The Hills are Alive With The Sound of Mozart

Image: SorinNechita via Flickr

Happy 2018! It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? Even my very last column was technically written last year, so it’s nice to be diving in. You might be wondering where I went, and the answer: Bavaria. I know what you’re thinking: it’s January. And that’s so right. You’re 100% correct. It is January, and it is insane to travel to a place where it is also winter. But compared to my hometown of Chicago where on any given day it at best 4 degrees (today it is a BALMY 14), Bavaria, with its averages in the low 40s Fahrenheit, felt absolutely tropical.

If you’re wondering what precisely there is to do in Bavaria, let me tell you. You can eat a whole variety of sausages, cabbage, plus a lot of spätzle (topped with melted cheese). You can go to some old palaces. You can go to some modern art museums. And if you want, you can take a highly functional and short train ride to the city of Salzburg, Austria, which just so happens to be the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

New York City, January 15, 2018

★★★ Loose little clouds drifted and evolved. The light through the windows was warm and the draft through the windows was chilly. One pockmarked snow pile remained between the end of Citi Bike rack—rust now blooming in the joints of its base—and the end of the no-standing zone. The scourging cold had subsided to mere numbingness, but breath showed on the air and kept showing.

Awl Ends

It is with a mixture of disappointment and relief that we are announcing the cessation of editorial operations on The Awl at the end of this month. For nearly a decade we followed a dream of building a better Internet, and though we did not manage to do that every day we tried very hard and we hope you don’t blame us for how things ultimately turned out. We’re intensely proud of what we managed to accomplish over the years, and while most of the credit goes to an astoundingly talented team of writers and editors, the greatest achievement any site can claim is in the quality and fervor of its audience, and on that score we feel like we were the most successful organization ever. All things reach a natural end, and that end has now come for The Awl, but we could not be more grateful for the way you made us part of your routine and took us into your hearts, so instead of saying goodbye we would just like to say thank you. Yes, you. Thanks.

Photo: Madison Scott-Clary

Snowplow

Image: mark sebastian via Flickr

Tom Garland was with the company for six months when he volunteered to have the ESM chip implanted under his skin. Consenting to the minor procedure was a relief. It was the not consenting that drew the ire of colleagues, both male and female, who insisted employees refusing to be chipped were opposed to a safe work zone, or had something to hide.

“Only take a few minutes. And then there won’t be any questions,” said his human resources rep, Melanie.

Which to 25-year-old Tom was what compromised the voluntary aspect of the initiative. Had there been questions? He worked for a woman, Veronica Barnes, with whom he’d developed a professional and courteous rapport. He had voted for Hillary, considered himself progressive, and was respectful of colleagues. He was raised to be deferential toward women, which found him holding doors and giving up subway seats even to younger females. Both of which were sexist in a certain sense, although he saw his behavior as gentlemanly.

It was his hereditary aspects that implied there were questions. His maleness, his white privilege, his social media-encouraged anxiety at having a cyborg-ish microchip surgically implanted in his shoulder, allowing his employer to track his movements and emotions. The ESM chip, or emotional safety monitoring, detected heart rhythm, breathing, stimulation, swelling, and muscle contraction, feeding it all into an algorithm that measured emotional state. Anger, sorrow, happiness, arousal, rage, despair, lust, stress; it all lurked inside Tom Garland, who like everyone else was impacting the company safe zone.

The Donald Trump of Mexican Wrestling

The lights dim in the Arena Coliseo in Guadalajara and a troop of ring girls emerge from backstage. A spotlight scans into their midst, revealing a blond giant with an American flag propped on his shoulder. The color guard of girls sticks with him as he walks towards the ring and the lights come up, revealing a giant Trump face printed on the flag and stars and stripes airbrushed onto his tights. A masked wrestler stands with his back to the newcomer, pumping up the crowd. Waving the girls away, the American creeps up behind him and beats the Mexican wrestler to the ground with the flag while the crowd howls in disapproval. The giant is Sam Adonis, maybe the most perfect gringo to come down to Mexico to fight in lucha libre.

Adonis was born Samuel Polinsky in Monroeville, Pennsylvania in 1989, the son of Dan Polinsky, of a Pittsburgh wrestling promoter. Alongside his brother Matthew (AKA Corey Graves, now a WWE announcer) Polinsky wrestled with promise at a few regional outfits in the U.S. without much success. A move to Europe boosted his standing, but it in Mexico, where he’s been wrestling since the middle of last 2016, that he finally hit his stride.

Adonis came to Mexico as a rudo, the lucha libre equivalent of a heel, and he lit on his current act when the election rolled around. “I had no idea it would work that well,” says Adonis, about the Trump shtick, which has made him one of the most bankable rudos in Mexican wrestling. “It’s almost something like “South Park” would do, you know. It’s in your face and it’s political, and at the same time, it’s just “South Park.” That’s how they look at it here…I knew it would be a sensitive topic, but I knew that I could make it work.”

Haint Blue, the Ghost-Tricking Color of Southern Homes and Gullah Folktales

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There was once an old witch-woman who lived in the woods. She was ugly as sin but helpful, and she could fix any number of problems if you asked her politely. Her name was Old Betty and she had one friend, a fat old razorback hog named Raw Head. One day, some asshole hunter stole her pig pal and slaughtered him. She couldn’t let that stand. She pulled out a book of spells, performed some secret incantations and rituals, and poof, she had her friend back. Except he was changed. He had bloody, bear-clawed hands and a raccoon tail. He walked on two feet and his skeleton was a bloody mess of flesh and bones and muscle and sinew. Worst of all, he carried around his own pig head, clutched in his big bear claws. Fortunately, the witch was into all this shit, and so she welcomed Raw Head back into her life and together they went forth, seeking revenge.

Raw Head is perhaps the most hideous of boogeymen—assembled from parts borrowed from various species, which somehow makes him even more fearsome than Frankenstein’s Homo sapiens mix-and-match monster. While the story of Raw Head originated in 1500s England, it really took root in the American South, where Raw Head and his sidekick Bloody Bones became oft-invoked figures used to scare kids and bond adults. According to Appalachian historian Dave Tabler, the word haint can refer to an angry dead spirit, but also to “an undefinable something that scares the bejeevers out of you.” Raw Bones is a haint story, and haint stories are the reason that southern porch ceilings are often painted a pale, sweet, powdery sky blue—a group of light shades known collectively as “Haint Blue.”

New York City, January 14, 2018

★★★ The six-year-old kept putting on his knit Batman hat, the one with the eyes and ears, against the chill in the pew. The light and air were so clear that there was little optical shimmer around the sharpened edges of things. All that could be seen on downtown-facing crosswalk signal was an unreadable square of reflected light. A line of rigging from a tower top to a sidewalk scaffold stood as bright and salient as lettering on a commercial sign. A bent twig and its shadow rolled over in the wind on the pavement with a twitching movement like a stricken earthworm. The only remotely cloudlike thing to be found anywhere was the light in the dense bare twigs of the trees.

A Colonial potty, a kangaroo paw, and a carousel jester

Lot 1: Shithole Chair

Image: Photograph courtesy of James D. Julia Auctioneers, Fairfield, Maine, USA.

 Too soon? Nonetheless, this is a rare, early eighteenth-century potty, and it is headed to auction in Maine on February 9. The New England-made settle form chair contains a hole in the seat to accommodate the passage of human waste and, to that end, it shows “age appropriate minor wear,” but it also retains its original red paint.

A bid of $2,500 will likely win it. Then pop a slop-jar under it, and voila!, you’re in business.

Nothing Makes Sense Any More, Nothing Will Make It Make Sense

“I still don’t understand what happened in the Vikings/Saints game. Can you break it down for me?” —Football Frank

Look, nothing makes sense anymore. Nothing. Not day. Not night. Not up. Not down. The entire Earth is completely off its rocker and nothing, not the persistence of objects, not the breaks of the game, not the rules of time and space, will ever be the same. The President of the United States paid off a porn star to cover-up an affair and it wasn’t even that big a story. That came out Friday. It’s Monday now and people are like “whatever.” If Obama had paid off a porn star to cover up an affair he’d be in Gitmo right now. Presidents getting blackmailed in the Age of Trump is kind of a ho-hum endeavor. There are no rules. Nothing means anything. And it ain’t over until it’s really, really over.

It’s been kind of a tough year for football. That same President Guy complains about football players kneeling to protest endemic racism in the American criminal justice system. Keep it up and some people might think he’s a racist. The game itself is marred by almost an injury per down and has to accept, intrinsically, that it is slowly but surely killing its players with undiagnosed head injuries. Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to play American tackle football. Soon the game will be played by robots only in dark alleys with lots of neon lights like Blade Runner movies. Many of us still watch, as if it were a special about lemmings hurling themselves off cliffs on the Gorilla Channel. It is fascinating and beautiful, even if the outcome is craven and bizzare.

Pat On The Back