Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Being out the country, you realize the whole world does not revolve around the smoke and mirrors approach to our daily manna. I've been back a few days and there's hardly been any mention of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world the U.S. is putting bullets in hearts and minds. Is the war over? All the news has been about dead Anna Nicole and her rotting corpse (who incidentally, I prefer to the live one) and the fact that Britney is running out of body parts to shave. A Miami judge sobs as he hands down his verdict, auditioning for his own JUDGE WEEPY TV show and Brit checks in and out of rehab so fast that the drugs barely have time to wear off. Except for Democracy NOW, even John Stewart is obsessed with this immorality play. It's only a matter of time before Amy Goodman gives up on hard news and shovels up the dirt. I hear Hugo Chavez has an extraneous nipple and Howard Zinn is getting a sex change. Come on Amy...what gives?
Because I knew so little about Argenzuela (I kept calling it Venezuela), I grabbed the TIME OUT Buenas Aires book as soon as i hit the pool. I learned about the travels of Evita's corpse, the theivery of Juan Peron's hands from his corpse and the dropping of drugged undesirable individuals from helicopters into the the Rio Plata in darker times. My BA buddies were all too young to remember any of this. All they remembered was when a peso was worth a dollar and everyone went to Miami on vacation. Those good times were gone. That's why the gringos were always picking up the tab. They spelled gringo ATM.
Late one night Slick and I were heading for home from the bar, when a couple of Polize waved us over. I'd read in my guide book about the Argenzuela tradition of corruption and graft. Car cinco quatro was about to give us a lesson. The officer took our papers and began the litany of offenses he could pull us in for. Then he smiled and asked how much Slick had in his wallet? Out came the pesos. In a way it was direct and not too painful. Hell, I hardly felt it as 150 pesos was removed from Slick's pocket. It wasn't exactly Kosher, but it was honest in its dishonesty. I resisted my urge to practice my Espanol. Donde esta Anna Nicole? Yo tango Britney.
In my little world the news is all about frozen pipes, my car being in the shop, the neighbor's game farm and Vic Vogelin's interview with the "human interest" guy on CBS 60 Minutes. We aren't sure whether or not it will air. There's a lot of competition out there on that tip. I think I just saw something fall out of that helicopter hovering over the river. That's gotta hurt on that ice. Could this be of interest?
Friday, February 23, 2007
I don't travel much, but when I do the U.S. Customs Service seems to take an inordinate amount of interest in my movements across international borders. This trip was no different.
The Houston border agent was very engrossed in rifling through the many plastic bags contained within the lugguge of the guy in front of me. Each one was caressed, sniffed and probed with blue fingered plastic gloves. I had to make my connection to NYC. I checked my watch, sighed and tapped my foot. The rest of my fellow "flagged" passengers fitcheted and shuffled in line. Finally other agents arrived and the line began to move. I, of course, got the stern, scowling, obsessive cowboy.
"Any tobacco, alchohol, money over $10,000, illegal drugs, dinosaur bones, etc...?" I shook my head. "No sir." Then, instead of opening my bag, he took my passport, and turned to his computer. 10 minutes later the fidgetty line of red flags had disappeared to their waiting planes, as my man still furiously clicked away on the keyboard. Then he turned back to me, and daintily unzipped my bag. "Tell me, why do you live in NY? I was there once. Never again." I knew this routine well. When cops get conversational watch out! I played along. I explained I lived in the sticks. He saw all my scribbled, coffee stained lyrics. "I write songs." He nodded. Then a Cuban Cohiba box fell out of my boot. He smiled. He thought he had me. "Empty." I said. I smiled. He continued the search.
There's something that always comes up on that computer screen. I don't know what it is. Cuba visits? Pot bust? Blog? Politics? The time I told that cop in Montgomery to go fuck himself? I ask my now friendly border guard. "Nothing big." he says, then goes back to examining my Frye boots. "You ride?" he asks. "No." I say checking my watch again. I'm going to miss my flight if this guy doesn't wrap it up. "They interest me." the agent says, and heads for the xray machine. JEEEEzus.
Just short of full body cavity search, the cowboy waves me through with a smile. "Welcome home." he says. I just make my flight. After a good night's sleep in NYC I catch a cab to Penn Station to get my train upstate. My cabbie is an Afghan. We get to talking. I ask about the Taliban. He snorts and laughs. 'The Taliban are all in Pakistan. Then come and go as they please. I work here and make $100 a day and go home to Kabul and live on $10 a day. The mountains are beautiful. And the flowers smell like...." he closes his eyes "...like perfume." A truck blows his horn and cuts us off. A string of Afghan curses follow. We talk and laugh all the way up sixth ave. When he drops me off he shakes my hand and thanks me for talking to him. "You are the nicest American I ever met." he says. "Welcome home." Now that's a welcome back. Why can't my countrymen be as nice? Next year maybe Afghanistan. That should be a breeze coming back.