I Haven’t Got Time For This

Until Don­ald Trump squeezed out of America’s lit­tle brown eye last Novem­ber, I had no idea there were so many grue­some, half-wit bil­lion­aires in this coun­try. I’m not talk­ing about Trump – pri­mar­i­ly because I don’t buy for a sec­ond that guy is worth any­thing close to a bil­lion dol­lars. I’m sure he’s got some pret­ty Appren­tice coin, but I’m also sure he’s in debt up to his gill-slits to bankers, oli­garchs, oil princes, and who­ev­er else he can get to float a cov­er loan to pay off all his oth­er loans.

You can see how he oper­ates when you think about his wall. First he pro­pos­es a tacky, unnec­es­sary, and almost cer­tain­ly unfea­si­ble south­ern bor­der wall to make Amer­i­ca safe, keep out the rapists. Plus, it will be a huge piece of art : “It’ll be a beau­ti­ful wall, a real beau­ty,” he said repeat­ed­ly on the stump. But walls are nev­er beau­ti­ful ; a wall is always an eye­sore, albeit some­times a nec­es­sary eye­sore. (Speak­ing of which, I won­der if any­body on the trumptrain has con­sid­ered that as soon as a wall is built, it will become the largest can­vas for anti-trump art and pro­pa­gan­da in the world.) Over and over he made the same unre­al­is­tic promise : “Mex­i­co will pay for it.” Sure, what­ev­er, but now he’s Pres­i­dent, and he changes his tune : he wants to build the wall first and make Mex­i­co pay for it lat­er. It’s too impor­tant to wait because ter­ror­ism­rape­mur­der. So now we’re pay­ing for the wall up front and we’ll get reim­bursed down the road. But what does reim­bursed mean ?

It can mean any­thing. It can mean a bal­ance of trade deal with Mex­i­co where time or inter­est rates are shift­ed slight­ly. It can mean a tar­iff or an import tax. It def­i­nite­ly won’t mean actu­al cash, because Mex­i­co nev­er was going to pay for the wall. I’m also pret­ty sure the wall will nev­er be built — not as Trump sold it — and what will be built will almost cer­tain­ly be tied up in court. That’s how Trump makes mon­ey — false promis­es, bull­shit account­ing, bad financ­ing, and lit­i­ga­tion. So if he says he’s got (laugh-choke) 10 bil­lion in assets, he’s got to owe 9.4 bil­lion, min­i­mum.

But there are all the­se oth­er bil­lion­aires com­ing up like cicadas. Bet­sy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Lin­da McMa­hon — all of them unre­mark­able in any way except for their ridicu­lous for­tunes. And they’re all in Trump’s cab­i­net. That’s excit­ing. Now I read about anoth­er cou­ple more bil­lion­aires — Robert Mer­cer and his daugh­ter Rebekah Mer­cer. Robert appears to be a math savant who made a lot of mon­ey run­ning a hedge fund. Rebekah seems like a wom­an who is per­fect­ly capa­ble of run­ning an online bak­ery, which is what she did before invest­ing in Bre­it­bart and Steve Ban­non and decid­ing her mon­ey meant she gets to make the rules. And thanks to Cit­i­zens Unit­ed and the flat­line-induc­ing lev­el of cor­rup­tion in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, she does. She and her father have despi­ca­ble ideas about human val­ue and they’re racists, of course. But I have to admit I real­ly liked some­thing Robert is quot­ed as say­ing. He’s talk­ing to Shel­don Adel­son, bil­lion­aire (yawn) casi­no mogul and Zion­ist cock­suck­er, and the quote is meant to illus­trate Robert’s extreme mis­trust of the élite polit­i­cal class. But I don’t care about any of that. I just like his turn of phrase.

I don’t know any of your fan­cy friends,” Robert told Adel­son, “and I haven’t got any inter­est in know­ing them.”

I like how he says “haven’t got” instead of “don’t have.” I’m total­ly going to do that now.

Mr. Ha

Mr. Ha drowned in his show­er. Just an inch of water, but that’s all it takes, I guess. He died for a while and now he talks in a loud whis­per like he just got stran­gled. He can’t stop clear­ing his throat even when he’s just sit­ting behind his desk watch­ing us. He makes us write the­se things called do jons when we piss him off, so we’re basi­cal­ly always writ­ing. I was the first one to fig­ure out if I coughed he’d clear his throat like it was on fire. Sarai was wor­ried he’d kick me out, but as soon he start­ed to calm down, I’d cough again, and he nev­er said any­thing — prob­a­bly because he couldn’t remem­ber our names any­more.

And he’s a real Kore­an now. He whis­pers with an accent that he moved here from Seoul after his wife died, that he’s sor­ry for his bad Eng­lish, but he believes “Human­i­ties very much a uni­ver­sal lan­guage.” He says things like, “This is not time for talk­ing. This is time to write your dojeon”. I don’t think that means any­thing, unless he learned Kore­an when he was dead. Mr. Ha grew up here. There’s a pic­ture him in the gym run­ning track that says “Toby Ha, class of 86, gets last laugh, vic­to­ry, at CIF.” His wife is Ms. Sny­der. She teach­es Biol­o­gy and dri­ves him home after school.

We fin­ished Da Vin­ci and Michelan­gelo, and we were start­ing Kepler and Car­avag­gio, but now Mr. Ha wants us to for­get all of it. For­get the Great Vow­el Shift. For­get the Mag­na Car­ta. He say his­to­ry is a lad­der — we’re not sup­posed to mem­o­rize it, we’re sup­posed to step on it. I don’t know why the school doesn’t kill this shit­show, but they don’t. May­be they just don’t want to deal.

Today he asked, “Is any­body here orig­i­nal?”. His voice sound­ed dif­fer­ent. We all raised our hands. Well, I didn’t. “A hun­dred per­cent orig­i­nal?” Sarai looked at me. She heard it too.
He stepped out from his desk and walked to my seat.

Why not orig­i­nal?” he said.

Noth­ing new under the sun,” I said.

I wasn’t used to him being so close. His arms were pale and slick, his eyes were wet — from being drowned ? Or is he still drown­ing ? “Very fun­ny. New dojeon,” he said, still look­ing down at me.

Write some­thing nobody has ever writ­ten before.”

Just him?” asked Sarai.

He turned to Sarai. “Every­body dojeon.”

He didn’t go back to his desk. That was a first. He walked up and down the rows while we wrote. When he was on the oth­er side of the room, I coughed, but noth­ing hap­pened. Grady and Eddie laughed, so I did it again, and this time he turned around and looked at me. He put his hand over his mouth and said some­thing. Yas­mine moved her chair at the same time so I couldn’t hear, but it sound­ed like “douchebag.”

When time was up, we put our do jons on his desk. Usu­al­ly he’d put them in his bag to mark up at home, or he’d grade them while we read. But, anoth­er first, he start­ed to read them out loud. And they sucked, so they made him super ragey. Flecks of spit popped from his lips like lit­tle fire­works.

Which is Sarai?” She raised her hand. He read : “The same time every night, I turn into a mon­ster. Hun­gry for soli­tude, while my par­ents argued over din­ner, I get up and run to my room where I can eat the dark until I’m full.”

He dropped his hands to his side and turned his head, slow, like a kai­ju ris­ing out of the sea. Yas­mine said it was sexy. Eddie said he nev­er thought about being alone like you could eat it. It didn’t mat­ter. We’d always be wrong.

’The same time every night?’ That not orig­i­nal,” Mr. Ha said. “What time ? Why vague ? It’s oat­meal on a baby’s lap. Time not impor­tant. Din­ner impor­tant. Hate par­ents impor­tant. ‘Hun­gry for soli­tude?’ I’m hun­gry for orig­i­nal­i­ty. Why you feed me oat­meal on a baby’s lap?” Sarai looked down at her lap. “You should say, ’I explode from my chair and stum­ble down the hall like some­one threw a har­poon into my chest and is reel­ing me into my room.”

She doesn’t hate the par­ents,” Sarai said.

He scanned her page again and then looked up at her. “Yes she does. Which is Gor­don?”

I stood up, scrap­ing my chair on the floor. “I am, Sir”. Every­body laughed. Mr. Ha smiled too. That threw me off.

Pa rubbed his caldera with his big right hand and gave me smile to hide the hot lava about spew out of his face. By the time he hit me, his pyro­clas­tic hatred had cooled into pahoe­hoe fists that had no trou­ble leav­ing their mark.”

Holy shit,” said Grady. Shut the fuck up, Grady.

Sarai said, “Gor­don, that’s so…” Don’t say any­thing, please.

Bor­ing,” fin­ished Ha. “Every­body say anger is like a vol­cano. Big deal. We erupt in bed. We erupt with grief. We erupt with joy. Got it. Humans are big flesh vol­ca­noes. So what ? I don’t know this father, I just know the writer doesn’t know the father either.”

I want­ed to shove my pen in his ear and ham­mer it out the oth­er side. Moth­er­fuck­er.

That’s not what I wrote,” I said.

Mr. Ha looked at my page. “You are Gor­don?”

You know I am. That’s the old ver­sion. You told me to rewrite it.”

I can’t remem­ber.” Mr. Ha looked through his pages. Sarai was giv­ing me a look. Didn’t she know I was doing this for her ?

Are you seri­ous ? That was my only copy.” I sat back down with a loud cough. Mr. Ha cleared his throat.

”Okay. Tell me what you changed.”

How am I sup­posed to remem­ber that?”

You remem­ber.”

I stood up again. I remem­ber every­thing.

My father gave away his rage like a mon­key slings shit. I could see it com­ing, but I could nev­er get out of the way.”

Tá Lá Fhéile Pádraig uafásach

When asked, I say I’m Venezue­lan, but my pale skin & freck­les, my blue eyes, and my tem­per tell a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. I’m a stum­bler, not a dancer. My rages are more singsong than oper­at­ic, my cru­el­ty more snub-nosed & self-hat­ing than the .50 cal­iber pee wee macho of a Hugo Chavez or a Tony Mon­tana. I’m real­ly Irish with a Span­ish name. Well, most­ly Irish. Or, more accu­rate­ly, I’m Irish enough ; I’m also Scot­tish and East­ern Euro­pean and Ashke­nazi, plus that soupçon of Iberi­an that comes with the sur­name. I’m so lit­tle of so much that I don’t care about any of it. No Venezue­lan pride. No secret Jew­ish squee. Too sub­ur­ban for my hill­bil­ly cred and too indif­fer­ent to claim any­thing Irish at all. (Unless indif­fer­ence is an Irish trait — I’ll nev­er know, though, because indif­fer­ence.) Plus I hate St. Patrick’s Day. I always have. When I was a kid, St. Patrick’s Day was about putting in the min­i­mal effort to avoid some dum­my pinch­ing you. That’s it. When I got old­er, I thought I’d dig the par­ty vibe, but I quick­ly learned St. Patrick’s Day com­bi­nes in all the douchey drunk­en­ness of frat par­ties and spring break with dis­gust­ing food col­or­ing in the booze. And in the vom­it.

So it’s days like today that I’m dear­ly hap­py I live in Los Ange­les, a city so bereft of Irish peo­ple that we aren’t even on the map of Irish com­mu­ni­ties in the Unit­ed States :Irishmap

This is okay with me. I know right now most of my friends in New York and Boston and Chicago are either get­ting drunk on green beer, vom­it­ing green beer, dodg­ing peo­ple vom­it­ing green beer, watch­ing parades next peo­ple about to vom­it green beer, or some nasty com­bi­na­tion of the­se.

Usu­al­ly I get city envy on hol­i­days here. Los Ange­les shows its sleepy provin­cial roots. New Years Eve and Fourth of July are par­tic­u­lar­ly dire. Restau­rants close at 11. Bars close at 2. But today, I was hap­py I had no idea it was St. Patrick’s Day until I over­heard two of the girls work­ing at the vet :

Are you doing any­thing tonight?”

Tonight?”

St. Patrick’s Day, right ? Isn’t it?”

Oh, that’s right. Oh, wow. Now I got­ta stay home. All the bars are gonna be gross.”

Yes, yes they are.

Death or Glory

I’d rather be strung out & broke, shit­ting in the park, and for­got­ten by my chil­dren than write a book about why what I do is so great and then sub­ti­tle it “How to Think About Art, Plea­sure, Beau­ty, and Truth.” What a nob, A.O. Scott.