Well, this is interesting. The Mexican good guys had a big win last week, killing a high-ranking gangster, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, in what is inevitably called “a gun battle.” The soldier who killed him also died in the shootout. Although it’s customary for police and military officers involved in anti-drug work to be anonymous and wear ski masks and other clothing to obscure their identity, once one of them is killed, their identity is made public. Ensign Melquisedet Angulo Córdova was hailed as a national hero. His mother was presented with the Mexican flag at his funeral, in much the same ritual we’ve seen in this country during military funerals.
The day after, Leyva’s henchmen burst into Córdova’s family’s home and killed his mother and three other relatives.
People today use the word “decimated” casually. We forget what it means. Decimation was a specific punishment for one’s enemies, and it meant one in ten — you humiliated and humbled the conquered by killing 10 percent of their soldiers. That was considered punishment enough. What’s going on here is something much worse, a zero-sum game that isn’t, really, because the lesson I mentioned yesterday applies here, too: There’s always a demand for drugs, legal or otherwise, and always a new generation of people willing to take them. Legalize everything and you take the gunplay out of it, but otherwise, there you are.
Hey, it’s the Christmas season! Let’s turn the page and move on to something cheerier! You know the newspaper racket is in trouble when the freakin’ New York Times, home of the top-of-3A daily Tiffany ad, etc. etc., accepts a full-page ad for the Amish miracle-heater fireplace. It’s a throwback to the days when companies would run ads that looked like newspaper copy, because apparently there are still seven or eight suckers who believe that on one page of the New York Times you can read about the al-Jazeera cameraman who spent six years at Guantanamo Bay, and on the next a full page devoted to the “miracle” that an electric space heater enclosed in an Amish-made plywood box can make your heating bills “drop to a fraction.”
One of the funnier moments I’ve spent in the company of Alan’s family came when his sister Jenny related her conversation with Aunt Dorothy, who wanted to order one of the “free” heaters for Jenny:
“I don’t want one,” Jenny said.
“Why wouldn’t you want it if it’s free!?” said Dorothy. (There’s such a perfect logic to this, I don’t know what to say.)
Anyway. The scam of the Amish miracle heater is pretty easy to figure out, if you read above a third-grade level: The Chinese-made heater is just your average 1500-watt space heater, available at any Wal-Mart for around $20. You pay $350 for the “Amish” mantel that goes around it. There’s a website, of course. Poke around in there and enjoy yourself; did you know the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is “prestigious?” Srsly.
The Amish are no strangers to this sort of thing. Alan once visited an Amish farm in Indiana that turned out olde-timey kountry wagons used in displays at Bath & Body Works. Knock together some scrap plywood, throw on some out-of-round wheels, slap a coat of paint on everything and then turn the kids loose on it — each one was “hand-distressed” by Amish boys and girls, who assaulted it with chains, steel wool, chemicals and whatever, preparatory to its placement in an American shopping mall. I love this country so much it hurts.
Two days left, and my list is painful to look at. Yesterday’s excursion to the mall was fruitless but for the picture of Olga the mannequin in her hello-sailor cocktail dress. The sooner this fashion flies, the better. Kate tried on a dress at Betsey Johnson, just for the heck of it, and looked adorable. Two hundred dollars for a dress seemed a little steep, she said, and of course I agreed. But it’s funny how a Betsey dress can be just as short and just as strapless, but looks fun instead of trashy. That’s why they pay her the big bucks.
Happy Wednesday, whatever yours holds. I’m outta here.