Book Review: Deep Nutrition

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional FoodDeep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cute doctor’s lengthy exposition about how eating actual food will make you healthy and cute.

Well, maybe not cute, she clears that up in the beginning of the book when she talks about how she was a lanky teenage distance runner who subsisted entirely on spaghetti. It worked well enough to keep her crossing finish lines, right up until it didn’t, and her leg fell apart. Bedridden and busted-ass, she started tweaking her diet and noticed the more real food she ate – meat, vegetables, cheeses, the good stuff – and the less refined sugar and Demon Wheat she allowed into the gangly, crooked temple of her body, the faster her recovery.

Doc Cate threw herself full force into studying the effects of nutrition on the body and, by extension, genetics, and came up with some beautifully problematic conclusions that I will outline with great relish.

The human body was designed to eat a specific kind of diet, and that kind of diet, along with regular exercise and adequate sleep, allows it to grow tall, strong, and hardy, all of which it’s supposed to be. Failing to get the nutrition required by the human blueprint results in errors in genotype and more readily visible phenotype programming.

In utero, these errors can cause catastrophic physical deformity like limbs not working or babies born without eyes or whatever. Shanahan also suggests a causal factor between poor prenatal nutrition and functional/neurological disorders, like ADHD and autism. She justifies this with a quick crash course in genetics.

I’m not smart enough to know real genetics. A psychology degree gives you roughly the same credibility in pure scientific fields as having a Top Member badge on the I Fucking Love Science! facebook, so I was thankful Doc Shanahan laid it out in a way that slack-jawed layfolk like myself could understand.

Coded into your genetic schematics, you have the potential for genes that do virtually everything, and interact with each other to increase or decrease likelihood of things like red hair, height, a full and luscious beard, tig ol’ biddies, et cetera. The coding is there no matter what, but whether or not a particular trait is activated is dependent on environmental factors. She likens it to toggling a switch on and off.

So our genome is full of these on/off switches for things like green eyes, clubfeet, proneness to addiction, or heart disease. Depending on what we eat, how much we move, what kind of movement we do, how much we rest, and how we manage our stress, some of these switches get turned on and some of them get turned off.

In an ideal situation, which is always a hunter gatherer society in this type of books, assuming ready access to a dependable animal protein supply, the toggles for “tall, strong, and hot” are going to be switched on. Most of the toggles for most cancer and heart disease are going to be switched off, and the toggles for diseases like diabetes and arthritis are going to be virtually nonexistent.

Horrifying, right? She goes on about physical attractiveness for most of the book, arguing that it remains one of the most reliable markers for physical and genetic health. Wrongthink in the extreme. You can’t just say uggos are more likely to suffer physical and mental illnesses, rate themselves as less happy, and wind up in jail, no matter what kind of research you’ve got supporting it. It’s 2020, dude. We’re all equally beautiful at any size/shape/mineral deficit.

And for the rest of the book, she issues a throaty, sustained Valkyrie war cry leveled against shills like that vegan doctor (Dornish, I think his name is), the vegetable oil industry, Big Agriculture, and that son of a bitch Ancel Keys.

She’s pretty mad about sugar and grain, which is normal for these kind of books, but she is absolutely livid about vegetable oil. She talks about the effects the trans-fats have on the arterial walls, resembling proteins that we use but functionally serving as trojan horses for compounds we can’t (deadass, it’s just poison), then sticking that along our cell membranes and functionally “deep frying us” from the inside out. And then that gets blamed on healthy foods like butter and meat, because our entire country runs on corn subsidization.

I was going to give it four stars, but I bumped it up to five. She just got so angry about vegetable oil. It was incredible. Damn, queen, you look adequately nourished when you’re mad.

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Reykjavik: The Golden Circle and Good Burger

Thursday, September 19, 2019. Reykjavik (and surrounding areas), Iceland.
Soundtrack: Less Than Jake (ft. Kel Mitchell) – We’re All Dudes

Forty-eight hours. Less than two days, and the second padlock shit the bed. Never buy a Stanley. I spent 1600 Reykjabucks (like $14 in real money) to insure I wouldn’t need to worry about a padlock for the rest of my life, and I had to use boltcutters to get into my locker.

I was careful, too! I locked it and opened it before I put it on so I could be certain this exact thing wouldn’t happen. Probably the spirits I pissed off by taking pictures of those Icelandic spellbooks.

Braxton gathered us at the crack of 9 to begin our journey around the Golden Circle, which is what Iceland calls its weirdly triangular configuration of tourist hotspots, each about a half hour drive from the last. We did not get breakfast. We did, however, get snacks.

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Corny Big #cornybig #bastardtravel

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The Corny Big is a rice krispie treat pumped full of Laffy Taffy perfume. It’s absolutely atrocious, but this will be my opinion on any candy. I deny the demon Grain and, according to a middle-aged wine mom who maintains a meadery in Jim Thorpe, I have a “savory palette”.

The first stop was þórufoss. It was gorgeous cluster of waterfalls, made more so by the lack of tourists. The most attractive geographical feature a location can have is no people in my way.

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Þórufoss waterfall #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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I ran around the soggy highlands, oohing and aahing until we got back in the car. The falls reminded me of Ireland. I think it’s because everything was rustic and green, and the weather sucked.

Next stop was Þingvellir national park, which has the honor of being the only UNESCO world heritage site on the mainland. It sits on the continental shelf between North America and Europe.

On the left, North America. On the right, Yurp. It’s like that Four Corners monument in the southwestern US, only there’s geological legitimacy to these boundaries.

This spot was like a giant legislative bazaar where various Icelandic chieftains would meet by the “Law Rock” and decide matters of state. This is the assembly site of the oldest extent government in the world.

I don’t care about that. Governments are a bunch of malarky. I refused to read the plaques on principle, except the one bit about how they had a special drowning creek for women and women alone. Men were beheaded. So spoke the assembly at the Law Rock.

All that quiet seething anti-establishment sentiment had left me with a hunger. Fortunately, at the next snack stop, a beacon of hope shone through the fog.

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cuz we're all dudes #goodburger #bastardtravel

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Braxton tried to ask what we were thinking in terms of food, but I was already sprinting full tilt toward the Goodburger. I needed to know it wasn’t a mirage.

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dam u rite #burger #bastardtravel

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“I do,” I told the sign. I fell to my knees and wept. “I truly do.”

The burger, as promised, was pretty good. It was not made of fish, which was a refreshing change of pace.

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borger #borger #bastardtravel

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The “Goodburger special sauce” was mayo. Innovative.

The Goodburger would tide me over, but I needed to plan for the future. We stopped into the Icelandic equivalent of Wawa, called N1, to resupply.

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health food #sportlunch #bastardtravel

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I got the Sportlunch. I had no choice. I’m so sporty. I picked up a few other nebulous candy bars too, stockpiling calories. Results were mixed.

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Sportlunch of champions #candy #bastardtravel

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Let me show you something. The one on the bottom, Draumur?

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gross #bastardtravel

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I’m pretty sure that’s Icelandic for “trauma”. See that black line? That’s licorice.

That’s fucking licorice.

After this discovery, I flew into an inarticulate rage and hurled the Draumur into one of Iceland’s many active volcanoes.

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better #bastardtravel

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The Sportlunch was a chocolate covered wafer bar with caramel in it. It had nothing to do with sports or lunch, but at least it was edible. The Prince Polo XXL was just a chocolate-covered wafer, no caramel. All right, if that’s what you’re into.

Our next stop was Geysir. You linguists and scholars in the audience may know that this is Icelandic for “geyser”.

I’m going to level with you: I could have taken a picture of either the main, inactive geyser, the eponymous Geysir, or the smaller new hotness that erupts every ten minutes, called Strokkur. I didn’t. There were over a hundred people there, and all of them had their phones chambered and ready to record Strokkur’s eruption. I, myself, erupted with contempt, and shuffled off up the mountain until I found other smaller, abandoned geyser pools.

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lil geysir #geysir #bastardtravel

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Isn’t it inviting? Don’t it just make you want to dive into the boiling geothermal egg-stink and disappear into the earth?

I didn’t, though. Not yet. I have seen the time, place, and manner of my death, and it is not here, and it is not now.

Still, there’s no harm in looking. I watched the cauldron and fantasized about sinking into the boiling mud and fulfilling the rest of my destiny as some kind of scalding sulfur golem. Sometimes, the best way to deal with intrusive thoughts are to let them out to dance around a little.

My magnificent meat vessel is unmarred by tattoos, and I’m relieved that my issues with commitment prevented me from ever making moves on that. I’d be covered in cringey philosophy quotes, the Gonzo symbol, probably a Parliament album cover. Christ, can you imagine? But there’s a music to “Nature does not care for your money”. That’s more insightful than the tourism board planned. I might cordon off a chunk of flesh for that particular momento.

We got gone from Geysir and hit another waterfall on our way to the legendary Gullfoss.

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more waterfalls #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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You haven’t heard the legend of Gullfoss? Impossible. It claims to be “the most voluminous waterfall in Europe”, as well as “outperforming Niagra Falls in the United States in liquid horsepower”.

By this point, it was raining in earnest. Getting close to the waterfall caused it to both mist and spray, meaning it was raining in three different directions simultaneously. That was, itself, an experience, but made the prospect of taking a video useless.

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but what could truly do justice to the legend of Gullfoss? It’s more voluminous in person.

The Golden Circle was complete, and we were all exhausted and waterlogged. We made our way back to Brewdog, had a couple beers, sneered at a bunch of noisy American frat boys, then returned to the hostel for a well-deserved coma.

Love,

The Bastard

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

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: Brewing Festival Exodus

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

I was up long before dawn, and we eventually trekked out into the morning to locate eggs. A place called Rainbow came highly recommended by strangers on the internet. We gave it a whirl.

We were squirreled away in an outdoor topiary garden full of dogs. I imagine Heaven to be similar, both in layout and in fare.

They put tortilla chips right up in my eggs. Crazy bastards. Ladygirl got eggs benedict and they very nearly made her cry.

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Miracle Benedict #egg #Benedict #colorado

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I flagged down one of the manic pixie dream waitresses and asked where I could find sunblock. She directed me to either “a 7/11 around here somewhere, I don’t know”, then gave much more precise directions to a local place called Lucky’s Market, which she described as “huge”. Her hair had green highlights, and she waved her arms around a lot.

Lucky’s was huge. The first half of the store designed to replicate a farmer’s market, with big wooden boxes full of carefully arranged produce for your perusal and selection. The second half was a standard CVS dealie, but all we could find was “pure mineral sunblock” on clearance.

I asked a stock guy for sunblock and he said, “Oh, that’ll be over in apothecary.” He wasn’t joking.

The third half of the store (totaling 150% and explaining its hugeness) was similar to a pharmacy, but much faker. One of the aisles was devoted entirely to tricking people into thinking they were getting high.

Somewhere in Eastern Europe, I wanna say Vienna, there were dozens upon dozens of sketchy tourist storefronts trying to pawn off packages of cookies and “hemp extract” with giant pot leaves emblazoned on them, trying to capitalize on American ignorance about the drug laws of other countries, and also, their own country. Psilocybin has been decriminalized in Denver, meaning it’s bottom-priority. The pigs won’t beat down your door for tripping unless it’s a really slow night for them. That doesn’t mean you get it from Rite-Aid.

Ladygirl spent five minutes weighing the pros and cons of grapefruit vs pear scented sunblock. When she made her decision, we hosed down in front of Lucky’s thaumaturgist hut, then ducked into a laid back teahouse called Harbinger, where I did some tickatackin for an hour.

The hour of the Colorado Brewer’s Festival was fast approaching. We fortified ourself with more borger from a place called Big Al’s.

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Lemme get UHHHHHHH #borger #bigal

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Pictured by popular request: borger

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Kraut dog #bigal

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The soundtrack at was absolutely on point at Big Al’s Borger Manufactory. Seamless transition from lo-fi hip-hop beats to relax and study to, into Bad Religion, then an aggressive, aged Panic at the Disco. Simply superb.

Full of grease and power, we began the arduous two-mile journey to Canvas Stadium, where the beers would be.

I was impressed by the number of trees Colorado keeps on hand, even though this one kind of looked like Hoggle.

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Y'all mind if I slide in #Colorado #dms

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We rested briefly on the quad and looked at a thousand jubilant dogs, then completed our mission and approached the stadium gates. George R. R. Martin himself tried to detain us, but that’s a story for another day.

Stay tuned for a proper accounting of the Dark Calculus of the Brewfest.

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

Hidden in the Moors

August 12, 2018. Brookline, New Hampshire.

I was drinking the terrible, watery coffee and eating the terrible, watery waffles in the hotel lobby, carboloading for the art gallery we had slated today. Allegedly, they had early Monets. The TV was too loud, so I had no choice but to hear every detail of developing vandal scandal wherein somebody hit Donnie Trump’s walk of fame star with a pickaxe.

Obviously, I chortled. Who didn’t? My mirth enraged a squadron of portly dads, who proceeded to talk too loud about “these goddamn Democrats”, presumably for my benefit. I do have big black glasses and a beard. You couldn’t blame them for jumping to conclusions. After they didn’t point directly at me to tell me what was wrong with my generation, they quieted down and proceeded into some light racism.

The news then heel-face turned into a story about the New Hampshire Food Truck festival that was taking place a mere 15 minutes from my very table. Well, that settled it. To Hell with Monet. Life is the true art.

The Girl eventually woke and I explained to her that culture can only be absorbed by immersion. She blinked at me blearily and said, “That’s nice.”

It was decided. We drove out to the New Hampshire Dome in Milford.

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It was an imposing structure, but the trucks weren’t in it. When you consider what the trucks are for, it makes sense to not put them indoors.

The traffic cone rope and the tiny Hampshirians in their reflective vests pointed us up the hill, into the woods. The obvious choice.

We were not prepared for what we saw.

It was around 11 AM, and the expansive selection was still setting up; the juggalo-themed art tent wouldn’t arrive for another hour or so. We made a beeline to the Indochine Pavilion.

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The critics, as you can see, were raving. The N.Y. Times called them “Good”! To maximize our food truck festivities and truly appreciate all that NH had to offer, the Girl and I decided we wouldn’t get any actual meals from these trucks. Chicken garlic on a stick are three of my favorite things, so we started there.

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it was, at very least, a three-star affair

From there we proceeded to a local breakfast favorite, the fried manicotti.

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just like mom used to fry. excuse my product placement, Asics is giving me kickbacks

And what New Hampshire foggy moor outing would be complete without the statewide signature favorite, Hot Ballz?

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a bold claim

What are hot ballz, you may ask? A reasonable question. Imagine a hush puppy. Now, instead of spicy dough, fill it with mac and cheese.

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That was about the time I had a heart attack. Bloated with cheese and grease, the Girl and I waddled back out of the moors and, unbelievably, decided our best course of action would be a hike along the Andres Institute of Art outdoor exhibit.

I liked the freaky baby head, but most of the installments looked like the little brass sculptures you find in every flea market. Not to denigrate them; that’s exactly where I found Sir Tetanus the Tintinnabulatory, and he has been a trusted friend and guardian for well over ten years.

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my mans

It started to rain in earnest, and the exhibits were not arranged in an overly user-friendly fashion. If you wanted to see them all, you’d need to take the 14 mile loop. We didn’t want to see them all.

The Girl and I bade a fond(ish) farewell to New Hampshire, and marathon drove home, pausing only to hit a Dunkin Donuts and listen to a hefty local woman scream vitriol at a teenage counter attendant over their lack of donut selection. Imagine her horror if she found outthey’re just called “Dunkin Coffee” in Europe.

And so concludes this leg of the chronicle. Now that I’m financially stable, and so firmly rooted in Philly that I occasionally say “jawn”, it’s time to begin local exploration in earnest.

Love,

The Bastard

 

Haunted Meatloaf

August 11, 2018. Nashua, New Hampshire.

The serrated jaws of madness snapped shut at our heels as we hauled ass from the cultist outpost of Portsmouth and shot down the length of the admittedly non-lengthy state, exhausting my little Korean engine in battle with New Hampshire’s rollicking hills, owing to my stubborn refusal to switch my car out of eco-mode. This is because I’m vegan.

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Wait, don’t stop reading yet. I’m vegan in the way that most people quit smoking. They say, “All right, that’s my last cigarette” and it continues to be true right up until their next cigarette, after which they quit again. Transpose that to ethically motivated dietary restrictions, and replace “cigarette” with “an entire chicken”. So far my record stands at 16 consecutive hours of high-octane additive-free veganism, thanks to intermittent fasting.

The rain had slowed when we arrived at the Country Tavern, alleged by Atlas Obscura to be a brazenly haunted farmhouse turned restaurant and devoting a full page of menu to the legend of the genius locii, Elizabeth Ford. I was hoping to burn enough time that night would have fallen. It was looking like I was going to have to settle for overcast, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the ghost.

There was a brewery across the street called White Birch. A shamanic state of consciousness enhancement could only help my chances of lifting the veil. It was one of the prettier breweries I’d run across on this trip, with an open floor plan, lacquered marble tabletops, and a huge plasma screen TV mounted behind the bar. It was also as cold as meat locker.

Everyone was dressed like they had been phase-shifted in from a ski lodge. I realized I was the only human on the premises in shorts and a t-shirt. It was 80 degrees outside.

The decor spoke to me. The walls were hung with slabs of wood with delightfully redundant carvings of birch trees and Hobbit quotes. Hobbit quotes were a popular ornamentation in New England breweries, for some reason. Between these plaques were $35 White Birch sweatshirts and hoodies. They did not sell t-shirts. That explained the temperature.

I grinned widely in appreciation of their aesthetic sense and their cunning, and ordered a flight of the most heavily liquored beers they had available.

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They just flung bourbon and tequila into all kinds of shit. The bartender was an obvious dad who looked like he played linebacker in college and kept in shape. He surreptitiously warned me that they have to put “4 oz” on the menu for legal reasons, but each flight cup was actually 5 oz. I told him the secret was safe with me.

The Girl returned from the bathroom and ordered a 16 oz draft, since it was “the same price as a flight anyway”. I clucked my tongue and did not call her a rube, but I felt quietly superior.

It would be revealed that we were both, in fact, rubes. The combination of an empty stomach and 20 oz of tequila-beer would result in both of us hurling vitriol at the television during a news story about some girl with terrible squat form. It turns out the point of the story was not that the girl’s squat form was terrible, but that she had survived some debilitating disease and now squatted (poorly). Oops.

Fortunately, I choose to believe our innate charisma helped us break even with the pleasant staff vis-a-vis this high-decibel faux pas. And if I was drunk enough to Bro Out at a quaint, frozen little Tolkeinesque brewery, I was drunk enough to eat with a ghost.

The Country Tavern was a cozy converted farmhouse with old-world sensibilities, decorated like your grandma’s house, if your grandma lived in a massive 3-story restaurant. It was full of Olds, none of whom seemed to mind the advertised aura of death. We sat at the table, demolishing haunted bread. The waitress was a perky blonde woman who became very excited when I asked about the spirit-in-residence, and gave us a punctuated Midnight Society retelling, then gave us a misspelled placemat that filled in the blanks.

Elizabeth Ford lived in the farmhouse in the 1700s. She was married to an alcoholic sea captain with poor impulse control. She had a baby while he was at sea, and when he returned he was… displeased. The jury is out as to whether he thought she cheated on him, or if he was mad she churned out his baby in his absence, or if he just wasn’t ready for fatherhood. What he was ready for was serial murder. He killed his wife and chucked her down a well, then killed the baby and buried it under a tree.

“Have you had any sightings?” the Girl asked. “Like, you personally?”

The waitress frowned, then nodded. “Well, nothing big. Sometimes the cups will fall for no reason, or there will be moving shadows where there shouldn’t be. One time, I was closing, and I almost walked away without taking my tips out of my envelope. I was just about to go out the door when all of a sudden I heard a noise, and I turned around and my envelope had fallen off the table for no reason. I was like, “Oh! Thanks, Elizabeth!””

I snuck off to the bathroom. While in there, I turned the lights off and said “Bloody Mary” into the mirror three times. No spookings occurred. I clicked the light switch back on. The lights didn’t work.

I stood alone in the dark, staring into the mirror and weighing the severity of my miscalculation for three beats. The lights flickered back on.

I wasn’t alone anymore.

Naw, just kidding, I was. That’d be wild though.

I returned to the table, only crying a little, and we put in our orders.

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The Girl put in an order for the ghost’s personal chicken. I strongly considered the haunted meatloaf, but eventually went in for the haunted prime rib. It had been years and I didn’t remember if I liked prime rib. (It turns out I do.)

reset the ol’ vegan counter

It was the first really substantial meal we had eaten all trip. I was rejuvenated. I finished the Girl’s ghost’s pasta and almost ate the decorative plastic flowers by accident.

Before we hit the road, I snuck off to the bathroom again.

“Hey, Elizabeth,” I said aloud. “Liz. Can I call you Liz? Listen, that Bloody Mary thing was in poor taste, and might have been racist, and I’m sorry for it. You’ve been hanging out here for a few hundred years, and I’m just worried you’re dwelling on the past. Why don’t you come with? I’m not tryna sound all psychopompous but my place back in Philly is pretty sick, it’s got all sorts of skulls and candles and witchy shit, good ghost ambiance. Plenty of room! Give city unlife a try. It’s got to beat watching these Olds eat for the rest of eternity.”

I turned off the lights, winked at the mirror, and went out to rejoin the Girl. She had cornered an elderly server, who was pointing out the window to where the baby was alleged to be buried.

“Used to be an old elm tree there,” he said in that distinctive elderly New England man way, with the gravitas that makes Stephen King’s tertiary characters so disturbing. “Tore it up, but they never moved the body. Still lyin’ under there. Ayuh.”

The Girl and I returned to my car. I opened the back door and made a demonstrative ushering gesture.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Getting the door for Liz.”

“You invited a ghost back to the hotel?”

“Her name is Liz. And I invited her back to the house. What, you’ve never thought about a third?”

The resultant skull eye undoubtedly made Liz feel more comfortable.

“Come on,” I said, closing the door and getting behind the wheel. “She’s in the prime of her afterlife.”

“Stoooooop,” the Girl said. It was more of a drawn-out groan. “Stop talking.”

I did.

The three of us headed back toward Manchester. We had one day left in New Hampshire, and while we had originally had grand designs about going to an art gallery, fate would intervene. We were not destined to look at art. We were destined to live it.

Or peer unblinking at it from the great beyond.

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hey boo

Love,

The Bastard

 

The Shadow Over Portsmouth

August 11, 2018. Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

In the deepest hidden recesses of the internet, on a vague Wikipedia page about “brewing in New Hampshire“, I learned that there is one beer that stands above all others. It is a Russian imperial stout lovingly handcrafted by an unusually tall hill dwarf, undoubtedly from an ancient recipe that his clan brought from under the mountain untold ages ago.

Wikipedia claims it is “the best beer in America” and also “the most sought-after beer in America”. It’s called Kate the Great, and legend has it that it can only be obtained by locating this master brewer on his home turf, the Portsmouth Brewery, and praying to whatever gods you keep that the stars have aligned and it’s in season.

It was drizzling on Mystery Hill, but it hadn’t quite started to monsoon in Portsmouth yet. Thunderclouds loomed in the sky like hanged men, shrouding the little downtown in portentous darkness. Everyone we encountered hated us. This isn’t altogether foreign to me, I’ve chosen the Bastard moniker for a reason, but the Girl tends toward amicability and we hadn’t done anything yet.

In The Shadow Over Innsmouth, an archaeologist crossing New England in search of genealogical information finds a foggy, derelict port town. He thinks it might be interesting to check out, so he books a room and pokes around. The locals seem to share a common deformity, a scaling skin disease, puffing around the face and eyes, and unusual hydrocephaly. They spurn him outright. We’re talking like, Amish shunning. The inhabitants call him an outsider and refuse to sell him anything. They bar most public places against him, and retreat into their homes if they see him on the street. As the novella goes on, he discovers that the inhabitants of Innsmouth have been interbreeding with a race of cannibal fish-people, the Deep Ones, who conduct grisly rites in worship of a bloodthirsty aquatic god called Dagon.

I thought the parallels were cute at first, but as our time in Portsmouth wore on, they got more distressing. We’d driven across New Hampshire into an HD remaster of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.

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The Portsmouth Brewery was wall-to-wall with people, easily the most active building in the town. The hostess sneered that the wait for a table would be 20 minutes. The Girl said that would be fine, and asked if we could get a drink while we wait.

“Yeah, I guess.”

We dodged around the teeming masses of people and, for some reason, all their infant children, to get to the bar. When did the bringing babies into bars phenomenon start? And why? Babies don’t go in bars. Babies go in, I don’t know, parks. McDonald’s Playplace.

Eventually, the girl tending came over to us.

“Hey, we’re here treasure hunting,” I said, trying for charming. “Legend has it this is our best shot at getting Kate the Great. Do you have that right now?”

She scoffed. “We’ll never serve THAT beer again.”

I exchanged a glance with the Girl.

“Is this like, a sensitive subject?”

“No,” she said, providing the exposition she really should have led with, “It’s just, the brewer just quit working here, it was this whole big thing, so we don’t have Kate the Great anymore.”

“Do you know where he went?”

“He opened his own brewery, Tributary. It’s in Maine. But here, you can see our draft list.”

This was technically true. It was in Maine, across a bridge, an 8 minute drive from our present location. It was also technically true that we could see the draft list. It consisted entirely of IPAs, which would have been clutch if I’d ever liked one.

“Can we have a minute to think about it?” the Girl asked. The bartender nodded and drifted off. We escaped to the place next door, which had a similar draft list, substituting one of the IPAs with Budweiser which it listed as a “light lager”.

“I can’t Yelp,” the Girl said. “This is impossible. Two for two. You do it. I’m losing hope.”

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dolphins have had it good for TOO LONG

A few blocks away was a brewery called Earth Eagle, which specialized in a hopless proto-beer called “gruit”. It’s a Danish word, and should be pronounced “gryoo-IT”, but I pronounce it groot and will continue to do so until dead.

We made our way past the cute little technicolor New England cottages to Earth Eagle. Random assignment from day two of any outdoor music festival would give you the clientele. It was also crowded, but not as bad as the Portsmouth Brewery.

“Could we sit outside?” the Girl asked. The waitress glared at us balefully.

“You can if you want,” she said. “But it’s gonna rain.”

“If it starts to get bad, we’ll move back in,” the Girl said.

“You should probably just sit inside.”

The Girl was ready to fight her on this. She was hangry. I’m always hangry, and so I’ve developed a tolerance. I steered her aside.

“Not worth it,” I said. “If we sit outside, no one’s going to come take our order.”

It looked like no one was going to anyway. After a while, one of the Deep Ones waddled over, and we ordered gruit. It tasted like beer-flavored juice. They also played the entirety of Rancid’s “And Out Come the Wolves”. I found that suspicious. Like they were humoring me, and when I left they’d return to their backward recordings of whale song and those high-pitched meditation bowls.

The scene was about to turn. I could hear them sharpening their knives. During the next ponderous waitress’ circuit, we waylaid, paid, and am-scrayed.

“I’m so hungry,” the Girl said. “This is where we die.”

“Very possible. I’ll bet they have a sacrificial table here, too.”

“Bastard, we need to find something,” she said. “I’ll go back in there and eat tofu puffs if I have to.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I said. “Listen. We’ll go back to the pizza place. We don’t need to drink there. We’ll just get a pizza. It’s impossible to ruin pizza.”

She was hesitant, but I kept saying, “Huh? Piiizza?”, and that eventually won her over. That’s a pro strat for you, fellas. No charge. Just remember where you learned it.

They were kinder at the pizza place, probably because it was in a basement full of aquariums, and being below sea level and surrounded by their brethren soothed the agitated merfolk. They had a giant neon sign for RED HOOK, which I presumed to be of “The Horror At” fame, and would have won me a prize had I remembered my Mythos bingo card.

We asked the first pleasant waitress in New Hampshire for garlic and it baffled her.

“Garlic? Like, whole garlic?”

“No, like, powder,” the Girl said. “Or salt, if that’s all you have.”

“We… might have some in the kitchen.”

“That’s only a thing where we’re from,” I told her. “When I went west, none of the pizza places had garlic. A lot of ’em didn’t even have oregano.”

The Girl looked as though she might cry. “But… but why?”

“Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

We were given this.

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garçon! a ration of garlic powder, s’il vous plait, and your finest sprinkling fork

We walked back out into the building tempest. The fishfolk were growing stronger as it became soggier. It was like you could hear the Jaws theme playing in the distance.

“We gotta look at the whale wall,” I said. “That’s like the only other attraction. Then we get the hell out of here.”

We looked at the whale wall. It was both.

Then, we scurried back to the car.

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mood

Unfortunately, the Deep Ones were lying in wait for us. A supply truck was sitting in the middle of the street, right next to my car, parking us and only us in. I couldn’t get around it, and there wasn’t enough sidewalk for any real desperate escape maneuvers. I waited, crouched in the driver’s seat with a fileting knife clutched to my chest. The Girl sat shotgun, slowly pumping up a super soaker full of tartar sauce.

Some other lost tourist/genealogist had parked in front of us, and finally returned to her car. She got the hell out of my way and we made our daring escape.

We crossed the bridge into Maine. It immediately stopped raining. Whatever ancient cult magic held sway in Portsmouth didn’t extend beyond its borders.

Tributary Brewing Company even had a parking lot for free! It was busy, as one would expect for the chosen brewery of the creator of America’s alleged best beer. We sat on the bench along the wall and had a flight and took in the ambiance, most of which consisted of impressionist paintings of this dude’s face.

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Mott the Lesser is what he renamed Kate the Great, presumably in order to avoid legal disputes with Portsmouth Brewing. It wasn’t in season, but that was all right. Ask Tennyson. It was never about the Grail. The quest is all.

The man himself sat at a table, eating his lunch and grinning the grin of a man presently living his dreams. He was surrounded by a squadron of adoring Dads. I will admit the dude had an aura, and his biere de miel and porter were magnificent. The porter tasted like smoked joy.

We went next door to a tasteful mermaid-themed restaurant with walls colored in equally tasteful mermaid tiddy art. In retrospect, I should have photographed that, instead of whatever the hell it was we ate. (I know mine was scallops, and I know they were excellent).

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Our next stop, continuing with the supernatural theme along New England’s eldritch ley lines, would lead us to the most haunted restaurant in America.

But that’s a spooky campfire story for another day.

Love,

The Bastard

 

Berlin, Germany: The Voyage Home

December 6, 2017. Berlin, Germany.

It was an hour bus ride to the airport. A British redhead sitting across the aisle was reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, which I’d slogged through last year. I asked her what she thought. She said it was interesting, but Oliver Sacks couldn’t write worth a damn. That might sound like an opinion, but it was actually objective fact. May he rip in peace.

I slithered through security easily enough, conscious as always of the pound of Turkish Delight I had in my backpack. I expected someone to confiscate it every time I went through a turnstile. If I were airport security, I’d think they were drugs. The German airport didn’t seem to care.

I will say this of the Schoenefeld airport: it was by far the least efficient I’d ever flown from, and I started this trip from Philadelphia. Desk-workers and security personnel alike acted like they were working the night shift at Wawa. The security check lines were so long that I had to join a small exodus that took us outside into the snow, for some reason, then into a different building where we waited for a different disaffected German twentysomething to glance disinterestedly at our passports than dismissal-wave us through.

I knew they wouldn’t let me convert my small change Euros back stateside so I blew as much of my jingle as I could on a grim airport ciabatta roll sandwich, which I grazed on as I saw the sights offered by Berlin’s cheapest, worst airport.

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I, too, liebe Büüüücher. They had Sapiens, which is my favorite nonfiction book, but nothing else really noteworthy and certainly nothing I was willing to spend the asking 30 Euro on.

I kept wandering and found the liebe didn’t stop there.

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“Colorful mascot,” I said out loud in the restroom. Even if everybody speaks English in Germany, no one’s going to talk to the American murmuring to himself at the condom machine. “We could learn a lot from the Billy Boy company, I think.”

Truly, the Berlin airport provided all amenities.

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i knew i forgot to pack something

Something for everyone.

I left the bathroom and my eye was forgivably caught by this:

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This is an ad for sunglasses. Germans. Go figure.

Here’s a recurrent problem in my life. I equate “survivable” with “favorable”. The short-notice plane ticket from Germany’s worst airport back to the piss-stinking ’90s underground sci-fi dystopia of PHL only cost me $300, but that was because of all the extra stops and layovers. All told, I would be spending 48 consecutive hours either on planes or in airports. I looked at that and said, “That’s only like two nights of sleeping on benches. And indoors, too! I’ll take it.”

It was highly survivable, but I don’t recommend it for your next vacation.

I flew out of the weird, sexy, lazy airport to the north, where the cold lives, landing in the frozen but beautiful taint of Norway via the Oslo Airport.

Friends, mark me well. If you ever plan on going to Scandinavia, don’t. You can’t afford it. A meal is like $25 and it’s impossible to go anywhere without hiring a driver. Instead, just go see the Oslo Aiport. Athena, it was dazzling.

It was warm, clean, well lit. Everyone looked uncomfortable, but that’s just Scandinavia. Everyone I met from the Nordic countries was reticent and awkward right up until you fed them liquor, at which point they became… I think the best word for it is raunchy. Suggestive, but not necessarily following through. More like a bunch of middle-school boys at the cafeteria table, making dick jokes.

They didn’t seem to be imbibing at the airport. They mostly seemed to be pacing around and frowning. I thought about buying something to eat, but I’d need to convert my money to Norwegian kroners, and I had no desire whatsoever to deal with a fifth type of currency that would become useless to me within an hour. I decided I’d starve.

I wandered around the fish-smelling airport, admiring the Home Alone 2 christmas displays and the strange tourist traps. One of them had a taxidermied polar bear in front. I don’t know why.

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certainly a different sentiment than in Berlin

It was only a couple hours at Oslo before I got jettisonned back to good ol’ LIS in Lisbon, Portugal. I’d had a layover here earlier on in my quest, and I was starting to feel a little guilty for passing over the Portuguese twice in a row. A German friend told me that it the Portuguese were almost American in their passion for deep fried meats covered in cheese then deep fried again on top of other meats. That artery halter might be worth the price of admission alone, but I didn’t take advantage of my 12 hour layover to go investigate.

For one thing, it was the middle of the goddamn night. I’d arrived around 9 PM local time, and everything in the airport was closing down. In theory I could have tried to catch a bus into Lisbon proper, maybe found a bar that kept serving food until late on a Monday night, but that sounded expensive, time-consuming, and kind of risky since I had to be ready to run the security gauntlet at 6 or 7 AM.

Instead, I ate a bocadillo, drank some kind of porter, then fell asleep on one of the three benches that existed in the airport, right next to the McDonalds.

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our scruffy and weatherbeaten hero on a tiny Portuguese airport couch

I managed a solid eight hours, which is a rare occurrence for someone of my temperament even with a real bed. Maybe I was designed to sleep in corners. Maybe I should give up this ridiculous charade and ride the rails, sleeping under bridges and eating out of coffee can stew pots, a gentleman hobo at long last.

When I woke up, I had the exact same meal as last night, only this time it was breakfast.

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breakfast of champions

I finally recrossed the Atlantic and returned to the purple mountains majesty.

Perhaps an exaggeration. I flew into Miami. There were no mountains, and there was certainly no majesty. It was 80 degrees outside. At long last, customs took me aside to rifle through my belongings and investigate my Turkish Delight.

I had waited for this moment, but I still didn’t know how to play it out. The box was sealed in plastic. Would they cut it open? Would they bring drug-sniffing dogs through? Would they be good boys?

A series of security guards on a sliding scale of surliness squinted suspiciously at my supplies. They interrogated me on the countries I’d been through, how long I’d stayed in each, and how many drugs and guns I brought back. After writing my answers (“a bunch”, “a while”, and “not too many”) on a notepad, they dumped out my backpack, rifled through my dirty laundry (literally speaking), then told me I was good to go. I unfucked everything they fucked up in my pack and wandered into the Miami airport proper.

It was as close to the opposite of the Oslo airport as you can get. Small, cramped, smelly, absolutely hideous, and hot. This was my new home for the next 15 hours.

I wasn’t as tired, and I had Real Money now, so the world was my oyster. Unfortunately, the world as of now was in Florida. I did a search of anything worth doing in the vicinity, and the only hit that even remotely struck my fancy was a reverse zoo called the Monkey Jungle. The premise was that the monkeys and apes got a whole reservation to frolic and play and do whatever they wanted (some would call it monkeying around but that is way beneath me), and the human customers remained in a long, caged tunnel. I don’t like zoos because, as both a big dumb animal and a tired, poor, huddled mass yearning to be free, the concept of captivity pisses me right off. But this sounded close enough to a “natural habitat” situation that I wouldn’t get a bad taste in my mouth.

Unfortunately, it was a 7 hour walk.

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So much for that. I did a lot of writing that day, instead.

I had a grand design to sleep on the couches outside the Margaritaville, but that fell apart when I discovered those couches were a special lounge reserved for the people staying in the ritzy-ass hotel built into the airport. There were no other couches or benches, of course — if there were, why would anyone stay in the airport hotel? — so I wound up sleeping on horrible, vaguely triangular benches next to the door, which was next to some highway or the other.

They were shaped like the Mercedes logo, a foot and a half wide at the broadest point and tapering toward the ends. An old man was curled up on a different one, but even with all the weight I’d lost in Europe, I still had at least sixty pounds on him. I managed to balance my tremendous corpus on the giant, three-legged starfish, one leg running down either point, torso on the other. I folded my arms across my chest like a Dracula and slept until a couple of security guards started shouting at one another in Spanish for no reason aside from to be dicks. At least, that was the best I could surmise.

I’d gotten four hours. I could get four more.

I gathered my stuff and wandered toward the bathrooms, which I discovered, had become a sort of hobo jungle. See, the hallway leading up to the bathrooms were carpeted, so even though it was very loud (due primarily to the other obnoxious security guards, also shouting in Spanish), everyone had decided to sleep on the floor here. I found an empty space and joined them for my remaining four hours, then boarded the plane for home, where some motherfucker would not stop touching me with his elbow. There’s an unspoken rule about even division of space on airports, and he had no intention of observing it, no matter how any times I elbowed him. We’re not talking subtly, either. I was throwin’ some serious ‘bos. If I’d been on WWE, they would be accompanied by an announcer screaming “OHHHHHHHHHHH” or maybe “FROM THE TURNBUCKLE!” My seatmate was not phased.

The crew lied about our arrival four or five times in different directions. They didn’t know what they were talking about, but hoo lordy, did they love to talk. Every six minutes or so the shrillest, most obnoxious voice you can imagine screeched through the cabin to pepper us with “VERY friendly reminders” and other nauseating, unnecessary pleasantries. The pilot had never landed a plane before, and took his time to fuck that up. I was considering walking up there and doing it myself.

When we were finally on the ground, I threw one last elbow for good luck, collected my contraband, and officially returned to Pennsylvania.

Now, onto the next great adventure.

Love,

The Bastard