Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dick Cheney's Last Meal

Only three months passed between the time of former vice president Cheney’s arrival as a convicted war criminal at Guantanamo detention camp and the Supreme Court’s ruling that he both could and indeed should be hanged. During that time, he made many enemies among his mostly Arab fellow detainees, who characterized him as arrogant, condescending, a cheater at both bridge, poker, and vollyeball, and insufficiently attentive to personal hygiene. Fellow detainee Ahmad Abdullah, in fact, described him as “the most disagreeable person it has ever been my displeasure to encounter, and, in the course of my career as an alleged terrorist, I have encountered some very disagreeable persons.” Shouts of “Praise Allah!” were heard throughout the camp on the afternoon of the Supreme Court’s decision, from which only Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. 

For the first time in memory, many haters actually found themselves on the same side as Scalia. As a spokesman for the Saul Alinksy Club noted, “the vile old monster would surely suffer more continuing to be anally force-fed,” as all detainees at Guantanamo have been since 2011, when Col. Hiram Andrade, an unashamed sadist, became its commandant, “and we do love the idea of his ongoing torment. I know that doesn’t sound very Christian, but we in the Club are of course mostly godless.”

Col. Andrade came down to vice president Cheney’s cage personally to offer his condolences, and to remind him that he was entitled to a final meal — in this case a late lunch — of his choice. Cheney communicated that he wanted his dinner personally prepared by the celebrated French chef Joel Rubochon, who was named "Chef of the Century" by the guide Gault Millau in 1989, after having received the coveted Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1976.

For this cold appetizer, vice president Cheney had trouble deciding between the sea urchin with langoustine and cauliflower on top of vinegar gelée and seaweed, on the one hand, and, on the other, carpaccio of foie gras and potatoes covered with black truffle shavings. “Choose one,” the correctional officer, two of whose sons had died in the American liberation of Iraq, implored him, “or I’ll choose for you.” Mr. Cheny went for the carpaccio, and then quickly chose caramelized black cod in Malabar pepper sauce with bok choy for his main course, explaining to the correctional officer that he understood Chef Rubochon to be a magician with Malabar pepper sauce. For dessert, he decided on green chartreuse zabaglione topped with herb sherbet and a hazelnut praline. 

Advised of Mr. Cheney’s choices, Col. Andrade, whose own tastes run to nothing more hifalutin than very rare prime rib, a baked potato, creamed corn, and four martinis, felt compelled to pay a second visit to the condemned man’s cage. He advised Vice President Cheney that even if he could secure authorization for the requested meal, a great many of those who would have been quite happy to allow our Iraqi brothers to continue to suffer under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny were likely to spit on it between its leaving Chef Rubochon’s kitchen in Manhattan and getting down to GTMO. He offered as an alternative his own personal chef, Cpl. Jon Yagiela, making a nice bowl of his famous chile, and bringing it down personally to Cheney’s cage. Oddly worried about the risk of infection for a man about to be executed, the former vice president opted for the simpler meal, into which no one, ostensibly, would be able to expectorate.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The World, His Ashtray

Where truth fears to wander, deception is king
And there the oppresséd are kissing the ring
of those whose malfeasance renders obscure
all notions of fairness, their wickedness pure
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men 
can’t make us trust in the bankers again
While Halogen’s dutifully slaying the dragon 
the rest of us load all our stuff on the wagon

My loved ones have vanished or else they lie bleeding. 
My larynx rebels at the thought of more pleading.
Black but quite arid, the clouds we’ve been seeding. 
This ground once was hallowed, but now needs some weeding.

He targets the helpless and makes them desire
what they’ll never own. The insatiable fire
that levels his palace to Halogen’s shocking.
His coffers need looting. His priest needs defrocking
Success has many parents, yo, but failure is an orphan
I exercise all day and night, but where are the endorphins?

Mobile home, mobile home, please spring no leaks. 
We’ve rested so fitfully these past few weeks.
The fruit we’ve been poaching, defiant, stays green. 
Our bellies are growling, our placards unseen.
All the dead’s numbers, on parchment emboss ‘em. 
Beauty’s not sleeping, but just playing possum.
The posses are restless and lusting for blood. 
The rest of us must be content in the mud.

Fasten your seatbelt. Assume the position. 
Don’t be naïve. Never count on contrition.
From those who’ve made billions on millions going broke.
Halogen’s wearing his new ermine cloak.
The world is his ashtray. It’s his to defile. 
On the prettiest summits, encounter a pile
Of filters from cigarettes Halogen’s smoked. 
Our anger boils over. The fire’s been stoked.

Halogen Hallogen, wither thy mount?
You’ve mounted so many it’s hard to keep count
You’re pierced them so deeply with your heavy sword
One might have expected by now you’d be bored.
Virility oozes from you just like sweat.
One mentions your name and his nieces get wet.
If charisma were water we’d all be submerged.
The locks have been changed and the dissidents purged.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Waistland

I wallowed wary as a wit whose turns of phrase aren’t winning
and, losing sleep, had to admit I’d fallen and been sinning
I wiggled wooly as a mammoth, mute but bright of eye
abominators Jesu damneth, wheelchair-bound or spry

I whimpered worthless as a womb unknown by any fetus
My mate I then began to groom. Bad hygiene won’t deplete us
I smoothed her fur. I licked my wounds, though they were not delicious
The mischief — ours! — was like baboons’, unkind but not malicious

Chuck buries his late missus in a corner of the garden
and drives across state linotype the teen Pierre was cardin’
The legislature throws a fit. The media’s ballistic
They seek a swarthy culprit whose fibrosis isn’t cystic

I wept unwanted as a wart invested in self-loathing
The ball once more was in the court of those in better clothing
My own rags were in no way glad. I looked too cut and pasted
My shirt designed for someone’s dad, my trousers too high-waisted

I warned The Warden not to win at poker so relentless
“To those without olfaction,” he ordained, “the world is scentless.”
We paint His face disgraceful hues to scandalize the pious
and sodomize those lacking shoes. Big shock that all decry us!

I wandered wobbly as a croon beluga starry skyscrape
and whimpered wantonly festoon the beauty that our eyes rape

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Viryl Studd - The Early and Middle Years

One often hears that childbirth is so rapturous an experience that new mothers forget the physical agony involved almost before they get home from the hospital, but that wasn’t true of Viryl Studd’s mother, who would never forgive for having been unusually large. His father Douglas, who’d had every bone in his face broken multiple times over the course of an ill-advised amateur boxing career, told his little — but not that little — boy that he would love him (and here the ambiguity of English pronouns begins to chafe and rile!) only if he (and now it gets even worse) came home from Gymboree with knuckles swollen from punching other preschoolers. At that age, it’s Mama’s love a little boy craves, seeing which Douglas told Mama that he would thrash her mercilessly, though he didn’t use that word, which was too big for him in its adjectival form, let alone the adverbial, if she didn’t make Viryl feel that he would be loved only if other children trembled or even dampened themselves at the sight of him. 

Once home from his ghastly dehumanizing job at the mill, Douglas would have his dinner, drink himself into a rage, and drop-kick his son around the room, exhorting him to “grow a pair, you goddamn little mama’s-boy.” Thus did Viryl grow up aggressive. By the time he reached third grade, in which he maintained a very respectable B average, he’d broken the jaw of every boy in school, not to mention the vice principal and the custodian, the latter two of whom were adult males. He took human growth hormone and could bench-press 180 pounds.

In high school, he excelled at sports, primarily baesball, due in substantial part to the fact that before he stepped into the batter’s box, he would call out to the pitcher, “Throw me something I can hit a mile or your parents’ll need dental records to identify you when the game’s over.” The Atlanta Braves drafted him in his senior year sight unseen. 

He got a girlfriend, Moniqu’ua. When her father, before their first date, told Viryl to have her home before one, Viryl demanded, “Or what?” Ashamed for having allowed a teenager to intimidate him in front of his own daughter, unable to foresee a time when he wouldn’t be gagging on shame, Moniqu’ua’s father hanged himself that night, making it necessary for Moniqu’ua’s cousin Darshawn to “give” her to Viryl at their wedding. 

In the minor leagues, Viryl soon discovered that there were other players as big and strong and sociopathic as he was. He would say his dental records thing and they, in turn, would harrumph dismissively and throw him a 92-mph slider that would make him look incompetent. But he turned out to have had natural aptitude all along, came to be able to hit a mile whatever opposing pitchers threw at him, and soon found himself making $9.25 million per season playing in the major leagues. There was some talk at the end of his 13-year career that his having been a defensive liability — he was too muscular to move quickly — might keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but after he held a prominent sportswriter out of a 5th-story window by one ankle, all anyone could remember was his prowess at bat, and one of the white-shoe public relations firms in town offered him an obscene amount of money to play golf with prospective clients, who were thought to feel more manly themselves after walking around with him. hearing his stories and sometimes determining that they couldn’t get both hands around his biceps because he’d  kept taking the human growth stuff. j

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mr. Stupidhead's Busy Morning

Mr. Stupidhead woke up this morning mindful of the need to return the magic red hire car — the one he’d imagined himself to have hired on line for Price A, but for which he wound up paying Price B, two and a half times that of Price A — to the airport. He did so without a hitch, and then, also without a hitch, caught the Titsa (Tenerife’s public transport system) bus that would take him to the huge roundabout from which he would walk back down to the Arenas del Mar Gran Hotel. 

Having enjoyed The Undateables on TV before flying down here, and on it seen multiple Tourette’s syndrome sufferers trying to find love in spite of their affliction, the missus and I (for who else did you imagine Mr. Stupidhead to be?) have amused each other by yelping, “Titsa!” whenever we espy a public bus stop, but that’s not really the focus of the present paragraph, which is in fact about the missus’s having been unable to persuade me to take a taxi home from the airport. There are those who have called me cheap, but I will own up only to very frugal. I’d already spent 15€ getting to the airport to pick up the car, which, as noted, had wound up costing nearly triple what I’d expected, and haven’t been getting nearly as much exercise as usual the past few days, so I figured I’d save myself some money by getting home on the Titsa 111 from the airport and then on foot, there being no direct bus service ‘twixt airport and El Medano.

I got out at the big roundabout as planned and began the long descent along the edge of the road (no sidewalks, you see) wondering if I should go through with my plan to assassinate “MacArthur Park” at tomorrow’s karaokefest, or perhaps brutalize a standard like “Ebb Tide,” which would require me to have to stand around less while the orchestra huffed and puffed. Maybe halfway down, I began sweating, and removed the tartan button-up hoodie I’d worn in deference to the morning chill. About a mile later, I remembered that I’d put my little orange plastic Freedom Card (for Brits of a certain age, and their expat spouses) holder, in which I carried my credit card, both my California and UK driving licenses, and a 20€ note for  emergencies, in the hoodie’s left breast pocket. I untied my hoodie, patted the left breast pocket, felt nothing, and died a little bit. Maybe I’d moved it to one of the front pockets of my jeans? Nope. Maybe I’d put it in the Musicians Friend (chicks love it!) shoulder bag in which I carry my passport? Nope. 

I walked maybe half a mile back up the hill. Nope. I growled many of the words most beloved of Tourette’s sufferers, but not compulsively. I’m not the sort who loses 20€ notes. (I like to imagine that if I were really cheap, I wouldn’t be as careful with others’ money as I am with my own, would I? Take me out to dinner and you can count on my ordering with great circumspection, for instance. And if I were genuinely cheap, would I have been using Macintosh computers the past 23 years, rather than saving myself bucks galore buying little Toshiba pieces-o’-crap running Windows?) I thought of standing in an endless line at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Hollywood to replace my driver’s license, and of not being able to ride the London public transport system free. I observed, “Fuck!” again, at a much greater volume, and then again.

Mr. Stupidhead trudged down to the hotel thinking that the missus would point out that I’d been penny-wise and pound-foolish yet again. “Fuck!” I declared anew. I asked the nice woman behind the desk at the hotel if lost items were commonly returned to the police. She said they were, and got on the phone on my behalf. There is no police station in El Médano — naturally! I would have to re-ascend the hill and report my loss at the police station in San Ysidro. Which closed for the day in not very long. It occurred to me I would of course have to call my bank in New York and get them to deactivate my credit card. “Fuck!” I mused again, rather more spiritedly. 

I persuaded the missus, who’d administered no scolding after all, to get some money out of the cash machine in front of the hotel, and hurried to the semi-nearby waterfront bus stop, where an English-speaking lunatic had just bought a can of Coke for a Spanish-speaking lunatic with whom he apparently felt he had something in common. ESL related in detail how he intended to get the Spanish to deport him so he wouldn’t have to buy a plane ticket, and SSL paused in his own babbling into the wind to remark, “Yeah,” uncomprehendingly whenever his new friend paused. The bus of course took forever to materialize.

I had the bright idea of sitting behind the driver. (The Spanish have the common decency to drive on the right, as nature obviously intended.) About a quarter of the way up the hill, I saw my little orange plastic wallet in the gutter, but didn’t implore the driver to stop, as I was almost sure he wouldn’t, and I am a frightful wuss. Months later, we finally reached the big roundabout. Should I, assuming that someone would discover my wallet and run off with it in the meantime, remain on the bus until it reached the police station, or should I scamper the three miles down the hill, hoping that my wallet would remain where I thought I’d glmpsed it? I decided on the latter, fairly leapt off the bus, and began jogging down the hill, pausing every couple of hundred yards to try to hitch a ride. The knee that was ruined when that girl motorist hit me while I was crossing the street in Beacon, New York, in 2008, wondered, “What the fuck are you doing?” I jogged on.

And then had a lovely long sip of the milk of human kindness as, unbidden, a middleaged Spanish couple in a white Seat (say Ott), stopped for me. The señora, the most beautiful woman on earth, spoke some English. They drove me down to just above where I thought I thought I’d seen my wallet. 

And there it was. 

Chuckle, “OCD!” as much as you wish. I’m going to be checking every 45 seconds for the balance of the holiday to ensure that everything’s where it’s supposed to be. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Beautiful Sight to Behold

The weird thing about the tip of Tenerife’s celebrated volcano El Teide being the highest point in Spain is that it’s in Spain only politically, Tenerife being something like 800 miles south and west of Cadiz. Becuase the missus and I had ridden the cable car to the top on neither of our two previous visits, and she was quietly aggrieved, we drove up there Saturday morning from El Medano on the sort of windy roads that makes her palms damp, and then queued forever for tickets, I with the gravest misgivings. I’m a little bit claustrophobic, and slightly more acrophobic, and the thought of being confined in a…what to call it?…cramped cabin a skyscraper’s height above the ground sounded like a prescription for panic, or at least intense discomfort. I remembered my adrenal glands going into overdrive on the much less scary-looking cable car on Madera, and wondered what would happen if I suffered a heart attack halfway up. 

I was reassured by the fact that there’s actually a national park employee on board pushing buttons to manage the ascent, and he seemed about as nervous as a bus driver who’s been driving the same route for 12 years. Standing in the front of the cabin, with the best view in it, I found myself holding onto the railing tightly, but with dry palms, and my adrenal glands perceiving no need to start pumping, and here I am on Sunday night feeling embarrassed about having been such a wuss.

There were some new faces in the very crowded dining room last night for Valentines dinner, none more meticulously made up than those of a new mother/daughter team dressed as though they hoped to catch the eye of a prince or German manufacturing magnate, one of those guys called Jurgen who wears no socks under his loafers. Of course, a great many of the ladies were tarted up a treat last night. Still, I observed a great many of the older diners eating in their customary silence, lost in their own thoughts as they chewed. That used to break my heart a little bit, but I’ve come to understand it. When you’ve been married to someone for 35 years, and then, on holiday, spent pretty much every waking minute with her, you might not, at dinner, remember lots of interesting autobiographical tidbits you’ve somehow neglected to share before, or realized you don’t know her views on British membership in the EU, or on your daughter’s new boyfriend. 

I have always loved talking to the missus, who regularly makes me laugh, as she did mere minutes ago over breakfast, when, noting that I never get a saucer on which to rest my morning cup of caffe soluble, or whatever it says on the miraculous machine, she marveled, “What a renegade!” (There are few pleasures in life like that of the perfectly chosen word, chosen on the fly.) But there are times when even we both stare into space. 

The point at which you cease to worry about keeping the conversational ball in the air, I think, is that at which you’re truly comfortable with someone. Moreover, I don’t think two people who haven’t had a godawful screaming match that ended with at least one of them slamming a door hard enough to threaten nearby windows should consider marriage. One who hasn’t seen his or her prospective spouse at his worst simply isn’t qualified to make a decision of that import. You need to know how your prospective spouse fights. Will he or she seize anything at hand with which to try to maim you, or fight graciously? 

There are few lovelier spectacles in the world than two people who’ve been together for years and years, who’ve been through all the horror and heartbreak life hurls at even the luckiest of us, treating each other tenderly. One sees that in the dining room of our hotel. They may exchange few words, but when they look at each other, their mutual love is unmistakable. What a beautiful view.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Narcocorrido on Winding Mountain Roads

I, the last of the big spenders, took an actual taxi to the airport to pick up our rental car, and got there early. The woman in the GoldCar office told me I had to return at the time specified on my voucher — after which, according to the voucher, GoldCar had a perfect right to give my car to someone else without owning me a eurocent. The razor’s edge, you see! Her accent was thick and her manner abrasive as she demanded that I either buy 55€ extra insurance or cough up a 950€ deposit. I said, “Grr,” but I don’t think she heard me through the plexiglas partition that separated us, or maybe it was proper glass. 

Later, we headed west and north toward Los Gigantes, the remarkable rock formations after which I named the canvas wardrobes I ill-advisedly bought for my use in Ramsgate in 2011. (They made my enormous attic-turned-study seem cramped, and I wound up giving them away.) I bought some posh (Pantene!) conditioner at a local Lidl, and we walked down toward the sea, bickering about whether we would proceed next to Masca, from which remarkable views may be glimpsed, but which is accessible only via the sort of very winding mountain roads that make the missus apprehensive to the verge of tears.

When we drove around on Cyprus in 2004, the roads were such that she had to fortify herself with cheap brandy. At the time, I was still terrified of llying, which didn’t faze her in the slightest. I suppose that, statistically, at least, there was a greater chance of my going off the road than of our plane crashing, but her fear nonetheless struck me as wacky. And this a woman who, in her pirate radio days, had to leap from ship to ship in the North Sea in skyscraper-high waves!

Once having abandoned the idea of Masca, we headed instead for Garricho, on the north side of the island, and what a very pleasant drive it was. Because I am barely able to lift my right arm any more, I steered exclusively with my left. We listened to what sounded to me (by virtue of the prominence of accordions) to Tex-Mex music, and I wondered if, just as America was besotted by British music in 1964, the Spanish had been besotted by Mexican. I hoped that we might be hearing one of those narcocorrido songs of praise commissioned (at gunpoint!) by and about a Central American drug lord, but my Spanish isn’t good enough for me to have known for sure.

In the evening, there was of course entertainment, with four married couples competing to show which was least invested in its own dignity. Wifey would behind over, holding a balloon between her thighs. Hubby would rush across the room and burst the balloon with hilarious pelvic thrusts. In another event, Wifey would guide a pair of ping pong balls up one of Hubby’s trouser legs, over or under his genitalia, and down the other trouser leg. We onlookers absolutely howled with glee, all while our MC, the hotel’s inescapable entertainment director, babbled unintelligibly in a strange combination of Canarian Spanish and UK English that I don’t think even the most generous chicano would have characterized as Spanglish. 

But the fun had only begun! We were next offered an opportunity to pose for photographs with brightly colored parrots perched on our extended index fingers. The missus, a passionate believer in animal rights, found this appalling, and we returned to our suite, there, on the television, to watch Brits debate the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion.