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Axe beaks and goblins and bears, oh my!

Magic lamps, adventure, and breaking the curse. It all sounded like the perfect antidote to my dull life, but it had been a while since I stepped outside of Bryn Shander. Not since Sir Reginald had been killed by the yeti, and while the thought of leaving was exciting, the reality of it left me hesitant.

Surely though, I thought, this lot would be more capable than just one knight. After all, we’ve got a barbarian, a druid, a paladin of Lloth, a ranger who knows these lands, a treasure-hunting assassin, and a freaking witcher! There’s no way a yeti could take down this crew.

Of course the moment we stepped outside of Bryn Shander’s gates, the weather began to pick up. We traveled along the Eastway until we came to a fork in the road. After some close inspection, we discovered wreckage from the lost caravan. The frozen bloody remains of an axe beak poked through the snow. I had seen carnage like this once before, and so I glanced around for the yeti. We saw a dim light being cast from a cave not too far from the road and followed what tracks remained unhidden by the fresh snowfall.

We reached the cave and came across a polar bear locked in shackles. Xillana, our druid, approached the bear and learned his name to be Mogu. Mogu told her that he had been captured by a horde of ice goblins and forced to transport the missing sled back to their cave. Xillana called to Wilbert to help remove the shackles that imprisioned Mogu. Being used to all sorts of traps and sophisticated locks, Wilbert popped the shackles open with ease. Mogu thanked Xillana and fled into the snowy night.

The light grew brighter as we made our way into the main hall of this cave. When we rounded the corner we came across a group of drunk goblins. I noticed one that was poking and prodding an injured human who had been tied up. Another half naked man lie frozen to death on the ground. As I’m watching this, the paladin of Lloth hurls a javelin into the chest of the goblin chieftan. Dannika, the barbarian, charges in with her greatsword and immediately cut down two more goblins. Seed, the ranger who himself is a goblin, watches on in horror as his kind are sent to Myrkul.

Another goblin stares at me, and as he goes to make a move, I unsheath my rapier.

Thought to be brave,
by making Mogu a slave.
Clearly not as clever as Seed,
but no misdeed goes unpunished.
By my blade, though has perished.

As the last of the goblins was dispatched, I went over to the armless man who was tied up. His name was Sam, and he had been attacked by the yeti. He thought he escaped, but then the goblins found him. They tied him up along with his friend Jacob. He watched as they tortured Jacob. Poking him with sticks, throwing rocks at him, and dumping ale on him just to watch him shiver in the cold. When Jacob froze to death, the goblins turned their attention to Sam. We wrapped him in a blanket and escorted him back to Bryn Shander, along with the missing ale.

That night would be the last night that I’d see Dannika, Seed, or Lloth’s paladin for a while. The next morning we awoke to learn they had headed off, north to Caer-Dineval. Xillana, Wilbert, Zigran, and I would be heading south to Dougan’s Hole.

We never made it to Dougan’s Hole, but that’s a story for another time.

– Marlowe Canterbury

Bryn Shander

I’d been stuck in Bryn Shander for the last two years. After witnessing Sir Reginald be torn limb from limb by the yeti, I took up residence at the North Look Inn and Tavern. Scramsacks, North Look’s owner, traded my room and board for performances. It wasn’t much, and we both knew that at the first sign of adventure, I would be gone.

One night, in the middle of my set, a group of strangers gathered in the bar. I eavesdropped best I could while earning my nightly supper. Picking up bits and pieces of conversation that included elementals, magic lamp, and something about a curse. As I finished my last song, the strangers split into two groups. I approached the ones holding the lamp.

Did I hear magic lamp?
Perhaps I could join your camp?
I’m no stranger,
to adventures full of danger.
With heroes I love to travel,
please say yes so I don’t have to grovel.

The lamp belonged to Mara Greysteele, and all she said when we sat before her was, “and so the party comes together.”

Seated at the table were Dannika Mendeleev, Wilbert Thornsbee, Xillana Wynrie, Zigran Varenn, Seed, Lloth’s nameless mongrel, and myself. Mara believed that chwingas held the secret to ending the wintery curse, and she asked us to seek out these elemental spirits. To help us find the chwingas, she offered her lamp, which would glow when we were in close proximity to them.

Before we could depart, we were approached by sheriff Markham Southwell. Either out of recognition of our abilities, or just an act of desperation, the sheriff offered us 10 gold each if we could locate a missing caravan. Perhaps it was hubris, but we didn’t hesitate to accept his offer. We were heroes after all and would need to make a name for ourselves.

And with that, I bid you all goodnight. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about the time we freed a polar bear and brought some goblin slavers to justice.

-Marlowe Canterbury

Marlowe Canterbury

Greetings, I am Marlowe Canterbury. I am the bard that is currently occupying Jesse’s headspace for the D&D game he is playing in. It took some convincing, but I was able to persuade him into letting me share our adventures with you. As we travel the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale, I will publish some of my poems, songs, and completely factual, never-exaggerated tales of the heroics presented by my companions and me.

For now, let me share with you the words I spoke to Speaker Duvessa Shane:

It’s long overdue,
but this fine crew –
is questing for the cure,
to see winter nevermore.
Will they become the heroes of new,
or are they destined to fail?
I, for one, have no clue,
but trust in me to tell the tale.
For I am Marlowe Canterbury,
and I was born to tell this story –
of returning Ten Towns’ glory!

Galanthian Deities

For centuries the old gods were worshipped unopposed until the rise of the prophet Hethgin. Hethgin advocated on behalf of a new pantheon. The new gods were less idealistic and represented more of our carnal expressions. Followers of the old gods felt that it was sacrilege to accuse the gods of mortal desires. Before tensions escalated out of control T’Lika stepped in to mediate a truce. That is a story for another time. For now, let me introduce you to the old and the new. You may decide who is right for you.

The Old Gods of Galanthia:

Draymond – Neutral god of magic and balance.

Bellequa – Chaotic neutral goddess of beauty, fertility and flowing water.

Nyzz – Lawful evil god of misfortune, pain and night.

Occulare – Lawful good god of knowledge, sight and daylight.

Rouxi – Chaotic neutral goddess of nature, harvest, fate and destiny.

Llorne – Lawful neutral goddess of justice, mercy and war.

Undari – Chaotic god/godess twins of life and death.

The New Gods of Galanthia:

Evesham – Neutral god of thought, curiosity and listening.

Gargok – Chaotic neutral god of transformation, strength and hunger.

Zidel – Evil god of magic, fury and pain.

Berman – Chaotic evil god of rumor, greed and disillusionment.

Val – Lawful good goddess of charity, service and accountability.

Arshus – Chaotic neutral goddess of gambling, sex and revelry.

Gruffin – Lawful good god of loyalty, friendship and stubborness.

Kiyara – Neutral good goddess of family, war and retribution.

Phaeus – Lawful good god of wisdom, composure and accuracy.

One final note: Word is spreading around news of a new clairvoyant. They go by the name Auhmni. Not much is known about Auhmni, but they speak not of new gods, but of one singular, continuous thread of existence.

-jbb

Mom’s Wisdom

Hanging out with the World’s #1 badass! Love you mom!

I’d like to share a few of the more memorable words of wisdom that my mom shared with me growing up. While they speak for themselves, I’ll share my takeaway from them below.

  1. “You know what happened to thought don’t you? Thought thought he farted but he really shit himself.”
  2. “Experience is the hardest teacher, it gives you the test first and the lesson after.”
  3. “I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but some way, some how, it always works out.”
  4. “It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.”
  5. “If it don’t apply, let it fly.”
  6. “If you have enough food but your neighbor doesn’t, give them half. Sure you’ll both still be a little hungry, but neither of you will starve.”
  7. “If you want something to cry about, I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Again, none of these are particularly ground breaking, but they definitely helped shape my perspective.

  1. I learned from an early age that it wasn’t wise to make an assumption. The idea of thought being a person who crapped his pants was more impactful than the usual “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”
  2. The most effective way to learn something is by doing it. Mistakes will happen and that’s ok. It’s all a part of the process.
  3. Never count yourself out. Commit, believe, achieve. Remaining positive in the face of adversity is important and will lead to a better outcome.
  4. It’s never a bad thing to be prepared.
  5. This one today would probably read “haters gonna hate.” Essentially, you can’t control what other people are going to think or say and if you know it’s not true, don’t worry about it.
  6. If you are able to help someone without hurting yourself, then do the right thing. We’re stronger together than we are alone.
  7. When mom gives you “the look” knock the shenanigans off. This also was a major lesson in learning to be accountable and accept the consequences of my actions.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely a few selections that have echoed throughout my life. Were any of these a part of your curriculum as well? What are some of the other lessons you remember from your childhood?

-jbb

Welcome to Galanthia

The Queendom of Galanthia has been ruled by Queen T’Lika for the last thousand years. T’Lika’s reign has never been considered anything other than fair and just. When followers of the new gods clashed with zealots of the old gods, T’Lika brought them together. Through tactful diplomacy she was able to convince both sides that they could coexist. When a twenty year drought ravaged the lands, T’Lika inspired hope throughout Galanthia. She worked with the farmers to discover new crops that relied on less water, she lowered taxes and made sure that her people did not starve, and she was even able to send aid to the coastal Kingdom of Sh’Rook.

Occasionally there would be a skeptic. Someone who questioned how T’Lika had lived for so long. There was one such uprising, led by Xandar Wesqling. Xandar convinced two-hundred Galanthians that Queen T’Lika was a supernatural being. Some kind of demon whose plague needed to be exorcised. On the night of their coup attempt, Xandar was met by T’Lika in the main square of Galanthia. T’Lika offered forgiveness to anyone that laid down their arms. She understood their concern, but asked them to point out any ill deeds done to them by her. Upon reflection, one hundred and seventy-eight of the two hundred rebels stood down. The remaining twenty-two died in combat while Xandar was captured and charged with high treason. His sentence was to remain imprisoned as long as T’Lika ruled.

The Xandar Uprising was roughly 400 years ago. Xandar Wesqling remains in the dungeons of Galanthia, and rumor has it that he looks to have aged only a few years. For those that believe the rumors, there are opposing beliefs. Some argue that the castle is enchanted while others believe that Xandar himself made a supernatural pact in order to see the end of T’Lika’s rule. What both sides agree on is that Xandar, like T’Lika, would not still be alive if he were a simple human.

Lately, there has been less concern over Xandar and more worry over Galanthia. The days have grown cold and damp, the once fertile soils have become barren, and T’Lika’s presence has waned. The people of Galanthia are struggling and are becoming desperate. Without leadership, violence and unrest are increasing.

Is this the end for T’Lika? Of Galanthia? Is there anyone that can help fill the absence of hope?

Stay tuned…

Spring Revival

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

Happy Spring!!

I don’t know about you, but I am excited for Spring 2021. Spring is the season of renewal both of the physical world and the metaphorical. The revival of energy brought forth by lingering sunlight, blossoming trees and menu changes for locally-sourced restaurants featuring seasonal produce.

Over the weekend, Emily and I walked to Coffee Commissary over on Fairfax. It was a beautiful morning filled with sunshine so, rather than heading back home right away, we chose to sit down out front and enjoy people watching. Ok, ok, I was dog watching and getting excited any time a new furry best friend came walking by. After a few minutes, a guy sat down across from us and for the first time in over a year I made a new friend.

For the next 3 hours we chatted with Hassan. Originally from Egypt, Hassan had just moved to LA in December 2019 after finishing grad school in the Bay Area. He’s a college professor of management and entrepreneurship and loves baking pies. I’m excited for the day that I get to try his coconut cream pie, it’s one of my favorite pies!

It was during our hangout with Hassan that we learned about the return of indoor dining in LA. A year after our city was shutdown, signs of life were showing. This weekend was reinvigorating in so many ways and I know it’s just the start of something incredible!

-jbb

Be Present.

Photo by Micah Boerma on Pexels.com

I’m a pretty lucky guy. I was raised by a single mom who recognized she was in a toxic relationship and was able to get out. The same couldn’t be said for a lot of the kids I knew growing up. At the height of our disfunction, my brother got arrested and had to spend time in jail. This allowed me to navigate the world in my own way without him continuing to project his opinions and insecurities onto me. In 8th grade I won an X-Box from Taco Bell. Senior year of high school, I won a raffle for some spending money during our senior trip to Disney World. A few months after I moved to California I was struggling to come up with rent one month and then I won $500 on a scratch-off lotto ticket. However, one of the reasons I truly consider myself lucky is that I somehow escape anxiety.

I typically credit my mom’s belief of “I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but somehow, someway it always works out.” This credo has always been a foundation for my calm. It probably also helped that I was told multiple times that worrying wouldn’t get me anywhere and that I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Her pragmatic and practical approach mixed in with a few good clich├ęs were successful.

It might seem strange to listen to or take advice from someone who doesn’t struggle with anxiety, but I often find success in seeing an outsider’s perspective. Anxiety is unease about the future and it is common for our brains to create a variety of hypothetical outcomes that deliver a ton of stress. One of the tools that I use to combat any wild thinking is journaling. By writing something down and then being able to read it, I am able to usually calm myself down. Journaling allows me to gain a pseudo third person perspective which brings rational thought to my issue.

In additional to journaling, I believe in the power of mindful meditation. Mindfullness is intentionally being present without judgement. Mindfulness meditation has shown to increase positive brainwaves that replace the negative Nancies. Here’s an article from Psychology Today if you’d prefer it in more layman’s terms.

To close, I offer the wisdom of Lao Tzu, who once said, “if you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

-jbb

Work

A non-comprehensive list of things I’ve done to earn money in no particular order:

  • Clean up and wood splitter for a tree removal company
  • Construction laborer
  • Dishwasher at a pizza joint
  • TSA baggage handler
  • Wawa gas attendant
  • Delivery driver at another pizza spot
  • Clerk at a wine shop
  • Volunteer fireman
  • Camp counselor
  • Before and after school program worker
  • Youth sports coach
  • Bellhop at Disney World’s Tower of Terror
  • Food service at Sea World
  • Bartender/server at numerous bars/restaurants
  • Lyft/Uber driver
  • Personal Trainer
  • Community Manager
  • Assistant stage manager
  • Assistant events coordinator
  • Actor
  • Fitness model
  • And, as a kid, the extremely glamorous job of “pooper scooper” for my neighbor who was a breeder of Shar Peis.

As you can probably imagine, that last one was clearly my favorite.

Yesterday, Em and I took an adventure to one of my favorite donut places in LA. It’s roughly a 2 mile walk from our apartment and along the way we stopped for coffee and a second time for brunch. It was a beautiful day for a walk and during our leisurely stroll we talked about a number of things. On the way home we came to a discussion about work and money.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot, but my mom always made sure that we had what we needed. I’ll forever appreciate her making sure that I understood the value of appreciation. Her insistence that while we may have been poor financially, we would always be rich in love and spirit. That perspective has been an incredible source of comfort this past year as I’ve been mostly jobless since March 2020.

After a year of sending out resumes and cover letters, I was all set for my first interview last Wednesday. I woke up Wednesday morning, got a bike ride in, worked out with my November Project crew, showered and had breakfast. I was ready to own my day when I received an e-mail telling me that the company I was set to interview with was going in another direction and that they were sorry for any disappointment. Reading that definitely took the wind out of my sails a bit, but then I told myself to find the silver lining. I told myself to appreciate their transparency and that they didn’t put me through a meaningless interview.

My Ted Lasso-like optimism reminds me that it’s all going to work out. Some how, some way, it always works out. After all, thanks to my mom, my friends and Em, I am still rich in love and spirit.

-jbb

Peloton

I briefly mentioned Peloton yesterday while talking about the adversity I’ve faced since I haven’t been able to run pain free since November. For those that might not know, Peloton is a fitness brand that has changed the game. Most often Peloton is associated with their at-home stationary bike, and while the bike is what they are most known for, they are so much more than that.

First, I want to skip the bike and the treadmill and talk about their app. Did you know that you don’t need their bike or treadmill to benefit from the app? Yes, having their equipment makes it easier to follow along with the cycling or tread classes, but I have a few friends who sought cheaper alternatives and still enjoy the Peloton classes. The bigger thing to me though is that in addition to cycling/tread classes, Peloton offers yoga, meditation, strength, stretching, outdoor guided runs, and cardio HIIT classes! These are world class coaches offering classes anywhere from 5 to 90 minutes long and all available right in the palm of your hand. Oh and a digital only membership is currently $12.99/month! All-access membership with the bike or tread is $39.99/month which is still cheaper than any spin studio I’ve ever been to, and allows for multiple household users so the cost is split for myself and my partner Emily.

If my excitement for the app didn’t pique your interest, then perhaps this paragraph will. I’m big on high fives and an even bigger community guy. I love being a part of a bigger collective that supports one another and loves to see people shine. I love giving kudos out on Strava, which by the way here’s a little Strava hack that you might not know!

(If you do a group run/workout/ride/whatever with multiple people and you want to give everyone kudos, bring up the list of people who participated and shake your phone. Doing so will bring up the option to Kudos everyone or just friends that you follow. You’re welcome!)

Ok, so the Peloton community. Aside from being able to give out high fives to other folks doing the same class as you, there are endless amounts of groups on Facebook, Strava, Reddit, and the likes that are created to have people come together to share success stories and inspire one another. It truly is a lovely community where you can find people to connect and sweat with from all over the world.

Finally, the equipment. I can’t talk about the treadmill as I’ve never used it, but I do own the bike. Admittedly, it’s an investment. The bike starts at $1895 and the bike+ at $2495. Personally, I have the regular bike as I got it before the bike+ came out. I’m financing the bike and between the bike and membership I am splitting the cost with Emily so we each pay roughly $51/month. One thing I appreciate about Peloton is that after I ordered the bike, they launched the bike+ and reduced the cost of the original bike and subsequently credited my account since I had ordered at the higher cost. Usually companies will offer hollow apologies in regards to price drops like this, but Peloton took the initiative to e-mail me and I thought that was awesome. Oh and financing is interest free and didn’t tack on any additional charges. I 100% believe the bike is worth it and if I compare it to the cost of unlimited yoga/spin/meditation/strength classes here in LA, I’m saving thousands of dollars a year. #nobrainer.

If you’re already on Peloton, add me @buckbrennan. If you’re deciding to order one, go ahead and use my referral code XJY43D and you’ll receive $100 towards accessories. I recommend the bike mat and cycling shoes if you don’t have any.

Oh and for some of my favorite instructors here ya go:

Cycling – Emma Lovewell, Matt Wilpers, Denis Morton, Alex Toussaint

Yoga – Denis Morton, Ross Rayburn

Meditation – Aditi Shah, Anna Greenberg, Chelsea Jackson Roberts

Strength – Chase Tucker, Olivia Amato (abs)

Honestly though, they’re all incredible and I’ve never regretted taking a class with anyone.

Do good,

jbb