Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Hanover

"Laufhaus"

I`m in a Greek cafe. Nice enough place. They don´t speak German, I don´t speak Greek, and I didn´t even bother trying English, though I doubt I´m fooling them. I´m sharing the bar with this older gent, white hair, white beard, constant snuffling of phlegm from his nostrils to the back of this throat in those chortling gulps that make me gag. He´s drinking beer from tap, and ouzo by the shot glass. I´m drinking Jack and Coke , resist bumming his hand rolled smokes. He rolls them with stubby fingers, fingers with skin tone bandages two tones too tan to match his fingertips.

Wait, wait. Lemme begin again...

** In Hanover, just off the Hauptbahnhof, toward the seedy parts where good German folk never wander, there's a small Greek cafe running parallel to the street. It's a nice enough place, if you're into back alley backgammon and watered down whiskey, where the people don't speak much German, and you shouldn't even bother trying English.

On any given weekday, shortly after the lunch rush of foreign teenagers from the neighboring hostel, you can share the bar with an older gent, a white haired white bearded threadbare sort of fellow. The kind of old man with a swollen nose that glows red long after it's been warmed. Constant snuffle of phlegm from nostrils to the back of his throat in chortling gulps that make you gag.

The waitress, she´s a half greek half german half czech beauty in skin tight leggings and knee high boots, calfskin. Her hair is cropped bleached blonde. Skin olive pale. She smiles at me, says things I don´t understand. I smile and order, "eine mare, bitte." Und another. She wears an onyx necklace and flashes straight white pearls under smokey brown marbles. Her eyebrows are plucked to thin lines. She´s wearing a black apron folded under a wide leather belt, buckle pulled to the small of her back.

The men here, they stare. They don´t know me. That´s ok. I don´t know them. I´m drinking alone, in a new place, with people I don´t know and a pocketful of euros. The last time I had a drink here I paid for it in marks.

The bar is plaster over the walls, blushed peach and with honey stained table tops. There´s three or four gambling machines, a glassed in smoking section, a cafe four steps below the bar area, nice looking people in wool sweaters and knit scarves drinking and ordering fried food. Here at the bar, there´s me and the old man. We´re looking at a business card, back side up, with a hand written hotel room number scrawled on it. Blue ink. A barfly Fraulein left it, wrinkled type, with caked on make up and purple bulges under her eyelids. She left the card, after we failed to pay attention to her, failed to water her tulips. I flip the card over. Some lawyer´s information embossed in black.

The old man, he came in a few minutes after I arrived, came in with three glass Beck bottles, empty, in a Turkish suitcase (plastic bag), laid them out on the counter. I think he got a free drink for them. I wonder if he pulled the bottles out of the trash or brought them from home. He came in after I had a few drinks, felt the pressure change and cool rush through my wool pullover when he opened the door. He sat next to me, no courtesy spacing, just there, next to me, the only person to nod a greeting in the whole damn city since I've been here. A real warm shoulder.

Each time I order a new drink the half and half and half beauty fetches me a clean tumbler from behind the bar, gives me a double plus shot of whiskey and soda over zwei ice cubes. Each time she pulls a tumbler down from the second of three glass shelves, each shelf stocked with stemware and tumblers, snifters and steins. There are eighteen tumblers left on the second shelf.

Over the bar, I watch two hours of silent Greek music videos. The women in the videos look like Lady Gaga. Over sized rhinestone studded sunglasses and masquerade masks seem a common theme. The men are chest haired and open shirted, suave noses and slicked curls.

The old man, he´s turning to me, turning away from his steady loss of coins in a card gambling machine, he´s speaking Deutsch, then Greek, and I shake my head and he points to the business card still in my hand and I hand it over. He flips open his cell and makes a call. I can hear the barfly's smoke husky throat coo on the far side. He pays his tab and wanders off into the cold dark afternoon.

I´m thumbing a keyring, pushing it through the fob´s opening, slowly, slowly. Three halves gives me another whiskey, on the house, smiles, turns away, looks back and meets my gaze, smiles again. She lights up a thin cigarette and makes eyes at me through the smoke.

The men, they keep looking at me, and I wonder if I can make an unnoticed exit. I wonder if they talk about me when I glance around and see their huddled heads, glancing back at me. The space between us shrinks from a few tables to a few chairs. They watch half and half and half, I catch them staring at her, and they look back at me like I've caught them in the act of something dirty and give me the look saved for intruders on private playgrounds. I turn away as one of them makes a grab for three halves' ass. She whirls round quick, leading with a slap. The guy giggles. She pushes away. They tease after her, a flurry of lightning gropes, throwing cat calls. She steps out of range, reaches her hands behind her, pinches her pants below her rump and pulls down the seat, then tucks the front of her sweater down straight over her belly. She assumes an affectation of renewed dignity and heads back to the kitchen. The bartender, he looks up from the football scores in the paper.

I need to find an ATM. And some food, not fried. Dominoes are smacking on tables behind me. Girls giggle at backgammon. The bartender, his polished head reflecting blue LEDs, he´s been watching me through his newspaper since the sky was bright grey. He wears a single blue dish glove on his right hand, stirs cappuccino with a small spoon in his left hand, eyeballs me over the rim.

I figure my Frau is probably worried about me by now, waiting. She´s probably hoping any second I come through her apartment door. Her anxiety will dissolve with temporary happiness upon seeing me, until she whiffs the second hand smoke settled on my sweater, until she realizes just how pissed she is I've been gone so long and turns another lovely evening into a torture session of how much I suck, and I turn back around without even taking off my coat and hop the tram for another pub, another place I don´t speak the language, and don´t care, coz they don´t know me from Adam. I decide to cut out the intermission of drama, and wander to the next pub. I don't have to be anywhere for nine more days.




Night Terror Journal Entry #873

This one was fun. Well, mostly fun. Enjoyable in a thrilling roommates wake me up and I'm screaming sense. Stay with me here.

OK, first, I'm gonna want Michel Gondry to direct the film adaptation. Or Terry Gilliam. Or Terry Pratchett. Or Jeff Nichols. Or Peter Jackson. In some way, all of these guys contributed to what I'm about to describe. Maybe you can find their finger prints in my nightmare. Here we go.


I'm in the Marines again. I'm in a rifle squad. Our job is to escort two attractive anthropologists to some remote, isolated village on a mysterious island.

I have a flame thrower. This is unusual, what with the weapon being banned as a weapon and all, but I have one, nonetheless. So does another squad mate. We got a SAW and a 240 in the mix, the rest of the guys have M4's.

Yay, we're patrolling, everybody is flirting with the PhD's, we find some sort of large animal trail, almost a hard pack dirt road really. There's the volcano ahead, the one we must circumvent to find the obscure indigenous Whomever people of Mysterious Island.

The colors are vivid, almost pulsating. Green florescent jungle to the left of the trail, waist high field of dry grass racing to the horizon on the right. Volcano spewing classic fluorescent red. Lapis sky with pearled clouds. I'm enjoying this.

The path dips to an arroyo cutting perpendicular to our progress. At the bottom is a 50 meter wide stretch of mud thick standing between us and Whomeverville. The point man dainty dips a toe, trying to determine depth. He calls back over his shoulder it's fine and turns to face his fate, a rising Sarcosuchus. The giant croc separates him from his legs and tosses him screaming down its gullet like a seabird swallowing a fish. His boots stand still at the shore.

The M4's are snapping, and the SAW rips. The croc regards us as flies. Somebody yells for the flame thrower and I run up and napalm the thing, which seems to agitate it enough to submerge into its wallow and we're left to figure out what now? Doc wonders what do to with the feet filled boots.

Well, all that commotion must've made quite the racket, coz here comes Trouble, a Spinosaurus, and the blonde Phd, she says not to worry, Spinosaurus is a fish eater, but nobody told Spinosaurus, coz it's bearing down on us. I ready the flamer and let loose a long arch of liquid fire and it looks all surreal, me torching a dinosaur and all. The squad is dumping rounds and the 240 is chewing through belts and we're fixated on this thing running up on us huge and hot breathed and oblivious to the Tyrannosaurus jumping out of the jungle on our flank.Tyrannosaurus starts eating the men in the middle of the column like popcorn and it's all chaos until the second flamer blasts it back and the Spinosaurus flees aflame out into the eternal grass field and we crumple to the ground leaning against our packs and assess ourselves and our buddies for wounds and count our number and Doc is gone and somebody is crying and the PhDs are holding one another.

And then...you smell smoke? Yeah...yes, I do. And we stand up, and spin round lookin', and the grass field is burning thick under stacking gray columns, and there's these hopping embers coming at us in a cresting wave, fiery plugs, blazing giant mice, screeching and agonized and they crash into us and these hot little fuckers, tracers through raw meat, cauterized holes like bullets and bees, stinging, and I'm screaming, with the burning and hypnotic hysteria...

That's when Chief woke me up, with Andy behind him and Ramon holding a towel to cover his naked shame, and they ask if I'm alright, them all anxious in the face, and Sure, sure I'm fine.

Fuck it, it's 4 A.M. Who wants coffee? And me and Andy and Ramon are Sure, sure, that sounds fine.



Passing Grade

Mike, you took this class, right?

Yeah...ten years ago. What's up?

Game theory stuff, the compellence game, a form of the ultimatum game. Check out the math.

Shiiiiiiit. That looks like a complicated formula.

Well, what's the secret?

Tell you the truth, I didn't retain anything from that class. I didn't even study.

How'd you pass it? This class is kicking my ass.

Well, I went, I traveled out of town this one weekend, a couple hours away. Went to this restaurant and caught the professor having an intimate dinner with somebody other than his wife.

So what are you saying?

Catch the professor with a dick in somebody other than his wife. That's how I passed.

170120 Dream

On the floor of this prison slash asylum. There are multitudes of crazy people about, of all types, and others not so crazy. The floor is large, and separated into sections, some sections 'nicer' than others. Some much, much worse. Some are dead, some are dying, some are crippled or injured, bleeding and missing limbs. Some are violent. Some are banded together to commit violence. Some are banded together to protect themselves against violence. Some are crazy and are violent toward others for reasons I cannot determine. Most are trying to avoid violence. Some feign death or injury in an attempt to avoid the violence and crazy sickness of those around them - like a defense mechanism. Sometimes I do this. Sometimes I lay on the floor in a pool of blood when the violent ones come, and they pass over me.

And as I'm trying to avoid the violent persons, I hear the speakers in the ceiling and I'm suddenly aware that I've always been aware of this. And the speakers are calling out people by name or groups, telling them to leave, telling them they deserve to stay, telling them hopeful and discouraging and contradictory and blabative and drivelish and loving and hateful things. And some of the people in the prison slash asylum pause underneath the speakers to listen. And sometimes it seems they recognize a particular voice. 

And one day as I'm laying in somebody else's blood in a particularly dim section of this prison slash asylum, I fixate on the mirrors surrounding the perimeter walls. The mirrors are surrounding all about and I'm suddenly aware that I've always been aware of this. And I rise and forget all about me, and walk to the mirrors, and press nose to glass and hand-cup my face to shield it from the light of the prison slash asylum floor and there they are inside, watching us. Taking notes. Taking note of me, taking note of me discovering them on the other side. I pound on the glass, and they motion me to the side. And there's a door.

And I'm suddenly aware that I've always been aware of the door. All about the door are a number of prison slash asylum dwellers, and they're speaking amongst themselves, arguing about how to open the door, how to get to the other side, what's on the other side, if it's worth the trip. There's a sign on the door, "OPEN". There's a counter next to the door, an open counter with a person sitting in it, and I walk up, and I ask what's on the other side. "The next part." And I ask her how I get there. "You walk through the door." And I ask her how I walk through the door. "The same way you walk through all doors - you open them, and then you step through." And that's what I did.

On the other side of the door are people crowded around windows, peering into the prison slash asylum. Some are taking notes and some are speaking into microphones, sending messages to the inmates, trying to coax their friends and relatives out of the floor. And I speak to the woman from the counter, and I ask her what to do next. "Some people stay here and try and save their friends and relatives, but most move on." And I stay for awhile, trying to beg and plead through a microphone in an effort to save my friends and family, friends and family I'm suddenly aware have always been there, and sometimes one of them, friends or family, will stand under a speaker and listen to me, and even rarer they would come to the door and sit and discuss the implications of crossing with me, but none ever opened the door, though one friend said it was nice to know the door was there.

And I wandered away and wondered for what was next, and found another door and stepped out into the bright and onto a road. And people were walking on the road, going back and forth between the prison slash asylum and the city. The road lead to a large city, spread horizon to horizon, and a sign said, "Welcome to Maslow City."

"That's a thin metaphor," I said. And then I thought, "Ah, cynicism will be a shield on this level, but you'll need to abandon it to get to the next."

...And then I'm shaken awaken by Rick Sanchez who says, "Get up, Morty, you were having a dream that'll get you laid in college."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cocaine and Hookers

Once upon a time, I worked for a fortune 100 company. I worked my way from union floor to tech selection. Along the way a partner and I automated command line interfaces to OC3/12/48/192's, digital switches, etc.


In my new position I was responsible for putting equipment through the lab and determining cost/benefit analysis whilst aligning with progress goals for the company. I got to choose what tech, I got to choose the strategy. My choices informed the VP. My choices affected 15% of American market. Contracts were hundreds of millions per year. Vendors wined and dined my VP, the budget team, the CFO, COO, CEO, even me and my wife. They flew them/us out to various locations for a 'working weekend' to show their new equipment in their labs, working in ideal conditions. I went to one such event with my partner and our VP. Cocaine and hookers, with my own eyes. Think about the expense account a vendor's salesperson has when it's a quarter billion dollar contract, think of the lengths they'd go to. It was great fun, and at the end of the first year I was flown to company headquarters to give my recommendations for our way forward. It went something like this:


"Sir, after examining claims of various vendors, running equipment in the lab and field, and aligning with our goal of automated systems and network reliability, I recommend you use vendor X, and push for open access to the command-line interface for in-house GUI development. Since it's a 250 million a year contract, I'm certain they will be willing to give us this concession."


"Wow, LL, you know your shit! But we want to buy vendor (cocaine and hookers). Ladies and gentlemen, vendor C&H even provided us a power point showing how if we buy THEIR product at 250M, we'll save 280M! Look, it's all right here in the powerpoint C&H made and gave to me. And since I'm a VP with an MBA and no EE or IT degree I only make money decisions and have no fucking clue what technology is, fuck, I can't even send an attachment without drama, and since I'm only in this position with the company for 1-2 years, and because my bonus is dependent on the (vendor provided) projected savings to the company in the short time I'll be in this position. LL, I like what you're saying, but when was the last time you bought me blow in Vale?"


"Sir, Vendor C&H is adamant in denying us access to their interface, because they want to sell us their GUI on top of the product. Also, their predictive tech has a margin of error of +/- 1000, but their max range with a repeater is only 2000. And each time their system errors out, the mid-way repeater predicts 'problem within 1000'. Of course it is."


"LL, I hear what you're saying, and I value it, I really do, but I just don't see how your proposal is gonna candy my nose or suck my dick."


"Sir, my plan is what's best for the company for the next five years, four of which you won't even be here in this position."


"You know, LL, all the vendors are right. You won't play ball. Go back to your new corner office and come back out when you're ready to play the game and drink the kool aid."


"..."


So, I went back home. I stopped going in Monday's. Then Friday's. Then I'd only go in during lunch. Then not really ever at all. I'd log in remotely, clear the buffers on the automated system my partner and I worked on. Raised my kids. Maybe saw my office once a week.


We went through a couple more VP's. I was no longer invited to Vale, or Hawaii. But each year they'd fly me out to company HQ, and I'd give them my take. I'd make shit up, didn't matter, they weren't listening. They were keen on contracting whichever vendor gave them the best working vacation.


My last such event, Vendor C&H buys me a beer at dinner. We talk. He was quitting, moving on. "Shit, LL, this quarter billion stuff is peanuts. I just got a job playing in the majors. I leave next week to be a cable TV lobbyist in Washington. That's where the big money is, that's where the big expense accounts live. Learn to play ball, LL, or you'll never have fun."


"..."


Within six months, we got a new VP. I believed her rhetoric when she said she was going to be different, do what was best for the company, elevate us out of our 9th place slump 5 years in a row.


So, I dropped it all on her. EVERYTHING. She looked at me like I was vomiting rainbows. Scheduled a follow on. Asked me to bring all my data, supporting docs, etc.


And I showed up. And there they were, lawyers, my boss, my boss's boss, etc all the way to the VP. And they had a folder. And I opened it. It had a dollar amount in it.


"That's what we give you for walking away."


What was I going to do? I took the next few years off life, went to school, raised my kids, rode the cash coz I sure as fuck wasn't going back to corporate amerikkka.


I finally ended up in a place where the ethics are less muddled - espionage.


LL

Friday, December 23, 2016

Opportunity to Criticize

"I don't like most of your stories. The men are so pitiful in them."

" All men I've known have been pitiful, occasionally heroic, sometimes noble, but all pitiful."

"But not all men are pitiful. I think you are just projecting how you see yourself on them, and that's reflected in your characters. You should write more protagonists like in the Coen Brothers' Letters. That was a fun character!" 

"Yes, but he's so despicable."

"Despicable is better than pitiful."

"..."

"And I don't like the women in your stories, either. They are goddesses or whores. Where is the in-between?"

"Is there anything you do like about my stories?"

"Hm...what I really like about your stories is the opportunity it creates for me to criticize you."

"!"

"That sounds so bad. I mean, I enjoy the opportunity to provide you feedback."

"No, just a second...I'm going to write that down...'the opportunity...it creates...for me to...criticize you.'"

"That's not what I said, that's not what I meant. You make it sound so bad."

"It's always easier to offer opinions on changing something than to create something from scratch."

"..."

"Don't worry, babe. When I write about you, you're always a cynosure."

"What does that mean?"

"It means I always give you the last word."

 "..."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Death Blossom Barbarians

Out in the desert. Loaded for bad guys. Real group of hard core confirmed killers. Blood and guts and ask for seconds. Death Blossom Barbarians. JDAM Damnations.

Dismounted patrol.

And LCpl Smitty B, he jumps off the path like he barefooted an ember. "Oh fuck." He looks down amid the sand and gravel. They gather all around. It's a kangaroo mouse. Cute little critter. Except its eyes are popped out of a slightly lop-sided skull. Little guy starts convulsing in the dust.

"Whadda we do?"

"Shoot it."

"Don't shoot it, we don't want people knowing we're here."


"Put it out of its misery."

"Finish him!"


"Who's gonna do it?"

"Smitty stepped on it, he should take care of it."

"Aw, man." Smitty looks at it. Like a goldfish on the carpet, all eyes googlie and every direction staring and thrashing around. And Smitty looks maybe like he's working himself up to it, finding the fortitude to finish what was started. "I can't, I can't." Smitty, who smoked a couple of 12 year olds in Helmand with a 'Watch this'. Smitty, who shotgun slayed a woman what surprised him while she hid in the corner of a mud hut. "I can't, I can't."

"I'll do it." Sgt Reys. RTO POG. Grabs a rock. Tells Smitty to step aside. Everybody watches. Reys kneels, brings the rock down hard. The gravel and sand diffuse the blow. Only smooshed the poor bloodied bugger into a rock shaped dimple in the path. Reys hits it again. Little guy is still twitching. He hits it again. And again. And that poor creature just gets mangled more. Won't stop living. Won't finish dying. And Reys keeps saying, "Die, little fucker. Just die!" But the little fucker don't. And Reys can't see it anymore, the shatter battered flipping thing, coz of the tears.

And Reys looks up, sees the squad, faces all snotted and teary mirrors of his own. These hard core killers. Out in the desert. Loaded for bad guys. Blood and guts and ask for seconds. Death Blossom Barbarians. JDAM Damnations.

"Use your K-BAR."

LL