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:
   an engineer's place
Sunday, December 26 1999
Kim and I lounged around the Edgar Alan Poe House eating breakfast and watching the talking heads on cable tee vee talking incessantly about Y2K. Sophie didn't much like the cold windy weather outside, but she still wanted to go out. Since Kim has been ill, it was mostly on me to walk her. Kim jokingly referred to the small "gifts" Sophie left around the grounds of the Marriott-owned Dearborn Inn as "Edgar Alan Poos."

Kim on the phone, a common sight under any circumstances, in this case in the parlour of the Edgar Alan Poe House.

Everything was paid for so all we had to do when we left was pack the car and go. Next stop was Ann Arbor. I enjoyed the drive westward down US 15 through the impoverished towns from Inkster to Ypsilantee. I'm so sick of the slick Schteveish newness of the developments in and around San Diego. It's nice to see a place where a one bedroom apartment costs less than 500 dollars/month, a place where the iron bridges have rusted to a deep crunchy brown.
Our friend Eric the Engineer, formerly of San Diego, now lives and works in Ann Arbor. He's on a ski trip in Colorado but had generously offered us his place during his absence. Unfortunately, Eric's directions were anything but helpful. He merely told us that he lived somewhere behind a Kroger off Plymouth Road, the details of where he had hidden his key, and encouragement to eat any of his food and fully enjoy his big screen DVD system. But he gave absolutely no driving instructions, the name of the apartment complex, or even his address. It's a good thing his address happened to be in his email signature.
So there we were, driving around the closest apartment complex behind Kroger, checking out the outside of the apartment bearing his number, not quite sure what road we were on, and not finding any of the landmarks he'd mentioned (one of which being a mobile "landmark", a "green truck."). We eventually just gave up and drove into Ann Arbor. Kim's mother had reserved us a place in a hotel there, so it's not like we would be homeless tonight.
We dropped in at Kim's old place of employment, the hip & happening coffee shop known as Café Zola. It was a pretty busy place, but for a Sunday, Kim says, it wasn't too crazy. Right away Kim encountered one of her former housemates working the bar, a young woman named Jessica. Café Zola was being run by all the familiar people of a year and a half ago. Kim's erstwhile boyfriend, Paul, was a cook in the kitchen, and Kim's good pal Missy was still part of the waitstaff. The big change that had taken place in our absence was that now Paul and Missy are an "item" and have even moved in with one another. When Kim finally had a chance to talk to Paul, she half-jokingly asked him if we could stay with him and Missy. It seems that his new relationship has completely healed his breakup-based feelings from over year ago, because he said okay.
So Kim and I drove over to the Paul and Missy's place on the west side of town. It was adjacent to the park where Kim and I first met back on July 11th, 1998.
Missy was actually home sick at the time, wrapped in a blanket and lying on the couch, but she seemed just as happy and full of spunk as usual. All about her the apartment lay in a state of slackerly dog-eared chaos. It also reeked of cigarettes.
Kim quickly decided that we wouldn't actually be staying with Missy and Paul because of Missy's black kitten. At about the size of a chipmunk, it wasn't a very large kitten, but it was an exceptionally curious kitten, and the thing that held its attention better than anything else was Sophie. During our entire visit, the kitten stalked Sophie relentlessly, getting within about a foot or so, fluffing up like a vintage Energizer cat, and hissing antagonistically. Sophie regarded the little black tormenter as something of a voodoo curse, looking at it with concern and even whimpering at times.
Using the street map in the Ann Arbor phone book, I managed to better pin-point the location of Eric the Engineer's apartment. It turned out that it was a good half mile from the place where we'd been searching.
After we'd finally parked our Camry beside a bubbly late-model green-blue truck (the "green truck" mobile landmark mentioned in Eric's email), and after I'd tracked down the hidden key, we found ourselves within the minimalist space of Eric's apartment. The decorations in the living room consisted of a couple ultra-modernist post-Soviet Russian prints, a huge framed Fritz Lange Metropolis poster (featuring a stony bluish woman with cherry red lips), and a wide- screen teevee. In the bathroom Eric had seen fit to post "21 keys to success," a motivational printing prepared by his dear sweet mother. In his bed room, the decorations consisted of Eric's diplomas from the Universities of Missouri and Arizona, a few inconspicuous Japanese knick-knacks, and a framed photograph of his parents upon a milk crate directly beside the futon bed: engineering simplicity tempered by the predilections of a mama's boy. Despite Eric's encouragements to help ourselves to the food, his refrigerator was absolutely empty and its door wide open. But it wasn't using any power either; Eric had shut off all the circuit breakers in the house: engineering thoroughness tempered by the predilections of an uncertain mind. When I went to turn on the circuit breakers, the burglar alarm started whooping so I was forced to leave one of the breakers off. This resulted in bad lighting for the rest of our stay. But at least the DVD system was operational.

In the evening Kim and I went on something of a gift-certificate-fueled shopping spree at the Ann Arbor Borders bookstore, buying overpriced books and CDs mostly. Being the yuppies that we are, we also picked up a coffee grinder and a French press so we wouldn't get stuck drinking instant coffee when we made it down to Virginia in a few days.
After that we dined with Kim's mother and Chuck at a supposedly fabulous Italian place called Paisano's. Kim had to send back her entrée all the same; she proclaimed the food "second rate."
During the meal, Chuck was telling me about the settlers of the high plains of western Kansas. It seems that this last wave of immigrants, Germans expelled from Russia in the aftermath of World War I, could find few places left to settle in the United States of 1918. They invented a monstrous plow to turn the soil at great depth, allowing them to plant in a region that had been rejected by all farmers previous. And everything went well for them until the droughts of the Dustbowl 30s, at which point all the freshly-cultivated soil was picked up by the winds and blown away.
These dinners with Kim's mother tend to linger well beyond the actual eating of food. When we were the last people in the restaurant, an employee started wet-vacing the floor. Sophie, who was beneath our table in her little airplane travel bag, had been quiet up until now. But there is something about a vaccuum cleaner that always manages to set her off, and she started barking at the unseen wet vac. We took this as our signal to leave.
Back at Eric's apartment, Kim's mother was interested in what sort of music Kim is listening to these days, so Kim played selections from her new CDs, mostly Cowboy Junkies. Kim's mother was impressed; she said she'd been afraid the music would be "really wild." She wasn't, however, especially taken with Robert Pollard's Kid Marine, my only CD purchase of the day.

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