Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Couple Things We Missed 

So, the deal is, I'm broke. But it's ok. I'm learning a lot about alcoholism, sleeping late, and gaining small daily victories over the armies of laziness and apathy. My neighborhood, a low-roofed Polish section of Brooklyn, is filled with marvelous and inexpensive places to eat and drink. Just last weekend, my friend and I, after coming from two local watering holes, stumbled for the first time into a rather disreputable looking place just across the street from my apartment (and abutting a charming and humble park, which I can view from my front window, and through whose winding paths I like to amble, because the trees, the trees are so very reassuring. To digress even further in this already hopeless entry: watching Three Kings last night, I asked Nick just why it is I like George Clooney so much. He never really does anything different, and I don't know that he's among the deepest actors. "He's very reassuring," Nick said nodding slowly. "One gets the sense he always knows the score." Indeed.).

So we stopped in this bar, the Palace, and bartender John walked right over, long strings of hair swinging and bouncing. He had a sort of wild-eyed look about him, and his snubby-sharp movements would normally unsettle me, but Jim and I, we were, we were invincible. We were men, in from the cold. We were looking for rapid conversations in low light. We were ready to meet the eye of anything that could walk or breathe or beat something silly. We were ready to pop. Ready to nod our heads in wide, sweeping circles and raise our glasses in the air. Ready to toast the mayor and the women of Rome and the death of radio and the death of grandfathers and the death of Marlon Brando. The night was vigorous and the blood was warm. We were. We were.


John took an immediate liking to us. Slouched over the bar, he squinted his eyes and asked what we'd have. Jim glanced at the bar, a wide, curving mass of solid wood, with more space between our seats and the wall than I'd ever seen in a drinking place. "Coors Light." We were ready for Coors Light.

"Make that two."

We talked, in quiet, confident tones, about... something. The bar. The evening. That thing we were laughing about before. John returned with our drinks, three dollars. Total. For two beers. With alcohol in them. At a bar. Our shock soon slid over for our joy, and we left a handsome tip. Now it was all romance and opportunity, dollar-fifty beers in a local bar, a proprietor who smiles like a salesman and knows your name. Nights, and men and women, and New York Fucking City, and who cares what time it is!

Ahh. Mmm. Ahh.

We had another round. We were interested. We were focused. Nothing but streams of words and easy breathing. We were now part of the bar, two rumpled jackets that blended seamlessly with the shapes and figures that made the place. An old wrinkled face, shiny doorjambs, two mysterious Polish women who winced and smiled. We were in, man. We were in it. We talked with John about where we were from, about Greenpoint, about crime. "The neighborhood's getting a little rough, it seems," I offered. "A couple guys got mugged the other day right on Russell, held up. With guns."

"Naahhhh," said John, with a wave of the hand, ready to take in all of Brooklyn for himself. "I've lived here my whole life, and this is nothing. Used to be a fucking war zone. First time I was ever shot was on Meeker. Bang! Car window next to me all smashed up. Never forget that."

Well, we never forget the first time, do we?

"But I don't let that stuff go on in here. No way. You get cute, and I'll beat your head in. Besides the 12 gauge and the pistol I got under the bar, I also keep a double-bladed knife and... a morning star."

A morning star. John. Swinging a morning star round the bar, spiky round shadows flying across the walls. A dull thud, a gurgling howl, a single woman's scream. Silence. The hot tension of violence observed. A scruffling chair, a pair of wide eyes. John's heavy breath.

"Can I see it?!"

John leaned over, glanced around. "Not right now. I got it out back." He winked at me. Turned and went to some other patrons.

I wanted to see the morning star. Badly. Why, and under what circumstances would someone use a morning star? Would he have the time to retrieve it from its out-back hiding place? Would he wield it confidently? What sort of damage would it inflict? The thought of John emerging from out-back, swinging this brutal weapon over his head would probably freak any would-bes back out into the cold, scrambling down the street, falling over trash cans. Though I sensed an eagerness for violence in John's eye, something made me feel reassured to know that some bar tenders, whose mothers cook chili for football games and corned beef for the $15.95 St. Patrick's Day dinner, keep a secret medieval weapon out back to preserve the low-cost hominess of his small business. His bar is our bar -- a place for the tired and weary to come and poison themselves. Yes. The stools may sag, and the smoke may be old and sad, but when you come here, to forget your day, to sink into whatever holds your insides in, John will always be there, and what's out-back will always be there, waiting for the moment when it needs come up-front. When out-back and up-front collide.

Sometimes you need reassurance, even if you don't realize it. To be reassured is to make room for another drink. Time for a long breath. Time to close your eyes in public.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Jesus Christ! 

I remember posting last year in some sort of defense of The Passion of the Christ. And now they are rereleasing a kinder, gentler version, in time for Easter.
[Mel - duh] Gibson and his distribution partner, Newmarket Films, are releasing a recut version, timed to the Easter season, that features less violence in hopes of luring more moviegoers. However, because the film is being rereleased without a rating and because it also is available on DVD, numerous theater chains have decided not to play the film, which grossed $370 million domestically last year.

Still, according to Newmarket Films president Bob Berney, the film is expected to bow Friday (March 11) on 950 screens, up considerably from the 500-700 theaters originally planned for the rerelease because of demand.

It sort of follows in the footsteps of Christianity itself, to mount a timely marketing campaign with softer edges that will appeal to more people. "Oh, you didn't like that part? Well, that's not exactly what we meant. It's more like this. Yeah. So, wanna join, or...?


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I Have No Legs 

It's just amazing how quickly the Scissor Sisters take all my worries away. I know, I know. But man. Some days you just need it.



This would be something -- something -- akin to learning that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Kind of. Except that Maskhadov is something of a freedom fighter, using terrorist tactics to liberate Chechnya. And he doesn't have a beard.
ebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, the symbol of resistance to Russia's rule in the breakaway Muslim republic of Chechnya, has been killed, Russian officials announced.

The NTV television network broadcast video footage showing the shirtless body of a middle-aged man identified as Maskhadov, who is one of Russia's two most wanted men, lying on the ground amid debris.

It followed what a spokesman for Russian federal forces in the region described as a "special operation" in the Chechen village of Tolstoi-Yurt.

"Today in the republic of Chechnya in the village of Tolstoi-Yurt an operation was carried out by special FSB forces during which the international terrorist and leader of armed bands Maskhadov was killed and his closest collaborators arrested," the head of the FSB intelligence service told President Vladimir Putin in remarks broadcast on national television.

Like Bush, Putin has used the War On Terror for political gain and nationalistic fervor and to curb liberties at home. Like Bush, Putin has a nickname for the faceless evil that blights his innocent nation: bandits. And, like Bush, Putins zealotry may backfire.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian military affairs expert, said Maskhadov's death would further destabilize the Caucasus region and Russia as a whole.

"The Islamist terrorists that Maskhadov restrained will be strengthened," Felgenhauer said.

Alexei Malashenko, a political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, agreed.

"This will weaken Chechen separatism, but the war will not end," Malashenko said, adding that some of the "moderate" rebels loyal to Maskhadov would now switch their allegiance to the radical [Chechan rebel leader Samil] Basayev.

But, I guess, until the public there makes the connection that the escalations in violence is directly proportional to their leaders' actions, war can go on and on and on. I came across this great latin phrase the other day:

Oderint dum Metuant

Let them hate, so long as they fear.


Good News! 

Democracy fans have something to cheer about: The Leader of the World is now demanding the Lebanese get this hot trend in their own country by May! And, as an added bonus, he might just throw in another freedom war against a Middle Eastern nation.
President Bush on Tuesday demanded Syria pull troops out of Lebanon before Lebanese parliamentary elections in May and give way to a democracy movement providing hope in the broader Middle East.

"The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own parliament this spring free of intimidation," Bush said.

This deserves no snarky retort. Clearly.
In a development that did not fit the U.S. script of events, however, hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Lebanese flooded central Beirut on Tuesday for a pro-Syrian rally called by Hizbollah, Lebanon's last armed militia that is backed by Syria and Iran and dubbed a terrorist group by Washington.

It dwarfed previous protests demanding Syrian troops leave Lebanon. Bush did not mention the pro-Syrian rally but White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it did not change U.S. demands.

I hope to God that Lebanon emerges as a democracy, and I'm with BushCo that this will open the door to more liberalism and freedom throughout the region. And I do think the US threat has helped certain persons along in their compliance. But how's about we start with the freedom issues we have in our own country, first. Have we all forgotten? The Patriot Act, the Free Speech Zones, the tee-shirt arrests? I was worried then excited when I saw the Lebanese people -- again, the LEBANESE PEOPLE -- protesting Syria's dominance in the streets. This seems to be how democracy grows. From within. From necessity. From individual powers congealing into one. Not through a foreign force, not through war.

I don't worry too much about invading Iran or Syria. The US just doesn't have the numbers, and, honestly, I don't know how much more war the American citizens are willing to put up with. I've heard all about the draft, but to muster any kind of popular support for that would take something truly significant. It would take...

Now that is a scary thought.


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