Americans aren’t going to like what I’m about to say. But the French do a lot of things much better than we do.
The French are better at cooking. They make more time to celebrate life. Their culture exudes extraordinary art and architecture. Even their dogs have it much better than their American counterparts — as canines are taken everywhere including airports, restaurants, and even fancy hotels.
But one thing the French are miserable at is bathrooms.
That’s right — bathrooms.
Is it too much to ask to get a shower in a $350-a-night hotel room?
I’m currently staying at one of the best hotels on the French Riviera, located right on Promenade de la Croisette, in Cannes. This is the same hotel where all the movie stars and Hollywood people stay in during the famous Cannes Film Festival, which takes place right across the street. This luxury hotel has classic portraits hanging right outside the door of famous people who have stayed in each room. My hotel room has Woody Allen and Orson Wells’ photos out in front. So, I guess that means Woody and Orson once stayed in my room — not together, of course.
Which makes me wonder — how did Orson Wells ever fit inside this bathtub?
Photo Caption: The world’s worst taxi driver — in Bossier City, LA
Sitting here at the Shreveport Airport waiting on my flight.
Decided to post a few short stories from my two week stay in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana. There are short and sweet. Here it goes:
STORY 1 — THE ACCIDENTAL HITCHHIKER
At 3:30 am last night, I’d wrapped up my work assignment at the World Series of Poker Circuit, which took place at Horseshoe Bossier City. Hotel was about a mile walk away from the casino. It’s dark. It’s quiet. There are no cars on the street.
I’m dressed in a dark business suit, and wheeling a small suitcase behind with several items I use while on the road — computer, printer, cameras, cables, etc.
The sight of a 50-year-old bearded man rumbling down the sidewalk of Bossier City, Louisiana at 3:30 am towing a suitcase is rather uncommon. I “stood out” from the crowd, you might say.
As I walked along the poorly-lit road, a car pulled up next to me.
“Need a lift?”
I’m a bit surprised by the sound of a human voice, which seemed to come out of nowhere. I glance up and it appears to be Paul Oresnteen, from Poker News. I had just seen Paul hours earlier covering the WSOP. He even mentioned he had a rental car.
Browne’s show was scheduled to begin at 8 pm on a Saturday night inside a busy casino showroom. Tickets were priced at $42 a pop, plus tax (I got in for free — story to come later).
Prior to her performance, Browne’s devotees are lined up outside the main entrance. By the time I arrive, a few hundred people are streaming into the arena. There’s a single ticket-taker, who must have been in his 70s. I must admit, this senior took his job very seriously. The way he meticulously checked every ticket (one surely has to be on the lookout for counterfeit Sylvia Browne tickets), the way he tore each in half, and then placed them carefully inside the box — made me think he he missed his life’s calling running the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. Of course, this process slows down the line considerably, making the wait an unnecessary 15-20 minutes.
Fortunately, there’s something to keep those who are waiting occupied. Sylvia Browne has several books and jewelry items conveniently positioned right next to the line to tempt us. How nice of Mrs. Browne to think so much of her followers and their discomfort from having to stand in a long line to (coincidentally?) position her four tables right along the queue. I’m not a psychic, but I suspect Mrs. Browne picked up a few extra sales that way.
On the list of the world’s most hideous people, this piece of shit is very near the top.
Her name is Sylvia Browne, and for those of you fortunate enough to have never heard of her, she’s a self-described “spiritual teacher and psychic.”
And in a related news story — I’m the Pope.
This charlatan might have some mild entertainment value if some people didn’t take her so seriously. In a sort of Andy Kaufman sort of way, she could be a knee-slapping riot. If she was performing on The Gong Show, her charade would be so fucking bad, it actually might be pretty good.
Trouble is — she’s not amusing people. To the contrary, she’s hurting people. Lots of people. She’s been touring the country during the last few months, shaking down her hopeless audience members (and dare I say “fans”) who have absolutely no clue they’re little more than the latest generation of frightened townsfolk getting pitched with the snake-oil.
It’s really hard to believe we’re living in the 21st Century here — that people believe the same bullshit that’s been shoveled since the days of Pythia, the very first Sylvia Browne incarnate who did her very own Three-Card Monte act way back in ancient Greece. At least poor Pytha had the decency to commit suicide at the age of 30 — thus sparing the world’s most advanced society at the time more of her delusions. Browne couldn’t do us that favor. She’s still conning people to this day, and going strong well into her 70s.
No doubt, Browne is very good at what she does. He’s a real pro. Indeed, most con-artists are good at what they do. She’s flim-flammed her devotees — typically made up of older, poorly-educated women grappling with depression. Browne has even managed to convince some of these people that she possesses supernatural powers. And so, she does what any heartless self-promoting opportunist would do. She bilks her followers out of a few bucks. Make that 47 bucks a pop, which is the standard ticket prize for her show.
Browne spends much of her time flying around the country masquerading as some kind of 100,00-watt antenna to the grave. Her act pretty much consists of duping people who are so emotionally vulnerable and so utterly desperate for answers, that they’ll often drive hundreds of miles to witness her onstage “readings.” Many come with hopes they’ll get lucky enough to be chosen amongst hundreds with similar problems sitting in what amounts to a clusterfuck of basketcases. Most seek answers to questions which simply cannot be answered. They beg for solace. They long for inner peace. And the grand dame of duplicity, Sylvia Browne is right there on center stage to deliver on cue what they’re so desperate to hear — even if it means abandoning all sense of human decency.
Writer’s Note: The World Series of Poker Circuit is currently taking place at Horseshoe Bossier City. So, I’m staying in Shreveport, Louisiana during the next two weeks. Today, I’ll share with you two things that have impressed me most so far about my visit.
It sounded like a screech. A deafening, high-pitched screech. Almost like the scream in a horror movie.
I looked up into the sky. There it was.
A giant B-52 bomber.
If you’ve never seen the breathtaking sight of a B-52 in flight, I must say — even from the ground — the visual is awe-inspiring. Conjoined with its high-pitched eardrum-shattering 120 decibels, the image of the B-52 plowing overhead with it’s beastly eight engines barreling out thick black smoke is a momentous assault on the senses.
Barksdale Air Force Base is located on Bossier City’s east side. Years ago, I remember well the sight and sound of B-52s regularly hoovering over the Louisiana Downs Racetrack off in the distance, which I frequently visited. It’s been a long, long time since I saw this aircraft up close. I had forgotten how intimidating the sight is. Earlier today looking up into the sky, I rekindled that double-edged love affair with darker forces and was once again reminded of mankind’s inherent aptitude for creating marvels of self-destruction.
It was horribly beautiful.
The B-52 is an astonishing image of national power. The fleet carries payloads of nuclear weapons. These are B-52s on high alert — always ready to strike. Prepared for its target like wolves catching the scent of a bunny, B-52s are always swilring around up in the air somewhere, defending the nation. This is intentionally so, as a sort of Orwellian flip-flop of logic manifested by explaining the madness as a “deterrent.”
Never mind that their constant presence was one of the things which triggered an arms race and ignited the fuse for a lot of bad guys in the world who came to accelerate their own ambitions for nuclear weapons. Even with the Cold War long over, B-52 missions continue around the clock, every day and night of the year. I had just witnessed the conclusion of one of these missions, landing at Barksdale AFB.
But what’s really most impressive about the B-52 is longevity. This year marks the aircraft’s 60-year anniversary. That’s right. America’s nuclear arsenal is hauled around in a fleet of planes that were designed when Eisenhower was President and most the country was tuned into “I Love Lucy.” I’m not sure if that’s more astonishing, or horrifying.
That’s how incredible these planes are. That they have stood the test of time for six long decades and remain just as frighteningly effective as the day they first rolled off the Boeing assembly line as the most powerful fighting machine perhaps that’s ever been designed. Think of all the advances in technology and changes in aircraft design since that time. And yet, the most destructive instruments in the history of mankind are hauled around in the equivalent of a 1952 Chevy.