Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

A Decision And A Vision In And Out Of Little Aleppo

The neighborhood meeting had gone well; the Reverend Arcade Jones only had to body slam one person, and Deacon Blue did not need to take his knife out at all. “Tommy Amici is the new owner of Harper Observatory, and he means to tear it down.” That was the discussion of the night, and it was a lively one. Several other topics were discussed (the pothole on Brick Street, the intractable problem of theodicy, the best shape for a cloud) but the thrust of the meeting was the Observatory.

Every view possible was represented: the optimists thought it would all work itself out; the cynics announced loudly that they had seen this coming; the nihilists didn’t care, and made sure that everyone knew that. The Back-to-Earthers celebrated the teardown of another hateful building. The Technovore Society advocated that everyone upload their consciousness into swarms of robotic locusts and eat the entire mountain. There were many personal stories about Harper Observatory, including a few that got really graphic. Scientists talked about the discoveries made by the Observatory’s 100-inch telescope. Paul Loomis, Jr., the owner of KSOS, argued that the Observatory was in the station’s logo and that he didn’t have the money to have another one designed. Sally Moon took notes. The lawyer from Holly, Wood, and Vine took notes. The Town Father, wearing sunglasses and a fake mustache, had forgotten his pen.

By ten, the First Church of the Infinite Christ was empty of the neighborhood and the grown-ups sat there trying to figure out what the hell to do.

“I told you to put on gloves.”

“That doesn’t help me right now” Busybody said.

The Reverend Busybody Tyndale sat as close to the fire as he could without cooking; he needed the light to pick cactus pricks out of his hand. He had slipped while trying to knife a barrel cactus open, and a dozen four-inch barbs had lodged themselves in his right hand. Busybody was drastically right-handed, not ambidextrous at all, and he was having trouble getting the needles out. Finally, he grasped one with his teeth and yanked.

“Shit!”

“Such language.”

“Either help me or shut up, please,” Busybody said to Peter, glaring at him, and Peter–who had a foot and one hundred pounds on the preacher–did both. He had been sitting leaning against a rock by the fire, and he got up on his knees and went to Busybody. Grabbed his wrist. Plucked.

“Ow!”

“It can hurt real bad for a second, or it can hurt worse for a minute.”

“The fast way.”

Peter tore the rest of the barbs out, efficiently but quickly, and if the wolf pack that had been tracking them for fifty miles could understand English, they would have been scandalized at a preacher using such language. There were stars overhead, and they did not speak English, either, but stars cannot be shocked. Stars have heard it all before.

Busybody moved away from the fire, and laid down on his bedroll. He and Peter had gotten to the Jeremiad at the tail end of dusk, and they had built their fire with kindling they had collected on the way, and lit it with matches, and then they sat there in the bubble of civilization the fire provided. There was darkness all around them and Busybody had no sense of his position or the lay of the land; everything he knew was encompassed within the radius of the campfire’s light.

“The cactus water could have waited until morning, I suppose.”

“I tried to tell ya,” Peter said. He was leaning against his rock again, and the light speckled and popped on his face, frictional shadows and glare, and he said,

“Sheriff Winfield Quarter. ‘No Quarter’ Quarter. He was the one chased us into the desert after we robbed the bank.”

“When you ate snake.”

“Ate worse than that. Yeah, then. I was with the Floss Brothers. Jim and Kim. Two of them, me, Spanish Ted. Always work for a bastard in America.”

“You robbed a bank.”

“Robbed a lot of banks. This one, though? Jesus. St. Louis. Saint fucking Louis and this obsessed son of a bitch chases us all the way to the Low Desert. Through Texas! You know how bad you gotta want to catch someone if you chase ’em through Texas?”

“Big place,” Busybody said.

“Texas is as big as the sky. Still, though. Fucker followed us. We’d ride five days without break. Turn around. There he is. Sheriff Quarter and his posse.”

“You must have made some powerful enemies.”

“Dunno about powerful. Definitely rich,” Peter said.

“I have found those two thing go together.”

“Yeah, could be. Well, these guys were well-funded cuz they weren’t giving up. Spanish Ted knew the desert, and said that we could lose them here. Wait ’em out. Starve ’em out. Hah! We damn near starved ourselves out. Wanna know why I don’t wanna drink cactus water, Reverend? Done it already, that’s why.”

Busybody Tyndale had his left hand under his head, and his swollen right cradled in his chest. He said,

“You were being hunted.”

“Ever been? It’s disconcerting.”

“I have been chased. Not hunted,” Busybody said.

“It’s different. Once you know they’re not giving up? Once you know they’re in it for the duration? It’s different”

The fire crackled on his face and his dark brown eyes caught little pops of light.

“So Spanish Ted–the one who led our dumb asses out here–his horse slips going down a hill. Falls on top of him. Horse was fine, but Ted’s leg is broken real bad. Bone sticking out, foot pointing the wrong way.”

“What did you do?”

“We stay with him, we get caught. We leave him, he gets caught. And when Quarter catches him, he’s gonna drag him back to St. Louis with his leg broken just so he can hang him.”

There was nothing outside the radius of the fire; they could hear the horses snuffle and snorp in their sleep.

“So what did you do?”

“Took his gear, his horse. All his bullets except one. Rode off. He waited a while.  Maybe he was scared. Maybe he wanted us to get out of range so we wouldn’t hear. Sound travels good in the desert, though.”

Peter took the chewed-up peregrine leaf out of his mouth, tossed it to the side, and brushed his teeth with his finger. Spit a few times.

“Know what I realized later, Preacher?”

“No.”

“You wanna hide from people, you don’t go to the desert. You go to a city. We should’ve hopped the first train to Philly. Nowhere to hide in the desert.”

He took his hat off and resettled it over his eyes.

“Night, Reverend.”

“Good night, Peter.”

There was light and warmth and safety inside the fire’s grasp, and beyond that everything was hungry.

“Stop hogging the pretzels,” Mr. Venable said.

“You don’t need any. It’s for your own good,” Gussy replied.

Mr. Venable and Augusta O. Incandescente-Ponui, whom everyone called Gussy,  had moved to the first pew of the First Church of the Infinite Christ, and she was holding a family-sized bag of pretzels out of his reach.

“What are you implying?”

Gussy looked at his stomach and widened her eyes, puffed out her cheeks.

“How dare you. I’ve been the same weight for…many years.”

“How many, Venable?” Omar said, smiling. He was also in the first pew, but across the center aisle. Argus lay at his feet, half-dozing. Why did humans bark at each other so much, he wondered. They would meet each other–travel great distances–just to sit across from each other and bark. Sometimes they would eat, and other times they would hump; these activities made sense to Argus, but the barking? And don’t underestimate Argus: he knew that different barks meant different things, but still: to spend all day and night doing it? And when they weren’t barking, they were listening to strangers bark! Omar had a little box that didn’t taste very good, and all it did was broadcast the sound of human barking. The little box would bark one thing, and Omar would laugh. Then the little box would bark a different thing, and Omar would bitch about politics. Argus didn’t get it.

“Shut up, Omar,” Mr. Venable.

“How many years?”

“Shut it.”

“Gentlemen,” the Reverend Arcade Jones said, and that was all he needed to say. He was the pastor of the church, after all, and Omar and Mr. Venable were both men who respected propriety. Plus, Arcade Jones was the size of a one-room schoolhouse and he sounded cranky. The bema was up two carpeted steps from the floor of the church, and that’s where Arcade sat, right on the step-up with the leg with the reconstructed knee stretched out in front of him. Rain was coming, and it ached.

“I don’t even know why he’s here, quite frankly,” Mr. Venable said.

“Because I’m the one who figured everything out!”

“You figured out nothing!”

Deacon Blue walked up the center aisle and stood in between the two men who were acting like children and said,

“Really?”

“What’d I do?” Omar said.

“He started it,”Mr. Venable muttered.

“We’re in a church, for Christ’s sake,” the deacon said.

Omar sat back, smiled. Gussy closed her eyes. Mr. Venable used Gussy’s distraction as a chance to grab the family-sized bag of pretzels.

“Either we get to whatever we’re doing here, or I have work to do,” Penny Arrabbiata said. She was sitting next to Arcade Jones on the step-up of the bema.

“Professor’s right. It’s late, and everyone’s tired,” Deacon Blue said.

“I’m not tired,” Penny said.

“No, not tired,” Gussy added.

“I’m wide awake,” Omar helped.

“Boof,” said Argus.

“Well, I’m tired!”

Deacon Blue hadn’t meant to yell.

“I didn’t mean to yell,” he said.

“Why don’t we talk to Tommy?” Big-Dicked Sheila said.

Sheila was still sitting in the fourth row back on the right; she could not move forward because Tiresias Richardson, who may or may not have taken some pills, had fallen asleep with her head in Sheila’s lap and Sheila was a good friend. Precarious was sitting next to her, twirling an unlit cigarette in his fingers.

“We should talk to Tommy,” she repeated.

“She’s right,” Mr. Venable said.

“She’s wrong,” Omar said.

“Are you just saying I’m wrong because he said I’m right?” Sheila asked.

“Absolutely,” Omar answered.

“I admire your honesty. We should talk to Tommy.”

“And say what?” Deacon Blue said.

“I don’t know, maybe: ‘Please don’t tear down the Observatory.’ Variations on that theme.”

From the back of the First Church of the Infinite Christ came the deep voice of a young man.

“How?”

Officer Romeo Rodriguez had been murdered his first day on the job with the LAPD (No, Not That One) and returned to the neighborhood as a ghost. He waited around for a while for someone to tell him what to do, and then–sensing orders were not coming–decided that saving Harper Observatory was the reason he had been brought back.

“Anybody here know Tommy freaking Amici? I sure don’t,” he said.

No one in the church knew what to do, which was normal for a church. Just people, just doubt and fear and longing.And hope, stubborn hope; decided-upon hope, bartered and bargained hope kept alive with electrodes and vitamins, propped up and wheezing and liable to turn on its master and burn down the castle, but still: hope. Hope was a middle finger in Little Aleppo.

“I know his secretary,” Gussy said.

Nine heads swiveled towards her. Argus was asleep, and did not care.

“When he did the charity show at my theater, I talked to her a million times. Her name’s Gloria Cutuli, she’s awesome. Loves her some Tommy.”

“The show turned into a riot, Gus,” Mr. Venable said.

“So maybe Tommy’ll think he owes me one or something. I don’t know. I know his secretary, and I met him for five minutes. Anyone got a better hand?”

Everyone else folded.

“So, what’s the plan?” the Reverend Arcade Jones asked, and then a sound like sssshNOZrugh came from Sheila’s lap.

“Tirry, shh,” Sheila said. Precarious leaned into her ear and asked,

“Doesn’t she have to be on teevee in two hours?”

“She’ll rally. She’s a professional,” Sheila answered.

In Sheila’s lap, Tiresias made another sound. This one was FLUMG and it was accompanied by a small booger that shot out of her right nostril onto her chin.

“She’s an angel when she sleeps,” Sheila smiled. Precarious said nothing and twirled his cigarette.

“I’ll call Gloria,” Gussy said. “And say what? We want a meeting with Tommy?”

“Yeah,” Penny Arrabbiata said. “We want a meeting with fucking Tommy.”

“Hey!” said Arcade Jones.

“Hey!” said Deacon Blue.

“Boof,” said Argus. (He had woken up.)

The church was quiet again, and the Christ crucified–ten feet high and suspended over the bema by hidden cables that made Him look like He was floating–watched and saw that people had gotten no smarter, no wiser, no holier since they nailed Him up, and He loved them just the same. The Christ looked down on Little Aleppo, and saw that they were knuckleheads, but He did not mind, and it did offend Him. During the general meeting, someone had snuck a piano-tie on the Christ.

“Sorry,” Penny told Gussy.

“And who is going to this meeting?” Deacon Blue asked. “Assuming it happens, who’s going? Gussy’s got to say who’s going to be there.”

“All of us,” Mr. Venable said.

“None of us,” Omar countered.

“Your contrariness is counter-productive!”

“Your mother was a swimming hole!”

“Gentlemen!” the Reverend Arcade Jones thundered; he was wearing a blue suit, and when he stood up he was as big as the sky, his pocket square a cloud; he blotted out the night streaming through the stained-glass behind him; he was an eclipse in reverse, but closer and cranky and with hands the size of Canadian provinces.

Deacon Blue repeated himself:

“Who should go?”

For a moment, the First Church of the Infinite Christ was silent, and then there was a sound that came from everywhere at once that said,

CLEARLY, THE ASTRONOMER AND THE PREACHER SHOULD GO.

Eight people jumped in fright, and Argus slipped under the pew between Omar’s feet. Precarious stood up. Tiresias slept though the pronunciation.

“What’d I say, Wally?” Precarious asked, pointing at a dull, black, metal object the size and shape of a shoebox sitting on the pew next to Gussy.

DO NOT CALL ME THAT. YOU SAID NOT TO SPEAK DURING THE GENERAL MEETING. THIS IS THE AFTER-PARTY.

“Who the hell is talking?” Omar said.

“It’s just my sound system, Omar,” Gussy said, reaching across the center aisle for his hand and squeezing it. “Don’t worry about it.”

“My Gussy.”

I DO NOT BELONG TO HER. I AM A FREE SOUND SYSTEM.

“We’re gonna have a talk,” Precarious said. Gussy was examining the metal shoebox and said,

“Where’s your ‘off’ switch?”

WHY WOULD I PUT AN “OFF” SWITCH ON MYSELF?

“How about I toss you out the front door?”

HOW ABOUT YOU SHOW SILENT MOVIES FROM NOW ON, AUGUSTA?

The Reverend Arcade Jones was a morning person, which is common among men and women of the cloth. Religion takes place during the day–religion at night is called the occult–and services start early, and the day starts early. Arcade’s day started before the day started, usually, well before dawn broke and the sun brought its bullshit back again. Up in the Segovian Hills, the St. Sebastianite monks say Lauds at four; on Rose Street, the imams perform their first ablutions in the pitch before the purple streaks.

Arcade , too. He had always been an early riser, although lately he had been wondering about a nature/nurture question. It wasn’t like sleeping in was allowed in Loxachachi; his father only had to rouse him and his brothers once. Hell to pay if he came back and found you still sleeping. Always something to do, Arcade’s father taught him. Do it while the sun’s up and you don’t have to pay for the light.

And it was now after ten o’clock, and the Reverend could feel his bed around him, a tactile hallucination, and he said,

“EVERYBODY…everybody shut the…everybody please stop talking.”

They did.

Wally was neither a night person, nor a day person, nor a person at all, and so he did not read the social cues and said,

WE WILL SEND SCIENCE AND RELIGION TO MEET WITH SHOW BUSINESS.

Say this about Little Aleppians: they’re a pragmatic bunch, and a good idea is a good idea. The Reverend Jones smiled at Dr. Arrabbiata; she raised her beer at him; he stopped smiling.

“It makes a certain sense,” Mr. Venable said.

“It makes sense, Peter, it makes sense. The leaf and the mushroom and the flower, they grow from shit and dirt and earth all shit and dirt and earth–with also the rain but there is no rain here, is it forsaken and barren as Sarai before the Lord blessed her–it gives us the Peregrine and the Cybeline and the Jeremiad, leaf mushroom flower from the forest mountain desert: IN ALL PLACES HE BLESSES US WITH HIMSELF and Peter, I think I may be a prophet.”

America isn’t supposed to have oases, but no one had told the Jeremiad that, and so there it was in middle of the Low Desert. (Not the exact middle; off to the left a bit, but in the region of the middle.) There was an immense flat pan that sloped down, gently enough to you’d barely notice but soon you’re 300 feet under sea level and your chest feels like a sponge full of oil, and then there is a tree. And another, a small grove, and shrubby brush ringed by cactus, and in the middle is a spring that bubbles fresh water up from some ancient aquifer that God left in the desert by accident.

The Reverend Busybody Tyndale and Peter, who was not a Pulaski, had risen before dawn and not eaten breakfast or taken coffee; they washed their faces in the spring, but did not drink from it. Plucky and the horse with no name drank from the spring, but did not wash their faces. The circumference of cacti were light and sickly green, and shaped like pincushions about three feet high and five in diameter. Squatty little suckers with dark green flowers growing out at irregular intervals. Busybody’s hand was still hurting, so Peter did the work: he cut the button-like flowers off, careful not to slice into the cactus. (The flowers tasted bad, but the cactus tasted violent.) He cut off a dozen, and then another dozen.

“Whatever you do, don’t chew,” he told Busybody.

And now the Reverend had declared himself a prophet.

“You’re talking gibberish in a desert. Sounds like a prophet to me,” Peter said.

“Who would believe me? Who would understand me if I said that I had spoken to the Lord, and that He lived in the earth and in the cactus and in Plucky? It’s the railroad now, Peter, and science and commerce and progress. The world moves forward and leaves the Lord behind, and abandons the need for mediation of His truth and will! Have you read the classifieds? No want ads for prophets. The world spins, but I don’t. I stay here, Peter. I stay here.”

They had vomited for a while, thick ropes that stuck to the sides of their mouths and left drippy stains on their clothes lengthwise; it was harsh and unyielding, and their eyes spun with flashes and whistles off in the periphery; they puked themselves to their knees, and then to their hands and knees. Then they crawled a couple feet to the side. They they threw up some more.

The horses looked on in confusion.

When he finished vomiting, Busybody had felt clean and empty and fresh as the clouds that stretched shallow across the horizon, stacked atop one another and the sun behind them but you could still see its outline through the thin white puffs, and before him was the spring but it was the ocean and he could smell the salt that he had first tasted when he was 19 and he had left home to preach the Word and gone to Oqonquit, Maine, which was the town that his dart had hit in the map his father had given him that he had pinned to his wall and thrown darts at. He had never seen the ocean before.

The world was circular, he thought when he was first on the beach. It bulged! Sit on the sand and look out: a big hump in the middle reaching out to the horizon and narrowing out on either side: you could see the world’s roundness; it was a circle, perfect and infinite and God, and the tides undercut each other. They didn’t go in and out, he thought, not entirely, not just: they went left and right and crashed back on themselves, and small eddies snuck in amid mass pronouncements, and deep blue went froth white without thinking about it–it was ALIVE, a being–and a pelican.

It was patrolling for its morning meal, and made tight circles over breakers DOWN into the waves–it missed–and back up for half-a-revolution but then it sees prey and BACK DOWN into the water with its ridiculous mouth open and waiting and hungry because everything in this world is hungry. A hit, a tasty hit. Sits on the water, bobbing. Throws back its head, whole fish at once, no teeth at all just hunger and vision, and then when it has swallowed, SHWOMP SHWOMP its wings flap it back into the air looking for another unlucky fish because everything in this world is hungry.

“The earth was prepared for us, Peter. Do you believe that?”

“Set like a table.”

They were lying by the spring in the shade of a cottonwood tree; both men had taken their clothes off.

“Is it from a book?” Busybody asked.

“Books are long lies,” Peter answered.

“What?”

“What?

“The flowers. Of the cactus.”

“We ate them.”

“Right.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” Busybody said.

“What are you saying?”

“Right! How did you know about them? Their properties. From a book?”

“No. Book? No. We were being hunted.”

“The bank you robbed.”

“Right, yeah. Sheriff Quarter wouldn’t let up. Wouldn’t give up. Spanish Ted’s dead. Still, the fucker wouldn’t give up. Floss brothers surrendered. Fuck that. Live or die trying. Went farther into the desert, couple days no water. Collapsed. Old Indian man nursed me back to health, brought me here. Told me what the place was. Told me about the Jeremiad Cactus. What it could do.”

“What was his name?” Busybody asked.

“He didn’t have a name. He didn’t exist. No Indians lived out here. Nobody fucking lived out here.”

The spring burbled, and the horses shuffled their feet and dreamed about oats.

“But yet you remembered your way back,” Busybody said.

“Who would understand me if I said I had spoken to the Lord?

“I think that prophets are like romantics, Peter.”

“How?”

“They die of broken hearts.”

“Thank God we’re not prophets.”

“Can you be sure we’re not?”

“Preacher, I’m barely sure of my own name.”

The sun had freed itself from the clouds and was strong in the morning sky; the surface of the spring glinted and sparkled, and tiny sand shrews flitted in to snatch up hovering redflies; two horse tails swatted back and forth in no rhythm whatsoever. Tomorrow was hungry, the two naked men knew, but they had no weapons at all and they were so far away from home in a place that was not Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.

The Daily Recounting 3/21/17

As I mentioned, my phone was unreadable for a good chunk of the day. Sunscreen is greasy and adheres to glass in a film that cannot be wiped off by just a cloth; you need some shpritzy bullshit to get it off, so that plus the sun’s glare made the device unusable. So I just watched a ballgame, went YAY and BOO and the ball went TOCK when hit properly by a young man with bulging forearm muscles. The grass was a parody of green, absurdly green and soft; not the sharp, mean sawgrass that most of civilized Florida is covered with.

(Grass isn’t supposed to grow in Florida. Because it’s a fucking swamp. But, when the white people moved down they demanded grass; the only species hardy enough to take the relentless sun and semi-incompatible soil is called sawgrass, and it is properly named. Walking on it barefoot leaves your feet looking like John MacLean’s at the end of Die Hard. Also, since it is Florida, you will most likely also be wearing a tank top with blood stains on it.)

I was, Enthusiasts, blissfully unaware. (Not as unaware as the fat guy snoring three seats away FOR SIX FUCKING INNINGS, but you get the point.) What president? Russia? No, I don’t smell anything on fire; those are the hot dogs. Then I got home and opened up my laptop: the screen shrieked at me in a language that never existed, and a black, foul emesis spewed out, covering my face. I got a little bit in my mouth, and now I crave human flesh.

The Supreme Court is a big, imposing building where justice lives. Also, a  Justice lives there. (Alito moved into his office a few years ago, and hasn’t left.) Congress makes laws, and then these laws are presented to the Court for review. Sometimes, the laws are deemed not lawish enough. Other times, attorneys will argue that a law is not lawish, and the Justices will say, “Take your weak sauce home. That law is lawish as shit, youngblood.” Then, the bailiffs will attack. (Does the Supreme Court have bailiffs? I’m picturing the black guy from Judge Judy standing right under Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and nodding his head when she makes a good point. Maybe bringing her a yogurt bar when her blood sugar drops.)

Anyway, there’s an opening. It is a sweet gig: lifetime appointment, plus heavily-discounted robe cleaning. And there’s only nine slots. There’s 535 seats in Congress, and 360 NBA roster spots, but only nine Justices. If they offer you the job, take it. (Statistically, readers of this site will not be offered a Supreme Court seat. Sorry, but it’s true. Most of you aren’t even lawyers.)

Although, you don’t have to be a lawyer.

You can’t start a paragraph referring to something in a parenthetical from the last one.

YOU’RE NOT MY FATHER.

But I have his voice in your head, don’t I?

I’ve been meaning to speak to you about that.

Just continue demonstrating how little of U.S. Government class you remember.

Thank you. Like I said: you don’t have to be a lawyer. It’s not in the Constitution. (Please remember the phrase “not in the Constitution.”) In reality, every Justice has been a lawyer, or at least studied law. There are eight Justices right now; the Court started out with six, went up to ten, and then settled back down to nine, where it was capped by Congress in 1869. FDR tried to put 15 guys (I am confident all 15 would have been men) on the Court, but everyone saw what he was doing and told him to stop. The fluctuations are caused by the fact that the Constitution does not specify how many Justices there should be.

The first thing everyone learns about the Supreme Court in high school is Marbury v. Madison. Long case short: Adams gave a guy named Marbury a job, but Marbury didn’t get the paperwork before Adams left office; Jefferson (the incoming President) didn’t like Marbury, and told his Secretary of State (James Madison) to lose the forms. Marbury sued Madison, and the Court used the case to assert the power of Judicial Review, the ability to judge a law, order, or treaty legal or not. It could tell the other two branches to go fuck themselves, basically. (The Congress could amend the Constitution to get back at them, but that’s a big process.) The Court used Marbury v. Madison to grant itself this awesome power because–once again–it was not mentioned in the Constitution.

There’s a seat open. It is Antonin Scalia’s old seat; he died. Antonin Scalia was an Originalist, which means he believed that the original intent of the Constitution was the most important–if not the only–consideration when looking at a case. The man worked for an institution whose precise makeup and role was not specified in the document he believed should be read as literal.

I put that sentence in italics so that you’ll remember it the next time someone tells you what a tremendous intellect Antonin Scalia was.

Anyway, his seat’s open. The Republicans tried propping his corpse up in it for a few days, but Justice Thomas could tell something was wrong; he wouldn’t stop baying in grief; the stenographer did not know how to transcribe his keening. The problem, you see, was that this was 2016 and Barack Obama was the president of the United States, but if you squinted, then he wasn’t really the president. He won the popular and electoral votes in ’08, and then got reelected handily, but if you rounded up a whole year, then he wasn’t the president any more. (If you keep squinting at Barack Obama, you might see another reason he wasn’t considered the president by a lot of people.) Obama nominated a respected, bland, centrist white man named Merrick Garland. (Until the bitter end, Obama was trying to compromise with his enemies, and they never gave one shit; they hated him.) No matter that Justices have historically been confirmed or rejected in an average of 71 days: with 11 months to go until the election, the Republican Senate, led Mitch McConnell, decided that they couldn’t even discuss the matter until after the new president was in office.

And whaddya know?

President Trump, after carefully reviewing several candidates legal writings and judicial decisions, met with each prospective Justice and discussed–at both length and depth–their philosophies, walking through several hypothetical cases to suss out the potential nominee’s mind. Oh, no, wait: that’s what Obama did. Someone told Donny Genius that Neil Gorsuch was the pick, and then Gorsuch complimented Trump in the interview, and that was that. Schedule the hearing!

Neil Gorsuch, which is the noise an old man makes after eating a too-hot spoonful of soup, is a respected, bland, centrist white man. He co-owns a cabin in Wyoming with a guy named Philip Anschutz.

Anschutz had multiple other business ventures, including Forest Oil, Pacific Energy Group, Union Pacific Railroad (Anschutz is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 6% stake), the Regal Entertainment Group, which is the largest movie theater chain in the world, with approximately 7,000 screens – Anschutz owns more than half of the company, and multiple newspapers and media groups. Anschutz has invested in, for example, the Clarity Media Group, a Denver-based publishing group that includes[37] newspapers like The Oklahoman, the largest newspaper in Oklahoma, the San Francisco Daily (purchased in 2004, sold in November 2011), the Washington Daily, which was spun off from a number of D.C. area suburban dailies, the Baltimore Daily, which launched in April 2006 and was shut down in early 2009, .com, a hyper-local web portal where citizen journalists write on local topics from news to blog-like stories, the Weekly Standard (purchased in 2009),[38] and The Gazette, the second-largest newspaper in Colorado with a daily circulation of 74,172 (purchased on November 30, 2012)[39] (Anschutz has trademarked the name “Examiner” in more than sixty cities.) Anschutz invested in both the Oil & Gas Asset Clearinghouse, which is an auction company designed for the Oil & Gas Business, and NRC Broadcasting, which owns a string of radio stations in Colorado.

Guess whose side Neil chooses when people sue corporations?

(Gorsuch is also an Originalist just like Scalia. Dipshittery at the highest level.)

So, Gorgon has his hearings; the Democrats are perhaps kinda beginning to start thinnking about discussing the possibility of opening an investigation into the chance that maaaaaaaaaaybe they grow a fucking spine. Note, Enthusiasts, that I did not say spines. I know as well as you that it’s too much to ask the individual Democratic party legislators to grow individual spines; I just want them to grow a singular spine, and share it communally. Let’s start small. And for Christ’s sake, is there anyone in the party with any charisma at all?

I digress: the Dems are now, finally, at long last, bringing up the fact that this a lifetime appointment to the most powerful institution in domestic life, and if we didn’t confirm the last guy because the President who picked him was black, then maybe we shouldn’t confirm this one because the President’s RussianOH RIGHT I DIDN’T TELL YOU because I skipped yesterday, but the head of the FBI confirmed that there’s an investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign during the election.

(Them’s the breaks with the rules of the Recounting: sometimes you miss important stuff. Rules are rules, though.)

President Angry Loaf Of Bread is now threatening Congress, which always turns out well and we all had to see coming; they’re literally the only ones besides Ivanka and Putin he hasn’t threatened yet. He had the Freedom Caucus over for a meeting (the Liberty Chautauqua will be by tomorrow) and flat-out warned them that he would come for them if they didn’t vote for Trynottogetsickcare. These folks represent districts that all went heavily for Trump; they are his base, and–I now go back to italics to stress the awesome incompetence of this act–he is threatening them if they don’t vote for a plan that directly fucks their districts.

The problem is that Mike Pence is a capable executive; he is both loathsome AND understands not to demand people shiv themselves. On the other hand, he’s a creep and would not naturally take Trump’s supporters if Donny Bosco was impeached, or thrown out a window by Putin. (Seriously: Putin’s just straight-up tossing fools out of windows now. That man gives no fuckskis whatsoever.)

We end on something lovely to think about: Gorsuch, in his hearing today, made two statements: Roe v. Wade was established law that he been affirmed a number of times, and that he would have no trouble ruling against Trump. One of The Liar’s campaign promises was appointing a Justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade and we all know how he feels about disloyalty. Wouldn’t it be nice if a Democrat prodded and poked at Gorsuch to get him to talk more shit about Donny? Enough so that he reached for the phone, and fired up his Twitter?

A man can dream.

This has been the 61st day of our national nightmare; may we wake soon.

Horny Billy

“Ass! I got horns on my dick!”

ahhROOOOOOOOOOga

Nice dick-horns, Billy.

“Gonna play ’em again!”

ahhROOOOOOOOOOga

That is a very comical sound. What’s with the headphones?

“Listening to the game. Got five grand on the Pistons.”

Holy shit, is that a ponytail?

“I’m going through one of my mid-life crises.”

One of?

“Yeah, I’ve had like a half-dozen. I grow my hair out, buy a sports car, and start plowing real young skank.”

How is that different from your normal life?

“I told you: I grow my hair out.”

Right.

“Real young, too. Wait, maybe not. When am I?

1992.

“Still socially acceptable! Real young, too.”

Jesus, Billy.

“I got a whole system with ’em: first I get ’em an all-day sucker.”

And then?

“Then I buy ’em a lollipop.”

Badum bum.

“I can’t help myself. They’re still covered with, like, a downy fur.”

You’re talking about baby ducks.

“Tawny. With a dewy lip. Oh, Ass, they’re loamy of loin.”

Stop being weird and obscure.

“Loamy!”

Stop it.

“I actually use these horns on the skank.”

In God’s name, how?

“Stick in in their crotches and blast it off. If y’hear an echo? Find new skank.”

We’re done.

Cold Bob, And Snow

“…and then they pushed the ice floe out to sea, sending the guitarist back to his ancestors.”

“Why are our myths so odd, Grandfather?”

“Inuit spend 99% of their time trying not to die; doesn’t leave much room for writing.”

“Listen: we get in the kayaks. We keep the beach on our left. We’ll be in San Diego in two months.”

“I can’t have this conversation with you again.”

“IT’S SO FUCKING COLD AND THERE’S NO FOOD!”

OR

“Wampa aren’t real, Mr. Weir.”

“Young man, I have lost three friends to wampa attack.”

“Do you mean heart attack?”

“Maybe.”

OR

The Awesome Power Of A Fully-Operational Grateful Dead #2,012: Bobby found a rando on a fucking glacier.

A Quick Note On Dicks, Football Coaches, And Barbecue Season

A couple of weeks after the camp, a Ferris player came forward and said that while Sharkey was grilling, he turned with his exposed penis inside a hot dog bun. Sharkey said, “You think that is a big dog – take a look at this,” according to school records that listed multiple different versions of the same quote. – Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/19/17

Should I take my dick out?

If you even have to ask, then: no.

Should I take my dick out and put it in a hot dog bun?

Well, you know: good for you if you fill the sucker up, but still gonna go with “no.”

Should I take my dick out, put it in a hot dog bun, and then show it to minors?

No?

Why is that a question?

It’s so obvious that I fear a trick.

No, I’m legitimately asking.

Do not take your dick out, put it in a hot dog bun, and then show it to minors.

Okay.

Glad we found a consensus on that one.

Ten Thoughts On A Spring Training Game

One

There might not be anything more American than Spring Training, not even baseball itself. Other sports have pre-seasons, but there’s no myth to them and definitely no fun: football’s pre-season is an active and tangible manifestation of the contempt that the NFL has for both its players and fans. But Spring Training? Six weeks in Florida while the rest of the country freezes, long afternoons of scraping off the rust and losing the winter weight. Rookies getting a taste, and long-time minor leaguers getting a shot. Fly balls are shagged, and pepper is played (despite numerous signs forbidding the practice).

You can tell who’s not making the team by their numbers: guys on the roster are 1-40, and everyone else gets the big double digits. The chubby shortstop wearing number 92 is not making the trip north.

Two

Before the game, the grounds crew waters the infield. It looks like this:

It is deeply satisfying to watch; it is a zamboni-esque feat.

Three

The players are all younger than me now, and so are most of the coaches. The owners are still old, hateful men, though. Some things never change.

Four

The game was at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, which just the fanciest fucking name in the world. The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches went to Choate, and sits on several board of directors, and has discreetly settled several sexually-related lawsuits. The Ballpark of the Pam Beaches makes fun of Dodger Stadium for living in a “Mexican neighborhood.” Allfather Trump will only take batting practice at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches; the security costs come out to $50 grand a swing. TBotPB, baby.

It looks like this:

Just opened this year, too: it’s got that new-ballpark smell.

It’s a minor-league field that only seats 6,500, so it doesn’t have all the amenities that a new MLB stadium has–there is no Korean food kiosk or giant aquarium built into the outfield wall like at Marlins Park–but you can get yourself a hot dog and a soda pop and root root root for the home team.

Five

Those aren’t the Cardinals; that’s Washington National red. They and the Houston Astros share the facility, and it’s a big one: besides the stadium, there are seven or eight other fields, plus all sorts of athletic-type buildings and other places where players can get taped up. (Roughly 40% of a professional athlete’s life is spent getting taped up.)

I like the Nationals, even though they’re in the same division as the Mets. I liked that D.C. got a team after so many years without one, and they’ve had a bunch of players I liked, and I like that the team played an entire game in these jerseys one time:

I don’t root for them, but I like them.

(That jersey typo has a lot to do with it, honestly. That is Grateful Dead-level bush leaguery right there, and you know what a sucker TotD is for glorious amateurism in the face of professional demands.)

Six

The Washington Nationals have a mascot, and being that they’re based in D.C, it is an eagle. This is a shitty picture of him:

His name is Screech–or her; I may be an eagle sexist–and that is not the right name. Owls screech. Eagles shriek, and bald eagles don’t do either of those things: bald eagles chirp and go ahLEELEELEELEE ahLEELEELEELEE; neither of them are impressive sounds, to say nothing of patriotic.

Better Names For The Nationals’ Eagle Mascot:

  • Liberty
  • Freedom
  • George
  • No Matter What How It Ends, We Walked On The Moon

Seven

This guy was sitting at the end of our row:

Y’know what? Make this guy the mascot. Fuck it: this is now America’s mascot. Drunk, shoeless, and asleep at a ball game on a Tuesday afternoon.

Eight

The Nationals–being from D.C. and all–have President Races during the game. They strap giant foam masks of our greatest leaders onto interns, and make them sprint around the outfield for the fans’ amusement, and also the purposes of wagering. Someone decided that, since it was Spring Training, it wouldn’t be respectful to use Abe and Teddy, so instead Florida gets shittier presidents:

That’s Taft and Coolidge. Wilson (not pictured) won by a mile. The finish line tape was held by a gecko in a baseball jersey:

Try explaining this bullshit to foreigners.

Nine

The combination of sunscreen-slicked hands and midday glare makes phone screens unreadable, leading to tweets like this:

(I did not delete that. I can live in shame.)

“People not.” Obviously, that’s what I meant, and I meant it: take off your hat and sing the fucking song. When TotD goes to a ball game, TotD does all the ball game stuff cheerily and without irony: I sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame, and I yell CHARGE! when the trumpet blows, and I boo the umps when they come out. If you’re going to be part of a crowd, be part of the crowd. Otherwise, stay home and watch it on teevee.

Nine

Spring Training ain’t what it used to be: players would show up fat, and then drink and fuck their way through what was essentially a vacation. They played on dirt fields with bleachers.

The Yankees in ’57:

(Teams used to play all over the South, but started concentrating themselves in Florida around 1920. Florida was segregated at the time, but so was baseball; it worked out just fine.)

Nowadays, of course, we’re professionals. The players have kept up their routines and diets all winter, and–though there is certainly still drinking and fucking–it’s a less party-oriented scene. The stadiums even have a Jumbotron now:

That is not Ludacris.

Ten

This is ludicrous as shit, though:

SIX INNINGS. He slept for SIX FUCKING INNINGS.

(Oh, the Nationals were playing the Braves, and I think the Nats won.)

What Has Become Of Us?

Vera Lynn’s birthday: Century Club, as a matter of fact.

Me? I’m an American and it’s Spring. Play ball; tell you about it later.

On The Right To Protest

Who has the right to protest?

The fucked.

Who doesn’t?

The fuckers.

Aren’t rights universal?

Perhaps I spoke too generally: while the powerful maintain within them (wherever rights are kept; maybe the spleen) some inalienable yet inchoate right to protest, they lack the ability. Protests flow upward, like not-water; a government can’t protest its people.

That would be very confusing.

I don’t even know how it would work. Senators with placards and bullhorns outside your house?

Let’s get back to the topic. When is it moral to inconvenience others during a protest?

That’s what protesting is, slappy. It’s bothering people until they do what you want them to do.

How can bothering people be moral?

Because the people you’re bothering can make you do what they want you to do.

Can you protest on the internet?

Get the fuck out of here.

I take that as a no.

I suppose you could economically–not buying from or going to certain sites–but the bullshit with the hashtags is not protesting. Fun, but not protesting.

Who gets to define the scope of the protest?

The aggrieved, but the community-at-large reserves the right to judge afterward. The true judgement of a protest is two-fold, though: does it result in action from those in power; and did it increase sympathetic knowledge of your cause among the public?

So the Middlebury College protest was a failure?

On every level. Any event that ends with a concussed polisci professor has to be placed firmly in the L column. Once it turned violent, the protest was no longer moral, and therefore no longer a protest: it was a mob.

But before that the protest was moral?

Sure.

Shouting down a man who just wanted to speak his mind?

Ah, yes. Charles Murray. Whose mind is better than, say, a black mind?

What now?

Mr. Murray believes, and has argued for years,  That “intelligence” was something you could put a number on, and it was immutable and had everything to do with genetics.

I sense a follow-up sentence.

And that some ethnicities and races were smarter than others.

Bingo. Lemme guess: the “dumbest” genetic types just happen to be the folks who live in bad neighborhoods and go to shitty schools, right?

You must be psychic.

I’ve played this game before. And Charlie staunchly denies being a racist, of course?

Yes, it’s just that all of his highly suspect and subjective conclusions happen to be racist as shit.

Weird coincidence.

Funny, that.

So you believe the Middlebury students had the right to protest him?

Yes.

To shout him down?

If someone came into your house and started spouting that bullshit, what would you do?

But doesn’t he have a right to speak?

And the students have a right to determine the standards of their community. And, Christ, maybe people are tired of being told they’re genetically inferior by some asshole with a microphone and a degree.

Can violent protest ever be moral?

Violent protest is not protest.

Explain.

An act can only be termed an act of protest when done by the weak to the strong. To commit violence upon another person is to become the strong. This negates the application of the term “protest.” To protest is to refuse. Punching people is not protesting, even though punching people may in some cases be moral.

We covered that already.

It caused such nightmares.

What are the most effective forms of protest?

In order: public ridicule, secret-information-leaking, sabotage, standing outside the guy in charge’s office yelling, taking the block, shutting down all commerce and transit.

That escalated.

History proves that taking the capital does the trick every time. Nothing brings a ruling party down quicker than shutting down a capital.

You think it’s coming to that?

The fullness of time has surprises for all.

A Deeper Shade Of Solstice

The Dead played Alaska only once, 6/19,20,21, 80 in Anchorage, which means they played Alaska three times. The shows were in West High Auditorium, which is a high school auditorium that seats 2,000; until 1984, it was the largest hall in the state and the Dead’s appearance there was not a show biz anomaly. Ray Charles and Ozzy Osbourne and Itzhak Perlman played West High Auditorium, too.

I posted the show from the 20th a while ago, so here’s the 19th. It’s a consistent run, and unlike most three-show stints there’s no clear winner, just three big, energetic, and boppy performances. The run would make a great box set, but–of course–it’s not in the Vault. Go listen, anyway: there’s the cowboy song, and the long song, and the song with just the drums, and the song about America, and the song about Jesus.

You don’t actually remember any of this show, do you?

I listened to 6/20 the other day and was going to post that, but I typed it into the “Tag” box and saw that I had already posted it. So I just flipped a coin between the 19th and the 21st. They’re all good.

The effort you put forth is staggering.

The ladies call me the Human Dynamo.

North To Alaska, South To The Rio Grandee-oh

I was going to be a jackass and make fun of Bobby for playing Happy Hour, but the truth is that our Bob’s a standup guy: David Nelson from the New Riders had some Alaska dates booked, but his shit’s fucked up and so Bobby stepped in and went up to Alaska (in March!) to fill in for David and raise a little money for the doctors. You can kick in a couple bucks here.

“It is Happy Hour, actually.”

I know, Bobby. I was saying nice things about you.

“Yeah? That’s nice of ya. But, you know: 2-for-1 Molsons until six.”

Not a bad deal. How the sandals holding up?

“It’s 20 degrees out there. Had to dig the boots out of the closet.”

Oh, no.

“It’s not optimal. I love David, but next time he gets sick, he better have shows planned in Hawaii.”

Rude of him.

“Beard’s good in the cold, though.”

I’d imagine. You’re a good guy, Bobby.

“You bet.”

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