* Welcome to The Big Jewel. We'd like to tell you what this week's bit of hilarity is about, but that would be giving away the surprise. Let our good friend Charles Stayton explain as only he can...

Merc-Hades And The Horn

By: Charles Stayton

Damn the engine, let me hear the horn! If it does not speak, it dare not lay claim upon this realm we stalk with hoary breath and padded foot! Set free the voice that casts disgust on us bereft and lonely creatures — the voice that sends exalted cries of benediction to those solemn Lube clerics of Jiffy. Let the thing grumble or squawk, blare or croon. Let it sing out above the fragile quavers of our mortal indecision.

No, no I won’t have that one — it’s much too shrill.

Ooh, this one here. Unleash the bowels of this bestial apprentice of the wind. Let us hear the rugged bellow of a thing unfurled from the very fabric of valor. Let that fiend cry out!

Nope. Definitely not. Sounds too much like Dean Lawrence when he used to — oh never mind, let’s have a look over here.

Yes! Bring forth the rumble that no doubt stirs in that fuliginous, neglected baron. Born from the earth’s pure metal heart, but over-seasoned on our mongrel plane of salt, sweat and excrement — vent the chords of discontent lying deep in its many-chambered heart!

Oh goodness, no. Don’t want to sound like we’re apologizing, now do we?

Are you sure you don’t want to take a test drive, sir?

A man should be judged by his voice alone, for it is that, and only that, which shows his erudition. I will uphold the same standard when appraising the manner of my conveyance and be the prouder for it. I am a man of letters through and through! Retired and emeritus, but forever a man of letters. Now let us on. I should like to hear what that sedan there has to say. A sober, firm voice, I imagine.

Ah, at last! That is the one! Those impish, staccato bursts would ensnare any soul that ventured close enough to the siren shores from whence it came. Such cheekiness but also tenderness and folly hidden underneath. It’s like we’re kindred souls, but there’s still some heat there. Some fire in the — what would my wife have said? — ah, yes! Some fire in the pelvic floor! How much for that fine steed?

That one there? I’d say about $2400, but I’d have to check with Robbie. 

Oh, dear boy, you take me all wrong. I merely want to use it for a brief period until it no longer sets my loins aflame and then send it along to…well, back to you all, I suppose. If you love something, set it free! How much for such an arrangement?

Like a lease? I’m pretty sure we don’t do leases, but Robbie’d know better. Let me just-

Oh no — there’s no need for all that. Is there any charge for an occasional call upon this ethereal creature to hear its hoots and jeers?

Uh, I don’t know what you mean.

Can I visit and use this horn sometimes?

Uh, you can test drive it anytime, so I guess so.

Can I visit after the last sparks of Apollo’s chariot have fluttered out and night has settled?


When Mephistopheles walks his hound and the moon beckons to our briny mother?

We’re closed–

Alas! When the helm of Hades descends and emboldens the crickets, opossums, bats, raccoons, and other souls of the shadow!?

Dude, you can’t come in here in the middle of the night and honk this horn. Sorry, man. 

Surely you could prosper from the services of a night watchman! I’m full of riddles no mortal can solve — I’ll make a fine sentinel!

Well, we have–

Yes — it’s settled! Does that dog have a name? Never mind, he’s Cerberus now and he’ll be my companion. I’ll go by Merc-Hades. Deal?

Let’s go talk to Robbie.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we don't even know what a Herschel backpack is, but we know a funny piece of writing when we see it. Enjoy the latest from trend-keeper-upper-wither Charles Stayton.

A Herschel Backpack Changed My Life

By: Charles Stayton

I bought a Herschel backpack the other day and it changed my life. I was pretty sure that good things were going to happen (I’d been seeing the chambray-clad Herschel type crushing it in reclaimed wood coffee shops all over my television), but I had no idea how dramatic the change would be.

As soon as I put the backpack on, I got this feeling that I should go to my kitchen. Somehow my body (or the bag) took over and I was frothing milk on the stove and drawing a perfect portrait of Albert Camus in my coffee. I didn’t figure out who I had drawn until I posted a picture on Instagram and my followers shot up to 1.3 million, all gushing about what quickly became known as the “Cam-Moo.” Soon the “Whitney” people messaged me to offer an independent study based on my portrait.

Slightly confused about why Whitney Houston, or Whitney Houston’s people (is she still alive?) would be offering me an art gig, I happened to glance back over my shoulder. Something weird had happened in the kitchen. All the dishes were clean and back in the cabinets like I had never been there. My linoleum had turned to granite, my pantry had been replaced by cool industrial racks with glass containers, I counted six different varieties of kale chips, the wall was now exposed brick, and my coffeemaker had been replaced by something called a Chemex that I’d only ever seen dangling from the waist of a “drunken fist” character on Mortal Kombat. “Neat!” I thought.

I decided to go for a walk because a) I now had solid storage on my back in case I came across anything I wanted, and b) cool shit was happening to me in my apartment, so I could only imagine what would happen out in the world. Right outside my apartment, a hip group of ethnically ambiguous and ethnically diverse kids around my age waved me over to their stoop. It was the kind of group that normally would have intimidated me as a white kid with no friends, but I had my Herschel, so I went for it. Plus, I felt safe because a few of the girls were wearing those hats that look like Kung Lao’s from Mortal Kombat. Only theirs were semi-floppy and sweet-looking, like Kung Lao’s hat took a few Valium and a juice cleanse.

They invited me to join, so I sat down on the lowest step. For the next hour or so, we didn’t really talk, but we sure did laugh and point a lot. I had this one hilarious gesture where I would point at my boy with one hand, while touching my chest with the other — like one hand was Southern and kept saying, “Oh goodness, me” and the other (the pointing one) was like, “You know you’re my boy.” I think it was the juxtaposition that got them. We also laughed just because the McDonald’s sandwiches we were eating were really delicious and they made us so happy.

At some point a brand new Subaru Forester power slid to a halt in the street in front of us, causing a pile of fall leaves to cascade up through the dusk sunlight and trickle down in slow motion. I knew I was supposed to get in, and also that I wasn’t supposed to worry about my McDonald’s trash (“Herschel people don’t produce waste,” the bag whispered to me). My new friends followed with accessories that materialized for our journey through the empty city streets.

My man Long Shirt/Little Glasses had a ukulele; Jordans/Mumu tossed a surfboard up on the roof rack; the Sensible Tats Twins threw a few $10,000 fixed gear bikes on the back; and Beardie hooked up a parasail to the bumper and slapped the hatchback like it was a stallion. As we rode off toward a well-lived life full of EXPERIENCES, Beardie guffawing away above us, I thought to myself, “Don’t you even start to question this. You deserve to be happy. You had the good taste to pick that backpack after all.”

I am happy to say that I took my advice and haven’t looked back. My little troop from the stoop is still together. We’re on break from our group teaching post at Swarthmore where we guide pop-up, experiential learning experiences where students experience different learning material – like really experience and learn. The emphasis is definitely on experience, but there is plenty of learning that happens as well. Usually the learning happens much later on after students have more life experience and can look back on the learning experience and say: “Huh! That’s what I learned. Neat!”

I have also pitched a class for the fall on gender performance in Mortal Kombat. That will mostly be experiential as well.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your one safe harbor in a world full of frauds and sociopaths. Say hello to first-time contributor Charles Stayton, who gives more than a few reasons to say goodbye to Airbnb.

Overheard On Airbnb Messenger

By: Charles Stayton

Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Wednesday, 7.12, 2:15 PM

Hi Gus and Joy. We loved our stay last weekend! We were thinking…would you guys consider permanently renting the space we stayed in? My partner and I think it may be a good fit for both couples, if you guys are interested in more cash…and maybe someone to help look after the place.


Joy Hanseen: Airbnb app; Thursday, 7.13, 8:15 AM

Hi Cole and Marissa. We appreciate the offer, but we are really just looking for the flexibility that Airbnb provides. We’re not exactly landlord material at this point in our retirement 🙂


Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Thursday, 7.13, 11:47 AM

Hey Joy! Totally. Understood. We weren’t thinking landlords per se, though. Honestly, we feel like the energy between the four of us is more mellow and deep than that. We loved your vibe and it made us realize that we’re done with roommates. We want something more. Something more…grown up. Like where we can have Sunday suppers together and look after each other’s pets like in Gilmore Girls. We would help with any chores you want and pitch in to make your retirement amazing! You wouldn’t have to pay us an allowance, of course… 🙂


Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Saturday, 7.15, 1:18 PM

Hi again! Not sure if you got my last message, but I hope y’all are having a rad weekend! Sorry if we came on a little strong before. It’s just that we really felt at home with you guys! We want you to know that we are excellent at social media and vegan cooking (provided we get ingredients from an appropriate meal service — Purple Carrot is perfect!). We could keep you wholesomely fed and relevant on the ‘gram! We’d also love to take on the responsibility of keeping you guys active! We love hiking, picnics, 80’s parties, walking tours [but only if they aren’t too boring and end with shots:)], road trips to see the fall leaves change colors, and adult summer camps, just to name a few…


Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Monday, 7.17, 1:40 AM

Hi Joy. I just want you to know that we’re still cool. I saw the glowing review of “Ashley” and “Dan” that you posted and I get it — you need to keep business fresh while you line everything up for our rental. No rush on my end. I mean, the sooner the better since Marissa and I jumped in with both feet and broke our lease…but no presh. The couchsurfing thing is chill and it actually helps the hustle since we’re more mobile. It’s also nice because we can strip down and only keep the essentials. We accumulate so much stuff, right? You gotta watch this documentary on- oh shoot, I’m rambling. Sorry! Cheers!


Cole Thurston: Airbnb app; Monday, 7.24, 6:05 AM

I couldn’t stop thinking about that review, so I reached out to Ashley and Dan. Marissa and I met up with them and I have to tell you — I don’t get it. I bet Dan told you that dumb story about his frat bros and the pedicab driver in Cabo, didn’t he? That seemed like his go to for the “now-the-smalltalk-is-over” part of the couples hang. You know that story isn’t true, right? First off, there’s no way his whale patterned clothes-wearing ass left the resort area. Second, a basic geo-tag hack shows that he has never been near downtown Cabo, or, in his words, “Spanish colonial-ville, but, like, kind of shitty.” I’m trying to stay positive, but I really can’t wrap my brain around the glowing review. Ashley — I can see you liking Ashley. Everybody loves Ash Cash. But, Dan? Really?


Airbnb corporate: email; Friday, 7.28, 8:37 AM

Dear Cole: your account has been suspended due to a pending investigation. If you have any questions, please direct them to our legal team. Thank you for your cooperation.


Cole Thurston: handwritten letter; Friday, 7.28

You went to Airbnb? I thought you were one of those moms that kids could talk to, even about hard stuff. I thought you wanted me to be honest with you…


Cole Thurston: handwritten letter; Saturday, 8.5

I know I’m breaking the law by writing you guys, but I don’t care. Isn’t the law just a tool for the oppressors anyway? I went by your house today and the trash cans are gone. Are you selling the house? Our house? The house of my imagined childhood? The house where our little alternative family came together over that kitten jigsaw puzzle and top-shelf riesling?


Cole Thurston: handwritten letter; 8.24

Marissa left me and it seems like I’m going to jail. The only redeeming thing about Michael (my public defender) is that he smells like old-timey aftershave, cigarettes, and sweat just like Gus. Well, it goes without saying that he’s also a hugger, which gets him some points too. But, honestly, he’s pretty useless when it comes to defending me against the restraining order charges. I know you guys aren’t going to visit, but I hope this letter finds you. I just want to say I’m sorry if I let you down. I still think about you guys all the time.