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

 

 

Do Attend

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

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

do attend

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

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

terminator

leanin p heavy on terminator references these days

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

20190427_120541

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


what meeting would be complete without a DJ?

 

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

“WHAT”

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

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

“No!”

“All right, sorry to bother you.”

I moved on.

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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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

 

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.

ecofriendly

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.

spookywoman

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

 

Those Cheeky Devils

August 17, 2018. Bastard HQ.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled venomous travelogue to catch you up on recent events in Little Rock, Arkansas, where representatives of the Satanic Temple are presently boolin outta control.

Arkansas has been struggling with controversy surrounding the separation of church and state for a while now, if by “struggling with controversy surrounding” you mean “baffled by”. It came to a head in 2017 when they constructed a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Capitol Building in Little Rock. A gorgeous 6-foot marble dealie.

This didn’t sit too good with a dude named Michael Tate Reed, who drove his car into the monument that night.

That’s already funny enough, but it turns out Mikey wasn’t a radicalized atheist! You can tell because radicalized atheists do nothing but smoke pot and have lengthy debates in the comments on Chris Hitchens youtube videos. No, this is better; dude is a staunch Christian who believed that God called on him to destroy the monument.

The Little Rock gubmint decided this is the hill they’re gonna die on. Give up now and the devil wins, right? So they build another monument, another gorgeous 6-foot marble dealie. They’re getting criticism from all sides, but they remain strong in their conviction. This is rapidly become a crusade!

Well, you need the polarity for a good narrative conflict, especially on matters as grandiose as good versus evil. Enter the Satanic Temple, looking to be your heretic, yeaaaah.

These witchpunk son of a bitches load up their eight-and-a-half-foot Baphomet statue, ordinarily located in their cute little art gallery in Salem, Massachusetts, and cruise down to Little Rock to parade it around the Capitol and generally cause a fuss.

And what a fuss it has caused.

Here’s a couple tweets I stole:

twitter

boolin

Sure, there’s a legitimate realpolitik interplay at work here, but I’ve met the Satanic Temple. Two years ago, I took pictures at their podium (which was forbidden, but I figured if anyone would appreciate transgressing arbitrary demonstrative propriety rules, it would be the Satanic temple). I got pictures sitting on the Baphomet statue, which will show up one day in a #tbt post.

The political aspect is theater, because, in their devotion to discord, they see politics as  cheap theater. These kids are just out there having a good time.

baphomet

Baphy represents the dichotomous nature of everything. Animal and man, male and female, above and below, you get the picture. It’s almost too appropriate to wheel him out next to the 10 Commandments monument, especially since you know these obnoxious little neo-goths are telling the religious right counterprotesters, “our monolith is bigger than yours”.

The Satanic Temple gets a bad rap because of edgy teenagers in facepaint who kill sacrifice cats or whatever, but what you’re talking about there is a perversion of Christianity. See, acknowledging a “Mr. Satan” as a spiritual entity means you’re playing the God game. To have a real Satan means you have a real Sky Dad that he’s in rebellion against, and believing in one necessarily predicates believing in the other.

If your grandma believes in angels, she must also believe in demons, but it’s best not to mention that to her.

Satanists actually believe in a sequence of decidedly libertarian (or maybe libertine) anti-commandments called the Seven Tenets. They look a little something like this:

  1. “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.”
  2. “The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”
  3. “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
  4. “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.”
  5. “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.”
  6. “People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and remediate any harm that may have been caused.”
  7. “Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”

Pretty close to Buddhism, but with spookier statuary.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s kind of nice to see headlines about a “religious conflict” in the news without a bunch of explosions and corpses. And if nothing else, you got to give them points for the aesthetic.

podium

forbidden. what’re they gonna do, hex me?

All right, kids. Vaya con Dios, or Hail Satan, or Hail Eris, or namaste, or whatever the hell it is you do. Juju is juju. However you handle it, keep your mana bar full.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

Hengin’ Out on Mystery Hill

 

August 11, 2018. Mystery Hill, New Hampshire.

The continental breakfast was your choice of limp Eggos, individual yogurt containers suspended in ice water, or off-brand chemical cake honey buns. I took a little of everything, variety being the spice of life, and topped it off with three cups of what the truly brazen might describe as coffee. Don’t mistake this for complaining. Continental breakfast is an integral part of the travel experience. If I’d wanted to work around it, I’d have booked a real B&B.

There’s a concept that always puzzled me. You leave home for a change of scenery, then get to a bed-and-breakfast, which is just someone else’s home where you hang out and a stranger takes care of you. I can take care for me. At my own home. The scenery has only technically changed.

First stop, America’s Stonehenge.

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i’m sure you’ve heard this popular colloquialism before

America’s Stonehenge is an active archaeology site in the woods, doing its best to make archaeology an exciting, family-friendly event through the addition of indistinct New Age spirituality, snowshoeing, and an alpaca farm.

The site itself is of nebulous astronomical significance. Carbon dating indicates that the monoliths and cairns served as lines of demarcation for astronomical phenomena, and were probably used in rituals, possibly as far back as 4000 BC. Cosmic entropy has these configurations drifted out of alignment (sort of like how they tried to introduce Ophiuchus as a zodiac sign a few years back), so if these rocks were once for harnessing cosmic juju, they aren’t anymore. Still, pretty cool to see a living chunk of prehistory that may have dated back 6000 years. Some would argue that predates Creation.

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“this is a wigwam. it was probably constructed more recently than 4000 BC, and they usually have walls”

 

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ooo somebody up in that henge

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yall ever have cave anger

20180811_104005Girl: “what time is it?”
me: “time for you to get a sundial”

 

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Oracle Cave interior. i bet that’s what they called it in 4000 BC

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“an etching of an antelope running.” art has since evolved

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now we’re talkin

Nobody’s sure what belief structure dominated in New Hampshire millennia ago, but this table was constructed at the epicenter of this astronomically significant point with a discernible blood channel and a hidden “bed”, carved out way under the rock, so that sound would carry up from under the table while the source of the sound remained hidden.

Metal.

After that we went along the hiking trail and touched all the ominously named monoliths, like the “Eye Stone” and the “Solstice Stone” and for some reason the “Bert Stone”, assuming it would imbue us with stat bonuses like in Skyrim.

I have my suspicions that the last stone there, the thicc Venus of Haverhill, is a more recent addition.

We visited the alpacas on the way out.

It was starting to rain and we hadn’t eaten anything since the several honey buns which were, strictly speaking, not food. We bailed for the forgotten city of Portsmouth. It would be the most like a Lovecraft story I’ve ever lived in real life. The irony there is I didn’t feel particularly eldritch at Mystery Hill, and legend has it visiting the megalith site was big H.P.’s inspiration for The Dunwich Horror.

We didn’t get to stick around til dusk. A real bummer, since you know what they frequently and publicly say: there’s nothing like an America’s Stonehenge sunset.

Love,

The Bastard