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.

Denver: Vehicular Manslaughter

Sunday, June 30, 2019. Denver, Colorado.

I woke in the Aloft hostel. It had been fine the night before, when I was so drunk I couldn’t see, but that beautiful dream was burning away, as if in morning sunlight. Not literally, since the shade was broken, and there was no sunlight. Just pretend.

Desperation had driven me to this chain before. The Dublin Aloft was an exercise in the grotesque, but it was also my first hostel and I mistakenly believed every hostel would be like that, and that’s why they are all like $20 a night.

I quickly determined that our toilet was broken. The reason we had a broken toilet is some brain genius left the instructions in the tank upon installation.

I peeled the lid off the tank and found a plastic bag containing a swollen bundle of pages the size of a telephone book, bobbing in the water like it belonged there.

“Hmm,” I said.

I called down to inform the front desk. Nothing happened for fifteen minutes. I also went down in person to inform the front desk. We were assured it would be taken care of. I asked when. The timetable was unknown.

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reeeee

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Also, plumbing ree!

The showers worked, for the time being, and we made use of them and then had breakfast at a place called the Delectable Egg. It delivered as advertised.

Everything in Denver is craft. How do dog silhouettes relate to hot sauce, you may ask? Well, another reason this magnificent city is the modern shangri-la is no one has fewer than two dogs at any given time. You walk around these huge, open streets, breathe the clean air, and exchange smiles (smiling! in a city!) with the population of rangy, athletic people walking multiple dogs.

It’s like Bizarro Philly.

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Long may be reign #dog #milehighdogs #allhail #Denver

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We made our way up the 16th Street Mall, a collection of big-name boutiques with a fleet of big red shuttle buses running on each block for free. We had grand designs to catch one of the shuttles and ride it to the end of its track, then cross the bridge into downtown proper, allowing us to absorb more of the local flavor than would be accessible at Dunkin and Old Navy.

The block down from the hostel had a little outdoor topiary garden and avant garde sculptures, as well as just a regular-ass cow with Denver facts written on it.

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Infrastructure cow #infrastructure #cow #denver

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While we were admiring the shrubbery, the shuttle rolled up, and kept rolling, directly into a homeless guy.

Anarchy erupted.

The driver waddled out of the bus, stricken, literally chewing her nails as a mob formed. The homeless guy lay next to the bus, alongside his metal walker, both sprawled in the decorative hedges. Concerned locals circled like vultures. I started to call 911, but a screaming lady was already on it.

Some bald guy was whipping the crowd into a frenzy. He was howling all sorts of invective; the details escape me, but the general implication was that this was no accident, but rather, premeditated vehicular homicide, and if we did not act soon the obese middle-aged immigrant bus driver would get away with it again.

“For TOO LONG they’ve been getting away with this! When are we going to stand up and ACT!”

The wolves were closing in. Everyone was getting louder and angrier. It was approaching the event horizon. I helpfully interjected with the fullness of my Thu’um.

“Everybody shut up!” I roared. “The man is hurt, and this isn’t helping him! Back up and give him some air!”

I am big, and rarely roar these days. The majority of my work is with women, and they find it distressing. It was risky to inject that kind of visceral fight-or-flight response into an already escalated crowd, but I maintain adolescent delusions of physical invulnerability, and I doubt those middle-aged women and Left coast soyboys could actually kill me. They could kill the bus driver, though. Metabolic syndrome had done half the job already.

So I drew their attention, and everyone’s head whipped around to me like I’d farted in church. Most of them were suitably abashed. The bald kid was not. Rather, he was immediately in my face.

“Don’t fucking talk to me like that!” he yelled. “Who the fuck are you, to talk to me like that?”

“You’re making it worse,” I said to him. Quietly, now. Conversationally. Within the newfound intimacy of our range. “Rein it in.”

“Fuck you! You fucking dork.”

He spat this as though it were the most devastating slur in his arsenal. I looked down at him, at the roadmap of veins bulging on his male pattern pate. The modern parlance would place him firmly in the manlet zone, 5’6″ or so, and visibly winded from all the excitement.

Though I felt a yearning to break him down into his component parts, I knew it was vestigal instinct, and not real useful. How embarrassing would that be? Ruining my first Bastard Travel in months by getting arrested at the scene of a vehicular manslaughter for punching the skin off this tubby progeriac? “It was self-defense! He called me a dork.”

“All right, buddy,” I said slowly, as though talking to a small, dull child. “This isn’t about you. Somebody’s hurt.”

He said something clever about “fuck you” again, so I walked past him, giving him the opportunity to do something aside from snarl. He did not.

I crouched by the homeless dude. He was breathing. No blood or anything. The shuttle just knocked him off his feet. Or off his walker, I guess. His shoulder was pressed against the side of the shuttle, into a billboard ad for knockout dentistry. A few bystanders were also pressing their hands into the ad to ensure the bus driver didn’t make a quick getaway.

The ambulance pulled up. Cops would be there soon. Though I’m no longer the hood rat criminal I once was, I continue to make it a point to be where cops aren’t.

The bus driver wasn’t stoned to death, so that was a plus, depending on where you were standing. I went to go find Ladygirl.

“Listen man,” the bald kid said, drifting back into my line of vision, “I’m sorry. That’s my bad. I was caught up in the moment, and I was out of line. It’s just, this shit keeps happening.”

“The bus keeps hitting people?” I asked.

“I’m an activist,” he told me, suddenly and jarringly. By rote. He had been preparing this. When had he prepared this? We stopped talking sixty seconds ago. “So I use my voice a lot.”

“Okay,” I said.

He limply shook my hand, then started to describe more of his activism to me. I said I had somewhere to be and bounced.

Ladygirl was half a block up, sitting on a bench next to all the horticulture and looking perturbed. You can tell she’s perturbed because her eyes triple in size, so you can see the whites all the way around. Whenever there’s a loud noise, she briefly looks like an anime character.

“What happened?” she asked.

“The bus hit a homeless guy,” I said.

“Oh my God,” she said. “Is everyone okay?”

“Nobody died while I was there,” I said. “Although this bald dude came close. Let’s get out of here.”

“Yeah,” she said, “maybe… maybe let’s catch the bus the next block up.”

“Sure,” I said. “Just be ready to dodge.”

On our return journey (spoiler: we survive the day), we would find the bald activist howling incoherently on the same street corner, to no one. Motioning frantically to the scene of the crime. The lack of an audiance did not discourage him from “using his voice”.

Fuckin’ dork.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Lemme get uhhh 1 mcdml #borger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’s the best,” he said, dreamily.

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

“Take off your glasses,” she commanded.

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

“Kind of,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah!” S– said. “She did.”

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

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

“Another what?”

“Another hurricane shot, dude! Come on!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What a beautiful relationship,” I said.

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

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

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

Love,

The Bastard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So much just happened!” she said.

“How?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Gotta catch ’em all.”

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

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

“Y’all got borger around here?”

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

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

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

“You guys like Greek food?”

“Yes.”

“YUM YUMMMMMS!” he told the Collector again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

The Bastard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can’t have bags in there.”

I nodded sagely. “You’re right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*snap snap snap snap*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

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: Big Bear Boss Battle and Lovecraft’s Grave

May 26, 2019. Providence, Rhode Island.

The narrow escape from Dystopia Beach left a bad taste in my mouth, and my only recourse was to cleanse it with some of Providence’s world-famous Greek food.

I ordered moussaka and they gave me a hot pocket with chili powder in it for some reason. Whatever. We got beef, we got eggplant, there aren’t any dandelion sprouts on it, I’ll be okay.

My olive oil levels once again stabilized, we ranged out to Brown University campus to see what Atlas Obscura vaguely described as a “colossal, untitled bear”.

We just so happened to show up on graduation weekend, because of course we did. The campus was overflowing with humans and absolutely filthy with pigs, setting up their little flashy-light campus cruisers on every corner, blocking intersections, leering at college girls from beneath their sad faux-military haircuts like the hundred palette-swapped bastards of Hoggish Greedly.

The Girl was slower to shake Dystopia Beach’s malaise. The whole drive and for most of the walk she was grumbling and gnashing her teeth with a formless misanthropy about to Brown being ritzy ivy-league digs. It was surreal. Like looking in a pretty, red-haireded mirror.

“There’s just an arrogance to it,” she told me as we passed the sixth or seventh lax bro in salmon chino shorts and sandals. “Like it carries all this weight just because it’s an ivy league school. There’s this grand implication to it, like they pity anyone who didn’t have the few hundred grand lying around to avoid a state school. It’s pretentious.”

“I didn’t know Brown was ivy league.”

“Yeah!” she said. “Brown is like, a big deal art school.”

I shrugged. “Can’t be too big a deal. I never heard of it before I found out about the bear.”

Let’s talk about the bear.

According to Atlas Obscura,

“This strange bear slumps in the corner of a university quad. There’s nothing cuddly about the oversized creature, or the abnormally large lamp slicing into its head.

Untitled (Lamp/Bear) by Swiss artist Urs Fischer is a unique addition to Brown University’s campus. It certainly keeps with the school’s reputation as the most free-spirited member of the Ivy League.”

Oof. Okay, I could see how the ivy league thing could get grating.

It’s supposed to be made of bronze, but the pictures on the site made it look like a perspective trick done with a beanie baby. Although, this beanie baby has a lamp jammed in its head, with sort of a Sid’s room Toy Story aesthetic. How could I resist?

We left the car by a park and climbed up a ridiculous hill toward the campus proper for what had to be the better part of a mile.

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Yeah, that’s an understatement.

Halfway up, Google Maps told me we were approaching “Lovecraft Square”. We swung a block wide to check out what was undoubtedly a grand monument to Providence’s weirdest son.

Not so much with the “grand”. I figured, they’re so free and easy with bronze in this town, the least they could do is throw together a bust of his grimacing elongated mug. No such luck. This plaque was the entire memorial.

“They did my mans dirty,” I said with a mournful shake of my head.

When we finally crested Mount Brown, we walked into what appeared to be an active graduation ceremony. Real frying pan-fire scenario. We had to push against the flow of bodies, functionally swimming upstream to get onto one of the several quads and begin the hunt.

For a gargantuan sky-blue bear sculpture, it proved surprisingly difficult to find. We did two laps of the block before turning the correct corner and facing the monster down.

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Boss battle #bear #brown #providence

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It was truly huge, and deceptively made of metal. I knocked on its huge foot and it did, in fact, make a ting sound. A local approached me, sensing my awe of the size of this lad, and asked if I’d take her picture with it.

“Sure. You here for the festivities too?”

“Oh, I just graduated,” she said with commendable nonchalance, leaning on the bear. “I just didn’t want to walk. The ceremony is a waste of time, and it’s not like I’m done.”

“Yeah? Congratulations! What was your major?”

“Evolutionary biology,” she said. “But it’s just a Master’s. I’m going for the doctorate, this is barely even a thing.”

“You did the work!” I said, taking the picture. “You can be proud of the work. A lot of people never make it to Master’s, even if it is just a pit stop for you. Congratulations, really.”

She looked down and smiled and said thanks. It was a humble, charming gesture, but obviously too close to a compliment. I broke even by telling her I didn’t walk either.

“The ceremony itself is absolutely bullshit.”

Staring up into Untitled Bear/Lamp’s cold, vacant eyes, I finally knew fear.

The Girl and I swam back downstream and tumbled down Mount Brown, then got into the car and made our getaway. We had already settled affairs at the hotel. There was only one stop left to make.

Howie P had an understated plot in the center of a sprawling cemetery complex, differentiated from its fellows only by the worn grass, the stacks of pennies, and the small Cthulhu statue.

“Rise, H.P.,” I said with an appropriately necromantic gesticulation. “Wise fwom youw gwave! Get your bony ass up, we got things to do!”

He remained reluctant.

“Up and at ’em!” I said. “Come on. You gotta see the state of the place. Cthulhu’s a household name! Heads up, don’t say the N-word, though. That’s… pretty important.”

The lazy bastard stayed down. I frowned over at the Girl.

“Maybe it has to be dark,” I said.

“This is ghoulish,” she said.

“It’s what he would have wanted.”

I left an incantation hanging, hoping it would take once night fell. We didn’t stick around to find out. If you see a lanky skeleton with social anxiety jangling around Rhode Island, that’s my bad.

And so ends the Providence chronicle. We headed back to Philly to prepare for the next week’s jaunt to a beach, distinct from the Rhode Island beach trip in that it was planned and consensual.

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?

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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”.

 

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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

 

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.

mymans

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