For those of you looking for some older posts, you’ll find them here on wordpress. For my new work/thinking please visit brettlandry.us
For those of you looking for some older posts, you’ll find them here on wordpress. For my new work/thinking please visit brettlandry.us
This is a billboard I just completed for the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe. It’s actually a painting, which I think makes the moustache pop. And that of course is the most important visual on any officer of the law.
Our new eco-friendly dog toy company is now open for business.
You can visit it here: http://www.renewaballs.com. For a limited time we’re offering dog balls at a discounted price to family and friends. If you have a dog who likes balls, then it will think these are the shizzle.
Today at lunch we spotted this car.
The other day, like many other days, Anna my dog brought me to the dog park. She pulled me on the skateboard, which is great because she knows the way, and I don’t have to kick, being that she has four feet that run really well. So we pull up to the dog park and immediately some reincarnation of Cujo starts barking and snarling at me through the fence, as if I were to be torn apart and then left for dead. “No big deal” I thought. He’s behind the fence. I just won’t go in.
The dog’s owner, that crazy dog lady who feels it her obligation to rescue every pound puppy on earth comes running up to the gate. Now, there’s a reason some dogs end up in dog jail. It’s because they fucking attack people. It’s because they’re mean as shit, because they were born into an abusive family, were beaten, or are just plain inbred. It’s sad to say, but it’s the damn truth. Not all dogs go to heaven, some are condemned to hell, and that’s just that.
So this woman takes notice of the situation and says, “He’s a rescue, he doesn’t like skateboards.”
“Well” I ask, “Does he not like skateboards, or does he not like the people who ride skateboards?” “Or both?” “Because he seems pretty pissed off.”
“No, he’s fine. He loves people.” Famous last words.
At this point the woman is holding the dog back like a German police officer who’s about to release the hounds on one of those guys running away in fat suit. And then, that’s exactly what she does. She opens the gate and simply releases the dog which then races towards me and leaps through the air open jawed slashing at my throat. So I pull a Chuck Norris and perform a sort of ghetto looking roundhouse kick which lands squarely on the side of the dog. The dog screams, flying backwards to the ground. I then jump into a Kung Foo stance ready to go ape shit on it’s ass. This probably looked pretty stupid, but I was pretty damn scared, and it’s just what my body naturally did.
“HE’S A RESCUE!!!!!!!” “WHY DID YOU KICK MY DOG, HE’S A RESCUE!!!!”, She screamed and began sobbing.
“I don’t care if that mutt is related to Ghandi” He tried to attack me, and I’m not about to get bit by your stupid ass dog. At this point the dog was cowering, albeit still growling at me in her arms. And my “Goldendoodle” Anna had long since run through the gate and into the dog park, happily chasing a tennis ball. So, I began a walk of shame, through the gates, entering the park. I felt bad, sad, shaken, and still freaked out. There were several other dog owners in the park as well as one overly cute little girl in a sun dress. Mostly everyone tried to pretend they’d not seen what had just unfolded, but the tension was palpable. The woman quickly left the park with her dog, sobbing. No one said a word.
Just as I reached the furthest end of the park, the young girl approached me, the only person brave enough to address the situation. She stopped just a couple feet in front of me, and with her fists held down by her side she said, “YOU SHOULDN”T HAVE KICKED A DOG!” She then quickly turned and ran away.
Yep, I was that guy. The guy who kicked a dog. I tried to apologize, explaining that I acted out in fear, but the little girl was already half way across the park, her sun dress flapping in the wind. I threw the ball with Anna for a few minutes and then decided to leave. But of course I had to walk past everyone now once more. And just as I reached the gate to leave, the girl’s mother turned to me and said, “I’d have kicked that mother fucker too.”
(the following is a true story; a personal account of my old advertising partner’s first hand experience with terrorism. Good friend, fellow writer: williamspencer.com)
My first day in Mumbai
In a way, this is a boring story. I was standing in a hotel lobby with some friends, we went upstairs and sat in the room for a long time. Then we left. That’s basically what happened. But I’m grateful that my story is not more exciting. If it were, I might not be here to tell it.
“There are terrorists inside the hotel.” That was the beginning. That’s when I locked the door and we began a long, nerve-wracking wait. And that’s all it really was. Four people sitting in a luxury hotel suite, waiting. We never saw an explosion. Never saw a terrorist. Never saw anything burning or anyone getting shot. Occasionally we would hear something: an explosion or gunshots in the distance. That was the only evidence that the story we heard from friends on the phone was happening in our hotel. Mostly it was silent.
I had come to Mumbai with my friend Pooja from Delhi, where I had been living for a few months. This was my first trip to India and first day in Mumbai. I liked it. It seemed to have more warmth and character than Delhi. When I found that most of the hotels on my list didn’t have availability or were charging double their listed rate, possibly because of my American accent, I just happened to be near the Taj hotel. I secretly wanted to stay there anyway, i think, and now I had a good excuse for to splurge a bit.
One shower, one nap, and an hour of strolling around the hotel later, I found myself looking at a hotel employee rushing toward me from the street waving his arms.
“Bhago! Bhago!” (I later learned that ‘Bhago’ means ‘run’.)
I recall hearing a gunshot before he urged us inside but I didn’t place the sound at the time. I’ve been lucky enough in my life that I haven’t heard that sound enough to reliably distinguish it from a firecracker or a truck backfiring. We strolled into the lobby, knowing that something was going on, but with little idea what. My friend Akash thought maybe we should leave in his car. After all, we had been waiting on the steps in front of the hotel for the valet to bring his car, which was parked close enough to be almost silly for a valet to go and get. We could probably get to it and leave.
An American couple ran in after us. I remembered seeing them when I checked-in and overheard their accent. The girl was hurt. But it looked like she fell–she hadn’t been shot. We stood in the center of the lobby, looking around for any indication of what was happening outside, when we heard a loud sound come from the opposite direction, toward the back of the hotel. It sounded like a gunshot or an explosion. There are fewer alternate explanations for that kind of sound when you’re inside.
“Let’s go to the room.”
Things just felt unpredictable. We walked quickly toward the elevator, which also happened to be toward where the sound had come from. No one else was leaving. The lobby still looked relatively normal–people walking around, talking in groups. We walked into an elevator left open after a very relaxed-looking man in sandals leisurely walked out. We punched our floor number and stood waiting for the door to close. Nothing was happening in the lobby. The whole thing was probably nothing–we could always go out for dinner later.
Looking down from our room, we could see people huddled around something on the street. Eventually an ambulance came and a body was loaded into it. Not moving. Later a news van showed up. The light attached to a video camera scanned the ground where the people had been standing. A few minutes later, it showed up on TV. Pools and splatters of blood on the street.
“These kinds of gang shootings happen a lot here” Akash explained.
That’s what the TV caption said: Gang Violence. Then we started getting news about other places. The train station. The Oberoi hotel. One news network changed their caption to “Terror Strike”. Then the TVs cut to static. Akash told us what he had heard moments before from a phone call: there were terrorists inside the hotel. And that was the beginning.
“I wonder if my car is okay” was the next thing Akash said, mostly to himself.
We had a lot of time on our hands. In regular cycles, we questioned our decisions. Should we have left the hotel? Should we try to get out now? I figured that the terrorists would not have the time to go room-to-room, especially once the police showed up, they would only be able to round up hostages who were easy to round up. The room seemed safe, at least considering that terrorists had taken over our hotel. One possibility made me question myself. What if they are trying to bring down the tower? It seemed unlikely, but a lot of unlikely things had happened that day. I saw the twin towers collapse from my rooftop in Brooklyn on 9/11 and recalled the fact that many of those inside were told that the safest thing to do was stay inside. Still, it seemed the safer option to stay.
My 3 friends were all Indian and a constant stream of phone calls and SMS messages from concerned friends interrupted each other in turn.
“Call me back in 5 minutes.”
“Hang on I have another call.”
“She’s on the other phone.”
Over and over. Then, during the times when someone didn’t have a call coming in, I heard them report on what their friends were seeing on TV.
“There are 40 terrorists.”
“They are holding hostages on the top floor of our building.”
“There is firing on the 13th floor.”
“They are looking for British and Americans.”
Mostly, as we later found out, the facts were wrong. The last one, however, was true. And those words stayed in the pit of my stomach after hearing them. With red hair and freckles, I sort of stand out in India. Before I left, my mom actually suggested that I dye my hair and grow a beard to blend in more. I thought this was ridiculous at the time. I still do. But suddenly, it seemed a little less so as my Indian friends asked if I had a hooded sweatshirt to wear in case we had to leave.
Some people recognized Akash’s car on TV and called him. Prominently displayed in front of the hotel, police and soldiers were using it as a shield and shooting from behind its protection. I remember Akash asking someone if it looked okay.
I was in the midst of planning this trip when there were bomb blasts in Delhi, where I was going to rent an apartment and live for two months. I mentally brushed it off. What are the chances of that happening to me while I’m there? Besides, these things could happen anywhere. I’m sure the chances of dying in a car accident on the way to Best Buy are much greater than dying in a terror attack, statistically speaking. That’s the entire goal of terrorism: to make the threat appear much bigger than it is. To create disproportionate fear, even if many more people die falling off of ladders or slipping on icy stairs. I still think that’s true. Yet, I was sitting there, on my first day in Mumbai, in the middle of a terror attack. What if we went to Goa first as we had once planned? What if the first hotel I called had rooms available? How did I come to travel 800 miles across a foreign country to stand in the center of the biggest terror attack in the history of Mumbai just as it started to happen?
“There are no whys.”
That is what my friend Pooja says whenever I ask one of my many questions about how things work in India (Why do you check-in twice at airports? Why does the security guard blow his whistle constantly as a signal of safety? Why is there never not someone peeing on the side of any long stretch of road? Why don’t they try to prevent cars, people, and dogs from leaving marks in wet concrete?)
We waited. That was the very best we could do. Nothing. We would go out on our balcony and look down at the crowds of people looking up at the hotel from the street. Sometimes people would notice us and point. There was never no one looking up at us. The sniper across the street occasionally motioned for us to go back inside. But we needed to see outside. We needed to see something.
We raided the mini-bar. The hazelnut chocolates were especially good. This supplemented our diet of granola bars and water, which we just happened to have in quantity. But no one felt like eating very much. Each of us constantly asked each other they were okay. And each of us nodded back dutifully when asked. None of us were okay, exactly, but there was no other choice than to remain in-control, calm, quiet.
I had only ever experienced fear in quick doses. The adrenaline of narrowly avoiding a car accident. The armrest-gripping tension of severe turbulence on an airplane. Our fear was dulled by the hours accumulating behind us. Softened by the comfortable, dim environment. It felt more like a prolonged, intense nervousness. We were scared of feeling real fear. We savored the bit of safety we felt in our room even as we wished we could be outside, the waiting over.
After a sleepless night came a tired morning, and we all encouraged each other to sleep. We had varying degrees of success. After I woke up from an hour-long nap, there was a split-second before I fully re-remembered what was happening. I felt content. Garima, Akash’s wife, was particularly successful, sleeping 6 hours or more on chaise lounge. I was the one that woke her up. We heard explosions semi-regularly from the beginning, but we usually heard the sound come from outside our window. Now sounds were coming from the inside, maybe one floor up or down. They didn’t sound like big bombs. They sounded like the kind of explosion that would open the locked door of a hotel room. They got closer. Soon we heard yelling on our floor. This was the first sound we heard from our hallway the entire time. We had word that commandos would come to rescue hotel guests from their rooms. We also had received a text message that said “don’t open the door, terrorists may be dressed as police”. Now, fists banged on our door.
“Open the door! We are police!”
“If you don’t open now, we’ll break the door!”
Pooja looked out the peephole to see black uniforms and helmets. Akash very politely did what was suggested earlier by one of the few hotel employees we managed to speak to on the phone: ask for ID. But if these were commandos, our feelings were not their primary concern.
“No ID! Open the door now!”
Even if they were terrorists, refusing to open would only give us another 5 minutes. They were opening every room one way or another. We were tired of waiting. Pooja opened the door. I came out last. They lined us up against the wall and checked our IDs. On their shoulders were the letters NSG–National Security Guard–the most elite Indian commandos.
Before they came I had thought about hiding my passport and saying I’m Canadian. That’s what it seems like American backpackers in Europe have been doing for most of this decade to avoid lengthy diatribes about George W. Bush. But I didn’t. I handed over my open passport and he took it in one hand while the other held a Glock, not pointed at me, but not pointed away either.
I nodded in confirmation. I felt pretty confident these were the good guys. Terrorists probably wouldn’t go to this much trouble to fool people or waste this much manpower collecting hostages (there were at least a dozen commandos, guns-drawn, in our hallway at this point). He gave me a look like he thought I was lucky and I knew he was right.
I meekly asked a question. “Are there any terrorists still in the buiding?”
He returned a hint of a smile.
“Don’t ask such questions.”
There were. We walked past more and more NSG as we made our way to a service area, joining a group of 10-15 other guests. Everyone seemed to be furiously typing on their blackberries. No one spoke. Two commandos stood nearby in silence, guns drawn. After 10 minutes, we got the signal to walk downstairs. One of the “black cats”, as the NSG are called, lead the group while the other followed. Our pace was painfully slow. Two people had knees problems. One guy seemed to be in serious pain. Sixteen flights went one at a time. On each floor we stopped to make sure we were together.
As we reached the lower floors, we were told that we should prepare ourselves to see bodies. I didn’t see any bodies. But the floor was covered in blood. Not pools of blood–dried blood in trails that came from dragging bodies around. There had been bodies dragged all over. We walked down a dark corridor. More stairs. Through a kitchen. A dining room. Over broken glass. Through shallow pools of water on the floor. The blood was a constant. This was our only glimpse into the reality of what happened. Just a minute or two where we saw the aftermath of a massacre and started to feel the horror from which we had been entirely removed 16 floors above. Before it was just text messages and words, now we could see it and smell it. This really happened.
We entered a big room filled with soldiers and the smell of smoke. Judging from their uniforms, there were at least 4 different branches of the military and police here. Most soldiers sat or stood mingling with others of their own kind. Some of the soldiers were lined up to make a path for us to walk. Some smiled as we passed, like they were wearily cheering for us. Glad that we survived. We were glad too and smiled back.
It took me until we were almost leaving the room to realize that this was the lobby we walked into 21 hours earlier. Then, we were again waiting on the same steps where we had waited before this happened. Akash spotted his car in the same place. There were no valets.
“Can I just take the keys out of the ignition?”
A policeman and a firefighter patiently explained the situation.
“They are throwing grenades down from above.”
About 10 of us got into an ambulance and we sped off to some police station I will never see again. Friends picked us up 10 minutes later and soon we were at some Auntie’s house where hugs and food and comfort waited. I was so exhausted at that point that I don’t remember exactly where we were or whose house it was.
We hadn’t seen any TV at that point. When we finally sat down in front of the news channel, the first image to greet us was ourselves. A camera had caught us through a window, walking down the stairs of the hotel. The second thing we saw was a report that grenades had exploded at the front steps of the hotel. The same place we had just been less than an hour earlier. Someone spotted Akash’s car in the background.
While I sat at a table of food not eating, I remembered just before coming to Mumbai, when I was looking towards Gurgaon from the edge of south Delhi as I do around 5:00 every day, waiting for the sun to light up some of the world’s most beautiful pollution. I was thinking of my friend Bill, who died two years ago for literally no reason at all. An unexplained inflamation of the heart as he played music at an old-folks home. The medical term for that is “idiopathic”. As I understand it, it simply means, “we don’t know”. I had a reason to be dead. He had none. There are no whys. Things just happen.
For two days after we got out, we stayed inside. Slept. Ate. Watched TV. We reminded each other how lucky we were. How, if we waited another 15 seconds in the lobby, our fate would have been very different. The battle at the Taj lasted another two days. It ended just before we got in a taxi and boarded a flight back to Delhi. We had been there for 3 days; arriving soon before the attack began and leaving just after the Taj was cleared. It was almost like we came just for that.
I was with Pooja in Delhi telling this story to friends a few days later when Akash called. He had gone back to the Taj for his car. The windscreen and every window was shattered. There were bullet holes in the side and front. Lots of grenade shrapnel. Evidence of bullets bouncing around the interior. All four tires were flat. And the battery was dead. Still, someone helped him get it started and he slowly limped away in it, happy, he said.
© 2008 William Burks Spencer
I haven’t posted in months. Just been busy trying to kick ass. In the next few weeks I’ll be launching my first brand. Renewaballs. They’re eco friendly dog toys made from renewable resources. Here’s our logo and label.
Our dog drinks a lot. She favors red wine from the Sonoma Valley. Sometimes she hides bottles of peppermint schnappes in the lower cabinets of our kitchen and it just drives me crazy. Her ranting and raving about Hunter S. Thompson being her long lost grandfaaaather… “Jesus Doodle, control yourself.”
I recently began growing a mustache. No reason really, other than to see what I would look like as a cop, or a seventies porn star. So without further adue here’s me with a stash.
Fuck yeah. Evidently God gave me the gift of a semi blond colored beard which contrasts with my hair in a really nice seventies porn star way. My new name is Thomas Woodbluff (Middle name/street where I grew up), purveyor of the Playa Vista porn ring.
I’m also getting a motorcycle and signing up to be a CHIPS officer. I’m gonna grow this thing to stardom. This mustache could make me the ruler of the earth.
Oh snap, it just did. This is me, ruler of the fascist world giving a speech at a club med convention.
I’m pretty sure Hitler ruined this type of mustache for the history of human kind. It boggles the mind to think that no other person on earth can ever rock this thing again. Except for me motherfuckers, the fascist king of porn.
Brenda!!!! Brenda!!!!! You sleep with me now!!!!