March 17, 2011

Our love is like the border between Greece and Albania
Trucks loaded down with weapons
Crossing over every night



Martin Amis

* From The Stoner Arms Dealers, the story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, the 20-somethings who won a very lucrative arms contract with GW Bush's Defense Department to arm America's allies in Afghanistan:

Packouz was baffled, stoned and way out of his league. "It was surreal," he recalls. "Here I was dealing with matters of international security, and I was half-baked. I didn't know anything about the situation in that part of the world. But I was a central player in the Afghan war — and if our delivery didn't make it to Kabul, the entire strategy of building up the Afghanistan army was going to fail. It was totally killing my buzz. There were all these shadowy forces, and I didn't know what their motives were. But I had to get my shit together and put my best arms-dealer face on."
...
Once a week or so, the pair would hit the clubs of South Beach to let off steam. Karaoke in a basement bar called the Studio was a favorite. Packouz took his performances seriously, choosing soulful music like U2's "With or Without You" or Pearl Jam's "Black," while Diveroli threw himself into power ballads and country anthems, tearing off his shirt and pumping his fists to the music. Between songs, the two friends would take hits of the cocaine that Diveroli kept in a small plastic bullet with a tiny valve on the top for easy access. Packouz was shy around girls, but Diveroli cut right to the chase, often hitting on women right in front of their boyfriends.

All the partying wasn't exactly conducive to running a small business, especially one as complicated and perilous as arms dealing. As AEY grew, it defaulted on at least seven contracts, in one case failing to deliver a shipment of 10,000 Beretta pistols for the Iraqi army. Diveroli's aunt — a strong-willed and outspoken woman who fought constantly with her nephew — joined the two friends to provide administrative support. She didn't approve of their drug use, and she talked openly about them on the phone, as if they weren't present.
...
The Flamingo was a constant party," Packouz says. "The marketing slogan for the building was 'South Beach revolves around us,' and it was true. There was drinking, dancing, people making out in the Jacuzzi — sometimes more than just making out. Outside my balcony there was always at least a few women sunbathing topless. People at parties would ask us what we did for a living. The girls were models or cosmetologists. The guys were stockbrokers and lawyers. We would say we were international arms dealers. 'You know the war in Afghanistan?' we would say. 'All the bullets are coming from us.' It was heaven. It was wild. We felt like we were on top of the world."

In the evenings, Packouz and Diveroli would get high and go to the American Range and Gun Shop — the only range near Miami that would let them fire off the Uzis and MP5s that Diveroli was licensed to own. "When we let go with our machine guns, all the other shooters would stop and look at us like, 'What the fuck was that?' Everyone else had pistols going pop pop. We loved it. Shooting an automatic machine gun feels powerful."

- read the whole thing, it's fascinating.

* William Shatner performs Bernie Taupin and Elton John's Rocket Man.

* "Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art; it is the part the schools cannot recognize." -- James Joyce

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