Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vegas Q.E.D. Pt. 1

I don't get around to Vegas much anymore, so I was understandably excited when the Nigerian Society of Physics e-mailed me with a remarkable proposition. They wanted me to fly out and report on the recent additions to the Luxor Hotel and Casino. According to the e-mail, the Luxor had added a series of subterranean restaurants, gaming areas, etc., that came together under the thematic heading of "Luxor QED: Mysteries of the Physical World."

Some of my earlier internet communications with Nigeria had been fraught with confusion and intractably labyrinthine banking procedures, but I was hopeful this time as the document was signed by no less than the Crown Prince himself. This optimism was duly rewarded as three days later Fed-Ex delivered a large black package to my door. It was covered with several hundred Igbo and Yoruba characters and was incredibly heavy.

The box contained one round trip ticket; an ostrich's egg; 17 oz. of gold dust; an old Loverboy cassette; a black velvet parchment with QED etched on the front in red; several shells; a solid obsidian skull the size of a catcher's mitt; and a handwritten letter from the physics people, that went:

Dear most honourable Sir,
It is to our praise that we welcome your sincere acceptance of our humble offering. Ours is a new society, young and forthcoming, and hoping with science to relieve much suffering. That you would accept these tokens of our gracious appreciation as we accept the benevolence of watered roots in red clay. Please return any gold dust not used, or in furtherance of payment, as we shall be expecting and God be with you.

Yours Sincerely with,
Robert Mgbawe III, dds

The Luxor is an awe inspiring monolithic black pyramid that, upon closer examination, begins to look like a ride at Disneyland; and not one of the good ones. I had been there before and, with the exception of Carrot Top's delightfully whimsical stage show, I was not impressed. Standing in the near infinite line to check in was doing little to improve this opinion when a passing maid noticed the QED parchment, jutting from my coat pocket, and collapsed to the floor, frantically groping a black box that was attached to her apron, and writhing in obvious agony.

The casino went black and shafts of light scattered over the crowd until finally coming to rest upon ME. Several men in lab coats sped toward me in a golf cart and, after spraying me in the face with something that smelled like a dentist's office, covered my head with a brown sack. Before I passed out I could hear a cacophony of bells, blips, and metallic flourishes accompanied by distinct shrieks in multiple languages.

I awoke sometime later with soft restrains around my wrists and ankles and a terrible burning sensation across my lower abdomen. I wanted to explore this unfortunate condition, but my brain felt submerged in molten marshmallow.

“He has the invitation,” an irritated woman said, and with that I realized that there were people all around me. I tried to focus but they seemed to be moving at an inhuman rate of speed; coming into my field of vision in twos and threes only to disappear before I could fully make them out.

“Ok, OK. He is awake. Fine.”

A woman dressed in a black unitard lifted my shirt and ran a machine over my now throbbing stomach. It blipped and she walked away, content. Several hours and several unusual physical procedures (think black light and a ferret) later I was handed a flute of champagne and guided toward a crimson velvet curtain.

“Good luck tonight Mr. Storm,” said an amiable Malaysian man who proceeded to grab me by the hand and pull me onto a slow moving escalator. He produced a large blue cube of sugar that he dropped into my glass and motioned for me to drink. This was not an unusual request, by Vegas standards, and I downed the drink in one greedy gulp. Immediately, my elbows and chin went numb. Rather than going up or down the escalator seemed to follow a long elliptical arc until, with some apprehension on my part, we were back where we started; only upside down. My brain was still too sluggish to deal with the gravitational implications of this, but did take note of the fact that the velvet curtain, which I had earlier walked through, was now pressed flat into a small repeating pattern on the carpet. As I lifted my head I saw that we were immersed in the buzzing neon glow of an immense casino and I could feel the ground beneath me vibrating.

“You are writing a piece, yes. My name is Tal. Please don’t speak. I can show you most, more than most, but not everything. Yes. You drink? I help you. You must drink fast.” With that, Tal snapped his fingers and a jumpy waitress appeared with a tray of multicolored drinks of various sizes.

Vegas, unlike many other cities, must be brutally penetrated to be appreciated. But Vegas, also unlike many other cities, can fight back. And so you must risk waking up behind a Jiffy-Lube on Fremont St. at four in the morning, bleeding from your anus and missing the index finger from your right hand, in order to fully capture the flavor of the place.

The directory showed that the casino was actually a series of gigantic cylindrical chambers that were connected by smaller cylindrical hallways. Walking into the first chamber, I was instantly overwhelmed by the sound of shrieking cats. They were in small cages, everywhere, piled on top of each other and extending upward well beyond the scope of my vision.

Many tables were surrounded by bleary Asian men clutching hundred dollar bills and screaming at a board that consisted of numbers and closed circuit TV monitors. Groans and shouts came from all directions as Tal tried to explain the game to me. The drinks were causing my head to permanently tilt to the left and one eyelid was fluttering uncontrollably as he rambled on about poison vials, collapsing waves, and multiphasic cats. He plunged his fist into my pocket and pulled out a wad of twenties which he placed on a small black diamond near the edge of the green felt table. The room fell silent.

" Are you sure, sir?" asked the dealer. Tal grabbed my arm and waved it in some kind of gesture that prompted the dealer to continue. He touched the black box at his side and a dark woman in a white robe appeared and led a man, whose head was covered by a black velvet hood, through the room to the dealer. He was carrying a glass box which he placed upon the table. Inside the box was a vial of green liquid, a trip hammer, and a small orange cat.

" The odds are..." the dealer stammered, but Tal had lunged at him, clutching his throat in his hand, and said: " This is Vegas. Fuck the odds."

The dealer waved his hand over the box and the glass went dark. Tal grinned at me and stroked my neck, saying 'This will be good' repeatedly into my ear. A waitress came over, in an obvious state of panic, and placed a lead apron across my chest. The box began to glow. At first it was silent, but then you could hear a faint rustling which grew, as the glowing box became brighter, until it became obvious that cat inside was in a terrible state of distress. The crowd began to hum. Mandarin, Tagalog, Farsi, Senegalese and languages unspoken since the time of Baal screamed through the air above me. The dealer pounded at his skull with his fists as the box started to glow red. The scene was building me to the point of collapse when all at once the box went clear. A collective inhalation went through the room as it was revealed that the cat was both dead and alive.

The crowd went its way. The dealer gave me a knowing look and pushed over a stack of multicolored chips. A drunk stumbled up against me and said "Lucky fucking bastard" before being pounced upon by several large Italians and escorted from the premises. I felt overwhelmed and was about to ask Tal what had happened but his smile let me know that this was unnecessary.

"Now we go to bar and rest."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Transcript: Managing a Devastating Hangover

The following is a transcript of a televised episode of Stu Callow's Ideas and More that first aired Jan 7, 1992 on WYBE in Philadelphia. All rights are held in perpetuity and any public dissemination without the implied oral consent of WYBE and its subsidiaries is expressly forbidden.

Cue music; camera, voiceover...

The following is presented by a generous grant form the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Marvin Hagler Association for Ecumenical Research; and viewers like you.

Announcer: Tonight, on Ideas and More, Stu explores the world of the devastating hangover. His guests for this discussion are writer and essayist, Martin Amis; writer and journalist, Hunter S. Thompson; writer and drinker, Charles Bukowski; bass player for Molly Hatchet, Banner Thomas; writer and philosopher, Richard Rorty; and, of course, your host and arbitrator, Stu Callow.

Stu: Thank you Tim. Tonight we look into the painful, lonely business of the hangover. Not the "I had that third glass of Merlot at the Christmas party and let Garrett from accounting touch me" kind of hangover, but rather the far more devastating variety attendant to the type of drinking experienced by the members of our panel today. And to our panel we turn. Martin Amis, how much did you have to drink last night?

Martin Amis: Oh, I don't really, er... by the way, thank you for having me on your show. I don't really deal with numbers so much as with bank statements. When I checked the ATM this morning I had apparently spent 485 pounds, and that seems about right for a Friday.

Richard Rorty: Today is Wednesday.

Stu: Yes it is, Richard, and you have done a great deal of research in this area. First at the University of Virginia and most recently at Stanford. What have your studies found?

Richard Rorty: When one is hungover one must resist the temptation to play with one's eyes.

Banner Thomas: Oh, God yes.

Richard Rorty: Right. Mine was a pragmatic study designed to provide strategies for the advanced drinker. I am so tired of all the abstract, rhetorical nonsense that you get from publications like Modern Drunkard and all those other Derrida infected drinker's journals.

Stu: And, aside from the important bit about the eyes, what have you found?

Richard Rorty: Well, if you lack the stamina or time to simply get drunk again, you might want to consider soup.

Hunter Thompson: Not just any kind of soup, though. I mean a lentil soup would be useless to you.

Richard Rorty: That's right, Hunter. Too many people make that mistake and with terrible consequences. Spinoza, my research has found, made...

Stu: Let me stop you right there. Charles, you are shaking your head. What is it?

Charles Bukowski: Let's be honest here. Spinoza couldn't handle his drink. He...

Richard Rorty: Well, I don't think that is a fair...

Charles Bukowski: Hey Buddy, I let you talk. I'll tear your fucking...

Stu: Gentlemen. Mr. Bukowski!

Charles Bukowski: Thank you, Stu. In his book, Spinoza: A Life, Steven Nadler observed that on several occasions Spinoza was found wandering the streets of Rijnsburg, drenched in urine and vomit, bloodied about the mouth, and unable to find his way home. And, and yes this is documented, and this was usually after two small glasses of Pernod. So...

Banner Thomas: In all fairness, Spinoza hasn't exactly been treated properly by the drinking cognoscenti. When we, uh, Molly Hatchet that is, when we were on tour in '78...

Stu: Gentlemen, we are getting off track. What our viewers would most like to know is, what do YOU do when you have a monster hangover? Hunter, please.

Hunter Thompson: A lot of food and a lot of pornography.

Charles Bukowski: Oh, yes.

Martin Amis: Good heavens, yes.

Richard Rorty: Yes.

Martin Amis: And you really have to balance the two. Too much food and the pornography is useless, but too much pornography and, all of a sudden, half the day is gone.

Richard Rorty: I prefer woman on woman.

Stu: Of course you do.

Richard Rorty: That way I don't have to expend any energy on imagining myself doing anything.

Charles Bukowski: You are just there watching.

Richard Rorty: Right. In reality and in the fantasy. It is very relaxing.

Hunter Thompson: I can't stress this enough. No more than four bowls of soup and no more than four hours masturbating.

Richard Rorty: Anything more would be indulgent.

Banner Thomas: I find video games help.

Martin Amis: Yeah, my son Louis has me playing a game involving mushrooms, dinosaurs, and Italians. It can really take the edge off.

Hunter Thompson: The sheer visceral thrill of beating a hooker to death with a baseball bat for $300 is indescribable. Grand Theft Auto is just a damn fine piece of work.

Charles Bukowski: I think I did that once at one of my readings. It was a fucking mess.

Banner Thomas: But you had handlers, right?

Charles Bukowski: Yeah, but I still had to walk through that shit to get out of the green room.

Stu: Gentlemen, we seem, again, to have moved a bit off topic. Now, I know this is a delicate subject, but The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article on the efficacy of the Bloody Mary in the treatment of the "Writer's Curse." Would any of you care to comment on it?

Martin Amis: As you know, much of my recent work has been devoted to an examination of cliche and the consequences...

Hunter Thompson: Here we go!

Martin Amis: And! And the consequences attendant to it.

Charles Bukowski: You fucking Jews and your...

Martin Amis: I am English.

Charles Bukowski: Same fucking difference. You condescending Limey bastards have never had a proper respect for Vitamin C and it shows in your goddamn deformed spines.

Martin Amis: The Bloody Mary is a damned cliche!

Hunter Thompson: You cannot be serious!

Banner Thompson: Mama got the voodoo little bones/Daddy got a mojo nobody knows/Can't get started till the night/The stars come out and moon is getting bright...

Stu: Banner, please.

Hunter Thompson: It was a double blind study, for God's sake.

Charles Bukowski: The New England Journal of Medicine doesn't fuck around, Marty.

Banner Thomas: It's science, man.

Martin Amis: Yes, and I am deeply indebted to that journal for many reasons, but I do believe they made a crucial misstep when they acquiesced to the Green Olive Lobby with their obvious pro-Bloody Mary bias.

Charles Bukowski: You and all your conspiracy theory bullshit.

Martin Amis: You TELL me that Green Olive isn't in the pocket of Big Bloody Mary!

Richard Rorty: I like olives.

Martin Amis: Cunt.

Richard Rorty: I had three Bloody Marys before this interview and I feel like Margaret Fucking Thatcher!

Stu: OK, OK, OK. Please. On a lighter subject. What is your favorite drink?

Hunter Thompson: Wild Turkey, straight. Accompanied by several large grapefruit and a bottle of ether.

Banner Thomas: Ahhh, the full body drug. I like Southern Comfort and Fresca.

Charles Bukowski: A gigantic mug of Pabst Blue Ribbon, with a raw egg, a shot of Old Grandad, and the tears of a woman I have punched all thrown in.

Hunter Thompson: Doesn't Fresca have grapefruit in it?

Martin Amis: Tanqueray and Tonic.

Richard Rorty: I love a good Mojito. That isn't gay.

Banner Thomas: I like Southern Comfort and Fresca.

Stu: You already went, Banner. And we, once again, appear to have strayed off topic. Of course, we could go on like this forever, but we only have about thirty seconds left. Is there any bit of advice you feel like sharing?

Martin Amis: For God's sake, don't try to read anything when you are hungover. Your just hurting yourself and the author.

Richard Rorty: Oatmeal is good, too.

Hunter Thompson: Lemon juice. Hot sauce. Sourdough bread. Res ipsa loquitur.

Banner Thomas: I want to re-emphasize what Richard said. Do not play with your eyes.

Stu: Charles, you get the last word.

Charles Bukowski: Don't obsess about death, it'll just make you fat.

Stu: OK, I would like to thank my guests, and urge you to join me next week when the topic will be: Two thousand years of Christianity; What the fuck!?!

Cue music, title sequence... out.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Self Interview

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by the good people at Jet Magazine to do an interview regarding the "Influence of Blogging in Black America." For reasons that are unimportant the offer was ultimately withdrawn, but I decided to continue with the interview (without the needless distraction of another person) for the edification of all involved; and, perhaps, humanity at large.

Steve (with an affected British accent): Don't you think that the idea of interviewing yourself on your own blog is frankly masturbatory, even by your own promiscuously liberal standards?

Steve: Yes, but I haven't written anything in nearly a year and am starting to worry about losing my creative mojo.

Steve: Yes, but that implies that you once had a creative mojo. Is that necessarily true?

Steve: Are you going to use that accent for this whole thing?

Steve: Don't deflect.

Steve: I don't know if I can assess myself accurately, but I think I've got some game.

Steve: Right, but isn't that the very reason that the internet is full to overflowing with the lunatic ramblings of everyone who has some spare time and $17 a month for a DSL? Because they believe they have some game?

Steve: Sure, but I treat it as a lark. It's just a fun way to play with some ideas I have that don't fit anywhere else.

Steve: But by treating it as a lark aren't you merely trying to protect yourself against potential criticism?

Steve: Probably. But it is just a blog.

Steve: Well, what about your music?

Steve: What about my music?

Steve: Haven't you kept your music hidden for similar reasons?

Steve: Right now I am in the process of getting my music out through a band that I am in.

Steve: Yeah, but what are you? Forty-seven?

Steve: I'm Forty-three.

Steve: Same thing. What the readers of Jet would like to know...

Steve: This isn't for Jet anymore.

Steve: I know, just go with me. What the readers of Jet would like to know is: What took you so long? And...

Steve: Can I answer?

Steve: AND.... Are you sure you are even going to be able to do what you say without making an abortion out of the whole thing?

Steve: I'll answer the second question first. No. As far as your other question, I was hoping that upon my death people would discover the songs on my computer and, Emily Dickinson style, preserve and praise them throughout human history.

Steve: Jesus Fucking Christ!

Steve: You asked.

Steve: I know, but isn't that just a slightly more elaborate way of indulging your cowardice? When you are dead, there won't be a you there to appreciate any praise OR to be hurt by any indifference.

Steve: Well, like I said, I'm trying to get it out there now.

Steve: And what is your assessment of your music?

Steve: I think it is unique, strong, and maybe a little too idiosyncratic.

Steve: Really?

Steve: I can't lie to you.

Steve: Sure you can. You do it all the time.

Steve: I stand by my assessment.

Steve: Fair enough. So, how is your love life?

Steve: Calm. Sporadic.

Steve: By love I mean sex.

Steve: Calm. Sporadic.

Steve: Do I really need to push you on this?

Steve: It's like the old AA saying. One is too much, ten thousand isn't enough.

Steve: Cute. But I suspect that you just can't stand the fact that other actual people are just more difficult to manage, and to understand, than the energetic, free-thinking, lesbians that you conjure in your mind.

Steve: Well, they aren't true lesbians, but I get your drift. I think there is an innate fear of people within me that seems to be connected with my innate loathing of them.

Steve: And, by extension, your innate loathing of yourself?

Steve: Ha, sure, a little. It is more of an ambivalence. I don't know what to make of my unconscious mind or its role in my decision making processes. I mean, if I am not in control of my own actions then what hope do I have with a largely indifferent, if not hostile, universe?

Steve: You mean like the tooth thing in that book?

Steve: Exactly.

Steve: The readers might not know what we are talking about.

Steve: It doesn't matter.

Steve: OK. You are clearly not going to elaborate on this any further. Do you have a philosophy of life?

Steve: I'm glad you asked. This is how I see human existence. Picture the...

Steve: Yeah, you've been waiting for this the whole time. I hate it when you do that to me.

Steve: It was your idea.

Steve: Go on.

Steve: This is it. Picture the most impossibly cute little girl that you could ever imagine, (beautiful clear eyes, a white dress, a warm carefree laugh) and know that every single day, without exception, she shits.

Steve: And what am I supposed to make of that?

Steve: That that is what we are. It is the best we can hope to be. Creatures capable of such astounding beauty, poignancy, resonance and joy, and that all of it is deformed by our inability to come to terms with the sheer brutal fact of our animal nature; the pustules and dark thoughts, the vulnerability in the hands of capricious circumstance, the directionless void, both internal and external, the...

Steve: If you start quoting Nietzsche, this interview is over.

Steve: I made my point.

Steve: Right. Then why don't you kill yourself?

Steve: It might hurt.

Steve: Don't be glib.

Steve: Well, in a way I am. I am just taking the long route. I took up smoking, I drink like a Russian nanny, my diet consists primarily of cheesecake and chicken skin, and my financial acumen is hopeless to the point of folly. But there are conflicting impulses. I still play tennis, write songs, and go out every day thinking that I might run into somebody who will let me put my penis in their vagina.

Steve: And you just got paid.

Steve: Yes! Of course I'll end up buying several ancient French horns which I will accidentally ding up and then have to sell, at a tremendous markdown, sometime near the end of the month so that I can feed myself.

Steve: Also, I can think of at least one person who will think that your take on drinking is a gross rationalization.

Steve: He might be right, but without rationalization I would have been gone long ago.

Steve: Which is another rationalization.

Steve: See? You're getting it.

Steve: Just a couple of other questions. What do you think of birds?

Steve: I hate them.

Steve: Do you also genuinely hate midgets?

Steve: No, I'm just happier when they are not around.

Steve: What's the deal with your fascination with pubic hair?

Steve: I have no idea.

Steve: Any regrets?

Steve: I have eleven regrets.

Steve: Thank you.

Steve: Thank you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Chick Magnet Gene and a Less Fortunate Mutation

You know the guy. He enters a room and women of all ages begin to lean, unconsciously, toward him. As he moves through the party constellations of the bolder ones break off from their various galaxies and fall into orbit around him. There is hissing and jostling for space. Phone numbers pour from the girl's mouths and the end result usually requires a hot shower. And it all seems so effortless.

Perhaps it is. According to the Indiana Institute's Journal for Genetic Understanding, Dr. Wolfram Parky has isolated a gene, designated cm435, that she feels contributes to a male human's innate seductiveness. She studied several hundred Malaysian chinchillas, some with the gene altered or removed, and came up with some startling results. The chinchillas who had the gene removed became: "Forlorn, self obsessed, obese, lethargic, and displayed unusual aggression. That is until confronted by the unaltered chinchillas, after which they sulked off to a distant corner, nervously rocking back and forth."

In the human realm, it is interesting to note that the effectiveness of cm435 is not limited by any sociological or economic strata. Nor is it the exclusive realm of those waifish, antiseptic magazine boys who exude an aura of having, long ago, been neutered and who appear to have been carved out of bars of Ivory soap by a cabal of silken-gloved albino virgins.

I know a guy (NC) who has above average looks and a superabundance of charm, but who is unlikely to ever find himself gracing the covers of Tiger Beat or Outdoor Male. Still, he has the gene, and I have yet to enter, with him, any room in America that didn't include several old flames, a multitude of potential fires, and at least a handful of random smoldering embers that flit by merely to breath in his essence. He says things to women at bars that, were I to say them would have them frantically lunging for their cans of mace as they shrieked the word "RAPE!" He's got the gene, alright.

No biological endowment is entirely free of its reciprocal flaws, however. In the course of her investigations, Dr. Parky observed a small sampling of individual chinchillas who had a very different attractive force. They preferred to spend most of their time alone, but when placed into a group cage they would invariably elicit the attention of the infirm or disturbed chinchillas. Dr. Parky was able to identify this characteristic as being the result of a mutation in the cm435 gene. She dubbed it cm435a and noted that it afflicts approximately .002% of the population.

As it happens, I have this gene; in fucking spades. I can't so much as enter a grocery store without the eyes of the unstable being ineluctably drawn toward me. I often know that they are there from a tingling sensation that starts at the base of my spine and radiates out toward my extremities. I'll be casually thumping a cantaloupe when, several aisles away, I catch sight of a pair of pleading, misunderstood eyes. I know this person MUST speak to me. I grab my basket and circle through the store, backtracking and creating false trails, the way they taught me in Ranger school, and wend my way to the cashier only to find that he is right behind me. His hand placed upon my shoulder he begins to tell me... what? Anything.

An actual incident should elucidate this problem. I used to go to a bar on Wednesdays before a lesson I had to give. This bar has an outdoor patio for smokers and is usually filled with people. It is big enough, so I can usually find a seat at a small table, alone, and out of the line of vision of people exiting the bar. Even though it is a sweltering July day, I have on a hooded sweatshirt, hood up, gloves, a pair of dark glasses, an Ipod with the earbuds conspicuously extending from my ears, my phone open in my left hand, a book open in my right, and the body language of a wounded badger.

I see her enter the patio and my spine begins to vibrate. She is, maybe, fifty, in a full trench coat, with disheveled hair and an unsteady gait. Moving through the crowd she reaches my table and, standing before me, mouths something that I can't hear through my blasting earbuds. I take them off and say, "Huh?"

"Well? What's it going to be? You gonna ask me to sit down?"

I am neither sober enough nor drunk enough to interpret her question and so I motion for her to sit. She does so, sitting at an angle that allows her to hover uncomfortably over the table, but she says nothing. Just as I am about to reach for the earbuds she reaches across the table and grabs my hand. She starts talking, very fast, in oddly syncopated rhythms, all 7/8 and 13/2, but I can't take my eyes off the medical bracelet that is on her, now, exposed wrist.

I'm locked out of my apartment. Can you help me get in?

What about your landlord?

He hates me. They all do, really. But not you.

I don't know how I can help.

You can break the window. You can crawl through the window. You can unlock the door. You can let me in. Do you like casserole?


I won't have any of it, you know?

By this time the alcohol was doing its thing and I was beginning to appreciate her tempos. I bought her a drink and confronted her about the bracelet (gout/dizziness/misunderstanding) and sent her on her way. Not a typical encounter, but not atypical either. I've got the gene, alright.

And so it goes. Pinballing and careening through life, attracting and repelling in haphazard fashion, based on the whim of some very small chemical elements. What else are they determining? Well, like the man in the book says, they don't really determine much of anything; life is far too complicated for that. Human beings are too messy and nature is too messy and we really seem to be just along for the ride. And if that crazy woman was hot then this would have been a different story. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Breakfast With The Knight Of Faith

The first thing you notice upon entering Antonin Scalia's lovely Plantation style Virginia mansion is the sheer amount of space devoted to relics from the Spanish Inquisition. Hanging from every wall, drooping from the ceilings, and overflowing from countless antique glass cases are thumbscrews, Spanish boots, pincers, spikes, strappadi, leather trusses, bejeweled stilettos, "Trident" manacles with the optional genital restraints, and vices; vices of every conceivable shape and configuration, stretching off into the distance as far as the eye can see.

Imagine my surprise when, two weeks earlier, one of the many threatening e-mails that I regularly send to public officials was not only answered, but contained an invitation to a "wholesome, traditional breakfast," and was signed: Sincerely, Mrs. Antonin Scalia Esq.

She was adamant about giving her husband the opportunity to explain a quotation of his that has been fodder for agents of the Liberal Agenda for over two decades. In its popular form it usually goes something like this:

"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached."

"I never said any such thing," said Scalia, who insisted that I call him Nino, and who was already a little groggy from a pre-breakfast palette cleansing that consisted of bourbon and string cheese. "It's the fucking internet. Worse than Sodom or Gomorrah. Goddamn thing is infested with every form of lechery and perversion. And I can tell you, under genuine authority," and here he paused to give me a knowing look,"that most of it is run by Jewish Gaylords and atheist pedophiles." Mrs. Scalia, who stood quietly against a wall during this outburst, leaned forward to wipe flecks of foam from his crimson face.

In all fairness to Nino, the quote, as it usually appears, doesn't exist. What he actually said (or wrote) was:

"... there is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice (if that were enough) for finding in the [506 U.S. 390, 428] Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction."

Nino is a gregarious, intelligent, funny man, and a gracious host, but if the above quote isn't legalese for the same idea (that actual innocence isn't enough to set someone free) then I'll eat a bug. I said this to him as his ancient Negro butler, Lemuel, wheeled breakfast in on a silver, doily bespattered cart.

"You don't understand, Steve-O, the Constitution is not a living document open to the interpretation of every moral reprobate who managed to squeak through law school at Michigan State."

The breakfast tray consisted of half inch slices of peppered bacon, hollowed out honeycombs filled with grits, wild trout, and molasses soaked black currants, a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold, a bottle of Johnny Walker Green, several shot glasses, a pitcher of deep red wine, a gravy boat filled with mayonnaise, and what appeared to be a battered, deep-fried hedgehog. Nino leaned over, tore off a portion of the hedgehog's face, and, jamming it into the mayonnaise for emphasis said, "The Founding Fathers got it right the first time. I'm just here to make sure they get their way."

Emboldened by wine, anger, and the improbably humid Virginia morning I pointed out the fallacy of thinking that there is any way of dealing with the Constitution that doesn't involve interpretation; that there is any way of accurately applying rigid general laws to specific situations; that the very Raison d'ĂȘtre of jurisprudence in America is to have judges who interpret the facts of specific cases and handle them according to their individual merits; and that wild trout never, under any circumstances, belongs with molasses soaked anything.

As Mrs. Scalia wiped the flecks of foam from my crimson face I could see Nino shifting uncomfortably in his chair. The Walker Gold was open and flowing by now and he thought it might be a good idea to get "Sandy" over to help clear things up. Sure. Why not? There were plenty of glasses and security was top notch in case things got out of hand.

"Do you want to see my tattoo?"

Not the first words I expected to hear from a former Supreme Court Justice; at least not since Earl Warren died. Still, the mood was warm, the bacon was peppered, and Ms. O'Connor looked pretty good for an octogenarian.

"Why not, Sandy? I guess you took John Riggins advice and finally decided to lighten up." She beamed at the mention of his name.

"Johnny's the best thing that ever happened in my life." She glared at Nino. "He knows how to treat a real woman." Then she turned to me. "He's outside now. He won't come into Nino's house cause he thinks he's a crypto-fascist pig." At this she started shrieking hysterically and poured herself a shot of Johnny Green.

Sandy was wearing a red leather half-shirt, low rider jeans, panda fur boots, and she practically oozed judicial authority. I shyly walked over to her and said, "Nino and I have a disagreement about...," and before I could get it out she said, "Dude, why are you living in the past?"

Nino shouted: "Dammit Sandy! Did you or did you not say that the issue before the court was not whether a State can execute the innocent. It was, as the Court noted, whether a fairly convicted and therefore legally guilty person was constitutionally entitled to yet another judicial proceeding in which to adjudicate his guilt anew, 10 years after conviction, notwithstanding his failure to demonstrate that constitutional error infected his trial? Well?! Did you or what?!"

Her face brightened noticeably and she looked at me and said, "See, little man? That's why I love him. He's Kierkegaard's Knight of Faith, mother fucker! Even when he's drunk he can quote me at length" and she made some kind of grotesque, stretching hand gesture as she over pronounced the word leeeennnnggttthhhh .

I was angry and humiliated and had so much more I wanted to say, but Lemuel had started playing the piano and Nino and Sandy were laughing and dancing and the room started spinning and the only thing my mind could hold still was Mrs. Antonin Scalia, back against the wall, not frowning, looking through a distant open window at the sun washing over an empty meadow, and I could see clearly; she knew.