Sunday, October 30, 2005

Beverly Hills Ballot Party

the scribe attended a ballot party at the home of Ellen Stern Harris (pictured in cloudy fashion here), Doyenne of the activist world in Beverly Hills and environs.

In all, or at various times, 18 enlightened folk of differing political stripes and talent were on hand to get educated on the convoluted California “voter initiatives” up for consideration Nov. 8.

Worthy of mention were the carrot cake (from some famous bakery the scribe forgot to record) and the striking coconut cake sitting right next to it. Ellen also served coffee in some very cool coffee/tea china. The cakes were for Ms. Stern Harris's birthday (28) and we wish her a happy.

In her customary manner, the hostess invited everyone to talk a little about themselves and then interrupted to give her own version. This is standard procedure to which everyone acquiesces at these rather legendary events, because nobody can inflate the accomplishments of her friends quite like Ellen can.

The proceedings were then handed over to Bob Stern who, as always, ably guided the collection of opinionated chatterboxes through eight complex ballot initiatives in three or four hours' time. Stern is something of a crusader for clean money in political campaigns who appears a lot on radio and television shows.

the highway scribe knows this because whenever he’s taking a shower or reading or doing something very important for Western Civilization, Mrs. Scribe can always be counted upon to interrupt him by saying, “That guy Bill Stern from Ellen’s ballot party is on the radio/television!”

“It’s BOB!” the scribe will invariably edit her.

Anyway the initiatives were addressed in varying degrees of depth, and in numerical order, until some mucky-muck from the energy industry showed up and caused a jump to Prop. 80.

But the meeting started with Prop. 73, which would require doctors or health clinics to notify the parents of a minor 48 hours before she was to undergo a fetal termination (abortion).

There was not much discussion on this particular topic. A fellow and former business writer at the "L.A. Times" asked an important question regarding which parent would have to pay for the abortion in the case the child came from a split family. That’s because (the scribe thinks he got this right) once a parent is informed, their responsibility ($) for the girl’s welfare would kick in.

There was no answer forthcoming, which only served to point up the shoddy drafting of a conservative measure most present were convinced was designed to discourage doctors and health clinics from performing such procedures.

Bob Stern noted that the campaign in favor of this measure is very interesting because it is a “stealth” effort being waged through churches and not the television air waves.

Many people are unhappy about this expensive special election to sort out the sitting governor’s status with voters, and chances are turnout will be low. Such stealth campaigns would be very effective in this instance.

Theocracy not being much in favor among those gathered, the “straw vote” on this particular item was 15 against and 2 in favor.

Prop. 74 has to do with extending the time it takes for teachers to get tenure in California, from two to five years, and a few other issues the scribe blanked out on since he thinks most of this stuff is just a way for Schwarzenegger to weaken the opposition to his crappy ideas up in Sacramento.

Ellen’s brother (Fred?), who once sat on a Board of Education somewhere, held forth on the difficulties currently involved in removing a bad, tenured teacher from their post, saying it costs in the neighborhood of $350,000 per case to get this done, with the outcome uncertain. The upshot being, of course, that bad, tenured teachers stay on year after year in a system almost everyone agreed doesn’t work too well.

Folks went back and forth on this for a while, one lady pointing out that, while she’s all for reforming something that’s broken, this sounded like an attack on teachers.

The tally was 2 in favor, 8 against, and 7 undecided. The undecided category is a new addition to ballot party protocol and reflective of the complexity (or cloudiness) of the issues before California voters this year.

Next up was Prop. 75. This initiative would require public employee unions to get permission from their members to spend dues money on political purposes, causes, and candidates. Bob Stern pointed out that, were this to pass, the unions could be expected to circulate an ensuing initiative requiring the same permission from shareholders to their corporate boards.

the scribe felt this led to an unfortunate discussion about what that all meant when, in fact, this was an issue of union democracy and the governor trying to do away with his firmest opposition statewide.

Despite creeping middle age and disillusionment, the scribe launched into his outdated and impassioned defense of industrial unionism to what effect only those present know in their hearts. The vote was 9 no and 5 yes.

Then the mucky-muck (named Mark) from the energy industry showed up and a discussion of Prop. 80 was undertaken. From what the scribe could figure out (which wasn’t a lot) this measure would set right some of the colossal wrong established by deregulation of the energy industry in California a few years back.

Bob Stern said that, in general, this measure was meant to turn back the clock to the pre-regulation status quo, though not in any decisive or meaningful way.

the scribe noted that this measure failed his complexity threshold, because if he couldn’t figure it out, he didn’t expect his mom to either. That means regular folk have no business trying to sort it out and it should be left to the professional crooks who at least can boast of a technical proficiency.

Ten folks were in favor of this measure, 3 against.

Then there was a break for coffee and cake. the scribe didn’t want any cake and he told this to Ellen’s brother any number of times and still got the carrot cake for which he will be eternally grateful (attendees who know where the cake hailed from should let us know in a comment post, thank you).

After “tea,” as the Brits call such breaks, the group delved into Prop. 76, which seeks to address the California legislature’s chronic and perennial tardiness in passing a state budget as well as balance it.

It was agreed there were some good things in this measure, all of which were overshadowed by the provision that would empower the governor to cut where he wanted, without legislative consultation, to balance the ledger. It also would repeal Prop. 98 which carves out 30 percent of the general fund for education purposes. Eleven people were opposed to it, 2 were undecided, and nobody was for it.

Prop. 77 would do away with the legislature drawing district lines and preserving itself en perpetua. Three judges, appointed through a torturous process to take the politics out of this politics, would instead do the job.

Should the measure pass, the redistricting would have to be done next year instead of following the next census. Bob Stern said most county registrars and clerks are pretty sure they could never meet the deadline. That means the districts would be redrawn in 2008. The problem there is that the census information starts getting pretty stale by then.

No matter, 12 people were in favor, 2 opposed, and 2 undecided.

Props 78 and 79 were dealt with together. The former is backed by the drug companies and would set up a voluntary program that drug company’s could commit to for the purpose of rolling back their prices. Harvey, the retired doctor-cum-lawyer, scoffed at the whole darn thing and seemed to convince everybody it was all hooey. The measure was creamed 16 against to 0 in favor.

Prop. 79 would mandate discounts on drugs. Nobody is advertising in favor of it, while zillions are being spent by the drug companies to oppose it and pass 78 and so it looks like, despite its worthiness and necessity, Prop. 79 is dust. Eight present were in favor, 2 opposed and three undecided.

Three cheers for ballot box democracy.

When those opposed were asked to explain their position, one said something about “letting the market” handle it, but once Harvey the retired doctor-cum-lawyer and hostess Ellen shined a little light on the existing “market” for such things, the “no” folks changed their vote.

And that’s the way it was. Those present and divergent from this account are free to post a comment and set things right (at their own risk).

On December 15 the highwayscribe will read from his novel "Vedette" to the accompaniment of guitarist Omar Torrez, "the Latin Hendrix" It will take place 8 p.m. at 33 1/3 Books & Collective at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Alvarado.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Horsemeat redux

According to the Humane Society of America, all of you readers at highwayscribery have helped a lot to prevent the slaughter of wild horses for sale to foreign markets.

They say, “Dear highwayscribery, Thanks to your amazing work over the past several months, we have made unprecedented progress to protect nearly 100,000 American horses from being slaughtered for human consumption overseas...”

That’s a lot of slaughter and horsemeat.

To hear these good folks tell it, our prior protests and requests for help (“Horsemeat,” Oct. 22) helped carry the day (one day this past week) and turn “highwayscribery” into a name almost as universal around Washington D.C. as “Scooter.”

They say the House-Senate conference committee kept the amendment in the agricultural bill that highwayscribery wanted and that these precious animals will not be killed to pad the wallets of American ranchers and stomachs of French bistro-goers.


Of course, as such things go, the battle is perpetual and the Humane Society would like you to support two bills - HR 504 and S 1915 - that would make the ban on horse slaughter a permanent thing so that next year, instead of disputing this issue, we can worry about health care and free higher education for “our kids.”

Click here and the Humane Society will show you the way to make your voice heard:

The animals say “thanks.”

On December 15 at 33 1/3 Books & Collective, corner of Sunset Blvd. and Alvarado, the scribe will read from "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows." Here's a review of it: He will be accompanied by the wonderful guitarist Omar Torrez

Friday, October 28, 2005

In Memorium - Rosa Parks

Sorry for the gap in posts folks, but the scribe was on the highway doing some jour-na-lism. He was also particularly excited about the Chicago White Sox post and wanted to be sure you all read it. Here's something that was supposed to go up a few days ago:

People, today, even though the nation is not segregated, could help other people and be treating people as they should be treated. And, people should not have prejudiced attitudes. Prejudice is the worst thing you can have against another person – regardless of race or creed. Rosa Parks, 1997

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Chicago White Sox in American Literature

“Manager Callahan called us all to his room after breakfast and give us a lecture. He says there would be no work for us the first day, but that we must not take the training trip as a joke. Then the colored trainer give us our suits and I went to my room and tried mine on. I ain’t a bad looking guy in the White Sox Uniform Al. I will have my picture taken and send you boys some.”
from “You Know Me, Al,” by Ring Lardner (pictured in the hat).

Bear with the scribe here folks, as he tries to cram World Series fever into his Web blog of political and literary pretensions.

The genesis of this particular post was born with a King Kaufman article in on Oct. 21. King is a fun sportswriter and you get to kick it back and forth with him by e-mail when he's not overwhelmed.

The gist of his piece was that...well let’s just quote him: “Wretcheder than a Red Sock, more unsuccessful than a Cub, able to leap Tigers and Indians in a singular quest to avoid pennants, the White Sox have built up none of the mystique and tragic beauty of some of their fellow losers...”

This was Kaufman’s lede paragraph, the unwitting subtext of which is that the SOX ARE HOT! Everybody’s lovin’ their gear with the cool White Sock (see image, again), their South-Side-wrong-side-of-the-trax Chicago allure, and their...just about everything.

The Sox are simply too hip and cool right now to resist.

As a humiliated Angels fan still smarting from the Wrath-of-Sox, that’s not easy to admit, but the scribe can (“Forebearance Please...” Oct. 12).

But that’s not going to stop King Kaufman, a guy with a deadline in search of a hook, from keepin’ on. He says that the Sox’ travails [that’s French for work, you know] are rooted in, “an unavoidable fact of American life: You need star power, but what you really need is a good press agent.”

The Red Sox, he said, “had the Babe Ruth thing, Ted Williams, Yaz, Fenway Park and the Eastern literary establishment. The Cubs had Hack Wilson and Ernie Banks, Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams and Ron Santo, Ryne Sandburg and Sammy Sosa. They had the ballpark and the celebrities, they had Harry Caray becoming a national figure on their payroll.”

the scribe couldn’t have disagreed more and he posted a letter on Salon pointing out that maybe the problem was rooted in the general illiteracy of our own people. the scribe was not suggesting Americans are illiterate in that they don’t read. No, somebody has to scan that instructions manual before the flat screen TV is affixed to the wall.

He meant they are il-literal when it comes to literature; for when it comes to the literary, few teams can count an American icon as one of its beat recorders.

Ring Lardner was a baseball writer for the “Chicago Tribune” back at the turn of the century, or perhaps better put, the 19-teens. The team he covered guessed it, the Chicago White Sox.

His signature piece, a collection of letters from hayseed and spitballer Jack Keefe, published first in “The Saturday Evening Post” [the Trib wasn’t interested] and later packaged in 1916 as the novel “You Know Me, Al,” used the White Sox world as a platform for some of the best, most entertaining literature around.

His fictional guys mix with the legends of the time - Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson, Babe Ruth, Joe McGraw - men Lardner drank and played cards with. His writing is a window on a distant time filled with ghosts of greatness.

Keefe was a hick from southern Indiana, Bedford to be precise, and a pretty dumb bunny whom good things happened to, in spite of his own decisions, thanks to the simple fact he could hurl a dead ball in a blazing manner.

But the scribe is editorializing. Here are a few sweet passages that capture Keefe’s vernacular and two from Lardner’s actual coverage of the 1919 World Series between the [Black] Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, which the boys from Chicago, led by Shoeless Joe Jackson, threw for gamblers’ money.

A Busher’s Letters Home:

In this first piece, Keefe writes Al from Cleveland on April 10, early in his first season as a pro player:

“The hotel here is a great big place and got good eats. We got in at breakfast time and I made a B line for the dining room. Kid Gleason who is a kind of asst. manager to Callahan come in and sat down with me. He says Leave something for the rest of the boys because they will be just as hungry as you. He says Ain’t you afraid you will cut your throat with that knife. He says There ain’t no extra charge for using the forks. He says You shouldn’t ought to eat so much because you’re overweight now. I says You may think I am fat, but it’s all solid bone and muscle. He says yes I suppose it’s all solid bone from the neck up. I guess he thought I would get sore but I will let them kid me now because they will take off their hats to me when they see me work.”

As it turns out, sometimes they do take their hats off, if only to hit him with them.

In this letter from Chicago nine days later, Keefe details the drubbing he took at the hands of Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers:

“They sure did run me wild on the bases. Cobb stole four and Bush and Crawford and Veach about two apiece. Schalk [the catcher] didn’t even make a peg half the time. I guess he was trying to throw me down...I come in to the bench and Callahan says Are Your friends from Bedford up there? I was pretty sore and I says Why don’t you get a catcher? He says We don’t need no catcher when you’re pitchin' because you can’t get nothing past their bats. Then he says You better leave your uniform in here when you go out next inning or Cobb will steal it off your back. I says My arm is sore. He says Use your other one you’ll do just as good.”

From Detroit on Sept. 6, near the end of his first season, Keefe recounts this exchange between himself, the manager, and Cobb:

“Then Cobb come over and asked if I was going to work. Callahan told him Yes. Cobb says How many innings? Callahan says All the way. Then Cobb says Be a good fellow Cal and take him out early. I am lame and can’t run.”

The next season, Keefe has some fun at the expense of the Washington Senators in an Aug. 22 letter from Chicago:

“P.S. Washington comes in tomorrow and I am going to ask Rowland to leave me pitch. The worst I can get is a tie. They scored a run in St. Louis yesterday and that means they are through for the week.”

These bits of pleasure are pulled from a tome entitled “Lardner on Baseball,” which the scribe bought from the discount dealer Daedalus Books for $5, hardcover ‘n all. The compilation is edited by Jeff Silverman who explains that the final section of the book, the only nonfiction entries included, involved Lardner’s coverage of the Black Sox and that nefarious World “Serious” [to quote Keefe] they threw.

Here’s Silverman: “Though quite capable of it, Lardner didn’t dream up the Black Sox; he didn’t have to. That darker side of the flesh that he refused to sugarcoat, personified by greed and a few other deadly sins, was already abroad in the land to do it for him. Lardner was its amanuensis, and if you read between the lines of his coverage, you’ll see how suspicious he was, and, given the restraints of his business, how clever he had to be in the implications of his reporting.”

Here’s one, original headline and all, that is downright eerie given some of the bad calls that have gone the White Sox' way this playoff season. Note the modern, almost Joycean, touches to what are nothing more than daily newspaper dispatches:

Gents: Lardner Says the Umpires Interfere With His ‘Dope’ on Big Series.

You Never Can Tell What They Are Going to Do Declares Expert Who Compares Players of Both Teams and a Few Who Are Not

Cincinnati, Sept. 28 – Gents: In doping out a conflict like the threatened world serious, an expert like myself works under a heavy strain as they’s no way of telling what those d––m umpires is going to do and in the case of a couple of even matched ball clubs like the White Sox and Reds neither 1 of which has ever lose a world serious why some finicky notion of some umpire is libel to raise havioc.

And finally, one more legend mentioned in daily paper prose:

Moran and Gleason Widely Different Types

The shortstops can be past over, as they seldom never cut any figure in an even of this kind, and that brings us to Weaver and Groh at 3d. base both of which is the greatest 3d. baseman in the game today. Comparisons is obvious but they tell me Heinie is libel to quit as for inst. when he was first born his old man said Heinie Groh and Heinie started but soon give it up.

The least said about the 2 outfields the better as they are about equally bad and the only chance for a arguement is who has the cutest nickname Shoeless Joe Jackson or Greasy Neale.

You may not agree, but the highway scribe finds all of this to be great stuff and told Kaufman so: “As old as the stories are, one gets a sense that little in baseball has changed, and that little with the Sox, save for this season, has changed either.”

So there you have it, lore and quality galore for the season's favored sons, the Chicago White Sox.
On December 15 at 33 1/3 Books & Collective, corner of Sunset Blvd. and Alvarado, the scribe will read from "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows." Here's a review of it: He will be accompanied by the wonderful guitarist Omar Torrez

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapter 45

Chapter Forty-five

“Hon, I’m a lesbian,” Joya told the city attorney on their second date.

“What do you mean you’re a lesbian?”

Joya did not know how she might respond to a query so idiotic and, alas, so demonstrative of the fact that, no matter how eminent or well-prepared one can be, streaks of stupidity run through (practically) all of us.

Though no great practitioner of bum philosophy, Joya made a mental note that she should make this contribution (No matter how well-prepared, streaks of stupidity run through practically all of us) to Randall’s creed.

But we must arrest the forward progress of things for a second and recap precisely how we got to a crazy point of confidence whereby Jordan is confessing murder and Joya is confessing her sexual preference before a mid- to high-ranking elected official.

That she was conflicted about City Attorney has been explained. Like her cohorts, Joya, in spite of her down-to-earth, no-nonsense personality, was somewhat taken with the fact so elevated a personage was taken with her. That she was lesbian did not mean Joya had never been with a man or was completely immune to a particularly debonair specimen of the gender. It merely meant she was more prone to feminine charms and things feminine; a weakness she shared with a little bit more or less than the entire human race.

The Smokers were completely au courant with what passed for café society in the city. That Vindaloo Baxley was buying Clarisse’s suddenly prodigious output was already news along the art gallery circuit. That Randall’s intellectual demeanor was being lionized by the performance-and-bright-lights crowd was almost as important as the rapacious attacks his tiny effort had garnered from the keepers of tradition and everyone else’s property. That considerable klatches of men and women city-wide were having recurrent sexual fantasies about Yvonne became tangible through the support she enjoyed in her bid to scalp the magazine industry of the money it had scalped from her.

The upshot was that The Sidewalk Smokers Club phenomena had taken hold among the all-important and trend-abiding class that cut across large swathes of different demographic sets. As such, sidewalk smoking became something of the thing to be seen doing – a cheap and ready-made glamour of which everybody could partake.

One such clustering was occurring on the commercial strip out in front of Joya’s Joyas and, unfortunately for her, stores adjacent to it. And, as is common with a lot of anti-social behavior for which young people are responsible, there was no immediate profit to be had by proprietors other than Joya, who was a famed member of the club proper.

Envy, being both the easy emotion and recourse it is, soon popped up amongst Joya’s neighbors-in-commerce and during a monthly meeting of the area business improvement district, known locally and colloquially as the BID – of which she was a second vice president or something – the matter came up. Actually, it did more than come up. The members, in spite of Joya’s charm and sweetness (perhaps because of them), passed a motion directing the bicycle-bound security guards in the BID’s employ to use their considerable bulk and move the little smoking darlings on their way.

The reasons for this action were clear as day, even if the air on the sidewalk was not: they were creating a health hazard for passers by. In addition, so great was the concentration of smoke that it often drifted into the stores, leaving them smelling like a Greyhound bus station circa 1966. While these retailers were in the business of drawing the coolest of the cool kids – the researchers and spontaneous creators of evolutionary looks, all this smoking was turning out to be much better for bum philosophy than for selling expensive, recycled clothing from 40 years ago. At least that’s what the merchants said.

Joya had been one of those pooh-poohing the neighborhood’s civil libertarians who took exception to a police force not remunerated at the public trough and accountable only to a bunch of (mostly) ladies with prissy sensibilities. To be sure, the security team had been effective in moving the once-prominent underclass of transients, bead-threaders, rejected musicians, and persistent dancers along to less organized districts of the city and Joya had naught but thanks and hallelujahs for its efforts.

But the arguments of gadflies and cranks had taken on new meaning for her and so, partly because she found City Attorney attractive, and partly because she might need his help, Joya had called him and proposed they meet again over drinks.

Ill-advisedly, she opted for the Argentine restaurant as point of rendezvous.
Joya contacted the proprietor to provide advance notice that she would be showing up with the city attorney. The Argentine was still on the phone when ideas for exploiting such a notable presence to the establishment’s benefit started churning through his mind-factory. Joya – being a small businessperson herself – sensed this and explained that all smoking would best be done out on the sidewalk, for his own good.

“Ob course!” the owner exclaimed and she imagined him slapping his own forehead at the realization. No sooner had she hung up then he began anew to ruminate on The Sidewalk Smokers Club, the special juice their presence had brought to his establishment, and on possible ways to continue this unique and useful relationship.

So, following a rich and sumptuous meal, City Attorney, loose with two bottles of red wine, began to tease Joya in a stupid, roundabout way he would ultimately come to regret.

“So how is the sidewalk smoking game?”

Joya, always well-meaning, but possessing of a lynx’s shrewdness lunged at the throat of the thing. “Well the BID is upset with all the people smoking out on the sidewalk since the day of the benefit/press conference and they want security to clear them out.”

“So?” City Attorney responded in the inimitable fashion of public officials everywhere, trying to enjoy their power without having to use it for some positive or generous end.

“So?” Joya snapped, “those sidewalk smokers don’t want to go.”

“Take them into your club then.”

“Hey City Attorney, I’m being serious,” Joya huffed and City Attorney huffed at his own miscalculation that she, because of her beauty and vocational choice, was the type of woman who would not bother with serious things.

So he got serious.

“Did the BID make a final decision on this?” She nodded that it had. “So, if the smokers don’t want to go you know what will happen don’t you?”

“Of course I know what’ll happen. They’ll remove ‘em by force.”

“And you wanted to use the occasion of your second date with the city attorney to press the case for your scruffy allies.”

“You brought it up hon.”

That was true and City Attorney regretted having done so, but like most people of pull and influence, had not disabused himself of the notion that Joya was in some way seeking to use him. And thus do we arrive at the question that produced the answer that opened this chapter – Chapter Forty-five.

He was a hard-boiled man, used to dealing with other hard-boiled types, calling their bluffs, drawing them out, muscling them for an advantage in the mostly extreme sport that is politics.

It is the nature of modern American democracy that those who run it are largely removed from those who must live-out the effects of the high-flown and arcane legalese they employ. And so City Attorney had failed to grasp, after some six or seven hours total in Joya’s company, that she was a small businessperson, sensitive if driven, and honest in her conversation with folks when he made the following pronouncement (obviously off-the-record and far-from-the-press): “So if you let me finger the family jewels, there might be some mild pressure out of the city attorney’s office to sway the BID from its misguided ways?”

Joya was hurt, as any scheming lady of high self-esteem might be, but the remark amounted to a knife jab and naturally spattered its author with blood he had himself drawn.

“Hon, “I’m a lesbian,” she said.

“What do you mean you’re a lesbian?” the city attorney responded.

As noted above, Joya did not know how she might respond to a query so idiotic and, alas, so demonstrative of the fact that, no matter how eminent or well-prepared one can be, streaks of stupidity run through (almost) all of us.

So she said nothing at all; the point made in any case. Joya was, she realized in that moment, not trading pussy for influence. Wasn’t trading at all, in fact. She wanted his influence all on its lonesome, because it was right and correct. “City Attorney, if you think what the BID plans to do is in line with whatever the city and its laws stand for, that’s fine, hon. You should be able ta deal with whatever pressure results from the whole thing.”

“So now, instead of offering sex, you’re threatening me,” City Attorney smiled wearily.

“My actions are legal and I, for one, don’t appreciate the word threat.” Joya breezily responded. “Especially if you think you’re carrying out the duties of your office in a correct way...hon.”

He wanted to tell her that something could be legal and political and still be certifiably threatening, but felt if he needed to explain that, he’d need to explain a lot more basic stuff first. So he passed.

Let the pretty girl ride, you see.

City Attorney was about to ask for the check and sweep Joya and the whole damn affair under the table when things took a turn most uncomfortable for him, but delightful for the purposes of our story.

“No, no, noooo!” the proprietor of the restaurant half yelled and half whispered as Randall swooped gallantly into the restaurant blowing a rather erect Prince Edward cigar at all who were breathing.

Which raises the question of what on earth the proprietor had been thinking when he personally invited The Sidewalk Smokers Club, en toto, to his restaurant only moments after slapping his forehead at the realization that indoor puffing would definitely be out of the question, what with Joya bringing the city attorney along.

Possessed by a celebrity mania many small businesspeople are prone to where the issues of promotion and marketing are concerned, the Argentine had decided to summon his most glamorous group of regulars and notify certain friends of friends of paparazzi regarding the veritable starburst providence had directed his way. His metier was meat. Promotion – handled by special departments in larger and richer organizations – was not. And so he’d failed to make the not-too-subtle connection between Joya’s warning and the outcome that inviting a class of social rebels on the rise ultimately pointed to.

Randall’s sucksex, his hanging out with stars, and the promising possibility of further media coverage at Yvonne’s upcoming court hearing, all led him to wave the Argentine’s protests away with a flippant hand. Unwilling to offend an important regular, the restaurateur fretted and frothed, looked back and forth between City Attorney and the human chimney and opted for the courageous path into the kitchen and out of the way.

Randall saw Joya and casually approached, kissing her on both cheeks in the continental way before pulling up a nearby chair to join City Attorney – with whom he’d already had one public exchange.

“Funny,” said CA, “we were just talking about you.”


“Well, your club actually.”

“The Sidewalk Smokers is,” he repeated what he’d said at the A-list actress’s party, “a loosely affiliated group of tobacco connoisseurs that has no actual leaders and functions without a vertical command structure.”

“That’s quaint,” is what City Attorney thought to himself. “Well enough,” is what he said, kicking himself under the table for the original sin of permitting the pretty Coloradoan to buttonhole him at an event he should have never attended in the first place.

With City Attorney having said nothing to him about Randall’s smoking, the Argentine grew emboldened and proposed the party move to a large table set right smack in the center of the floor arrangement.

Swept along by a fatalistic current inexplicably stronger than his usually formidable will to resist, City Attorney consented, along with his tablemates, to the suggestion, which was designed by the proprietor to accommodate the full compliment of photographers he’d arranged for.

Randall, though still far from death, was making headway in the plan for ruining his health. He had a persistent hacking cough and a voice quite raspy. “So, hugcffck, what are you guys talking about?”

“We’re talking about the BID’s plan to move smokers off my block by force.”

“If they have to,” CA interjected.

Randall coughed again as he would do throughout what remains to be recounted of the evening. Further mention will be limited to a tag toward this chapter’s end. “And what are you going to do about that Mr. City Attorney?”

Mr. City Attorney frowned. There was nothing to be gained from any of this. With news the beautiful Joya was a lesbian, even getting laid was out of the question and getting laid is one of the few things politicians in the post-ideological world will go out on a limb for. “Listen,” he said, adopting a tone more in line with his public persona than with the intimate one he’d been treating Joya to. “I know we’ve already had a rather caustic exchange, but if you could stretch your capacity for deference just a bit more, I’ll extend the same courtesy.”

“You need that? Deference?”

Randall had gone most of his life without receiving anything like respect and a sudden novelty dosage of it wasn’t about to keep him from this chance at rubbing significant power the wrong way.

City Attorney ducked. “That cigar is rancid. And listen to the way you’re coughing.”

“I know, finally.”

“And your voice is raspy,” City Attorney barreled ahead, not at all registering the response just lobbed at him like some absurdist grenade. “What are you trying to do, wreck your health?”

Randall sheepishly admitted to the madness of his designs. “Yeah.”

City Attorney’s impassive facade was about to crack when another cool breeze blew over the place and the Argentine burst into an “Oooug” that, in turn, caused everybody in the restaurant to look up and utter a collective gasp at the standard-setting frame of Yvonne sashaying through the door in a bumptious way that suggested a return to the groove.

It took but a second for City Attorney to recognize what was, at the moment, the municipality’s most recognizable body politic. “Great,” he grimaced.

“Hey!” she smiled to each and each followed Joya’s lead in getting up to kiss her. Of course, the balance of sexual energy had shifted between the two ladies with Yvonne now holding the Royal Straight Flush and Joya the red lust blush.

City Attorney could not help but be attracted to Yvonne and the chemistry grew even stronger when she planted something beyond the customary cheek peck and mashed Joya’s lips. But that would be getting ahead of himself; something he’d never been guilty of (up to now). “Take courage,” his personal narrator bucked him up in honeyed tones, “succeed and you will know greatness.”

They knew (City Attorney and his narrator) that being seen in the company of lesbians and violators of the Smoke-Free Workplace Act would run him afoul of the city’s civic fathers and mothers whose support was absolutely indispensable to his bid for the mayoralty. But meekly bailing out on the moment’s coolest crowd would surely set a painful rumor about his own clamminess running through the marginal hipster class he needed for votes and that certain something: a variety that lent his candidacy the true coalition’s sense of grandeur and inevitability.

These were the thoughts, which had nearly pulled him out of their orbit when Yvonne snapped at him. “Stop staring at my pussy.”

A man with a track record, he could not imagine ever having been confronted in such a manner by so sexy a girl-thing before and made a face to match the sentiment. His thoughts might have been on politics, but his eyes were indeed focused, as Yvonne accused, on her pussy and there were no two ways about it.

City Attorney stopped staring and with as much aplomb as could be mustered in this fast-decaying political situation, suggested they all sit down.

“What are you guys talking about?” Yvonne wanted to know. Randall and Joya replayed what had been discussed to that point.

“Well, what do you have to say?” Yvonne turned to City Attorney.

“I say people elect representatives to speak for them and interpret their wishes in law. What do you think?” he asked Yvonne, careful to look straight at her eyes, and only her eyes.

Randall interrupted, sensing the moment was a collective one and that it was his to speak for the group: “That the smoking law is a totalitarian slice of American reality and that those effected either don’t know or don’t care.”

“I was talking to Yvonne,” City Attorney said, comfortable the exchange was deteriorating into rhetoric; a form of discussion he excelled at.

“We’re The Sidewalk Smokers Club, in case you hadn’t heard,” Randall practically declaimed. “I’m our spokesman and chief theorist, purveyor of The Bum Philosophy.”

“The Bum Philo-”

“You’re talking about the old stewardship theory of representation,” Yvonne elbowed her way in. Of course, we know by now how she is no dope. Still, Yvonne resides in the very pretty girl’s prison so that for every demonstration of having listened to her high school tutors, surprise results.

“And,” she persisted in having a role in policy, “it’s a poor remedy compared to the more direct actions of our Club.”

Yvonne’s recent incursion into the world of serious had seasoned her language to sound something like a lawyer’s, and City Attorney liked it. “We’re the only true outlaws left,” she rolled on, “except for bankers and drug lords, but we think smokers have more appeal and are less dangerous.”

They had thought about these things, he could see, and was further intrigued by the inexorable pull of their true ingenuity and energy.

“You know who hon,” Joya picked up the thread. “All those people in the corner whisperin’ to one another, showin’ solidarity to one another. Protecting the tradition of doin’ whatever the hell it is ya want.”

She was talking about the whole free country thing and The Smokers were suggesting it was a bust, that it had been abandoned in atrocities like the Smoke-Free Workplace Act. CA found a younger version of himself quietly agreeing and slammed that person back behind the door to the past; for thoughts like that are luxuries of youth. They do not consider the grey men with plumed pedigrees and hands on the levers; the men City Attorney had to go to when he needed things.

“I think you’re pumping yourselves up,” he tried.

“No,” Randall rejoined, “we’re being pumped up by people.”

“And you like it don’t you?”

“Same way you’re asking for votes to be everyone’s mayor. Like it’d be a really big favor,” Randall sought to link their methods.

City Attorney was giving up on the glib and difficult approach. He was being pulled back to distant days of all-night student council meetings and congresses of protest. He was rediscovering his curiosity about society lying beneath layer upon layer of political necessity accumulated over the years.

Randall coughed.

Folks at surrounding tables had taken notice of the gathered luminaries. In one corner the patrons had reserved their table for the evening in hopes The Sidewalk Smokers Club would actually show up. To meet them might be of tremendous utility.
The Smokers, meanwhile, had moved onto the question of alternatives (to tobacco).

“Cocaine,” Yvonne trilled enthusiastically enough. City Attorney thought that somehow, some way, everything she said and did could lead him down a happy path to destruction.

“Legally, you’re better off being a murderer than getting caught with it,” Randall chimed. “Leads you straight into the merciless maw of the American criminal justice system.”

“A death silent, poisonous and slow,” Yvonne said.

The American legal system they all so clearly disdained just happened to be City Attorney’s bread and butter. And that was bad because what they were saying made perfect sense to him. He’d stopped hanging out, long ago, with anyone who thought anything like them – like people out on the sidewalk with cigarettes in their mouths.

“And marijuana?” Joya joined, “not like what it was back in the day. You know, that kind a free-floatin’ bluegrassy thing. That’s all over now. It’s just weed and it’s harmless except for the laws against it. They can get you killed. The little hippy farmers are all gone and now the worst kind of violent people are in charge of meeting the demand.”

“Which happens to be incredible,” Yvonne added for emphasis.

“Incredible,” City Attorney sighed, thinking of how many perfectly good lives the law had obligated him to ruin in the discharge of his duties.

At this point another “Ooooog” punctuated the atmosphere and those present no longer bothered to look at the restaurateur, turning immediately to the door instead. There they saw Corey and Clarisse making their way in. It was a bittersweet sight, for everyone knew what was going on (or not) between them. And yet there was a residue of behavior natural to a couple as they waltzed up to the table and were introduced to City Attorney. Clarisse shoved herself in between Joya and Yvonne. Corey went over to his mentor who had the city attorney immediately next to him.

“Anyhow it doesn’t matter man,” Randall picked up what passed for a thread in this game of verbal dodge-ball. “Connecting the dots on three or four related thoughts such as these is something now beyond the reach of our people, not because they are stupid, but because it is no longer required of them.”

“I don’t see your point,” CA prodded, failing (in a second malfunction of his political antennae) to notice the two scruffy-headed photographers peering through the front window every now and again, “maybe I got lost with the arrival of your two friends.”

“The point is that we are to avoid imperiling our health at all costs. And the point hurts if that’s not where your interests lie.”

Corey caught Randall’s beat. “Obedient for one reason; to help make a machine that works fairly well continue to do so.”

City Attorney had a feeling he was part of a tag-team-wrestling match without the benefit of an equalizing partner. Outgunned, he was forced to listen.

“And then we’re free – for minimal stretches of time – to choose the electronic diversion of our choice,” Corey closed the movement.

“You guys have practiced this haven’t you?” the candidate said slyly.

“It’s the smoking part of the Bum Philosophy,” Yvonne pitched-in.

City Attorney wanted to remark on how this seemed the most developed part of the Bum Philosophy, but things were crackling. “You’re in on this, too?” he asked her in return.

“Well, I pick it up when we get together to talk about my lawsuit,’ she told his two eyes firmly trained upon hers.

“And then she passed it onto me and I passed it onto another smoker,” Joya added, which was more or less true if a tad overstated, as was much of what they said.

For The Smokers were in the business of cultivating their own legend now, their own cottage industry, and excess was part and parcel to the task at hand. And to avoid breaking down their every rapid-fire interjection, again in the name of expeditious narration, we beg your admission that they were all on the same page where smoking and the rights necessary to indulge the vice are concerned. In this way we may lay out what was left of their lecture to City Attorney in the author’s shimmering and forthright prosody.

“You know,” Yvonne asserted, “in all those papers, the Constitution, and Declaration there must be a plan for protecting people who don’t act like everyone else.”

Yvonne’s point is fundamental to what The Club was all about. Majorities get their rights; the out-manned get trouble. The Smokers were adopted the philosophy they could afford.

By now each had fired up (a smoke) in the presence of his eminence. The violinist’s golden melancholia made the situation more serious, but less fierce than it sounds.

“I think Hamilton and Jefferson and Madison, and alla them would be for the smokers,” Joya stated, her cigaretted hand waving a small circle with each embalmed leader. “(Swoop) Hamilton, (swoop) Jefferson, (swoop) Madison, and (swoop-swoop) alla them…”

“And probably Ethan Allen and Paine,” Randall worked to control the image and its content.

“Yeah, and dats what cool ees,” Clarisse added on. “And that’s why people likes cool.”

“So that all those men of radically different political stripes were concerned about was cool?” City Attorney tried to ground things in what passed for reality, but their definition of radical and his own were not the same.

“They’re blessed in that way,” Corey said.

“Who?” City Attorney was lost because he’d been ignored and that was new for him.

“The anti-social, the cynical, the health unconscious, the baby-haters, and frantic fornicators,” Randall enumerated for him. “Man, we flatter them all with our attention.”

“And they admire The Smokers,” Yvonne said in husky, prepared voice, “because smoking is a middle-finger to the world.”

“And?” City Attorney sat rather flabbergasted.

“And the rest have the same middle-finger tucked away. They’re scared.”

“And The Sidewalk Smokers are not scared?” City Attorney was hoping for a certain answer.

“Sure we are hon. We just don’t let on s’all.”

And that was it.

Randall stepped in to finish the job. “For no matter how much the new century’s overlords try to reduce all freedoms to mere obedience, there will persist a genuine human urge to vice and release.”

“People will always pollute themselves for pleasure,” Corey bum-philosophized.
Randall beamed.

In the end, it was all really quite invigorating to City Attorney. He was won over completely. To live in truth! These Smokers were speaking to the higher (if still middling) calling of politicians, philosophers, and artists through the prism of a filthy, smelly, perilous habit.

“I’ve got to pee,” he blurted rather out of character for a fellow of his stature, but presently The Smokers recognized something of a kindred spirit in him, someone who could follow the train of their thoughts and empathize without smoking.

With that he got up and went back to the bathroom. A slice, a twinkle of light filled the restaurant for an instant causing everybody to look out at the sidewalk save for City Attorney who, in a third failure of his political radar, had not seen it.

“Photographers! Oh, nooo,” cried Yvonne who’d seen enough of the breed to last a lifetime.

“Okay,” Clarisse turned to Joya, “what you are doing wid dat ceetty atterny?”

Everyone else turned toward the Coloradoan with an identical hunger for the same information.

“You’re asking me to lie,” she said, “and I won’t do that,” which came from nowhere and made them all feel a little queer.

Meanwhile, City Attorney was evolving. Having relieved what was, by then, considerable pressure on his bladder, the candidate splashed some water around, stared into the mirror and meditated over his natural born politician’s face. Then he thought about how folks in the restaurant had been staring at The Sidewalk Smokers, smiling, wanting to be with them or like them, understanding them. He marveled at how he’d sat there as they openly flouted the law. And he thought they were right about what was behind their success and he went beyond their own justifications to observe more (he flattered himself) deeply still.

“What’s cool?” City Attorney played it cool upon returning. “Elvis? The days of lost innocence? Working-class boys in leather jackets? Hot rods? A pack of Luckys rolled up in a white shirt sleeve?”

“That’s a start,” said Yvonne.

“But there’s so much more, hon.”

“You guys,” he told them, “are right in the mainstream with your retroactivity. You mirror perfectly a people too afraid of future challenges.”

The Smokers were correct in feeling stung by the criticism about fear and the future. Weren’t they being brave?

“You gotta have balls to go it alone,” was the best Corey could add to the progression of things.

“There is the matter of our celebrity,” Yvonne pointed out.

City Attorney smiled. You would have, too. “What you mean to say is that you’re selling well.”

She nodded and blew smoke at him.

“Market performance as ultimate arbiter?” he was in hot pursuit, he thought.

“Not for me, but others are impressed.”

“You guys are the desire of those working too hard to play. They chose their slavery and they delight in you, unlikely examples of our rugged individualism– city style, I suppose. I congratulate you for being natural outlaws who have made smoking a good kind of bad again.”

His lower lip had drooped ever so slightly. He’d grown effusive, shown his heart damn it. And he had to pee again. His system was reacting to the modest abuse The Smokers subjected themselves to on a daily basis. He was afraid he could not run with the big dogs anymore, or at least the hot dogs.

Anyhow it didn’t matter. Good kind of bad or not, smoking was still smoking – indoors at that – and no sooner had City Attorney returned to the restroom than Thorpe and Diaz verily stormed their way through the door and up to The Sidewalk Smokers Club’s table.

The Argentine had received warning, but chose not to act because he thought City Attorney’s presence would immunize his establishment from any danger. He thought, because exceptional people were dining in his establishment, he would be the beneficiary of exceptional treatment. And he was right, but failed to consider the possibility of his legal shield absenting himself in the moment of truth.

The inspectors made a B-line for Yvonne and told her she was in violation of The Smoke-Free Workplace Act, and that they were going to fine her. She pointed out those around her, all of them smoking, and asked, “Well, um, how come me?”

Because she was the pretty girl in the naked magazine was how come. Everyone knew this, but nobody was going to say it. Yvonne, not unlike CA and the rest, had been marking a brisk pace where the consumption of wine was concerned and the usual deleterious effects had taken hold. Which is how things get interesting and why you can’t knock booze too hard. Thorpe handed her a citation off his clipboard and she told him to place it in a not-very-public part of his anatomy.

In the kitchen the Argentine had his chef pour him a glass of the cooking sherry kept over the searing stove for just such instances.

“Ma’am, we can talk about it outside,” Thorpe deadpanned Yvonne.

“Ma’am!” Talk about an affront. Remember that Yvonne had been through quite a bit of late, what with the layout and the lawsuit and Joya’s scrambling of her radar and it is understandable, or at least explainable, how she reached back and gave Thorpe a slap he would remember with exquisite pleasure for years thereafter.

The inspector grabbed Yvonne and wrenched her by the wrist into a bear hug with him.

Another slicing of the dark with a sliver of silver. The camera lights imposed their staccato sequencing. “Get some police back-up,” Thorpe told Diaz who was not enthusiastic about having to run out while his partner got to wrestle with Yvonne. “I’m having you arrested for striking a public official,” Thorpe said, hopeful there was a law of that kind on the books.

That no one had intervened or even sought to comment on a young woman’s being apprehended by firemen for smoking a cigarette, or something like that, stuck in Randall’s craw. He stood up, coughed and, in yet another attempt at climbing into the elusive public eye, said, “Hey, take me. I was smoking, too.” Thorpe could not have cared less if Randall smoked a firecracker in the restaurant. But for the sake of appearances, he explained to Randall that it was the slap which had gotten Yvonne in the real trouble, not the smoking.

“So that if smoking were okay, none of this would be happening?” Randall scored.

This, Thorpe wisely concluded, was a conversation for legislators, which he was not.
So he tried to end it. “Like I said. You didn’t hit nobody. You can’t be arrested.”

So Randall hit him. Sliver-Slice.

When the pretty girl hits you, she must be apprehended in a public and officious manner, because you want her in your clutches as long as possible. When some goofy guy in glasses hits you, it’s more between guys and so Diaz lent his partner a hand by using a common wrestling move which brought Randall harmlessly, if clumsily to the ground. Silver strobe. Silver strobe. Stop. Go. Stop.

Puppies chained to their chairs, the diners groaned in disapproval for there was all this unseemly injustice unfolding in the middle of their repast.

Thorpe’s instincts told him to get out before he had another sidewalk rebellion on his hands and this he did. But not without securing Yvonne as close to his person as legal propriety permitted (which is pretty close).

She, of course, was ravishing with an over-the-shoulder look, a soft-peril masking. He wrenched her wrist into a pieta of distress. Silver-sliver-silver-sliver. No sooner had Thorpe removed her to the sidewalk than a black-and-white pulled up and with nary a howdy-do she was whisked away into the dark entrails of the city criminal justice system. Sliver.

City Attorney came out at this point as Corey helped a rumpled Randall to his feet. “I missed something didn’t I?”


Saturday, October 22, 2005


Okay, a while back we asked for your help, on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States “Things You Don’t Know Much About,” May 18). They were working on a getting a ban on the slaughter wild horses on the American range for sale to satisfy overseas palates.

That measure, the Rahall-Whitfield amendment, passed, but now it might be stripped from the Agricultural Bill because a Senator from Montana wants it that way. His name in Conrad Burns and he’s a (r)epublican.

His constituency is made up of many self-described individualists who think poor people shouldn't get and help and the "Guvment" should play no role in American life except for letting cowfolk roust up horses grazing for free on federal lands so that they might sell them to the highest bidder.

The Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Ask your senators and representatives to maintain the amendment passed earlier this year to save the horses.

The Human Society suggests a monologue along these lines:

“Hello [optional], I’m calling from [ie; Los Angeles] to let you know I’ve heard that the ban on horse slaughter in the Agricultural Appropriations bill is being stripped by the conference committee. I want [Rep. Congress Man] to oppose any Agriculture Appropriations conference report that doesn’t include the ban on horse slaughter. Thank you [optional].”

Also, don’t forget that the scribe and Omar “dare we dub him the Latin Hendrix” Torrez will be generating some flamenco groove at 33 1/3 Books & Collective at Alvarado and Sunset Bvld, on Dec. 15. the scribe will read four pieces from “Vedette” to the following works from Omar’s “La Danza”: Tango Gitano, Etude #2 in E minor, Spanish Romance, and Pica Pica.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Another (r)epublican Rout

Both the House and Senate have passed the National Rifle Association’s legislative baby; a bill that shields gun manufacturers from liability for the accident and death that come hand in hand with the product they sell.

This has been going on for a while. The government took a lot of sting out of the civic populations’s ability to recoup damages from clumsy and/or malign corporations by limiting many such filings to federal court where the task is much harder.

There’s hardly a bill written, by industry, for the administration, that doesn’t contain a similar proposal. You produce MTBE, there’s a provision in there that shields you from legal action by the people you poisoned and so on and so on.

Of course, if you’re MNBA going after a small fry, all avenues have been cleared for you by the recent bankruptcy bill.

And the meek shall inherit the earth.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Port Hueneme Sailor

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Petty Officer 3rd Class Fabricio Moreno of Brooklyn, NY:

"Petty Officer 3rd Class Moreno carried with him the highest ideals of our country and we are greatly indebted to him for his service. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to Fabricio’s family as they mourn a cherished loved one."

Moreno, 26, died Oct. 14 in a single vehicle accident in Manda Bay, Kenya. He was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, Port Hueneme, CA. He was deployed as part of a Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa Construction Team.

In honor of Moreno, Capital flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Chad R. Hildebrandt of Springer N.M:

"Every time we lose a member of our nation’s armed forces it is a painful reminder of the high cost of our freedom. Lance Cpl. Served his country with valor and we will remember him as a champion of liberty. Maria annd I offer our deepest sympathies to Chad’s family and friends."

Hildebrandt, 22, died Oct. 17 from small arms fired while conducting combat operations against enemy forces ion Al Rutbah, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II MEF.

In honor of Hildebrandt, Capitol flags will be flown at half-mast.

And on a lighter note, the scribe went west to Beyond Baroque (Venice, Califas) and saw Laila Lalami, of Moorish Girl blog fame, read from her book of short stories, "Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits." Ms. Lalami is world beat personified, reading ably and clearly, jumping from French to English, to whatever they speak in the Rif, and back and over again like a limber little frog on the lily pads of her own words.

the scribe has not read Moorish Girl’s book, but bought a copy and will do so in good time

And don’t forget the scribe will be reading from "Vedette" with a lot of help from guitarist Omar Torrez at 33 1/3 Books & Collective. Read the book first, buy a "La Danza" CD from Omar’s site, it will make a lot more sense and go down with more pleasure. December 15, 8 p.m., Alvarado and Sunset.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Let those dopers be

Yesterday we posted on an obituary in the “L.A. Times” regarding the death of an influential Chinese anarchist. It was an odd day for The Times because it also ran this Op-ed piece by the former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper.

It’s called “Let those dopers be”:,0,3428942.story?track=hpmostemailedlink

“I’ve never understood why adults shouldn’t enjoy the same right to use verboten drugs as they have to suck on Marlboro or knock back a scotch and water,” says Stamper who is not for the decriminilization of marijuana, but for its legalization.

A cop for 34 years, it is Stamper’s opinion that, “our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious policy since slavery. Want to cut back on prison overcrowding and save a bundle on the construction of new facilities? Open the doors, let the nonviolent drug offenders go.”

Spending a few paragraphs on how our approach to drugs has worsened the situation, Stamper notes, “In declaring war on drugs, we’ve declared war on our fellow citizens. War requires ‘hostiles’ – enemies we can demonize, fear and loathe. This unfortunate characterization of millions of our citizens justifies treating them as dope fiends, evil-doers, less than human.”

Hey, this cop sounds like Ba Jin (“Death of an Anarchist,” October 18).

Read the piece. He even proposes an outline for how legalization might work.

A judge in Spain has issued an international arrest warrant for three U.S. soldiers who fired from their tank on a hotel filled with journalists and took the life of Spanish cameraman Jose Couzo. According to the Associated Press, Justice Santiago Pedraz issued the arrest order “because of a lack of judicial cooperation from the United States regarding the case.”

highwayscribery did an in-depth piece on Couzo’s death here:

the scribe will read from "Vedette" to the accompaniment of guitarist Omar Torrez on December 15 at 33 1/3 Books & Collective at the corner of Alvarado and Sunset.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Death of an Anarchist

Today’s post borrows from the title of a play by Dario Fo. He is an Italian writer who was given something very large like the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, but don’t take the scribe’s word for that.

the scribe has not read anything of Fo’s, but he can offer you this bit of verse from Italian filmmaker Paolo Pasolini:

“My God, but then what assets
do you have?...”
“Me? - [nefariously stammering
not having taken my medication,
my sickly boy’s voice trembles] -
Me? A desperate vitality.”

That’s from a longish piece called “A Desperate Vitality,” which is an okay poem, the value of which has increased by the finite number of like pieces available, since Pasolini is gone.

Pasolini was an aesthetic anarchist of sorts and made some very provocative and ingenious things. Nobody, however, wants to honor him today because of his scandalous love for boys and his dark death, which was somehow related to his scandalous love for boys.

The highwayscribery staff has dedicated its time and energy to anarchy in the past (“Anarchy in the P.A.” June 23; “Big Joke,” May 3) and written the novel (that you can purchase for your mother by clicking on the “button” just left of what you are now reading) “Vedette,” which has something to do with anarchy, too.

Keeping this tradition on track and ending the longest segue in journalistic history, today’s focus is on an odd obituary published in the “The Los Angeles Times” about a Chinese anarchist from another time and place.

Ba Jin is described in Anthony Kuhn’s piece as, “a staunch anarchist whose writings inspired a generation of youth to join the Communist Revolution...” He was 100 years old when he died on October 17.

Here’s an interesting historical bit from the piece:

“During the first two decades of the 20th century, anarchism captivated China’s intellectual avant-garde, eclipsing even Marxism. Despite debates between the two schools, anarchism helped pave the way for communism’s rise by radicalizing China’s intelligentsia. In talks with U.S. journalist Edgar Snow in 1936, Mao Tse-tung said anarchism had played a profound role in his intellectual development.”

Which may or may not be why Mao wrote this in his little Red Book:

“Conversations, speeches, articles and resolutions should all be clear and concise. At the same time, meetings shouldn’t run too long...”

But back to Ba Jin. He was born into a wealthy family, but his parents died during his youth and, according to the article, “Ba escaped from his sadness into the world of books, memorizing Chinese literary classics and studying English.”

At 16, he started reading Kropotkin (again “Anarchy in the P.A.” June 23) and later became his translator. He corresponded with the American anarchist Emma Goldman whom he referred to as his “spiritual mother.”

There is much written about Emma Goldman, whose New York brownstone (by the way) can be found at 210 E. 13th St., but the most fetching portrait is found in E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime” (the novel).

Kuhn notes that Ba’s anarchism was standard fare for the time. “He called for revolution and the abolition of private property. He saw patriotism as the root of war. He advocated the use of Esperanto, the universal language, and supported the Industrial Workers of the World, the radical union known as the Wobblies.”

Ba Jin went to Paris in 1927, which was a hell of a year to be there, and got his revolutionary spirit puffed up further. He went home to China and wrote a series of novels (“Spring” “Autumn” and “Family”) that, apparently, inspired a generation of repressed young men to buck their fathers' wishes and throw in with Mao.

We will, you know, let each decide on his/her own exactly how that all worked out for humanity. We're just making sure an anarchist doesn't die forgotten or unknown.

He later got a post in one of the early Communist goverments, but, as his formation might portend, ran afoul of the regime and got mixed up in the muck so many progressives did in those days before the benefit of hindsight.

When there were purges of intellectuals he “named names,” but that didn’t save him during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution where his works were referred to in the government daily as “anti-party, anti-socialist poisonous weeds.”

Mao also wrote that, “the party rules with the rifle, but will never permit itself to be ruled by it.”

Things hit their nadir when Ba Jin, basically a writer, was forced to sit on stage in a public arena and be harangued for two hours. The obligatory banishment to the provinces ensued. He had fallen a long way. He was 64 years-old by then.

The climb back up was slow and incomplete. Ba's conscience was ill-at-ease and he lamented his having hurt the innocent despite the limited options tendered him at the time. The lesson he drew from it all was to speak the truth.

When I say speak the truth, I don’t mean an absolute truth or correct words. What you think is what you say. That’s speaking the truth.”

A reminder that the scribe will read from the novel “Vedette”, to the flamenco stylings of guitarist Omar Torrez, at 33 1/3 Books & Collective. Corner of Sunset Blvd. and Alvarado. There are four pieces and then we’ll sign books and drink or something. We urge you to go by the collective any time. They have a unique collection of books, radical t’s, and graffiti-ish, multi-media art installations.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapter 43 and 44

Chapter Forty-three

Corey lay around the carpenter’s den Clarisse had made of what was once his living room, feeling out of sorts.

That the women in his life were confused about whether they wanted careers or family, girls or boys, gods or girls, should not serve to raise his plight above everyone else’s. Save for the touched-by-the-hand-of-God two percent who enjoy the pleasures and tortures of beautiful women falling at their feet, most men are driven to vertigo-inducing heights by the most uncomplicated maidens.

This is because men and women, despite legislation to make equal their pursuit of happiness as it is currently understood ($), are very, very different.

He opened up Yvonne’s now nearly world-famous spread in the magazine to drive the point home. It was a maxim not worth passing onto Randall for inclusion in their mutual (at times) brainchild, because anybody who didn’t know of this difference between genders was far beyond a mere bum. They were retarded.

Anyhow, it didn’t matter. He was flopping about, weighing Yvonne’s numerous and subtle advances against the odd little intimacies, pecks, whisperings, and caresses he’d witnessed between she and Joya. Somebody in another time, place, or culture might be repulsed by what he’d seen, but Corey just got hot. He understood completely the desire to do such things with the wonderful Joya, particularly because he was not a woman. He started to return the way from whence he came (Yvonne’s advances upon him), but realized this would only land him in the same place. So he decided to go outside and have a cigarette, since his wife forbade it inside the apartment each was tied to until a cataclysm could be forced by something, somewhere, somehow.

He had stashed a vanilla cigarette from the benefit/press conference that was sure to remind him of the woman he could not love – Joya – because he didn’t and, anyway, she wouldn’t, and was looking forward to sucking on it in lieu of her.

As he placed his hand upon the doorknob the phone rang. Corey, for a self-styled businessman, had rather uncommon, if very healthy attitudes about telephony. He felt in no way compelled to answer every time the technology beckoned. Telemarketing, a failing marriage, an extremely hot client, and a dissolute partner had all helped to deepen his conviction that, just because the phone rang, one was not necessarily obligated to pick it up.

At first blush this doesn’t sound exactly world reordering, but upon deeper consideration we are forced to recognize how it represents an intelligent urge to place a price on one’s access if not a damper upon their immediate prospects. And that was where Corey had changed in the past year or two; he no longer believed in fast opportunities, striking lightning, overnight success, faeries or hobbits. Luck was, indeed, something you made or placed yourself in a position to harvest and by the time something good happened to you, there was usually no shock, no jumping around for joy and drinks-all-around. Only the dull sense that a newer, farther-reaching challenge had come to occupy one’s horizon of desire.

That said, he had the poor judgment to turn around and answer. This in spite of the fact there was nothing he either wanted or needed from anybody else in the world at the moment. Just the opposite. To Corey, each ring of the phone meant he’d accumulated another task to crowd his already hectic days.

“How da hell ah ya?

It was his father and the utterance translates thusly (just this one time): “How the hell are you?”

“Hey Dad!” Corey responded as he always did to this towering, middling figure of withheld approval who affected his sense of self so much.

“I gaht your staff” (okay, once more) he referred to the fact he was in receipt of some stuff about the benefit/press conference which Corey’d mailed like some anxious cheerleader with an “A” affixed to her report card.

“Yeah?” he queried expectantly, boyish.

“What the fahk ah you up ta?” And in that moment Corey’s heart sunk in a way Clarisse, Yvonne nor Joya could never make it do. He said nothing because there was nothing to say. The judgment was in.

Typically, Corey would have said he was doing the best he could, but the question of course, was not one of effort, rather if the effort was focused upon the right things.

“Yah call this a jahb?”

Something snapped. It was not a big snap, for Corey would never break the ties that bound, but a snap nonetheless.

“I’m not interested in a fucking job. When are you going to learn that?” Corey scolded the dumbstruck patriarch. Dumbstruck not because there was any revelation in what his son had said. He had always suspected as much. Dumbstruck rather that his son knew it himself and had the pure and unadulterated balls to admit before God-the-Father with the spicy addition of an expletive he’d never uttered in his presence.

“Didjew just say fahk”?”

“Are ya deaf dad?”

But then Corey reverted to an (much) earlier edition of himself and regained composure, pulled in the horns. Enough damage to wreck the next ten years had just come out of his mouth, which had been driven not by reason, but passion. Reason feels good in soft and fleeting ways, as do most things we know to be correct and good for us. But passion is a heavy meal that satisfies and clogs the arteries in one same act.

Dad knew the forces of planetary energy had swung his way, as did his “boy,” so that the former took a sip of water while the latter sat down to take the tongue lashing the whistle whetting signified.

“Ah spent my life making things. Ah worked with my hands and at the end a each day we hahd sumtin to show four it. We were brahthers, the men ah did these things with and we ahl did it fuh something besides ahselves. Look at these people yah hanging owt wid, this cunt, who showd huh cunt in a magazine and wants money like doin’ sum such thing was wort anything. And it’s my boy who’s makin’ the case four huh. What? Shud ah show this to ya mahtha?”

Well, clearly Yvonne was not the kind of girl you brought home to mother (or father) – at least not as a possible candidate for continuing the family name. It would be tantamount to being sprung from thieves and whores in his dad’s mind.
Worse, viewed from the old man’s distant and distinctive perspective, Corey had to admit the point. What the hell was he doing? “Surviving,” he muttered to himself, unhappy with the lack of grace it echoed.

“Wha was zaht?” his father pierced his rumination.

“Nothin’ Dad, Nothin’.

“Damn right nahthin. Bum philosophy. Sum case! You proud-a that?"

Just as he’d done from the time he was old enough to talk, Corey refused to.

There was an uneasy silence, as there had been in so many countless conversations between them. Corey’s dad knew he’d made his point, too well in fact, and tried to backtrack.

And backtrack he did, right into an even bigger pile of quicksand-mixed-with-shit.

“Now howz that lahveley French girl yah mahrried?”

Chapter Forty-four

Jordan awoke at 6 a.m. with the residue of a dream about Joya flavoring his morning the unmistakable lightness of vanilla.

In this dream she was but a teenager and my God how beautiful to contemplate the downy colt with wispy thighs and soft face minus the stamp of big city life that now marked it. The exact circumstances were naturally foggy, but they involved other young people of Joya’s suddenly reduced age doing things people that age do. It was all happening around J., who seemed, if not the very same age he was at present, perhaps even older. He could not keep up with these sprites of silken hair and hippie wear. He could not bear the exclusivity of their world, which was so beautiful, but they did not know because they had been born into it and never left yet. He could not hide the agony of desire before the little-girl-Joya who could not understand and could only be fearful of all the love J. had in his heart and could not hide, either. They were in a retail mall, an outdoor retail mall, that had an upstairs and downstairs and yet somehow there was a moment with sweet baby-build-Joya upon a bed which she sat, knees up to her chin terrified, doe-eyed, before Jordan, denying him and negating. He awoke with a broken heart.

Jordan immediately rolled a Drumstick with a pepper sprinkling of weed to calm things inside. It was, he told himself (like billions before him), only a dream, but there was no denying that his heart was broken; his feet anchored to the beer-sticky kitchen floor. How could a dream break a man’s heart? It was impossible, but then again, so was a broken heart. It had all happened in the same domain of spirit and shadow and murky movements deep beneath the human mess, the human mass for which there is no obvious explanation or indicator. He was scared to death about what to do. In love with a lesbian, in love with a young lesbian who existed only in traces of the lesbian that occupied the same real-time as he.

Jordan tried to clear his mind with some music, but as is the case with all broken hearts, each song – each note even – was an arrow launched successfully into the afflicted region of his self. To top it off, he had to go to work.

He crossed the street and saw the ocean in the distance and yearned to be the same: overwhelming in the force of its physics, in the awesome fact that it could not be tamed; impassive and deadly active, beckoning like a blue marble hell to be loved, like genies in a dream, from a distance only.

It was throwing off great gusts of coolness and J. wrapped his army-issue jacket close to the form all his misery held. Carlos was already inside the coffee shop and Jordan could see one warm light burning through the receding cobalt, inviting enough that he might burn his fingers upon contact with it. At the beginning – in the morning – all seems fraught with danger.

He walked in. The musky rainforest smell of espresso grinds and mocha mix did not comfort him as it had in the first few days after hiring-on at Java World. Now it only sickened him with the reminder of low-wage labor, the hectoring of too-choosy clients, and the mechanical thunk of the punch clock.

Carlos was a good guy and he liked Jordan, but at such an ungodly hour his own demons had yet to recede and he issued the subtlest of nods in greeting. Crack, he opened a roll of nickels that rushed into their slot in the cash register. “Four-thousand years of civilization,” Jordan thought, assured in some odd way, “and still coins.”

The coffee machine belched and coughed as Carlos coaxed it into action with the help of electrical charges driven by the silky fluid mixed remains of giant lizards from another time. A time before adolescent Joya had knocked Jordan’s insignificant world right off its axis.

J. mechanically set to grabbing the plastic tables and chairs stacked in the now gray light, which served as beacon for addicted locals, and took them outside. Back and forth he went each of four laps incrementally accelerating the flow of his blood. There was a heavy wooden bench that stood just inside the door, in front of the cash register that confronted those entering. Without a single utterance, Carlos mashed a collection of pennies into their designated space in the register before grabbing one end as Jordan gripped the other.

It was too heavy, but together they could move it outside. There was something soothing in this mediocre ballet of cooperation the two struggling men performed between them on coffee shop mornings, but not today.

Today, the world was coming to an end.

Carlos continued with the more strategically important chores as Jordan took some Windex and sprayed the display counter that would soon hold all the muffins, cakes, turnovers and sticky-buns upon which the establishment’s fame rested. He felt gypped, like a child, when the aquamarine blue fluid atomized into an evanescent ammonia-smelling mist suitable only for war with smudges of oil.

He poured heavy cream into a metal bowl, poured sugar-like microscopic diamonds atop the velvety accepting surface before plunging the electric mixer into deep and inviting peace. It slowly thickened and J. remembered how thrilled he’d been to learn such a thing an how enthralling it was to possess the knowledge of whipped cream.

As was routine, the calm he and his colleague knew for ten odd minutes after everything was almost in place – before the baker showed up with his warm puffy treasures – broke with the arrival of a bubbly young blonde woman heading off to work at a fitness club. It was always a treat to see her in the black leotard, which spoke clearly of her own warm and sinewy treasures. Her voice was raspy and a splash of cold water to their spider-webbed awareness. Her order was born of a routine that early risers all possessed: double latte, toasted bagel with a little plastic container of Neûfchatel cheese. They could have had it waiting for her and once she even asked why they didn’t, but there was no answer forthcoming. The boys were shy in their way and if they had told her what a pleasure it was to have her stay just that little bit longer, she might have told them what a pleasure it was to oblige them.

The next arrival was a quiet and pleasant man appropriately named Sam who always ordered the always changing special flavored coffee of the day. He was a model of adventurous taste in a straightjacket of rhythm that made passing final judgment on his true nature impossible. One day, when the especially accented coffee was accidentally repeated from the day before, Sam left without breakfast.

This morning’s flavor was Belgian chocolate, which made J. smile and Sam too as he asked for a toasted bagel already prepared for him and then retreated into a quiet corner by the window where he read the paper with a nuclear physicist’s intensity. Jordan was almost calm when the screen door screamed with the agony of some spring being twisted in a pain beyond its ability to quietly endure.

Looking up to serve, J.’s eyes met those of Detective Dumburton.

Carlos headed for the back door where a newfound concern with upkeep and maintenance drove him to performing the busboy’s duties.

Jordan played it cool. It kept surprising him, this capacity for icy behavior that he had never demonstrated during less serious, but somehow equally nerve-wracking experiences in his life.

“How ya doin’ punk?” Dumburton didn’t really ask.

“Broken heart,” J. retorted.

“You’re a real smart-guy aren’t ya?” Dumburton didn’t really ask (again).

“Yeah,” Jordan answered in a real smart-guy way and shook his head at how two people could physically occupy the same space and time, yet utterly different continuum of understanding.

The detective looked up at the pastel covered chalkboard for a moment. “Gimme a Shotgun,” he demanded.

The Shotgun was a drink offered up for delectation to only the sickest and unstable of souls in the community. There were surfers come in from hours of night riding who asked for a Shotgun, there was a strung-out Russian girl who asked for hers on credit and didn’t come back again until they’d forgotten how she’d never paid for it, and order another. There were many Shotgun victims, almost forgettable as they moved toward their quiet, speedy, and self-inflicted immolation.

“Why dontcha just buy yourself a line or two of cocaine?” Jordan didn’t really ask.

“Because I don’t do drugs,” his nemesis snarled, “they’re against the law.”

An uncomfortable moment passed (was another kind possible?) between them and Jordan looked back to catch Carlos craning his neck whilst planted on the last rung of the wooden stairway to the broom and mop storage area. The Mexican was terrified. He could smell cop through a hundred cups of espresso and Chai tea and the manifold sins committed over years of desperate, junkyard dog survival could not help but lead him to believe that, when the scent wafted through, atonement time had come.

Somebody else walked into Java World and Jordan made an expression with two bug-eyes in a plea to his colleague for some assistance. Carlos did not budge. Jordan did it again, the second time being the charm. Carlos returned and Jordan told him, “This whey wants a Shotgun.”

Carlos nodded submissively, retreating into the roll of dumb and pleased-to-satisfy-you Mexican that served him so well when the white man’s world turned threatening.

Jordan tried to hide somewhere in the four-by-four area allotted the three (the bus boy’s coming) coffee workers – without success.

“So,” the hunter spit, “I understand you hate Armenians.” Squeezing a trickle of black muck out of the cast-iron machine in front of him Carlos turned an attentive ear while keeping his eyes clear of Dumburton’s.

“Spare me the crossword puzzle Dumburden. It’s too early in the morning.”

“Burton. Alright asshole, I’ve been doing a little checking and learned about how you got your clock cleaned by the Armenian Power gang a little while back.”

“You gonna prosecute me for that?” Jordan didn’t really ask.

“No, but the crone you offed at county was Armenian.”


It is moments such as these that do the amateur murderer in and it was only by the grace of the God he did not believe in that Jordan realized something. “I never offed anybody and I do believe I got beaten up after the poor woman croaked and by the way, where the fuck were you when those guys were pounding on me? Having a coffee?”

Carlos stepped away from the machine and plunked Dumburton’s Shotgun on the glass case. Jordan looked back and saw the machine was still pumping black tar into the grill beneath the spigot; a clear sign his colleague had short-circuited the concocting of a full Shotgun for a sawed-off version before Jordan responded himself right into jail. For Carlos knew (from experience) that legal language was different than regular language and rigged by legislators and bureaucrats so that the normal and correct answers were what got you into trouble.

You had a beer and got pulled over for making a bad turn. The cop asks if you’ve been drinking. You say “yes, one beer,” because it is true and because one beer does not get you drunk. But the cop’s directions are to pull you out of the car because once you’ve admitted to drinking, you’ve given him probable cause to believe you are drunk. This is because in the skewed eyes of the law one cannot drink without getting drunk since drinkers don’t make the laws about drinking when, really, they’re the experts.

But back to the sword fight.

“Anyway,” Jordan added despite Carlos’ savvy efforts, “that’s too bad for Armenia.”

“What’s too bad for Armenia?” Dumburton wanted to know.

“That the old lady died.”

“So you don’t deny it?”

“Deny what?” Jordan asked, for real, intent upon making Dumburton work every step down his path to condemnation.

“That you hate Armenians.”

“Wouldn’t you?”

“I wouldn’t do anything you would.”

“That’s why you’re having a Shotgun.”

Carlos laughed, Dumburton scowled the smirk right off the Mexican's face and then Jordan told him the price and requested he pay up and move on, that there was work to do.

“I don’t pay,” Dumburton explained.

“I think you do,” Jordan explained.

“Call the cops,” Dumburton suggested and turned to leave. But then he came back and put a roll of bills (to be sorted out and quantified later) in the tip jar that was the lifeblood of both baristas.

There is somewhat the thug in many a copper. Their passion for the mean streets and the steel-hard erection of a gun barrel speak of just how close they are to the men and women with whom they routinely do battle.

It wasn’t that Dumburton wanted to tip Jordan (or even Carlos whom he vaguely recognized). No, he only wanted to get away with what he was supposed to, which is how many honorable crooks approach things.

The detective left Java World after having sat around a while for the simple purpose of torturing Jordan and the Mexican guy who was clearly up to no good. Carlos was beginning to break a sweat and when Dumburton finally departed he heaved a shot-putter’s sigh of relief.

“Relax,” Jordan said, “he’s not here for you.”

“Relaz? Wadju mean relaz?”

“I know you think the cop is here for you. He’s not.”

“Hees here for ebrybody.”

Jordan had never looked at it in that way before.

“I know dees cop. Detectif Dumboorting.”

“I thought you seemed a little fearful.”

“No feefor! Careful. Jou know, I am a famish cholo around Eenglewood.”

“Yeah,” Jordan said, “you’ve told me a couple of hundred times already.”

“Wash out for dat fucker. Hees good!”

Jordan was beginning to get just that idea and the thought terrified him. Surely it was only a matter of time before he was caught. What would Dumburton have to do? Get a warrant for his arrest, take him in for some fingerprinting, match his with those on the machines Jordan had unplugged, put him in a police line-up for the orderly to identify? It didn’t have to be hard, but he’d make it so, go kicking and screaming all the way to the big house.

These and other thoughts on the unstable nature of all existence were interrupted by the baker’s arrival. His name was Martin – another Mexican. That meant that Jordan had to call him “Marteen,” which was the proper pronunciation. He was a marvelous artist in his way, each day bringing the obligatory blueberry muffins, cinnamon rolls and other treats in an arsenal that was varied and a threat to all wasteline watchers.. He rolled in, blustery, his eyes weighed down by the sleeplessness with which his life of 4 a.m. wake-up calls burdened him. “Ay whey,” he applied the Latino vernacular to Jordan.

“Whey hey,” Jordan mangled their language the way they mangled his. His eyes grew wide at the sticky buns and the white chocolate-chip muffins Marteen had cooked up for the morning.

As noted earlier, part of the employee deal at Java World was free food and most mornings presented such dilemmas for Jordan. “I maked eet hart for jou to choose, eh?” Marteen smiled as Jordan cooed over the gooey dough bombs and crumbly cakes and tried to decide which it would be, sticky bun or white chocolate-chip muffin, white chocolate-chip muffin, or sticky bun?

Carlos and Marteen exchanged familiarities in Spanish, none of which their American counterpart was intended to, nor could, understand. Jordan did hear the name “Dumbooorting,” rear its ugly head through their spirited jabber followed by Carlos jutting his lightly bearded chin over in his direction. Marteen smiled. “El choto wants jou, eh?”

Jordan smiled back. There was fun in seeming dangerous in the company of dangerous people. “Wha you did?”

“I killed an old lady.”

Once again, the stressful yet stimulating circumstances of being a suspected and actual criminal got the best (or the worst) of Jordan as he made a confession that might easily have earned him an injection of heart-stilling chemicals.

Both Mexicans stared at him dumbfounded.

Jordan smiled sheepishly. “No I didn’t. I’m having a little problem with some stocks I sold a year or so ago.”

The Mexicans seemed to buy it, which was a pretty good sign that they had not bought it. These were not greenhorns to the criminal justice system. They knew that matters of financial and/or white-collar crimes – white people crimes – were handled by pansy agencies like the Securities Exchange Commission – not hard-asses like Dumboorting. And they knew a confession born of the need to let loose some incredible tension when they heard one.