A travel article describing the joy and horror of travelling and relationships.
Hoy voy a escribir algo un poco fuera de lo normal: una reseña musical, o más precisamente, una recomendación musical.
Muchas veces he mencionado uno de los impulsos más poderosos posibles hacia la escritura creativa, para mí, es la música. A menudo uno se siente incapaz de generar ideas, escribir nuevos argumentos, sentir hondamente los sentimientos de los personajes de los cuentos, etc., y la música se ayuda en ese aspecto. Es decir, mientras uno se queda en las zonas encalmadas del mar, se hace falta el viento de la música, que se llena a uno con varias emociones, unos puntos de partida para la imaginación, y una dirección emocional. La música en sí sugiere un tono (alegría, tristeza) y posiblemente un argumento (conflicto, cambio, alienación, terror) y, de vez en cuando, personajes enteras – como si la música fuese el rumor interno de una psicología.
Bueno, basta de circunloquios. La música que me inspiró recientemente es la de los Hexagrams. Es un grupo mexicano con pinta de insolación, paranoia, y un sentido apocalíptico. El track “Ghost” me cristaliza esa sensación de inquietud, temor, y la realización de que la comunicación verdadera es derrotada, imposible, incoherente.
Aquí el link para la música de Hexagrams en Bandcamp:
‘Murica – Part 2
Monday at the office the enormity of the problem became obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt. Ronald could count the walking wounded: Derrik Nika, director of sales and advertising – a chubb. Louis Arella, secretary to the president – a pot-bellied blimp. Vincent Bolugulu, director of accounting – a great yellow whale seeking a sea of soda. But that’s not all – many more, from junior execs to sales floor workers to bright and young yet cherubic interns were all fat, all bulging, all gorging themselves in an orgiastic lunchtime feast of pastries, untoward portions of sugared coffee creamers, and overly rich salad dressings.
It all hit him, this pathos of public fatness, as he sat at his desk watching the security cams luridly displaying the Walpurgis menagerie of human obesity, turning and shifting about him like a liquid gyre of calories.
He thought to himself: We’re were all going to die here, each and every one of us, stuffed with sweets until our little blessed hearts stopped ticking. No less than the miners, This Great Nation’s office workers are killing ourselves with Santa’s own cookies. We’re nibbling our way open graves.
It was then he took action. First he got in contact with Lucy Miller, VP of human resources – officially One of the Last Thin People around, who unlocked the door for him to touch base with Brandon Wisebell, North America Market Coordinator of the Professional Christmas Ornament Merchant’s Association. Slowly, bit by bit, he won their agreement, and then their sacred trust, in creating a radical new plan for corporate weight loss. It was already clear was going to be far bigger than one corporation in the Biz, far bigger. Lowstadt was thinking national – thinking global! Weeks of hard work, late nights at the office, early mornings at the gym, and an entire new-company wide drive to get associates to lose weight later – he received a knock at his door from no one less than Barbara Wertzog, directress of the International Obesity Taskforce (she was thin as a squirrel and had abs like an iron bar – before you ask).
She didn’t say hello, but launched right into it: “You’ve got quite the fantastic idea there – Ronald. We’ve thought about it long and hard – using market-based solutions to defeat this obesity epidemic– but you have really put the rubber to the road and hit the nail on the head with this proposal – you really set the place on fire!”
“Thank you Ms. Hertzog,” Lowstadt replied, putting his hand to his left knee and feeling like a combination of a Star Trek Captain and Jersey City Pimp. “I never do things by halves. I’m ready to pull the trigger on this.” He made a shooting motion with one hand.
The two of them, one in pants suit and the other seated, with his suit jacket on, looked exactly like an illustration from a “LEARN ENGLISH FOR BUSINESS!” book popular in Paraguay and taught widely in schools there, though they would never know this.
Ms. Hertzog Continued:
“I’m sure you won’t miss your mark! Please, if you would, tell me more about this program of yours. I’ve heard it’s gotten real results. Even The Economist featured you as a ‘health entrepreneur.’ ”
“It’s simple, really,” Lowstadt answered as he leaned back in his black leather office chair, “all we had to do was divide associate pay in two – one currency for consumer spending, and another for food related expenses. Employees are evaluated on their weight if their BMI is over 32 – with incentives for our good losers and salary adjustments for the backsliders. We also hired an occupational nurse to keep track of weight loss in the factory.”
“What’s the nurses’ name?”
“Slips the mind,” answered Lowstadt.
Fame was not done with this man.
Six months later, the Christmas Ornament Community’s trade magazine The Frosted Ball, named Lowstadt its no. 1 super guest of honour at the yearly soirée held for anyone-who-was-anyone in Ornz Biz. While at the party, Osborne Naft, his assistant, asked him what was his philosophy of Christmas Decoration Product Sales and Marketing. Just what is the secret of a Christmas God? Lowstadt, perhaps drunk on far too much eggnog, or perhaps even drunk with the increasing success of his anti-fatness campaign, answered him with a frankness that a later shocked him in more sober moments: “Osby. Oz boy. Ozboy. I am going to tell you something about Ornament sales – Ornz sales. Basically they are like middle class housing development crack. Get pair of 40-ish parents hooked on a few Mickey Mouse Collectable bulbs, and you’ve got em’, you’ve got em for life. Mid-life crisis to Grave.” Lowstadt swaggered out of that party, right after looking at Ozboy’s shocked face, and he didn’t care one bit.
His proudest day though, was the day that the Senate called him to testify on the incredible success of his market-stimulated weight-loss programme. Employees had literally shit out tonnes of their useless extra fat, making them moderately more attractive.
It was a clear day, a sunny day, and also the date of Senate Resolution Debate #137838411b-71(lop170ff). Senate statements, delivered under the auspices of the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Defence, revealed that obesity had long since enclosed the nation in its flabby paws; 87% of all adults not actively serving in the armed forces had a BMI of over 32 – the newly established limit for extreme fatness. The effects of this were profound. First of all cars, trains, planes, and automobiles all needed to be bigger. Bigger cars needed bigger spaces, and bigger shoppers needed bigger aisles to get their big butts to the registers. A nightmare of logistics. All of this somehow equalled out to billions lost each year and also a lot of deaths related to fatness in one way or another. Another thing is that no one was fit enough for the Army, something the military representatives continued to yammer on about.
When it came time to speak, Lowstadt was righteously theatrical – just like old Mawbill Rilloy. He took the Senators by the hand through a wonderland of words, more dazzling than any trade-sized frosted Christmas Bulb ever produced, and shocked them with the fatness of the people, disgusted them with the shamelessness of their weight-gaining, and inspired them with a message of thinness and hope for the future. All were moved, and a prayer was said thanking Providence – and not the one in Rhode Island.
Finally the Senate, old and wise, conferred among themselves. There was much wagging of many chins, stern looks were given, and sharp questions rose in a magisterial clatter. Everyone had suits on, with little American Flag pins, even the representatives from the Yellow Party. You could tell they were seriously serious about this.
In the end a decision was made, after many hours of deliberations: this was bigger than worker’s rights, bigger than blowing up more Arabs even. This touched the very core of the Nation. Lowstadt’s revolutionary idea of two currencies – Dollas for buying “Stuff,” and USBUX for buying “eaty stuff,” was gaining huge support from the green party.
Needless to say, a few fossilized old rebels in the Yellow party still called, toothlessly, for moderation – but as Mawbill Rilloy put it in his news show: they were the “yellow fat fellows,” which didn’t quite rhyme, but was good enough for the watchers of FoxxCon News IV. Anyway, everyone knew they didn’t care about the rolling plague of obesity, for they were clearly way back in the pockets of those dishonest and pig-eyed farmers.
Lowstadt’s law passed easily. It was called the USA COP law or more properly the United States of America currency revaluation plan and Child Obesity Prevention law.
It was that same day, perhaps by chance or perhaps by the providential predestination of a divine hand, that Lowstadt saw some uncouth types entering the capitol building. They were short, roundish, chubby (of course), and swaddled in coarse cheap garb. The wore the kind of false formalwear that menial staff, such as hotel or restaurant staff, wear when they have to have contact with their betters – even though the great majority of these menials can have no clear notion of why they are not wearing their own rags nor the meaning of anything better. It also, distantly, made him recall his own High School days, long ago, when he wore a faded and used JP penny blazer for a particular dance on a particular night with a particular girl.
Despite his mind wandering, he kept on watching the strange lumps. They weren’t prisoners or foreigners – but they had an escort of police. What were they?
Fascinated, Lowstadt followed. Security let him right in, as they both recognized him, and did not think to stop a well-dressed ornz biz executive on his way to what, they assumed, was a matter of some official importance.
He learned that they were in fact, the Miners from West Virginia. Some man, named Bewford or Boford or Bullford rambled endlessly. His mouth was as toothless as those of the Yellow Party hags, and he stank like sweat and mildewed dust. His subalterns all followed him to the podium, in front of the now mostly-empty Senate audience chamber, and mumbled out their various demands, pleas, and even prayers. Someone prayed for Amity, which made Lowstadt think of the Amityville Horror, which was an awesome movie with great monsters.
The Senate chair silenced the petitioners after approximately 45 minutes of blabber and gave the floor up to counterpoints, comments, and feedback from the mostly-elderly citizen audience that was permitted to watch all Senate proceedings – with Lowstadt now being seated in the upper tier amongst their number.
Filled with a sense of pride, gas, or something, Lowstadt took the podium and delivered a firestorm invective against the miners. He compared their health challenges to his own workers at the Ornz Biz, to those of office workers all over America, and decried their focus on machine safety as foolish when 63% of a Americans can’t even run 500 yards in 10 minutes.
He had a point.
“Where is our military readiness?” He asked rhetorically. “Where is it!”
He concluded, in the now silenced chamber, with a phrase, that must have sprung to his lips from the perfect brain of The Creator himself: “We have major threats in this country gentlemen, threats to children and mothers brought by obesity. I ask you, gentlemen of the Senate to consider mothers, Mothers before Miners. Mothers not Miners!”
The room burst into an uproar of applause.
The Senators Shouted: Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Ronald Lowstadt was on his way to something.
‘Murica – Part 1 of 2
It was on a gelid 17th of February in the year of our Lord MMXLI that Ronald Lowstadt had his epiphany, his realization, his eureka moment. What he understood in that moment of clarity was that they were all dying – slowly or fastly – all the bloated whales at the Lexington Christmas Ornament Marketing Collective. Each and every one! The clock was ticking, and Lowstadt as a man of action was ready to strike like a razor-fin alpha tiger with a paunch.
The idea really came to him as he watched the Red Eagle News Network’s nightly news show sponsored by FoxxConnNewsCo IV, starring Mabill Rilloy, the voice of real America.
Today’s show was about West Virginia, and its cranky coal miners. From what Ronald could tell, the miners mostly looked liked mashed up and sweaty lumps of white or black dough in the pictures that flashed across the screen in less time than it takes you to read this sentence. Mawbill let him know the lumps, the dirty kind you would never want to eat, were protesting again, wagging signs fit for a kindergarten art class. Ronald smiled at the signs made of flaccid cardboard, dollar store magic marker, and stolen managerial highlighter.
I’m just not convinced!
Anyway, what they seemed to want was an end to unsafe work practices. Some of them had been crushed to death or something. Maybe they had a point. But that said, Mawbill, the handsome 50-ish announcer that looked like the descendant of James Bond and a particularly menacing Can-opener, was right there to unmask them for what they were. He let it be known that their leader, Who the Fuck Remembers his Name, was once accused of sexual assault by his high school sweetheart and was not a regular church attender. Probably a faggot or something. Furthermore it was discovered that the union leader had gone on record to support the yellow party in the last elections – a clear indication, as if any more were needed, that these so-called miners were nothing but agitators, radicals, malcontents – bad credit risks as Mawbill RIlloy, and his buxom co-presenter Olivia Lapin, pointed out so sharply.
Still, the whole thing got Lowstadt’s mind a’ rockin’ and a rollin’ like an unsecured and potentially homicidal piece of mine equipment. Maybe his office was unsafe, too. Maybe the Lexington Christimas Ornament Marketing Collective had workplace environmental resource liabilities as dangerous as anything the whatever miners from wherever were facing.
He reached over to the Gin & Tonic at his side, reclining in front of his television in perfect entrepreneurial meditation. Swig.
He knew the road ahead would be a hard one though. Saving lives, ether down in the mine or up in the towers of the American corporate Christmas Ornaments Business, could never be easy, could never be cheap. Digging deep inside for strength, Lowstadt opened his laptop and surfed the web, looking for rays of godly light, nuggets of sacred guidance. Then it struck him, after watching 9 minutes of a Charismatic mass on Ya’llToob.com. He needed to look at his own company. His own house held the answers. Did he not remember his own house?
Did he not recall his pledge when he was hired as Director of Finance?
It so happens he didn’t, so he navigated over to the company website. Eying over those elegant, evocative lines, he wondered how he could have possibly forgotten his Corporate Vision and Profitability Foretelling for the Year of Our Saviour Jesus Christ MMXXXVIII, Fiscal Quarter 2, day 4:
“To perpetually nurture superior project and operations competencies and secure increased profitability and efficiency in an ethical way.”
Never mind that there were too many “ands,” it was a work of corporate glory; he needed but live up to his own business ethics.
It was then that Lowstadt knew that improving workplace health was not simply a luxury for whiny miners – but a true-blue necessity for office workers everywhere gosh darn it. Lowstadt went then to the drawing board – literally – a plastic white board with dry-wash markers usually used to dream up marketing flow charts and occasionally for writing out dangerous chemicals possibly latent in different Christmas ornament varnishes or spray-on smells – and began to think. Just how was employee health to be improved? What could he do, as a lowly ornaments (“We call them “ornz” in the ‘biz”) boss? Then the answer hit him like a ton of candy canes as he looked down at himself: Do what you know, Lowstadt, remember who you are – and do what you know! The answer was right there, quite literally attached to him – and to know it he had to look no farther than his own bulbous paunch sagging between his skinny chicken legs. His enemy – large, shadowy and necessarily formless – would be obesity in the workforce, and he would fight it with dollars and sense.
Delay on the 1 Train
Manhattan is a strange helter-skelter of vitamin supplement stores, fashion boutiques, twee cupcake shops, and educational institutions very seriously combatting poverty. Living there is very serious, very dream like, or possibly a nightmare. Rent is another thing. You could sell your arm, your leg, your twat, and your butt and still come up short. It’s a hard place to live – which is no secret to anyone. I heard a story once of a woman who had eight children just for the food stamps. Even today she is still a queen of free government hams, plentiful cheese, limitless boxes of Catholic charity macaroni cooked to perfection, and an open door teeming with young sharp teeth and eyes. Have you learnt anything yet?
A subway car runs over a man. Maybe he wanted to be run over. Maybe another bum pushed him on the track after a swig too many of the booze bottle between them, held in common, like a promise. Hard to say exactly why, but for 2.50$, the price of horror, you see and smell the result more realistically than Hollywood can do it in 3D. There is no line for entry – this is not the Kingda Ka kids, this is real. An open human cadaver, freshly slaughtered on the track – and it really does have a unique smell to it. Take a whiff. Now: exeunt omnes to Pinkberry, where in fact the a small seasonal artisan Peppermit luscious cream retails for 5.95$, which is ironically higher than the cost of observing mortality.
Starbucks is open too. I went there instead because my phone needed charging. I sat next to a young lady who was enjoying hot dollar pizza. Who brings pizza to Starbucks? People who like coffee and pizza. I guess that answers the question or both of us. Maybe she is a student.
She is a small girl, and not very attractive, she has no bright future ahead of her, just a lot of guarding parking lots, a distant future husband, and a Christ-mass special Pinkberry “squigglez” card loaded with 50$ from her estranged father which she will lose very soon. She will lose this card while waiting for the 1 train. A man, impossibly well dressed, will jostle her. He is white as snow, has golden hair, and is made of cash money. The colour of his suit is between blue and gray, and despite its drabness, looks very expensive because it shines like silk. In his hand there is a bag – oh what a bag! – the real money evidence, my darlings. It’s the thing that will announce he is serious in all his meetings despite his youth. In fact it is not a bag but a “Distressed camel suede pocket Yrpes Clutch” that merits its own web page with lifetime grooming and security plan. Like I said, young rich white men need props.
As Melinda, and we will call her Melinda because her real name is lost to history, saw this man with more money hidden in his left testicle than the rest of the train mashed up and extruded as a beef patty – she felt a little envy, and a little irony for the Beatz Audio earphones in his head. She’d have shook them out of his noggin if she could, but before she knew it, he jostled her, and her 50$ Pinkbery card was lost, forever, drifting in the outer oort cloud, waiting to be picked up by a bum more perceptive than any subterrene pigeon, regular flightless rat, half-mad MTA employee, or NYU student. The bum would add the cream Pinkberry card to his collection of lost gift ephemera: a card to Jamba Juice, a MET donor society card, a mysterious key card, a confusion of Starbucks cards, a NYC medicare benefit card, and some colourful free coupons for chicken nuggets at McDonalds. All these things and more, including photos of a family long gone, half forgotten, dreamed about, hated, rejected – were found on his body, or what was left of it, on the tracks of the 1 train one late night, and every person who passed him was forced to stop and smell the body.
A travel article I wrote, recently published. Note: my name is wrong on the byline.
Dimly Viewed Objects - A Travel article I wrote recently on Nicaragua.