Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Democracy as Deception

The “Los Angeles Times,” ran a piece on Wednesday, Nov 30, detailing the Pentagon’s paying Iraqi newspapers “to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.”

It can be found here:,0,3132219.story?track=hpmostemailedlink

The revelation, Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi report, “comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics [and that’s a good one], including one workshop titled ‘The Role of Press in a Democratic Society.’ Standards vary widely at Iraqi newspapers, many of which are shoestring operations.”

Now they have something in common with “The L.A. Times.”

Read former book review editor Steve Wasserman’s piece to see what the scribe is talking about:

Digression is the mother’s milk of bloggers.

Back to the piece. One outraged and anonymous Pentagon source allegedly told the reporters, “Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we’re breaking the first principles of democracy when we’re doing it.”

Of course, Mr. Anonymous, you broke those principles by launching an unprovoked invasion (technically).

The (p)resident talks a great and folksy hooey when waxing poetic about liberty and such. the scribe has never bought it, suspicious of those brandishing democratic credentials while rising to power by stopping a vote.

The rest is all bad history of which this story is just another example.

Of course, it might be alright in some instances that undemocratic means are used to achieve democratic ends, but the report leads us to believe the content of the articles in question does not reflect any actual sentiment in the market the papers are serving.

That’s how they got found out. Another unnamed guy said, “Stuff would show up in the Iraqi press, and I would ask, ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ It was clearly not something indigenous Iraqi press would have conceived of on their own'.”

On top of skirting the rules of civil democracy, the strategy is oafish. Your $3.5 billion in war funding per month at work.

To teach democracy, you have to be democracy.

Meanwhile, the (p)resident is presented as having “forcefully” proposed the same defeat-by-slow-death he has for months now.

And it’s very nice that sentiment has changed on the war and that a humiliated press has taken off the gloves where the administration’s concerned. Still, there’s not nearly enough going on to stop it before another thousand men and women die.

The administration now knows it has lost the critical mass of support needed to justify the extraordinary expenditure the conflict requires, but pulling the plug and turning the massive machine around will take time and, you guessed it, lots more money.

The getting will be good for a little longer because that is the plan.
the highway scribe will read from the novel "Vedette" to the accompaniment of guitarist Omar Torrez on Dec. 15, 8 p.m. at 33 1/3 Books & Gallery Collective, 1200 N. Alvarado St. @ Sunset Blvd.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Two More Done For

These were released Tuesday by the office of the Governor of California...

Governor Schwarzenegger today (Nov. 29) released the following statement regarding the death of Master Sgt. Brett E. Angus of St. Paul, MN:

“Today, we solemnly add Master Sgt. Angus to the honor roll of fallen heroes. Master Sgt. Angus fearlessly served and died for this great nation and deserves our deepest gratitude for making the ultimate sacrifice. Maria and I offer our condolences to Brett’s loved ones for their painful loss. Our prayers are with them during their time of mourning.”

Angus, 40, died Nov. 26 as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the vicinity of Camp Taqaddum, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron-372, Marine Wing Support Group-37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of Angus, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Javier Villanueva of Temple, TX:

“Spc. Villanueva courageously served to preserve and protect the cherished freedoms we are afforded. Maria and I send our heartfelt sympathies to Javier’s family during this painful time. We are forever grateful to Spc. Villanueva for his service on behalf of our nation.”

Villanueva, 25, died Nov. 24 in Al Asad, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol during combat operations in Hit, Iraq. He was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Irwin, CA.

In honor of Villanueva, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


the highway scribe will read from “Vedette” with a lot of help from flamenco guitarist Omar Torrez at the 33 1/3 Books & Collective Gallery on Dec. 15, 8 p.m. The bookstore is located at the junction of Alvarado St. and Sunset Blvd.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"War is...Business"

The most e-mailed article at the “L.A. Times” over the weekend was entitled “A Journey that Ended in Anguish,” written by T. Christian Miller.

It can be found here:,0,1236434,print.story

Miller’s piece recounts the life and death of Col. Ted Westhusing who was, according to the article, “one of the Army’s leading scholars of military ethics,” professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and a doctor of philosophy.

He was, by accounts contained in the article, a “straight shooter,” “deep Christian,” “cream of the crop,” and all around “solid citizen” (as the scribe’s mom used to say when describing someone distinct from the scribe).

Westhusing, who was living a pretty nice life in a lifetime position at “The Point,” responded to the war in Iraq in the way men of his ilk tend to: by running towards it.

But things did not go well. He apparently ran afoul of contractors (or they afoul of him) hired by the Department of Defense to handle tasks that used to be done by, well, the Department of Defense.

Westhusing’s charge in Iraq was to school Iraqi police recruits in how to do their job, without, one assumes, the bullwhips, electric prods, rape techniques, and outright murder that were trademarks of the prior regime.

Anyway, what got his goat was relations with a firm out of Virginia called USIS.

For those who don’t have the time to sort such things out and can only get a sense of goings-on in Iraq from a distance (courtesy of U.S. media), let the scribe explain: We now pay private companies to do a lot of the legwork building a prospective and democratic nation like Iraq requires.

These companies teach interrogation techniques and, as it turns out, have done a fair amount of questioning themselves. Because the Army and Marines were unprepared for a war in the Middle East of the Bush conflict’s depth and breadth, contractors are providing hundreds of people, at a considerable price (given the location and inherent threats), who can speak the languages necessary to facilitate a project (or whatever it is) like that underway in Iraq.

Contract employees have, despite legal constraints, been involved in house-to-house sweeps, jail discipline and interrogation, and firefights. In April 2004, for example, a few of them got their booties in a bind and wound up burned and hanging from a bridge entering Fallouja. That led to a massive firefight and the eventual leveling of the city and its citizens.

PBS’ “Frontline” did a special report about two months ago on the impact of “private sector elements” in the war effort and it tweren’t pretty.

Incidentally, literally hundreds of employees have been killed, led by those from Dick Cheney’s old boss, Haliburton, and SAIC in San Diego.

Westhusing had his own problems with the contractors. In April of this year, friends, family and colleagues began to notice a darkening of his mood. E-mails home got cryptic and creepy.

Here’s some from the article itself:

“Then, in May, Westhusing received an anonymous four-page letter that contained detailed allegations of wrongdoing by USIS.

The writer accused USIS of deliberately shorting the government on the number of trainers to increase its profit margin. More seriously, the writer detailed two incidents in which USIS contractors allegedly had witnessed or participated in the killing of Iraqis.

A USIS contractor accompanied Iraqi police trainees during the assault on Fallouja last November and later boasted about the number of insurgents he had killed, the letter says. Private security contractors are not allowed to conduct offensive operations.

In a second incident, the letter says, a USIS employee saw Iraqi police trainees kill two innocent Iraqi civilians, then covered it up. A USIS manager ‘did not want it reported because he thought it would put his contract at risk’.”

Westhusing reported the allegations and an ensuing investigation revealed what such fox-guarding-the-henhouse exercises tend to reveal - nothing.

One U.S. military official, naturally requesting anonymity, said, “As is typical, there may be a wisp of truth in each of the allegations.”

“Wisps” of truth are not much different than truths themselves, especially if the “wisp” part included the death of innocent people.

Westhusing killed himself, according to the military investigation that followed his death. The deceased’s family is not so sure. They fear danger may have lurked in the form of armed contract employees themselves, since the colonel was at odds with them.

the scribe, in all due respect, wonders what in the heck anybody running off to participate in the block party known as Operation Enduring Freedom was expecting.

Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach is the psychologist who reviewed Westhusing’s communications. She concluded that he, “struggled with the idea that monetary values could outweigh moral ones in war.”

One has to wonder what administration he was watching sell this ghastly enterprise.

“Despite his intelligence,” she said, “his ability to grasp the idea that profit is an important goal for people working in the private sector was surprisingly limited.”

He thought war is hell, but war is... business.

the scribe would suggest that, like neo-cons Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle (and Christopher Hitchens!) Westhusing, before he took off for Iraq, was something an Ivory Tower soldier (the best kind).

These two guys were not:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today (11/28) released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Vernon R. Widner of Redlands:

“Spc. Widner gave his life in service of his country, paying the ultimate price in the struggle for democracy and freedom. This nation owes him and his family a debt of gratitude we can never repay. Maria and I send our sincere condolences to Vernon’s friends, loved ones and fellow soldiers as they grieve for him during this difficult time.”

Widner, 34, died Nov. 17 of injuries sustained when his HMMWV was involved in a vehicle accident during convoy operations in Bayji, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Troops Batttalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, KY.

In honor of Widner, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas of El Paso. TX:

“The loss of Lance Cpl. Terrazas painfully reminds us of the perils the members of our armed forces face every day. Miguel courageously took on these dangers, and Maria and I send our deepest sympathies to his loved one for their loss.”

Terrazas, 20, died Nov. 19 from injuries sustained as a result of an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the vicinity of Hadithah, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendletonn, CA. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
the highway scribe will read from the novel "Vedette" to the accompaniment of flamenco guitarist Omar Torrez at 33 1/3 Books & Gallery Collective, Dec. 15, 8 p.m. 1200 N. Alvarado St. at Sunset Blvd.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapters 54, 55, and 56

Chapter Fifty-four

Jordan drove over to Randall’s part of town so that they might get together for a smoke. The latter answered the door looking a little worse for wear. “Jeezus,” Jordan exclaimed, “you look like hell.”

In fact, Randall had been holed up for long enough with his smoke so that he actually looked a bit gray. The plan was beginning to work. He had a wheeze to his breathing and a rasp to his voice, not to mention other symptoms of chronic tobacco addiction. “Do you know how bad your breath smells man?” Jordan asked him.

“Nah!” Randall said, mashing a butt into an ashtray that spewed its own special brand of gray confetti. He moved in gray, his actions and gestures fragile, less dynamic this day than they were during The Smokers’ last meeting.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, “but when I’m on my own I feel the weight of this whole thing more. Who would think a few insolent people could end up in such a trial by fire?”

Jordan was bursting to tell Randall all about what real pressure was, about when the cops are following you around as a suspect for murder you were actually guilty of. “Got any pot?” he asked instead.

“Sure,” Randall said, pulling a preciously carved box out from a book slot in one of the many shelves that lined his otherwise featureless lodging. It was another gesture weighted with fatigue. Jordan noticed it.

“Hey Randall, listen, if this isn’t going to be irreverent fun why are you doing it?”

“There’s nothing fun about having the fate of people depending upon the correctness of your decisions,” he explained.

“Aw c’mon,” Jordan chortled, “who’s relying upon your wisdom for survival? Heck we’ll let your wisdom ruin us, but don’t blow yourself up. Whose life depends on you anyway?”

“Yvonne. She came to me for an idea and I got her into this lawsuit. Now her business is tanked and every day she’s subjected to some insult or other.”

Jordan pointed out that Yvonne had displayed the family jewels in a mass circulated publication and that her business and reputation were probably due for a thrashing, Randall’s “decisions” notwithstanding.

“Still, it sucks to watch her wearing down.”

Jordan was familiar with the impulse to encircle the woman in question around the shoulders, take her in, change her life, protect her.

“You gambled. You had to. You might even win the suit,” Jordan added a simple kernel to the philosophical archive. Randall shook his head ruefully.


“We were never going to win something like that,” he pointed out. “The enemy is too big.”

This came as something of a surprise to Jordan who thought the courts weighed issues on their merit, and saw no difference in the subjects who came before them for redress and adjustment.

“So why’d we get into it?”

“To make them sweat with a little bad publicity and get her a settlement. The woman wanted some satisfaction. She thought the pictures had faded into the past; even thought that she’d been lucky to get paid, but never published, as it were. And she sauntered in here with her famous ass and big Chiclets teeth and convinced me I was the one who could help her. Lemme tell you man, a woman like that comes into your lonely smelly place, reeking of lavenders and jasmines and scents you’ve only read about in old books and you’re going to believe just about anything she tells you about yourself.”

Of course, that is nothing at all like a correct account of the deal made between Randall and Yvonne, during which he was quite coy and cautious, mindful only of the tactical possibilities to pulling the thing off. But he needed this seduction in the difficult moment, and only he knows why.

“Sucker for a pretty face, huh?” said Jordan.

“Anybody ever mention how you have an uncanny knack for distilling things to light water?”

“Not exactly in those words.”

The two of them sat glumly for a few moments, the problems of one considerably more severe than those of the other.

“So,” Jordan broke the silence, “what you’re saying is that we’re not going to be able to get a settlement.”

“Pretty much.”

“Well, I’m sure Yvonne will be alright. She’s hot and she’s hip and the desire of half the men in this city.”

“Maybe, maybe not. Then there’s Joya to worry about.” Randall explained Joya’s recent run-ins with the BID and the city’s prospective plan for outlawing sidewalk smoking altogether.

“Can they do that?”

“Sure, I guess.”

“I guess? I guess is a pretty chicken-shit answer.”

“Which am I, the chicken or the shit?”

“Take your pick. You need to suck it up and help these girls get through this

“Could you say just one original thing?” he broke into a rupturing cough (or it
broke into him) that startled J. “I’m beginning to feel sick.”

Jordan tried to hide his concern. “Corey said the doctor told you it would take years before this stuff caught up with you.”

“The doctor was wrong.”

“I guess that’s possible,” Jordan mentally backtracked through his own recent experiences with the medical profession.

Hoping to direct the conversation away from his frailties, Randall said that the lawyer he’d been flirting with – Geffner – wouldn’t budge off his asking price.

“Even with all the positive vibe and good press and hip activity around The Sidewalk Smokers Club?” asked J.

“Tried that on him. He said hip is its own death sentence. No sooner is it declared than it begins the downslide. That, he told me, is why he wears the suits he wears and these suits you would not believe,” said Randall, who was a natural dandy with little use for fashion and frivolities.

“What about another lawyer?” Jordan struggled to be the positive force. “One that’s a little cheaper and more idealistic?”

Randall explained how DeConcini hailed from that formula. “Their idealism aside, these people need to eat, too. Nope. Geffner’s price is the price you pay for guys who have lunch with judges at the Downtown Athletic Club and meet opposing attorneys on the golden links. Geffner’s the guy, but everyone except Clarisse is busted flat and we can’t afford him.”

“Clarisse won’t help with some of what Vindaloo Baxley’s been showering her with?”
When you make money, people know it and offer no shortage of good uses to which it might be put.

“Not yet,” Randall noted, “but I do have an option, it’s just not a very appealing one.”

“And?” Jordan pried.

“I’d rather not say,” Randall clammed up.

“Aren’t we doing things open and democratically?” J. insisted.

“Sometimes, but enough about this crap,” Randall said. “How are you doing?”

“Working on a new gal.”

Randall’s eyes lit up. Jordan figured him for a man who actually took joy at the good fortune of his friends, because it was his, too. He tied their disparate destinies together. “Really,” he said. “Tell me about her.”

Jordan did and for the remainder of this stay it seemed that Randall’s health improved a bit. Departing, he gave the guy a guy’s punch in the arm. “C’mon,” he prodded, “give me a little a that ol’ time bum philosophy for the road.”
Randall shrugged, “You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Chapter Fifty-five

“So lemme get dis right,” Clarisse stared at her husband in disbelief. “You want me to help pay for de case of de girl who maked you lose interest in me?”

Although Corey didn’t agree with every shading of Clarisse’s in that statement, he was forced to admit the larger point. “Yeah, that’s right.”

She wasn’t as angry as her interpretation of things made her sound. Clarisse was a good person and she had many conflicting feelings about the split. She wouldn’t have minded helping, but it wasn’t that simple with her. “Dat ees a lot of monee,” she stated the obvious.

Corey was a little desperate and so he said things that a more balanced and sensitive being might not have, such as: “C’mon! Vindaloo Baxley and that film crowd have been buffing you out for weeks now.”

“Well, dat ees why you are here, no?”

He nodded his sullen way right back to square one. She collected the victory without further plunder. There was a long pause for them to think. “Eet’s a lot. I am sure dis won’t go on forever. Maybe a year, two eef I get reelly lucky. So de monee I am getteeng I want to put away or buy a house; something for de footure.”

It was, he realized then, a future he no longer figured into, and that hurt. Worse, her reasoning mirrored his where the slim chances of a triumphant bum philosophy were concerned. Her plan was his plan: to get out of town with a stake at some point and never return save for dinner and basketball games. So there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot he could say. They still had much in common, or so it seemed.

“Look,” he lowered his voice in confidence. “We need the money and if you have to beg, a friend’s a good place to start.” (And he stopped a second to scribble this down.)

“So, maybe you sink,” Clarisse responded, awash in clashing hormonal responses, heart full of feeling for her ex.

“See that’s the thing. I haven’t known him too long, but a guy like Randall won’t sink. He smokes himself to death and he doesn’t even die. They make the bohemians that way for survival of the race. There’s less of them, but they’re like bad grass you can’t clear the yard of.”

Clarisse was not encouraged to invest by this characterization of the group’s de facto leader as a weed. She told Corey to get to the point.

“He’s been approached by a force more than willing to pay our bills…the tobacco lobby.”

Saying “tobacco lobby” was like saying cosa nostra; an influence to be vilified and resisted at every turn. Ad campaigns cooked up evil mascots to represent them and paid actors good at sinister sneer to portray their CEOs. Nobody liked the tobacco lobby. Not even smokers who sued to the tune of billions a year for selling them the things they liked to smoke. They had been tricked, they claimed.

The pair looked at each other, years of mutually held beliefs swirling around them. “Ees he going to take it?” she broke the silence.

“Like I said, this guy won’t sink.”

“But de tobacco lobby kills people,” she pointed out lest this had been overlooked.

“The dish soap people glued the top to their bottles so you can’t pour some water in and make a little more. We’re not crucifying them.”

“Dey cleans dishes, not kills peepul. What is da matter, boom philosophy dosen’t have a cute leetle saying for dis problem?”

“If you have to beg, a friend’s a good place to start.”

Corey then suggested how Clarisse might explain the situation to Vindaloo and some other luminaries she’d been permitted to party with of late. Clarisse explained that her success was based largely upon an association with The Sidewalk Smokers Club of multimedia fame. She felt that if The Smokers’ problems were laid bare for Baxley and Co., the whole game might be off, called on account of rain. Acid rain. “You mean they won’t think we’re worth it if they know we’re sinking and if they know we’re sinking they won’t be interested in your designs?”

“Das very good Corey. You know in this country dey only likes winners.”

She smiled and he returned it. This was the gift they had always longed to find in a mate and had discovered in one another. Once obtained, it had been a daily boon that lifted each’s spirit, but they had failed to nurture it and the same familiarity and connection almost imperceptibly became annoyance. Suddenly the smile was back and closer to what it was when they had first met and dreamed of playing with each other’s body parts in situations both private and semi-private.

“I understand,” he finally said. “Thanks for listening.”

Now that she had prevailed, Clarisse felt guilty. Things didn’t happen that way while they were married.

The conversation was unlike anything from their past. It was not a rewinding and unspooling of the baby dialectic that had nearly smothered their existence together.

It was about a tangible matter in the wider public sphere, for which each had an idea of what the solution might be. They were already successful in that they were known – a small world was watching – and there seemed something terribly large just within their grasp if they could only figure out what it was.

That she sensed the growth in Corey had nothing and everything to do with her suddenly missing him. When he smiled, the little boy all wives come to both cherish and despise came out. It was the little boy hurt by his father’s disapproval.

Clarisse was hurt that it was no longer her place to soothe him, because she was dying too, because doing things for him had, in the beginning anyway, been so satisfying.

On the table between them lay a magazine – a design digest, actually – with Vindaloo
Baxley’s “salon” on the cover, replete with many of Clarisse’s Pieces (she’d taken inspiration from Joya’s Joyas). Trixie Marie had never come so far, but of course, this did not make Clarisse at all happy. Now she missed the couples’ life, the confidence in social settings, the coordinated efforts – sometime unspoken and harmonic – the web of understandings that grows out of two people playing together against or along with everyone else. There was a variety in all that and now that she was beloved for her work, she had the time and luxury to look back and take measure of all they had possessed together, and how they had created it together. She began to realize that big things happen when you live small, while everything appears small when you live big.

Aside from Clarisse still being his legal wife, Corey now saw something he did not before. Yes, he was successful and she liked him for it, but she had liked him, with a few bumps in the road, when he wasn’t famous, too. This kept her affections authentic and pure in a milieu that was offering him love of a more counterfeit variety.

Chapter Fifty-six

No two ways about it. Joya dropped by Yvonne’s for sex. She came announced, for it was a personal belief that emotional ambushes, seductions and such were nothing but rape in the end. Joya, like many girls, had been through enough of such things in her life. She felt that lovemaking which left one of the participants confused, hurt, confounded or remorseful was not worthy of the name.

Joya also felt lovemaking itself should not be defined by a specific act or threshold of sexual activity. She said that for lovemaking to work, “ya gotta have as much love as you do makin’.”

And that love might only be a parting smile, a teardrop, the brush of a hand upon the beloved’s cheek, but it would be love. Joya now believed there is time and there will be time if the love is real. She was learning to romance not voraciously or lasciviously, rather patiently and honestly. Damn her.

And so, she called first and expressed (some) of her intentions clearly to Yvonne.

They were, in short, to discuss affections and intimacies and “Hon, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t even have to say ‘no’. Ya just have to deal with what’s been in the air. Or more, of course, if ya like.”

It is natural when confronted with such novelty and command to feel the lesser of two dancers; easy to feel that one is being led, however gently and considerately.

But Yvonne was growing by leaps and bounds, too; bedding down nightly with large doses of fear and insecurity that, when engaged and withstood, became bracing and invigorating. Like all The Smokers she understood that the fear is where the action is. Behind the fear shimmered life’s treasures and she was getting very good at finding its scent and following where it may.

Joya knocked and Yvonne opened the door – buck-naked.

Composure is one thing. Being a cadaver is another and we all know by now that Joya was no cadaver. And so, as most would have, she gasped.

“Huuuuuuuun,” she said, slipping inside the door, her Bic instantly flicked. “What on earth is it you’re trying to say?” The question was telling because it meant Joya was not biting this body language at the surface. It did not mean sex, or seduction or willingness. It was Yvonne talk, a thrust inviting parry.

“You’ve seen it all,” the hostess pointed out, “in print anyway.”

“Yeah,” Joya responded as she entered the space, “but I haven’t smelled it.”

Yvonne blushed and Joya breathed more easily at this breach in the newly minted goddess’s bulwarks.

Yvonne saw it. “I guess I’m not quite as indomitable as all that.” Joya, who was given to cornpone and subtle lapses of simplification found her friend’s big word very exciting and credible.

Yvonne led her in. The house was long and wide and empty, its floor hard-wooded.

There were no sofas, easy chairs or coffee tables. Instead the place was sparingly ornamented with five sculptures of differing size and expression; each enigmatic and requiring a moment’s brooding before finding the simple universal form beneath the crafted trickery.

“Are these Clarisse’s Pieces?” Joya asked and Yvonne nodded in the affirmative.

“Now I’m in love with her, too,” said Joya.

“You’re in love with everybody,” she said in her low way.

Joya was embarrassed.

“You should never fall in love with an artist over their art,” Yvonne cautioned. “These pieces,” and then she leaned her nakedness upon one that matched her length, but contradicted her curves with indentations and exclamations of its own, “these pieces are not Clarisse, they are her black magic, which I know you know.”

In that moment Joya became conscious of the danger she herself might be in. Yvonne, her self-righteousness and vulnerability aside, had chosen to model naked for a photographer years ago and the act itself said more than her simple claim to innocence and poverty. Innocents and the poor collect aluminum cans or work in sweatshops to survive, but stripping down to stay alive was a kind of black magic, too.

It suddenly felt as if she were in a prison with bent and twisted bars that distorted perspective and dizzied her up. Each sculpture began working its power over her and because the forms were novel and unfamiliar, Joya was slowly overcome with a kind of vertigo.

The place was devoid of compartments. It was one big room save for the kitchen which was tucked off to the side of the entryway. Joya had an interest in architecture and saw that something in the distribution of space was not quite right. “There were rooms here once weren’t there?”

Yvonne nodded the confirmation. “I had all the walls knocked out.”

“Hmm. How come?”

“So that my house reflected how I feel inside of my body, too.”

“And how’s that?” Joya wanted to know.

“Naked and open,” said Yvonne.

“Naked and open,” Joya repeated more to herself than for the benefit of both parties.

Something was happening. The absence of clothing, the disappearance of boundaries, had altered the rules of the game, and very subtly at that. Yvonne had created a world of openness in which there was no place to hide. The sculptures, whatever their intended functions might be, indicated an unusual home where common behavior had no place.

Joya was in enemy territory, a stranger. The dizziness persisted. She turned to the naked woman, inside and out, for body balance.

On Yvonne’s thigh there was something like cellulite, a minor imperfection, a protruding vein perhaps – she could not tell – and it spoke to her. As Joya moved her finger towards it, Yvonne looked down and, surmising the object of her curiosity, turned it toward the inquiring appendage. “Ya can’t see that in the layout,” Joya revealed something of herself.

Yvonne smiled knowingly. Joya had looked hard at those pictures. She imagined the Coloradan playing with herself in bed and she trembled a little. “They put make-up on things like that for the magazines and they brush your pussy over and over and over again.”

There was a mark underneath Yvonne’s left breast, a scar. Joya pointed at it. “Did they brush that?”

Yvonne sighed. “My master gave that to me.”


“I’m a slave. A man in the hills calls me when he wants and orders me up there to service him.”

“Oh, hon! Lincoln freed the slaves.”

The response hit Yvonne like a thunderbolt. Lincoln had freed the slaves. Joya pressed her advantage. “So what gives with the babysuit?”

“Even walking around town in a full-length faux fur, this is how I have felt since the whole thing started.”

Joya needed no further explanation. She understood; once everybody has seen you naked, the purpose of your clothes is cut by half – relieved of the concealing function, and reduced to simple sartorial talk.

“How does it feel?” she asked Yvonne.

“Why don’t you try it?”

“Here? Now?”

Yvonne nodded, Joya declined. “You seein’ me naked next to you is not the same as the whole world seeing me naked in a magazine.”

“How different is it?” Yvonne asked and, again, Joya began to feel dizzy, hunted.

She fought it. Successfully. She calmed down, breathed. They were making love in the way she liked it made. And it was what she had come for.

“It’s different in the way strangers feel for you and the way I do.”

Words are powerful tools and when armed with the essences of those who utter them, they can carry the caliber of cannon shot. Yvonne stepped back, but not consciously.

“Would you like some tea?” she asked.

Joya looked around. There was something impossible in the offer, incongruous and hard to imagine as relevant in any way. And so she accepted.

Yvonne walked over to one of Clarisse’s creations. It was long, head high, and triangular. It was a long triangle, really; the only geometric piece in the space, and for that, the least beguiling to both women. Yvonne reached around the back and the front popped open, and out, in two panels heretofore invisible: a silver teakettle of Arab insinuation surrounded by little glasses of opium-inspired filigree waiting expectantly beside it.

“Been steeping for a few minutes now,” she whispered. “It’s ready.” She began to pour as Joya looked around her and saw no better place to sit than at Yvonne’s feet.

So there she surrendered to the trembling between her thighs.

“How’d ya know I’d want tea?”

Yvonne tilted her head in the matter-of-factly way. “New maxim. Anything Randall doesn’t know, I do.”

“And that’s not bum philosophy?”

“No,” Yvonne said, “it isn’t.”

The glasses were filled and there was steam rising from them. It reminded each of the same thing. Joya reached into her bag and pulled out a pack of Virginia Slims. “Here’s a little gift,” and she tossed them to Yvonne who abandoned her calculated body appeal with a little squeal of delight; for that is the push and/or pull of vice. Yvonne sat down and crossed her legs and Joya agreed that, the demure posture aside, there was little left to hide.

“Did you,” Yvonne asked, “really mean what you said about wishing you hadn’t ever met us?” She sipped and a softness on her skin followed the liquid down her throat and into her midsection.

“I did hon. I really did. I jus’ feel like the whole thing wouldn’ta happened.”

“What whole thing?” Yvonne asked, knowing full well what her love maker meant, but desirous of a better definition than the one she was working with. Information and truth.

Joya sipped. “You know, the whole thing!” and she waved her hand carelessly in the air. Yvonne felt sorry for herself and for her friend because Joya did not possess the gift of insight. That was Randall’s blessing. And she could see that even in the working of so busy and well-exercised a mind as Joya’s, it took a lot of hours of cigarettes before such insight surfaced from the watery depths into which Randall dove and darted about almost naturally. “I just thought it was kinda fun, irreverent ya know? I played along. I lent my person to you guys, um to us, and I mean that, to us. But that helped make us the us and now they’re trying to make us illegal and your business is closed and Randall’s tryin’ ta kill himself with cigarettes and Jordan’s maybe goin’ ta jail –”

Yvonne coughed a little and some tea dripped out between her lips and onto one of her breasts. The girls both watched its stuttered descent, like good sport. “Why would Jordan be going to jail?”

That cat was out of the bag and there wasn’t a thing in the world Joya felt like keeping from Yvonne anyway. To belabor the point: this was their great lovemaking in surroundings markedly altered by new rules where the truth was both golden rule and golden ring. So she gave her whole story and followed up with the requisite necessity that it remain between them and only them.

“Wow, is that why he cut his hair and dyed it?” Yvonne said when she was done.

While more intuitive than insightful, Yvonne could finally see now that Joya’s having been the glue that had brought the group together left her feeling responsible for all their present woes.

She felt it was simply not so and spent a long time in failing to win Joya to a contrary position.

Monday, November 21, 2005

On Bob Woodward

The picture posted here was taken by Fred W. McDarrah at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The photographer is Barton Silverman of the “New York Times” and what’s happening is that he’s getting arrested during a now infamous street battle launched by Mayor Richard Daley against the hippies who’d come to spoil his commercial party.

We run this today as the archetypal portrait of a true journalist and as counterpoint to Bob Woodward of the “Washington Post” who, after many years in the golden circle, has turned out to be anything but.

For those who lack the time to make heads-or-tails out of all the hoopla surrounding Woodward’s admission he’d been in on the whole “who outed Valerie Plame” scandal, the picture is meant to serve as sample of what journalism used to be like.

The link below is to an article by Tim Rutten of the “L.A. Times” entitled, “Woodward Joins a Decadent Dance,” which can be found here:,0,2580451.column?track=hpmostemailedlink

The business with Woodward turns out to be an embarrassing, but well-deserved revelation about what has happened since the scribe took up cudgels in the trade 22 years ago.

The profession’s reigning principal, at the time, was “Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted.”

After doing reporting that sunk a presidency and brought imperial power to heel, Woodward began to peddle a type of what we call in the biz, “trust me” journalism, wherein he got to talk with very important people he could not name, but whom you could rest assured, were only out to tell the truth (because they were telling it to him, Bob Woodward).

The whole point of journalism, of course (this is the primer) is truth for attribution. You don't meet a contact at his mansion or bunker. You meet him at the coffee shop, neutral territory, where lots of people can confirm the meeting. The matters you are discussing are of importance to the public. If they're not invited, in some way, to the party then something's amiss.

Here’s what Rutten had to say about this in his piece: “It’s a journalistic strategy style dependent on the cultivation of access to well-placed officials greased by promises of ‘confidentiality’. It’s a way of doing journalism that still serves the practitioners’ career interests, but less and less often their readers or viewers because it’s a game the powerful and well-connected have learned to play to their own advantage.”

This may be one of the reasons reporters have sunk in the public’s eyes and it would be deserved, too. A reporter’s allegiance is not to his career (read: self), but to his country; no less so than any soldier’s.

One of the running battles enemies of the Bush administration have been fighting is the notion that, if you surrender your rights and liberties to your government so that it might use violent policies to keep you “free,” well, then you’ve bought a pig in a poke.

Without a free press informing a concerned populace (and that’s a topic for another day) about what the powers-that-be are doing, you don’t have a democracy – just a big army that talks a good democratic game.

After reviewing some the administration’s recent manipulations of the media to fit a conservative agenda (the paying of journalists to ply the Bush line, pressuring public television by bringing on more [r]epublican staff, and the famous videos passed off as news pieces to pump up government policies), Rutten notes that Woodward, the “New York Times’” Judy Miller, “Time” magazine’s Matthew Cooper, and NBC’s Tim Russert, “are less tragic figures in a grand journalistic drama than they are sad – but willing – bit players in somebody else’s rather sorry little charade.”

And that’s not what journalists used to do.

the scribe remembers a time when the breed was still ink-stained, given to hanging out in bars, union halls and street corners, perpetually cantankerous toward and mistrustful of those they covered. The name of the game was to question authority and your press badge gave you special license to do so.

If you didn’t get “access” you slagged them and the bosses backed you.

But things are different now. As the media companies bought one another up, shrinking the number of papers and radio stations, while simultaneously homogenizing them, the jobs became fewer, but more lucrative because of the organizations’ mass reach.

Sometime around 1988, when you looked at journalists attending, let’s say, a campaign event for George Bush Sr., what you saw, instead of the usual shabby guys with bad breath and permanent scowls, were a bunch coifed masters-of-journalism from fancy schools and hair salons to match; or women who could easily have been drafted as actresses instead of anchorwomen, because the distinguishing characteristic was their prettiness.

Around that time the scribe went to see an agent at William Morris in Beverly Hills named Kenneth Lindner who represented news reporters on television. It took two days to get a portfolio in order for such an auspicious event, but Lindner never wanted to see what the scribe had reported or how. He wanted to know where his head shots were.

So that’s what’s up. You work at these places and you question nobody. Stories and what they should say are concocted by editors with an agenda, and if the reporter can’t match that story with the reality he/she finds on the street, the editor will rewrite the story anyway.

You do what you're told and provide the “content” that’s been requested. If you try to press some issue of journalistic ethics, in the old style, they’ll fire you, because there is no shortage of good girls and boys prepared to march lock-step to orders, simply glad to have a job and a byline.

It takes some chestnuts to confront the administration or some corporate interest in today’s climate. The sense that there is some adversity in the process of extracting information is smoothed away by the presence of public relations people hired at great cost to apply now well-tested strategies for disarming reporters.

They do it with niceness, free coffee, and cheese Danish.

You want to go ahead and ruin the party and pleasant atmosphere? Go ahead. Your performance will be duly noted and transmitted.

The result is Bob Woodward and July Miller and the rest of the suck-ups who wine and dine with the same people they are supposed to be keeping honest with the threat of revealing what’s not honest or above the board.

Rutten talks a little more about how the administration has taken to bullying the press, denigrating its individual members as enemies of their own country for having the temerity to question national priorities.

He observes how it has all gone largely unremarked upon because, “the administration has adroitly availed itself of the cultural complicity that prevails in a fin de siécle Washington press corps living out the decadence of an increasingly discredited reporting style.”

It is not the administration’s commingling of national virtue and purpose with its own policies that the scribe finds so appalling.

It’s that we’ve complied with their sinister little game.


the highway scribe will read from the novel "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows," to the accompaniment of guitarist Omar Torrez on Dec. 15, 8 p.m., 33 1/3 Books & Gallery Collective, Sunset Blvd and Alvarado St.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

No House of Death

highwayscribery has never made it a policy to publish all the statements regarding deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan released by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

We’ve done so the past two days to highlight the increased numbers in which these soldiers – either from or stationed in California – are now dying.

We have done so to make a point we shall not belabor. After today, this Web log reverts to the occasional reminder of this ghastly business. We will not let George Bush or Al-Qaeda or Al- Zarqawi or Al Franken turn our world, or highwayscribery, into a house of death.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Cpl. Jeffry A. Rogers of Oklahoma City, OK, Cpl. Joshua J. Ware of Apache, OK, Lance Cpl. Roger W. Weeds of Biloxi, MS and Lance Cpl. John A Lucente of Grass Valley, CA.

“These Marines were stewards of the safety and freedom we enjoy. Maria and I join all Californians in sending our deepest condolences to the Rogers, Ware and Deeds and Lucente families as they mourn these brave men. Their legacy will continue on in our hearts.”

Rogers, 21, Ware, 20, Deeds, 24 and Lucente, 19 died Nov. 16 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces during Operation Steel Curtain in Ubaydi, Iraq. Deeds, Rogers and Ware all dies as a result of enemy small arms fire and Lucente died from wounds sustained from an enemy hand grenade. All four Marines were assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of Rogers, Ware, Deeds and Lucente, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Matthew J. Holley of San Diego:

“As Spc. Holley’s friends, family and fellow soldiers mourn his tragic loss. Maria and I send them our prayers and our deepest condolences. Mathew served his country with honor in life, as he did even in death. There is no greater sacrifice to be made.”

Holley, 21, died Nov. 15 from injuries sustained as a result of an improved explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations in Taji, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, KY.

In honor of Holley, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of 2nd Lt. Donald Rr. McGlothlin of Lebanon, VA:

“Lt. McGlothlin served his country with courage and dedication and we are profoundly saddened by this tragic loss. Maria and I want to convey our condolences to Donald’s family during this difficult time. We will remember his sacrifice with profound and humble gratitude.”

McGlothlin, 26, died Nov. 16 as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire while conducting combat operations against enemy forces during Operation Steel Curtain in Ubaydi, Iraq. He was assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA His unit was attached to 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of McGlothlin, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Jeremy E. Murray of Atwater, OH:

“Maria and I are saddened by the tragic loss of Sgt. Murray. His sacrifice is a reminder that we have the brave men and women of the United States armed forces to thanks [sic] for preserving our freedom and our safety. Our prayers are with his family and friends as the mourn Jeremy.”

Murray, 27, died Nov. 16 as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the vicinity of Hadithah, Ira. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Ca. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of Murray, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

On Thursday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m., the scribe reads from the novel "Vedette or Conversations with the the Flamenco Shadows" at 33 1/3 Book & Gallery Collective, 1200 N. Alvarado (at Sunset). The marvelous guitarist Omar Torrez will provide accompaniment

Friday, November 18, 2005

Scott Zubowski, redux

highwayscribery received a post by Trader Rick this morning. He had been doing searches for Scott Zubowski, one of the slain soldiers honored by Gov. Schwarzenegger in the prior post:

"God Bless Scott Zubowkski, a patriot and hero in the fight against Global Terrorism. For those who have fought for it, Freedom has a sweet taste the protected will never know. You will never be forgotten Scott."

Well, the scribe and Trader Rick may differ on exactly why Scott died, but they are united in their lament. Here's a little more from Trader Rick's blog on Zubowkski:

March of the Wooden Soldiers

Three press releases from the Governor’s office in the past two days. And gone are the times when one soldier got one statement. As you can see from the following, now up to three are sharing a single document. The flag’s at half-staff, but despite the claim of these sad documents, you can no longer tell on whose behalf it has been lowered.

Here at highwayscribery, we will begin dispensing with the headlines affixed to the governor’s statements and just reproduce the body of the text so as to keep pace with the increased clip of casualties.

They’re beginning to die in clusters, which is bad, but not nearly as bad as those who have passed in Iraq. What’s all this business about the use of “white phosphorous” in Fallujah? Isn’t that chemical warfare? Isn’t it illegal? There were some stories two days ago, but they seem have been pushed back into the alternative stream. There should be headlines.

Anyway, on to the remembrances:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Maj. Ramon J. Mendoza Jr., of Columbus, OH, Cpl. John M. Longoria of Nixon, TX and Lance Cpl. Christopher M. McCrackin of Liverpool, TX:

“Courage and honor are cherished by the USMC and these values were embodied by the soldiers we mourn today. These three Marines bravely committed themselves to protecting and advancing the cause of freedom, and their sacrifice will not be forgotten. Maria and I offer our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Mendoza, Longoria and McCrackin families.”

Mendoza, 37, and McCrackin, 20 died Nov. 14 as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forced during Operation Steel Curtain in New Ubaydi, Iraq. Longoria, 21, died Nov. 14 of wounds sustained from small arms fire while conducting combat operations against enemy forces during Operation Steel Curtain in New Ubaydi, Iraq. All three Marines were assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of Maj. Mendoza, Cpl. Longoria and Lance Cpl. McCrackin, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Jeremy P. Tamburello of Denver, CO:

“Lance Cpl Tamburello carried with him the highest ideals of our country, and we are grateful to him for his service in protecting our freedoms. Maria and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to Jeremy’s family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Tamburello, 19, died Nov. 8 from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operation just west of Rutbah, Iraq, He was assigned to the 1st Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Tamburello, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Lance Cpl. David A. Mendez Ruiz of Cleveland, OH and Lance Cpl. Scott Zubowski of Manchester, IN:

“There is no higher calling than to fight for one’s country in the struggle for freedom. Lance Cpl Ruiz and Lance Cpl. Zubowksi served this nation with determination and dignity. Maria and I send our deepest condolences to these two Marines’ families as they mourn them.”

Ruiz, 20 and Zubowski, 20, died Nov. 12 as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Amiriyah, Iraq. Both Marines were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7 th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Ruiz and Lance Clp. (sic) Zubowski, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Don't forget, the scribe will read to his novel "Vedette" to the accompaniment of the marvelous flamenco guitarist Omar Torrez at 331/3 Books & Gallery Collective, 1200 N. Alvarado, L.A. Califas, 8 p.m. Dec. 15.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Emilio's Carnival

the highway scribe just finished reading “Emilio’s Carnival” by Italo Svevo.

Brandishing lit blog pretensions, while mostly bitching a lot about the (p)resident, the scribe never once considered mentioning the other 25 books he's read this year, instead burdening himself with plans for special pieces, independent of his reading, that only served to weigh him down.

If that seems like an obvious thing to do, than good for you. It never dawned upon the purveyor of this publication until he went onto a blog called “so many books” the woman who runs it tells you about everything she’s reading.


Anyway, Italo Sevo, as you might have guessed, was from Italy, although his prose is more Svevo than Italo and very Mitteleuropa, with his hometown of Trieste being a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during his residence.

the scribe first heard of Svevo about two years ago while his was browsing at Book Soup up on Sunset Blvd. There was another book of Svevo’s there (title forgotten) that was done up in a bright yellowish-orange card stock with a neat painting inlaid to a small panel on the cover.

Books, whether we like to think much about it or not, are objects. The contents themselves remain code directed at varying types of minds, but the cover and size and ink and font are confected for the eyes, and usually with an aim to please them.

the scribe can admit that he will buy a book if it looks good as objet d’art.

A few years ago at the Sky Bar Halloween party (by the pool) the scribe went as a French intellectual with a long jacket, beret, horned rim glassed and big green book of Montaigne’s writings. He and Mrs. Scribe stole the show, she dressed as the French intellectual’s little French maid. There are many who think Mrs. Scribe’s black stockings and garters were the cause of the coupling’s social triumph, but Mr. Scribe says it was the book, even if observers could not tell the drawings within were by Salvador Dali.

But the scribe digresses.

According to the guy who wrote the introduction of the edition with which we are here concerned (Yale University Press, Henry McBride Series on Modernism and Modernity), Victor Brombert, Svevo’s real name was Ettore Schmitz.

He wanted to write as a young man, did, and then quit, “wounded by unsuccess,” according to Brombert. He got married, had kids, and worked in the wife’s family’s paint business. Years passed, lots of them, and he met James Joyce who was in Trieste teaching English.

Joyce liked his book. You can fill in the rest.

The book’s real name is “Senilitá.”

Here’s how Brombert describes the condition: “[I]t suggests a special sensibility (some people are indeed born old); or better still, a special kind of inertia of the dreamer, a modern version of acedia, or ironic ennui - devoid, however, of the metaphysical dimension Baudelaire gave to that term. ‘Senilitá’, in Svevo’s perspective, accompanies the tragic sense of existence; it represents a permanent premonition of life as a disaster, a deep skepticism concerning one’s own potential, a ceaseless meditation on vulnerability and death, a wisdom that can be put to no use, an awareness of the unavoidable loss of that which one never possessed, a suffering sharpened while consciousness views itself as object and subject.”

Anyway, Joyce liked the title “Emilio’s Carnival” for the English edition. Svevo was against it, dead-set against it, and to show you what happens even after you’re a famous and dead scribe, there’s the title that stands: Jimmy Joyce’s title rather than the author’s.

The book entails the wacky interior ups-and-downs of Emilio (it’s his carnival) who lives alone with his sister, doesn’t have a very exciting career, and, because of these circumstances, falls for a girl from the working classes named Angiolina.

She’s quite hot this girl, hot enough to interest other men in the class above her own. Emilio becomes a lover she can apparently take or leave, acceptance often a question of whether she’s in trouble and needs him at a certain point.

He slowly, or maybe quickly, catches on to the fact that the girl of pure and fleecy soul he’s concocted to match this girl of pure and peach skin is a fake; that looking virtuous and being virtuous are completely different things.

Of course, he’s dipping downward and, in the conventions of his time, worthy of his own disgust so that he really never feels up to protesting her transgressions with much fervor. When he does, she invariably puts out, which tends to wash whatever thing he’s been cooking up during idle days out of his frenetic brain.

Simultaneously, he’s living with his sister Amalia. Amalia did not wander out of Ayn Rand story. She is needy, dependent, meek, and suffering from low self-esteem, and itn doesn’t get any better for her once he starts skulking around with Angiolina, sexing her up at home while mom’s in the dining room mopping.

A working girl’s gotta do what a working girl’s...

Anyway, she’s no good, and his best friend Stefano Balli, a sculpture, does what he can to convince Emilio of this, but to little avail. She shines, she is bright, his life does not, is not. She calls, he comes.

It doesn’t work. He tries to teach her his intellectual brand of socialism only to learn she hates her own class and would rather whore herself than be identified and bound to it. He tries to teach her virtue, she responds with chronic, almost innocent, lying.

Angiolina calls...

Somewhere while this has happened, Emilio’s sister Amalia has sunk into an alcoholic dissipation. So consumed is he with the, “should I, should I not?” of life with Angiolina that Emilio doesn’t realize Amalia needs help until it’s too late.

Even in her dying night, he heads off to Angiolina for one more row that finally ends it.

If you want to know what happens next, well, nothing happens. Which is somewhat the point of the thing and why “Senilitá” is a better name than “Emilio’s Carnival.”

Worth a read. A look at the sexual tension festering beneath the mores of early 20th century European and bourgeois values and a fine example of how Sigmund Freud was burning a new consciousness into the best minds of his era.

“Trieste,” Brombert writes, “itself became a literary subject for Svevo, whose writings remain associated with city’s physical and mental setting, much as Balzac is linked with Paris, Joyce with Dublin, and Kafka with Prague.”

So take a trip to Trieste.
Don't forget, the highway scribe will read from the novel "Vedette" to the accompaniment of flamenco guitarist Omar Torrez at33 1/3 Books & Gallery Collective, Dec. 15, 8 p.m. 1200 N. Alvarado (at Sunset).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Unreal America

Jimmy Carter hammered the Bush administration in an Op-ed piece picked up by the “Los Angeles Times.”

It was entitled, “This isn’t the real America” and, once again, we undertake one of our favorite practices here at highwayscribery: Mixing the words of an eminence gris (without their knowledge) with those of that rascally, unsavory, and poorly bred highway scribe.

If you think there's nuthin' to it, do a Google search with the names highway scribe and Jimmy Carter to see what happens. the scribe dares ya.

Here's the piece:,0,4858178,print.story

Further evidence the shield of (r)epublican dominance is cracking, Carter’s pile-on piece is, to his credit, a statement of ideas he has held forth on throughout the Bush years. Thoughts that garnered him a Nobel Peace Prize, thoughts he articulated before a national audience at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

The difference is that now, finally, people are more willing to listen.

The former President, someone the scribe refers to “as the best mistake this country ever made” dressed the administration down from its spats to its top hat.

He opened with a direct hit using a sharp point: “In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and [r]epublican.”

Which principles are those? You know the laundry list, but it’s fun to hear it shouted out into the bright light of day.

“[E]ndangered are our commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.”

(the scribe excerpting those passages that affect his life directly)

“Instead of cherishing our role as the great champion of human rights, we now find civil liberties and personal privacy grossly violated under some extreme provisions of the Patriot Act,” Carter wrote.

And who can forget the administration’s embrace of torture?

Not Jimmy Carter: “It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate ‘cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment’ on the people in U.S. custody.”

The administration’s policies, he said, have left the U.S. as “a prime culprit in global nuclear proliferation.”

For those who insist that Democrats only criticize and lack their own vision, President Carter doesn’t strike with lightening, but humbles us with homily and basic requirements:

“As the world’s only superpower, America should be seen as the unswerving champion of peace, freedom and human rights. Our country should be the focal point around which other nations can gather to combat threats to international security and to enhance the quality of our common environment. We should be in the forefront of providing human assistance to the people in need.”

Now the scribe asks, What’s wrong with that for a platform and direction?


highwayscribery has been remiss in updating the situation of animal rights activist Nicole Fink, who has been in jail for 79 days, not for any crime she committed, but for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury about someone else’s crimes. U.S. District Court Judge Irma Gonzalez gave up for the third time, convinced holding the Compassion for Farm Animals activist was not going get a testimony from her. The judge had already released two young people being held under the same pretense (“As Much as You Can Stomach, redux” Oct 7).


And don't forget. the scribe will read from "Vedette" with a lot of help from ultra-flash guitar wiz, Omar Torrez at 33 1/3 Books and Gallery Collective, 1200 N. Alvarado St. (at Sunset), 8 p.m., Dec. 15.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapters 51, 52, and 53

Chapter Fifty-one

Jordan had pulled out of the telephony system to get below the radar, skip out of the matrix, ditch the man, as it were. So Joya came by to roust him up. “Hon, Yvonne’s gettin’ cold feet and there’s gonna be a meeting about the next step for us!” She seemed quite exercised about the whole thing. Joya’s treatment at the hands of the BID was very unkind and she was not used to it, because she had never truly been pushed outside of things before.

Jordan had the problems of a suspected murderer to deal with and would rather have stayed in and avoided any more trouble. But this was Joya and she had been there for him and so he committed. “The Argentine place – 10 p.m.”

Rolling out at the appointed hour, Jordan noticed an obvious-looking man in suit and tie reading a paper behind the steering wheel of a car, which was parked across the street from his place. He tailed J. for a while before disappearing almost imperceptibly.

At the restaurant there was not a seat to be had. It was hard to breath with all the smoking. The waiters ran about emptying ashtrays and there was a grainy film to the air.

The Argentine, of course, was in deep. He’d been fined by now; the price of his own notoriety. Letting people smoke had been part of a different business model, the kind that was slowly cultivated and easily managed. But with his place becoming an unofficial sanctuary for the persecuted tobacco inhalant, he too was into something he could not get out of. Things had gone beyond his control. Strange and new customers stepped in and fired up without so much as a nod to the house rules. They sneered at his accent.

But business was booming. What would come would come, for the small entrepreneur cannot permit the luxury of long-term planning. The seats were full and that was his particular mission in life.

The all-stars occupied their assumed and official table. The people around them were proper enough not to stare, but noted how only the core group had been convened. No city attorney or Vindaloo Baxley or Hat Midone. No Trixie Marie, whom we know only through her work (and would never have been there).

It is hoped the fever-pitch at which each of The Smokers’ lives was being experienced at this point is clear. If not, please take our expository word for it: They’re a light-hearted bunch, but things were sure getting heavy.

“Things are sure getting heavy,” Yvonne kvetched. As the focal point of the campaign, she lived in a kind of perpetual embarrassment over her naked layout, which sold and sold, engendering further debate and more sales after that. She was on the front line and had already made her discontent known.

“They sure are, hon,” said Joya, who was profiting in measures equal to the Argentine restaurant owner, so that her plaintive utterance was more surprising, less expected than Yvonne’s.

“Yeah,” said Jordan, “I mean, I think somebody is following me.”

They stared at him (save for Joya), rightly mystified because Jordan was mixing up problems of his own making with those of The Smokers who were, as yet, unworthy of surveillance (or at least they thought).

“I kinda wish I’d never met alla you,” Joya said to crushing effect on her smoke-mates. Of course she didn’t really mean it that way. Yes, her business relationships were disintegrating like an acid tab on a hippy’s tongue, but the business itself was hale and hardy and they thought she didn’t have grounds to say something so deflating. Randall, always two or more steps ahead of everyone else, knew that she felt personally responsible for The Club’s plight merely because she’d served as a kind of sexual glue in the early formative period, which wasn’t very long ago, but certainly seemed so. “Why dare are peeple following you?” Clarisse returned to Jordan.

“I think we should try to answer Yvonne’s concerns,” was the best he could do to switch the focus of things.

“Yeah,” Corey unwittingly assisted, “Yvonne’s the one who’s taking the brunt of this thing.” And he was genuine in this observation because he was having, perhaps, the best run of anyone and knew it. And because he had the hots for Yvonne he was rather attuned to her diminishing capacity for absorbing whatever vitamins Klieg lights emit.

“Why Yvonne?” asked Clarisse. “Who ees followeeng hare?” which was a good question to which Yvonne, had she less seasoning, could have answered “Everyone.”

Randall saw where all of this was going and decided to redirect. “It doesn’t matter,” he told Clarisse, before puffing long and blowing byproduct around the table as he stopped to look each of his compatriots in the eye.

“An you don’ looks so good,” Clarisse responded, echoing the sentiments of everyone present.

Randall sighed because he knew it was true, and because democracy is both slow and messy. “Well yeah, you know we’re using sickness as a strategy here. Once I’m down, they’re going to lift me up.”

That people were willing to listen and be lead around by a guy who cooked up such schemes should not come as surprise to anyone actually seeking direction and purpose in life. Inspiration is harder and harder to find in a world where purchase is the final fruit of any labor.

“Though you did not know it,” Randall continued, “you all wanted this, except maybe Yvonne. Clarisse is making money like she never dreamed. Corey and I are creating an audience and platform for bum philosophy. Yvonne – whatever her difficulties – is giving as good as she got. Joya is Joya to a whole city of people once unaware of her existence and Jordan…”

Well Jordan, occupied with serious matters only one of them could fathom, had been identified with, but was not of, the group for some time. He was not a part of these ongoing campaigns and media blasts, that was certain, but he was most definitely a militant (S)idewalk (S)moker. Whatever he lacked in organization discipline he gave back in street-(smoking) -cred.

Randall didn’t get into all of that. Rather he interrupted himself in order to get to the point because, in reality, he felt as bad as he looked. “Anyway, you’re surprised there are difficulties and complications that come along with the perks of notoriety. So am I man. And although I’m not sure we aren’t already too far along the path we’ve taken to turn back, far be it from me to tell you we can’t fold up the tent and go back to the quiet lives we were once living.”

“Extremely quiet,” they thought in concert, alternating between nostalgia and nausea at their prior, anonymous existences. A verbose group, nobody said a word and Randall took their silence as a decision to forge ahead…for a while.

“If not,” he went on, “there’s work to be done on a number of fronts. Yvonne has
additional legal concerns to be addressed. Her infamy isn’t going to help her one wit, just the opposite. The powers-that-be want to skewer her.”

“Well we haf dat lawyer,” Clarisse pointed out.

“Not any more,” Randall clarified to a silence that said The Smokers understood just how unsavory association with them had become. “You know, we’re winning the public relations battle and we’re losing it at the same time.”

“How’s ’at possible hon?”

“There are a lot of people watching man.”

This made them glad and Randall observed small, self-satisfied smiles break across everyone’s face except Yvonne’s.

“So we need more money,” Corey tried to invite some conciseness into the roundtable, but really, everyone already knew that. “We need a better legal team and we need some other kind of strategy that’s proactive and keeps our enemies on the defensive.”

This reintroduced some glumness to the table because, again, everyone was kind of exhausted by the length of the saga. Randall moved to pep folks up, but Joya beat him to the punch.

“Well, maybe who we’re becoming will bring someone else to us that ken help?” she asked/asserted in that inimitable Smokers’ style. Of course, we know what she’s up to, but the rest of them don’t, so they all just shrugged and hoped she was right.

Chapter Fifty-two

So, with little more than the last part of Chapter Fifty-one for guidance, each of The Sidewalk Smokers went back to their respective corners to see what it was they could do for themselves and for one another; living proof the universal finds itself in the particular and the other way around, too.

Driving home from the meeting, Jordan saw a man in a suit and tie tailing him. There could be no doubt that he was, in a subtle way, very much in jail. When he parked and headed down the walkway to his place, the fellow drove off, smiling. It gave him the chills. (“Fold up the tent and go back to the quiet lives we were once leading.”)

Acting upon the bum philosophy strategy for proactive, offensive action, J. walked into his place and picked up the phone to call Eilin. He made up his own tenet: “The worse she can do is say ‘no’.”

She picked up and spoke. It surprised Jordan who’d expected a voice mail. What she said does not matter. Only that her voice grew out of a safe and sweeter world than his and that he wanted that world. So, on second thought, what she said did matter, or at least how it was said.

He found her willing and open. His plan for a date was revenue neutral and still she signed on. A walk along the beach. That’s all he had for her and the response suggested it was more than she might have hoped for. So there it was. Things had been dark, but he’d let a little light back in and now they were only gray.

Soon thereafter, he got a call from the prosecutor handling his criminal charges against Armenian Power. She said there had been a postponement in the case, at the defendant’s request.

“Being the defendant sounds great,” he said wryly.

“For now,” she assured him.

There had been earlier postponements and the delay was killing Jordan. She’d advised him he should not file a civil suit for damages ($) until he had a guilty verdict in the criminal proceeding. And that was too bad, because litigation seemed the only path still available to fiduciary salvation.

Across town (and a few days later) Randall was ruminating on this very thing. It seemed to him that The Sidewalk Smokers Club’s rigorous use of the legal system offered proof the courts were the only way left for redistributing wealth, progressive taxation being discredited as it was.

For his part, Randall felt distracted from the development of bum philosophy. “It keeps going on and on,” Corey had complained, but the truth was that Randall could not get into a good groove of late. There were phone calls to be returned cluttering his schedule. Hat Midone showed up one night with a pair of easy marks and Randall had been too weak to resist. This, he felt, was a sure sign of his success; he knew that one’s productivity usually went up when fortune receded, because there was nothing else to do but work. Those who attain this understanding are artists. Those who don’t, aren’t.

The news he would soon get from Joya’s corner would not cheer the heart. A friendlier member of the BID informed her that the executive board had taken things a step further in addressing the problem of sidewalk smokers along their retail strip. Convinced by Thorpe and Diaz that using private security would be more expensive and legally treacherous they decided to let local law enforcement handle the matter so that the general public picked up the tab.

The Chief was thrilled with the inspectors’ performance. He had been worried they might birth a disaster and not believed them quite so capable of dumping the problem back into the police department’s lap.

Elephantine, the force found a malleable suburban city councilman, cornered by his own claims of being a “law and order” candidate, to carry their ordinance for a blanket prohibition on sidewalk smoking. Without it they could do nothing, with it, the sky was the limit.

And so the stakes had been raised.

The Smokers had been deemed (gulp!) subversive. The only answer to this, in a free society, is to eliminate the cancer at its source by suffocating all freedom. The move was tantamount to making illegal The Sidewalk Smokers themselves.


For the moment, the enemy was way ahead of The Club.

Chapter Fifty-three

Jordan saw a slice of blue in the blinds to the window over his bed. It was a sure sign that he was late for work. He slid some music in. The little machine on the floor began to put out a song he normally used to motivate himself for the onslaught of life at Java World, but failed to budge him. He could no longer tell if he was scared. The time of fluctuations was over. He permanently did not feel good and this made him reticent to move around. Jordan didn’t want to work at Java World. His recurring visions of the Armenian girl made him loathe to announce that he labored in the coffee service industry, for he suspected she would probably drop him like nobody’s business. The philosophy of romance holds that chemistry can indeed prevail; that when there is love, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. But Jordan wasn’t buying. He was selling. Out. “Every man has his price, but the moral man keeps his affordable,” Randall had told him once. Jordan’s price was a calm, nice, anonymous life with a woman who had question marks over her eyes. That was good enough.So he turned over and went to sleep for another five minutes, which of course did not suffice, so he took a few more. The phone rang. He answered to the soothing sounds of his boss yelling a small employer’s mantra of threats, woes, and pleas. He knew the drill. He apologized, hung up, and pulled himself out of Terra Jordania and back into the world.

He chose not to look at the ocean. In it he would see Eilin and he didn’t want her around yet. The golden light of the little coffee bar burned warm. A sporty car was parked out front idling. As Jordan approached the door, the pretty blonde from the fitness club came out, both hands occupied with white clumps of packaging.

“Hey,” she said, “I missed you this morning!”

He found her lightheartedness enviable enough to kill him. “Sorry,” was all J. could muster. She smiled a little and waved goodbye. He reached for the door. “Hey,” her voice carried from a little farther away now. He turned. She got back out of her car and took a few steps closer. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Question?” Jordan widged. “Question? I’m great at answering questions. Go ahead.”
She sensed his edge, but with an angel’s mission pushed gently on. “What the hell are you doing working in this place?”

He sat there for a long time.

“I thought you were good at answering questions,” she prodded.

“I am.”

“Well what do you say?”

“Thank you.”

She nodded as if to signal he’d gotten it right, mounted her horsepower, and rode off into the blue morning gloom. The door to the barn screamed in its joints as he pulled it open. “Jesus!” he winced.

“Jesus,” the Boss mocked him. “Maybe if you oiled it once in a while…”

The place was empty and something of a tense standoff was going on between Carlos and The Big Man.

“I will ask you again: Did you close the register last Sunday?”

“I weel tell you agang, yes I close it.”

“What were the total receipts?” the Boss continued his persecution.

“I don know. Jou tink I remember tha? Maybe seben hundre, like every Sunday.”

“It was three-fifty Carlos, that is what you reported. There’s no way this place only made three hundred and fifty dollars on a Sunday.”

Jordan could see Carlos was not really in the mood, so he decided to further sabotage his own existence. “C’mon Chris,” he said, “this guy practically runs the fucking place.”

Carlos nodded in adamant agreement. Chris was speechless at the audacity.

“I’m serious,” Jordan said to fill in the silence which he guessed to be working against him. “This guy’s the coffee captain, the colonel of cappuccino. He picks up bagels on his way in, covers for incompetent college kids. You’re busting him for being Mexican. Anyone of these people working here, the ones that come and go, are more likely to clip you than Carlos.”

Implicit was the threat of some kind of nightmarish lawsuit based on race discrimination. Jordan’s affiliation to The Smokers and their apparent affinity for litigation left no doubt in The Boss’s mind that such a thing could be done. He reworked his attitude. “That’s a beautiful speech Jordan, but you’re fired anyway.”

Jordan heaved a great sigh of relief. Carlos beamed with appreciation. Chris said, “He’s the one that checks the cash register. There’s really no way around it.

If there was an imbalance between receipts and cash he should have reported it or found the source of the problem before signing off.”

“I guess that’s true,” Jordan said before extending his hand, “Thanks for the job,” he smiled graciously, “it was a pleasure and helped me out a lot, too. I wish you well.” They shook and he bounded out jaunty, free for a day.

“Well what are you waiting for?” Chris asked Carlos.

“What jou mean?”

“What are you standing there for? Get out of here.”

“Am I fire or no?”

“What do you think?"

“Say it.”

“You’re fired.”

Carlos, who might have been a lawyer had he been born under a different star, knew those two words were worth some hundreds of dollars a week in unemployment insurance for the next six months. He appreciated Jordan’s strengthening his hand in a crucial moment and he wasn’t going to forget it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Out of Time

The (p)resident cheated last Friday by taking advantage of the silence and respect reserved for veterans of foreign wars to grab some easy headlines.

Perhaps the White House thinks it pulled something off by getting the Friday on-liners and Saturday print editions to detail w.’s “forceful” defense of “his” war.

the scribe would suggest there was a time the [p]resident could accuse people who opposed him of aiding and abetting “the terrorists,” but that it has passed.

At one time he was isolating a “far left” of loonies and Dead Heads. Now he is barking at three-quarters of the country.

And nobody believes him anymore.

(and chalk one up for the far left)

You may or may not have heard that the (r)epublicans cannot come up with a majority of themselves to pass a budget with national priorities for our near future. Some moderates, it would seem have jumped ship, while the Democrats have held firm.

That’s something like an opposition.

“The Washington Post” reported that even after convincing the Jesus caucus to surrender for another year its cherished dream of pounding another hole in the virgin world (Arctic Natural Wildlife Reserve), some moderate republicans still wanted more.

They thought the plan went way too far in terms of cutting money for the tracking down of deadbeat dads, foods stamps, and other programs with humane ends that actually work.

All of this on the backs of Katrina, which CANNOT be paid for by a tax increase on, let’s say, windfall oil and gasoline profits.

“No can do,” said the moxy moderates (moximods) and so today, Monday, they’ll all get out their knifes and make further mush out what should be an easy peach pie to parcel.

In the Senate, Maine’s Olympia Snowe, Republican, joined Democrats in canning another of these attempts to extend who knows what set of tax cuts another year. She said the breaks were designed to mostly benefit the rich and that, “We’ve had three hurricanes for heaven’s sake,” (or something to that effect).

Here’s her number (202) 224-5344 just in case someone wants to call her and say, “That was extremely cool, Olympia.”

Here’s what the official geniuses had to say: “The twin setbacks added to growing signs that the [r]epublican party’s typically lock-step [goose-step] discipline is cracking under the weight of Bush’s plummeting approval ratings, Tuesday’s electoral defeats and the increasing discontent of the American electorate. After five years of remarkable unity under Bush’s gaze, divisions between [r]epublican moderates and conservatives are threatening to paralyze the party.”

Omar Torrez in “Hold On” does a rap with this riff:

“I say it’s self-evident
that our president
is not Superman in cape
he’s not a cowboy,
he’s an ape.”


and the scribe says there is NOTHING like plummeting approval ratings.

Omar and the scribe will present some passages from the scribe's alter ego's novel, "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows," at 33 1/3 Books & Gallery Collective on Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. Sunset and Alvarado, Los Angeles.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

See Change

Read the papers and see that the country has changed.

From the “L.A. Times” a heartening piece about the demise of the “blow-up boxes” governator:,0,1938532.story?coll=la-home-headlines

James Goldsborough, who left the “San Diego Union-Tribune” over the contents of a column, declares the administration’s war policy a failure by evidence in, “Remember When Presidents Were Welcome?”

“We have,” he writes, “wrecked a nation and been trapped in its civil war,” which is what the scribe calls boiling things down to their essence.

Here’s an article about the Washington D.C.-based “Nation” and its refusal to endorse anymore candidates that don’t call for a clean and unremitting pullout of troops in Iraq:

In his post-election e-mail, “Reality 2, Bush 0”, Sen. John Kerry claims to have gathered 200,000 signatures (20,000 a day) calling for the permanent withdrawal of 20,000 troops from Iraq by Christmas.

He’s looking for 200,000 more:

The “L.A. Times” treated liberals to a lovely pair of filets. The first parroting the general editorial line nationally that the (r)epublicans are sinking:,0,461441.story?coll=la-home-nation

And a second regarding the House of Representatives, hot house and sending source for all the hoo-hah and freedom fries in American governance, quietly dumping their plan to drill in the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge (“Oil Drilling in Alaska,” Nov. 1):,0,6261945.story?coll=la-home-nation

This is what we call retreating folks.

There is a cleansing and restorative effect to it all. Not in seeing running dogs run, but in a sense that however slowly, vox populi can redress its own mistakes. Mistakes like voting for Schwarzenegger or whooping it up over a war that was unprovoked and a textbook case of instant bad karma.

There is, also, satisfaction in being right; not by virtue of some ingenious foresight, but in abiding by old and tired chestnuts like war is hell, and stale but truthful maxims that you shouldn’t do to someone else (or another country), what you wouldn’t like done to you.

Even in such tremendous and trembling times, these simple guidelines can save us.

The question is how can we advance toward the land of milk and honey, where the earth is cherished and its riches enlighten the life of each living soul, when the thinking, power-wielding forces in our society refuse to accept them?