Time: An imaginary midnight right now.
Place: The Wastewater Lagoon, a cocktail lounge in Hotel HUDbuk,
in the downtown heart of BIDCity, USA. Outside the Wastewater's
floor to ceiling windows, the revitalized streets are empty,
except for the occasional group of roving chug-a-lugs. Inside
the lounge all is hub bub: the annual meeting of the Confab of
U.S. Mayors is being held at the hotel and after a long day of
con-fabbing, participants have adjourned to the bar. Round after
round of free drinks are hoisted and talk turns whazzup.
"Damn" says one high powered leader of a post industrial
wasteland "if April wasn't the cruelest month."
"How so, Joe?" responds a fellow urban visionary as he pushes
back his slipping rug and lifts his glass. The bar stool groans
beneath him as the full weight of countless courtesy meals
Joe answers, saying well, for one thing, in late April Mayor
Marty Barnes of Paterson, New Jersey took a hit of 37 months on
some crummy corruption charges. The judge threw the sentencing
book at ol' Marty. Claiming he wasn't remorseful enough for
raking in the graft. Hell, what's Marty got to be sorry about?
So Paterson is among the poorest, most crime ridden towns in
Jersey-- poor folk like to see their leaders living large. Big
deal about the waterfall and pool in his backyard. If some sewer
contractor wants to put 'em in for free so be it. Ditto with the
custom suits. As for those hookers Marty partied with while on
city vendor funded trips to Brazil, hasn't Judge Goody Good ever
heard the term "working girls?" Marty was just providing
jobs jobs jobs.
"While getting a few himself" cracks a wit from Wisconsin.
After the haw haws die down, a side of beef with gimlet eyes
asks where the hell is Sara Bost, Mayor of Irvington, New Jersey.
"I was hoping she'd pat me down" sez he, twirling his swizzle
stick twixt thumb and forefinger. Comes the answer that news on
Boss Bost is bad too. On April 23rd, she admitted she attempted
to "corruptly persuade" a federal witness; an employee turned rat
by the feds. Back when Ratboy and Sara hashed things over in her
car, the mayoress (who claims she only slipped sideways once)
searched him for a wire like a pro. "She'll probably just get
probation" says Guy of Guyana, doing the positive spin thing.
Guy's not a mayor, but a mascot. Of the real estate variety.
"Yeah" says Side of Beef "but it still means another ex mayor."
A pall falls over the room. The spirits of the departed seem
to hover. "I miss Cianci" says a noted New Urbanist from North
California. Adding: "I still say the kinds of charges that
nailed him are just part of being a mayor."
"Expletive A!" agrees a Connecticut contractor from Mayor
Ganim's court: "Bridgeport, Connecticut and Providence, Rhode
Island - those cities were in the toilet before Joe Ganim and
Buddy Cianci came along. They made 'em golden! And what did they
get for it? Expletive extortion charges! Expletive jail time!"
"Remember when Ganim and Bridgeport got the Livable City thing?"
says a hatchet faced blonde in a pants suit, mayor of a small
city south of Krakatoa, Illinois. "I nearly busted a gut! The
only time I laughed harder was when I heard about Mayor Phil
Giordano of Waterbury, Connecticut bucking for an appointment
with the U.S. Department of Education. Say what you will about
the kiddie raper- he sure had moxie!"
"And a great hairpiece" opines the pol with the slipping rug
and groaning stool "I wish I knew where he bought it."
"Bought it?" Hatchet Face double takes. "What burg are you from,
man? Wake up and fondle the graft. Once you're a mayor you never
buy anything. Other people buy YOU."
Laughter all around and the mood lightens. Side of Beef has
a story to share. About how the new mayor of Providence says you
actually gotta do something for urban neighborhoods-- like take
care of basic services, not just wave your arms around and be
Hatchet Face winks a thickly mascared eye "Isn't the new mayor's
father an attorney whose prime clients are connected? In the
classic sense? Anyway, who doesn't say that kind of stuff
in the first term..I know I did."
"Yeah" says Joe "And I ran against the machine. Lemme see, that
was 18, no 20 years ago."
By now they're rolling. Groaning Stool wants to prove he's
no babe in the crooked woods, so he cracks wise about mining
HUD's bottomless pit and staging phony public input sessions for
development projects. A Midwestern mayor on loan from his home
in Boca Raton, riffs on kickbacks from rubber stamp consultants
and mega property flips that turn crony owned slum nabes golden.
Straw buyers and deadmen make the best constituents, sez he. But
what really gets the room roaring is when a mayor from upstate
New York does a concerned citizen imitation, wearing a mock
serious face while whining: Can't you at least sweep the streets?
And how about drug crime? "When they come out with that one I
always say government can't do everything. We need your help. We
need your eyes and ears. So keep phoning in those drug tips--"
"Forever!" Side of Beef steals the punchline amidst guffaws.
The drug tip talk sends some revelers on a trip to the john,
where the scene almost turns ugly as custom suits jockey for
stalls. But then someone shouts "Hey, look at this". There,
on one stall wall, carved in knotty pine sheet rock in great
staggering letters, are the words-- Mayor Miltan Milan of Camden,
New Jersey was hear[sic]. The Connecticut Contractor inhales
sharply. "Expletive!" his tone is awed "Expletive Milan!"
Groaning Stool looks puzzled. Seeing it, Side of Beef tells
the tale of how the mighty Milan turned Camden's City Hall into
Drug Central. "He was cutting deals from behind his desk". Even
Hatchet Face waxes reverential. Saying that what Milan did to
his office, topped what Phil Giordano did to his carpet, or what
Mayor Jerry McCann did to his drawers when Jersey City voters
heaved him out back in 92.
"Hey guys I got an idea!" After missing a beat on Milan,
Groaning Stool is even more anxious to prove himself. "Let's
get this stall declared historic!"
Jeers greet him. "What's in it for me?" comes the chorus. This
ain't my city says Hatchet Face. Expletive expletive expletive
says the contractor from Conn. But Side of Beef looks thoughtful.
"Wait a minute--Stool's gotta a point. How 'bout this. What if
we say Milan hit a stall in all our cities.."
"A tourist trail of historic stalls!" another mayor grasps the
vision. "Could mean major federal dollars!" sings out someone
else. Hatchet Face, whose unemployed cousin carves all kinds of
things on restroom walls, begins to see the possibilities. She
slaps Groaning Stool on the back and offers him a hit from her
custom crack pipe, a gift from a campaign contributor in the
rehab game. The group troops back to the bar in high good humor.
"Look at it this way" shouts Side of Beef, his eyes dancing
like drops of grease on a griddle, "If any more of us go down
we'll just change our name to the Confab of U.S. EX Mayors!"
"Expletive A!" says the Connecticut contractor "Doing expletive
business under another expletive name can be expletive helpful.
Take it from me."
"We always do" says Hatchet Face.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
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