Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interview With a Climate Pimp

"Bitch better have my money," so responded a UN official to the latest research suggesting that climate change is forcing young women into prostitution.

Sporting a purple-feathered cap to show solidarity with Philippino ladies of the night (or "flips" as they're known in the industry) Jonny "Climate Pimp" Jones escorted me into the UN building, red snakeskin boots clacking, and a glitzy "broad" on each arm.

"And unlike the latest climate change models, these babies are real," Jonny smirks, jiggling the endowments of his bubble-gum smacking entourage as he leads me to where Climate Truth happens.

We enter the wing for the UN Department of Creative Financing and walk by the offices for Weather, CO2, Carbon Credits, and Jonny opens a door with a shiny engraved plaque labeled "Prostitution." The girls remove his hat and sunglasses and the pimp sits down. He stares intently; one eye is red and the other is green, his pupils are thin slivers like a reptile's. The green eye shoots off to the left. It makes for an eerie effect.

"Let's talk bizness," Jonny hisses through his gold tooth. The climate pimp vaguely resembles Billy Dee Williams, but clean-shaven, with a close-cropped reddish afro. His skin is pale and wan. The girls behind him giggle and continue smacking their gum. One is a dyed redhead with a slightly impudent face and a turned up nose. From afar she looks incredibly beautiful, even noble, but upon closer inspection the facade falls apart: There are scattered lines and the crimson lipstick at the corners of her mouth is smeared. The other is a raven-haired beauty with a blank expression and blinking eyes. There is nothing especially remarkable about her, except when you gaze at her she is the most fascinating of creatures, but when you turn away she is instantly forgotten.

"Excuse me for being rude," I started off, brushing off the surreal nature of the settings. "But don't you think going around with ditzy models is a bit unbecoming for a climate expert?"

Jonny threw his boots up on the cherry-finished desk and appeared slightly angered. "Man, what you talking about? Denise here has a degree from the Harvard school of climate relations and Julie - well, she's my special assistant. She can be a little cold sometimes, but in my estimate, she's as smoking hot as they come. Isn't that right you little minx?" The girls squealed in delight. "But enough small talk, what's on your mind?"

"Well sir, there's this report that suggests that climate change is forcing women in the Philippines into prostitution..."

"Oh that," his laughter burst out so quickly it immediately turned into a cough. Between you, me and the two walls, that's just a way for the UN to muscle in on some turf in Manila that we've been eyeballing for some time now. These ladies of the night have been rendering their services in an unregulated market down there, and we want a cut. So we claim that climate change is making all these fine young things available," one of the girls snorted, "and we charge their customers a special fee for 'facilitation of services.' It's our little way of giving back to the communities."

Jonny turned away and admired his quite impressive collection of plaques and awards, including signed pictures with Kofi Annan, Al Gore, and Ashton Kutcher. "Cavasier?" he offers as he dexterously pulls out a bottle of absynthian colored liquid and a glass tumbler. "Sorry, but - no ice."

"No...thank you. I'm a bit puzzled here. How will making money off the sex trade do anything for global climate temperatures?"

"Well, no one in the press has ever asked me that question before." Jonny's expression went from amused to exasperated. The girls glanced at one another nervously.

"That's not the point. It doesn't matter, man, what's really going on out there. We're saving the planet. We're the good guys...the good guys! Some big oil company didn't send you here, did they?" Suddenly, Jonny appeared agitated and he fiddled impatiently. Then he produced a big box of cigars from a drawer as quickly as a street magician. "Cuban?" The climate pimp whipped out a gold zippo, snapped open the lid, and shot a flame to the tip of his cigar. The end glowed a bright red, and as Jonny puffed, the flames from the lighter shot up over his face. One, two, three times, and for a moment his face looked maniacal, even demonic.

"No. No!" I shot out not really believing the scene that had just unfolded before me. "Like I said, I am a beat reporter that covers the United Nations and happenings on the international scene."

"Oh, so - that's fascinating. Chocolate-covered cherry?"

"Really Jonny, I'm not interested in all that. I'm trying to get to the bottom of this story. The U.N. claims that global climate temperatures are going up - where is it getting this data from and how can people verify it? There's a lot on the line for countries economically."

Jonny lifted his head up from a laptop computer, which seemed to have appeared from out of thin air. The pimp was was grinning sardonically from ear to ear. Just as quickly, he closed the laptop and stowed it at his feet. "Excuse me, did you say something about data?"

"Global temperatures appear to be steady or declining for the last ten years, according to satellite time series data. Would you like to comment?"

"Sure, I would like to comment." The climate pimp all of a sudden pulled out a remote control and pressed the big red button in the middle. The sound of gears engaging filled the room and a wall to his left bearing an obvious fake of Jacques Louis-David's The Death of Marat began to move towards me and revealed a hidden room. Lights flicked on from overhead as if in a museum. In the center of the room, a giant circular bed with red satin sheets and bronze fluting beckoned. There were candles on lamp stands that flickered and the scent of cinnamon incense wafted into his nostrils. Two leafy ferns stood in the corner, and inset in the wall behind them were burbling lava lamps. The floor was marble with an obsidian and cyanthine checkered pattern. For some bizarre reason, Mack the Knife played in the background.

"Perhaps Denise and Julie can shed some light on the subject?" Jonny grinned and a golden light beamed from beneath him onto his joyous triumphal face. It wasn't immediately clear if one was looking upon the most beautiful of angels or the most hideous of devils.

"That won't be necessary," I gasped. Immediately, the music shut off, the lights from the room dimmed, and the wall closed back up.

"Perhaps I can write you a check? Money is no object." A gleaming pen and a leather-bound checkbook were extended before me and the pimp smirked. He insistently forced the pen into my left hand, scratching it.

I jerked my hand back and bit it to quell the pain. "If you don't mind, I'd just like some answers."

Jonny glanced down at his Rolex and tapped it twice. "Will you look at the time? Sorry, I'm a busy man." The climate pimp yanked his legs down from his desk, jumped up, and the redhead set a feathered cap on his head while the blonde laid a fur coat over his shoulders.

"You'll have to excuse me. I'm off to the Phillipines to meet with a promising young upstart. People are murmuring that he could be The One, but I must disabuse him of this notion. Good day."

And with that, I found myself in a brightly lit solarium staring at a swirling cup of espresso. Men and women resembling fashion models strolled through the capacious lobby of the UN with an air of unthinking purpose. Unexpectedly, my cell phone rang. Clumsily I reached into my pocket, flipped open the lid, and held it up to my ear. "Hello?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Jones has to cancel the interview and I'm afraid that it is impossible to reschedule at this time."

"Oh. OK, " I mumbled. I clapped the cell phone shut. This was all a bit too weird, even for the UN.

Had the interview been a dream? The scratch on my hand itched and a trickle of blood fell to the ground. The interview was real, and yet it seemed an illusion. But somehow I knew - it couldn't be both.

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