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:
   electric Los Angeles
Monday, February 1 1999
We had to evacuate the Madame Butterfly Room by noon, since last night was to be our last at the Archbishops' Mansion Inn. The Inn employees thoughtfully allowed us to keep our luggage at the hotel all day while we went off to do some last minute exploration.
We took a cab to Kim's old place of employment, the Town School for Boys in Pacific Heights. Kim wanted to meet old colleagues and students from the days when she worked there as a paid intern.
I wasn't much more than just additional Kim luggage as she exchanged stories and happy noises with the various people deserving of such interaction. Kim found a place for me to check my email, but I had to cut it short when suddenly a huge class of kids showed up in the media center with a need for every blessed computer. The computers here were pretty good: multimedia PowerMacs, but in the classroom the teachers still depended on ancient Apple IIGSs. I think they were top of the line back in 1987 or so.
So I tagged along after Kim. There was the cafeteria scene, with that smell that only an elementary school lunchroom has. To smell that smell takes you back to those days right away. You start thinking again about what tables are the cool tables and what tables are more appropriate for the likes of yourself. You wonder if you'd even want to sit at a table that would allow the likes of yourself. That smell. I didn't want these memories, so I breathed through my mouth.
Then there was the recess scene, at a "field" on top of the school's roof. Kim remarked how the little kindergarteners she'd taught three years ago hadn't grown much in the meantime. There they were, still little kids, chasing balls around and barking orders at one another. But then I realized that they were acting very poised and mature for kids that size. This made me realize something about fourth graders: their brains have grown a lot in the preceding years while their bodies have grown very little. On the other hand, Kim's old fourth grade students, who are now in 7th grade, were all much bigger than she'd remembered them. And they were doing big kid things too, like participating in student government and telling genuinely funny jokes. Somehow I was able to share in Kim's excitement about these things.
One odd thing about the Town School For Boys that wasn't a feature of my childhood school experience is the nature of the sexual tension in such a school. Since there are no little girls for the boys to flirt with, the tension is entirely between female teachers and the male students. Kim admits that, strange as this may sound, it is possible for a boy in 4th grade to inject sexual tension into his interactions with his teacher. This isn't to say that the teacher actually desires sex with the student or vise versa, it's just that when a teacher is the only obvious sexual focus, sexual energy will tend to flavour a boy's actions in her presence.
After the experience at Town School, Kim and I walked into downtown Pacific Heights and eventually caught a bus into the outskirts of Little Italy. Here I could inspect the cable cars close up and get a great view of Alcatraz Island across the cold steel blue waters of the bay. It was a crisp, clear, sunny day and I could see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles. We went into an old Italian restaurant, a place that has been in business since 1888 called something like Cafererra. The walls were festooned with photographs of celebrities who had eaten there, especially Tony Bennett and Clint Eastwood. A very dark Indian waitress took our order. I had the beef ravioli and Kim had the seafood soup complete with little baby octopi. We were so full after we were done that we went to a park across the street and took a little nap on a bench. From there we had a wonderful view of Russian Hill towering above us, a big lump under the dense carpet of urban San Francisco.
We caught another bus and rode quickly through Chinatown with a bus full of Chinese people. Outside the window was a blur of vegetable shops and Chinese characters. Even the Bank of America logo had been altered to look as if it had been drawn with a reed pen.

We ended up in the very center of downtown San Francisco, and from there we walked all the way back to our hotel. The pigeons were the most interesting feature of this walk. A couple of them sat comfortably beneath a spinning wire contraption designed to shoo them away.
As we waited several hours in the Archbishop's Mansion lobby for the shuttle to come and take us to the airport, I did a little writing while Kim attempted to nap. The flu, which had dogged us for this entire vacation, began to catch up with her just a bit and soon she was completely miserable. It was especially bad during the shuttle bus ride. She demanded that I find her some tussin pills in our luggage and then she realized her stomach was too upset for her to actually eat them.
During the entire plane flight back to San Diego, I was glued to the window. The night air was dry and cool, which made for exceptional viewing conditions. Every light of the cities we flew over was as clear as a bulb on a Christmas tree, perfectly outlining the grand man-made forms of political geography. San Francisco looked a lot smaller and flatter at night, with the perfect Cartesian geography of its streets seeming to defy the steep terraced hills beneath it. Then the plane whirled around and headed south along the Pacific coast. I went to the other side of the plane and watched the geography from there. Monterey Bay looked like a big icecream scoop of land had been removed from the coastline. South of there, from Big Sur to Santa Barbara, the coastline was vast bulk of darkness with only a few bright, geometrically regular exceptions. Far off to the east, though, was the bright glow of the heavily-populated Central Valley.
A vast swath of very low ground-hugging clouds covered the land stretching from Point Arguello inland as far as Bakersfield. These clouds were lit from above by the bright light of the full moon and also from beneath in a few places, especially Bakersfield. The cloud bank looked like a vast wet cotton blanket flung rudely over the land, a heavy uncomfortable burden of nature. It looked from my vantage point to be effectively snuffing out the cries and perhaps even the lives of the cities beneath it.
But then came Los Angeles. It was absolutely amazing, a massive grid of lights that even from 35000 feet seemed to represent an unfathomable quantity of human life, dreams and activity. I imagined what it would be like to be an alien descending on the world and seeing this sight. How could it be anything but intimidating? The sheer power -the ability to cause problems- represented by all those lights would be enough to send me headed back to Andromeda!
And yet it was all so weak. Those lights, on an individual basis, were feeble from this height. they outline the political features, but nothing more. They didn't move. The only obvious activity was the slow flow of corpuscular cars and the rapid trajectories of a few helicopters.
Then I saw a strange cluster of lights moving at high speed along the ground. The cluster would break into pieces, briefly vanish altogether, reappear and then merge together again, like a family of amoeba. They were ruthless and determined and, at first, mind-blowingly unexplained. Then I figured it out. It was the image of the moon being reflected from smooth manmade features on the ground. Whoah.
This flight left me wondering a few things. Why are there so few aerial photographs of cities at night? Why don't people talk more about the stunning views they see from airplanes? Is air travel wasted on the artless? I thought about Dave the Developer guy and his various flights back to the east coast to be with family and friends for the holidays. What was that about? Why hadn't he jumped up and down and raved about the visions of the country he'd flown over? Why hadn't these visions driven him crazy?
Tonight's visions had driven me crazy, I'll say that. Mostly all I wanted to do once we touched ground in the land of not-half-assed-palm-trees was look at a road map and relive that flight and know exactly what I'd seen. The geography, the lights, the mountains, the land, the ocean. What is it all about? What does it mean? Who are we? What are we doing here in this time? The Citizen's Action Guide to Y2K that came with our subscription to the Utne Reader intensifies these feelings.
In other mail, Matt Rogers sent us a book of poems he's just self-published, a collection called Heat Lightning. Here's a sample:

Arcata Blues

Sometimes I'm disgusted by the up and down
in and out mechanical innards
broken by time.

Blown head gasket
on my $250 Toyota station wagon
flat wallet
couch surfing and nearly broke,
still it's warm on Arcata plaza,
The Redwoods breathe out O2
The Pacific swirls between
papermill point & birdy, bird, bird marsh.

I'm tired of being caught in
the pinchers of paradox
I imagine Walt Whitman's America
wind blowin' vast
over healthy bodies, skin & hair
of the people of the open road.

For more info on Matt and his poems, check out his website.

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