International Writers Magazine: 2009
John M Edwards
only problem with the New Years vacation I was taking was that the
destination was right smack dab in the middle of a war zone!
I arrived at my destination (name undisclosed) by transport plane
disguised as a commercial airline, feeling like a colorful Belgian
mercenary about to set himself up as dictator of a puppet nation.
All the other passengers,
wolfing down the gourmet airplane food (Salisbury steak) and stuffing
little bottles called aperitifs (alcohol) in their carry-ons, had been
whooping it up as if this would be their last flight on earth. Instead
of being afraid and sporadically vomiting, they blew up the paper bags
and popped them, kept joking to their more fragile seatmates, Were
going to crash! and changed the words to Auld Lang Syne.
Even the pilot came out, glass extended, to apologize sheepishly for
the turbulence and praise the quality of the passengers duty-free
Veuve-Cliquot. From the amount of illegal cigar smoke in the air, imitations
of big-wiggers (Buy, Sell, Buy, Sell! Edwards, youre fired!),
and the head-thrown-back-in-laughter, ceremonial ripping up of the official
entry forms (yellow), one would have thought that the No Smoking laws
on long-haul flights was a made-up story.
The only problem with the New Year's vacation we would be taking was
that our destination was smack dab in the middle of a war zone! What
separated me from my fellow passengers was that they had paid for a
cheap package holiday, everything included, while I was being remunerated
handsomely (umpteen millions in the local currency of a small faraway
nation) to let people pretend I was some kind of journalist - meet the
friendly people, explore endless beaches, imperfectly point out the
flora and fauna, try restaurants serving food Id never heard of
before, haggle in the marketplace to buy trinkets and call them art",
and just kick back and ignore all the bombs going off around me.
It didnt hurt that I had the same name as a presidential candidate
and large armies protecting me; entertained UN connections and friends
who were rock stars and bestselling writers; garnered financial, business
and political clout; and was reputed to be an all-around nice guy. Out
of the airport and jogging energetically to the taxi stand, I bought
a pack of cigarettes with a lighter, for a Franklin, and shot into the
city center with a ludicrously tan driver who hadnt yet mastered
the international lingua franca, which, Im afraid, isnt
Esperanto, but is indeed the tongue of Shakespeares
At a restaurant stall, I pointed, like a character out of Things
To Come, at an unfamiliar food item, and reached my hand out a
mile towards my pocket to indicate I would pay for it. The chef, overjoyed
at the prospect of actually being paid, busily set to work. I watched
in fascination as he cooked the otherworldly item, covered it in a strange
grassy substance called relish (pickled cabbage) and ketchup (tomato
paste), and as the coup de grace, delivered it inside some bread-like
substance he called a bun". This was too good to be true:
what this exotic offering was called: Hot Dog".
Apparently, in this unstable, absurdly greedy country, mankinds
best friend was both a form of companion, as well as the perfect alternative
to a light snack. Ignoring the unexploded land mines scattered all over
the street - Dont worry, they wont go off, -
I was briefed by my advisors, who informed me these scattered coins
of the sky gods were called manhole covers. I decided to
try public transport (if you can call a train, bus, cab,
boat, or metro Transportation!), to flee this archaically quaint jumble
of skyscrapers for the countryside, reputed to be out of this world.
So disillusioned by how dangerously beautiful my fake assignment was
turning out to be (I had been hired as a stringer for a
magazine, without knowing what that means), I thought I would have to
travel overland to reach the right consulate to Medevac me out.
Surprisingly, while I was negotiating over the price of the ticket,
the brown-haired woman startled me by saying, Thats the
price listed on the sign".
Where I come from that price would equal the yearly salary of
one of my domestic servants, I declaimed, standing stock still
and pointing a finger, as if to say, Jaccuse!
This seemed to amuse the woman. Where are you from? I thought
by the way you look, your clothing, your accent, that you were from
somewhere around here!
What, do you think thats funny? I said, eyes supernovas,
pulling out my Platinum Card.
Can I see your license, please?
I checked furiously behind the feminine leather flap of my exotic alligator-skin
wallet, looking for additional identification, and looking up I realized
the nightmare was going to start all over again.
--John M. Edwards
Bio: John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely (five continents plus),
with stunts ranging from surviving a ferry sinking in Thailand to being
caught in a military coup in Fiji. His work has appeared in such magazines
as CNN Traveller, Missouri Review, Salon.com, Grand Tour, Islands, Escape,
Endless Vacation, Literal Latté, Coffee Journal, Artdirect, Verge,
Slab, Richmond Review, Borderlines, North Dakota Quarterly, Michigan
Quarterly Review, and North American Review. He recently won a NATJA
(North American Travel Journalists Association) Award and a Solas Award.
He lives in a loft in New York City, nicknamed the time capsule.
His future bestsellers, Move and Fluid Borders, have not yet been released
to the public. His new work-in-progress, Dubya Dubya Deux, is about
a time traveler.
John M Edwards Jan 2009
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