Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Two Down, One to Go

I filled two of the three stenographer positions yesterday. What can I say? I'm a "strike while the iron is hot" kind of guy. The CW among Human Resources types (so I hear) is that you don't hire until you've interviewed every candidate, but I know talent when I see it, and I couldn't pass these two up.

So now I introduce the two newest members of The Entourage —

(1) Vernon Calaveras, age 41. In addition to his expertise in stenography, Vernon is a certified French and German language interpreter and a committed triathlete. He grew up in North Carolina and has a shock of red hair, so I've nicknamed him Opie. Welcome aboard, Opie Calaveras!

(2) Susan Granderson, age 34. Susan earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering but bagged a career in research for court reporting because she wanted "more human contact." Susan is an accomplished longbow archer. Let's everybody put their hands together for Dead-Eye Granderson!

The third guy was a total loss. He wrecked coming off the zip-line — clunked his steno machine and sprained an ankle. Cried like a baby, and he apparently threatened to sue me as he was getting into his cab. I didn't hear that last part over all his blubbering, but it showed up in Dead-Eye's transcript (she and Opie don't officially start work until tomorrow, but I had her cover that last interview — I just had a bad feeling about the guy).

Whatever. This won't be the first time I've been named a defendant in a preposterous lawsuit. I drew up an IRONCLAD liability waiver before I set up these trials, and the guy signed it before we got started. So I have to think I'm covered.

Anyway, we'll see what comes of today's trials.

I should add that barring any further postponements, the Gloria Collection auction is on again for Friday in NYC. Seeing as how I have to put all these newbies on payroll, I'm anxious to get the cash in hand.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wanted: Stenographers

Much time has passed, B/S, since last we spoke. And with every second that lapsed incommunicado, I felt a distinct pang of remorse for the lost opportunity. On so many occasions in these last twelve days, I experienced some small but enriching life detail, or some fleeting but (at the time) momentous single-frame thought flashed across the silver screen of my consciousness.

But these earthshattering ephemera always occurred to me when I was away from a computer — and they naturally would flit away into oblivion (as ephemera tend to do) before I could take a seat in front of my terminal, pour myself a Diet Coke, and get to typing. My PowerBook is handy, I grant you, but it only helps so much. What about when I'm driving? Or scooting? Or negotiating an arms sale in an abandoned warehouse in Southie?

I've decided I need to keep Archives. I need to maintain a more complete record of my utterances during this rise to power than I am making available to you folks now, in this weblog. Don't get me wrong, B/S — the weblog is not going anywhere. You'll still get the highlights here. But the Archives will have it all — every word I utter, at breakfast, lunch, dinner, in the bath, in my sleep. Everything I say between next Monday and the end of my life will be recorded for posterity's historians and journalists to consult and review.

So right now I'm interviewing stenographers — court reporter-types who can take down on their little machine thingies everything I say during an eight-hour period, then go back and massage their shorthand type into a definitive transcript for my signature later in the week. I'm looking to hire three people, each of whom will work one shift a day.

Qualifications? No formal requirements: I'm basically just looking for skills here. Notary certification would be a plus. And obviously an ability to handle changing work conditions. Most of these people set their apparatus up on a tripod and sit down. I'm going to need people who can follow me everywhere I go. They'll have to be able to rig up their machine so they can type while they walk, or while they're in a car or a helicopter — or crouched in hiding nearby while I'm fighting off some of Ortega's Incan Dance-Fighters.

So that's the plan. I'll be interviewing four candidates this afternoon, and six tomorrow. First an informal conversation, then the skills test. PePe and the intern are setting up an obstacle course/steeplechase for me to run with the stenographer beside me. I'll be reciting Latin poetry as I step through the tires, legal disclaimers while I climb the rope to the diving platform, and baseball statistics during the 100-meter swim sprint.

Entourage status will be awarded to the three stenos who can keep up!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Auction Postponed

So we're going with Sotheby's, but the auction is put off until at least the weekend. Some woman just stepped out of the woodwork with what purports to be JFK's bathrobe, and all our contacts in the auction house are in a tizzy over it. They've got forensic experts testing hairs found in the terrycloth in hope of authenticating the lot for a Friday evening showing.

And they've invoked some sort of Special Exigency Clause in our contract to requisition all the hors d'oeuvres our caterer was making for the Gloria Collection event. (I've been assured we will be compensated for that.)

Suddenly we're small potatoes.

PePe says we might be better positioned if the source of our presidential memorabilia were not alive. I told him this was just the kind of thinking out loud that a Philippine intelligence operative picks up on a sound dish and utterly misinterprets. Let me therefore state clearly for the record — Gloria, my darling, you're worth more to me alive than your entire estate — even with a Kennedy-esque post mortem markup.

And, of course, I hasten to add the further disclaimer, that everything I report on this website is fictitious, anyway. So whatever that Mindanaoan spy technician thinks he heard, he didn't really hear. I haven't even spoken to PePe today. He's been at the dentist getting a crown fixed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Accounts Receivable

I know, I know, B/S — I've been way too preoccupied with money in my last handful of posts. I apologize for that, but I'll ask you to bear with me for just a bit longer.

After all, the last few months have been a bitch from the standpoint of fundraising, but one thing I haven't done yet is log on to Blogger and ask you directly for money. And that's a hell of a lot more than you can say for National Public Radio. Those people are relentless — they want you to pay for their news, whereas I serve up mine for free.

Anyway, I wish I had something nonfinancial and interesting to report, but I don't. I'm just grinding the gears these days to keep this Project afloat, and I haven't had time for the usual bout of Incidents and horsing around.

Here's the state of things: right now I have exactly $2218.42 in the World Domination Fund checking account down at Citizens Bank, earning a measly 3% APR, but I'm also in negotiations with Sotheby's and Christie's to auction off what I've dubbed, for marketing purposes, "The Gloria Collection" sometime before the end of the month.

The thing is, these auction houses are real pennypinchers — they want a 20% commission on the first $100 grand I make. I've asked each of them for a five-point reduction, a paltry concession, in my view, in exchange for down-the-road recognition as the Official Auction House of Phutatorius, World Hegemon. But neither house will budge even a single percentage point off their "standard" commission rates.

In fact, when I made my proposal to Christie's the other day, their negotiator went so far as to sneer at me and say, "That'll be the day." Well, I never! Now I know that getting attitude from the personnel is supposedly "part of the package" when you deal with an upper-crust place like this, but I thought that blast of negativity was a bit much.

If I didn't already have an independent, benevolent motive for doing it, I'd take over the world just to spite the guy. And then I'd see to it that he was fired. As it stands, I may or may not let him keep his job once I've acquired absolute power. Let's just say that right now he's on probation and leave it at that.

I should be choosing one or the other house in the next couple days. Unless Christie's comes in under the competition by tomorrow afternoon, Sotheby's wins on the politeness tiebreaker. I hope to cash in on The Gloria Collection by Friday.

If any of you are interested in buying, write me directly and I'll clue you in on the time, place, and date of the auction, once they're settled. Right now I don't have any of the details, except that it will be a "black-tie optional" affair (which I've read somewhere is etiquette-speak for "black-tie mandatory" — who knew?).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Heard from Gloria

Finally took the hold off my mail — I'd been back in town a week, just hadn't got around to it. And wouldn't you know it? I had letters from my Philippine paramour, Gloria (named by Forbes, by the way, as the Fourth Most Powerful Woman in the World)!

Now I won't tell you exactly what my little Presidential vixen wrote to me — sorry, Us Magazine, but I've told you before: I don't kiss and tell — but I will say that each successive letter was written with greater urgency (and sprayed with a bit more perfume) than the last. It seems Ms. Arroyo was reading too much into my nonresponsiveness: she didn't know I was out of town, and she thought I was giving her the brush-off.

I could have sworn I wrote and told her I was going to Peru. The letter may have been pulled by the people screening her email. I did get a return message from one of her staffers, a form letter type of thing — "Thank you for taking the time to communicate your concerns to President Arroyo. We take all of the President's correspondence very seriously, but due to the volume of email we receive, unfortunately the President is not able to respond personally to each and every message she receives . . ." But still, if she really is so interested in me, she could have kept up with me by reading the blog.

Anyway, the long and short of it was that Gloria got herself all worked up to the point where she started sending me gifts. Lots of expensive gifts. Diamond rings, a sack of priceless pieces-of-eight from the Spanish Colonial era, an ankle bracelet of platinum and emeralds — we're talking big-time loot here.

PePe says I should get her on the phone and clear up the misunderstanding, then send back all the bullion and jewelry, which Gloria no doubt sent to me while in a very emotional state. Although I regard my Piper as a trusted advisor, I think he's way off on this one. It's not enough, in this world, just to be a Man of Destiny. You have to recognize that you're a Man of Destiny. And that's where PePe and I differ. You see, I get that things like this are supposed to happen to me. Wealth is supposed to fall out of the sky into my lap, quite by accident. Something has to kick-start the World Domination Fund. How else will I rise from my humble station to become the Omnibus Uber-Sovereign?

This sort of thing was foreordained when I had my Moment back in September. I won't turn away good fortune simply because I don't appear to have "earned it." (And between you and me, Gloria's not exactly hurting for jewelry. I bet the gifting of these fifty-some odd pieces barely made a dent in her collection.) Sometime soon I'll hop a flight to Manila and steal an evening, maybe a long weekend of passion with my lover and benefactress. Believe me, I know better than to do wrong to the President of the Philippines.

In the meantime, though, it's off downtown tomorrow morning, to visit the appraiser!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Of Ice Sculptures and Office Staff

Back in Cambridge now, and I'm still steaming about New Year's Eve — the judges at First Night Boston disqualified my ice sculpture entry, when they got word that I had not hand-chiseled it, but had rather poured water into a prefabricated mold and frozen it overnight.

The requirement of hand-chiseling is nowhere mentioned in the contest rules, and I would never have guessed that my methodology was "unethical" or "problematic." Sure, it takes painstaking effort and precision to whittle away a block of ice into the shape of a dolphin. But my approach was no picnic, either — stripped naked and covered in a skintight heat-resistant body suit, I had to stand stock-still and breathe through a bent cocktail straw for forty-five minutes, until the molten plastic congealed around me to form the mold. And then another twenty minutes passed while PePe and the intern — I'll tell you about her later, Brother/Sister — cut the mold in two so I could be lifted out of it.

So it was that First Night officials took a blowtorch to my life-sized Ice Phutatorius, perfectly posed to display every bulging muscle, every taut sinew and engorged organ — and I was given the explanation that my use of a mold violated the spirit of the rules. Like that would ever stand up in court.

Here's the thing, B/S: this wasn't about Your Beloved Internet Personality cheating in an ice-sculpture contest. This was about censorship. The city wants to sell First Night as a "family" event, which in today's Puritan consciousness means that displays of virility — however tasteful, and whatever their artistic merit — are simply non grata in Copley Square. And PePe tells me he overheard one of the judges decrying what she thought was a "joint" sticking out of my mouth. So I had the anti-cannabis lobby working against me, too, based on their complete mistaking of a cocktail straw for a marijuana cigarette. Honestly.

When I'm the World Hegemon, Brother/Sister, gigantic, anatomically-exaggerated statues of me, cut from marble, will adorn all of America's major cities — not as monuments to my vanity (I know how you think, B/S) but as reminders that my benevolent and progressive-minded regime simply will not tolerate this kind of prudishness.

In the meantime, though, I'm out the $2500 first-prize award I was counting on winning. Which means the intern remains unpaid, despite her considerable skills and qualities, of which I intend to make extensive use in the coming weeks.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Home for the Holidays

I was able to stop home for the holidays, which was nice, Brother/Sister. Don't ask me where home is — my enemies would love to get wind of that information, just to get to people who are close to me. I'll only say that we weren't required to break too far off our Texas-to-Boston itinerary to spend Christmas with my family.

I don't think I have to tell you, B/S, how a stop home for a few days can recharge the batteries of an Internet Personality. Hugs and home cooking from Mom, shots of festive liqueurs with Dad, a game of Scrabble with Sissy and Skip (not their real names, fellas) — it was all good.

As always, we went to Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Earvin's place for Christmas Eve. Uncle Earvin and I never really clicked, but family is family, and we all put on our holiday sweaters and arrived at my mother's sister's doorstep at around 7 p.m., holding pies. My aunt greeted us warmly at the door, took our coats and ushered us inside.

My uncle stood up abruptly, spilling his mulled wine, as I entered his living room with PePe in tow. "I KNEW IT!" he cried. "I knew it the first time I tried to throw a football with that sissy-boy!"

"Knew what?" my father asked, darkly.

"I knew he was going to come home one Christmas and try to bring a man into MY HOUSE!"

"Oh, come off it," I told my uncle. "PePe's just my Piper —"

"The two of you perverts can do whatever you want together back in the Big City, but I won't have you talking about it in my house, in front of my children!" This was a bit dramatic, I thought, given that my cousins are thirty-six and twenty-nine years old, and the younger one had been known to "experiment" sexually in college before her father cut off her tuition during her junior year.

But rather than dig up that old skeleton and provoke a full-on family brawl (I wouldn't do that to my Aunt Marjorie), I thought it better to explain my relationship with PePe to my uncle. So I told him about my training in Peru, and the tradition that calls for each Elite Incan Dance-Fighter to have in his retinue a Piper, who provides the musical accompaniment that an EIDF requires when he goes into battle. I then described to him the mutual, ceremonial oath of loyalty and friendship that PePe and I took together back in Peru.

"Well, that sounds a lot like one of those gay weddings to me," my uncle rumbled. He glared at my father while he said this, as though it were Dad's fault that I had grown up to be the kind of person a man like my Uncle Earvin would mistake for a homosexual.

"So what if it was?" my father nobly shot back. "At least we'd have a marriage to celebrate." He gestured at my two single cousins, whose prospects did not seem to have improved since I last saw them, as brother and sister had put on some eighty pounds between them. This set my Aunt Marjorie to bawling, and I realized I was going to have to act quickly before all of Christmas 2005 went straight to hell.

"EVERYBODY OUTSIDE," I said. My uncle gave me a challenging look. "FOR A DEMONSTRATION," I explained. "OUT. NOW."

My aunt and uncle's expansive front lawn — I should have described it to you earlier, Brother/Sister, on the way in — was a veritable Disneyland of Christmas animatronics. My uncle has his faults, but he is a craftsman, and over the years he had built, from scratch, a life-sized Nativity scene, with moving parts. The display was set under a oak tree just off the driveway, and the figures ran off a car battery — the Baby Jesus writhed uncomfortably in his swaddling cloths, the Virgin Mother made gestures of administration to her child, threatening shepherds brandished crooks at three foreign men proffering their gifts to Christ the Lord. An angel hung from wires extended from the roof of the house to the oak tree. Its wings flapped up and down hypnotically. Backing all this was a full-size Santa, in his sleigh, with reindeer, and flanking him were the characters from the Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV specials (one notable omission being the Elf Who Wanted To Be a Dentist, whom my uncle was known to repudiate as a promoter of alternative lifestyles).

"PePe," I said. "Do you know 'Walking in a Winter Wonderland'?"

PePe nodded.

"Play it," I instructed, pulling one foot, then the other up behind my back to stretch my quads. PePe pulled out his pipes and began performing the song. I turned fierce eyes on my Uncle Earvin. "Watch this," I said,

and I attacked his Christmas display. Took out the shepherds in three kick-steps, then sauntered over to Frosty and decapitated him. With Frosty's hat and one of the shepherds' crooks I improvised a vaudeville hat-and-cane routine that culminated in me thrashing the Christmas angel overhead, bringing him down like a piñata. I then turned my attentions to the reindeer, the Rudolph characters, and finally the wise men, obliterating all of them in turn with spectacular kicks, thrusts, and rhythmic punches. Out of deference to my aunt's renowned religious piety (she hasn't missed a Sunday church service in forty-three years, which partly explains why my uncle, who can't leave town for more than six days, is so provincial-minded a personality), I left Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child intact.

PePe wound out "Winter Wonderland", and I dropped into a crouch and twirled around to survey the carnage. The front yard was littered with plastic limbs, splintered wood, and shredded electrical wires shorting out in the snow. The family gaped at me, dumbfounded. Uncle Earvin was the first to find words:

"God damn, boy. You smashed my whole Christmas display to hell."

It occurred to me, at this point, that I had made a bit of a miscalculation. Determined as I had been to provide some clarity to my uncle on the subject of my relationship with PePe, I hadn't thought that, in the process, I was laying waste to some three decades of his work.

Surprisingly, my uncle was willing, at the moment, to overlook this fact:

"The dancing looked a little queer. But you say you have to do that when you fight?"

"I do. It's the music that gives us an edge over the conventional martial arts, the kung fu fighters and ninjas —"

"And you can do this to the Enemy?" Uncle Earvin asked.

"The Enemy?"

"You know — the Arabs."

I pointed to one of the wise men on the ground. "This one came from the East," I said.

"I owe you an apology, boy. And you, too," my uncle said, gesturing at PePe. "Let's get in out of the cold and get us some Christmas dinner."

"Amen!" cried my Aunt Marjorie.

And with that deep impression made on my hard-nosed Uncle Earvin, a good time was had by all.