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Part 2 of the Bird
6. Five years earlier, from the bottom bunk of a holding cell in the Clatsop County courthouse, a younger Jessica made a cackling confession of sorts to the gray-haired guard everyone called Birch. She wore bleached yellow hair at the time, and it was longer. Her name—the name she was going by—wasn’t Jessica, then, either, and she spoke with a fake Texas accent as part of the persona she had been portraying for the last several months in Astoria. “Tell me, how do you do it?” “Do what Birch?” She said without looking up and slowly rolling the small cigarette in her crossed-legged lap and her back against the wall. “How is it you have them chase you like that? Why are they crazy for you?” “Oh, you mean that out there?” She laughs. The proceedings of her trial had been put on recess, for a young girl had given sworn testimony from the stand that the bleach haired girl on trial—who went by Audrey Burns—was the same girl with whom she had a relationship and that Audrey Burns was not her real name at all and that she had, in fact, disclosed plans to manipulate the middle aged wife of the late, local banker, Mr. Schilling, through her romantic affair with the older woman, so that she could obtain titles for a small collection of antique automobiles and several acres of coveted land in Thurston County, Washington. The defendant’s plan, so the girl said, had been to leave the older woman by fall of the following year, once everything was in order, and then, she would run away with the witness. The trial had already been shrouded in scandal. Affairs with wives of successful business men was gossip enough to keep anyone interested in the small town of Astoria and all the more so when that affair, from what it seemed, involved another woman rather than a man. It had attracted many spectators and generated headlines which sold local newspapers faster than they could be printed, so that the courtroom was full when the still pretty, middle-aged Miss Schilling heard the testimony concerning her former lover’s trickery and intentions to leave her for the younger girl. Miss Schilling had gasped audibly and stood up and rushed towards the bench but was held back by the crowd. The bailiffs stood in her way, besides, and after a moment she fainted, flopped out onto the floor like a sweaty, wet rag of nerves and hurt for all the simple farm folk to see. It was then that the judge’s gavel clapped loudly into the courtroom, calling for order and threatening contempt, and then, he called a recess while this new information could be processed, while it was determined what to do now that the defendant’s supposed identity might not be her identity at all. The guard continued with his questions to the girl on the bunk. “You know what I mean. That out there, yeah! Where I’m from, girls don’t like girls, at least not as I know.” “There’s a lot to it, Birch. First of all, some girls do like girls, obviously. You see me don’t you? Secondly, you have to remember that I’ve got a leg up, because I am a woman. Then, most women, maybe 99% of them operate like clocks and horses.” “Clocks and horses?” “Yeah. Clocks and horses. You got a match? Light my cigarette,” she asks and stands up to walk over to the guard on the other side of the bars. “Sure. They say they gonna make smoking in jails illegal one of these days, ban cigarettes in facilities like this one all across the nation,” he says striking a match, cupping one hand and holding out the flame for her to light the smoke. “I’ll believe it when I see it, Birch… thanks.” Now, she moves back to the bunk, clearing her throat and continuing her dissertation. “They’re like clocks, man. They all need one thing, and once you figure out how to wind ’em up, just like a clock, they start ticking. They can’t help it, and they don’t know why, just like a clock can’t help it. It doesn’t know why it ticks. It just ticks.” “What’s that?” “What’s what? What winds ’em up?” “Yeah.” “Desire, Birch, desire. They all need, have to be desired. Now, that doesn’t mean just because you desire a woman, she’ll desire you back. No, sir. Not at all!” “Hmm…” “Yeah, Birch, like a horse.” “Like a horse?” “You ever try to walk up to a horse?” “Yeah.” “What happens?” “They step back, move away from you.” “Right. And what happens when you turn your back to them and walk away, huh? I’ll tell you what happens, they follow you, try to stick their heads in your business and get your attention. Try real hard. Of course, that’s all a gross oversimplification of the realities at work, there, Birch, but it’s a crude illustration for a crude man. Something even you can understand.” “Crude? I’m not a crude man. You’re the one in here talking about women like they’re inanimate objects and animals.” “You’re not? Hmm… well, then what’re you asking about all this stuff for, huh? And, besides, if you only listened to what I’m saying, Birch, you’d understand it’s not that, not exactly. What I’m talking about are mechanics and attraction. You’re a man, though. You wouldn’t get it, and that’s why I do. That’s why I get them.” She rolls her head back and laughs pressing her shoulder blades into the wall behind her bunk. “All of them?” “Nah. You can’t bat 1.000, but you can bat .300, and that’s pretty good, Birch. Almost one out of the three and stop wasting your time with the rest.” The light skinned guard scratches his mustache and stares at the girl on her bunk through the bars and shakes his head. It is nothing he’s ever heard before. And he stares at her more intently, now, pondering her mechanics, what makes her tick, what makes her think like that. Is she human? “And what about you, girl?” “What about me?” “Don’t you need anything?” “I never thought about it. Funny, huh?” “What about love? Don’t you want love?” “Love? Love…” she asks staring at the ground and coldly replying, now, “I don’t know what love is Birch, and I don’t think I’m capable of it. That’s ok, though. That’s how I want it.” 7. This morning the women brush their teeth in the bathroom. Both stare into the mirror and smile at each other through it, and for a moment, Jessica looks at herself, recalls who and how she was before and during the trial, how she’d ruthlessly manipulated the vulnerabilities of Miss Schilling and meant to rob her of the things her husband had left her. It is hard to imagine that she was that way, and the words she’d said to Birch from the bunk come back to her, “I don’t know what love is Birch, and I don’t think I’m capable of it.” She knows that all that has changed and is embarrassed for having ever said it, and now, she spits into the sink and looks at Eleonore who presses a finger into the white line of shrunken scar tissue in Jessica’s chin and mumbles through the foamy toothpaste in her mouth, “That’s cute.” And Jessica remembers the fight in prison when she got it. It was less than 18 months ago. Jessica lets the last snow on the ground crunch beneath her shoes as she watches Eleonore feed the animals and do this or that. It is a sunny day. Back inside, they sit on the couch or roll around in bed with fingers twirling hair and wet breath whispers of love against sweaty foreheads or the soft skin of Eleonore’s ear pressed into Jessica’s bony, bare shoulders. There are moments when they wonder what they’ll do, how this will all end. They forget where they are. They forget about everything. In that time, there is only the other, so that their days and nights become mixed, and as the first blue light of the day comes through the window one morning, both girls startle in bed to stare wide-eyed at each other. Something is stirring in the living room, a mad black being come to execute judgement upon them and their lives of sin. Their hearts drop in their chests, and for a moment, there is a desperate, futile squirming in their bodies trying to get up and run but unable, paralyzed by fear. Now, the doorknob to the bedroom is turning and the large silhouette of the man Eleonore has betrayed, the man whose life Jessica has destroyed, appears in the doorway. It is a moment of terror for the girls. A speechless choking comes from the man’s throat as he stands over the bed and pulls the covers back to find the two soft white bodies clutching themselves, shielding their bodies from his view. He walks out of the room and returns almost immediately with the splitting maul, raising above his head and putting a hole in the mattress where Jessica lay only seconds before. He chases the skinny, shrieking naked body around the house with the weapon and catches her in the bony part of her wrist. The cold metal nicks her collar bone and leaves another gash on the side of her head and ear. It is total chaos as the two women flail. Eleonore is pleading with the man and chasing from behind as she tries to stop him, until he smashes her in the head and face with her crystal glass candy tray. She is left a mound of soft white flab moaning and staggered on the cold terrazzo. And Jessica bounces off the couches and slides across the table and crawls on the floor and runs this way and that as the man continues to swing the maul, until she is finally outside, naked and bleeding in the snow. Steam rises from her sweaty chest in the cold. The sun is just up, now, above the hill. It is too much for her, as her body gives out on her she lies on her back looking up at the man who is raising the heavy wooden handled weapon above his head. She thinks that she never expected this, didn’t expect to die in this way, but here it is. The moment of her death had arrived. And before the maul comes down to end her life, a mortal clang rings out, and the man falls. Eleonore’s cast iron skillet—all 20 pounds of it—has bruised his brain and left a flat indentation in his skull. The girls shake, pale and bleeding in places, and they get dressed and pull the motionless body into the house. It is quiet for an hour or so as they recover, wiping blood from their faces. Jessica pinches her ear to stop the bleeding. Now, Eleonore is pacing and wringing her hands and repeating over and over, “Jessica, what do we do? Huh, Jessica? What Jessica?” And now the other girl screams, “My name is not Jessica!” The accent from her childhood, the one from Maine, can be heard. “My name’s not Jessica. It’s Christina. Look, Eleonore, there’s a lot for us to talk about. There’s a lot you need to know, but for now, we’ve got to figure this out. Okay?” To which Eleonore nods her head. “Now, the way I see it, they’ll give us both the chair for this. You most of all, so we’ve got to be each other’s everything from here on out. Okay? I’ve got 700 dollars hidden in the lining of my bag and some IDs that’ll work for me. We can get rid of the truck somewhere. We’ll make it.” Eleonore stares looking dreadfully down at her husband on the floor. A think pink fluid has leaked from his nose, and his chest heaves as he gargles and struggles to breathe. Foamy spittle forms at his mouth. his face is darker, purple in the nose and cheeks. Other parts of his face are turning green. “What about him?” she asks. “He’ll die, soon, from the looks of it. The case will be attempted murder, even if he doesn’t, Eleonore. You hear me? We leave him. Before we leave, we have to get your blood on the floor and out to the driveway. No one knows I’m here, right? Right, Eleonore?” “I don’t think so,” she says with folded arms. “No.” “Okay. I’ll get the keys. And one last thing, Eleonore. Do you have any money or jewelry here?” The fatter, shorter woman walks into the kitchen and opens the freezer and pulls out what looks like packages of frozen meat wrapped in white butcher paper and spreads them out on the floor, until she grabs one and stands up and says, “This is it. Should be about 14,000. Our life’s savings.” They sit in the house for hours after that, waiting for night and listening to the labored breath of the man dying on the floor. Eleonore cries at different times. Jessica frowns in the corner, occasionally trying to comfort her lover with words and brief shoulder rubs, but other than that, there is nothing to say, just worried looks shared between them. Finally, it is midnight. The girls step out into the cold darkness. They start the truck and leave that house behind them, forever. 8. The thing which had been shared early in the girls three months together at the house, the thing about Virgos being a reserved and shy woman, waiting for something, open to change and new ways of way life proved to be truer about Eleonore than they could have been for anyone else, Virgo or not. It was a slow journey across the country to Cleveland. The two sat in the cab of the old truck. And Eleonore learned all about the girl she’d only recently learned to love and had called Jessica. Her name, as she said before, was Christina. The last name was Sullivan, and she spoke quietly to round, pink faced woman in the passenger seat as she drove, spoke about her early life as the only child of an impoverished and married couple on a cursed bog of a property in rural Maine. Her father drowned in drink, and her mother spent nights out with other men, known for her harlotry and the shame her life brought on her family and their Irish ancestors. By the time the young girl turned 12, her mother had moved into an old house and gotten the same strange, androgenous haircut as the other bug-eyed men and women living in the house. They called themselves the Howardites after their leader, the lanky and long faced theologian, Dr. Howard. By 14, the girl’s mother and her new clan moved out west, never to be seen or heard from again by the quiet fishermen and farm folk of the small town. As her old man lay dying in drink around the house and the adolescent girl starved, the young Christina Sullivan left her home with what could be contained in a small piece of luggage. There were things which made the transition into a life of homelessness at such a young age easier than perhaps it should have been. The difficulty of her life up to then was one. The other was the transient family of grifters who took her in and taught her everything she needed to thrive from a life of dishonesty and tricks. Only catch to it all was the constant need to move from city to city or town to town and change name after name, so that the things they did couldn’t be traced. It was the constant pressure from the traditional clan to marry their second son which pushed her away. She couldn’t do it. They didn’t understand. By 16, she was once again on her own, only now living from woman to woman for as long as her personalities and selfishness would allow or moving on when she thought the authorities might be sniffing her trail. Like her father, though, she learned to love the bottle. With the liquor came a tendency to abuse her partners. She hurled hurtful words at the women, and two of her younger lovers, one the daughter of a police chief in Wisconsin and the other an immigrant heiress studying to become a doctor in Ohio, had felt the backs of the young Christina Sullivan’s knuckles across their faces. It was shameful for the lost girl when she did things like that, and upon seeing the bruises on her lovers’ faces, she disappeared to a new town with a new name, new accent and a new story about where and how she grew up. Three and a half years in a state prison had always been a matter of time for her doing the things she was doing. It all just happened to happen in Oregon. She got out, though, and continued living just as before. A significant contact had been made with a man named Jimmy “the Joker” Madsen, who was the brother of Christina’s girlfriend in prison, and the two of them, Christina and the Joker, had spent a month in Slidell, Louisiana basement refashioning the lettering on identification cards and relaminating them or reworking the numbers on cashier’s checks. They’d spent the months before that blowing their loot from the last big score they’d hit. It was a new girl for each at a new five-star restaurant every night and a new penthouse suite afterwards, every night. That’s the way it went for the fraudsters, but somewhere north of Salt Lake City, on the night that Eleonore found her, the Joker had gotten tired of his female cohort’s antics. The drink made her difficult. And apparently, something ugly had been said, and instead of beating her as he would have any of his previous, male partners, he pulled out of the car and left her in the rest stop bathroom outside of Pocatello. Eleonore watches her lips move in the dark, recounting the events of her life and the way she’d ended up at that quiet farmhouse in southern Idaho in the first place, as they drive through Wyoming and move down into Colorado and across the top of Kansas eventually getting into Ohio. The story is fascinating, more interesting than anything Eleonore has ever known, and as they move farther and farther away from the house where she lived all those years with the man now presumably dead, hopefully dead, the life is something she wants. It is her partner’s life, and so it is her life, too, for this was the way that her life had gone. “Well, what are we going to do, Jess…” She laughs, “I almost called you Jessica.” “It’s Christina. If you can’t remember, just call me Bird or Birdy.” “Bird?” “Yeah. It’s my nickname.” “Oh… is that why you have the tattoo?” “Well… yeah, I guess it is.” “Okay, Birdy, what are we going to do?” “I should still have some connections here. We can get rid of the truck cleanly and make a few bucks, besides. Then, I’ve got some people. People we need to make this work. We’ll get what we need and move on over to somewhere else, careful to scrub our tracks. How long you think it’ll be before anyone finds him?” “Who?” “What do you mean who? The man, your husband.” “Well, he’s not my husband, not anymore,” she laughs. “Are you really laughing?” “I don’t know. It’s not funny. That’s not why I’m laughing. It’s because I’m nervous, because I feel bad.” “Well, how long do you think before someone realizes?” “Months. He won’t be missed until work needs him again, but even then, it might take a lot longer. No one goes out to the house. We don’t see family but once a year, if that.” “Okay. Good. We have some time, then. We’ll make a pretty penny for ourselves before anyone notices, and by then, we won’t be us.” “We won’t be us?” “No. If we’re not us, then we’re not responsible for any murder or stealing this truck or any of the rest of it. Right?” “Hmm… yes. True!” “It is true.” The two exiled women survive through the dishonest means which are available to them. One month they are in Dade County laundering money for drug dealers with casino chips, and the next, they are in Los Angeles creating and selling fake passports. After that they spend several months lying low in quiet Marfa, Texas or somewhere like it. Eleonore learns to go by new names, learns to be from different places. It is, for that first year, one long honeymoon of romance and crime and the excitement of knowing that it could all crumble at any moment, and if it should, their lives will end behind bars or in the electric chair. Sometimes, they purchase vehicles which they sell just across the border in Nuevo Laredo or Monterrey, and while passing through the bottom corner of Utah, they stop to eat at a diner. The lovers buy a newspaper and see in the back a small picture of Eleonore in black and white, though she looks much younger and skinnier in it. Attached is an article recounting the heartless murder of her husband and how his wife, the Mormon woman pictured, might still be alive, somewhere. The money they make in their criminal ventures is more than they know what to do with, so after they’ve collected a substantial sum, they stop to live in some quiet place to spend it. They pretend to be sisters or travelling artists. They call it downtime, and during such times, their first fights start. Alcohol shows itself to be a problem. And a black leather baby’s shoe sits on the ledge in the window of whatever domicile they inhabit. Every day the taller of the two fills it with new rice. This is her superstition, a sort of idol or charm that wards off the bad spirits which bring things like attention from the police or trouble from anyone, and it does the job, or at least, it seems to, but it doesn’t make their relationship work. Eleonore endures the drunken meanness of her long-legged lover, the one she calls Bird, when the drink flows and the money rolls in places like Miami or New York City or New Orleans, and the things she says make Eleonore close-lipped, make Eleonore fold her arms and scowl. Affection between the two dries up, and sometimes, they go a week or more without even talking, so that Eleonore has watched her lover drunkenly bring home prostitutes just to hurt her, just to stick it in Eleonore’s face. And when it gets close to a breaking point, just when it cannot be endured for one more night, apologies are made. They always sound the same, and the peace never lasts more than a few months. The beginning of their third autumn together, they retire to a small, drafty studio in San Francisco. They’d spent the last part of July and most of August printing cashier’s checks and cashing them in different stores in the suburbs and metropolitan areas around Seattle. Eleonore, at this time, was having trouble healing from a spider bite on her leg and had been to the hospital on several occasions, and because of their visits, questions had been asked, so that both women began to fear an end to their run. It was on the afternoon that they found cops waiting in the parking lot of their hotel when they decided to leave for San Francisco. And by September second, that baby’s shoe—made of black leather—was full of rice and sitting on the window sill of a third-floor apartment with a dirty wooden floor on Market Street. In that room, Eleonore can barely stand to look at her lover, anymore. They do not kiss. They do not hold hands. There has been too much hurt, even as she has sobered up for the last several months and has taken care of the spider bite, and finally, the one called Birdy is gone for a day and comes home late the next afternoon, stumbling and cursing and pushing the sickly Eleonore around the room. She breaks her finger on Eleonore’s face. Eleonore expected to come at some point. And there it was. In the tumult, the shoe full of rice plummets to the wet concrete below and has spilled its contents all over the pavement. The next morning is colder and wetter than it should be. And it is grey. Birdy gets dressed and asks Eleonore if she would like to take a walk, to get the leg moving and herself out of the musky room for an hour. By ten o’clock, they are being rained on and take shelter on the underground subway platform by Mission and 24th. It is here that the taller, short haired of the two begins to cry. She says, “Eleonore, I love you. I know that I haven’t shown you that. You deserve more from me, but I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can give it to you.” “Don’t…” Eleonore reaches out to touch her hand. But as she does, the D train is entering the station, and with that, Eleonore’s lover, the girl from Maine, falls backwards onto the track. The sound makes Eleonore hold her fingers in her ears, and she stands for a moment looking down at the bottom of the train, and the alarm bells are going off for the body on the tracks, so she runs. After that, she collects their remaining money and IDs and takes a bus to Portland and over to Las Vegas and over to Cincinnati. She wanders the Midwest and up and down the eastern seaboard as the money dwindles, a shadow of herself. That extra weight comes off of her body more quickly than she’d ever have imagined. Her heart is broken. Food doesn’t taste good, anymore, and everything reminds her of Jessica—or Christina, if that was her real name—her long legged and only true love, Birdy. Somewhere outside of Austin, Texas she shaves her hair, so that she is bald, and pays 89 dollars for the sign of the Virgo to be tattooed into her forehead, half as an act of mourning and remembrance of her lost love and half as a means to keep anyone from ever being able to identify her. There are 9,000 dollars left in her possession when she hitches a ride out of Albuquerque with a man named David Brown towing an empty horse trailer. He calls himself D and tells her he knows of a few acres of land that already has a dwelling on it in the desert outside of Taos. “You can buy an acre for 2,000 from my friend Junior Valdez. Would you want it?” “Yeah. I think I do.” “What’s your name anyway?” And Eleonore thinks of the name on the only ID card she has left, the first one they’d made for her after they ran from Pocatello three years ago. “My name?” she asks. “Yeah.” “My name is Mary,” she whispers and then says louder. “Yeah. You can call me Mary.”
Howdy there partners, and welcome to the Wasteland’s finest rodeo! Down here in Texas and good old Oklahoma, things work differently from the rest of the Wasteland. Oh yes, you see here we’re a fine folk, a refined folk, the kind of people who greet you with smiles and a face-full of buckshot if you even think about whipping out your tire iron. Yes, life here is simple, rustic, and downright apocalyptic... The region in all its glory! That’s right Wastelanders, it’s time for another exciting dev diary! Today, we’re focusing on just some of the map changes and additions brought to you by the team. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll reveal more about the factions you see before you, more of our other map changes, and give you some tasty insight into the way things work past the Legion’s border.To begin with though, why don’t we delve deep into the twisted guts of the map itself, and pull back the veil on this beautiful view you’d love to call home. Aren't provinces beautiful? Every map expansion begins here, the province map. For this update, a big focus for me was returning to my roots when it came to province design. More small, organic provinces, built up into many states that a great number of nations can occupy. The new playable region brought forth in 3.0 feels as dense and lively as the West Coast, without having nearly as many provinces dotted along its shoreline. There’s a vast variety of terrain in 3.0, from jungle, to marsh, to plains, urban, and deserts. 3.0 feels and plays like a small microcosm of the larger map, an area rich with lore from a game many people don’t even know about.Before we talk about that, though, let’s take a look at the states. Dare you count all these states? If you took the arduous time to count all of that before reading, let’s see if you were right! That’s 96 new states. Oh yes my friends, that’s right, your faithful friend here didn’t stutter now, did I? We’ve got 96 new states for you to control, conquer, and explore in 3.0: and they’re full of interesting characters.Why don’t we get on to that, actually? In 3.0, we’re representing the lore of the often hated and forgotten Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, as well as it’s cancelled sequel; Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2. Many of you may have never heard about these games, let alone played the first, so it’s time for a little history lesson. After the defeat of Unity, the super mutant army of the Master fractured into many pieces. Two leaders arose from the ashes, and they led large hordes of mutants out of California to greener pastures for plunder and glory. The important one is Attis, who led his new troops to Texas, in an attempt to uncover the secrets of FEV. A brotherhood detachment had already left to face off against the first mutant general, and with Attis’ departure, another group inside the Western Brotherhood wanted to chase them down. The Council of Elders said no, fearing another disaster like that which had happened to the first group, but ultimately a splinter faction formed. It was led by none other than High Elder Rhombus, and he led a group of scribes and paladins to chase down the largest super mutant army in the West, forming what would later be known as the “Texas Expedition.”Settling into the heartland of Texas, this new offshoot developed themselves, recruiting from the local population. They ran them through a training course utilising hologram technology, turning them into initiates. One of these initiates became the protagonist of Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, and went on a large journey, tracking Attis all the way to his target destination: the Secret Vault. The Secret Vault was the holy grail for Attis, a place where the secrets of FEV were laid bare, and the secret headquarters of Vault-Tec. Built under the nose of the US, it was the control centre of all Vault-Tec infrastructure, designed to facilitate what Vault-Tec promised thousands of Americans: a safe life underground. The Vault was equipped with state of the art facilities to conduct unethical experiments, and was staffed by unique robots unlike anything the player had ever seen before, or since. Attis would eventually turn himself into a true abomination, an amalgamation of flesh and FEV, taking after the Master’s image in a final face-off against the protagonist. Thus ended Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 1. We must now go more than a hundred years into the future, a mere decade before OWB starts. The Brotherhood have consolidated their power, but outside threats are pressuring their organisation. Attis Army has split into two halves, led by two mutants respectively. Shale, a die-hard mutant supremacist who wants to reform the Army, and Keats; a super mutant who wishes to create a place in which super mutants and humans live and work together in harmony, free from oppression. But underneath the surface, a great plot is brewing. Reese, a former member of the Cyphers, a group who despise technology in all its forms, has acquired a broken GECK. This GECK has the ability to mutate anything it touches, twisting the world around it into a mockery of life itself. It is the Corrupted GECK, and Reese has big plans for it. He seeks to destroy the Texan Brotherhood, and plunge the region into chaos. The protagonist of the cancelled Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2 went across Texas, on the hunt for many things, but eventually Reese himself. They entered Lone Star, where they found evidence of his tampering, and scouts of the Legion. They travelled throughout Brotherhood territory, watching as the group was set upon by numerous raider gangs, all coordinated and persuaded by Reese. They visited Austin, where the tensions between the two super mutant factions was growing. Originally, Keats would always die. You could choose between Shale or Keats, but ultimately, he was always assassinated during a speech. But we decided that was boring. Scarlet (our protagonist of choice) saved Keat’s life, becoming bros for life in the process, and Shale was exiled from Austin alongside his goons. They then travelled, finally, to The Corpse. Within the ruins of a sunken Corpus Christi, Reese’s lair waited in the harbour, and there a final battle ensued. Everything up until now, barring Keat’s survival, is canon. Now, let’s jump into the juicy OWB fanon. Ultimately winning the fight, Scarlet took his GECK and hauled it across Texas, travelling a great distance to a remote location, far from large and established communities. She put the GECK down in what was to be its final resting place, and became its guardian and protector. Over the decade, its influence spread, creating a beautiful but deadly blood red canopy of mutant fauna, a place the natives of Texas refer to as Eden. Any and all who enter the twisted jungle without permission wind up dead, victim to the protagonist’s legendary assassination skills. So, there’s your juicy jet high of lore. Now, how about we get onto the region as a whole in OWB’s 2275? Many nations in Texas and Oklahoma, such as Carbon, Los, Shale's Army, Unity of Austin, Lonestar, the Texan Brotherhood, and others are all based in Fallout lore. Since we’re here, let’s go over them all in some more detail. Pecos: a collection of settler communities from Mexico, who primarily trade with the RRG and Las Granjas. Having struggled to maintain their independence over the last few decades, recent events have continued to destabilise their peaceful towns. Los: The Church of the Lost has recovered since the fall of the Secret Vault and the death of their old leader Blake. These survivors from Necropolis hope to live out the remainder of their days seeking nirvana within the hallowed streets of Los. Carthage: a civilised raider nation built over the ruins of Carthage, a town built atop a gigantic and largely untapped natural gas reserve. They use flame to do everything, from powering their cities to cooking their enemies alive. Carbon: The town of Carbon has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Recently the town is on an upswing - yet there are some that worry that the raiders that once destroyed their small town may come back again. The Pursuant: a vicious hunting lodge of civilised raiders who hunt the greatest monsters the wasteland has to offer, from terrifying, legendary Deathclaws, Horrifying Mirelurk Queens, and the most exclusive game of all: man. Traders must constantly be aware, as they are always on the hunt. Unity of Austin: led by Keats, the ever charismatic super mutant politician and every man, the Unity of Austin is a staunch ally of the Brotherhood, seeking to create a Wasteland in which mutants and humans live side by side through mutual cooperation. Houston Rockets: the remnants of NASA and Houston’s entertainment industry made a deal. One side made money off of sports, and the other side used the profits to launch rockets into orbit. The Patrolmen: a group of “protectors” who patrol the I-10 religiously, fighting off raiders and outside threats, while exploiting the communities who exist under their thumb. Bayou Motors: a trader nation that specialises in, produces, and sells boats and shipping equipment to most of the Gulf. Gatormaws: a group of violent tribal communities who’ve made the Bayou their home, and make use of their extensive expertise to raid traders who sail along the Red River. Desperados: a ghoul cartel who split off the Sinaloa after a brutal coup, they’ve taken up shop in Shreveport, demanding “protection fees” from passing traders, lest they die to “local raiders.” Assassin City Rollergirls: a raider gang steeped in roller derby culture, they skate around the urban sprawl in atomic skates, cleaving heads and splitting Brotherhood power armour like tin cans. Tubeheads: a cult of raiders and engineers led by the charismatic Mr. Entertainment, the Wasteland’s only late-night variety show host. Cooking segments, raider gladiatorial combat, special guest interviews, all from the pleasure of your own home: courtesy of the Tubehead’s mandatory TV and satellite installation package. The Last Lodge: a nation of peaceful settlers, draped in masonic imagery, with an outward focus and an emphasis on community. Scrappers Compact: an alliance of territorial but loyal junkyard settlers, who make a living out of scavenging and selling valuable scrap to the outside world. Shale’s Army: a warband of first generation super mutants exclusively, led by Shale, one of Attis’s fiercest commanders. Their hatred for all non super mutants is readily apparent, and they make a living out of claiming the lives of their neighbours, ultimately aiming to rebuild Unity from the ground up. The Chained Choir: a nation of former inmates; ghouls who were subjected to testing by the US army, for research into the potential psionic implementations of FEV. The Last Patrol: a regiment of national guard who were directly exposed to a nuclear blast, and now patrol the region around their compound, fiercely protecting the rights and liberties of the communities under their charge. The Texan Arms Association: a coalition of arms barons and factories in the northern Rio Grande who never fully assimilated. Motivated by dreams of liberty and greed, they sell weapons to anyone, and have continued to destabilise the RRG’s politics since its inception. 3.0 will see the TAA exist on game start, and their association’s bid for independence may be welcomed by some of its neighbours who see it little more than prey. Painted Rock: a group of noble tribal warriors, unwavering combatants who test their young among jagged rocks, and prove their worth against the Wasteland’s toughest foes. Cypher Warband: a clan of luddites who hold a deep hatred for the old world, and in particular, the Brotherhood of Steel’s core doctrines. They’ve been fierce opponents for decades, but during the events of the cancelled Brotherhood of Steel 2, they disowned their most extreme member—Reese—who left in an attempt to destroy their archenemy once and for all. Lubbock: a settler community of ghouls and humans, attempting to work together despite their differences. Supported by the Lubbock Expedition, a military effort by Lone Star to secure the highways across Lubbock’s territory, securing their border and reaping the economic benefits of the partnership. The Ironmongers: a group of mutants who’ve taken over former TAA factories, regularly plundering their gunsmith neighbours. Unlike many other mutants, they construct massive vehicles of brutal machinery, backed up by giant guns and the strength of iron. They’re feared by many, and their iconic “Battlewagons” bring terror and destruction in their wake. Eden: lead by Scarlet, a protagonist from the protagonist of the cancelled game "Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2", who dragged Reese’s GECK from The Corpse to a remote location, to contain the spread of its taint from the outside world, and all who would covet its ruinous strength. Lone Star: the largest trade hub in Texas, all traders pass along its roads and through the gates of its capital city. Its emphasis on sustainable partnerships, justice, and profit have made it a veritable Wasteland boomtown. Texan Brotherhood: a brotherhood outfit who’s roots stemmed from a desire to crush Attis once and for all, in 2275 the Brotherhood look entirely different to their counterparts out west. Civilised, peaceful, just: they seek moral victories over material, a direction some among their ranks find fault with. The First People: the combined nations of the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw-Muscogee Coalition have banded together in an alliance, protecting one-another from outside threats and developing their communities in a Wasteland sorely lacking hope. Many of them emerged from vaults, and they rebuilt the casinos, infrastructure, and social venues that made their little corner of Oklahoma the darling it was. In 2275, beyond New Vegas, the Big Spend is the premiere destination for tourists, traders, and soldiers looking to experience the best service in the Wasteland. Live music, tasty food, refreshing drinks, and refurbished hotels continue to entice visitors year after year. In the words of everyone’s favourite doctor, “Well, that’s all she wrote.” Our dev diary has wrapped up, and boy, what a diary it was! What did you think? Are you excited for what you’ve seen of 3.0? Got any thoughts, comments, or suggestions to share? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Discord! Mapping is a labour of love, and I love doing it. Take care during this difficult time for all of us, and stay safe and healthy!
The Case of the Missing 40,000 Jerry Nugget Decks: A Detective Story NB: I first published this article (with pictures) at PlayingCardDeckshere. Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards. The story of the original Jerry's Nugget decks is a fascinating one, and there are many interesting side-stories to explore about along the way. You can read the main story about the Jerry's Nugget decks in my previous article here: The Legendary Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards. But the full truth still remains somewhat hidden, and there are aspects about the Jerry's Nugget story that even today we can't totally be sure about. And with the passage of time, several juicy tidbits of lore have become attached to this famous deck. In this article I invite you to join me in a quest to explore another juicy story that has become part of the Jerry's Nugget legend. Is it true that the final stock of 40,000 Jerry's Nugget decks was bought up from the casino by a mysterious overseas buyer? Because this is an oft-repeated part of the story, that you'll hear whispered rumours about across the landscape of the internet. But this a statement of fact or fiction, and is it truth or myth? It could mean that right now someone is potentially sitting on a small fortune of Jerry's Nugget decks worth around $500 a piece. If it's true. So please put on your Sherlock Holmes trench-coat and deerstalker hat, arm yourself with a good amount of deductive logic and persistence, and join me as we see if we can really get to the bottom of this mystery, and dredge up the truth behind this famed haul of 40,000 decks!
A Secret Stash of 40,000 Decks?
If you are curious - like I am - and do some digging about the story and history of the Jerry's Nugget decks, it won't take you long to stumble across mention of the claim that a stash of the final 40,000 decks of Jerry's Nuggets was bought up in a single swoop, cleaning out the casino's remaining inventory of these prized decks. The story about some lucky buyer nabbing a final stash of 40,000 decks is circulated quite widely around the internet. Do a Google search for "40,000 Jerry's Nugget" and look at how many hits this gets! Some places that sell the decks even include this in their ad copy. For example, here's the ad copy over at one online retailer, which was selling authentic decks for $525 before they sold out: Another online retailer says the same. Many reviewers have parroted this information as well, such as this example. So do various sites dedicated to information about playing cards, such as this example. As far as many people are concerned, this information is more along the lines of "fact" than fiction, and it's become part of the story that everyone accepts. Little wonder that it is often repeated by collectors in discussion forums about playing cards, and that it has given more than just one person a tinge of envy.
Who is the mysterious buyer?
So who is the lucky guy with 40,000 decks of precious Jerry's Nugget decks hidden in his basement or garage? And is the story even true? Some of the sources for this story seem quite credible. And they also reveal the buyer's name: French magician Dominique Duvivier. One person quotes Jordan Lapping, apparently among the first cardists to get Jerry's Nugget decks and use them for flourishing. Dominique Duvivier is a French magician who performs and works with his daughter Alexandra, and together they have a high profile in the world of French magic. They are even well known in the circles of international magic, and were featured on the cover of the June 2013 issue of Genii Magazine. Norwegian magician Allan Hagen has a long-time interest in the Jerry's Nugget decks, and he also mentions Duvivier's purchase of 40,000 Jerry's Nugget decks as apparent fact in something he posted on Reddit in 2015, where he describes his perspective on their rarity and value. You'll read similar reports in an article published by Ukrainian cardists Alexander and Nikolay about Jerry's Nugget decks in June 2017. Two things are common to all these accounts: the number 40,000 for the haul of decks purchased by the mysterious overseas buyer. And now his name: Dominique Duvivier. I contacted a number of different sources, including people who had personal connections with some of the key players who were closely involved when Jerry's Nuggets decks first became a fad among magicians and cardists in the late 1990s. One source told me: "Interesting, the name of the European magician - it was a big secret back then. Someone actually told me his name back then, but it was on the proviso that I never publish it. Well, I see it's out of the bag now."
Was Dominique Duvivier the buyer?
But is there any evidence that Dominique Duvivier was really the mystery buyer whose name had been a carefully kept secret for some time at least? It was time for some more detective work. Google brought me to Duvivier's personal website. It didn't take long to discover that Duvivier does indeed have a real fondness for Jerry's Nuggets Playing Cards. They are everywhere - in his photos, his videos, and his instagram. Judging by the many French-language comments on his site, it also becomes apparent that Duvivier is highly respected and appreciated in his home country for his magic. It's also evident from reading some of the comments that his Jerry's Nuggets decks are a signature of his performance. Some even consider them to be the equivalent of a Stradivarius that Duvivier uses to perform with as a master magician. But it was when I checked Duvivier's youtube channel that I found some real gold: Dominique himself performing with Jerry's Nugget cards in this clip. In fact, if you check out his other videos there, you'll find quite a few where he performs magic with Jerry's Nugget playing cards, like this performance from 2014, this more recent ace cutting routine, and this false shuffle. Duvivier has even contributed a Jerry's Nugget themed trick to the magic industry, entitled Jerry's Nuggets Cards in Bag. You can watch the promo video for this trick in French or English. His daughter Alexandra Duvivier successfully used it to fool Penn and Teller on their show Fool Us. Here's the episode, and some unseen footage. But just because Dominique Duvivier happens to really, really like Jerry's Nugget playing cards doesn't prove that he bought out a massive stash of the last 40,000 decks from the casino. So this still begs this question: Did any of this even happen? And is there really someone on this planet with a hoard of 40,000 decks, whether it is Dominique Duvivier or anybody else? One of my favourite photos on Duvivier's site is this one here, with his haul. If that's any indication, surely the legendary haul was starting to seem somewhat plausible. It was time to ask around, and check in with some of the people who were around when the Jerry's Nugget decks first became the rage. Of the sources I consulted, few could be considered more reliable than Lee Asher. For many people Lee is synonymous with the Jerry's Nugget phenomenon. He also had close connections with the events of the time, and was instrumental in bringing the Jerry's Nuggets into the limelight in the first place, by singing their paises. He was kind enough to respond when I contacted him for comment about Duvivier's alleged haul of 40,000 Jerry's Nugget decks, and Lee bluntly told me the following: "This is misinformation. There weren't 40k decks left in 1999. We don't even know if Jerry's even printed 40k decks." Really? Apparently Lee Asher knew Duvivier personally, and he was the very person who first told Duvivier that the casino even had the cards for sale. He also visited his home and shop in Paris many times throughout this period of time. In Lee's words: "Without a doubt, I NEVER saw 40k of ANY deck there. That's basically nine pallets worth. The house, their magic shop and night club weren't big enough to house these decks. It also seems Duvivier isn't the last one to buy the remaining decks. Jerry's Nugget Casino believes they sold the last case of cards to someone in Japan in 1999." Well, it seems that the story had to be put to rest. Was this entire story perhaps just a magnificent urban legend after all? And if it was, where does the number of 40,000 decks come from, and how did this story get so much traction that it spread all around the internet, and is accepted unquestionably by so many people? My task had just become a bit harder, but I wasn't going to give up yet. It was time to try to track down where the many websites that quoted this story got the figure of 40,000 from in the first place.
Where does the figure of 40,000 come from?
With some more digging, the oldest article I could find on the subject was by a card collector who has a collection of fine articles on his site, White Knuckle Cards. This particular article dates back to 2009, and is one of the earliest references to the legendary stash of 40,000 decks that I could find. This particular article seems to be the first time the figure of 40,000 pops up, pre-dating all the more recent mentions of it. And it's not hard to figure out how it spread from there. On 6 August 2015, someone called "Doctor Papa Jones" added these details to Wikipedia's article on Jerry's Nuggets, evidently relying on the White Knuckle Cards article. As a result the Wikipedia article now read as follows: "In 2000, a private collector purchased the remaining stock of 40,000 decks". So now this "fact" is on Wikipedia and has some real "credibility". In fact, the number 40,000 stays up on Wikipedia for the next five years unchallenged! And that allows it to spread around the internet and go wild. Because where does everyone go when they're looking for reliable, authoritative, and trustworthy information about something? Wikipedia! Despite the mention of the magical stash of 40,000 decks, Duvivier's name remained out of the spotlight for a further four years. It was simply a mysterious "private collector" who had purchased the big haul. But in 2019, someone connected the dots to Duvivier, and so the Wikipedia article was changed to include his name. So how did that happen? Well the supporting reference that Doctor Papa Jones included in his 2015 edit was a link to an article by Dan and Dave Buck, dating back to 7 Dec 2011. This article is also no longer available, but can be tracked down with the help of the Internet Archive here. It doesn't give the figure of 40,000 but does drop Duvivier's name. So the evidence seems to suggest this development: Apparently relying on the White Knuckle Cards article from 2009 as a source, the number 40,000 first embedded itself in the WIkipedia article on Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards in 2015. Slowly the story grew, until somebody finally connected the dots that were hidden in plain sight elsewhere on the internet, and as a result Duvivier's name gets added four years later. Now things are set up for a great story: Mr Duvivier is sitting on a massive stash of 40,000 Jerry's Nuggets in France. The story gained even more traction as a result of the revived interest in Jerry's Nuggets that inevitably happened when a tribute deck was printed in 2019. It was inevitable that many would rely on Wikipedia as a source, and so the details even ended up being quoted in ad copy for the reprinted decks. What had previously just been a matter of quiet rumour or speculation, was now considered as fact. Oh, the joy of Wikipedia - it has certainly helped promote quite the legend here! And it doesn't take a genius to see that if this is true, Duvivier could be sitting on a small fortune. At $500 each, 14,000 decks would be worth around $700,000. Naturally a market flooded with them would drop their value. But even if the going price dropped to $100 a piece, that would still value his holdings at over $100,000. Even if he just sold the occasional decks at $500 a pop, this windfall could generate a nice little secondary income. That is, if the legend is true, a fact yet to be proven....
Revising the figure
Because this year, the Wikipedia article was changed. By now of course the (mis)information about Duvivier's haul had gone far and wide, and a lot of potential damage has already been done. But on 25 March 2020 someone called "TheCongressGuy" changed it to read that Duvivier "purchased the remaining stock of 1,500-2000 decks". Suddenly the number of Duvivier's legendary purchase had been reduced from 40,000 to something around 5% of the size. A figure of 1,500-2000 seems much more likely. So who made the change and what was their source? I did some more digging and managed to track down TheCongressGuy. He is Kevan Seaney, who describes himself as an "antique playing cards collector, specializing in the Congress 606 brand" and posts here. In February 2020 he wrote here that he'd learned that Duvivier had not purchased 40,000 decks. I was curious, and eventually found the following video that he posted about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2pctAEuiZA And who was his source that Kevan credits for correcting the previous (mis)information about the number 40,000? If you watch that video, you'll find out that it is none other than the great Lee Asher. Lee Asher isn't just "anyone". He's a playing card expert, and the current president of 52 Plus Joker The American Playing Card Collectors Club. He's the guy who first generated public interest in Jerry's Nugget decks, brought them to the attention of cardists like the Buck twins and Chris Kenner, and was later a purveyor of these icon decks via his website. He's also had personal connections with Duvivier, was the person who informed Duvivier that they were available from the casino, and has personally spent a lot of time with him in Paris. And Lee Asher is a key person that has helped get real Jerry's Nugget decks into the hands of a new generation today. He's the guy who was instrumental in making a collaboration happen between Jerry's Nugget Casino and Expert Playing Card Company, by suggesting that EPCC get the exclusive licence needed to reprint these iconic decks in 2019, as announced in an official press release here. It's plain that along with EPCC's Bill Kalush, Lee Asher (pictured below) was singularly responsible for getting an officially licensed Jerry's Nugget deck back into the hands of a new generation and into the collections of those who couldn't afford the massive sticker price of the originals. So if anyone has a passion for the original Jerry's Nuggets, it is Lee Asher. Of anyone in this picture, Lee is the person with the most credibility, and his opinion and perspective should carry a lot of weight. With Asher as his source, Kevan Seaney points out that 40,000 decks of Jerry's Nugget playing cards is the equivalent of around 8 pallets. That's a massive amount, and would weigh around four tons. And it would take up a tremendous amount of space! Kevan cites Lee Asher as saying (via voice messages in Instagram) that in 1999 Asher told Duvivier that he could get the decks from the casino, and that Duvivier bought around 1,500-2000 decks at the time. Lee subsequently visited his home and store - France's oldest magic shop - in France many times. And according to Asher, there was no way Duvivier had room for 40,000 decks. Kevin also says that Lee Asher pointed out to him that these were technically not the final lot of decks sold by the casino anyway, and that the last decks (a "case" of unknown size) probably went to Japan. Wow. That really changes things! So based on this apparent "new information" from Lee Asher - who to his credit has apparently been saying this all along - Wikipedia gets a new edit by TheCongressGuy aka Kevin Seaney. The impressive figure of 40,000 is reduced to a much more modest 1500-2000, which is paltry by comparison to the much larger figures circulating the internet, and not nearly as impressive a story. But this is only after Wikipedia has been singing a different tune for five years, so the `damage' has been done, and the story of Duvivier's windfall of 40,000 Jerry's Nuggets is already accepted by most people as a true story.
Duvivier's own story
Suddenly it occurred to me to investigate Duvivier himself. Was this perhaps a line of inquiry that might produce some solid leads and definitive facts? Has the man himself ever commented on all these stories about his legendary haul? Could I find anything directly from the man himself that would shed some light on these legends? In fact, why hadn't I thought of this earlier? Just because nobody else seems to have dug up or reported anything from the man's own mouth, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. I slapped myself for my own foolishness, and headed back to Google. As it turns out, Duvivier has written about this! But because it's an article in French, it's escaped notice from most people. Since he's popular as a professional magician in France, he not only has his own website, but he also writes his own blog. And sure enough, he's addressed this very topic in a blog article that he wrote in April 2011 under the title "Magiphageuh No 14: Les Jerry's Nugget". With the help of an online translation tool, we learn this:
"As most of you already know, I only use real "Jerry's Nugget" cards to work with and have been doing so for many years. As these cards happen to be extremely rare to find on the market (I am obviously talking about the original Jerry's Nugget cards and not the recently reprinted ones) and they excite the magical world a lot, I am therefore constantly asked how many I own, how long have I owned them, what deal I made to get them and with whom, why do I have so many cards, why did I choose these specifically, why don't I want to sell them, why, why, eh?! And I hear such amazing stories about myself on these famous "Jerry's Nugget" cards that I decided to speak on the subject myself today."
This sounds very promising! Duvivier then goes on to tell the story about how the Jerry's Nuggets gained their legendary reputation, and the unique qualities they have. In France in the 1970s, American playing cards were quite rarely seen, and Duvivier knew a French pilot commandant called Reyno who loved magic, who would occasionally bring back cards from the US to a small circle of French magicians. At this time even standard Bicycle and Tally Ho decks were prized by these French conjurers, so besides them a Jerry's Nugget deck was considered a real crown jewel. Over the years Duvivier occasionally got more of the Jerry's Nugget decks, sometimes even an entire case of them at once, especially via his friend Michael Weber, who was his main supplier. We fast forward to 1999, when he finds himself heading to Las Vegas to perform at The Magic Castle. Here's the story in his words, courtesy of an online translation tool:
"In 1999 (if I'm not mistaken) my daughter Alexandra and I were hired to perform for a whole week at Magic Castle and then for a few contracts in Las Vegas. You may think that I had only one idea in mind at the time: a trip to the original casino where my favourite cards were from, Jerry's Nugget! Michael Weber had told me that there were still a few decks for sale there, so as soon as we arrived I immediately asked Philip Varricchio, who had come to pick us up in a limousine, to take us there. He was rather surprised, as we hadn't even put our bags down at the hotel (yes, I'm a fool) and the old Jerry's casino wasn't really known for being a must-see place! So I told him that I wanted to go there to buy Jerry's Nugget cards. According to him it was impossible to get them for the simple reason that they hadn't been around for a long time, but I was so insistent that he finally complied (hey, hey, hey!). When we arrived there, we went to the gift shop of the casino and I asked the salesman if he was selling their decks. - Yes," he told me, "I have a few. He shows me a small piece of wall in the back of the store where a hundred decks were on display. I ask about the price. Not even expensive! - Well, I'll take them," I say (laughs). And of course I ask if he has more in reserve! Yes, there were about a hundred boxes left (each box containing a large number of cards, 144 decks!). After a little negotiation, the unit price was even lowered to less than $1. That's it, that's how it happened and that's it. In fact, in all this story, the most difficult, the longest and the most expensive was to get the stock back to France. Since then, I've been seeing, little by little, the bids going up on these cards in a rather hallucinating way, whereas, of course, that wasn't my initial motivation at all. From the moment I bought the remaining stock, it's as if everyone wanted to own even more! But I just wanted to have enough stock of Jerry's Nugget decks because I'm a card fanatic and these in particular. I use these cards because they're the best cards I know and I've fought like a big man to own enough of them for me (I should mention that I never had a middleman or a partner to buy these cards). Anyone could have done as I did and I don't understand why no one did: you just had to take the trouble to go to this casino, because the cards were available! In any case, now they are all warm and cosy in different safes, which I won't tell you about. They say I'm the person with the most cards in the world, but I have to say I don't care. I know Chris Kenner is the one who planned it, he has a lot of them too. I've been offered golden bridges to sell a few packages, or even my entire stock. I've had some incredible offers over the years. I never intended to create a buzz with these cards: I just use them for my own personal consumption, that's all...because they're my favorite cards."
Probably the key sentence in that account is this, and the best translation seems to be something like this: "Yes, there were about a hundred boxes left (each box containing a large number of cards, that's 144 decks!)." The formula is simple: around 100 boxes with 144 decks each. If true, that would mean 100 x 144 = 14,400 decks. Given that this is directly from the horse's mouth, suddenly the story becomes slightly more plausible. So too is his additional statement: "In all this story, the most difficult, the longest and the most expensive was to get the stock back to France." That suggests he didn't bring the whole stash to France in one go, which might explain why visitors like Lee Asher and others who saw his home and magic shop never saw any evidence of them. I'm not a French speaker, so I'm happy to be corrected if I'm misunderstanding anything Duvivier has written - by all means check the article for yourself in the original French, to see if I've got it right. But the long and short of it seems to be that Duvivier is saying that what he bought from Las Vegas around 1999 was not a stash of 40,000 Jerry's Nuggets decks, but 14,000 decks. 14,000 is not nearly as impressive a figure. But even though it's only a third of the size of what the legend floating around the internet says, 14,000 decks is still an incredibly impressive haul. Certainly the amount of pictures and videos that show Duvivier performing with Jerry's Nugget cards, seems to suggest that they are very much part of his regular repertoire. It could just be possible, and maybe I've finally found the truth! Perhaps the most defining photo of all is this one (credited to Zakary Belamy), which shows Duvivier enjoying a bath with his Jerry's Nugget playing cards! Given the value of these playing cards on the market today, some might consider this sacrilege, but it sure suggests he has a large enough supply of Jerry's Nugget cards. At any rate, his collection of them seems large enough that he can even afford to take them to the bath for a photo op along with his favourite yellow rubber ducky.
But is it true?
Was the mystery solved at last? It was time to get back in contact with Lee Asher, and share my findings. But despite the claims of Duvivier in his 2011 article, Lee is not convinced that Duvivier is a credible source. To be fair, this is what Lee Asher has been saying all along, and for years he's been saying that the story about the legendary haul of 40,000 decks wasn't supported by the facts. Ultimately what this comes down to is: are we going to believe what Duvivier says? For the most part, Duvivier has appeared to have had little interest in setting the record straight, despite the fact that the rumour of him nabbing 40,000 decks persisted as long as it did. And if he does have a large stash, why has he shown little interest in selling any of the decks that he does have, instead being happy to hoard them or use them only for himself? Would he really have spent all the time, energy, and money necessary to ship even 14,000 decks of playing cards across the ocean from the United States to Europe, just for his personal usage, at a time when the street value of these was only a dollar or two a piece? And if he did, where did he put them, and why has nobody ever seen his stash, including those who visited his home? There are other details about Duvivier's record of events that call aspects of his narrative into question, such as his complete omission of any mention of Lee Asher, who was the one who made him aware of where he could get them. And in those days, the casino gift shop was very small, so is it really reasonable for them to display 100 decks on their back wall, as Duvivier claims in his 2011 article, when they had such little space to work with? I had some private correspondence with another magician/cardist who has also stayed at Duvivier's house, and that individual expressed similar sentiments. He agreed that there was no evidence of Duvivier ever owning that many decks. Just do the math: 40,000 decks would mean Duvivier could use a brand new deck every single day for more than 100 years before he chewed through a collection of decks that size. Again: very unlikely. If he really did have that many, it would be way more than he could ever use, and surely he would have sold some by now - which he hasn't. This person remains somewhat skeptical, but acknowledges that the figure of 14,000 is a more realistic number that is not beyond the realms of possibility, especially if Duvivier has them locked up in a storage facility in Paris somewhere. As an educated guess, it seems that there is good reason to cast some suspicion on this story, and there are some aspects about it that seem rather unlikely. Shipping that many decks, at the time only worth a buck or two each at most, all the way from Las Vegas to Paris would be crazy. But a man willing to jump into a bath with a yellow rubber duck and destroy $1000 worth of playing cards in the process strikes me as crazy enough to do it. Perhaps Duvivier's story is true after all.
A final twist
I was now several weeks into my adventures as an investigative journalist, and I was getting ready to wrap up my story and publish it. But there was one final lead that I had not yet explored. If I was really going to try every possible avenue of information, I had to try contacting Dominique Duvivier himself. Why not? Admittedly, the odds of getting a response from someone about his apparent stash of precious Jerry's Nuggets wasn't likely. If there was any truth to the story about his legendary haul, even to some degree, then he's undoubtedly had hundreds of inquiries over the years. Just imagine the long lines of people asking him about his stash, trying to convince him to part with some of it. If yet another email comes in on this subject, he'd probably roll his eyes and press `delete'. He is working full time as a professional magician after all, and has a career to worry about. I couldn't blame him if he was tired of responding to what undoubtedly would be countless messages from prospective buyers. But I had no intention to buy anything, so as a good amateur journalist, I had to try. It was a long shot, but to my surprise, I got a response from Duvivier the very same day! It wasn't much, but it included one unexpected bombshell - especially after the journey I'd been on so far: "You'll be glad to know that a special article is going to appear in next Genii Magazine. It's called Dominique Duvivier and Jerry's Nugget cards." I was stunned. Was someone else working on exactly the same story as me, and had they beat me to the punch? Maybe even Duvivier himself? Could it really be true that in little more than two weeks time, the next issue of Genii was scheduled to come out, and would potentially reveal all? Suddenly I knew that I had to wait with publishing my story. In further emails, Dominique was tight-lipped about any more details. At the very least, surely I would have to wait until that issue of Genii was available, and fork out my cash and purchase a subscription in order to read it. I owed it to my readers to explore every last clue, and give them a story that included all the evidence. So that is what I did. I waited for the July issue to appear online. Digital editions of Genii are released online each month on the 20th of the month. Finally 20th of June rolled around, and I eagerly perused the contents of the latest issue. Nothing. Nothing remotely Duvivier related. Nothing Jerry's Nugget related. Was Duvivier for real? An inquiry with the editor of Genii produced this response: "Not this issue. Coming up." Would it be August or September maybe? Further inquiries produced only silence. In follow up correspondence with the Frenchman himself, Duvivier told me "I wrote the article myself. It?s quite long." That sounded promising, but it could just be about his love affair with Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards, rather than a "tell all" story about his haul. There still was no guarantee that it would even be published. And I couldn't be sure that it would offer any more information than his blog article from 2011 which already gave his side of the story, or that it would be any more reliable than the version of events he'd provided there. Was it really worth waiting any longer? It was time to share my findings with the world anyway, and I could always provide an addendum to my story if any credible new information appeared.
Is this the final word on this subject? No. I've tried to do the best I could based on information available to me, and shared as much as I could with my readers, so that you can form your own conclusions based on the evidence so far. Undoubtedly there are still some missing puzzle pieces, and in future years some new information could come to light that shows that some of my conclusions were misplaced or that puts aspects of this story a slightly different perspective. Today we are two full decades removed from the time when the original decks first sold out at the Jerry's Nugget casino. And the further removed in time that we come, the harder it becomes to uncover the truth. Memories become murky. As it is nobody at the casino seems to remember the specific details of what happened. At the time they were probably only too glad to get the remaining stock out of their hands, and nobody could have anticipated how these decks would become the famous icons that they are today. Even their chief evangelist Lee Asher has to be somewhat surprised at the turn of events he's produced since first singing their praises some twenty years ago! So what can we conclude from all of this? Here's some final thoughts that I'll leave you with: 1. Don't believe everything you read on the internet. Unfortunately, it's a fact of modern life that not everything on the internet is true. And as we've seen, this also applies to sites like Wikipedia. For topics that have a large number of experts or people interested in a particular subject, changing the facts on a Wikipedia article will quickly see the changes being reverted. But with a more niche subject, like Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards, and especially when it concerns circumstantial material that nobody is quite sure about, it's easy for misinformation to enter Wikipedia. And once it's embedded there, eventually the lore spreads and becomes considered as "fact". So it's important to check your sources, and don't take everything you see online as gospel truth - even if it's on Wikipedia. 2. The legend about the stash of 40,000 decks should be put to rest once and for all. It's a myth, and there simply is no evidence for this claim anywhere. At most, there is the claim from Duvivier himself that he bought up about 14,000 decks. That might be true, but again, we only have his word for this. As a counter-point, there are those like Lee Asher who know Duvivier and have visited him many times, and insist that they never saw any evidence of this. The enormous cost of shipping a large stash like this to Europe already makes it somewhat hard to believe. There's no doubt that Duvivier is a huge fan of Jerry's Nugget decks, and he appears to own and use them more than most. But in the end, how credible is he? How seriously are you going to take someone who is happy to post a picture of himself in a bath with a rubber duck and playing cards from a Jerry's Nugget deck? Either that means he has far more decks than he knows what to do with, or he is a little loopy. Or perhaps it's a bit of both. You've had an opportunity to read all the evidence for yourself, so you decide. Either way, we can safely say that there has never been a stash of 40,000 decks, and the jury is out on whether there was even ever a stash one third of this size. But even if the size of the legendary stash turns out to be smaller than first thought, the reputation and magnetism of the Jerry's Nugget decks has only increased in size, and these now iconic decks will remain firmly embedded in playing card lore. ------------------ Update from the writer: After the original publication of this article, Dominique Duvivier personally phoned me on 24 July 2020 to discuss it, and to share his side of this story. He remembers events slightly differently than Lee Asher does. As Duvivier recalls it, his own interest in the Jerry's Nugget decks dates back to the 1970s and 1980s. At that time he was sourcing them from his friend Michael Weber, who along with magicians like Chris Kenner was also interested in these decks. According to Dominique, he only met Lee Asher during his USA tour in 1999, after he had already bought out the remaining stock from the Jerry's Nugget casino. Duvivier confirmed that the figure of 14,000 accurately reflects the approximate number of decks he purchased from the casino at this time. He shipped the majority of these to France by boat, and stored them in a warehouse, intending them to serve as a life-time supply for himself and his family. Look for his story in an upcoming issue of Genii magazine.
It's 9:00 am on September 18th in Las Vegas and your head is feeling a little too heavy, go figure. Sunlight barely peaks through the window of your room at the Plaza Hotel and Casino. The sliver of sun rays are scarce, but just enough to illuminate the crust on your eyes from a late night on Fremont Street. The inevitable "What happened?" thought runs through your mind. You head downstairs to grab something to soak up last night's debauchery and try and Hash House A Go Go out how you got to this point. Sure, yesterday at this time you were at your desk doing nothing but last minute checks on which sets you needed to prioritize for the forthcoming next 3 days. Sure, you skipped out early to make sure you had everything packed for the 12th time this week. Sure, as soon as you got to the airport, the first place you hit after security was the nearest bar, because let's face it, the airport drink before vacation is a top 5 drink all time. Sure, maybe you shelled out more than you should have for that wimpy Jack and coke on the plane itself. Sure, Spirit Airlines is the worst. Sure, once you got to McCarran you told your friend that had never been to Vegas before to play those slot machines right out of the gate because they for sure pay out (sucker). Sure, as soon as you got to your room you threw your bags down with little to no regard just to rush back downstairs to take in the Glitter Gulch in all of its neon glory. Sure, you may have lost too much money at Binion's playing craps because "the dice were cold", when in actuality the devil on your shoulder and in your cup told you that recouping your losses was easy with big field bets (sucker). Sure, you danced like an idiot while watching the guy playing buckets like drums because it was "good practice for all the Fremont Stage sets you'll be at this year." Sure, you spent enough money at Pop Up Pizza to feed a small family of 4. Sure, you danced like an idiot watching the funk cover band at the Plaza that wear wigs and have synchronized dance moves, because eff it. Sure, you passed out with your clothes on, (thank god you took of your shoes). But really, how did you get to this point? The existential crisis marred in a haze of last night's booze and smoke filled casino floors lasts all of 5 min, because the fried chicken benedict that's 3 sizes too big for the plate it's on offers a moment of clarity: It's Day 1 of LIB Your head alleviates itself of any extra weight, and a shockwave of energy flows through your body as if the mimosa in your right hand is a liquid defibrillator. Your skin tingles knowing that in a few short hours you'll walk through the gates for the first time along with the thousands of others who came to this very city, on this very day to plunge into a pool of escapism. Oh yeah, that's how you got to this point. You slug your drink and head back upstairs to get ready. While the rest of your crew does their thing, you adhere to your mental checklist, because let's face it, preparation is key if you're going to do the next 3 days right. Comfy shoes: check, chapstick: check, extra gum for new friends: check, hat for the sun: check, earplugs just in case you decide to hug the speakers: check, sunglasses: check. Those all accounted for and out of the way, you move on to more pressing items. Ah, your trusty Camelbak. It's served you well through all these years, and now it's time for the old broad to come out and play again. Drained and ready, you throw what you can in the pockets and strap her to your back, pulling the straps securely around your arms. You do a front kick to show dominance. And now...for your wristband. Let's be honest, this was the first thing you were checking for each time you went back and made sure everything was in your bag this past week. You take it out of the packaging that is much better than last year's, and hold the holy grail of concert tickets in your hand. It reads, 'You are beautiful" on it. You nod in appreciation, and blush a little bit. You slip in onto your wrist and pull the clasp to tighten securely, albeit not uncomfortably. As if the RFID is now a part of your DNA, you remember the weeks of making sure the wristband itself wasn't lost, and you breathe a sigh of relief. It's almost time. You glance at the rest of your crew after a brief moment of silence, you utter one word, *"¿Listos?" After a cacophonous eruption of sounds that would be right at home on the plains of the Serengeti, you and your friends find your selves walking at a swift pace down Fremont. The street is much more busy than usual at this time in the late afternoon. You scan the crowd to find those that are sporting wrist decoration similar to yours. The army of translucent backpacks, throwback jerseys, bandanas and general jubilation reaffirm that you are headed the right way. You pass The D and know Sigma Derby will take scores of coins from you later that night. People jump on the scale outside Heart Attack Grill to your left after a few minutes more marching towards an experience akin to nirvana. The Fremont East District sign and Martini Glass beckon you further down the street, as the distinct sound of muffled bass begins to ever so slightly reach you ears. A right on 6th, and all of the sudden you're in a line that twists, turns and seems to never end. The pace is snail like in nature. At least that's what it feels like to you and your friends. All of the moments prepping, (mostly daydreaming about the sets you want to be at the most when the lineup dropped 5 months prior) have all led to this. You let you friends go through security first, as if to make sure that the whole squad made it in safe and sound. You tap you wristband to the scanner and re strap your Camelbak on. Inside the festival gates for the first time, you're surrounded by bevy of people who more than likely feel the same way you do. You friends are sharing daps and laughs left and right, while you simply savor the moment. A flurry of folks sprint past you on the left. You smirk, knowing they gravely miscalculated seeing their first set of the day. The Praying Mantis outside Container Park shoots its flame up into the atmosphere as if playing host to the grounds and saying, "Welcome". All the sights and sounds and you can only muster up two words, "Que Hermoso."
Wealth Formula Episode 224: Multifamily Macroeconomics in the Twilight Zone
Catch the full episode: https://www.wealthformula.com/podcast/224-multifamily-macroeconomics-in-the-twilight-zone/ Buck: Welcome back to the show everyone. Today my guest on Wealth Formula Podcast, he's been on the show before. He's economist Ryan Davis. He actually joined us at one of our last Wealth Formula meetups. Of course, the last one we had was canceled but Ryan was at the one before that. He serves as a chief operating officer at Witten Advisors and provides fact-based research analysis and discussion to help clients like us formulate their apartment strategies and these insights and for investment decisions for multi-family development and buy/sell opportunities which as you can imagine we're all looking for some of this advice these days. Ryan has a PhD in economics from the University of Texas. Ryan, welcome back to Wealth Formula Podcast. Ryan: Thank you. Glad to be back. Buck: Yeah it's been like a pandemic ago when we last talked right? Listen, you know I want to kind of jump into the whole you know what the heck is going on, I mean the overall, if you would, you know kind of give me your overall assessment of the economy. I mean obviously we know these huge drops in GDP etc which were expected last quarter. How is this all affecting real estate asset prices especially you know apartments which is you know is our interest and something that you specialize in? Ryan: Sure so yeah the great unknown is the pace of the recovery. So we had that big drop through April in terms of employment and then we got a bounce back in May and June and the hope was that it was going to be a V-shaped recovery. But then we saw virus cases ramp back up in the second half of June into the early part of July and the local economy started rolling back some of their openings and so with that, we've kind of stalled out recently. So we'll get the July numbers this Friday for overall payroll gains and that could I think the consensus is anywhere between one, one and a half million jobs it could be negative so who knows but it looks like the hope for a v-shaped recovery in the economy has kind of stalled out after the first two months of optimism. And so we think that going forward we won't see any the worst is behind us really and so we won't see you know the big losses that we experienced in March and early into April so kind of what we're calling for right now is for the national economy to continue to add jobs for the remainder of the year and then beginning next year a recovery should emerge and that would sustain demand for housing and ultimately apartments going forward. In the near term as far as multi-family goes we expect some pain through the end of this year and then into the early part of next year. In terms of pricing power, if we had to boil it down to one number it's rent growth so year over year effective rent growth we think that declines to eight percent rent cuts this year and into the early part of 2021. That varies considerably on a local market basis I think our worst-performing market is Metro New York City probably no surprise there but then also many of the other gateway markets such as Boston, LA, the Bay Area, etc. We expect rent declines to be lower than that eight percent across the board, however many of the inner west, Texas, southeastern market should outperform still see rent declines but not closer to five/six percent range at the depth and so we expect near-term pain but then as we get out into 2021 and afterward and the economy begins to add a lot of jobs we would expect rent growth to return to multi-family. And then what that means for pricing in terms of apartment assets for right now in the second quarter hardly any deals trade at hand so it's really tough to get a sense of where pricing is and with the deals that have traded though the cap rates have remained relatively stable which is a good sign. We've heard from some of our merchant builder clients where they had assets they had constructed and were going out to the market to sell in the early part of April they were saying 10 discounts in terms of the compared to pre corona levels but that has since come back in the last 45-60 days and maybe it's only one to two percent in terms of the haircut that they're seeing out there right now. And there's a just a ton of capital that wants to get back into multifamily at the same time there's hardly any distress out there right now so there's a lack of available to you know supply to buy and so everyone is just kind of in this standstill there's a big ass gap because buyers aren't willing to pay yesterday's prices for assets but sellers aren't willing to give any you know deep discounts right now and so it's kind of a standstill and we’ll see how all this plays out. Buck: Yeah you know it's really interesting we're obviously you know through, you work with Western Wealth Capital, one of my partners and you know it's funny because we were kind of thinking well maybe there'll be some real buying opportunities but you know we've seen a little bit maybe just you know from buyers who are sellers who just are just wanting to get out while they're ahead maybe they made some money you know maybe they and at this point you know they're just thinking let's just cash out and maybe they're willing to take a little bit less but for the most part you know if you look across our own portfolio and it might be because it's largely again Texas and Arizona, etc that and maybe it's because it's mostly working-class B and you know high C class apartment but our portfolio you know the numbers are just as good as they've ever been in terms of you know occupancy in terms of even our we're still raising rents. And so when you look at that you're like well I mean how do you expect there to be any you know smoking deals out there if the sellers really aren't feeling any distress. So is there a difference you know when you look at something like a B and C class apartment scenario versus A right now or have you been able to break that down a little bit because I think the people I know who are in the A-class and new build are you know they're certainly feeling things a little bit more than we are. Ryan: Yeah so what we've heard from some of our clients in terms of early on so may June in terms of rent collections class A's were actually from a nationwide perspective actually exceeded the class B and C product. Now we don't think that will continue going forward and the main reason is that new deliveries that are coming online they will compete with the existing top of the market product and so we think that it will be short-lived in terms of the top of the market outperformance and another part is due to just the nature of this downturn where low-wage sectors were hit extremely hard in April, got some bounce back in May and June but the leisure and hospitality sectors lower-paying positions those have been the most impacted so far. But going forward we don't think that this downturn would be any different than prior recessions in terms of the class A leading the way down in terms of jobs and occupancy and also rent growth or rent cuts in the near term. So class A’s will lead the market down but then as we get out into the later part of next year and into early 2022 then class A's would outperform the broader market. So yeah we think through the end of this year until early next that B's and C's will hold up relatively better but that's mainly a function of just the competition that it takes to get these new projects they will get leased up it's just a matter of the market-clearing price and so those have to compete those could be mostly with the top end of the spectrum and so we see big rent declines and concessions in the class A space going forward. Buck: You know there's this thesis that's going around in the multi-family space and you know I've been sort of you know looking at it this way too for a while though I'm starting to you know feel like it's maybe not gonna happen is this idea that there's going to be a potentially before we really rebound and start heading up again that there’ll potentially be a you know big tsunami of defaults and things like that. Right now at least what I'm you know seeing and hearing about in terms of the lending markets and in terms of these properties, there really isn't much indication of that right now is there I mean what do you think? Ryan: No at least not in the short term I mean again there's it goes back to my earlier comment there's been no distress really and so that is due mainly to the huge stimulus packages that have been passed those from a fiscal standpoint and a monetary standpoint which is it's crazy to think that GDP declined at an annualized rate by 32 however incomes soared and so that's all due to the stimulus that we saw and so that's helped prop up renters incomes and allow them to pay rent. Now going forward I think some of these the number of defaults I don't think there will be a tsunami, at least that's how we view it right now, ask me again in a week and it could change, but I think that the defaults will be very market specific and so those geographies that have been hit harder we'll see a larger number but many of the Texas markets, Phoenix, Denver, southeast high growth markets where you've got this short-term tailwind in terms of folks at the margin more and the trends that have been in place for years of folks moving from gateway markets into these inner markets will be kind of you know given a stairway shot really in the near term and so that would help to prop up multi-family fundamentals and so yeah if you're expecting a tsunami of defaults in any of those markets that I've mentioned again it kind of gets a little bit granular in terms of you know potentially Orlando might have some problems just with the amount of supply and then the you know low-wage in tourism industries being impacted more dramatically and that would lead to some weakness in Orlando but out outside of that maybe Houston you could argue you know somewhat but outside of those two and those those areas of the inner west Texas, southeast Florida should be but hold up you know relatively well and I would think that the main stress points will be out you know on the coast in California potentially portland we do think seattle holds up relatively well and then northeast in terms of you know New York and Boston as well so I think it's very locally market driven. Buck: Yeah it's interesting you know we did we were a little worried about Houston too but our you know Houston portfolio is actually doing awesome it's not having any problems at all which is which was you know again, knock on wood that’s what it's been so far. Let me ask you another question you mentioned the pent-up demand of you know money on the sidelines waiting to get back in and you know and in many situations, they have to get back in right they're mandated to deploy capital and that sort of thing do you the one thought that I've had through this is you know multi-family and well multi-family in general has held up so well during this period of time does that potentially create a situation where you know the big money that's coming in starts looking at this even harder as potentially a little bit of a hedge or a little bit of safe haven. What what do you guys think is going to be the effect of that you know the relatively stable performance and then ultimately you know having all of this money on the sidelines,? Do you see paradoxical even further compression of cap rates over the next couple years? What's your thought on that? Ryan: Yeah and so kind of pre-corona our forecast was for cap rates to continue to decline and you know taking a step back it was mainly driven by global factors with the aging populations across the globe that have built wealth up and all that investment needed to be placed somewhere. And so those trends were driving returns lower for longer and so those are the demographic that have not been affected by the pandemic. And so just from a global standpoint, we're expecting returns across all assets whether stocks bonds you know all classes of real estate whether it's multi or industrial retail office, etc those returns would continue to head lower. Now we've had the pandemic and we've seen multi-family and industrial hold up exceedingly well and who knows what to make of retail office and lodging just lots of pain and in those sectors and so if you need to be allocated to real estate then multifamily and industrial or where you want to be at least in the short term and especially if you're looking for consistency of returns and you know risk-adjusted on a risk-adjusted basis you know multi-industrial or have outperformed other asset classes and so really to get into the lodging office retail space probably more opportunistic mindset in terms of those assets may need to be repositioned etc and so I think a lot of that money that's out there is not looking to get there's a lot that's looking for that type of asset turnaround story but there's also a lot of money out there that needs the stability. And so that should continue to compress cap rates or put a really put a cap on that cap rates and so it would be no surprise if cap rates on an aggregate basis hold steady and maybe even decline despite a deterioration in short-term fundamentals and part of that is due to the long-term belief in apartments going forward and so yes there's a short-term dislocation where we expect some move-outs that you know this year actually there are a lot of move-outs that we expect and so there's going to be a lot of doubling up folks moving back in with their families but then there's going to be pent up demand as we as that recovery takes hold next year and that will be released and so we see leasing to be through the roof next year and then out into 2022. Then at the same time as that demand story improves in the short term we see starts decelerating dramatically so we've we're going from a 400,000 unit run rate to about 200,000 units by the early part of next year. And so new production is going to get cut in half now that we don't get any benefit of that immediately so we have to wait till later part of 2022 and 2023 before we see that slowdown and production really lift fundamentals and so I think everyone is seeing that yes there's some short-term disruption in the multi-family market right now, but the long-term drivers are there and if you have the capital to wait out this very painful period in the short term then there will be major benefits after that we should see after next year. Buck: Now one of the things you said I think earlier is that the worst is behind us do you believe that's the case in terms of rent growth and you know rent cuts and that sort of thing right now? Ryan: I think the worst is behind us in terms of the economy. I think that going forward we should continue to produce job gains on a monthly basis, though this next report could see some layoffs we'll see the consensus is one million one and a half. In terms of multi-family we do not think the worst is behind us we think that fundamentals will continue to deteriorate into the early part of next year we think that you know kind of right now in terms of year over year rent growth in the early part of this year let's call it three, three and a half percent we've since gone down to zero percent in the second quarter. So on a quarterly basis we've seen some dramatic rent cuts, again this is on a national basis and then as we move forward we see occupancy dropping by about three percentage points into the early part of next year, rent declines of about eight percent through the remainder of this year into the first quarter of next year and so no we do think that there will be some deterioration and fundamentals going forward. On the flip side of that might present some opportunities and so any assets that were purchased specially in your space in terms of if they were bought at the top of the market at the end of last year in the early part of this year and now that value-add story isn't there where you might not be able to get the rent bumps that you were expecting so some of those assets will have to be recapitalized and so that might present some opportunity as the year progresses but again like you said we haven't seen that materialized so far. Buck: Yeah that's the tricky part right I mean it's sort of like I think when you're on the buy side here you're saying well I mean these prices that we're seeing right now you know with prolonged you know low-interest rates which we can pretty much guarantee at this point for a period of time and then the pent-up demand. It's sort of like okay well I mean this actually might be one of the better times to buy if you consider what could potentially happen in the next you know 18 to 24 months in terms of you know explosive growth. When you look at those indicators that you're you know that you're talking about that may lead to some of the more explosive growth metrics what markets come to mind the most for you? Buck: Now one of the things you said I think earlier is that the worst is behind us do you believe that's the case in terms of rent growth and you know rent cuts and that sort of thing right now? Ryan: Yeah so our general geographic areas that we like we like the southeast, parts of Florida, Texas and the inner west. We really like Atlanta, we like South Florida though there's a little more pain in the short term some of our clients are saying it kind of in terms of you know rent collections you know northeast but also yeah LA but then South Florida is outperforming those two areas but still lagging some of these other markets. So we like the Texas markets long term the interwebs you have Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake as well. We like Seattle that's an outlier on the west coast but then the other markets whereas in the Bay Area we expect those you know rent growth numbers to average four, four and a half percent which stack up really well across the nation but for those markets that's a recession pretty much and so compared to what's normal and the cap rates you have to pay the rent growth numbers there kind of you know lackluster. So the midwest the markets they won't be hit as hard but still they don't get that explosive growth going forward and so we really like the inner West Texas, southeast of Florida markets and you know part of that has been driven being driven by the migration flows. So domestic migration numbers have really helped out all of these markets we've seen outflows from the northeast boston new york the bay area Southern California we've seen migration outflows from those markets into the you know inner west you know Las Vegas the inland Phoenix, Denver you know people moving from the coast into those markets and then you know also parts of texas as well but then in terms of the northeast the flows that are coming in to the Nashvilles the Charlottes, Raleighs, Atlanta, Florida markets we and then also Texas as well and so those trends have been accelerated at least in the short term, but it's important to remember that those have been going on for a decade at least even more and then other markets and so it's not anything new but at the margin that will support many of these other markets. Buck: Yeah on the west coast I mean there's that flight to Arizona as well right from California. One of the things that you know is worth talking about is what effect this has had you know the pandemic and the recession on the lending market, with Fannie and Freddie and you know how that might be playing into any of the growth or lack of growth. Ryan: Yeah I think on the financing side you know debt for stabilized assets it's there and it's cheap you may have to you know have higher reserves than you've had typically but for the most part it's there and so that's part of the appeal of buying assets right now with these record low interest rates. So I think for stabilized assets yeah it's there for new construction it is dried up considerably and this is a change in the last 30 to 60 days and so the fed does a survey each quarter of banks and their tightening of multi-family construction lending standards and that the latest report shows 70 percent of banks tighten their multi-family construction loans last quarter which we haven't seen those levels since 2008/2009. And so I think part of it's the lenders are trying to make sense of what they have in terms of all these other asset types in terms of real estate or retail, lodging, office loans, they're trying to you know spend a lot of time working those out and so then you add on the uncertainty in terms of the economic recovery etc, they've pretty much put a halt on new construction loans. And so that's been a big change here in the last two months call it. Then on the equity side I think returns have been increased but still available and interested but you know a lot of you know equity and especially focusing in on the new starts pipeline if all the deals that have been started are continuing and it's kind of a mixed bag from our clients in terms of are you seeing delays or actually some other clients that reported these they were able to speed up the timing in terms of getting able to get trucks into sites very easily and then also the construction workers that were on you know working on hotels motels those have come into the apartment sector and so that's provided more manpower in terms of getting these deals done. And so those that were under construction are continuing to proceed, those that were capitalized I think that but haven't begun those have been they haven't pulled out completely they just said let's press pause to see let's say can we get any break in construction costs over the next several months and so the equity and banks they're still willing to do it move forward on those deals that have been capitalized but are you know slow playing it. And then you get to the others where there's land sites and they hadn't been entitled and haven't been capitalized those deals we think have been shelved for right now and so it kind of where some opportunity could be is on the land side of you know potentially purchasing some land sites that might be teed up for development as we get further along in this recovery. Buck: Again one of the things that you're saying though in terms of construction loans not being there again it helps us for those of us who have apartment portfolios already that are already there that that again goes to the issue of a simple supply and demand issue which we can benefit from if there's not a whole lot of new builds. You know this is a major driving variable in in apartment buildings nationally can you give us a little bit of the idea of you know just not being able to keep up with you know population growth in various parts of the country, can you give us a little bit of you know sort of a thousand-foot view on the perspective on how big of an issue that actually is? Ryan: I don't know if it's that big of an issue you know on on the whole and I think that you know some of these higher growth markets in terms of where we've you know call it the Atlantas and North Carolina markets, Central North Florida, Texas, the inner west regions where we've seen large population growth statistics you know high growth markets but they're also they also tend to be the highest in terms of supply for housing and so it's more easy to build in those markets especially you know out as you get away from the know central cities etc and so where we've seen the the biggest barriers to supply are out on the coast and so we've seen you know job growth be pretty good in those markets but the supply hasn't kept up at all and so that's why you're seeing you know these big you know rent affordability you know problems in the coastal markets and so we think that supply not keeping up with the population dynamics is more of a coastal problem but then you know as you get into the markets that are more accepting of new development then you know we've seen housing supply increase at a rapid clip in many of these other markets I think you know Austin you know even through the June of this year permit activity for multi-family continued to set it reached big big levels and so I think year to date in Austin it's already pulled permits on almost 10,000 units already which is you know huge numbers. And so I do think that while these population growth numbers and some of these markets are you know off the charts especially compared to you know some of the coastal markets, that supply has been able to keep up there and so yeah you see pockets of where you know rent growth you know bumps up to you know five, six percent levels, it's especially that was the case in Phoenix and Las Vegas over the past two to three years where those markets were leading in terms of rent increases but they tend to you know be markets that you know will accept more new supply and so that will tend to even out over the long term. Buck: How's Vegas doing out of curiosity because that one was just crushing it. It seemed it seemed a little dangerous you know it seemed like one of those markets where it's like wow is it real or is it one of those things that's just gonna go back to Vegas. Ryan: Yeah exactly and yeah kind of thinking that you know before kind of goes back to your comment earlier about people moving from the coast to getting in their car and driving to the riverside and then Las Vegas and Phoenix and so it was benefiting from a real out-migration from expensive coastal California. That said that just the nature of this pandemic crushing leisure and hospitality and the conference circuit that the job losses in Las Vegas I think you know through April into May led the nation. We've seen some a bit of a bounce back there but really the question is you know how fast does the the conference you know a circuit come back, how fast are people willing to travel to casinos, I know they have already, but I think that pre-corona the growth was real and yeah absolutely now it's a little bit different you know market in terms of the cost and you don't want to go in there and if you're a developer you don't you know want to build a high-rise there and so your strategy is a little bit different but so far it's held up relatively well, all things considered, but still a lot of weakness that is materializing in Vegas. Buck: Interesting stuff. Well listen I don't want to keep you all day long, Ryan, but it's been great talking to you. Where can we learn more about your work? Ryan: Sure. Probably the easiest is wittenadvisors.com you can go there, all our contact information is there, feel free to reach out with a phone call or send me an email anytime and I'll be happy to give you more details on the services that we provide and how we add value to many clients that are in either owner, operators, developers, equity or lender clients. Buck: Fantastic thanks again and we'd love to have you again you know in a few months to reassess where we are at. Ryan: All right. Sounds good. Looking forward to it. Buck: We'll be right back
Someone has made it an annual tradition to amputate a part of my body.
I know this might sound hard to believe, but it’s exactly as the title suggests. No more, no less. I think the most sensible thing to do is to start from the beginning, so I’ll do just that. Back in 2012, I went to Las Vegas for a couple of weeks to blow off some steam, along with my severance package after I was laid off. It wasn’t an absurd amount of money, but it was enough to have fun for a few days which was all I wanted. I was staying at a casino hotel, and one morning I woke up with what I initially assumed was just another hangover. I felt nauseous and slightly dazed, and it took a couple of minutes for my legs and arms to regain their normal levels of sensation. It’s almost as if my body had slept for a really long time. Didn’t take long before I realized I was missing a finger. My left index finger, to be more precise. I started freaking out and panicking as my vision gradually turned to black, threatening to make me pass out at any given second. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I still struggled as I looked all over the room for my missing finger. Something I was quick to notice was that there wasn’t any blood at all. None that I could see, at least. Of course it could’ve just been my drunken, drugged up and panicked self that couldn’t see or think straight, but the investigation confirmed it later on: no traces of blood were found, and the weapon/object responsible for the deed was also missing. It appeared to be a clean cut, and the wound had somehow been cauterized. To me it looked like the finger had simply fallen off. I know this makes no sense at all, but that was my train of thought. I mean, if you woke up one day missing a finger, you’d certainly look around first, right? So that’s what I did. I mean it’s a part of you, part of your body, something that’s just not supposed to disappear like that. I eventually called for help, and to say it was a total shit show doesn’t even come close. So many cops, casino security and nosy patrons trying to understand what the hell was going on. I didn’t know what to say, or even what to think. I was missing a fucking finger and had no idea how or why that happened. The cops didn’t seem to care all that much. One of them implied something along the lines of me borrowing money from a loan shark or the mob or something like that. Another one said “it’s just a finger, you should be grateful.” I was disgusted beyond words, but before I got to defend myself from those accusations, everyone seemed to accept it as the truth. “When in Vegas-“, someone said. I still filled a ton of paperwork but it was worthless in the end. No clues came up and I could tell it was pointless to bother them about it. It was fucking Vegas after all, right? “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, and my finger sure as hell stayed there for all I know. I threatened to sue the hotel, and the guys in charge ended up giving me some hush money. I guess having your patrons lose body parts without a good enough reason would be bad for business. Who would’ve thought? I think this goes without saying, but the whole ordeal and its aftermath fucking sucked. Of course things are much different now in hindsight, with me not knowing at the time that it would become a regular thing, but even then it was enough to nearly ruin my life. I know it was “just” one finger, but how do you come to terms with something like that? It’s one thing to be involved in a freak accident or even a fight. But not only did I not know how I had lost it, I also didn’t know why, or even who would want to do something like that to me. How do you explain that to friends and family? How do you even begin to wrap your head around something like that? Imagine waking up every single morning and being reminded almost instantly that a part of your body has gone missing. If you think you could’ve easily moved past it, then good for you. You’re a better, stronger person than I could ever hope to be, but in my case? It nearly destroyed me. I didn’t leave my apartment for months. I couldn’t think or function normally because the thought of my lost finger was always on my mind. I mean, it USED to be attached to me, and then it disappeared overnight, so it was only natural to be reminded of its absence constantly. Whenever I reached to grab something, whenever I used or looked at my hands… it would mess me up for the rest of the day. I hadn’t become fully used to it yet, but thanks to therapy I was on the verge of making peace with it and finally moving on with my life. And then I lost something else, exactly one year later. 2013. I woke up with a very familiar sensation, one that had plagued my nightmares as well as my sleep paralysis incidents for the past year. I felt sick and numb, my whole body struggling to move and wake up. Sensation slowly came back to me, followed by pain. I screamed for my life, as I had done hundreds of times right before waking up in a puddle of sweat, but it was no nightmare. My right ear had gone missing, in the exact same circumstances as my finger. No blood, no tools, nothing left behind. It didn’t take long for me to realize that both incidents had happened on the exact same day of the exact same month. There was a pattern. There was, in all likelihood, a reason for this madness, and someone had to be behind it. And yet absolutely nothing came from it once again. “Absolutely nothing”… that’s what the cops had to work with, and I was left exactly the same as the year before, except that now I was missing an ear as well. The cops suspected my then girlfriend at the time. She was a nurse – I think you can guess in under which circumstances we first met – but everything checked out; she had been working all night and dozens of hospital staff accounted for her, as did video surveillance. While she provided some emotional support at first, she bailed after a few days. I couldn’t blame her. Not only was there still no logical explanation to the who, how or why, but someone had managed to make their way into our home, hack a piece of me and leave without seemingly breaking in or even leaving any evidence behind. That would just about scare anyone into moving away to another state, maybe even another country – which I actually attempted to do at some point, but more on that in a bit – and not only that, but this wasn’t the first time that it had happened, and now all the signs pointed to this becoming an annual event. And it sure did. 2014. Probably the hardest year I had to live through, knowing that someone was actively trying to ruin my life by slowly amputating my body, piece by piece. I invested a lot in security and would change the locks every other week, but I was never satisfied. It wasn’t enough. I barely slept, knowing that each passing day brought me closer to that terrible date. But what if it didn’t? What if they decided to come that very night, or the next? Maybe next week, or two months later? They had done with me as they pleased twice on the exact same day of the year, and the message was clear: they could do what they wanted with me, whenever they wanted, and get away with it. It probably would’ve been smart to just move to a different place, but my anxiety dictated most of my decisions. I nearly didn’t talk to anyone that whole year. That on top of my seclusion didn’t do me any good, although it did provide a bare-bones source of comfort. I lived in constant fear for the first 2/3rds of 2014. I thought it would get a lot worse as the inevitable date drew closer, but the opposite happened. I became angrier, with a newfound bloodlust building up inside of me. Someone was doing this to me, and if they wanted to keep on doing it, they would have to come for me again. Only this time I would be ready. I would be expecting them. They couldn’t possibly get away a third time, and more importantly, I just couldn’t afford to lose anything else. I couldn’t allow it, as I feared my mind and spirit would simply break apart. I got myself a gun through some gangbangers, and made sure I’d know how to use it when the time came. I was ready to take a life, and considering all that had happened to me, I knew I could probably get away with it. In fact, if anyone had knocked on my door on that day, I would’ve likely unloaded a full clip through the door without thinking twice. I just needed an excuse, the smallest hint of a threat… anything. I know I took some pills to make sure that I’d remain awake and aware throughout the night, but my recollection of that evening just fizzles past a certain point. I thought I’d taken enough steps to guarantee that I’d make it to the next day in one piece (or rather, without losing any more pieces) but I was wrong. That year they took my right hand, but that’s not all they did. The weapon I had bought for my protection? It was left on my desk completely disassembled, with every single part and component neatly, perfectly arranged like it was something straight out of a fucking manual. They had left a message, perhaps even a warning of things to come, the meaning of which I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you at this stage. All I knew then is that it was all far from over. Living as a shut-in had done me no good, so I had to radically change my approach if I hoped to change anything. I spent most of 2015 traveling the country, staying at motels and all kinds of sketchy places. I never knew where I was headed next whenever I got on a cab or hitched a ride. Ditched my phone and made sure to never make reservations of any kind. That sort of thing, you know, “not leaving a trail behind” and just get off the grid, or at least try to. Figured that might be enough to lose whoever was after me, even though I had no idea what kind of resources they had available to them. For a while, I think I really felt confident about it. I believed I could survive the year without losing any more pieces of me. But as the dreaded date loomed closer, doubts and anxiety found a way to cripple me all over again. In doing so, it gave way for all that mental and physical fatigue to set in, accumulated from nearly a whole year’s worth of traveling around. What if everything I had done wasn’t enough? Or what if it had all been pointless to begin with? There was less than a week left at that point, and that’s when I decided to do something very stupid that probably undid all the “work” I’d done so far: I bought a laptop and used the dark web to hire someone to protect me. They took my money, but they never showed up. I lost my tongue that year. I didn’t do much of anything in 2016. I moved into a new apartment every couple of months or so, but more out of necessity than anything else. There was no point for me to move around as I had done the year before, considering how it turned out in the end. Instead I tried my best to live a normal life as much as possible, despite everything I had lost and with my speech now severely impaired as well. I kept mostly to myself. On the outside, I appeared to be coping and living with my disabilities as best as I could, but I hadn’t given up. Every day I kept thinking of a way to stop something that, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be unavoidable no matter what I did. I kept everything related to this issue bottled up inside my head. That was the only place I was sure they couldn’t look into to see what I was planning. Even though I spent most of the year thinking of a way to keep it from happening again, I want to make it clear that I didn’t have a grand scheme going on. I wish I had, but as you would surely understand, I wasn’t exactly in the best of places. Losing body part after body part every single year will do that to you. All of this just to say that the best thing I came up with was getting on the longest flight available on that particular day. The destination didn’t matter to me. I figured there was no way someone could get a piece of me while up in the air and with nowhere to run off to. It was impossible, no matter how many scenarios I tried to recreate in my mind. And if I could spend enough hours up in the air, maybe I could make it, maybe for once I could go through one year without losing a part of me… and maybe the whole thing would finally stop. I didn’t even make it inside the plane. Airport security found me passed out in a bathroom, missing my left foot. I gave up entirely after that. How could I not? When I asked for help, they took my tongue. When I tried to fly away, they took my foot, as if to say that I wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t see the point to try and fight it any further, and even if I wanted to pursue some form of resistance, what could I ever attempt to achieve by myself? What could I ever hope to accomplish in the condition I was in, which only worsened year after year? Nothing. There was nothing left for me to do but accept it. Accept the fact that it was going to happen again, and that I couldn’t do anything about it. So last year I didn’t do anything extraordinary. Went to the movie theater in the afternoon, had dinner at the fanciest restaurant I could find without a reservation, and then went straight home. I didn’t stay up pointing a gun at the door. I didn’t bother with any last minute thinking that I knew wouldn’t get me anywhere. I just went to bed and fell asleep, knowing that I’d wake up the following morning less of a man than I was the day before. I didn’t do anything, except leaving a handwritten note by my bedside. “Why?” was all it said. “Why?” was all I needed to know. I figured since I had accepted and stopped trying to fight it, that they would at least humor my request and just tell me why they were doing this to me. Whyme. An answer was all I wanted, and it wasn’t much to ask for considering everything that had been taken from me already. I wasn’t really sure what to expect even if they were to leave me an answer, since nothing could possibly justify what had been done to me. I never did anything to anyone that could warrant this kind of vengeance. No crazy people in my life or insane ex-girlfriends, none at all. And if this had been a case of mistaken identity, or misdirected revenge? I could never get any of it back. What’s done is done, but I still had to know. I needed something to go on, no matter how fucking insane or deluded it might me. I needed to know the reasoning behind this slow process that was progressively erasing my existence from this world. I woke up missing an eye and all I got was the following response, left on the same sheet of paper: “Why not?” That brings us to now. I know that there might’ve been other things I could’ve done, other actions I could’ve taken. Back when they left my gun completely disassembled, or even when they answered my note, I could’ve asked the cops to look for fingerprints or some kind of evidence, but did I think something would come from it? No. They wouldn’t be so methodical and relentless unless they had no reason to believe they would be caught. I know it’s dumb to think like this, but I knew in my gut that it was pointless to dwell on it. I understand that I likely committed some very dumb mistakes early on, but please try and see it from my perspective: I was alone through most of it all in these last 6 years, and every time it happened again, I started functioning less and less like a normal person. I had no one to ask for help, and even if I did, my heightened paranoia would’ve made me believe otherwise. I lived in constant fear and apprehension, afraid that whoever is responsible for this could literally be any person I come across if I were to step outside. Please understand that things went down the only way they could because of the bad place I was put into, both physically as well as mentally, and please understand that I’m not here to ask for your help. As I said, I’ve already made my peace with it, and I don’t mean to trouble any of you in trying to come up with a scheme or a plan to make this stop once and for all. If you’ve read everything up until now, then that’s more than enough and I don’t wish to take any more of your time. Thank you. Truly. With this, I just want someone to know that I existed. I just want someone to remember that I, too, was someone at some point. I was complete. I was a person. I could share my name, even my mangled face, but even what’s left of it can be taken away if they want to. But not these words. You can’t take this away from me, and you won’t be able to erase me from people’s memories. I know it isn’t much, and I know I might not live on for long in this capacity, but for now it’s more than enough. I know that whoever’s been collecting my body parts over the years will see this. I know you’ll be reading this. Perhaps you’ll even leave a comment of sorts, wishing me luck or even offering your help and insight. I know you will. There’s only two days left until our next date. Maybe you’ll finally show yourself to me? Maybe you’ll put me out of my misery, once and for all? I considered doing it myself plenty of times, but since you’ve been through all this trouble already I figured I might as well wait for you to wrap it up. Wouldn’t want to ruin your fun, and I, too, get some form of twisted satisfaction out of it by knowing that you will always have to come back for more. You’re not done yet, are you? And to tell you the truth, I’m actually quite excited for once. This is pretty much the only thing I have left to look forward to at this point. And who knows, I might also have a surprise in store for you. Or maybe I don’t. See you soon.
Disney on Ice, January 16 - 20Your favorite Disney stories come to life at Disney On Ice presents Celebrate Memories! Sail along with Moana on her high-seas adventure and dance with Woody, Buzz and all the Toy Story friends. Feel inspired when love wins in Frozen and dreams come true for the Disney Princesses. Share the excitement and make new memories the whole family will treasure forever! Thu.-Fri. 7 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.; Sun. noon, 4 p.m., Mon. 1 p.m. , $15-$80 XL Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Hartford, CT
Friday, January 17th, 2020:
15th Annual Festival of New Musicals,January 17 - 19The Festival has launched more than 40 new musicals into the universe, sending them across the country, to Broadway, and around the world! Join us for a weekend filled with insider events, seminars, cabarets, and three staged readings of brand-new works as the brightest writers and performers collaborate to create the future of America's greatest art form. Packages & Tickets: Goodspeed's Festival Packages get you access to exclusive events all weekend long! Gold Package: $149, Silver Package: $80, General admission: $25, Students: $15 Fri. & Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m., The Goodspeed, 6 Main St. East Haddam, CT
Cabin Fever PJ Party, January 17A fun evening of movement, music and imagination. Geared for families with young children. 6:30 p.m.-7:15 p.m., Pre-registration: $5 per person, $18 family of four. At the door: $7 per person, $25 family of four. Children under 2 free, Roaring Brook Nature Center, 70 Gracy Rd. Canton, CT
Hard Hittin Beer Shuttle, January 17Friday night beer shuttle to Alvarium Beer Co, Five Churches Brewing, Relic Brewing and Kinsmen Brewing. There are three sessions to choose from. $20, includes transportation only. Must pre-purchase tickets online. 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. $20, Relic Brewing, 95 Whiting St. Plainville, CT
Bootlegger’s Bash: Raise a Glass to Prohibition!, January 17Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Prohibition in 1920s style! Dance to jazz music, snap a pic (or your mug shot) in the photo booth, and sample 1920s cocktails. We’re also hosting Hartford Flavor Company for a free tasting of their locally-made liqueurs. Be sure to come dressed in your Gatsby-esque best, you might win a prize for best costume. There will even be a pop-up exhibit of “flapper” dresses from our collection on display. Cocktails and refreshments included. Guests must be 21 or older. Advance tickets can be purchased here, or you can buy tickets at the door. 7 p.m.-9 p.m., $25, Connecticut Historical Society, One Elizabeth St. Hartford, CT
Randy Rainbow Live!, January 17Randy Rainbow (yes, real name) is a comedian, actor, writer, host and Internet sensation best known for his viral comedy videos. His popular series of political spoofs and song parodies have garnered international acclaim and over a hundred million views. He's been called "the best thing about the 2016 GOP race" by Dan Savage and his musical tribute to the first presidential debate of 2016 (“BRAGGADOCIOUS!”) received 28 million views in its first two days. He was subsequently asked by the cast of television's Will & Grace to parodize a song which they performed during a political fundraiser for the 2016 election. Randy has also written for comedian Kathy Griffin and hosted and performed in numerous theatrical events for the Broadway, cabaret and gay communities, as well as for the Tony Awards and some of New York City's most popular night spots including 54 Below, Birdland Jazz Club, XL Nightclub and Therapy NYC where his own weekly show ran for two years. He's been seen as a talking head on VH1 and has been heard regularly as both a guest and co-host on Sirius XM Radio. He is the creator and star of the long-runningBroadwayWorld.comweb series Chewing the Scenery with Randy Rainbow and Last Minute with Randy Rainbow. Please Note: This performance was rescheduled from November 9, 2019. If you previously purchased a ticket for that date, it will be good for the same seat at the January 17 performance. You do not need to exchange your ticket. If you have questions, call the Box office at (860) 444-7373 Ext 1. 8 p.m., $35-$55, Garde Arts Center, 325 State St. New London, CT
Saturday, January 18th, 2020:
Root 63 Variety Tasting, January 18 - 20Is Root 63 your favorite wine? The vineyard now has five of them, so come in for a special tasting of all fove wines which are 100% estate grown, sustainably farmers and produced and bottled on premise. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., $10, $12 with souvenir glass., Sunset Meadow Vineyards, 599 Old Middle St. Goshen, CT
Forest City Public Beer Tour, January 18All inclusive public beer tour to Still Hill Brewing, Forest City, Stubborn Beauty and Tavern at the Armory. What’s Included? - Still Hill Brewing (flight or pint of beer) - Stubborn Beauty (flight or pint of beer) - Forest City Brewing (flight or pint of beer) - Tavern at the Armory (one pint of local beer from tap) + - Sampler plate consisting of jerk jerk chicken wings, shrimp spring rolls and sweet potato fries food\ *Food may change slightly depending on availability. - Safe and Reliable transportation, What to bring: Please bring a photo ID. All passengers must be 21+* Pick-Up Locations: 11:20 a.m.: Double Tree Hotel Bristol - 42 Century Drive, Bristol, CT11:45 a.m.: Middletown Inn - 70 Main St, Middletown, CT, 11:15am - 6:00pm, $95 Bristol Double Tree Hotel Parking Lot, 42 Century Dr., Bristol, CT
Lunar New Year Celebration with Chinese Acrobatics @ Danbury Library, January 18Celebrate Lunar New Year with acrobat Li Liu as she performs amazing stunts and tricks including balancing, plate spinning, ribbon dancing, and more! Learn about the 2000 year old tradition of acrobatics and the rituals and customs that will help begin the year of the Rat. FREE! All ages welcome. Registration recommended.11:30 a.m. Farioly Program Room at Danbury Library, 170 Main St. Danbury, CT
Piff the Magic Dragon, January 18Two shows. Straight from “America’s Got Talent, it’s the greatest magic performing dragon of all time! Don’t miss this night jaw-dropping magic tricks and hysterical comedy, think Larry David in a dragon suit blowing your mind with magic tricks. Voted the Magic Circle’s Stage Magician of the Year in 2014, Piff is keen to point out that, even though he is a magician doing tricks dressed in a dragon suit and definitely plays it for laughs, his act is not really suitable for young children. 5 p.m. & 8 p.m., $40-$65, Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge Rd. Ridgefield, CT
Terry Fator, January 18It’s a long journey from Corsicana Texas to the Las Vegas stage, but Terry Fator made it to the top as the headliner at the Mirage Hotel in Vegas for the past 10 years. Terry can impersonate over 100 voices with favorites being Karen Carpenter, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Justin Timberlake, Elvis, Meghan Trainor and Bruno Mars. His cast of characters includes: Winston the Impersonating Turtle; the World’s Greatest Elvis Impersonator; Elton John; Vicki the Cougar; President Donald Trump and annoying neighbor Duggie. 8 p.m., $49-$80, Palace Theater, 100 East Main St. Waterbury, CT
Everclear with Paul Gabriel Blues Band, January 18Everclear has written and recorded some truly iconic 1990s alt-rock hits. And while it’s a virtual surety that no Everclear gig is complete without a rendition of “Santa Monica” and “Father of Mine,” lately the band has found that exploring the full range of past material, especially the “deep cuts,” not only gives fans a rare treat, it also injects new life into the band’s live dynamic. Formed by Art Alexakis in 1991 in Portland, Oregon, Everclear has enjoyed a lengthy career spanning 11 studio releases (three of which went platinum), numerous videos, thousands of shows and accolades that include a 1998 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental. Like a true survivor, Alexakis has soldiered on through multiple lineup changes over the years. The current touring lineup features longtime members Dave French (guitar) and Freddy Herrera (bass), as well as drummer Brian Nolan. 8 p.m. $35-$70, VIP $185., The Klein Auditorium, 910 Fairfield Ave. Bridgeport, CT
Sunday, January 19th, 2020:
Tacos & Tequila Fiesta, January 19Celebrate all things Tacos & Tequila at Foxwoods Resort Casino. Foxwoods is celebrating Cinco de Mayo a few months early. ¡Diecinueve de Enero. Enjoy taco and tequila samples from over 20 companies. Dance along to a live mariachi band or show off your skills on the mechanical bull. It's not a tasting, it's a fiesta! Prices: Blanco ($15) : Includes entry into Tacos & Tequila, you can purchase food and drink. Perfect for designated drivers. Reposado ($45): Includes entry into Tacos & Tequila, 2 Taco Samples and 3 Tequila Samples. Additional food and drink available for purchase. Anejo ($80): Includes entry into Tacos & Tequila, four taco samples and six tequila samples, unlimited Margaritas for one hour. Additional food and drink available for purchase. 4 p.m., Premier Ballroom at Foxwoods Resort Casino, 350 Trolley Line Blvd. Mashantucket, CT
What A Day: Curious, Georgia by Sarah Lazarus & Crooked Media (04/23/20)
"Why don’t we just put everybody in a space outfit or something like that?" - Stephen Moore, economic advisor to the president and grown man
Mitch Better Have My Money
More than 4.4 million Americans filed new jobless claims in the last week, bringing the reported unemployment total over the past five weeks to 26 million. Faced with those numbers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided it’s time to pump the brakes on any additional economic relief, and possibly force blue states and cities into bankruptcy, reminding us all why he's the most popular politician in America.
Members of the House returned to the Capitol to approve the $484 billion stimulus bill passed by the Senate earlier this week, modeling varying degrees of personal responsibility on the floor. The funding in that package is expected to be depleted within days: Banks have been swamped with small-business loan applications, and the bulk of the $310 billion being added to the program is already spoken for.
The House also voted to establish a select committee, led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, to oversee the administration’s coronavirus spending. The text of the resolution actually gives the panel more far-reaching power than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially indicated—it has the authority to investigate Trump’s larger response and U.S. pandemic preparedness, including internal administration deliberations. Pelosi said today that it won’t actually...do that, at least not in the near future.
As Congress shifts its focus to the next major piece of coronavirus legislation, McConnell has suggested that perhaps instead of lawmakers allocating more funds for state and local governments on the brink of economic disaster, those governments should just go fuck themselves? McConnell, who has bizarrely characterized that federal help as “Blue State Bailouts,” said he’d rather invent a way for states to declare bankruptcy than approve more relief, a proposal that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) today called “one of the really dumb ideas of all time.” More tellingly, McConnell is also at odds with President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who have both signaled that they’re on board with Democrats’ call to include that funding in the next bill.
In New York, preliminary results from antibody studies indicate that the state’s 250,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus may be just the tip of the iceberg.
Nearly 3,000 people across the state were randomly tested in supermarkets, and about 14 percent of them tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. In New York City the rate was higher: 21 percent of roughly 1,300 people tested positive. The lag in testing left New York in the dark: A new model from researchers at Northeastern University suggests that there were thousands of infections in NYC, and four other major U.S. cities, long before testing revealed there was a problem.
Further south, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) is forging ahead with his plan to reopen some nonessential businesses tomorrow, even after Trump abruptly threw him under the bus on Wednesday, saying he “strongly disagreed” with Kemp’s decision, a day after publicly praising him. (The coronavirus task force reportedly convinced Trump to reverse course.) Many business owners and workers in the state do not feel comfortable returning to work, but if they refuse, they risk losing their unemployment aid.
Even with unemployment numbers rising by the millions every week, an overwhelming majority of Americans understand that reopening the economy prematurely isn’t the solution. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from last weekend found that 76 percent of respondents felt social distancing measures should continue for as long as necessary. Kemp and reckless Republican leaders like him are ignoring public opinion in addition to national guidelines, and endangering public health.
Look No Further Than The Crooked Media
So far, 3,660 of you have used the call tool on https://votesaveamerica.com/call to get connected to your representatives in Congress and tell them that they need to include funding to make elections safe and accessible as part of their next coronavirus package. Keep them coming! Now we want to hear from you: why do YOU need safer voting options this year? Whether you have a preexisting condition that puts you at risk, or don’t feel safe volunteering at the polls, we want to hear your story. Send in a video to us at 323-405-9944 so we can share your story and send a message to Congress and the state governments about how important this is →
Under The Radar
Florida has distinguished itself as a nightmarish place to be unemployed. The state is one of the slowest in the country to process its jobless claims, which means hundreds of thousands of unemployed Florida workers have been waiting weeks to receive their first checks, and many haven’t even been able to file their claims. The state agreed to start accepting paper applications this month, after its unemployment website broke down under the volume of traffic. Florida’s GOP leaders have intentionally weakened its unemployment system over the last decade, leaving its workers particularly vulnerable in this crisis: The state’s unemployment benefits max out at $275 a week. Nearly all of the major battleground states in the 2020 election are experiencing higher-than-average layoffs. In addition to prying more relief funding out of Mitch McConnell’s cold bloodless hands, it will be on all of us to make sure those voters realize that this level of economic fallout, and the broken systems exacerbating it, were preventable.
In a New York Times op-ed this week, Dr. Richard Levitan described volunteering at New York’s Bellevue Hospital for 10 days. Levitan shared a new insight into what makes COVID pneumonia uniquely dangerous: Unlike most pneumonia patients with very low oxygen saturation (hypoxia), many COVID-19 patients don’t feel short of breath until they’re close to respiratory failure. That seems to be a result of the peculiar way the coronavirus attacks the lungs, and when patients breathe faster and harder to compensate for their “silent hypoxia” without realizing it, their lungs sustain further damage. That may explain why so many patients on ventilators ultimately die: They didn’t get to the hospital until their pneumonia was well advanced. Levitan recommended more widespread use of pulse oximeters to detect hypoxia early. Since the op-ed was published, pulse oximeters have become impossible to find, which Levitan says is no cause for panic. (Hospitals don't use the same devices, so this isn't an N95 mask situation.) Think of it like a thermometer—something you should probably have in your home eventually.
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Is That Hope I Feel?
Publix has launched an initiative to purchase milk and fresh produce from struggling farmers, and donate it directly to Feeding America food banks. Braskem America workers voluntarily lived at the factory for 28 days, producing tens of millions of pounds of the raw materials needed for PPE. Ruth's Chris Steak House, Sweetgreen, and King Sushi announced they’ll return the small-business loans they received from the Payroll Protection Program. Yelling at companies on the internet works! A federal appeals court ruled that Detroit students (and by extension, all children in the U.S.) have a fundamental right to a basic education. Virginia has become the latest state to end prison gerrymandering, the practice of counting incarcerated people where they’re detained, rather than at their last known residence.
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