Saturday, February 28, 2009

There's Never Been A Better Weekend to Spend Alone In Your Room

The public's irrepressible desire to go to the movies is keeping the Hollywood junk barge afloat, but for how long?

I mean, look at the shit that is out in the multiplexes this weekend.

The Jonas Brothers? All I have to say is that if they are hot, then not only are there way too many hot people walking around in this world, but I am a goddamn smoldering angel of sexiness.

Tyler Perry? Does anybody actually think he's funny? It's one thing to dress up like a woman and be funny (Monty Python); it's a whole other thing to just dress up like a woman. Do black people see his movies to support black cinema, or do they actually like them? Can't we get good black movies out there? Can we get the Wayans Bros, Martin Lawrence, Ice Cube, and Tyler Perry out of the business already? And why do we need black movies anyway? Isn't that segregation?

Slumdog? Can't we get a break from this? Please?

? Confessions of a Shopaholic? Paul Blart?

Kill me!


Genetics Is A Crapshoot

I'm not sure what happened to the McQueen magic, but his grandson certainly didn't get it.

After much research, I finally found the one-night stand that resulted in this line of Steve McQueen's family. I can't say I wouldn't have been tempted myself, especially after going blind from a gulletful of home-brewed wodka.

Never before has it paid so well to look like Eddie Munster. In yet another show about teenage vampirism (is that three now? or four?), "McQueen will play Jeremy, Elena's outcast cute younger brother."

Oh, thanks for telling me he's cute--cuz I certainly didn't get that from the photo, but now I know I should yearn for him and put posters of him on my wall and memorize his hilarious personal details.

"Chadwick" doesn't start with an 'R!'


Television Networks Don't Understand Why Sucking for Years Is Affecting Their Bottom Lines

The best shows on television right now are, in no particular order:

- Mad Men
- Flight of the Conchords
- Always Sunny in Philadelphia
- Top Chef
- Project Runway
- The Life and Times of Tim
- Entourage
- 30 Rock

Guess how many of those are on network TV? One--30 Rock--and it's the most uneven of all of them.

Network execs are quick to blame the economic downturn for declining ad revenue, but the bottom line is that it's hard for anybody to get behind a ninth incarnation of CSI or Law & Order. During tough times, advertisers aren't likely to spend their money on shows that viewers aren't obsessing over; it's like a weeding-out process.

ust because three million people watch the show doesn't mean it's a hit--shit, they probably just left the TV on while they went out to Burger King for dinner, or, more likely, are too old to figure out how to turn their TV off, so they just turned their hearing aids down. There is no buzz around network shows; nobody eagerly awaits the season premiere of My Name Is Earl to see what new hick joke the writers came up with in the off-season. There is more buzz around long-ago-canceled Arrested Development than any show on network TV, save perhaps American Idol.

Two and a Half Men? According to Jim? This is the best they can do? Even The Office stopped being funny several years ago and never was as funny as the original British version.

In fact, that makes for a good case study. To anybody who had never seen the British version, the first half-season of The Office--when they remade all the British episodes--was extremely funny. Then the show runners got a little lost. After a bit of a break to think long and hard about things, they came back strong with a funny Season Two. But then they fell victim to the biggest no-no--they had Jim and Pam get together! They even had Michael in a couple of long-term relationships! Rule #1 in a sitcom is to maintain the flirtation and chemistry, but avoid a relationship. Sam and Diane? Yes. Ross and Rachel? Ick.

Why do Hollywood TV producers insist on the romance these days? Are they really that uncreative? There is no surer way to kill comedy than to bring in a sappy romantic subplot. Movies make the same mistake, falling victim to the Spielberg complex. No character can simply save the world--he must also fall in love and win the fair lady's heart before the movie ends.

So, the bottom line is, unless network execs get their asses in gear, they will be the channels that play nothing but awful reality TV shows, game shows, and corporate news nobody watches. Cable will be the new networks--even the Mayor of Television agrees with me!

Fair warning, CBS/NBC/ABC/Fox--get under your desks and put your heads between your knees, cuz y'all know what happens to dinosaurs...


Friday, February 27, 2009

The Worst Music Video Ever

It's Jamie Foxx's new joint--featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson (who never moves in it), Forrest Whitaker, and Ron Howard.



Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meet Nick--He Walks Up Stairs On All Fours and Is Afraid of Ketchup Bottles and the Word 'People'

Before we begin, I have to do this as a precaution against poor Nick reading this:


Okay. Now, see how much of this you can get through. It's fascinating.

He is Nick, from North Dakota. He is 24 years old. He doesn't watch movies or read books and only enjoys the dulcet tones of video game music. He stays in his bedroom 21-23 hours a day. He has 80 pair of stained underwear in the corner of his room and air dries his body after a shower, rather than spend 15 minutes looking for a towel that is unstained.

He has many complicated fears, problems, and obsessions--those ongoing and those overcome. These include mirrors, stairs, blue water, and chairs.

You wanna talk about weird food obsessions? He used to spend over 30 minutes degreasing his McDonald's double cheeseburgers before eating them. But now he pretty much only eats frozen cheese pizzas and potato chips. And he has a garbage bag in his room for all the crushed cans of Minute Maid Light Lemonade he drinks (he crushes the cans with his hands).

How does Nick feel about alcohol? He refers to it as "poison."
"Even though I'm now of legal age, if I was asked this again, due to my motive being -870, primarily due to the numerous negative effects, I'd otherwise always refuse the offer and even $2500 isn't enough to counter it."
He often differentiates between reality and life inside his 'mind game.'

What exactly does he mean by 'mind game?'

What sort of 'really funny' things does he get up to in his mind game?

On to the speculation and questions:

Is Nick retarded?

Is he autistic?

Is he merely obsessive/compulsive with a huge fear of social interaction?

What are his parents like?

Why have they allowed him to be this way?

How can they afford to buy him so many frozen pizzas and bottles of Powerade?

How was he able to write this much about his life, considering he does almost nothing?

Why does he have to buy a purse when he goes to the store?

What is all that underwear stained with?

What is his sex life like?

Does he masturbate?

What does his porn look like?

Scrolling pages of the decimal places of pi?

Why is he so into spells, but doesn't mention Magic or Dungeons and Dragons or Lord of the Rings anywhere?

Who plays the board games he creates?

Has anybody bought his video game for $12.95?

How much does it suck?

Who does he think reads this bottomless website?

What does he think we think of it?

Does he really think we care how he used to 'cook' his ramen noodles and Hamburger Helper?

I could go on forever, but I won't. I have a hankering for a pizza and I don't know why...


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Say No More!

Well, Slap Me In the Cunt and Call Me Sally!

Looks like the market for stretch-mark-fetish pornography is bigger than I predicted.

Vivid Entertainment recently offered infamous octuplet-mom Nadya Suleman $1 million to appear in one of their videos.


Who wants to see that woman in a porno? Aren't pornos supposed to be pleasurable? Or is there some sick sort of 'hate-your-cock' fetish section I luckily am not aware of (til now)?

I mean, first of all, she's not an actress, and that shit's important.

Secondly, she is not attractive in the slightest--a man's penis might actually invert if its owner saw this woman naked (think of the lawsuits!).

Thirdly, there is not a cock in the land that wouldn't simply get lost inside that black hole between her legs.

How could Vivid possibly make a profit off this? I mean, $1 million to Octomom, $15 to the homeless guy they pay to fuck her (plus $5 for his pre-bang Viagra/Schnapps pick-me-up), $10 for a Betamax cassette, $9 for Mac and cheese for the whole crew of slave laborers...there's no way they'll make that money back!

Or will they?

I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Perhaps Vivid knows the appetites of men better than this sailor...


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Holy Toledo! I Guess Things Aren't That Bad After All!

For the rich.

The deceased fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent's art collection sold at auction for USD$249 million. Most pieces were sold at the highest estimate--some for twice what Christie's expected.

Hmmm...something tells me the private homes of all those executives whose companies are getting bailouts were doing some shopping yesterday! I bet all the Manhattan 'people who tell rich people where to hang overpriced paintings they buy' are licking their lips after this one!

My favorite part of the article is that Saint Laurent's boyfriend, Pierre Berge, couldn't part with a Picasso for only USD$26 million, so he kept it. I know most of the money is going to a charitable organization founded by Saint Laurent--minus the hefty commissions his boyfriend gets for each work sold--but come on! What a greedy asshole!

As if getting USD$32 million would have been that much of a difference? As if the people with AIDS and whomever else this charity helps would give a shit if they got USD$220 million, instead of USD$226 million?
"Oh, shit. I can't believe you sold that Picasso for such a low-ball price, Pierre--how are all of us going to afford diamond-encrusted home and away jerseys for our AIDS Foundation equestrian team?"
I mean, how much did he buy the painting for? $4 million in 1989?

FUCK YOU, Pierre Berge.

And fuck you, too, people who pay $40 million for a painting of some ugly flowers in an ugly vase sitting on an ugly rug!

I don't even care WHAT the current economic climate is--it's irrelevant. Have any of you no shame?


Why Is This News?

"He likes long walks in the park, beer, baseball, touching people, and flaunting his authority."

"We need dialogue--but not about abortion or gay marriage or condoms or anything else we are proudly in the dark ages about."

“He is with Rome on the big issues and on the little ones, but he does not do it in a dictatorial fashion--except when he orders me to recant my position on ordaining female priests. "

Okay, so I paraphrase; but the bottom line is--why is this an article in the New York Times? Why do we need to know that some predatory cult organization has moved one of their leaders from Milwaukee to New York? Why do we care if he knows how to order a hot dog?

Why are there so many contradictions of character within the article itself? Is this a surreptitious anti-Catholic piece?

I sure hope so.

"BREAKER--BREAKER--In other pressing news, local Springfield PTA President Maureen Chevarsky loves ice cream, poodles, and hugging children..."


How Exactly Is 'Death By Beheading' Not First-Degree Murder?

So a Muslim man living in upstate New York is served with divorce papers by his third wife, on grounds of domestic abuse (which was why his previous two wives divorced him).

A week later, he cuts off her head with a broadsword.

The man turns himself in and is arrested. We are told not to jump to conclusions, that this has nothing to do with honor killings in Muslim cultures, that we should feel sorry for him because he is in shock after what he did.

He is held without bail, on charges of second-degree murder.

I'm definitely not a lawyer, thank Satan, so perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for this ridiculous charge, but what the fuck does somebody have to do to get first-degree murder? Record a videotaped message of premeditation and then make sure to chop her up and eat her after the beheading?

I hope this guy gets chewed to death by rats in Sing-Sing.


Did She or Didn't She?

After reading the comments at the bottom of this breaking story, there are three questions that jump out at me:

1. As a few people mentioned in their comments, whether she did it or not, shouldn't the accusation be rape? Why IS nobody calling it that? Was it really 'an affair?' And while we're on the question of semantics, is she really a 'young lady' (read: innocent, naive) at 29? The bottom line is that if this was a 29 year-old man and a 15 year-old girl, he would already be crucified across The Bean in Millenium Park, the word 'Rapist' carved into his chest, his mutilated dick fed to the mutant fish in Lake Michigan. Seriously--I've seen it happen...

2. Have you ever heard a family member, friend, or ancient female neighbor say, in a story like this: "Oh, yeah--he/she did it for sure. No doubt in my mind." It never seems to matter how creepy the suspect is, how much evidence is ultimately found in their house/serial-killer barn...nobody close to them ever suspects and always accuses the media and readers/watchers of said media of jumping the gun with their condemnation. But these close friends and family are dead wrong 99% of the why does the media still think we care what they have to say? Gimme the facts, WGN, not hearsay from the most biased character witnesses in the world!

3. Again, assuming this shit actually happened, are things really that hard out there on the streets that this kid had to 'allow himself to be raped by' this 29 year-old troll? I mean, yeah, she provided him with booze, weed, and probably some experienced blow jobs, but still...really? Her? I think I'd rather use my hand until the day I die. And booze and weed aren't THAT hard to come by in Chicago...


"Cuz I'm Afraid of WORMS, Roxanne! Worms!"

How badly do you want to lose that gut, Mr./Ms?
Feeling adventurous?

(courtesy of Harper's)

And here is a link to the original website FAQ page where the excerpt came from.
And don't do anything I wouldn't do...


My Favorite Drawing

From This Interesting (That It Exists) Website


You've Come A Long Way, Baby!

The saddest thing to come across my desk for at least 24 hours:
"If we give the money to the widows, they will spend it unwisely because they are uneducated and they don’t know about budgeting. But if we find her a husband, there will be a person in charge of her and her children for the rest of their lives."

- Mazin al-Shihan, director of a city agency in Baghdad, on his plan to pay men to marry Iraqi war widows.

To read the rest of the frustrating NYTimes article, click here.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

For the Love

Is there anybody in the Pennsylvania legal system that is not a raging asshole criminal?

Between this bullshit and Blagojevich, Madoff, Robert Allen Stanford, AIG, Citibank, Alex Rodriguez, and the men of Wall Street, I just don't know how much more soul-destroying news I can take this year.

And it's only February.

Ready the coffin, my good man!





Will the Real Michael Phelps Story Please Stand Up?

We've all heard by now about Michael Phelps smoking weed. We've all heard the speculation about whether or not he would lose his endorsements, how Kellogg's ultimately dropped him as a sponsor, how USA Swimming suspended him for three worthless months, etc.

But who really gives a shit about that? I'm sure Michael Phelps doesn't even give a shit--he's already a multi-millionaire, he's hands-down the greatest swimmer in history, he's famous, and he could probably sweep the next Olympics if he feels like it.

I find it alarming that all the news outlets are missing the real story here, the fascinating story: who the hell took that picture of him kissing a bong?

Michael Phelps is a pretty dumb kid. I mean, he is hardly able to string a sentence together in every interview I've ever seen with him. He guffaws. He smiles blankly. He might as well be some sort of retarded swimming savant (probably is). But not even Michael Phelps is so dumb as to smoke weed in front of a bunch of strangers.

Which implies that whomever took that picture and then sold it was probably a friend of his, or a friend of a friend, who was probably one of four or five people in the room that night.

Why is this greedy chump not exposed? Who is hiding him? The honorable British tabloid that purchased the photo? Phelps? How much did the tabloid pay for the photo?

This seems a much more interesting story than whether or not a millionaire will lose a few future millions. Why is nobody covering this angle? And why is marijuana use so much more serious in the eyes of journalists than his underage DUI after the last Olympics?

Breaker: New Development in the Case -- Rogue Sheriff is on the loose.

Is it really possible to arrest somebody for drug use without actually catching the person doing it/holding it/buying it? Is South Carolina run by the Taliban?

So many questions, so few answers...


The Latest on Alex Rodriguez

So funny. So unsurprising. So sad.

What is the better question?

1. I'll say it again--doesn't A-Rod have an agent/manager? Doesn't this person care enough about his own livelihood to feed this piece of meat some better lies?

2. How much will this whole scenario ever matter? Will baseball ever actually pull out the asterisks on these guys? Will they ever ban anybody? Will they ever actually search for the latest and greatest drugs in their players' bodies? Does anybody care?



If 'Slumdog' Wins Ten Oscars...Will Anyone Care?

The Oscars are on this evening and I don't even think I will watch them. I just don't see how anything good can come from it.

How sad is that?

Hugh Jackman will be gay as the wind (but closeted, with children), Kate Winslet will finally receive her Oscar for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind / Little Children, Slumdog Millionaire will win a bunch of awards, Heath Ledger's daughter will receive a statuette in trust, five excruciatingly shitty song and dance numbers will happen every now and then, and this fucking fat ugly asshole's failed attempts at humor will stun the global audience silent for 4 hours straight.

Spare me!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Open Letter to the People of the World

Dear People of the World,

The problem with our financial system is not under or over-regulation, fickle consumer confidence, healthcare costs, or unions--it's the corporation.

Whenever an executive's personal finances are independent of the fiscal health of his company, he will gladly run it into the ground to serve his own interests. What greedy motherfucker wouldn't? What reason does somebody have not to do it, especially if everybody else is?

You have to remember that most grown men are just taller little boys--they want more and more toys, they want more and more respect, they want a pat on the head from mama, they don't care what they have to do to get it, they'll deny everything til you prove it, then they'll beg and bribe to get out of the punishment and keep the toys.

When AIG and friends went belly-up, their millionaire executives did not mind too much. As a direct result of their actions, their companies were billions of dollars in debt, but they were still drinking Crystal out of the assholes of Harvard-educated prostitutes in the back of their stretch Ferraris, dragracing each other between their opulent oceanfront estates, so who cares, right? Their money is untouchable because they are not personally responsible for the losses of the corporation they control.


Capitalism worked much better in the olden days, when the health of a man's wallet was directly proportional to the health of his business. The corporation is like a hacked ATM to unscrupulous businessmen playing the money game. How much of somebody else's money can you get out of it before it's empty and you move on to the next one?

It's sick.

All the Best,
Goodtime Charlie


Thursday, February 19, 2009

"You Fuckin' With Me? You Fuckin' With A C.H.I.M.P."

My favorite part of this article is that the author of it insists on calling the crazed chimpanzee by his name--Travis.

My second favorite part is that it seems to be legal to keep a 200-lb chimpanzee in your house in Connecticut. When did this sound like a good idea?

My third favorite part is that the chimp bit off the woman's hands! It bit them off! I should say that is a life changing experience.
"Yes, ma'am, you are in a hospital. Yes, you do, in fact, have no hands. I's pretty awful. Pretty disgusting, really. Anyway, you should read this book--'Help! I'm 55 Years Old and I Suddenly Have No Hands!'--to learn more about how to cope with living with no hands. Don't worry--we'll give you a cute little chimpanzee to turn the pages for you..."
My fourth favorite part (yes--I liked this article a lot) is that the chimp seems to be more capable than most Baby Boomers I know:
"...the chimpanzee was toilet trained, dressed himself, took his own bath, ate at the table and drank wine from a stemmed glass. He also brushed his teeth using a Water Pik, logged onto the computer to look at pictures, and watched television using the remote control, police said."
Really makes you think, huh? Good. I've done something to be proud of today. Now get rid of that chimp-gimp in your basement, pervert, before I bite off both your hands and call the cops.


Mommy, Why Are Bankers Never Punished?

In a "striking admission," the Swiss bank UBS has confessed to "[participating] in a scheme to defraud the United States" of almost two billion dollars in tax revenue over the last 6 years.

The penalty? A $780 million fine and the naming of names of a few hundred of their 19,000 illicit offshore American clients (not the most important ones, I'm guessing...).

What is so wrong with imprisoning white-collar criminals guilty of ridiculously malicious fraud schemes? Why are they above the law, yet Wesley Snipes has to flee the country over $12 million?
“It’s a conspiracy against the IRS, basically to harass the IRS, from doing its lawful job in term of collection of taxes,” U.S. Attorney Paul I. Perez said at a news conference (regarding the prosecution of Snipes).
Oh. NOW I understand the difference...


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rosa Parks Is A Lot Like A Malicious, Omnipotent Virus

Sorry, PC users--nine million of you are carrying a worm on your computer that could do just about anything and cannot be stopped.

For all of you out there unable to get a handle on the gravity of this situation, imagine instead this comparable, if dumbed-down, scenario:

Alien space ships land on top of nine million buildings across America. Each mysterious, impregnable ship contains a small worm that slithers out unnoticed one day, joins up with the other 8,999,999 little worms, and forms a giant laser-shooting, atom-bomb-shitting, fabulously wealthy, indestructible Voltron space worm that even Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot defeat.

Well, that's what I might compare the situation to, anyway, were I so inclined; others aren't quite as talented, intelligent, or handsome as I am:
“Yes, we are working on it, as are many others,” said one botnet researcher who spoke on the grounds that he not be identified because of his plan. “Yes, it’s illegal, but so was Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus.” (courtesy it? I suppose it could be, if the master villain behind this worm scheme is doing all this crazy bullshit in the name of advancing human rights, but I really doubt this is the case.

Or does Mr. Anonymous Botnet-Researcher know something we don't?

Perhaps we should arrest him, probe him, insert a microchip into his brain for no reason, and then ask him what he knows about the benevolent goals of the enemy.

If that doesn't work, let's put Bruce Willis on the case.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bad Time for Stocks and Bonds

So steroid abuser/denier Barry Bonds is finally set to go down--for perjury.

It's not quite as satisfying as getting him for steroid use--much like Elliot Ness getting Al Capone for tax evasion--but it's better than nothing.

The funniest thing about the current perjury trial is that he will go down based on the testimony of his former personal shopper, who witnessed him being injected with something by somebody who was not one of his doctors. That's all it takes--since that scant evidence contradicts his previous testimony in the BALCO trial.

I know there are some people out there who don't care, who don't care that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Andy Petite, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, and Jose Canseco, at the very least, are all going down for admitting steroid use or lying about it. They don't care that 104 players tested positive for steroid use in 2001; don't care that that is the equivalent of eleven starting lineups, and probably was.

These people claim that baseball has always been a sport played by beastly men seeking any and all competitive advantages, loading themselves up with testosterone, bulking up in the gym, injecting all manner of substances, etc. They claim that it does not matter, that these men are out there to entertain us, to hit the ball farther, to run faster, and their methods are irrelevant. They compare baseball players to gladiators--who cares if some of them are on drugs? Look at how impressively violent they are!

I disagree with those people.

I stopped following baseball--and even quit my high school team--when the players struck for more money in 1994. I lost faith in the game and those who played it; I realized most of them played it for the wrong reasons and I didn't want to be a part of that ugliness.

The rampant steroid abuse--but moreso the boldfaced denial of said use--further tarnishes a game that used to be a lot of fun. It used to be a game of skill played among men; a game where anything could happen on any given day; a game with a clear distinction between good guys and bad.

How does one now distinguish between the good and bad guys? Are those who cheated bad? Are those who avoided drug use good? Are the guys who used drugs and won your team a World Series good or bad?

Let's break down the list of those recently outed for steroid use, for those of you who might not follow baseball. Among those mentioned above we have:

- a 7-time Cy Young award winner and one-time league MVP (Clemens)
- a 7-time league MVP (Bonds)
- a 3-time league MVP (Rodriguez)
- 3 one-time league MVPs (Tejada, Giambi, Canseco)
- the career home run leader (Bonds)
- 2 other players in the 500-home-run club (McGwire, Rodriguez)

14 MVPs since 1986? Okay, so...most of the best players of the last 23 years have used steroids to rise head and shoulders above the rest of the players in the league. How is this fair? How does this not take away from the game? How does this not tarnish their accomplishments? How does this not make you want to vomit when you think of how many legitimate records fell in the face of 'roided-out robot behemoths?

Barry before and after

I hope Barry Bonds goes down. I hope he spends at least six months in a minimum-security country-club prison somewhere in Marin County. I hope he has ample time to think things over. I hope he regrets what he did. I hope he releases a ghost-written memoir someday, in which he finally admits what everybody knows to be true.

To all of you athletes out there--all you future Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, OJ Simpsons--I hope you're paying attention to all this shit. I hope you learn from it.

The moral of the story?

No matter how rich and lazy you get, don't hire a personal shopper.


The Carnival Continues

As expected, Joaquin Phoenix sat through a Letterman interview as any homeless man under the undeniable influence of a powerfully-sized amphetamine/horse-tranquilizer cocktail would have.

Sadly, I'm sure this made him far more entertaining than he would have been sober.

Wait--does that mean he is actually doing the right thing? Does that mean this recent debacle is all our fault? Do we require celebrities to crash and burn for our entertainment? Are we complicit in their inevitable demise? Are they the gladiators of our pussy-compared-to-the-Romans culture?

Do we care?

I wonder what sort of peculiar interaction backstage made Dave decide to really go after him, to show him no mercy. Can we see a video of that please, people-who-post-videos-of-such-things?


Hubba Hubba!

(photo courtesy TMZ)

I think I just found the cover photograph for Nadya Suleman's eagerly-anticipated-by-losers upcoming book.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ that is a distended abdomen. Where is all that skin going to go? Can she donate it to a burn unit somewhere? Would they even want it? Who wants somebody else's stretch marks on their face? Or is that already already some kind of fetish among people with whom I would never willingly associate?

I shudder at the thought, but it would not surprise me, not in this world.

If she is unable to find a capable plastic surgeon in Southern California, once her literary career crashes and burns, Nadya at least has a future in the potentially-lucrative stretch-mark-fetish market on Craigslist. Or the one in Africa.

That should put at least one of her fourteen kids through community college.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Has Science Been Doing?

If we have just discovered this?

Not for the first time, I wish I had a time machine, so I could warn my ancestors and re-live my entire life up to my knees in the accumulated product of lifetimes-worth of individually-expelled nostrils. Wait...


I'm Stupid -- The Nadya Suleman Story

Evidently the single mother with six kids who recently gave birth to octuplets is being deluged with book deals.

I don't find this terribly surprising, in light of the fact that anybody who is ever on the news for more than one night in this country is offered a lucrative book deal, since the only people who buy books anymore only do so if they recognize the author's face from Oprah or Fox News, but it does seem to set a new low in the world of literature.

What exactly would this completely worthless, deranged lunatic have to say to the ghostwriter hired by her recently-hired professional spokeswoman?
"So...I got a bunch of embryos put in my uterus and...then I had eight babies."
"Okay, well...I knew that... Is there anything else you'd like to say about your experience?"
"Well, what's it like having 14 kids under the age of seven?"
"Hard. Real hard."
"Do you have lots of diapers and formula and stuff?"
"Oh, yeah. Tons."
"You don't say...hmm..."
"Do I get my money now?"
"Well...I guess I can do the rest..."
Whoever does get that ghostwriting gig will have their work cut out for them--the veritable equivalent of asking a blind man to carve Mt. Rushmore with a spoon.

Is there even enough fluff in the infinite universe to fill this book out? Will they have to bring in Jimmy Carter as a consultant?

I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of copies of "I'm Stupid" will wind up at Half-Price Books, untouched. I wonder which fifteen people in the country will actually read the whole thing, how many of those who don't even finish it will still say they found it 'inspiring.' I wonder whether or not Oprah will bless the enterprise and make her a multi-millionaire overnight. I wonder how long it will be until the worthless film adaptation comes out on Lifetime or Oxygen.

I wonder how long it will be until all eight babies write their own mid-life memoirs.

The only photo yet released of the eight little miracles

Gag me with a dirty diaper! Sometimes this world we have created seems worse than a cauldron of flames raping my ass for eternity.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Hallmark v. India

"Eventually, more than 10 members of the Sena were arrested, only to be released on bail in a week. Since then, they have promised to campaign against Valentine’s Day, which they criticized as a foreign conspiracy to dilute Indian culture, and they said they did not disapprove of men drinking at bars."

My favorite quote from this article about some truly fascinating and unnecessarily-violent, sexist racists.

Valentine's Day? That is their bone of contention? Did they run out of better reasons to hate The West? It's like a father hating his daughter's prolicidic boyfriend because he has long hair.

My favorite part of the definition of 'proletary,' the root of 'prolicide':
1570–80; < class="ital-inline">prōlētārius belonging to the lowest class of Roman citizens, i.e., those who contributed to the state only through their offspring, equiv. to prōlēt- (akin to prōlēs offspring; pro- pro- 1 + -olēs (see adult )) + -ārius -ary
I can hear it now, clear as day, above the vibrant din of the Palazzo Farnese:
"Oh, hello there, peasant--just so you know, you are only valuable to me and mine because you replenish our supply of low-paid quasi-slaves. Here's a boot up your ass for no reason and be sure to have your freshly-washed, most-slender daughter sent up to my bedroom at midnight for a little procreation of my own."



Elementary, My Dear Professor Nutt!

So, you haven't tried ecstasy yet.

Well, it's probably for the best, since you will most likely want to do it again, and again, and that isn't very good for your brain.

If you'd like to simulate the experience, the only thing I can think of that comes close is riding a horse. But, wait--no! Don't do it! It's too dangerous!

How somebody named Professor Nutt, who has such 'interesting' theories, rose to a position of power and influence within the British medical community is beyond me.

Did he pass out free smiley-face pot cookies at the meeting where they voted, and everybody got so confused they voted for the funniest name?

Probably--Brits never say no to sweets.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Live by the Panga, Die by the Panga

We just went out to get some beer. And then it happened.

Max, Ralph, and I were in Tanzania, staying out in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny village near Kilimanjaro called Uswaa, for the past two nights, at the childhood home of our guide, Kakasii. He was the last-born child and so, according to Chagga tradition, the maintenance of his mother’s home/farm was his responsibility; every one of his siblings would come here for two weeks at Christmas every year and the house sure as hell better be standing and well-stocked. Last Christmas, they slaughtered some outrageous number of animals for those gathered at the house--a dozen cows, a dozen goats, chickens, etc. Call me a city boy, but it’s hard to even estimate how much meat that is; but it sounds like A LOT.

It wasn’t Christmas, but all of Kakasii’s siblings were in town because their mother was deathly ill at the local hospital. At his insistence, we went to visit her and it was one of the most prolonged awkward moments of my life. All around me, crammed into rooms, crammed into hallways, people were ill, people were dying. Loved ones were near, dedicated doctors scurried from one patient to the next, everybody stared at the three white guys strolling through, and the same thought ran through my head in a never-ending loop--
‘Hold your breath, don’t touch anything, don’t catch anything, meningitis can be transmitted through the air, along with who knows what else. Holy shit, these poor people, so many of them might die, who knows what they have, but the worst of them will infect the best of them, they’re too close together, I’m too close...holy shit, I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to catch anything they have, holy shit, this is like asking to be taken to the best place to get the worst disease imaginable. Why did I let them take me here? And yet I know that Kakasii, quickly a good friend, wants us to be here, to meet his mother, to talk to her, to brighten her day, to help make things better. Best intentions. It would be rude to ask to leave. But it would be worse to get meningitis or leprosy or whatever the hell else they’re cultivating in here...’
I met his mother, held her hand, spoke to her in elementary Swahili and simple English, told her that I hoped she got better, wished for probably the first time that I had the crutch of religion to fall back onto, to resort to in this exceedingly uncomfortable situation. It would be so easy to say, “My prayers are with you...” or something like that, and yet I could not do it, could not say it, could not lie; and so my time on the hot seat was all the more blistering.

I wished I had a private audience, knowing she would not know the difference if I recited Shakespeare or read the paper, as it is with infants, but she was constantly surrounded by her daughters and the wives of her sons, who rotated shifts, one woman always by her side. The judging ears of these nearby and bilingual-enough women held me to a higher standard than the dying woman ever would have herself. Shit, what a test of faith. But I stood firm and stuck to my good-natured atheism. I have no idea what matter of useless bullshit I said, but I hope it helped.

Outside the hospital, as we waited for a few familial stragglers to say hello before visiting hours ended, we ran into one of Kakasii’s older brothers, Clemence, for the second time that day. Earlier, Kakasii had driven us by Clemence’s small chemistry shop off the main road--it was a store that, by all accounts, sold nothing but Bunsen burners, beakers, and laboratory chemicals, yet seemed to expect / rely on walk-in traffic, in the least-likely location you could ever imagine--an iPod repair shop in Antarctica would get more traffic.

You can actually research our presence there, if you wish, as the Tanzanian custom of excessive documentation was in full force at Clemence’s shop--we all had to sign a guestbook that proved we were there, even though we just popped in to say hello. The weirdest part about all the sign-in books in Tanzania was that they always asked how old you were and what your occupation was; why do these things matter? Later, on our trek up Kilimanjaro, we decided to get creative with our occupations at each camp check-in: ghost, wizard, blowhard, etc. Nobody noticed.

On our way back from the hospital--well, out of the way, really--we stopped off to trade in some of our delightfully-empty beer bottles for more-delightful full ones. The closest bar/store to the family farm happened to be right across the street from Clemence’s house, so, naturally, we had to stop in and say hello.

Well, it wasn’t his house, exactly--he and his family lived in a supposedly-enormous house in the former capital and largest city, Dar Es Salaam, an 8-hour drive away--this was his Christmas house. Like all seven of his siblings, ever since he left it, Clemence returns to his childhood home in Uswaa, for two weeks a year, in December. As a man of impressive means, it did not take long for him to outgrow crashing on the couch of his little brother’s house, so he built one of his own nearby, for comfort; it was an inarguable island of luxury in a sea of poverty.

According to local standards, the Christmas house was impressive for sure; it was not made of cow shit, it had a floor, windows, doors, multiple rooms, a garage, electricity, a houseboy we were never introduced to...and this was only his Christmas house. Evidently, as hinted at earlier in our trip, Kakasii and his family were some of the richest people around. Kakasii and Clemence are two of eight children of one of their father’s four wives; their grandfather had nine wives and pretty much ran the entire village of Uswaa; nearly everybody we met in Uswaa was related to Kakasii by blood or marriage.

After insisting we have a drink before we leave his house, as is Chagga custom, and then also insisting that he would only have dinner at his own brother’s house if we invited him, Clemence prepared to depart for dinner around the fire at Kakasii’s. As the houseboy scurried around, picking things up, Clemence grabbed his jacket and an oddly-shaped black shoulder bag of some kind.
“What’s that?” I asked.
Without answering me, he laid the bag down and opened it up; inside was a pristine, matte-black, sawed-off shotgun. My mouth hung open. I hate guns. I never want to see one in person. I never want to be around one. I think guns are the single worst invention in the history of mankind. They bring nothing but destruction.
“I won’t use it, but since I’ll be coming home alone...”
Kakasii raced over, grabbed the shotgun, emptied out what seemed to be a dozen shells, then wildly waved it around the room, pretending to be a cowboy or robber or something. Max, Ralph, and I all tried in vain to avoid having it point at us, but that wasn’t working very well, so I moved over behind Kakasii and followed him as he spun around pretending to kill imaginary bad guys, as excited as a child at Christmas. Thankfully there were no accidents.

Outside, the three of us piled into Clemence’s immaculate white Nissan SUV, along with Kakasii’s wife, Rosie. Clemence’s white car has a white leather interior, in rural Tanzania, one of the dustiest, dirtiest places on Earth.
“How do you keep it white?”
“I never roll the windows down--always A.C.”
I sat down in the back, next to Rosie, and Clemence thrust the sawed-off shotgun between my legs.
“You need to hold this for me.”

I didn’t want to touch it, so it rattled around between my legs, butt on the floor, muzzle pointed at the roof, for the entire bumpy, unnecessarily-air-conditioned ride back to the village. From the driver’s seat, Clemence talked a mile a minute, asking us about Obama, about the political situation back home in general, about what the American blacks were like, etc. It was somewhat difficult to hear what Clemence was saying, though--especially in the backseat--since he was competing with the powerful lungs of Celine Dion, whose Beauty and the Beast jams were blasting out of his stereo--by choice, on CD. About halfway through the journey, in sheer disbelief at where we were and what we were doing, my brother turned to me from the front passenger seat.
“Happy 30th birthday.”
His crooked smile said it all. I was not alone. This was what we came here for. This was an absolutely unpredictable, insane, beautiful moment we were sharing. This was the intoxicating reward adventure had to offer.

But adventure also has a price.

We just went out to check our email. And then it happened.

Our allotted four days in Uswaa village over, we said our goodbyes to fast friends young and old and headed back to Arusha, the big city near Kilimanjaro. Our climb was to begin in a couple days, and we had to prepare. The first step was meeting with our guide.

Kakasii’s friend Clemence (not his brother, also named Clemence) was an eminently-qualified guide up Kilimanjaro--he grew up on its slopes, had been climbing it since he was a young man, was the president of the climbing guide association, brought lawsuits against negligent/shady climbing companies, fought for pay raises for the porters--but he was also the biggest drag of our entire trip to Africa.

How could we have fallen so far from where we were last night? So far we had met so many warm, friendly people and Clemence was cold as an icebox. He was disappointed we didn’t prepare questions about the flora and fauna of the Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park. He was concerned that we didn’t bring sleeping bags and walking poles, even though our paperwork said those would be provided for us. He was worried that we did not understand how much water we should be drinking on our climb (we did). He tried to insinuate, calmly, that we were stupid and that we would die up there. It was not a good meeting. Our delicious African bubble had burst.

You see, we had been in the middle of nowhere for four days. How far in the middle of nowhere? It took Kakasii over five years to convince the local power company to allow him to pay for electric wires to be strung to his house. They had to run the cable for 1.5 miles. As soon as he left the farm, to return to his house in Arusha, somebody stole the power cable to sell for scrap across the border, in Kenya, for a penny on the dollar. So Kakasii had to re-string it and hire somebody to keep an eye on it--his houseboy, whom he never introduced to us, who might as well have been a ghost, who was evidently not the father of his son, a fact Kakasii brought up to me on at least two occasions, making me wonder if he was trying to tell me that he was the father. More likely, he was just proud to have the gossip at his disposal, proud that nobody could say that about him (as far as he knows), proud that he is more of a man than his houseboy.

Kakasii also revealed two other interesting tidbits during our time in Uswaa. Our first day there, while giving us a tour of the village, surprising all matter of unprepared locals with a trio of unexpected white men popping forth from the bushes, he casually mentioned that he had personally beaten a man to death for stealing a chicken from a neighbor.
“The guy who lived here in this house was a thief. Real bad thief. Real bad. So, one night, I got some peoples together, and we wait. And he sneak out and went to the neighbor’s to steal a chicken. I had a witness, and I beat him real bad. Real bad. In the morning, he was dead. Over here is the house of my brother--well, he is not my brother, but I can say he is my brother because he is very close to me...”

“Huh? Did he just tell us he’s a murderer?”
“Yes. Yes, he did.”
The other revelation hit closer to home. Our good-natured and talented cook, Moussa, hadn’t been feeling well ever since we met him. Toward the end of our time together, Kakasii told us as much.
“Moussa’s not feeling well. Probably malaria.”
Malaria, the omnipresent coiled cobra of whose strike we lived in constant fear, had reared its fanged head. Like a slap in the face, I suddenly realized that none of the locals were covered at all times in 100% DEET mosquito repellant; none of the locals were popping Malarone every day. I guess they just rolled the dice--and often lost.

Despite his apparent illness, Moussa continued to cook for us, load and unload the car for us, and sleep outside in a tent so we could be inside in beds. After we headed into Arusha to prepare for the Kilimanjaro climb, Kakasii dropped Moussa off at the hospital to be examined. Diagnosis: malaria. Presumably, Moussa spent the next 2-3 weeks nailed to a bed, under the vicious influence of the least-expensive, most-intense, hallucinogenic malaria medication available. I hope he survived.

But I digress.

Back in Arusha, the three of us said our temporary goodbyes to Clemence #2 and Kakasii--post-pre-climb meeting--and retreated upstairs to our hotel rooms. We all immediately agreed we hated Clemence and that we were no longer terribly excited about our climb. We yearned for the warmth and possibility of Uswaa. Max was tired and turned in for the night; Ralph and I both yearned for a little fresh air, a little physical activity, a little local brew, a little more venting, maybe even a little communication with loved ones very far away from all this.

Before I left the hotel, at my brother’s urging, I emptied my pockets of everything but about $10 in local currency. It was the best decision of the entire trip.

I met Ralph in the lobby, where he was asking our sweet-but-fairly-ignorant receptionist where we might be able to find internet access, since our hotel did not offer it, for some reason, despite the fact that it had one of the only elevators we saw in the entire country and was made almost entirely out of marble, and was therefore a luxury hotel aimed at business travelers, who like to use the internet. She had no idea where we could find it, but said we should take a taxi. Take a taxi to where? Hmmm...

We set off on foot and I immediately regretted it. We were headed for ‘the clocktower,’ which we both had seen several times before, but the exact location of which we were hardly certain. I was freshly showered, feeling good, feeling fit, and on alert, but as we walked the streets, I couldn’t help but feel like I had flashing lights mounted to my head, with a siren blaring:
In the dark-as-hell, middle-of-nowhere, 7pm Arusha night, with every single ramshackle shop closed for the evening, and bug-eyed eyeballs tracking us from every shadow, it was impossible not to feel like a target for somebody, for at least the most desperate among them.

As my initial butterflies began morphing into silent screams of “Go back! Run away! Tell Ralph we shouldn’t do this!” I heard a loud whistle. I immediately thought that it might be a signal to somebody, some kind of perverted ‘dinner bell,’ communicating to the criminals-at-large the fact that there are white tourists wandering around at night, so come and get ‘em. My eyes darted around even more than before, my fists clenched, my muscles flexed--I was ready for combat, despite how futile it usually is, especially when ambushed and outnumbered.

Ralph and I agreed we would turn left, because I thought the clocktower was in that direction, but if we got to the bridge up ahead and couldn’t see it, we would turn back. All the hairs on my body (and there are a fair amount of them--sorry, ladies) stood on end. Would we make it?

Everybody I had met in this country so far was a warm and welcoming host, yet we all know there is also a dark side to Africa. There is poverty and starvation and malcontent on a grand scale, there are wars, evil dictators, pirates...but this is all beside the point. There are areas of cities in the United States where one should not walk after dark. There are just certain places you should not be, if you can help it. And that’s exactly where we were.

(photo courtesy of

I sensed them coming before I should have; they were fast, it was dark, and we were easy prey. But I did. I don’t know how--Spideysense? I turned to see three guys running at Ralph with pangas (local version of a machete) raised above their heads. I immediately turned to run, knowing that is always the best move if you think of it in time, being a recent veteran of this situation, sadly.
“Ralph! Run! Run!”
As I ran away, I saw two guys that had been heading for me give up and change direction--they joined the others and swarmed Ralph instead. He didn’t stand a chance.
“Run! Ralph! Run! Run!”
I didn’t know what else to do. I figured he could still get away. I figured the attackers were just bluffing and all he needed to do was run and he would be okay.

It’s always easy to assume that, to say that, but when you’re actually there, in the moment, staring at some creepy, breathless dude with a blade trained on your face, it makes way more sense to just stand still and let him take what he wants. All that runs through your head is the advice you always hear from people who’ve been through it before:
“Whatever you have on you is not worth your life. Whatever you have on you is replaceable, don’t fight back, don’t be a hero, that’s how people wind up being dead for no good reason.”
And it’s true. It very well could be the case that this guy is just figuring you’ll shit your pants and let him have his way, and he never planned on using the weapon, but it’s equally as likely that he is a deranged lunatic who would just as soon slice your head off as look at you. It could be a guy on a power trip, a guy with something to prove. How does one determine how crazy somebody is by looking at them? How does one measure at a glance the desperation and fury in a man’s soul?

Now imagine there are five of them. You’re in the middle of darkest Africa. And they all have rusty machetes raised above your head, shouting in broken English to give them your money.

I stood about twenty-five feet away, ignored, watching it all happen. Ralph stood in the middle of the crowd, calmly saying “No, no. Come on. No...” as the five assailants picked at his pockets. I knew I couldn’t leave him here, I couldn’t run away, but what could I do to help? What should I do?

I walked back over toward Ralph and two machete-wielding assholes quickly converged on me. Just like Ralph, I was strangely calm. I was crossing my fingers they were not the type to actually use those machetes and glad to only have $10 on me, tucked away in a secret zipper pocket of my pants. I raised my hands like a police negotiator walking in to a bank heist.
“Give us your money!”
“I don’t have any money.”
“Give us your money!”
“I don’t have any!”
I watched over their shoulders as Ralph tumbled into the street with one of the other attackers. I was confused--why didn’t they just take what he had and run away? What was this guy going to do to him? I didn’t even want to consider the possibilities.

Traffic stopped on the somewhat congested thoroughfare--rush-hour traffic, I suppose--as this guy sat astride Ralph in the middle of the street. One of the guys accosting me at the time grew frustrated with my tack, yanked out my right pants pocket, and sliced it out with his panga. Then the guys all ran away.

I figured I might only have one shot at this guy on top of Ralph, so I’d better make it count. I ran as fast as I could, into the street, straight at the guy, leapt off the ground, raised a knee, and smashed into his ribs. I knocked him to the ground. His machete went flying.

I went over to see if Ralph was okay. He was. He got to his feet and we were both standing in the middle of the street, cars honking at us. We turned to see a crowd of people running right for us and froze in fear.

Luckily, they were not coming to finish the job; they were the good guys. Well, actually, as it turned out they were coming to finish the job--our job.

Not thirty seconds after Ralph’s attacker fell to the pavement, a total stranger was booting him in the face with abandon. Then another went after his ribs. One by one, a mob of people--regular people, the Arusha version of you and I, commuters waiting for the bus home, students, etc--ran over and stomped on this guy. He cowered from the blows, reacted to the blows, but did not avoid them, did not run from them. Was he too weak? Was he too injured from the first one? Did he simply know that at this point his fate was inevitable? Was he doing penance? Was he surrendering to death?

Several of the bystanders ran across the street, grabbed enormous railroad-tie-sized pieces of wood and beat him til they broke.

I scrambled to see what of our possessions we could recover--I found my pen, oddly the most valuable thing I owned at the time--next to my passport, and Ralph’s White Sox hat, but that was it; my brother’s Tanzania guidebook was gone. I felt really bad about that; I know how much he loved it.

Ralph turned to me with a look of despair.
“They got my passport. And my credit cards. And my license, and my cash, and my checkbook...they got everything. Everything!”
“What the fuck? Why did you have all that on you?”
“I don’t know!”
I checked the back pocket of the guy being beaten and found a wallet. I opened it. Nothing whatsoever inside. Empty.

Two guys approached Ralph and I and asked us, in English, if the attackers got our passports. We told him they got Ralph’s. They checked the beaten guy’s front pocket and found his stash--amazingly, Ralph recovered his passport, credit cards, and driver’s license. The guy with his checkbook (useless here) and cash ($50) got away.

In a surreal detachment from the scene playing out before us, from what had just happened to us, we felt strangely fine--violated, for sure, but, at the same time, lucky that things didn’t turn out as bad as they could have. I was now missing a pocket and we were down $60--could have been much worse.

And then we realized the mob was planning to beat this guy to death in the street. They were not stopping. It was not a beating to teach him a lesson, it was a beating to teach others a lesson, to teach others that if you steal they will show you no mercy, they will kill you with their hands and feet and anything else nearby.

And so our consciences thrust us into the awkward--and potentially dangerous--situation of trying to rescue our attacker. We shouted at the crowd to stop, told them it would do no good to kill him, that it would solve nothing, and tried to shoo them away. We even got between them and their victim.

It worked about as well as I could have hoped, with only the occasional strike venturing through the white-man’s invisible, waved-hand force-field.

Ralph told the two guys who knew English and helped us earlier that he wanted to talk to the cops. They told him the cops would not come, but Ralph still wanted to wait for them. Since I didn’t necessarily want to start the scary journey back to the hotel just yet, I didn’t mind sticking around for a bit, surrounded by people, waiting; but it was not like I really wanted to stay there, either. Ideally we would have been teleported back to our beds at the hotel.

At some point, a security vehicle--think Tanzanian Rent-A-Cop--pulled up. I had seen the same vehicle drive by twice before and not stop, but for some reason it did this time. Perhaps somebody flagged them down and they were bored enough to see what was the matter.

At any rate, they came over and dragged the unconscious, beaten criminal into the back of their pick-up SUV. Turns out one of the guys who spoke to us in English earlier had also been robbed by these guys, not long before us, and he wanted to take this one to the station and press charges, file a claim.
“If you want to talk to the cops, you have to come with us.”
Ralph and I looked at each other, unsure.
“Is this cool?” Ralph asked.
I didn’t think it was a great idea, but I also couldn’t think of a better one and I figured it would be one more leg of the adventure, so why not? At least we were together, at least we were not injured, at least we were not alone, at least we didn’t have to walk the gauntlet back to the hotel.

As we sped through the pitch-black streets, Ralph shouted over the wind at our newfound friend, who stood up in the back, holding onto the rollbar, clutching aloft the assailant’s rusted panga, planning to submit it as evidence.
“Where’s the police station?”
“How far?”
“Not far.”
“How far?!”
Ralph was shouting, impatient, wanting information. I started to get freaked out--where were we going? Where would we end up? How did we know we were being taken to a police station? What would the police be like?

As an unstoppable chill cruised up my spine, I suddenly felt a hand on my knee.

I looked down to see the no-longer-unconscious attacker, covered in blood, grabbing at my knee, mumbling something in Swahili. I instantly realized I did not want this guy’s blood on me, because of what may or may not be in it and because this was my only pair of pants--and it already had a fucking pocket sliced out, thanks to his friends.

I booted him in the face.
“Get the fuck off me! Get off me!”
I booted him a few more times before he got the hint. I think he went unconscious again. We rolled into the parking lot of the police station and everybody hopped out.

The Rent-A-Cops dragged the assailant’s body inside. We followed. They deposited him underneath a flip-up counter-top, like you might see at an old coffee shop or library checkout counter. A large police officer immediately walked over, flipped up the counter, and booted the criminal in the face. He then dragged him by the collar and propped him up against the back wall, about twenty feet from where we were standing.

Another police officer passed through the area on the other side of the counter and gave our assailant a boot in the ribs, us a thumbs-up. I did not return the gesture. Where were all these guys when we needed them? A vicious brawl in the middle of the street at 7:30pm, and not a cop to be found? And yet here they were plentiful as pollen.

Another officer smiled at us as he kicked the guy.
“Good job!”
We didn’t know how to respond. We didn’t.

The police station was an insanely strange place, to say the least. It felt like the customer counter at an electronics wholesaler; you know they have a huge warehouse in back, they have everything you could ever want in stock, and plenty more you don’t want, but you are only granted access to a tiny room staffed by four or five guys that come and go as they please, bringing you only what you specifically ask for after perusing their 9000-page catalog.

This particular warehouse just happened to have jail cells behind it that looked like they belonged in the Count of Monte Cristo. The history in here was sickening to think about.

The scrawny young deskbound officer assigned to our case started asking us questions about what happened and quickly gravitated to the other victim who rode with us in the Rent-A-Cop SUV, since he spoke Swahili. This being the case, he got to tell his story first. I zoned out and watched the desk clerk at work.

Rather than pull out a form of some kind (Victim’s Report, Witness’ Account, etc), he grabbed a blank piece of paper from under the desk. Next, he grabbed a nearby book (pleasure read) and used it as a crude ruler to draw straight lines on the blank paper. Once a satisfactory grid was formed, he began writing down the facts, I assume, since I can’t read Swahili.

I laughed to myself--they can’t even afford to have a pre-made form? They have to draw lines on paper every time they need to write something down? Who is ever going to look at this form? It is just going to end up in a stack of papers in a corner somewhere, never to see the light of day.

Ralph called Kakasii on a borrowed cell phone--the guy who had retrieved his passport earlier had driven over to the police station to see if he could be of any further help to us. Talk about an all-around swell guy. Luckily, Kakasii had given us his business card that day, for no discernible reason. Luckily, we got it back from the guy who stole it from Ralph.

As Ralph stepped away to place the call, I had a look around the room.

Next to us, a guy about my age, but bigger, stronger, more incensed, local, snatched his belongings, one by one, as a shit-scared man on the other side of the counter, the criminal side, emptied his pockets of its contents. He must have dumped out seven sets of keys, all apparently belonging to this guy next to me, along with a cell phone, money, and whatever else. It seemed to go on forever. I wondered how his attacker was apprehended, but didn’t ask. Next to him, it seemed as though the same thing was happening with another guy; I was watching a regular assembly line of botched thievery.

Along the back wall, our attacker was conscious again. He was moaning at us, loudly, unintelligibly, pleading with us in Swahili. A police officer walking by looked at me.
“They’re always sorry when they get caught.”
He then booted him in the ribs and dragged him into a nearby cell.

Ralph told the desk clerk his account of the incident. The only thing the desk clerk wrote down was '60,000'--the amount of Tanzanian shillings stolen from him. The clerk had no desire to write down Ralph's name, Kakasii's name and phone number, or any information about the attack.

Kakasii arrived at the police station with Clemence #2. I guess they had gone out to dinner after our Kilimanjaro meeting, probably to catch up on their lives and talk about us. So far from home, in such a strange situation, after such a shocking predicament, it was good to see a friend.

Oddly, Kakasii insisted on seeing what our attacker looked like, in case he knew him. He wanted to go back into the cell and get a look at him. He had to ask one of the officers several times, had to persuade him and his supervisor, and finally got his way. A compromise--they would bring the guy back out into the area behind the counter. They did. Kakasii stepped behind the counter and took a good look; he did not recognize him.

One of the officers dragged the assailant back into the cell, where he would most likely die overnight from internal injuries. I mean, it certainly didn’t seem as though he would be receiving medical attention anytime soon. He was an asshole, for sure, but did he deserve to be beaten to death for his crime? No.

A man walked over with a bucket of water and a towel and began sopping up the large puddle of blood that had formed where the guy had briefly rested. I thought about what might be in that blood, about how that guy might have cuts in his hand, about how that guy is probably being paid $0.50 a day to mop up blood in the jail all day, with his bare hands. How many times can one play Russian roulette before one loses? But, then again, if it’s between gambling with AIDS and starvation from lack of employment, the choice becomes easier, I guess.

I hope I never have to make that call.

Sitting in Kakasii’s safari-modified Nissan SUV, outside the police station, he and Clemence told us an interesting fact about the police in Tanzania. They do not go out at night because they will be killed. During the day, they can be undercover, and supposedly every fifth man is a cop, and you will be informed on and arrested for such petty crimes as ‘speaking ill of a woman.’ At night, they must wear their uniforms, and so they all hide in the police station.

Kakasii and Clemence both clucked their tongues, wishing it were not so, but aware they are powerless to change things on their own.
“That is the problem with Africa,” they said for neither the first nor last time.
Kakasii drove us to check our email at some other hotel, despite the fact that neither of us wanted to at this point. Ralph and I sat at two computers, our backs to each other, and made a pact that we wouldn’t tell anybody about this until we returned safely home, so as not to worry anybody any more than they already were.

Ralph asked me why I had tackled the guy in the street and I told him I thought he was going to do something awful, because I couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t just run away once he got what he wanted.
“He was trying to run away--but when I saw him grab my passport, I locked my hands around his wrists and wouldn’t let go. He tried to run away anyway and so we fell into the street.”
Even though the incident was now safely in the past, I was relieved to know that my worst fears were not true. I was also relieved Ralph has the finger strength of a Terminator. Had his passport been stolen, we would have had to cancel our mountain climb and spend 3 days in Dar Es Salaam waiting for a new one from the embassy.

Five days later, as I stood atop Mt.Kilimanjaro--19,340-feet above sea level--towering over the rest of the continent, limp from exertion, crying for no particular reason, it was hard not to reflect on our trip, on what we had been through, what we had accomplished. We experienced first-hand the love and warmth of strangers in an impoverished but jovial rural village, snorkeled the pristine Indian Ocean off the coast of Zanzibar, watched as twelve lions tore apart a fresh zebra carcass in a national park, toured a hospital packed with lost causes, been held up by five desperate guys with machetes, and watched one of them get beaten in the street by onlookers. It was a hell of an adventure and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Except next time, I’ll take a cab to check my email.