Dublin: The Irish Won’t Stop Singing & The Monster Club

September 28, 2019. Dublin, Ireland.
Soundtrack: Headstone Horrors – Monster Club

The hostel was a collegiate Skinner box labyrinth with a grim, cafeteria style dining hall, faux bars full of noisy Australian teenagers, and a “hammock room” full of hungover chrysalises that stank like feet. The walls were covered in elaborate murals celebrating copyright infringement, and I practiced the path back to my 24-bed military dorm by quietly muttering to myself, “Right at C3P0, down the stairs, left at the Titty Elf, door 19.”

I didn’t spend much time there. I dumped my stuff and headed back out into my first weekend in Dublin.

I’d seen the city before, but it had been the launchpad of my first sojourn into bastardly travel, and I was yet a boy, unwise in the ways of the world. I booked the worst hostel money could by and spent the weekend hiding in it from the relentless, oppressive rain.

This time around the weather was as nice as it gets in Ireland, and the whole of the country had gathered in the bars, or in the streets, to sing. There’s nowhere in the world as thoroughly pervaded with music as Dublin on a Friday. The pubs were filled to bursting, and every one was playing live music, and everyone in the audience was singing along with the live music, whether they knew the words or not.

In the streets and walkways were interlocking circles of spectators clustered around buskers playing guitars and horns, doing DJ sets and tooting away on bagpipes.

It was uncanny. There was a college town weekend vibe, if the college town specialized in performing arts and spanned miles in every direction.

I had a coffee stout at an overfull microbrewery where everyone was singing alt-rock from the 90s. In America, ours tend to stick to the Tony Hawk soundtrack. I had as much Third Eye Blind as I could stand, then hiked twenty minutes through the musical chaos and found Fibber Magees.

It was easily identifiable. Punks look like punks, no matter where you are in the world. The battle jackets leaned more toward the Adicts and GBH than I was used to, but I was still able to track the concentration of studded leather to the bar entrance.

I met up with the horror punks from the ferry. They had with them a lanky Irish metalhead who had many recommendations for me, both about metal bands and about how to improve the political climate in America.

“Ye don’t understand,” he told me. “Ye run all of it. Th’ world economy relies on ye. When ye make a decision like electin’ Troomp, the entoire warld suffers, because our leaders just blindly go along with whatever ye say.”

“The problem with my country is they don’t consult me,” I confided in him.

“How’n the hell did ye wind up with Troomp, anyway?”

I was used to fielding this one. I explained that the overwhelming majority of America is made up of People of Wal-Mart. Their terrifying biomass is barely contained by their 4XL Tweety Bird t-shirts and they highly prize family values, which means maintaining two household shrines, one to Jesus and the other to Dale Earnhardt.

“They outnumber the Americans you see on TV or talk to on the internet 100 to 1,” I said. “They are the deciders of the election.”

“Jaysus,” he said.

“And the world mourns together.”

Speaking of mourning, the first band went on.

We went outside and stood in the beer garden shared by four different bars until that ended. When it did, four oldheads went up and played some solid post-punk.

“What’s post-punk?” the horrorpunk drummer asked.

“Punk, but the drums are slow.”

He nodded his spiked head a few times.

“You’re right. None of our songs go this slow.”

The Headstone Horrors set up and the metalhead approached me, slurring heavily.

“I’m goona start a fookin’ pit fer ’em,” he said, holding onto my shoulder for balance. “These guys desarve it.”

It got silly. A bunch of fookin’ taarists or badly confused locals wandered up to the front of the edges of the pit with full glasses of beer. Of course they wound up spilling it all over the place. I was on the wrong side of a few of these unfortunate yet unavoidable accidents, and they looked on me with baldfaced shock. One nearly escalated to violence, but I smiled disarmingly even as I continued to be a hulking tower of American meat.

It got wild. One of the mutants from that first band tried to pick a fight with an elderly skinhead by hissing at him and trying to punch him, and other assorted middle-school anime girl shit. He maintained his composure, which is more than you’d expect from a skinhead.

They tore the place apart, and it was one of the greatest experiences I’d had overseas. Certainly the greatest in the United Kingdom.

They finished up, I finished my beer, and bade a fond farewell to my new friends. They cautioned me again about a fortified Scottish wine; the name escapes me, but they talked about it like it was a combination of Boones’ Farm and tequila.

The only resident Irishman in our little party grew maudlin, as they are wont to do.

“Ya’re leaving? Already? I thought we could grab a few marr drinks. Well, that’s the way it goes, I s’pose. Maybe… in anudder life… anudder time…”

I clapped him on the shoulder and thanked him for his metal recommendations, then congratulated the Horrors on their set again and made for the door.

“Wait,” the singer said. “Thanks for coming, and for dancing. Here, take this.”

And she produced their album from one of their duffel bags, on CD. I didn’t know where I would play a CD, but the gesture was magnanimous. I thanked them again and made my way back to the hostel.

And that brings the tale of my most recent overseas jaunt to a close.

Epilogue: After an uneventful return to America, I discovered that the Girl brought a stereo system from the 90s from her parent’s house. It could play CDs. And since the only CDs in our possession in this, the year of our lord 2019 were the Headstone Horrors LP and what I’m told is a collection of “marimba classics”, I set the stereo up in the kitchen and kept those spooky little punkers spinning whenever I was cooking something.

After the move, the stereo went into storage, so now I stream them on Spotify, but I keep the album in a place of honor out of a Celtic sentimentality that four-hundred years of Americanization hasn’t yet pounded from my blood.

As of this writing, we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and it might be a little while before I go on another trip worth recording.

But I’m still here, and I’ll find something to fill up the digital pages.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

B.

Reykjavik: The Seltjarnarnes Shuffle

Monday, September 16, 2019. Seltjarnarnes, Iceland.
Soundtrack: Steve Winwood – Higher Love

“Is he here?”

“No.”

“Is he coming?”

“He said ‘omw’ twenty minutes ago.”

“Is he still?”

“I don’t know!”

The sudden paroxysm of rain drove us into another tourist trap corner shop trying to sell us reindeer pelts and metal puffin figurines. The owner kept telling us if we had any questions, let her know. We were waterlogged foreigners with forty pound backpacks. We obviously weren’t in the market for indigenous wool underwear, but we still smiled and nodded.

We told Braxton to rendezvous at 101 Reykjavik Street Food, which was not a street food stand but a whole-ass restaurant, specializing in soup. Strangers in a strange land. I ordered fish and chips.

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Oh hell yes #fish #chips #fishandchips #bastardtravel

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They were breathtaking.

We were getting by on stolen wifi, so each time we wanted to send a smoke signal to Braxton we had to brave the tempest and hover around outside a Danish bar, hunching to protect our phones from the wind.

This afforded us the opportunity to explore some of the local souvenir stores.

I don’t buy things at souvenir stores for many reasons. One, they’re obviously cheap garbage. Two, they’re impractical; I have everything I need already, like Diogenes except well-groomed and handsome. Three, research suggests clutter makes you insane. Four, I travel out of a backpack. Where the hell am I going to store a drinking horn for the next two weeks?

That said, it was a force of will at the Thor Store. The viking appropriation was strong. They had entire Norse pantheon chess sets, Mjollnir bottle openers, and runic man-jewelry of carved bone for every occasion. Not to mention Thor himself, rendered in wood.

After a half hour of scrambling in the rain and snatching handfuls of Wi-Fi like NeoTokyo techno-urchins, Braxton said, “I’m parked outside street food.”

We reconnoitered. He was not. No cars were on the street. However, in the reconnoiter, I discovered the Gay Road to Church.

“Tell him to meet us at the church. It’s like a block away.”

“That’s where you are?” he texted back. “Okay omw.”

It was not a block away. I miscalculated in equal parts to my crippling directional insanity and the absurd size of the Hallgrimskirkja. It wound up being a half mile away.

“I thought you said street food!” Braxton said.

“Reykjavik street food!” Ladygirl said.

“Oh. I was at Iceland Street Food. It’s two blocks away.”

The rain cleared because we were in a car now. Braxton took us to his place, a secret safehouse buried deep in the sprawling, idyllic backyards of an upper-class suburb. It was spartan, but cozy. The variety of dried fish snacks spread on the coffee table suggested he had acclimated to his new adopted home, but the panoply of liquor decorating the kitchenette windowsill suggested that though you could take the boy out of the skook, getting the skook out of the boy was another matter entirely.

“I’ve got two hours of work left,” he said. “You guys can rest up here, shower, help yourself to the fish jerky. I’ll be back and then we can check out some nature.”

We agreed, and off he went to keep the greens. I took a shower, laid down on the couch, and “rested my eyes” in a Dad-ly fashion, immediately losing consciousness until he came home.

Braxton took us through a sequence of winding back alleys that gave a punctuated tour of the neighborhood and led out to a scenic peninsula peppered with lighthouses.

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Secretive homunculi #homunculus #bastardtravel

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“What the hell are those?” I asked.

“This is Europe,” Braxton said. “They love weird nude modern art statues. Can’t get enough of them. They’re everywhere.”

“What are they doing?”

He shrugged.

Whatever it was, it seemed suspicious. We fled the homunculi and made our way out to the coastline.

Braxton couldn’t stop singing “Higher Love” during this excursion, but he didn’t know any words except “bring me a higher love” and a vocal rendition of the trumpet fill. I tried to displace it with a sea shanty, but it didn’t take.

The tide was rising and we weren’t technically allowed to approach the lighthouse, according to many signs that I couldn’t read. Fortunately, there are no cops in Iceland, and nothing to stop us except our own looming mortality.

We hurried down the peninsula across a hundred yards of rotten seaweed and fish guts, kicking up grotesque clouds of hardy sea flies that didn’t seem to mind the fact it was 40 degrees.

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Just this lighthouse #lighthouse #bastardtravel

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The lighthouse was locked, but it was still scenic enough, if you’re into that sort of thing.

“Oh nice,” I said. “Leprechauns. Or maybe elves, here? Huldufólk! I remember, they said they got elf dicks at the weiner museum. Braxton, you coming to the weiner museum with us?”

“That sounds… really great, but I’m gonna have to pass.”

“They have 230 different mammal phalluses,” I said. “Phallusees. Phalli? Dongs. 230, my dude, and they allege that some of them are from elves, and others from trolls. You don’t wanna look at a troll dong? How do you live here and you’ve never checked it out?”

“It costs money,” Braxton said.

I shook my head. “Unbelievable.”

Ladygirl took a creepshot of me while I was friggin’ around with my own camera up on the rocks.

“All this skipping through rancid fish guts has got my appetite worked up,” I said. “Where can we get food?”

“No more fish,” Ladygirl pleaded. “I haven’t built up a tolerance to this much fish yet. Give me like, one day.”

“Most of it’s fish,” Braxton said thoughtfully. “There’s a thai place that’s good. Or do you guys want burgers?”

“Burgers,” Ladygirl said.

“I always want burgers,” I told him. “Braxton, please. My people, they’re starving.”

And so, we returned to base, caught a bus to Reykjavik proper, and sought out borgar.

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bls #burger #borgar #bastardtravel

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Love,

The Bastard

Denver: The Grisly History of Poltergeist Park

Sunday, June 30, 2019. Denver, Colorado.

The Denver trip was not supposed to be the monomythical underworld descent. You ever see that Dark Tourist show on Netflix? Don’t, it’s terrible, but recounting these experiences got me feeling like that guy, if he had chest hair.

We sat on the hostel bed reading digital books and occasionally groaning about how full of exotic meat and alcohol we were.

“This cannot stand,” I said. The elk and alligator were making me too powerful, too rambunctious. The quail were imbuing me with an overwhelming desire to take flight. “I gotta get out of this room. You want to go to the haunted park?”

“What haunted park?” Ladygirl asked without looking up from her ebook about collating shoes or Ronald Reagan or whatever.

“Cheesman Park,” I said. “It’s the plot of Poltergeist, only they turned it into a public park instead of a sick mansion.”

“I’ve never seen Poltergeist.”

“Of COURSE you’ve never seen Poltergeist!” I roared, hurling a chair out the window in a shower of broken glass and pre-broken curtains.

“How far is it?” Ladygirl asked.

“About two miles.”

“Get fucked,” she said.

Okay, she didn’t. She just thought it. But she did, more tactfully, make it known that she was not interested in walking two hours to a haunted park. She was full of steak and wanted to do something called “relaxing”.

She talks about it sometimes. It always sounded fake to me. It’s when you stop moving for like 15+ minutes at a time, but you’re supposedly not bored?

My bones were starting to itch. I said I’d be back someday and darted out into the twilight.

The walk was pleasant enough because Denver is absolutely colossal. In the West they have city planners, which tends to make them pleasant places to live, as opposed to the East’s tendency to make every metropolitan area an homage to Escape from New York. Denver’s full of green spaces, clean air, and dogs.

Cheesman Park could pass for a golf course if it weren’t for all the trees. The square footage is phenomenal. The story is even better.

It used to be Prospect Hill Cemetery, a federal acquisition that just kept growing larger as the city grew larger and more people died, as they are wont to do. According to the Wikipedia,

“As time went on different areas of the cemetery were designated for different religions, ethnic groups and fraternal organizations such as Odd Fellows, Society of Masons, Roman Catholics, Jewish, the Grand Army of the Republic, and a segregated section at the south end for the Chinese. Some sections were well maintained by family descendants or their organizations, but others were terribly neglected. “

Senator Henry Moore Teller decided this land would be better put to use as a park, and wheedled Congress into letting them move all the bodies. He then named it “Congress Park”. Kiss-ass.

Families were given 90 days to pull all the bodies out and move them elsewhere, and those with the money did. The cemetery was in central Denver, and most of the dead were “vagrants, criminals, and paupers”, so no one came to play musical chairs with their earthly remains.

In 1893, the city of Denver, in its infrastructural dedication, contracted an undertaker named E.P. McGovern to move the remains of the bodies, providing each a “fresh coffin” for a total of about $1.90 each.

For the first couple days, our boy E.P. delivered as advertised. Then, he realized he could be making out better on this deal, and started jamming the remains into 3.5 ft child’s coffins.

Technically within contractual bounds!

A wooden fence was thrown around the perimeter of the park as E.P. began the gruesome work of chopping up the remains and jamming them into discount children’s coffins. It sometimes took as many as three coffins for one body, which sounds to me like a net loss of profit unless the little coffins were 60 cents a piece.

The fence kept a sum total of zero onlookers from looking on. Soon, the whole cemetery (by now a body mill looking like that scene from Fargo) is overrun with reporters, curiosity seekers, and all-purpose ghouls.

The place is littered with corpse detritus. Bones and chunks are all over the ground. E.P.’s in the middle of it all, hackin’ and whackin’ and thwackin’.

Mayor Rogers brought the hammer down on that contract, kicking E.P. to the curb, and they started cleaning up. They filled in all the holes over the next ten years, but they never issued a new contract. The rest of the bodies are still under the park.

Beautiful land, though. I couldn’t even get spooky vibes from it, it’s too clean and neat and full of athletic college students playing with their dogs.

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The haunted park #cheesmanpark #park #ghosts #denver

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I did a couple laps, but there was no paranormal activity. The spirits must be resting in peace. Unsurprising. I’d be all right with being buried in a spot like that.

I trekked back to Aloft, having burned off all those volatile whiskey calories, and managed to lay down and read a little without vibrating out of my skin.

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

Denver: Thanatos Themes

Sunday, June 30, 2019. Denver, Colorado.

After witnessing this beautiful and omnipresent infrastructure gone awry, we fled the mall. In retrospect, there’s never been a time in my life that “flee the mall” wasn’t the best move.

On the bank of the river, we encountered more modern art. It was less explicable than the factoid cow.

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Kinda cool bridge #Denver

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Even before we saw the bus run that dude down, even before my knee-jerk reflex to tear that bald kid’s ribcage clean out of his body, and the subsequent herculean force of will required to repress the urge, the shadow of death had been firmly ingrained in the day’s plans. Our lunch plans were at a place called Linger, a former mortuary turned restaurant.

A morgue cocktail bar downtown is dead-center my aesthetic, which is a carefully cultivated 50/50 blend of Gomez Addams and something I like to call “apocalypse flannel”. More so, because in college I was briefly the singer and bassist for a band called “Mad Dog Motch and the All-You-Can-Eat Autopsy”.

I say briefly because our guitarist, the eponymous Mad Dog Motch, thought the name “Team Battle” was more in line with both the kind of music, and the amount of Smash Bros, we were playing.

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do u have to #linger #mortuary #spooktya #Denver

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In my deepest heart, I was kind of hoping the tables would be made out of gurneys, or the place would be decorated with those big body drawers you always see in police procedural dramas. No such luck. It was a well-appointed, tastefully decorated multi-floor cocktail bar, and it was poppin off even at 2 pm. The tables were absurdly tiny, though not as bad as in Rhode Island. Can you imagine if I didn’t fit in the morgue? Grimmer and grimmer.

They sat us in a window overlooking the gargantuan metal milk bottle demarcating the LoHi neighborhood. LoHi was named for the lower part of the downtown surrounding Highland Bridge. Denverites love giving the areas with high craft brewery density little two-syllable grunt names, like “NoDo” and “SoBo”.

This turned out to be Little Man Ice Cream, and we would wait in line for thirty minutes in order to get some, once our mortuary dining experience drew to a close.

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Stay hydrated #water #hydrated #denver

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I wasn’t in a cocktail state of mind, considering the events of the previous day. I was giving myself some recoup time. I drank the clearly labeled water, and we wound up splitting a plate of tiny, tiny burger portions.

Pro strat: If you’re exploring a city, don’t eat anything huge unless you’re about to call it a night. Tiny tapas let you experience more of the city, and you’re less inclined to get all slow and logy.

This is less advisable on long-term trips. I came back from my six weeks in Yurp about thirty pounds lighter.

Just looking at this picture, I remember the way my soul sang biting into these little microburgers. That cow did not die in vain.

We left the morgue with spirits lifted, though not in a necromantic way. Ladygirl insisted on the ice cream. I made low moaning noises of disapproval, as I was still hungry for real food and didn’t want ice cream, or to stand still. She used her rhetorician’s degree to make some persuasive arguments, such as “It’s right here!” and “Come onnnnn”, and she was the eventual owner of a giant hipster spin on a cookies and cream cone.

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It has arrived #truck #fashion #style #Denver

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The celebration of life continued by drinking our way hither and yon across LoDo (Lower Downtown).

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rojer #wynkoop #beer #sophisticatedalcoholism

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Wynkoop was my favorite, and we would revisit it a few times over the next two days.

It was a very laid-back vibe. They leaned heavy on Dad rock, so there was a lot of Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC playing, but not very loud. Like elevator music. They also had a giant wood carving of a gorilla, and I cannot believe I didn’t take a picture of it.

As we looked out the window, killing time before our dinner reservation by drinking several obscure beers, a dude on a motor trike rolled up to the light, blasting his own, conflicting Dad rock.

We exchanged thumbs up and he roared off into the late afternoon, presumably on a highway to Hell.

Next episode: A torrent of meat at The Buckhorn Exchange. Both rootin’ and tootin’. Stay tuned.

Love,

The Bastard

Fort Collins: Rocky Mountain High

Friday, June 28th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.

We touched down in Denver at 5pm, scoring a total of two hours of time travel despite the pilot’s inability to get the plane off the ground for forty-five minutes. I found my dissatisfaction was shared by a particularly vocal baby, two seats behind me.

The Denver airport is a city in and of itself with its own poorly-labelled subway system. We asked how to get into town proper and the clerk at the info desk told us to descend into the subterranean cavern network and give $11 a head to the subway operator.

The plan had been get into Denver, grab dinner, then grab an Uber and shoot up to our hotel in Fort Collins. Since Denver is a good 20 miles from its own airport, that got nixed. We were running on the brunch sushi we got before the plane, seven hours ago, and though Ladygirl has been known to occasionally have sleep for dinner, I had a wendigo madness setting in. My fellow travellers were starting to look like giant cartoon hams.

Our Uber driver was an old buck named Michael with a Chrystler roughly the same size as our plane. The interior was leather, the maintenance, pristine. He had an air of a Zen master about him.

Michael was a masterful conversationalist, which is something you only notice when someone is really good at it. Ladygirl and I were floored by the scenery, and Michael appreciated that, and let us bask in reverent silence until he felt the vibe shift sufficiently to start talking again.

“See that?” he said after one of these lengthy pauses. “That’s called virga. It’s raining up there on the mountain, but it’s so hot that the rain is evaporating before it hits the ground. It makes that long line across the sky.”

I murmured something dumb. Mountains get me humble. I came up out the valley, and I always found the little mountain ranges enclosing the Home Pits to be awesome in the traditional, archaic sense of the word. On the Left Coast, they’d call them hills.

“Looks fake, don’t it?” Michael asked.

He told us about the area, the legendary Redrock ampitheater, and a thought experiment in serial killing as an Uber driver. I drove Uber for six months at the end of college, and we commiserated on our mutual disdain for teenagers.

“I won’t even pick up the drunk kids anymore,” he said. “It’s not worth it. This is real leather. They smell bad, and they don’t stop yelling… I pretty much just do the airports now.”

Despite Michael’s staunch teen-avoidance policy, his radio selection demonstrated he would literally die for pop punk. Blink 182, Simple Plan, Jimmy Eat World, even old Green Day. My mans was playing the hits, and exclusively the hits.

He dropped us off at Equinox Brewing in Fort Collins after an hour of quiet, contemplative conversation and “hey dudes are you ready to”.

A pair of teens caught us at the door, offering us fresh-cooked borger, made to order. It had the feel of a boy scout troop bake sale, but it would have been the wrong foot forward to spurn these young entrepeneurs and their local business, especially in our time of need. Ladygirl ordered borger with everything, and the teens promised that they would “come find you when it’s done.”

I made a beeline to the restroom and relieved myself as three abstract lions stared at my wiener.

I returned to the bar and ordered whatever IPA was strongest, I don’t remember. Outside, in the biergarten, an experimental funk trio who looked like tall versions of the Stranger Things cast were soloing over the top of one another’s solos. It may have been too close to jazz for my simple aural palette to appreciate.

After three minutes, a middle-aged fae materialized on the bar next to me. She had little understanding of personal space and no volume control. Boisterous and hatter-mad, she immediately explained she was a retired legal assistant (and thus went into my travel notes as “Insane Law Fairy”) who originally hailed from Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

“How did you know we were from Philly?” Ladygirl asked.

“Oh, I can smell Delco girls!” she whooped. Then sniffed at her.

Ladygirl was delighted, and they fed off one another’s energy, growing louder and more manic with each second. The law fairy’s husband was a thin, quiet fellow in a cowboy hat who contributed zippy one-liners whenever she allowed enough space in the conversation. I liked them both a lot.

The law fairy howled at the bartender until he brought her a drink, then bought us drinks, wished us good travels, and flitted out into the beer garden to get funked up by the gangly adolescent virtuosos.

The grilltenders arrived with a surprisingly large cheeseburger, which we made short work of. We finished our second beers, genuflected beneath the watchful gaze of the Peeber fish, and proceeded into the night.

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Peeber рыба #fish #equinox

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Pizza desperation was the rule of the day, but every single storefront was a brewery. This would not have been a problem under any other circumstances. We eventually tracked down a place called Slyce who specialized in just dumping whatever was left in the fridge onto a pizza and charging $5 a slice. This would presumably make a pie $40, but this was no time for math. I ordered some sort of taco monstrosity, and Ladygirl got “the garden pizza”, which you can achieve at home by overturning the crisper drawer.

Our last stop for the night was an old man bar called Cooper Smith’s. Aside from the bartenders, the only other person in our age demographic looked like a steampunk version of Oswald Cobblepot. He ordered a flight and gave the bartender tasting notes. We ordered some kind of green chile IPA. It burnt the throat as it went down, but very subtly, and otherwise tasted sort of like a green smoothie.

“It’s so vegetal,” Ladygirl told me, again and again. I kept agreeing with her. This didn’t phase her.

Eventually I replied with, “You know, this is pretty vegetal.” She got mad at me, but only briefly.

We caught an Uber back to the Super 8. I made certain it was a Super 8 this time, and Athena, how my heart sang when I lay eyes on the cardboard cutout of tuxedo Tormund the Super 8 Mage.

Our driver was a skinny little dad in a trucker cup with a ridiculous hipster mustache that didn’t look like a hipster mustache because he was discernibly a dad. He’d already earned it. He played nothing but Led Zeppelin.

“What brings you to Fort Collins?” he asked.

I was going to tell him I came to get the led out, but Ladygirl cut me off with, “We’re going to the beer festival tomorrow.”

“Oh, that’s great,” he said. “That thing is huge. And it’s the anniversary, 30 years. It’s gonna be just, massive.”

His favorite turned out to be Soul Squared brewing, and he strongly advocated an imperial red. I vowed that I would not rest until I tried it.

We got back to the Super 8 and immediately rested. It was cold, massive, clean, and surprisingly chic. It might have been the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Yes, that’s correct. The Super 8.

Unfortunately, I woke up and stayed up at 4am the next morning, because my haunted body would not be convinced that we’d crossed time zones.

Love,

The Bastard

 

Providence: Animals, Art, and ACAB

May 25, 2019. Providence, Rhode Island.

We bade a fond and eventual farewell to our beloved Courtney and headed across town with no particular destination, short of eventually winding up at H.P. Lovecraft’s grave. I had grand designs to re-animate him. It’s what he would have wanted.

As the Girl and I tramped down the street, our footing growing rapidly less dependable and our voices louder as we repeatedly discussed how “everyone here is so nice!”, a man yelled at us from a picnic table that this place has the best lobster roll in Providence.

I didn’t particularly want a lobster roll, but I knew I’d be a fool to ignore this shouted wisdom. We entered a transplanted 50s style dinner with a chunky, melted disco ball rotating in a desert of checkerboard tile. The walls were lined with surreal, semiprofessional 60s-style counterculture art.

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Lobster roll #lobsterroll #providence

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The restaurant was called NicoBella’s, and the ambiance was good, if you’re into taking acid and watching Happy Days. As the food goes, a lobster roll is a lobster roll. It was good, but there’s a cult following on lobster rolls I’ve never understood. This might out me as a classless savage but I’ve never been particularly wowed by lobster and mayonnaise. It’s like chewy crab. I’d rather have not chewy crab, and then I also get to keep $10.

We settled up and continued our journey, bearing witness to Providence’s many splendors.

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Mural time 😎 #providence #art #wallmanifesto

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There was a preponderance of corporate art, which is exactly what it sounds like, and a pretty sick mural adjacent to  a building on which someone had painted a lengthy treatise on the importance of imagination. It was a real tl;dr moment, but I thought it was a cool concept, and took a picture for posterity. You can read it above if you’d like. I will eventually.

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Follow your dreams #providence #celebrity #cat

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What a glow up, folks.

I’m not sure what sentiment they were hoping to convey with this one, but I can’t imagine this is what they were shooting for.

All this sight-seeing had worked up another mighty thirst. I also needed more food. There’s another  reason I’m not particularly moved by lobster rolls: they’re insubstantial. Man cannot live by mayo and hot dog buns alone. I needed a borger, and I needed it quick.

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The Hoff beckons #lunch #providence #hassle

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We nearly made moves on Hoffburger, but wound up about a block down at a place called Trinity Brewhouse. Most of the decision was motivated by the poor lighting in the place. I’d been baking in the light of the hated Daystar for hours, and I needed to retreat into a nice, dank root cellar and replenish my reserves.

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More murals, ft: just everyone #providence

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The gang’s all here. The beer selection was impressive. I ordered the strongest thing, as that’s what I meant by replenishing my reserves. That’s generally my M.O., as I’ve found each subsequent beer is better, contingent on the strength of the previous. Still, the options gave me pause.

When the waitress came by, I ordered what sounded like the greatest concentration of meat and peppers they had available, some chipotle pepper jack monstrosity called the Firehouse. The Girl ordered nachos. I don’t know why. She ate ten chips. I didn’t even want nachos, but my fool’s honor forbade me from not finishing them.

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Borger #borger

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We weren’t long for this world after these calorie bombs. Full of meat and beer, we waddled down two or three more blocks before realizing Night Dinner wasn’t realistic, and we circled back around to the mall. We found the car without re-entering that liminal zone that level-warped us under the bridge.

Back at the hotel, we made our way through the weed fog of Calcutta Hall and into our room. I was asleep within seconds. The Girl got sick and maintains that the nachos poisoned her. If they had, I would have gotten roughly eight times the dose. Sort of a Strong Belwas situation with the honeyed locusts.

I theorized that maybe she got sick because we had been drinking a thousand beers in the sun all day. This suggestion turned out to be unwelcome.

The next morning, I realized our time in Providence was wearing thin. If I was going to reanimate H.P. Lovecraft, it had to be now.

But first, we had to do a “cliff walk”. We gathered our supplies, loaded up the car, and set out for Newport.

Love,

The Bastard

Providence: Snug benches and the Gun Totem

May 25, 2019. Providence, Rhode Island.

I’d spent too much time in the Delph and my skin was starting to itch. I’d already booked three or four flights for the summer and had a slew of weird adventures lined up, like a beer festival in Denver that I will be attending on a cocktail of whatever further psychoactive substances they legalize in the interim (don’t tell the Girl, it’ll be a fun surprise), another Left Coast voyage for a wook music festival I’m promised will be in some way shamanic, and a presumably more civilized jaunt to Iceland. Stay tuned.

But that’s then, and for right now I’m breaking my back every goddamn day, somehow using my useless degree to accrue a vast fortune destined to be converted to unmarked bills for my inevitable disappearance into Latin America.

The Girl and I loaded up the car and went to Providence, Rhode Island.

The trip was a straight shot up the highway where I wasn’t forced to kill anyone. I’ve tamed most of my frustrated adolescent rage and sublimate it into useful things, such as writing, hitting a tractor tire with a sledgehammer, and a +2 bonus to both attack and damage rolls. The only place my incandescent, white hot fury persists is road rage, and I frequently inform strangers who don’t signal when merging that I will “peel off your fucking skin and eat your insides like an avocado” while my passengers look on in mortified alarm. This was worse when I drove for Uber.

We dumped our gear at the Motel 6. We booked it exclusively for the cardboard cutout of Tormund Thunderballs in a tuxedo, which is the only amenity I consider relevant in a lodging. Unfortunately, that’s at the Super 8. Not Motel 6. Same number of letters, same division and placement of vowels and consonants, same numerical character at the end, but one has Tormund and the other has fifty stoned Indian dudes sitting in the hallway that leads to your room.

We got there around 10pm and, plumb tuckered from the drive, we fell into a merciful unconsciousness.

According to an algorithm advertisement for something called “WaterFire”, which is almost my favorite post-punk band, the move is dropping your car at “providence mall”. It was the first common noun location I’d seen on Google Maps on this side of the Atlantic.

Farbeit for me to challenge the oracle, this was the move we made.

The parking garage exits were not clearly marked, and the first door we tried set off an alarm. We pretended this was normal or appropriate, and then found ourselves in the Silent Hill bowels of the mall, trepidation mounting as we navigated the labyrinth of the flaking plaster, bare yellow hanging bulbs, and inexplicable metal painter’s scaffolding that materialized around every corner and stretched, foreboding and monolithic, to the thirty foot ceilings. We’d noclipped out of reality in the city that built Lovecraft, and I already didn’t like our chances.

Every door we found was locked, and we had gone too far into the Backrooms to follow our breadcrumbs back to the parking garage, even if I wasn’t born with crippling directional insanity. The alarm wailed in the distance, growing louder and softer at complete random, like the physical manifestation of anxiety.

Desparation was setting in when we turned another identical corner and found three iron push-bar doors. Some demon had forgotten to lock the middle one.

We emerged under a bridge near the Providence Waterfront.

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Our first stop was some sort of Veganarium that sold exotic egg sandwiches covered in dandelions. They had no cups for the mustard or hot sauce, so I was forced to use coffee cup lids as shallow condiment receptacles. This worked surprisingly well, but I am an idiot, and the liquid tabasco rolled through the tiny vent and got all over my shorts.

First meal. First meal of the day! I’d been awake for like an hour!

This tiny egg and quinoa-grain bread or whatever provided me the power to cross town for elevensies at Providence’s most highly recommended mom-and-pop restaurant, which is called “Kitchen”. That’s the whole name.

Kitchen had five tables total and a line of hipsters out the door and halfway down the block. We wound up waiting for around forty-five minutes, which sounds much worse than it was, as Girl and I wound up befriending a troupe of theater kids from the local art school. I butted into their conversation when they couldn’t think of the thing that’s “like a dragon but with just two legs and wings” (wyvern), and they proceeded to provide us with many thoughtful recommendations for things to eat and do around downtown, all of which we promptly ignored.

This slight wasn’t deliberate. We just rapidly forgot.

When our time finally came, I found I could not fit into the booth.

Kitchen is a little farm-to-table dealie that provides an excellent experience with  standard breakfast fare. I housed my own eggs, sausage, and bacon, then ate most of Girl’s eggs, which may be a contributing factor as to why I don’t fit in some chairs. I declined her leftover biscuits, however, as I deny the Demon Wheat.

We bade goodbye and good luck to the theater kids who were, unbelievably, still waiting in line. The one whose actual name was Gunner said, “We’ve been waiting for two hours now. It’s too late to bail.”

We homed in on our first destination: the Gun Totem.

When reading about this on Atlas Obscura, I assumed an obelisk made of a thousand guns would be really imposing and perhaps suggestive of the fact that we live in a society.

I don’t know if I’d call it anticlimactic, it delivered as advertised. I think Yurp just spoiled obelisks on me. They really mean it out there.

We sat on the river bank and watched a battalion of little goblin tourists try to frighten away the ducks with limited success. This gave me a mighty thirst, and we wound up at the best bar in Providence, a little street corner affair called the Malted Barley. The beer was cheap, the portions generous, and the waitress an angel given material form by the name of “Courtney”. I have not encountered a Courtney in the wild since 2006, and I assumed they went extinct.

Courtney pumped us full of beer and shared with us sacred, secret Providensi lore. I asked her about WaterFire, and her already somewhat disproportionately oversized eyes widened still further in alarm.

“Is that tonight?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Google said to park at the mall. That’s the extent of my knowledge. What is it?”

“Oh,” she said, then, “Oh! WaterFire is this big downtown event where they float burning wood on the river, and that’s the event.”

She paused, then said, “It’s a lot better than it sounds.”

She kept bringing us larger and stronger beers, and soon I was very much daydrunk and doing all in my power not to shout like a crazed animal and alarm the gentle Providencians.

It must be said, the people of Providence are very friendly and surprisingly willing to engage. Courtney theorized this was due to the nice weather. We informed her that we were Philly natives, and it is advisable to avoid interacting with strangers in Philly, as many of them smoke a lot of crack and want you to give them money for absolutely no reason.

“There’s still some of that here,” Courtney said. “But it sounds like… less.”

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rip lil mans #mrstarkidontfeelsogood

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This has been a lot of words, and this seems like a natural narrative break. More to come soon.

Love,

The Bastard

Do Attend

April 27, 2019. At 27th and Girard Ave. on the vacant lot, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

It started, as so many things do, with a call to arms. A valiant Philly native assessed the amount of food alive in his body and declared, “This jawn shall not stand.” Under cover of darkness, this unknown hero planted the following cipher in mailboxes all across the Delph:

do attend

And attend we did. This mysterious figure had tapped the zeitgeist of both Fairmountaineers and ex-first graders the world over, had given voice to their most secret, fondest wish: to be put under anesthesia and immolated in a steel furnace, only to be resolidified into an invulnerable statue, free from all pain and all food.

“Farewell,” I bid my loved ones. “My time has come. Catch me at the steel furnace thus:”

terminator

leanin p heavy on terminator references these days

I got on my bike and rode, as Freddy Mercury commanded, across the dystopian Delphscape and out to the vacant lot, eager for my metallic ascendance. And what to my wondering eyes should appear?

20190427_120541

Glorious. I shackled my faithful steed Rocinante to a rusted fence next to a dumpster full of wood and sallied forth, giddy with the anticipation of curing my body dysmorphia the old fashioned way.


what meeting would be complete without a DJ?

 

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“Excuse me,” I asked the dude on the right, cutting in front of the reporter. “Are you the anesthesiologist?”

“WHAT”

A fair question. “Will you be the one sedating us?”

He looked down at his colorful outfit, then back up at me.

“No!”

“All right, sorry to bother you.”

I moved on.

 

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This guy was cosplaying as a bulldozer. Not very effective, but his heart was true.

 

 

 

I believe this is what the kids call “squad goals”.

 

20190427_121301.jpg

This guy brought a grill. Sadly, not a furnace, not hot enough to melt steel, and not large enough to immolate me. Think bigger, my friend.

 

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Oh no.

OH NO!

DOG! DOG GET OUT OF THERE QUICK YOU’RE A SITTING DUCK

My heart bled for that fluffy champion but I wasn’t going to get caught in the crossfire until my soft, beautiful body had been replaced with hot, beautiful steel, so I made my way back up to the meeting DJ.

And lo, as it is foretold, so it became.

 

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my mans is prepared, come what may

 

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WITNESS ME!

 

 

To my mortification, a socialist newspaper had chosen this venue, at this moment, to attempt to discuss the Green New Deal. At least, that’s what was on the newspapers they were waving. I obviously didn’t read them. I did eavesdrop on a conversation happening nearby, though:

Dude 1: “See, but that’s why we need free college! Everyone deserves to go to college!”

Dude 2: “Are you kidding me, dude? Half the kids at college are just there to party and be fuckin’ idiots. Most of them drop out in a couple months! You want everyone to do that?”

Dude 1: “No, I just… they deserve a chance!”

Dude 2: “They have a chance! It’s called loans!”

Dude 1: “We need debt forgiveness!”

Dude 2: “Why would we need that? The job market’s already saturated!”

It got mumbly after that, and if I really wanted to hear this debate to its conclusion, I could go into literally any Facebook group. Instead, I decided to get a beer.

Crime and Punishment Brewing Company across the street had made a jalapeno double IPA to commemorate the Fairmount denizens metamorphoses into the 21st century answer to the terracotta army. Since Abba was over, it seemed like now was the time.

 

I saw this ghoul as I crossed. As you can see, in my pursuit of journalistic integrity, I got close enough that he could have swiped me with whatever the hell is going on with his left hand there.

This was the man who wrote the letter. He had transubstantiated… but at what cost?

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was starting to rethink the invincibility. I didn’t want to carry an umbrella! Umbrellas are for wimps!

A modern Buddha like this dude must have known that, and he must have been carrying it as an ironic statement — “I can no longer be harmed, yet I embrace the trappings of wussyhood, for who could challenge me”? An inspiration without saying a word. The Flower Sermon, reborn like a phoenix in concrete.

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I waited in line for a thousand years and got the jalapeno beer. It tasted like how I remember New Mexico.

I was over it, though. The flesh husk had carried me this far, and I may as well see it through to its natural completion. Besides, it’s the future. The transhumanist movement is already surgically implanting magnets in their hands, and all of our high-profile billionaires are mad scientists hurling their limitless money at developing sci-fi tech. It’ll be the singularity in a couple years. I can wait.

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And what Philly outdoor event would be complete without somebody climbing on top of shit?

Nobody stole Rocinante. I saddled up and went home. I’d nursed all the food in my body since first grade. Another year wouldn’t hurt.

But there’s always next year.

Love,

The Bastard

(note: To anyone I may have photographed or recorded, I took your leaping in front of my camera, grinning, as consent to be featured on my world renown and widely read blog. If this isn’t the case, contact me at bastardtravel@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to take it down. You fuckin’ crybaby.)

Hell is Other People Driving

January 28, 2019. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Do you want to know why the Buddhist monks can harp on maintaining compassion for humankind? They don’t drive.

I loved road rage. It was a reminder that I was alive, like exercise, or a headbutt. It’s been burnt out of me now; the edge has dulled from overuse, so when I’m driving around the city I don’t get those bursts of life-affirming adrenaline anymore.

Instead, I get are waves of confused pity and a faint sense of betrayal that natural selection has failed. If you have doubts, I understand, and challenge you to drive anywhere in Philadelphia city limits between 7 and 9 AM.

You remember that part in Alice in Wonderland where the Mad Hatter screams “Change places!” and everyone scrambles around the table for no reason? Take that, put it in cars, and make everyone involved drunk and texting. That’s I-95 South.

How are you all still drunk at 7 AM on a Monday? And if it’s that commonplace an experience, how and why do you still have a car?

In my past life, I’d drive around West Chester with my windows down regardless of the season and hurl verbally abusive driving instruction at the trust fund kids. That doesn’t work here, because it’s predicated on the assumption that the listener can be taught. There’s no learning here, no adaptation. It’s reflexive gut-instinct stimulus-and-response bedlam.

They say we are the product of our environment, so I can’t put the full blame on these stupid animals. This city catalyzes it. It’s a vehicular manslaughter factory.

One of the most iconic things about Philly, putting aside Ben Franklin’s portly punam in every shop window and our oft-lauded habit of getting naked and climbing shit whenever the Birds go (GO BIRDS!), is the beverage tax. The county tacks an extra dollar or more onto soda and beer for that thick, juicy tax revenue, which they then use to tear giant strips of road up, then leave. The hole is unattended or covered in plywood for weeks. These are known colloquially as “graves”, due to their size, their depth, and the function they serve for cyclists.

Stop signs are a mass delusion, and summarily disregarded. Exactly one stop light is acknowledged because of the Orwellian telescreen built into it that mails $100 tickets to your house in a random interval ratio.

Philadelphia is somewhere between Death Race 2050 and Mario Kart. I spend the first half hour of every commute emoting wildly at the drivers around me, sneaking up to kiss bumpers, or playing jaunty, accusatory little ditties on my horn.

This is too ubiquitous and pervasive to fix. Butterfly stitches on an amputation. These troglodytes are driven along by thanatos, and if I’m going to be part of the problem, I’m going to be the biggest part.

You can hear me laughing, but it’s the desperate, hopeless kind of laugh you get after hours in asylums.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is Thanos was the hero of Thanos movie.

Love,

The Bastard