A sojourn in the city

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A report from Ale81 Inn field correspondent Ford Wenty

 

A bizarre start to a Thursday evening. Chicago, southwest, undisclosed location. Cold as fuck. I sat in the back seat of some ubiquitous crossover of unknown manufacture, what passes for a sedan with four doors and a hatchback. I am there with a couple of local associates of a sometime associate of my own, Javier. We were suspended there in that ugliest grey, the urban ranges of frozen slush making furrows of every street and avenue. The vehicle sat idling, lights off , spewing the sweet monoxide fume and forming an ozone with the bitterly frigid air. We were in an alleyway, between garages and facing toward the backside of the homes lining the street before us. 

What the fuck am I doing here? Will I be asked to aid in the disposal of a corpse? Or worse? It had been three or four years since I had been to the city. Chicago, for all of it’s charm and character, is the sort of town I have chosen to avoid. If Chicago were a woman it would be Stockard Channing. You stare at her for a while, she bats her lashes or purses those pouty lips and you start to say to yourself ” hey, she’s kinda hot!” Then she turns her head and you see her from a different angle and…..ah, hell no! Surely some of you will understand this.

At an hour no later than 7:30 in the evening the wind chills were at a steady -25, with gusts occasionally whipping to a -40. Why at this hour, under these types of conditions? Surely I would be better off in my warm suite in Burr Ridge, with a bottle of Jamesons and several grams of fluffy bud. Alas, these are the sacrifices one makes for their art. 

Our wheel man was introduced and aside from a brief grunt uttered at that occasion let not another sound escape his lips for the duration of our travels. For this reason I had completely forgotten his name. The lead man was inside one of these houses on this block, a safe house. Benno Santomauro, a Brazilian by birth, had been Javier’s agent for the Chicago market for nigh on twenty years. Benno is fond of blades and has the scars to prove it. Not a man to be trifled with.

I was certain that I had already been seated in that alley for no less than 30 minutes. It briefly occurred to me that I should inquire of our driver how much longer, but given his demonstrative lack of or aversion to verbal skills these thoughts were quickly abandoned.  I really had no reason to be concerned.  My itinerary was such that I had some number of days to linger in the windy city before making the long trek back to the compound. My insertion into this situation was entirely coincidental: call it a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

I had been enticed to this odd pilgrimage at the behest of an old colleague, someone with whom I had not worked in nearly twenty years and had not spoken to in nearly a decade. The gentleman is some years my senior and I was actually surprised to learn that he was still active in business. He is a living ghost from a past life when I walked and breathed among them: the screwheads who are convinced themselves and are eternally trying to convince others that they are in charge. They know the skinny and thus that is simply how things will be done. It is truly remarkable what one can learn about these people when left free to move in their midst. One need only carry the external trappings of their identity while remaining nondescript. It helps if you speak their language, of course. There is no need to be fluent, a conversational knowledge of banality will suffice for most situations. My old colleague is not one of them, though he has chosen to continue playing in their charade. Aside from his grating, northeastern accent he is almost a normal human being. 

Chuck’s forte over the years had been in the field of material handling. The MHI (Material Handling Institute), for some unfathomable reason, has for years set their annual Expo in February on an alternating schedule between the two known garden spots of McCormick Place in Chicago and Cobo Hall in Detroit. The odd numbered years take them to Chicago. As I have already detailed to some limited degree above, to know Chicago in February is to know winter for the bitch she really is. Nonetheless, after having gone through such a circuitous route to locate me, I was practically obliged to make the trek and attend once the invitation was offered. It was only by my mention of this trip in passing to Javier that I was further invited to attend this, some small part of his business concerns in the Chicagoland market. It had been made my understanding that once our business here was concluded I was to be entrusted with a package that I was to take to the compound. Javier’s instructions were, as ever, concise, clear and wanting for any extraneous details. We both like conducting business on a need to know basis: the only thing you need to know is whether the job is felonious, or only vaguely criminal in nature.

Another twenty minutes or so elapsed when Benno’s hulking parka could be seen leaning into the wind, determinedly progressing up the alley toward us. He closed the distance rather quickly from the moment I had first spotted him and I was briefly startled when he opened the door opposite of me and climbed into the back. The brief gust that entered in that instant was bone numbing. Benno whipped back the fur lined hood of his parka. “Jesus fucking christ it’s cold out there! Give us a cigarette, will ya Ford?”  I happily obliged with a Dunhill Blue – an extravagance I permit myself on the road – and joined him for a smoke. I gave Benno a few minutes to fully recover from the arctic before engaging any conversation.

“You, uh…get everything taken care of in there?”

Benno drew deeply on his cigarette and replied as exhaling smoke through his nostrils. “Yuh! It’s all good…” he paused, clearly meaning to continue as he fumbled to draw his zipper down, ” I got something for ya here Ford. Javi told ya you’d have a package to take back with ya, right?”

“Yeah, sure he did.”

From within that parka came a box, 12 x 20 and about 3″ deep, wrapped up in brown parcel paper. “Well here it is. I wouldn’t open it in public, if ya know what I mean.” He smiled as he dropped the box in my lap. “That’s 22 ounces, all vacuum sealed. That’s what took so long, sorry.”

It is a rare day indeed when fortune so smiles upon a body. Nearly a pound and a half of Presidential Cheese dropped in your lap.  Benno continued grinning, in the dim light from the dashboard eerily resembling Pacino’s Scarface.

“So ya wanna know what this is about?”

” Do I need to?”

” No, not really.”

“Good. Then no.”

“That’s good because I have no clue. I thought maybe you knew. My instructions were to pick up and prepare the package here and leave it with you.”

“Well now that I know what it is, friend, I know as much as you do.”

Javi knew me well enough to know that I would likely be able to put it all together. If and when he should decide that I needed to know more he would tell me. This visit was a favor, not a social call. Within this network it has been my experience that it is best not to grow too acquainted. The less you know the better.

The ride out to Burr Ridge from that alleyway was reasonably brief, my drop off and exit as unceremonious as our initial meeting. I was left the next couple of days in relative peace at my suite. An ample supply of whiskey and bud, the warm succor of the bar at a local tavern, The Wolf’s Head. The only thing missing from my old habit was the absence of The Dome Family Restaurant for my breakfast. I was to discover the sad news of the establishment’s closure and subsequent demolition of it’s iconic structure. Their potato pancakes were always exquisite. 

The Dome had been run for two generations by a Greek family. Great people. They actually lived down in the city, one of the sisters was a long time neighbor of former Chicago Mayor Dick Daley (that’s little Dick, of course, not the old man).  For as much as I would miss their food and their company, the end of The Dome was at once a bittersweet and familiar tale. They did not end for a want of business. There were ample numbers who frequented their tables daily. It ended simply because whatever monetary reward remained in it was no longer enough to compensate the ever waning desire to do it any more. Like my own one time career. I could have gone on, like my friend Chuck, and continued making more and more money. I had enough to do what I wanted to do. When you have enough to do what you want you no longer “have to”. Most of our lives are consumed with have to. My good friends at The Dome, like I, had decided to cash in their chips and leave the table. Our desires to play the game were fully sated.

On Sunday late morning I drove in to Midway to pick up Chuck from his arrival, in from Boston. The highway was both bare and barren, a frozen ribbon, salt glazed and indifferent. The mercury had climbed to near freezing and the low sun over Lake Michigan emitted a blinding glare. It was a bright morning, one for which you give thanks that you hadn’t drank tequila or vodka the night before. It was the kind of tantalizing winter sunlight that causes cravings for orange juice, with or without the liquor.

Chuck and I had coordinated pick ups like this numerous times over the years that we traveled within the same circles.  Our sense of timing had not dulled in the least after years of absence. Chuck was out there in clear view at the Northwest arrivals. Tan trench coat, Bear Bryant hat, hard shelled briefcase and one roll behind carry-on bag. Aside from a few more greys protruding from under the hat he looked pretty much the same. He still wore the uniform. I wheeled up right next and rolled down the passenger window.

“Hey mister! You know where a guy can go find a good time in this town?” He leaned down to look in the vehicle. He couldn’t hide the momentary shock on his face, but recovered quickly.

“Ford!? Christ it is you!” He opened the rear passenger door and dropped his bags in and resumed upon climbing into the front seat. ” I had such a time tracking you down I wasn’t sure you would show. Don’t you even carry a fuckin’ phone anymore?”

I do still carry a phone, but there are few who know this. My contact list totals six, and one of those is a veterinarian ER for my hound, Matthau. ” Nah, Chuck. Don’t have any use for that fuckin’ thing anymore. You all set there? I figure we roll out to the Wolf’s Head for lunch. It’s Sunday….prime rib on Sunday.”

“Well ya sold me, brother! That sounds great! So what the fuck ya been doin’, Ford?”

“Not much, really, Chuck. I dabble a little in pharmaceuticals and green technology. That’s about it.” There was some truth to be found in those words. It was not a total fabrication. Chuck was going to remain professional. He played the straight man.

” Huh. How’d ya get into that? Making any money at it?”

“Oh, I’m compensated. It’s not really about money any more.”

“Right! I gotcha! You’re one of those crypto-currency guys now, huh?”

” Yeah, I guess you could say that, Chuck. Honestly? I don’t get out much any more.”

“Yeah…well, ya look like you lost a shit ton of weight! You okay? I heard some rumors you were sick and then….”

” I was sick, Chuck. Very sick. But I’m okay now. I’ve found a solid therapy regimen. It keeps the nation safe for life, liberty and the pursuit of debauchery.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

I dug inside my coat and lifted the remains of a deck of Dunhill Blue. ” Ya still like the cancer sticks Chuck? I got some good ones…”

Chuck’s eyes lit up. ” Sure! I’ll take one of those!” He reached eagerly to catch one as I let it spill from the foil liner.

We both lit up and rode in silence for a few minutes of traffic congestion encountered while navigating back to 55 south. As we hit the southbound on ramp from Cicero I switched on the radio to ZZ Top’s Nationwide. In between puffs from his cigarette Chuck recited a litany of mutual colleagues and their current doings, or in some few instances, their passing. He would probably wait until over lunch to query further into my activities and whereabouts. Most of these people were of little or no interest to me during my career, when we were contemporaries. It made it so much easier to really not give a fuck about them now. Chuck, of course, was different. Deep down, at his core, Chuck is a sick fuck just like me.

Chuck had been a senior at Temple in ’76. He’d made the poor judgement of throwing in with a group of bikers in the distribution of “bootleg sopors”, the poor man’s alternative to the parent narcotic “disco biscuit”, or quallude. The last time he went to meet up with these guys he found all of them together – shot full of holes, all of the drugs and money gone. After that Chuck was scared straight. Mostly.

Through the course of the nineties Chuck and I had collaborated on a number of projects throughout the Great Lakes. Each of us were respected in our craft and each known to eschew socializing after hours. The fields in which we labored were, and to a large degree I suspect still are, male dominated. Thus, socializing among most of our peers was essentially the same as a frat party, but with better booze and more money.  For any who still feel any urge to explore this area I offer this bit of advice: every titty bar on the planet is the same. Save your money. Those girls will figure out something.

This reticence to belong to the club fell upon Chuck as a matter of age, I suspect. In my case it was a matter of having other business to tend to. Whatever our respective reasons, Chuck and I shared a number of quiet dinners together, trying to find anything other than business to talk about. We were each careful not to expose too much personal detail, yet over the course of several years we each had recounted a lively volume of the misadventures of our ill spent youths. He never presented with any and I never offered, but we each could reasonably claim our lifetime marijuana consumption to be measured in bales. There was also the matter of our mutual fondness for Jameson triple distilled Irish whiskey. Of all of my former colleagues Chuck is one of a very few whom I could also consider a friend. At the very worst it was at least safe to say that we are sympatico.

” I first took ill in 2010, Chuck. Kinda sick for about three months. Then really sick. For almost a year. I sold out my shares, formed another smaller company and went to just consulting, part time. Mostly from home.” 

The sign said the Tri-state was 6 miles to go. I decided to light another Dunhill, extended another to Chuck who declined. He had a mildly frightened expression. I noticed he really needed his eyebrows trimmed.

“Fucked around with that for about a year then I was recruited to a corporate job. Still kept the side business, saw the corporate gig go through three ownership changes in four years. After the last one I was done. Since then I have only been working at being off the map.”

“So you’re not in business?”

“Not in any traditional sense, Chuck.”

“Haw! What’s that supposed to mean?”

” I’ll tell ya more over lunch, huh?”

We arrived at the Wolf’s Head just before 1:00. The lot wasn’t too filled up yet and by this hour Tom, one of the owners, would be in. We’d be sure to get a good table. We were snow blinded in the lot so when entering it was like immersing one’s self in a cave. From the dim space beyond the original Navy Pier bench in their entryway I heard Tom call out in greeting. As our eyes adjusted I made introductions and we were escorted to a corner booth just steps away from the bar. Within moments two Jamesons, neat, arrived at our table. We weaved through some obligatory small talk: the winter, the NFL, the sales number to hit for Q1 2019. Nothing of any real consequence. When the prime rib arrived I ordered two more Jamesons.

“Chuck, you remember when you were having that headache with the vendor assigned for National Grid? Or what was it then…Niagara Mohawk, right?”

” Ah…yah! That was ages ago….”

“Right, right. I know that, just stick with me here. You had a situation where you had a premium product. You had your market, the user had already embraced the product. The problem was with the buyers. Somebody who didn’t know dick about the product made the decision to award the contract to their pet vendor and the user ended up getting some shit they didn’t ask for.”

“Yeah? That’s what happened alright. That shit happens all the time, Ford. You know that.”

“True. It does indeed.”

“Okay. So what’s your point?”

“I’m explaining what it is I do now, Chuck. In all those years on the road I cultivated many networks for many purposes. The last fifteen years I developed a network completely separate of work, something much more far reaching. I have tapped some people with truly extraordinary talents within their disciplines. It is not a company, more of an alliance I guess you would say, but we all share a common interest. We are able to provide both products and services that are premium. Now when you have a premium product there are two simple rules. One is you get your premium. If no one else is comparable your product commands it. Second is you don’t allow your product to be handled by douchebags who don’t know shit.”

” That’s intriguing, Ford. So what kind of products or services? Why so vague about….” the sudden dawning of realization crept upon him mid sentence. ” Green technology, right?”

“Precisely. I have an associate who is a botanist, one of the finest in his field, but he’s a renegade. He has difficulty obtaining legit work so he free lances. I helped him set up his infrastructure and from time to time I come in to assist in certain situations. I’ve set him up with other parties about the country who are “in country”, they handle the routine legwork. My trip here this week has a dual purpose, there has been a situation develop that requires my attention. This is the first time I’ve left the compound since October or November.”

“Really? So you’re really off the grid now, eh? So what kinda situation, if I can ask?”

“Well that’s the reason I brought up your problem with Mohawk. Very similar situation. We have a proprietary product which was rumored to have landed upon the shelves of certain state dispensaries. None of these are authorized distributors. We do not deal with any state entities. Our local people did some scouting, confirmed the rumor and discovered that there was also an imitation product being touted under the same name as our product. Not our name, mind you, but the one they decided to market it with. So we’ve done the prudent thing. Without identifying ourselves we have bought up all of the inventory they had.”

“I don’t get it, Ford. What does that accomplish?”

“We don’t deal with the state because we choose not to. We’ve already received our money for whatever they had. They got it from someone else who is trying to sell them on a knock off and undercutting our price. With those shelves emptied it will make it easier for me to do my job.”

“Which is?”

“I find out where these dispensaries got this product. Then I know who we’re dealing with and what action to recommend. That could be performed by me, or by others, depending on which skill sets are required. We have people with many and varied skill sets.”

“So you’re a dope dealer!?

“No, Chuck. I am a private contractor who sometimes works with a very talented artisan grower in tending the operational needs of a private and select network.”

“Hmm. Well that sounds good, but how ya s’pose that’s gonna hold up in court?”

“There’s not gonna be any court, Chuck.”

“You sound pretty confident. I don’t know Ford. Sounds to me like you’re skating some thin ice.”

I’d finished what I had to tell. I shrugged at his last remark. We live in different worlds now, Chuck and I. It was good to see him again, but I know it will be the last time. I’d considered maybe smoking him up with some of the Presidential Cheese out in my truck, but Chuck demonstrated that he is fully tamed. I’m done with those people. I’m off to where the wild things are. My apologies to Maurice Sendak.

 

The Real Crisis at our Border

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A report from Ale 81 Inn field correspondent Ford Wenty

 

Greetings citizens and residents of ambiguous legal status. This report comes to you from roughly 50km inside the Mexican border. After being barraged with conflicting reports of events occurring at and en route to our border, this reporter decided to conduct an in person investigation to find out just what the fuck is really going on. It’s not a pretty picture, I can tell you. Water is scarce, and suspect. The Federales have become much more expensive to buy off than in the golden age of the eighties. There’s shitty dope and not enough of it. Were it not for rum and mescaline I don’t know how a man is expected to survive in this hellhole. Still, for gonzo journalism, I soldier on.

The situation here is actually not as complicated as we’ve all been led to believe. The key question to be answered, of course; is there a crisis at the border? Based on my observations here in the field I can state unequivocally that yes, there is indeed a crisis at the US-Mexico frontier. These people who have sacrificed everything: their past lives and homes, their dignity as they are forced to queue for rations, their very physical being with fever, aching backs, sore feet. They have endured thousands of miles of dust and sweat and television crews. And now, within reach of their ultimate goal their ambitions to be thwarted all but for the want of floral wire. That’s right America. It’s not a caravan. It’s a parade.

For miles into the Sonoran desert the trail is littered with foil scraps, empty glue containers and staple boxes, remnants of cardboard boxes and spent aerosol spray paint cans. They follow the tire tracks of many trucks. And the tracks of the trailers being towed behind. Trailers which themselves bear upon them a parade of floats. All stalled now because the need to repair the battered adornments of these vessels from the rigors of the long journey. A repair left hopelessly unfulfilled because no one thought to pack extra floral wire.

They are a woeful sight. There are those erstwhile gents over on the US Chamber of Commerce Float, they’re always a contender. And this year’s up and comers are the girls of the Hilton Hotels Float. Theirs is a nearly breathtaking display of a Latina maid smoothing out fresh hotel bedsheets. The gaping holes from where white peonies once made the downy sheets are haunting, like the eyes of a ghost. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the SEIU Float. Manned by a particularly rambunctious crew their float is always a crowd pleaser. Tyson and DelMonte both have impressive entries this year. The Planned Parenthood Float has wowed the field with a tastefully presented, full length vagina float, done primarily in a salmon strain of sunpatiens and blackwave petunias to simulate a landing strip of pubic hair. Sadly none of these poor souls may ever see the finish of this parade.

This is the second of a four year suspension of longtime parade member The Roman Catholic Church. This is a sanction from the parade organizers at the UN following yet another pedophile scandal. There was one new float in the field this year, an odd entry to be sure. Wojciehowicz and Estevez Accounting Services. They did not have an actual float, per se, though they made an entry that qualified. A Toyota pickup with their sign suspended over the tailgate and a small office desk squeezed into the bed of the truck with boxes of pens, refrigerator magnets and business cards. When queried Senor Estevez only shrugged and replied with this:

“Hey homes! Once they make all these fuckers legit man? Then they’re in for the whole shit, you know? I mean they don’t have enough poor dumb white trash to pay all those taxes! But these bros and hos? Shit man! They fuck like rabbits, know what I’m saying? Spanish speaking income tax services for how many million? We’re gonna be like Senor Block man!”

Who am I to disparage a man’s dream? He may be right. Only time will tell.

I would appeal to the better angels that dwell inside all of you. Gather your floral wire, get down to the UPS and let’s get those packages flying in here! Do not abandon these wretched souls in this, their hour of greatest need. If something isn’t done soon Sarah MacLachlan will be doing another damn voiceover. I can’t stand that shit!

Finally there is this. On the precipice of utter despair these artists are finding their hopes bouyed by the most vile of rumors. Somehow the seed has been planted that Nancy Pelosi herself will come to dispense communion wafers and sangria then lead them all to the finish. I can not find the heart to pour water on this. They have been reduced to this as their last hope and would I be more cruel to tell them the truth? I just don’t know….

Ford Wenty report 17 January 2019 end

420

 

Donny Can You Hear Me?

A benefit concert will be held in Leeds on 1 April 2019 for the victims of TDS and TARD.

A fiftieth anniversary commemorative of the rock opera Tommy,  in the form of an adaptation titled Donny Can You Hear Me?, will be performed by Ambivalent Gene and the Tepid Endorsements. An excerpt follows here…

 

Look in the Mirror

Verse 1, CNN Chorus –

He seems to be completely unrepentant

His words and actions make no sense at all

His flippant tweets are spared for no detractors

He seems to flip a coin for every call

 

Donny Chorus –

See me, hear me, love me, fear me

See me, hear me, love me, fear me

Verse 2, House Chorus –

There’s still hope, still untried legislation

Or other means that are well outside the law

And Agent Mueller’s open end investigation

any day could bring the goods to bust them all

 

Donny Chorus –

See me, hear me, love me, fear me

See me, hear me, love me, fear me

Verse 3, CNN Chorus –

His eyes don’t see

His ears don’t hear, yet he still speaks

In circles spinning, he can’t hold a single thought

Even networks tireless spread of misinformation

won’t undo the wicked evil that’s been wrought

 

Look in the Mirror, boy!

Look in the Mirror, boy!

 

Verse 4, Trump –

I often wonder what I was thinking

Don’t they know I simply do not care?

Look at me now, in the mirror preening

What is happening with this hair?

 

Bridge, CNN & House Chorus –

Listening to you we get emetic

Hating on you we will defeat

Taking down you we make our mission

We serve eviction of your seat

Right behind you we see the millions

of fools who bought your story

But they get no opinions

We’ll change the story

 

What is happening with that hair?

Ooo-ooo, I wish I knew

I wish I knew

 

 

Marlboro Man

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A report from Ale 81 Inn field correspondent Ford Wenty

 

Against my better judgement I have allowed myself to be persuaded to take on a feature  concerning the marathon circuit.  It’s not of particular interest to me; it’s a story to finance my vices same as another. There still exists the very real prospect that the entire project will end in utter disaster. With enough intoxicants these displays can be endured with a modicum of sedation to make the time pass unto their merciful conclusion. At least that is the theory. I’m still testing it. 

People who will dedicate so much of their lives to running for no good reason are puzzling to me. They are harmless, I do not harbor any malice towards them, but I simply am unable to discern or appreciate their motivation. There are the usual tales of inspiration, of pushing one’s physical abilities to always rise to the next level. There is the inevitable talk of the runner’s high. I think it comes from oxygen deprivation, but if it works for you, well alright then. I suspect that there is something more to it that they are holding secret from us within their own circle.

People who line the streets of these events are….what’s the word I want here? Disturbed or disturbing? Perhaps a bit of each. Watching horses race can be fun. There is generally better seating, there is usually decent food and/or booze on offer, and with a good eye there may be a chance to make some money too. As best I can tell these marathons end up costing everyone involved. The participants, the audience and the host venue, yet ironically the food trucks seem to make money. Absent the betting the only other avenue for monetizing this lies in charging admission (nearly impossible logistically from most I have seen) or, sponsorship.

Enter one Harry “Hack” Halloran, the Marlboro Man. That’s right, it’s not a typo. I did not mean to say Marathon Man, it is indeed Marlboro Man. Harry, more than any other gaunt and emaciated veteran of the field, I found to be a true inspiration. You see for Harry Halloran the marathon is not a challenge, not a physical feat, not the next hill to climb. No, the marathon is a statement. Hack Halloran is a man selflessly dedicated to a cause.

I met Hack at the Columbus Marathon for the first time. Oh, let me be correct about this. The “official” title of the event is The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon. I must include this lest I should run afoul of the very long arm of Nationwide Insurance’s legal department. To be fair, they ponied up a lot of money for those naming rights. It’s their way of giving back. Thanks Peyton! Nationwide is on your side!

It was a frigid pre-dawn in late October at the North Bank Park. There were roughly 15,000 runners and along the circuitous route, cleverly devised to pass through only those most exclusive zip codes of the Columbus metropolitan area, there were possibly as many as 100,000 onlookers, volunteers and support staff. As the mob queued at the starting tape, casting frosty breaths into the upper thirties air, there was Hack in the very rear of the field. At 5’8″, 162 pounds this 47 year old man was hardly an imposing figure. What was notable was that he was clad from head to toe in some good quality gear, all of it emblazoned with the red, white and black Marlboro logo. I was standing on the periphery, cataloging various images and sounds that I would incorporate into the feature I had been contracted to write. Hack made his own introduction.

“Hey man, you got a light?”

“Really? Are you serious? You’re in the midst of smoke nazi central dude!”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m here. Harry Halloran, but you can call me Hack.”

I stared for a moment at his outstretched hand. Truth be told, he had me at you got a light. I shook his hand and replied.

” Ford Wenty. Pleased to meet you Hack. So what’s your story?”

“My story! I’m in the fucking race man!” 

It was at this moment I determined that the magazine was going to get the drivel they were looking for. This was my story.  Hack was indeed a registered participant. He produced his little tag as proof. I wondered if he had the Marlboro gear on when arriving and picking up his card.

“Ok, Hack. Gotta ask, man, what’s up with the Marlboro gear?”

“Phillip-Morris is my sponsor.”

Did not see that coming. Phillip-Morris as corporate sponsor for a marathon? Maybe in Richmond, VA, but this? It’s a bit like BW3 serving as a sponsor of an IBS telethon.

“Really? How’d ya pull that off, Hack?”

“Well after they threw me out of the New York Marathon a couple years ago I got pissed so I wrote to the company. Took about a year, but I got them to agree to sponsor me.”

“Wait. They threw you out of the New York Marathon? Why? How’d that happen?”

“They told me I couldn’t smoke in the marathon and I said oh yeah? Show me where it is in the rules. They couldn’t, so then they made up some shit and had the boys in blue escort me away.”

“You like swimming upstream, don’t you?”

“Ha! Yeah I guess you could say that.”

“So you smoke and you run in marathons?”

“Ain’t no fucking law against it, is there?”

“Well, no….didn’t mean to imply that, it’s just that your performance might improve if you didn’t….”

“Yeah, I know I could smoke a lot more if I didn’t compete in these stupid things, but that’s not what this is about.”

Indeed. Next question. “OK, Hack, I’ll bite. What is this all about?”

“I’ll tell ya what it’s all about! I got rights too, ya know! They make excuses for all of these fat bastards stuffing their faces full of crap. Oh, you can be large and still fit…….right? You’ve heard it. Well, I can smoke and still run a fucking marathon. I’m not trying to set any records and I don’t expect to win. I just prove it can be done.”

I was instantly struck by the Quixotic nature of this man’s vision.  Americans by and large have an indefatigable affinity for the underdog. By my reckoning Hack Halloran was by far the biggest underdog in this race. The runners were summoned to the start and Hack was off, still wanting for a lighter as far as I knew. I remained to the rear of the chaos and again studied the route.

The length of a proper marathon is 26.2 miles. When one studies an aerial map of Columbus, Ohio the first distinct route to be detected is the city’s I-270 outerbelt. The total mileage of this roughly circular route is just a shade under 55 miles. One might easily have determined the course by performing a bisection of the city with High Street from north to south (aka US 23) and following the western half of the outerbelt. I’ve not performed the exact measurements, but in the worst case scenario it might have entailed only excluding one exit to arrive at the requisite distance. 

Now far be it for me to presume any knowledge about organizing a marathon. I imagine it to be a rather daunting task and my hat is off to those who would expend that amount of energy for the purpose. I simply wouldn’t do it. You wanna run? Go run then! This particular event, however, does raise a substantial amount of money for a worthy cause: a hospital for children. It’s a brilliant move on the part of Nationwide when you think about it. Any time that you are doing something for “the children” your cause is almost instantaneously unassailable. Add on hospital and there is the added implication of “sick children”. Pure teflon!

More than anything else the marathon is about two things. First, it is gild edged PR for Nationwide Insurance. Second, like Derby Week in Louisville, it’s not about the race or the runners. It’s a place to see and, more importantly, be seen. With this clearly in mind the opening of the course made a bee-line four miles straight east on Broad Street. Past the Statehouse, the Museum of Art and the old Governor’s Mansion until passing the Franklin Park Conservatory and through the gates of Bexley. Bexley is rather exclusive real estate and is an historically Jewish community. Male ejaculation within the city limits of Bexley is against the law as it exceeds the posted city-wide speed limit of 25 mph.

The route observed a disciplined square about Bexley, at the halfway point of this loop passing Capital University, and shortly after turning north up Nelson Road to return to Broad Street for safe passage back to the west. It was vital that the route pass by the hospital itself, but a direct course west from Bexley on either Main or Livingston would have entailed venturing into territory where no preening poser would be caught dead. There was still that dread mile down South 18th Street until reaching Livingston and the shadow of the hospital. It was only this one stretch of the race which passed through anything alien to the snowflake’s world. Otherwise it all remained within the boundaries of the new age urban mythos.

From the hospital the course proceeded further west on Livingston into the prototype urban gentrification of Columbus’ older communities, German Village.  The Germans are long departed, first displaced by Appalachian economic refugees and later, after their urban renewal, gays and lawyers. On a clear day one sees as many rainbow flags in German Village as might be found in San Francisco, boasting more DINK households per capita than any other in the state. The exit onto High Street at Deshler had the runners pointed north to pass and salute the Nationwide mother ship two miles distant.

This particular length of High Street is known well to me from some of the years of my misspent youth. I was able to negotiate the mindless throng to obtain a watch from a second story balcony of the venerable South Wind Hotel. I am uncertain of the current status of this establishment, but it was reputed at one time to be the preferred working place for your higher end call girls servicing clients from the nearby Statehouse and County Court. Most of that is only rumor, I’m sure.  

It was 9:40 AM by that time. The bulk of the herd had already passed this point of the course by then and I was certain that Hack would be arriving in this neck of the race at any moment.  Shortly thereafter there came a chorus of jeers and moans from the assembly of onlookers surrounding the nearby fluid station. This, no doubt, announced his presence. From my vantage point above I could look down High Street and sure enough there he was.  The touque was shed now, along with the track suit. Now a clearer image of the man, the ginger mop atop his head, the wiry frame; a figure more resembling William H. Macy’s character in Shameless than a competitive athlete. Beneath the track suit the Marlboro theme had continued with red, white and black coordinates prominently displaying the flagship of the Phillip-Morris line. And then there was also Hack’s very public and unabashed consumption of the very same. No lightweight gold label or Ultra-lights, no sir. Marlboro red, the original cowboy killer.

Hack had evidently endured his share of abuse while approaching an earlier fluid station with one of those offending sticks hanging out of his mouth. A shouting match was averted and no more harm resulted than him blowing a large cloud of smoke into their faces. It was more of a symbolic gesture in that no one could really be certain how much was actually tobacco smoke and how much steam due to the cold air. In the open with a fair breeze any smoke was almost instantly dissipated, yet the attendees had cowered as though they were being assaulted with Sarin gas. Not wishing to repeat this Hack had left course for a few minutes to visit the BP station at High and Greenlawn to purchase Red Bull and two (gasp) plastic water bottles. Arriving at the S. High fluid station Hack puffed away, standing in the street some 25 or 30 feet distant. He guzzled a can of Red  Bull and rolled the empty to the curb.

“Hey! Why don’t one of you fucking snowflakes pick that up and put it in the garbage for me, huh? I wouldn’t want to pollute your safe space with my 100% legal tobacco smoke!” He then drank half of one of the water bottles and lobbed the remainder at the  scolding frowns behind the tables of their station. “Stick that in yer recycle bin you assholes!”

Horrified suburban soccer moms rushed to clasp their hands about the ears of their children. There is certain code of uniformity in these gatherings; rather, as Jello Biafra once put it, a Chickenshit Conformity. Their conformity has evolved from the mere pretentious flaunting of gratuitous consumerism, arriving in fleets of Lexus, BMW and Range Rover. Now, too, they flaunt their public virtue by wearing all the right ribbons and wristbands, mouthing all of the right slogans, appearing at all the right events. This was but one.

For all of their self-righteous blather about soft, squishy things like tolerance and diversity, they have a decided blind spot for these virtues when it suits them. These are the smoke nazis. The smoker is the most reviled creature they know. There is to be zero tolerance for smoking anywhere! Why, don’t take my word for it. Go ask one of these shrews yourself. They’ll be only too happy to hand you the lecture, which of course is richly garnished with the “it’s for the children” angle.

I did not attempt to follow Hack on his trek north through the downtown, the trendy, hipster Short North district, or the wide ring about the OSU Campus area. OSU, like most state universities, is where the group think of the masses and the group think of the state converge. I avoid these places at almost any cost. Instead I worked my way about the streets through town out to the enclave of Upper Arlington. The city markers as one enters are practically dripping with white liberal guilt. The whole place reeks of it.

It was lunch time when Hack appeared at the fluid station near North Star and Guilford, smacking away outstretched cones of water as he lit up yet another Marlboro. There was still derision, but the fervor of the event had largely passed by this hour. The bulk of the pack was well ahead and many who had made their appearance solely for the purpose of doing so were already home. This was where they lived. 

Hack indeed persevered for the remaining seven miles and concluded his run in the mid afternoon, posting a time of 8 hours 12 minutes and 33 seconds. Hardly a record setting pace, but then that’s not what this was about. Not for Harry Halloran. In spite of his abounding love for tobacco products there is something deeper at work here. You see Hack had an epiphany at some point. He came to understand that when it becomes accepted to ignore the individual rights of the otherwise law abiding citizen for one thing, it is then only a matter of time before it will be accepted for any thing. The state sanctioned popularity contest, whether it is held for good looks or for public virtue, is an insidious evil. 

Running marathons is a dreadful habit. I really can’t recommend it to anyone. If you do not currently run marathons, then please, don’t start! If you already do, then enjoy responsibly, it’s your choice. Oddly I seem to feel pretty much the same about smoking. These two groups would appear to be diametrically opposed to one another, yet they do share one key thing. The failure of either to respect and preserve the rights of the other places their own rights in peril.

 

My Dog’s Thoughts on Pink Floyd

Not long ago I was introduced to a meditation channel.  It is not the sort of thing I would seek out on my own, but I actually sat and listened to it for a few minutes.  Within a very short time it had formed a reminiscence of the Pink Floyd song from their famed LP Ummagumma, Grantchester Meadows.  I then forced myself to sit and listen to some more of this channel.  I came to a conclusion.  Someone identified the need to create one of these channels (actually there are several) and there are people checking in. This can not be a bad thing if it leads to more people finding their chill and not being such colossal dicks all the time. Or…they could just listen to some Floyd!

There are certain standout pieces from the band’s portfolio which appear with regularity in my various playlists. Dark Side of the Moon in it’s entirety, of course, and select tracks from their other LPs. As I was caused to make a review of these I made a discovery that rather surprised me. There were no tracks from the Animals LP on any of the lists. Naturally my reaction was to cue it up and give it a listen.

The first time I ever heard anything from the album was quite probably some time in February of 1977. We were in the midst of what was up to that time the coldest winter of the twentieth century. In my bedroom above the garage I huddled about the heat register in the floor, a blanket wrapped around to contain the warm air. It was probably in this fashion that I sat huddled in the dark, next to a small radio and listened to a WCOL-FM DJ introduce Pigs (three different ones). Upon revisiting the full LP I am still of the opinion that this is indeed the most striking track of the album, both lyrically and musically.

Though it is hardly February and nowhere near to record-breaking cold temperatures, the change of season has brought with it no shortage of grey, miserably damp, chill days upon which to spend contemplating these weighty matters.  I happened to have at hand an intriguing new strain from my botanist, the Montana Flowering Dogweed, which I employed to good use for the occasion. Both were consumed in the dark, save for the light of the fire. Pink Floyd has always served as a fine soundtrack for any blaze.

For those who are unfamiliar, and those who may have simply forgotten, Pigs (three different ones) was on side two of the original vinyl. The lead off of the LP is the plaintive Pigs on the Wing, followed then by the stark and brooding piece Dogs. Perhaps it is somehow connected to that cold place where I first listened to this work, but I found that the song Dogs takes me to a very cold, dark and distant place.

Beginning at the 6:14 mark of side one there is a segment of about 45 seconds where there are the barks and howls of various hounds. Where I sat enjoying this my dog, Matthau, was at my feet and I noted his ears prick up slightly at this point. In the idle chatter one often engages with their pets I asked ” Well, old boy! Know what they’re saying, do you?” He gave me one of those looks, as dogs sometimes will, which seemed to question my sanity. He raised his massive head to snuff once at the smoke billowing from the glass bong and then rose from the floor to pad across the room and take a seat in the chair opposite. I wasn’t expecting an answer and his behavior, though somewhat odd, was not entirely out of the ordinary. Then he began to speak.

” The dogs, yes… they do go on there a bit, don’t they? Rather funny, that….”

He was sounding a bit like Alec Guinness. “Matthau? I didn’t know you could talk!”

“Of course I can speak, you pillock! I’m an English Mastiff, not some Neapolitan dullard!”

“No offense, Matthau! I just wonder why you waited until now!”

“It’s the Dogweed, old bean. Otherwise you’re too thick to hear it.”

“Is that it?”

“You have a better explanation?”

“I do not.”

“Well, there it is then.”

” I suppose you’re right, old boy. We’ll have to ask Carlton to get us some more of this soon. So what are those dogs saying anyway?”

“Oh they’re banging on about what worthless sods their agents were. Couldn’t even negotiate a reasonable royalties contract, could they?”

“Really? You’re having me on!”

“Am I? Perhaps you’d like corroboration from another hound?”

His point was well taken and I surely had no reason to doubt him. I have since learned of rumor that Roger Waters has advocated on behalf of the estates of these long departed canines. Mr. Waters has declined any comment upon the matter.

 

Yes, Kim, as it turns out you actually can get laid with a bad haircut

In all of the sound and fury of the recent midterm elections a chapter in US diplomatic history has been quickly and conveniently forgotten.  It is a story of which, although it may not yet be complete, we have been given a suitable foretaste. Much of this of course has been alternately sensationalized or underplayed, depending upon one’s voice of choice, but the Singapore Summit marked a true milestone in 21st century geopolitics. Much was reported at the time, most of which was largely speculative in nature and little of it flattering to the president. This reporter, however, was able to (through extortion and intimidation) obtain a first hand insight into what actually transpired at the meeting. The following is an account of some of  those discussions. Other segments, for concerns of national security, have been redacted.


 

Ah, Kim! So pleased to finally meet you! I’ve been a big admirer for a long time. How was your flight?

Mr. President Trump… I have been big admirer for you also! Flight was okay. Thank you again for jet fuel…

What, that? Bah! What’s a few hundred gallons of jet fuel between friends, right? We’re friends, right? Of course we’re friends! Come on and sit here with me, Kim. We have a lot to talk about.

It was most generous gift, but uh….why you no come to North Korea?

Wellll….you know, Kim, we weren’t sure it would be safe for you. I mean you’re just like me, you know? So beloved by your people and since you’ve been trash talking us for so long we thought maybe there would be some of your people – you know like maybe some of those generals – well….They might have been a little pissed off about me coming in there, you know, with the great big jet and all. Before I go you gotta come see Air Force 1, or….You know what? What the hell, right? Maybe we’ll just take a ride somewhere. Yeah, but anyway, Kim, we figured for this first meeting -this is just the first you know – it would be better to make it a neutral site.

I see. Maybe, uh, next meeting I come to America?

Sure! That would be great, just great.  You can be my guest at Mar a Lago!

Not at white house?

Oh Kim! Just between me and you, okay…that place is a dump! Really, you’ll like Florida much, much more. Nicer place, better weather, hotter babes. Really, Kim, that much I can tell you.

Oh….I, uh…..

What? What Kim? Did I say something to upset you? I’m always doing that, you know? Was it…

Oh! No Mr. President Trump! You say nothing bad, I just, uh…I like the nice place and nice weather is good and I like a hot babes! But I have a ugly haircut. Just one time I like a hot babe fuck me not because I am Glorious Leader of Peoples Republic. You big important man, you know what I mean, yes?

Kim. Kim, Kim, Kim….lemme tell you something, okay? I promise this is a secret just between us, okay? Because I like you Kim. I really, really like you. You’re okay. You see this? Up here, on top of my head?

Yes. You have a big-big hair.

That’s right Kim! And you know what else? Believe it or not Kim, there are actually some people who say that I, Donald J. Trump, have a bad haircut! Can you believe that? Me!? A bad haircut! It’s all those fake news, Kim. Hell they’re everywhere now! I found Jim Acosta in one of my wardrobe closets last week! That is one sick individual, that much I can tell you, okay?

Why you don’t just a kill him? We have a no sick individuals in Peoples Republic.

Well you know Kim, as much as I would like to things just don’t work that way in America. Besides, it’s much more fun to just fuck with him all the time! See Kim instead of just one state controlled media we have a shit ton, okay? I mean media in America is yuge, okay? And they all like making money. Their ratings were all going down, down….I mean seriously, Kim. Like right down into the toilet, okay? And then I come along and shazam! I saved all their asses!

What mean the shazam? I don’t hear this word before.

Oh right! You wouldn’t know, would you? I’m sorry, Kim….shazam is an expression from an old comic book character called Captain Marvel. You ever read comic books Kim? I recommend the Washington Post. Really, really great comics over there, that much I can tell you.

Ohh-Kay? But what mean “shazam”?

Shazam! You know, it’s like Eureka! Or Holy Shit!

Oh, Holy Shit, yes. I know this one. Ha-ha-ha! Mr. President Trump make a funny joke!

Ha-ha-ha! You like that one, did you? Oh geez, I got a million of them! Ha-ha-ha…..yeah, but seriously, Kim. Back to your hot babe problem. Sure, I get that. Look, Kim…when you’re rich and you’re famous? It’s like catnip for pussy. You gotta learn to just roll with it. Do you honestly think they really give a shit what you look like? Come on, Kim! Have you seen my wife? And she’s with me, Kim. Just think of that, huh? See you could be boning prime tail too. You’re a young man, in your prime! Hell when I was your age I was getting more ass than a toilet seat, that much I can tell you!

I think I like the Mar a Lago! But how I get hot babes in Peoples Republic?

One word for you, Kim: hotels. Lots and lots of hotels, okay? And all we gotta do, Kim, is figure out what we’re gonna do about all these nukes and missiles, okay? I mean if we can work that out then we’re talking the Pyongyang Trump Towers, Kim. It’ll fill up with Russian and Chinese oligarchs and they bring in harems of that hot east European tail.

We will work out plan to turn over all the weapons, but I still get to be supreme ruler of Peoples Republic.

Okay Kim, okay. But we gotta have all the stuff first, okay? I found out you’re holding out on us and it might not be too pretty, you know? I mean it could be really bad. Or… lots and lots of pussy. The choice is yours.

So it work to make more money for all people and they make and spend more then I make more, right?

That is exactly how it will work, Kim. Trust me, I think I know what I’m talking about, okay?

Oh! Oh! When I come at the Mar a Lago Mr. President Trump, will there be any hot Mexican babes? I want to try Mexican!

Oh, better than that, Kim. We’ll get you this nice Cuban girl I know, Carmen. Very, very nice girl. Really, really…..really great tits, you know? I mean those mamas are yuge! You’ll like her Kim.

And you think my haircut okay then?

Your haircut is fine Kim. Really. That much I can tell you, okay?


 

Any further discussions must remain classified. Ford Wenty report end, 9 Nov. 2018

 

420

 

Face Down on the Potomac

A foul wind blows in the swamp this night. Pungent, fecund reminiscence of a time when this land was indeed a swamp; before it was claimed by pirates and other people with nicer manners, but who would still cut you for a shilling. Though it has been cleared away of the physical swamp, the modern day iteration contains denizens more fearsome than the serpents and gators who once tread these soggy grounds. No swarthy buccaneers are these, no. These are sharks in human skins, expensive suits and unlimited taxpayer funded expense accounts. Mindless eating machines, leaving trails of bloodied chum in their wake.

In the late summer heat, the already oppressive humidity further fueled by the remnants of Florence, the air is fouled by a rancid perfume of dead, rotting flesh and human feces. Not just in DC proper, mind you. The stench wafts heavily on the evening air from other quarters, seeping rather than blowing in from northern Virginia and from places as far off as Bethesda, MD.  They all knew it was coming, had probably already retained counsel, but within the last 24 hours there has been one mass shuddering of constricted sphincters followed by the largest single pants shitting since the Pilgrims’ Winter of Dysentery in 1612. 

In Washington, what you hear in the news is not news to them.  The grand fecal communion was bound to occur, but who knew it would strike so abruptly? The emergency response mechanism of DC was ill prepared for this flood of human waste, hangings and suspicious drownings. Even Capitol and Park Police have been brought in to assist with the Haz-Mat efforts. Distant howls, savage shrieks and the wail of sirens cry into the dense night air and there is a hint of yet another fragrance: panic. It is palpable, giving a visceral turn not unlike that experienced on a roller coaster, or 495 at rush hour.

The panic grows from a stark realization that the declassification of DOJ correspondence, FISA warrant applications and personal texts between Sztrok and Page, in their full and unredacted form, paints their most reliable accomplices into a corner. With this declassification there is no longer any ambiguity of redaction to seed that shadow of doubt. There is no valid excuse not to reveal the content in it’s entirety, yet in so doing mainstream media outlets must expose the fact that they have indeed been co-conspirators. They must present evidence in direct contradiction of a narrative they have fomented for over a year. The alternative, to suppress the information or distort it in any way provides no less of an admission, if only tacit in the latter case. For the deep state malefactors the one reliable smoke screen they had going for them, the slobbering lap dogs at the Times and the Post, the shameless apologists on the networks; they are neutralized. Any remaining shred of credibility they had vaporized with the stroke of a pen.

From this extends the further realization that this is only the first layer of the onion. From here it leads to the colossal farce that is the Special Counsel Office of one Robert Mueller. I’d wager a bottle of Jameson’s with any fool who thinks that there won’t be some further declassification before the midterms and Agent Mueller’s skin in that onion is the next one in the crosshairs. Once you peel that layer back you expose the putrid, molding core that lies at the center. Agent Mueller’s crimes long predate this saga. I have previously chronicled Mueller’s profile in an earlier report, The Unvarnished Truth about the Mueller Investigation: Beware when Axolotls Frolic .  At the conclusion of that report I had shared some reports of his whereabouts which have since been refuted. For myself, I won’t believe any of this is over until I find him floating, face down on the Potomac.