I chained my hand-me-down HONDA CB300F to a street-sign in front of Julio’s XLNT Cutz, just past a grimy ‘Restaurant Row’ anchored by a busy McDonald’s and Giovanni’s IV, an even busier pizzeria with a thriving take-out business for humans and a thriving eat-in business for roaches, filth flies, mice and rats.[i]
It was about 5:15 PM and the late afternoon sun falling through the immaculate deep-blue Kodachrome sky stretched my long shadow over the barber shop’s graffiti-daubed shutters as I approached. Julio probably didn’t need the protection of armor plating, but in his racket — the distribution of SIM cards, marijuana pre-rolls, fake Rolex watches, fake ID’s and a wide range of luxury goods from the wrong side of the fence — you never know when going the extra mile’s going to be life preserving.
As I cracked the shop’s glass door open the remix to Nio García, Casper Mágico and Darell’s ‘Te Boté,’ rushed out to greet me. The seven-minute, reggaeton, psych-tour of the dark-side features Ozuna and Bad Bunny who had 30 ++ hits between them in 2017, and Nicky Jam rapping over a track that is so stubbornly skeletal it makes minimalism seem flashy --- just two sets of two piano notes and blunt grimy drums that are as crass and unfeeling as the broken-hearted rappers, whose juvenile, mean ‘I loved you, you hurt me, and now I hate you,’ theme stomps on hallowed ground previously explored by CeeLo Green’s “Fuck You” and Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You.”
Yes, ‘Te Boté” is ruthless, unfriendly, and confrontational, which is unsurprising given the circumstance of its creation. Mágico was just out of jail and struggling to find a new creative direction; life purpose and Hurricane Maria (a deadly storm that killed nearly 3,000 people and throttled Puerto Rico, leaving it without food, water, electricity, communications, and hope) was raging.
And Kunt didn’t care.
His opinion, which he expressed freely in a continuous barrage of unfiltered vile tweets, was that Puerto Rican’s had brought the disaster on themselves through their idleness and that it was payback for chronic entitlement abuse:
First, he denied that 3,000 Puerto Rican’s really died ---
So, Nio García, Casper Mágico, Darell’s, Ozuna, Bad Bunny and Nicky Jam made a grimy ditty born of ruin, of struggle, of resistance and of despair, with a four note beat and a three-syllable hook, ‘Te Boté,’ which translates to ‘I dumped you’ and came to mean ‘the Kunt doesn’t care.’ And in a few short months ‘Te Boté,’ became the number one song in the world.
Julio met me with the glass half full, boundlessly optimistic, expression he wore to every occasion, directed me to a chair opposite a large LED TV tuned to CNN and set about tidying me up — first a steaming hot towel, then a wet shave as close as it gets, my ear and nose hair cropped and by locks trimmed and brushed back from my forehead as close to my scalp as is possible.
“Soy un bacano,” I said admiring my reflection in the mirror “Tu no estas mintiendo,“ which means more or less that I thought I looked about as good as was possible given the wear and tear.
Then suddenly Julio stopped, wiped the blade of the cut-throat razor he was using to defoliate my neck, clean off the foam and called a time-out by making a T with his hands.
He picked up the TV remote and then there was sound to go with the picture of the sterling silvery-haired fox, journalist, presenter and saint, Anderson Cooper, who turned an especially troubled brow towards us as he announced: ‘On this special edition of Anderson Cooper 360o we will try to keep President Kunt honest and his people safe by broadcasting footage HACKED FROM THE SECURITY SYSTEM OF PRESIDENT KUNT’S TOWER APARTMENT by the same crack team of GRU sponsored Fancy Bear hackers and trolls Vladimir Putin used to steer millions of voters Kunt’s way in the 2016 Presidential election.
WE DEBATED LONG AND HARD WHETHER OR NOT IT WAS IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST TO BROADCAST THIS DISTURBING FOOTAGE OF AN UNHINGED PRESIDENT ‘PLAYING’ OPERATION KUNT, a new virtual reality pursuit game created for The Greatest America Corp., a subsidiary of the National Rifle Association, by its long-standing advertising agency Ackerman McQueen, under the direction of its recently appointed President, Oliver North. In the end we decided, that it was essential that the footage be aired, no matter the consequences, at the very least there is a threat to a number of prominent Americans implied.”
“Mami tried to move us to Brooklyn after they beat me up the first time at school, but nobody did nothing — not the NYPD, the Department of Homeless Services or the Department of Education even after they beat me. So, I stopped going to school or any of my regular places. But today they found me smoking a hookah in Bronx River Park, chased me through the woods and cornered me on the Parkway, where they stabbed me again and again and again,” he cried, thumping the stretcher with the bottom of his fist.
And then he winced.
“Kid, close your eyes and rest.” Monica proffered because we couldn’t stand his pain.
“Pretty lady my name is Little Romeo and I ain’t no kid, I’m a rapper, and when l close my eyes, I feel every stab in my body --- in and out and in and out like giant needles from a fucking zombie,” the kid rhymed to the key of life.[iii]
“Your job is to live a little longer, little warrior,” Monica blew back as the paramedics slotted Little Romeo into the back of the ambulance, “for your mami and her mami and so you can tell your kids stories with happy fucking endings --- Y así les podrás contar a tus chamacos cuentos con pinches finales felice.”[iv]
Monica waved goodbye and blew a kiss that shouted see you later.
I looked away.
I didn’t want to get too vested in the outcome:
We resumed our Diarios de Motocicleta voyage of discovery along the Bronx River Parkway, speeding through disjointed, weaving, traffic from one crime scene to another.
At East Gun Hill Road we filtered off the parkway passing a cluster of three Little League baseball fields and the huge Cube Smart Self-storage facility on Bartow Avenue, which does double duty as a warehouse for material things we don’t need (and likely never needed) that are manufactured using forced labor in China,
and stockpiled narcotics we no longer need, as addicts have increasingly swapped cocaine and heroin and cocaine? for fentanyl --- an ultra-potent synthetic opioid that is manufactured using forced labor in China.As a result, the market price for opium in Mexico’s top poppy-growing state, Guerrero, has plummeted from $1,300 a kilo to $200, and retail demand for traditional narcotics has evaporated, which brings us back to the stockpiles.
We jumped on the I-95 South at Boston Road in time to get a cat-bird seat view of Pelham Bay Park and beyond it, City Island — a 62% white working class ‘riviera’ (perhaps because it’s 62% white) that was once a fishing village having been snatched from Siwoney and Lenape Indians — from the bridge.
We entered Throggs Neck, a narrow spit of land at the southeastern tip of the Bronx, which demarcates the passage between the East River and Long Island Sound, from East Tremont Avenue.
By the time we made the right off East Tremont to slide up to the curb in front of the 45th Precinct station house at 2777 Barkley Ave, it was the short distance to the front door before 5 PM, the shadows were a little longer, and Monica was making a sweet ‘Shit, Damn, Motherfucker’ type chorus out of “puñeta, mama bicho, traga leche.”
When I cranked my head around to find out why, she was holding her phone six inches from her face swiping through five stills taken from surveillance footage of Joy’s arrest.
And then Anderson leaned in towards the camera and flashed the broadest and most inclusive of white toothy troubled-man frowns, his head cocked as if the right side was a little heavier than the left, animating his commentary with inflections of his left arm: ‘You may remember that Colonel North was previously convicted on three felony counts, accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and ordering the destruction of documents through his secretary, Fawn Hall, and sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years’ probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours of community service for his starring role in the Iran–Contra affair.’
And, as the broadcast cut from Ku Klux Kunt invading his own living room in a white nightshirt to footage from the game console itself, Anderson explained: “The game starts with President Kunt gearing up! He ties his laces, snaps on a few grenades, slides a knife into a shoulder holster as his wife Nadiya reads American Vogue,’
Anderson turned to us and there was a haunting gravity to his expression to flag that extraordinary circumstances dictated he blurs ethical lines. “Reviewing the hacked Kunt Tower security footage, we can see that FOTUS is not amused as POTUS charges around the apartment like a raging bull in his own china shop leaving a trial of destruction in his wake.”
‘Kunt’s second target is ‘Crooked Hillary’ and he aims and fires and destroys her with a shot to her head yelling “lock her up, lock her up, lock her up” — you get the idea. It is as if he is crazed’, wondered Anderson, his voice soft and deep-bassy, trembling with vibrato as he wrung every last bit of drama from the moment and the moments to come.
“And then he sets his sights on John McCain, screaming (and I do have to warn you this footage is disturbing) “being captured doesn't make you a war hero. RIP motherfucker,” as if bone spurs made for purple hearts?’ Asked Anderson who let the question propagate a few seconds longer than was necessary before moving on.
‘His failure to kill McCain, sent President Kunt into a historic tantrum. And he raves and rants as he jumps up and down on the spot like a toddler,’ commented Anderson, as the show zooms in on pixelated security camera footage of Kunt’s rant.
“IT’S TIME WE VANQUISHED THE ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE, my people, my base. Nadiya, tell them I’m no Limp Toadstool Dicked Motherfucker!” Kunt pleads squeezing his crotch like Whiz Khalifa.
But Nadiya is hiding from Kunt by an overturned couch, which pisses Kunt off and he raises his rifle to the heavens like he is calling on God or perhaps to suggest he was anointed by God or may be a God, and looking at us straight in the shutter, rails against her:
“We were together for 16-years and we never had an argument, forget about the word 'fight.' You knew your place and I knew mine --- the bread-winner, the big dog at the head of the table. Since I became President everything changed. You read all the fake news. Understood some of it and misunderstood the rest and chose your friends badly. Crazy Megyn. Punch Drunk De Niro. Crooked Hillary --- Be-onc-é. YOU HAVE BECAME DISLOYAL TO ME AND TO THE AMERICA WE MADE GREAT AGAIN”
Having made his kill and scored a few extra tweet bullets to keep on hunting, Kunt paused, bowed his head as he pointed his play gun back to the heavens, to evidence he is speaking God’s truth. When he cranked his head back up to face us it was disfigured by the most sanctimonious of zipped smiles.
“I told you upfront that I was not a one-woman man. I have too much opportunity for that. So, we made a deal. DO YOU REMEMBER THAT DEAL NADIYA? I could keep my fuck buddies --- Sarah, Jessica, Lauren, Nicole, Kelly, Kate, Karen, Stephanie, and Stormy so long as they didn’t stay the night! A deal I’ve honored 1000%,” he said proudly as if all promises are equal, with a Cuckoo’s Nest grin plastered over his face.
And then he lashed out! “What nobody knows YET is that I PAID FOR OUR FIRST DATE, because you were an escort when I met you --- A FUCKING HO --- like that toy-girl of yours, Monic-ho and her wannabe congresswoman sister Ho-Jo. Where the fuck is she?” Kunt screamed, getting back to the game.
“And Kunt hunt’s down Joy Alicia Lopez, a young lady who his giving 10-term incumbent Representative, Democrat “Boss Joe Crowley” a run for his donors’ money in today’s New York’s 14th congressional district primary election, shoots one of her ISIS TERRORIST BUDDIES, and exhausted by the non-trivial pursuit of his enemies, puts himself to sleep.”
‘In case you were wondering the “Moj Bog” you can see Nadiya uttering translates to “My God” in Slovenian, and my God is an understatement,’ gasped Anderson, pretty pleased he’d solved the first puzzle of the night, as the monitor behind him displays a graphic of Kunt morphing into Nixon and back to Kunt: “It seems conclusive that our President has visions of absolute power and with it vengeance. I am asking that you help me to help you which we can only do by making him accountable to what he says and does --- here at Anderson Cooper 360o we call that KEEPING THEM HONEST.’
At the commercial break, Julio switched the TV back to silent and incredulous snippets rebounded around the barber shop.I bounced back on my bike and sped back north along the Grand Concourse, in a hurry to make my lecture on inheritance law to graduating students at the Bronx School of Law and Finance and stand beside Joy as she received the primary results, chased by Julio’s best wishes, a pair of matte black BMW X5’s and the wind, which had picked up enough to carry me on it.
There’s a bunch of flowery stuff written about the calm before the storm, but in my opinion the calm before the storm is a new phenomenon created by information that gives us a reasonably accurate early-warning of events and lets us prepare for the storm, wondering if our defenses will hold, with the luxury of time.The knot in my stomach was an early indicator of a storm to come.