Issue 50 - 06/29/24

An Eon When Newsletters Roamed The Earth

  • From the Vaults: An Unhinged Guide to Surviving a Breakup
  • Untitled - Excerpt
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Those Rodents
  • Smashmouth's Greatest Hits, Vol. III
  • Sexiest Hozier Lyrics
  • Goodnight, Greg
  • Here Is What Happens When You Live in a Place People Utilize Mostly as a Getaway
  • Office Chart

What a pleasure to be back at the helm of the classic newsletter workstation: a browser with one tab open for therapy, one tab for a google doc, one tab for page editing, and seven tabs for trying to get hex color codes to match.

I am sorry to have been away so long, but also part of the hold up in returning was that, after a certain amount of time had passed, I felt obliged to lay out in a section like this some good reasons for the hiatus, and frankly there were none, and then even less so the next month, and so on, so really you should be apologizing to me for scaring me away with your imaginary expectations (and perhaps even existence), what with my delicate sensibilities and avoidant habits and demure glances across the room.

What a year (and a half?) it's been, eh buddy old pal? In the wider world, we lost OJ, we lost the sun for a minute, and something something Grimace shakes. Think of the beautiful Content we could have crafted together about Barbenheimer, being mad at AI, or snowplow accidents.

Meanwhile in my little cave, in the span of a few scant months I:

  • Went alcohol-free (I won't say I don't recommend it but I don't recommend doing it right before the big yearly work retreat)
  • Learned I was autistic (and still am too)
  • Got laid off (one of the worst kinds of laid)
  • Turned 30 (I grunt a lot now)

It was a bit of a gauntlet, and I say was in the past tense but I have not actually emerged from it yet in any capacity, sort of like ongoing performance art, or slowly dying in a glue trap. But I also read Moby Dick, and that's got to count for something, right? Wrong, reading is a scam and I have nothing to show for it.

Anyway, what with all the aforementioned avoidance buildup and then all these portentous things happening, I felt I should probably do my due diligence and whip up some sort of tasteful and informative treatise about disabilities or aging or something, but there was an insurmountable problem: I didn't feel like it. And then there were other, smaller problems: I was still in the thick of trying to process and learn and figure out trivial things like who I am, what I want, and how to stay alive, and in the midst of all that, I just didn't have anything meaningful to say about it. And then I didn't have anything meaningful to say about anything. And then I began to question the purpose of sharing anything online at all. And then I beat Elden Ring. And then I began to think back towards old newsletter bits that suddenly felt so dated. 

Sam and I have this routine (addiction) where we gloat about not really being on tiktok while spending excessive time each day swiping through reels on instagram with the intensity of a Lyft driver insisting you get out on the wrong street while he focuses on tinder, sending to each other anything we come across that we want to share or have a mutual laugh or aww about, and then cozying up at night and going through the accumulated algorithmic flotsam together. We call it Good Stuff and it is my only reason to live. Anyway, after a while of embracing this tastefully aggregated brain rot, I began to notice that it had become very clear when a meme template or a joke or a saying or a style or an audio had drifted out of use. I'd think thoughts like "that would have been funny two months ago, something's lagging behind, huh," or "why can't I feel my legs," or "oh, the sun is coming up." It began to feel like the rate at which jokes and styles came in and out of vogue was accelerating, or perhaps that our sensitivity to it was increasing and tolerance for it was decreasing, like a sort of macro attention deficit.

Point being, between this and my other identity crises, my memories of past newsletters began to feel alien and obsolete and potentially unrepresentative of me and unappealing to revisit, and who knows, I may even have deleted the whole shebang if it wasn't full of amazing stuff from people other than me. And I don't mean any of that in a The-Gang-Gets-Canceled kind of way, more just like how painful it is to go back and see the things we thought were hilarious online in 2008. I think we're not used to having such a thorough cultural fossil record; it's off the edge of the map and only getting more sea-monster-y. The internet is rotting from the inside out and I don't necessarily feel inclined to keep up a room on the ship as it goes down.

And so, all that taken together, how is one to restart the newsletter? And with a special 50th issue, no less? The answer is this: garbage! It's all garbage, dissolving in rain, bleeding plastic and contaminating the soil for millenia to come. It is no different than before. And you're going to like it, because papa needs something to do. Is that a nihilistic take, eschewing the profound human meaning inherent to art and lazily avoiding any actual vulnerability? I'll try not to make a habit of it. But it gets things done sometimes, you have to admit.

Ok fine - I guess there's a less negative version that sounds something like, life is fleeting, and it's ok to be unsure and unrefined and unserious, and it's ok to be online without being part of The Conversation, and the world is not depending on you to be perfect or responsible for everything, and it's ok to have been a different person in the past, and that perhaps is even a sign of growth. You should still probably delete facebook and twitter though, that shit blows.

I hope you find this all to taste, and I hope there is more to come, and thank you to any and all who have clicked into this dumb little adventure now or in the past, and to the amazing contributors who make it worthwhile and who I count amongst my closest friends.

From the Vaults: An Unhinged Guide to Surviving a Breakup

Loh Hunt

Hi howdy hello yeehaw. It's been a while since I contributed to A Newsletter, but it feels good to be back. I have determined this is my bit for this body of work. I will begin every Newsletter submission with some sort of statement about how I have returned like it's some sort of shocking revelation. It's not. It will never be. But it's a good bit and who am I to ignore a bit that is sitting right in front of me?

Anyways. It seems another Newsletter bit of mine is writing about my breakups. I swear it does not happen a lot, but when it happens I guess I write about it?

Today's breakup of discussion was big sad, but I am not here to spill the details of how it ended. I am here to give you advice on how to survive the months after while you learn to go back to being just you. You should probably take all of this advice and do exactly the opposite. Then again, I am not here to tell you what to do with your life. I am a firm believer in doing things "for science" so maybe go on ahead and take this advice to the laboratory. Yeehaw bb.

Alright so let's set the scene. Your relationship ends on a random Tuesday? Maybe Wednesday? Idk (YDK you blacked out). Time isn't real anyways.

So the first thing you're going to do is get guilt tripped into going back to your parents' house for a week. Congrats. Your flight leaves in 48 hours. You were supposed to go for a weekend to attend a big life event, but this weekend commitment quickly turned into a week-long expedition after a few "why you no love me" phone calls from a parent. This is great for you. You famously never have issues being around your family for extended amounts of time. Recipe. For. Success. Also, surprise!!!! You no longer have a bed at the house, so you will be sharing a bed with your little sister in her room. Dissociate for the next 167 hours. You can go back to crying in a week. It'll be fine.

Now that you've booked a trip to your parents' house, you also remember they live in a Hub city for an airline. This means easy access to almost anywhere. It's your BFF from middle school's 30th bday party the weekend you're supposed to fly back to Austin. She's up in NYC. You've been swearing up and down you cannot make it to the party, but you are unhinged now. A free bird. Book that flight to NYC baby, but definitely do not tell your BFF. She told you many times that no one is staying with her that weekend so you can for sure just show up at her door and stay at her place. You'll fly in on Thursday, stay with your little sister, and then go knock on BFF's apartment Friday morning. Look at you, you spontaneous girl!!!!!

Fast forward to next Thursday. You survived the week. Was it sunshine and rainbows? Lol. Your parting words to your older sister were to tell her to quit being an asshole. Sisters, amirite?

Now picture this: you've just boarded your flight to NYC, the flight crew is discussing NYC on the loudspeaker, and your BFF tries to FaceTime you at this moment. Again, you cannot reveal where you are, so you decline and tell her you're busy but need her to send you her address so you can send her a surprise delivery tomorrow. She says "ugh. I have to go into the office and have a dinner immediately after. I won't be home all day."

Usually this would not be a problem. You would think of a creative way to surprise her in another way, but your brain is smooth from having to emotion for a while so you panic and try to FaceTime her back. She declines. She is asleep. You've got 3 hours to sit in your panic. Congrats. For those of us keeping score, you're doing well.

So, you land and decide figuring out how to surprise BFF is a problem for Future You. You take a taxi to the Bronx. The city is spooky scary but yolo baby. The next morning you decide you are done carrying the stress of curating a surprise and text BFF a selfie on the subway saying "surprise, bish. I am in NYC." She's in the middle of a meeting but calls you crying after the meeting wraps up. She also reveals her Connecticut friends surprised her and are staying with her this weekend. You now have no housing for the weekend. Again, that is a problem for Future You.

You have 8 hours to just exist in a giant, spooky city. This turns out to be the biggest blessing. You haven't been alone for over a week. It's good for the soul to be alone when you're sad. That's what they say.

You honor your little sister's favorite Nelly Furtado song and decide to be like a bird around the city. You meet up with BFF after taking a fancy workout class and getting your hair done. You also get groped on the sidewalk on your way to meet BFF. Traumatizing, but you must push on because you have drinking to do. Happy hour is good.

Your little sister texts and graciously offers to let you stay another night. You get some Bodega chicken tenders on the way back to her place. You wake up on Saturday and get ready to attend BFFs bday party. Little Sister breaks it to you that she will not be able to house you Saturday night. All blessings, baby. You are an innovator and problem solver. You pull up HotelsTonight.com and get to searching. It is NYC Marathon weekend, so hotels are tricky and expensive. God's Light appears through your screen. Margaritaville Resort Times Square is the top flash deal. You close your eyes, hit "Book Now" for a stupid amount of money, and let go and let God.

Fast forward 4 hours to your BFF's party. You know no one. You make small talk with some people for a few hours and the party wraps up. You make your way back to Paradise. It's 9pm and you have exploring to do at The Resort. It is what The Lord James Buffett has placed on your heart. Maybe He is calling you to find his lost shaker of salt in Margaritaville Times Square. Spoiler: You don't find it. ;(

So you're at one of the 4? Margaritaville restaurants in this resort. There are no open tables. You decide to sit at the bar. You're sandwiched between a sweet, foreign man who is here on vacation and a Parrothead couple on their anniversary trip. Nice. Happy people. Cool. To the right of you there's a giant Statue of Liberty bust holding a margarita that puts on a light show every hour on the hour to Jimmy's Greatest Hits. You order a 32oz piña colada in a souvenir blender cup and something called "Volcano Nachos" that is supposed to feed a family of 4. Get to work, Sunshine. That piña colada won't drink itself. You realize you cannot finish this piña colada because it is entirely dairy based and you don't have enough Lactaid. This is the moment when your brain chooses to make you start to cry for the first time in a week. This is so painfully on brand for you it hurts. You've ruined the date night sitting next to you and the sweet, foreign man is deeply concerned. You quietly pay and take your blender cup and what's left of your pride upstairs. You pass out as soon as you hit the bed. You open your eyes the next morning to the sight of a melted, chunky colada staring right back at you. That's showbiz, baby.

It's time to return to Austin. You head to JFK and get drunk on Espresso Martinis at the airport bar at 10am. Starbucks wasn't in this airport, but at least there's espresso in this drink's name. You land and find peace in being home. That's progress.

Fast forward 4 days. You've been thinking about getting a dog for years now. You always told yourself you'd do it when you were more stable or when you had a partner. Well, now you are neither of those things so THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT. You've been searching for Golden Retrievers across Texas. Everyone has a waitlist and no litters in the foreseeable future. You stumble upon a breeder about 1.5 hours away who has glowing reviews on everything. These reviews turn out to be a lie. They do not have any retrievers, but the woman tells you she has some 16 week old Goldendoodles ready to go. You decide to go take a look.

So you're on 35 headed up to the breeder. You promise yourself you will only take a dog if you feel a soul connection to them. You show up and there is one puppy left. All of his siblings left days ago and he is depresso espresso. He is shaking in the corner and won't look at you. The woman assures you it's just because he's more reserved. The husband mentions that it's good you're meeting him because "no one will take him if you don't." He won't come near you, but you sit down next to him and he lets you give him a belly rub. He glances over at you for 0.3 seconds. You lock eyes and decide right then and there that he is coming with you. He cannot stay in this place alone with people who tell him he's not wanted. There is a deep metaphor here about you being this dog, but you're super not ready to discuss that one with your therapist yet.

You pay the couple the same amount of money it would cost to adopt a dog from APA. Morally you feel icky about a backyard breeder but financially you feel great. They've decided to give you a steep discount on this dood because he is the last one and is much older than when most puppies get adopted.

You drive home. He still won't look at you and also throws up 10 min away from the house. He's still shaking and won't walk. He's a carry boi. You get him into your apartment and realize he has fleas. It's a Dawn soap bath for him and a cry for you.

You take him to the vet when Monday rolls around. It turns out this guy has fleas, ticks, worms and is 15 lbs underweight. None of the names you're thinking of fit him. He was supposed to be named Bo (short for Bocephus) but you realize you can't name him after a super hater mega Republican. He'll go by Bo for now, but you'll have to think of another name for his "Christian Name."

He still won't really look at you and definitely won't play with you. He's scared of everything. The Vet tells you he most likely has some heart issues because he's breathing really fast and also tells you it's not normal for him to be so scared. You walk back to the car and sob. You take him home and cry on the floor for 45 min. This was probably a huge life decision you shouldn't have made in the current state you're in, but he's yours now.

Since everything else is going really well, you also decide now is the time to really dive into tattoos. You start slapping on permanent drawings like your body is a Chipotle bag. You turn 30 a few weeks later and decide you're going to get a new tattoo every month for this entire year because that's a fun way to remember 30. Is it? It sounds more like mental illness, doesn't it? But you decide it's "fun" to get repeatedly stabbed by needles every month. You only have tattoo regret 11% of the time.

Fast forward 6 months. Your dog's name is Booger. He is still scared of a lot of things but you've made a lot of progress together. Pros: he does not have heart issues, is a velcro boi, and prances instead of walks. He also looks exactly like Bear in the Big Blue House. Cons: He has IBS, is a velcro boi, and is on a prescription diet that costs more than your own food. He probably saved you more than you saved him though. Again, there is probably a deeper meaning here but it's not time to unpack that.

You go on a few dates with some people but decide you're not quite ready to go back to the trenches after one cries on your couch while telling you he doesn't know if he wants to marry you after 3 weeks of knowing you. All you did was ask if he wanted pepperoni or cheese pizza. You also recognize you're still a little too unhinged to be with someone right now and that's okay.

You've added 11 tattoos to your body in the past 6 months. You keep scheduling more and have not let yourself down by missing a month. This year is about keeping promises to yourself. The tattoos keep getting dumber as you go, but they also keep getting funnier. Your most recent is "YEEHAW" on your arm. A man points out that the majority of the tattoos you have gotten are things that fly. Deeper meaning alert. Someone jot that down and forward it to your therapist.

It's been a bitch of a 6 months, but you made it. You stopped saving accomplishments for relationships and started doing more big things on your own. You and your dog happily share your new King sized bed. Except not really. Your dog hates sleeping in the bed and prefers to go to his crate. He's a teenager after all. You've started saying yes to more adventures and have found a love for the mountains you never thought you'd have. There's freedom and promise in existing on something large and unknown. There is no deeper meaning there. Don't read into that. That comment is only about mountains.

Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, if you listen to no other advice here please take this and cling to it. 3 days after a breakup is NOT the time to crack open Stranger in the Alps for the first time and become a Phoebe Bridgers fan. You just might find yourself on the floor for hours while "Motion Sickness" and "Scott Street" play on loop. Or do. Idk. Phoebe is great. Fuck you, Ryan Adams.

Untitled - Excerpt

Dalton Allen

     0273

I am staring at the claw marks I've made on the interior.

The small streak of blood. Barely a millimeter wide and inch tall.

I had forfeited at the quick of the nail.

Pathetic.

A micrometeoroid the size of a grain of sand has done more damage to the craft than I have.

I can't even manage self-sabotage.

Coward.

Instead of pounding and scratching at the thickest point of the hull, I could simply have opened the airlock.

Why didn't I just open the airlock?

I could still just open the airlock—here, I turn to look at the airlock—why am I not opening the airlock?

I see myself at the hatch, I see myself unlock the hatch, climb through the hatch, close the hatch… I stop there.

I do not see myself depressurizing the hatch.

The airlock remains unopened.

It is not a lack of conviction, I tell myself, but a lack of courage.

I wonder if it means the same thing.

I shake my head.

I hear Talin, "Who has time to be so pedantic?"

I turn to look at the timestamp on the console. Not even ten months.

"Well," I reply to Talin, who isn't there, "I do."

Yes, I have plenty of time.

All the time outside the world.


     0458

I have passed the last communication stage.

Here now and forward, the signal is too weak to sustain.

Since its download, I have played the last message I will receive from Earth a dozen times or more, both on the vid-link and in my head, over and over.

Not an hour's silence in the last four or so cycles.

I am not ready yet to let go.

That is part of it, yes. I've had my panic attacks already. I know I will have more. But there is something more to it than that.

My colleagues are perfunctory, professional. Just the right amount of break. Here, a crack in the voice. Here, wetness in the eyes. Dilation of the pupil too, I imagine, though the vid-ink doesn't have the resolution. The words are all correct. The sentiments agreeable and agreed upon. Dialed in.

I'm looking for a slip in the performance.

I cannot find one. Perhaps that alone is proof enough. Margin of error.

'Brave.'

'Heroic.'

'The best of us.'

'Wish we could go with ya.'

'Lucky.'

'Jealous of what you'll get to experience.'

'Go down in history.'

'We'll miss you.'

Maybe. But not enough to stop me.

The numbers were crunched. Mine was an acceptable absence. Preferable, even. Optimal, maybe.

But I know all this already. Why am I torturing myself?

I'd felt it years before the mission was even seeking volunteers. It's why I enlisted in the first place. No children. No parents. Family estranged. Divorced.

"I didn't have the heart," explains Talin, who isn't there.

I turn to look at her. I choke back an expression—any expression. She isn't looking at me. She isn't there.

"I understand," I lie.

She pushes herself off, delicate beyond effort, and glides down from the pilot seat, tracing her absent fingers along the buttons and switches that extend all across the hull as she descends, taken more by their light than the stars' beyond them.

"I wanted to. I really did. I've always been a hectic traveler."

"I know."

"I'll catch you on the return leg."

"The drive home goes faster."

"I'll be ready."

I caress the base of my ring finger with my thumb. It used to be a habit of mine, to idly twirl the band around my finger.

Used to. The tan line has long since faded.

I am performing.

"We never were very good at talking to each other, were we?"

Talin's finger hovers over a switch, as if unsure whether to press it. "No," she decides, and begins floating again. "But we used to."

I shake my head in disagreement. It was always strategic. Postures and gambits.

We both knew, and we both knew the other knew, but still we left it unspoken to the other. To admit it would be a breach of whatever social contract we hadn't even realized we had signed. Personal failing, or hazard of the job?

A sudden calmness sparks within me.

I remember why I volunteered.

The feeling won't last long, so I try to relish it.

Talin, who isn't there, stares at me now with glistening eyes, wide and quivering from some obscure pain, an unstable well of potential energy threatening to release.

"You had your chance," I tell her. "So did I."

She turns sharply, dislodging the tiniest orbs of lacrimal fluid behind her, and moves with purpose to the cryorig.

I wipe my eyes and return to work. There is still much to do before the first year-sleep.

I hear the clumsy metal thuds as she, not there, climbs inside the frame.

The hiss of hydraulics.

Pressurization.

A seal is formed.


     1346

I am awake, again, to my dismay. I see the hull blown apart, like the losing end of a Christmas cracker. I see its twisted metal phalanges reach out apathetically for my frozen corpse, which tumbles unseen in the gaps between pin-light. I see a billion years pass before I am pulled into a star and scattered forth from a new womb.

But my body aches from thawing out of the cryorig.

I am reminded of my limbs.

It is not getting easier.

But I can't do it myself, so I leave it to the craft to do it for me.

So far it has refused, just as it was built to do.

I've always hated engineers. The scientist and philosopher at least have the decency to leave on a question mark. The engineer instead insists, finds an idiot, convinces them to risk their life with divine promises—those three gracious sisters named Redundancy, Contingency and Percentage—all for the chance of a full stop... or more likely just an ellipsis. I am the idiot, and the ellipsis.

I begin the humdrum of my tasks.

Logs, warnings, margins and measurements, trajectories, calibrations, nominal values.

Green lights all, triple-checked.

Perfect refusals.

As I do these things, I think of the mission. I think of hope. Of what I will find when I reach the planet. Of what I would say should I return.

I do not imagine beautiful vistas or practice speeches.

I think instead of being beaten to our new home, that just after I am sent away, some brilliant coalition discovers that true speed in the buffer overflow of God, and all the world is loaded up and delivered to their final safety across the Way—then lo, here am I, sputtering ashore, leaking poison and oil, out of touch and long since fashion, having left too early and so arriving too late with no fruit to bear.

Or, I think, if I am instead the first to reach the Goldilocks shores, then it truly will have been for nothing, as by the time I set foot, they will have made all the earth a graveyard or a garden.

A season passes, says the computer, and it is time again for year-sleep.

I set it for three.

I pray to kind Percentage as I climb into the rig, be cruel—be cruel.

I do not think of Talin.

I Didn't Mean to Kill Those Rodents

Alex Speed

In the past two weeks I have been the unwilling participant in the deaths of two adventurous road vermin. I did not intentionally kill these animals, but the term manslaughter seems to apply specifically to a genus that does include these little road warriors. The upsetting reality is that vehicles are dangerous and small animal minds are not developed enough to understand the concepts of inertia or force.

The deaths of these two animals took place in two separate countries, about 400 miles (643 kilometers) apart. Both demises were met under the wheels of my brown 2015 Ford F150 - Dolly to the initiated.

The first instance occurred about 150 kilometers south of Calgary, Alberta on a stretch of road that resembled the bleakest patches of Kansas or Nebraska. Pavement meets horizon seemingly forever, forcing me into a trance interrupted only by laughter or singing from my road companion, Madalyn. We made a spotify playlist filled with songs about Canada that ended up being mostly a Neil Young/John Denver power hour.

Madalyn kept me company through the denuded Canadian landscape as we made our way back to Bozeman, back to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We used to date back in the day - a topic we danced around for the three days we explored this strange pseudo-american knockoff country (Canada is like America if there were no freedom or liberty or justice for all). The tension of past love reached a boiling point staring at this road that seemed to go on forever in any direction. A gloomy Townes Van Zandt song providing the soundtrack to our imminent emotional showdown.

And then

As if it sensed the tension tied up in this rickety truck

A ground squirrel sprints to the middle of the road and pops its tiny little head up.

It died with less of a thud and more of a whisper as forehead met fender – there was suddenly a very different tension in the truck cabin. We both stared silently forward waiting for the other to confirm the tragedy we were begrudgingly involved in. Awkward laughter slips out as the absurdity of the weekend catches up to the both of us. The kind of laughter that isn't rooted in hearing a joke, but in realizing, very suddenly, that your life itself has become a joke. Not a clean tight standup joke delivered by a man in a suit, more like a clumsy punchline luckily thrown together by a nervous freshman in a hoodie. Why were we both in Canada with our ex still reeling from a terrible standup show when we hit a squirrel with a truck? It reads like a premise too difficult to write a punchline for.

Madalyn flew in from Maine to come to a standup show that at best could be classified as "technically comedy." The show was run by a protuberant man in his sixties named Stuart who took special interest in telling me he did not think I was funny, but the audience really liked it. He was the type of late-middle aged man who thought the funniest thing in the world was getting on stage and doing a pretty-racist-vaguely-asian accent. He was the type of person who makes it embarrassing to try to tell your friends that you are now a standup comedian. He made a joke on stage about killing a cat in pursuit of cocaine. His routine was met with mostly awkward silence punctuated by the occasional nervous laughter, which seemed moreso rooted in fear and absolution than humor or even enjoyment.

I think part of being on stage for a few decades is becoming too aware of the different kinds of silences that move in and around interest or attention. Silence can be a powerful medium of comradery - hearing a pin drop as an audience waits for the much-anticipated conclusion of a gripping story, the silence that amplifies the crackle of a campfire shared by friends who wished they could "do this more often." Silence is a beautiful thing to share with those around you, and a deeply uncomfortable corner to be backed into. The silence of an uncomfortable audience is one of those states that feels too heavy to be unwillingly thrust upon thirty to forty humans. The weight of silence between two lovers demoted to friends who just witnessed an animal, maybe intentionally, kill itself under the weight of their shared vehicle in a country neither of them live is - somehow weirder.

So we just sort of live with that, in the same way that we just sort of live with a lot of unasked endings. We break silences, whether they are conversational or acquiescent. We continue in the anticipation of intervention that might not come, and we hope to have a story to share around a loving fire.

Smashmouth's Greatest Hits, Vol. III

Marina Martinez

Heeeeeeeeello one and all! Welcome to another exciting recap of our dumb D&D campaign! Yes, we're still going. No, I can't believe it either. If you need a quick refresher of the campaign so far, please see Volumes I & II of our campaign in Issues 43 and 49 of this Newsletter, respectively. Or don't, I'm not your parent.

(If you've reread the recaps to filth and are somehow STILL interested and want to know every morbid detail, please check out our wiki. Wendy and I (but mostly Wendy) have worked very hard on documenting things since we're a group of neurodivergent nerds with memory issues and we meet like once a month, if that.)

And now, an updated roster of the freaks/heroes that make up Smashmouth, Attorneys at Law:

Genevieve 'Gen' Fairbrook: halfling ranger/cleric. No longer blind! But is now a cringefail girl boss. Damn. Gork the Dog is also still here (apparently). (Played by Sami McKenzie)

Bea Ornoughtoby: rock gnome bard/artificer. Also a vampire. Wears a lot of hats, literally and figuratively. Can't possibly have any other secrets in her backstory. RIGHT?? (Played by Wendy Fernandez)

Dircc: half-orc warlock. Dreams of his whiskey tree. His best friends are a 10-year-old child and his pet Rock. He's dressed like Orville Peck. Nobody's doing it like this guy. (Played by Matt Spradling)

Champ the Scamp: tiefling rogue/barbarian. What does he have? Several large weapons! (NO!!) And he does have at least one dad. Maybe 1.5, but he doesn't really know decimals. Somebody get this kid in school. (Played by Sam Spradling)

Gravemarker 4-2E (aka 2E): shadow elf warlock. Think 'Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way' except with a…baby?....and a hazy backstory. Maybe the most competent member of the party (except when she's not). (Played by Dalton Allen)

And we also have a BUNCH of NPC's, including two semi-regular party members, since they can't be expected to find the main plot themselves:

Mefisteg (aka Greg): tiefling rogue. First and foremost, Champ's dad. On a mission to kill the people that ruined his family. Notorious flirt and wanted on at least 3 continents.

Captain Journey: half-orc cleric/wizard. Founded the secret organization they're all in. Hates paperwork but gave herself a job that was entirely paperwork and therefore would rather just run around and do shenanigans with her friends. How did she get that accent??

Without further ado:

SMASHMOUTH'S GREATEST HITS, VOL. III

(Once again, the 'hits' are my forehead connecting with the table.)

(I know the previous recap was included in the last issue but so much has happened since then and I need people outside my immediate friend group to point and laugh at these idiots with me.)


10. Got trapped in CSI: Feywild

Brief recap of the recap: the party had just (finally) met the Big Bad (or at least his entourage) for the first time, and also come to the realization that 1) they may have made some bad choices and 2) a few of them had some weird gaps in their memory. Huh. Nothing to do about that!

They returned to HQ only to find out Papa was the sickest he'd ever been and long story short a magical hologram showed up and plane-shifted them to the Feywild, the realm of faeries and the source of most natural magic. And they didn't even get to see most of it because I lied - this was gonna be less CSI and more Ace Attorney.

Surprise! Papa had been sick because while his physical body was at home, his soul had been here the whole time! Smashmouth had to defend Gen's Papa in Fae Court on attempted murder charges against the Faerie Queen, Titania. The universe punishing them yet again for calling themselves lawyers despite the fact that none of them had ever stepped foot inside a law school. And by 'the universe' I mean me.

Anyway they were assigned a legal aid, Gravemarker 4-2E, to help them gather evidence and prepare for the trial. And lord knows they needed all the help they could get.


9. Almost TPK-ed by walking through a bunch of doors

I mentioned that the Feywild was super duper magical, right? A lot of that magic, in and around the royal grounds and the legal offices, was especially attuned to permission and consent. If anyone tried to go snooping in places they weren't permitted to snoop, they'd be subject to Wild Magic (aka random magical effects ranging from harmless to hilarious to instadeath).

Most people, after figuring this out, would probably exercise a modicum of caution. As I hope you've inferred by now that this band of merry adventurers never has and never will stop and think. Maybe they think it's funnier to live life for the bit?

Anyway, Champ snuck away and started rolling death saves, Bea had her memory wiped, Gen got turned into a cloud, and Dircc's weasel Roverrandom gained a spell slot. If they hadn't somehow stumbled into King Oberon's secret chambers, who knows what would've happened!

(I do. I know. They would've died.)


8. Attempted to kidnap (and subsequently imprinted) on a literal newborn

I'm choosing to skip over the climax of their Feywild adventure in favor of getting to another very wild moment in the campaign. You're not missing out on much - they went to court and fought the Queen and uncovered a huge conspiracy involving the Courts of Light and Shadow and saved Papa and became besties with the minotaur king (who restored Gen's vision) but you know what really matters? A stupid Twilight reference.

Instead of being returned back to the Material Plane (the normal one), Oberon's spell was hijacked and Smashmouth found themselves in a mysterious and spooky village. It quickly became apparent that there was time travel shenanigans afoot, but also 2E, who had been released from her work assignment and for some reason chose to accompany Smashmouth, was getting recognized by the villagers. Weird. Anyway, the important thing is that they went to visit the village Alchemist and were greeted by her apprentice, a child version of their…friend/maybe enemy(?), Wario. The plot thickens.

So yeah, the alchemist was in labor and admitted to pulling them through time to get there and protect the village and hold off the babies' father so that she could get away with her child. Or, as it turned out, children. She had twins! An unanticipated disagreement occurred between the party, which was split between 'this isn't our problem' and 'we should probably assist in this main story quest'. 2E boldly tried to resolve it by nabbing one of the babies (to…sacrifice?) but was quickly stopped by Dircc.

And yeah the baby was their boss, Journey. Which leads us to…!


7. Unlocked a major plot point/pun

(This one wasn't something they did, I just wanted to include it since I'm happy we've been playing this game long enough to get to my dumb joke.)

After a harrowing battle against some cursed zombies, everyone is brought back to the present by a very scared Oberon, who quickly gets them back to TACOSE HQ.

Journey (aka me) finally reveals the major lore drop she'd been sitting on for 3-4 years. She and her twin (and Wario) all grew up together, have been running from agents of their father (the BBEG), and Smashmouth were all recruited because Journey knew that they'd already saved her once before and she's like 80% confident that they can help her find her twin and take down her father.

Also, her twin's name is Destination. Get it? ;-)


6. Almost got arrested at a circus

With those revelations out of the way, we're back to the goofs. Unfortunately.

Champ's narrative Nat 20 led Greg to remembering meeting acrobats named Journey and Destination at a traveling carnival in Wildemount, so despite Rock very strongly suggesting that Dircc needed to go kill somebody for him back in Tal'Dorei, they all headed to the circus! And Journey joined the party in case they were to confront her sibling.

I'm not even going to bother explaining the details here. The party split (despite first acknowledging that splitting the party is bad) and everyone drew varying levels of attention from the circus employees. I think 2E and Dircc tried to hide from security guards by getting on the carousel? And the guards just stood by the exit waiting for them to get off. Like…whatever. Fine.

Also at some point Dircc and Journey went on the Tunnel of Love ride and Champ followed them in by swimming in the water. While this wasn't an arrest-worthy offense, it was just very unsanitary and it made me, Marina, get the ick. And yes I KNOW this was being done by a fictional character whose main character trait is always being gross and nasty and covered in shit but come on!!! Yuck!!!!!


5. Stole/Liberated a bear

The circus ended up being a red herring - though the real Destination had left messages for them there - but instead of just leaving in peace to head off to their next stop, they had to do a quick theft. As per ushe.

When the party had split earlier, Champ had wandered over to the animal cages and somehow befriended a large brown bear. (I say 'somehow' like I don't make sure that Champ makes at least one friend everywhere they go. It's the Greg in me.) This bear, which they almost immediately named Beni, was wearing a little vest and a fez, so obviously he was being severely mistreated and had to be rescued.

(I'm pausing this joke article to make a heartfelt threat to my friends:

STOP ADOPTING EVERY RANDOM STRAY YOU COME ACROSS. I CAN'T SAY NO TO YOU BUT THEN I'M STUCK WITH YET ANOTHER STAT BLOCK TO TRACK AND A VOICE TO REMEMBER. Y'ALL HAVE A WHOLE ASS DOG WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES AND HE HASN'T 'SPOKEN' IN AT LEAST A FULL YEAR. I WILL NOT HESITATE TO HAVE ALL OF YOUR COMPANIONS 'TAKEN CARE OF'. PERMANENTLY.

Okay back to the joke article.)


4. Egged a building for no reason

They planned a heist into a bad guy's admin building for like an hour and then it went surprisingly well? Not according to the plan, mind you, but they weren't caught or anything. I think the heist was for blueprints for Pumat Sol, but also for blueprints for Journey, but (most importantly) to discover the location of Yussa, the poor wizard they'd impersonated at the Gala where they found Greg (and who, unfortunately, had been kidnapped by the Bad Guys a while ago and was probably suffering because of them). The group Guilt Meter only works like twice a year.

Team Inside (Dircc, Journey, and Champ) posed as a family to get in the door, and were very swiftly moving through the heist objectives. Team Outside (Gen, Bea, and 2E) were just…bored, I think? So by the time alarms started going off, Team Outside was yelling and egging the building and Team Inside was scrambling (pardon the egg pun) to get out undetected.

They left a cursed ghost named Manfred in there, by the way. I don't know if they'll remember him. All they had to do was find somebody's office and get his bones. RIP Manfred, even though you literally can't.


3. Let the cleric do rogue things

After completing a brief shopping episode, it was time to prepare for their 2nd heist during a fancy rich person masquerade party (this time at Castle Ungebroch, the home of King Dwendal). Instead of infiltrating the party to steal an artifact for a wizard, the plan was to sneak into a higher security place and steal the wizard himself (from prison). So step one was locating the target.

I think the previous heist was so recent that everyone had exhausted their Good Ideas. That's the only explanation I have for Champ demanding to be carried into the castle inside a crate while Gen snuck in and found the guest quarters. Who let the woman who just got her sight back do a stealth mission???

Stealth? Barely passed. Lockpick check? Failed. Trap? Black goop in the face, impossible to wash off through magical or mundane means. Don't worry, I'm sure Gen's luck will pick back up!


2. Got kinky during a rescue mission

It didn't. Sorry, Gen.

Honestly, this session was a blur to me. Like, I can go on the wiki and read the session notes, but I need it to remain a blur for my own sanity. Everybody was just real horny in this one, for some reason. Besides Champ, obviously. Champ and 2E were the ones carrying out the heist. Well, 2E was having a mental breakdown and Champ was locked in. What else is new?

Bea and Gen went full Merry and Pippin and were smoking in a tree outside. I'll be 100% honest, I'm not sure what their plan was. Backup?? Anyway they kissed and had opposite feelings about it. Damn.

I only remember Dircc and Journey's distraction plan because I was (unfortunately) part of it. Dircc disguised himself as King Dwendal (the monarch inside the castle) and started distracting the guards by reading his Gender Manifesto. Journey Disguised Self to look like Xena, Warrior Princess, and they started making out. There was a whip involved, maybe? And then 'King Dwendal' said he was going to blow up. Like, yeah, that'll distract the guards for sure.

If I'm getting these facts wrong, how would you even know? Shit was crazy. The important part is that Champ rescued Yussa, somehow got him outside to the rendezvous point (undetected), and the rest of the party helped Greg hide a body he'd just assassinated from his son. Yes, Greg was there to assassinate somebody. Don't worry about that. And the party found out that him and Clarence (their bartender friend from the first session who is also a part of TACOSE) have been dating. Wahoo.

Someday, there's just gonna be a normal heist where there is a plan and everyone follows it. That's my dream.


1. Solved yet another puzzle incorrectly

There's a lot of events I could've used to end this article. Important, juicy, plot-relevant events. But we cannot lose sight of what this article is for - to drag my friends for making my life a living hell for approximately 5 hours every 1-2 months.

After rescuing Yussa and promising to never bother him ever again (unless they really needed to), Smashmouth set off for the city of Westruun, the city at the heart of Tal'Dorei where they'd all first met (and the city where Rock really needed Dircc to kill somebody if he wanted to keep his warlock powers). When the party is traveling, I have them roll a d100 to see what they run into. This time, it was a random puzzle just off the road!

Did I make up the puzzle on the spot? Yeah. Did it have a solution? Yes, I'd just made it up. Did Wendy immediately grab the whiteboard the puzzle was drawn on and refuse to let anybody assist as 'Bea' solved the puzzle? Of course. After being told she'd gotten the correct solution, did she admit to guessing? ………………yeah.

Sorry, my eye is twitching again.

+++


The last session ended with mixed emotions for everyone. Dircc and Bea finally discussed their memory gaps (Bea accidentally funded the soldiers that killed Dircc's tribe, he's somehow cool with that), 2E and Gen did some unexpected girlbonding (Gen was shut down by Bea and 2E has been a fellow girl-failure but a great listener), and Champ has two dads and a pet bear now so his life is going pretty great! Also, just as Gen rolled a nat 20 to seduce a tavern full of construction workers, Bea happened to run into her husband. Because yes, she's been married this whole time and there's a 4 foot height difference between them. This campaign is fully just a soap opera at this point.

TL;DR We're approaching the end of the campaign here, folks, so stay tuned for the next (and final???) edition of Smashmouth's Greatest Hits! And please pray for me.

Sexiest Hozier Lyrics

Matt Spradling

Did you think I would go a full calendar year without talking about Hozier after a new album? You must not be someone whose phone number I have. How unfortunate for you.

Hozier walks the rare and scented line between "male character who was clearly written by a woman," as the joke goes, and "still authentically represents feelings of male longing," and I think that is pretty special even without the heaps of musical talent underlying it. Somewhere between that, the fierce political ethos, and never-wasted lyrical economy, I get things from Hozier I don't get elsewhere.

Like, songs about depression and angst and societal woes and chimney sweeps are great, but I've always spent more time being thirsty and yearning than actually engaging with those things and more of my mind is occupied with love, so in a way this music is closer to my heart than the great likes of Conor Oberst and Thom Yorke and Matt Berninger. Plus, even the songs that are about glumness are so varied in tone and often relatively happy and energetic enough that it's not just a downer, I don't know, it's a nice emotional vintage.

Anyway, here are some instances that made me say "yeah."


I know who I am when I'm alone

I'm something else when I see you

You don't understand, you should never know

How easy you are to need

Don't let me in with no intention to keep me

Jesus Christ, don't be kind to me 

Honey, don't feed me, I will come back

It Will Come Back, Hozier

This has always been a favorite. The energy of a creature that is feral and desperate and aware of it but not enough to stop it. The song as a whole walks the line between "it's a problem" and "problematic" in a very real way. I like that it's "something else," not "someone else."


Her fight and fury is fiery, oh but she loves

Like sleep to the freezing

Sweet and right and merciful, I'm all but washed

In the tide of her breathing

And it's worth it

It's divine

I have this some of the time

Cherry Wine, Hozier

There is obvious and deep pain in this entire song but I think she loves like sleep to the freezing is a special line.


Something isn't right, babe

I keep catching little words, but the meaning's thin

I'm somewhere outside my life, babe

I keep scratching but somehow I can't get in

So we're slaves to any semblance of touch

Lord, we should quit but we love it too much

Sedated, Hozier

You know when you're so removed from life and meaning that it feels like your very self is crumbling away and grasping for someone else feels like the only thing you can do to stay afloat? You know when that?


Oh but the farrow know

Her hungry eye, her ancient soul

It's carried by the sneering menagerie

Know what it is to grow

Beneath her sky, her punishing cold

To slowly learn of her ancient misery

To be twisted by something

A shame without a sin

Like how she twisted the bog man

After she married him


What's sexier than the all-conquering spirit of death? A high compliment in my book.


I still watch you when you're grooving

As if through water from the bottom of a pool

You're moving without moving

And when you move, I'm moved

You are a call to motion

There, all of you, a verb in perfect view

Like Jonah on the ocean

When you move, I'm moved

-

You are the rite of movement

Its reasoning made lucid and cool

And though it's no improvement

When you move, I move

You're less Polunin leaping

Or Fred Astaire in sequins, honey, you,

You're Atlas in his sleeping

And when you move, I'm moved

Movement, Wasteland, Baby!

This feels like a more patient and thorough version of Florence's The way you move your body, baby. Something beautiful and gut-wrenching about seeing a form put to perfect use. And yet it's less "damn that ass tho" and more naturalistic, which I guess is case-in-point for this entire list. Move like grey skies / Move like a bird of paradise / Move like an odd sight come out at night


There's no plan, there's no race to be run

The harder the rain, honey the sweeter the sun

There's no plan, there's no kingdom to come

I'll be your man if you've got love to get done

No Plan, Wasteland, Baby!

Essentially my worldview in an efficient little poetic nutshell.


I'd be the last shred of truth in the lost myth of true love

I'd be the sweet feeling of release mankind now dreams of

That's found in the last witness before the wave hits, marveling at God

Before he feels alone one final time and marries the sea

Imagine being loved by me

I won't deny I've got in my mind now

All the things I would do

So I try to talk refined for fear that you find out

How I'm imagining you

Talk, Wasteland, Baby!

A tongue-in-cheek juxtaposition of grandiosity (see the first verse as well) and being about as explicit as he gets.


Be that hopeful feeling when Eden was lost

It's been deaf to our laughter since the master was crossed

Which side of the wall really suffers that cost?

Oh, lover, be good to me

-

Be love in its disrepute

Scorches the hillside and salts every root

And watches the slowing and starving of troops

And, lover, be good to me

Be, Wasteland, Baby!

Ok, maybe not sexy per se, but similar perhaps to No Plan and others in using a visceral type of love to find context and meaning and power in a decaying world. Or maybe it's all a metaphor for spanking or something.


When I first saw you, the end was soon

To Bethlehem it slouched and then must've caught a good look at you

Give your heart and soul to charity

'Cause the rest of you, the best of you

Honey, belongs to me

-

If I was born as a blackthorn tree

I'd want to be felled by you, held by you

Fuel the pyre of your enemies

-

Ain't it warming you, the world gone up in flames?

Ain't it the life of you, your lighting of the blaze?

Ain't it a shame they'd watch the throwing of the shade?

Ain't you my baby?

NFWMB, Nina Cried Power EP

See Run and Talk.


Bhfuilis soranna sorcha

Ach tagais 'nós na hoíche

Trína chéile; le chéile claochlaithe

Bhfuilis soranna sorcha

Ach tagais 'nós na hoíche

Is claochlú an ealaín

Is ealaín dubh í

De Selby Pt. 1, Unreal Unearth

Ah, Irish, the language of cats walking across keyboards. Hozier's translation and explanation: "Although you're light and bright, you come to me like nightfall. You and I mixed up together, metamorphosized, it's a dark art, it's the art of shapeshifting. It's being able to look inward into a new kind of infinite, and no longer being able to see where you begin and end, and that in the context of falling in love with somebody, in that kind of Neruda sense - your hand on my chest such that it's my hand."

Also the lyric videos for these two are really beautiful.

Ctd:


What you're given, what you live in

Darling, it finds a way to live in you

And your heart, love, has such darkness

I feel it in the corners of the room

After the gloom

-

Let all time slow, let all light go

I don't need to know where we begin and end

I'd still know you, not being shown you

I only need the working of my hands

Do you understand?

De Selby Pt. 2, Unreal Unearth

¯ \_(ツ)_/¯


I would not change it

Each time

Heaven is not fit to house a love like you and I

Francesca, Unreal Unearth

This is in the context of a story from Dante's Inferno in which lovers are caught in an endless hurricane for their love affair in life.


You called me angel for the first time, my heart leapt from me

You smile now, I can see its pieces still stuck in your teeth

And what's left of it, I listen to it tick

Every tedious beat going unknown as any angel to me

Do you know, I could break beneath the weight

Of the goodness, love, I still carry for you?

That I'd walk so far just to take

The injury of finally knowing you

It ain't the being alone

It ain't the empty home, baby

You know I'm good on my own, sha-la-la, baby

You know it's more the being unknown

And there are some people, love, who are better unknown

Unknown, Unreal Unearth

Not exactly romantic, in that this is a breakup song; I guess I just appreciate that a Hozier breakup song entails beautiful imagery from Dante's ninth circle of hell (satan; betrayers) and is so emotionally conflicted and compassionate. Which is, you know, a step up from pop punk bands singing about wanting to kill their ex because they're a bitch or whatever.

Goodnight, Greg

Marina Martinez

Greg was tired.

He'd technically been in constant state of exhaustion for the past decade, either from late nights on the road with a newborn, late nights running from the guards with a child who had missed their afternoon nap, or late nights systematically working his way through (unbeknownst to him at the time) a network of religious fanatics who were responsible for the death of his wife and the absence of his son. He didn't so much as 'go to sleep' as 'finally reach a level of exhaustion that forced him into unconsciousness every few days', and even in that state his mind still found the energy to haunt him with his own past. It had a lot of poor decisions to choose from.

With all this in mind, Greg felt as though he was pretty justified in murdering the next person who looked at him funny if it meant he could take their bed. Well, it was unlikely he'd actually be able to rest for a while, but what else was new. He never slept well when he was away from home.

It would probably be in poor taste to kill anyone here, anyway, especially since they were probably all higher levels than he was. He'd be bunking with these spies for the foreseeable future, since there was no way in hell he was leaving Champ, not after having searched for him for so long. Better stay vigilant, then, unless he wanted a dagger to his throat for the bounty on his head.

Wait, were they spies, or is that just what a 10-year-old thought they were? As usual, Champ had excitedly spouted words at him for a few minutes - about half of which he was able to parse - gave him a hug, and had then ran off, probably to climb his tall half-orc friend. The scary hot mage lady who ran the joint seemed nice enough, but Greg got the impression from her tired yet diplomatic greeting that he needed to make himself useful to make up for the inconvenience of another unexpected guest. He was pretty sure that top secret organization headquarters weren't exactly in the business of housing people who weren't up to pulling their own weight.

Not that he minded, since it seemed this group and he basically had the same goal of protecting Champ and killing bad (worse?) guys, but Greg had never exactly been good at doing things without a clear objective. Cecelia had always told him exactly what she wanted, and he was very good at following directions. Since she'd been gone, direct orders or requests were hard to come by. Captain Journey had told him to 'make yourself at home', but that wasn't really actionable, especially since he was pretty far from his home, at the moment. Home. His home had such a nice bed…so soft…..like…..clouds……….

"Well, hello there."

Greg's eyes shot open - when had they closed? - as he spun instinctively towards the potential threat, daggers already in hand. An elven man leaned confidently in the doorway, eying the weapons amusedly. The sunlight streaming through the open door behind him gave the illusion of his golden locks glowing, and a faint breeze rippling through the hall only increased Greg's incredulity. He needed to get to bed - an actual bed - quickly if he was already hallucinating.

"Are…you real?"

The man's eyebrows rose. "Well, I'm certainly not not real." He straightened up and sauntered over to stand before Greg. "The good Captain has volunteered me to go get you set up and settled in. No time like the present!" He smirked, extending a hand.

Greg took the offered hand and bent to kiss it. It jumped slightly in his grasp, and he quickly looked up to find that same amused expression that had been directed at his weapons moments earlier. Oh, uh. Whoops.

"My goodness," Clarence drawled loudly, hand withdrawn to cover his heart dramatically, "I didn't realize he had a gentleman joining us." A few muffled titters came from the agents further into the room. So much for staying vigilant - Greg hadn't noticed anyone else in the hall.

Greg could feel his face burning, even with the resistance to fire damage. Thank god for red skin. "Shit, sorry. I wish I could say that was intentional and I meant to do it, but honestly I just- I need a bed." Clarence's smirk grew as Greg huffed in embarrassment, grimacing at his own poorly articulated thoughts. "I…you know what I mean." Greg rubbed a weary hand down his face as Clarence chuckled at his expense. Gods, even that sound was unrealistically attractive. What was wrong with him?

"Darling, I'm sure I do." The elf winked, twirling on his heel to strut down the hall. He beckoned carelessly to Greg, turning his head slightly to call behind him. "I don't have all evening, you know!"

Greg sighed. He'd already been awake for at least two full days; what was a few more hours and some HR paperwork?

+++

Clarence was, rather unexpectedly, a good tour guide. He wasted no time in catching Greg up to speed on TACOSE and the organization's history, as well as Clarence's rather extensive role in it, and the elf gently relayed Smashmouth's adventures to Greg with a level of detail that would have had his eye twitching with annoyance if he weren't so gods damned grateful to hear it all. The elven man thoughtfully pointed out not only the necessary facilities like the washrooms and kitchen area, but also dragged Greg to the library and wardrobe rooms, two places the rogue noted with a weary excitement, tucking their location into his mind for the next day's exploration. He was grateful to be shown around, and he knew it was important to get everything right, but he was pretty sure there were two Clarences (Clarei?) walking ahead of him as his feet kept veering off to the right.

Glancing around to make sure they were alone (just him and the Clarei), he caught Clarence One's hand (nice, the real one on the first try) to pull him to a stop in front of what he had just been told were the living quarters. Clarence met his gaze curiously, and Greg did his best to rearrange his expression into something sincere but firm.

"Listen, you're doing great, and I appreciate it, but- well. Can we finish the whole tour thing tomorrow? I'm sorry, I'm just-"

"-tired." Clarence eyes darted to the side, guilty. "I know, dear, you'd mentioned. I'm terribly sorry, I was just absolutely giddy to be volunteered for guide duty. It's not something I normally do, you know. In fact, you're my first."

Greg couldn't help it. He snorted. "Oh, I'll bet."

Another unfairly musical laugh. "No, really! I mean, yes, normally I'd hate to have my beauty sleep interrupted, but when Journey said you'd made it here-!"

Two hands reached up to gently cradle Greg's face. He instinctively leaned into a soft palm.

"I just…I missed you, Mefisteg."

Greg smiled softly, basking in the unmistakable affection radiating from the other man. "Yeah. Missed you too. Really fuckin' missed you. But," he added, hoping his eyebrows were appropriately stern, "don't think I forgive you for keeping all this shit from me. You knew where Bru-sorry, Champ was for a full year and didn't think to tell me? Not one stone call?"

How could a 513 year old high elf pout and still be so attractive?

"Mef, darling, you know I wanted to!! You only talked about him every day since I met you, and I know how much you care about him. I care about him too, you know. And I promise I would've said something if he was in any danger." He leaned forward to press their foreheads together. "You trust me, darling, don't you?"

Greg's eyes closed in resignation, any anger he'd been grasping at dissipated. "You know I do, babe."

"And it's not like he would be in danger, that boy is five times scarier than anything we'd let him face."

"Heh. Yeah."

"And did you see the size of that greatsword he picked up?"

"Mm. You know, he's not the only one with a greatsword…"

"Down, boy. Try that line again when I'm not holding you upright."

"Noted."

"I kept your son safe for you, though. Just until you could be here."

"And I couldn't be here any earlier because…?"

"Journey said that's not how it happened."

"Because…time travel?"

"Correct."

Greg let out a deep sigh. "Right. Cool, why not. Just FYI, I've got like a minute until I'm fully unconscious, so…I could use some help here."

He felt the amused exhale against his lips. "I've got you, darling." Greg felt only briefly disoriented as his legs were swept out easily from under him. In the next few moments, Greg vaguely registered a door open and shut, something soft under his back, and his boots and traveling garb being gently removed. Minutes or hours could've passed, he was so far gone, but eventually the surprisingly comfy mattress sunk next to him under the weight of another body. He rolled towards the familiar heat gratefully, the final dregs of his awareness quickly fading.

"Good to be home," he mumbled into a warm, bare chest.

A soft kiss was pressed into his wild hair.

"Goodnight, Greg," Clarence breathed.

Greg sighed contentedly, letting his mind drift off. Maybe he could finally sleep, now that he'd found his home again.

I choose to live in the comfort of this delusion

Where you and I are connected

And the world is still dulled and new

Here Is What Happens When You Live in a Place People Utilize Mostly as a Getaway

Alex Speed

When you live in a town custom built as an oasis from the rest of the "all that" you might wake up late on a Saturday vapidly hangover, dulled to the point of exhaustion from the challenge of sleep. You might hoist your dehydrated body up semi-recumbent to take in the majestic views of the mountain ranges that used to inspire you. You might make vague passes at sobriety rooted in the idea that you should be living every moment in this beautiful place with the presence knob turned to eleven – because thank god you don't live in that horrible little suburb in Texas anymore; it's actually really irresponsible of you to be wasting a beautiful Saturday morning lying in bed playing Xbox and trying to Ubereats a cheesesteak and some gatorade.

When you live in a place that mostly exists for people a week or two at a time the hours of the in-between feel exceptionally heavy. When you overhear tourists at your favorite bar pining over a more relaxed lifestyle that must exist for people with a local license your problems start to lose credibility. The backdrop of a perfect mountain morning feels sinister when your vision is blurred from tears you can't nail down an origin for.

You might find yourself so starved for a healthy dose of cynical melancholy that you begin to resent the very fact that you moved to this beautiful, stupid, perfect place. It can start to become a game of chicken. I am running at beauty with a hammer in my hand and it is flowing toward me like a river that makes you wish you had an inner tube under and a beer in your hand. I want to smash it to pieces to prove I can keep on running to newer and more beautiful places, it wants me to lie down in green pastures and chew on wheat until I drift off into a dream.

I will continue running away to more beautiful and remote locations until I have run so far and so wonderfully that my silly problems get distracted by the views I leave behind. I choose to live in delusion, because I am comfortable in chaos - like a moth trapped in a light.

My legs are tired, and I long for a place to sit down.


Pink Pony Club - Chappell Roan

Happy Pride Month! I'm obsessed with her music a normal amount and this song doesn't make me cry. Also I went to a game night recently and a friend referenced me being a lesbian like twice and I didn't correct her bc I was like wow what an honor, she thinks I'm just like Chappell Roan. (I'm not, in at least four and a half ways.)  -Marina

That's That - MF Doom

To me this song is the embodiment of "lyrical athleticism" - a term my coke dealer talked to me about extensively this week. I have written hundreds of songs and dumb little poems and I can't even begin to understand how someone did this lyrically. I think this man is a genius. Don't expect to see the recipe // until we receive the check as well as the collection fee I mean come on.  -Alex

Assassin Beetle/The Dream is Ending - The Flaming Lips

Well-hidden, seven+ minutes in to a final track that's not even included on most versions of an EP made as an unwanted companion to a credits song for a regrettable sci-fi adaptation, lies one of the most devastatingly simple and beautifully rendered couplets as an imperative for living: The dream is ending/Open your heart to me  -Dalton

Suntan - Model/Actriz

Noise should be scary sometimes! See also Crossing Guard. Kind of a mixture of Joy Division and clipping. Is that a lazy comparison? Very well then, I lazy myself.  -Walt Whitman  -Matt

First Light - Hozier

If Matt isn't already writing a whole article about this album he'd better get on that. I listened to Unreal Unearth several times a day for several months. There are no skips, only repeats. It is one of the best things ever written, objectively. Why yes, I am autistic.  -Marina

Tragedy - Damien Jurado

Haha I mean come on, am I right? (I think to anyone who is not doing well this song feels like a lantern and I want to take a bath in its weird little glow.)  -Alex

In a Big City - Titus Andronicus

Containing another favorite couplet of mine (actually part of a triplet) that I've really been feeling lately: And some of my dreams are coming true/And some of the smoke from the other room is seeping through  -Dalton

The girl, so confusing version with lorde - Charli xcx, Lorde

Images

The Color Green: Officially owned and patented by Charli xcx

Pocahontas/Ed Norton: Google after dark

Margaritaville: Loh's camera roll (she may still sue me tho)

Booger: Booger

Football friend: Football friend

The Color Black: Officially owned and patented by Batman