(AnD OtheR ObSeRvAtIons AbOuT LiFe in DyIng TiMeS) By bRiAn pOlK AW FUCK, LOOKS LIKE MY LEAST FAVORITE CUSTOMER SURVIVED COVID AFTER ALL We hadn’t seen Old Man Lifton since before the Great Lockdown, and absolutely no one at my job at the coffee shop missed him. He was always making creepy comments and misogynistic jokes to my coworkers five decades his younger. He referred to full-grown adults as “boy” and admonished them for not working harder in his presence. And he always demanded discounts for everything he ordered, even though he never tipped once. So when three years went by and no one had seen a trace of him, we just figured he had become a Covid statistic. But then yesterday, I was in the back and I heard someone say, “If they paid you for bein’ a good looker, you’d be rich.” I recognized the voice immediately. I also knew he was talking to Irene, No. 115 since she and Matt were on bar shift. (If he had been talking to Matt, he would have said, “Hey, boy.”) I sighed. Defeated, I walked out to give Irene a break and tell Mr. Lifton not to talk to the employees that way. He called me “little man,” gave me a hard time about raising our prices (since he was last here in 2020), and tried to leave without paying at all. When I confronted him about the bill — $3.75 for one Americano — he paid me in nickels and pennies. While we’re still pretty sure Covid claimed the mean lady with the MAGA hat who always stole all our sugar packets and made Mandy cry a few times, and the guy who would go on 20 minute sexist/racist/homophobic tirades about the evils of oat milk, it spared Old Man Lifton. Since he’s always talking about how great Florida is, maybe he’ll move. It’s our only hope at this point.

PIXEL LAND, DESTROYED CITY exception to the rule. Most weeks I have myself a couple of cocktail parties where I really throw ‘em back. But now that I’m aging a bit, I’m beginning to realize I should probably slow down and actually consume four or five drinks a week for the sake of my own personal quality of life index. And then I’ll tell my doctor I only have one or two, because for some reason, I feel like they can’t be trusted with certain information. I hAD A DREAM ThAT I COULDn’T SLEEP And now my insomnia has gone meta. What a load of shit. MY SPOUSE WRAPS ME In BUBBLE WRAP BEFORE I gO SKATEBOARDIng WITh ThE UnDERSTAnDIng ThAT OnCE ALL ThE BUBBLES ARE POPPED, I hAVE TO COME hOME And I’m not allowed to skate after the Urgent Care place closes. I was lovingly compelled (“forced by my significant other” in other words) to agree to these conditions in order to fully realize an essential aspect of my midlife crisis — to claw back a sliver of my former skateboarding talent. But of course there are other barriers preventing me from reentering skating culture — namely my knees, heels and lower back (body parts that must collectively be wondering just what the hell I think I’m thinking). Also, falling off my skateboard hurts a great deal more than it did when I was 15, and I wreck more often as well, because I totally suck at this sport. So yeah, I pop a lot of bubbles on my protective bubble wrap. Sometimes I make it a half hour (though my sessions are often much shorter). But thus far I have yet to seriously injure myself, which I consider a massive success. And until I seriously maim a body part (or bubble wrap gets prohibitively expensive), I plan on continuing this pathetic attempt at reliving my childhood well into my 50s — at which point I’m sure I’ll have to surgically replace a body part or two. DO YOU EVER FInD YOURSELF WIShIng ThAT YOU ShOULDn’T hAVE SWAM SO hARD AS A SPERM CELL? Have you ever had one of those days where you think, When I was I FEEL LIKE CURMUDgEOnS LIVE ThE LOngEST BECAUSE ThEY hAVE A PURPOSE hERE On EARTh Every day they must wake up and say, “There simply needs to be more pettiness, anger, bitterness discontentment and hurt feelings in the world. And by God, I am just the person to make that happen.” This cosmic technicality to longevity should be called “the asshole loophole,” and it sure is thriving these days. MY gOAL IS TO REDUCE MY ALCOhOL COnSUMPTIOn TO ThE AMOUnT I TELL MY DOCTOR I DRInK When my doctor asks how many drinks I consume in a week, I always say, “Oh, I don’t know. Four or five.” This is a lie. I mean sure, there are weeks when I drink that amount — or even less — but that’s the a sperm cell, why didn’t I just sort of dog paddle once I made it to the fallopian tube? Why did I need to be so goddamn ambitious and penetrate the egg like that? Because I think about it often. I mean, all those other sperms really wanted to get to that egg as well, and if they succeeded, I wouldn’t have to go to fucking work every day. It really puts things in perspective, and it can even lift my mood. For example, if I’m having a terrible time at work and all the customers are being horrible and I picture myself as an eager sperm cell, I can’t help but laugh. Then I realize that almost everyone alive was at one time an overachiever and I laugh again, because that means that Anthony, the laziest roommate I ever had, was actually a super ambitious swimmer at one point. And he doesn’t even know how to swim as an adult (which begs the question, when did he forget?). Anyway, once I found a way to inject levity into my own nightmare of existential despair, it made life a bit lighter and easier to handle. I highly recommend it. 7


“Burn it,” said Kroth. “Kill the villagers.” I frowned. “You mean the soldiers.” “I mean all of them.” Cara was watching me closely, trident held loosely. Hunch and Hew, two of the bulbous, malformed ogres Kroth called his Children, were grinning. Hew swung his oversized cleaver around in an easy circle, cleft palate leering. “There’ll be reprisals,” I warned. “The Steel Willows will go ape. They’ll send— ” “The Willows will be so desperate for revenge we’ll finally get the battle we’ve been looking for. Exactly.” Kroth’s ogres and mercenaries (of which I was one) were already rounding people up, loud protests audible within the bamboo buildings, children crying. A man shouted, then screamed. Kroth’s gaze jerked toward the sound, and he nodded to Hew to investigate. “We don’t have to do this,” I protested. “Let me question some of these people. If they know what’s at stake we can find out where they’re hiding.” When Kroth turned back, he held between thumb and forefinger a small glass vial filled with necroflame, the oily liquid glowing orange in the dusk. Swallowed, it gave superhuman strength and speed; exposed to the air, it burst into potent flame. “We don’t need to find them,” he said. “They’ll find us.” He flicked it casually toward an open doorway. “No!” I shouted, hand flashing out. Had the ampule cracked, it would have set my arm ablaze, but I’d always had good reflexes, and I caught it whole. “What are you doing?” Kroth demanded. “Arrest this man!” In for a penny, in for a pound. I brought the necroflame to my lips, then hesitated. There had been a time when I’d respected Kroth, known him for a crafty fighter and strategist, and he could be funny when he wanted to me. But for weeks now he’d been taking necro whenever we went into battle. Instead, seeing two Children racing toward me with axes raised, I tossed it at their feet. Fireworks followed. “Traitor,” Kroth growled, and with a flick of his wrists, freed the spring-loaded bayonets hidden in his vambraces. He lunged. I twisted away, but not before he’d scored a deep cut along my ribs that made me swear in pain. He’d have skewered me with his other blade, had Cara not acted instantly to entangle it in her trident. Bless that warrior woman! I carried no weapon, for I accompanied the Thirteenth Legion as an interpreter, but Master Wei-feng had taught me to look for tools anywhere. I kicked hard at a tall bamboo post holding up a roof, then wrested it free of the ropes binding it at the top. This took seconds, but Cara had her hands full, and others were quickly joining the fray. I thrust my makeshift staff into the warty face of one Child, swept out the feet from another, did my best to crack Kroth a mighty blow to his neck. But he must have taken the necroflame already, because he was freaky fast, and ducked just enough that the blow glanced off his horned helmet. I took a hit then myself to the elbow, numbing my left arm. I kicked out behind me, knocked the pointy-headed Child back, and followed up with a backswing of the staff tucked under my right arm. Seeing their commander under attack, an increasing number of Children were abandoning their assault on the village in favor of trying to take me and Cara down. I was altogether glad, then, to see one giant fall, then another, and a gleaming, shirtless warrior snapping a katana with fierce precision. “Ray! Help Cara!” The three of us — me, Cara and Ray — were tight. We’d joined the Legion together, worked together, fought together. I knew he’d stand by us now. He nodded and danced through the running figures like a deadly ghost. With the three of us working together, the tide turned. The Children were large, but not brave, and as the bodies piled up many of them simply stood by or hid in the shadows, waiting to see how things would turn out. But Kroth didn’t slow. Just before I reached him I saw him crack a vial of necroflame and suck it into his mouth. His skin glowed. Between Cara, Ray and myself, we pressed him hard, but rather than tiring, he seemed to grow faster and stronger than ever. Smoke boiled from his nostrils, a sulfurous smell rising from his skin. When we wounded him, flame wept through the cuts. Gasping, I shouted, “Stop, man! It’s killing you! It’s killing you!” He turned to look at me over his shoulder, and I reeled back. His eyes were empty, and I mean literally: sockets and shadows, black smoking holes. “This is the job,” he said, and with a serpent’s precision, struck Ray through the heart. My friend gave one astonished look, touched his bleeding chest in wonder, and fell lifeless to the dirt. I yelled and swung with my staff, swung again and again, but there was no need. Kroth was burning. In moments all that was left was ash. I woke to “Burning Down the House” on the radio, and the start screen for FireWorld, the Atari game I’d been playing when I nodded off, scrolling on the TV. I stared bleakly at the needle, the empty ampule on the table, the two full ones beside it. Captain Roth. I dreamt of Cara all the time (she worked as a nurse over at Lyons VA), once in a while of Ray (taken down by a stray bullet on the Sepon River), but Kevin Roth I hadn’t thought about in years. Dead of leukemia a few years back, I’d heard. This is the job, he’d said, when I asked him if he thought the stuff was safe. Didn’t even wear gloves. Barrel after barrel, sprayed into the jungle from the side of a fucking boat. We laughed, talked shit, smoked cigarettes. They said it caused birth defects. I reached for the next hit, but the smoking holes where Roth’s eyes used to be were still looking at me. It ate you from the inside. I forced myself to stand. Didn’t think about how much I wanted it, didn’t think about how much more I would want it tomorrow. Flushed it down the toilet. Felt something fill me up. 9

BY HANA ZITTEL THINNING BLOOD: A MEMOIR OF FAMILY, MYTH, AND IDENTITY BY LEAH MYERS (2023) To maintain the title of tribal member in the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, according to blood quantum laws, one must meet the requirement of “one-eighth blood and the ability to trace your ancestry back to a full-blooded tribal member.” Leah Myers is one-eighth blood, but knows that this line stops with her. Even if she chose to have children with her partner, they would just be one-sixteenth, and not recognized. This reckoning and exploration of the history that surrounds her family and the Jamestown S’Klallam people makes up her candid and sincere memoir, serving as an essential historical reflection of her lineage. Myers’ organizes her memoir as an imagined totem pole, with sections representing the female lineage in her direct line. Each member is represented by an animal and connected through myth. Her great-grandmother, a full-blooded member of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, a proud bear; grandmother, a vibrant salmon; and mother, a joyous hummingbird. For herself, the cunning raven, atop the totem, marking the end of their line. Throughout her sections, Myers reflects on growing up detached from her people who reside in the Olympic Peninsula, and the yearning of wanting to find this home. Caught between two worlds, she struggles with never finding a place, even when she moves to Washington to connect with her roots. Myers experiences tumultuous relationships, marred with violence and white racial aggression. She reflects on the deep impacts of media and harmful, commonplace slurs for Native people that seep through American culture. In the section “Portrait of a Perfect Native,” Myers rewatches Disney’s Pocahontas, with the recognition that this depiction was one she idealized growing up, disregarding negative depictions to finally have someone on screen who looked like her. Thinning Blood is a raw and honest portrayal of identity woven with ancestry and the unbreakable bond of heritage and family ties. POVERTY, BY AMERICA BY MATTHEW DESMOND (2023) “Poverty persists because some wish and will it to.” In his first book since 2016’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond tackles the baffling question of how, in one of the richest countries in the world, we can allow people to live in poverty. Desmond suggests throughout his examination that through the combination of diminished worker’s rights, corrupted government programs that allow business and the rich to benefit, mass incarceration, continued segregation, and the misery of late-stage capitalism, we have created a system that keeps the poor from having any chance at financial gain. His research works to debunk common myths like the one suggesting that people do not use welfare because they are embarrassed or that education is the answer to gaining wealth. Instead, he reminds us that poverty exists, because many choose for it to, not that it is some unavoidable, social ill. Desmond’s Poverty, by America provides a call to action: to solve one of our greatest failures, we must reject those choosing to profit off of poverty, expand the safety net and build community. He points to community organizations doing just that, like People’s Action, fighting for housing justice and healthcare, or One Fair Wage, working to raise the minimum wage, and shows how community and support are capable of moving us towards poverty abolition. Desmond’s investigation refreshingly reminds us that poverty is a result of choices we have made, and that so many of us benefit from this system, but that we have the collective power to destroy it. No. 115

AN INTERVIEW WITH PART 1 BY JONNY DESTEFANO & KRYSTI JOMÉI DESIGN BY JULIANNA BECKERT ART BY KID KOALA "Keep it weird, they’ll get it later." — Kid Koala Montreal-based Kid Koala (Eric San) is a polyartist who isn’t afraid to try new things and take left turns. A world-renowned scratch DJ, music producer and member of Deltron 3030, he’s collaborated and toured with Gorillaz, Beastie Boys, Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest, Dan the Automator, just to name a few. A film, TV and theater producer and composer, he’s scored everything from featured films to shows on Cartoon Network to video games, and has globally toured his own wildly interactive turntable carnivals and productions — Nufonia Must Fall, The Storyville Mosquito, Space Cadet Headphone Concert and more. He creates graphic novels, paints, draws, scratchboards, sculpts, the list goes on. His latest endeavor, Creatures of the Late Afternoon, is nothing short of magic. A 20 track, 2-LP record with the album’s gatefold cover doubling as a board game, it comes complete with 150 cut-outable cards, four tour van pieces and a pair of dice, all painted by Kid Koala himself. The goal is to create your own band by hunting through flea markets to find instruments and recording equipment, and to write and record heartfelt songs in multiple genres. As you climb the charts you just might gain enough clout to save the Natural History Museum. Currently on tour with musical prodigy and “alien from a fantastic planet” Lealani, this MPC/turntable duo is bringing Creatures to life, which includes some stops in Colorado. In this two-part interview, we had the honor to chat with Kid Koala about the creation of Creatures of the Late Afternoon through the pandemic, his ability to balance his ever-expanding projects, and some guidance for a lifelong journey in staying true to yourself as an artist. PHOTO BY CORINNE MERRELL

... (Loud beeping sound goes off when screen recording starts) ... Krysti Joméi: There we go. Robotics. It’s like a sample. Jonny DeStefano: It’s like “Robo Hotel.” So funny by the way. Kid Koala: Do you know Jhonen Vasquez? He was the creator of Invader Zim. He did a book called Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee!, and all. Krysti & Jonny: Oh! Yes! Kid Koala: He’s a good buddy of mine in LA. I met him at Comic Con. I was just a huge fan of his comic books when I was in college, and I heard he was doing a signing. I went and there was this huge line all the way down around the building. So I brought him a cassette, a mixtape I basically said, yo, big fan of your work. I don’t have anything to sign. I wanted to give you this tape. Anyway, he listened to the tape, he got back to me, and we’ve been friends ever since. But he sent me a text after [Creatures of the Late Afternoon] came out, and he’s like, dude, stuck in traffic listening to your album. I want to hear a whole album of just “Robo Hotel.” I want to know what this hotel looks like. I want to know what the middle spaces are. And I was like, dude, if you draw it, I’ll record it! Krysti: I love the lines of “Who’s DJing?” PHOTO BY AJ KORKIDAKIS “Someone by the name of Kid Koala.” Jonny: “Never heard of him.” (laughing) Kid Koala: It’s all real life. That actually happened. Well, it happens more often than I’d like to admit. But it was one of those things where I’m going to the States, for instance, and I’m just at immigration. I have an O-1 Visa, which is as they call it “an alien of extraordinary ability” or something. I don’t know, surgeons and movie stars and some musicians and stuff. Jonny: NASA musicians. Kid Koala: (laughs) I get to the counter and they say, so I see you have an O-1 Visa. What do you do? And I’m like, I’m a scratch DJ. And they say, oh, really? You must be pretty good if you have an O-1. I was like, I don’t know. Some people think so. I have a bit of an audience here. And then he goes, what’s your DJ name? And I’m like, Kid Koala. And then he’s like, I’ve never heard of you. (laughing) I just love the quick cut down. I just had to put it into a song. Krysti: So how we went about exploring your new album, we were listening to your music and I had the best time in the world cutting out the pieces for the game. And the first thing I was thinking is, I know you have the hidden game tracks on the record, but did you create the album for the game or are they two separate entities? Did you create them in tandem? Kid Koala: It all began to combine and congeal as it started. Some of those tracks did begin just from a song or a sonic perspective. It was just like, I want to try this. During the pandemic I remember acquiring a Soundcraft Series 1, which was a little mixer that Lee Scratch Perry had in his studio. It’s one of the first portable consoles, like vintage early era. I remember seeing all these videos of Lee Scratch Perry where they were dubbing stuff out, overdriving all the preamps. And so when I found one, I said, I want to make a turntable ska tune but through this mixer just to see what kind of mojo it adds. So that would be an example of something that started as, I just want to try something musically. That ended up being the “Jump & Shuffle” track. But once that was done, there’s other tracks that were starting to come into play. And I think one of the watershed moments for me in the process was when I was talking to the team behind The Storyville Mosquito and Nufonia, all these these live puppet film productions that we’ve been doing in the last 10 years or so. Jonny: Yeah, those are amazing. Kid Koala: I can’t wait to bring one to Denver. I really want you guys to see it. So basically, we had talked about, well, we’re on tour with Mosquito now, and some of the presenters that have already presented it are like, hey, what’s next? (laughing) We just spent three years building this show! Well, I asked the puppeteers, hey, what do you guys want to do next? Even from a collaborative standpoint, what kind of stuff do you want to try? And they’re like, oh, it’d be cool if we were were able to break away from the sort of more sitcom style miniatures and actually have a No. 115 JONNY'S BAND KRYSTI'S BAND

PHOTO BY CORINNE MERRELL wider range to play around with on stage. I mean, we do it very dynamically, but still they’re all huddled under the table. They’re thinking about something a little more action-based. It was the real sort of breakthrough moment for me. It’s like, okay, so what if Creatures of the Late Afternoon is the soundtrack to the next show and the next show is an action film? Once that came into play, then I was like, alright, I need a real banger of an opener for the opening credits. So I worked on the “Here Now” track, and I’m imagining when you’re sitting in the theater and you hear this beat come on, and I want to see the letters come into play ... Romeo ... Echo ... it’s spelling out the title of the show and the album. And so I wanted it to launch off that way. And then once that happened, it started to tell me what would happen next in the plot. I had the characters and I had a loose storyline mapped out, but in typical action movie trope fashion, I said, okay, well, we need the final third act denouement showdown battle track, you know “Rise of the Tardigrades.” And we need the moment, the crisis moment, where the protagonist is not sure whether they can do it. We need the training moment, but we need the moment where all the creatures rally together to go up against this common foe. And so it told me what tracks needed to happen, at what point, in this show that’s not even out yet. Jonny: That was the feeling we got. Listening to this could easily be a soundtrack. The way you present it, that makes total sense now. Kid Koala: I’m glad you picked up on it. I didn’t want it to be overly explicit that way, like you had to listen to it with that ear open to narrative or anything. Because some of the songs are just me being my own music supervisor — I want to write a song here that, if I were to license the song, it would be a doo-wop style love song. You know what I mean? Jonny: Like the song about your parents? Kid Koala: Exactly. So it’s one of those things where there’s two characters, there’s always a love story, an element of that. That song [“When U You Say Love”] I’d written for my parents originally, but then I was like, I think it could work in terms of playing that part of the meeting and the date montage sequence in the show. And so that’s where it landed, right there, kind of at the heart of the the record and of the show. So while I was working on even the storyboards, it’s like, oh, we have this motorcycle chase sequence. So it really came down to we just need a short queue to make all this happen. That track “Highs, Lows & Highways” is just car chase music eventually, but for now, it exists as an album thing. The answer is, I wasn’t explicitly just scoring this story because the story was still forming while I was making the music, and it was informing how the music was going to go, which would then inform what the story might need next in terms of pacing and energy. And so that’s really how it came together. Jonny: That’s got to be good to have so many references to create something, to know that this could be a puppet show, this is going to be a game, this is an album, this is my music. To have all these things kind of guiding you as you go through it must have been helpful. Kid Koala: Exactly. In a way, it kind of provided the framework of — it has to work on these multiple levels and I just wanted it to still be a fun listen. I was picking my kids up from school. We were listening to it back and forth, I don't know how many months. I remember the day it released I said, we’re going to listen to this one last time and then you’re never going to hear this again. (laughing) They know all the words to “Robo Hotel,” every little thing. They could just recite it now. But I was there mainly checking mixes and stuff like that and just seeing how it was flowing as a record to cruise to even. Having that framework of these characters I had in my mind, how they would interact, what would happen in the course of a story, even if it was a prototype version of it at first, was just exactly what you said it was, like a good muse-like guidance process. Krysti: I feel like you’re an artist who, it’s not only about telling your own story, it’s about inviting the listener, the reader, the person into your world and having them interact with your art. And to see it come to fruition with a game. When I was sitting there cutting the pieces out, I was like, man, this is so cathartic. This is so healing. And the fact that I knew you created it in the pandemic, such a globally traumatic event, and everything else going on. George Floyd. Me Too. Et cetera. And then JULIANNA'S BAND PHOTO BY MIKAEL THEIMER

to see this piece of art you created, that you also invited the world to interact with while experiencing your music, to me, it was kind of this full circle healing moment. Kid Koala: Oh wow. Thank you. It’s the first time I’ve heard that. That’s very sweet. I think we were all there, just tuned into everything, right? And my wife and I were just talking about it nonstop. Anything news all day. Two things that were saving us just as a family unit were board games and these nature documentaries that my daughters loved. We were learning about all kinds of creatures, many of them who ended up in the actual game. I remember one was the desert rain frog. Do you know about that? (sharing screen) This brought us so much joy. BBC Narrator: But sometimes more unexpected zones grab our attention. Like this desert rain frog squeaking viral sensation. 11 million hits and counting. It sounds like a dog toy, but actually, this is the sonorous war cry of a very angry frog. Kid Koala: Can you believe that? Krysti: So cute! That’s amazing! Which game character is it? Kid Koala: So he’s a drummer. Ruby, my daughter, and I were just so tripping on this animal so I painted him with some drums. I was drawing all these creatures we were learning about and sadly, every episode of a show we’d watch, there’d be this sort of warning at the end saying, there’s only a handful of these creatures left. And they’ll be extinct within a few years if we don't change our direction with encroaching on their habitats and all this stuff. And so that was kind of this sombering wake-up call. It seemed to be at the tone of every single episode, no matter how cute and amazing and inspiring the footage was. Meanwhile the world was on fire, flooding everywhere. It was one of those things that I had to sort of process it in some way or speak to it in the way I could, which is just through art, again, not too explicitly. But with Creatures of the Late Afternoon, even as a title, it was about that, creatures being at the late afternoon if your entire Earth is like a whole day, the late afternoon means you’re past the midpoint. You might be on your last lap. And what are you going to do? So really it was tapping into everything that was going on. And I remember even with “Things Are Gonna Change,” it was one of those moments where I was like, oh, there needs to be this call to action track. I needed somebody with a voice who could just really cut through that. During the pandemic I was in LA doing something for Cartoon Network and I spent an extra day there to go meet up with Lealani, who I just met to record her vocals on that track. And that was the only actual time I recorded a track during the pandemic. And now Lealani is one of my favorite people. It was one of those things where she had that kind of No. 115 riot girl energy. Jonny: That is a great collaboration by the way. Krysti: You’re so synergistic with each other. Kid Koala: She’s this polymath who’s just starting. She’d already done two albums under The Pezheads, which is her one-girl punk band and a Lealani album. I was like, how did you get that? I just recorded it in my studio. I’m like, cool, so we’ll just do it in your studio. I don’t have to rent another place in LA to record. And she's like, okay, and oh, just so you know, the studio is my room. I’m like, I’m cool with that. I’ve seen bedroom studios before, but hers is like a mini museum of modern art mixed with a quirky 8-bit synth shop mixed with her bedroom. It’s this tiny room with things on the wall floor-to-ceiling. I was looking around and was like, where’d you get this piece? She’s like, oh, I did that. Then there’s this beautiful Cubist thing, a totally different style. And there’s a photorealistic charcoal drawing and she’s like, oh, yeah, I did that. I’m like, what the fuck? And she animates. And she records, some of the songs that we’re playing on tour. I was like, this song is a jam when’d you write this. She’s like, I wrote that when I was 15. I'm like what? I said, okay, so where did you record your vocals? She’s like, this is my vocal booth. And she opens her closet, a little clothing closet, packed with all her clothes, just real tightly packed. And she’s like, yeah, I just use that to deaden the sound. (laughing) She had a clipboard with the lyrics, and she was just screaming into her clothes. And so we did maybe a couple takes, and then I said, okay, why don’t you do one that’s just super unhinged. Don’t worry about being off axis on the mic. You just take the mic off and run around or jump around, do whatever you have to do. Then she really cut loose on it. And I was like, okay, that’s the lead one right there. Jonny: It’s so cool, that video where she’s got the MPC going and she’s got guitar going. And then you’re back there playing the drums. Like two polymaths just rocking. Kid Koala: We’re having fun because she is literally a one-person band. So for The Pezheads stuff that I wanted her to play at the shows too, I’ll do the drums so that you don't have to start a drum machine and then pick up your guitar and sing. But alternatively, she’ll be able to take my Pro Tool sessions and then take out every hit, like drums, bass, key chords and then map it and play everything live. So we’ve been doing songs off Creatures that are my songs and she’s not doing vocals on. She’s able to reassemble them live with no grid, no safety net, literally. And looks like she’s throwing gang signs or something. (laughing) I don't even know. But she’s incredible. Jonny: We’re looking forward to seeing more of where you guys take that whole endeavor. Kid Koala: There’s potential here because it’s kind of like a Black Keys or White Stripes duo mentality only turntables and MPCs. And then the PHOTOS COURTESY OF KID KOALA

sound palette that she has just on MPCs and on turntables is so wide anyway. We could maybe tap into some pretty advanced concepts of a duo playing stuff. But we’ve got a few more shows this summer … Are we coming to Denver? We're not. In July it’s mainly East Coast … Denver … I think we’re going to be there with Deltron [3030], actually. At Fiddler's [Green]. September 8th. We’re going to be opening for Wu-Tang Clan and Run the Jewels. Deltron is kind of reactivating for that show. Maybe a couple more in that area around there. Krysti: Oh my god! That’s going to be so fun! It’s so wild how multifaceted, multidimensional … I don't even know how to describe you … all the art that you’re constantly doing. How do you balance all those projects? What’s the day in the life of Eric? Are you hyperfocusing on one thing at a time? How do you do it all? Kid Koala: I mean, you guys know what it’s like. It’s like putting a magazine out every month. You give yourself that deadline, right? And then you set up a certain context for the stuff that you want to be putting out there. And you put it together. Some things go on the super hot front burner. That would be what I’m hyperfocused on. When you’re talking about crunch time delivery, that date, I live for that, personally. I don’t sleep that week. I’m pretty much just like, let’s go! As you can tell, I’ve lost my voice. I’m still kind of dealing from this whole launch leading up to April 14th til now or like a month after, and we’re about to do our last board game event in Montreal on Saturday, and then I think I get a break. But my breaks will entail recapping or debriefing, trying to figure out how do we refine, or how do we keep pushing that idea forward, or what did we learn? I’m always really trying stuff. To give you an example, we’ve only done three board game events. We did Toronto, we did Chicago, we did Montreal last week, and we’re going to do Montreal this weekend. And I would hope that every time we did it, I learned something so that we figured out how to make that event better, or how to present it better, or to make it more comfortable for people. Just from touring, I’ve always learned that you have your show, you try it out, and then things happen and you remember what that is and you add it to the next set. And that’s when I find the real progress kind of happens, at least for the live experiences. So what did we learn from the board game event? What I learned last week between Chicago was people need a break. It’s about an hour to play the game and then maybe 15 minutes to introduce a little kind of bumper on each side. But somewhere in the middle there, the energy in the room, you actually need to break it up with something. It’s almost like you’re on a two hour flight. You would expect a bag of pretzels or something. And it was something that simple where something flatlined when we didn’t do that. So the last time I was like let’s bring a tray out of little snacks. Why didn’t I think of that the first day? But I had never been to a board game event. But then I think about if we had people for board games at our house, there’d be snacks all over the place. So it was one of those things where once you're there, you’re like, oh, duh, let’s do that. A day in the life … my night times are usually in the studio making music. When everything’s quiet. My daytimes … right now, we’re working on a feature film. It’s a CG animated feature film based on Space Cadet, which is my second graphic novel. And that’s actually my full on day job now. And then whenever I get a chance, I just try to do a little bit of everything, but not with any real oh, I have to get this done. Except for the thing that has to get done next week. But then on an average day, a little bit of playing in the studio, recording stuff, learning how the equipment works, or trying a new signal chain with some guitar pedals. Just trying to see if I can understand what the palette can be. Because sometimes it’s creating a new type of sound or tone and be like, oh, I don’t know what I can use that for right now, I don’t have any open sessions where that would make sense. But it’s good to know that this device does that sound on it for later. And then the visual art part, I try to either do a little scratchboarding or drawing or painting. I mean, a lot more during the pandemic, but that’s always been a recentering thing for me. And then just hanging out with the kids, going for bike rides. I found to have more than one project going at a time is actually healthier for me. It keeps me from getting too obsessive about one thing and just spiraling into a feedback loop about it. If I feel that coming on I recognize it pretty quickly now. It’s like, okay, I’m not making the sort of fun, quick, intuitive decisions. It’s not that I don’t like the struggle of wrestling with the track, but I do know at some point if it’s really kicking my ass that I just need to take a break from it and do something completely on the other spectrum of creativity. It could be cooking or drawing where I'm literally not even using my ears right now. And then when I go back to listen to that track, I can objectively and almost intuitively just react to it. If you think about it like a stovetop. There’s always three or four things cooking here at our workshop and in our studio. Which burner we focus on just depends on what the deadlines are mostly. But then at the same time, you know what you’re genuinely just inspired to work on at the moment. Stay tuned for Part 2 with Kid Koala next month in August's Issue 116. CREATURES OF THE LATE AFTERNOON IS AVAILABLE AT KIDKOALA.COM 2023 TOUR TICKETS & INFO: KIDKOALA.COM/TOUR FRI, SEPT 8 — FIDLER’S GREEN AMPHITHEATER, CO: KID KOALA X LEALANI W/ WU-TANG CLAN, RUN THE JEWELS & DELETION 3030 SAT, SEPT 9 — DILLION AMPHITHEATER, CO: KID KOALA X LEALANI W/ WUTANG CLAN & DELETION 3030

“When Benji became sick, all of the playland became sick. For Benji was the Keeper of the Chest, the Boy King, the Great Imaginator. It was his imagination that powered their world, and as the disease dulled his thoughts, their world fell into disrepair. BRIO bridges collapsed, construction of the new LEGO tower halted, robots began to rust. In an instant, a golden age became a depression, and like Benji himself, many toys struggled to survive.” -Chronicles of the Benji’s Playland: Ages 7 to 9 When Clank arrived home it was dark and quiet. The only light was the dim glow of their kitchen clock. 11:47. Another 16-hour day. He sighed and set his toolkit down quietly. Around him he saw a graveyard of happy moments. A toy car crashed through a wall of blocks. Two bowls cleaned of grease. A pile of scrap metal that was just beginning to resemble a dog. All moments he missed. He walked slowly to his kids’ room and peaked inside. Nut and Bolt lay soundly asleep, their favorite book sitting on the night stand beside No. 115 them. A part of him wanted to go and wake them up, to steal a moment of sleep so that they may spend some time together, if only a moment. But he knew he’d only feel all the more guilty in the morning. He closed the door quietly and whispered, “Goodnight, boys.” When Clank climbed into bed his wife, Machina, turned away from him in her sleep. There was a time she had sympathy for him. He’d come home to find her waiting with dinner, and they’d sit together while she told him of all the adventures her and the boys had that day. But her sympathy had waned, and stories became admonishments. “They’re working you too hard, mi amor.” “You’re not home enough.” “The kids miss you.” Now she said nothing at all, and somehow that felt so much worse to Clank. It made him angry. He lay awake in bed beside her, stewing in his anger. How could she not understand? This was what he had to do. He’d give anything to be at home with her and the kids, but that just wasn’t the way things worked now that the Boy King was ill. And sure, he hadn’t told her that

their rent had gone up, or that the auto shop was under water, or that his customers could barely afford to pay him. He hadn’t told her these things because it was not her burden to bear. It was his. And as he reminded himself of this, his anger fell back upon himself. How could he allow himself to miss so much of their childhood? It was the mark of any good robot not to dwell on anger, but to transform it into something useful, something practical. And as Clank lay awake staring at the ceiling above, an idea began to take shape in his mind. It started as a silly thought, an impossibility. And yet it stuck, like an earworm repeating itself over and over again, until an absurd plan, an embarrassing plan, an immoral plan formed in his head. Something Clank never thought he’d do. Something he wasn’t sure he wasn’t sure he could do. And yet the more he thought of this plan, the more the pieces seemed to fall into place, the more it started to make sense. You see, there was one toy that Benji, the Keeper of the Chest, the Boy King, the Great Imaginator, cherished more than any other. It was a Hot Wheels replica of Evel Knievel’s stunt car given to him by his father. The car more than lived up to its reputation. It could outpace any other Hot Wheel no matter the loops or curves or jumps put before it. The car was legend in Benji’s eyes, and therefore treasured through all of the playland. Even in this time of sickness it was kept under close guard in Benji’s palace, awaiting his return. It was the most valuable thing in their world, but were something to happen to the car … Clank thought. Were something to break … something only he could fix … the palace would have to hire him! They had money, they had buckets and buckets of money. And they’d do anything to liven Benji’s spirits … This was the plan that formed in Clank’s mind. It was a plan born from desperation, from a bot who could not bear the idea of his kids growing up without him there. And the more he thought about it, the more he plotted and schemed, the more the plan took on a life on its own. 19 ERIC JOYNER, DETAINED - ERICJOYNER.COM

One week later, Clank found himself sneaking along the outskirts of Benji’s palace at midnight. A pair of velociraptors stalked the grounds before him, bright lights swooping across the field. Clank knew stealth was not one of his strengths. He was big and bulky and in his old age no amount of WD-40 could fix the creaking in his joints. But the truth was most Hot Wheels these days were more digital than physical. He just had to get close enough for the little antenna strapped to his chest to broadcast a signal out to the car. Slowly he crawled across the castle grounds, creeping closer until his radar dinged. He could sense the car. He kept still, very still, as he began to upload the program he’d spent the last week writing. It was a simple bit of code, something that would force the car to full throttle the next time someone turned it on. A spotlight swept over him as the upload hit 50 percent, and he felt the fan in his chest whirring. “Did you see that?” One of the raptors asked. “See what?” “Something out in the lawn … ” Come on, come on. 75 percent. “There! Did you see? Something glimmered out there.” “Well go check it out then.” Clank could see one of the raptors stalking toward him. He cursed himself for not stripping off his reflectors. The uploaded ticked up to 95 percent as the raptor drew closer, the spotlight now holding still over his boxy chest. Clank couldn’t decide whether to run or play dead. He was not cut out for this. He shouldn’t be here. Why was he here? How had he let himself get so carried away? But as Clank’s thoughts spiraled, the upload finished. And though he thought he had set the program to wait for ignition, he had actually set it to run instantly upon upload. The raptors both spun around, startled by the cacophonous rumbling that had erupted from inside the castle. There was a smattering of crashes and clashes until seconds later the car burst out through the palace’s stone wall flying through the air across the grounds, smoke already pluming from its engine. As the car hurtled forward into the woods, Clank turned and ran. He ran and ran and ran, his thoughts an empty void of panic, until he found himself rounding the corner of his street. He waited for his fan to cool and quiet, then slipped back into his own home, into his own bed. He lay there in shock, as if it had all just been some terrible dream. His eyes bore into the same specks of ceiling from which his plan had been born. Only this time his thoughts did not race with possibility of triumph but disaster. Had they seen him run into the woods? Did they follow him? He flinched at every creak of their home. He was sure they’d be here for him any minute, to arrest him, to take him away. He did this to spend more time with his children, and now he was going to be taken from them forever. He wondered how he could have been so stupid. But dawn came without incident. And as much as he wanted to lay there in bed until Machina woke up, to confess everything to her, he knew he had to keep up appearances. He had to get to work. So he put on his jumpsuit and picked up his toolkit and left for the auto shop just as he would any other day. When he arrived, Benji’s prized possession was already there, sitting in a smoking heap in front of his garage. Beside the wreckage was a little green soldier, one of the guards from No. 115 inside the castle walls. “Are you Clank?” The soldier asked. “I am,” Clank said, trying to suppress his nerves. “Good. I’m told you’re the only person who might be able to fix this.” Clank glanced at the pile of bent metal and burnt rubber and asked, “What happened?” The soldier sighed. “We don’t know.” Clank felt a wave of relief crash over him, until— “But one of our guards says they saw something in the grass just before the incident. They’re working with the detectives now.” “Oh … oh, well that’s good.” There was an awkward silence before the soldier asked, “So, do you think you can fix it?” Clank knew he could fix it. He could fix anything. But he told the soldier he needed to assess the damage first. The soldier agreed to come back later. And with that, Clank went to work as if it was any other day. Except what others saw as a smoldering wreck, Clank saw as a giant pile of cash, a ticket out of the toil and drudgery his life had become these past months. He catalogued every bit of damage thoroughly, in meticulous detail. And as he focused on his work, the threat of being caught seemed to fade. Until the soldier returned. “Do you have good news for me?” The soldier asked. “Yes and no,” Clank said. “I can fix it — but it’s not gonna be cheap.” He handed the soldier the ledger, his golden ticket back home to his family, and the soldier nodded his agreement before handing it back. “Whatever it takes,” he said. Clank couldn’t believe it. Was it actually working? Was he actually going to get away with this? For a moment he felt light, felt giddy. His stupid, terrible, immoral plan was actually going to work! Then, just as the soldier was about to leave, he turned and said, “We found who did it, by the way. It was Ratchet. Our guard is certain of it.” “Oh,” Clank said. “Well good. Glad you caught him.” The soldier left, leaving Clank to sit in quiet realization. He had been so myopically obsessed with the fear of his own capture, he hadn’t stopped to consider that someone else may take the fall. And not just any someone else, but Ratchet. His neighbor. A bot he used to sit on the porch and drink grease with while their kids played in the yard. Could he just let that happen? He looked back at the ledger in his hand, and the numbers scrawled across it. He could live on this for years … Exhausted by the toll this day had taken on him, Clank decided to head home, to sleep on it. When Clank arrived home, he could see their living room bathed in the golden evening light. Through the window he saw his kids chasing each other around the couch while his wife tinkered with the tiny scrap dog they were building. It was a magical sight, one he had not seen in too long, one that warmed every circuit board he had. He opened the storm door to step inside and saw a newspaper jammed in there. The headline read: “RATCHET ARRESTED FOR CAUSING TRAUMA TO BENJI.” Clank held it in his hand for a moment, looking at Ratchet in the lineup of suspects. “I’m sorry, neighbor,” he whispered to himself before tossing the paper into the bushes. And then, for the first time in months, Clank went inside to have dinner with his family.



We all remember the first time we ever saw Paris is Burning. A queer cinema class in college, a gathering of friends at a sleepover in high school, at the behest of your best friend telling you repeatedly, “You have to see this, I can’t describe it but it’s the most incredible doc I’ve ever seen.” I was witness to it in surgical recovery at home, 16 years old, scrolling Netflix, freshly out as trans. Bearing witness to it was revolutionary. As I would later go on to discover the problematic actions of the director, its impact was undeniable. A constant stream of YouTube videos became a household mainstay — videos of Leiomy, Willi Ninja, Octavia St. Laurent vs Carmen Xtravaganza in FQ — it was the media I became obsessed with. Ballroom was created out of necessity, the need for black and brown queer people to have their own space. At the time of its inception, the traction of pageants began to really take off. We can reference the inner workings of these early pageants to one of my favorite documentaries of all time, The Queen. The Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant is not what makes the documentary so spectacular however. At the climax of the doc, Crystal LaBeija (who would go on to form the Royal House of LaBeija, as seen in Paris is Burning) has what I can only call a master class in reading. She (rightly so) calls the pageant rigged, that all the “true beauties” stayed home because they knew the pageant would be rigged for the white queen. LaBeija, in her righteous and poignant monologue, defines why ballroom was created. Ballroom was formed as a reaction to the racist systems that the pageant circuit was formed on. Black and brown queers demanded their own space as well, and thus created the ballroom scene in direct response. Wherever black and brown queers spread across the nation, ballroom came with them. In the 2010s, before the arrival of Kiki House of Flora in Denver and Valentino Valentine’s recruitment by its legendary founding Fxther Passa Flora, Valentine took the initiative to establish and curate Denver KiKi Sessions. Although there were some ballroomadjacent events happening before and during this time, it is crucial to differentiate Denver KiKi Sessions from these events. While the city witnessed various performances and showcases related to the ballroom scene, Denver KiKi Sessions were specifically created to provide the queer community with a unique opportunity. These sessions allowed individuals to delve into ballroom culture through research, knowledge sharing and active participation in vogue sessions. Enter Valentino Valentine, who opened a chapter of the Kiki House of Flora in Denver, ensuring that as house mother, the family became the premiere Kiki House in the city, solidifying its place in the scene. Valentine, who is of Haitian descent, constantly found themselves curating their own scenes and art collectives to empower not only themselves, but others who looked like them, who came from similar backgrounds of intentional misunderstandings, and to create space in this world for them and who they loved. As the house mother of the Denver chapter of the Kiki House of Flora, Valentine was not only actively involved in the local Kiki scene but also participated in balls alongside the Portland chapter. Additionally, they embarked on tours, competing state to state with the Denver chapter, fostering and creating a space where queer individuals in Denver could not only be acknowledged but also flourish. The challenge of curating a black and brown queer space was and still is to challenge whiteness. Bars often failed to recognize their responsibility to create spaces that felt safe to everyone who wasn’t white despite wanting black and brown entertainment. While the support from these establishments can serve as catalysts for unlocking possibilities and opportunities, the house demonstrated its ability to flourish autonomously and establish a distinct presence within the public sphere. “Queer culture and nightlife are where we find our friends and family,” explains Valentine. “We seek a sense of communion on the dance floor, which serves as our church and outlet for expression and release. There exists a longstanding history between queer individuals and their connection to nightlife, club culture and dance floors.” The Kiki House of Flora fosters an environment of learning, growth and community as all houses do. Drawing from valuable guidance received from icon Diva Davanna Mugler and the legendary Malik Mugler in New York, Valentine has hosted ballroom workshops in Denver, offering individuals invaluable opportunities to delve into the art of vogue fem, and the captivating world of ballroom culture. Under the mentorship of esteemed figures like legendary Cameo Balenciaga, participants have been able to immerse themselves in these workshops, further enriching their understanding and skills. The Kiki House of Flora hosted their first ball in 2020, garnering recognition from the queer community at large. We immediately offered to fly members of the house to our Santa Fe exhibition, House of Eternal Return. However, that was brought to a screeching halt with the pandemic. Once we established and opened Convergence Station in 2021, we invited the Kiki House of Flora to continue throwing balls in our venue, The Perplexiplex. The Nintendo Ball was one of the most successful events seen by our venue, and we continue to have a beautiful partnership this year, hosting the Storybook Ball on June 17th. If someone is interested in getting involved in ballroom or participating in a house, it just takes reaching out and attending House of Flora events. Many ballroom events are still thriving underground, and are passed through word of mouth and social media. Additionally, there is a Facebook group called Denver Kiki Sessions that provides resources related to ballroom, including terminology, films and books. “Reach out,” says Valentine. “We wanna know who you are. Sometimes it does feel intimidating. But we wanna get to know you especially if this is something you want to do.” Ballroom culture has a deep legacy in queer history, influencing fashion, dance, social activism and creating community. It has provided black and brown queer people a space to exist as talented individuals, with resilience and creativity, seen as they are. To be in community with those around you who look like and fully understand you as a whole of your parts, ballroom cultivates friendships, relationships, love, and community out of necessity and flourishes as each person comes together to contribute and pay homage to, with that same love. “People don’t receive enough praise in general, and especially in this scene,” says Valentine. “Ballroom is a celebration of yourself to the highest degree.” FOLLOW VALENTINO VALENTINE ON INSTAGRAM: @VALENTINOVALENTIN LEARN MORE ABOUT DENVER KIKI SESSIONS: @DENVER.KIKI.SESSIONS & KIKI’S HOUSE OF FLORA DENVER: @KIKIHOUSEOFFLORA

last dance with buried jane BY NATE BALDING Hustler: It’s not just a wet magazine people have wildly claimed to have found in the woods before the invention of the internet. It’s also a full-on profession for people with the absolute moxie to operate tricky mind games on marks and rubes, perhaps no more fully than during the onset of the Great Depression. And perhaps one of the greatest players in the game was Corinne Nienstedt, aka Gloria Graves, the Buried Alive Girl. It was the 1930s. A nation had rallied around goulash and johnnycakes; movies were short and bread lines were long. In a prototypical version of quiet quitting many laborers were engaged in screaming layoffs. It was a perfect environment for cheap entertainment and there was unanimity that endurance contests were the hottest thing since the inside of an iron lung. Gloria Graves would go down as the most famous of the persons charging 10 cents to take a peek at the smiling face of someone who’d been buried alive. But she was only one among many. One of the first was Lois Shirk. She’d just graduated high school and it was time to get to draw an income. Being a young woman of course meant that the only position society was ready to accept her in the workforce was on her back. So when her family needed some cash she decided it best to humor them and be interred beneath 8 feet of soil at the Lincoln Lawn Miniature Golf Course in Gettysburg in 1933. It simply made the most sense. A short time later an out-of-work vaudeville comic emerged: Irwin Westheimer — whose stage name was Billy West because, much like Lois Shirk, the public wasn’t overly prepared to engage with a performer named Irwin. Who could possibly have predicted that the same public would get super-hard into the American Nazi Party just a few years later. Billy was buried at Ocean View on the Jersey Shore and, similarly to the cast of MTV’s eponymous television show, was sponsored by the color orange. To this day he holds the world record for most Orange Crush — the local bottler being the event sponsor — consumed while buried alive. That sounds like a made-up fact but is, in fact, a regular true one. Gloria Graves was first buried in 1935 to commemorate the opening of Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica. Even more craven was the sidehustle of her “manager,” Mr. Q, and his wife, Florence, who posed as Graves’ nurse for the duration. Mr. Q, like a psychotic Tony Robbins who knows all the secret reasons you can’t beat a carnie on their home turf, claimed to have invented a form of self-hypnosis that allowed a person to overcome any obstacle; a claim he used to manipulate the minds of depressed people everywhere who just wanted something to believe in. Oprah would have hired the shit out of him. Supposedly Graves was utilizing this self-hypnosis to prove the ultimate truth of mind-overmatter and, seemingly, it worked. She spent 92 days, 5 hours and 28 minutes beneath 5 tons of sand and a viewing port where some 72,693 people paid a dime a piece to have short little conversations with the woman living very much at the beach, amounting to just over $150,000 when adjusted for inflation. No. 115 According to the nefarious Mr. Q, during that time she received 27 marriage proposals, 13,652 offers for a date, 27 job offers from nurse to movie star, 7 books on exercise, 5 offers to join churches and 14 to join the Communist Party, proving once and for all that if you fuck up the name attached to the quote, Lenin could reasonably say he was more popular than Jesus. Due in part to the extremely dangerous practice of people who were getting buried alive just for love of the game — notably madman Jack Loreen, an Alaskan lumberjack who roller skated from New York to Miami before moving to San Francisco to be buried multiple times, and Harry Morrison, the “Human Groundhog” who did 120 days before emerging to see his shadow and ensure six more weeks of hospitalization — endurance contests of all kinds were outlawed in cities across the country. So when ‘ol Q, shortly after releasing a series of breadcrumbs about the coming storm on 8chan, convinced Gloria to go for one more — this time in an empty lot in Koreatown — she only lasted 192 hours before a pair of detectives rolled up to let her know that she was under arrest. She replied, “You got jellybeans for brains flatfoot? I ain’t under arrest, I’m under the ground! Oink oink bacon boys!” It may have been less invective but in the movie this will be a bold artistic choice. Mr. Q and Ms. Graves were arraigned and, at trial, she produced her coffin to explain the mechanics of being buried alive. Apparently 1) Get in the coffin; and 2) Stay in the coffin were concepts too esoteric to believe. The arresting detective disagreed that her entombment was anything but a scam and the judge agreed, fining them both $50 or about $1,100 in 2023 money. The initial complaint, however, was incorrectly filed and an appellate court threw out the decision, provoking the LA Times to print the headline: “Buried-Alive Girl Wins in Appeal from Penalty” proving that as long as you almost die for your art you, too, can make it in Hollywood. The Gloria Graves name disappeared from history and Corinne Nienstedt returned to her life to pursue her dream in aviation, becoming a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) where she was one of the few women to put her stylish pump on the throat of the Hun and smash over that career horizon at a cool 300 miles per unburied hour. HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PARANORMAL? SEND THEM TO: WEREWOLFRADARPOD@GMAIL.COM OR TWITTER: @WEREWOLFRADAR. IT’S A BIG, WEIRD WORLD. DON’T BE SCARED. BE PREPARED. ART BY LOULOU02


WHERE THE SHARKS SLEEP By Zac Dunn The 2x4 face he wore was firm and correct His crippled grip slipped on the Cold metal surfaces Cast of ore Dug from the Blood red dirt Anvil to the hand on purpose As a gaggle of gnomes feed him appetizers and refreshments Grimace sucker punched the Grinch Knocking in his stupid face Like a rotten pumpkin SLOWLY FILLING THE GOPHER HOLE IN YOUR SOUL He exclaimed Salacious relations Tinder moments So sloppy yet ambitious a Peppermint swizzle stick of longevity morosely moaning and Meticulously manhandling the mushy membrane So plump and round yet profoundly Red as a slappy anniversary Mercifully serving a meanerval Crown made entirely of Hot wing bones Haphazardly thrown by filthy paws No. 115 Double six and six three Double eight and snake eyes The Bucktooth bandito rolling low In the hearse turned the corner and slowly let out three words FUDD PUKE FEET Then ate another peyote button and Leaned further back in his seat Luckily the passengers would all Slumber forever and ever As the night crawled forward Into the Everglades of the misty morning haze He removed the sleeping beauties at the end of the pier and slid their cadavers into cool blue expanse eyeing the fins breaking the liquid surface’s plane A thrashing conflagration erupted as they Consumed the flesh he’d gifted to them As the sun slowly rose Casting an eternal shadow from the weathered wooden tips of the dock The mighty white sharks all Turned and ran silent then deep To the quiet depth Happy to be full today And free to dream tomorrow With their eyes wide open still Slinking ever lower To their safe quiet space in the ocean deep Swimming closer and closer to the place Where the sharks sleep ART BY BIZ56

Afterlife as an aura photo booth by Kailey Tedesco i keep sinning contained in stairwells. furniture, all caned, drops to its knees, prays. this is a confessional: do you see the checkerboard of a man lensed in red? underneath his chair: bubblegum, chewed, still wet. deeper under: sharks homemaking shipwrecks, craving blood in more ways than one. their wood cake-cut, not splintered. that’s where my face is. deep inside the woodgrain & the murk. it’s coming forward blue-lipped foamed in the color of too many paints, all of its insides floating to the surface— too bogged to identify. in a few hours no one will be able to recall how my shape fit, sitting in its own temperature. 27

BY TOM MURPHY DESTINY BOND – BE MY VENGEANCE Excepting opening track “Chew” and closing number “Harmony,” all these songs are under two minutes in classic hardcore vein. And there isn’t a wasted moment in Destiny Bond’s exploration and confrontation of the constraining, orthodox, binary worldview of gender and how that mindset often extends to other realms of life. But the use of language and undeniable melodic hooks really humanizes the music even as it goes off the deep end of intense sonic catharsis. In “The Glow” we hear an endearing expression of how finding one’s community can enrich everyone’s existence in the line “the world was dark before but now we brought the glow.” Every song has its own identity and character and embodies that spirit without being obvious or contrived. Hardcore can be monolithic, but this Destiny Bond album has more in common with the diversity of style in The Shape of Punk To Come than the narrow range of the average straightedge record and because of that, its range of expression and nuance hits with great poignancy as well as power. KILTRO – UNDERBELLY Chris Bowers tapped into a deep place in his consciousness in conceiving and arranging the ideas for the music on this album. It is clearly expertly composed with meticulous details but never once feels like anything but intuitive — from the textural percussion to the ambient atmospheric elements, the delicate elegance of the guitar work, Bowers’ own luminous yet often ethereal vocals, and winding synth melodies that swell and suddenly fade like a waking memory welling up for attention in a dream. Every bit of the song has this aspect as each is brought to the forefront of your attention in the mix, only to drift off as the slow parade of musical ideas and themes course through like figures in an experimental piece of cinema that is more impressionistic than figurative. And with a mood and spirit of examining the deeper significance of insights, gleaned from a period of extended introspection the likes of which were imposed by long stretches of the early pandemic out of which this batch of songwriting came. Kiltro pushes those nuggets of personal and spiritual truths as drivers of an expansion of what not just psychedelic rock or folk can sound like, but the form and structure of pop itself, so that the music has an immediacy of familiarity mixed with a fascinating mystique. ROBOT TENNIS CLUB – IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK, YOU WOULDN’T LISTEN These songs sound like a lifetime of having classic rock forced onto you and instead of rejecting it all entirely, you learn how to turn the songcraft and musicianly chops into a vehicle for commenting on relationships and identity from a modern perspective. There is a lot of hurt and frustration channeled into the performances and exorcised in the lyrics, at least a little, by the act of putting heavy feelings out of one’s head into a work of creativity. The self-doubt, the suppressed anger, coming to terms with your limitations, shortcomings and mistakes all find their way into the lyrics sung by Laura Steadman. And it is all given the welcome context of having compassion for the flaws and failure and set to wonderfully eclectic music that rocks hard like “Here I Go (Again),” sprawling into melancholic space as on “The Nut.” STEADY CIRCUITS – PHYSICALIA The clarity of tone and arrangements of “Earth Music” is truly a palette cleanser for the mind to start out this album. It immediately feels like a new chapter for the songwriting of Mike Marchant whose early experimental and psychedelic rock bands sculpted a more maximalist approach to songwriting into heartfelt nuggets of great emotional power. The latter aspect remains here but every detail of sound is so well integrated and mixed you’re immediately immersed in a journey of personal rediscovery with a sense of what really matters, including a sense of wonder at life and the world when you’re not as derailed by the usual distractions. The percussive and saturated synth melodies that permeate each song should appeal to fans of Clark, early Washed Out and Black Moth Super Rainbow. FOR MORE, VISIT QUEENCITYSOUNDSANDART.WORDPRESS.COM No. 115 ART BY KARMIM NEWBLE


Our island, Mills Island, sits in a spot where currents collide, ships crash and sink. We’re surrounded by old bones, death. We’re used to it. We remember our grandfather, the lighthouse keeper, telling us stories of bodies washing up on the beach in multitudes, victims of shipwreck. The storms have only worsened over time, we’ve seen to that. With a gathering of eyebrows, the clenching of fists, and the whispering of words collected in our book, we keep people away from here, away from our boy. It was a dream that provoked her passage to the past, her return to her childhood home on the island. Deep in sleep, her mind produced images of a terrible storm, the Mills sisters’ darkened house, Henry standing in shadow. Cassie’s heart exploded in joy as she held her small, unchanged brother. The house shuddered around them. The floor split beneath their feet. The walls cracked and groaned and disintegrated. They were falling, falling. Finally they hit ground. The wind became unbearable. An enormous wave rose up and caught them and the bones of the house, pulling it all No. 115 out to sea. Cassie and Henry bobbed at the surface for a time, then sunk, bound together, slowly descending to the ocean floor. She was not afraid. Cassie fought through the pounding wind and rain, finally arriving at the house. She easily recognized its shape, although covered in vines and other decrepitude, set back from the overgrown trees, settled in tall whipping grasses. She turned the rusty key and the weathered door swung back, hitting a wall. She paused in the doorway, the stuffy, familiar smell stopping her in her tracks. Entering fully, she ran a hand along the hall table, inspected the dust appearing on her pointer finger, glanced up the darkened stairway. She stopped in the kitchen, lit a cigarette beside a cracked window, simmering in disbelief that she was actually here in this house, on this island. Heading to the second floor, she approached the stained glass window on the landing, a lovely floral design her mother made. She peered out its colored panes to view a large field, and beyond that, the Mills House perched high up on an opposing cliff. N I C K F L O O K , O U T L O O K - @ F L O O K O

At the top of the stairs, Henry’s open bedroom door taunted her. Come in! Come, Cassie. The lighting was dim, the bed, neatly made. His lamp with its baseball base stood straight on the nightstand. She turned to leave, pulled the door closed, feeling it strain, spring back as she slammed, forced it into the frame. “What the— ” Cassie muttered, then bolted down the stairs. With little else to do and no electricity or water, she built a fire in the living room, slapped together a peanut butter and jelly from the few provisions she bought at the grocery in Point Judith before getting on the ferry. She cracked and chugged a warm beer, lay down on the always-prickly couch. Screw oral hygiene. Dreamless dark sleep hit like a wallop. Since we are aware of all things, we know the boy isn’t right. Something keeps him in his room. Of course, he will come out to dine with us. He will sit in his chair and listen to our stories, but every other hour he spends alone. He stands by his window, watching the slanting rain, crashing waves. He cranes his neck to view the empty beach adorned with its sharp rocks, terrifying jewels. Over the last ten years, the rising water and constant storms drove tourists and many of the residents away. Cassie found the town mostly empty, its main drag lined with shuttered shops and restaurants. She headed to the remaining open bar, Club Soda, every night for dinner, picked up her old drinking habit. The owner and bartender, Rick, happy to oblige. “What’s your story?” he asked. “Oh, your basic shitshow.” “Heh! Yup. I hear ya. Shitshow. That’s life.” Buzzed, she waved a hand for him to lean in, come closer. “Have you ever heard about a kid disappearing? A ten-year-old boy?” she whisper-slurred, straining above “American Pie” playing on the juke box. “Nope,” Rick said, shooting soda into an ice-filled glass. “What about the Mills place — those sisters? That big house at the end of the Clay Trail?” “Another round?” Rick asked her, Cassie placed her spinning head on the sticky bar. “Can’t you see I’ve had enough?” she said. “All I see is you sitting there with your empty glass.” “You’re a real asshole, you know that? God, why’d I keep comin’ in here?” “Don’t know. Seems like you need it,” he said, pouring another finger of bourbon into her glass. “Whaddoyou know about me?” she said, falling off the barstool, kicking open the door. We want you to know he came to us willingly. That is very important. Even now, we conjure and push on him the bad memories, the ugly pictures of his family. But recently a small crack opened we cannot fill. The wind still obeys our command of anger, destruction, protection, but there is something different, a familiar earthy stench, soil. The sister. Cassie. A wayward soul. Unkempt. Downright slovenly and worthless, happy to drink herself into a stupor every night, just like our father. She awoke on the couch, staggered to the bathroom to make herself sick. On her way back, she picked up cans and newspapers, opened the curtains. Rain. Always rain. She lifted the window, breathed in the salty air. Maybe fresh air is the only true cure for a hangover, she wondered, her tongue thick and dry. She went to fill a glass. She had to stop boozing. She had to stay away from the bar. Today, she decided, today will be different. “What the hell am I doing here, anyway?” she said aloud, the walls staring at her in silence. Midday, still sober. She stayed quiet, sipped water and soup, slept off the booze of the days and nights before. She held Henry’s photo, allowed an onslaught of cleansing tears. She teased the memory of that Halloween ten years before when, resentfully, she’d agreed to take him trick-ortreating. She was 16, viewed her much-younger brother as an albatross, a human symbol of loss, pain, all the problems of her family. They argued, he ran from her, Spiderman shifting into the tree line. She let him go, turned away. At nightfall, Cassie steeled herself against the siren call of Rick, Club Soda. With every fiber in her being she wanted to head over there and get plastered. She promised herself that in the morning she’d get on the ferry, leave this place and its memories. Give up on Henry forever. Tomorrow. She constantly watched the wind, the sea crashing to the shore. The house around her creaked, braced itself. She admired the place for hanging on, continuing to stand. “We can take a beating, that’s for sure,” Cassie said. Up on the Mills Hill, a light flickered, pulsing in short, persistent bursts. Cassie stared in fearful fascination, her heart pounding in her chest. Luminous fingers reached for her, pulled on her shoulders, enticing her to come. She took one deep breath and stormed outside, pulled her bike from the shed. Pushing against wind and rain, she rode through the deserted town, the bar’s eyes followed her, the taste of alcohol burned in her throat. Tree branches reached and slapped and scratched as she bounced onto the Clay Trail. A gnarled root caused the bike to careen and crash, knocking her to the ground. She picked up, pushed forward, finally making it to the shuttered Mills House. She paced the perimeter, peered in, pulled on windows, leaned her shoulder hard into doors. She stood back, tilted her head up. “I know! I know you’re there! I know!” she screamed. Lightning struck, brightened the attic window for just a split second. A human outline appeared in her waterlogged vision. In a blink, it disappeared. “Henry? Henry!” “Cassie!!” She recognized her brother’s voice howling with the wind. “Cassie!!!!!” She gathered her energy and punched through glass, entering the unlit house, running upstairs. She stopped, taken aback by her brother, frozen at ten years old. He held his arms out. She rushed him, wrapped her body around his. “You. It’s you,” she said. So, we must let him go. Now he is with all the others in the sea, where they all end up, with that sister and all the rest of his worthless family. We tried to show him another way. We had our time. We won’t forget the good parts, the story times and art projects and singing. Perhaps we will stop the rains, smooth out the sea, allow the sun to shine, draw some new life to our island. Perhaps we will find ourselves another child, perhaps a girl the next time. How nice.


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