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
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Like my brownhouse:
   San Diego Mardi Gras
Tuesday, February 16 1999
It was my 31st birthday. Kim made me a breakfast of small wheatless potato-rice toaster-waffles with cherry icecream and candles shaped like the digits in the number "31." It seems that in the couple dozen years since I last had candles on my birthday food, I've outgrown the concept of the single candle for each year. It was kind of depressing to see the number 31 big and bold and undeniable. It's hard to argue with that number; it's definitely in the 30s. 30 by itself just wasn't quite so threatening somehow. Not that I really care; I'm doing something with my life even as it follows its inevitable parabolic trajectory. If I was rotting in a Mexican prison, chained to dirty concrete wall, forging humble decorations with nasal pickings, it would be another story (and you wouldn't be reading it).
But no, I'm instead a prisoner at a kooky Internet Startup. Traditionally, my company hasn't been a good place to celebrate one's birthday. There is, you see, a strangely juvenile company ritual in which the birthday boy (near as I can tell, the victim is always male) is unexpectedly doused by his colleagues with various foul substances, usually long-forgotten, semi-fermented tupperwares from the back of the company refrigerator. I've actually been looking forward to this day with increasing dread, plotting how I'd make my escape unusually early in the day. I've kept silent about my approaching birthday, hoping the Director of Web Development (the chief booster of this curious tradition) doesn't have a calendar alarm with my birthday pre-set.
But late in the day I learned from Karin, the irritatingly over-involved Member Support girl, that the "trashing ritual" had been quietly abandoned after she repeatedly voiced strongly negative views about it. Still, I didn't feel completely safe until late in the day, when I quietly mentioned the personal significance of the day to Sherms. He said everyone knew it was my birthday and hadn't known how to react, so they'd chosen to pretend they didn't know. Confronted with a loss of tradition, my co-workers reacted with surreal silence.
Speaking of surreal, I fully realized today that Jack in the Box fast food franchises are pervaded with a surreal, creepy energy. It's in the decorations and the unexpectedly flip "quotes" of the "founder," a minimalist disembodied plastic humanoid head mascot, most often seen as an antenna ball on low-road California cars. This mascot is like something from a bad acid trip; it's not exactly your typical punchably-friendly consumption-promoting retro-icon. I'm sure there are lots of people in this country who are creeped out by Jack in the Box. I wonder if Jerry Falwell suspects Jack in the Box of being controlled by the Big Six himself.
In the evening, Kevin and Al came over and hung out for a time. Al brought me a typically Al present: a big sixteen ounce can of Budweiser with a happy birthday note written on a company Post-It note. Al and Kevin were mostly rendezvousing in preparation for an excursion downtown. Kevin didn't even know it was my birthday. You see, it was also the Chinese New Year and the last day of Mardi Gras: Fat Tuesday. Downtown San Diego was supposedly mobbed with people celebrating in the New Orleans style: with beads, bare breasts and beer.
When Kim came home, she wasn't pleased to learn I wanted to go to Mardi Gras. Having gone to college in New Orleans, she saw San Diego "Mardi Gras" as a kitschy knock-off, featuring streets jammed with Schteves, fussy barricades and gates with officials charging admission. But it was my birthday, and I wanted to go, so that's what we were doing.
Kevin drove us all down to the Old Town trolley station and we rode from there into the heart of the city.
The streets were completely jammed with celebrants, with everyone from little kids to hobbling oldsters. The great majority of the people were young adults, of course. Almost everyone was heavily-laden with plastic Mardi Gras beads, each looking in their own way a little like that one famous painting of Henry VIII.
I didn't really know there were balconies downtown, but tonight they were hard to miss. Most of them had a couple girls on them flashing the enthusiastic crowd below with their breasts. The one girl I remember best reminded me a little of the skinny chaotic spasticatiousness of Sara Poiron, though I really can't imagine Sara showing anyone her breasts. This girl would flail about the balcony, take a bottoms-up swig of her beer and whip up her shirt for a few seconds. Her breasts were absolutely unremarkable.
I found an unopen wine cooler on the ground, a prize amidst its smashed brethren. It came just in time; my bicycle bottle of vodka orange juice had just run out.
We'd come too late for the parade and all there was to see was the crowd. But it was a genuine crowd, not just a collection of Schteves. I felt like I was getting a small taste of New Orleans if not exactly the whole gumbo. Even Kim had to agree it was a more for real than she'd expected.
We dined in a patio in front of a restaurant as the police dispersed the crowd and escorted a series of street sweepers through.

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