The City, 08/28/14

Strangeness is just like smell or touch. Too much of the same of either and body and mind adapt, or goes numb which I guess is a sort of adaptation. The once remarkable blends into passing scenery. Edja, who owns the tea shop near my flat where I have breakfast in the morning, told me that I have to visit Madechen’s Emporium of Oddities. Sounds like PT Barnum may have stopped here on his way to where ever, picking up shrunken heads and warlock’s hearts.

I had a little giggle over the name and Edja asked me what was funny. I think I offended him.

Mädchen. It means girl in a language from back home.”

"Girl? Madechen is no child, my friend, but a brave adventurer."

I think the rock-like growths that sprout from both of Edja’s shoulders are getting bigger and pressing into his head and neck.

During my visit to this Emporium of Oddities, I noticed the blurring sensation. After the fourth preserved cyclops head, the plaques on which tell me that they came from the same creature and it died because of decisions by committee during an encounter with a hero, I wandered. I couldn’t process anything else. There is no escaping how away I am here.

Which was the reason for my journey, I suppose.

I met the proprietor in a cordoned off room, dusting and peering through a pair of wire-rim glasses. It was full of diving equipment. Scuba gear and deep dive suits, steel mesh gloves or plier-shaped implements, they were brass monstrosities and steel chests, helmets of glass, others with tiny portholes. I ran my hands through the dust on the top of them, even something from before my own century was a comfort. A well of emotion rose that I barely choked back. The blurring stopped, the sensation as jarring as any sudden stop.

How long have I been away from home?

Madechen really is German, he gave girl as his name because he thinks it’s funny. His sense of humor will preserve him like his specimens suspended in their jars. He was off the coast of Tierra del Fuego looking for pirate wrecks when he sailed through a shimmer in the air he took to be St. Elmo’s Fire. On the other side was punishing light and a shuddering roar, he thought he was amidst an earthquake or about to be swallowed by a phosphorescent sea monster. Then he saw the landscape, knew the roaring for what it was: his own ship shrieking as its steel flesh was torn by the rocks and its own terrible momentum.

Pilgrims come from thousands of miles in every direction to see his machines and hear stories of men who used to plumb the depths of something called an ocean.

Naturally they all think he’s making it up, but who doesn’t love a good story?

Madechen was kind enough to pose for a picture. I think I will return here often to visit him. Perhaps I will learn German. Maybe it will tether me somehow.



n. the awareness of the smallness of your perspective, by which you couldn’t possibly draw any meaningful conclusions at all, about the world or the past or the complexities of culture, because although your life is an epic and unrepeatable anecdote, it still only has a sample size of one, and may end up being the control for a much wilder experiment happening in the next room.


Where are Jane Austen, Borges, and Heidegger now? The first in a week-long series of illustrations by Jason Novak, captioned by Eric Jarosinski.

The City 08/24/14

The stories about a place that used to exist but has been wiped out often become more important, more real than the place was or ever could have been had it endured. Depending on the kind of person you are, you either find this fact magical or banal.

It had been a bath house.

It could be that its existence in a desert was interesting enough without adornment.

But that’s not how stories work.

It burned to the ground. The stones were incinerated. The water that used to course through it caught fire, steaming into dust. If you climb the neighboring buildings, the occupants of which charge visitors for the view, you can peer down into the hole and see the scorched sides, so dry they make the air crackle.

Nobody can think of any sort of fire that could burn stone or water.
There are many stories about why this happened some of them even address how. If you’re curious you can sit in any of the nearby tea shops or drinking holes and listen. Wet the right throat and you can listen until you wish they’d shut up. Talking, like fire, tends to build momentum when exposed to oxygen.

Devils bathed here in ash and a holy man sent them away, standing and gibbering amid oblivious bathers unattuned to the forces of evil. When he banished them the shockwave hit the furnaces that heated the water. Bathers, holy man and building burned. The demons would have loved it had they still been there, the place was always a touch cold for them. A jilted man cursed his lover and in the style of men his rage powered the curse past moderation. A child crept in one night and drowned, its ghost was powerful and pyrotechnic. A woman whose mind could move the world, though she didn’t know it, became suddenly afraid of water. She had a dream of salvation, of the end of water, and the bathhouse paid the price. The physics of the ground have been so brutalized that they’ve passed partially out of the world. Anything built on the black earth sinks and disappears under the cover of darkness, vanishing from both memory and gossip.

The place where the bath house used to be will only allow one sort of tale to be told.

That appears to be the only thing true and constant.

Either that or all the stories are true and constant.

As a traveler I prefer it that way.

A co-worker challenged me that I couldn’t finish a XXXL Burger from Fat Burger. It’s three patties, 24oz.

I failed. Jesus. Who do they make shit like this for?