Friday, September 30, 2016

From Tricky Dick to Slippery Don: 50 Years of Presidential Hubbub

Turn up the ruckus.

Monday's inaugural presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drew 84 million viewers, which is nearly a third of every male, female and undecided from sea to shining sea. Turns out it was the largest debate audience in history to boot, besting the 1980 Jimmy Carter/Ronald Reagan showdown which drew 81 mil.

What makes the Clinton/Trump number even more impressive is that it was watched—get this—on TV! Seriously, television is a medium losing its mojo faster than a hornless billy goat in a toddler-plunking tourney. Back in '80 when the B-actor squared off against the peanut farmer, the only entertainment alternatives were a 700 Club rerun and a two-hour, CHiPs in Tijuana special. Conversely, these days I could binge-watch the entire, ten-year run of The Waltons on my iPencil.

So yes, apparently we'd been pining for this prime-time slime sling since 2015, when The Orange One descended a Trump Tower escalator, permanently establishing residence in the darkest chasms of our souls. The contest didn't disappoint; Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times, he eye-rolled, he lied and he condescended on countless other occasions. When the dust settled and the huge vein receded into The Donald's sweaty red neck, most scored it a victory for Secretary Clinton and the Dems.

I'm going to assume you watched it, so I don't need to sprinkle events any further with partisan punditry. What I would like to do is see how much of a bandwagon jumper you are. Was Monday your first go-round or are you a battle-worn rodeo clown, barely smearing your makeup before leaping into the barrel? How far back does your debate prowess reach? What say you take the quiz and find out.

Who famously stated, "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

a) Marilyn Monroe, speaking to Bobby in 1962 after finally managing to compare the two brothers head to head.

b) Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, even though it's obvious he's lying. Trump's never had an actual friend.

c) Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate after Quayle claimed to have as much experience as Kennedy had when he ran for the presidency.

The answer is c, and from what I hear, Quayle is still really upset. Freaking low blow, Lloyd.

Who said, "You're likable enough, Hillary."

a) Bill Clinton, just before proposing.

b) Donald Trump, speaking with Russian beauty contestant Hillary Hrbedzgova. He went on, "Plus, it doesn't matter a goddamn lick how likable you are, okay. Trust me, sweetheart, okay? Long as I can hang my goddamn hammock on that rack of yours, we're good to go, okay? Now get out of here and see if you can't find me a twenty piece McNuggets."

c) Barack Obama interjecting the comment during a 2008 primary debate after the moderator asked Clinton whether she had the personal appeal to best her opponent.

The answer is c. Kind of a douchey remark, but alas, true.

Which presidential candidate, when asked about the United States' relationship with the Soviet Union, said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under an XXXX administration.”?

a) Michael Dukakis in 1988, followed by "Not by da time I get troo wid 'em!"

b) George W. Bush (and he was right!).

c) Gerald Ford, during the 1976 presidential debate vs. Jimmy Carter.

The answer is c. Wow, Gerry, not cool. For God's sake, what did you think KGB stood for—Keep Gargling, Betty?

And finally, who said, "... and they brought us whole binders full of women."?

a) Bill Clinton, talking about a funny prank George Stephanopoulos played one morning in the Situation Room. George had such a serious look on his face when he slid that notebook containing the national security briefing across the table. Turns out it was a year's worth of Penthouse! "Ah'll be dipped in hog jelly if it wadn't mah birthday that day!" a giggling Clinton later mused.

b) Donald Trump, followed by, "And most of them were fat, disgusting cows. Hey, were are my goddamn McNuggets?"

c) Mitt Romney, when asked during the 2012 presidential debate how, during his term as governor of Massachusetts, he went about seeking more women for top government positions.

Sorry, trick question. All three are correct!

How did you do? You know what? It doesn't matter. Just check the right box on November 8.

Friday, September 16, 2016

For the Football Fashion Fanatic.

Happy fallish! Yeah, I know, it's not quite autumn yet, but since Starbucks already released the horse from the barn September 6, I can feel no shame breaking the seal on my latest Groupon purchase: a roll of limited-edition, pumpkin spice toilet paper! I understand, it doesn't skate the gully as smoothly as the good stuff, but the kids love it and boy howdy, does it ever pair nicely with an understated chai potpourri to gussy up an otherwise lackluster water closet.

Oh, and speaking of harvest season, the other day I brushed off the old ROASP archives to investigate how many of my posts have included the label, "football." After sneezing for three straight minutes from inhaling a dusty cloud of inattention, I discovered that no less than fifteen have listed that tag.

Seems I've spoken ad nauseam of things pigskin—the players and teams I both love and despise, the sport's rituals and branding—but what I haven't explored is the history of football fashion. Kind of embarrassing too, because basketball apparel was covered over three varicose veins ago, and my baseball analysis hearkens back at least five skin tags and a wonderful new toenail.

And since football is pretty much Yertle the Turtle, lording over American professional sports like Donald Trump over stupid white guys, I'd be remiss wasting any more virtual ink on any other subject, so let's start with our beloved game's infancy.

American football evolved from a hybrid of soccer and rugby. Naturally, helmets weren't a part of the game's equipment at its onset, and nothing separated your head from your opponent's but a few inches and a concentrated cloud of sarsaparilla breath. Even back in the 1890s, football wasn't an endeavor for the weak of spirit. I mean, imagine this dude talking a little smack as you're lining up across from him on a long third and two:

"I say, old sport, you're looking a bit higgledy-piggledy. I must warn you, my good man, if you so much as poke your puffy sneezer into my vicinity, I shall be forced to mercilessly render your bone box into gullyfluff. I assure you, I will be here all the livelong day, dear fellow. All day."

You may ask, was the gridiron all those seasons ago the same wonderful ballet, the same beautiful celebration of athleticism and grace it is today?

You tell me.

Amazingly, helmets weren't mandatory in the college game until 1939, and in the pros your squash wasn't required to be protected until 1943. Conversely, knickers have adorned the gridiron since the early days. Were tweaks made? Absolutely. In fact, notice the two schools of thought regarding groin protection back in the day:

Personally, I'd be more in the Eve camp on the right than Adam's look on the left. After all, as renowned zookeeper Jack Hannah once said, why expose the prairie dog to predators when he's safer in his burrow?  But who really knows? There's a good chance this could also be the fiery beginning of that whole adidas/Puma feud.

Oh, just a couple of side notes real quick:

1) This dude looks too old to be dressing for Halloween and if he's giving out candy, we'll just get ours from the vape store at the local strip mall.

2) How amazing is it that Wisenthorpe Damon and Augustus "Web Fingers" Maguire played on the same team together in 1906!

3) Lastly, this guy appears capable of feeding you your own face:

Once helmets came onto the scene, face masks were often considered effeminate, taking fifteen years before becoming required equipment in 1955. Yet even as late as the 1960s, many players were reluctant to shield their mugs.

The guy on the left is Fred Biletnicoff, wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders. He was my first sports idol, juking across the middle with his long hair flapping out of his helmet and stickem-covered hands sucking up any ball within diving distance. Hope his face is doing okay after all those years of punishment.

Nowadays, a certain swooshy mega-marketing empire has transformed the football uniform into a virtual ATM, unveiling a different get-up each week and thrusting the latest and greatest jersey onto a fan base jonesing to purchase the freshest swag their pint-sized attention spans will allow.

Leading the way with the most color combinations rendered useless and destined for landfill is the University of Oregon, loyal minions to the greatest sports merchandising pimp of all, Phil Knight. I do have to tip my helmet to the man, taking a school whose color of urine yellow equates itself with profound renal failure and transforming it into day jobs for so many six-year-olds on the Asian continent.

Oh, hang on, before I go, let's see how Tom Brady is doing. Hey Tom, how does it feel, sitting out the first four games of the NFL season for lying and cheating worse than two toddlers playing Candyland?

Oh good, he seems fine. Such a dreamy smile.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Could Really Use a Locktail.

And finally, after a colorful two weeks in Rio de Janeiro, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad are dust in the wind. Always fun for a fortnight every four years to crank up the Motorola and watch one freakishly athletic body after another perform one freakishly athletic feat after another. Seriously, all I have in common with most Olympians is ear size and a daily need for Spandex.

As you know, these were the first games held in South America; also the first to take place in what many would consider a developing country. Thing is, Brazil is actually a member of a group known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which are all large, rapidly developing economies and potential future superpowers, and hence aren't considered Third World.

These economically ascending nations unfortunately still harbor Third World poverty. In Rio, 22 percent of its citizens reside in favelas, or shantytowns with improvised sanitation systems and rampant disease—Zika, tuberculosis, Dengue Fever—even leprosy, stalk the 6 million favela occupants in Rio alone. Add in the extraordinarily polluted waters used for sailing, rowing and distance swimming (Glurp! Argh! I swallowed some... glochkghptawwshit!"), and you realize Rio was a hot mess from the get-go.

Nonetheless, I found myself predictably enraptured for sixteen consecutive evenings. I fell into the comfortable habit of enjoying a two-hour, NBC-ified dose of world-class awesomeness from the comfort of the cracked leather davenport.

More often than not, I'd be accompanied by my favorite summertime beverage, a frosty refresher I indelicately refer to as a "Mormosa." It's a tall tumbler filled to the brim with two-thirds seltzer and one-third orange juice, so anyone from Donny Osmond to Mitt Romney to Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television, could sip on one of these beauties without placing at risk the planets they'd been guaranteed to govern upon death.

Now, as I watch these Games slowly recede into the rear horizon, I'm regretful that I didn't take that extra step, exert a bit more creativity into my beverage choices to enhance the Olympic experience. So many opportunities existed that I ignored in favor of the tried and true, so to make up for it, here are some ideas for Olympic-themed drinks:

The USA women's basketball team won their sixth consecutive gold medal, and their Rio performance was akin to a cat slowly removing the legs from a baby mouse (I saw my cat do that once). Winning each game by an average of 37 points, let's celebrate their dominance with what I call a "Brittany Grinder." Take a pound of any type of meat and put it in a blender. When the contents take on the consistency of a pink, gamy pudding, it's ready to throw back. Or up.

I truly wish I'd enjoyed a nice Pilsner, maybe a Stella Artois or Pilsner Urquell, for watching Usain Bolt's hella sick sprinting performances. It's my brother's favorite type of beer and I'm reminded of how much he and Usain have in common—they both wear yellow shirts and finish in well under ten seconds.

On the men's basketball side of the ledger, I watched Team USA play only once, in the final against Serbia. Outside of Kevin Durant, the North Americans played like possum breath and still won by 40 against a gaggle of slow but scrappy, scruffy Slavs. Performances like these call for an IPA—International Players Arekindofshitty.

Swimmer Katie Ledecky dominated her individual events, setting world records in each of her three finals. In the 800 meter freestyle, she won by so much that she could have finished the race, toweled off, hugged her family, bellied up to the concession stand and made it back in time to high five the just-arriving silver medalist. Let's have a large Dr. Pepper and Red Rope in honor of Katie and those hard-working food vendors at the Rio Olympiad.

Finally, I'm sure by now you're a little tired of all the Ryan Lochte drama, so here's a nice little cocktail to nurse while listening to him stammer and lament a situation that didn't have to happen. It's rather simple really. I call it a Lochtea:

Just a fifth of whiskey and a douchebag.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Singing the New Bathroom Blues.

The tale I tell today is of triumph and torment. It's a six-day story of pain and victory, of love, labor and a livid lumbar. Grit flowed in abundance, its source the indomitable human spirit and the bottom of a plastic bucket. Lives were changed and destinies altered, but in the end a monument had risen like the mighty avian Phoenix from a scorched Earthscape.

You may be asking, in light of America's crumbling infrastructure, what is this tremendous public work to which I'm referring? What undertaking could be worthy of establishing residence next to such man-made marvels as the Brooklyn Bridge, Hoover Dam or State Route 518 linking Tukwila to Burien?

My bathroom, that's what. Our home is a mid century rambler, and evidently during the 1940s, a single lavatory was deemed adequate for the waste abatement sensibilities of America's post-war families. None of that three-and-three quarter bathrooms bullshit with HDMI hookups and mini-fridges for the hungover toilet bogart of today's pampered homeowner.

Nope, one bathroom, one toilet and one freaking outlet, so deal with it, you freaking twenty-first-century poo mills and the rest of your over-primping broods.

Yes, this area of the house got six times the wear and tear of the next most highly-trafficked area, a three square-foot area in front of the fridge. The floor was buckling, the tiles were swelling and if something wasn't done, we'd be involuntarily relocating our toilet to the crawlspace below.

But first things first; how does one replace a bathroom floor when no alternatives exist besides aiming for a small hole in the floor? Two words:

Honey Bucket. Nothing like single-handedly driving your neighbors' home prices down by merely placing a porta-potty in the driveway and your old commode on the porch. Whatever, this is how everyone operated a few generations back. I do wish someone would've told me I didn't have to dig a pit to put the thing over, but don't most home improvement projects command an El Capitan-sized learning curve?

As you can see, once the underlayment was ripped out (resulting in injury to your obedient journalist, which I'll get into later), the dark spot by the toilet hole presented a healthy helping of sub-floor rot. Woohoo! This alone added about four to six hours to the project. Fortunately, I wasn't about to take on this pig of a task alone.

That's my brother replacing the sub-flooring. Luckily his parole officer allowed him to travel north for the weekend, as long as he kept his ankle bracelet on (which isn't visible here) and didn't allow his face to be photographed. He said he'd rather show off his impressive new ass implants anyway. Apparently they're a big status symbol in prison. He wanted me to tell you he's not even flexing here, that's all implant.

Next up was new backer board (also known as underlayment):

Then the ceramic tile and spacers for the future grout:

I'm telling you, you could bounce a freaking quarter off those fresh glutes of his. Am I a little jelly? Perhaps.

After the mortar dried, it was grouting time:

Finally, the moment to bid adieu to mi amore, the Honey Bucket—'cause there's a smooth white new sheriff in town:

Fast forward another week, and the cleaning and painting are complete:

Although the room turned out well, a dark underbelly to this story exists. While incarcerated those nine years, my mechanically-inclined brother gleaned some exemplary carpentry skills from his various "daddies." He therefore performed the lion's share of duties requiring fine motor skills while I executed tasks involving brute force and superior strength.

Three days after the grouting was complete, I rose from bed unable to point my left foot upward, which is known as "dead foot syndrome." After visiting the doctor and receiving an MRI, l learned that, probably while crowbarring out the old plywood, one of my lumbar discs decided to form an inappropriate dalliance with the nerve root extending down the back of my leg.

To add insult to injury, I severely sprained my ankle while awkwardly planting the weak foot:

Wearing this boot is sort of like how kickers wear a different shoe to kick the ball, only there are no cleats on the boot and it would really hurt my ankle to kick a ball and then the ball wouldn't go very far and then I'd fall down. Everything else is the same.

I'm scheduled to see an orthopedist next week, so hopefully before too long I can enjoy the new bathroom without snagging my pants on Velcro once I peel them past my knees. To those of you over 50, please take care of your back. And to those of you under 50, please take care of your back.

Even an historical endeavor such as this isn't worth the heartache.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Everything's Going to Be Fine-ish.

Suddenly summer.

Hard not to love this time of year. That creaky old lumbar don't pay as much mind, and the sun stays up longer than a starving cat in a tuna tree. Oh, just so you know, that's how I like to talk in the summer, like I'm back on the porch, sipping on a tall Hi-C. Matter of fact, I can still hear my old hound dog barkin', chasin' down some hoodoo there.

Born in Puyallup.

But while each season throws off its own distinct vibe, summer's mood is magnified; it's a little lazier but a lot more passionate. The quarter of all Americans who regularly attend school are abruptly handed a box of instant holiday (now with fifty percent more free time!), and we all know shit tends to happen when the kids get bored.

And aggravating our restlessness a notch further this particular solstice is a churning storm on the horizon, kicking up an angst about America's future that a lot of us can't remember previously feeling. Violence dominates our headlines and citizens are rancorously divided over whether to address it with more violence or otherwise. The president we elect in November will inherit an unprecedented hunk of disenfranchised voters from whichever side loses. Whether we like it or not, we're stuck with either a libelous Beltway lifer or a racist, peach-pallored prick. Seems pretty grim, doesn't it?

Mmm... nah. Our country has actually teetered a lot closer to the brink than we are right now (Please see World War II and Cuban Missile Crisis.). Oh, and that term "good old days"? That's about as real as those WMDs they cooked up to hornswoggle us into the Iraq boondoggle.

So, to demonstrate how our union has persevered despite taking a few shots to the pills from time to time, I'd like to highlight some of the good and bad mojo visited upon this country we love.

Summer of 1966
We move our hunting rifle from the gun rack to under the bed because of this: During August, race riots inflame much of the nation, most notably in Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois, and Lansing, Michigan. A state of emergency is declared in Cleveland, and troops are dispatched to restore order.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: On July 4, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act.

And this cool thing happened: The first Star Trek episode was broadcast on September 8, further dividing America into those who love Star Trek, and nerds.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: The Men in My Little Girl's Life, by Mike Douglas. It was the only top ten hit for the famous talk-show host, and with a title like that, I can see why.

Summer of 1976
We move our hunting rifle into the closet and buy a .38 revolver because of this: In New York City, the "Son of Sam" pulls a gun from a paper bag, killing one and seriously wounding another, in the first of a series of attacks that terrorize the city for the next year.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: We watched Bruce Jenner, Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinx brothers make quick work of their commie counterparts in the Montreal Olympics, dominating them until Apollo Creed's tragic beating in Rocky IV.

And this cool thing happened: The first woman is admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Afternoon Delight, by Starland Vocal Band. A curious thirteen-year-old at the time, by the end of that summer I'd surmised that this wasn't about the joys of a Fudgesicle at 3:30.

Summer of 1986
We move our .38 revolver under the bed and buy a new .357 for under our pillow because of this: The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to explode, and what better reason to protect you and yours from wandering bands of deathly ill homosexuals than with that little beauty of a pistol you found under the Christmas tree last year.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: Top Gun debuts, grossing $177 million and causing the firearm owners mentioned above to feel aroused and dirty. Many went on to purchase VHS players for future Top Gun screenings in the privacy of their own homes.

And this cool thing happened: During "Hands Across America," at least five million people form a human chain from New York City to Long Beach, California, to fight hunger and homelessness. Unfortunately it quickly deteriorates into a vicious game of Red Rover.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Rock Me Amadeus, by Falco. Wait, did I say top one-hit wonder?

Summer of 1996
We put our .38 in the glove box of the F-150 and move the .357 to the nightstand. For further protection, we purchase a Glock .45 because of this: The Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics kills two and injures 111, so y'all might want to listen up: no immigrant Islamist terror tool is going to make me a victim without tasting a headful of lead. Wait, what's that? He's a white American Christian? Whatever, I do love me a sweet new gun.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: President Bill Clinton signs the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty at the United Nations.

And this cool thing happened: The unemployment rate drops to 5.1%, the lowest since March 1989. House Speaker Newt Gingrich laments that five percent of the country is still slackers.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand, by Primitive Radio Gods. Sheer genius, as it was the only song ever written with its entire lyrics in the title.

Summer of 2006
We give our .357 to the wife, put the Glock in an ankle holster and buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle because of this: Spinach contaminated with E. coli kills two and poisons over 100 others in 20 states. We learn that leafy vegetable-based terrorism is real and if you don't believe it, explain the sneeze guard, tough guy.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion. Well, at least the YouTube guy must think we're great.

And this cool thing happened: The world's tallest living tree, a 379-foot tall coast redwood (sequoia) now named Hyperion, is discovered in Redwood National Park.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: You're Beautiful, by James Blunt. This song always gets my hopes up at the beginning because the guy has a plan, then leaves me feeling raw and empty. Damn you, Blunt!

Thanks for sticking with me. Hopefully we can all agree that over the past five decades, through the good but especially the sad and horrific, we Americans have shown a way of coming together when it's least expected.

I'm certainly not expecting it this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2016

More Boyfriend Drama—a short story

The table vibrated, Cynthia's quiet ring tone set to Billy Squier's In the Dark.
You're never sure if the illusion is real.
You pinch yourself but the memories are all you feel...
She rolled onto her side and grabbed the phone. Her nerves were stupidly frazzled. Is it him? It's been three days.
Damn. It's just Heather. "Hey, Heather."
"Hi, just wondering how you're doing."
"Umm...I'm okay." Cynthia drove her fist into the pillow. "Shit! I'm trying—I really am, but I can't stop thinking about him. He hasn't called since Sunday… and it’s just making me more and more obsessed." She rolled onto her back and blew out a breath. "This isn’t good."
"Come on, Cyn, keep things in perspective. You know he's into you."
"Yeah, well, that’s the thing—I don't know. Supposedly, he's really been busy with work lately. That's what he says, anyway. Then he just shows up in the middle of the night, like he lives here. Fucking asshole."
"It's just so funny," said Heather. "I could've sworn the dude was gay when I first met him. He's in such amazing shape and wears those tight clothes. Those belts, the boots. Oh, and hello? That old guy he's always hanging with. Not sayin’. Just sayin'."
Cynthia threw off the covers. "Heather, trust me, if only you knew. Not gay. And Rob says he only hangs out with the guy because he has to. If the boss says work late, you work late."
"I know, and I totally trust your instincts, Cyn. I just have a feeling that there's a lot you don't know about him."
"Well, there's a lot that he doesn't know about me either. Like that clown I just broke up with. If he ever found out about that, we're as good as over. They used to be best friends, you know."
Cynthia's call waiting buzzed. Her heart jumped as she looked at the number. Him. "Hey, Heather, I gotta go. It's Rob. Thanks for listening. Love you, call you tomorrow."
"Bye, Honey. Love you too."
Cynthia cleared her throat and blew out a quivering breath. Gently, she thumbed the green circle. “Hi, Rob... Really? Again? Right. Mm, hmm.”
Molten rage filled her stomach. Peeling off her head band, Cynthia flung it at the TV, burst out of bed and elbowed the bedside lamp against the wall. “Tell you what, Robin, this is the fourth time you've done this, not that I'm keeping track. How about if I call you next time? You never know, though, something might suddenly come up.”
She clicked off her phone and gazed out the window into the night. The Bat Signal's familiar beam pulsed brilliantly above Gotham’s twinkling skyline.
“Hmm... " Anger subsiding after her torrent, Cynthia's eyes followed a wispy cloud as it wafted across the familiar oval.

"I suppose he could be gay.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Interview—a short story

The perky admin approached Panos as he sat trying to will his sweaty forehead dry in the overstuffed lobby chair. New York summers.

She smiled and paused, unblinking. "He'll see you now. Follow me, please." Panos rose, grabbed his ornamental briefcase and watched the woman’s ass as she led him inside. Her beautiful hand opened the door to the sun-splashed corner office, then slid back and she disappeared.

The white-haired man sprung up from behind the massive mahogany desk. His eyes were intense, a little Christopher Walken bulgy, his manicured hand gracefully swooping in. "Panos, Bob. Pieasure to meet you. Please, sit."

"Thank you for seeing me, sir."

"Hey, call me Bob. Being called 'sir' makes me feel like I'm talking to--well--just about everybody."

Panos forced a chuckle, unbuttoned his jacket and sat.

The billionaire settled into the leather couch next to Panos, "I've taken the liberty of reading through your résumé. Impressive, indeed. But just so you know, we've vetted hundreds of people for this position. Matter of fact, we we're still not done."

"Oh, yes, sir," said Panos. "Par for the course. Regardless, I’m honored to be able to see you personally."

"Well yes, thank you. So, let's get started. Says here that shortly after graduating, you signed on with Monsanto. Talk about a PR challenge! What did you glean from that experience?"

"Well, sir, I suppose my biggest lesson was that an elected official's opinion can be modified far more easily than corn seed, yet either can lead to vast financial reward for the stakeholder."

"I see. And then you accepted a position with Arthur Andersen.Your largest client was a company called Enron. Tell me about that."

Panos knew this one was coming. "Sir, have you ever had an itch on your back that you couldn't reach? Arthur Andersen and Enron each had itches, and they discovered that if they embraced each other, their itches could be simultaneously scratched. A lot of people became very wealthy from this relationship, and fortunately, I got out of there before some people made some mistakes."

"And then you came on board at Halliburton?"

"Correct. Takeways there? I’d say when it comes to government contracts, 'no-bid' equals 'no lid'." Panos was hoping the old guy would at least crack a smile, but nothing. 

"From there," Goldman Sachs enlisted your services. Tell me about that."

Panos stared out the window, taking in the Chrysler Building and Empire State in the hazy distance."Let me put it this way. When your job is hiding the proverbial razor blade in the financial carameled apple, eventually some trick-or-treater’s tonsils are going to be nicked, and..."

"Okay, you know what? Just stop right there. I think I've heard enough."

Shit, thought Panos. Too graphic. Should've known with this old dude.

Mr. Kraft bounced up like a teenager, stopping inches from Panos’ still-sweating brow.

"I think we've found our man. Congratulations, Panos. Welcome to the New England Patriots."

Panos took a step backward and put out his hand. Kraft ignored the gesture and engulfed him in a suffocating hug.