I woke up this morning to find that my tongue was burning. Not from the phosphorus that I'd been eating the night before, but just the sensation of burning. Huh, that doesn't usually happen.
I got out of bed and had a cup of coffee. It smelled great, but ... well, I wouldn't say that it didn't taste good, I'd say that it just didn't taste. Period. I brushed my teeth and felt tingling and cold from the water, but I couldn't taste any mint. I went to the Flagship Diner on Queens Blvd for breakfast, and the orange juice wasn't sweet, the home fries weren't salty, and for all I poured on the syrup the french toast may as well have been warm cardboard.
My better half happened to be with me, and she's almost a doctor, so she checked me out and decided that I had some kind of nerve damage, probably caused by a viral infection. Where I picked this up who knows. I'm going to see my doctor tomorrow afternoon (a panicked phone call works sometimes) but in all odds I won't be able to taste anything until my nerves grow back, and that could take weeks or months.
I'm not going to pretend that I'm seriously disabled or anything; the worst thing that could happen is that I accidentally drink antifreeze mistaking it for Gatoraid and die. But it's weird not even being able to taste the inside of your own mouth. There's only one advantage that I've found so far, and I've got a can of it right here: MGD tastes EXACTLY like Chimay Trappist Ale when you've got no operational taste buds.
Shocker: I wrote a book. It's called We've Come Undone: From the O-Jay Fiasco to Sept 11 and Beyond. It's basic premise is that things began to unravel the day those 12 morons unleashed a crazed killer on us and it culminated when Mohammed Atta piloted that 1st plane into the North Tower. A secondary premise is that so far, these zeros have proven to be a pathetically banal spectacle. Recommended antidote: solitude and alienation. Not surprisingly, agents and publishers didn't exactly flock to it. I actually got non-form letter rejections telling me to never send anything so insulting to them again.
In tone the text is caustic and sneering as I seek to undermine any memory from that time period that anyone might deign to cherish. Example: the Garth Brooks phenomena. Here's a sample grab where I tried to insult as many people as I could in one sentence: "Brooks then elected to stage a free concert in Central Park of all places. Any fool might have puzzled over his choice of venues. A sparse crowd consisting mainly of the Park's al fresco-dwelling denizens quickly fled to the nearest burqa-less bar located across the Goethels Bridge in Elizabeth, NJ." (all rights reserved)
There is a lot of focus on the OJ Trial, as I do really believe that is where it all started to go horribly awry. Fuck Lee Bailey haranguing Det Mark Fuhrman over his use of the N Word. Brash Barry Scheck grilling pathologist Dennis Fung: "Were you asked these questions and did you give these answers, yes or no" as he brandished transcripts. Most of all, on the despicable Johnny Cochran. I envisioned him drafting his infamous "If it doesn't fit you must acquit" line the night before. "If it don't fit you must acquit." Nah, too ethnic-sounding. "If'n it don't be fittin' you must be acqittin'." Even worse.
It all seems like a million years ago. And yet, upon hearing of his death from a brain tumor at age 67 yesterday, all my hatred of him came flooding back. And then I felt guilty about these thought crimes. One mustn't speak ill of the dearly departed, no?
Unless, of course, the departed happens to be Mr. Atta. In the 12 page piece about Sept 11, I talked a lot about how I wished he'd been aborted before his mom had to endure that oversized noggin forcing its way out of her stretched-out hole. But overall, that was the toughest thing to write about. The book is done in a humorous vein, see. And while you may be able to now, there was no way to joke about that momentous day in the grim, dazed, Anthrax-wafting, Taliban-ousting days when we all waited in dread for the other shoe to drop.
I also delved into the war in Afghanistan, particularly our failure to capture or kill Osama, Doc Zawahiri and Mullah Omar. (Dead or Alive, my ass.) Who ever thought we'd see calvary on actual horses in this day and age? And yet, it occured.
The book ends with the frantic run-up to that disastrous, permanent war in Iraq. I simply didn't have the heart to go any further. The Y2k scare, Battle in Seattle, Indecision 2000 and Heaven's Gate were harrowing enough. *takes a large gulp of wine and hits save*
I grow tired of those pundits who feel, that by dint of their moral superiority and vastly superior intellect, have the right to weigh in on the Terry Schiavo case. The latest to wade in where angels rightfully fear to tread is Nat Henthoff, who really should know better.
Normally, I don't try to dismantle someone's argument point by point, but Henthoff's sanctimonious pleadings are just too much to pass up. This ought to be fun....
Argument #1: Terri Schiavo is being executed.
*For all the world to see, a 41-year-old woman, who has committed no crime, will die of dehydration and starvation in the longest public execution in American history.
Uh, first of all, Mrs. Schiavo expressed to two different people that she would never wish to live in the manner so many would now condemn her to in their battle to "Respect Life". What is so wrong with respecting the expressed wishes of Mrs. Schiavo? Oh, right; that doesn't fit your narrow agenda, does it?
Argument #2: Terri Schiavo is responsive and lucid.
*She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists.
Well, sure, if you believe the Schindler family and/or their spiritual adviser, you'd think that Terri Schiavo is sitting up in bed dictating memos to her supporters and reading the Racing Form so that she can place her bet on the fifth race at Pimlico.
The reality is that 15 years of medical evidence contradicts Henthoff's assertion. Hell, even the report by Mrs. Schiavo's guardian ad litem, Jay Wolfson debunks the various theories of people who really WANT to believe that Terri Schiavo is a lucid, responsive human being. The notion, as put forth by Schiavo's father, that Terri is "begging for our help" flies in the face of medical reality- and it's an insult to his daughter, who he is allowing to be used as a political chess piece. If there is a crime being committed here, it is by the Schindler family, who have willingly and actively participated in turning their daughter's tragic situation into a political travesty.
Argument #3: Terri Schiavo has been denied her due process rights.
*Among many other violations of her due process rights, Terri Schiavo has never been allowed by the primary judge in her case—Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, whose conclusions have been robotically upheld by all the courts above him—to have her own lawyer represent her.
This argument is prima facie absurd. Florida Governor assigned a guardian ad litem, Jay Wolfson, to represent Mrs. Schiavo's interest. His report lays out his efforts to determine the truth of Mrs. Schiavo's physical state, and he has said in no uncertain terms that, despite his best efforts to the contrary, he was unable to see anything that indicated she was in anything but a persistent vegetative state.
Argument #4: Judge Greer is a blind, doddering old fool who would run over his own mother to further his ignorant, tyrannical Liberal agenda.
*Greer has declared Terri Schiavo to be in a persistent vegetative state, but he has never gone to see her. His eyesight is very poor, but surely he could have visited her along with another member of his staff. Unlike people in a persistent vegetative state, Terri Schiavo is indeed responsive beyond mere reflexes.
This is indeed one of Henthoff's sillier arguments. Greer is a judge, not a medical doctor. His job is to dispassionately decide the merits of the case based ON THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA, not to make medical, political, or emotional decisions. Just because Greer's decision sticks in your craw, it by no means indicates that he was incorrect or incompetent.
Argument #5: The ACLU has been complicit in assisting Michael Schiavo's evil desire to execute his wife.
*While lawyers and judges have engaged in a minuet of death, the American Civil Liberties Union, which would be passionately criticizing state court decisions and demanding due process if Terri were a convict on death row, has shamefully served as co-counsel for her husband, Michael Schiavo, in his insistent desire to have her die.
No doubt the ACLU is representing Michael Schiavo because, under Florida law, it is the duty and legal responsibility of the remaining spouse to represent the interests of the incapacitated spouse. Casting stones at the ACLU is probably the oldest canard in the book (Yeah, well, the ACLU would represent Saddam Hussein given half a chance....).
Argument #6: Michael Schiavo is a philanderer, the living embodiment of licentiousness,sin, and evil. As such, he is wholly unfit to speak on behalf of his wife.
*Months ago, in discussing this case with ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, and later reading ACLU statements, I saw no sign that this bastion of the Bill of Rights has ever examined the facts concerning the egregious conflicts of interest of her husband and guardian Michael Schiavo, who has been living with another woman for years, with whom he has two children, and has violated a long list of his legal responsibilities as her guardian, some of them directly preventing her chances for improvement. Judge Greer has ignored all of them.
Michael Schiavo's personal life is completely immaterial to this controversy, and is only used as ammunition to smear him by those who have no legal standing but plenty of agenda. Under Florida law, the ONLY issue is whether or not Michael Schiavo is meeting his obligation to provide adequate care for his wife. Over the past 15 years, Schiavo's care has been beyond adequate. In 15 years, Terri Schiavo has never had a bedsore.
As for the issue of Michael Schiavo living with another woman, how about we all try to walk a mile in his shoes. It's easy for us to place our own narrow moral expectations upon him, but can any of us say that we could meet that standard if we were in his shoes? I daresay that we could not. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or hopelessly out of touch with the reality of human needs. (Abraham Maslow, anyone??)
Argument #7: Michael Schiavo is guilty of egregiously abusing and neglecting Terri Schiavo.
*In February, Florida's Department of Children and Families presented Judge Greer with a 34-page document listing charges of neglect, abuse, and exploitation of Terri by her husband, with a request for 60 days to fully investigate the charges. Judge Greer, soon to remove Terri's feeding tube for the third time, rejected the 60-day extension. (The media have ignored these charges, and much of what follows in this article.)
Greer ruled against these charges primarily because they were baseless, politically motivated, and wholly without merit. Schiavo's family and others have had 15 years to raise these issues, and Judge Greer clearly recognized them for what they were: politically motivated delaying tactics designed to allow the Schiavo family more time to obtain yet another bite at the legal apple in their attempt to usurp Michael Schiavo's legal rights. Desperate measures taken by desperate people with no legal standing.
Argument #8: Michael Schiavo has completely failed in his responsibility to provide proper care and therapy for his wife.
*Michael Schiavo, who says he loves and continues to be devoted to Terri, has provided no therapy or rehabilitation for his wife (the legal one) since 1993. He did have her tested for a time, but stopped all testing in 1993. He insists she once told him she didn't want to survive by artificial means, but he didn't mention her alleged wishes for years after her brain damage, while saying he would care for her for the rest of his life.
Since when it is a husband's responsibility to publicly disclose private, intimate conversations he has had at one time or another with his wife? To put it bluntly, it's nobody's damn business, and Henthoff has clearly been reduced to grasping at straws. (Yeah...but...but....)
Argument #9: The only neurological opinions that count are the ones from doctors on the Right side of the political spectrum.
*Terri Schiavo has never had an MRI or a PET scan, nor a thorough neurological examination. Republican Senate leader Bill Frist, a specialist in heart-lung transplant surgery, has, as The New York Times reported on March 23, "certified [in his practice] that patients were brain dead so that their organs could be transplanted." He is not just "playing doctor" on this case.
During a speech on the Senate floor on March 17, Frist, speaking of Judge Greer's denial of a request for new testing and examinations of Terri, said reasonably, "I would think you would want a complete neurological exam" before determining she must die.
Frist added: "The attorneys for Terri's parents have submitted 33 affidavits from doctors and other medical professionals,all of whom say that Terri should be re-evaluated."
Bill Frist has never seen nor examined Terri Schiavo, and his "diagnosis" of Terri Schiavo, delivered in grand oratorical fashion on the Senate floor, came after he had watched all of an hour of videotape of Schiavo.
If you put 50 neurologists together into the same room, it is quite likely that you could well end up with 50 different opinions. And that's BEFORE you introduce ideology into the equation. Thirty-three doctors and "other medical professionals" is all well and good, but opinion-shopping is akin to the national sport for those trying to make a political point- such as the Schindler family and their supporters.
Argument #10: Nineteen judges are WRONG.
*In death penalty cases, defense counsel for retarded and otherwise mentally disabled clients submit extensive medical tests. Ignoring the absence of complete neurological exams, supporters of the deadly decisions by Judge Greer and the trail of appellate jurists keep reminding us how extensive the litigation in this case has been—19 judges in six courts is the mantra. And more have been added. So too in many death penalty cases, but increasingly, close to execution, inmates have been saved by DNA.
First of all, this is not a death penalty case, and using that sort of rhetoric is useful only to inflame the argument at hand. Secondly, Henthoff might want to consider this reality: perhaps the reason that 19 different justices have rendered similar decisions IS THAT THE LAW ON THIS MATTER IS CRYSTAL CLEAR. The Schindler family's strategy all along has been the willingly suffer staggering losses in a valiant search for that one lone judge in the woodpile who favors Conservative ideology above the law. To the credit of all the jurists involved, they have held true to their responsibility: interpreting the law. This is as it should be.
Argument #11: Nineteen judges are WRONG.
*As David Gibbs, the lawyer for Terri's parents, has pointed out, there has been a manifest need for a new federal, Fourteenth Amendment review of the case because Terri's death sentence has been based on seven years of "fatally flawed" state court findings—all based on the invincible neglect of elementary due process by Judge George Greer.
The arrogance of this attitude almost defies description. "Fatally flawed" is a highly inflammatory and ideological epithet to be tossing at the judiciary. Judges are paid to INTERPRET the law, not weigh ideology and political advantage. Again, the fact that so many judges have rendered similar decisions for so long speaks to the fact THAT THE LAW ON THIS MATTER IS CRYSTAL CLEAR. Period. End of story. There is no more apple left off which the Schindlers might sneak another bite.
Argument #12: I'll be back to kick @$$ and take names again....
*I will be returning to the legacy of Terri Schiavo in the weeks ahead because there will certainly be long-term reverberations from this case and its fracturing of the rule of law in the Florida courts and then the federal courts—as well as the disgracefully ignorant coverage of the case by the great majority of the media, including such pillars of the trade as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and [T]he Los Angeles Times as they copied each other's misinformation, like Terri Schiavo being "in a persistent vegetative state."
Gee, thank, Nat; I can hardly wait to be blessed with another of your paper-thin arguments that more closely resemble Swiss cheese for all of the holes than a coherent ideological whole. If you can come back with something different and better constructed than this sorry excuse for a case, I'm listening. Otherwise, you're wasting your time and (more importantly) mine. For someone who has such an impressive reputation as an ideologue and an intellectual, you've sure managed to put together one sorry-@$$ argument here.
Your contention that the Schiavo case represents the "fracturing of the rule of law in the Florida courts and then the federal courts" is on it's face absurd. The fact that nineteen judges in various jurisdictions have consistently sided with Michael Schiavo should be taken as leaving no doubt THAT THE LAW ON THIS MATTER IS CRYSTAL CLEAR. The only thing that has been fractured is the confidence of Social Conservatives in their ability to legislatively force their narrow agenda down our throats. If anything, the justices who have been involved in the Schiavo case have done an excellent job of staving off numerous attempts by a vocal, committed minority to create judicial tyranny.
A media outlet failing to share your narrow ideology is not indicative of misinformation; neither is it an indication that they are incorrect. Methinks you might be better off taking a good long look at your narrow, intolerant ideology and ask yourself one simple question: How would YOU handle the 15 years of hell that Michael and Terri Schiavo have been through? If the argument you've put forth here is any indication, you would have failed the test on Day One.
Call me a silly, but I need closure to things. Friendship not going well and you don´t hear from the other party? Worse, your significant other just stops calling you? Or something in between? I can´t stand it. In that regard, I think I´m pretty normal. So, speaking of sex on the beach...
No, no, I haven´t had any (sex on the beach) recently. Since I´ve been on the road again, I´ve been behaving myself fairly well. However, I kinda had some pre-planned sex in El Salvador that just never really happened. And I want some fucking closure.
So the story goes like this:
I met a Kiwi in Nicaragua in November. Hot surfer type with a brain (yeah, they DO exist). Sex on the beach ensued. And lots of talking ... I actually liked the Kiwi a lot. The Kiwi returns in February after exchanging one or two flirty e-mails and a very loose agreement that I could hop in the VW bus the Kiwi was travelling in. Things go well with the Kiwi the second time around; more sex on the beach ensues. The Kiwi is with 2 best mates from Kiwi-land, but still says I can hop in. We agree to e-mail, seeing as I wasn´t leaving Nicaragua until a week after them. We exchanged e-mails, with the last one saying that they were leaving for El Salvador the next morning and would e-mail me when they get somewhere there that we can meet up at.
Needless to say, I never got an e-mail. I checked my e-mail daily for about a week until I realized that I wasn´t going to get one. I was a bit peeved at first, and definitely a bit hurt. I ran into a guy in Guatemala who knew the Kiwis and myself who said that they´d just passed through a few days earlier. Evidence that I´d been rejected. With much self-control, I held myself back from e-mailing the Kiwi.
Until today. I´m at a surf beach in Mexico kinda wondering where to go and I just sent an e-mail asking if they were around. If they were, I suggested we all party together some night, but I also made it clear that I was heading on by the weekend (no commitment needed, in other words).
I hope I get an e-mail back, but I feel good because I´ve at least initiated closure. And although I´m not really keeping my hopes up, I just might get some action out of this whole closure thing.
There's few more enduring sources of knowing snickering than behind bars lovin'. Folks overlook the brutality involved in it. It's kind of like being someone's bitch is part and parcel of your sentence. Each year in the US, 240,000 men hide the salami against their will in prisons.
I caught a guy on one of those newsmagazines, bitching and moaning about his prison experience. Seems that on his first night in jail, inmates passed him around like a joint. They boo-fooed him until his asshole grew tattered and bloody. Hardly an appetizing sight. So some hoosegow dentist took a hammer and knocked his teeth out so they could enjoy some zesty gum action. And he had the audacity to go on TV and complain about his evening.
But seriously, people just love to joke about these atrocities. Don't drop the soap in the shower. How do you separate the men from the boys in prison? With a crowbar. Even on Friends, Phoebe jests about guys becoming someone's bitches.
You get this Caligula-like orgy picture in your mind. Everywhere you look men are plunging their tools into various orifi. I'm sure the reality of the situation is far different though. Surely the guards step in when they are aware of what's going on. Don't they?
In my opinion the best strategy would be to go on the offensive. If you jump right into the fray and start taking bitches for yourself, it's far less likely you'll be subjugated that way---at least in theory. But unless you are already a gay man, I wonder about the mechanics of raping other inmates. How do you, ya know, get it up? And once you start relishing man-on-man action on the inside, does it mean you're gay when you get out?
Oh, stop already. Yes, I am well aware that rape isn't sex, it is a form of violence and domination. And yet, someone is ultimately getting off on it, as evidenced by the high level of STDs contracted in our prison systems. Bodily fluids are being exchanged by the gallon---often---gasp!---without protection. That guy on TV wasn't fitted with a dental dam.
Not everyone is so amused by these shenanigans. Congress has passed a law that commissioned a panel to study the prison rape phenomena (not to actually take steps to stop or curtail the practice.)
But there is a group that is championing the cause of behind bars rape victims. You talk about a thankless task. This must take the cake. You'd sooner take up the cause of pedophiles' right to disseminate kiddie porn and propaganda via NAMBLA websites, as your pals at the ACLU have done.
by mg at 03:29 PM on March 27, 2005
Desiree Goodwin, a library assistant at Harvard is suing the University because she believes she has been passed over for promotion since 1999 (link). The reason she was passed over, her lawsuit contends, is that she dressed too sexy and was "just a pretty girl."
As some of you might remember, I recently graduated with my Master's degree in Library and Information Science. I initially received this story on a professional list-serv, but I didn't want to bore you all with my in-depth professional experiences on this. But, I noticed the story again as a front-page news item on AOL, and figured "Hey, I can jump on that bandwagon!"
Plus, I actually have some insight and experience about discrimination of hot people in libraries; compared to the ignorance I usually bring to topics I write about.
When I was done with school last year I started looking for jobs, primarily in academic libraries. Most academic libraries require a second Master's degree in addition to the MLS. That is more schooling than a doctor or lawyer. I was looking for jobs for a couple months before graduation, but didn't get many bites. Luckily I found a job back in the IT world, and am making three times as much as I would have working in a library.
I haven't looked back and thought about working in a library, but have kept up on professional list-servs and websites. I’ve since read many stories about male librarians feeling discriminated against, as well as young librarians, and anyone with tattoos.
So that explains why I received nary a response to my resumes. Or at least I like to think it explains it, rather than my woeful inexperience. But hey, I don't necessarily mind, because, hell, I'm making more cheese than any of those damn library directors who didn't have time for my resume. So if Miss Goodwin was feeling discriminated because of her staggering good looks and sexy attire, I was definitely feeling her on the case, and wondering if we could turn this into a class action suit.
But then I ran across an article with a picture of her. This picture of Goowdin makes Nick Nolte's mughsot look sexy. I know the impression of librarians is dowdy, but this chick can only be considered too sexy for Harvard like Star Jones could be considered too sexy for The View.
This case should be thrown out of court. But, that isn't going to happen. Stupid due process. If we really wanted to solve this case fast, put up her picture Am I Hot or Not. Forget a jury of her 12 dowdy peers, let the great big, cold, honest, and mean Internet decide. If, and this is a big if, she gets over a 5, then she wins. Anything else, and judge immediately dismisses the case and throw his robe over this lady's head so the rest of us don't have to see her perp-walking out of the courthouse.
The race isn't always to the swift, but that's the way to bet. -old proverb
I deserve to win because I am the best. -Arnold Schwarzenegger
Well, it looks like they are down to the Final Four. I couldn't name a team that is still in. But I'd be willing to bet that Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina or Duke is among them. They always are. This is because they have better players. And because alums are willing to pay players more and the schools have a rep for being among the top teams, this will continue. But this post isn't about basketball or sports in general.
The team with the most talent almost always prevails. The underdog doesn't stand a chance. Cheats often get away with it. This emoldens them. And they only improve their technique with practice. Suckups and brown-nosers garner favor with their bosses. People who say they aren't good liars are simply honest people. Likewise, folks who lie a lot are usually adept at it. Just as sociopaths fit in when it suits their nefarious purposes.
The hare would have kicked the tortoise's ass in real life. Hares are faster than tortoises. The US victory over Russia in Olympic hockey was almost surely rigged.
Honesty isn't always the best policy. It can land you in big trouble. It can also needlessly hurt other people's feelings. Sometimes it's far better to lie through your teeth.
It is just as good to be dumb-lucky as skillful. Someone who wins the lottery is just as rich as a businessman who works 16 hour days to climb to the top of the corporate ladder. Similarly, misers are almost always wealthy. The poor can't afford to be misers. And that, combined with a tax code that favors rich homeowners over destitute renters, is why the rich will only get richer and the poor will only get poorer and more desperate.
When asked what traits they prize in men, women often list a good sense of humor. Yet how often does the yuk-it-up class clown get laid? Gals also like to claim that size doesn't matter. It's the motion. It's how you use it. Yet how many letters to Penthouse mention that the guy had a smallish penis? They also claim to like sweet, forthright guys. But evidence suggests otherwise. Tis the bad-boy alpha male, the rogue, who sets there hearts a-flutter and gets those juices a-flowing.
Many men prefer big-breasted, streaky-haired, brazen-looking women. They may not choose to marry these busty, flashy types for a number of primordial reasons. But they ogle them all the time. There is something about these trait that dudes just find attractive. And that is why it is so funny to see all those ads for perfumes, eyeliner and hair care products. The underlying message being that you'll attract more prospective mates if you smell a certain way, have long eyelashes and sport lustrous hair with loads of "body." Meanwhile guys look right past those traits and look at the figure and face.
Fact is that 80% of guys are attracted to 20% of the women and vice versa. And beauty/handsomeness aren't in the eyes of the beholder. Most women would agree that Brad Pitt is hot. Same goes for Richard Gere when he was younger and before the gerbiling matter arose. Most guys would agree that Denise Richards and Catherine Zeta-Jones are pretty. They'd also agree that Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneras are not.
Nobody finds Michael Jackson attractive. And he'll never have a hit record again. When asked about his trial and what he thought about it, my son said, "That guy is old. He's old." He's my age. End of story.
Tom DeLay: This is a sad day for those of us who believe deeply in the Sanctity of Life. Teri Schiavo is going to die of thirst because no one in the judiciary was willing to come to her rescue.
Me: Are you familiar with the origin of the word sanctity? It is derived from the Latin sanctitas -atis f. [inviolability , sanctity; purity, chastity].
A related term is sanctuary. You know, where all the animals and plants are protected. Sanctity has a very absolute connotation to it.
DeLay: My Republican colleagues and I absolutely believe in the sanctity of life. That is why we rammed that bill through Congress in the middle of the night, with no hearings or debate. It’s also why we oppose stem cell research and most forms of abortion. And morning after pills and rubbers. Fags like Barney Frank, they could care less about life.
Me: Really? Then why are you guys so gaga over the death penalty? Aren’t criminals forms of life too?
DeLay: That is a different matter altogether. Society has a right to be protected from the predatory likes of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.
Me: Dahmer wasn’t legally executed. He was set up by prison guards who looked the other way while another inmate gutted him with a shiv. How do you feel about that? Another sad day for those who value the sanctity of life, no?
DeLay: He had boys’ skulls in his freezer. Certainly his death was justified.
Me: What about the absolute sanctity of life? Do you apply that principle selectively? How about your opposition to needle exchange programs, which kills people?
Me: Okay so we’ve established that there is no sanctity of life in your minds. There are folks you want snuffed and others you don’t. Let’s move on. You dig guns and think everyone should have an arsenal in their homes, right?
DeLay: I’m for citizens’ right to bear arms.
Me: All citizens?
DeLay: Well, not convicted felons.
Me: Even after they’ve wiped the slate clean by paying their debt to society? How long must one pay for a mistake?
DeLay: Criminals shouldn’t have guns.
Me: Most of them do. So how about, say, white supremacists or homophobes? Should they be armed to the teeth so long as technically, they haven’t as yet run afoul of the law?
DeLay: You are framing your questions in a very deceptive and self-serving way. The fact is that we are for Family Values. That and naming everything in the country after the great hero Ronald Reagan.
Me: Yeah, he was a big family values guy. Got tired of his first family when the hot young thing Nancy Davis came along, blew him, and he dumped them and ignored his own kids. Great guy, huh?
DeLay: That isn’t a fair characterization. Besides, you shouldn’t speak ill of the dearly departed.
Me: I wouldn’t if the dearly departed had led more righteous lives. Isn’t your last name just perfect for a Congressman?
DeLay: My nickname is The Hammer.
Me: Isn’t that trademarked by MC?
DeLay: You can't touch this.
I often find myself surprised at the quantum nature of life as most of us know it. People around me are either alive or dead, and it's fairly easy to tell the difference most of the time. I often wonder how it is possible that people remain in fairly stable highly functional states for decades. People go through cycles of happiness and depression, but it's not like they stochastically forget how to speak, how to respond to others, how to put two and two together. Once the system is booted up, it usually continues to function in a highly predictable way, for the majority of one's life.
The exceptions are at the margins of life. For me, this means small infants. I have no idea how to operate a small infant, how to talk to them, how to understand them, but I know their condition is temporary. This also means people near the end of their lives, people who forget how to speak, people who no longer remember who you are, or how to do even the simplest things. And the last edge can befall anyone, as it includes people with mental illness, or people with an injury or defect which prevents them from functioning at a level most of us understand or are familiar with.
I know I'll spend most of my life, taking completely for granted that I will understand how to interact with the people around me. I realized this simple fact while leaning over my mother, a vibrant, energetic 56 year old woman, as she lay in a hospital bed with her eyes closed and her mouth slightly open. I looked into her face, touched her shoulders, and said, "Hi Mom." Her eyes opened just half way, and then closed again. There was nothing further. I didn't know if she recognized my voice. I didn't know if she was asleep or awake. I didn't know if she was responding to me. I had seen a small spark, but it didn't last. I spoke some more, but she didn't open her eyes again.
It was a terrible feeling, realizing that I didn't know if she was alive or dead. Her body was warm, her heart was beating, but I could no longer quantify the state of her consciousness. She wasn't present, but she wasn't completely gone either. She existed in a place, in a state, that I didn't understand, and it hurt. As I walked to the car through the parking lot, I broke down in tears.
She had gone in for a routine surgical procedure, and recovered from anesthesia, but had then suffered a major stroke later that night after her surgery. So she was in a semi-comatose state when I saw her. The doctors were not very optimistic, but I think it's part of their training not to encourage false hope. I was comfortable with that, as I want information, not speculation. Her life was definitely over as we knew it. I hated returning home from the hospital to see a folder of papers on the passenger seat of her porsche as it sat in the driveway, realizing that she would never work on that project again, yet when she placed it there and drove home from work the day before her surgery, there was no way for her to know that she would not be returning to it.
Things went well for my mom, considering the magnitude of her stroke. She eventually recovered consciousness, and her condition has been quite an adventure ever since. Her neurologist said she would never walk again. Yet last week I hiked with my mother among the grapevines in the luscious hills of California wine country (she walks several miles a day). We had a long conversation about the meaning of life, and I had only a minimum of word salad to contend with (many stroke patients have lingering language effects, referred to as mild aphasia).
I could write endlessly about my mom, but my purpose here is to illustrate my first visceral experience realizing that people (i.e. an otherwise healthy person) can exist in a state that is somewhere between life and death, and how unprepared most of us are to understand what to do about it.
The reason I'm thinking about it this week, is because I've been struggling to understand the case of Terri Schiavo. Specifically, I've been trying to understand the difference between the language we hear in the news - that she exists in a "persistant vegetative state", and the video footage of her reacting to her family that we also see on the news. How can she be considered "vegetative" if she shows otherwise recognizable signs of life, such as facial expressions, reaction to touch, and vocal utterances? Is the dilemna of what to do with her a matter of being able to quantify her state of consciousness? Of being able to quantify a level of brain activity?
In her case, according to Florida law, the dilemna is not a legal matter. If a person can't make their medical decisions known, it falls to the spouse. Her spouse insists that she would not have desired a feeding tube, so it has been removed, and she is slowly dehydrating.
The deeper issue, it seems to me, is how we approach whatever life is left inside Terri. Her parents are advocating to let her live, as they recognize something within her, that few other people can see.
I've been surprised at the lack of medical evidence available from the media to quantify Terri's existence in any kind of meaningful way. I've heard that people in vegetative states do all kinds of spontaneous movements that look specific, but are actually completely random, devoid of any specificity, and which add up to no more than generalized spasms with no brain activity behind them at all. Is this really true? I had my doubts. It's easy for doctors to speak authoritatively on subjects with little definitive evidence to back them up. And so it was that I searched for, and found little video clips of Terri Schiavo, so I could see for myself. I watched them in detail. What I finally came away with, was that I think Terri was capable of responding to certain kinds of stimuli, but the response was very minimal, not necessarily reproducible, and thus minimally specific.
But it was a response, and as such I could understand her parent's unwillingness to let go of her. As someone trained in understanding biological systems, I want to understand what she is now. How many neurons does it take to make a person? What happens when a fully grown adult with a complex brain, breaks down and ceases to exist in the quantum state of consciousness that we are familiar with? What if Terri Schiavo is a broken assembly of partial subsystems, which only function at a basic level based on her first 26 years of training? What I mean is, what if she can recognize her parents voice, but she is unable to process or act on that information? What if she can respond to her face being touched, but can't conceive of what her face is?
Humans have complex eyes, such that we can see many colors and make out complex patterns in the world around us. Many insects which look like they have eyes, actually have something called a light spot. It functions only to indicate the presence or absence of light. I feel like I can almost imagine what it would be like to have a brain which functions at the level of a light spot in comparison to a complex eye. Such that I can imagine mental activity in my head without the ability to put it together into a thought, or to apply language to it, or to even respond in a coordinated way to any kind of physical stimulus. I can imagine having a broken mind where sometimes I think I perceive a stimulus, and sometimes I think I can try to respond.
I think in general, acceptance comes through understanding. Thus for me I want to understand what's possible in a continuum of consciousness between a large bundle of cells with no response, and the emergent behavior that emanates from great thinkers, loving family members, or even my pet cat.
If my existential existence can be described as the impact I make on the world, as in the way I make a clay bowl is unique, and my essence is contained in that uniqueness, as if each of us is encoded by the trail of imperfect marks we leave behind, how much existence is left within Terri Schiavo? The only person who can answer that question is Terri herself. And for that, we can only rely on her spouse telling us what she had expressed in the past.
I can accept that she might have said if she were ever to find herself at such a level existence, that people disagree on whether she actually exists at all beyond a heart beat, that she should be allowed to die as she wished.
However I can also accept that her parents want to cling to the only thing they have left of her, even if it is only an uncoordinated response of a few neurons. If they're willing to care for her, it's difficult to force them to give that up. Perhaps if they could see, in some quantifiable and objective way, that she has no more neural activity than a small mouse, with no hope for anything more, they would be willing to let go. I don't know if it's possible, even by quantifying such things through science, to get a parent to let go.
Once I was riding in a car with a girl. ZZ Topp's Pearl Necklace came on the radio. I'd never paid much attention to the song or its lyrics. Besides, they sing in that twangy Dallas drawl, so I couldn't make them out anyway.
The following exchange then ensued:
Her: You know what that means?
Me: I take it the chick digs jewelry.
Her: That's not it. She wants him to spurt cum all over her neck.
Me: No way.
Now don't get me wrong. I don't advocate a return to proposing on one bent knee, chivalry, damsels in distress fluttering their eyelashes, fainting couches or chastity belts. But I do think it's better to err on the side of being too ladylike rather than resorting to such coarseness.
I think I know from whence all these vile outbursts from females originated: women's mags. Every month they all feature 30 dazzling sex tricks guaranteed to wow your man into fidelity. "He'll never look at another woman that way," they declare. Sure he won't.
One of the tips is always talking dirty in the sack. Never mind that unless it is done subtly and spontaneously, smutty talk just seems ridiculous and it makes people uncomfortable to boot---like the inane babbling of mentally ill homeless folks does.
"Oh baby, shove your big johnson in my ear" is anything but spontaneous or subtle. Then again, it's far better than, "Oh my significant other, your penis is so... sizable."
I need to go take a hot shower now. I suggest you do the same.
This past weekend I went to a punk concert. The headlining band was Rise Against, an Australian politics-driven, rock group. I also caught Closet Monster, an opening band, who put on an excellent show. Rise Against was loud and distorted, a high energy mechanism of music. Of course the kids (myself included) went nuts.
You can see the craziest fashions at punk shows. I personally love it. These people must spend hours getting their hair spiked just right, and assembling 20 piece wardrobes, to go jump around and have whatever style they came in with washed away in a pool of sweat, and drinks.
Some of the people I took note of at this concert were:
The Music Lover: This guy is smoking a joint non-stop, often sport straight long hair. At first glance he appears to be like any other drug induced teenager, but one look at his face tells you no matter what song this guy is listening to he would pour his whole heart and soul into it. (short of Britney Spears)
The Rock Snob: This one is here because I actually saw a guy I used to work with who, by chance, is a Rock Snob. This guy listens to some fringe of popularity band and thinks his opinion is devine when it comes to music, and only what they like is respectable.
The MoshMen: A whole bunch of guys who go into the mosh pit and come out with ripped or no shirts, completely wet, and sometimes covered in blood. I hate it when one of these guys brushes past me. It is like a full body wet willy.
The small teenage girl: These girls often baffle me. They like the music and often wander into the mosh pit. I'm not sure how they survive, having to coexist with the MoshMen.
Besides the thicket of hair burgeoning in my ears and nostrils and the deeply etched map of wrinkles all over my face, there are other signs that my perennial childhood has at last come to an end. I see kids driving cars and think there's no way they are 16. Ditto for kids buying cigarettes. They get carded but they dutifully produce an ID showing that they are, indeed, 18 or older.
But that wasn't nearly as disturbing as what I saw today. You know how you look at strangers together and try to determine what their likely relationship is? Mother-daughter, hetero lovers, friends, gay lovers, spouses or coworkers, for instance. Well, today I spied a male, female and baby in a car. She was at the wheel. She looked pretty cute in a got-pregnant-too-early, single mom kind of way. She hadn't fully abandoned the makeup and hairstyle of youth. She had brazen curls and some ghastly shade of eyeshadow on. He had acne, a buzz cut and one of those tiny moustaches that look like they could be drawn on with a pencil. As I approached she fussed with the baby in the carseat. Then she turned to the boy in the passenger seat. She kissed him.
Okay, so she had one kid when she was real young and now has another, right? Wrong. This kiss involved tongue n spit and I saw her hand gravitate toward... you know. It went on way too long, so long that I feared the baby would be emotionally scarred forever.
I was forced to accept that this mature looking girl and this early adolescent looking boy must be around the same age and they just found themselves in a family way. For whatever reason they decided (or she did) not to go the abortion route.
It brought back memories of my early teens, when girls are so much further along in just about every way than boys. They're more developed physically (other than strength.) They are smarter. In general they are more grown up and sophisticated. But there's one small problem: With that status often comes a desire for sex or at least relationships with guys. And the ones they know are small, immature and awkward socially. Oftentimes they are taller than their prospective mates. This causes that weird stooped-shoulder posture many girls 5'7" or taller sometimes develop. It also causes them to wear flat shoes when heels might be more flattering. This in turn can lead to self-esteem issues.
So what do they do? Many take up with those greaser, never went to college but decided instead to take a job as a mechanic at the local gas station types who lurk on the periphery of every high school across the nation and possibly the world.
I can't tell you how much we resented these predators raiding our girl pool. Why don't they pursue girls their own age and leave ours alone, we'd lament. But that is the way it was, and I'd imagine it still is.
Such is life in all its bewildering grandeur.
I was watching Survivor when the phone rang. A woman's voice informed me that the alarm company had not received the monthly test signal. She wanted my password so we could do a test of the system. I'm always wary of calls like this, where someone wants you to reveal something you would never reveal if you knew better. The last time someone called about the alarm system I ended up revealing that we had one but that it wasn't activated. I didn't realize until I hung up that I just told a perfect stranger that if they wanted an easy robbery target they should come to my house because it's completely unprotected.
Hackers call this social engineering. Information is power, and people will reveal almost anything in the right context. A favorite example is Emmanuel Goldstein (publisher of 2600) doing a live demonstration at a recent hackers on planet earth (HOPE) conference in NYC, where with 150 people in the room he called a local Starbucks pretending to be a manager from the corporate office and got the unsuspecting barista to read back credit card numbers from the til. Thus when I receive phone calls asking for information I'm always listening for clues that it may be a trap.
As it turns out, I didn't know the password the woman on the phone from the alarm company was talking about. However near the end of the phone call she asked me if I knew the name and phone number of someone on the alarm contact list. That was easy, I blurted out my own name and phone number. She said thanks and hung up. And I promptly kicked myself realizing I had handed out information for no apparent reason.
So I found the password and called the alarm company to ask if they had just called, and to investigate why the monthly test may have failed. The alarm sales guy had convinced me that the system was wireless when he sold it to us, which seemed reasonable to me as it's just a box on the wall with no wires coming out of it. But the guy on the phone said the test signal may have failed because there could have been a problem with the phone line. "The alarm system goes through the phone line?", I asked. "Yes, that's right.", said the technician. My mind is always wondering how things work. "So I guess if you want to rob somebody, the first thing you should do is cut the phone line. Is that right?" The technician paused for a moment. "I'm sorry, I can't advise on that", came the reply. Imagine my comfort at the security technician's unwillingness to reveal information.
by mg at 10:35 AM on March 19, 2005
I hate the idea that someone might talk about me when I’m not around. That may come as a shock considering I’ve spent the last 4+ years doing what is basically an online, and very public, diary, but it’s absolutely true.
I think what it comes down to is not knowing how people really think about me. And, as long as it is just thinking, I can be kind of okay with it. But if that thinking becomes talking, and that talking involves another person… well, I’d rather not know. There are 6 billion people in the world, and if they have conversations about the other 5,999,999,999 people out there without me, that’s fine. But if any of those bastards are talking about me when I’m not in the room it makes me feel uncomfortable. What the hell could they be talking about?
A couple months ago I got into what can nicely be described as a verbal altercation with a co-worker. Now, I’d never have reason to mention it again, because that’s just the way I am. As not quick as I am to anger, I’m as quick to forgive. I think life runs better that way. If it’d been up to me, no one but the dozen people in the meeting where the incident took place would need to know about it, and it’d be forgotten as soon as we all left the room.
It never occurred to me that anyone would feel the need to tell anyone else about it. Except, people like to talk. And people love to gossip. Unless I planned to run around with a roll of tape and a ball gag and accosting my co-workers, there was nothing I could have done to prevent them from yapping, even if it had occurred to me that people might.
So, while I never expected the news to get around, it did.
Within an hour, someone came up to me and said “I heard about what happened with…” so-and-so. This was someone who also had trouble with the same person, so it made sense that they’d hear, but like a drop of water into a pond, the ripples had started.
Later that afternoon another person asked me about it. And another. Within a couple days I was hearing versions of the story that were so exaggerated that the simple, if heated, discussion actually involved punches being thrown. I’m sure by now people must think we were fighting Mortal Kombat style. I’m just lucky I never learned the key combination to rip someone’s spine out or I might be facing murder charges.
All in all, beyond the 5 or 6 people in the meeting, there were maybe 10-15 more who I know heard about it from someone. But, what freaks me out the most is all the people who heard about it, but never talked to me about. If 5 people asked me about, there most be 20 more who heard but didn’t mention it.
What wild stories did they hear? What misimpressions of me might they now have? Its driving me crazy.
On nights when either Lost, 24 or Desperate Housewives aren't on, I do a quaint thing: I go to the video stores and prowl the aisles. In choosing a movie, I must strike a delicate balance. For there to be a decent chance my wife will join me, it can't be anything with the words "sexy" or "erotic" on the box. It also can't center on high school kids or so-called "coming of age" stories.
On top of that I go through this process of automatically eliminating certain types of flicks: Nothing with a scantily clad babe holding a large handgun/phallic symbol. Nothing that involves a road trip or might smack of zany antics. Nothing based on comic book heroes. Nothing touching or moving. I don't want to be touched or moved. Nothing that I know never appeared in theaters. No deal where there's only 1-2 copies. Nothing foreign. Nothing overtly ethnic. No teen horror, Scream-style parody or otherwise. Nothing with Tom Green or Drew Barrymore or George Clooney or Bette Midler. No stepdaughter-banging Woody Allen. Nothing based on a TV show.
Surprisingly, I can usually find something suitable. But last night was a crushing first. I made two circuits around the store and still could nothing even remotely interesting. It's like flipping through the 500 channels and finding nothing but cooking shows, remodeling shows, NASCAR, college sports, local interest shows, foreign language shows, Congress shows and reruns of tired old sitcoms. Has this ever happened to you?
For my birthday I got an Ipod knockoff. It holds ten hours of music, give or take. I spent the better part of an hour trying to penetrate the vacuum-sealed packaging. The cryptic instructions in 6 languages, as always, remain in the box. My son quickly figured out how to put my CDs in the drive and click n drag the icons into the "F drive." I've been driving around listening to it. Now it is time to take the next step and actually go on Napster to download tunes. I have a membership and a card for like 50 tunes at a buck a pop.
The problem is, I really don't like much of the current music that garners airplay. It's either too strident or too mopey. I can't abide rap. Some country is okay. I like Gretchen Wilson and that chick who sings I'm a Bitch.
Here is what's on my DAP: The Wallflowers' dubut. Indigo Girls. Liz Phair, back when she was raw and nasty, before she got all corporate-sanitized. Don Henley's End of the Innocence and Lou Reed's New York. Warren Zevon (Send Lawyers, Guns and Money) and Counting Crows. Foo Fighters' At Times Like These. Green Day's Time of Your Life. Glam-rockers Mott the Hoople. Tom Petty and an all-star cast singing a medley of Bob Dylan classics including License to Kill and My Back Pages. Early Nirvana. Guns n Roses.
Does anyone have suggestions based on this admittedly eclectic taste?
Sometimes the best stuff on albums is between the cuts. My favorites are:
From Jackson Browne's Running on Empty:
*distinctive sound of blood dripping on a mirror*
Unknown Person: Blood on the highway.
Browne: I dunno. I either gotta take more of it or less of it. I can't figure out which one.
Sounds Like A Brother: Well, I'll tell you what it does take. It takes a clear mind.
Browne: You mean it takes a clear mind to take it or a clear mind not to take it?
SLAB: It takes a clear mind to... make it.
Laughter all around.
From Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedos:
What sounds like a teenage girl's voice: It's just the normal noises in here!
The implication being obviously lewd.
Oh, and it's my b-day. I'm 46. I have a 30 year life expectancy. But somehow I just don't see that happening. Then again, those last few years aren't all they're cracked up to be. You're broke, addled, brittle, homeless, crippled by ailments and probably alone in this world. You can have that. I can't use it.
Based on my experience, sex on the beach is highly overrated. Sand everywhere -- in clothes, in ears, in random orafices (sp?). And it doesn´t go away for about a week.
Anyone else agree/disagree?
So I'm talking to this PI. She says the firm derives most of its income from tailing alduterous women around. Evidently this is some national trend. To hear her tell it, every sleazy Motel 8 is full of lusty gals pursuing nooners. I'm not sure I believe it. Maybe it's just a result of guy's insane jealousy and vivid imaginations.
I'll talk about cheating but it isn't from personal experience, sorry. I've never even come close to straying in 16 years of marriage. First, I love my wife. Second, I think about how I'd feel if she did that to me. Third, there'd be practical considerations. All my time is accounted for. And she would know. Hell, she knew early in our marriage when I'd bring porn into the house. She's since convinced me that watching it is a mild form of adultery.
In the animal kingdom, there are monogomous species, semi-monogomous species and slutty species like rabbits. The term "fuck like rabbits" isn't for nothing. But among the higher primates and many birds, lifelong mates aren't so uncommon. And the traits are pretty uniform within a given species.
Ah, but Man is more complex. Within our species we have those who stick with one mate for life, serial monogamists (like me,) outright whores and those who remain celibate, some by choice. And that is what makes me curious about the whole thing.
I tend to think most adulterous affairs are dissatisfying. Initially at least, there are compatability issues that involve favored positions, rhythms and such. Due to the infatuation/lust/thrill of illicit conquest factors, I'd also think a lot of these trysts are over sooner than it takes Michael Jackson to jerk off your 13 year old son. The woman winds up getting shortchanged. Plus, she's probably got some perverted PI filming her in the throes of passion through the motel room window.
The non-physical aspects are probably less than ideal too. Rendevous must be done on the sly, which limits entertainment options. The parties are often plagued by guilt and terrified of the emotional torture and financial ruin to come if they are found out. And make no mistake, that's going to happen. There are just too many telltale signs to control. Plus there's that pesky intuition thing.
On top of that, it's common for adulterers to seek out younger partners. This creates a whole nother issue of age/intellect gaps and that isn't good. Imagine the pillow talk afterwards:
He: My stockbroker thinks I should diversify my portfolio. What do you think?
She: I dunno. I'm thinking about getting implants. But I can't decide between silicon and saline.
He: Yours look fine.
She: Oh, I know. Why don't you color your grey hairs?
He: My wife says it makes me look distinguished.
She: She's a liar.
He: She doesn't like the hairs growing out of my ears though. Says it makes me look like a jackass.
She: You like Jackass? I'd so do Steve-O....
I have been told multiple times by the men of Nicaraguan men that they are allowed to have 7 girlfriends. I laugh and tell them that that´s bullshit, but they tell me that that´s truly the ratio of men to women in Nicaragua.
Now, that might have been true in the early ´90s immediately after all of the fighting that took place there during the 1980´s, but I think that their statistics don´t hold true for now.
Even so, from the people I talked to and the things I saw, promiscuity is something that´s practiced fairly regularly around here. Two of my old co-workers were dating for about a year, and I recently found out that he´s married (to someone else) and has 2 or 3 kids. But my favorite example is one of my co-workers from the bar. We´ll call him Ricardo.
Ricardo and his long-term girlfriend/possibly wife (dating for 3-4 years) both worked there. She worked during the day, and he worked at night. My boss tells me that the first night he worked in the bar, he ended up getting laid on the beach by some tourist.
My first night working with Ricardo, we had the following conversation (R=Ricardo, M=me):
R: I need a chica.
M: Don´t you already have a chica?
R: Yes, but I need another one.
M: You´re a bad boyfriend. What do you think your girlfriend thinks?
R: Who knows? She might be out with another chico right now! I don´t know what she does.
M: I highly doubt she´s with another chico right now. The only chico she´s with is your 2-year-old son.
R: Whatever. I just need sex!
M: Does she know you sleep with other girls?
R: I don´t know. Probably. So it´s better when I sleep with tourists. She gets less jealous because they leave after a few days.
M: Still a bad boyfriend.
The rest of night, Ricardo proceeded to make piña coladas and feed them to me without asking me if I wanted any. No, I did not sleep with him. I don´t think that he´s gotten any action from foreigners since I met him. Poor guy.
So, since then, he asks me to help him get chicas. I tell him that I will not aid him in his search. He needs to do his dirty work by himself. He claims that he needs help because he doesn´t speak any English. I reminded him of these guys who live near the bar who only speak Spanish that seem to do just fine with the foreign chicks. He then complained that his skin isn´t as dark as theirs and he´s not going to get as lucky.
I´ve told him exactly what he can do to get lucky, but he just likes to complain about how bad his chances are. He´s just waiting for some drunk gringa to fall on his lap. Literally. Ah, Latin America.
As a kid one of my friends' and I's favorite passtimes was mudball fights. We'd make golf ball sized globs of mud and leave them out in the sun to dry. We'd stack them the way they used to stack cannonballs. On cue we'd start flinging them at one another at point blank range. With practice you'd develop deadly accuracy.
We'd ride our bikes far afield, miles away to other parts of the town. We'd also go down into the storm drain that snakes its way across town. We'd follow it for miles just to see where it ended. As it turned out it was in a bad section of town, but we didn't even know it. Nothing happened. We had the immunity youth brings.
Another big thing was minibikes. We'd tear around the neighborhood on them with impunity. As we got a little older (13 or so) we started eyeing out parents' cars. The best ones were fast sports cars dads had bought in the throes of midlife crises. Late at night we'd creep out, snag the keys and go for a joy ride. This was usually done during sleepovers. We'd time them to coincide with girls' sleepovers. We'd drive by their houses and pick them up. As our parents were rising, we were pulling into the garage with the sunrise behind us. Nobody was the wiser.
Along about the same time we started raiding our parents' well-stocked bars. We learned to dilute the bottles so the little bits we'd pilfer wouldn't be missed. But of course, they were in time. By that time though, we'd grown bored with that and moved on to other things.
We all carried switchblades and stilletos. We'd shoot each other with pellet gund. Fistfights were a daily occurence. So were swirlies. There's nothing quite like having your head dunked in a filthy school toilet and having it flushed over and over.
At age 16, everyone I knew was sexually active. It wasn't like we were sluts or anything. But relationships involved sex, plain and simple.
I mention all this because today's kids don't seem to enjoy that same kind of freedom. We've all grown way overprotective of our children, and I don't think that is a good thing. It's like that thing they say about more kids suffering from respiratory ailments than before. Many scientists believe it's because they live in such squeaky-clean conditions.
But that's not all. I think today's youth lack some boldness, some spirit and adventurousness. Somehow society has managed to suck all the verve out of them. All these dire warnings about STDS, global warming, terrorists and child molester at every turn have got them cowed. And again, it is not a good thing. Your youth is, above all, supposed to fun. You've got an entire boring lifetime to be responsible.
Speaking of which, might I add that I'd just as soon go the rest of mine without ever hearing a liquor pusher tell me to "drink responsibly." What the hell is that supposed to mean?
Here in Virginia, if you take a sip of beer and then get behind the wheel, you will face the death penalty. Well not really, but they have passed the most Draconian drunk driving laws in the country. All those convicted lose their licenses for at least six months, must pay huge fines, go to classes and see their insurance rates triple. Second-time offenders must do jail time. A .08 qualifies you for a DWI.
And here in my county they have the highest arrest and conviction rate in the state. This feat was due in part to one officer's heroics. Year after year he nabbed more drunk drivers than anyone. Officials wanted to learn more about his techniques so they could impart them to other officers and MAKE OUR STREETS SAFE FOR UPSTANDING CITIZENS. Boy were they in for a surprise.
Scanning the list of people he collared it soon became apparent that they were all young women. Looking at their DMV pix it became apparent that they were all young, attractive women. No dudes, no old bitties. Hmmm.
So they started tailing him. He'd stake out bars at closing time and let wasted dudes and bitties drive on by. When he'd see a tipsy-looking hottie, he'd pull them over. Sobriety tests would ensue. He'd inform them that they were going to jail. Or they could suck his dick. When internal affairs nailed him he had his police blues around his ankles and a buxom blonde with her face buried in his lap.
Now this raises some interesting questions: 1) Faced with these options, what would you do? (Feel free to reverse genders or specific acts depending on your circumstance.) Go to jail? What if it's your third offense and you're looking at 6 months in the pokey, the end of your career and a lifetime license revocation? The blowjob will be over in 10 minutes tops. 2) Would you be tempted to bite off the scoundrel's dick? (Ditto, clit or whatever.) 3) What if you complied and then he reneged and arrested you anyway? Wouldn't it then be a he said she said situation? 4) To avoid that sucky scenario wouldn't you be tempted to spit a DNA sample into a tissue on the sly, ala Monica hanging on to her stained Gap dress for insurance purposes? 5) Should this guy be taken out and shot and discarded in a ditch like the worthless garbage he is and will always be?
Yesterday I put in a 9am-7pm day. It was long, it was tiring, but luckily, I didn`t hear the constant ringing of a phone nor was I staring at a computer all day. I was on the road.
I got up at 8 in San Salvador, packed my bag, got some coffee, and checked exchange rates between the dollar and the Guatemalan Quetzal. Then I lugged my big backpack (which contains most of my worldly possessions) down the street to a food stand for breakfast with a Peace Corps worker I met at the hostal I´d slept at. After breakfast, we walked to a bus stop and hopped on a local bus to one of the bus terminals. No room elsewhere for my big backpack, so it sat on my lap. We got close to the terminal, got off the bus and walked the remaining 1km to the buses.
When I was at the terminal, I hopped on a recycled American school bus that was near-empty to a town called Sonsonate. It was pulling out of the terminal right then, so I ended up awkwardly jumping in the back door as the bus was moving, praying that my bag let me move fast enough to not fall backwards turtle-style onto the ground. I made it without my arms giving out as I pulled myself on the bus and shoved my bag onto an overhead rack. The driver drove about 10mph for the rest of San Salvador to fill up the bus. A guy sat down next to me, and before long, he was nodding off. And his head kept on falling towards me, along with his body. Every 5 minutes or so, I had to give him a polite nudge to wake him up so he wouldn´t start resting his head on my shoulder.
Arrived in Sonsonate after about 1.5 hours, got off the bus to grab another one heading for the Guatemalan border. The Peace Corps worker I ate breakfast with told me that some guy had been murdered at the very bus station the day before, but we decided that it wasn´t the kind of thing that would happen 2 days in a row. Sat down next to a woman, who told me that I have pretty eyes and then asked me if I was married and/or had kids. All standard conversation starters around here. We chatted briefly, then my bus arrived.
It was packed when we left, and my back was wedged into the seat next to me. Arrived at the border 1.5 hours later without anything of note happening, then trudged up to immigration with my backpack, waving off the moneychangers and taxi drivers. Got my stamp to exit El Salvador from an immigrations women who actually smiled at me (trust me, it´s a rarity), then decided to walk across the border to the Guatemalan side to get my stamp there.
There were tons of semis lined up, waiting to get into El Salvador, and I had to endure lots of catcalls and ¨bye, pretty lady¨s from the truck drivers. The border was farther than I´d expected -- probably about a mile. Should have let one of the bicycle taxis take me.
Once I arrived on the other side, I asked around about where to get my Guatemala stamp. They said I didn´t need one, which I thought was quite weird, but I figured I could fix it later if needed. Or maybe I´d just be screwed when I left the country and would have to sit in jail until everything was figured out. Either way, it´d be an experience. I later found out that you don´t need a stamp. Whew.
I then got on the slowest bus in all of Guatemala. But it had comfortable seats. What should have taken 2-3 hours to get to Guatemala City ended up taking closer to 5 hours. So, I arrived in the city at about 5:30pm, close to sunset, and walked 4 long blocks to catch my next bus to Antigua. On my way there, I passed some of the littlest people I´ve seen since coming to Central America. I was about a foot taller than many of them, and I´m 5´8¨. Lots of buses, traffic and chaos.
I found a bus right away... it was like a long Short Bus. And I noticed immediately that although there are no fewer buses in Guatemala compared to other Central American countries, more people ride them and they´re really packed in there like sardines. Just when I thought we couldn´t fit anyone else on, more people would hop on. My bag sat on my lap to Antigua and my legs went numb about halfway through the trip.
After about an hour, I finally arrived in Antigua. It was dark, but I knew that the hostal I wanted to stay at was nearby, so I hoofed it. Since I hadn´t peed since San Salvador (no time in between all those buses!), I made a beeline fo the baños even before seeing the rooms. My sparsely-decorated room contained only a bed and a side table, but it only cost $3.50, so I couldn´t complain. I hadn´t eaten more than some bread, crackers and a coke since around noon, so I forewent a shower despite the grime on my face and Chaco-clad feet and just applied some more deodorant. After eating with a Dutch girl from my hostal, we grabbed a couple of rum & cokes before returning to our rooms around 11, where I proceeded to pass out.
It was a tough day, but I have to admit that yesterday beat any day I´d had in the office back in the States. It´s always an adventure on a border-crossing day.
The government/multinational corporation complex prizes predictability above all else. They'll tolerate all manner of diverse behavior so long as it can be predicted and thus managed. They cannot tolerate erratic behavior as it is volatile and unpredictable. That's why terrorists, rapists and serial killers can flourish. You never know how or when they'll strike. It's also why society holds them in the worst disdain.
The media pitches in to perpetuate this despicable predictable status quo. 24-7 they enforce the crushing sameness of our days. In the AM it's traffic and weather on the nines. It is hot. It is cold. It will rain. It will clear up. To be safe they hedge their bets with percentages. This way they are always right. Or always wrong. Or something.
There are accidents in the usual accident places, causing the usual backups in the usual backup places. There are places were the roads are woefully inadequate. There will be tie-ups and delays there regardless of accidents. They might as well play a prerecorded message with the helicopter sound effect. Hell, for all I know they do. All I know is that by the time I inch my way up to the supposed accident site it's always gone.
Pick up the paper and there's your personalized horoscope. Never mind that millions of other people share your sign. The same vague things that will happen to you will happen to them too. Good fortune will come your way. You'll meet that special someone. Or today might suck. Might as well stay in bed under the covers.
After work it's the evening news. Ad after ad for remedies to imaginary ailments with side effects far worse than the original condition. These are punctuated by stories with death tolls. This many dead in the fighting there. That many dead in the latest earthquake, tsunami or mudslide. These are accompanied by stock footage. The announcer makes the same pained expression local anchors make when describing a house fire. Not that they really care, any more than you do. It wasn't their house.
At some point they'll turn to the day's happenings in "the market." The Dow Jones index is up. Or it's down. Or most remarkable of all, it is unchanged. Swarms of traders traded all day and nothing changed. They too should have just stayed in bed. I'm reminded of the scene in Bonfires of the Vanities, where the stockbroker explains Wall St's dirty little secret: They don't really care if the stocks they tout go up or down, so long as people keep trading them. The crumbs will keep falling off as the cake is sliced again and again. Eventually all those crumbs add up to an entire cake and they buy that dream cottage in the Hamptons. Investors wind up fleeced by the Enrons of the world. Heads they win, tails you lose.
They act as if the damn thing is a living being with ideas and feelings all its own. "The market dropped sharply in response to rising oil prices." "Spurred by soaring unemployment figures, the market rose sixty points today." Andy Rooney had it right when he mused, "Who is this Dow and what's he got going with this Jones?"
Day after dull day this goes on. It's like those ubiquitous talking screens in Orwell's 1984. You grow numb to the death tolls and human suffering. You halfway believe your horoscope. You begin to believe that the weather, traffic or stock fluctuations impact you personally. You even toy with the idea of asking your doctor if Ambien is right for you. You won't be operating any heavy machinery in your stupor, after all. And a drugged-out stupor is what the complex want you in. That way you may fail to realize what's afoot.
It's like The Matrix. So long as you continue to believe this quasi-life they've foisted upon you bears some relationship to real life (as porn bears some relationship to gratifying sexual encounters,) then, for all intents and purposes, it becomes real. And that's truly pathetic.
Up until a week ago, I was living in Nicaragua. Shift those images of a war-torn and dangerous country from the present to the past. These days, it´s relatively safe, but it´s also the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Rampant unemployment and underemployment.
Despite the poverty, the Nicaraguans I´ve met have been amazing! I worked at a beachside backpacker hostel for nearly 4 1/2 months, and with time, I gradually got to hear the stories of some of my co-workers. Since they did have jobs, my co-workers were in a good position compared to other Nicaraguans. I hope to share a few of their stories and others that I encountered on this site (along with some lighter stuff).
I met one woman during my first month in Nicaragua - my 26-year-old Spanish teacher. Her husband worked and lived in another town to make more money, and they saw each other every couple of weeks. She lived with her daughter, her mother, and her five siblings. Of that group, only 2 of them had jobs (her and a sibling), and they ate mostly beans and rice. Vegetables when there was some extra money. On the brighter side, two of her siblings were attending university and would someday make more money because of it. She´s in a much better money-making position now -- teaching Spanish to foreigners -- than as a primary school teacher, which was her previous job. She was interested in learning about foreigners, though we (ok, I) tried to shy away from conversations about money in the States, as I generally do here.
As a sidenote, primary school teachers in Nicaragua make the same or less than a housecleaner, depending on the city the house is located in. Secondary teachers make a bit more, but they´re still not raking in the dough. Is poor pay for teachers a universal? In Nicaragua, some students don´t continue going to school during their teenage years, so primary teachers are all that much more important! The public school teachers recently striked for better wages, and their students were out of school for a couple of weeks because of the strike. The more well-off families weren´t affected by this because their kids go to private school.
It really is here, weather-wise. But my day started badly. I got out of bed and stumbled over some strange pit bull sleeping on the bedroom floor. I opened the coffee canister but alas, not a flake to be had. Up to 7-11, where swarms of Hispanic landscapers and construction workers huddle around the coffee area, chatting in their native tongues. I'm the only non-Hispanic there as usual. The lind snakes all the way back to the beer. They want coffee, Gatorade and Red Bull. Or beer.
Back home I'm now running late. I go to iron my shirt and it leaves some strange stain on it. I can't find the toothpaste. When I do (under the sink) it's got like a smidgen in there and I struggle to extract it. I scramble out to my car, buttoning my unironed second shirt. I rub my chin and realize I've forgotten to shave. With two day's worth of stubble I look like a vagrant. Work is now starting. I dash back inside, grab my razor and shaving cream and stuff them in my jacket pocket. On the way down my steep driveway, the cream falls out and rolls into the street. I chase after it and almost get run over in the process.
Ah, comfort at last. I am trapped in a traffic snarl on the interstate. The traffic report says all lanes are open but you sure wouldn't know it. I'm reading the paper, choking on exhaust fumes. All around me folks are blow-drying their hair, applying makeup, talking on phones or enjoying breakfast. As I watch my lunch hour dissipate before my eyes, I begin feeling sorry for myself.
Then, buried deep within the A section I find solace. My day isn't half as bad as this dude in California who got mauled by two crazed chimps. As he tried to protect his wife from them, the beasts bit off all his fingers, gouged out his eyes, mutilated his testicles, tore out his cheek, fractured his heel and then gnawed off his ass cheeks for good measure. That's quite a working over. I mean, it woulda been one thing if they killed him. But he's alive with those ghastly injuries.
Give 'em this: These chimps are smart. They're only four feet tall if that. And yet they are smart enough to first disarm the guy by biting off what forms his fists and then blinding him to boot. He didn't stand a chance against these whirling dervish-ish, Tasmanian Devil-in-that-cartoon monkeys.
Seems he was trying to serve a birthday cake to some other chimp and they got jealous. Chimps. Let them eat cake. Or, in this case, ass cheeks.
They say we share 99% of the DNA of chimps. They're practically honorary humans, for Christ's sake! They're also our ancestors. And when you consider such human tragedies as wilding in the Park, holocausts, genocide, gang rape, extreme fighting and Celebrity Boxing, we aren't so different from those two bloodthirsty monkeys run amok.
BTW, the day did get better after the boss caught me slathered in shaving cream in the bathroom.
I was driving to work the other day when I saw a Nissan Altima with a body kit. This was wrong. Altimas should not ever be installed with body kits. I know that some teenagers itch so badly to show off how awesome they are that the moment their parents give them a car, they'll slap a body kit on it no matter what it is, but this opportunity is actually their first big chance to exercise some maturity. If your parents give you a hand-me-down car that is in no way sexy or sporty, do not install a body kit even if kits are made for it. Please.
I think about cars a fair amount. When I interviewed for a special projects position at an automobile publication, I tried to push my car knowledge as hard as I could. It's not that I know a ton about cars. But I do know more than "It just goes" and turning the key in the ignition. I can name or make a decent guess what's behind me on the road at night by looking at the headlights. I know roughly which cars accelerate and handle better than mine. About the interview... I did know something about online distribution of direct marketing materials, and I got the job.
Just now I was driving on the 110 when I was flagrantly and egregiously cut off by a Mercedes-Benz sedan dating from about the late '70s. It was one of those hulking diesel boats they used to make. I bet they were svelte by the standards of the time. These cars are probably pretty nimble, but I was surprised because the owners of these cars are usually very conservative drivers. This guy made a lane change at 65 miles per hour with less than a yard of clearance on front and behind, on the first freeway every constructed in the United States... one meant for Model Ts to cruise at 35 miles per hour. My jaw dropped and I couldn't help reading the license plate: "I'm CJG." Sigh. Yes, nice to meet you, CJG.
CJG surprised me because most Benz owners are too sedate to pull such stunts unless they have, say, an SL Roadster. BMW drivers are much more likely to do this stuff. These people stomp on their accelerators all the time: on-ramps, intersections, or any open space in the road, whether on an interstate or in a residential area. X5 owners especially. I actually have formulated an automobile-jerk pecking order. It starts very high up, since in Los Angeles, you get the opportunity to be cut off by all sorts of exotic and envy-inducing automobiles.
Lamborghinis and Ferraris I assume to be driven by jerks. Always. But still, I stare at every Maranello I see. I don't care who I'm giving free hard-ons to, and Ferrari drivers, I know you are. Rolls-Royces, Maibachs and, surprisingly, Maseratis, are always driven slowly, no matter the personality of the driver behind the wheel. Porsches are sometimes driven by jerks, and sometimes by rich people who don't need to massage their egos by effortlessly weaving in and out of traffic and executing daredevil moves. Boxster drivers are way bigger idiots than 911 drivers. Maybe because Boxsters cost less. Cayenne drivers are either level-headed or completely out of their minds. I can't blame them... they're driving a Porsche that's an SUV. All other SUV, over-pretty pickup-truck, Mustang, Corvette, and drivers I assume are too busy thinking about how good they look in their rides to pay attention to the road. I try to stay far away from them all.
Minivan drivers and drivers of mid-priced cars, whether two-door or four-door, are rational and generally considerate of their investments and of life and limb. Economy car drivers are either rational or hot-doggers, but when you get hot-doggers on this type of car you have to be careful: they don't quite have the driving skills or the equipment to do their stuff safely. Strangely, I never see Kias or Hyundais driving any other way besides slowly and carefully. Is this because they don't want to, or because they can't? Are they a hidden menace begging awakening? I wonder.
Does anyone else ever think about this stuff?
In college I briefly dated a girl named Nutmeg. Her real name was Meghan but that got shortened to Meg and somehow that morphed into Nutmeg. She was like Dean's list smart and a chemistry major to boot. She'd explain the mechanics of physical attraction in chemical terms, with the detached air of a scientist. She had long hair that she always wore in tightly wound braids.
She had a fiancee at home so there never was any future to our relationship. Twas a fling and that is all, but I still put some effort into it. I told her about my family backround, emphasizing the affluence and discounting the intense sibling rivalry, alienation and dysfunction. I tried to act smart like her. We'd have a few moderate beers together but never anything else. Most of all I sought to avoid her meeting Roger, the addled guy who'd often open a conversation with, "So, do you still have that picture of my dick and balls on your nightstand?" What an icebreaker that was.
One day we were sitting at a table, eating peeler shrimp and sipping iced tea. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Roger sauntering our way. He had sunglasses on inside and hands in his pockets, as usual. The following exchange ensued:
Roger: Dude, what's up. Who's this little hussy?
Me: This is Nutmeg. Nutmeg, meet Roger. He's a friend of mine from home.
Roger: Hi Nutmeg. Are you into bestiality?
Nutmeg: I've never tried it, but I'm open to just about anything. What kind of animal would it be?
Roger: Not a cat or dog. Too ordinary. Maybe an aardvark or something.
Nutmeg: I was thinking more in terms of something... bigger. Like a horse.
Me: Well, look, we've really got to be going. *gestures to waiter for check*
Nutmeg: Why? Where do we have to be?
Roger: So, Nutmeg, why do you have your hair all bunched up like that? You look like some library chick.
Nutmeg: *lets her hair down with a dramatic flourish and smiles*
Roger: That's better. So, you wanna get high?
Nutmeg: Right here in the restaurant?
Roger: Nah, let's go back to my room.
Nutmeg/Roger: See ya!
This is why it doesn't pay to have charismatic friends. It's also why you so often see pretty girls with awful looking pigs in bars.
by mg at 05:13 PM on March 03, 2005
I have a wife and (relatively) new daughter. I like them. A lot.
So, when I’m at home, I want to spend time with them. The kid goes to bed only an hour or two after I usually get home, so I try to enjoy as much time with her as I possibly can. And the wife and I try to spend less time sitting silently staring at the TV and more time actually interacting with each other. It is a completely radical idea, I know, and it doesn’t always work (damn the allure of three nights of American Idol). But when it does, we talk, or play games (something family-oriented like Scrabble, or something naughty, like strip Scrabble).
And when I’m at work, I like to actually work. Another radical idea, but I’m crazy like that.
I work 8-9 hours a day, drive 2-3 hours a day, sleep 6-7 hours a day, and play and eat dinner with the kid and wife for 3-4 hours a day. That doesn’t leave a whole time to do much of anything, much less craft the kind of literary gems you’ve all come to expect from me. I just haven’t had a lot of time to hang out and write here, with my other baby.
Which is all really kind of ironic.
In the nearly five years BadSam has existed, there were long stretches where I had nothing but time. I went through years where I wouldn’t leave my house for days, much less have a job and significant other to keep me busy. In the midst of it, those were awful, awful times, and I’m really not sure how I survived mentally and physically intact. But, looking back on the writing I poured out on these electronic pages during that time, I have to admit some of it was incredibly funny and interesting, even if horrifically grammatically incorrect.
It really sucks, because I still occasionally have ideas for things to write about, but every time I’m sitting down in front of a computer to do it, either the kid does something cute, I have some TPS reports to finish, or I’m ready to nearly pass out from heat exhaustion.
Would I go back to those past days, if it meant I had still had the creative spark and time to fan the flames, but was miserable? Or can I be happy living the life of a full-fledged prole, but with no for a creative outlet? Can I have the best of both? Does anyone?
Today an unprecedanted offer hit the table, possibly a solution to the recent lockout and tragic loss of hockey to so many Canadians this winter.
The prospect is one owner, the same owner for all 30 teams in the league. Where will this lead. It is without a doubt a monopoly, we have laws preventing this from happenning in many form of business, yet now some are to be seen embracing it.
So is this a positive or negative aspect to the game? Will it save hockey, and will other sports follow suit? I don't really know.
I know many Canadians will oppose it, tradition in hockey is part of what they value most about the sport. But it is a new age. There are more teams, only 6 Canadian teams left, and change is obviously needed if we even want to see hockey played next year.
My personal belief is that it can't be all bad. In other sports we watch dynastys like the New York Yankees, Manchester United (more recently Real Madrid, but their success hasn't followed suit), Los Angelas Lakers, etc. water down sports by purchasing rediculous amounts of talent, and obviously being contenders for their respective championships every year.
With a monopoly, one owner, I believe this may not be the trend anymore. I see no reason that the owner would want nothing but ratings, and what gets more ratings than great competition? The talent would be spread out, and we will be bound to see many "races for the Cup".
On the downside I see a situation for control. How will the players control their own fate? There will be no more shopping around, trying to get the best deal from a team. No more bidding wars for the greatest player in the game. Atheletes may even have to deal with getting a good education to fall back on in case they can;t make a lifetimes earning in the approximately 5 years they play.
I definately don't have the answer. Tell me what you think.
This has been a weird smoking week for me. I smoke, but I'm on a business trip with a bunch of people that don't. This means a lot of awkwardness, what with the need for breaks, the awful smells, people rolling their eyes about said smells etc. I've set new records for going without just to avoid dealing with all these issues. In fact, I'm very near being able to quit. But back at the hotel, it's been a different story altogether. I make up for lost time by smoking like a chimney.
I ordered a smoking room but then thought better of it due to those awful, stale smells of smoke in a closed room. The types of people who stay in smoking room are hardcore smokers and they smoke a lot. No matter how good the ventilation, the buildup is just intolerable. (Myself I don't even sit in the smoking section at restaurants for the same reason: the sheer concentration overwhelms me and I feel I am going to suffocate any minute.)
So I found this cool little out-of-the way place to pursue my evil vice in peace. It's the staff entrance. There's often staff members lolling about, smoking. So I have someone to talk to, which is good. But the night before last I was there around 10 PM. It's like an alley adjacent to this swamp area. Spaghum moss hangs from live oaks and cypress trees. Naturally occuring Rhododendron trees (not bushes) abound. There's all manner of vines and strange animal sounds. I imagined that there were snakes and gators out there. Completing the effect, along with the pungent dumpster odors, was these six whirring, industrial-sized AC units creating this wind tunnel type of effect.
I'm taking all this in, kind of awed by it all. I become aware of a squat, pot-bellied black man standing there in profile in the shadows. He isn't smoking. Not is he talking to anyone. He's just.... standing there in this weird, out-of-the-way spot where I figure nobody but me, the maids and the bartenders I've met belong. He stands there, seemingly going nowhere and unaware of my presence.
Suddenly I'm gripped by this maniacal fear. I've got $200 in my wallet, and I'd have gladly given it to him had he accosted me. Then I'm engulfed by this strange guilt. Is it racial? I have no rational reason (other than those listed above) to fear this man. Hell if I know. All I know is I finished my smoke in a hurry and scurried up to me room, shaking like a leaf.
Last night I encountered him again. He and some other guys were working on a headlight of an old truck. I know a bit about these things and volunteered that he needed to replace the entire harness, not just the bulb. Otherwise the vibration will just cause it to get loose again. And you need to do them in pairs, cuz that's how they tend to wear out. He's glad to hear this and shows me that I've been needlessly sticking my room card into the entry thing all this time. They've rigged it up so it is disabled and they can come and go anytime they want in the hotel. So much for all their elaborate security.
I'm totally at ease with him and his buds. Somehow it's totally different when he's there for a reason and not just lurking idly. I still haven't totally come to terms with these odd encounters. And since we've finished up early, I am coming home. I'll sort it all out then. After I give my wife a big kiss. Man, I've missed her. We've never been apart this long.