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ALL HOPE ABANDON
In Dante's Divine Comedy, the sign above the entrance to hell reads, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
some modest vig
Vigorish, or simply the vig, also known as juice, the cut or the take, is the amount charged by a bookmaker, or bookie, for his services. From WIKI.
Hungarian Pastry Shop
See page 4 of The Crying of Lot 49 to hear about the time when a thin-skinned Mucho Mass was offended at a party by a Hungarian pastry chef, a man who may or may not have used the word "creampuff" maliciously.
before either of them knows it, it's turning into morning talk-show TV
A similar experience to how some readers find much of the novel?
Old Ebbitt Grill is a historic bar and restaurant located at 675 15th Street NW in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It is Washington's oldest bar and restaurant, and as of 2012 was owned by Clyde's Restaurant Group. It opened as an unnamed restaurant in the Ebbitt House hotel. The hotel was razed and rebuilt in the same location in 1827. Ebbitt House was razed in 1926 to make way for the National Press Club Building, but the restaurant was incorporated by Anders Lofstrand, Sr., as a stand-alone business. It moved into new quarters at 1427 F Street NW. After Lofstrand's death in 1955, the restaurant was purchased by Peter Bechas in 1961. The restaurant was sold at a tax sale in June 1970, and was purchased by Clyde's Restaurant Group. The 1427 F Street NW location was demolished in 1983, and Old Ebbitt Grill moved into its current quarters at 675 15th Street NW. From WIKI.
... and right down the block from the White House
"Something about [...] "...vertical hoop, high percentage of fouls, some of them flagrant, usually fatal?"
Maxine's description is actually pretty accurate:
"One of the ways that the Mayan peoples competed against each other was by playing what has been called the Ball Game. They used a rubber ball, about 20 inches in diameter, to play the Game, which was played on a stone "court" whose measurements varied. The court had walls that sloped inward, and hanging high on the walls were stone rings. The goal of the game was to pass the ball around, without having it touch your hands, and then get the ball to pass through one of the rings. Since the rings were so high and players were not allowed to use their hands, it was extremely difficult to get the ball through a ring. In fact, when a player did manage to get a ball through a ring, that usually ended the game. The game ended otherwise when the ball touched the ground. The Mayan Ball Game was a solemn experience, filled with ritual importance. Religious leaders attended, as did most chieftains and other government leaders. Sacred songs were sung and played. Other religious activities took place as well. The winners of the game were treated as heroes and given a great feast. The penalty for losing a game was sometimes unusually harsh: death. The leader of the team who lost the game was sometimes killed. This fit in with the Mayan belief that human sacrifice was necessary for the continued success of the peoples' agriculture, trade, and overall health." The "Mayan Ball Game" was a feature of the underworld death court Xibalba:
"Xibalba was home of a famous ballcourt in which the heroes of the Popol Vuh succumbed to the trickery of the Xibalbans in the form of a deadly, bladed ball, as well as the site in which the Maya Hero Twins outwitted the Xibalbans and brought about their downfall."
In the highlands of Guatemala, was a Pre-Columbian Mayan city.
Wikipedia: "roughly translated as "place of fear", Xibalba is the name of the underworld in K'iche' Maya mythology, ruled by the Maya death gods and their helpers. In 16th-century Verapaz, the entrance to Xibalba was traditionally held to be a cave in the vicinity of Cobán, Guatemala. According to some of the K'iche' Maya presently living in the vicinity, the area is still associated with death. Cave systems in nearby Belize have also been referred to as the entrance to Xibalba."
"Leave if you can"
The Kaibiles are a special operations force of the Military of Guatemala. They specialize in jungle warfare tactics and counter-insurgency operations. The corps' soldiers are distinguished from regular troops by maroon berets with patches bearing a blazing sword. Its motto, inspired by Henri de la Rochejaquelein, is: "If I advance, follow me. If I stop, urge me on. If I retreat, kill me." From WIKI.
Mexico City, or that is, Federal District, or Distrito Federal.
Huehuetenango is a city and a municipality in the highlands of western Guatemala. It is also the capital of the department of Huehuetenango. The municipality's population was over 81,000 people in 2002. The city is located 269 km from Guatemala City, and is the last departmental capital on the Pan-American Highway before reaching the Mexican border at La Mesilla. From WIKI.
de Guatemala a Guatepeor
figuratively speaking, "out of the frying pan into the fire"