Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Joe Around the World day 8

Jimmy Carter (r), Evander Holyfield and the Other Guy
(Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- Kenya AA. Hawaiian Isle Blend. On back-to-back days?

Oh. My. GOD! Barack Obama!

The java gods must want me to riff on that god-awful non-American Muslim debt-stacking, no-job-creating socialist president!

That is, of course, if those gods are douchebag Republicans.

Before we kinda-sorta go there, allow me to explain the picture above over my first cup of Hawaiian Isle Blend, described as "wonderfully balanced Kona blend with medium body, aroma and acidity." It has slivers of bold and a flavorful taste. (3 perks out of 5)

So, in that picture stands Jimmy Carter, Evander Holyfield and "the other guy" (he was the ex-president of Costa Rica, and I'm not going to look up his name).

I snapped the photo about 7 in the a.m. on December 18, 1997, in one of Kingston's slums. Moment within moment in time. Jamaica was holding its national election that day, and Jimmy Carter brought a cadre of observers from The Carter Center to ensure fairness at the polls. Can't be too sure that happened, because Jamaicans were murdered left and right leading up to the big day, but it's the thought that counts.

My job that day was to follow Carter and Holyfield and other TCC observers and to snap photos of different polling places and to capture the essence of Jamaica on Election Day.

But come on. Here I am, an American in the dark heart of a Jamaican slum with two of the most powerful men in the history of the world -- I would have been an idiot not to take that initiative and make something memorable.

So I walked up to each of them, Carter then Holyfield, and sparked conversations. 
Carter gave me 10 minutes. I asked basic shlumpy questions such as why do you think this? and how will your presence here help Jamaicans? and blah-de-blah-de-blah? I was young (26) and didn't jump nuts-deep into politics (still don't).

I scribbled his answers on the empty pages inside a Book of Modern Quotations because I partook in a long wake-and-bake session and got stupid and left the reporter's notebook in the Gleaner vehicle. 


The real joy that morning of December 18, 1997, was interviewing Evander Holyfield, heavyweight boxing champion of the world, the man who slayed Iron Mike.

Yes, I looked at Evander's ear ...






... and noticed the missing chunk. Fucking Tyson.

I stood eyeball to eyeball with Evander and thought, to the effect, "Jesus. Fucking. Christ. The Champ." Then I offered my right hand. He offered his big ol' meathook of a right that knocked 29 men silly and devastated scores more, and I made sure to clutch it proper like tomorrow isn't coming. We shook hands like men; can't be limp-fishin' it with the champ.

Asked Evander questions and chicken-scratched the answers in the book of quotations.

Nice guy, Evander. Gave me 5 solid minutes before handlers whisked him away.

I turned around, saw Colin Powell and made a beeline toward him.

"Good morning, Colin," I began and offered my hand, "do you have 5 minutes?"

"Yes," he said, shaking my hand ... before handlers whisked him away, too.

Oh well, 2 out of 3 heavyweights ain't bad.

P.J. Patterson held on to his prime ministership that day.

Can Obama hold on to his presidency this go-round?

That's the question.

Again, I'm no political expert and won't pretend to be. Rather, I read a shit-ton of stuff by those in the know, who have made it their life's work to pontificate about these matters.

No one wrote politics better, with more inside baseball and veracity, than the god of gods, Hunter S. Thompson. His gonzo aside, the fucker GOT IT.

Michael Lewis may have gotten lucky with his 6 months of access to Obama, but his 9-page Vanity Fair Obama advertorial is, by and large, a yawner with the best part reserved for Air Force pilot Tyler Stark and his struggle to survive after being shot down over Libya.

The best part re: Obama comes when Lewis explains how the president includes all voices -- from most powerful to lowest scrub -- during the process of making important decisions. But anyone with a clear head could probably surmise that about Barack Obama. The dude plays hardcore hoops with fellas who play for pay, and you can't play the level of hoops the president plays without being a team player. (That being said, President Obama should see just how well he fares running a few games at Horny Corner in Belmont Shore. That action rivals any action Lewis spelled out in his piece.)

And that's the thing: Lewis got lucky and got to watch Obama ball it up -- even got to play alongside 44! -- then painted a beautiful portrait of the moment within moments in time.

But the Moneyball author's words failed to capture the imagination like HST did after his little football chat with Tricky Dick.

All I'm saying is that you get 6 months with Bam, you better make it count, Bubba.

Sadly, Michael, you didn't.

Charlie Pierce of Esquire is another heavyweight politico, but he runs hot and cold with me. Chuck is one of the elder statesmen of political baseball in America. He blogs -- BLOGS! -- for Esquire and throws a nasty, dirty, devastating fastball full of ink ...

... and yet Charlie -- who is going to win awards for his many daily commentaries during this Silly Season -- makes me want to punch him in the balls when he does the hipster-cutie thing. Gobshites? Really, Charlie? Fucking Gobshites?

Soon as I see that in your headline or in the body of copy, Chuck, I refuse to read, and I only say that because, you know, I like your work, I like how you think, I like how you present ideas in relation to historical narratives ... you're as good as there's ever been. 


But Jesus Fucking Christ, dude, enough with the goddamn gobshites.

Too bad Chris Jones of Esquire doesn't write about American politics. Funny canuck.

Back to Hunter Thompson ... the modern version is Matt Taibbi (minus the gonzo).

We all have our favorite writers, right? Taibbi is mine. Taibbi has spent the last 3 years performing the journalistic version of open-heart surgery on the back-alley abortion known as Wall Street vis-a-vis the Recession ...

... but the dude pens politics just like Pierce (but in a different flavor).

In this Rolling Stone piece Taibbi dissects Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his days as a Bain boss.

Some journalists discount Taibbi because he calls subjects vampire squid or cocksuckers or offers other pejoratives in his stories -- yet these douchebag journalists cannot find a single factual error in his work. They'd rather kick Taibbi in the shins for his potty writing instead of holding a vampire squid's tentacled balls to the fire like he does.

Taibbi's rants against New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov are always a 3-pointer -- and the foul! -- and Taibbi's books should be required reading for high school seniors.

I know a fella by the name of Josh who is nuts for politics and writes about it like Pierce. He should be writing for Esquire or one of those mags. One day he will.

Some of the entertaining political talking heads I love are James Carville and Pat Buchanan.

Silly Season is in full lust. The election is 36 days away.

Debate No. 1 is Wednesday in Denver.

Obama v. Mitt.

Whose recaps are you going to read?

Oh yeah, today I wasn't a gobshite and poured the coffee grounds in the filter ... .