Issue 48 - 10/18/22

The Thing About Newsletter Is It Is All Around Us

This issue guest-edited by Alex Speed

  • My Love Letter to the Sleepy Mountain Town
  • Matt Got Covid Medley
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Guy Trying His Best
  • A Bucket of Pickles
  • This Is My Chili's Manifesto, Pt. 3: Apotheosis
  • Cain's Jawbone 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Stall Graffiti
  • Office Chart

In the spring of 2022, two friends embarked on an unbelievable 6-month artistic odyssey - one trekking the breadth of North America studying bar pickles, the other endeavoring to turn their severe illness into a series of modern masterpieces that would outlive him after contracting a case of mild covid from his Chili's waiter.

These are their stories.

My Love Letter to the Sleepy Mountain Town

Owner & Editor Alex Speed

I am currently sitting on the patio of a pub in British Columbia, Canada. The little town I am in is called Golden. From what I can tell it is your average small BC tourist town - roughly 240 Kilometers from the much wealthier and sought after Banff. I have seen exactly one fast food joint (a McDonald's on the north side of town nestled between a clothing boutique and a used mountain bike shop) and the river splitting the industrial south end from the tourist centered north side is a shade of blue that reminds me of locking eyes with a beautiful woman you have absolutely no business trying to talk to. The center of town is a gravel river walk interrupted every couple hundred meters by bridges of varying degrees of aesthetic and structural integrity.

Phoebe Bridger's Kyoto just started playing over the patio speakers and I worry about the picture this, and my three O'clock Long Island Ice Tea, might paint to the rougher and more traditional town natives.

As a strange and pretentious person I have a favorite specific piece of personification widely used in descriptions. I think there is no better characteristic of towns like this than "sleepy." Seemingly unbothered by the noise of the major cities hundreds of miles away, little communities like this at least appear to be self sufficient culturally and economically. The folks who actually live here noticeably resent the constant presence of the more annoying brand of tourists and very clearly wish to be left to their own devices. The absence of downtown noise means you can hear the river rushing without trying too hard and the lack of building lights means there's enough starlight to comfortably walk the dirt road outside your cabin at night.

A group of four bearded men across the patio from me are splitting a pitcher of beer and talking about their favorite heli ski spots between here and Banff. On my way inside to grab another drink I spy a large mounted trout with a cigarette taped to its mouth and a toy gun glued to its front fin.

The difference between a place like this and a mountain city like Denver or Salt Lake City is places like this feel like they are built to exist within the mountains, while bigger cities feel like they are built in defiance - at the base of the great mountain ranges. Like a less meaningful David confronting a Goliath on the grounds of a morally inferior cause. Nothing seems to be out of place here. Even just being a bar local for a few days I feel drawn into a community of folks that can only exist within a certain seclusion. No one really cares where you're from, save the group of old men who keep calling me "Johnny America" and buying me shots of Ja╠łegermeister. The common conversational formalities centered around occupation and family are not present.

There's a fight at the bar. A tiny frenchman has been over served and refuses to pay his tab ($111.58 Canadian) because he thinks he is being cheated. The bartender comes over to my table and asks if I'm okay. A funny live example of Canadian Niceness.

As I walk along the river from the pub to my cabin I am aware of how much space is left in the world. There is room for you and I to explore - no matter how crowded and rowdy the day-to-day of home might feel. I am grateful for this little mountain town because, like many sleepy towns before it, I leave rested and ready to reengage with the noisy Real World.

Matt Got Covid Medley

Chief Pseudoscience Correspondent Matt Spradling


I have a confession to make. Nay, an admission.

I don't know the difference between those two words.

Just like I don't know the difference between friend and foe these days.

It was just tax season. (Tax season isn't the first five months of the year or whatever; nay, tax season is the last week you can do your taxes, usually the last weekend.)

Tax season has always traditionally gone like this for me: I put it off over and over and over because I don't care and I worked in the service industry so we're talking pennies anyway, I finally ask my HR person I've never met to email my W-2 again a week before the deadline, and then I do it. The majority of the emotional labor comes from remembering my TurboTax password as well as ignoring all the other better sites I heard about in the last few months that are not the demon trickster that is TurboTax. Then I do it, either owe or receive a couple hundred dollars, and then leave and say Ack!


The last two years have been a little different indirectly due to the pandemic, but I don't remember anything about last year because I blocked the entire year out of my memory forever except for Alisson Becker's goal against West Brom on May 16.

So, this year.

This year, there was something wonky about my insurance bits because I was still on a marketplace insurance plan at the beginning of last year before resuming work at a company that would give me healthcare out of the goodness of their red capitalist hearts.

Long story short, TurboTax made this seem very simple and then rejected my file several times in a row for inscrutable reasons. This made me very uncomfortable. Why was I being rejected by the IRS? Why was TurboTax gaslighting me? What happens if you fail to file your taxes? I'm too dumb to go to jail.

After much research and trial and error and saving (but not sending) drafts of emails begging adults for help, I cracked it, and what do you know, I got several hundred dollars more returned because of it.

That's right, the IRS had my back. I feel I owe them an apology.

Isn't it weird how certain things are just assumed to be bogeymen and punching bags and buts of dumb jokes, and the origin of these assumptions and arrangements stretch back further than your dumb child memory so you never really have cause to examine them? Is that how kids so often become complacent with bullying? With being bullied? With tribalism, extreme political polarization? The IRS never did anything bad to me or anyone I'm aware of. It's like when I was a kid who was old enough to have watched too much History Channel and know the names of wars and things but not old enough to have actually switched on the self-aware part of his brain, I went through an anti-government phase (not like in a punk anarchist way but like a right-wing Big Government Is Inherently Oppressive To My Gun Heritage And Also I Know So Many WWII Facts way) for literally no reason other than that was what I smelled the people around me doing, and I wanted to have a cultural identity I could fit in with. Then when you get to roughly high-school age and actually gain a measure of agency, you get the chance at reevaluating the world and your place in it. It's a valuable chance at a reset, and I'm thankful that I was in a place back then in which I was able to take advantage of it. I imagine that reevaluating and breaking childhood molds gets trickier and trickier the older you get, like a bone that either gets a clean break and reset or a nasty weird fracture that gets left to heal on its own and never quite does.

I actually just sneezed so hard that I can't see straight so I am going ot go sleep for a day.

Newsletter: Live in the Park

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So You Want to Get Into Cormac McCarthy

This is a topic I hve famously never talked about before but somebody (Alex) actually asked me for a real guide on where to start with Big Mac Cormac so here go.

The Road is one of his more divisive novels. It is an extremely bleak, post-apocalyptic story following a father and his young son surviving in a truly dead world and Sam says I am not allowed to put the movie on the TV when she is in Texas. Depending on who you are it is either about fatherhood or the human drive to survive in the face of futility and is either hopeful or extremely not hopeful. You probably shouldn't start here.

Blood Meridian is one of his more divisive novels. I could write a very long essay about this if I was smarter and also not dying. It is an almost biblical mosaic of the history of America and western expansion, portraying violence as the cosmic driver of change in the world. It is the most hauntingly beautiful and violent thing out there. It is the only book I've ever properly annotated. You probably shouldn't start here.

No Country For Old Men is one of his more divisive novels. It is sleek and cinematic and beautiful and gruesome and very similar to the film but still adds more than enough to make it worth reading even if you've seen it. You probably shouldn't start here. (You actually fully could but I'm doing a bit)

All the Pretty Horses is one of his more divisive novels. It is old and sparse and sprawling and easy to get lost in, both in a good way and a bad way. It does indeed have horses. You probably shouldn't start here.

The Crossing is one of his more divisive novels. It is essentially the same as Pretty Horses but a different kid and longer and slower and more depressing. You probably shouldn't start here.

Cities of the Plain is one of his more divisive novels. It is essentially The Avengers for the previous two books where instead of superheroes they're ranch hands in a shrinking, changing world and instead of Loki they're fighting their urges not to spend their life savings getting into knife fights over marrying a prostitute. You probably shouldn't start here.

The Passenger and Stella Maris are two of his more divisive novels. I don't know, I haven't read these because they haven't been released yet. You probably shouldn't start here.

Just Because I Eat My Cereal Dry, It Doesn't Mean I'm a Psychopath (It's Murdering Men That Means That)

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Top 5 Cheating Activities

I'm a married spud now, and the biggest thing they don't teach you about before marriage is that anything you do while your wedding ring is off is technically cheating. Here are some of those best things to those do that those things:

1: Secret Sauce burger at Chili's

Vaccines Made My Cat a Huge Bitch!?

(I'm the one who got vaccinated)

Weekly Star Wars Quota

People talk a lot about it being kind of fucked up that Jedi aren't allowed to form attachments to anything, but maybe that was a good thing? It's pretty much the most important job in the galaxy, and attachments can be pretty distracting. Like in high school my attachments and the identity I formed based around them became my priority and got in the way of committing to classes. I was starting from a place of "I just want to get home and do my own thing, so classes are an obstacle to that and I must do the minimum to get the grade I want and move onto other things" and that makes everything a huge unhelpful chore. I never had a moment where I just kind of decided to embrace learning certain topics with a truly open and engaged mind because I was distracted. Which would be a lot worse if I was, you know, a magical superhero.

I fully recognize that this is a horrible take but I am keeping it for posterity.

What's Up I'm Into Economics Now

Warhammer 401(k)

There's got to be a good joke there somewhere right

how i'm feeling now

My first job in high school was pool boy, but not in a sexy, tour-of-duty way, but in the kid-who-doesn't-know-how-to-be-a-salesman-trying-to-upsell-you-on-chlorine-buckets-at-Leslie's-Pool-Supply way. People still paid by check.

One of the products sold there was pool dye which would give your pool a little nicer of a blue sheen I guess. One time someone asked me about directions and how much to use and stuff, and I, a terrified child, offered a mumbled response while frantically glancing over the directions written on the can. Like, written on the product, like with all products.

A week or so later we received a call and I was informed that I turned someone's dog blue due to my negligence in instruction, about which the owners were rather nonplussed.

Anyway I feel like I huffed chlorine tablets in a hot pool shed.

My spider senses are tingling (actual numbness) and telling me that my master plan of creating an entire Newsletter issue by myself while very under the influence of covid and cough syrup is not really panning out. I hope that I will have better luck next year. I would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate to Loh that it is not her fault that we got covid; we got it at the same time, and, after a deep amount of sleuthing, very certainly from our Chili's waiter. So, while it might be her fault for asking what the difference between regular and crispy chicken was and causing the waiter to stay in plague range for a crucial extra ten seconds, I can only be honored to have finally succumbed to the greatest plague of all: friendship (at Chili's).

Adrenaline Junkie! I Turned Into a Tetris Block

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Portrait of the Artist as a Guy Trying His Best

Supreme Owner & Editor in Chief Alex Speed

A Bucket of Pickles

His Royale Majesty With Cheese & Owner & Editor in Chief Alex Speed

My editor Larry has recently brought to my attention that I "use Newsletter as a diary" and that I should "seriously Alex just go to therapy you can't keep doing this" and "this is an Intervention it's time for you to start taking your mental health seriously and stop hiding behind bad jokes."

I am not a pickle eater.

I think they are gross and bad. Why would I willingly eat a food that first requires you to soak it in acid? If I wanted to eat acid I would meet my friend Daryl behind the dumpster at Luby's and load up an old VHS tape of Dragon Tales.

I was at a coffee shop recently and the barista was talking to me about her love of pickles. I was very confused and generally not good at small talk so I asked her what her favorite kind of pickles were. She immediately pulled out her phone and showed my what can only be described as a giant tub of acid soaked madness. A 52oz. tub of formerly perfectly normal cucumbers.

So Without Further Ado:

Alex's Weekly Restaurant Roundup

That's right you dumb mother fuckers - your least requested series is making its long awaited return. This week I am going to review the coffee shop I cried into a tub of pickles at in Bozeman, Montana.

Overall I would call this an average crying into a tub of pickles experience - not my best, but CERTAINLY not my worst. The ambience was very nice. There is constant lo-fi indie music and also the intermittent sound of the espresso machine to drown out my acidic sobs.

The pickles were not great, as previously mentioned I am not really a fan of pickles. I think the texture is maybe just not right for me? And of course it didn't help that my constant stream of tears probably threw off the PH balance of the whole container.

Aesthetically this place is incredible. They have a wall of fake plants hung weirdly below a security camera. It is one of those places that decided to make the seating area also its warehouse and storage area? So there are cool burlap sacks of probably coffee surrounding you at all times. There is a flag(?) that depicts some sort of Central American slum covered in ivy. I do feel a little bad for potentially throwing off the aesthetic genius of the space by just being a 200 pound grown man in a wolf t-shirt openly weeping at the coffee bar in the exact middle of the coffee shop. Probably not the vibe!!!!

Overall I would give this space 41/52 potential Ounces of pickle bucket.

This Is My Chili's Manifesto, Pt. 3: Apotheosis

Chief Flavor Correspondent Macc Spalding

Y'all crossed a dang line with that fire back in Issue 27, and then again with that tornadern in Issue 47. Well I've crossed some dang lines too - picket lines in multiple food-industry union-busting protests (I believe the only good union is between ADAM AND EVE (the marital aids store (they have a great employee's union))), and the construction tape lines oppressing my beloved injured local Chili's location after it was so cruelly looted by nature. That's just the kind of brand loyalty that I bring to the sticky, uneven, southwestern-tiled table.

But it's often the ones we most love that hurt us the dang most.

That statement isn't about Chili's, though; it's about my dog, Scoot. Son of a bitch smelled the secret sauce running through my veins and took a chomp while I was bedridden. Must've given me the 'bees when he bit me. Applebee's that is, not rabies. Scoot doesn't have the rabies shot because he don't believe in vaccines, but he does have something that really gives me flare-ups that remind me of my days traveling the world and visiting foreign places like Applebee's and The Factory. That's eventually what brought me back home - when the world's in turmoil, sometimes you gotta go where everyone knows your name (but still calls you Bud.) By home I do mean Chili's. I spend as little time with my family as possible.

Now look here. It ain't the covid. I just wanna head that little hyperthesis off at the pass. I don't let anything lab-grown in my body (the secret sauce consists of natural and essential oils such as BBQ sauce). I haven't left home (Chili's) in a week or two, and I could never contract an illness - fictitious or otherwise - from such a pure garden of Eden. Besides, I know what I saw the doctor write down: Ovid 19. I should've known ol' doc four-eyes was an elitist ivory-tower classicist, but he ain't much of one else he'd know that Ovid's Metamorphoses only went to Book XV. Maybe he meant Book 9, which depicts the death and apotheosis of Hercules.

I guess they won't tell me because they don't want me to know my own power, but I have to assume that I am Hercules in this case, and that if I do arrive soon to the pearly gates, with The Intimidator there to greet me with a smile, I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Confident in this knowledge now do I lay my head down to sleep, perhaps forevermore, much like the post-Chili's naps I do have to take every afternoon anyway, only this time there is nothing I need to wash off of my hands save perhaps my fear of oblivion. When I wake again in the world to come, may I find my place in it (Chili's) with guidance from the lord (Wyman T. Roberts, CEO.)

Cain's Jawbone 2: Electric Boogaloo

Chief Mystery Correspondent Marina Martinez

Stall Graffiti

I famously love crypto, especially crypto-flavored spam. It is the most fun thing to receive and not a disappointment at all. Thank you Mr. Kalgeva. My inbox has lain dormant for so long it is nice to get some action as long as this is not a repeat thing.

Trying to reach me from different email addresses after I turned you down is toxic behavior. Also this is all for a fucking Telegram thing? Is that a thing real people even use? Oh well, at least this was just a couple isolated spam bots and not a constant deluge.

I resisted at first but have seen the light. Not only would I like to be a loyal patron of CRYPTAXBOT, I would like to become a faithful disciple and help spread the good news myself. If only there was a way for me to burden others with the barrage of good news that afflicted me and which I resisted at first but have come to love and know others can too.

See this is a deep and smart metaphor about generational trauma and maybe robots.

I Want To Be Evil - Eartha Kitt

I heard this when I was a youth and took notes.  -Marina

Speech Bubbles - The Smile

Album I was listening to nonstop back in the spring and early summer and still am #1. This is the best Radiohead album that isn't a Radiohead album and captures so may feelings about the last couple years in such an earnest and understated way. This is my favorite track - it starts so sparse and church-organ-y before dripping into a series of somber, rolling verses, haunting, exhausted, resigned lyrics throughout. This is genuinely the most beautiful thing Thom has made since In Rainbows exactly 15 years ago. The way it transitions into "Thin Thing" is Very Cool.  -Matt

Garden of Eden - Pearce The Band

This song sucks and the guy who wrote it is a douche.  -Alex

Hurt - Nine Inch Nails

Sometimes when you think you're gaslighting yourself about a medical condition you listen to sad music and cry a lil. Ignore the 20 seconds of silence that start the song, pro-tip.  -Marina

King - Florence + The Machine

Album I was listening to nonstop back in the spring and early summer and still am #2. This album has god-tier singles. I need my golden crown of sorrow, my bloody sword to swing / I need my empty halls to echo with grand self-mythology are you kidding me  -Matt

Moving - John Fullbright

Do you do that thing where once a year you find one artist who absolutely blows your whole dick off and you just listen to nothing but them for like a month? I am doing that with this guy but he doesn't have many songs out, which means I listen to this song like 15 times a day and I just think it's incredible. Also he's from Oklahoma.  -Alex

Heaven On Their Minds - Shoshana Bean

If you haven't listened to the all-female studio cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar on repeat for the last few months then congratulations you're probably doing well, mentally.  -Marina

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) - Brian David Gilbert

Camp  -Marina


I tell Alex that as guest editor it's his job to find a banner image and alarmingly quickly he comes back with the seven fucking dwarves. With such lemons as these I have made flesh-colored lemonade. :)

Twitter: The horse's mouth

Webnode forms: The horse's ass

Marina's notepad app: the witch that turned the horse into a horse in the first place

Our worst issue yet is dedicated with love to Laurie, Wendy, Marina, Sam, Danielle (hot leg disease), and anyone living with chronic or life-altering illness, and most importantly myself.