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:
   return to Virginia
Tuesday, December 28 1999
Kim and I had done our best to spread our time equally between both of her divorced parents, but that was only for the first half of our winter vacation. The other half was to be spent in Virginia with my parents. We were to leave for Virginia at 12:45pm, but because of extra security at the nation's airports related to millenial terrorist concerns, we'd planned an extra hour into our schedule. Unfortunately two factors were working against us: Eric's dysfunctional alarm clock and a blizzard. The snow was falling fast and the wind was blowing hard, but there was not much accumulation as of yet.
I drove all the way to Kim's paternal grandparents' house through the blowing snow. Speeds on the interstate were 55 mph and the Camry handled it well, so I couldn't complain.
During the night Kim's grandmother's legs had begun to ooze fluid. They've been severely swollen for weeks from the double maladies of congestive heart failure and kidney failure, and the fluid had no other place to go. I really had the sense this morning that both grandparents were having cognitive trouble. They repeatedly asked questions and seemed to have great difficulty grasping the answers. The grandmother was particularly bad this way. She had a look of numb worry in her eyes. The fact that this was probably the last time she and her husband would be seeing their granddaughter was a little too depressing for me to consider, though tears were streaming down Kim's cheeks. As I left I told Kim's grandfather that I'd be seeing him later and he agreed with a pleasantly upbeat chuckle. It's allowed under even the harsh dictates of karmic law; I've said see you later to perfectly healthy people who went on to sicken and die.
The plane carrying us from Detroit to Dulles airport (outside Washington DC) was just a little commuter prop plane. As we waited on the ground for the plane to be de-iced, the de-icing machine experienced some sort of malfunction, and this left us sitting on the ground twiddling our thumbs for an extra hour or so. I heard a woman in the back complaining about the situation into her cell phone. "I would have never agreed to take this flight if I'd known it was a prop plane!" she said.
The day we left behind was of the miserable five o'clock variety, with a ceiling of thick grey clouds. But when we broke through those clouds to the brilliant sunlight above, it was as if we were flying over the ice sheet that covered this ground 15,001 years before. The clouds completely cut us off from a view of the ground until we started descending over Virginia.
Our next plane was even smaller than the one before, and this time the flight attendant and the co-pilot were the same person. Kim and I were near the back of the plane during the eighteen minute flight to Charlottesville. While soared briefly above the clouds I found myself looking at the ten inch wide exhaust pipe at the back of the right prop engine. It appeared to be shaking but I knew that this was just a heat-powered optical illusion, like the apparition of a puddle on a sunbaked US highway through northwestern Ohio farm country.
The Charlottesville airport is a well-scrubbed modern facility, with everything for the the "modern power executive on the go." Securing our compact silver Chevy rent-a-car was a mere five minute exercise, and then we were loose on the roads of Virginia.
I drove the long way through Charlottesville just to give Kim a little taste of the town. Then it was up over the Blue Ridge to the Shenandoah Valley beyond. Nothing much had changed in my year and half long absence. I was pleased to see that route 261, the landscape-wrecking southern loop around Staunton, was not yet completed.
Fred the Dog was most pleased to make Sophie's acquaintance. Indeed, he was so distracted by her that he didn't even seem to notice that I was there. He'd gained some weight, but he looked healthy for a nearly ten year old dawg.
My parents were pretty much the same, as was Don, as was the house. They'd made a touching effort to straighten the place up somewhat, but the same old funk was there. The same things were still stuck to the same places, including an inaccurate little map of Iraq I'd stuck to a kitchen cabinet door back in 1990.
My bother my be unusual in lots of respects, but when it comes to the opposite sex, his interests are pretty much stock. Don likes to talk to girls and was definitely animated by Kim's appearance. He launched into an endless lecture on the teeth of various carnivorous dinosaurs, even taking her into the living room to watch a videotape on the subject. Whenever I distracted her into talking about something else, Don would attempt to regain her attention by saying, "Here's the most interesting part!" Though the content and delivery of Don's monologues were strange by any measure, he was surprising me with with his social engagement. I thought perhaps his mental condition had experienced a dramatic improvement. Where was his trademark behaviour of jumping up and down and screaming to himself?
The house cat, a black feline known as "the Kitten" looked exactly the same as she always had. She took one look at Sophie and disappeared into the random floor-to-ceiling clutter of Hoagie's so-called "leather room." The Kitten was friendly to me when I went in to pet her, but she had no interest in coming out.
My mother had also attempted to clean up the Shaque, but since much of it was still cluttered with electronic junk from the summer of 1998, her options had been fairly limited. She'd bagged up a bunch of my clothes and moved them to the honey house and this had made a small amount of space, but we were going to need more than that.
I'd done a pretty good job of preparing Kim for the dust, clutter, and perpetual water shortage of my childhood home, and she seemed to be taking it all rather well. My parents were being a bit warmer and friendlier than she'd expected, and that definitely helped.

Don and my father in the kitchen of my childhood home.


For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next