I Slept With A Woman

November 21, 2013

Wherever I used to work, the other guys in the lunch room would tell jokes that I didn’t understand.  I just smiled to be polite.  Then one day a co-worker took me aside and asked me, “Charlie, tell me the truth.  Have you ever slept with a woman?”

I took a moment to think.  “No, I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Not as I can recall.”

“Listen,” he said, patting my shoulder in a friendly way.  “I’m not going to put you down.  I want to help you.  Now look, sooner or later…you have to sleep with a woman.”

I thought about this.  “Why?” I asked.

“Because you’re a man, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“You do like girls, don’t you?”

“Mm…yeah.  Sure.”

“Okay, then.  A man has to sleep with women.  Now and then, that is.”

“Well, how would I do that, exactly?”

“Get a woman to sleep with you.”

“How?”

“Look, there are some nice women here who aren’t married.  There must be one that you like well enough to sleep with.  Just, you know, like make a date with her.  She’ll know what you mean.”

“A date?”

“Invite her to your place.  That’s the most direct way.”

“What if she says no?”

“Then ask someone else.  Someone will say yes.  Trust me.”

“You’re sure about this?”

“Absolutely.  Charlie, you need to do this.  It’s for your own good.”

I thought about this.  I never realized such a thing was necessary.  “Okay, I’ll take your advice.”

“Good,” he said, patting me on the shoulder.  “It’ll work out.  Don’t worry.  And remember, be discreet.  You don’t want other people to know.”

“Right.”

So I had to think of which of my female co-workers I liked best.  I’d never imagined sleeping with any of them, so I didn’t know who to ask.  Finally, I decided to ask Margaret, because she was always very neat and kept her desk very neat, too.  She was a divorced lady in her late thirties —  a brunette and rather nice-looking.

Gathering up my courage, I approached her during a break when no one else was nearby.

“Margaret, I’ve come to ask a favor.”

“Oh?  All right.  What can I do for you, Charlie?”

“I need to sleep with a woman.”

She gave me an ambiguous look — sort of half humorous and half suspicious.  “You need…to sleep…with a woman,” she repeated.

“Yes.  I’ve never done it before.  And I…well, I really don’t know about these things…but I suppose they’re important…And I thought perhaps you might…you know, like…just do it with me….Just once, that’s all.”

“Are you serious or are you putting me on?”

“I’m serious.  I wouldn’t know how to put someone on.”

“Well, I would agree with that.  But why me?”

“Well…you’re very neat, and I like that.”

She scrutinized me through narrowed eyes.  “I’m not sure what to make of all this.”  The break was ending and people were returning to their desks.  “Come back at five o’clock and I’ll talk to you then.”

So I waited till five and then returned to her desk.  She was waiting for me after the others had left.

“Did you want me to come to your place?” she asked.

“Yes, please.  If that would be convenient.”

“What day?”

“How about Friday?”

“All right.  Write down your address.”

I wrote it down for her.

“What time shall I be there?”

“Well…I usually go to bed around eleven.  I suppose you could come at ten-thirty.”

She gave me a very strange look, as if I’d said something funny.  “I’ll tell you what,” she said.  “I’ll come at nine, and we’ll agree that this is just a friendly visit.  After that we’ll see what happens.  All right?”

“Yes, yes.  Thank you,” I said, shaking her hand to be polite.  Then I left.

For the next couple of days all I could think of was: I’m going to sleep with a woman!  And, of course, I was discreet.  I didn’t say a word to anyone.

At nine o’clock on Friday evening, Margaret arrived.  She was wearing a nice black dress and she was smiling. “I brought some wine,” she said, handing me a paper bag.

“Oh!  Thank you!…Wine.  That’s different.  For me, anyway.”

I led her into the sitting room, and she sat on the couch.  She was the first female visitor I’d ever had.  I stood there not knowing what to do next.

“Why don’t you open the wine?” she suggested.

“Ah.  Yes.  Right.”

I went into the kitchen and looked for a corkscrew, which I didn’t have.

“You don’t need a corkscrew,” she called over her shoulder.  “The cap just twists off.”

So I poured some wine and we sat next to each other on the couch.  I wasn’t sure if I liked the wine.  I had almost no experience with wine.  Margaret was giving me a curious smile, although I wasn’t sure why.

“Well, then,” I said.  “What shall I do to entertain you?”

“Whatever you like,” she said, still smiling.

“We could watch something on the VCR.”

“Yes, let’s.  Something to get us in the mood.”

“Ah.  Yes,” I agreed, not knowing exactly what she meant.  I picked two cassettes from my shelf.  “This is a good show.  It’s from the Learning Channel.  It’s about bridges and dams.”

“Bridges and dams,” she repeated.

“Yes.  You know, how they’re built and all that.  These big engineering projects are very complicated.  And the other one is about the Panama Canal.  It’s fascinating.”

So I put the first cassette in the VCR, and Margaret sat quietly, sipping her wine and occasionally giving me an odd look.  I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.  I wondered if perhaps I’d done something wrong, but I couldn’t think of anything.

By the time the second program was over, it was just past eleven.  I looked at my watch.  “Well, I guess it’s time,” I said eagerly.

She didn’t reply at once.  She just put her glass down gently and said, “Lead the way, by all means.”

We went into the bedroom.  I took a pair of pajamas out of the dresser and excused myself and went into the bathroom to change.  When I returned, she seemed to be somewhat annoyed.

“It’s quite a big bed,” I reassured her.  “Plenty of room for two.”

“Yes, I noticed that.”

“Did you, uh, bring something to, you know, sleep in?”

“Yes, actually.”  She reached into her bag and pulled out a skimpy black nightie.  “I brought this.  I thought you might like it.”

“Oh…yes…it’s…quite well-made, I’d say.”

“Shall I put it on?”

“Yes, yes.  You can use the bathroom.”

She gave me a lingering and rather serious look, then went into the bathroom to change.  When she returned, I was already tucked comfortably into bed.  I waited, but she just stood there.  After a long pause, she got into bed.  I was careful to give her as much space as possible.

“Shall I turn out the light now?” I asked.

“Whatever you wish.”

“All right, then.  Good night.”  I turned out the light beside the bed and settled into my customary sleeping position.

About thirty seconds went by.  Then she asked, “Are you going to sleep?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“And I’m supposed to go to sleep, too?  Is that it?”

“Em, yes.–Why?  Is something wrong?”

She got out of bed and turned on the ceiling light.  She was looking at me rather harshly.  “Let me get this straight.   You asked me to come here so we could sleep in the same bed together and that’s all?”

“Oh!  I’ll make you a nice breakfast in the morning.  I’m really a good cook.”

She stood there with her hands on her hips, eyes closed, shaking her head.  I could just barely hear her say “I don’t believe this.”

“Are you upset about something?” I asked.

“Now you listen to me,” she said, looking at me sternly and controlling her voice.  “I will do this on one condition.”

“Yes, yes.  Whatever.”

“You will never speak of this to anyone.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes.  I won’t.  I promise.”

“If anyone ever asks, I was never here.  I will deny everything.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes.  Don’t worry.  I won’t say a word.”  And then I understood how terribly secret these things are in polite society.

“Fine,” she said.  She turned off the light and got into bed, turning her back to me.  “Good night,” she said.

“Good night.  I won’t set the alarm.  You can sleep as late as you want.  And I’ll make a big breakfast.”

“Fine.  Good night.”

“Good night.–And thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

And so, after a little while, I drifted off to sleep with this happy thought: Finally, I’m sleeping with a woman! 

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

Reminder: my French book, Villes Bigrement Exotiques, is still in print.  Published by Le Dilettante (Paris).

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Is Arthur Ripstein Gay?

September 17, 2013

    The University of Toronto Department of Philosophy will present its annual Jackman Memorial Lecture on Thursday, October 31st, 8 p.m., in the Main Floor Lecture Hall of the Jackman Humanities Building.  The lecture is titled “Are Animals People?”  It will be presented by Prof. Arthur Ripstein, who must be gay, because he looks just like John Frank Corvino, another gay philosophy professor.

    Prof. Ripstein is Canada’s foremost expert on the philosophy of veterinary law.  He poses this hyposthesis: If some animals are smarter than some people, then the categories of animals and people cannot be absolutely separate.  It therefore follows that some animals must be people, and vice-versa.

    Paradoxes are nothing for this Jewish Viking, who slices through them like a sword through soft cheese.  The Globe and Mail has called him “The Golem of Canadian philosophy, striking terror into the hearts of his enemies — especially those who would pose tricky questions to his innocent graduate students, for whom he feels a gender-neutral protectiveness.”

    Prof. Ripstein championed the cause of humanitarian treatment of lobsters sold in Kensington Market and pushed City Council to pass a bylaw to protect live seafood.

    Prof. Ripstein bets on horses occasionally and is a supporter of the horseracing industry.  His best-known book is Fast Hooves, Hot Men, an intimate behind-the-scenes look at jockeys.

    Refreshments will be provided by Diana Raffman, Director of Graduate Studies, who is famous for her very spicy sausage rolls.

    Margaret Opoku-Pare, Graduate Administrator, will also entertain the audience with her pet monkey, Bozo, who smokes cigarettes and does various amazing tricks.

    Anita DiGiacomo will, as always, be in charge of the decoration theme.  Each lecture has had a different unusual theme.  This year it is inspired by the waiting room of Sudbury’s bus station.

    The annual Jackman Memorial Lectures address important academic issues of relevance to today’s politically confused world.  Additionally, they offer a rare opportunity to mingle with the high and the mighty of Canadian academia.

    Admission is free, but a voluntary donation will be appreciated to help sustain the Department’s Outreach Correspondence School, serving residents of penal and psychiatric institutions throughout Canada.

    Seating is limited to 200.  Please call Office Manager Suzanne Puckering if special arrangements are required for the obese.  The number is (416) 269-8416.

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

One of Islam’s most illustrious spiritual leaders, Imam Rustem Safin of Kazan, Tatarstan, has declared holy war against Scott Mullin of the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

“This man is worse than an ordinary infidel.  He is a suppressor of culture and an enemy of all civilization,” declared the Imam in an exclusive telephone interview conducted recently.  “So I have declared a jihad, or holy war, against him.  It is the duty of faithful Muslims to destroy this man.”

“But what’s he done?” I asked.

“I do not have to enumerate his many crimes.  This is not a judicial process.  He knows what he has done.  He is an enemy to all civilized people, not just Muslims.”  The Imam described Mullin with unbridled vituperation.  “His asshole is like a moon crater.  I have seen it.”

I asked the Imam if a holy war meant that Mullin must die.  The Imam chose his words carefully.  “An enemy must be destroyed.  What this means is open to interpretation.  In the Muslim world, words have a different cultural context than they do in the West.  This is the cause of much misunderstanding between the West and Islam.  Of course, Islam is about peace.  We want peaceful relations with all mankind.  But at the same time, we have a right to defend our values.  And when something is wrong, we should not be shy about calling the world’s attention to it.”

I shifted the conversation to a hypothetical context.  “Theoretically, how should an enemy of Islam be destroyed — by bombs, by bullets –?”

“No, no,” he answered quickly.  “This is not the traditional way.  The traditional way is by stoning — the stoning of the head, so that it resembles the crushed insides of the beautiful pomegranate.”

“Who should carry out this jihad against Scott Mullin?” I asked.

“Muslims in Toronto, obviously.”

“So you want Muslims in Toronto to stone Scott Mullin?”

“That is one possible interpretation of the word ‘destroy’,” he said.  “Of course, there are others.  The inspiration must come from almighty Allah.”

“Is there any way that Scott Mullin can escape this jihad?”

The Imam thought this over for a moment and then replied, “If he leaves the Toronto-Dominion Bank and never works in financial services again, that would be fine.  Otherwise, he should move to some very cold place, like your Northwest Territories.  We do not like such cold places.  He would probably be safe there.”

“Couldn’t he just pay you off?” I ventured, half-facetiously.

As I expected, the Imam laughed contemptuously.  “This is the mistake all banking infidels make.  They worship money so much, they think they can buy their way out of trouble and into heaven.  His entire bank does not have enough money to do that.”

I asked Imam Safin if there were any other people at the Toronto-Dominion Bank he was angry with.  “Not at this time, but if I decide otherwise, I will let you know.”

I thanked the Imam for giving me this interview and promised to communicate his words to my readers.

Imam Rustem Safin, it is worth noting, is the only Imam ever to win an Olympic medal.  But if you’re guessing target-shooting, you’re wrong.  He won a bronze in skating, believe it or not!  And, oh, yes, he wants everyone to know that he loves Canada and he follows the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad 166@yahoo.com

    Thank you for attending this story, “Atomic Meat Monsters On Broadway.”  It is a very good one, and I insist that you read it right to the end, otherwise I shall be very angry.  If you offend me, my little friends will open a portal into your bedroom, render you unconscious, and take you far away.  Some of their experiments are fatal, and I have told them I will provide the necessary subjects to be sacrificed.

    This story is sponsored by Mattel, makers of Barbie and Hot Wheels.  They have paid me $400 and have asked me to promote their products.  I am fond of Barbie, as she is a nice object for men to work out their sexual fantasies and aggressions.  I am not familiar with Hot Wheels, but I assume they are some sort of toy cars.  I don’t know if they are big enough to sit in.  But in any case, boys like to crash toy cars into each other and create imaginary carnage.  I approve of this, as I believe it is normal.  Some foolish parents do not allow their children to play with toys in a way that they consider to be socially or politically incorrect, but they are not stockholders of Mattel, and we should disregard them as unimportant in the march toward Progress.

    People on Broadway are jaded and bored because it is not the glamorous Broadway of the old days, with fine shows and well-dressed patrons of the Arts.  Now it is just another street clogged with traffic and too many foreigners.  But within a few minutes the Atomic Meat Monsters will be unleashed.  They will arrive through a portal in space-time, but not from alien spacecraft hovering stealthily above a city that no longer looks up.  Instead, these monsters will appear from below.  They have been developed in disused subway tunnels and subterranean caves by a combination of genetic engineering, atomic energy, and alien imagination.  Thousands of years ago, similar monsters were created and became creatures of “mythology” — meaning, stories too fantastic to be true.  But this story is true and is happening now, even if you do not read about it in your newspapers or see it on TV.  (A very great many things happen that you don’t read about or hear about.  I don’t blame you for that, but I don’t sympathize either.  A blind, ignorant, and apathetic world fixated on trivialities and degenerate amusement deserves to be surprised. — Surprised? –No .– Stunned!  Stupefied!  Terrified!)

    The monsters have been fed every kind of meat known to man — except man himself.  And now on Broadway they will satisfy an unfulfilled craving for human flesh.  Heavy applications of cosmetics, scents, and chemical goo may deter them to some degree.  We can’t know that yet.  But my alien friends are curious to find out.  The monsters may also devour animal meats sold on the street, but I think they will mainly want to eat people.  I don’t think this is a bad thing.  People like to think they are at the top of the food chain, and now it is time to surprise them with a dramatic demonstration that they are not.

    Those off-off-Broadway are enjoying avant-garde plays in which pretentious actors and directors explore “different modalities of body consciousness.”  They will be safely far away from what is happening now on Broadway, so we will continue to be stuck with them indefinitely — alas!

    When the monsters have finished eating their fill of modern people, they will be guided back into the space-time portal and be withdrawn into their subterranean spaces.  The authorities will deny that anything has happened.  Only I am the authoritative source on this event.

    Barbie looks best when naked, and it is okay to suck on her hard body and masturbate.  The newer Barbies have legs that bend at the knee, but I have never liked them much and never get off on them.  Buy a traditional Barbie and brush her hair so it doesn’t get knotted, which will happen if she takes a bath with you every day.  You can put her in your bathtub, but sooner or later the plastic around her neck will crack.  The Hot Wheels I haven’t actually seen, but buy some anyway.  Surely you know a boy who would like one.  Mattel thanks you.

    This concludes the story, and to those who are still here, thank you for your patronage, and do not make any disparaging comments to others because I will find out and you will be punished.  Those who love me should find any old book of mine at www.abebooks.com and buy it.

    Those who did not read this story to the end have been designated as expendable and may be “taken” at any time.

    The power of words is no longer what it used to be — if it ever was — so I am thankful for the Atomic Meat Monsters and the aliens who have produced them.  And I encourage them in their worthwhile enterprise.

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    Close your eyes and sit back.  Allow yourself to be borne aloft by fairies.  (The flight crew is gay.)  You’re floating now, as if in a dream, traveling across time and space.  Soon you will land in the Shangri-la of Africa.  The fairies are setting you down gently.  Now you can open your eyes.  A big sign reads: “Welcome to Maiduguri, Nigeria.”

    This is a land where the past meets the present.  Both get drunk and stagger out, looking for the future.  The imperfect is found dead by the side of the road, and the subjunctive gets accused.  A dangling participle and sentence fragment are held as evidence.  A conjunction is held to parse the sentence, and the subjunctive is represented by the future perfect and the conditional, but the active voice is exclamatory and demands an interjection.  Eventually, an adverbial clause is arrived at, the solecism is ruled ungrammatical, and the subject is thrown into a parenthesis until the dative, ablative, and gerundive cases shall be resurrected from their graves and illiterates playing video games shall perish in hell.

    Look for the bright yellow school bus marked “Ritz-Carlton Maiduguri.”  It will whisk you away at a good twenty miles an hour along the airport road, allowing you to take in the color and fragrance of the endless fields of rafflesia on either side.  You’ll recognize the hotel by its lime-green exterior and faux Corinthian columns.  We’re expected.  General Manager Francois Cnockaert is waiting to greet us personally.  The man is ageless.  He has a portrait in his attic that ages for him while he remains young.  I told you this was Shangri-la, didn’t I?

    Nigeria has been made wealthy by its vast oil resources, so you will not find the sort of nasty, horrible things that exist in the “not nice” countries of the Third World.  And it’s not just your ordinary crude oil; it’s Nigerian Sweet Crude.  Ask any refiner.  A tanker full of Nigerian Sweet Crude is worth killing my sister for.  (Come to think of it, a gallon or two would suffice.)  And Maiduguri has its own refinery, so that gasoline can be made fresh on the spot.  It is, in fact, the only refinery of halal gasoline in the world.  An imam stands beside the pipeline chanting “Allah…Allah…Allah…” all day long as the gasoline flows through.

    Francois was frantically busy with a crowd of visitors attending the Shadfly Festival (more on that in a moment) and promised to meet up with me later.  In the meantime, he introduced me to my host who would show me around — Prof. Hani (“Call me Hank”) Rabe, Head of the Canadian Studies Dept. at the Maiduguri branch of the University of Nigeria.

    “You are my hero,” Hank confessed with a blush.  “I have several of your books.  I have told my class that you are the greatest Canadian writer of all time.”  The Canadian Studies Dept. was made possible by an administrative error on the part of the Canadian International Development Agency.  They sent a large sum of money to the wrong account to pay for a hockey rink.  The university simply kept it, and CIDA never caught their mistake.  So Hank got his longed-for Canadian Studies Dept., of which he is the only faculty member.  There is one course, and four students are enrolled, although two rarely show up.

    “The Maiduguri region was the home of an ancient civilization called the Snake People,” Hank told me, as we rode along in his classic ’72 Plymouth Duster, whose Slant-6 engine still purrs smoothly after all these years.  “Almost nothing is known about them, except that they must have been very advanced.”  Why is that? I ask.  “The fact that they left nothing behind means that they cleaned up after themselves.  That proves how advanced they were, you see.”

    “I get it.”

    Although the Snake People are considered extinct, there is, in fact, one of them alive today — Shirley Brown, City Councillor of Bristol, England.  One of my neighbors, Ghrugnanasampa Thavakugathasalingam of 61 Town Centre Court, Scarborough, has called the Snake People “a bunch of ugly nigger monkeys.”  But, hey, look who’s talking!

    The Ngadda River, which flows through Maiduguri, lends a special charm to the city, owing to its pristine nature.  And every November the shadflies come out of the river to fill the air by the millions for several weeks.  It’s one of nature’s great spectacles, and it provides the occasion for the world’s only Shadfly Festival.  Although harmless, the shadflies can be frightening to those experiencing them for the first time. Local people show off their courage by allowing themselves to be covered with them from head to foot.  The shadfly is celebrated with good humor and creativity, and the festival adds a boost to the economy.  The Shadfly Queen is crowned to cap it off.  The current Queen is Basaratu Mojisola Bakare-Giles, a nude volleyball player who has been linked romantically with Tiger Woods.  The shadfly phenomenon also occurs in North Bay, Ontario, in June and July.  No one knows why these insects come out when they do, but they’re only around for a short time, so everyone tries to enjoy them.  All shadflies belong to the order Ephemeroptera.  They are mentioned in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as well as The Book of Mormon.

    Another insect of importance to Maiduguri is the wasp.  The city boasts the world’s only wasp apiary, where scientists have used the “royal jelly” of the queen wasp to make an anti-aging skin cream (not yet available in North America).  The 1960 movie The Wasp Woman offers a dramatic look at the possibilities held out by wasp “royal jelly.”  (Omarosa recently ordered a huge shipment by courier, so let’s keep an eye on her!)

    Also of importance to Maiduguri are the famous Nigerian green sheep, also known as Gewad Greens, or just “Gewads.”  The green color is a genetic trait and not related to what they eat.  The sheep are raised on a ranch owned by the benevolent society Boko Haram, which sells wool caps and sweaters to tourists and to stores in many countries.  They also sponsor a fashion school famous for its daring lingerie and swimwear. 

    Get up early for a day trip to Lake Chad, which is shared by Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.  Lake Chad is home to the African carp (Carpio terribilus), a huge, aggressive fish known to jump out of the water and attack people — even pursuing them onto land in some cases!  It is a favorite among experienced fishermen, who like to stuff this inedible fish for display.  (Eminem landed a 100-pounder after a two-hour battle!)

    The only good beach at Lake Chad is known as Koos Beach, which is a topless beach on the Nigerian side.  Fergie likes it a lot.  Elsewhere, the lake is bordered by marshes and desert shrublands, which are the habitat of several rare species of gerbils, including the horned gerbil, the cyclops gerbil, and the elephant gerbil, whose rough, crinkled skin makes it an ideal pet for Kanapathipillai Suvannavisayagamoorthy of 35 Valleywoods Road, North York, who has two retarded children and a mother who never bathes (see “Dung People of Sri Lanka,” Canadian Wonder Magazine For Children, July, 2002).

    Lake Chad, by the way, was first explored by the Vikings, and fragments of their settlement can be seen on the south side of the lake, just across the Chad border, on the Lake Road, about 100 meters from Nianaiebi’s Lemonade Stand, which is owned by Nianaiebi Diorra, boyfriend of Kayla Kleevage.  Kayla has become a very popular performer in Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic since she became too old for American club audiences. 

    There’s “old” shopping and “new” shopping in Maiduguri.  The old shopping is found in the city’s central plaza, which is bordered on all sides by quaint little shops and outdoor stalls, most with no names.  There are a few noteworthy ones.  There’s a store where traditional Muslim women go to buy their unmentionables.  There’s a shop that sells all sorts of live birds, lizards, and snakes (some poisonous).  There’s an herbal shop run by Madame Folashade Ahiata Price, whose specialty is poisonous plants.  (The CIA has relied on her expertise in bumping people off in such a way that nobody can prove it was murder.)  And there is a large shop that sells ammunition in bulk.  There are dozens of barrels full of bullets of all calibres and types.  You take a scoop and fill a bag, just like a bulk candy shop.  Every round is guaranteed to fire or you can return it for a replacement.

    I mustn’t forget the Walking Stone in the middle of the plaza.  This is a plain stone spire about fifteen feet high, with a plot of grass and a little fence around it.  You will find people walking slowly around this stone any hour of the day or night, and in any weather — and always counter-clockwise.  They could be “walking the stone” for a variety of reasons — to express their piety, atone for sins, search for inner peace, or contemplate a problem; or they could just be lunatics or bums with nothing better to do.  One merchant warned me, however, that a tourist — especially a Westerner — must never walk the stone, or people will think he’s poking fun at them.  One tourist not only walked the stone but walked it clockwise and was beaten to within an inch of his life for such insolence!

   The “new” shopping is located in the Maiduguri Mall, on the outskirts of town.  It’s modern, air-conditioned, and full of happy, prosperous Nigerian consumers.  The flagship store is Mighty Maidi, a department store.  All the sales clerks are young Muslim women, but not like any you’ve ever seen.  They wear a kerchief over their hair, which is normal for Muslim women, but from the neck down they’re dressed like sluts — big tits pushing out of their bras, micro-skirts, black fishnet stockings, and high heels.  (You’ll find this throughout the mall, in fact.)  You’ll be in there browsing for a long time, and you won’t leave without buying something.  These babes know how to be persuasive. 

    The mannequins in the clothing stores are dressed the same way, but since they’re not real, they don’t have to wear a kerchief.  They’re molded with absurdly huge tits and asses.  There’s even a store that just sells life-size foam rubber sex dolls, with tits as big as you want and any combination of features, and with fuckable, washable holes.

    I bought a ton of pipe tobacco at Big M Smoke Shop, and it was so stupidly cheap I couldn’t believe it.  Almost everyone in Maiduguri smokes, by the way, and there are no laws whatever regarding smoking.  And tobacco taxes are minimal.  (If that doesn’t qualify as Shangri-la, I don’t know what does!)

    The Maiduguri Mall is 50%-owned by Mack-Cali Realty.  The other 50% is owned by a Nigerian syndicate known as Manuke Khara.

    Hank Rabe and I had dinner at the Old Sawmill, the most elegant restaurant in town.  It used to be a slaughterhouse, and some of the old fixtures were left in during the conversion to give it a funky atmosphere.  Head Chef Abdoulkadir Ali Musse serves up a mighty fine monkey stew.  Here’s the recipe:

    Hack off arms, legs, and head of monkey, and rip out internal organs.  Trim remaining meat away from bones and chop into one-inch pieces.  Season with black pepper and brown in a skillet with palm oil and a splash of rum.  Transfer to stew pot, add three cups of fish stock, a chopped turnip, a cup of chopped celery, a dozen radishes, two chopped sweet potatoes, a half cup of corn starch, a tablespoon of basil, a tablespoon of marjoram, a tablespoon of sea salt, two or three chopped cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of dry mustard, an ounce of Angostura bitters, and a half cup of mayonnaise.  Simmer over a low-to-moderate heat for 1 1/2 hours.  Jessica Simpson and her date, soccer player Giovanni Tegano, who plays for Juventus, appeared to love it.  They sat at the table next to us.

    Later we went to Neek Hallak, the most popular nightclub.  There we caught a wonderful performance by musician Mbuke Jumgwuthka, the world’s foremost player of the kuntigi, a small, single-stringed lute made out of a sardine can covered with goatskin.  I recognized Madonna and her boyfriend, Jesus Luz, in the audience.  (She was disguised with a wig, but I still picked her out.)  They were clearly enthralled.

    Hank and I went back to the Ritz-Carlton for a nightcap with Manager Francois Cnockaert, who gave me the straight dope on Nigerian e-mails.  The Maiduguri branch of the Bank of Nigeria is the one that has all those secret bank accounts that people who e-mail you want you to help them move out of the country.  However, the money is all in the local currency, the naira, not U.S. dollars, and if you offer to help the frantic person who is praying to God for your benevolent assistance, you will be asked to pay for the rental of the cargo plane needed to transport all those banknotes to Switzerland. 

    Francois had a copy of one of my books, Blood-Sucking Monkeys From North Tonawanda, and asked me to autograph it, which I was happy to do.  (You can try searching for this collector’s item, as well as my other books, at www.abebooks.com, but I have no control over prices on the collector’s market.)

    Francois had heard that I was an expert at arranging “sister city” relationships and asked if I could find a sister city for Maiduguri.  He was close to the Mayor, who couldn’t speak English, and was acting on his behalf.  I told him I would do it before I left.  And I did.

    Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that Slough (rhymes with “cow”), Berkshire, England, is now the sister city of Maiduguri, Nigeria.  The Chief Executive of Slough Council, Ruth Bagley, is “thrilled beyond belief” and calls the new relationship the best thing to happen to Slough during her tenure.  She plans to visit Maiduguri sometime in 2010 and is very keen to get her hands on some of that wasp jelly anti-aging cream.

    Recommended vaccinations: Chikungunya virus, Rosai-Dorfman Disease, epidermolytic hyperkeratosis.

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

    Have I got a scoop for you!   There will be big news coming out of Albania, but you’re getting it from me first!  You already know that Cher Bono’s daughter, Chastity, who now calls herself Chaz, intends to get a sex change and marry her girlfriend.  And they intend to have a baby with the help of a sperm donor.  Who will that sperm donor be?  Well, here’s the scoop: the sperm donor will be Edison Begaj, of Elbasan, Albania!

    The world’s entertainment media will be crushing into the airport at Tirana, the capital of Albania, and they’ll be stampeding over each other to be the first to shove a mike into the bushy moustache of the handsome gym teacher at Elbasan High School.  In a matter of weeks, you’ll be reading all about sperm donor Edison Begaj in your favorite gossip magazines, including such need-to-know tidbits as:

    * how he got chosen over 47 other candidates!

    * who found him!

    * what Cher really thinks of him!

    * his secret affairs with Britney Spears and Kourtney Kardashian!

    * his links to the Albanian monarchy!

    * his favorite hang-outs and getaways!

    * how he crossed the Sahara Desert on foot — and why!

    * his kinky sex life and secret vices!

    * how to make him love you!

    All that and more is coming to your local newsstand!

    But for now, let’s learn all about the exotic city of Elbasan, which is located about 25 miles southeast of Tirana, along the banks of the romantic Shkumbin River.  It was here, in fact (right beside the river), that Regis Philbin was conceived during a night of poetic and breathless love.  Today, artisanal gold miners pan the river for nuggets of gold, which are then sold to buy guns.  After all, what is an Albanian without a gun?  Preferably two guns.  For, just like the two-headed eagle on the Albanian flag, the traditional Albanian wants to look in two directions at once, thereby ensuring that he will never be caught off guard.  And his moustache must be big and bushy, for Albanians are proud of having the most masculine moustaches in the world.  King Zog, the last ruling king, had a fine moustache, which was copied by aristocrats around the world.  (The moustache was stolen from his grave in 1975, and its present whereabouts are unknown.)

    The area around Elbasan was fought over many times in Albania’s illustrious history (although no one is sure why), and control was finally wrested by ethnic Albanians from the Uzghurs in the 1780’s.  Today it is rich in Turkish, Italian, and Greek influences, along with a less desirable gypsy influence.

    My host in Elbasan was Hotel Manager Gregory Lehman of the Renaissance Elbasan.  He has an Albanian mother and returned to his roots after growing up in the U.S.  The Renaissance is the only good hotel in Elbasan by American standards, although Lehman admits it’s long overdue for a “refreshing.”  Security costs have been high, owing to occasional political unrest.  All the staff are armed, and the front is reinforced to withstand a good-sized bomb.  But there have been no incidents in well over a year.

    Albanians are a friendly people, but in some ways odd.  Here’s how you shake hands in Albania: bow at the waist while sticking your forefinger up your nose.  Then straighten up and shake forefingers.  Ignore any snot.  Don’t be a wimp.  Be a man.  Snot never killed anyone.  This is how we bond in Albania.  Unfortunately, the World Health Organization has condemned this practice,which is the reason why Albania was for many years an isolated country with a suspicion of foreigners.

    But that’s changing fast.  Now they want everyone to come on over and eat some kebabs, and dance to the music of the cuica (a stringed instrument), and buy souvenirs.

    Tourists are really starting to dig Elbasan, according to Greg Lehman.  The only negative is the gypsies.  They’re all pickpockets and scam artists.  And they use their kids.  One kid will go up to a tourist and distract him with some simple object, and another kid will come up from behind and lift the wallet, and then they’ll run like hell.  What can you do, put them in jail?  Lehman’s advice is to pick up the first kid immediately and throw him against anything hard or in front of a truck.  “The worst punishment that can possibly happen is that you’ll be told to pack up and go home.  But usually the police don’t do anything.  They’re on our side.”

    Elbasan is noteworthy for its donkey monorail, a transport system that is unique in the world.  It was supposed to be a proper electric monorail, but because of political troubles, it ended up as a patchy network of unpowered rails with junked cars hanging underneath.  There are ladders and platforms along the way, and you go up and climb into this car body (such as an East German Trabant), and it gets towed by a donkey on the ground wearing a big harness.  The donkey is guided by a “transport worker,” who wears a pale blue skirt, baggy white shirt, a fez, and soft white shoes with tassels.  This uniform is called a kefte and dates back centuries, and to wear one is a mark of manliness and honor.  The rail lines are mostly in the bombed-out sections of the city and basically go from nowhere to nowhere.  Pay the transport worker whatever you like.  Just remember that he gets no salary and has to feed his family, as well as the donkey.

    Elbasan has lots of cheap little restaurants with garbled American names like Mcdoonald, Bulgar King, Windys, Techo Bell, and Kintky Fry Chiken.  But all the food is the same — goat or lamb kebabs, rice, and lentil soup.  The local brewery, Hoxha (pronounced HO-jah), was blown up five years ago, so you have to take your chances with whatever unlabeled stuff the proprietor puts in front of you.  It could be home-made or bootlegged.  Hey, don’t be a wimp.  Just drink it like a man!  (The Renaissance serves proper beverages, depending on what the manager can get that day from his contacts.)

    Shopping is limited to a few blocks on the main street.  You can buy clothing, ice cream, cigarettes, and guns.  Femi’s, a large store of general merchandise, owned by Femi Rabi, resembles a 1960’s Kresge, except for the anti-aircraft gun on the roof.  Street vendors are everywhere with their bootlegged goods and local “arts and crafts,” such as wallets that are the wrong size for your money.

    Nostalgic pictures of King Zog and dictator Enver Hoxha can still be seen on the sides of buildings, marred by bullet holes.  Politically, Albanians can’t decide what they are any more.  There is a small, die-hard Royalist faction that wants to put King Leka (Zog’s son) on the throne, but he shaved his moustache during his years in exile and became too Western.  Leka is 7 feet tall, lives in Tirana, and trades commodities.

    Elbasan’s most influential citizen is Agim Sufa, an aging cantaloupe mogul, who is occasionally seen riding through town in his armored limousine, shooting at gypsies from the back seat.  The city’s  Mayor, Midat Canaj, is never around.  He spends all his time on a yacht and shows up briefly when it’s time to get re-elected — just like Adam Clayton Powell.

    Elbasan’s most noteworthy geographical feature is the large area of peat bogs east of the city.  For centuries nobody knew what they really were — only that they weren’t safe to walk on, and lots of drunks would wander out on them at night and sink in and die.  But more recently, a proper scientific study was carried out by Prof. Erion Dulaj, of the Albanian Institute of Advanced Studies, in Tirana, who determined that they were, in fact, peat bogs.  An archeological team did excavations and found well-preserved specimens of early man dating back to the Bronze Age, which they named “Elbasan Man.”  According to Prof. Dulaj, Elbasan Man was a hunter and gatherer, enjoyed sports, got along well with people, stayed up late, was kind to children, believed in family values, saved his money, and had a good sense of humor.  One of these specimens of Elbasan Man now stands in the corner of a barber shop owned by Milan Mitic.  He thinks of it as the son he never had.

    Peat from the bogs is now used as fuel by the Chinese steel mills that impart a lovely brown color to the sky and add their fragrances to the fields of daffodils and petunias nearby.  And a Chinese company is now processing vegetation from the bog for a new breakfast cereal called Weedies.

    The unregulated development of Elbasan has taken its toll on the endangered Albanian marmoset, which has seen its habitat diminished relentlessly by deforestation and the building of a never-completed shopping mall.  The mall’s only tenant is the Albanian Army, which uses it as an armory and for training.

    But the Shkumbin River is still clean enough for fishing.  The river is home to the rare, delectable jaraqui fish, found nowhere else in the world.  Elbasaners eat it fried, with salt and malt vinegar, out of large cone-shaped containers of stiff paper. (Gordon Ramsay gets $40 for one in London.)  The fish is rich in selenium and chromates, which may explain why the average life span in Elbasan is 85 years (not including victims of crime, accidents, genocide, or suicide).

    The river also has many  large black slugs, which are said to cure cancer.  Dr. Mjallaq Pergjika, one of Elbasan’s outstanding physicians, has opened a clinic and now treats people from all over the world.  He also sells his black slug cancer cure over the Internet.

    Ask a taxi driver to take you to see the crop circles.  Three circles about 30 feet in diameter appeared mysteriously one night in 2006 and still remain.  They have never been explained.  Did alien spacecraft land there?  Did they abduct young women to serve as sex slaves?  Hell, I would have.

    Humpbacked zebu cattle graze around the charred stumps of new pastures, boys wearing team uniforms play soccer on an emerald field, and small but proud farmhouses nestle among fruit trees and flowers. A sign on a gas station reads, “Hier Sprechts Deutsch.” 

    Summer is the time for the Elbasan Goat Festival.  Farmers bring their goats in and show them off in a big corral to the admiring public before trucking them over to the slaughterhouse.  The goats are slaughtered in the traditional Albanian way — a bullet in the head.

    The ugliest goat, however, gets special treatment.  Townsfolk decide which is the ugliest goat of them all, and this one is given the name of a hated person.  (This year it was Ed Swiderski.)  The goat is strangled by several strong boys, and then its head is smashed several times with a rock.  To Elbasaners, the Ugly Goat is a symbol of everything bad, so killing it is supposed to bring good luck for the coming year.

    Elbasan now has a sister city in the U.S. — Glencoe, California.  Formerly known as Mosquito Gulch, Glencoe was a mining town long ago and is now an unincorporated town.  Arrangements at their end were handled by State Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, who told me, “Make sure I get full credit for this.”  Okay, I just licked the stamp.  Elbasan is happy about it, and Ahab Books, in Glencoe, is especially happy.  Their manager told me, “Maybe now we can get rid of your books.”

    Before I left Elbasan, I had a farewell drink with Greg Lehman at the Renaissance.  We watched a clique of transvestites in lingerie and fishnet hose making merry.  “We’re getting everything from the West now,” said Greg.  “This is the new Albania.  Like the man says, ‘Get used to it.'”  I asked him what the local people thought about Chaz Bono getting a sperm donor from Elbasan.  “Oh, it’s the talk of the town!  Funny thing is, everyone always assumed Edison Begaj was queer.  And there are a few other things about him you ought to know….”  But this is where I have to cut it short.  I don’t want to spoil things for all those entertainment journalists who have to make a living.

    Recommended vaccinations: Dercum’s Disease, toxoplasmosis, megaloblastic anemia.

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

    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