Book Review: The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity by Ryan Holiday

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A one-a-day stoicism situation that mostly tells you to think about how you’re going to die soon. Marcy Marcus and the whole funky bunch are accounted for; Rufus, Seneca, Epictetus. It’s a real star-studded affair, and since they’re broken down into these easily digestible daily affirmations (although that doesn’t feel like the right word, given the grim content), you really get a good idea of the contrast between the different Stoic thinkers. For example, Marcus Aurelius? Deeply dour dude. The misery just seeps right out of his aphorisms.

Seneca, on the other hand? A certified chiller. Much more upbeat. Epictetus’s philosophical style is closer to bullying than anything, and Rufus could have passed for a hire-off-the-street orator.

After 365 days, I am positive that I’m going to die soon. And you know what? 2020 was the right year to read this, because at no point did I feel like soiling myself over the Fungus. Mortality is the price of living. Like Marc said, this life is on loan. And like I said, something’s got to kill me.

I just googled it and none of the stoics are quoted as having said “something’s got to kill me”. That’s a BT original. Maybe that’ll be my Stoic legacy, once I succumb to the Fungus or get cut down in a hail of police gunfire. I wouldn’t care for a headstone, as even things carved in stone aren’t carved in stone, but if I had to get one, “Something had to kill me. And did.” wouldn’t be the worst I could do.




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Postcard from the Fringe: Maze of Darkness

The Maze of Darkness, a classic from my initial transatlantic jaunt. Home to ghosts, wax demons, and Vlad the Impaler.

Obviously, this blog is anonymous, but we were fortunate enough to find this handsome Irish stallion to play the role of your humble narrator.

Let me know what you think. Or let Mr. Death know what you think. I imagine we’re about equally interested.

Love,
BT

The New Hotness: Postcards from the Fringe

Your boy is branching out from book reviews and Bourdainposting to break into the virgin market of théâtre.

Bastard Travel is collaborating with Death Science, the pet project of a bone sculptor and close personal friend of mine named Mr. Death. No, really. We were in a band together.

Select adventures are going to be filmed in spooky campfire story format and hosted on Death Science TV. The segment will be called “Postcards from the Fringe”, as they absolutely are.

I’ll add them as they go up, or you can track them and other mortality-themed infotainment straight the source at www.deathscience.tv

Love,
BT

Book Review: Worm at the Core

The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in LifeThe Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life by Sheldon Solomon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death is never far from the mind. That’s the premise of the book, and in many cases, I think it’s an accurate assessment. But I would think that. I am, by my nature, a brooding existentialist supervillain. My house (which I refer to as “my inner sanctum”) and office (“my lair”) are filled with occult imagery, Marcus Aurelius quotes, and animal skulls. My wardrobe is black. And, bonus points, I work in mental health. I am the entire target audience.

Even with that in mind, I had a hard time accepting all of Solomon’s assertions. He seemed to be asking me to take a lot on faith, and I don’t think faith has any place in the science of death, ironic though that statement might seem. Faith can stay in its lane.

Worm at the Core is a phrase ganked from philosopher-heartthrob William James, the first psychology professor in the US and progenitor of one of my favorite belief structures, pragmatism, which he used to address the problem of free will. My dude Bill said that whether humans have free will, or are instinct-driven little flesh automatons, it wouldn’t change our behavior, so there’s no reason to give a shit. William James aggressively applied the “is there a reason to give a shit?” litmus to every argument he faced, and academia withered before his penetrating, Swansonian glare.

“A little cooling down of animal excitability and instinct, a little loss of animal toughness, a little irritable weakness and descent of the pain-threshold, will bring the worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight into full view, and turn us into melancholy metaphysicians.”

Of death, Billy J posited that the shadow of death is always hanging over us, and as soon as we notice it, the temperature drops.

Solomon et al. took that to its extreme, suggesting that the root cause of every psychological malady, from minor mental tummyaches like acute depressive episodes to full-blown reality-warping catatonic schizophrenia, can be attributed to what he termed “death anxiety”, or the fatalistic navel-gazing that chases a momento mori. We are the only animals that know we’re going to die (probably), and whenever we are reminded of our inevitable expiration date, our brain hits the big red panic button. Whenever we are reminded that we are animals, it does the same. Animals die. Whenever we get sick, or notice some grey in the ol’ beard, or see someone truly ancient go wobbling down the street, we get a dose of that death anxiety because we, too, will diminish and die.

Everybody on board so far? Good, here’s where it starts to get shaky.

Solomon suggests that we inoculate ourselves against the knowledge of our own finity through the establishment of self-esteem, which we accomplish by really leaning into norms specific to our culture. This workaround is termed Terror Management Theory, after the existential terror that comes each time we’re forced to confront our own mortality.

For example, in America, the mores that help stave off death are things like outspoken patriotism, and making a lot of money. Some of these things double-soothe because they offer an opportunity for ersatz immortality; for example, the culturally approved mandate of making and caring for your babies allows a genealogical immortality, since you’ve passed on a lot of your traits, and maybe your familial crooked smile will get inflicted on your descendents right up until the sun explodes. Or a creative work, painting a masterpiece or penning the Great American Novel, could afford you a legacy that works as a salve for the dread that comes with the contemplation of mortality. This is the kind of thing that compels wealthy philanthropists to hurl money at charitable organizations that will name a library or rec center after them.

These are common sense claims, and most of them pretty reasonable. From an evolutionary perspective, this can also hang; working in tandem with the rest of your tribe increases your chances of survival, which would make you feel less vulnerable to death. But the thing about science is, you’ve got to back up the claims with empirical evidence. Otherwise, it’s not science.

The experimental model they used was based on fill-in-the-blank questionnaires. One of the words might have been G R _ _ _. If someone walked past a coffee shop on the way in, they’d be more inclined to write GRIND; also, if the participant were to be cognizant of the fact that life is like a sandwich, no matter which way you flip it, the bread comes first. If the same participant walked past a hearse on the way in, they’d be more inclined to write GRAVE. This was supposed to illustrate the unconscious manifestation of death anxiety, which would in turn effect things like how harshly they punished criminals (breakers of cultural mores/laws) in hypothetical court cases.

They ran this same experiment over and over for 30 years, making subtle adjustments. In cases where they removed all death-related stimuli but insulted a participant’s deeply-help beliefs about country, politics, or religion, the questionnaire showed the same trends as if the participants had received an actual reminder of their mortality (old sick people, a cemetery, etc.)

As a theoretical framework, I think Terror Management Theory stands. But theoretical is as far as we can go. Statistical significance or not, the Mad Libs questionnaire model just doesn’t seem convincing enough to write off the sum of human experience as manifestations of our proximity to or distance from the concept of death. There are too many variables you can’t account for. Sure, patriotic Canadians displayed more “death anxiety markers” when you shittalked Canada, but that’s not necessarily a direct indicator of their self-esteem being damaged. It’s not a long hop from insulting a country to the “my dad can beat up your dad” mentality. Maybe that kind of open vitriol toward Canada got those patriotic Canadians thinking of war, and you can’t think of war without thinking of death. The individual, and their self-esteem, is barely involved.

Same for religion. Short hop from blasphemy to crusade in terms of mental heuristics, before the self-esteem of the individual is even considered.

It’s just asking too much heavy lifting of the unconscious. Too much of this premise is taking place behind the scenes, which is a risk you run in all social psychology experimentation, but that doesn’t mean your extrapolations qualify as proof.

The Worm at the Core is an interesting book, but it’s an interesting philosophy book. We can keep in mind that the shadow of death may be hanging over us at all times and coloring our perceptions, but it’s bad faith to suggest that we’ve proven it with these middle-school worksheets.

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Reykjavik: The Sculpture Garden

Friday, September 20, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: That Handsome Devil – Treefood

In the heart of downtown, at Reykjavik’s pinnacle, wedged firmly between Cafe Loki and the more practical landmark of Hallgrimskirkja, there’s a museum devoted to Einar Jonsson, Iceland’s first sculptor. Behind the museum is an elaborate sculpture garden, featuring some of the only trees available in Iceland and some truly bizarre metal sculptures.

Braxton set me straight on Icelandic soil composition. Apparently due to the severity of the weather, the soil depth sufficient for tree roots just kind of… runs off and gets ground away. In most of the country, the mountains and valleys are bare, or mossed a greyish green.

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Sculpture garden #sculpture #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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The majority of Einar Jonnson’s works explore his fascination with aging and mortality. The first one in the park came out swinging.

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Thor wrestling with age #Thor #sculpture #bastardtravel

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There’s an ubermensch vibe when Icelandic people talk about Thor. He’s not just a cultural hero, he’s an ideal in the same way Superman is, which is why he was the schmuck selected to grapple with Age’s weird, saggy cadaver.

The underbelly is filled with people, men and women, old and young, the faces and names that make up the bulk of a life, gathered over the course of Age’s body. He’s twisted in agony. His face is sallow and gaunt, a lifeless, expressionless mask on his broken neck.

And there’s Thor, supporting the weight on his shoulders, clasping the weathered hands, struggling to prop up the weight. There’s nothing antagonistic in this wrestling, aside from the stressful arm postures that define Jonsson’s work.

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The King of Atlantis #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The King of Atlantis, with his stupid pyramid hat, vibed like a shoutout to Aleister Crowley. The choice of cows, native neither to Iceland nor Egypt, might reflect Moloch. There was a strong Christian sentiment in a lot of the sculptures that didn’t move me sufficiently to photograph (what a weird coincidence), and this dude with that context might be a warning about barking up the wrong tree.

Unless I’m overthinking it, and it’s just a dude in a stupid pyramid hat.

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Spring #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Ladygirl’s favorite sculpture in the park, Spring. Unsurprising, since it’s the only one with even an echo of optimism. The dejected angel with the twisted wing strains to crack open a skull and release the enthusiastic little dryads inside. Everything that died in winter gives way for the coming new, beautiful growth, even in Iceland, possibly including the angel.

The angel’s youth shouldn’t be glossed over here, either.

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Grief #sculpture #bastardtravel

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I deal with grief a lot in my line of work, and this about sums it up. The little fate-ling holds up a hand. Hard stop on this particular lifeline. The subject of the painting emotes overdramatically, twisting up his body and hiding his face. The grief is authentic, but there’s no range of expression that allows for it, so the subject dips into comic and caricature. He reaches for the corpse of the deceased, but it’s lifeless, an outline shaped like the one he loved. A bare scratching on the wall.

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Earth #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Simple, and a little opaque, but it still has its power. The bald-headed giant is Earth, and it’s doing its damnedest to support us. We see that strenuous arm position again. Try to hold your arms out straight like that for a minute, see how well it goes. Earth is doing that nonstop, bearing our weight with mountaing discomfort as we catch a nap, oblivious. The take-home is recycle.

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Spirit and Matter #sculpture #bastardtravel

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More of the weird arm position, Spirit and Matter working together to push a squirming human being into human Being from between their shared legs.

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Sleep #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The otherworldly little nude of the woman is quietly reassuring the contorted giant. Sleep will make it better. The giant’s doing all he can to shut out the world, clenching up painfully, but here he still is. Insomniacs will feel this one.

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Wave of Ages #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Memorializing the suffering of those that came before, caught and struggling in the whirlpool of the past but necessary sacrifice for the beauty of the present, the realization of the wave.

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The End #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The End brings all these threads together. The pictures don’t do it justice. The first woman is young and attractive, sex distilled, her hands tangled up in her hair and her breasts thrust out, legs spread in invitation. The second is withered and aging, clenching her fists to either side of her failing body, eyes closed to what’s happening around her. The third woman is further into the decay, her face drawn and skeletal. No ignoring it now. She grasps at the chest of the big central figure in desperation, the way she might have two iterations ago, when she was young and hot and exploding with life.

The central figure, the largest, is stretched on a rack and writhing. He’s at the end of his line, as evidenced by the exposed skull, turned away from the pleading women, each pleading in her own way. The desperation of the last one tortures him, mars his flesh, but there’s nothing he can do about it. His hands are bound.

And on the other side of the statue, hidden from the women and the skull giant, there’s a young man. His upper body is positioned similarly to the giant’s, as though stretched on the rack, tortured, crucified. His head lolls, his eyes closed. Dead to the world, at a glance.

Look closer. In picture #3, we can see his feet are planted. He’s not dangling. He’s standing. He’s supporting the weight of the giant, and the time-lapse of womanhood that got dragged along for the ride. His feet are planted, and more than just euphemistically; one of his legs grows into the trunk of a twisting tree. He’s rooting them all there.

He is the dying giant, and this is his life. He is the architect of his own torment, and he plays the victim right until the end.

If I still smoked, I’d need a cigarette.

Love,

B.

 

 

Denver: Thanatos Themes

Sunday, June 30, 2019. Denver, Colorado.

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

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

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Kinda cool bridge #Denver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stay hydrated #water #hydrated #denver

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

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

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

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

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

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It has arrived #truck #fashion #style #Denver

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

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rojer #wynkoop #beer #sophisticatedalcoholism

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

The Bastard

Vienna: Empires, Ashes, and the Mysterious Wiener Grant

November 25, 2017. Vienna, Austria.

The Chinese food had only mildly poisoned me. It’s unbelievable that I needed to experience it to give this advice, but listen: Don’t eat the Chinese food in Austria. I was down, but not out, and I decided that only a coward would let some mild food-poisoning interrupt a travel, especially a Bastard one. I hit the gloomy, perpetually moist streets of Vienna.

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when did herbie come thru

 

India from the Metro had been backpacking on the fly. He tailed me to the hostel and booked a room there, then asked if I wanted to head into town together. I was leery. I travel alone. There are more opportunities that way, I don’t have to be double-checking if my co-pilot wants to do this thing, or if they’re comfortable hopping a fence, or if they’re too soft-spoken and respectable to blithely ask the locals dumb questions in lazy American English. But, he came along for part of the morning, and he was utterly transfixed by the palaces.

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Europe is filthy with palaces. You can’t throw a rock without hitting one, and each is ostentatious in its own way. The Austrian baroque style is big into imposing white rock, ostentatious statuary, and just enough gold that you have to do a double-take and say, “shit, is that gold?”

For my own part, I’d had my fill of palaces. I’d been too long away, I was tuning into the old gutter frequency again. I wanted to get lost somewhere seedy and low-profile. Instead, we peeped a couple unpronounceable palaces.

 

He found another palace that I didn’t think warranted photography. It had been repurposed into the brick-and-mortar arm of a QVC jewelry magazine. It was plenty opulent, if you’re into that sort of thing. All my belongings are made of wood, leather, and stone, so…

 

We were trying to get into the city center by way of Albertinaplatz. It was a snarl of foot traffic and odd monument sculptures.

For those of you whose German is even worse than mine, Mahnmal gegen Krieg und Faschismus means “monument against war and fascism”. This chunk of the city is a way of apologizing for Hitler without having to mention Hitler. More on him later.

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this hideous bronze dog is an absolute steal at $3000

I found the Hungarian house, where Countess Elizabeth Báthory harvested her victims in . The story runs deeper than the factoids we got in grade school. Lizzie split her time between her husband’s Hungarian house and Cachtice castle. Eventually she had to flee to the latter full-time after arousing too much suspicion. Everyone knows she bathed in and drank the blood of these virgin girls, but that was the endgame.

She’d send her servant Ficzkó into the market to collect likely peasant maids for employment at the Hungarian house and the castle. Being as they were hired servants, it wasn’t that unusual that she flogged so many of them and left them naked in the snow. It started getting a little more unusual when the servants were walking around with fingers torn off and flesh bitten from their faces. You could hear the screaming echo through the Hungarian quarter at night, but nobody dared question the countess. Government, am I right? The estimated head count was 600 virgins, but there’s obviously no documentation.

From History Today:

“She believed that drinking the blood of young girls would preserve her youthfulness and her looks. Witnesses told of her stabbing victims or biting their breasts, hands, faces and arms, cutting them with scissors, sticking needles into their lips or burning them with red-hot irons, coins or keys. Some were beaten to death and some were starved.”

A Lutheran minister told Hungarian authorities, and by December of 1610 the countess was “arrested”. She wasn’t tried, of course, because she was a countess, but she was locked in a single room of her castle until she died four years later. She dropped off real quick after she stopped getting her blood baths. Maybe she was onto something.

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Unbelievably, they’re still using it as apartments. For Hungarians, I assume. It’s a closed house, no tours or anything, so the best I could do was take a picture of the unassuming door and soak up as much of the aura of 400-year-old evil as I could. It’s a pretty busy street, though. Not terribly conducive to reflection on Renaissance atrocities. Probably why she chose it.

Then I stumbled upon the Kaisergruft, the Austrian Imperial crypt. My travelling companion dipped out at this point. We had both expressed how tired we were of museums, but our definitions of “museum” appeared to differ.

I’ll say this about the Austrians: they knew how to die.

 

 

 

 

 

Even at Sedlec, you didn’t see death glorified like this. Death was incidental there, a sort of means to an end dedicated specifically to the art and then, as an afterthought, Jesus. These crypts were a full embrace of death, a momentous momento mori emblazoned with crowned skulls and gargoyle heads and every kind of Imperial seal, crest, or design you could imagine. I couldn’t help but be awed. All this time, money, and labor, for a suitcase full of bones.

Brings to mind a Marcus Aurelius quote.
“Death smiles at us all; all we can do is smile back.”

Well, Imperial Austria was, and continues to be, grinning like Schwarzenegger.

I made my way out of the crypt and, after the only affordable breakfast I could find in Vienna, I crossed the street and discovered this burrito place.

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Wiener Grant! What the fuck could that mean? Is it that guy? Why is he so mad? Why is his tattoo so incredible? I needed to know more.

I barged into the burrito store without a moment’s hesitation and asked the poor, unsuspecting counter girl.

“Who, or what, is Wiener Grant?”

She looked at her hipster coworker then said, “Was?”

I wasn’t fooled. She spoke English. 75% of the Austrian population speaks English, and it’s a damn certainty that a Viennese girl in her twenties will.

“Outside, on the sign. Over that painting of the dude in his shorty-shorts, it says ‘A burrito a day keeps Wiener Grant away’.” What is Wiener Grant? Is there any other way to avoid him?”

“It is… hard to explain,” she said. Well, yeah, I knew that already.

“It is like…” the hipster said, gesturing. “Vienna is… grumpy?”

“Viennese are cranky people,” the girl said, making a demonstrative face. “Wiener Grant is when you feel blahhhh. Cranky, because you are Viennese.”

“So it’s not a guy.”

“No.”

“Well, that’s a relief. Thank you.”

There’s more to this chronicle, but I have to catch a bus soon. I’ll have another post later today.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

 

Rome: Slowin’ it Down

November 4, 2017. Rome, Italy.

I read that it was Madrid’s night life that really shines, and since I had to catch a bus to the airport by 5 AM I opted not to book a hostel and spend the night homelessly bar-hopping. I spent an hour in Museo Chicote, Hemingway’s “best bar in Spain, certainly” and had his recommended daiquiri. I imagine when he was there the lighting was less fish-tank neon and they played fewer techno remixes of Sweet Dreams, but I could be wrong. Maybe that’s why he liked it.

I walked down a street grabbing tapas and beer at each place until I felt full for the first time that week, then chased it with a coffee to make sure I’d catch the bus. This proved to be unnecessary, since the entirety of Madrid closed by 2 AM. I don’t know where all these travel writers are getting the idea of “Madrid goes hard until at least 4 AM”, but I imagine probably the on-season. There were, however, so many insistent prostitutes who literally chased me up the Gran Via, trying as hard as they could across several language barriers that I had just happened to discover a stone-sober, sexually liberated young woman who found me irresistibly attractive, and that in this part of the world “how about a blow job?” is a common icebreaker.

“I just feel like it’s too early in our relationship,” I told the first.

“Only one night! One night relationship,” she clarified.

“Tell me, sweetheart, this relationship. Does it cost money?”

“Not even that much! Not even much money!”

I caught the 2:30 bus and slept on the airport floor and a sequence of planes until I arrived in Rome, where they tried very hard to convince me that the only way I would get to my hostel was by $50 taxi.

I explained to them that I could easily just take a $6 bus to center city and walk the half mile to my hostel, but they insisted that it was impossibly far, and my only chance of survival in the unnavigable maze of Rome was to take a taxi. I told them thanks, and took the bus, settled into my hostel, showered, shaved, took a nap, then went down and had free pasta dinner cooked by an immensely outgoing receptionist named Doniella. At dinner, I got drunk off $2 wine with a German med student and a 700-year-old American named Herbie, who extended me this sage advice:

“You gotta slow down. You’re taking this too fast. It’ll all be there, you’re not gonna die next month.”

“You don’t know that,” I said, because I’ve never been able to project myself more than 2 days into the future.

“That’s true, but you’re probably not. You can’t keep rushing around like this or you won’t enjoy anything. Take a week. Really see Florence. You should take at least two if you want to see everything in the countryside, but maybe that’s another trip. You have time.”

I fought him every step of the way during the conversation because my pastiche of personal philosophies draws heavily from zen and existentialism, both of which are really specific about “This day will not come again.”

“You didn’t come all the way across the world to not spend the money,” he chided, which was weird because we hadn’t talked about money. “Slow down, take your time. There’ll always be more time and money. Learn the Greek alphabet. Go to Istanbul!”

His advice became a little meandering from that point on, but it was the thought that counts.

“You don’t have to rush. Just go out, see everything. Then you can die.”

“Hear, hear,” I said, and we clonked (it wasn’t a clink) our plastic cups of grocery store wine.

Then, after a moment, “Welp, the wine’s gone. I’m going to bed. See you all tomorrow.” And off he went.

I was good and drunk and still tired because it turns out sleeping on planes in 1 hour increments is not the same thing as a night’s rest, so I stumbled upstairs and went dead to the world for 10 hours. But as I did, I internalized what Herbie said. I fundamentally disagree. I don’t have time. None of us have time, life is too short to not Go For It, whatever the present It happens to be, but I think he’s right in that I’ll enjoy myself more if I slow my roll a little. You can Go For It strategically. It can be a plan.

I’m going to reread the Stoics while I’m here, I think. Marcus Aurelius was always my favorite, and seeing his colossal, melon-shaped head in a marble bust at the Prada brought his Meditations screaming back to me. I’ll wrap this up with what seems like an unrelated Epictetus quote, but just replace “books” with “travel”, or “making money”, or anything else people collect like Pokemon cards as though the collection is enough.

“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.” 
 Epictetus, The Art of Living 
Love,
The Bastard