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The Downward Spiral of the Dumb Part 4: The Return of the Suckfish

Good morning weirdos! It’s been a long time since I’ve put together two Bastards pieces in under a week. I kinda feel dirty heh. Actually, that dirtiness I feel is in no thanks part to Republican state senator from Wisconsin Jesse Kremer. This genius actually threw out the following quote recently: “The Earth is 6,000 years old. That’s a fact!” My fucking gods. It takes an incredible amount of ignorance and stupidity to come to that conclusion. Then again, that’s apparently the new norm here in the United States of Ignorance. For the last few years, we have seen an astronomical rise in nutballs who believe the Earth is flat, and those who believe the Earth is anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 years old. Dick Cheney has taken shits that are older than that. How is it possible to look out at things like fossils, the stars, mountains, even that Ten fucking thousand year old tree in Iceland and say that the world is only 6,000 years old?!? Are you fucking kidding me? Who are these fucking cretins? How do you get off being a public official and making decisions about education and science when you’re so goddamn doofy your beliefs don’t even allow the existence of dinosaurs? And who the fuck votes for these idiots? How can you in good conscience walk into a voting booth (I should end the sentence there but for lengths sake lets keep moving) and say to yourself: Wow, this guy thinks Jesus rode dinosaurs. Fuck yes he is going to make a fine decision maker. I sometimes wake up in the morning and feel like I’m in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode. A few years back, Ken Hamm (He of the amazingly weird Creation Museum fame) actually put out a video where he manhandled a banana and spouted off about how bananas are proof that evolution doesn’t exist. We actually live in an age where a guy can jerk off a banana on youtube and that is considered evidence. What a magical time to be alive.

As for the flat Earthers, holy hell, I want to party with you guys. Anyone that can come up with the idea that NASA is using holograms to convince us the world is round, is bound to have some damn good drugs on them. I’m really hoping that all these peeps are just folks who had a bad acid trip that never ended. “Jesus man, the Earth is Flat and the sun is unzipping itself! Christ, James, your mom turned into a dragon! Fuck NASA!” Or maybe we really live in a world that encourages this kind of dangerous stupidity. Personally, I’m putting the blame solely on the religious right. Here’s why: For years the religious right has cried out anytime they see a violation of their rights or their “free speech” and yet when they do it to other people, suddenly its okay. Evangelical pastors can come out on live fucking tv and say that their followers should beat/kill gays and it’s “religious freedom.” People decry the state of Kentucky using tax payer funds to build a goddamn Ark for Ken Hamm and his Creation Asylum, and suddenly its religious persecution. Seriously? You can go to church whenever you want, you can pray in your own home, you can even wear crosses around your neck in public. You’re right, that’s definitely persecution. Meanwhile, the rise in Neo Nazi membership here in the states has skyrocketed. Fuck the jews, right? By the way, if any of you swastika sporting dickheads comes across this, maybe you can answer a question for me. Why, if you hate Jews so much, do you dutifully follow the words of a…half Jew? I mean not for nothing, but that’s like me saying I hate black people yet running around preaching the words of  Barack Obama. I mean seriously, did you guys decide to get together in a room somewhere and say “Fuck Jews…well, except this one. He’s kinda cool.” I’m not even going to get started on the whole muslim thing. But yes, let’s talk about how Christians here are persecuted. When you are allowed to make education/science decisions based on a belief that is completely fucking wrong, you are not fucking persecuted.

Jesus fucking Christ I have completely lost my grip on this. You dingbats are so out there it’s not even funny anymore. It used to be. Shit, there was a time when a guy would come out and say that dinosaur bones were put here by the devil to lead people from god, and the country would laugh at him. Now it’s seemingly the other way around. A guy comes out and says the Earth is billions of years old and suddenly the response is: “Hey Craig, get a load of this wanker He thinks the Earth is billions of years old. Can you believe this guy??”

I used to love the movie Idiocracy. To me, it was an extreme version of what we are. Now, not only do I hate the movie, but I hate Mike Judge for making it. It’s only a matter of time before we start hearing “Welcome to Costco, I love you.” At that point, the Downward Spiral of the Dumb will be complete and the suckfish will have won.

Ramblings From the Twilight Hall

It’s currently 2am and I’m watching Scooby Doo. No, not the shitty movie with Mr. Bean in it, the badass original cartoon. You know, the one where all the evil ghosts turned out to be old white men. After seeing it as an adult, I’ve gotta say, I’m pretty sure Jeff Sessions was the Miner Forty-Niner ghost. I’d say Sixty Niner, but that would require him removing his head from Trump’s ass long enough to seduce Steve Bannon. How’s that for a ghastly love triangle? Ugh the thought of it makes me want to puke all over Mike Pence. Why, you may be asking, am I shitting all over the Trump administration this late at night when I should be sleeping? The answer is fairly simple: Because I fucking can. Let me ask you Trumpanzees out there a little something: How the fuck can you possibly stick with this guy?!? Remember when George W nearly killed himself when he choked on the pretzel and banged his face off a table? All his supporters were slightly embarrassed and for the most part admitted that yes, maybe they had voted for a dunce. Trump throws out an illegible Covfefe tweet and y’all are like “Yes! Look at how great our mighty Orange President is!!” Seriously? And what’s the deal with this whole calling people snowflakes thing? You do realize you support the biggest one of them all right? If there was a snowflake pope, Trump would have a three foot tall hat. I will say (in his defense) that he is the most entertaining president I think we’ve ever had. I mean honestly, I can watch Melania Trump’s reactions to his attempts at affection all day long. It’s almost like she’s being caressed by some slimy, vile, disgusting creature…

That aside, his twitter rants are getting more and more ridiculous. Our thin skinned Orange in Chief just recently went after the muslim mayor of London. Right after a terrorist attack. Yes, let’s all stand in admiration of this man. I really wish Tony Blair had publicly ripped Rudy Giuliani after 9/11. I can only imagine the shitstorm that would have hit here. Hell, this is the country that got so angry at France for refusing to bomb Iraq with us, that we changed the name of French Fries to freedom fries and had wine bottle breaking parties. If Tony Blair had ripped Giuliani like Trump just ripped Khan, there would have been another fucking Tea Party in Boston Harbor. “Fuck you and your English Breakfast!” Actually, now that I think about it, Trump is the perfect president for our time. We live in a country in which a bunch of dopey “Patriotic” rednecks can take over a deserted federal gift shop at a bird sanctuary and be compared to the founding fathers. We live in a country that is so obsessed with being the best, that any opinion to the contrary is met with “You can just get the hell on out of here if you don’t like it.” The only things we are best at these days are wars (224 years out of 241), religious delusions, Incarcerations and science denial. Yay Team!

The more I listen to team Trump and their “Make America Great Again” bullshit, the more I understand just how much of a ride some of you got taken for. The carnival popped into town, the tents were pitched, and this orange carnival barker drew you all in with promises he would never be able to keep, and labeling himself as the ultimate outsider. He said he was going to play tough with everyone. That he was the only one strong enough to deal with foreign leaders…and then he hopped in a golf cart at the G7 summit because he was too tired to walk. I mean, when it comes right down to it, you basically elected the adult version of that shitty kid from Problem Child. I get being angry at the system and throwing a collective Fuck You at it, but when that Fuck You turns on you and you still support it? Son, that is some serious Stockholm Syndrome shit right there. Then again, this country has always ignored history anyway, so why start paying attention now right? At least there’s a silver lining to all of this. When this ship hits the iceberg and goes down, at least we’ll know why.

Confessions from the Emotional Cellar

“My biggest weakness is my sensitivity. I am too sensitive a person.” – Mike Tyson

What a wonderfully weird fucking thing for a guy who bit off another guy’s ear to say.  The sad fact of the matter, is that I’m right there with him. I’ve always been a highly sensitive/emotional guy. Which, is a shit thing to be when we live in a society where John Wayne is considered the ideal American guy. I remember being at military school my 7th grade year standing in my TO’s office in tears after watching the kid in the room across from me get stomped like a lizard by 5 other kids. He asked me why I was in tears and I said it was because the kid was screaming in pain and I felt bad for him. My tactical officer, without missing a beat, said: “Williamson, you’re either a pussy or a fag, right now I’m having trouble figuring out which one it is.” That was when my first wall went up.  Unfortunately, it only got worse the older I got. As a kid you don’t understand societal norms. As you get older though, certain things stick out. Like, men are not supposed to be emotional. That shit is best left in the kitchen with the women, cause fuck acting human.

My father was not a very emotional man at all. We rarely hugged, it was always a handshake and a “Fare thee well, lad” or “See you tomorrow, young man.” But behind the formality of that handshake, I also felt love. He may not have been good at expressing it, but it was always there. I, on the other hand, emote all over the fucking place. I feel bad for Shelby sometimes, because I mush all over her. It’s not that I’m trying to win her over (already have) but the kind of love I feel for her is so ridiculously strong that that’s how it gets expressed. Which, is funny as hell sometimes, because she is a lot like my dad in the emotional category. The running joke between us is that I’m the chick and she’s the dude. And that brings me to the point of this whole mess. Why do we as a society insist that men be John Wayne and nothing less? Yeah sometimes I cry during tv shows or movies, but I also spent years boxing and could split your head like a coconut. So what? In the long run that means nothing. What matters, and this is where things get confusing for me, is who they are as people and what contributions they make to society. How can you place a guy like “The Duke” on a pedestal when he basically shit on an entire race of people by saying they (Natives) deserved to lose their land because whitey needed it more? Yes, that seems exactly like the kind of character I would want my son to be.

I hate the following word because there is such a social stigma to it, but the word is Empath. It’s a word that a lot of people consider to be bullshit but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s real. I can walk into a room fully energized, and 20 minutes later be so emotionally drained that I can’t function. Every time I walk into a crowd of people, it’s like walking into an emotional brick wall. I get hit with everything. Going to funerals is my least favorite thing to do on this planet. Not because it’s sad and I’ve lost someone in my life (thats part of it) but because the waves of emotion are never ending. They are relentless and it changes from person to person. I’ve kept this part of me hidden for so many years that it’s now starting to keep me up at night. Hence the reason I’m verbally throwing up on you today. Despite what I should feel, I am ashamed to be this way. I grew up in a society that beat up kids like me because we were “pussies” or “fags.”  I got into at least one fight, usually two, on a daily basis at military school because of this very thing. On the other hand, I don’t do emotions anything short of 100% warp speed. The love I’m capable of feeling is so intense that it gives me a natural high that can last for days, if I’m lucky, sometimes even weeks. Same with every other emotion we are capable of. Yes, I wound easily. I’d rather be stabbed a thousand times with a swiss army knife (death by a thousand cuts) than have someone I love (family, friend, wife) be mad at me. You could beat me within an inch of my life and I’d find a way to take it, but one short sentence from a loved one can cripple me.

It’s an interesting time to be a highly sensitive person these days. The foghorns all blaring out of Trumplandia these days all blast the same one note song: “Snowflake!” I find the term an interesting one given that under the right circumstances (namely being inside watching through the window next to a fireplace) snowflakes can create the most amazing sights. If this piece of self indulgent vomiting gets me labeled a snowflake, so be it. I’m done hiding this part of me. This is the 4th time I’ve gotten deeply personal since The Bastards started up 5-6 years ago. This will more than likely be the last as you don’t read these to “learn” about me. I can promise you that there will be a return to form soon. Until then: Fuck your feelings  😀

Ruminations on Death and the Weirdness that We Call Grief.

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*** The following mess of words is not really a typical Bastards piece. In fact, it’s really only been written because I didn’t have any other choice. It is certainly not a topic I would have willingly chosen, but sometimes that option gets taken from us. In all complete honesty, it’s a piece written solely for me. If you choose to read it and find something of value in it, great. If not, there will be no hard feelings. In truth, I wasn’t going to post this at all. I was going to write it, appease the shitty little muse who planted it in my head, and then delete it. Unfortunately, something keeps compelling me to post it. So here we are. An array of thoughts about a dead man most of you never knew. Ain’t life grand?***

 

“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.” – Stephen King

I’ve had a recurring nightmare recently, in which my now dead father jumps out at me when I open my closet door and drops me to the ground while rattling off any number of business transgressions I have committed since his passing. To those of you who weren’t at the memorial and haven’t heard the story this particular nightmare steals from, you won’t fully understand the abject terror it has caused me. I think it’s only natural to think in terms of ghosts and supernatural when a loved one passes, as it gives us hope that they might still be around. There is no ghost, however, that is more terrifying than that of memory. The kind that sneaks up on you in the still of the night when you least expect it and punches you in the chest so hard that your eyes widen in shock and breathing becomes difficult. Stephen King may be right about the ghostly muses, but it’s the latter of the two that has compelled me to stare at this infernal screen and try to find some way to rid myself of the nightmares that currently plague me.

It is no secret that the Five Stages of Grief are an actual blueprint for handling loss. What they don’t tell you, is that you can float between them like some kind of sado-masochistic bird that can’t decide whether to attempt flying into the eye of a tornado or just saying fuck it and landing in front of the meanest feral cat you can find. My favorite stage thus far has been denial. It was a lot easier just pretending the man had trotted on down to Acapulco for a wild ten days than it was to admit I’d never be seeing him again. Bargaining has probably been the weirdest stage. The idea that there might be a way to sell yourself to the devil of the universe in exchange for one more day is, in all honesty, quite comical. I admittedly laughed at myself when I realized what I was doing. Depression has been the easiest of the stages to handle as it’s something I wrestle with every fall/winter and at times like this, it almost feels like home. The stage that has been the hardest and that has caused the most discomfort (and the one in which I currently reside) is anger. It started last Thursday morning. I woke up raging at the world for reasons I didn’t understand. I am not by nature an angry man, but this has caused me to pick fights with family members, yell at people on the street (though some have argued that they deserved it) and nearly caused me to pick a fight with my significant other whom I would never aim a hurtful word at. Now before the idea escapes that I might be angry at my father for dying, I am not. I am mad that he is not here anymore, but I am not mad at him. Which makes this a terrible stage for someone like me to be in, because I have nowhere to direct this. There isn’t a DMV for the dead where I can walk in, kick over the ‘Take a Number’ kiosk, and wreck unholy hell upon whatever poor bastard happens to be behind the counter. There is no one to blame for this. Not a doctor, not a drunk driver, no one. It was a pulmonary embolism and that was it. For someone like me who finds logic in emotions, this anger is directionless and illogical. It won’t bring him back, it won’t ease the pain, and it certainly won’t make life easier. So, I think it has manifested itself in the form of nightmares. Nightmares that do a complete disservice to my father. It gives me someone to be angry at. Not the ghost dad, but me. Again, completely illogical, but what about dealing with death isn’t?

I realize this is a complete departure from my usual style/subject, but I woke up this morning to find that I had been visited by one of King’s ghostly muses last night. When I opened my eyes at 5am, there was a mix of images and words scattered across my mind. Some were clear as day, others were like looking through a fishbowl. They floated around my head like some kind of airy dance of death, begging me to pay attention to them and give them life. In my weakness, I acquiesced. Now I find myself asking what kind jabbering goat would force something like this on the public. After all, there are very few who have any sort of stake in the above words, and they will most likely never read this. Maybe it’s because it’s how I’ve always handled things. Or maybe, it’s to appease the ghosts of the past that have moved themselves into the present.  Either way, I hope that by doing so, the darkness once again becomes a friend.

A Brief History of Narwhals and Why You Shouldn’t Give A Fuck

Alright kids, pull your chairs up to the fireplace here while Uncle CJ puts his storyteller hat on. After all, it’s cold as shit outside and there’s nothing better to do. Today’s lesson is about the majestic beast we all know as the narwhal. If you listen to sponge headed freaks like Mike Pence, they’ll tell you that Narwhal’s have always existed. Well, for the last 6,000 years anyway, because fuck science and logic. The fact of the matter, is that one sunshiny day, a whale was swimming close to shore when he spotted a Unicorn in the distance. No, this isn’t the same unicorn that Kim Jong Il’s great great great Emperor grandfather rode or fucked or whatever it is he allegedly did. This is just a plain old unicorn, sitting on a patch of grass by the ocean. Well this catches the whales attention. After a little back and forth, the whale mounts the unicorn and fucks that horny horse until the goddamn stars fall from the sky. A few months later, *bam* the unicorn gives birth to a horned whale. Thus the narwhal came into existence. Yes it’s a bullshit story, but these days who cares? Truth is lies in this, the great Empire of Fuckballery. The only real truth remaining in this country, is that we have fucked up this entire system in hilarious fashion. I believe it was John Adams that said “No democracy has ever lasted longer than 250 years.” Well, thanks a lot, John. We are at 240 and goddamn have we blown this fucker out of the water in spectacular fashion.

I really wish reanimation was a thing so that I could bring back the Founding Fathers. I’d sit them down in front of their faithful and laugh my ass off as they start to realize that everything they had imagined for this country has been dropped in a vat of acid. Fuck King George III, we are living in the age of Trump and Adolph Bannon. Try throwing a tea party today in Boston Harbor, and the cold black boot of government fuckery will stomp you like a lizard. There is no place in this America for noble patriotism bubba. You either fall in line or it’s the stockade for you, Peggy Sue. So, what do you do in times like this? When the future seems so bleak that even Van Morrison can’t write lyrics dark enough? Simple, kids. Step back, take a deep breath, and laugh your ass off.

I honestly have no fucking idea what Narwhals had to do with this except that Kellyanne Conway kinda looks like one. Which is fitting, because when I think of a creature that has sold it’s soul to the devil while lying about it the entire way down to hell, she fits the bill. The amazing thing to me about her role in this charade, is that in the primaries she talked about how immoral and disgusting Donald Trump was. Funny how money can change your opinion in a hurry. I remember the days when we used to make fun of Baghdad Bob. Remember that fucking guy? He was the yahoo in Iraq that kept saying the US had been driven out of Baghdad at precisely the same time US jets were landing in Baghdad airport. We laughed because his claims were so outlandish and so far from the truth, that you couldn’t help but laugh every time he opened his mouth. Fast forward 14 years and suddenly we have a whole fucking White House full of Baghdad Bob’s. Only this time no one is laughing. Well, except for those of us who saw this kinda shit coming from a mile away.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but we now live in the age of Alternative Facts. I could go outside and tell you that the sky is blue. Two hours later that angry dwarf Sean Spicer could hold a press conference, tell you the sky is green, and suddenly millions of water headed Americans would agree with him. Congratulations, America, you have officially put Idiocracy to shame. I keep asking myself how the fuck we got here, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. Ya’ll didn’t listen the first time around, I have a hard time believing you’ll listen this time. So my only advice to you is to not give a fuck, and make sure you water your plants with Brawndo three times a day. Why? Because it has what plants crave.

Sam Adams Rides the Bomb to Hell

It is currently 20 degrees out here in the Mitten, which is about 220 degrees warmer than Ann Coulter’s heart. Jesus…I didn’t last one sentence without getting personal, and why should I? That’s how the world works these days. There’s no civil discourse anymore. Fuck no, this is America, this is where a differing opinion is cause to call someone’s wife a horse fucker. It’s also the country where we have decided that unless protests are on sidewalks, far away from businesses, and basically consist of people just standing around holding signs, that they are evil and nonsensical. I, for one, am thankful that Sam Adams held neat orderly protests near the docks in 1773. God knows what kind of hell might have broken loose had he and his merry band of thugs decided to loot and riot…or at the very least dump a bunch of tea in the harbor. I’m also thankful that King George III took a look at those neat “Tax is Whack” signs they were peacefully protesting with, and came to his senses. Now that I think about it, I’m really pretty happy that Martin Luther King jr didn’t shut down any highways during the Civil Rights march. I mean, can you imagine the outcry if a bunch of black people protesting racism shut down highways leaving people with no way to get to work? Surely they would have been justified in just running those motherfuckers over. Also can’t forget Kent State. Thank god the National Guard was there to take down those hippy bastards. After all, the American Motto is: War is Sell. Can’t have a bunch of dirtballs fucking that racket up with their tree hugging crap.

Fucking hell…I’m fully invested in this piece now and I have absolutely no idea what it’s about. The stupidity of Americans? The laughable idea that people quote the founding fathers while in the same breath bitching about people protesting on freeways? Maybe I should just make this a piece of revisionist history. After all, alternative facts are the lay of the land now. Why, just yesterday, Kellyanne Conway stepped out of whatever coffin she lives in and braved the sunlight to tell the American people that the reason for the mulim refuge ban was due to the Bowling Green Massacre. Yes, a terrorist attack that NEVER happened. She claimed that most people don’t know about it because the media never covered it. Then…because that isn’t fucking weird enough, she tweeted out an apology with a link from a MEDIA source, covering the arrest of two terrorists who were suspected of being bomb makers. So, not only was there no massacre, but her apology tweet completely contradicted her statement about the media not covering it. Like, what the fuck? Is this really the reality we are in? Are people truly stupid enough to believe this “alternative fact” bullshit? I truly believe that Donald Trump could step outside the White House gates, shoot 15 people, and be celebrated for it. Sean Spicer would trot himself out and admonish the media for making it a negative story. His supporters would tweet out hillbilly bullshit like “It’s about time we had a badass in the White House!” Kellyanne Conway would take a break from her vampirical duties and inform the country that fake news had it wrong, that Trump saw a threat outside the White House and handled it himself like a true patriotic American.

Some people say I should care about this, others say don’t bother. Honestly, I’m in the middle of popping up a massive bowl of popcorn so I have a snack while watching you fuckers try to deal with this new reality. We tried warning you about this 5-6 years ago and all you did was call us crazy. Well, you certainly got us didn’t you? Enjoy your totalitarian terror, because this blood is on your hands.

The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

Our story tonight takes place at the Westin Hotel. An old relic from the roaring 20’s that lies just on the outskirts of Chicago. A place where dreams die and shadows wander. It’s a snapshot in time that only remains standing because of the tireless efforts of Mr. James Winthrop and his wife Eileen. Mr. Winthrop is not a man that gives in to the false promises of wealth or materials. Instead, James Winthrop deals in the valuable currency that is memory, or in this case, memories. He is a man who has never taken for granted fortune or luck. His hands are wrinkled and calloused from years of manual labor. At first glance, his blue eyes seem sharp and speak of years of wisdom and experience. On closer inspection, however, one can see the strain of despair that too often comes with loss and suffering. Fortunately for Mr. Winthrop, it is Christmas Eve. A night when the dreams of many come to fruition. While children around the world are tended to by a belief in Santa Clause, Mr. Winthrop will be tended to by an old hotel…and the ghosts that still walk it’s halls.

DECEMBER 24th, 2015 10:30 p.m.

James Winthrop stood in front of the entrance to the Westin Hotel. The sharp Chicago wind blew through his heart like an ice pick. It was a quiet night, one for which Mr. Winthrop was grateful. He thought of Eileen and how angry she’d be if she saw him standing outside in just a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. It was then that the tears fell. Eileen had died 22 hours earlier. Cancer of the brain was the diagnosis, chemotherapy was the cause of death. They had been married 30 years, and for 30 years she had helped him take care of this dingy broken down palace of a hotel that once stood as a monument to excess in the 1920’s. For 30 years she had spent her nights at the Westin polishing statues no one cared about, and dusting paintings no one would ever see. When asked why she would waste her time taking care of an old hotel that no one paid attention to, she would say it wasn’t the hotel she was taking care of, but the memories. The only one who understood was James.

They had bought the hotel on the cheap in 1985. James had won the lottery in the summer of, 20 million to be exact. He and Eileen had been together two years by that point. They lived in a very modest apartment in one of the rougher areas of the city. Every Sunday night, James would load up their tiny little 1984 Cherry Red Datsun and drive off to the docks. Once there, he would begin his weekly shift as a longshoremen. Some days it was runs on a tug to Cleveland, others it was a week on a freighter bound for Marquette or St. Joseph. Either way, the work was hard and not as rewarding as he would have liked it to be. When his shift was done, be it an 8 hour or an 8 day, he would take the long way home up 55 near Archer Heights. There, at the corner of Archer Avenue and South Pulaski, stood the Westin Hotel. In the 80’s it was a shell of it’s former self. The bones were still strong, it had just given in to time like so many things in life do. Back in the 20’s though, the Westin was the place to be. An expansive 4 story hotel with a wing jutting out from each side, it was home to many of the extravagant parties that have now become the stuff of legends. It’s ballroom had seen numerous fox trots, Charlestons, and even a Tango performed by Rudolph Valentino. Then, in 1929, it all crashed down. The stock market blew up and the damage was too severe for even the famed Westin to survive. To it’s credit, the Westin lasted until 1941. By then it was hemorrhaging money. The owner, a shipping magnate by name of Harold Westin, had decided enough was enough. The hotel had bankrupted him. Instead of picking himself up and moving on, Harold Westin held a banquet for his employees on the last day of business. He repaid their loyalty and hard work by filling their glasses with wine…and hemlock. A few weeks later, the stories started. Someone knew a friend of a friend, or the cousin of a girlfriend, who had seen a ghost in the window late at night, or heard distant cries coming from the bowels of the hotel as they walked by. As the years went by and the advances in technology became more and more frequent, the hotel became a thing of the past. It’s dusty halls and alleged ghosts were forgotten. At least by everyone not named James Winthrop.

As James would drive by the hotel on his way home, he imagined what it would look like in it’s glory days. Men and women dressed to the nines, large, bright, chandeliers hanging from every ceiling in the hotel. Even the large golden staircase in the middle of the lobby that greeted guests as they walked in. He could hear the sounds of the big jazz bands. Maybe it was Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz band which featured Louie Armstrong on trumpet, or maybe it was Jelly Roll Morton. Either way, he could hear the horns as loud as thunder. He could see the dance floor in the ballroom filled to capacity with young star crossed lovers carrying on like they had all the time in the world. It must have been a sight to see. Once past the hotel though, James would feel an emptiness. Like he was leaving an old friend for the last time.

Once the madness surrounding their lottery win had settled down, James and Eileen set to the task of figuring out what to do with their new found wealth. One day James casually mentioned the idea of buying the Westin. Maybe they could fix it up and have it cast as a Historical Landmark. Eileen had surprised James by agreeing with his idea. Two days later they were handed the keys, four days later, the renovation work started. All in all, it took about 27 months for the repairs to be completed. By October 8th, 1987, they had moved into a room on the first floor of the hotel. Rather than have it dedicated as a historical landmark, the Winthrops decided to use it personally. When holidays were celebrated, they invited their families to stay with them. During the summer it was friends. Despite all that, they still found time to care for the rest of the hotel. Every night around 10-10:30pm, they would start to clean, and polish, and dust. It was for all intents and purposes, a labor of love.

Fast forward 27 years to 2014, and we find the Winthrops excelling. Having played the market quite accurately through the years, James Winthrop has amassed quite a fortune. They are the happiest they have ever been. Despite not needing to work a day in their lives, they still cared for the hotel every night. Then, just as it did in 1929, it all crashed down. Eileen had been complaining of cluster headaches for weeks. After a trip to the doctor and a CT scan, the diagnosis came back: brain cancer.

Eileen had decided to go ahead with the chemotherapy treatment despite the fact that it only raised her odds of survival from 10% – 40%. The drugs hit her hard and often left her lying in bed for hours on end. The first night of treatment, James tried to stick with Eileen in the bedroom. She insisted that he get out and do his nightly duty for the hotel. So the nights went by, James polished and Eileen got sicker. By November she was barely functioning, and by Christmas Eve…well…

James shuddered as the cold Chicago air enveloped him. His eye misted as he once again pondered what Eileen’s reaction to seeing him out here would have been. He turned around and walked back inside the hotel. He sighed and looked down the first floor hallway. Tonight everything seemed longer, bigger, and emptier. He walked to the front desk and grabbed the tin of bronze polish and the dingy cloth folded up next it. He took a moment of silence for Eileen, and then, because he didn’t know what else to do with himself, he polished the statue next to the staircase in the lobby.

James had just finished polishing the 2nd statue when a voice rang out.

“Excuse me, Mr Winthrop, we can handle that.”

James whipped around and found himself staring at a man dressed in a tux.

“Who are you?” James inquired.

“My name is Harold Westin, I built this hotel.” The man replied.

“But you died years ago.”

“Indeed I did” Westin bristled. “Now as I said a moment ago, we can handle that.” Westin snapped his fingers and the hotel immediately became engulfed in light. James shut his eyes for a few moments before opening them slowly so they could adjust to the light. He gasped as he saw people running around in every direction, polishing the brass, dusting the paintings, and vacuuming the floors.

“I…I dont understand…”

“It’s simple Mr Winthrop. Tonight my employees will take care of the cleaning, because tonight you have an engagement of your own in the ballroom.”

James followed Westin all the while muttering to himself and questioning his sanity. When they reached the ballroom, Mr. Westin pulled one of the two heavy oak doors open. In the middle of the expansive ballroom sat a little table with two chairs. In the chair farthest from the door sat Eileen. James hobbled weakly to the table.

“Eileen? Is that really you?”

“It’s me James.” Eileen smiled.

James wasn’t even aware the tears had started falling until he felt them on his cheeks.

“But Eileen, you…you’re…”

“The hotel brought me back James. It brought me back so I could say goodbye.”

James wrapped his arms around Eileen as the tears flowed freely. “How am I going to live without you Eileen?”

Eileen kissed the top of his head. “I will always be with you James. Now how about we spend our last night doing something productive.”

Without warning, the sounds of the Joe “King” Oliver Creole Jazz Band blared out from the corner of ballroom.  The ballroom was suddenly filled with men and women dressed to the nines performing all sorts of dances including the fox trot, the Charleston, and Rudolph Valentino doing the Tango. James looked around and basked in the memories of yesteryear taking place all around him.

A few hours later, Mr. Westin arrived in the ballroom. The guests, the band, and the table all disappeared as he stepped foot through the doorway. “Mr. Winthrop, I must apologize, the hour is getting late and the shadows are growing long. The time for goodbyes is upon us.”

James cupped Eileen’s face in his hands. “I love you so much. I’m so sorry things ended this way.”

“Don’t be” Eileen replied. “The years I spent with you were the best I ever had. Take care James.” She kissed him one last time before slowly fading into nothingness.

James turned around and looked at Westin. “Why? Why would you do this for me?”

“You’ve taken care of this hotel for 30 years Mr. Winthrop. You preserved her memories and healed her wounds. Tonight she did the same for you. Merry Christmas, Mr. Winthrop.”

Before he could utter a word in return, Harold Westin had disappeared taking with him the bright lights and the still cleaning hotel employees. James Winthrop looked around and smiled.

******

The next morning, two policemen were finishing the last rounds of their shift when they came upon a dark lump lying in front of the doors of the Westin Hotel.

“Is that what I think it is?” The driver asked

“I don’t know, Dave. Let’s go take a look.”

They pulled the patrol car over and walked over to the hotel.

“Aww man, that’s James Winthrop. He owns this place.” Dave said.

“Is he dead?”

“Looks like he froze to death, I’m assuming he was out here for hours. Probably locked himself out of the hotel accidentally.  Can’t imagine being stuck outside in this crap with only a hoodie and jeans.”

“God, that’s terrible. I wonder why he didn’t try to get help.”

“I don’t know, but he died with a smile on his face. I’m guessing he went peacefully, so at least there’s that.”

The officer not named Dave, sighed. “Alright, let’s call this in. Hell of a way to start Christmas.”

© CJ Williamson 2016