Your voodoo vacation awaits!  You’re going to the most terrifying tourist destination in the Caribbean — Pignon, Haiti!  You’ll see things you never thought could exist — like zombies, for instance!  They’re up there in the mountains.  And when the sun goes down, the zombies come down to hunt for victims.  Oh, so you don’t believe in such things, do you?  Neither did Father Antoine Laperriere, who was sent to Pignon by the government of Haiti in 1945 to establish a mission and suppress the practice of voodoo.  He lasted only two days there and literally crawled out of town on his hands and knees.  He claimed that invisible hands were constantly choking him.  He lost his mind and eventually died in a lunatic asylum.  But you’re not afraid, are you?  No, you’ll go anyway.  Just make sure you write your will first.

    Pignon is a speck on the map, nestled in the interior mountainous region of Haiti.  It’s on the road between Hinche and Cap Haitien.  There’s one bus a day between those two towns.  You have to ask the driver to stop at Pignon, otherwise he won’t.  He’ll give you a shocked look.  It’s like asking to be dropped off in Newt, Texas, or at Castle Dracula.  Be a sport.  Slip him some money.

    Now, I don’t mean to exaggerate.  Most tourists who go to Pignon return safely.  Those who don’t have probably been turned into zombies.  But zombies don’t mind being zombies.  They’re not aware that they’re zombies.  They’re just like people in Toronto.

    Pignon has one hotel — the Kawada.  Manager John Marko has some advice for his guests: “Never go out by yourself.  Never be out later than midnight.  Don’t look for hookers.  Don’t drink the local bitter tea.  Take all your meals at the hotel.”

    Marko does believe in voodoo.  “You don’t have to be afraid of it.  Just understand it.  Voodoo can be black magic or white magic.  Voodoo dolls and zombies are part of black magic.  The zombie is in a kind of sleepwalking state.  The bokor, who is a mercenary priest hired to do black magic, uses the toxin from the puffer fish sphoeroides testudineus in carefully measured doses to turn a person into a zombie and keep him like that.  The toxin causes a near shut-down of the body and the loss of will.  So the zombie can be ordered like a slave.  Some zombies are just used for labor.  Others are used to kill.  You sometimes see them in broad daylight.  The local people can pick them out instantly, but a tourist may not.”

    The voodoo ritual is the only thing worth seeing in Pignon.  Tourists can observe it, but you have to give some money to the houngan, the voodoo priest (not quite the same as a bokor).  The ritual is held in his house.  A priestess, or mambo, is also likely to be present, along with one or more assistants, or hounsis.

    The houngan begins by throwing some incense into a pot of red-hot coals on the floor.  He may invoke good spirits or evil spirits, but not both at once.  Good spirits are summoned if someone needs help; evil spirits are summoned if revenge or punishment is desired.  In the latter case (which is far more interesting to watch), a large snake is brought in, and its head is cut off.  The blood is collected in a bowl.  A young girl, perhaps 16-18 years-old, is then made to undress and lie on a table.  The snake blood is poured over her naked body.  The houngan now takes a smoking pipe with tobacco in it, draws a mouthful of smoke, and blows it into the girl’s vagina through a bamboo tube.  Then a zombie is brought in.  He is controlled by the houngan.  The zombie sucks the nipples and vulva of the naked girl on the table, who must remain as still as possible.  The zombie then lies on top of her for several minutes and rubs against her as if having intercourse with her (although he cannot).  The houngan may now have intercourse with the mambo (either real or simulated).  Afterwards, the zombie is returned to his place (usually a sort of closet).  Now the houngan takes a doll or effigy representing the hated one and sticks it with pins and utters magic words.  This guarantees that evil spirits will find the intended victim and (presumably) kill him.  The houngan then leads the congregation in singing, dancing, and shrieking, and everyone goes quite crazy, jumping and gyrating wildly.  The women can strip completely and dance naked.  Jugs of rum or strong wine are passed around until everyone is quite drunk.  The hounsis set off firecrackers and pound drums, and the mambo can touch any man she favors in a sexual manner.  It’s quite a show!

    Pignon supplies over 90% of the authentic voodoo dolls used around the world.  They are made by the Pignon Dollworks, whose workers are skilled craftsmen.  They also make a small percentage of Mattel’s Barbie dolls.  In fact, Mattel will soon be bringing out a limited edition Voodoo Barbie, which will be manufactured exclusively in Pignon for distribution in the Caribbean market only.

    Yes, you can buy a voodoo doll from the Dollworks — for about $20.  However, hotel manager John Marko assured me that it doesn’t work for just anyone; you have to be a properly trained voodoo practitioner. 

    The Kawada is a nice enough hotel — not luxurious, just basic.  Rooms average about $30 per day, but meals are extra.  Most credit cards are accepted.  A big, ugly doorman keeps out zombies, beggars, and other undesirables.  The housekeeping staff will sell you a charm of some sort to protect you.  Of course, it’s fake, but you’d better buy it to be nice, otherwise you may find something crawly in your bed.  The chef is insane and may disregard your order and decide what you should eat.  His food is actually pretty good.  His specialty, however, is snake.

    Most of the people in Pignon don’t speak English, but you can probably get by with your high school French.  Haitian French is pretty awful — just as bad as Quebec French.

    Some celebrities have visited Pignon, including Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Marie Osmond, Gen. Colin Powell, Kobe Bryant, Jose Canseco, Don King, Tyra Banks, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Prof. Henry Louis Gates (Ph.D., Harvard; N.W.A., Congo), and Sacha Baron Cohen.  (Cohen started acting like Ali G. at the voodoo ritual and very nearly got himself beaten up.)

    A group of students from Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA) visited Pignon recently to dig for fossils.  Some of the local people tricked them with a dog’s skull, telling them it came from an unknown species.  The students took it home with them and probably still haven’t figured out what it is.

    Pignon has a sister city in the U.S. — Poughkeepsie, New York (pronounced Puh-KIP-see).  Mayor John C. Tkazyik, who loves all minorities, wants “those poor Haitians” to know they have a friend in Poughkeepsie.  He personally sent them a large “CARE package” containing several bottles of his favorite barbecue sauce, some shirts from Goodwill, a Jane Fonda workout video, some cheap toys made in China, a picture book about Dutchess County, New York, and a framed picture of himself.  He is now referred to in Pignon as the “fils de pute” (some sort of title of respect, I imagine), and his picture is now in the hands of a houngan.  

    Recommended vaccinations: tropical sprue, Ollier Disease, leprosy.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com  

   

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    I was having lunch with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi at Opera Plaza Sushi in San Francisco about six months ago, and she said to me, “Every so often, I need to get away from it all.  I want to go where nobody knows me, where I can relax and have a change of scenery.  So I go to Filadelfia, Paraguay.  It’s a wonderful place!  You should go.”  So I did.

    Filadelfia is still very much off the beaten track.  Almost all Paraguay tourism is concentrated in the capital, Asuncion, and I certainly won’t knock it.  It’s a great place to buy luxury goods cheap (because they are smuggled in), and the hookers are hot.  But Asuncion is not the exotic Paraguay.  To see that, you have to go to Filadelfia.

    There’s only one bus a day between Asuncion and Filadelfia.  It’s an all-day trip, departing in the morning and arriving in the evening, so pack your lunch.  And keep your eyes peeled for celebs in disguise, because more of them are following Nancy Pelosi’s example.

    As you head north from the capital, you’ll see the scenery change from farmland and grassland to the deciduous scrub forest of the vast Chaco Boreal, which makes up the entire western half of Paraguay.  This is a land where cowboys rope steers and shoot rattlesnakes (or vice-versa), where weird desert cacti burst open with hundreds of deadly tarantulas, where people speak the strange Guarani language (which only they can understand), and toothless hags cut the throats of chickens to cast spells on their enemies.  Unknown creatures leave mysterious tracks in the sand, homosexuals are hanged from gibbets, rowdy men indulge in eye-gouging for sport, and packs of wild dogs howl under the full moon.   So, it’s kind of different.

    When you arrive at the bus depot, you’ll be aware immediately of the German influence that governs the whole town of Filadelfia.  The depot is designed in the Sonntags Geschlossen style of architecture, which was so favored by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and which finds its finest recapitulation in the Greyhound Bus station in Sudbury, Ontario.  In front of the Filadelfia bus depot, which is (not surprisingly) located on the Avenue Hindenburg, you will see the only statue of Fred Astaire in the world.  Astaire was actually German (born Fred Austerlitz), and his father was born in Linz, Austria, not far from Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau am Inn.  The two families were acquainted, in fact.

    An old bus marked “Westin Filadelfia” is ready and waiting to take new visitors to the only hotel in town.  Hotel Manager Michael Czarcinski (not related to Kazimierz Czarcinski, who opened the first ear wax clinic in Poland, in the city of Cracow, in 1959) personally greets every new guest.  The hotel is never full enough to make him happy, and he is the town’s number one tourism booster.  “We’re not actually affiliated with the Westin hotel chain,” he admits.  “I just stole their name for the hell of it.  I mean, what can they do to me?”  He hints slyly with a wink that he has good enough connections in the capital that no one would ever be able to give him any trouble.

    The Westin Filadelfia is not a bad place.  Quite cheap — only $35 a night.  There’s no TV or air-conditioning, but there are flush toilets, and the maid service is diligent.  (For a few dollars, the maid will tuck you in at night, if you get my meaning.)  The furniture is of high quality.  It’s made locally by the large German Mennonite community that dominates life in Filadelfia.

    The Mennonites started arriving in the 1920’s and built themselves a fine settlement, which is on the outskirts of town.  They live communally, and their economy is based on farming and handicrafts.  Another influx of German immigrants followed in the 40’s, and a lot of them are still alive in their eighties and nineties.  So, Filadelfia is very much a German town in every respect.  The only other significant population is the local  indians, the Guarani, who mostly work as servants or as street vendors living modestly off the tourist trade.

    Werner’s Tavern is open late for new arrivals wanting a good dinner, and it’s all good German food, washed down with the local beer, Fila, which is brewed by the Mennonites.  Werner’s is really the only place to hang out in Filadelfia.  Werner Missgeburt, the owner, is a big, jovial fellow who tends the bar and likes to laugh and tell coarse jokes.  He likes to say that he never has to throw anyone out of his establishment, because it’s easier to let them stay and die of old age.

    Werner’s is cheerfully decorated with Nazi war memorabilia, including a half-size replica of a Stuka dive bomber.  This is where the old Germans gather every night to sing those good old patriotic songs of the Third Reich — although they all insist they were never members of the Nazi party or involved in any atrocities.

    Former President General Alberto Stroessner used to come up to Filadelfia occasionally and drink beer with the Germans.  They all remember him as a good friend, and there are plenty of framed pictures on the walls of the tavern to prove it.  “All the Guarani girls flirted with him,” says Werner.  “And he had his pick of them.”

    The Guarani women are actually quite lovely for indians.  They have big breasts and make money posing bare-breasted with tourists for photos.  It’s actually a pretense.  They don’t normally go bare-breasted, but the tourists assume they do and routinely pay $5 to be photographed next to a half-naked woman with big knockers.  (This is the sort of free-enterprising initiative Canadian indians could learn from, except that they’re all so seedy-looking no one would want to photograph them — with or without their clothes.) 

    The Guarani also have a fake festival for tourists called the Beer Festival, which takes place several times a year.  The highlight is the beer bottle dance, in which a woman balances a stack of ten beer bottles on top of her head — one on top of the other!  Of course, they’re attached to each other, but it’s still an amazing balancing act.  Indian musicians also play bogus indian music, and vendors sell beans and rice, as well as a stew made with capybara, which is a giant rat.  (I didn’t get to try it, but the Krauts said it was pretty good if you have plenty of beer to wash it down with.)

    As I mentioned earlier, celebrities have occasionally been seen in Filadelfia.  They pretend to be ordinary tourists and usually go unrecognized since there’s no TV.  Jack Black, Teri Hatcher, Cindy Crawford, Bono, Peter Tork, and Pete Wentz have all been spotted in the past year, according to Michael Czarcinski.  But they all register under false names, so there’s no proof on paper.

    So what would attract such people to Filadelfia?  There isn’t much to do.  “It’s just a different sort of place,” says the hotel manager.  “They can hang out with the Germans and drink beer and eat schnitzel.  They can go riding on a horse.  Or they can rent a gun and go outside the town and do some shooting, although there’s nothing out there you’d want to stuff and put over your mantel.”

    Czarcinski has a brainstorm for a tourist attraction, however — a sort of theme resort set up like a concentration camp.  “You come for a week, let’s say, and you have to sleep on a bare pallet and live on starvation rations.  They put you to work doing something arduous and beat you if you don’t cooperate.  And there would be a fake gas chamber — just a lot of smoke, that’s all.  We could even make things kinky by tying the women to racks in their bras and panties and whipping them.  But the Mennonites are against it, and they have the most power around here.”

    The Westin has some mysterious permanent residents, who occupy the top floor.  I was told they were ex-Mennonites who left the community and fell in with the old Krauts.  They have laptops and wireless Internet in their rooms, and they do things with money, but they won’t say exactly what or for whom.  So I suspect there is some sort of deep, dark secret in Filadelfia the world doesn’t know about.

    One of the old Krauts in the clique at Werner’s claims to have participated in a secret Nazi polar expedition in 1938-39.  He was an 18-year-old seaman aboard the research ship Schwabenland, commanded by Capt. Alfred Kothas.  The expedition explored parts of Antarctica and brought back valuable scientific information.  He showed me a naval patch with the words “Deutsche Antarktische Expedition” and the outline of Antarctica with a flag marking a region called “Neu-Schwabenland.”  The Schwabenland carried two flying boats called the “Boreas” and the “Passat.”

    Much to my delight, another Canadian writer arrived during my stay in Filadelfia.  Lorette Luzajic, of Toronto, was on a promotional tour for her new book, Weird Monologues for a Rainy Life (irreverent ramblings from the end of the world).  The hotel manager had invited her up from Asuncion in the hope of injecting some culture into Filadelfia, as well as promoting the place for tourism.  However, he had conveniently neglected to tell her that there was no bookstore or library in town.  But everything worked out fine anyway.  When she went over to Werner’s and the old Krauts found out she was of German ancestry, she immediately became everyone’s “girlfriend.”  All the old buzzards took turns having her sit on their laps, and they all told her how beautiful she was and treated her like a goddess.  She sold every copy of her book that she had brought with her and wished she had brought more.  (Find out more about Lorette and her book at www.thegirlcanwrite.net.) 

    Filadelfia has a sister city in the U.S.  (Would that be Philadelphia, by any chance?)  You guessed it!  Mayor Michael Nutter told me, “We don’t have no Paraguanians here in Philly, but they’re welcome to come over, as long as they pay their own way.  We’ll take ’em out for some good Philly steak sandwiches.”  This arrangement was made by Michael Czarcinski, of course, in the hope of stimulating tourism.  He told me, “When you publish your article, the tourists will really start pouring in.  Then maybe I’ll have enough clout to push that concentration camp idea through.”  Okay, good luck with that!

    Recommended vaccinations: Rinderpest, Bowen Hutterite Syndrome, Chombley wart virus.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    Astute commentators have declared the 21st Century to be the Century of China.  And no stronger argument supports this view than the example of Guiyu, which is located in Shantou, Guangdong.  Guiyu is the 21st Century Techno-Paradise, Eco-Paradise, and Green Revolution City all rolled into one.

    In the span of one generation, this exotic city has been transformed from a sleepy agricultural village to the world’s foremost recycling center for electronics.  And its inhabitants have been transformed from simple farmers to technological workers who enjoy great prosperity.  The average resident lives in a house or modern apartment, drives an eco-friendly car, and enjoys all the latest electronic gadgetry.  And how about 100-plus channels of cable and satellite TV!

    Every day, long lines of trucks disgorge discarded computers, phones, TV’s, VCR’s, and related items at a large depot.  From there, the sorted items are sent out to over a hundred companies for disassembly and recycling.  Large amounts of precious metals, industrial metals, and rare earths are extracted from all the debris.  Other components are chopped up and reprocessed as raw materials for construction and agriculture.   Nothing is wasted.  The wealth generated from all this activity is enormous.

    Hotel Manager Jonathan Litvak of the Westin Guiyu is a latecomer to this revolution but has still seen remarkable changes since he arrived here eight years ago.  “Everything is green and clean.  The air and water are perfect.  The urban environment is like something out of a futuristic movie.  We have modern buildings, underground malls, sports facilities, an efficient light-rail transit system, lovely parks, hotels, restaurants, you name it.  And it’s all neat as a pin.  In fact, you can’t even spit on the sidewalk.”

    The Westin Guiyu is noteworthy for its glass exterior, which is tinted with real gold.  Under the right conditions, airplanes approaching the international airport can see the sun’s brilliant reflection from ten miles away.  The lobby is a huge atrium adorned with sculpted coral from the offshore reefs and a mosaic of dazzling semi-precious gemstones, and a 60-foot waterfall cascades into a pool filled with pink and purple angelfish from the island of Bali.  Despite all this opulence, the hotel is surprisingly affordable, with most rooms in the range of $129 to $149 a night.

    All visitors tour the industrial parks in air-conditioned buses.  The parks themselves are works of art, with each plant having its own landscaping treatment and garden.

    Downtown Guiyu is a spotlessly clean district of upscale boutiques and shops.  High-tech gadgetry is everywhere, of course.  The Communist government has decided not to meddle with all this success, so the city is unusually free to do its own thing.  You can even buy The Wall Street Journal and Playboy.

    All vehicles, including buses, are electric or hybrid.  The little police cars are especially cute.  They operate on a biofuel made from chicken manure.  And the chickens are fed reprocessed plastic turned into nutrients by a secret process invented by Sha Bi Biofuels. 

    Guiyu gets most of its electricity from a highly unusual power plant that makes use of electric eels — a technology invented by Hung Wa Holding Company.  Thousands of eels are kept in pools, and their discharges are collected and stored in batteries.  The power is then inverted from DC to AC and fed into the local grid.  An identical plant will be built in Laramie, Wyoming, by Hung Wa’s international subsidiary, Dynamic Electro-Fish, of Mississauga, Ontario (see Laramie Boomerang archives for April 1, 2009).

    There are all kinds of restaurants in Guiyu, but the trendiest is Ba Po, which specializes in — what else? — Chinese cuisine.  Head Chef Chee Loong Cheong, formerly of the prestigious Haozhan in London, England, serves up his exotic creations — chop suey, sweet and sour pork, and fried rice.

    But competition has arrived in the form of a Mexican restaurant called El Chapo’s.  Mexican chef and entrepreneur Joaquin Guzman arrived in Guiyu last year with a trunkful of money, saw the opportunity, and seized it.  Now everyone’s going crazy over his tacos and burritos.  Pop star Lady Gaga went gaga over the food!  She claims she put on five pounds eating daily at El Chapo’s during her recent one-week tour.  She performed to packed houses at the Gun Kai Club, whose owner, Chang Chi Kao, considers himself the Lady’s number one Chinese fan.

    And last winter, Mel Gibson was on hand to celebrate the opening of the Friendly Chicken, hilariously designed by artist Chester Brown of Toronto.  Patrons enter the restaurant through the chicken’s head, eat in the stomach, and exit by the anus.  Gibson remarked to the media, “Australians love this sort of humor.”  But Jonathan Litvak of the Westin Guiyu insists it represents an ecological theme.

    Guiyu’s mascot is the bird of paradise, and if you want to see them, go to the park along the bank of the Lianjiang River, where they roam freely.

    The Lianjiang is a pristine river.  And when it freezes over in the winter, residents go ice skating.

    Golden fields of millet and corn surround the tributaries of the Lianjiang, and you can climb at least part-way up the slope of Tharpu Chuli, a dormant volcano, which enriched the soil in the distant past.  A high fence marks off the Gungbung Conservation Area, where the rare white tiger is protected.

    The biggest surprise in Guiyu is an authentic Shaker Village, founded by dissidents who left the South Union, Kentucky, community in 1922 and traveled to China in search of spiritual purity and a population of converts.  Now well-established, it numbers nearly a thousand members, who earn a good living fashioning bar stools and roulette wheels out of maple, oak, and applewood, all crafted with the elegant functionality for which the Shakers are well known.  But these people are not stuck in the past.  Oh, no!  The Shakers have always embraced technology and invention.  The community’s leader, Sister Mary Catherine Park Hui Gee Crucified of Jesus, sees a Divine Hand at work in Guiyu and calls the city “a new Garden of Eden.”

    Guiyu now has a sister city in the U.S. — Compton, California.  Mayor Eric J. Perrodin says, “We be gettin’ down wid dem Chinamen!”  He regards Guiyu as a model to emulate and intends to remake Compton into a major recycling center for electronics, generating thousands of high-paying jobs.  He has not yet traveled to Guiyu himself but intends to go with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this fall.  The Governor sees electronics recycling as the perfect industry to cure California’s financial mess.

    Recommended vaccinations: yaws, Mucolipidosis IV, jejunal atresia.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com  

   

    North Korea recently fired another missile, and many people are concerned (although not in my neighborhood of brain-dead foreigners and white trash).  But what’s it all about, anyway?  Are the North Koreans a proud, independent people determined to resist the aggression of American warmongers, or are they just a bunch of insane, retarded, slitty-eyed Commie bastards?  Or are they something entirely other?

    For an authoritative answer, I asked a homosexual political science professor at the University of Toronto (who shall remain nameless, but he has a beard and wears an earring, and his lover’s name is Paul) to explain the North Koreans to me.  “The North Koreans are no different from you or me,” he said.  “What do all human beings want?  They want to be understood and accepted for what they are, without prejudice.  Is that so wrong?  Of course not.  It’s the Americans who are clearly the aggressors.  They always have been throughout their history.  I teach a course on the subject.”  Okay, I guess that helps.

    But let’s go check things out for ourselves!

    Pyongyang, North Korea!  Who has not wanted to travel there?  (Put your hands down.  That was a rhetorical question.)  Yes, Pyongyang!  The city that lies in the fabled Valley of Monkeys, whose people Buddha described as “happy, fat, and drunk on wine.”  Let’s throw back the curtain of history and look through the dense fog of time.

    The North Koreans, unlike their southern cousins who call themselves “Koreans” (although the term is anthropologically meaningless, since it merely refers to a peninsula), are descended from the Mogollon people, who settled and controlled the region as far back as 500 BC.  Their early settlements may still be glimpsed protruding from the fields of corn that spread westward from the Taedong River.  They feared only bears and fire.  The Mogollon evolved from hunters and gatherers who shot wild boars with bows and arrows, then became pearl divers and fishermen, and then finally became farmers and breeders of turkeys, until they disappeared mysteriously and quite suddenly in 1211 AD, after a great fall of toads from the sky.  Charles Fort described this fall of toads in one of his books.  Shakespeare referred to it cryptically in Macbeth.  And it was discussed at length in Memoirs of a Lunatic: The Diaries of Lord Archambault of Dorking, by Sir Oliver Sturm-Ruger (Oxford Univ. Press, 1956).

    What happened to the Mogollon people?  If the toads could talk, what would they tell us?  We could go ask them, for the Toad Habitat, one of Pyongyang’s most popular tourist attractions, is located about 20 miles north of the city.  It’s the reason why Pyongyang is unofficially the Toad Capital of Asia.  The toad figure is seen everywhere as a sort of mascot of Pyongyang — a sly, mischievous creature that obviously knows more than it’s willing to tell.  You could try to plumb its secrets, but it will not reveal them, even if you stroke it lovingly, or even if you choke it and suck on its head.  And if you do that, you will be put somewhere where there is nothing sharp, and stern orderlies watch you day and night.  And that wasn’t the purpose of this trip, was it?

    Who really understands these Toad People, these offshoots of the Mogollon, better than a Westerner who has lived in Pyongyang for many years?  That would be Suzanne Gittens, Manager of the Comfort Inn, located on the West Bank of the Taedong.  It is Pyongyang’s best hotel.  From the upper floors, you get a panoramic view of the city — The Monument of the Revolution, the Monument of the Heroic People’s Struggle Against Aggression, the Monument of the Worker, the Soldier, and the Intellectual, the Monument of Peace, the Arch of Triumph, the Arch of the Glorious Future, the Arch of the Iron Will, the Statue of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, the Statue of the Great Father Kim Il-sung, the Juche Tower, the Tower of Truth Television, the Communist Victory Stadium, the Revolutionary University of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, the People’s Communist Water Purification Plant, the Socialist Democratic People’s Garbage Incinerator, the Eternal Zoo of the Communist Party of North Korea, the Glorious and Prosperous People’s Farmer’s Market, the Democratic People’s Revolutionary Electrical Plant, the Golden Arches Communist Noodle Works, and the Unconquerable Socialist Revolutionary People’s Cineplex Theatre, featuring two screens.  (The Revolutionary Children’s  Monument of Resistance and the Revolutionary Communist Day Care Centre are not visible from the hotel.)

    Suzanne Gittens enjoys special respect as the Westerner who brought peanut butter to North Korea.  Peanut butter is now widely eaten, and the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il has personally endorsed it as a healthy food for long life, even though it was invented in America.

    “The North Koreans think of themselves as being in a state of war all the time, even when they are not actually at war,” explained Gittens.  “And they cannot be defeated, because their will is stronger than the enemy’s.  But they do have one fear — centrifugal force.  Centrifugal force is an American weapon whose purpose is to hold back the progress of the people and their revolution.  It is invisible, yet it has a physical effect on people and objects.  North Korean soldiers march in a stiff manner to reduce the effect of centrifugal force.  The missiles that are being fired are intended to disrupt the waves of centrifugal force sent down by American satellites.  The Juche Tower, which is the most important structure in Pyongyang, contains an energy beam to protect the city from centrifugal force, and it is supposed to be effective.  ‘Juche,’ of course, is the state ideology of North Korea.  It means ‘independence’ or ‘self-reliance.’  It is also the name of the country’s most popular brand of cigarettes, most popular brand of toothpaste, and most popular brand of condom.”

    Because of my reputation as the funniest living writer in the English language (way funnier than Dave Barry, a wanker who refuses to answer e-mail), I was given the same room at the Comfort Inn that Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag stayed in.  Their visit to Pyongyang last December is the best-kept secret in Hollywood.  Even the gossip columns failed to pick it up.  The newlyweds went to Pyongyang to escape the prying eyes of the media, and only Gittens knew who they were, since American celebrities are never seen on North Korean television.

    There is not much television in North Korea anyway.  There are three channels with limited hours.  Korean Central Television (KCTV) is the official broadcaster of news.  It is best known for the hypnotic spiral that appears on the screen as propaganda messages are spoken.  Korean Educational and Cultural TV has lots of shows featuring children laying flowers at the foot of monuments and uniformed children marching with little flags.  Mansudae TV has movies with revolutionary themes (especially the Korean War), sports (gymnasts performing in arenas with no audience in the background), current affairs (missile launches), science (lab techs studying grains of wheat under a microscope), and a popular game show called Name That Enemy, in which contestants must identify American warmongers to win a carton of noodles.

    North Korea’s aversion to foreigners is somewhat exaggerated.  Basically, you have to prove you’re not a spy.  But it’s like every other country’s Customs and Immigration: some officers are nice, and some are mean.  If you are neatly dressed, clean shaven, soft-spoken, and polite, you will probably get in.  If you look like white trash, with baggy pants and baseball cap turned backwards, you will be taken into a room and beaten to death, and your family will be told you died in a boating accident.  (This is the sort of reform we need in Canada.)  There is also a “Kill On Sight” list with specific names.  Currently, Nick Nolte is at the top of the list.

    The visitor to Pyongyang must be accompanied by an escort.  This is actually a good thing, because if you don’t know the language or your way around, you could get yourself into some kind of trouble.  Besides, the escorts need the employment.  My escort was a plain girl named Kim, who desperately needed a makeover and implants, both of which would be considered counter-revolutionary in North Korea.  She took me on a long walking tour of the city.  (We didn’t get on any streetcars, because they have been known to electrocute their passengers.)  We ended up in one of the nice parks for which Pyongyang is known.  I asked her why she was so flat-chested, and she acted hurt.  She said she was a very average and normal North Korean girl.  I told her I had a special skin cream from Canada that would make her breasts grow, and if she came to my hotel room in the evening, I would apply it to her myself to show her the right way to do it.  She was very eager to accept my kindness, but at the appointed hour she never showed up.  The next day, she would only say vaguely that she had not been able to come.

    We took a short ride on the subway, which is the deepest in the world, since it is intended to serve as a shelter in the event of a nuclear war.  Now, the subway is basically for show.  The stations are clean and full of patriotic art.  But for a city of over 3 million people, the crowd is mysteriously thin.  People are supposed to be going to work, but a lot of them are faking it.  Officially, there is no unemployment in the Communist paradise of North Korea, so everyone must behave as if  they were going to work.  But when they get to their destinations, a lot of these riders are looking at factories that are shut down, office buildings with no electricity, and shops with almost nothing to sell.  So they will sit and do nothing at the workplace or go for a walk, and then return home.  The subway is absurdly cheap by anyone’s standards, so it is a major money-loser, but the regime needs it for propaganda purposes.

    In Pyongyang, if you are unemployable for whatever reason, you can be a street vendor and sell cold, wet noodles in a paper cup, or you can be given a job title such as “emotion recognition specialist” or “anti-centrifugal specialist” and sit at a desk in an unheated warehouse, waiting for the phone to ring, which it won’t because it isn’t even connected.  Directing traffic is another make-work program, and you will see lots of girls in blue uniforms standing in intersections, waiting for some traffic to show up. 

    Pyongyang has restaurants with such names as Communist Restaurant, Glorious Restaurant, Victory Restaurant, or Happy Smiling Toad Restaurant.  They serve mostly noodles and vegetables and very little meat.  I dropped in at the Communist Restaurant, which is run by Tadamasa Goto.  “Only foreigners can own restaurants here,” he explained.  “The North Koreans are not allowed to.”  I said that had a certain symmetrical logic, since in Canada only Koreans can own convenience stores and white Canadians can’t.  Goto readily admits he is not a trained chef, and his restaurant used to be very bad.  But then something good happened.  “Gordon Ramsay was in town.  He has a Korean grandparent, by the way, which most people don’t know about.  Anyway, he had heard about this place, and when he saw how bad it was, he decided to feature it on Kitchen Nightmares.   The episode will appear on TV over there in September or October.  There were rats, dead cats, stinking pools of grease, mold, you name it.  The chef I had working for me was the son of a Party member and I couldn’t fire him, but Ramsay picked him up and literally threw him out.  He’s an ex-footballer, you know, and these Koreans are small enough to pick up and throw.  After that, he cleaned the place up and updated the menu, and the government sent me a proper chef  out of embarrassment.”  I tried the soy turkey sandwich with gravy, noodles, and peas, and it was not bad — a lot better than the atrocious meat loaf I once had in the Hudson Bay cafeteria at Yonge and Bloor, where the cooks are Korean and put garlic in everything, including  the cole slaw.  Goto doesn’t actually make a living from the restaurant.  He has business contacts in Japan, and he moves shipments of guns, drugs, and counterfeit goods for the North Korean government.

    On one of my walks with Kim, my escort, I commented on the  police on every street corner.  Kim explained they needed the work.  Naturally, there’s no street crime whatever in Pyongyang — exactly the opposite of Toronto, where you have plenty of crime on the streets, and the police are nowhere in sight.  (You have to call them, get it?)  Toronto’s  Chief of Police,  Bill Blair, is a wimp who lets Tamil protesters block streets and highways, because he believes in cultural sensitivity, and he marches in the Gay Pride parade, too.  He looks like a big, stupid rabbit.

    I treated Kim to an ice cream, and we sat on a park bench.  I kept trying to put my hand up her skirt, and she kept resisting, although I could tell she was getting hot.  “It is counter-revolutionary,” she said.  And then I got some insight into North Koreans and sex.  The government strictly suppresses visible sex.  There is no sexual imagery anywhere.  More than that, the government has a long-term plan to eliminate sex altogether and have people reproduce by binary fission.  You may remember such news items as the two-headed snake, or the two-headed dog, or the two-headed sheep.  These were the results of early North Korean experiments to make higher animals reproduce by binary fission.  The animals lived, but the experiments were regarded as failures.  Nevertheless, the government considers binary fission to be the ultimate fulfillment of juche, so they will keep at it.  Kim believed there was some sort of chemical being put in the drinking water to prepare the people for binary fission, so she was only drinking bottled water because she did not want to divide unexpectedly.  She also said there were rumors of experiments gone wrong, resulting in abortions.

    It was all gruesome stuff, so to get her mind off it, I suggested we go for a gondola ride on the Taedong River.  The gondolas look exactly like the ones you see in movies about Venice.  Couples can enjoy a long ride while being serenaded by the gondoliers, who sing sentimental songs of revolutionary victory.  Meanwhile, you can watch pearl divers reviving an ancient custom of their ancestors.  Resplendent in their orange wet suits, they dig barnacles from the river bottom to harvest a variety of brown, sticky pearl found nowhere else in the world.  It’s not in the same class as the fine pearls from Australia but certainly good enough for Canadians who shop in bargain stores.  These divers swim in synchronized fashion, performing an artistic water ballet, while blending in with schools of river porpoises that are extremely happy in the extremely clean waters of the Taedong, thanks to the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il.  I guided Kim’s hand to my crotch so she could feel how keen I was for her.  She looked away and pretended not to be aware.  I pressed her hand down more firmly and said, “What is this called in Korean?”  She replied, “Chaji.”  I worked my hand under her skirt and inside her panties to her privates.  “What do you call this?” I asked.  She replied, “Poji.”  I moved my hand around the back and into the crack of her ass.  “And the other one?” I asked.  “Ttong-koo-mung,” she replied, breathing hard.  She started stroking me gently….

    Which reminds me to talk about the ballistic missiles.  The North Koreans have been launching them from a site in the northeast called Musudan-ri (CIA code name: “Boardwalk”).  But it’s getting obsolete already, so they’re building a new one at a site about 75 miles northwest of Pyongyang, called Pongdong-ni (CIA code name: “Park Place”).  The missile workers are looking forward to the move because the new site has a nicer lawn, is closer to shopping, and is in a better school district.  The government will run daily bus tours from Pyongyang to show off the new site, and Suzanne Gittens thinks the tours will be a big money-maker, since visitors have heard so much about the missiles.  The new site will have a gift shop, too.

    The vineyards are on the same road as the new missile site.  It will surprise you to learn that the North Koreans have been making wine for almost fifty years — reviving an ancient Mogollon tradition — although it has taken a while to develop the quality to make it a viable export product.  The People’s Victory wine actually won an honorable mention in an Asian wine competition held in Hanoi, and the Glorious Leader wine was nominated in the “Best New Wine” category on Vancouver’s skid row.  And a bottle of Communist Defeat of American Aggression wine can be glimpsed briefly on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

    Pyongyang now has a “sister city” in Canada.  Because of my influence as a shameless promoter of uranium mining in Saskatchewan (e-mail me for current stock recommendations!), I was able to arrange the “sistering” of Pyongyang and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (CIA code name: “Mosquitoville”).  Mayor Jim Scarrow is very excited about the new arrangement.  “It’s a very good thing for us,” he says, sweat dripping off his brow.  “After all, they’re developing nuclear weapons, and we don’t want to be attacked.  If we show them we like them, we’ll be helping to keep peace in the world.  I mean, look, we have plenty in common.  Both cities begin with ‘P.’  Both cities are on a river.  They’re Communist, and we’re somewhat socialist, okay?  They just want to do the right thing for their people, and so do we, right?  There’s common ground.  We can all get along.  We love all the minorities — aboriginals, black people, Asians, whatever.  We have Korean people here.  We value them as citizens.  My wife buys milk and bread from them.  The people from Pyongyang are welcome to visit any time.  We’ll show them a good time.  We’re willing to trade with them, to help them.  We’ll do whatever it takes so they don’t attack us….”  He goes on like this for a half hour, but you get the gist.

    I can’t forget the show trial!  The talk of the town during my visit to Pyongyang was the trial of two Americans, which was being broadcast daily on KCTV.  Roger Angell and Ben Greenman were charged with “hostile acts,” including spying and “spreading centrifugal force.”  I have no idea what they actually did, but Suzanne Gittens said it didn’t matter.  “It follows a familiar script,” she explained to me.  “They get a couple of Westerners on a fake charge and threaten them with the death penalty.  Inevitably, the foreign government or company offers a discreet bribe for the release of the offenders, the Party scores propaganda points, and Kim Jong-il’s family pockets the bribe.”  And what if no one is willing to pay?  “Then, of course, they’d be executed.  But so far that’s never happened.”  As of the time of my departure, however, no offer had been made to save these guys, so whoever they are, they must be major bastards.

    When I checked out of the Comfort Inn, I was allowed to keep the souvenir flashlight that is placed in every room in case the electricity goes off.  It’s in the shape of Kim Jong-il.  When I remarked to Suzanne Gittens that it looked a lot like a dildo, she said that she always suspected that some designer made it like that on purpose as a way of poking fun at the government, and the Party still hadn’t caught on.  I decided it would be a cute parting gift for Kim.

    And so we went for one last excursion into the countryside, to skip happily across meadows and bogs and through forests, looking for trolls and fairies and elves, and to fall back in time to be with the Mogollon people, dressed in their sunbonnets of black and purple, chasing the wild boars, babbling of the ancient ways that must never die but live forever, of battles fought and virgins raped, of loves and toads, of days when seafarers navigated by the Milky Way.  We embraced and kissed beneath the ivy bowers, as majestic turkeys screeched above the romantic fields of corn.  Our groins tumescent and throbbing, we sang of the Dear Leader standing gloriously on the Mountain of Monkeys, vanquishing centrifugal force with a mighty sweep of juche.  I did pull the moist panties from my little flat-chested Kim and dragged her into the shrubbery, which was soft and cool and smelled of shrubbery, and she seized my monument and impaled herself on it, while I worked the flashlight figure of Kim Jong-il into her ttong-koo-mung and bit her yearning nipples.  We thrashed about like rabid wombats, and I lost my mind beneath the gathering purple clouds of dusk.  Then the rains came, and we were both at peace….

    The rumors of Anne Murray’s abortion in Pyongyang are unfounded.  The fetus had two heads, but neither one resembled her.

    The North Koreans will accept $500,000 for the release of Roger Angell and Ben Greenman, or $300,000 for just one of them, and that’s absolutely as low as they’re willing to go, so forget about trying to cut a better deal.  The deadline is midnight, July 1st, Pyongyang time.  If no offer is received by then, the spies will be executed by firing squad.

    Recommended vaccinations: Mucha Habermann Disease, mycosis fungoides, ichthyosis vulgaris.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    This is a favorite joke in Yemen: A car full of terrorists has to stop at a police checkpoint.  An officer leans in and asks, “Where are you going?”  They reply, “We’re going to attack.”  So the officer waves them on.

    Pretty funny, eh?  That’s the Yemenis for you.  Not just funny but kind of cracked.  That’s why I like them.  And the biggest wackos of all are in Ataq.  It’s a place as old as the Bible.  It was near here that Joshua slew Horam in the hills of Lachis.  But Ataqers don’t hold a grudge.  Forgive and forget, you know?  We can all get along.  Hey, smoke some qat.  It’ll flip your wig!  Even the pilots who fly into Ataq on the regional airline, Air Ghaban, are smoking or chewing qat.  They swear it helps them fly better.

    What makes Ataqers so weird is that they live in a B-movie bubble.  The town is a popular location for low-budget movies because it’s incredibly cheap to shoot in, and there is a huge area north of the town where production crews can do anything.  Practically all the locals are wannabe performers of some sort, so there is no shortage of extras.  As soon as you arrive at the airport, you’re passing a corridor full of buskers and impersonators.  There’s even a snake charmer with a broken plastic flute and a rubber snake, who pauses frequently to tell jokes from old American TV shows. 

   My host was Fadi (“Don’t call me Fatty”) Ayoub, who owns the Hollywood Joke Store.  He claimed to be my biggest fan in Yemen.  He swears there are readers in Yemen who remember me from my advice columns in Rustler, which are major collector’s items and almost impossible to find outside of Canada.  It’s remarkable that any copies ever found their way to Yemen!

    Fadi drove me around the town, which didn’t take long, because it’s a small place.  He showed me the area where movies are made, and then we drove by the big amusement park on the south side of town.  It’s modeled after what Yemenis have seen of amusement parks in the movies.

    “We’ve got film people coming here from all over the world,” Fadi explained in perfect English.  “Europe, Russia, Australia, Asia, and even Israel.  So far, the biggest movie ever made here was a production by Golan and Globus called Die, Caveman, Die!, starring Hulk Hogan.  It was never released in North America, at his own request.  But now we’ve got something really big coming, and keep this under your hat for now, because Spielberg hasn’t made it official yet.  The sequel to E.T. is going to be filmed here!”  (Okay, so don’t tell anyone.  It’s a secret.  The E.T. sequel is going to be filmed in Ataq, Yemen!)

    Fadi was eager to introduce me to another Crad Kilodney fan, Armin Schroecker, Manager of the Ataq Hilton, which is the only hotel in Ataq and one of the few buildings with flush toilets.  (Yemenis regard flush toilets as strange.  They wonder, “When you flush, where does it go?  Does it just disappear?”  Which is exactly what I wonder about the taxes I pay to Ottawa.)  My room at the Ataq Hilton was comfortable, but it had an oddly institutional style.  Armin explained why: “Everything is bolted down.  Everything is unbreakable.  With film people, you expect the worst.  The ones we get here are crazy.”  Guests in Ataq have to buy a TV at check-in if they want one.  If they don’t destroy it, they get their money back. 

    Fadi took me to the Hollywood Diner for lunch.  (Ataq is full of places called “Hollywood” something.)  It, too, was modeled after what Yemenis have seen of American diners in the movies, and the only food served is hamburgers, french fries, apple pie, and coffee.  Yemenis go there, but there’s no Yemeni food, because they don’t want to look low-class in front of visitors. 

    Speaking of visitors, there were two movies being shot in Ataq while I was there — a Latvian movie about zombies who terrorize a secretary on vacation in the Mojave Desert, and a Taiwanese movie about schoolgirls being kidnapped by aliens for breeding purposes (which has to be a comedy, because everyone knows aliens only abduct white people).

    Fadi’s joke store stocks mostly masks and costumes, as well as toys and novelties related to movies.  He is extremely fond of American sci-fi and monster movies from the 50’s, as are most Ataqers.  They regard such movies as the pinnacle of culture.  Their favorite movie is It Conquered The World.  Their second-favorite is Them.  Their favorite actress is Beverly Garland (good choice!).  She’s a goddess in Yemen.  Their favorite actor is — get ready for a surprise — Whit Bissell.  As for comic personalities, their two favorites are Zacherley and Soupy Sales (incredible!). 

    I had to buy something from Fadi’s store just to be gracious, so I bought a box of toilet targets with a picture of Velupillai Prabhakaran.  He gave me a good deal — $6 for a box of 200.  “I thought they were targets for shooting,” he said.  “But my customers said they were too small.  I only realized too late that they were for pissing on.”

    The one thing in Fadi’s store that isn’t fake is guns.  Nobody sells fake guns in Yemen.  The very idea is absurd to them.  Why buy a fake gun when real ones are cheap and available everywhere?  Every store in Ataq sells guns on the side.  I saw guns in a bakery, a shoe shop, and even a laundry. In fact, when Fadi introduced me to the laundry owner and said I was from Canada, the man offered to give me a gun so I could shoot Indians.  “You kill Indians!  Make Canada better country!” he said.  I had to decline politely.  Fadi explained to me afterwards, “Yemenis think Indians are very bad, and they don’t understand why Canadians tolerate them.  They’re all drunks, they’re good for nothing, and no matter how much money you throw at them or how much you kiss their asses, it doesn’t make any difference.  They just go on being a big drain on Canada.”  I said some Canadians would agree.

    The amusement park that I mentioned earlier is strictly for thrill-seekers.  The mechanical safety of the rides is, shall we say, hit or miss.  They give you a helmet and a kind of protective vest, and you ride at your own risk.  The Fun House is pretty cool, though.  Instead of mechanical monsters popping out of the walls, real men with knives jump out at you.  They’re all wannabe actors, so it’s okay.  No one has ever been killed, although there have been a few minor injuries.

    There is really not much else noteworthy in Ataq.  Don’t try to talk to the women.  They’re not allowed to talk to strangers.  They can’t even work as extras in movies.  And, of course, they’re all wrapped up like mummies because of sharia law.  And they actually prefer it that way.  As for other culture, there isn’t any — just what relates to movies.  Come to think of it, if it weren’t for the movie industry and American influence, Ataq would be just another miserable Muslim shithole.

    When I returned to Toronto, an immigration officer at the airport asked me where I’d been.  I told him, “I went to Ataq, Yemen” — after which I spent two hours being interrogated by the RCMP.  Fucking dumbass Canadians!

    Recommended vaccinations: bubonic plague, Leishmaniasis, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    Somalia was created by the union of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, which were granted independence in 1960.  Today, nearly a half century later, it is a showcase for what the modern Negro can do with his own country once freed from the shackles of European colonialism.  And nowhere is this achievement more aptly demonstrated than in the capital city, Mogadishu.

    Civility, refinement, peace, order, safety, courtesy, and cleanliness: these are the qualities that set Mogadishu apart from most other capital cities.  The natural beauty of the sea, the sand, and the surrounding countryside combine with the calm atmosphere of its pretty, tree-lined streets and the graciousness of its people to make it just the place where you can go to decompress, recharge, and feel human again.

    You can choose from numerous little hotels that are cheap and very basic in their amenities, or you can splurge and enjoy the luxuries afforded by the Park Hyatt Mogadishu, which overlooks a harbor usually full of multi-colored sailboats and yachts.  Manager Paul Verciglio runs a highly efficient establishment with a cadre of bellhops resplendent in their original Versace uniforms of emerald green with gold buttons.  You will find fresh flowers (corpse lily, dragon arum, Stapelia, and Huernia) in your room, as well as a little fridge with wine and cakes and a bar stocked with miniatures.

    “It’s a good life in Mogadishu,” says Paul with a contented sigh.  “Much more peaceful than the big cities in Italy, with all their violence and social unrest.  In fact, it’s an extraordinarily quiet city.  At night you will only hear the gently pounding surf and the cuckoos calling to each other.  By day, if you go downtown, you won’t even hear a radio playing loud or a car horn.”

    Another reason for the peacefulness of the city is the curfew on juveniles under sixteen.  They must be off the street by midnight, otherwise they can count on being picked up by one of the many serious-looking officers clad in stunning scarlet uniforms and white pith helmets designed by Gucci.

    Despite its break from its colonial past, Mogadishu is full of Italian influence in its architecture, food, and fashions.  Along the fashionable Via Jamaal Cabdi-Naasir, you will find shops of Dolce & Gabbana, Georgio Armani, and Roberto Cavalli, fine Italian restaurants, and the Globo Cinema, which runs a lot of spaghetti westerns.  But two Canadians have also opened for business.  Twin fashion designers Dan and Dean Caten, originally from Toronto, have opened a store called Dufarr.  They are the prime movers behind Mogadishu’s nascent annual fashion show, which is rapidly developing into an international event.  And now it is rumored that they have struck a deal to bring Victoria’s Secret to Mogadishu with a show this coming December and the simultaneous launch of a boutique.

    Be sure to have a meal at Pelle’s, an Italian restaurant run by Sebastiano Pelle, former head chef at the prestigious La Pergola in Rome.  The best deal is the “Catch of the Day,” which consists of whatever washed up on the beach that morning, served with no-name pasta and sauce. 

    High culture abounds in Mogadishu — live theater, a Shakespeare Festival, ballet, and the Mogadishu Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Coolio (a Negro), which recently recorded a 12-hour compilation of Songs of the Somali Fishermen for Sony.

    Mogadishu’s large metropolitan area is well-served by a fleet of electric buses, whose operators are splendidly clad in pickle green and mustard yellow uniforms designed by H.J. Heinz of Pittsburgh.  But this is a city that was made for walking, so put on your comfy shoes and just walk.  You’ll notice that there is not a scrap of litter anywhere.  These people are fanatics about clean streets, so don’t litter.  It means a $50 fine. 

    Head for the city’s Central Park, which features spectacular fountains modeled after those found on the palatial estate of Benito Mussolini, and meticulously groomed plots of foxglove, water hemlock, titan arum, and Jimson weed.  It’s the perfect retreat for poets.   Indeed, the Toronto Star once informed its readers that the Somalis were the poets of Africa.  You’ll see them sitting on the benches, scribbling away.  I met Mogadishu’s Poet-in-Residence, Yusef Qanees.  He showed me his latest poem, titled Epiphany:

    The steam from a cup of tea

    sets frogs a-singing

    in the pool of blood behind my typewriter.

    The richest neighborhood is the ultra-chic Wagberi district, where a number of new stately homes have sprouted up.  Robert Pattinson owns one.  Others are owned by Jennifer Aniston, Annie Duke, Michael Vick, and Gene Simmons.

    Mogadishu has joined the growing trend in Third World countries of pairing up with a “sister city” in the U.S.  Mogadishu is now the sister city of Miami, whose Mayor, Manny Diaz, explains why: “Both cities begin with ‘M.’  Both cities are on the ocean.  And both cities consist mostly of minorities.”  Making the arrangements was difficult because Mogadishu tends to be “in and out” of mayors.  Fortunately, a prominent citizen, AbdiRisak Isse, took it upon himself to make the deal, since he manages the Coca Cola bottling plant, a position of even higher prestige than Mayor.

    Mogadishu’s future is indeed bright, thanks to its proximity to vast deposits of silicon dioxide, which one can literally scoop up by the bucketful.  And foreign capital is eager to invest in this grand, exotic city, kissed by the warm waves of the Indian Ocean, where porpoises and sperm whales frolic without a care.

    As I was leaving my hotel, the bellhop, upon learning I lived in Canada, asked, “Do you know Michael Ignatieff?”  I said I didn’t know him personally.  “He looks like a big, stupid dung beetle,” the bellhop continued.  “I want to step on his head and crush it like the dung beetle he is.  I feel so sorry for Canada.”  I tipped him generously.

    Recommended vaccinations: encephalitis, yellow fever, Buerger’s Disease.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    You’ve already been to Bangkok.  In fact, you’ve been seen too much there.  They know what you are.  Now you’ll have to find another place to fulfill your sick needs.  Fortunately, I know of such a place: Quetta, Pakistan.  You can get whatever you want there.  It’s a Sinner’s Paradise!  And it’s still in its early days, so prices are modest. 

    They love Westerners in Quetta — especially Americans.  Just stroll around the bazaars and speak loudly with an American accent, and, like magic, bearded men will step out of the shadows and offer to take you for a long drive in the country, no charge.  Now that’s hospitality!

    This pro-Western attitude can be traced back to 1990, when former CIA Director Admiral  Stansfield Turner took a side-trip to Quetta while on vacation.  Walking around town looking for fun, he went into a karaoke bar, got rather drunk, and stood up and gave a spectacular rendition of Maybellene, by Chuck Berry.  Quetta has never been the same since.

    Because of my literary reputation as the funniest living writer in the English language, I was shown around the city by the Mayor, Maqbool Ahmed Lehri, who is the author of a short book, Approved Jokes For Muslims.  Maqbool, as he prefers to be called, explained that since 2000, Quetta has been the “sister city” of Grand Island, Nebraska, which has a large Paki community and an identical climate to Quetta’s.  Mayor Ken Gnadt of Grand Island, who was into multiculturalism, proposed the arrangement and made the trip to seal the deal.  He and Maqbool got zonked on qat and ended up in the only good whorehouse at the time.  “America should know about this place!” burbled Gnadt enthusiastically, and Maqbool decided then and there to develop Quetta as a place for decadent Westerners to have fun.

    But what about strict Muslim standards, and sharia law, and all that  repressive stuff?  “That’s in Islamabad and some of the hick towns,” says Maqbool.  “Quetta is modern.  Sure, there are some radicals who scream about sin, but you get that in the West, too.  Most people ignore them.” 

    I was lodged in a penthouse at the Hampton Inn & Suites, managed by Neville Ira-Gould, a former Israeli paratrooper, whose family controls a kitchen utensil conglomerate.  A keen businessman himself, he made a fortune on the Karachi Stock Exchange on a company that processes sheep manure into biofuel.  The Hampton may not be the biggest or most luxurious hotel in Quetta, but like all the Hampton hotels, you get excellent value, and the beds are sized for normal people, not ugly, dwarfish Asian minorities.

    Mayor Maqbool drove me around in his limo and showed me Jinnah Road and the Shahrah-e-Zarghun, which are one big entertainment district, heavy on sex but well-lit, safe, and with a good crowd of well-dressed people.  This is civilization!

    But first, a few drinks to get primed.  Noor’s Pub on Jinnah Road is a lively place.  The drinks are strong, everyone smokes, and a satellite TV brings in English soccer games.  Noor Muhammad is the owner — a congenial fellow who tells coarse jokes in several languages.  He loves Jews and Americans.

    The slot machine in Noor’s isn’t reliable, so go across the street to the Gaddha Casino, which is run by a Japanese expat named Makoto Hirata.  “I was an accountant for a Tokyo bank, but I got bored, so I embezzled a lot of money and came to Quetta.  They don’t extradite people in this country, so there’s a whole community of Japanese here who had some reason to get away,” he explains.  The Pakis are still learning the casino games, so for now the clientele is mostly Western.  Poker and slots take up most of the floor space.  A Jap named Shuichi Mogi got very drunk and very lucky while we were there, but he was a friend of the owner, so it was okay. 

    Maqbool took me to Domenico’s, a pretty good Italian restaurant on the Shahrah-e-Zarghun, owned by Domenico Raccuglia.  It’s a gathering place for Italian expats, the same as with the Japs, if you get my drift.  (Maqbool wanted to take me to a Pashto joint where they served sheep brains, a favorite dish in Quetta, but I wasn’t brave enough for that.)

    Next, it was on to the hookers at the notorious Nawab Club, run by Abdul Qadir Kasi (“Casey” to his friends), who claims to have absolutely any type of woman you want.  Maqbool went off with a slutty Russian babe (“My god-daughter”), and I had an encounter with a tiny Indian girl whose parents had been eaten by a tiger in the picturesque village of Ludhiana, where nose flutes are made.  The standard price in Quetta is $30, and you can’t even buy a carton of cigarettes in Canada for that.

    We didn’t go into Quetta’s foremost gay club, but I’ll mention it because Quetta is very gay-friendly.  It’s called Bottoms Up, and it’s run by el-Farouk Khaki, who is also a city health inspector.

    The big event of the year in Quetta is the annual Erotic Film Festival, which runs for two weeks in September.  This year’s guests will include Jenna Jameson, Asia Carrera, Jesse Jane, Stephanie Swift, Jessica Drake, Inari Vachs, and Shayla LaVeaux.  Last year’s winner in the documentary category was Ron Mann’s Chinese Squid Women, a hard-core film about women having sex with squids (still banned in Canada).  Ron Jeremy, who was one of last year’s presenters, arrived late because he couldn’t read his own handwriting and flew to Quito (Ecuador) instead of Quetta.  One of this year’s presenters will be Al Gore.  Several media events will take place at the Hampton Inn & Suites, as always.

    Quetta’s porn shops are open all night.  They’re all up and down the Shahrah-e-Zarghun on both sides, just like 42nd St. in the old days (but much cleaner).  There are a lot of locally-produced DVD’s in Urdu and Pashto with no subtitles, and this is bizarre, extreme stuff that probably doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.  I recognized a well-known TV evangelist from the U.S., and I won’t tell you who.  Blow-up dolls of Hillary Clinton with gigantic tits are one of the hottest items on the street.

    But there are also wholesome things to do and see in Quetta.  There is the Pakistan Hockey Hall of Fame, which proudly displays a signed photo of Greg Neeld, who now manages a company called Hawkeye Gold, which is the worst piece of shit on the Canadian Venture Exchange (ticker symbol: HKO).

    There is a theme park called Terror Land, where you can shoot paintball guns (Commandos Vs. Taliban), drive a go-cart through a simulated mine field, and blow up a bus full of people. 

    The Prophet Mohammed Racetrack was closed during my visit, because of some sort of horse disease, but it should be back in operation sometime this summer.

    Nature lovers will want to spend an afternoon at Hanna Lake, not far from Quetta.  It has a monster like the Loch Ness monster.  I didn’t see it, but many people have.  It was seen as recently as March of 2009 by Lindsay Lohan, who was on a photo shoot for Revlon.  An elevated viewing platform also allows you to watch crocodiles feed on sacrificial goats thrown into the lake by devout Sufi mystics from the colony at Turbat.

    The morning of my departure, Maqbool took me to a Jewish bagel place for breakfast and got me stoned on a poppy seed bagel.  He thought it was a good joke.  “Opium comes from poppies, right?” he explained.  “Your poppy seeds in the West come from a different variety of poppy, so you don’t get stoned.  Here we use the true opium poppy for the seeds, so the bagels give you a great high.”  Wow, they are so way ahead of us in Pakistan!

    As he dropped me off at the airport, Maqbool remembered I lived in Canada.  “Do you know Ujjal Dosanjh?” he asked me.  I said I didn’t know him personally.  “Well, if you ever meet up with that miserable low-caste prick, you tell him that if he dares to set foot in Quetta again, I will personally kick his wog ass back to India, where he belongs!”  Okay, whatever.

    Recommended vaccinations: Schistosomiasis, Chagas disease, sheep and goat pox.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com