saki and talked about a number of things, including my interest in Asian Women (many examples of which were present). Kim doesn't like this sort of talk from me, but the saki had loosened me up.

When the stylish black-clad sushi waitress gave us what we considered too little wasabi, Kim complained, so the waitress returned with a huge glob of the lime-green substance, along with a massive pile of ginger slices. We somehow managed to eat all the ginger, but the wasabi was far more formidable. I did my best, though. I ate so much with every piece of sushi that Kim was concerned I might need to be hauled out in a stretcher. I kept grabbing the back of my head and grimacing for moments of agony. But it was an addictive experience, and there was no end of wasabi in sight.


n the trolley ride home, the trolley doors refused to respond at the Fashion Valley stop, so we ended up having to walk back to the Volvo from the next stop. As a shortcut, we walked along a dry river channel under a low spooky freeway bridge, with only a little clearance for our heads. It's difficult for me to imagine a civilized place being as dry as San Diego.

one year ago

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