love Brahms because Brahms is actually structured. And he's passionate
without being sentimental. I don't like sentimental music, so I
tend not to like Liszt, and I don't actually much care for the Russian
romantics Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, where it's all on the sleeve.
With Brahms it's restrained, and there's a sense of tension that
STARED AT THAT quote for about five hours last week, sure that
there was a column in it somewhere. For an embarrassingly long time
I just drew a blank, pacing back and forth, procrastinating. But
then, just before midnight last Friday, I was sure I had it—the
opening line, anyway. So I threw it on the page and then raced downstairs
to restock my work area with caffeinated beverages.
have two bodegas on my corner. One is staffed by smiling, reticent
Chinese ladies in their late thirties who always act like they've
never seen me before, even though I'm in there five times a day.
The other is darker, has flickering lights, and is run by two Lebanese
men—one a gigantic mute who makes stinky sandwiches, the other a
profane midget comedian with a pencil moustache who handles the
register and has something astonishing to say every time you go
always—always—choose the Chinese ladies. I wouldn't trust them not
to bludgeon and eat me in a lifeboat situation, but they're non-judgmental
about my shopping decisions. However, they close earlier than Team
Lebanon. Whenever I'm in a late-night professional panic, the Chinese
ladies are always already gone, and I'm forced into the leering
place with the flickering lights.
last week I rushed in there and grabbed a bunch of sodas. Put them
on the counter. Leering Moustache looked up at me and smiled.
night," he said. "Gotta get some ass."
frowned. "Excuse me?" I said.
night, man," he said. "Gotta get ass. It ain't Friday night if you're
not getting ass. You getting some ass, big man?"
I said. "I'm working."
bullshit," he said. "Working on Friday night. Your boss is full
of some shit, man."
not his fault," I said. "I could have been finished. But I just
sat on my ass all day long because I couldn't think of how to start.
I'm like a writer. Writers don't get ass. They get reactions."
shook his head. "You'd be better off cutting that shit out and just
getting some ass," he said. He looked at my two 20-ounce Diet Cokes.
"That's $2.93, man."
ignored him and just stood there with my hands on my hips. "You
want to hear what I'm writing? What I'm writing right now?"
laughed, looked up at me with dread, then turned down the sandwich
counter. "I don't know," he said. "Hey, Rami!" he called out. "Do
I want to hear what this guy's writing?"
man turned back to me and sighed. "Okay," he said. "Tell me what
I said, smiling. "It's an article. It's called 'Condoleezza Rice
Is Going to Lick Your Beaver.'" I pointed at him, then folded my
arms. "You see? It's about how Condoleezza Rice is going to lick
glared at me. "I don't have no beaver, man."
you say," I said. Then I pulled out my wallet. "You said $2.93?"
pulled the money out and gave it to him. He rang up. I reached for
wait," he said.
I said, stopping.
you wanna say that Condoleezza Rice is going to lick my beaver,
dude? What the fuck is wrong with you?"
gave him the warm smile. "Not your beaver," I said. Then I waved
a hand in all directions, indicating the whole canvas of existence.
"Your beaver. The universal beaver. Like if you were a woman and
you had a beaver, that beaver. All these years, she's been wanting
to lick your beaver. And now she's going to get her chance, because
she's going to be secretary of state. Now she's going to lick everybody's
beaver. She's going to start in Japan and work her way west. She's
been holding back all these years, but now she's got four years,
and no one's going to stop her. She's going to go absolutely fucking
Man stared at me, wide-eyed. "Hey, Rami," he said, not taking his
eyes off me. "Get a load of this guy, man."
know what the title of her first book was?" I asked. "Do you?"
laughed. "No," he said, resigned. "No, I don't. What was it?"
was called The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1948-1983:
Uncertain Alliance," I said. "Three hundred and three pages.
Princeton University Press. Princeton University Press! You see
what I'm getting at?"
I said. "On the surface, this book is about the relationship of
the Soviet army to the armies of the communist satellites. It's
what you call a 'nuanced analysis,' showing that it like wasn't
this big monolithic bloc but a bunch of fragile relationships."
I shook my head. "But actually it wasn't about that at all. The
whole thing—every single page—was about eating pussy."
frowned at me. "So what's your point?" he asked.
I admitted, "I hadn't gotten that far yet."
trying to say that that Rice lady is a lesbian, right? What, are
no..." I said. "You see, it's sort of a joke... I'm trying to say
what?" he said.
frowned. "Look, at the end of the article, I'm going to have her
walking up a red carpet to the APEC conference in Santiago, and
she's flanked by like 50 Secret Service guys, all serious and looking
in all directions, and she's singing 'Sugar Walls.' That, interspersed
with images of these F-117s screaming over some Arabian desert on
the other side of the world, dropping shitloads of ordnance, huge
explosions everywhere, bodies sizzling, and you just hear her voice:
Temperatures rise inside my sugar walls... You remember that
song? The Sheena Easton song?"
he said. "Sheena Easton. I remember her."
you remember who wrote 'Sugar Walls'?" I said.
a voice shot out from behind the sandwich counter.
said Rami. I didn't know he talked until then.
right!" I said. "Prince! You get it now?"
really," said Register Man. "If she's in Santiago and surrounded
by all these guys, when does she lick my beaver?"
that's easy," I replied. "She's always licking your beaver."
did she start licking my beaver?" he asked.
week," I said. "As soon as they got rid of Colin Powell."
did Colin Powell have to do with it?"
sighed. "Colin Powell didn't accomplish much as secretary of state,
but no one was licking anyone's beaver on his watch. That was one
line he just wouldn't cross. He as much as announced it every time
he went out in public. Every time Condi went on Meet the Press
and said something about the United States being 100 percent committed
to licking your beaver, he'd be on the phone with Bob Woodward two
hours later saying exactly the opposite. That's why they fired him."
she can lick my beaver," he said. "Right, boss. Okay."
earned the right," I protested. "She was loyal."
said nothing and stared at me. I grabbed my Cokes and headed toward
the door. "Well, good night," I said.
nodded. "Have a good one."