July 27, 2005

July 2005, Vol. 4, Issue 7

1. Otis Has Left the Building by Tenzin McGrupp
Everything was going well until some slick L.A. hipster doofus in a $500 blazer joined the table. I knew right away he was bad news. On his roll I lost almost all of my winnings. His negative karma attached itself to our group. Even Jesus succumbed to the dark veil of the hipster's bad luck... More

2. Langston by BG
Still, there's always that little feeling of dread that hangs over my head. Every day I'm here I try to work hard and work smart, but all I want is to be left alone. I just assume that someday someone is going to notice what I'm doing and point me out as a fraud. My own personal Sword of Damocles I guess....More

3. Observation Deck by Joe Speaker
Her freckled nose is too small, too delicate, and is overwhelmed by her other features. A regular scent of cocoa butter trails behind her when she takes her seat... More

4. Stripping the Night Away on My Last $100 by Grubby
She had a unique talent that I hadn't experienced before, where I could swear she had some sort of silent vibrator in her mouth. And she put it to good use. I had another dance to confirm... More

5. London-Khartoum (Sudan, Part 1) by Anon Hammurabi
I reminded myself that I'm a stuck-up Norwegian and that we are the most anti-social culture in the world, giving us some room to misunderstand friendliness, so I closed my eyes to consummate my relationship with the topless Arab dancers instead... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks for returning back for another issue of my literary blogzine as it enters year number four. This issue represents an excellent collection of writers and bloggers including Grubby, BG, Joe Speaker, and Sigge.

Thanks to everyone who shared their bloodwork this month. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. You guys write for free and if I could pay you, I would. Your time and effort is worth more money than I can ever afford to pay.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with my site. Until next time.


"Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains." - Crash Davis

Otis Has Left the Building

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2005

It was the last night in Las Vegas for Otis. He changed his flight to 1.5 days earlier so he could return home to G-Vegas, South Carolina and see Mrs. Otis, Lil' Otis, and Scrappy the Wonder Pooch after one month of utter insanity and being force fed the Rio's overpriced and overcooked cheeseburgers. I don't blame Otis for bailing early. I'd like to get the fuck out of Las Vegas as soon as possible, but I'm stuck here in the 120 degree heat until mid-August.

When Otis called and said that he had an early morning flight and wanted to get obliterated drunk, I knew we were on a mission from that moment. I happily met Otis at the lounge/bar in the middle of the Mirage. Just 13 hours earlier, Australian Joe Hachem had won the main event and $7.5 million. Indeed, it was time to celebrate the completion of the WSOP.

Starting about five years ago, the Mirage used to be my favorite casino and one of my Top 10 Favorite Places of All Time. It's like my old home away from home. It's the place where I hit my first ever quads in the poker room. The Mirage seemed like a fitting place to get all kinds of shitfaced for Otis' last night.

The entertainment that particular evening was a jazz band fronted by a nubile singer with a sultry voice. Joining us were Grubby, and two L.A. guys... Mike and Jesus. I started off with SoCo on the rocks. It's been my drink of choice since I landed in Las Vegas 46 days ago. After drinking Red Stripes and Coronas at dinner break with Otis at the Hooker Bar in the Rio for a month straight, I packed on 15 pounds, all of which had hopelessly settled in my gut. In homage to the SoCo Master, I called Al Cant Hang for a Dial-a-Shot. He was holding court in Atlantic City. I caught his lovely wife Eva Can Hang on the phone as she was navigating her way through the Borgata's slot machines. We chatted for a few moments and hoisted our drinks for the absent rock star.

After getting cold-decked from the video poker machine, Otis and I agreed that the video poker at the Hooker Bar in the Rio had much looser slots than the Mirage. Otis hit quads like forty times at the Rio and in my only attempt, I hit quad Jacks... fuck, I flopped it too. No such luck at the Mirage. At least I got two free drinks out of it. Mike wandered over and suggested we go throw some dice. And off we went...

We found a nearly empty craps table and the order on the rail was Jesus, Mike, Grubby, Otis, and myself in the far corner. We started out slow and I kept my betting simple; Pass Line and behind the Pass Line bets. We all rolled once and I didn't hit any points. New blood joined the table the second time around. Some of Otis' co-workers, including his lovely assistant Mad, jumped into the mix. James, a gregarious Englishman with whom I had worked in the trenches for the past month, was on the far end. We knew almost everyone at the table and that's when we started to make a run.

Mike, Jesus, and James went on a rush. They were so hot that Grubby and Otis passed their rolls. We picked up point after point and that's when I began throwing the chips around and making come bets. My stack tripled up inside of a few minutes and I gawked at a nice collection of green $25 chips that I quickly accumulated. After Jesus hit three points in a row, the table chatter grew louder and louder. I kept yelling out in my most obnoxious Vegas tourist voice, "Thank you Jesus!"

That's the cool thing about shooting craps in Las Vegas, belligerent behavior is encouraged. The louder the table, the more likely the casino will win more money. Because in the end, the House always wins.

I should have walked away when I was up. How many losers in Vegas had that on their minds last Saturday? I hung in there and deviated from my simple betting strategy. Greed seeped into my brain. Everything was going well until some slick L.A. hipster doofus in a $500 blazer joined the table. I knew right away he was bad news. On his roll I lost almost all of my winnings. His negative karma attached itself to our group. Even Jesus succumbed to the dark veil of the hipster's bad luck. We all looked at each other and walked away. I considered jumping that assclown and stealing his expensive jacket as fair compensation for being the table "Cooler."

We retreated to the Sports Book Bar. A huge group encircled Otis, including his co-workers and April, Eric, and the Poker Prof stopped by. We had a spontaneous "Farewell Otis" party going on.

Over the past few weeks, during the slow hours in media row, we'd make different prop bets. We became action junkies and usually wagered on "last longer bets" on whoever sat at the final table we were covering for that day. It seemed natural that we'd gamble on almost anything. When ESPN aired some sort of dog obstacle course race... I turned to Otis and nodded. He knew what was up. Otis picked one dog. I got the other and it was time to recklessly gamble on canine obstacle races. The dogs names were Quick and Splendor and my pooch closed the gap after a slow start. Like drunken idiots we cursed at the TV monitor, cheering on (an obviously taped event) dogs racing through the course.

"Come on Quick!" Otis screamed his Ozark Mountain drawl.

"Get yer ass in gear Splendor!" I yelled.

The gambling gods were on my side. My dog won the first race and Otis tossed me cash. A fat tourist chomping on a cigar at an adjacent table waddled over, "Are you guys betting on those dogs?"

"Fuck yeah," I responded. "$100 a pop. You want in, tough guy?"

He sheepishly declined.

"Pussy bastard," I mumbled to myself as Otis and I made our picks for the next pooch race and the waitress brought us another round of drinks.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.


By BG © 2005

Roger popped his head in my cube and told, more than asked, "Langston, can I have a minute?" I tossed the copy on which I was working to the far corner of my desk and pushed away from my desk to chase Roger back to his office.

Corner office, for what it's worth. Roger was the Aardema in "Aardema and Vanderschultz," West Michigan's premier ad agency – which I think is akin to being the best regional bi-monthly magazine covering the Greater Des Moines area. Roger Aardema wasn't my boss exactly, but he was the type of Partner who didn't feel the least bit bad rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty in the creative process. He also had a habit of taking nearly everyone in his small agency "under his wing," in a manner of speaking. As such, a low level hack such as myself trailing a top dog to his office didn't cause eyebrows to raise. Hell, he spent ten minutes behind closed doors with our sturdy receptionist Tina just last week telling her how much he values her politeness and efficiency, and how she's the voice of the company, and in many ways the heart and soul so far as our customers are concerned.


Still, there's always that little feeling of dread that hangs over my head. Every day I'm here I try to work hard and work smart, but all I want is to be left alone. I just assume that someday someone is going to notice what I'm doing and point me out as a fraud. My own personal Sword of Damocles I guess.

Twenty-five yards tops from my quasi-futuristic style-conscious cubicle to the corner office, and every step behind Roger is loaded with assumptions. I figure it's fifty paces past my peers in their Aeron chairs and their Mac computers, five steps to sit and face the executioner, and ten minutes being informed of the various reasons the blade is swinging across my neck today before I can just pack my shit and try to leave as quietly as possible.

I take a mental inventory of my possible transgressions, and I come up empty. Still, I'm sure there's something and my irrational fear will be proven true in just another twenty paces...

Roger circled behind his desk and eased into tall plush leather. Unlike the rest of the office, which was hyper-intentionally designed to show how uber-cool and "with it" we all were to our clients, Roger's office looked freshly plucked from any high-end attorney's grasp. Mahogany desk, high back leather chair with a look equally imposing and rigid, and volumes from floor to ceiling on the south wall, which I'd never seen even momentarily out of place. The bay window behind Roger looked out west over the river, and with the late afternoon hour cast a glow into the room which thoroughly surrounded Roger as he sat. I've always wondered how intentional that was.

Roger beamed and gestured towards one of the two tub chairs in front of me. "Get the door if you would, and grab a seat." It was Father-Figure Roger, the hangman would have to wait another day to get me. I clicked the door closed and sat down. "Langston, thanks for coming by. I've got some good news, and I wanted to be able to share it with you." Roger tugged at his collar, pulling his tie loose and popped the button on his shirt open. The "end of day" signal combined with "I'm your buddy, let's chat." I always found these slick guys in nice suits to be a pretty easy read.

"You've been doing great work on Amanda and Ryan's team, and they've let me know how invaluable you've been to them on the Eagle Ridge Country Club campaign."

Bullshit. I've been with this agency for seven years now as a Copywriter, and now as a Senior Copywriter, and I know full well Amanda and Ryan were the type of young gun Account Executives I'd seen time and time again. They get in the door with a prospect, land a big account for the company, and take complete creative credit for the efforts of the team. I guarantee you Roger wouldn't have noticed my efforts if I hadn't have been writing for his agency for so long.

"They – and I – really wanted to express our appreciation. The client loves the campaign, and besides the print ad being visually striking, the copy was just dead perfect. It's exactly what the client wanted, and I'm glad you were able to help Ryan and Amanda deliver."

"Thanks Roger, I appreciate it." I took the compliment quietly, no need to talk about how bereft of writing talent Ryan was, or how it took quite a bit of time to convince Amanda my ideas were her ideas, and therefore the right choices on this project. It's been like this ever since I got here. Ryan and Amanda were the latest sales team to which I had been assigned, and were typical of the people with whom I've had to partner during my tenure at A&V Agency. Roger hires a young, charismatic Account Exec with good fashion sense and hair, tosses them out in the field to land clients, and puts them with back room talent like myself whose ideas and hard work are co-opted time and again for their own career advancement.

"Now, for the news. Ryan is leaving us. He was recruited out to one of our competitors in Chicago." By the way, by "competitor," he means "bigger and less regionally focused agency." "Ryan's departure is going to mean we're shuffling things up a little bit here."

Whoa. Was I about to get promoted to Account Executive? Could I work side-by-side with Amanda as equals? Without wanting to throw her under the bus every time she had a bad idea? And were there enough buses around for as often as that happened? Hell, at minimum, maybe now I'd start to get some credit for all the creative effort I've been putting in.

"We're going to move Amanda into our Internet Strategies group, I think she's earned it. Langston, we're going to make you Lead Senior Copywriter. Basically all the same things you've been doing before, but focusing completely on print copy, with dotted line management to the Senior Copywriters on the other teams. Basically, if they get stuck, you're the go-to guy now. How's that sound?"

How's that sound? Like not only a life sentence of getting no credit for my work, but also adding a lifetime of doing the work of others on top. Fucking fantastic Roger. Of course, that's not what I say out loud.

"Thanks Roger. I, um... Well, I have a question."

Roger smiled and nodded. "Sure, anything at all Mr. Lead Senior Copywriter. What's up?"

"I feel like I've been doing a great job for you for over seven years now." Roger was nodding eagerly. "I guess, well, I'm just concerned. That's all. I really think if you gave me a shot as an Account Executive, I know I'd be really good at it. I feel like I've been waiting for my shot, and it hasn't happened yet, and I don't know what I can do to help you see that's what I want."

Roger pulled in closer to the desk, obviously mixing a little Boss Man in with Father-Figure for this discussion. "Langston, the wheels around here don't turn without you, you know this right?" I nodded, reluctantly. "There are two reasons you've been passed over for Account Executive. The first? You're so good at what you do I just don't want to take that focus away from you. I need you putting the blinders on and punching up those ideas into usable copy. That's your niche, that's where you excel. We're all a team here, and I don't think anyone can understate your importance to our deliverables here. This is why I want to make a gesture here to give you more responsibility here too."

I'd heard this part before. "And the second reason?"

Roger audibly sighed, kind of one of those "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" conversation stoppers. "I don't know how to tell you this Langston, so I'm just going to come out and lay it on the table. I don't feel you're 'Account Executive Material.' You're disheveled, you don't have that style and panache I'm looking for. I need a guy who's going to get out in front of our clients and sell the image we're trying to tell them we can bring to their business. Langston, how old are you?"

"Twenty-eight." I muttered.

"Are those Dockers? I'd bet your shoes didn't cost you more than $40. Your shirt's collar won't lay down properly. Bad haircut, slightly overweight, I could go on. I'm not going to varnish the truth here Langston. I need you, your talent has helped us immeasurably over the past seven years, and you've really grown into your role. You should be proud of that. But Ryan and Amanda are who I want walking in the front door of our clients' offices."

Roger paused, letting this sink in. I don't know how long the uncomfortable silence lasted, but I think the look on my face was enough to let the guilt settle in for Roger. As an attempt to salvage he threw me a bone on my way out the door.

"Did I tell you that you get a raise too? 3%. I'll even make it retroactive to January. I'm sorry Langston, but I want to make sure you know where you're headed here. There are plenty of places you can go in this company, and I want you to feel like you're working towards something on my watch. Account Executive isn't it."

Well shit, I get promoted and I feel just about as lousy as I would have had I gotten fired. Terrific.

BG is a writer from Western Michigan.

Observation Deck

By Joe Speaker © 2005

I enjoy observing people. Much more than I like talking to them. For example, when I was younger, my friends and I liked to sit in trees (I swear), drink beer and watch the local adult softball leagues. We'd pick a player or three and discuss what we thought their life was like based on their body language. Being up in that tree was like being invisible. We could spy without notice, divine their deepest desires and insecurities while our subjects remained completely unaware.

Like the guy on the train this morning. He's a semi-regular who bears more than a passing resemblance to a red-haired Tarantino. By the looks of his clothes and demeanor, he's a back-room guy somewhere, probably a civil servant. Clean, but basic. Doesn't appear to get out much, his face a waxen pallor. And he's balding, a diminishing wisp of curl floating like an island at the top of his forehead, the rest of his coastline receding to reveal ribbons of pinkish flesh. He's in his mid-30s, hasn't had a date in a while, a fact that doesn't make him unhappy. He's not giving up yet.

This guy is clearly smitten with a blue-eyed brunette who sits in the same spot every day, as do I. She's cute, in an off-hand way. Not the type that makes you sit straighter in your chair, but there's a uniqueness to her look. Her freckled nose is too small, too delicate, and is overwhelmed by her other features. A regular scent of cocoa butter trails behind her when she takes her seat. She reads, though perhaps only on the train, considering how long it's taking her to get through that Grafton novel. She's young, no older than 25. Probably has a boyfriend somewhere who works construction and drives a truck. She works in retail or attends a trade school based on her causal look, today's jean shorts and tie-dyed tank top a typical summer ensemble.

Tarantino brusquely chats her up every time he sees her, makes an obvious presentation of himself. I can't hear what he's saying (iPod, you know), but he's eager, bordering on over-bearing, punctuating every sentence with a toothy grin and forced guffaw. She's responds nicely enough, smiles and nods her head, but it's only courtesy. She'll eventually marry the boyfriend, sacrificing adventure for comfort.

Today, he couldn't get near her. No open seat, not even a direct sight line. He was clearly perturbed as he barged his way into my bank of seats, lips set in a firm line. He obviously snapped open his Wall Street Journal, his eyes darting around the car. I stared across at him from behind my sunglasses, poker-faced, but amused. His paper was open, but he wasn't reading. He was scanning the windows to his left, hoping to find her in a reflection. The rising color in his cheeks gave away his failure and distress.

I continued my surreptitious surveillance, forgoing a quick nap for the drama unfolding before me, fixed by this pure human interaction on a subtle, but unmistakable, scale.

He's only on board for two stops, but, his lucky day, a couple of folks disembarked halfway into his journey, opening up seats nearer his intended. Buoyed by this development, he leaned forward, probing for eye contact. Her gaze remained rooted on the lines before her, however, and with an extended sigh, he slumped back in resignation.

She seemed to feel his attention on her and slyly glanced his direction a couple times. Just as quickly, she returned to her book, apparently relieved to miss his stare. She shifted away, toward the side of the car, and showed him only her shoulder.

At his stop, he stood abruptly, not caring that he whacked me on the knee with his backpack. He worked his way purposefully into the aisle, all overt movement. He searched her as he departed, eyes pleading for her attention, a simple smile.

I intently watched the scene unfold. She never looked up, never flinched, until he was gone. At which point she raised her head, fixed me with a stone glare and said,

"What the fuck are you staring at?"

I shifted toward the side of the car and showed her only my shoulder.

Joe Speaker is a writer and poker player from Southern California.

Stripping the Night Away on My Last $100

By Grubby © 2005

I had $100 left. McGrupp said, "Well, we have two options. We can storm the Castle or... go to a strip club."

I said, "We could just as easily lose in poker." I checked my wallet. "Which would you rather do, lose $100 in poker or lose $100 at a strip club?"

When strip clubs are mentioned, there really aren't any other options.

Crazy Horse Too was the destination. My $100 went a little further than McGrupp's because many strip clubs are free to anyone who has a Nevada driver's license (a tip if you're visiting Vegas: get a fake Nevada license, it'll pay for itself just in free admission).

First order of business was finding seats and getting drinks.

We headed to Cleopatra's Lounge, a darkened area near a bar with more empty seats than the main area. On the way over, a stripper grabbed my crotch and asked how I was doing. I think she knew.

I had my eye on a Natalie Portman look-a-like who sat in front of us, but she was one of the customers. She was lip-locking the guy she came with, and McGrupp said her guy later bought her a couple lapdances. I missed that completely, and McGrupp said I was busy.

Besides Natalie, it was a full hour before I found anyone I was interested in.

I'm selective with my strippers. Particularly with $100.

McGrupp, however, sampled everyone who approached him (including a pair with matching tan lines that McGrupp said, "Best $80 I spent in my life"). After one finished, he said, "You are a true artist. But you knew that."

His name was Steve that night, mine was Dave. My occupation was going to be a professional log roller from Milwaukee, but none of the strippers had asked.

One introduced herself as Soria. "Like the disease?" I said, repeating myself like a hack strip club regular that needs new material (I don't have McGrupp's strip club patter down). I turned Soria down after envisioning some crusty substance growing on my toes. When picking a stripper name, it shouldn't recall anything in a medical textbook next to an illustrated picture.

Then I saw a vision in a red evening gown. Like in real life, the girls you're attracted to tend to walk right past you. As she passed by, I all but Christian Slatered her to get her to come over.

She had a girl-next-door/Avril Lavigne look that must be my type. And combined with a personality (okay, any personality), she was easily my favorite. She said she was from Kansas City, lived in San Diego, and her name was May. "May I have this dance?" I said, and after hanging out for a song, she got right into it at the start of the next.

The red dress didn't do her justice. "Does the dress come off?" (told ya -- no patter), and out of the dress, May was very becoming. A large tattoo was splashed on her stomach and an unnerving one on her back had two eyes that looked like they were watching me. Like the Mona Lisa. A cartoon cat was stitched on her panties: "It's my pussy."

She had a unique talent that I hadn't experienced before, where I could swear she had some sort of silent vibrator in her mouth. And she put it to good use. I had another dance to confirm.

Half an hour later, I was telling McGrupp about her stupid human trick, and her ears must have been burning, because she showed right up. I had to let McGrupp test out her talent, and after the first dance, McGrupp also had seconds. He told her that we knew each other from med school and that I was a well-known surgeon. Sure beats log rolling.

This was the first time I'd been to a strip club wearing shorts. I highly recommend that as your choice of attire.

After we ran out of money, we exchanged stripper perfume and body bling for mozzarella sticks and steak & eggs at Wild Wild West, which is where my final few ATM dollars went.

Playing poker or strip clubs. Not a hard decision at all.

Grubby is a writer and gambler living in Las Vegas, NV.

London-Khartoum (Sudan, Part 1)

By Anon Hammurabi © 2005

16th of April, 2005

I arrived in London from Oslo all right, and thanks to the New and Enhanced Heathrow Airport I've now got several waiting hours in front of me. Four, at least.

No, thanks, I already had a cigarette.

So here I'm sitting discovering the subtle arrogance of airport architecture: How to calm the mice in the maze.

It's a simple trick for simple minds.

You place tall windows along the walls and permit the monkeys to observe the busy life on the airstrip. There's always something going on. These little mutant cars that sweep along the ground, seemingly unaware of where they are going and what they were supposed to be doing there, judging from the way they drive, are everywhere. And the keen observer not too busy with his jetlag-hallucinations will notice the way John Doe's luggage is handled. It's not. It's violated. Some of it is even left by the side of the plane, as if the throwers (that's what us world travelers call 'em) decided that the colours just weren't right. The observer who, in addition to his remarkable eye for details, also has the power of foresight and recognizes the immediate risk of his underwear ending up in a muddy side-road somewhere, or in Kuala Lumpur, or both.
The optimist goes for a lucky shot, the pessimist tries to recollect his insurance for the trip, the sleepy thinks about how much he needs to take nap.

The number of people engaged at Heathrow is also remarkable. I bet half of them aren't really employed, they just like hanging out, watching all the action. Explains why the service rates a good “so-so.” Heathrow says it's for security reasons. Heh. So why is it that they scanned my newly apprehended pack of Marlboro with a hand-scanner? While holding it in their hands? The bastard even wanted to seize my two lighters (one of them with cute puppies on it, don't ask) since they were against regulations. I was like, "Excuse me, sir, but where do you think I just came from?" standing beneath the International connection-point.


It's not like my intestines haven't been x-rayed four times already! My lighters have been approved by several independent authorities in two different countries! Despite the puppies!

Nah, they're probably checking the tar-level or something. "Sorry, sir, we don't accept Marlboro. It's too good for ya. In fact, WE are too good for ya. Turn around and return to the country you came from, please."

Oh, well.

Heh, I was just a victim of British, understated impertinence. I was in line for a black coffee, thinking about serving the Pakistani girl behind the counter a "hot and black, just the way I like women," when I realized that they didn't accept credit cards. So much for the future. I took out a $20 note and asked if it was possible getting the change in dollars. The beautiful Pakistani had to ask her superior. Meanwhile, this ultraBritish woman behind me puts two pounds on the counter, smiling and saying: "It's all right. I'll pay for it."

I protested out of courtesy, but to no avail. I thanked her and wanted to give her a hug to really express my gratitude (jetlag does strange things to you) to which my jet-lagged imagination failed and I repeated myself four times instead. Turning my back to her, just about to go for the designated smoking area, I realized that it hadn't been generosity that had triggered this sudden friendliness - the old hag was just sick of standing in line in her lunch break and wanted the bloody idiot of a foreigner in front of her to get out of her way. What a nerve! I almost turned to really set things straight when I remembered the coffee in my hands, paid for by my adversary. Intelligent. Cruel. Sometimes a bit on the dim side. The British.

London out. Khartoum, Sudan, next.



The midnight stop in Beirut was interesting in a boring way. First off, it was a big surprise! Nobody had told me that we were going to the Middle East. Oh, well.

Even though the local time must've been nine-ish in the evening, it was pitch black and all you could see from the airport was diamond lights revealing unseen settlements, very like Tromsø at night.

People grouped around me at the middle of the plane there for no particular reason. I was too tired or follow their conversations, but my Arabic has never been any good, anyway. It's mostly non-existent.

The people seemed like a family in the way they dealt with each other, but when some of them left to be embraced by the Beirut nights and, topless Arab dancers (of whom I was thinking at the moment), it was clear that they'd just met on this flight. I reminded myself that I'm a stuck-up Norwegian and that we are the most anti-social culture in the world, giving us some room to misunderstand friendliness, so I closed my eyes to consummate my relationship with the topless Arab dancers instead.

Suddenly there was a 'bump' and the flight radio said we were going to land in Khartoum in ten minutes, if the turbulence didn't kill us. I looked out the window, peering through the dark I realized I was looking at a long, wide, snake-like black patch between myriad city lights, and I realized I was looking at the Nile. Either that one or the Blue or the White one. To me it's more or less the same. This is the river upon which stone was transported to the great pyramids in Ancient Egypt, the river on which Monsieur Poirot solved a difficult murder case, and the very same river where James Bond was seduced and drugged to sleep by the Russian agent Triple X. My heart jumped.

After a mess with one Arab guy who went to have a smoke in the toilet, we were down, in the passport control and through the checking out. It probably took a while, but I was so jet-lagged and far into those lovely arms of those Arabic topless dancers that I didn't even get it. Thinking about it now, I was standing there thinking about the passport control in China, actually. They made your knees tremble. Sudan is different. I ended up getting through the control in a line that was for Sudanese residents only, since the guy I was standing behind in the right line met an old friend behind the counter (or maybe he just wanted to chat with him). I was glad to see my luggage, protested that I didn't have anything to pay this guy who insisted on carrying it, which ended up with a shrug and a smile from me when we were all through to the parking lot. I'm not a sucker you can squeeze for cash, and these guys were employed by the airport, meaning they've got steady jobs and steady salaries much in the way the rest of the people don't.

I met with NRC’s Mr. P who took me to the offices were I was to spend the night. It was about two or three in the morning, hot as hell, and since I hadn't brought any pass-photos with me, Mr. P was so kind to tell me that I was going to get up at five the next morning to get it sorted.

Having unpacked my most necessary stuff, and filled my water-bottle, I met a lizard in the kitchen. I decided to call him Lobo.

Anon Hammurabi is a writer from Oslo, Norway.