I haven’t done a Chick Riff in a while, so I thought I’d give those interested an update on what’s been going on in my life and some idea of what I have in store for readers the rest of the year.
Work: After leaving my former employer and essentially fucking around for a year (literally and figuratively), my partner and I came up with the brilliant idea to start our own consulting practice. Our skill sets perfectly complement one another (me: strategy and marketing; she: accounting and finance) and both of us were getting calls from former customers to see if we were available for project work. She had already been working as a consultant, so once my one-year non-compete agreement expired, we decided to make it a joint venture. For the most part, it’s working out great! While we still have a few solo gigs that keep us apart, over half our clients hired us as a team, so we get to travel together and fuck each others’ brains out in hotels all over the world! Better still, we now have a partner with an executive recruiting background who can help when our analysis shows that one of the executives is a hopeless moron dragging down the company. For those of you who read the “The Offer,” the recruiter is the same woman who tried to interest me in a job and wound up becoming a whenever-you’re-in-town fuck buddy!
However, we are professionals and we do not mix business with pleasure and do not offer what would be the time of their lives to any clients.
The downside is the work involves a lot of travel, as we have clients in Europe and the Americas and it’s pretty likely we’ll be traveling to Australia later in the year. We do have limits, though: we refuse to do business with American companies or do any work on U. S. soil as long as America is run by neo-Nazi racists. We really don’t need American money to survive, and because we have a client in Toronto, we’ve even been able to catch a couple of Blue Jay games this year! The goal of this enterprise is to earn enough money to pay off the house and then get jobs in NGO’s (what Americans call nonprofits) and focus our energies on helping this forlorn world instead of facilitating profit margins.
Home: Due to the workload, I haven’t been home most of the summer, which is just fine with me—Nice sucks in the summertime. It gets too warm and humid for leather and the hordes of tourists make going out a drag. I remain delighted that we fought off the LePen neo-Nazi threat and am not at all surprised that Macron’s popularity has plummeted since taking office. The French are a very opinionated people who all think they’re right about everything, deeply skeptical about politicians and prone to get tremendously upset about things large and small. Macron has fucked up a few times—especially with that First Lady bullshit—but eventually I think he’ll grow into the job and do just fine. It also helps when your competition for attention on the larger stage include Donald Trump and Theresa May.
One weird thing happened a couple of months ago—I was recognized! It’s all because I’m a coke addict—a Diet Coke addict (what they call Coca-Cola Light in the EU). Anyway, we were going to see my cousin who lives on the other side of town and decided to walk down the Promenade so I could stop at McDonald’s and get my fix. Anyway, I had just taken my first sip when this guy came up and said, “Excuse me. Aren’t you the altrockchick?” You know that weird thing that happens sometimes when the liquid you’re drinking gets into your nasal passages? Well, that was my response—a sort of gurgling, snorting, coughing fit that lasted about thirty seconds and caused one of the staff to come up and ask if I needed any help. After I wiped my face with the napkin provided by the staff person, I looked at the poor guy—American, mid-30’s, not at all bad-looking—and said, “Yes, I guess I am!” He told me how much he loved what I do and how my jazz posts really turned him onto jazz, and I just stood there smiling, nodding, saying thank you and not really knowing what else to do until my partner read the cues, stepped in and said, “Ari, we have to go if we’re going to be there on time.” We said goodbye, I thanked him again and went on our merry way.
I know that he meant well but I’m very protective of my privacy and so I probably came off as a bit rude. Dude, if you’re reading this, I apologize for my poor manners and thank you again for the validation. But like Garbo, who never said it but should have, “I want to be alone.” I’ve got a set of Groucho glasses with mustache on order.
Baseball: This season sucks! Too many blowouts, too many home runs, horrendous pitching and at least half the division races were decided before the All-Star break! And MLB.TV has been as buggy as fuck, with lots of picture freezes and app crashes. I was hoping to write a piece on baseball this year, but this season isn’t worth the effort.
Music: All my plans were disrupted by the political madness of the first five months of 2017, so I’ve been more of a butterfly lately, going wherever my fancy takes me. I’m still upset that I didn’t get to do my annual blues jag, as I could have used the cleansing ritual after so much political nonsense. I’ve written most of the reviews you’ve seen recently on airplanes, which makes long-distance flights much more tolerable. Still, it would be nice to stay at home for a while with access to my piano so I can duplicate the musical ideas I hear in a given work to further my understanding of what the artist was trying to do.
Here are all the reviews I have in “draft” status, indicating the albums I’m most likely to review, but I’m not guaranteeing anything—my life is too over-the-map right now to predict the future with any reasonable certainty.
- “Heroes” by David Bowie
- Dressy Bessy (album)
- The Best of John Lee Hooker
- Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie
- The Turning Point by John Mayall
- Oremi by Angelique Kidjo
- Amnesiac by Radiohead
- Parallel Lines by Blondie
- Radio City by Big Star
- Bad Company (album)
- Parcel of Rogues by Steeleye Span
- Against the Streams by June Tabor
- Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers
- Not a Pretty Girl by Ani DiFranco
- Complete Greatest Hits by The Cars
- Masterpieces by Ellington
- The Indispensable Django Reinhardt
- The King of Limbs by Radiohead
Cheers! And to my American readers—I hope like hell you get rid of the Neo-Nazi bastards who have stolen your democracy ASAP because they are indeed sufficiently insane to take the rest of us down with them.
I won’t be writing any more reviews this year, but I do want to close the chapter on my first and last foray into American politics.
After renouncing my American citizenship the day after the election, some of my American friends contacted me and suggested that I had overreacted to a once-in-a-generation aberration and I would come to regret my decision.
Don’t think so!
I think my friends believed I was making an emotional decision because everyone was boiling over with emotion during the last weeks of the campaign. They forgot that I’m an intensely logical person skilled at playing out future scenarios. My Myers-Briggs profile (ENTJ) validates that orientation, and as things have turned out, the jobs I’ve held focused largely on the strategic-analytical side of business. My decision to forever abandon my homeland was based on cold, calculating logic.
Those still holding out for recounts or an Electoral College revolt are the emotional ones. The facts are as plain as day and you’d have to be a fool to ignore them:
- Over 60 million people voted for a candidate who exhibits nearly all the characteristics of a sociopath (look it up, people!).
- Over 60 million people knowingly voted for a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic liar.
- Just for a minute, imagine if Hillary had won. Guess what? Those 60 million people would still be there, nursing their resentments and spreading their ludicrous conspiracy theories. The Trump campaign empowered The Deplorables to think, say and do the unthinkable, and nothing is going to stop them now. They have the guns, the pent-up hatred, the resentment of those who are smarter than they will ever be, and the terrifying certainty of the ignorant and superstitious. They would have put Hillary through hell; they may have even killed her. They still might.
- Voters doubled down on the outrage by turning Congress over to the Republicans, a political party that shrouds itself in a twisted interpretation of Christianity and has no respect for facts, women, gays, people of color or anyone who differs with their uneducated opinions and inhuman policies.
Add to all that a decidedly right-wing Supreme Court and you can only conclude that the fix is in.
In one sense, the result shouldn’t have been a surprise, for it confirmed what many people in the world already believed: that America is a country full of stupid, uncivilized, violent bullies who take pride in their ignorance and in their irrationally inflated view of themselves. In that sense, the voters of the United States couldn’t have selected a more fitting person to lead them.
But don’t kid yourselves. Trump has released the American Pandora’s Box and it is going to take decades to repair the damage—if it can be repaired at all. I don’t believe it’s possible in my lifetime. It certainly won’t be fixed through a flawed democratic process where some loser congressman from Buttfuck, Wisconsin has enormous power over tens of millions of people who never had the chance to vote for or against him. Or a democratic process that gives more power to people in states with more coyotes than people. Or a democratic process that defines “losing candidate” as the one who received the most votes. Throw into the mix a president who has little knowledge of and even less respect for the law—and who is more than willing to fight any challenges to his authority in court—and the possibility of effective resistance through the system falls into the category of seriously wishful thinking.
The most likely scenario is the further erosion of democracy and the rise of an authoritarian state along the lines of Russia. Civil war is unlikely, but because too many Americans have the tendency to turn to violence to “solve” their problems, things will get pretty ugly. The best solution would be a peaceful breakup into separate countries, but the bullies who will be running the show would never accept that solution any more than Putin has accepted Ukraine as a sovereign country.
Sociopaths draw their power from their victims, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Donald Trump victimize me. What I learned from the election is that America didn’t want me or my kind anyway. I take pride in my intelligence and firmly believe in lifelong learning. I prefer truth to fiction. I don’t let anyone grab my pussy without permission. I fuck women and I fuck men. I hate guns and think they should be banned. Why on earth would I choose to be a citizen of a country that has no respect for my identity or my beliefs? How on earth could I feel safe in such a place?
In essence, the American people gave me the finger and shouted in capital letters, “YOU AND YOUR KIND ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!”
Well, here’s my finger right back at ya!
Last Trip Home
Once the results were in and the tears were dry, I started planning my last trip to the U. S. A. to close accounts and tie up some loose ends. As luck would have it, my recently widowed Irish grandmother also decided to pack up and return to her ancestral homeland next year and suggested that one last American Thanksgiving might be a nice way to end the relationship.
I wasn’t really thrilled with the idea. The only thing I wanted to experience on my last trip to America was a juicy cheeseburger and a chocolate malt, two culinary delights not usually featured on Thanksgiving menus. So I went three days early, just so I could get my cheeseburger and shake . . . and a taco at my favorite Mexican joint in the Mission.
I also wanted to visit the house were I grew up one last time. It was the one property my parents didn’t sell when they moved to France, and I wanted to spend some quality time in my room, a small piece of the world where I always felt safe.
I spent a lot of time alone in my room in my youth, by choice. I could always go hang out with my parents or have a friend over, but I did cherish my alone time. I loved to stretch out on my bed, with music coming from either the living room or my little stereo, reading for hours and frequently pausing to study how the light changed as the day inched forward into the evening. I always had something to read—the French novels and poetry my mother recommended, works of the great writers like Dostoevsky, Dickens and Joyce, and my old stand-by, The Baseball Encyclopedia. I loved the feeling of traveling through space and time while learning and discovering new things, new worlds.
On this trip I brought no books but I had a shitload of work to do, split between my day job and copying all the edited versions of my reviews into the blog. I worked from early morning well into the night, taking little breaks to experience the light at various times of the day. It was cool and cloudy in San Francisco, so the day’s changes were subtle but still distinct, each with their own mood ranging from the hope of late morning to the melancholy of the dying day to the strange anticipation brought on by the night.
And with the world outside going to shit, it was wonderful to feel safe for a little while.
I left the house only once that first day, to head over to Barney’s in Noe Valley for my cheeseburger (California Burger with chilis and bacon and goopy sour cream, complemented with a small order of curly fries and a Hershey’s chocolate malt). While I savored every bite, every crunch, every slurp, part of me felt like an alien anthropologist sampling the artifacts of a dying culture. I left the restaurant feeling rather gloomy about the experience.
The gloom continued the next day as I wandered around the Castro, where the mood combined colors of tension, anxiety, anger and disbelief. The shopkeepers and restaurant workers weren’t as chatty as I’d remembered; it was like everyone had lost a close friend they will never see again.
When my parents and partner arrived, we strolled through the old neighborhoods, calling up memories of a place that looks the same but will never be the same again. The Thanksgiving dinner the following day was much quieter than a typical family gathering; no one felt like music, so some spent the day watching football while the rest relived memories of happier times. While helping with the dishes, my grandmother asked me how I liked my visit.
“I love you, grandma, but to be honest, I can’t wait to get the fuck out of this place. It gives me the creeps.”
“I feel the same way, dearie. I’ll be glad to go home, too.”
“It will make it a lot easier to visit you,” I suggested.
“Yes, that will be nice. I’ll try to hang on a while, just for you.”
We flew out the next day, on Black Friday, the curiously-named day when Americans scratch, claw, trample and bite their way through the stores to get deals on Christmas gifts. I’ve always thought it odd that the so-called season of joy begins with a burst of manic greed and intense competition for material things in a land of plenty. Still, it seemed quite fitting to leave the United States on a day when Americans celebrate their collective insanity, because by electing Donald Trump, Americans have openly and emphatically embraced the madness. Every day will be a Black Friday in Trumpland.
So, I’m done! I never cared much for “La Marseillaise,” so my new national anthem (with video updated with images of the madness) is . . .