Issue 8 - 01/28/19
- Life is Terrible, Y'all
- The Fount
- Alex's Weekly Restaurant Roundup
- The Potty Monster Cometh: Part II
- Horoscopes: Pets
- Office Chart & Sponsorship Information
Life is Terrible, Y'all
Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer
I try to be thoughtful of others and go out of my way to accommodate strangers. That's why it has always made me bonkers in yonkers when people in public spaces are inconsiderate or just plain oblivious. You will find no better place to witness instances of this than in the magical realm that we mortals call Public Transportation. It is here where I regularly encounter my worst enemy, The Person Whose Backpack Needs a Whole Damn Seat To Itself. I've found this behavior unacceptable. I would never say anything because I am no bark AND no bite to my very core, but I have thought daggers at the people who do this.
I got on the bus one day this fall after having just left work. I organize and carry out events for a living and on event days I am my Best Self. I am confident and professional and have no less than three Mac adaptors and one roll of scotch tape on me at all times. (I only needed the tape once but the pride of being able to pull that sucker out of my bag in front of a frantic tape-desperate professor will comfort me for years to come.)
This day I was in my post-successful-event high and wearing my brand new Anthropologie dress that I got for 70% off. 70 PERCENT OFF, FRIEND. I was "feeling myself" as the kids say. I made my way onto the extremely crowded bus and spotted the only open seat. I started to sit when I realized the man in the adjoining seat was slumped over and muttering to himself.
Standing it is, then.
As the bus continued, a few people got off and I was able to grab an aisle seat next to a woman a few feet away, diligently ignoring the now loudly muttering man. I was in the middle of a heated group text about which member of the friend group correlated to which Sex and the City character. This was difficult because only one of us had ever seen the show. I was crafting my argument against being cast as Samantha (I mean, it's just too easy) when I feel someone grab my shoulder. I looked up to see the muttering man now standing over me.
He said, "I love you."
I said, "uh, um?"
He braced his other arm against the back of the seat in front of me and leaned in. He tried to kiss me. I turned away but he kept trying. I couldn't get out of my seat. I felt his breath in my hair. I couldn't remember how to make noise. He kept trying. I slumped down in my seat and practically rolled onto the woman next to me.
The other passengers realized what was happening and started shouting. They pulled him off of me and pushed him out the doors.
"Are you okay?" "Yes." Please stop looking at me. Everyone is looking at me. Wait, I should thank everyone for helping me. Yeah, I need to say thank you. I don't know how to say it. My face is on fire.
I wanted to sink into the floor. I wanted to burn my 70% off Anthropologie dress. I wanted to crawl out of my skin.
I got on the bus the next day after leaving work. It was not an event day. I was not my Best Self. I scanned the seats and found what I was looking for: a pair all to myself. I sat down and tried to look normal. I didn't remember how to do that. Other passengers started to pile in and I was suddenly terrified that someone would sit next to me. What if I'm trapped here? What if he shows up? I put my backpack on the seat.
What I'm trying to tell you is that sometimes a backpack does need to have a whole damn seat to itself.
"Some things are harder for some people than they are for others."
Hank Green said that in a Vlogbrothers video a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. Sometimes things that might seem simple and good to you might be complicated and harmful to others. This sounds so obvious as I'm typing it now but I don't think it's something that most people have internalized and let permeate their worldview. This is an essential lesson to learn because life. Is. Terrible. Life is fucking TERRIBLE, y'all. Like, it's also beautiful and wonderful and full of incredible joy and hope. But it is also rife with suffering and despair and emptiness. No one is exempt. We have to be able to look at each other struggle and understand that we are witnessing another human who is navigating this great and awful existence and doing the best they can.
I've thought about this every day since I put my backpack on that bus seat. I think about it when someone is unkind to me. I even think about the muttering man and how he ended up on a city bus, alone, so clearly ill. I'm not trying to excuse harmful behavior. I'm just trying to remember the context. And it is sad.
I hope I can remember this lesson on the hard days and the impatient days and the wonderful days too. I hope I can have a little more empathy for those who drive me crazy. But I know I won't always because this life is terrible and it will be too hard. And in the aftermath of those days, the days I am not my best, I hope I can have compassion for myself.
I hope you can, too.
Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling
As I've begun finding and applying for Adult Jobs, I've also been updating my resume. Because said resume will, for better or worse, probably include a mention of Newsletter in that weird personal interests section (in order to display my, I don't know, youthful naivety most likely) I figured I might as well simplify the process and make Newsletter my resume. Let me know if any of these traits sound like a good fit for an enterprise you know of.
- Know when to be quiet
- Not entirely sure when to be loud
- Great at apologizing for things that aren't my fault and usually not taking it personally/customer service
- Never been in a wreck/hit a tree while learning to park/the tree is okay/very afraid of wrecks
- 90% success rate when customers slip in more money after you've already submitted their cash payment to the system and you have to do the mathematical equivalent of unclogging a toilet with one of those plungers that is not shaped like a plunger
- Was the best at dodgeball as a kid; probably still good
- Long but not particularly girthy (body)
- Eyesight: salvageable
- Face: acquired taste
- Hair: abnormal/surprisingly gray
- Organs: no visible problems
- Knees: surprisingly intact
- Hands: the reach and inherent charisma of a barrow wight and the delicacy of a whimsical child lock-picker
- Explaining chemicals I don't understand
- Explaining foods I don't understand
- Finding apartments in the dark
- Explaining writing techniques I don't fully understand including resumes
- Drug dealing (almost entirely caffeine-related)
- Got a pizza in return for moving help once
- This lol
- Technically sponsored by a band because Alex gave me a dollar
- Could give an impromptu hour-long lecture on exactly five topics but only if nobody is watching because that makes my brain get kind of not work
- Supernatural ability to delay a sneeze until a tissue is acquired
- Have kept a cat alive for three days as of today
- Honest to the point of being a non-entity
- Can only sleep in one position and it's only possible in perfect lab conditions
- Never solved a riddle
- Never built a chair
- Main strengths (PSAT, not being mean) not often lucrative in adult life
- Hibernate (poorly) in weather hotter than 80 Fahrenheit
- Care too much ;)
Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling
The year is 1994. A man lives in recluse somewhere in the heartland country. He looks haggard, tan, unshaved, unkempt, yet still impeccably handsome, like an irremovable shroud. His leather jacket is stitched and dusty. He is building a fence.
Hammerblows ripple over the boundless grass, then stop. He is kneeling, staring. A rabbit lay on the ground where the fenceline is aiming, its breath pained. The man is grim-faced, eyes stressed. He starts to drop the hammer, then redoubles his grip, trembling. His vision tunnels, his hearing is consumed by his pulse. Decisive, he throws his arm upwards to ready the mercy blow, but his elbow catches something hard on the backswing.
He jumps in alarm, turning, senses cleared. A boy sits knocked into the dirt, clutching his gut and grimacing. Didn't mean to sneak up on you, Mr. Fonzarelli, the boy says. It's alright, says the man. He doesn't move to help the boy. Sorry I hurt you.
The boy stands, beginning to speak then stopping, eyes widened. My cough, he says. I've had a terrible cough for two days now. It's gone. You cured it. The man looks away, apprehensive. The rabbit remains. You're really him, says the boy. You're Fonzie. The Fonz. The Fount. My momma didn't believe it, but I did, I believed it.
No, says the man. He picks up the hammer and turns but only looks at the fence. Ashen clouds are rolling over the mountain heads far to the West where leafless skeletal trees fix jagged barricades against the coming of spring and a fresh onslaught of storms. If the fence isn't finished this week, cattle will get lost. Maybe his, maybe someone else's. Best to keep the herds separate. Simpler. You should get home, he says.
The boy is undeterred. You're a legend. You travelled the world, healing the sick, pulling off the most dangerous surgeries, just you and your magic touch. My daddy used to say you were an angel sent from God. Please, says the man, raising a hand to no avail. He says it's not true what everyone said about you, that you were a lucky fraud or that you killed that girl. He says it must just have been her time. I don't know if you're an angel but my momma is sick and the medicine isn't working. You have to come help her. You have to. The boy is choking back tears.
It's been a long time since all of that. The wind is picking up. The man stands, one hand still raised, placating, the other grasping the hammer. The boy is quiet for a moment. We live in the house down on the bend in the river. Please come, sir. Please. He walks away, crunching over the dirt and high grass. He doesn't cough again.
After the sound of the boy has long faded, the man kneels by the now stilled rabbit. He is crying. He growls in frustration and slams the hammer into the foremost fencepost, splitting the wood so cleanly that the blunt head sticks inside. He throws a probing elbow into the rabbit, then again, harder. It begins to stir. The clouds have brought a gray and early evening but the waning moon is still visible to the East.
Alex's Weekly Restaurant Roundup
Brewmaster-level contributor Alex Speed
Hello there and welcome to the Roundup. This is the part of the show where I, a real life food critic (garbage person), give YOU the down-low on all things Austin eats. This week we're gonna be taking you deep in the heart (more like the stomach) of the greatest city on Earth (again, fuck you, Los Angeles.) Here we go:
The Lamborghini Dealership on Lamar and 42nd
I know what you're thinking: "Hey that's not a restaurant! That's a car store!" Okay yeah technically you're right. Congrats. But they have coffee in the waiting room and generally I'm pretty loose with rules so here we go. This place is nuts. When I first moved to Austin the space was a Ferrari dealership. Ferrari and Lamborghini have always been enemies to me. One is an example of history and class, the other is just about how fast and loud and obnoxious can we make those things that let us not walk go. The transition from Ferrari to Lamborghini happened very quickly - like murdered in the dead of night and we're just moving past it because we're too afraid of the murderer to ask any questions quickly. I used to drive past and gaze into the showroom, really feeling the full weight of envy as I longed to stop compulsively ordering socks on amazon and open a savings account so one day I could own a piece of *Ferrari red satisfaction* (to be read in Italian accent.)
On a hot summer day (its always hot, we're in Austin) I noticed that all the objects of my lust were gone, the showroom empty, and the prancing horse of the Ferrari logo replaced by a murderous bull outlined in yellow right below the letters: "Lamborghini." I was deeply upset.
The placement of this shop is parallel to how Austin operates. Right next door is a hippie pharmacy, next to that is a Rudy's BBQ, down the street is a coffee shop where the baristas can tell you the difference between Kenyan and Guatemalan coffee with shocking detail, which is all across the street from a state-run mental health facility. I feel like if anyone asked me what it was like to live in Austin I would just take them to this weird stretch of road, slow down, and kick them out of the passenger door.
I haven't been inside since the mutiny, so I guess this is more of another one of my columns: A Good Old-Fashioned Judge-O-Thon.
That's all I have to say about that.
The Potty Monster Cometh: Part II
Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling
Tuesday, January 22nd. 7:42 pm.
Nothing can be done at that point. I even saw it all unfolding; saw him "park," enter, make a line straight for restroom #1. So nonchalant about acts so cold. Credit where it's due, though, he never uses bathroom #2, which has a urinal, thereby not occupying the express lane, as it were. A glimpse of conscientiousness?
The night had been so smooth up until that point. A rare close with the GM and slow business meant we were easily ahead of schedule with no speed bumps along the way. Then this happens and you're made to dip into your proverbial savings. It's like when a night off is going great and you, perhaps intoxicated, perhaps not, who can say, do a sweet stunt with a plate while cooking that sees you having to pause said great night in order to sweep up jagged ceramic shards in order for your morning-self to not A-Quiet-Place themself. Is it like that? Sure. With less guilt and more dread. An even trade I guess.
I time it vaguely - 20 minutes go by, then 30, then he takes flight while I'm in the back. Final estimate around 40 minutes.
My manager, whether in a fit of grim bravery or via the urge for an Evel Knievel-esque show stopping stunt (like I said, slow day), decides exactly now is the time to clean the bathrooms. You have to respect the sacrifice. It was like watching your dad go back into your burning house to save something, fearing he'd never come back out. She did though - quite soon, and fairly shell-shocked. I later learned that dousing a, let's say, trouble bathroom in so much bleach that you cease to sense much of anything is an effective, if rather scorched-earth, strategy here. I think Plan B is laminating a big fat out of order sign and keeping it at the ready, but maybe that's why I'm not a manager.
What's to be made of all this? I'm loathe to ignore Sam's principles from only a few articles ago - how does one imagine this creature complexly and compassionately? Is he a refugee from dark flights of fate playing themselves out in the night beyond our sight, the horror of which we can't even imagine? Or is he like the insect race in the Ender's Game series, so different from us that they don't have any concept of how they harm us? Or is the truth, like most truths, mundane - simply a man in a golf-cart working a dull but potentially stressful job for years at a time that sometimes just needs some sanctuary? He's gotten a water cup a couple times, though I've offered him free coffee, either out of a default generosity or the instinct to placate in the face of a great threat. Are we to suppose that because he neither patronizes the establishment nor tips for small favors that he feels no appreciation, no shame? One time he left a walkie-talkie behind, which doesn't fill me with just a huge sense of security. I don't even know his name, but don't I know that he is human?
Nope. I think we're in grave danger.
Time for some sleuthing.
Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling
- Drink water. Like right now. You don't drink enough water. Am I too paranoid about kidney stones? Probably. Are they as good a thing as any to be paranoid about? Yes.
- Also - and don't take this as a threat necessarily - you could just die tomorrow. Like tomorrow tomorrow. Not to get into a whole trite "live like you're dying" thing, and not to get morbid, but kinda thinking about maybe dying every once in a while helps you enjoy the moment, I find. And don't like get all gung-ho and stop investing in your future, but you know what I'm saying.
- Be nice I guess?
- Oh god your food is burning go get it what are you doing
- Or if you're not cooking: Oh god your proverbial food is proverbially burning go get it what are you doing
Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer
CAPRICORN - Capricorn, you deserve the loyal companion you've always dreamed of. Grab your shovel and get to work digging up your new best friend: an earth worm! Fun fact: if you get a bunch of earthworms together they will form one large worm. Watch your new Large Worm crush your enemies.
AQUARIUS - You know how birds sometimes run into windows and get stunned? Get yourself a bottle of windex and a net, Aquarius. Your little birdie friend is ready to meet you!
PISCES - Have you considered a non-traditional pet, Pisces? No, you haven't because you're a basic bitch. Yeah, this is a callout. Try something new for once. Lure a small venomous lizard into your car and live a little!
ARIES - Aries, you and I both know you can't keep anything alive. Make your desktop wallpaper a picture of Garfield and move on.
TAURUS - Go ahead and adopt that dog you've always wanted, Taurus! Teach it some fun tricks like shake and speak. Teach it to speak English. Teach it to read. Teach it to overthrow the bourgeoisie and bring the new hope of Communism to every corner of the world.
GEMINI - Gemini, you're gonna need about 5 cats, three parrots, and one very old tree frog. Meet me at the old tavern at midnight. You know, the one off the highway past the old Dickens place. Don't be late.
CANCER - horse
LEO - You require a very unique, very special pet. Head on over to comic-con this year and see if you can pick up the most noble pet there is: a furry. You're going to need an extra large kennel, sure. But having that sweet creature wake you up every morning will be worth it.
VIRGO - Same thing as last week, Virgo: snake gonna get ya!
LIBRA - Just one pet isn't going to do it for you, Libra. It's time to sell everything you own and finally move into the zoo. Is the zoo going to allow this? Of course not. But what they don't know won't hurt them.
SCORPIO - Scorpio. It's right in your name! Get a ticket for the next flight to Nepal because the Indian Red Scorpion (Hottentotta Tamulus) is your new pet. Make sure you bring a flashlight. They're nocturnal and only four inches long so it's going to be hard to catch that sucker but I believe in you!
SAGITTARIUS - Reach the box and your mind will tear, Sagittarius. Is the metal for the young or into the dark? Find her out and use the egg on forever. Tomorrow can remember!
Car Seat Headrest - The Ballad of the Costa Concordia
The Decemberists - Cocoon
Alvvays - Not My Baby
Courtney Barnett - Nameless, Faceless
Jayne Trimble - Meet You at the Gate
MARGO - Grave Song
Snail Mail - Pristine
Better Oblivion Community Center - Big Black Heart
Alex gave me a dollar so technically A Newsletter is now proudly sponsored by Pearce the Band, supporters of the arts and also the art itself, like a sexy snake eating its own delicious tail. Listen to them wherever you listen to music these days. Here's this diddy featuring Gibson (Ruff Boy, Best Boy) peeing in applause.
Also, I gave the dollar right back, making Provost-level contributor Alex Speed A Newsletter's first professional freelance writer. Find his technically professional work in, I don't know, most issues. He has also chosen the new title of Brewmaster. Actually he wanted Chief Brewmaster but no one man is allowed such power.
If you would also like to give or receive a nickel in order to, say, pad your resume with light but technically extant online publishing work, our coffers are always open and willing.
Illustration for The Wildwood Chronicles - Carson Ellis
"The Barrow Wight" - Michael Herring