Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fourteen Reasons To Love the Olympics

OK, so what do we have so far.

Well, first and foremost, my head is still on my shoulders. I may be tempting fate by even mentioning it, but Mr. Machete has not yet made an appearance.

Second, I have been--quite in spite of myself--watching the Olympics. Here is what has struck me so far.

1) I find it hilarious that the Chinese had to lip sync a five-year-old because the original singer was not cute enough.

2) I think Phelps is a freak of nature, albeit a nice one.

3) I find it amazing that the words 'repressive,' 'coercive,' 'manipulative,' 'tanks,' 'students,' and 'murderous' have not been used once by the talking heads, even as the women's marathon ran through Tianamen Square. Instead, we were told the giant portrait of Chairman Mao--that not long ago overlooked massive demonstrations and equally massive reprisals--is changed annually so as to display different background colors.

4) All the children who marched during the opening ceremonies and were said to represent China's hundreds of minorities were actually Han child actors wearing regional costumes. The Han rule the country and make up 98% of the population. Imagine this happening in the US: all Black, Latino, Native American and Asian minorities would be represented by Caucasian children wearing make-up and sent over by Central Casting.

5) Members of the American cycling team wore surgical mask to protect themselves from the Beijing pollution and were told by their handlers to apologize to the Chinese government for such a breach of etiquette. Where I live in Northern Virginia, Asians wearing surgical masks on smog-laden days is a common sight.

6) President Bush refused to pat a member of the US women's beach volleyball team on the ass. Laura was watching.

7) One of NBC's commentators refused to eat a scorpion snack. I did once, in Thailand. It tasted like pork rinds.

8) Trampoline is an Olympic sport.

9) So is synchronized diving. "It's the gayest sport I've ever seen," said an admiring gay friend who thought the pair of Russian competitors was simply the best.

10) Dara Torres. I'm in love...

11) The Olympics are sponsored by McDonalds. This is the equivalent of Planned Parenthood being sponsored by the Catholic church.

12) US hurdler Lolo Jones.

13) Members of the Brazilian women's beach volleyball team have Bra embroidered on their bras.

14) Tanya Harding is pitching for the Australian women's softball team.

Here's installment 38 of Wasted Miracles.

Finding Amelie’s young man had been the hard part, killing him had been remarkably easy if largely unsatisfying. Mamadou had killed three people when he was a cop in Dakar, and each time back then he’d felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and remorse. Never mind that in all three instances his own life had been on the line and that he still bore the scars inflicted by a huge drunkard with a machete. The killings had left him shaking and horrified, as if they’d been the work of a separate, darker self. It was inconceivable to him that he’d had and used the powers that could end a life, inconceivable that divine retribution hadn’t struck him down on the spot. But it hadn’t, his existence had continued unchanged save that he was decorated for the first and third killings and that younger policemen grew to be in awe of him.
Ridding the world of the young man who’d encouraged Amelie’s destruction, on the other hand, was a public service. He remembered feeling greater pain when, as a boy, he’d used a home-made sling to down a pigeon. The mass of gray and white feathers that still fluttered as he gathered the fallen bird in his hands had seemed so small, so weightless and unthreatening that he’d run to the church and babbled his confession to the local priest. The cleric seemed to have understood, reprimanded and calmed the boy and ordered him to sweep the church for a month as penance. Mamadou gladly did so.
Running the murderer to ground had proved tricky until Mamadou realized it would be far easier to let the boy find him than vice versa. During his years with the Dakar police, Mamadou had quickly grasped a universal truism: money talks. He put out the word on the street, virtually shouted it. A large reward, very large, for the whereabouts of the young man. He was purposefully indiscreet, had an artist friend create a handbill bearing the boy’s likeness, posted it on every telephone pole. In less than twenty-four hours the entire ward knew the man from Senegal had cash to burn.
Then the elderly black gentleman who called himself a friend of Aunt Mim’s showed up one morning, impeccably dressed in an old-fashioned three-piece suit only slightly faded at the elbows. Mamadou had no idea who Aunt Mim was and the old man, sitting primly with his knees tightly together had explained. “In your country, Monsieur Dioh, the lady in question might be called a grande dame, a person who because of her influence and knowledge has earned the deep respect of her community. At any rate,” the old man stood, tugged at his sleeves so the cuffs of his shirt showed just so, “she would like to help you. Are you amenable? If you are, I believe you’ll soon encounter the man you’re seeking.”
The next day Mamadou sent Moustapha, Micheline, Macodou and Fatimatou to New York to stay with distant cousins. They’d always wanted to go there, had never had the opportunity. He filled the apartment’s refrigerator with food, mostly fruits and vegetables. He went to Hechinger’s and returned with several gallons of paint, brushes, rollers, spackling compound and sandpaper. Then he took the Orange Line metro to a shopping mall in Virginia, found a sporting supply store and purchased two shotguns, a Remington 870 and a Mossberg 500. He bought seven-shot mag extensions for both, barrel shrouds, front and rear assault grips and folding stocks, five boxes of shells. He returned home, disassembled the weapons, put them back together with the custom parts.
The old man had not lied. The boy came three days later accompanied by two friends, gangly youths with loud voices and backward baseball caps. They shouted at him through the door, challenged him to come out. He didn’t. A day earlier, Mamadou had put up a makeshift barricade of end tables, sofas and mattresses. The boy and his friends broke down the door. Mamadou saw at a glance that they were not well armed. He had expected better weapons but the three had gone for size rather than effectiveness. The boy had a massive Magnum that dwarfed his hands and wrists, the others each held a Walter 9mm at a jaunty angle. Mamadou let the boy have the first shot--which went far wide and blasted a hole in the living room wall--then downed the three of them with two blasts each from the Mossberg and Remington. He was reloading when he saw a fourth man, face black, round, impassive. The man vanished before Mamadou could react.
The police came, marveled at the damage, shook their heads but Mamadou could see there was a measure of admiration in their eyes. He knew cops, they were the same everywhere. When he told them he himself had been a policeman, they nodded in understanding. A detective confiscated his weapons. He followed the detective to the station, returned two hours later without having been charged. It was clearly a case of self-defense, and the three boys in the morgue were known to the police as minor but dangerous dealers who might or might not have been responsible for earlier violent crimes.
Mamadou spent the next day and better part of the night repairing the damage to the apartment. He used up all the spackling compound but was left with a gallon of Hechinger paint. The elderly gentleman came to help him and together they worked silently through most of the afternoon. The shoot-out made the back page of the next day’s paper. He never told the police about the fourth man.

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