Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I used to work as a BSC. A lot of my job was sitting in the back of classrooms “observing the problematic behavior” of my clients, but that only worked when they were being problematic. This kid was a little demon, but he would shut up during story time, and that’s where I first had a chapter of The One and Only Ivan read aloud to me by a kindly but exasperated secondary educator.

I put it on my to-read list, then forgot about it for a couple years, because it’s a YA book (being generous) and I don’t read YA. I was born old, and crotchety. I started into my father’s Stephen King collection when I was in 2nd grade, and to regress to whatever iteration of Harry Potter knockoff is currently sucking the attention of the near-literate would be detrimental to both mind and dignity.

“Don’t be such a fucker,” you might be saying. “It wouldn’t kill you to read YA once in a while.”

It wouldn’t kill me to eat Gerber Strained Peas for dinner once in a while either, but I wouldn’t hit my macros.

Animorphs was my stepping stone between Goosebumps and terrible, pulpy adult video game novels, like the abysmal Doom novels (in every sense of the word), and the Magic the Gathering novels that shared nothing in common with the card game, except that they both occasionally referred to wizards. I was voracious with the Animorphs series, and listed K.A. Applegate as my favorite author on more than a few grim late 90s/early 2000s internet forums, each undoubtedly devoted to one of the four franchises mentioned earlier in this paragraph.

I just sat down and read this book in one sitting, cover to cover. It took me two hours. I cried, openly and like a bitch, no fewer than three times.

The story’s about a gorilla named either Ivan or Mud, depending. His family is killed by poachers and the infant gorilla is sold off to some sleazy mall manager, who tries to raise him like they did to Caesar in the remake of Planet of the Apes. It works because Ivan is far too traumatized to develop a rebellious streak. Eventually, his owner tucks him away in a glass cubicle in his dead mall and charges people to gawk at him and an elderly elephant with an infected foot that never gets treatment.

The book focuses on Ivan’s understanding of himself, his limited grasp of “civilization”, and his avoidance of remembering the joy of his childhood because of the pain it would inevitably bring. It’s driven by the relationships with the wise, sick old elephant Stella and a feral dog named Bob who plays the role of Diogenes. I’m 90% sure that in the first draft, Bob was a rat, and Applegate changed it in order to sew up a happy ending for everyone. Feral rats are rarely adopted.

The mall owner, Mack, becomes an increasingly jaded alcoholic and flirts with animal abuse, though it never shows up. Children’s book, remember.

It really starts to grind up the ol’ heart meats when Mack buys a baby elephant named Rosie, whom Stella begins to raise as her own, for as long as she could. It’s a book about learned helplessness, about the isolation and gradual dying of the soul that comes with captivity, acceptance, complacency. It’s about the horrific ways humans mistreat animals, but also the kindnesses that we can do, however infrequently.

On the surface, that’s what it’s about. But under that, it’s about freedom and security. Ivan liked laying on his pillows in his cute little pajamas, being hand-fed orange soda and watching cartoons on TV, but late at night, the snatches of dreams he remembered were about the jungle, and the wind in his fur, playing with his sister, picking ripe fruit from the trees and weaving himself a nest to sleep in.

And I think that’s true of all of us.

Five stars. Read the book. Absolutely crushing.

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Vermont: A Travelogue Prologue

Thursday, April 15, 2021. Clarendon, Vermont.
Soundtrack: The Sword – Tres Brujas

I’d been chewing holes in the walls since quarantine was first announced, and by the second year of the two-week curve flattening, my increasingly feral mindstate had only marginally improved. The plague still sweeps through our land, slipping through cracks and into our homes in the dead of night, blighting our crops and killing our fats and olds, both of which are cornerstones of this great nation. Bill Gates is filling our blood with liquid 5G, offering a stay of execution and increasing our personal bandwidth so long as we upload our RNA straight into the Bing Matrix.

For a year I’ve been crouched in the blasted ruins of The City of Brotherly Crackheads Screaming at 3 AM, shooting arrows in the basement and slowly trading away all my worldly possessions for mid-range guitars and houseplants.

This is no way for a bastard to live.

Luckily, a witch offered me reprieve from the monotony of the broken glass pile that is Philadelphia.

“I’ve got to go to Vermont,” she said. “Come with?”

I’ve had many, many what you would call encounters with witches over the years, and they often end in hexing. That’s just the dice you throw. When the only tool you have is True Polymorph, everything looks like a newt.

You can imagine my leeriness, especially having waited out the statute of limitations on curses so many times before. There was even one who would convince her thralls (we call these simps now) to do “blood pacts”, and cut their hands, then reopen the same wound in her finger to blend their blood.

Imagine playing it that fast and loose with your essence. That’s unrepentant necromancy. She never got my blood. To this day, I won’t even touch a goddamned crystal.

But this witch, the witch offering me an out of the city, she maintains that she is of a different stripe. She says she’s a green witch. I’m a simple man, and a melee build, so I don’t know all the subclassifications, but I imagine they all have access to the same skill tree. But I am eco-friendly, and I did miss silence.

“Let’s go,” says I.

And so I loaded the same pack that got me across Yurp with the same essentials – a few changes of clothes and a glowing rectangle with a library in it – then clambered up into her broom-drawn carriage. We were joined by my attorney, Beefton Duke.

He’s very good.

It barely occured to me to ask why Vermont, bit-champing as I was to get free of the 215. The 5-hour haul allowed plenty of time to correct that.

“Why Vermont?”

“Matters to attend to,” she said cryptically. “Business.”

Components, I reckoned. Bones and rocks and herbs and whatnot. Something big brewing. Big and allegedly green. That’s okay. I would be looking down the right side of the barrel this time.

We screeched past a collection of cop cars, all with their flashers on, but only flashing in blue.

“Looks like trouble,” Beefton whispered to me.

“I know you can’t tell, but it’s all just one color,” I told him.

“What?” the witch asked.

“The flashers. They’re only one color.”

“I can tell!” she said.

“Maybe it’s not a stop, then,” I suggested. “Maybe it’s a sale. Blue Light Special.”

“What the hell is blue?” Beefton asked. “Ridiculous. You can’t afford the heat right now.”

“I don’t think we have to be worried about it.”

“As your legal counsel,” he continued, “here’s my suggestion. Pull off up ahead in this next plaza with all the wooden sasquatch lawn ornaments. Go into that grocery store. Buy a whole big bag of pepperoni.”

“I’ll take it under advisement.”

“The big bag. Economy pack. None of that 2 oz shit.”

And so began the Dream-Quest of Unknown Clarendon, into the most desolate reaches of New England.



Book Review: The Artificial Ape

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution by Timothy Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating book about how using tools makes us human, and how that’s not necessarily a compliment.

The main thrust of Taylor’s argument is that we started using tools that shouldered much of the burden that we would otherwise need actual shoulders for, so the shoulders we had went a little vestigial from generations of disuse. I know that analogy sounds kind of clunky, but it’s literally what happened in the case of our 10% loss in bone density over the last few thousand years.

The perspective makes sense. Orangutans are strong enough to rip the lower jaw clean off of a crocodile, and have been observed doing it, so don’t fuck around. But that kind of power requires a lot of upkeep, at the expense of other systems. We had a common ancestor 12 million years ago. The human genetic code contains the blueprints to be that kind of jacked manimal, but instead we started throwing pointy sticks around. We didn’t need to be that strong. The strength, or lack thereof, wasn’t making that big of a dent in the gene pool anymore.

Bipedalism was our first big advantage, and we’ve been coasting on that ever since. Hands free mode let us tinker, and the clubs, spears, and baby slings (for carrying, not for throwing) let us outcompete pretty much everything else in the world at the time. Fire was our next big W, and we became so reliant on it that we lost a large portion of our intestine, which is why gorillas can get donkey brolic on nothing but nectarines and foliage while a vegan diet is a death sentence for any human outside of the 1st world. Our stomachs aren’t long enough, or multiple enough, to break down the plants into nourishment. Cooked meat was a shortcut to an unprecedented amount of easily absorbed nutrition. Why waste the biomass maintaining a massive gorilla colon for processing 40 lbs of roots and leaves a day when we’re getting everything we need in a pound of mammoth flank and a few handfuls of high-glucose berries?

What I found most interesting was the sort of fork-in-the-road that our skulls and jaws took. When you look at animals with a preposterous bite force like a gorilla (1300 PSI) or a pitbull (2000 PSI), you see the long, threatening canine incisors first. For good reason. Evolution has programmed us to steer clear of seeing those incisors pointed our way, as it often precedes getting got. In order for the canine incisors to be functional, they have to be deeply rooted into bone. A pitbull’s teeth wouldn’t be much use if they snapped off every time he clamped his big square head onto something.

But for those teeth to support that bite force, the muscles wrapping around the skull have to connect to occipital bone. That’s the big knot of bone toward the back of a dog’s skull. All the great apes have them, too, except for us. Those powerful biting muscles sort of squeeze the braincase, which requires the bone to be thicker and sturdier overall, but that’s okay. Fair trade. Most animals have much greater need for dangerous teeth than for the wasted space of extra cranial capacity.

Enter man, a scavangening omnivore who can comfortably walk a hundred miles a day, supplements his arsenal with his lethal little arts-and-crafts, and eats his prey cooked. Absolutely no need for those canine incisors anymore. No need for the muscles supporting them, either – no matter how much gristle is in the steak, it won’t compare to the 8+ hours a day spent chewing if all your food was raw. And thinner, more pliant cranial bones make for an easier escape from the birth canal.

Nature did what nature does, and as those muscles loosened as they became less necessary for survival. In conjunction with our easy nutritional intake and the burgeoning protoculture that comes from being social animals…. our brains exploded to three times their previous size, maybe? No one actually knows why that happened, but Taylor’s guess seems as good as any.

Great book. I knocked off one star because I found it dry in some parts, but that’s to be expected, the man’s an archeologist and most of them aren’t Indiana Jones. Well worth the read if you care about anything I said in this review.

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Book Review: Dark Ecology

Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence by Timothy Morton

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Gibberish. The book is a stack of loose connections that never get paid off. Morton invents more complex phrasings for concepts that already exist (spare me the “hyperobjects”, everything an English professor is going to grapple with exists in discernible units of time) then relay-races back and forth between them in an effort to make an argument, such as it is, look less like a collection of Burning Mad doodle book scratchings.

It’s an emperor’s new clothes situation, and has little to do with either ecology or darkness. Skip it.

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Book Review: Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas, and Inspiration for the Future Primitive

Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future PrimitiveUnlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future Primitive by Miles Olson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An enterprising young hobo details the finer points of conservation as defined by squatting in an abandoned building on the outskirts of a major city and supplementing what the dumpsters are giving with fresh roadkill, grubs, and homemade pickles.

Miles Olson propounds a gentler, more on-the-grid version of off-the-grid anarchoprimitivism where you eke out your living by eating dead things you find, or kill, along with whatever you can steal from the most-despised hubs of civilization or grow in “your” yard because you can’t, like, own land, man.

It was interesting, but more as a case study than a real philosophy. It could work for one dude, or maybe one dude and a few of his crustpunk friends, but for a book preaching sustainability, it’s not terribly sustainable. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.

The Unlearn, Rewild could be universalized with the proviso that we are rocketing toward the primitive future of the Future Primitive. Everyone can grow lettuce in vacant lots and eat out of the garbage until society crumbled entirely, at which point we would be able to use some of those wildling skills to survive in “the hands of the gods” to borrow a phrase from the dude who wrote the monke novel, and abandon the rest of them since they’d no longer apply. For the purpose of hastening the collapse of this busted-ass civilization experiment, these work just fine, and leave you better off in the post-war (face it, it’ll be a war) wasteland than you would have been watching Netflix until the curtain fell.

Three stars. I’ll make pickles, but I’m not eating skunk that got hit by a car. Not yet.

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Reykjavik: The Golden Circle and Good Burger

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

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

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

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

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Corny Big #cornybig #bastardtravel

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

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

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Þórufoss waterfall #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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cuz we're all dudes #goodburger #bastardtravel

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

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dam u rite #burger #bastardtravel

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

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

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borger #borger #bastardtravel

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The “Goodburger special sauce” was mayo. Innovative.

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

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health food #sportlunch #bastardtravel

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

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Sportlunch of champions #candy #bastardtravel

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

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gross #bastardtravel

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

That’s fucking licorice.

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

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better #bastardtravel

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

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

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

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lil geysir #geysir #bastardtravel

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

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

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

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

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

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more waterfalls #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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

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

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

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


The Bastard

Book Review: Your Brain on Nature

Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness and VitalityYour Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality by Eva M. Selhub

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From beginning to end, this book was an exercise in cognitive dissonance for me.

I’m a major proponent of the back-to-nature mentality, which I refer to as my “unga bunga bullshit” and inflict on my friends at every opportunity. So are this book’s authors, and they provided chapter after chapter of studies confirming my every bias. Even biases I didn’t know I had!

Shinrin-yoku, Japanese for “btfo in the woods”, improves your mental health on every conceivable level, including what aspects of it extend to the physical. Being around dogs, cats, fish, and hamsters do, too. Eating fewer Tastykakes and more fish reduces brain inflammation, linked to improvement in mood, lower depression symptom presentation, and increased cognitive functioning.

Wow! Turns out I was right about everything forever. To ameliorate any potential flagging in well-being, I self-prescribe a friendship dog and a big ol’ joint of roasted meat like in Conan. Join me in the shrub, my brethren.

“That’s not what cognitive dissonance means,” you may be saying. “Everything is great for you rn! Why you so stingy with those stars?”

Let me tell you, beloved reader. Although I’m functionally paleo, and I do consider hitting a tire with a sledgehammer to be cardio, I’m also a practician clinician who reads this shit recreationally and spent the last decade arguing with people on the internet. I know a thing or two about sourcing references.

Red Flag #1:
The writing wasn’t very good. This is excusable, but must be considered. Writing is hard, academic writing is agony, and you can’t expect a dry, scientific tome of this length to be an emotional roller-coaster the whole way through. What stuck out for me were word repetitions, slips in grammar, and clunky sentence construction. A good solid edit could have fixed all of this, but didn’t. Disconcerting.

Red Flag #2:
“For a chapter-by-chapter list of references used in this book, go to”.
What? Why?
I get that you used a lot of references, but removing your scientific backing and proof from your argument by additional degrees is incredibly suspicious.

I did track the references down, and they seem to be a pretty even divide between respectable sounding psych or anthropology(???) journals, and ambiguous horticultural journals no one’s ever heard of. Considering the authors, that makes sense, which brings us to our next red flag.

Red Flag #3:
Eva Selhub, MD, and Alan Logan, ND. What the hell is an ND, you may ask? I certainly did. It means “naturopathic doctor”, which is to say, not any kind of actual doctor. I tried to find more information on naturopathy thereafter and there were only two sources of information:
a), which paints all NDs as physicians who became frustrated with the pharmaceutical industry and injecting children with autism vaccines so they went rogue, quit “conventional medicine”, and started prescribing essential oils
b), which was essentially a 3000-word rendition of holding up a foghorn and yelling “QUAAAAAAAAAAACKS”

Red Flag #4:
Eva Selhub is very well-credentialed. She’s a for-real doctor of internal medicine, taught at Harvard Medical School for around 20 years, and served as Medical Director at Benson Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital for 6 years. She publishes often in medical journals and shows up on Dr. Oz. Despite being nearly 50, she still lookin’ kinda fresh doe. Nowadays she identifies as a “resiliency expert and executive coach” and is her own LLC, which is probably much more lucrative. The issue with lucrative is, most pyramid schemes tend to be, for the executive coach.

Red Flag #5:
An alarming number of medical quotes and excerpts throughout the book come from the 1700s to the early 1900s. This is intended to instill the “forgotten wisdom” motif, but we just stopped leeching people in the early 1900s.

None of these attempts to poison my own well necessarily detract from the suggestions made by the research, which boil down to “hanging out in the woods is better for your mental and physical health than playing Candy Crush 15 hours a day”. That’s a reasonable supposition. I’ve gotten through some more recent and less suspect books recently with data that points the same way — Digital Minimalism is a good one.

It’s an “I want to believe” situation. Everything seems to check out, but there’s a fishy smell under all this patchouli.

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Storming the Castle

August 10, 2018. Groton, Massachusetts. 

The itch was too much to resist. The Delf was getting claustrophobic. The skyscrapers were closing in, as were the perpetually growing mounds of garbage that have not once been collected from anywhere in the city since Ben Franklin invented both Philadelphia and garbage. I needed a breather.

The Girl and I opted for New Hampshire this time around. Our last few jaunts had been to the desert, and while they were about 50% fun, after a while you know what sand looks like. Colorado is on the agenda, but we needed something we could squeeze into three days, and I just did Maine and Massachusetts.

New Hampshire is laughably tiny. Once we set up base camp in Manchester, the suspiciously rustic “most populous city” in NH, we accidentally ranged out across state lines twice.

It was six hours from Philly. Toll roads remain arbitrary, but become much more considerate as you head north. It costs around $12 to get from the bottom of PA to the top. It’s $5 to escape from New Jersey, even if you just wandered in by accident. Passing through the godless snarl of NYC traffic is $15. After that, you plow up into New England and you can stay on the turnpike for hours, tolls will be like $1. One was actually 50 cents.

Really, guys? Like we don’t have it bad enough?

At some point in Massachusetts, we happened on an ambiguous temple “COMING SOON!” It didn’t claim a religion, but the only thing blocking the access road was a length of chain, and golden spires were visible in the trees. We parked and investigated.


It was just rising up in the woods in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know any of the characters embossed on the spires. I concluded it had something to do with that black sarcophagus full of mummy juice.

I’ve since done a little more research and discovered that this is going to be a shared Muslim and Hindu temple, which I found bizarre. I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the specifics of Hindu scripture, but I’m fairly certain Islamic theology operates on that Judeo-Christian fan favorite about “No gods before me”, let alone a whole pantheon of them. I also seem to remember some strongly worded bits about “no idols nor graven image”.

(Leviticus 26:1-2 if you’re not a tahrif type, Quran 9.5 if you are.)

The shared temple cover story didn’t hold up to scrutiny. That was a spontaneously generating Nyaralthotemple. New England is filthy with Old Ones.

We bailed before we were descended upon by any unknowable horrors from the black spaces between the stars, stopping for the worst coffee in America on our way to Bancroft’s Castle.

Bancroft’s Castle is a deliciously American story. It starts in 1906 with a renaissance man named General William Bancroft, a soldier, politician, and businessman who decides he’s done enough for one lifetime and he’s going to settle down in the idyllic hills of the charmingly named Groton, Massachusetts. He looks at his 401k and says, “You know what? I’m gonna build a retirement castle.”

He badly underestimates how much it costs to build a castle, which makes you wonder how effective a businessman he was. Our man is over budget by the time he’s built the tower and the bungalow.

He lives in his little Iggy Koopa boss tower for 12 years, then sells it to Doctor Harold Ayers. Doc Ayers converts it into a sanatorium, raking in $20 a week per tuberculosis patient (that’s about $900 a month nowadays, adjusting for inflation), which must have pissed Bancroft off immensely.

He maintained that racket until the late 1920s, and when the sanatorium closed it was converted into a social center and lodge for the Groton Hunt Club. This continued until July 4, 1932, when the castle was burnt down by a firecracker. Must have been one hell of a siege.

Perhaps due to how badly and consistently it failed at being a castle, Bancroft Castle was abandoned. Since Groton Hill was used for hangings in the 1600s, and since it’s a ruin in New England, and since it was once a TB sanatorium, it is alleged to be chock full of ghosts.


Despite its inefficacy, I could understand the appeal.


The bungalow had nothing on the tower proper.


In addition to all its other failings, it seemed like it would be pretty easy to scale.


as seen with Adventure Hat, the stupidest functional headwear New Mexico had to offer

On the way back to the car, the Girl elbowed me in the ribs. Like I wasn’t already bleeding everywhere from my botched superhero landing getting down off the tower.

“Do you see that?”

“Ghosts? Or bears?”

My hands were up. Punching wouldn’t phase either of those things, but damn it, I had to try.

She pointed up into a tree.


our ornithologist friend confirmed it as a red-tailed hawk

I’d never seen a red-tailed hawk that close before. It wasn’t even a little frightened of us or the spectral bears. We gawped up at it for five minutes or so, watching it bop around and ruffle its huge clunky body, scoping for vermin, then the mosquitos got too bad and we got back on the road.

Next stop on our New Hampshire trip: actually New Hampshire.


The Bastard