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:
   short films made on Ecstasy
Sunday, October 31 1999
In the morning, Kim and I woke up bright and early and set off to the People's Food Co-op to get some much-needed provisions. We'd forgotten all about the switch back to Standard Time, so we arrived 15 minutes before the place opened. On a piece of cardboard on the grass out in front of the Jack in the Box, we sat waiting, spine-to-spine, using each other's backs for support. Kim said she felt like she was meditating because of her increased "spinal awareness."
A man & woman homeless couple came upon us sitting there and cheerily suggested we check out the Halloween-specific cartoons in the Sunday Union Tribune. They were aware of the fact that the nearby newspaper machine was jammed, so they went and fetched us a free copy as matter-of-fact as can be, grinning broadly over their rotting teeth. I think there was a real homeless-to-homeless bond going on here; they would have never suspected that we, sitting dejected on that piece cardboard, have a combined household income above the national median.
Since Kim works Downtown, since my company is scheduled to move Downtown in a month's time, and since our landlord is acting increasingly uptight with each passing month, Kim has started looking for a new place for us Downtown. One of her massage clients suggested getting a place in a part of Downtown called Cortez Hill, which is dominated by a grand old Hotel called El Cortez. The client said it was an "up and coming" place worthy of settler-style real estate investment. Today Kim and I went on a Sunday drive to Cortez Hill to see if we liked the place.
Cortez Hill is in a sort of dead-end part of Downtown, cutoff on the east by the 163 freeway and everywhere else by steep downgrades. On this Sunday it was presided over by a preternatural tranquility, brought about in part at least (so it seemed) by a general depopulation of the area. The neighborhood seemed to be comprised largely of dreary old apartment buildings, some of which had served as canvases for the familiar snarls of urban graffiti. But most of these buildings were emptied out and fenced off and now undergoing lavish redevelopment. We'd seen in the paper an advertisement for a one bedroom rental in an ordinary Cortez Hill house, but there weren't many such structures in this neighborhood. It looks like the days of Cortez Hill being a rundown aneurysm on the side of Downtown are definitely numbered.
We passed through the core of Downtown over to the southwest side of the Gas Lamp Quarter, to another somewhat seedy neighborhood where massive redevelopment (in the form of a new ball park) is planned. In San Diego it's becoming increasingly difficult to find any remaining shitty neighborhoods, places where settler-style real estate investment makes sense.
In the Gas Lamp, we stopped at a self-described "genuine" Irish pub for beer. It was a dark, cold, clammy place, probably just like pubs in Ireland. Soon enough we found ourselves being attended by a lassie taking orders with a legitimate brogue. Sadly, though, this particular lassie was lacking somewhat in intellectual brawn. When Kim couldn't find her ID and suggested that an ancient expired Michigan health insurance card would demonstrate her age of 29 years, the waitress idiotically said that she'd have to clear the ID with her manager. Kim sighed and instructed the lassie that such a permission errand was doomed to failure and that she should either accept that Kim was 29 or not bother. Sure enough, the manager said no. Then, when we ordered a beer, the waitress demanded that we pay immediately or else give her a credit card so we could run a tab. Evidently she sensed in us a shifty quality that made her fear we would pull the classic gutterpunk trick of "dine and dash." It's been well over a year since I've been regarded with such suspicion.
We ended up ordering leak soup and fish and chips. For some reason I even left a 15% tip. I never like to be the ruthless hand of Darwin; I don't want to be the one driving the car that makes roadkill out of a particularly retarded possum.
In the evening, Michelle, one of the Dave Matthews-loving neighbors in our courtyard community, was to be throwing something of a Halloween bash. The bash would feature a keg of beer Michelle had obtained, possibly as a perk for being a company-truck-driving employee at Budweiser. But as the hour grew late and her tap proved defective, Kim and I moved on to [REDACTED] other things. We had a small bag of Ecstasy powder that we started dipping our fingers into and tasting. It had a horribly bitter flavour, but after about ten minutes the bitterness turned into sweetness in our mouths. A tranquil calm swept over my body in a half hour or so, as did a Ritalin-like focus on the things I was doing, but it was never much more than that. So far I can't say that I've found Ecstasy to be a particularly powerful drug.
For most of the rest of the night, Kim and I attended to the project of snapping pictures of our painted faces with my digital camera. On a whim, I'd painted my face with zebra stripes, and when we started making stop-action animations, I thought maybe Kim should become a zebra too, so I painted stripes on her face. Something about the Ecstasy buzz made the process of photographing and animating our faces fascinating for both of us. It was so fascinating, in fact, that we lost interest in everything else going on and everyone else but ourselves.
But we did come out of our movie-making focus for long periods to attend to the many trick-or-treaters streaming into our compound. One little girl early in the evening screamed when she saw my zebra stripes, but for the most part the kids were so greedy and businesslike that we processed them as though they were K-Mart shoppers. "Oh, you're the Grim Reaper!" "Hey, a little devil! How cute!" All of us residents of the compound stood out in front with our treats as the kids made the rounds to each of us. "One stop shopping!" I proclaimed to the parents beaming from the front of the courtyard. A little later in the evening, the teenagers started showing up in packs. They were all costumed and polite, but it was surreal to hear guys bigger than me say "trick or treat!" with a deep Jesse "he Body" Ventura voice, only a trace of matter-of-fact adolescent coolness away from the shy humility of a five year old being led by mommy. I'd never before taken such an active part in dishing out treats on Halloween. I hadn't expected to see so many trick or treaters, and I hadn't expected serving them to be so fun.
At the end of the evening, I took pictures of the stages of Kim's makeup removal, which you see backwards in the animation at the bottom.

The Hotel El Cortez on Downtown San Diego's Cortez Hill. Like most of the neighborhood, the hotel is currently under construction. EJ and friends like to jump the fence and skate in its pool, which is now empty. The waning quarter moon is visible in the upper right. At 640 by 480 resolution the moon is eight pixels wide on my Panasonic KXL-600A camera.

Sophie made large by Kim's trick photography, with me in our courtyard lawn.

The face paint Kim and I wore tonight. Click for a huge bandwidth-hogging version. That's not a booger in Kim's nose; it's a nose ring.

After a change in makeup.

Watching Kim remove her makeup backwards.

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