Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Haiti Celebrates 200 Years of Democracy: The neo-Federalist architecture of the Knickerbocker Club is not exactly your taste. It's too derivative and a bit pompous in the wrong sort of way. But Franklin Delano Roosevelt is insisting.

"I won't do this anywhere else," the late President says from the eighth circle of Hell. "It has to be the Knickerbocker or else why bother, really?"

You can hear the click, click of his cigarette holder against his molars. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on edge. How are you going to tell FDR that they have banned smoking in New York City?

"Fine, Frank. We'll do it at the Knick. I'll call the others."

Your assistant struggles to dial Strobe Talbot's phone number. The keypad is difficult for her to reach with her legs shackled to your desk. Lately, you've been trying the Secretary thing but it isn't really working out. You're not really a sadist and she's not really a masochist. As she dials you wonder whether the ashtray will fall off the back of her head before the glass of scotch tips into the small of her back, and you realize the problem might be her beauty. She's too pretty to hurt.

"Strobe, Frank wants to do this thing at the Knickerbocker club at 3. Can you make it?"

"Motherfucker. I'm supposed to be meeting with the motherfucking Russians to see what we can do to put an end to Putin's inane crackdown on the Oligarchs. Doesn't he realize that in a democracy, the Oligarchs get to run things? Moron."

"This is important. Dnasty is going to be there."

"Really? Fine. Fuck the Oligarchs, then."

You're planning a party to celebrate 200 years of Democracy in Haiti. So far you've got FDR, Strobe and D-Nasty on the planning committee.

"This is going to be a good party," you tell your assistant. She turns to you to smile, and the shackles jingle.

The porter hands you an envelope as you enter the cards and games room in the cellar of the Knickerbocker club. You hit the exacta in the sport of kings yesterday, and you can feel the bulk of a few inches of currency as you insert it into your pocket. You worry it may break the line of your suit. Maybe you should ask the porter to have the envelope delivered to your apartment, or just left with the club to cover the dues.

Dnasty has a glass of 18-year Oban between him and the Stratego board. It is only 3:20 in the afternoon.

On the other side of the cardboard game board sits Franklin Roosevelt, who was the President of the Untied States before he died. You've arranged for his return to help you plan a party celebrating 200 years of Haitian democracy. Before he was President, Franklin was Secretary of the Navy and helped write Haiti's constitution. You felt he should be honored at the party. He still smells slightly of sulphur and you wonder with Chris French will be able to get the stench out of his clothes before this Friday.

Franklin's face is contorted into a frown. Dnasty's beating him badly in Stratego. You want to tell Dnasty that he should let the dead President win his first game back from the underworld but nothing smells as nice to Dnasty in the afternoon as victory. Except scotch. Or money.

Dnasty is winning so easily that he's hardly even paying attention to the game. He's sending someone text messages on his phone. Over his shoulder you see him typing the words, "and a bitch ain't one." Dnasty, you think, you can't use your phone in here. Even to send text messages.

Strobe Talbot walks in just behind you. It's time for the meeting to begin. You set out the order of speakers, with Strobe and Franklin speaking first as representatives of the many American officials who have helped foster the thriving democracy that is the Republic of Haiti. You'll speak next, introducing Dnasty. Dnasty gets top honors, and will unveil MassiveBank's new program granting foreign internships to heavily armed-Haitian rebels.

"I've seen these guys, sleeplessly waging war fueled by nothing but cocaine and the promise of power and wealth. These guys have a future in investment banking," Dnasty says.

You can see Franklin's pupils contract as he looks over your shoulders. Alcibiades is pushing his way past the porter into the cards and games room. He's drunk, obviously. His robe is stained with God knows what. You look pleadingly at the porter: please don't tell the board about this.

"You're fucked," Alcibiades slurs. The rebels have taken Port-au-Prince. Aristide, that gentle, bespeckled prince of Haitian democracy has fled the country, has fled. He's gone to the Central African Republic.

"Why the fuck would anyone go there?"

"He tried to go to South Africa but got turned away," Alcibiades explains. Alcibiades knows the perils of foreign adventures, having failed so disastrously with the Sicilian expedition. That was the end of his career in defense policy but he still makes a good living on the college speaking circuit.

"Shit. The Central African Republican is a complete shithole. It's like fleeing to, uhm, Haiti," you say.

Dnasty has captured Franklin's flag. Franklin violates house rule number four by using his cell phone in the club. It's a six-six-six area code but you don't recognize which circle of Hell has a 475 exchange. "Ike, they fucked me. And they're still fucking up Haiti. I'll be back by dinner. Shall we say eight?"

Dnasty empties his Oban, and then tries to explain where the Central African Republic is to Strobe. "Okay, you know Mediterranean Avenue? That shitty little property right next to Go in Monopoly. It's like that, only you never get to pass go, and if you ever collected $200 your neighbors would get together to kill you and devour your innards."

Your phone rings. It's Eurotrash. You won't answer the phone in the club but you don't have to. She's with Maccers in Public, already drunk at half-past five. You can't wait to join them and raise a glass to this latest chapter of Haitian democracy.