Thursday, February 26, 2009
So, it looks like Bobby Jindal is a fucking idiot and not very likely to pop back up on our radar anytime soon. If last night was any indication as to the state of the Republican party, it's safe to say that BO will be keeping the best seat in the Oval Office warm until 2016. Seriously, a governor from the state that nearly had an entire city wiped off the face of the earth not 5 years ago, can't understand why people in Washington state and Hawaii might need volcano monitoring equipment? I say again, what a fucking idiot. This guy was supposed to be the great brown hope of the GOP and now both he and Michael Steele are out making the party look like GWB left the white house and took the partys brain home to Texas with him. What a train wreck, man. I think we saw the end of the party for good last night. There is no way that they are going to reconnect with voters anytime soon and it's unlikely that the Dems will be able to fuck things up any worse than they are for quite some time. Anyone notice that Sarah "Bukake librarian" Palin has completely disappeared? I mean aside from a small blurb about her having to pay back the state of Alaska for stealing money to take her kids on tour with her last Fall, there is nothing out there about her. I think she's trying to avoid a Bobby Jindal moment and if she gets through the next four years without publicly making a fool of herself she might get those die hard, right wing, racist, Jesus freak,morons from last Fall to come out of the wood work for her again in 12'. Let's all just hope some really dirty pictures of her getting it on with another chick make their way to TMZ or smoking gun. Judging from the myriad shitbag potential candidates that the GOP is already out parading around, a bit of hot lesbo, experimenting might actually make Palin a potential threat to BO's re-election chances. Jesus Christ, I miss Bob Dole.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
A young, chubby girl with sausagesque fingers and cat like eyes lights a cigarette and continues talking into her phone, over the noise of downtown movement. She fumbles for a lighter in a rainbow colored purse and continues talking in between the sucking and puffing on the filter of a Camel Turkish Delight. By the time she is half done with the cigarette, she has filled the air around her with negativity; her boredom with the seminars, her dislike for the other writers she has met, the failure to gain knowledge from any of the panelists. She insists that she should have stayed home and worked on her manuscript.
She tells the person on the other end, “I didn’t really need to come to this. It was stupid. What a waste.” Her milky white cheeks are now red from the whip and stretch of the numbing cold and she puts out her cigarette in the gold plated ashtray under the heaters that fail to live up to their name on this morning. She hangs up the phone and walks past me to into the carousel doors. I smell the faint trail of vanilla she leaves behind as vanishes into the crowded lobby of the Chicago Hilton.
It is done now. The AWP is a wrap and I have celebrated with a ten dollar glass of Dewars (neat of course) in the mock Irish tavern on the lobby level of the Hilton. I forget about the 4 extra dollars I have just overpayed for a mediocre brand as I walk through the revolving doors. I climb into the back seat of a gray-skinned, four-wheeled beast. I leave the downtown area for the last time this week and head for the old neighborhood.
The line stretches out of the restaurant and onto the sidewalk, snaking down the block for at least 20 yards. People shiver, but the snot and tears will not get in the way of a good meal and no man dares utter the phrase, “let’s go it’s too long.”; not on valentines evening. My father climbs down onto the frozen pavement and tells my mother to park in the lot. He walks toward the restaurant doors and we drive up into the lot, where a bundled up parking attendant waves us off and starts yelling that there is no parking. My mother opens the window and sticks her head out. She looks at the man and smiles and ask, “no?” The smile is instantly returned by the attendant, who laughs and starts frantically waving us in. “Claro que si. Claro que si.”
I walk down 18th street and see the crowd down the way, in front of the restaurant, I will fight my way through it; but this moment is for reserved for taking inventory of what has bloomed and decayed in my absence. “The fire. See?” My mother points at the building directly in front of the restaurant and I see the shell of a building that was once a home to the old Eastern European immigrants, before it was the home for the new Latin American immigrants, before it died a fiery death, a few months ago. I stop and look at the damage for a moment and my mother walks on towards the crowd. The damage caused by the fire looks like it was caused by a fire that started in the bakery in the building next door. The bakery was only a few years old, but though everyone complained about the prices, the creations were wonderful pieces of edible confection and I lament missing out on a chocolate cupcake, laced with chile’ and buttercream frosting. My stomach protests the sightseeing and refuses to miss another meal today so I turn and walk towards the crowd.
When I reach the line my parents call to me from inside the restaurant, over the angry looks of people who can’t believe our audacity. I look past them, and at the doorway; they notice my indifference to their complaint twisted faces and collectively and silently make it difficult for me to make it into the restaurant. Half way through to the door a family, being led by a teenage boy with Down syndrome, comes out of the restaurant’s inner doorway towards me. I am already to the door of the restaurant, but see that the boy is having trouble getting through the crowd and he begins to screech excitedly. His mother gently nudges him, saying softly, “Dale’ Nestor. Dale’ Mijo.”
I take his arm and guide him back towards the opening asking people to please step aside. He continues screeching and laughing under his breath. I let the rest of the family through and I turn back towards the door of the restaurant. I don’t need to ask to get through; the people have seen a good deed and they reward me by stepping aside. My Carne Asada will taste better tonight than it ever has.
Friday, February 13, 2009
The Huron Room of the 8th floor is packed to capacity. I can’t see into the room, but I can hear the speakers, though I missed half of the discussion and don’t know what’s going on. People are standing in the back of the room and occasionally some asshole, with a sense of entitlement, pushes through the crowd and works their way to the front; What the Fuck?
A security guard in blue polyester, with a gold, lapel pin that relates his authority with a small letter “a” comes through and waves his “walky talky”. He asks people to “please clear out the back of the room.” The bottom drops out of his baritone voice, when some bald-headed, guy, sporting way too many Black Flag buttons, says with a broad smile, “this is fuckin’ bullshit.” The security guard frowns and I see the creases around his mouth make a pair of horizontal “u’s” and he raises his voice and says, “sir, I’m sorry for any inconvenience, but it’s against fire code.”
I move away from the outside of the door and I’m asked to move along as well, since the fire code extends to the ante-room of the larger conference hall. A heavy set woman dressed in beige with a matching scarf comes out of the conference hall waving her arms around like a tusken raider waving off flames. She marches up to the security guard and proclaims “My daughter is a lawyer! You people are endangering the lives of the people in that room! They cannot be sitting in the aisle and you know it! I’m calling the Hilton corporate offices! You have made my day!” It becomes her mantra as the head of security, followed by a supervisor and manager and assistant director and finally the hotel head honcho try to assure her that there is nothing wrong with the people being in the center of the aisle. They ask her, Shirley, to please just calm down; her only reply is, “that’s Doctor Long to you, sir”.
Shirley reminds me of what I hate about this city. Unreasonable people, who are made miserable and stupid by weather and other things they can’t control. I find a couch in the front lobby and take a small nap. Shirley, the cold, the negativity in this corner of the city and the scotch have all left me by the times Miles Davis’ Jeru comes on my player; the afternoon will be better.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I puff smoke through the icy ether and follow the cloud, with my eyes, as it quickly dissipates around a light post. I look around and see flocks of tourists now weaving in around the hipsters, pointing and smiling at some far off, distant adventure that awaits them. I notice there are no homeless people on the street. No homeless on Michigan Avenue? In the middle of the day? The thought is foreign and I contemplate filing a complaint somewhere. Then I notice that there are buildings going up south of 7th Avenue, way south close to Racine; something never imagined possible only five years ago. Herr Daley giveth and he taketh away. I comforted by the idea that the more things change in this city, the more likely someone is going to be indicted and decide to drop the idea of filing a complaint with the mayor’s office.
It is now late in the evening and I have penciled into my itinerary a reading by Eric Bogosian, which will be the last thing I do today. I walk through the upper lobby of the Chicago Hilton, towards the International Ballroom; it’s carpeting a multi-colored salute to cheap Vegas-style, psycho-mind fucking. The carpeting is certainly inspired by the latest generation of girls-gone wild and I imagine is meant to make the heiress to the Hilton fortune feel at home in lush gaudiness; the walls and ceilings are a different matter. They remind me of an age of elegance; when excess did not necessarily mean flash. The molding is painted now, but in its day it most certainly had to have been left bare if only to show off the beauty of the natural world it was inspired by.
I am nearing the stairs that lead to the ballroom when I see a sign outside of the grand ballroom, which reads, “Builder of Positive Reality: A Conversation with Haki R. Madhubuti. I decide to stop in and hear what the gentle-faced man on the poster has to say; Bogosian is a douche bag anyway, I decide. The room is nearly completely empty and the discussion has already begun; this cannot be good.
I sit and listen to Dr. Madhubuti speak about his experiences growing up in Detroit; where his mother, a beautiful but “unprotected” woman had to prostitute herself to feed the both of them. I heard him tell of his own self-hatred for himself and his race and how he overcame it by reading Richard Wright at her insistence. He described how his experience in the army, which he calls “employment for poor people”, taught him to never let himself be put in a position where, “stupid people would be telling me what to do”. I was inspired when he told of the personal accounts as confidant to Gwendolyn Brooks and his role in the development of “Afrikan-centered” schools on Chicago’s South side.
He impressed upon me that the struggle to be great is not only a personal one; but one that demands the rejection of evil. It is a delicate fight that takes the form of a balancing act without a net; to stay above the fray and yet take matters into one’s own hands. His discussion was by far the most gratifying of any I attended today and without question, what he had to say was far more important than anything Eric Bogosian has ever said or written. Why then, I asked myself were there less than 30 people in a room that easily fits 500?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Things weren’t always so terrible. I recall as a child the wonder and privilege it was to even step foot in an airport. There was nothing like going to the airport to drop someone off or...big…dreamy… nostalgic… sigh… getting on an actual airplane. Men wore three piece suits to travel, with wing tips, dress hat, suspenders, cufflinks; the works! The women showed up dressed to the nines with their hair and nails done; dressed to kill! Even the kids would get in on the action; no jeans or t-shirts allowed; the creases on your shirt would slice butter and your hair had to be neatly slicked down with a couple handfuls of your old man’s pomade.
Your family would walk you up to the gate, past the metal detector and friendly security guard who would wave you all right on through; unless you looked funny, in which case a quick rummaging through your personal belongings would serve you as a lesson to try to fit in next time. You’d make it to the gate and everyone would wave and blow kisses and then they’d all watch your plane take off to some far off magical destination. Then afterwards, while you were off soaring high above the clouds, everyone you left behind would enjoy an overpriced meal at a bad restaurant in one of the terminals and they all went home happy and excited; looking forward to the next time that the opportunity to be near one of those magnificent flying marvels.
Nowadays, people show up to the airport looking like they just rolled out of bed. Your family is not allowed inside the airport so you get dropped off at the curb. This is due to government statistics which show that, “jihadys” are constantly trying to smuggle chainsaws aboard a plane and given the chance would start dumping bodies out of an emergency exit at thirty thousand feet. Thus, we must line up to be insulted by the dull wit and charm of those drill sergeant school wash outs, who have found gainful employment in the TSA; who also serve as a constant reminder that things could only be worse if they stripped you naked at the gate, strapped you into a chair aboard the plane and shoved a catheter into your genitals as part of the pre-flight procedures. Some find the security to be an intrusion and an inexcusable outrage; I agree, but think it’s better than having to take a detour to Libya or Cuba, half way through my flight.
What is inexcusable, however, is the smell of ass and armpit that hits you the moment you get aboard the plane. That smell forces anyone not raised on a farm to make use of the vomit bag, which incidentally, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started charging us six bucks a pop for; oddly enough the price of everything aboard an airplane is six dollars from roast beef sandwiches to a mini-bottle of scotch (how is that possible?).
If you ask me Al-Queda was able to pull off September 11th because of Ronald Reagan’s decision to de-regulate the airlines. It wasn’t until de-regulation that every smelly, lazy, ne’r-do-well in America was able to afford getting on a plane (I’m talking about the peripheral costs not just the ticket). Perhaps “The Gipper” in his free market fantasy world had good intentions; truth be told he was throwing his old airline exec buddies a bone; God knows those guys needed a reprieve from all the horrible government intervention that was keeping them from enjoying capitalism.
Aviation security in those days might not have averted a terrorist attack on the scale of September 11th. But, even if those guys had made it past the expense involved, the dress code requirement and the racial profiling that served as the best deterrents to any onboard shenanigans, they might have succumbed to the second hand smoke that filled the passenger cabin of every single flight in the continental U.S. If that had not stopped them, then perhaps the meal you got on every flight might have done the trick. The entire meal was served in a compartmentalized dish about the size of a brick; which is ironic because that’s what it felt like in your stomach. The meal would typically give you terrible gas and you would sweat profusely from the cramps in your stomachs. Maybe that smell of ass and armpit has been there all along.
Come to think of it, maybe the good ol’ days of flying weren’t so good. One aspect of flying that has certainly not changed is turbulence. Turbulence on a plane today is just as terrible today as it was back then. Especially, the turbulence one feels flying over the mountains going from West to East at night. I’ve always wondered if pilots can control the horrible jaw jarring effects of turbulence better than they let on or if they just love the satisfaction of knowing that people are scared shitless and sweating profusely in their seats. This may account for the smell of ass and armpit on a plane as well; maybe pilots are into that kind of thing, I don’t know, but I’d feel weird to ask so I guess we’ll have to wait until we see a youtube video showing surreptitious pilots sniffing the seats before a flight.
My plane right now feels like it’s flying sideways through a pinball machine and though I would like to keep writing about my trip to Chicago, I think now would be a good time to talk to the God I’ve ignored for almost 20 years and see if I can put in a credit application for one of those barf bags.