The Irish Sea: Keelhaulin’

September 28, 2019. The Irish Sea.
Soundtrack: Flogging Molly – Salty Dog

“And will ye be wantin’ the tinned to-MAH-tohs?”

“Please,” I said. I hadn’t seen a vegetable in what seemed like years.

The kindly old Welsh lady brought me a fried pile of meat, blood, and gluten, along with two mushrooms and some apocalypse prepper tomatoes. I inhaled the greased protein, chased it with a coffee, and set out to set sail.

I had a romantic notion of how the ferry to Dublin would play out. I’d approach the docks and it would suddenly be night, during a thunderstorm. I’d say, “I’m looking for passage to Dublin’s fair city,” and a crusty old mariner with a Mr. Krabs accent and one or more amputations replaced with hooks, all corroded from saltwater, would glare at me through his remaining eye and spit at my feet and say, “No room for the likes’a you.”

I’d be forced to stowaway aboard the vessel, hiding in the cargo hold, possibly among pigs. I’d crouch behind the storage pens, me father’s lucky knife clutched in me fist, lest I be discovered and need to stab myself out a distraction.

I’d flee from the scene, the crew in hot pursuit, cutlasses hissing from their scabbards, and with one last desperate prayer to Athena, Poseidon, or both, I’d hurl myself from the deck and into the black and fathomless deep, the chaos of the waves roiling around me, unsure which direction is up but fighting with an animal desperation to feel the broken stones of Éire beneath my feet once again, to feel the deliverance of my fingertips sifting the soil of my forefathers.

Instead, a pudgy, smiling lady took my ticket and herded me onto a bus full of middle-aged Dubliners and three punk rockers with day-glo Bird of Paradise hair. I hadn’t seen liberty spikes since high school, and they brought me comfort even as they nearly gouged out my eye.

“You guys a band?” I asked one of the punks, nodding to the tom case he was trying, with limited success, to hold between his ankles.

“Yeah,” he said politely. No sneering. I was a little disappointed.

“What do you play?”

“Punk.”

I laughed. “Well, yeah, I put that one together. What kind?”

They turned out to be a horrorpunk band from England called the Headstone Horrors. We talked shop a little. I told them about the Murphys song that inspired this leg of my trip and the Icelandic Punk museum, and they seemed amused enough. They told me they were taking the ferry because it was the cheapest way from Wales to Dublin, if not the fastest, and they had to scramble to a show that night in a rock bar called Fibber Magees.

The bus stopped, and we were herded onto what had been misidentified to me as a ferry.

The Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls is a ferry. What I had boarded was a floating mall.

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Vile

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It was 11 levels, somehow. I spent some of the journey on what portions of the deck weren’t cordoned off, squinting against the wind and wishing I still smoked.

At some point I made my way belowdecks and explored the multiple fine dining establishments on offer. There was a comfort food buffet situation, likewise without knowledge of vegetables, for $20 a plate.

I opted for the chain pizza kitchen instead, and ate a large pizza to the face. A man has to keep his strength up, especially at sea.

There was no stowing away. There was no swashbuckling. There was barely any internet. I wrote until we landed, then we were all herded into another bus, and I had to get my hands on some Euros again.

The punk rockers were on the same bus, as were a middle-aged couple from Denver. We talked about our various travels, and the Denverites told the punk rockers about their folk band, and wound up buying their CD before disappearing into uptown.

The punks and I took the bus to the last stop, around Temple Bar. They told me to swing by the show if I was in the area. I told them I’d keep an eye out, then ducked into the first bar I saw and had a beer.

Next stop, a two hour hike to my hostel. I needed the exercise.

Love,

B.

 

London: Live Action Harrumphing

Thursday, September 26, 2019. London, England.
Soundtrack: Dropkick Murphys – The Gauntlet

England was a trip, man. I’ll need a few posts to get through all this, so I’m going to break this down into bite-sized pieces.

I survived the Ryanair flight, narrowly, and after the pilot landed the plane like a dribbled basketball I stepped out to the sweet solid ground. This particular solid ground, however, was British soil.

My last name is English. It’s not something I think about very often. I’m an American boy, and that’s as much heritage as I was ever given, beyond Ma’s painfully Irish complexion.

Now, I’m a firm believer that America is the greatest country in the world, despite our leadership, outrageously overpriced health care, disastrous system of cultural values, police brutality rates, test scores, lagging literacy, carbon emissions, obesity rates, car-centric comfort culture, academic debt slavery, intellectual cowardice, pop culture exportation, and humiliating representation on the global stage. I’m a patriot, and we’re still mad about the Revolutionary War.

I say this because it turns out, we modern Sons of Liberty aren’t the only ones.

The rest of the survivors and I were herded out into the little cattle chutes that led into the Southend airport, then divided into two groups: those with an EU passport, and those without. I was the only one without, and stood alone, like the cheese, until I was… regarded.

It’s said that the English take queueing (which is a special Metric system word for “waiting in line”) very seriously. I wasn’t prepared for quite how seriously.

It’s hard to picture this, but imagine a huge, open room with those little cloth bank turnstiles forming a maze. On one side of the room is everyone. On the other side of the room is me. I was being scolded for standing alone ten feet (that’s about 3 meters) of where I would otherwise be standing alone.

“How long are you planning on staying?” he asked, once he decided I wouldn’t experience the appropriate level of shame and started doing his job.

“Definitely not long,” I said. “I’m flying home from Dublin on Friday.”

“Enjoy your stay,” he said dryly, and stamped my goddamn passport already.

I left that charmer behind and found an ATM, withdrew a bunch of regal Monopoly money with one or more queens on it, then caught the train to the Tower of London (see next post). Then, I headed to my hostel, which was in a pub.

My first impression of London is that very few people there seem to be English. I mostly overheard Spanish. All the food stands were run by people from India or the Middle East. Both bartenders I encountered on my walk to my hostel were from Spain.

The people who ran my hostel were really nice, and really English. I chalked Angry Santa up to a fluke. In fact, all the English women I met on my trip were really nice and uniformly exuberant.

Four beers later, I discovered I was drunk! These are the dangers of eating one meal a day, friends. Man cannot live by a single burger alone.

The pub was starting to fill, and had collected a large number of Lads. I had been prepared for the Lads; I was informed that they would be raucous, perhaps cheeky. I did not anticipate them all being in their mid-thirties, or sitting at a table ten deep.

They were all ladded up, though, crowding the booth,shouting. I figured, if this was the rule, it must be real discomforting for British women. Maybe that’s why they were all so demonstratively bright and chirpy.

But that’s just at a glance. I would gain greater understanding of this great nation in the coming days. It was too noisy and ladly now, and I was full of beer. I slung my pack over my shoulders and stumbled out to sightsee.

Love,

B.

Barcelona: City of Dreams

Monday, September 23, 2019. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Soundtrack: The Libertines – The Man Who Would Be King

Our new hostel promised authentic paella cooking instruction and all-you-can-eat while supplies last at 9pm. The empanadas would not bear the weight. A pregame dinner was in order.

In Spain, you don’t eat meals. That’s why everyone’s slender and 5’5″, and why I feel like some sort of yeti Gandalf in swarthy Hobbiton. You eat tapas. Tapas are sixish bites of food that you eat at one place, then move onto the next; the theory is you stretch the act of eating into an evening-long graze that you also spend drinking responsibly and socializing.

In Barcelona, this is easy, since every other door is a new and exciting restaurant. A butcher half a block down served more “ham scratchings” on baguette for next to nothing, which was exactly what the doctor ordered to hold us over.

We did another lap around the city and discovered more plazas that just emerged from nowhere. Every alley had one and they were all ideal. It boggles me, coming from a place like Philadelphia, that a city can be so effortlessly serene and pleasant and clean.

Clean especially. Not once did I see human shit on the sidewalk. Sidewalk shit is Philly’s principal export.

Back at the hostel, they were gearing up for the authentic paella experience. The rules were simple: you help cook, and you clean your dishes. The California girl working at the hostel explained that authentic paelle was made by pouring frozen seafood, rice, and canned vegetables into a big pot with fish broth, then covering it for twenty minutes.

We ate at a long table, like the Last Supper. The kid next to me was in Spain on some ritzy scholarship, parsing data for meta-analyses of schizophrenic treatment options. I tried to talk shop, and he complimented my “terminology” but wouldn’t go into details aside from the fact the he shows up drunk sometimes and has a reputation as a “party kid”, which he is not.

He did teach me, however, that the hostel was selling wine for 3 Euros a bottle. He was saving his for his head. I bought a bottle and split it with Ladygirl and a British weeb.

The paella was good, probably. I don’t know. The wine was potent. I didn’t take a picture. I’ll take a picture next time I make it.

Night fell, and the entire hostel emptied out to go on the 15 Euro pub crawl. I don’t like guided fun, and Ladygirl had an early flight the next day, so clubbing until 4 AM wasn’t in the cards.

We decided to go out and grab a drink, maybe another tapa. Little did we realize it was La Mercè, an excruciatingly Catholic feasting festival spanning four days. It’s undoubtedly related to lent in some way, but I refuse to research how.

This was sitting right behind the Arc.

I had a half bottle of wine sloshing around in my head. What?

We continued down the park and came upon a labyrinth made of lit-up bags of recyclables. It wasn’t a statement. It wasn’t the amount of recycling in a given period of time or anything. It was just “an art installment”, and that was as much information as was provided.

I was at a loss. What did this have to do with a feast day? What did this have to do with anything?

Barcelona was unperturbed.

“This is like a music festival,” I said, wonderingly.

We made a lap to City Hall, but nothing was set up there yet. It would be the next day. It was still filthy with humans, but they were the general Monday night Barcelona party crowd.

Unfortunately, I would only find out the exact nature of that set up secondhand. The 24th was going to be a fire festival described to me as “the devil parade”. I already got my ticket to Balbao. You can imagine my disappointment.

Ladygirl ate some sort of chocolate covered waffle and we returned to the hostel, withdrawing from the communal dream and dropping into a more individual set.

To be interrupted by the girls in the bunk across the room, who kept snoozing their max-volume alarm from 6 to 6:30 AM, as though there were no other people in the world.

C’est la vie.

Love,

B.

Barcelona: The Gothic Quarter and Other Medieval Crap

Monday, September 23, 2019. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Soundtrack: Blind Guardian – The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight

An Australian joined us for tapas the night before. Over mojitos, he and I commiserated on the ennui that first drove us overseas.

“I’m a month into it now, so I’ve got about two months left.”

“That’s a long haul.”

“Fuckin’ right,” he said. “I miss it back home, but I just gotta power through it.”

“When you’re here you wanna be there, and when you’re there you wanna be here,” I said.

“Exactly.”

Ladygirl sipped at her oversugared mojito.

She and I dropped off to resolve our sleep debts; Australia also hadn’t slept in a few days, but said he was going to head out for a few beers before turning it.

The next morning I was tickatackin on the terrace and he bodily dragged himself out in a demonstration of top-of-the-line ragdoll physics.

“Did I wake you two coming in?” he asked.

“Naw,” I said. “I was out by midnight, so it must’ve been after that.”

“I just got in at 7, mate.”

I looked at my watch.

“You’re talking like, fifteen minutes ago?”

“Yeh. I went on the pub crawl, then we wound up at this club. Somebody gave me a pill. I only took half, figured I’d be good. I wasn’t good.”

“What kind of pill?”

He looked around, visibly insane, but I would look visibly insane if I had his week too.

“Ecstasy,” he said.

“So much for a couple beers.”

He exploded with manic laughter, then announced he was going to bed and disappeared. I encountered him again when I went to get my stuff from the locker. He was snoring like a backfiring chainsaw. I’m glad he found peace.

We would have liked to stick around Gracia, but the hostel was full up. We booked one next to the Arco de Triunfo, gathered all our stuff, and made our way across the city of dreams.

The city of dreams was drowsy this morning. The demographic had changed. A lot more oldos were puttering around, wearing more clothing than the established average. The oldos in Barcelona have no sense of spatial awareness whatsoever, and will attempt to hip check you off the sidewalk or drive a baby carriage into your leg.

I was sad to see Gracia go. The tapas were all $2, and it was far enough removed from the tourist sites that you were only occasionally swarmed by teenagers screaming in English. Still, I wasn’t disappointed for long.

You know you’ve hit the Gothic Quarter because evil wizard castles start growing out of nowhere, but the deal is really sealed in the twisting, labyrinthine side-streets that make up the medieval district. You never know what’s around the next corner, but “weird tourist shops” would be a fair bet.

Who is this handsome gentlemen, to be placed in the pantheon alongside Einstein and Obama? Could this be the Christmas Lad of Iceland, prior to his scientific gelding?

The Caganer is a popular figure in Catalonian culture, associated with the Nativity. Yeah, the Christmas one. With Jesus in it. His name translates to “the shitter”, and most families will pop his figurine somewhere clandestine in the nativity scene, whereupon the children will try to find it. It’s like a little Where’s Waldo, but with shit.

“Why?” you may be asking. “Isn’t it kind of blasphemous to have a dwarf shitting next to Jesus?”

That’s a reasonable conclusion to draw, but nobody knows. There are a bunch of possible explanations for the Caganer’s presence and symbolism, but it’s empty conjecture. I’m partial to the Jungian representation of Caganer as “the Other” myself, but I’m also certain it’s a load of psychobabble cagada and 17th century peasants just thought poop was funny.

I know you’re wondering. No, I didn’t buy it. But only because his little red cap clashes with my office.

We scrounged up some beer and bocadillos at a cafe not far from the Cathedral. While there, we had to move to another table because a waiter had to open an honest-to-yog trapdoor and descend into the cellar for more wine.

There was a sign over the door that I managed to noodle out despite my at-best halting Spanish. It said:

Bienaventurados los borrachos, porque ellos verán a dios dos veces.

Blessed are the drunks, because they’re going to see God twice.

Love,

B.

 

Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, or Gaudí’s Greatest Hits

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Soundtrack: Bad Religion – Slumber

We made it to the airport with time to spare and were then loaded through a plastic tube, not unlike at the MacDonalz playplace, into a cozy little Vueling that doubled the leg room of Icelandair. I fell asleep sitting up almost instantly, as I tend to on red eyes. I wish I could fall asleep that easily under any other circumstances. It’d especially come in handy at hostels.

A nonstop from Reykjavik to Barcelona turned out to be 4 hours and 20 minutes. That’s as much sleep as I got that night. It was 5 AM in Barcelona, and check-in wasn’t for 10 hours.

I’d never seen the Arco de Triunfo in the dark. It was right next to my hostel, and I used to go there first thing in the morning, when no one was hovering around but the joggers, and stare at it until I wanted coffee.

 

 

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Triunfant #arcodetriunfo #Barcelona #bastardtravel

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Even the joggers weren’t out this early.

Well, there was nothing else to do. Even the chain sandwich shops weren’t open yet. It seemed as good at time for Park Güell as any.

Last time, I made the egregious error of hiking all the way up Park Güell. It’s a three mile climb, steeper as you get higher. I learned nothing, and made the exact same error this time.

On the way to my folly, we swung wide to look at La Sagrada Familia.

 

The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is the brainchild of Antoni Gaudí, architectural golden boy and patron saint of Barcelona. His influence can be found on virtually everything, and it tends to be hard to miss, all bendy and emblazoned and vajazzled as it tends to be. The gods are cruel and his name is a pun on his style.

We made it to Park Güell with nothing in the tank, so we wound up doing a whole lot of resting.

It was well and fully morning, and the tourists were out in droves. With them came hockers and grifters, all desperate to move their bottled water or back-of-a-truck refrigerator magnets.

Park Güell was originally set to be a little neighborhood for the embarrassingly rich as a means of repurposing the barren hilltops, exploiting the access to fresh air, and making use of the spectacular vista. Count Eusebi Güell deicded this was a goldmine waiting to happen, and contracted everybody’s favorite Catalonian architect to design the citadel.

Gaudí was deep into his naturalistic period at the time, and wove together a gorgeous arboreal tapestry shot through with winding staircases and serpentine walkways, complete with plazas for taking a break, having a smoke, and appreciating the sprawl of Barcelona, stretching seaward beneath your feet.

Then they started building the villas proper. Count Güell moved into one to lend further legitimacy to the project. The second was a showhome to field all of their buyers.

Except there were no buyers.

Well, Count Güell didn’t take it too hard. He was an industrialist and a count, and the proud new owner of a Catalonian mountaintop dragon hoard. They pulled the plug on the villa. The count convinced Gaudí to move into the showhome, where he lived for the next twenty years with his family.

Güell sold the plot to the city, and it has since become a World Heritage Site.

We soaked up the ambiance of this monument to failed capitalism for about an hour, then toddled back down the mountain until we found a restaurant where we could gorge on tapas and morning beer.

Olives, fried bread, and brandy and rosemary chorizo. They gave us more olives than you could get at a grocery store.

Heartened and reinvigorated, we made our way to our hostel, Sant Jordi Gracia, and arrived with too much time to spare. We were sleepless and filthy. We sat in the common room in the corner, staring at the floor like catatonic refugees until the dude at the desk said, “Hey, do you guys wanna shower while you wait?”

We did. Oh, god, how we did.

Everything in Gracia cost half of what it costs in the real world. It was phenomenal. After I took a three-hour death nap, we went up to a swank Syrian restaurant and housed like $100 worth of food for twenty Euros.

I hadn’t seen chicken in a week. They haven’t discovered it in Iceland yet. I wept at our reunion.

Love,

B.

 

Reykjavik: Bones and Stones

Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: The Sword – Cloak of Feathers

We were woken by the dulcet tones of a dude with a jackhammer outside of Kex, which is equal parts hostel and social event of the season. The downstairs bar/venue room is a huge, beautiful library full of fine leatherbound books in a language I can’t read. The chairs are leather as well, and it always smells like toast. Unfortunately, everything there costs a minimum of 2500 krona, which is like $22 in real money. I enjoy the ambiance, but not enough to pay that much for the Icelandic equivalent of Budwiser.

I brought a padlock from the states. I got it from Wal-Mart. It broke as soon as I strapped it onto the locker. I spent the first half hour of the morning googling WikiHows of how to crack combination locks and growling.

I succeeded, eventually. Eureka! We hit a cafe, from whence I tickatacka’d yesterday’s BT, then we made our way to a neighboring hostel where I foraged up something that contained meat and vegetables.

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Shakshouka #shakshouka #bastardtravel

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From there, we proceeded across downtown to soak up some culture.

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My mans lost 😦 #berlin #bear #bastardtravel

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I suspect this was the consulate building, if not the consulate himself. We’re both a long way from home, little fella.

A little beyond the expatriate bear, we found Tjornin Lake, a gorgeous shallow pond full of hateful waterfowl.

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sick lake

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Tourists were frigging around with the birds, trying to catch them on their hands like in Snow White. The difference is, the birds in Snow White are cute little cartoon bluebirds, whereas the birds of Lake Tjornin are colossal ex-dinosaurs, molded by evolution since the Mesazoic to become diseased airborne gang rapists.

I have it on good authority that the secret to defeating a goose is grabbing it by the neck, spinning it around like Mario 64 Bowser, and hurling it through the air. It’s important you scream the entire time. I was confident that I could do this, if it came down to it, but I didn’t want to. Instead, we retreated to the National Museum, to look at culture.

This was about the extent of the old god’s representation in the museum, unless it was also Jesus.

Grave goods were a big seller, though. The first half of the museum was recovered beads and rusted weapons once buried with long deceased Icelanders. Grave goods apparently included horses, whom, the Icelandair video had assured me, are known as “the true ambassadors of Iceland”.

Horrific ghoul King Olaf of Norway decided in 1000 AD that Iceland should spurn the old gods and embrace Christianity. Iceland was like “okay, I guess.” Their squat and deadlift totals immediately plummeted, despite their truly awesome fish protein intake.

Look at this messiah, though. Who needs Thor?

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Socialist scum #socialism #bastardtravel

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Politic.

I would’ve preferred this to be an elaborate engraving of Ragnarok but I’m not going to turn down whatever the hell this is.

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Boat #boat

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Boat.

In our time at the National Museum, we were followed around by a cadre of collegiate German tourists with no concept of volume control. They would not shut the fuck up. And it’s not even like they were conversational about it; they toddled along and inflected, shouting in German, presumably to appreciate the acoustics of the empty, silent god damn museum.

It was a dissonant experience for me, and here’s why. Firstly, I don’t speak German. Maybe what they’re saying is pertinent. Maybe this dude is explaining his treatise to his 22-year-old review board. Maybe he’s a tour guide with mild Asperger’s.

Secondly, I don’t know the cultural mores of this land, this Ice Land, as yet. Maybe shouting in the museum is encouraged! Maybe I’m the one making a faux pas by quietly reading the placards surrounding the artifacts.

Thirdly, I’m an American. We are the loud obnoxious tourists. That’s our whole purpose. Look up “loud American Japanese business”; it’s not even a stereotype, it’s a living wage.

It was on the third floor I noticed everyone else at the museum fleeing from the Germans whenever they entered a room. It’s not like you didn’t hear ’em coming.

“Let’s go back downstairs until they’re done,” Ladygirl suggested.

“Excuse me!” I called to them. “Can you guys keep it down?”

They gawped at me, presumably for addressing them at the same volume. Sort of like the frat boys back at college who would yell at pedestrians from their little beer pong porch bunkers, right up until you yelled something back, at which point they would go record-scratch silent.

“We’re just talking,” one of the girls said.

“I know,” I said. “We can all hear you. We’re in a museum.”

European politesse won out, and they entschuldigung`d and continued their heated exchange with their inside voices.

Ladygirl and I finished the circuit at a decibel level appropriate for a dimly lit museum, then suited up and made our way across town to the Culture House. The tickets were two for one, and you had no choice. Sodden with Icelandic culture as I already was, I’d be remiss to waste this other ticket that I apparently bought.

The Culture House was more to my tastes. A lot of the paintings were spooky, and trolls were well-represented.

I also happened onto a display of old Icelandic spellbooks from the pre-Christian days, and I took pictures of them in order to push my luck with the spirit world.

That was as much culture and eldritch knowledge as I could collect in one day. We proceeded to Brew Dog.

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Aqua mural in Brew Dog #mural #beer #bastardtravel

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Toilets with threatening auras #bastardtravel

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The beers were spectacular. The only thing stopping Reykjavik from being heaven is the fact everything costs twice as much as it does in the real world.

I cannot stress this enough: Iceland is preposterously expensive for no reason.

Well, okay, that’s intellectually dishonest. There’s a reason. It’s a huge cold socialist island, and everything has to be imported. While that has nothing to do with me, the cheapest meal surrogate I’ve been able to get my grubby little mitts on is a shwarma sandwich, which still cost $10.

$10! For shwarma! What?

I don’t hold it against them. It’s not their fault. I’d want some kind of recompense too, if I had to put up with this weather every day.

Love,

The Bastard

Denver: The Rootin’ Tootin’ Murder Zoo

Sunday, June 30, 2019. Denver, Colorado.

Wynkoop did most of the job, but to really put a bow on this daydrunk, we headed to a ritzy bar called the ChopHouse. All the employees were dressed like butlers. I ordered their house dopplebock. It was like drinking Hershey’s syrup, but with 10% ABV.

We wrap that up and walk back outside into a throng of disappointed baseball fans, surging from the nearby stadium like a surly two-tone river. Children were crying. I would be too, if I had to watch baseball.

The sheer volume of humans made it hard to corral our Uber, and we had to backtrack a block or so to get in the car.

The driver was an old buck with a solid old buck name like Buck or Chuck or Grimnir.

“So, Buckhorn Exchange, huh? Dinner reservations?”

“Yeah,” Ladygirl said. When we travel together, she takes point on most of our smalltalk. It works as a nice social buffer, since she’s bright-eyed and bubbly, whereas I’m looming and caustic. “We’ve heard a lot of good things. We did Linger earlier today, too.”

“Yup, that’s a good one,” the dude said. “That’s right in downtown though, more for you young people, these days. You know what you’re going to get at Buckhorn yet?”

“I heard they have kangaroo,” I said. “I’ve never eaten a kangaroo.”

“Kangaroo’s pretty good,” he said. “Tastes a little like venison. You ever have alligator?”

We hadn’t.

“Get the alligator,” he said. “You won’t regret it.”

I hold to the old ways, and firmly believe that you gain an animal’s power by eating it. In modern times we call it “protein” or whatever. I’ve been lifting weights for many years, and I’m now strong. Strong as a bull, due to the sheer number of burgers I’ve eaten. However, it’s taken a toll on my agility, and I take great care when surrounded by breakable things or people, such as in a China shop.

Many have expressed difficulty eating quickly, or in great quantity. I’ve heard tales of resultant tummy troubles. I’ve never experienced them. In fact, I eat like a pig, likely due to my proud origin story whereupon I was fat as a pig. I am no longer fat as a pig, but nothing can stop the horrifying rate and quantity of my consumption. I’m a human black hole.

If I’m ever forced to run, or if it’s more than, say, 75 degrees outside, I sweat like a pig. It gets bad when I go full boar. You should see me on my sprint intervals (sprintervals); hog wild.

I’ve also got a bunch of totemic horse attunements, up to and including my health, hunger, and teeth, but I won’t get into that for fear of attracting the horse girls to the blog. I reason I got that from the near-daily McDoubles I’d put down in my wasted adolescence.

Never an alligator, though. Alligators are one of my only weaknesses, the others being redheads and bullets. They’re dinosaurs that drown you.

Did you know that? They only bite you to incapacitate you. Then they pull you into the water and just hold you under until you die. They’re bulletproof, too. Handguns usually don’t pierce their terrifying reptile armor. They’re the perfect weapon. I’m a zealous believer in evolution, except where crocodilians are concerned; they were intelligently designed by the Devil.

Buckchuck was right. I needed to absorb their power. It’s every man for himself, and I need to be ready. Steve Irwin is dead. No one’s coming to save us.

We pulled up to the exchange and thanked the driver. Ladygirl exited the car, but Buckchuck stopped me before I did.

“Listen here,” he said. “You gonna try the Rocky Mountain Oysters?”

“I wasn’t planning on it,” I said.

“A lot of people do, who come to the Buckhorn Exchange. Cowboy caviar. Don’t do it.”

“Why?”

“Well, you know they’re testicles, right?”

“Yeah.”

“They’re not that good, either. It’s not worth it. Trust me.”

“All right. Sold.”

“I didn’t want to talk about it with her in the car,” he said, chinning toward Ladygirl.

I thanked him for the many things he’d given me to think about, then entered into Denver’s foremost exotic animal murder zoo eatery.

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rootin and tootin

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The blood red walls were dense with dead animals. There were no blank spots, no room for pictures or art. Heads and horns and antlers protruded from every angle, watching with sightless eyes, waiting for us to decide what kind of obscure game we were going to eat.

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This place is insane #buckhorn #denver

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We were sat next to an elderly couple who spoke highly of the restaurant, but seemed to have an unpleasant experience once the food arrived. Their steaks weren’t cooked to medium-well. I considered this a bonus, but Ladygirl explained to me that Olds tend to be real scared of salmonella.

We ordered drinks we didn’t need at all. The menus were set up like newspapers, full of legends attached to the Exchange and cowboy tall tales in between actual available food items. I went to scout out the bathroom, gazing at the carnival of death around me like that one scene in Ace Ventura, but with suspended judgment.

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step up

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There were taxidermy displays on the way to the bathroom. I’ve got a soft spot for jackalopes. One of my earliest bands was a psychobilly disaster called Jackalope Poison. I built an “upright bass” for it out of wood, a big popcorn tin, and weedwhacker wire. Then amped it. It was named Humphrey.

I was garbage at playing it, but it was made of garbage, so it was appropriate. And it’s not like you play Victor Wooten on a cookie can in a garage psychobilly band. I miss that thing.

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My mans #jackalope #denver

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In the North, I’d see bears pretty often. They came down from the woods and liked to mess with the neighborhood garbage cans. I worked at a restaurant, pretty close to some woods, and a young black bear knocked over our garbage fry-grease barrel and just lapped it up in our parking lot. The whole staff was out back, just kind of staring. The bear stared right back.

Still, it was always from a distance. I never appreciated their sheer mass.

When I returned to the table, my Old Fashioned had arrived. Classy place like this called for a classy beverage, I figured. They didn’t give me a classy beverage. They gave me a drinking glass full of bourbon.

The dopplebock an hour before had also been a drinking glass of bourbon, although diluted. I was feeling somewhat loosey goosey.

They brought the alligator tail.

It looked and tasted like fried clams, if fried clams were made of chicken. I didn’t feel my hide thickening, but when have I ever?

The main course arrived. For me, that was “elk steak and two quail”.

There was power in this one. I don’t know what traits one can acquire from quail, but the steak was spectacular. Like buffalo venison. I still conjure it to mind if I’m going for a deadlift max.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t remember what happened after that. Maybe it’s “forgetful as a quail”? Probably it’s too much bourbon. I did take a picture on the Uber home, though, of this bigass bear statue looking into the mall.

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Him peekin #bear #Denver

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Probably looking for his little brother, the lumbearjack bouncer on 16th Street.

Back at the hostel, they never fixed our goddamned toilet, but they sent someone up to reclaim the waterlogged instructions from the back of the tank.

Bunch of animals. The bad kind, I mean.

Love,

The Bastard

Fort Collins: The Dark Calculus of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival: Aftermath

Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

I don’t remember reclaiming all my worldly possessions from the VIP tent, but I must have. I do remember hurdling a chainlink fence, because that’s when I heard the breaking glass. Both my and Ladygirl’s chalices had been crammed into the most precarious of my laptop bag pockets, so naturally one fell out and exploded against the rocks when I started doing drunk parkour.

Later, in the hotel room, we would unpack a total of three chalices, despite having two before I broke one. How this happened remains a mystery.

We crossed a lengthy expanse of pristinely manicured campus to emerge in a generic dystopian, vaguely Brutalist strip mall. These are how you can be sure you’re in America.

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Lemme get uhhh 1 mcdml #borger

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S– ushered us through the door into Yum Yum with all the inebriete reverence of a high priest into a sacrificial ziggurat. It was large, dark, and cold, as all good houses of worship should be.

The object of the worship became obvious. S– was utterly entranced by the bartender, an angry and tattooed Madonna. He said her name was Madonna, anyway. I don’t know if he meant it literally, or in the figurative old Italian ma’donna sense, applied to worshipful chivalric veneration of an idealized and virtuous woman.

He watched her with awed fascination, as you would a sunrise, or a mushroom cloud. I ordered a lamb gyro and drank three consecutive glasses of water to clear my head, with mixed results.

“We gotta do a hurricane shot,” S– said. He was frantic, convulsive. Where I’m from it’s called the junkie shuffle. I don’t think the alcohol was his jones. “Come on, Bastard! We gotta! We GOTTA!”

“I’m full of beer,” I said. “I’m tryna move on to the water portion of the night.”

“We GOTTA!” he was adamant, and I was persuaded. He stood up and herded me up to the Madonna.

“Hey Madonna! Could we please have two hurricane shots!” S– said, then pointed at me. “Him first!”

She looked us over with disaffected contempt, then walked away without saying a word. I glanced at S–.

“She’s the best,” he said, dreamily.

She returned ten minutes later without explanation or change in facial expression, then ordered me behind the bar. I shrugged and acquiesced.

“Take off your glasses,” she commanded.

“Why?” I asked. “Is this the kind of shot you have to… aim?”

“Kind of,” she said.

S–‘s eyes shone like a child on Christmas. I shrugged and took off my glasses, then handed them to her. She set them on the counter and handed me a shotglass full of something blue.

“Cheers,” she said, and clinked her plastic cup against my glass. I kicked back the shot. It tasted like blueberry schnapps. Madonna threw the water in my eyes, then cracked me sharply across the face with her open hand.

“YEAAAAAAAAH!” S– roared. “My turn! It’s my turn!”

I wiped the water from my eyes, nodded to Madonna, and left the altar. S– scampered back and received the same, albeit with greater exuberance.

“Wow,” said someone’s dad, as we dripped onto the polished floors. “She really cracked you one, huh?”

“Yeah!” S– said. “She did.”

We ate our gyros and had a spirited discussion about how beautiful Colorado is, how friendly everyone (with the notable and deliberate exception of Madonna) is, and how Philly is, both by comparison and in a vaccuum, a festering sack-boil full of unwashed crackheads.

“Want to get another?” S– asked me when we had finished eating.

“Another what?”

“Another hurricane shot, dude! Come on!”

“Well, the surprise is gone,” I said. “It’s not a fun, zany prank any more. It’d just be me paying this dark queen to hit me.”

“No,” S– said, “I’M paying. For both of us! Come on!”

“I didn’t get the first one on video,” Ladygirl said. “You should do it!”

“It’s even better the second time,” S– said. “She really leans into it.”

And thus, we received an encore performance. As promised, she really did, though that could have been because I accidentally snubbed her on the cheers.

We bade a fond farewell to S–, exchanging numbers and promising to reconnect the next time we came to Colorado. Ladygirl conjured an Uber that whisked us back to Denver. I was sleepy with beer, lamb, endorphins, maybe a light concussion.

“What a beautiful relationship,” I said.

“I think he may be barking up the wrong tree,” Ladygirl replied.

“Never tell him,” I murmured, nestling my skull between the seat and the door. “It’s better this way. It’s like Nately from Catch-22. Love is a many-splendored thing, Ladygirl.”

She may have replied. I was stone unconscious, and would remain so, with a brief interlude to stumble into the hostel, until the next day.

Love,

The Bastard

Fort Collins: The Dark Calculus of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival, Act the Second

Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

It is at this juncture our recounting gets disjointed. The following will read a little like Catch 22.

The floor was overflowing with craft beer enthusiasts, most hailing from Fort Collins and thus dubbed “Fortnites”. Every Fortnite who’d graduated to the fourth floor was falling-down drunk.

If there was one thing I’d learned in Rome, it’s “when in Rome, eat a lasagna. It’s the most cost-effective calorie bomb.” They didn’t have any lasagna on the fourth floor, but they did have dozens of beer stands. I made my way through them instead.

Speaking of stands, the bandstand in the center of the floor was initially showcasing a geriatric bluegrass band. A venerable fiddless tore it up, but only occasionally, allowing the Willie Nelson look-a-like on guitar to do most of the heavy lifting. Likely for fear of lumbar integrity.

When they cleared out an honest-to-Yog brass band set up, and Ladygirl and I reconvened on the dance floor to demonstrate out swingdance moves (of which we have a sum total of 4. That’s all they covered in the single beginner’s swing lesson we went to).

We were the first inebriate fools to use the dancefloor for dancing, but it triggered a rapid dispersal of inhibitions still extant in the Fortnites, and soon we were surrounded by flailing locals. Many opted for the Herman Munster slowdance of middle-school fame at roughly 4x tempo.

“This is it!” Ladygirl screeched into my ear, conspiratorially. She has no indoor voice, and neither the music nor the libations were correcting that. “This is why I wanted to learn to dance so we could just, bust it out! Social capital!”

A pair of stout rockabilly Fortnites spun onto the dance floor and absolutely lit it up. You can do a lot with four moves, but you can do a lot more with actual knowledge of dancing, and they demonstrated that to devastating effect. I wanted to applaud, but Ladygirl would not release my hand.

“We need to get more beer,” I told her, a number of times.

“We need to get more DANCE!” she shrieked in response, an equal number of times.

A man appeared on the stage with a sousaphone. “BRAAAAT,” it said, over and over.

Ladygirl would later inform me that, at some point during the swingdance, I hurled her to the earth and everybody gasped. It was almost certainly an accident. She said I scooped her back up like when someone falls in a mosh pit and we dropped right back into the song, nary so much as a single jockey. I have no recollection of this. I suspect she’s gaslighting me. However, if the return to dancing was as a seamless as I’ve been led to believe, I suspect I was pilot-testing an innovative new swingdance maneuever.

The song ended and I said, “I’m getting more beer”, then escaped before she could protest.

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Go better rams #coloradostate #beer

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I collected myself outside, looking over the immaculate football field that I thought we would be drinking on and baking in the merciless Colorado sun. It was soothing, but didn’t help how sweaty I was.

When I reentered, Ladygirl homed in on me like a guided missile.

“So much just happened!” she said.

“How?”

“Some bros tried to assimilate me into their bro band!” she said. “They’re very small and two of them look the same! Their alpha is bald and won’t stop yelling!”

“Okay,” I said. “Did it work? Are you now one with the Brollective?”

“No! Maybe,” she said. “I’ll introduce you next time they find me. They’re getting the peanut butter beer. And remember those two who danced really good?”

“Yes,” I said. There were only two on the floor who danced really good. We were not either of them. I didn’t have the heart to tell her, she was so excited.

“They’re a COMPETITIVE LINDY HOP CREW!” she exploded. “They want us to join! Their crew! They tried to recruit us to their lindy hop team!”

“But they saw me slam-dunk you onto the dance floor, right?”

“Yeah! I guess! They don’t care! I told them we would, but we’re from Pennsylvania. But see how good we are?”

“So good,” I lied to her sweet, sweet face. “Ready for the, uh, big time.”

There was more drinking, and more dancing, though up next was a salsa band and nobody knew how to salsa. The singer tried to instruct us all, with mixed results. There was a surprising amount of skanking; perhaps the most surprising part is that I wasn’t involved in it.

I met the bros. They were a spirited bunch. Their obvious shot-caller was a head taller than the other two, and on that head he wore two hats he had somehow hustled from beer stand purveyors as drunk as their patrons. The next time I saw him, he was holding three cardboard signs.

“I got THREE NUMBERS!” he roared, waving his erstwhile acquisitions in the air.

“Gotta catch ’em all.”

“Fuck yeah, dude!” he said, then staggered off to gather whatever else was available for collection.

The festival rolled to a tragic close, stands depleted to only a beer each, then to none. The thirsty would approach like Oliver Twist, “please sir, can I have some more?”, and the brewers would shrug helplessly. I slammed my last glass, some sort of IPA I’m sure, then turned to the Bro, S–, who had initially imprinted on Ladygirl.

“Y’all got borger around here?”

“No burgers,” S– said. “But I know a place we can go. Hoo, I know a place we can GO!”

He was yelling. I was yelling. Ladygirl had been yelling for three hours. We were a force of nature.

“WE’RE GOING TO YUM YUM!” S– bellowed at The Collector. Then, he turned back to us.

“You guys like Greek food?”

“Yes.”

“YUM YUMMMMMS!” he told the Collector again.

“YEAH!” the Collector said back. “I’ve gotta do something first, but I’ll meet you there!”

He would not meet us there. We postulate, in retrospect, that he was following up on one of the three numbers.

Ladygirl, S– and I stumbled out into the relentless sun. Due to Colorado’s elevation, the sun is only seven or eight miles away at any given time, and it burns all the liquid from your body. Fortunately, we were fortified with liquids.

BASTARD’S BEST IN SHOW:
1) Crooked Stave – L’Brett d’Or. An explosive 5% sour that I drank three or four of. Both names are real cool.

2)  Rally King – Jale Berry Jalapeno Sour. A strawberry jalapeno sour at 6.7% ABV that burned going down. I hovered around that keg like a vulture until it was a kicked.

3) Soul Squared – Imperial Red. Red, strong enough (7.5%), complex, but real light. You could make some serious mistakes drinking this one.

LADYGIRL LIKES:
1) Black Bottle Brewery – Friar Chuck
2) High Hops Brewery – Blueberry Wheat
3) Millercoors – Blue Moon  nope not today not here
3) Mash Lab – Peaches and Cream
4) Odell Brewing – 30th Anniversary IPA 
5) Rally King – Jale Berry Jalapeno Sour we have a winner
6) Prost – Helles

I don’t like going over 1k words in a post, so you’ll have to tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion.

Love,

The Bastard

Fort Collins: The Dark Calculus of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival, Act I

Saturday, June 29th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

We approached the towering stadium and got shunted by some dismissive “USE WEST ENTRANCE” signs around the perimeter of the beast. We made the walk carrying all our present worldly possessions on our backs, which left us sunstricken, dry, and somewhat bitchy.

George R. R. Martin stood behind a folding plastic table, grinning with the same malice that spawned the Red Wedding. He was missing his signature cap. I presumed it was in mourning for what D&D did to season 8.

“Hey, where do we check our bags?” I asked.

“You can’t go in,” he said. “There’s no bags in the stadium.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Where should I check them?”

“You can’t have bags in there.”

I nodded sagely. “You’re right.”

“I called ahead about this,” Ladygirl said. “They told me to tell you in the line, and you would send us to the VIP tent, where we can check our bags?”

GRRM stared at her blankly, then shook his bulbous, hoary head.

“I’d walk around to the other side of the stadium and ask the security guards,” he said. “That’s all I could think to tell you, but they’re going to say the same thing.”

We walked eight steps before Ladygirl pointed at the VIP tent almost immediately behind the hirsute pile of grimdark fantasy author.

“Hi, do we check our bags here?” Ladygirl asked.

“You sure do!” said a highly enthusiastic young man from behind the little plastic table. He and his companion clarified for us, again and again, with an enthusiasm that could only come of a hearty pre-festival sampling party, that there were no bags allowed in the building BUT they would be happy to hold our bags in bag check to be collected after the festival.

We surrendered our belongings and pushed forth into the mercifully air-conditioned interior of Canvas Stadium.

They immediately handed us our glasses and explained we can have as many samples from as many breweries as we wanted, so long as they all went into their branded 4 oz cup.

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The chalice #sophisticatedalcoholism #brewing #Colorado

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I had inoculated against altitude sickness by eating a truly grotesque quantity of salt every meal since the plane touched down. Signs all over Colorado proudly indicated they were “BREWING THE NEW WEST!”. I was ready to git along, li’l doggie.

My skin was dry, my blood pressure high;
should the gods decree this the day that I die,
plant me here on the spot, as so that my
bones will join earth’s jagged spine
and forever the Rockies then occupy.

*snap snap snap snap*

I grabbed a quick 4 oz from the first stand I saw and gazed down over what I thought was the rest of the fest.

It turned out to be a quarter the rest of the fest. Everything else was up on level 4. I wouldn’t learn this until I’d already done two circuits of the ground floor.

A nine-foot-tall Nordic hill giant stood behind a bright red stand that advised me to “drink like a German!” I tried the lager, which was all right. We prost’ed and I moved along.

After eight or nine samples, I was beginning to feel somewhat loosey goosey. Ladygirl and I took refuge in two of three adirondack chairs. We were joined by another attendant, who was also wearing a red shirt.

“I did it on purpose,” he said. “So the bartenders would notice me and I’d get served first.”

“My sentiments exactly,” I said, pointing at my own red shirt.

“I just like this color,” Ladygirl said of her own.

Our new friend and founding member of red shirt gang gang sent us to find a peanut butter porter on the far side of the floor. I asked a girl behind a counter if she had that and she informed me, unfortunately, she did not. I promised I’d be back for her and she told me she would be waiting, quietly crying, until my return.

In a way, we both lied. She was gone when I circled back around, but I still tried whatever spiked seltzer thing her stand was pushing.

Ladygirl and I got separated, and then both independently discovered the 4th floor, where we remained separated until the sequel.

The Colorado Brewer’s Festival totaled two and a half floors of beer stands, along with several opportunities to step out onto balconies and dehydrate in the brutal Western sun. Attached to that link is a .pdf that lays out an abridged list of beers available on the 29th.

I know for a fact I tried at least two beers per stand over the four hours I was at the festival. There are 38 stands listed. Depending on how inebriated each stand attendant was (there were a few who were visibly blacked out), they would dispense between 2 and 4 ounces of your chosen beer.

Thirty six stands (I skipped the Coor’s and Blue Moon stands) times two beers = 72 samples. No sample was less than 2 oz, and though many were 4, it trended toward the lower side; let’s call it between 2.5 oz per sample.

That’s 180 oz, or 1.42 gallons of beer at a minimum, none of which is paleo.

180 oz over the course of four hours is 45 oz/hr, or roughly a pint every twenty minutes.

I don’t know which god was with me. Probably not Athena. She’s too classy for this. Maybe Odin, or Eris, or Baron Samedi. Yog-Sothoth or Sheogorath. Whoever it was, they fortified my body and spirit. Altitude sickness never took hold, and I remained sober enough to recognize the blackout drunkenness of the participants and purveyors around me.

Or so I flattered myself, until I took the elevator to level four.

Love,

The Bastard