No time to write about it — I still haven’t packed for it — but I’m heading back down to Nicaragua in the morning. Here’s one of my favorite photos from the last time or the time before.
More later, -jv
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been too long since my last blog post, but I find that I really only have something to say when I’m away from home base, and I haven’t been away from home base since, well, since the last time I was away. Anyway, I’m in Cancun now, on vacation with Maxx, and enjoying the to-die-for view out my hotel window.
We’re staying at a Westin Something-Something, not quite a hotel, as it has vaguely a kitchenette, which I guess makes it sort of a fallow timeshare unit. Good for us: we can stock up on real food and eat in our room, and not be subject to the tender mercies of the Planets Hollywood and Señors Frog that litter the Cancun hotel zone. The plan for the week is pretty much sleep, sun, swim, repeat. There will be little, if any, sightseeing, though I imagine that I shall be able to bestir myself to make the walk to the Mayan ruin next door. Maybe not. When we get away on these tropical laze-abouts, the general idea is to stew in our own juices and let our batteries charge back up to full. I guess my idea of a hard day’s work is this here blog post, so, whew, am I exhausted.
This is the “safe” part of Mexico, very touristy, very Americanized, high penetration of English and low penetration of narco-bandits. Though I suppose if you drove due west across the Yucatan, you could get yourself into some sketchy situations. For that matter, I guess the wrong cab at the wrong time of night would turn the same trick. Not that I’m likely to stumble into any cabs in small hours; the lively nightclub scene in Cancun will have to be enjoyed by others. Me, I’m happy with an interesting movie on cable or a clear view of the stars.
Those who have followed my vacation posts know that I’m fond of mystery photos. Some of you have proven quite good at answering the question, “What am I looking at here?” But this time I think I have a real puzzler for you, so here it comes.
First correct response wins a laurel, and hardy handshake.
More later, -jv
When I was a kid we used to sing this song: “Amster, Amster, shh, shh, shh – you must not say that naughty word” (dam(n) in case you’re wondering). Ah the lost innocence. Well, anyway, here I am in Amstershh, and it’s every bit as scenic and flat and wonderful as I remember. The canals are still here.
And the “art” is still here, although some of it always strikes me as Emperor’s New Clothes stuff:
The Rijksmuseum is still here, still as hard to spell as ever, and still — as seemingly ever — in a state of renovation. This is actually good news, for they’ve opened a small satellite exhibit, kind of a “Rijks Lite” or “greatest hits” version of the museum, including many Rembrandts (including the granddaddy of them all, “The Night Watch.”) The beauty of this is that you get Rijks-without-guilt. You can see the whole temporary exhibit in just an hour, and not feel self-conscious that you didn’t spend more of your precious Amsterdam time inside a museum. I took a couple of photos..
…before the docent informed me that photographs are not allowed. Shame. I’d have taken a picture of the “no photos” sign if I’d seen it.
Meanwhile, we know that the Dutch are famous for porcelain, but who knew it extended to faces?
I kind of feel like I’m taking this trip on speed. It’s so short — just four days, really, with two of those committed to the work I’ve come here to do (discussing adaptation and development of television shows across cultural and national platforms — woo-hoo!) The rest of the time, I have to choose from among an embarrassment of riches. Van Gogh Museum? (Been there, but who gets tired of van Goghs?) Anne Frank House (a stone bummer – probably opt for the Resistance Museum instead). Heineken brewery tour? Hey, I did that when I was 20. I remember that it was fun — and then I remember that I don’t remember much afterwards. And let’s not forget the Holland Casino, where I could drop in and show them how it works when you DECIDE TO PLAY GREAT POKER. Probably I’ll just wander and let myself go where my feet take me. In terms of scenery, architecture and people-watching, I know of no other city anywhere where it’s more fun and rewarding just to stroll.
The real trick will be to stay ahead of jet lag. If I get caught up in a “white night,” where I sleep not at all, then I’ll be crap all the next day — and the next two days are work days. Fortunately, I’ve got my melatonin regime dialed in, so I’ll get at least some quality ZZZ each night. It’s a trick one must develop for these crazy one-week jaunts across nine time zones. Without melatonin I don’t know where I’d be. If you don’t know,
Melatonin (i /ˌmɛləˈtoʊnɪn/), also known chemically as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a naturally occurring compound found in animals, plants and microbes. In animals, circulating levels of the hormone melatonin vary in a daily cycle, thereby allowing the entrainment of the circadian rhythms of several biological functions.
And let me tell you, it works great. I feel all entrained. At least for now. But ask me again when it’s three in the morning, I’m channel-surfing among Dutch TV stations and hating life.
For now, though, I’m loving life. Got the Rijksmuseum ticked right off my list.
Closing photo: real house or doll house? U decide.
More later from Amstershh. -jv
So this morning I had the bright idea to celebrate Albuquerque Turkey launch week by sending out an email to everyone I could think of, and including the first chapter as a sort of “first taste is free” come-on. I figured, you know, why not? If a sample doesn’t sell the book, what will? Well, in just six hours, the response has been more strongly positive than I could have imagine. I truly believe that this promotional idea will result in the sale of literally tens of copies. Not bad for a “send all” effort I finished before my first cup of coffee.
And what do we do with good ideas around here? Why, beat them to death, of course. So here, right here in this very blog post, you’ll find chapter one of The Albuquerque Turkey. If you like it, you can even click on the send money link to order an overpriced, albeit autographed, first edition. And yes I know that this excerpt is available elsewhere on the site, but this way you don’t have to do anything but scroll down and enjoy.
It all started with a dog, a biggish one loping down the sidewalk with that weird canter that some dogs have, the front legs syncopating and the rear legs slewing sidewise in tandem. He must’ve been running from something specific, because even while scampering forward he looked back, which resulted in him not seeing, and therefore barreling into, me. He hit me square in the knees and knocked me to the ground. This startled us equally, and for a second we both sat still, locked eye to eye down there at dog level.
I vibe dogs. I do. Or let’s say that I prize them: their unconditional love is a love you can trust. I’d rolled with one or two in my time, but the highly migratory life of a con artist didn’t really lend itself to long-term canine commitments, so I mostly just admired dogs from afar. Up close, this one was tough to admire, a mixed bag of black Lab and unknown provenance. One ear stood up like a German shepherd’s. The other… wasn’t there. Looking at the bitten-off stub, I couldn’t help wondering how a dog’s ear tastes to another dog. He bore other wounds as well, evidence of many fights – maybe not fair fights, for I thought I detected a human hand in some of his scars and mars. I saw it also in his eyes. He feared me. That made me sad. I reached out a hand to comfort him, and he flipped over in submission position, manifesting what every dog dreads and hopes when it submits: dread that it will be kicked; hope it’ll be scratched. I opted to scratch, and immediately made a (man’s best) friend.
“Get up, boy,” I said as I stood. “I’m not the boss of you.” The dog – in my mind I was already calling him Boy – obediently rose to his feet. I didn’t know if he was that well trained or just felt like following my lead. He wore no collar, only a weathered, knotted rope that trailed away to a frayed end. Something told me this was a dog in transition, and that whoever had been the boss of him was boss no more. Probably if I wanted to I could keep him, the thought of which tickled me. I pictured me presenting him to my girlfriend, Allie, who had lately shown such determination that we be normal. “Look what followed me home,” I’d tell her. “Can we keep it?” If that didn’t say normal, I don’t know what would.
First, though, there was the matter of making sure I was right. I mean, I couldn’t just kidnap him – dognap him – so I started back in the direction he’d come, determined to take a stab, at least, at finding his owner. The dog cowered, reluctant to follow. “It’s okay,” I said, “I got your back.” He still wouldn’t budge, so I knelt, rubbed his grizzled muzzle for a moment, then took the scraggly end of the rope and walked him down the street. I could tell he still wasn’t too keen on the idea, but now he was a dog on a leash, and they have no free will.
I had just turned the corner when I heard the first shouts.
I thought they came from the courtyard of some garden apartments just down the street, but with the way the sound bounced around off those Santa Fe adobe walls, I couldn’t be sure. There was a pickup truck parked in front of the courtyard, and its whole grungy aspect seemed linked to the courtyard noises. Bald tires, primer spots and dents, cracked windshield; a trailer trash ride, or I’m no judge of trucks. The tailgate was missing, and I could see in the cargo bed a litter of empty cans, both beer and oil, plus fast food wrappers and crumpled cigarette packs.
And, tethered to a tie-down, a severed rope, mate to the noose around Boy’s neck.
Boy recognized the truck. He whimpered fearfully as we approached, causing a picture to form in my mind: Enraged driver pulls up to the curb, anger burning so hot that he upsets his dog, who strains against his restraint – and snaps the tired line! Dog is off and running, but driver doesn’t care. All his anger’s focused on whoever’s in that courtyard.
More shouts now, and I could hear two voices, no, three: a man and a woman exchanging heated words, and a little girl playing hapless and ineffectual peacemaker. To me it added up to domestic dispute.
Boy wanted to leave and, boy, so did I. After all, there’s two kinds of problems in this world, right? My problem and not my problem. But there was a lot going on in my head. There was Allie’s need for the two of us to be citizens (and did not, in some sense, citizen equal Samaritan?) and also Boy, for if I left things like they were, he’d likely end up tied back up in that truck, the thought of which grieved me deeply. The kicker was the little girl’s voice. I could see the black hole of human trauma forming in the center of her universe. I knew that Allie came from such a troubled vortex, where mom and dad never got along and routinely inflicted horrible damage on anyone within range. I couldn’t go back in time and salve Allie’s pain. It was likewise probably too late to save the little girl from hers – these things start young – but maybe I could douse the present blaze.
And just perhaps talk my way into a dog.
I moved toward the courtyard. Boy resisted, but I patted his head in reassurance, trying to communicate that whatever I planned to sell, it wasn’t him out. I guess I got my point across, for he fell more comfortably in step beside me. I paused to gather myself before entering the courtyard. I didn’t know what, specifically, I was about to walk into, but it didn’t much matter. A top grifter gets good at improvising successfully across a wide variety of situations.
Even ones with guns.
I didn’t see the gun at first, just the man at the base of a short set of steps, looking dirty as his pickup truck in tired jeans and sneakers, a stained tank top, and a polyester cap with some kind of racing logo. The woman stood on the top step with the girl tucked in behind her. They wore matching mother/daughter flower print shifts. In other circumstances you’d say they looked cute. Now they just looked scared, but the mother was playing the defiance card hard – a card I could tell she didn’t really hold, but that’s what they call bluffing.
“Andy, now, clear out,” she said. “You know you’re not allowed here. The judge – ”
“Screw the judge,” said Andy. “I want Sophie. I want my little girl.”
“No, Andy. Not when you’ve been drinking and God knows what else.”
“Oh, and you’re such a saint?” Andy practically vibrated with rage.
“That’s not the point. I have custody.” The way she said custody damn near broke my heart. Like it had magic power, but I knew it would cast the opposite spell.
It did. It brought the gun up, a Browning MK II Hi Power. Some of them have hair triggers. Andy leveled it at – as I gathered from context – his ex-wife and child. “Sophie,” Andy told the girl, his voice gone cold, “go get in the truck. I swear if you don’t, I’ll shoot you both right now.”
The moment froze. I was afraid to speak. I didn’t want to spook Andy, not while he had the gun up. I guess Boy felt the same way. I could sense him repressing a growl. Then… the girl moved. She disengaged herself from her mother’s clutching hands and edged warily down the stairs. I knew what she was walking into, could foresee it in an instant. Let’s say she survived the next hour, day, week, month, year. Let’s say she made it all the way into womanhood. Where would that find her? Turning tricks at a truck stop? Up in some spike house with a needle in her arm? Living with a man who beat her just like daddy did? Talk about your human sacrifice. It may have been the bravest thing I’d ever seen in my life.
I couldn’t let it stand.
“Hey, mister,” I piped up, applying my most innocent bystander gloss, “do you know whose dog this is?” Three heads swiveled toward me. The gun swiveled, too, but I ignored it, for part of running a good con is shaping the reality around you. Or denying it, as the case may be. By disregarding the gun, I momentarily neutralized it, for what kind of fool doesn’t see the obvious? It’s destabilizing to people. They don’t know how to react, so mostly they just do nothing, which buys you some time to make your next move. At that point I don’t know if I felt supremely courageous or just dumb-ass dumb. Both, probably. But one thing you learn on the razzle is that once a con starts, the worst thing you can do is break it off. Then you’re just twisting in the wind. “Because, um, I found her down the street and she seems to be lost.”
“Ain’t a she,” said Andy.
“No? I didn’t look.” I bent down to check out Boy’s underside. “Hey, you’re right, it’s a boy. Anyway, used to be.” I smiled broadly and started walking Boy forward.
Andy aimed the gun. “Stop,” he said.
“Oh, look, I’m not trying to get in the middle of a thing here. I’m just trying to return this dog. Is he yours?”
“Just let him go.”
Well, I thought I knew what would happen if I did that. Boy would take off running, and probably none of us would ever see him again. I weighed my own selfishness – I wanted that dog – against his need and safety, and dropped the rope. Boy surprised me. He plopped down at my feet, content, apparently, to let me run the show to whatever outcome I could achieve. You gotta love that about dogs. When they trust you, they trust you all the way.
“Now clear out,” said Andy.
Here’s where my play got dicey. Make or break time. “Hang on,” I said, bleeding avid enthusiasm into my voice. “What kind of gun is that?”
“Because it looks like a 1980s Hi Power. Is it?”
“The hell should I know?”
I squinted at the gun, straining to see detail, which I didn’t really need to do, since one of the many things you learn about in my line of work is guns, in detail. “Ambidextrous thumb safeties, nylon grip, three-dot sights. Yep, that’s a Mark II. Bet it’s got the throated barrel and everything.”
“Get the hell out of here.”
“The thing is,” I said, “I’m kind of a collector. Any chance I could buy it off you?” This was the heart of my play, based explicitly on what the mother had said about drinking and God knows what else. I knew what else. Crank. Crystal meth. I could see it in Andy’s dilated pupils, his scrunge-brown teeth, and his generally tweaky demeanor. A guy like that’s not likely to be long on cash, and addiction is a voice that never shuts up. He might could want to quell it for a while. Very slowly, again not to spook him, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my bankroll.
Funny. For someone complicit with Allie in getting off the razzle, I still kept my cash in a grifter’s roll, big bills out the outside, small bills within. I held the roll lengthwise, between my thumb and first finger, so that Andy could see its Ben Franklin veneer. “I think I have a grand here,” I lied easily. “If that’s not enough, we could hit my ATM.”
Andy licked his lips, imperfectly processing my offer. “Maybe I’ll just take it,” he said.
Oops. I hadn’t considered that. “Sure, yeah, whatever,” I vamped. “You could do that. But what kind of example does that set for your little girl?” This was pure bafflegab – nonsense – and I knew it, but that didn’t halt my improv. “Look,” I continued, “like I said, I’m not trying to get in the middle of a thing, but it looks like you guys have a problem. If you take my money by force, the problem gets worse. If you start shooting, it gets way worse, right?” I looked at the mother for confirmation, silently encouraging her to nod, which she did. “On the other hand, you sell me your gun, you’ve got a little scratch, you can take your girl out for ice cream, come back later, everybody’s calm, you can all work out your business.” I knew he’d take “take your girl out for ice cream” to mean “go score,” and hoped his need was such that he’d opt for the line of least resistance.
He seemed to be leaning that way. I could see him mentally converting a thousand dollars into chunks of scud. “What’s in it for you?” he asked.
“I told you, I’m a collector. I’ve got the Mark I and the Mark III, but the Mark II, boy, those are rare.” (Well, measured in millions.) I dared a step forward, arm outstretched, dangling my bankroll like bait. “What do you say? Deal?”
The ladies and I held our breath. Maybe Boy did, too.
“I’m keeping the bullets,” said Andy at last.
“That’s fine,” I said. “Who collects bullets?”
Then, so slowly it made my teeth ache, Andy lowered the gun, pressed the slide release, and dropped the magazine into his hand. Still manifesting my goofy enthusiasm, I strode over and made the exchange, then stepped back quickly before he could change his mind. “Oh, man,” I said, “wait’ll the guys in the gun club see this.”
The next sound you hear will be Andy saying, “What the fuck?” when he finds out what a grifter’s roll is.
“What the fuck?” said Andy. He threw down the roll and took a menacing step toward me.
“Funny thing, though,” I said, raising the gun, “didn’t you chamber a round?” Andy stopped. I let my voice go hard. “Go on, get out of here.” He turned back to grab Sophie, but, “Oh, no,” I said. “No.” Then he looked at his dog. “Not him, either,” I said. “Get.”
Was there a round in the chamber? Did it matter? You can bluff with the best hand, too.
The truck rumbled off. I’d memorized the license plate, and would soon be dropping a dime, for there’s no way that guy wasn’t holding. Meantime, I encouraged Sophie and her mother to clear out to a shelter somewhere, which they thought was a pretty damn good idea. We agreed that Boy would stay with me.
So happy ending, right? Sure, except for one thing. Completely unbeknownst to us, someone in one of the adjacent apartments had cell-phone videoed the whole thing through a window. It was on YouTube by dusk.
It didn’t really matter that thousands of people saw Radar Hoverlander in action.
But it sure as hell mattered that one person did.
5 HOW MANY SOLIPSISTS
If your father walked out on you when you were eight years old, how much of him would you remember? Of Woody I remembered much. The way he always smelled of Old Spice and the panatelas he smoked. The hand magic he could do, like making a quarter disappear (and then not giving it back, to teach me a lesson in credulity). The frequent, unexplained absences, which I realized long after the fact were either undercover stints on the snuke or time in jail. And then the final big disappearance, which he made worse, I think, by perpetrating the false hope of his imminent return. This he did with a string of postcards that, as a sort of running gag, bore portmanteau photographs of that mythical western critter, the jackalope, all furry haunches and grafted antlers. They often contained handwritten riddles like –
Q: How many solipsists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Who wants to know?
– and were all signed the same way, “Yours, Woody.” Not “love,” note. My father could lie the creases off a co-ed’s culottes, but the useful fiction of affection escaped him. He knew he couldn’t sell it, so he didn’t try. Nor had I any illusions. My mother and I were never more than appendages in his life, of that we were sure. And appendages break. The postcard flow dwindled over time, then petered altogether out.
Later, when I started on the snuke, word of his adventures occasionally reached me by roundabout means. I’d meet a grifter who knew a grifter who’d worked a government grants thing with him, or a Jake who’d note a resemblance and say, “You’re not that son of a bitch’s son, are you?” I often wondered if word of my exploits ever reached him. Was he proud that his son had followed in his roguish footsteps? Or could he not give a rat’s ass? I tried to track him down once, just for drill, but apart from the aggrieved screeds of several women who’d discovered themselves to be his coetaneous wives, I didn’t get close. When you’re a master of the vanishing act, it’s no trick to stay lost. As to how he’d found me, I didn’t bother to wonder. The way I’d been lighting up the media with my name and picture, I was practically on MapQuest.
“Ouch, shit!” That’s me savaging my thumb with a hammer instead of hitting the little wooden dowels that connect the kickboard bracket of the Reåd shelving system to the left and right support struts. And that’s because I’m thinking more about my father than about hammers and dowels – and lying to Allie with my silence, which is making me edgier than I let on.
I don’t know why I didn’t just come right out and tell her. Maybe I thought she wouldn’t believe me, would just tab the revelation as “intrigue for the sake of intrigue.” Or if she did believe me, what then? She’s supposed to welcome my biggest inspiration and worst influence with open arms, just when we’re clinging to so frail a valence of normalcy? She didn’t know my father. Okay, hell, I didn’t know my father, either, but it seemed unlikely that he’d pack a whole big mess of normal in his Gladstone. That’s not how he rolled.
Plus let’s not forget he was wearing a dress.
But the alternative, I realized as I sucked the sting out of my thumb, was to deny Allie critical information about the goings-on inside my head. Not quite in the class of an alcoholic sneaking a drink, but sneakiness of a sort just the same. I figured if I was so unwilling to clue in my beloved to the sudden strange appearance of my own flesh and blood, this in itself was a sign that I’d better come clean.
So I did. I was really afraid she’d see it as a setup of some kind, another Hoverlander effort to scrub Operation Citizen, but all she said was, “We’ll have to invite him to dinner.”
“Not a good idea,” I said.
“What, you don’t think he’ll like me?”
“Did you not hear the part about the dress?”
“So he’s trans. I’m not gonna hold that against him.”
“He’s not trans.”
“How do you know?”
How indeed? After all, after all these years, my dad could not have been much more than a shadow in my mind, the sum of my recollections and his reputation. Still, there are some things you know in your gut. I didn’t know Woody, but I knew him. Or let’s say that if the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, then the apple can learn much about the tree just by considering itself. Had I come to town looking for me, so garish a lady costume would not be transvestite plumage.
It would be camouflage.
Because the thing is, when most people look at you, they don’t really see you at all. They judge a book by its cover absolutely. Grifters know this, which is why you so often meet them in costumes of one sort or another. Business suits. Coveralls with nametags. Uniforms. Whatever helps them sell what they want you to buy. Most people looking at my dad in a dress would reach the cursory conclusion I’d first reached: this is one serious frump. Then they’d look away, which would be exactly his goal. How do you hide in plain sight? You thwart the urge to seek.
From this I surmised that Woody was being sought. Not so huge a leap. Even from my dim and distant childhood, I could remember instances of him working very hard to deflect the attention of one irate mark or another, which need will arise from time to time when a grift slides sideways. One whole summer he never ventured out of the house without carefully cloaking himself in the fatigues and demeanor of a disabled Vietnam veteran, right on down to the shrapnel limp and loud colloquies with the voices in his head. I thought it was cool: Daddy plays dress-up. But the strategy was sound, for whoever might be after him would take one look at the post-traumatic stress victim, think, well that sad casualty’s not him, and turn their searching eye elsewhere.
“So we’ve got dad on the lam,” I said. “From whom and for what we currently have no clue, but he’s working the shade and fade damn hard.”
“Why is he even on the street at all?” asked Allie. “Wouldn’t it be safer just to lie low?”
“Safer, sure, but a trap of a different sort. You know this, honey. Once you lose your freedom of movement, you lose your options. Holing up just puts you in a hole.”
“True,” she nodded. She settled down onto the living room couch and I paced nearby, each of us doing what a grifter does when presented with a puzzle like this, mentally teasing the pieces into place. Presently, Allie said, “Since he’s not lying low, he must really want to see you.”
“Not want. Stronger than want.”
“We’ve been estranged forever. Now he gets wind of me on the six o’clock news or wherever, and maybe this sparks some father/son nostalgia in his mind. He can’t know how I’ll react to seeing him. If he has the time, he tests the water first. Email, phone call, maybe a jackalope postcard.”
“What kind of postcard?”
“Nothing. Never mind. All I’m saying is, no test, ergo, no time.”
“Does he know how good you are?”
“Let’s say he does.”
“Then he needs help.”
“And rates me as the Red Cross.”
“So, how do you feel about that?”
“Allie, I don’t know. I know I’m supposed to be carrying all these abandonment resentments, and maybe I do and just don’t know it. But knowing what I know about him and about me, I figure that to hate him is to hate me. As far as I can tell, we’re chips off the same block.” Boy ambled in from the kitchen and taunted me with the tennis ball in his mouth. This particular slobbery brand of tug-of-war, where Boy chomped his ball in a death grip and Allie or I tried to pry it free, had emerged as one of his favorite games. He’d play it as long as our patience would last. He usually won, too, since the only way to get the ball out was misdirection, and Boy’s elemental brain did not respond too quickly to trickery. He was like a certain stripe of mook: too dumb to fool. I grabbed the ball and yanked to no particular avail. We growled at each other. It was fun. “Part of me is flattered,” I said. “My dad was always kind of legendary, you know? I mean, highly regarded in his circles. The two words you mostly heard were ‘creative’ and ‘fearless.’ I guess if he’s coming to me for help…”
“Then that’s acceptance.”
“Acceptance, yeah. But trouble, too.” Allie’s arched eyebrow encouraged me to continue. No doubt she’d already formed her own hypothesis about what kind of trouble a runaway Hoverlander could cause, but she wanted to hear it from me. “We’re supposed to be going straight, right? I have no idea what direction Woody is headed, but I’ll bet my bankroll that straight isn’t it.”
Allie mulled this for a moment, then asked, “What’s that stupid thing I’ve heard you say? ‘Make the latest possible decision based on the best available information?’”
“Oh, that’s stupid, is it?”
“A little, yeah. But why don’t we do that? Wait awhile. See what happens. After all, he may not even contact you. Maybe he just wanted you to know he’s out there.”
“Maybe he just wanted a bunk bed.”
I deked Boy with disinterest. He let down his guard, the ball came free in my hand, and I’d won another round of How Dumb is a Dog? This, however, left me holding a soggy tennis ball, so who’s to say who won? I threw the ball and Boy bolted after it with a dog’s abandon, scuttling across the hardwood floor and banging sidelong into the far wall. Then Allie took up the game and I returned to my Reåd. By midnight, I’d wrestled the bookshelf into shape, and it stood upright in the middle of the room. On a handiness scale of ten, I’d rate myself a six; there were pieces left over. But Allie cast approval on my effort. We were just discussing placement options when a knock at the door startled us both.
It was Vic, as nine and a half times out of ten it would be, and he waltzed in with no thought to the hour, for Mirplovian logic held that if he was awake, then everyone was.
“It’s not like I didn’t check the lights,” he said. “My only concern was you two randy rabbits might be screwing, and who wants to see that?” At this point he noticed the bookshelf. “I like it,” he said, appraising it critically. “Very nice. Very conceptual.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Vic, it’s a bookshelf.”
“Against the wall it’s a bookshelf. In the middle of the room it’s art. You should drape it. Drapes are big right now.” Then, executing a deft conversational pivot, he said, “Hey, check it out,” and rolled up his left shirt sleeve to reveal on his arm a paisley shaped teardrop with a hole in the middle, like the eye on a curvy sperm.
“Vic,” marveled Allie, “you got ink!”
“Yeah, I did,” he said proudly.
I didn’t bother asking why, for clearly this was the next iteration of his artist presentment. See what I mean about costumes? Meanwhile, I thought I recognized the image, but… “Vic,” I asked, “where’s the rest of it?”
“What rest? That’s it. A yin. Half a yin-yang. Totally conceptual.”
“Hurt that bad, huh?”
“Like a motherfuck. I couldn’t even finish. I thought I was gonna pass out.” He cast an admiring glance at his own shoulder. “It is conceptual, though.”
“It is,” I said. “I’ll grant you that. Have you named it?”
“Named? Ooh, no, I hadn’t thought of that.”
“I suggest Half Wit.”
“Ha-ha,” drawled Vic, then pirouetted once again across topics. “By the way, who’s the dude?”
“The guy across the street. If he’s trying to not be seen, he’s doing a lame-ass job.” Vic snickered. “About as lame as his drag.”
I didn’t bother looking out a window to confirm this, for even a Mirplo at his most conceptual couldn’t conjure a cross-dressing lurker out of thin imagination. Then again, just how off my game was I that Vic caught on to the gaff quicker than I had? This business of going straight had its downside in terms of staying sharp. I turned to Allie. “New information, doll. Now what?”
Before Allie could reply, the doorbell rang. Allie shrugged. “Now?” she said. “Now we answer the door.”
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My lovely wife, Maxx Duffy, is traveling in India these weeks, and since fans of this blog seem to like trip reports from exotic climes, I thought I’d share a missive or two with you. Take it away, Maxx..
March 2nd: Tomorrow is the last day of the conference I am attending; I will then spend 9 days on tour. I can already tell you that India is a land of opposites – the most striking being the wealth/poverty line. I am currently immersed in an oasis of splendor on the campus of the Indian School of Business. Just outside the campus’ gates (protected by security) are the slums that one hears about — but seeing those slums is shocking. Though I have been to many 3rd world countries, I have never seen it is here. The streets are lined with thousands of makeshift tents or tin huts (having tin is a step above). Children as young as 3yrs old begging; grasping your leg; adults with little to no clothing lying in the roadways with cars skirting around them. It is very difficult to absorb all this.
In my sessions at the conference, they admitted that India has no way of really knowing its population because those that live on the streets are not accounted for easily. They also admit that while there are many initiatives from trying to get identity cards for slum residents (which can then help them get some financial assistance) to improving housing and healthcare (62 infant deaths for every 1000 births versus the U.S. statistic of 2 deaths for every 1000 births), those initiatives are only a drop in the bucket in terms of the long road they have ahead of them. In the days to come, I will start sending photos of the sights …
And when she sends ’em to me, I’ll send ’em to you. More later, -jv
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It seemed like a good idea at the time — well, it was a good idea at the time — a con caper starring Billy Boyd, who was a hobbit in Lord of the Rings but is taller in this. For reasons too byzantine to relate, the movie has seen very limited light of day. You can, for instance, download it from Russian pirate-video websites, but don’t expect to see it in your local redbox kiosk any time soon.
At least there’s a trailer. It’s kinda cool. Click to play.