In the Age of Abu Gharib: Unfinished Drafts

Looking at a predecessor blog from 2005-2006, I find a clutch of limp but still edible ideas sketched out in the Drafts bin, some no more than a sentence long. Laying them side-by-side makes an interesting autobiographical collage, A View from Pompous Head.

RIP Sausage Lady

The Sausage Lady died of colon cancer last year and I missed it. While I don’t want to be too harsh (after all, I expect to die of the same thing myself) I am presently giggling myself nearly to death.

I described her earlier as a “vile, mean-streaked harridan.” That is putting it gently. Her real name was Judith Moore, and she was the author of a thin, self-indulgent memoir called Fat Girl, published the year before she died. Prior to that her literary output consisted mostly of navel-gazing book reviews and essays that got printed in freebie weeklies in California.

Initially her publication was the East Bay Other (or something like that), in the vicinity of Berkeley, California. In the mid-80s she collected a stack of her essays and had them printed up under a vanity imprint called the SoHo Press. For most kitchen-table scribblers, the story would end there. But Judith was an idler with modem, and she subscribed to

Dago Death Trip

Many years ago, say fifteen if you like, I was recruited as a contributing writer for an obscure but wealthy weekly newspaper in Southern California. Let us call it the San Diego Bystander. My stint as contributing writer lasted only a few days, as I was soon inveigled into becoming a contributing editor, then associate editor, and finally managing editor. This all happened in the course of about three months. It was a magical time.

No, wait! I was never managing editor. But there was a plot to make me managing editor. By the time I got wind of the plot, I’d figured I wanted no part of it. But I’m jumping ahead…

A Vision of Hell

About twenty years ago I dreamt about hell and the devil. Repeatedly. I made the mistake of repeating my fast-fleeting memories of these dreams to a few people. It appears I upset them greatly, because then they had nightmares about the devil and being areligious people (like most of the folks I knew), they just couldn’t handle it. They were like people who don’t have bookshelves, so when you give them a pretty new book they stand around holding it and worrying about it, because they have no place suitable to set it down.

In particular I recall Elke, a German woman named Elke was particularly upset by my description of the Bad Guy. He may have had horns in my telling (I honestly don’t remember) but his most striking characteristic was his deformed, bifurcated face, like a pair of buttocks.

Oh how Elke fretted. You’d think no one had ever dreamt of the devil before. She decided to calm herself down by Seeking a Rational Explanation, as though a nightmare needed one. She told herself, and me, that my vision of Old Nick was just something I’d picked up from Hieronymus Bosch. A clear case of begging the question, but Maybe this helped her get over it. I don’t know.

Old arse-face was not my only nocturnal encounter with the in a filthy underground tunnel into which I’d been led by a Negro practicing voodoo. The worst thing about this cramped tunnel wasn’t its darkness or its filth but the certainty I had that it was inescapable. Miraculously, it seemed, I awoke, with the thought that there wasn’t anything strange at all about worshipping the devil: belief in magic and the supernatural is part of our nature, so if you don’t believe in God you still have the devil to reckon with. So you pay homage to him in one form or another, believing in things like the Earthly Paradise and the Perfectibility of Man (if you’re a sophisticated Westerner) or his ability to bring disaster to your enemies (if you’re a savage). Your notion of evil takes on a pragmatic, self-centered aspect. Anything that keeps you from getting what you want at the moment is evil; the face of your enemy is by definition evil (at least while your enemy is still your enemy; tomorrow he may be your friend and together you can form a league against some other solipsistic idea of evil). Furthermore, anyone who talks in highfalutin abstractions and long-range terms that mean nothing to you and have no benefit to you, at least none that you can immediately see, is probably evil as well. That’s the way we are wired, back in our little ape-brains. Maybe this is why hatred of Christianity, or God-worship in general, is such an obsession among

Miniskirts: The Current Thing? Uh-huh. Sure.

Two years ago I happened upon an image of the original poster for the New York Mini roadrace, a 10k that happens every June. Originally conceived as a 6-mile ‘mini-distance event’ the Mini began life as something called the Crazylegs Marathon. It was named after a leg-shave product briefly marketed by Johnson’s Wax.

Do you remember Edge shave gel? ‘Give your face the Edge’? Well, that was Crazylegs. Same stuff, same can, different label.

Crazylegs Marathon. The name and sponsor sound bizarre enough, but for creep-out factor they have nothing on

How to Deal with a Troublesome Individual…

…or a crazy. I am not sure there is a hard distinction.

While I was writing the last frippery something else was eating at me and it had nothing to do with Consumer Reports. It was something that happened at one of my gyms. A case of bad personal interaction. One of those odd encounters I get every year or two, usually with a highstrung or unstable person, someone whose behavior is so unexpected it sets my teeth on edge for weeks afterwards and makes me wonder–maybe I’m the one who’s crazy here.

On this occasion, though, it wasn’t me, it was the other person. I know because I’ve had trouble with her before. I’ve known her for about a year and a half. Skinny, pale, about 50, with a short crop of spiky black hair and red-red lipstick. Let us call her Maureen Kabuki. She is not Japanese, however.

I first met Maureen Kabuki when I joined this upscale health club on the West Side of Manhattan. She’d been a member for years. We both used lockers at the west end of the locker room and sometimes took the same classes, so we chatted occasionally. She was chatty and bubbly, and when I’m with a bubbly person I go bubbly too. I riff. Laffs all around.

We were friendly, though never friends. There wasn’t much to connect with. She often seemed a little dim, but only (or so I told myself) in the way that hicks and nurses often seem dim. They’re not really stupid, you know, they’re just not used to understanding any kind of nuanced conversational idiom. That was it, sure. She was unsophisticated.

We’d be in a class together, and I’d make some bland remark on the level of, “I’ve never done this, but I’ll try,” and Maureen would immediately apologize for it, as though it were the height of outrageousness. Had I really said something odd, or was Maureen funny in the head? It wasn’t a big deal, so I put it aside.

Then I was away for a while and when I saw Maureen again I found she was very cold and snotty to me. Quite theatrical about it, you know. Melodramatic, in case I might miss the point. I’d say, “Hi Maureen,” (or whatever her name really is), and she’d go–unnh–literally lifting her nose in the air as though I were a bad smell she was trying to avoid. I’d try to be friendly, strike up a conversation, but she always led me down

The Uses of Idiocy, or Is This a Good Thing?

Let’s recall the early days of webmania (1995-2000, roughly) and the commonplace observations you’d hear about its effect upon our national, or meganational, culture. “We are becoming two nations,” the favorite cliche went, “the computer-literate and the others.” What this almost always meant was, those who were daily Internet addicts vs. those who had not yet hopped on the bandwagon. Sometimes this was phrased in a way that suggested socioeconomic deprivation (“only ten percent of African-Americans have used the World Wide Web” and that sort of thing.)

When I Got Back to New York Everyone Was Dead

Maxwell Vos, Ben Bagley. But there was always Carley Cunniffe. Now I find Carley Cunniffe, the stunning head of her family’s investment boutique, is also dead. Damn.

And Where Shall Mister Buckley Sit?

It’s been some weeks since Bill Buckley died and I haven’t figured out where he stands in the Great Scheme of Things. Was he Good or Bad for Civilization? Surely, in his younger days, he was a guided missile for the Christian West, with all the force and singlemindedness that a

(Ah, but that’s just how our Chris is. Superficially smooth but incredibly inept socially, always eager for the cheap filthy laugh at your expense. He had a similar falling-out with old friend and onetime housemate Michiko Kakutani around 1983. They haven’t spoken si


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