Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Heavy Menace at Mohegan Sun

In tribute to the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

It started on a Sunday morning. After making a nutritious breakfast for the children consisting of whole grains and fresh fruit, I went into the bathroom and shaved off my beard, leaving only a moustache that made me look like some suburban bastardchild of Juan Escobar and Robert Goulet.

“Good God!” screamed my wife, “What have you done??”

“Trust me,” I answered, “This is absolutely necessary.” I then kissed this blessed woman goodbye. It was not a final goodbye, the stuff of tragedy and wailing. I’d be returning in little over 24 hours but it would be a rough 24 hours which, if I were lucky, would be filled with peril and mayhem.

So what was it that was taking me from my comfy domestic environs only to transform me into some deranged mustachioed madman? This was my annual casino night, a debauched ritual of sorts that’s evolved over the past few years among a collection of my friends.

Like so many men living in the bosom of America’s office parks and AYSO soccer fields, I’ve made friends with the husbands of my wife’s friends. The progression is simple and as tried and true as the evolutionary processes that ensured mankind would discover fire and the wheel. Wives will bond together, a product of their hard-wired advanced socialization instincts. As their friendships develop, they begin to think it safe to put all their husbands in a room and see what transpires.

And what has happened? Success of the highest order. I lucked upon a cadre of fellows almost as enamored of mid-life bad behavior as I am. Now every year, I find myself screaming down I-95 with these animals, with trunks full of alcohol and heads full of mayhem.

A half hour later I was picked up at my office by Carlo. This man is my insurance agent and most trusted friend and advisor. It is rare that I move forward with any transaction over eighteen dollars without consulting Carlo.

Carlo made room for my bags in his trunk.

I screamed something like, “Sweet Jesus, Carlo. What is all this?”

Carlo made a flat surface off a case of Budweiser, three bottles of bourbon and a bag of cigars. Upon this temple he laid my garment bag.

“We need all of this,” Carlo barked back. “It is of the upmost necessity.”

And so we headed north on 95. Connecticut is a strange place. Every nook and cranny dates back to the days of pasty white pilgrims. But in time, Puritanical orderliness has given way to illogical civic haphazardness. Cemeteries holding veterans of the American Revolution butt up against housing projects, and those projects are ever more becoming dwarfed by new neighboring shining office complexes that harbor pirates of the hedge fund or pharmaceutical variety. Connecticut has become the perfect manifestation of America’s perennial ADD, allowing anything, anywhere, anytime however ugly so long as it bleeds green for somebody along the trough.

Finally, Carlo’s car turned off 95 and we headed north on I-395. Here, one enjoys a welcome repose from broken down post industrial apocalypse of coastal Connecticut and a more pastoral scene unfolds.

“Sweet Christ, what is that?” I screamed!

Through the trees I spotted a farm compound with a windmill and a yellow ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag. Carlo slowed the car down. A series of sirens blocked the interstate up ahead.

“For the sake of holy fuck,” I yelled, “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing? Don’t slow down – they’ll kill us all!!”

“Gotta,” Carlo answered. “Cops. Must be an accident.”

“Don’t you realize the trap we’ve been lulled into? Out here they feed on people like you and me. You really want us to become the pitted pigs in some Nazi Westboro Baptist John Birch luau? Get us the hell out of here!!”

Calmer heads prevailed and a half hour later, Carlo was slipping a room key card into the door of our suite. It was a luxurious setting evoking Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. Ordinarily going for over $500 a night, the suite was offered to us at $129 a night, a price secured by Carlo through some cacophony of wheelings and dealings, the nature of which I could never comprehend.

Some time later, we found ourselves in Michael Jordan’s Sports Bar. Photographs of the hardwood deity were everywhere. The Knicks fan in me recoiled in horror. Our lunch consisted of a mountain of nachos that resembled the monstrosity Richard Dreyfus built in his living room in Close Encounters.

“We should get a few buckets,” Carlo announced over the loud music and numbing din of five separate NFL games glaring down on us like Orwellian Big Brothers.

“What’s that?” I yelled back. “I don’t want any buckets, but we ought to get some beer to wash this Jalapeño madness down.”

“We need beer, that’s what I’m saying.”

To be honest, my mind had gotten a little fuzzy before we even set foot into Jordan’s. Up in the suite, Carlo insisted upon a ritual that he guaranteed would yield fortuitous results at the gaming tables. This necessitated that we shotgun two beers, down a considerable amount of bourbon and then proceed with a maneuver by which he would suplex me. If you’ve never seen a suplex, I suggest you look online to see an illustration of this, professional wrestling’s most graceful and culturally significant offerings.

I screamed, “Holy hell, what are we going to do with all these buckets?”

Besides the mountain of nachos, there were now three buckets filled with Budweiser bottles. It was dense and terrifying.

The table next to us turned away in horror. They were a clean wholesome looking family with four children and riddled with Americaness. Disgusted by us, they got up to leave and I could only hope that they and their young children could somehow regain balance in that hell of puritanical existence they called life. I spared these animals the service of asking why they spend Sundays with their children in casinos rather than on soccer fields, churches or other such forums of brimming Americaness.

The buckets and bottles continued to come. “For the love of God, Carlo,” I yelled. “We’ll die here!”

Carlo waived me off while looking at his phone. “No need to panic,” he said. “He’s here.”

At this time I turned around to see the figure of Victor Koslov, another of our Dad-cadre from Pleasantville.

“Victor,” I screamed, “Thank Christ you’re here. Carlo’s trying to kill me!”

Victor failed to acknowledge my terror. Instead he turned to the table next to us and grabbed two straws from children’s’ sippy-cups. He inserted these into two bottles of Budweiser. He then bent the straws down so they pointed at the floor. Then, with a sort of otherworldly and majestic grace, he took the two bottles to his mouth and craned his neck upwards. The bent ends of the straws, once pointing down, were now pointed at the ceiling, providing Victor with the air suction cipher needed to drain the beer into his Cossack body in mere seconds. Completed, he then turned his gaze to the restaurant patrons and offered them a soul splitting belch.

A few hours later I woke up sitting on a lounge chair wearing nothing but soaking wet swimming trunks. A few minutes of scanning and searching tipped off my brain’s recall. I was still at Mohegan Sun. I’d been with Victor and Carlo. There’d been lunch and liquor before lunch. And now I was standing there half naked in the indoor pool portion of the casino’s spa. I could see casino employees removing patio furniture from the bottom of the pool’s deep end. What had happened here? Where were Victor and Carlo?

I was seized upon by a terrible chill. I must have been in the pool before falling asleep. I lucked upon finding a hottub and quickly got in.

There in the hot tub were two linebacker lesbians and an obese ex-marine, his numerous tattoos and semper fi hat tipping the world off on his former profession.

“When did you serve?” I asked.

“Late seventies. Early eighties”, he offered back, the adding, “I got bayoneted.”

“Where?” I asked, intrigued. “How? Like at some civil war reenactment gone wrong?”

“Nah. Lebanon.”

Tattoos were the main topic of discussion in the hottub. One of the lesbians had an enormous tattoo which covered most of her upper torso. I’d gather the artist who did it also is responsible for the illustrations on the back of my House of Choi take-out menu.

I have no tattoos and could offer nothing to the tub.

“Get out!” Boomed a voice above me. I looked up and saw an enormous woman in a white track suit bearing casino logo.

“Shitsticks, Frau Brucha, you nearly made me contaminant this facility.”

“You’re out!”

“The hell are you talking about?”

“I booted your friends out, and now you’re out too!”

Apparently Carlo and Victor had been caught smuggling beer into the spa and apparently drinking beer is some sort of venial sin in the world of health-spa Nazism. And apparently, Victor voiced his discontent by throwing patio furniture into the pool while screaming like some possessed Slavic performance artist.

Two of the casino’s ubiquitous earthtone-clad security stared at me from behind her with death in their eyes. These are men whose lives are shorted by an inner pain caused by those legal constraints which prevent them from beating every drunk like me into some mangled roadkill hashdish. I could feel death’s whiskey breath and stubble licking my face simply by looking into those eyes. So I left.

I quickly went up to the suite, cleaned up and went out looking for Carlo and Victor. The footprint of Mohegan Sun’s layout is immense, larger than any casino I’d ever encountered. The gaming tables, the shops, the restaurants; everything is arranged with a non-linear disorienting plan intended to keep you away from your hotel room and close to something that will make you gamble or shop.

Late into the evening, all the tables carry an air of heavy menace. Those souls found in a casino at two in the morning on a Sunday night are a vicious breed of dangerous nocturnal beast. They need neither sleep nor the nurturing confines of healthy domesticity and functional human relationships.

My cash had diminished in ways I’m not yet ready to acknowledge. How long was I going to last? Where could I gamble what’s left of this snippet of folding cash I’d resigned to bring up and blow to hell should it come to that?

I wandered from table to table eventually finding Carlo playing Let It Ride. The evening has turned against him. Victor is standing behind him shaking his head.

“We should pull him away, no?” Victor asked me.

I lashed back, “Are you out of your mind, he’ll gouge your eyeballs out and suplex your corpse. Leave him be if you know what’s good for you.”

There was a pause at the table and a new dealer checked in. All the dealers at Mohegan Sun are Asian and each bred with a unique gene of institutional meanness. Holy Jesus, these people scare me. One can’t help but to see the source of this horror; to imagine the tragic arch of their lives that’s brought them from their Chinese villages to this enormous spaceship planted right in the heart of Yankee redneckdom. My God, imagine their lives outside the casino in this wilderness, walking into some outpost grocery store looking for garlic and pork marinade only to be met by some drunken camouflage-clad Massachusetts minuteman survivialist, aching to blast them into bits as some machismo-validating act of Patriotism…

I was going to die if I drank with Victor or gambled with Carlo. The only thing I could do was summon the raped brain cells I had left, make some monetary assessment of what my life was worth in a casino, and gamble my own way to oblivion.

I began to prowl the floor, looking for a table where I could meekly lay down my twenties and hope that these Chinamen made my demise slow enough to let me fleece free drinks from the wait staff that irregularly orbit like some rouge planet whose very existence could be called into question.

All the minimums at the tables have been jacked up. I felt like a jackal scratching for survival through the Serengeti’s dry season, wishing only to pick clean any scraps left behind by nature’s alpha predators.

One blackjack table caught my eye, though its anchoring occupant terrified me to the core. There is nothing but horror to be found among the nocturnal animals that plant themselves at a blackjack tables during Sunday night’s witching hour. And there he was. How can I describe him? He was a three-hundred pound gorilla whose twin haunches of angry cholesterol had to perch upon two chairs. Two empty seats buffered each side of him. Dare I take the chance of sitting next to this beast and laying my money down? No one else was. He’d apparently driven any other Mohegan Sun patrons away with critiques of their blackjack strategies, undoubtedly laced with promises of violence. I looked at the beast. He truly was something to behold and I had to respect the sight as one would respect the sight of male lion disemboweling a gazelle and acknowledge, yes, holy shit, God can create that too. Alone, isolated by the darkness he’d thrust upon humanity, this man sat surveying the floor. A cigarette tucked between his fingers. It looked like a speck of dust nestled into the abyss of a canned ham. I knew then I must escape this netherworld and find away to survive until tomorrow.

I found Victor and Carlo back in the suite. We were all in bad shape. Not exactly flinging our feces or speaking in tongues, but our time here had been rough. The sun was beginning to come up and we pondered breakfast, unable to remember if we’d even had dinner the night before.

I went to the window and looked out. There is a labyrinth of parking garages for this death star and it seemed to expand out and beyond the reaches of reasonable surveyorship, almost reaching New Hampshire.

What had we done? We, the afterbirth of America; this Fox News equation; the story book / history book’s dreamstrain dreamt by those Pilgrims who’d initially settled this land. New England was supposed to be the Puritans’ city on a hill. They came here escaping persecution from the Crown. They set up their encampments in this place, all hellbent on salvation, their hard-ons raging while they thumped bibles and burned witches.

And now, looking out from this window at Mohegan Sun, taking in this monstrosity of cement, greed and vanquished dreams - I could see how the last laugh has really been given to all those indigenous peoples the Puritans exterminated through disease, stupidity and slaughter. Watch the white man go down the vortex, look at the thousands of anonymous suburban nobody’s trying to dry hump their dollars into snakeoil happiness.

Look at it all go bleeding down the hills.

Look at it go, kimosabe.

Look at it go.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Best of 2012 - New York Giants

The Giants won the Super Bowl, 21-17.  It was a close, tense, ugly game which wreaked havoc on my nervous system and digestive tract.  Carlo hosted us at his house for the game, as he does every year.  This year he was kind enough to extend the invitation to football watching sons, which was important as I could not experience this game without Ben beside me.  His allegiances to Big Blue are an odd blend of his father’s neurosis and his own obsessions about the NFL which are rooted more deeply in Madden’12 than the actual realities of the NFL.  But as the game’s tense late quarters simmered, even Ben’s body began to lock up in the stress of the final minutes.  His fair complexion turned a beet red.  With 0:57 left, Brady had to drive the ball down the field, a task he’s conquered many times before.  In the last play of the game, Brady dropped back and sent a Hail Mary to his receivers, aptly covered by Giants defenders in the endzone.  The ball dropped incomplete.  With the ball sputtering on the floor of the Lucas Oil Dome, my team had won the Super Bowl for the fourth time in my life.   My nerves slackened but only a little bit, freeing my vocal chords but still, I was a shaken and dazed wanderer.
Every year for the Super Bowl, Carlo makes a nuclear chili, the best chili you could ever have.  Usually a bowl of this majesty makes its way through my body like an insidious militant band of armed revolutionaries, instilling chaos and fear to all parts.  It is simply the price you must pay.  And last night, at 2:30am, I awoke from an inordinately bizarre and unsettling dream, for which I blame Carlo’ chili.
In my dream, I was standing at the altar of a large cathedral, awaiting my wedding.  I was the age I am now and seated to my right were the groomsmen from my wedding twelve years ago.  They weren’t wearing any unified groomsmen formal attire, and although they were not shabbily dressed, their unmatching attire gave off an air of indifference and contempt that I could sense was not sitting well with the bulk of the ceremony’s attendees.  I looked down to see I was wearing.  I had on an old wrinkled blue suit.  I also wore shoes that were embarrassingly scuffed.  My real wife and children were nowhere in sight and I had no clue where they were or what had happened to them.  I began to feel suffocated and made my way off the altar to a side hallway.  The hallway looked as though it were from my old high school in Armonk that I attended before my family moved down south.  While taking a much needed drink at the water fountain, the realization came to me that I was about to marry the older sister of a girl who was my eighth grade lab partner.  This older sister was then standing next to me wearing a crème colored suit.  She looked nothing like my wife and the absence of a reason for my real wife and the childrens' disappearance began to fill me with an enormous sadness.  This woman, whose name completely eludes me, stood before me saying that it was a good thing that we were being married.  I nodded dumbly and quietly began to panic.  Then I was standing again at the front of the church waiting for the proceeding to begin.  I watched as the adult version of the girl who’d been my lab partner, the younger sister of my bride to be, began a slow and sultry walk down the center aisle to take a seat in front in support of her sister.  She was dressed in all black and she looked magnificent; sensuous and beautiful in contrast to her older sister who was urbane yet marred by an inescapable dullness.  I began to ponder how to best flee the scene, looking to my groomsmen who were now lounging on a low slung couch, growing drowsy and boorish.  Fortunately, I woke up.

Unable to sleep I went downstairs and turned on the television.  I’d had my fill of highlights of the Super Bowl.  Indeed, each time the Giants have won the Super Bowl, I have felt as though God Himself has reached down to embrace me and deliver a perfunctory gift of telluric reward.  But with objective eyes, Super Bowl XLVI was an awkwardly won game.  My digestive tract had done its damage to my brain as a result of Carlo’s chili.  So I tuned into one of the various nature channels in the hopes of seeing some documentary of lions devouring prey animals in the African grasslands.  For reasons I’ll never understand, I always find these videos of nature’s utter savagery inordinately comforting.
Amid the mindlessly ingested commercials plaguing the channels I sought, was one that carried a warning that materials discussed were controversial and might be upsetting to some viewers.  Ah, indeed the trap was set and I took the bait.  The commercial spot featured nothing more than text and a spoken narrative stating that our way of life is about to end and that America is doomed.  But there was something I could do to protect myself, my assets and my family.  For further information, I was invited to log onto the website:  www.NewAmerica23.com.

How could I not follow through and see what this was all about?  Did I not task myself with documenting 2012, the year when all the sad petals will fall off the flower of human existence?  How could I turn my back on a website whose warning carried such pathos and implied perversion?  When I heard this voice calling to me from the abyss (who was Alex Jones FWIW), whose invitation at that hour of the night specifically looks to hook lonely insomniacs pining for that voice assuring them the end is near; I knew I had to follow through.  But not that night.  This would have to be for later.

The day had been slow going at work as I was reeling from the Giants’ big win and the effects of too little sleep and too much chili.  I took some time in the morning to soak in the internet news reports of the game from the night before.  I’d watched every minute of the game and already read any salient analysis that might be out there, but somehow, mindlessly scrolling through coverage of the game sustained the euphoria of winning that so quickly is vanquished by life’s inescapable banalities.   The afternoon would be lost in a vortex of work that came in the form of a large data assembly assignment brought to me by my boss, a benevolent man who seemed almost apologetic about the throbbing tedium I’d have to endure.  Although I’d wanted to sneak some time to investigate that NewAmerica23 nonsense, I couldn’t with this newly delivered task.  But before I got lost in this task, I did manage to peek into FoxNews.com’s coverage of the Super Bowl.
The article itself was a straightforward rendering of the game and the handful of buzzing side stories that are somehow as vital as the scores and statistics.  But this was not what I was after.  I wanted to read the reader comments as provided by subscribers who logged onto FoxNews.com.  Considering this was a matchup between two left leaning East Coast cities, I anticipated angry voices from America’s Heartland to post up some bungled attempts to stab at the vicious liberal dragon that wants to take away their guns and their freedoms!
I was richly rewarded:


1.  Our first customer is “dontrussgov” who doesn’t much care for that Puerto Rican dancing.  You taking note, Victor Cruz?

The NFL is becoming more and more like the NBA, neither league possessing much sportsmanship. It's now more about classless in your face behaivor. Do we have to watch hotdog players get on one knee to pointout a in your face first down. Nor do we need salsa dancing after a touch down.”

2.  Next up is “tazzuja” who wishes you lemmings would put down the remote, popcorn and beer and redirect your attention to the New World Order coming to wipe away your savings and give them to third world poor people too lazy to work.


Thank God it's over. Can we now be spared any more hype?
I didn't even bother to watch this freak show designed to brainwash the American people to go into more debt.”

3.  “Foxsavesuandme” believes the Mara family should promptly deliver the Lombardi trophy to Redskins owner Dan Snyder.


Super Bowl Giants with an asterisk?
Couldn't beat the Redskins in 2 attempts

4    “turdart” is upset that Mayor Bloomberg has not organized a ticker tape parade for returning soldiers.


NY1 cable news just announced a 'ticker tape parade' for a bunch of footballer players. None for the returning soldiers though, per the twisted mayor Bloomberg, eh?  Very telling.

5    At the conclusion of Madonna’s halftime show, the words “World Peace” were projected onto the field in massive letters.  When “souse65” saw that, it just reminded him how much he hates those goddamn hippie commie scum:


The whole world peace thing at the end of the halftime show just ruined it. I hate hippies with a passion.

6    “jackton” just relieved that a god-fearing conservative like Eli Manning won the MVP.  “I don’t know about the rest of the team” he writes.  Don’t worry, Jack.  I’m sure Jason Pierre-Paul is a card carrying member of the John Birch Society and I’m 100% positive that Osi Umenyiora thinks Barack Obama is a Kenyan usurper:


I do not know about the team but the QB is a conservative along with his brother and family.

       7.     Honestly, do these fuckers even try?


It was Obama's fault that Madonna performed at halftime

Don't laugh,,,it may well have been,,,LOL He seems to want to control everything else...


The best outcome ever! Now if we can just get them to stop prancing liberal half brained hoes around a stage at half time

8  Ah, here’s my favorite.  Apparently, the filthy rotten Irish of Boston are to blame.  Because the one thing I can guarantee about New York is that it doesn’t have any democrats and certainly doesn’t have any Irish:


Cry in your green beer you filthy shanty Irish liberal democrat donkeyheads.........God punishes you for your support of the Kennedys and cheating!!!

9. This one has nothing to do with the game and the dazzlingly puerile comments it inspired.  The bewildering paradox of user name and rendered message warranted inclusion:

The last woman you tried to get sat on my face last night.  I clinched the deal with this line: "Sit on my face, and I'll guess your weight."

Best of 2012 - New York Islanders

The New York Islanders and I were born 40 years ago a few miles apart; the former in Hempstead the latter in Rockville Centre. Although I’m admittedly a casual NHL fan, I do harbor a strong affection for this team.  I blame my adoration of Mets-borne calamities having no channel in the winter. So like many fans, I was troubled at the prospect of losing the Islanders to Kansas City or Quebec.

It did look grim. Understandably, Long Islanders did not want to hand their tax dollars over to Charles Wang to rebuild the 110% asbestos Nassau Coliseum. Lucky for us, Brooklyn came to the rescue and now the team will play in the Barclay’s Center. The team’s age-40 mid-life identify crisis came to a swift and fortuitous resolution? No more wallowing away in suburban anonymity. It’s hipsville and urban chic for the boys in blue and orange.

Best of 2012 - Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich tried but failed to win the bid for the 2012 Republican nomination.  His biggest victory along the way was probably winning the South Carolina and Georgia Primaries.

Honestly, Bush 43’s second term and Obama’s first term have taught me that it simply doesn’t matter who’s in the White House. America’s carnival of ignorance, chaos and calamity is going to sustain on its own course, no matter who leads it. So having a baboon like Gingrich in the oval office might even have delivered some much needed comic relief.

He is the ultimate Buzz Windrip from Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. Against Obama, Gingrich unleashed the tired Nixonian charges of arrogance and elitism. To his enemy on the right (Romney), Newt borrowed shamelessly from the Occupy movement and claimed Mitt was a financial predator who doesn’t pay enough taxes. While seeking to deny the marriage rights of others, he himself is a serial adulterer, leaving behind two rather heinous-sounding divorces as though they never happened. When faced with questions he doesn’t feel like answering, Gingrich whines and cries about media unfairness and liberal bias. To the raucous mongrels attending those primary debates, no comment from any candidate elicited such spontaneous joy like Newt lashing out at the media. It is his ‘Freebird’. It is his ‘Layla’. It is his ‘Stairway to Heaven’. They’ve heard it on the radio a thousand times but it’s the one song they want to hear live. It takes a special breed of man who, despite possessing the charisma of a drunken Serbian bureaucrat, looks in the mirror and says, 'Yeah, I should lead the free world.  It's me they need'.

Gingrich endures.  He is a magnificent specimen: a floating mass of an unidentifiable, shape-shifting synthetic substance buoying happily as he navigates the national ocean of blame, negativity and predictable, unrelenting ignorance.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - Predictions

Will some massive piece of cosmic refuse smash us into stardust on December 21st, 2012? Well, if I'm looking at victorious Romney/Gingrich ticket in November of 2012, I sure as hell hope so.

2012 - this is the year it's all supposed to end. Of course, being a fan of shorwave, I'm a little leary of predictions, given that freak Harold Camping's spectacular End of Times fail in 2011. Boy that was fun to watch. If you're looking for a great read, Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers is an amusing take on The Rapture. In his scenario, the Rapture takes a randomly chosen and relatively small group of people, leaving non-believers of the town of Mapleton befuddled and its hard-core believers enraged. I'm almost done with Leftovers and am still trying to figure out what the Rapture, (which is secularized as 'The Sudden Departure') means in Perrotta's novel. Are the varying reactions of the citizens of Mapleton somehow indicative of our national reactions and obsessions with 9/11, its 10 year anniversary or the conspiratorial hysteria that plagues it?

I've got a lot I'm going to accomplish this year - good small resolutions: drink less / exercise more / floss / blah / blah / blah... But the only resolutions I ever really stick to are my reading lists.

So here's how 2012 shapes up for me:

Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 - Hunter S. Thompson - - I really am angry that Hunter S. Thompson killed himself. I appreciate that the good doctor lived his life his own way and it was a life that extended further than he ever imagined it would. I appreciate and respect anyone who lives their life entirely by their own terms. But dammit, we need him right now. I know I'm being selfish here, but one need just take a peek at the GOP contenders and the ineffectual Editor of the Harvard Law Review who lives in the White House - and realize that the Fear and Loathing of the 2012 Campaign will eclipse anything that preceded it.

Fear of Dreaming - Jim Carroll - - I read Nick Hornby make this claim, but I'll make it myself as well - I am one of maybe eight people on planet earth who goes to a bookstore and buys poetry.

Anthony Powell - A Question of Upbringing
Marcel Proust - Place Names - The Place

All for now. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Troubling Events at 75 Meters

I listen to shortwave radio. I realize this is an odd anachronistic hobby for a 39 year-old suburbanite who should be empowering himself with yoga, reality television and crap purchased from the Apple Store. But long ago I had a shortwave radio in high school, a time before the interwebs were capable of delivering live streaming of any radio station you could fathom. Perhaps I listen to shortwave radio now to re-experience the wonderment that I felt then, alone in my room, pulling in signals that seemed to arrive from anywhere and everywhere, as though through some magical cypher.

I have a Grundig G3. It is an amazing little machine, and well worth the $129 it costs. It is able to pull in many international broadcasts as well as aeronautical communications and amateur broadcasts. I must confess to being most intrigued by what I might find discussed by Ham Radio operators. As I got back into shorwave, it was easy to presuppose that amateur broadcasts were ocean of anti-government Obama-haters, writhing in the seats of their remote Ham Shacks, imploring any and all who might be listening to prepare for the End of Times.

I spend most of my time on shortwave listening to Hams. I track their call signs and document everything I hear. I do this mostly out of curiosity - it's interesting to see the vast distances from which I can pull in a signal on such an unsophisticated receiver. And to my surprise, most Hams are enormously likable and listenable men (I've only heard one female amateur operator). Rather than spewing venomous political crap, they mostly are looking to make connections with other Hams to discuss the shortwave conditions in the ionosphere and the effectiveness of their antennae. And once these connections are made, Hams generally just converse about their lives - what they're doing that day, how the weather is, what they're planning to do next summer.

I've been listening and documenting religiously for almost a year now. But now, due perhaps to the oncoming shift and uncertainty popular culture believes Planet Earth will endure in 2012, the Ham universe has taken a decidedly darker direction.

On December 11th, I was listening at 3827 kHz on the lower side band. A Ham operator was delivering a long religious speech, which at times seemed mildly anti-Semitic. Other Hams were trying to break into his broadcast, either by speaking or by sending out Morse code. Still, other Hams began attacking those Hams who were looking to disrupt this broadcast. A consistent voice trying to counter the religious broadcast was met with another countering voice decrying his attempts by repeating: "That's an ARRL Member jamming a legal QSO" (meaning 'hey - that's a licenced operator trying to disrupt a legal broadcast').

It was all very unsettling. Since then, I've encountered other hotbeds for political diatribes, most infamous being 14313 kHz during the daytime. These exchanges are nothing more than verbal versions of any anonymous internet comment board. But there's something scary and sinister here. Hearing the actual voices of their adversaries doesn't seem to deter the anger these men feel. One would assume that the anger a man might feel for another man who does not share his viewpoint might be assuaged if the two men, rather than conversing through the blindness of an internet chat room, could actually hear one another's real voices. This is not the case, unfortunately.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Reads of 2011

It's been a little over three years since I started Slimbo's Shelf. I never really gave any thought to how long it would last when I started this blog. This, of course, was a time when blogs were relevant. Now, amid the constant flurry of ever-changing interweb social media, blogs seem to have gone the way of the cassette tape or fax machine.

Yet I carry on. The only alternative to writing on this blog is to continually write in my notebooks. I have a stack of these spiral notebooks in my closet. One might mistaken them for artifacts of my old school days, but oh no, sir. These are the ramblings of a contemporary suburban madman. I don't remember what's been written in half of them, but they are densely packed with my words. Occasionally, I'll mine out an idea from these dusty tomes, perhaps to transpose into an idea I'll work through here, on this blog where it goes unread amid the ocean of unread blogs that now populate our fair planet.

Ah, fuck it. Let's talk about what Slimbo read in 2011.

Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart. Written between 2006-2009, this story portrays a New York riddled with materialistic protagonists obsessed with their hand held devices trying to understand love amid a New York severed by income inequality protests while the US Government defaults on its debt. This work is oddly prophetic of our current lives, as we pretend to be amused by Occupy's theatrics, all the while commandeered by whatever devices Apple tells us we must possess on cue.

At Madame Swann's - Marcel Proust. As noted before, I am continuing my lifelong quest to read all of Proust's work. In this installment, young Marcel finds love with Gilberte, loses his love for Gilbert and eventually transitions into his love of Albertine. In the midst of all this, he spends WAY too much time obsessing on dresses and flowers. Just sayin', sports fans. Sometimes, I read Proust believing I'm ingesting the greatest writing ever executed in any language. Sometimes I want to smack him. I'd like to think you, my imaginary readership, feel the same about me.

The Bishop - Anton Chekhov. Free on Kindle - download it now! This story chronicles the last thoughts of a bishop marooned in a country parish as he lives out his final days. Death comes to him suddenly. Palm Sunday, he is fine but by Easter he will be dead. His terrible and beautiful musings are juxtapositioned against the rituals and mystical comforts of Holy Week. The Bishop is one of the most moving stories I've ever read. It is a simple, albeit heavily Russian, exploration of life's meaning written as Chekhov himself was dying.

Yondering - Louis L'Amour. I picked this up in Utah and it seemed fitting to read rugged old school man-fiction while I was out there absorbing the mysterious power of those towering Rockies and windswept plains. For an East Coast guy, being there was exhilarating (Wow, I think I grew a few hairs on my chest just writing that - call it Slimbo reaching out to Red State readers). I've got a soft spot for L'Amour. He toiled in the WPA Writers Project with Jim Thompson, whom I hold in enormously high regard. I over-idealize men like these two. I'm too ready to romanticize about the obstacles they faced as they were maligned as Reds by the years that followed WW2 as the Red Scare choked off the oxygen to the gray matter of our national intelligence. In reality, these were just two guys looking to make a buck, any which way they could. Thompson never made the bucks he should have, but L'Amour tapped into the post-war machismo volcano that yearned for his Westerns - validations of American manliness, once the M-1 rifles went silent in 1945.

Yondering is not typical L'Amour, though. These are short stories of varying settings, but all adventures pitting strong hard men against indomitable odds, scoffing at death. Each story is a homage to Hemingway and/or Jack London. Each story avoids the need to explain the existential meaningless of violence and each story veers ever so gently to some formulaic articulation of American exceptionalism and red/white/blue righteousness. Ah shit, who am I to judge? Reading this made me want to go back in time and be 19 again. These stories made me want to piss away all the plastic conventions and scour planet Earth inch by every nasty inch.

Conquest of the Useless - Werner Herzog. This is a painstakingly detailed account of the filming of Fitzcaraldo, as gleaned from the journals of German director Werner Herzog. The Shelf offered a slice of Conquest's offerings in this post. To complete Herzog's unbelievable vision for Fitzcaraldo, wherein he executed the impossible feat of towing a ship over a mountain, Herzog had to navigate the "obscenity of the jungle" while also manage the departure of his initial leading man, Jason Robards for the blessed, yet cursed presence of Robard's replacement, the ever insane Klaus Kinski.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hey Look, it's the World's 7th Largest Army

Mattathias Schwartz reported something astonishing in a recent article in The New Yorker. He reported that just as Mayor Bloomberg was sending in the world's 7th largest army to break up the Occupy encampment at Zuccoti Park, the Occupy Movement's leaders were themselves preparing to break down camp for the winter and call it a victorious 2011.

But now, thanks to the heavy-handed tactics endured, the circus must continue for Occupy to save face. All in all, I've been following Occupy with the same detached bemusement I hold while watching my New York Mets play the Yankees. I know it's all going to end bad for the good guys, so why bother getting excited about anything.

Still, I think Occupy can claim victory right now. Just this week, the President (finally!) gave an impassioned speech addressing the vast polarization of wealth and power in this nation that is likely going to bring the end of our democracy if something drastic is not done. Did the enduring presence of Occupy finally enable Obama to find his spinal structure? We don't know.

On a more local level, some jackbooted brainwashed freak is going around my town and posting up signs that say, "Don't Believe the Liberal Media". I find the rhetoric delivered by these signs ironically parallels Mao's playbook from the Cultural Revolution. This horseshit really annoys me. It's one thing to make the conscious decision to turn on Fox News and allow a plutocratic fascist like Roger Ailes to fill your brains with hourly inputs of batshit. But to bring the narrative onto the telephone poles in my town is an affront to my pursuit of happiness (it's also a violation of section 110.3 of the town code). Tag sales and lost kittens - that's what telephone pole postings are for, and if that freakshow Michael Moore ever tried to post something here, I'd be ranting the same rant.

Now it seems, some ambitious countering bastard is going to each one of these signs and spray painting over it. Or at least he (or she) is spray painting over the words 'Liberal Media'. So the signs just say, "Don't Believe". Rather a dour outlook on the human condition isn't it?

And everything does look dour. 2012 is almost here and good God what a hell of a year it's going to be. We're going to have to watch as all of America must choose between giving the editor of the Harvard Law Review another four years to do whatever the hell it is he does; or do we hand the nation over some morally bankrupt enabler of the aristocratic corporate class?

I'm beginning to hope those Mayans were right and that 2012 holds nothing more for us than to be blasted into stardust by some roving rouge asteroid. But I am still undone by this unanswerable question: if the Mayans were so great at predicting the end of our world, how come the sucked so bad at foreseeing the end of their world?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Insane Propagation

I don't know what's going on but I'm finding I'm getting VHF/UHF reception I've never gotten before. On just my little Radio Shackl Pro-404 scanner, I was able to pick up a repeater from Southern Florida on 420.692 MHz. Hams from California, Tucson and the Carolina's could be heard clearly. On top of that, I heard this while listening to the scanner in my car - I didn't even have a mobile antenna hooked onto the scanner, just a ducky (albeit, a 800 MHz antenna, slight upgrade from the ducky that came with the unit). Anybody who has any idea what's going on, let me know.

12/29 Footnote - what I was picking up was repeater network. Radio geeks can read about it here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why No One Is Hiring

This article is old, but it's worth another look. To summarize, John Allison, chairman of BB&T loves Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I mean he LOVES IT!!! So much so that he makes his executives read it. And BB&T donates millions to the 'Ayn Rand Institute', whatever the hell that is.

Now, I don't own any stock in BB&T, but if I did, I'd sell it immediately. Christopher Hitchens perhaps put it best about Ayn Rand - Americans don't need further instruction on being selfish. It's in our DNA. But I would not want anything to do with any organization, especially a corporation, that operates on the premise that the individual takes priority over the collective.

Allison seems to think that if he breeds a culture of self-righteous government-haters, he's going to yield optimum results. That may make for some cute Carolina water-cooler banter with lively comparisons of our president to Mao levied some lovely starched shirt corporate scratch-golfing Glenn Beck jackboots. But if I were to commit the grave sin of imagining myself as a business owner, I'd be a little bit concerned if all my best employees were nihilistic self-servers.

We have a major problem. No one is hiring. A company that had 20 employees in 2007 fired five of them. Now the remaining 15 do the work of 20. And corporate profits are strong, incredibly strong throughout America. Shareholders snicker and feed bullshit to the executive boards of the corporations that serve as their personal ATM machines. Don't hire anyone back - claim it's still a crisis. All bullshit. The economy has returned but the 1% who own a quarter of America are itching to claim a full half of it.

It looks as though President Barack Obama has given up fighting. And it may very well be that our nation's next leader might be yet another Texas governor who conveys his worth by way of his inarticulation and intellectual disinterest. 1% of our nation commands 25% of its wealth. Corporate profits have enjoyed six straight quarters of double-digit growth, yet our population has been brainwashed to believe we need yet another Texan of sub-par intelligence to deliver us from an evil president who spends his days plotting to persecute America's precious yacht owners.

Conservatives love to lament an alleged cultural relativism that existed briefly in the 1960's. But now we're reaping the ill effects of an enduring moral relativism that infests our nation's boardrooms that masks itself as free-market righteousness.

Obama has given up. The dream is dead. We're doomed.