An American Abroad

Blogging The Iliad, Book 8 – The Tide of Battle Turns

Zeus, the CEO of OlympiCorp., whose memos are scorching, summons his staff for a Saturday morning C-suite meeting. Though it’s only 9:00, he’s already in a bad mood because he had to cancel his golf game to come into the office. Then his PowerPoint presentation wouldn’t work right and his bad mood turned to fury.

(“PowerPoint?” Athena texted to Hera, who was sitting right next to her. “Who the fuck uses PowerPoint anymore?”)

(“ROFLMAO,” Hera replied.)

“OK, let’s get this thing going,” grumbled Zeus. “My intern, Sisyphus, messed up my slides, so I’m going to go bare on this. By the way, just so you don’t underestimate my wrath, Sisphyus is now doomed for eternity to using Windows Vista 2006.”

A subtle, collective gasp went up from the conference room table and the room fell silent.

“Now that I’ve got your attention,” continued Zeus, whose waistline is substantial, with a smirk on his bearded face, “let’s get down to business. You know why we’re here. This Trojan War thing is getting completely out of hand. What are you immortals doing messing around with it? It makes us all look foolish and it’s starting to affect our bottom line. Burnt offerings have fallen off 6.7% in the last quarter. I’m getting calls from our biggest stockholders.”

He paused for a moment to let that sink in.

“Did any of you see the article in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal?” he continued. “Anyone?”

(Hera discreetly slipped her mobile phone into her lap and texted Athena, “Who the fuck reads the Wall Street Journal anymore?”)

(“BigZ does, apparently,” she texted back.)

Zeus glared at them.

“It said investors are starting to lose confidence in our enterprise,” Zeus continued. “Too much instability, they think. Even Buffet, who usually doesn’t bother with the day-to day, is pissed.”

He paused.

“So,” he went on, raising his voice, “I’m going to put a stop this right here, right now. If there’s any more—ANY more—intervention in this stupid war by ANY of you on EITHER side, you can start boxing up your office. Don’t mess with me on this, because my shield is thunder. Disobey me and YOU WILL ATONE! I will go all medieval on your immortal asses!”

There was an uncomfortable silence around the conference room table.

Finally Athena spoke up, timidly. “Father Zeus, whose stock options are formidable, um, would it be OK if we didn’t actually go and fight with the Achaeans but just gave them some cheat codes and tactics and stuff?”

Zeus looked furious for a moment, as if he was going to start some serious smiting. But then abruptly his face relaxed into a godlike grin.

“Hey. I was just fuckin’ with you. And you fell for it! You shoulda seen the look on your faces!”

And mighty Zeus, whose laugh is two Buicks rubbing together, broke out into gales of mirth. Literal gales. But then he stopped abruptly.

“But don’t you dare test me on this,” he added, glaring at his wife and daughter.

(Hera discreetly texted Athena, “My husb can be SUCH an asshole…”)

And the meeting broke up.

Down on the field of battle, the Trojans have apparently eaten their Wheaties. Hector, especially, is putting a big hurt on the Achaeans, cutting them apart and pushing them back to their ships. Zeus is firing up the Trojans, while Hera pleads with first one god and then another to intervene on the Achaean side. But the morning meeting with Zeus has had its effect. No one is in the mood to join the losing side at this point.

Even Athena has to be cajoled. But finally she agrees to join Hera in saving what’s left of the Achaean lines. And once again, Zeus is pissed.

He calls another meeting, but since Hera and Athena are busy saving the Achaeans’ asses, they Skype in. By this point, Zeus, whose blood pressure is alarming, has worked himself up into a lather. A literal lather. He promises vengeance on any of the gods who help the Achaean side. And he has some choice words for his wife and daughter, calling former the b-word at one point. But he has trouble with the Skype interface, so it’s unclear whether Athena and Hera get the message.

And the sun finally goes down before the Trojans can mop up what remains of the Achaean forces.

Blogging The Iliad, Book 7 – Ajax Duels with Hector

When I was in the third grade, I was discussing global politics with some of my classmates. The Cold War was on and had heated up in Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, and elsewhere. None of us knew much about the Cold War or the Soviet Union, but of course … [Continue reading]

Blogging The Iliad, Book 6 – Hector Returns to Troy

In this chapter, Homer goes full soap opera. Knowing there's a good chance he will be killed and Troy will fall, Hector goes to see his mother, his brother, his wife, and his infant son. This is the first time Homer devotes a whole chapter to Hector, … [Continue reading]

Blogging The Iliad, Book 5 – Diomedes Fights the Gods

I returned to The Iliad after a two-week absence and found this chapter waiting for me. Here, the focus of the story shifts radically from the kings and generals of the earlier chapters to the soldiers fighting in the fields. Dozens of new characters … [Continue reading]

Blogging The Iliad, Book 4 – The Truce Erupts in War

My friend Neil Gussman, the foremost of the people who inspired me to read The Iliad, tells me that it's a book about the messy realities of war, a story for and by soldiers. I finally saw what he was talking about in Book 4. There’s an intro … [Continue reading]

Blogging The Iliad, Book 3 – Helen Reviews the Champions

OK, just finished Book 3 of The Iliad. Finally we get the sex and violence. But no one comes out of this chapter looking good. Paris is (pardon the expression) a pussy. Menelaus is befuddled. Helen lacks agency. Aphrodite is a troublemaker. And all … [Continue reading]

Blogging The Iliad, Book 2 – The Great Gathering of Armies

In the course of my research about this chapter, I found a transcript of Homer’s meeting with his editor where they discuss this chapter: Homer: My loyal friend and staunchest promoter, Oeditus, I bring you greetings from Hellas where the … [Continue reading]

Blogging The Iliad, Book 1 – The Rage of Achilles

OK, I finished Book 1 of The Iliad and I'm pretty disgusted with this Achilles guy. He seems like a wus to me. He whines like a little bitch that Agamemnon doesn't appreciate him. When Agamemnon forces him to give up Briseis, the concubine he … [Continue reading]

Tarping in Chupacabra Country

We met at 9:30 Saturday morning at a Thai restaurant in Santurce. The eight of us loaded up three SUVs with water filter kits, tarps, tools, a generator, gasoline, diapers, OTC meds, and water. I lashed a ladder to the roof rack of the … [Continue reading]

United for Utuado

It was 60 days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. After an 80-minute drive from San Juan, 17 of us rendezvoused in Utuado, a down-at-the-heels town in central Puerto Rico. The owners of a fabric store there allow United for Utuado … [Continue reading]