Bad Hank

I just found out my guiltiest of television pleasures, “Californication,” was picked up for a sixth season by Showtime.

This is a show with no redeeming social value, and I have watched every episode. David Duchovny plays burned-out, philandering fuckup Hank Moody, who also happens to be one of the great writers of the 21st century, a combination Beaudelaire, Bukowski and Oscar Wilde. Despite his gift, Hank is singularly unproductive, preferring drinking, smoking, fucking everything in skirts, getting in bar fights and mocking whomever he thinks might be trying to get him to write something, i.e., “sell out.”Californication

Luckily for Hank, he is a certifiable chick magnet, the perfect poster boy for the adage that women love bad boys. He is so bad he constantly hurts himself and everyone he comes in contact with. Unluckily for Hank (depending on how you look at it) he is also a husband and the father of a young daughter, Becca, the only female he treats with respect, although he torments and disappoints her all the time, simply by being Hank Moody.

The conceit is that Hank is truly a good guy, just misunderstood. In flashbacks we see that he dearly loves his wife Karen (the delicious Natascha McElhone) and daughter, that he is a genuinely talented artist with great insight into the human condition and a lot to offer the world. He just sees the ugly side of everything too clearly. Nothing in this world is good enough for him, and so he is on a more or less permanent binge of drinking, taking whatever drugs come his way, bedding all the women in Los Angeles, and poking sharp sticks into the eyes of everyone in the publishing and movie business who wants to help him.

Here is what the show is like: At a party at the home of a some big shot who might want to fund a movie based on one of Hank’s novels, Hank stumbles — drunk — into a darkened bedroom, where he performs cunnilingus on a woman he thinks is his wife, but who is actually his hosts wife. Then he gets sick, pulls a valuable painting off the wall and vomits on it just as his host and real wife walk in and turn the lights on. I’m paraphrasing, because that scene happened a few seasons back. In the season six opener, which I just watched today, Hank can’t find the bathroom, so he pees into his unfinished bottle of whiskey. Then, realizing there is no more whiskey in the house, he proceeds to drink what’s in the bottle. The whole thing is several notches below fart jokes.

The supporting cast is made up of perverts, predators, con men (and women), venal business associates, nymphomaniacs, addicts, narcissistic rappers and rock stars, in a Fellini-esque parade of weirdness that just keeps coming. Hank makes only bad decisions and gets beat up, arrested, drunk and cursed by all.

Each episode attempts to salvage a little sensitivity, usually at the end in a brief tender moment with Hank and Karen, or Hank and Becca, in which we see the “real” Hank, who only wants to get back with his wife (the only realistic thing in the series is that Karen has dumped him — although she does want him back) and be a good father to Becca. But we know even as we watch these endings, there will be no redemption for Hank.

So why do I watch? Hey, some guys like Batman, because he fights for justice and truth. I like Hank Moody, because he gets away with his bad, bad behavior, and the hottest babes in California keep coming on to him.

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I Got A Thang For You

You can’t sleep.

You lie awake for what feels like hours before you finally lose consciousness, and even then you see her in your fevered dreams. In the daytime you are distracted, nervous. She keeps slipping into your thoughts. What would it be like? you wonder. You got a thing for her. An animal thing. You want to know what it smells like, that velvet skin on the back side of her knee. You want to touch that area with your tongue, and feel her shudder.

But she gives you nothing, just sweet innuendo and sexy texts.

So you get up in the morning, drink coffee, get dressed, and get on with it.

Call me, Gwyneth. I got a great big honkin’ thang for you, baby.

And a new song:

I got a thing for you, baby.
I got a great big lovin’ thing for you, baby.
I got a thing for you, baby.
Won’t you have a thing for me?

You make me think about love when I see you walking down the street.
My heartbeat is racing, baby can you feel the heat?
You do something to me.
I want to do something to you.
Listen to me, baby, I’m trying to get a message through.

I got a thing for you baby, blah, blah, blah.

If you want me, you want to please me.
Why do you taunt me? Why do you tease me?
You make me crazy!
I only want your… I only want your…

You lied to me, baby, when you told me that I was the one.
You were playin’ with my heart and then going out and having fun.
Make up your mind tonight!
You could make everything all right.
Aw, listen to me, baby, I’m trying to get a message to you.

I got a thing for you baby, why don’t you have a thing for me?

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The ground turkey had been pebble-gray right after it was cooked.

She didn’t know anything about browning meat, thought the only important thing was to kill the e coli bacteria. Two days later, having been served at a couple of meals and returned to the refrigerator, the meat was white.

That stuff tasted funky last night, he thought. I’m not eating it again. His plan for dinner was to microwave a tasty burrito out of some canned frijoles and some extra sharp cheddar. But she had somehow covered every available countertop in the little kitchen with stuff, leaving no place to work: Plates, bags of produce, saucepans, utensils, paper towels, her purse, a stack of books.

He shoved a pile of junk on the table out of the way and sat down there with a plate and a tortilla.

He was carefully smearing beans on his tortilla when she started in asking him what he was going to put in his burrito. “Do you want some lettuce? How about cilantro?” He declined it all, he just wanted beans and cheese, so she started making him a salad, using all the stuff he didn’t want in his burrito.

He decided not to grate the cheese. The grater was too hard to clean, all the little cheese bits in it, and a million sharp edges. He always grated a little bit of himself trying to clean the damned thing.

She was standing at the counter, blocking the silverware drawer, so he yanked it out a little faster than usual, to show her that she was in his way. She was always in his way. The knife he wanted to use on the cheese, a cheap black-handled four-inch supermarket paring knife, wasn’t in there. The kitchen is full of knives, he thought. Who needs that one? He put his hand on the front of the drawer thinkng to slam it shut violently, but she would jump, and maybe scream, so with some effort he held himself back, and slid it gently closed.

Of course she was using the knife for something else. He found a substitute and went back to the table to slice cheese. The Cabot Extra Sharp was one of his favorites. She had told him the softer cheeses were better for him, but he loved this cheese, its strong smell and taste. Real Mexicans would have used a milder cheese, but fuck them. They would have put a bunch of chilis in it and ruined it anyway. This was his burrito.

He knew his hands were a little shaky because of the drawer thing earlier, so he was extra cautious slicing the cheese. He wanted it to melt without having to nuke it for five minutes and get it all bubbling so it would either burn his tongue or, if he waited for it to cool, congeal into a mass of cheese-like plastic. This meant it had to be thin, since it wasn’t to be grated.

She was going on about what she was putting in his salad. Lettuce and cilantro, of course. He had just explicitly said no to both of those. Cucumber, tomato wedges, diced onions. Sculpting his fine, fine slices, he only knew she was talking, not what she said.

He thought about the receptionist at work, so young and tender, the skin on her face like a baby’s, her smile so sweet and guileless. She seemed, in fact, like a baby to him, her pudgy little fingers poking at the phone buttons. Sometimes he would lean on her desk and try to make small talk, and she was always agreeable, with that baby smile, but there was nothing he knew how to say that made any real sense to her. The only time they ever connected, the two of them, was once when a little boy was hanging around her desk, pretending he could make himself invisible, and she was playing along with the kid, and she turned and said “I don’t see anybody, do you?” and he had gone along quickly and smoothly, agreeing that, no, there certainly was no little kid anywhere around, and she had lit up in genuine delight. That baby smile!

Once he had his burrito assembled he realized that it wasn’t really a burrito. No Mexican would be caught dead with it. It was just a tortilla. not even rolled up or anything, with some beans and pieces of cheese on it. He put it in the microwave at 40% power for two minutes and stood there, getting irradiated, until the thing beeped. As he sat back down at the table she brought over his bowl of salad and looked at his dinner.

“Aren’t you going to put some ground turkey on it?”

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Old Friends, Part 4

Right from the start Nixon was a pain in the butt.Nixon on the Beach

To begin with, Rick, the friend we had enlisted to help us kidnap him wanted us to help. Well, all he really wanted was for me or Scott to drive one of our cars. “I can’t put him in the Jag,” he told us, on the night of the snatch. “If he sits in the passenger seat I’ll never get past the checkpoint at San Onofre.”

I had thought Rick had a Special Ops background. That’s what he always implied when we were drinking after volleyball and that’s why we’d asked him to help us kidnap the president. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t have a decent car for the job. I pictured the silver XKE rolling up to the Customs stop, the President jauntily unconscious or blindfolded in the right-hand bucket seat. “So stick him in the trunk,” I said. I was already starting to regret this whole idea.

“He’ll suffocate in there. Anyway, he’s the President. It’s not dignified.”

Our plans for Nixon didn’t involve him keeping his dignity. Nonetheless, we didn’t want to kill him. Agnew was still Vice President at the time and giving every indication that he’d be worse than Tricky Dick himself. In the end I agreed to be the wheel man in my ’64 VW microbus. It was completely stock, with no hippie artwork on the outside and no McGovern bumper stickers, so we figured it wouldn’t get too hairy with the military types at the checkpoint.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you exactly how we pulled off the actual kidnapping. I wish I could say that it was a daring daylight raid on the San Clemente compound, involving helicopters and automatic weapons and a daring escape. In fact all I did was drive the VW down Interstate 5 to the beach at San Clemente, and park on a side road around sunset. Rick, Scott and I synchronized our watches, which is not as easy as it looks in the movies, and then Rick stepped out of the bus. We were near enough to the ocean to hear the breakers.

“This shouldn’t take long. If I’m not back in an hour, leave without me. You won’t see me for a while, but I’ll get in touch when I can.” Before we had a chance to register our discomfort with these extremely vague instructions he disappeared into the brush and and down the steep embankment, heading toward the sound of the surf.

Nixon had been famously photographed walking on the beach, trying to show the voters that he was not a stuffed shirt, which, of course, is what he was. But he wanted to be seen as a man of the people, a guy who likes sunsets, cute puppies and wet sand between his toes. Unfortunately he blew it by walking on the beach while wearing a dark blue suit, complete with white shirt and necktie, thus confirming our suspicions that he was a total phony who could not be trusted.

Maybe he was out on the beach that evening trying to get it right, practicing his “casual look” for the next photo session. Or maybe he really did like long walks on the beach. The world will never know, but at least I can confirm that he was out there on that beach that night, and that Presidential security has been tightened a lot since those days.

We sat in the VW bus for a half hour listening to AM radio and looking at our watches. It was not a good time for music on the radio. We heard “American Pie” by Don Mclean, “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr. and Gilbert O’Sillivan’s pukey “Alone Again, Naturally.” Roberta Flack came on, and she was about to sing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” when we heard shouting in the distance. We killed the radio and craned our necks toward the beach to see what the ruckus was. In a moment Rick emerged clambering over the top of the embankment, dragging himself up with his left hand.

With his right hand he had an iron grip on the blue-coated upper arm of a struggling figure, cursing violently and trying to pull away. Scott and I got out of the van and watched in disbelief. Rick was not a big man, but his commando training or whatever it was gave him the edge in this tug of war, and in a minute we were standing there in the fading sunlight, face to unshaven face with The President of the United States, the Honorable Richard M. Nixon.

“What’re you guys,” he growled. “Communists?”


NEXT TIME: Holding Dick.

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Old Friends, Part 3

We tried to beat Nixon fair and square, and he cheated to win.

Scowling Dick It was a hard lesson, but one that has served me well for decades, even giving rise to Jones’ First Law: Bullies always win.

Clearly there was no honest and civil way to stop the bleeding. It looked as if we would be stuck with President Richard M. Nixon for — say it with me — FOUR MORE YEARS!! In the primitive opinion polls of the day, his popularity was plummeting due to his involvement in the Watergate affair, and yet there he was every day on television, pretending he was a cool guy, serving the people, doing his presidential duty, shepherding the nation through trying times, making sanctimonious speeches and looking so patriotic and American. History would later reveal that he was drinking heavily during this period, and directing various government employees in the coverup of his wrongdoing, paying little if any attention to matters of state. No one knew for sure of this at the time, but to some of us it was obvious. and maddening. It looked like he’d gotten away with it. He had cheated in the most important contest in the world, and he was the leader of the free world (as we used to say in the days before The Patriot Act), and was going to get away with it.

“Fuck him,” Scott said one night as we were watching Cronkite on The CBS Evening News. There was footage of Nixon and Pat boarding Air Force One for California, where he had a home in San Clemente. “We can’t let this happen. There has to be a way to neutralize him.”

I nodded, passing the roach to him. I was holding a charge, so couldn’t agree verbally, but in truth I couldn’t have agreed more. The asshole had to be stopped.

We thought of ourselves as pretty radical guys. We smoked pot, which we called “grass,” dropped acid and marched in the streets. We and a couple million of our friends had brought down the Johnson Administration, but the victory was pathetically short-lived. Now we were saddled with the devil in a blue suit. We should have stuck with LBJ.

But there are radicals and then there are radicals. Some radicals, like the Weathermen or Patty Hearst, will actually take up arms. Some will plant bombs. Some will shoot to kill. We were not that kind of radical.

We had radical ideas. We believed in ideas. We thought that there was such a thing as Right and Wrong, and that reasonable people who might disagree could discuss these concepts and through the art and science of rhetoric and persuasion, resolve our differences. It was just a matter of communication. If a discussion ended in a shouting match, it was because we hadn’t found a way to communicate. If it ended in a shooting match, well, that’s not the kind of debate we wanted anything to do with. I hadn’t spent three years since graduation dodging the draft only to go out and kill someone, even the loathsome Dick Nixon.

So we agreed that we couldn’t kill him. To use his own words, “That would be wrong.” Not to mention that nothing gets the cops on your ass faster than assassinating a president. They take it personally, and just won’t let it go. We were young, and a life sentence would have really ruined things for us. We’d learned from our miserable failure in the McGovern campaign that just because you’re in the right doesn’t mean you’re going to prevail. Neither of us felt we’d gotten laid enough by that point in our young lives, and spending a lot of time in Leavenworth would have really cramped things.

I won’t take credit for the idea of kidnapping Nixon. In fact, it may have been me who said it first, but it also may have been Scott. The actual moment is lost. The reason for this is that my roommate was perhaps the best joint roller I have ever known. He could crank out perfect Brown and Williamson quality cigarette-like doobies in just a few seconds. It was easy to go overboard when there was a handful of perfect joints laying there in the fold of that Blind Faith double album, and when you knew that a return to reality meant facing more of the Nixon Era. We were probably on our fourth or fifth number that night when we hatched our plan.

We couldn’t kill the old bastard, but we had to take him out of circulation so he wouldn’t be able to do any more damage. Most of you probably don’t realize what it’s like to have a president who commits crimes in office, lies and cheats, divides the nation on fake “values” issues and keeps us perpetually at war with a country that has done us no harm and is no real threat to us.

Oh wait. I take that back. You do know.

In any case, our plan was pretty half-baked. Somehow we would take Nixon prisoner and keep him hidden away until the country could heal from the damage he was doing. We didn’t think it through much beyond that. To us, it seemed perfectly logical.

We had a friend with a mysterious past. He claimed he’d been a fighter pilot, but we weren’t sure which country he’d served. It might have been the Israeli Air Force. He had no visible means of support, but somehow managed to own a silver Jaguar XKE. We wouldn’t see him for weeks and then he’d show up for volleyball on a Sunday afternoon. Years later we discovered that he’d been financing the development of an automatic pistol to rival the Uzi, the gold standard of personal weaponry for 30 years and the Holy Grail of terrorists everywhere: lightweight, easily concealable, practically jam-proof and capable of firing its 40-round clip in four seconds. Apparently he was advertising a gun that could top the Uzi, and he had customers waiting, both in the Middle East and at the Pentagon. He’d already received millions in good faith prepayments, but the gun was never produced. He ended up in San Quentin,which was probably a better fate than the one his Arab customers had in mind for him. He was sentenced to seven years. The money was never recovered.

But in 1972, he was just that guy. You know the one. The one you think of when somebody says “You need a favor, I know a guy.”

Out of our minds (with concern for the Nation and the Constitution), we called him that night and told him what we wanted. Nixon was already aboard Air Force One and bound for California. He’d be at the San Clemente mansion by morning. We wanted him to take a detour. Half joking, half in earnest and half in terror over what we were getting ourselves into, we appealed to our friend’s sense of patriotic duty.

“Fuck that,” he said. “Where do you want him delivered?”


Next time: Snatch!

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Old Friends, Part 2

Nixon had gone too far.

The President

As always when a Republican wins the White House, I was blind-sided. I never expect them to win, no matter what the polls say, because I just can’t believe the electorate can be that willfully stupid. Those who truly benefit from Republican policies are such a tiny minority they could never win any national election on their own. They need big time help from The People, the very people they always stick it to as soon as they get in office. And somehow they manage to get it.

So I was flummoxed when Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey in 1968, with his hunched shoulders and his navy blue suits and his “V” for Victory signs and his “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam. But I rationalized the defeat by saying that Nixon and Humphrey were two sides of the same coin, that it wouldn’t have made much difference which f*cking representative of The Man got the job. Neither of them excited my young generation the way Gene McCarthy had, and then he was bumped out of the race by the even more romantic and thrilling Bobby Kennedy, who was then murdered on the night it became clear that he would win the nomination.

I was demoralized by all this, the backstabbing and the Chicago riots and the assassination and the backroom deals and the business as usual and Nixon seemed like the president we deserved. I had cast my vote that year, my first ever, for Eldridge Cleaver, who was actually on the ballot in California, so to hell with the Establishment.

But when George McGovern, a pencil-striped buttoned-down straight-arrow senator from South Dakota, stepped up to challenge Nixon in ’72, running almost entirely as an anti-war candidate, the “youth vote” was again electrified. By that time we were fed up with the war and the draft and the utter callousness of “our” government, and we were ready to mobilize to work for change. We were the baby boomers now of voting age in our first full-on battle with The Power. We were spoiled and spoiling for a fight, and we knew we couldn’t lose.

We couldn’t believe our good fortune — here was a mainstream Democrat and he wanted to end the war! He didn’t exactly speak our language, but he was a decent man and he wanted to end the war. What’s more, his people had infiltrated the party machinery from the grass roots and created the state-by-state primary season that we know today, a move that made it highly unlikely that anyone but George might win the nomination.

We joined the campaign, we hit the streets, we went door-to-door. We had the numbers, we had the energy and by God we had Truth and Righteousness on our side. And we were blindsided.

Nixon had wanted to be president at least since 1952, when Eisenhower picked him as his running mate. After twenty years he was willing to do whatever it took to keep the job. The Committee to Re-elect the President, known to us as CREEP, through old-style scorched-earth politics, dirty tricks and flat out illegal activity (can you say “Watergate”?) handed us and poor George McGovern our collective ass. We lost by an Electoral College margin of 520 to 17, carrying only the state of Massachusetts, bless their hearts. We weren’t just defeated, but humiliated, and worse, everyone knew Nixon had cheated!

Naturally we hated the corrupt old bastard.


Next Time: A plan takes shape.

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Old Friends

Remember when we kidnapped the President?

George Bush is an insufferable, smirking twerp, of course. His time in office has brought shame to our country, damaged the environment, staggered the middle class, looted the treasury, weakened our constitutional protections and killed hundreds of thousands of people on the other side of the world. These facts are not arguable, except by a tiny number of wild-eyed dittoeheads. Those in power — Bush’s handlers — are too smart even to pretend otherwise.

But before George II and his father, before the smooth-talking Bill Clinton, before that senile wholly-owned-subsidiary-of-General-Electric Ronald Reagan, in the days before most of you were born, there arose from the boneyard of washed-up, burned out, tossed aside and left-for-dead politicians perhaps the craziest dude ever to claw his way into the Oval Office: Richard Milhous Nixon.Nixon bowling

Nixon’s fear-mongering, pandering, smearing, hypocritical Congessional campaigns in California after World War Two are the templates for Lee Atwater’s and Karl Rove’s, the “architects” of all the Bush victories, both father and son. In order to win, Nixon simply tried to destroy his opponent personally. Sound familiar?

He tried to disguise it with his safe blue suits and double-V-for victory arm signals, but his soul was tainted with a streak of craziness. It slipped out one day after Pat Brown (Jerry’s dad) kicked his ass in the 1962 California governor’s race. Nixon was convinced the press hated him and treated him unfairly, and in a famous rant told them that they were going to be sorry, because they “wouldn’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” Good riddance, but it was not to be.

First John Kennedy went and got himself killed, taking a popular Democratic president out of the running. Then LBJ chickened out of the ’68 campaign, Bobby Kennedy had to drop out to spend more time underground, and next thing you knew, all the Democrats could think of was Hubert Humphrey. Nixon beat him by less than 1% of the popular vote, and suddenly, we did have him to kick around again — only now he was rested, ready, and The President.

Make no mistake — today’s neocons would see Nixon as a liberal. He went and talked to the commies in the USSR and China, negotiated nuclear test bans, started the Environmental Protection Agency, even appeared on “Laugh-In.” He’d probably be to the left of Hillary.

But there were millions of angry, disillusioned hippies, yippies and assorted radicals abroad in the streets of America. The Protest Train was in full runaway mode, and even though some of us had forgotten exactly why, we knew in our hearts that The Establishment was the enemy, no matter the problem. We were determined to pin our outrage on someone, preferably the smug face of The Man. Nixon.

My roommate, Scott, and I were beside ourselves every day. Each evening there he would be on the nightly news, making pronouncements, ignoring reality, shifty, sneaky, fucking entitled. Our marijuana intake, never conservative, ballooned out of control. We were going through a lid a week, just trying to make Tricky Dick, whom we saw as the embodiment of all that was wrong in the world, go away. What had we accomplished with our sit-ins, our marches, our activism, our Revolutionary Brotherhood, if this man could be the boss of us?

It was not a time for reflection. It was a time for action.


Next time: Something must be done.

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Old Dreams

Dreams. Everyone’s got ’em.

There are two links in that opening sentence, to kStyle’s and Blue Girl’s recent, colorful dreams. I recommend you follow and read (also, don’t miss Ann’s truly wacky dream in her comment on kStyle’s post.)

I’ve related dreams on this blog before, here and here, but the ones I’m about to tell were in an email that I sent in November of 2000, before George II’s inauguration and almost a year before terrorists used airliners to attack New York and Washington. I thought I had blogged them, and I spent quite a while searching revision99 for them before I tried my old emails. Then I thought “Since they’ve never been blogged, here’s a cheap post!” One weird note: In my current guitar setup, I actually now use a Category 5 cable with RJ-45 connectors, something I knew nothing about when I dreamed these dreams.

And now without further delay, I give you My Old Dreams.


Last night I had two dreams. In one I was a terrorist. I don’t know what my Cause was, but my terrorist cell had purchased a used jetliner. I had outfitted it with a huge bomb and remote controls. Our plan was to fly by remote control, intercept a real jetliner, collide and destroy both planes in a gigantic, attention-getting midair explosion. Instead, our plane went out and over Catalina Island and crashed harmlessly in the ocean, without even exploding. Still the FBI came to my school, looking for the perpetrators. I was a student at this boarding school, and the authorities had zeroed in on a person or persons there. They had to interview everyone, but their interviews were unconventional: They looked deeply into our eyes searching for signs of a deceptive spirit; they hugged us tightly to see if we trembled; they smelled our breath for traces of plastique. Gradually they sent most of the students home, all but me and a few others. They weren’t sure if they were on the right track, and they were just doing their jobs, so they weren’t mean or anything. They just kept probing in various ways to see if one of us had done it. Even though they hadn’t fingered me, I was terrified that they would find me out. Me, the terrorist, terrified.

In my other dream I was in a rock band. We didn’t know very many songs, but somehow we had gotten booked at some event, I don’t know what, and I was stalling for time, not wanting to start playing, because then we would be found out. It was unreal, because the lights were on. In real life rock bands have to set up in the dark. I was moving my amplifier around, acting like I was trying to get it in just the proper location for good sound, knowing that once we started playing we would soon run out of material and our performance would necessarily end long before the scheduled time. When I finally got my amp set up I couldn’t find a cable I needed, because it was a Category 5 cable with RJ-45 connectors on it, just like the one you’d use to connect a DSL modem to the network card in a computer. Of course this kind of cable is not necessary for rock guitar players to hook up their amps, so I was being devious in my dream.

I might have been caught for rigging the jet, or embarrassed for being inadequate on stage. I don’t know, because, of course, I woke up.


PS: While I’m talking about dreams, Commie Girl Rebecca Schoenkopf had a doozy a few weeks ago. But she never reads here, so she gets to be in the postscrpt. Take that, Commie Girl!

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The Deal I Made

My lawyer saw me right away.

Usually he makes me sit in the waiting room for an hour, so I brought one of the twins with me, Lila, I think it was, just to occupy my time. But we had barely begun to make out when the secretary cleared her throat. Lila was all over me and I started to extricate myself, thinking maybe the secretary was offended. Or, the way my luck was going, maybe she wanted a piece of me, too.

“Mr. Eckstein will see you now, Mr. Jones.”

I was definitely moving up. I told Lila to go on back down to the limo and wait for me. She started to pout, but I said she could have anything she wanted from the bar, and then she was OK, but she still kissed me like there might be no tomorrow and told me to hurry, in that cute 19-year-old girl voice of hers.

When I got into Billy’s inner office he was bent over his desk, which was just a huge sheet of plate glass, looking over the paper I had mailed to him. He motioned for me to sit, but other than that he ignored me. After another minute he stopped reading and looked at me.

“Where the hell did you get this?” he demanded. No “Good morning, Larry, how’ve you been?”

“Guy came to my door. Like a salesman.”

“And you let him in?”

“Well, yeah, why not?”

He shook his head at me. “And you say you paid nothing?”

“Right. Well, there is that stipulation at the end.”

“Did the guy identify himself?”

“No. Uh, yeah. Well sort of.” This was embarrassing. “He said he was the devil. Said he’d rather not tell me, but felt like I should know before I bought.”

“So according to this contract, you get to have whatever you want in life,” Billy looked skeptical, “for as long as you live. Wealth, power, whatever.”

I brightened. “That’s the way I read it, too.”

Billy flicked the document at me. It slid across the glass and came to rest at my edge of the desk. “This is bullshit. It’s totally unenforceable. For one thing, no one can deliver on what this… devil is promising. And even if he could, how in hell could he take your ‘immortal soul,’ assuming you even have one.” He glanced at the paper. “I like it, though. Simple and to the point. I wish some of my goddamned boilerplate was that clear.”

I was thinking of the limo, and Lila waiting in it, and her sister Liza, whom we would be joining that very evening, for dancing, drinks and insane sex, if the past month was any predictor. I was thinking of the $230 million-dollar lottery I had won, the day after I signed the contract. “Look, I said, I might have an immortal soul. And the thing is, he seems to be delivering. You say it’s unenforceable?”

Billy didn’t know about the huge pile of cash, or the girls who couldn’t get enough of me. He looked at me for the first time during our meeting. “Jesus,” he sputtered. “Are you wearing a wig?”

I felt my head, and sure enough, hair was growing on the former desert of my scalp. I gave it a little tug, just to be sure. Whoever the guy was, I was liking the deal I had made with him more and more.

My side of the bargain was completely unenforceable!

Before I had to do too much explaining, I thanked Billy and strolled out of there. I winked at his secretary. I might come back some day soon and give her a little taste of The Jones.

The smirk stayed on my face until I stepped jauntily into the empty elevator shaft.

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