Tuesday, January 06, 2004
It’s professional hockey, but the teams aren’t in the fabled National Hockey League. They have names like Icedogs, Wildcatters and Checkers, and they play in small arenas in second- and third-tier towns.

Watch the young goons square off early in the first period and the concomitant rise of the crowd. The men and their sons, the wives and the daughters. Beer and cotton candy, and not a bad seat in the house.

The ears of ancient Rome burning.

Outside, three sailors recently back from the deserts of Iraq walk into a strip club that almost runs a joint-promotion with the minor-league hockey team. You see their childlike faces, and you can’t imagine anyone sending them to fight a war. You don’t have an opinion on war, really, it’s just that these men look like babies.

Not babies as in crying babies, but babies as in months-old.

The strippers call themselves dancers, and why not? They dance. You call yourself what you want. Work at a gas station, and you say you work at a gas station. You don’t call yourself a pumper.

The girls are the same ages as the men back from war, but already they are older. You can see it in their faces, the empty expressions that bespeak cold capitalism. Don’t try to pull a fast one on these girls, nary a one of them over 28. If they haven’t seen, heard or done it, they’ve been told about it ad nauseum by the older girls. Still little girls at heart, they know a woman’s place in the world all too well.

The guys at the bar pretending they are in the club to drink, not watch the strippers straddle the pole – how many straddles on only one pole? The guys at the bar want the best of both worlds: quick access to the booze within eyesight of the strippers. At the bar, they only have to tip the bartender, not the strippers.

The girls who work stripping and the ones who pour the drinks know this routine, and they let the men think they’re fooling someone. They’re not, but they stay in the club spending money, and that’s all you can ask for.

Soon the minor-league hockey players will arrive to drink at the strip club. They have fought their fights in the empty arenas, and some of the strippers will not put up a fight. Most of the players are from Canada, and a lot of the strippers are from Arizona.

In Arizona, an FBI agent suspicious of Middle Eastern men trying to learn how to fly planes wrote the most famous memo that no one read. Also in Arizona, a man was alleged to have help the former U.S. soldier who attacked his own country by detonating a truck full of fertilizer in Oklahoma City. Arizona is home to the John Birch Society, too, guns and God, and I’ll be goddamned if you’re gonna discuss the Second Amendment with them.

You’ve never been to Arizona, at least not anywhere outside of Tucson or Phoenix. Quiet little state down there. Witness protection and all that. Anonymity in the red desert clay. It’s like a Mars next to California, filled with a lot of nice folks who look you in the eye.

The Southern Californians call ‘em Zonies and wear bumper stickers that say GO BACK TO ARIZONA. A father tells his son that he does not meant to generalize, but he swears every time a vehicle makes a silly maneuver on the road that vehicle bears an Arizona license plate.

All California license plates are made in the state’s penitentiaries, and the governor who was governor before the action-film star became governor was a strong supporter (and beneficiary of) the prison-guard unions. The members of which would hold gladiator fights at hellholes like Corcoran, and then fatally shoot the inmates when the battles got out of hand. They say the concessions that governor made to those guards – and the piracy of the state’s electricity by the Texans – is why schools programs are cut and enrollment at community colleges has been capped.

They say it’s like the ‘80s all over again.

Gladiator battles in the prisons, where nearly every person locked up has a drug-related conviction. And gladiator battles on the hard ice in empty arenas in the Southwest. The president in the ‘80s was once a governor from California.

His vice president was a former CIA director from Texas, a man whose son became U.S. president. Then amended the rule that says you have to be a U.S. native to be a president.

Which allowed the action-film star governor of California to become president of his adopted country.
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