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

Advertisements

    A potato-hungry Nicaragua can be grateful for a city like Puerto Cabezas.  This lovely little port on the Atlantic coast is surrounded by vast potato farms, which grow 80% of the potatoes eaten in Nicaragua.  They are the Balurde Brown variety, not seen in North America.  Long lines of trucks rumble out of Puerto Cabezas on the only road into the city, which goes all the way to Managua.  It is referred to, appropriately enough, as the Potato Highway, and it was described by Ernest Hemingway in one of his lesser-known stories, “At Noon Cometh the Spud Truck.”

    This part of Nicaragua belongs to indigenous people, the Shinnecock Indians, who raised potatoes and ducks since their beginnings.  The ducks, however, got wiped out by some sort of bird flu, which was probably brought to Nicaragua by Balboa in 1513.  He was looking for another ocean, and the Indians pointed south and said, “It’s that way.”  So he and his men went that way and “discovered” the Pacific Ocean.  And along the way they had sex with a lot of Indian women, who were “easy,” so that’s how Nicaragua got a large population of Spanish-Indian hybrids.  The women are pretty hot.  Bianca Jagger is a good example.  She got her start at fame as the country’s Potato Queen of 1964, and she is still the country’s favorite celebrity.

    Tourism is just starting to take off in Puerto Cabezas.  Local people still regard North Americans as “los estupidos norteamericanos,” because of the thousands of liberal white kids who went to Nicaragua back in the 80’s to pick crops and show solidarity with the peasants.  It is pretty stupid when you think about it: paying your own way to Nicaragua to pick crops for nothing.  And these are the same fools who protest against “exploitation” of cheap labor in the Third World by big American companies.  Well, as I always say, if you identify with the poor, you’re destined to be poor.   The people I know who went to Nicaragua to pick crops still live like poor bohemians, and when I offer to give them good stock tips or to teach them how to sell options, they laugh and say, “I don’t have any money.”

    But a second wave of visitors is finding Puerto Cabezas as a tourist destination, and that’s good as long as they avoid the rest of Nicaragua.  Managua, for instance, is a total f—ing ripoff.  You must never spend a single minute in Managua.  So forget about getting to Puerto Cabezas via the Potato Highway, which is too dangerous for tourists.  And forget about flying from Managua to Puerto Cabezas.  The airlines suck, they’re a ripoff, and the airport at Puerto Cabezas is, to be euphemistic, rather basic, and landing there is risky except in daylight and in perfect weather.

    So your best access to Puerto Cabezas is the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Joker of the Seas.  Joker is the “cheap” ship in the fleet, and it offers a bargain-priced cruise to some of the less-visited destinations, such as Devil’s Island.  Joker will give you three days in Puerto Cabezas, but you can always get off and stay longer and pick up Joker on the way back.

    You’ll want to stay at the Carlton Hotel Puerto Cabezas, which is the only hotel up to civilized-white-people standards.  General Manager Massimiliano Perversi runs an efficient inn with about 50 rooms, averaging a very reasonable $150 a night, not including the $10 “health tax” the government charges you for bringing your civilized-white-people diseases into the country.  Some of the rooms in the Carlton are fitted out in bizarre fashion.  For instance, you have “crypt” rooms, where you sleep in a big coffin, and there are all these skeletons and monster figures and creepy sound effects.  “It was Daniel Ortega’s idea,” explains Perversi, referring to the President of Nicaragua.  “He comes up here occasionally with a lady, and they like things kinky.”  Other theme rooms are “The Mummy’s Tomb,” “Spider Island,” and “The Tingler.”  There is also a special party room, Room 13, that is reserved for Ortega, but what’s inside is a closely guarded secret.

    Fishing is the other important aspect of life in Puerto Cabezas, besides potatoes.  The city’s canneries process tons of hagfish every day.  When the cannery whistle blows, the whole street rumbles and groans and screams and rattles while the silver rivers of fish pour in out of the boats.  Capt. Neptaly Arias, captain of the fishing boat Zorra, is the port’s most colorful character.  His eye for a hagfish is rivaled only by his eye for a  woman.  “Here the hagfish is king,” he says.  “There are many varieties of hagfish, but the Atlantic hagfish is the most delicious.  And they are prized by the ladies, who put them in their vaginas while they are still alive.”

    Arias says that there have been years when the hagfish simply went away for no reason.  Then the Indians had to resort to their sacred magic to bring them back.  One ritual is the burning of zozobra, a 40-foot-high effigy made of wood and chicken wire, meant to represent sin.  All the people must write down their sins on paper and place them in zozobra, or they must place any object connected with their sins in zozobra.  When the effigy is full of all the people’s sins, it is burned to expiate their guilt.  Another ritual is the “stickdance,” which is practiced nowhere else in the world.  The most beautiful Indian women must dance naked around a tall stake.  Then they are tied to the stake and whipped by the old women to make them scream.  The screams are heard by the hagfish, who become excited and return.  It’s  all part of a religious belief system, so you can’t criticize it.

    Hagfish is served everywhere in Puerto Cabezas, but unless you are willing to risk diarrhea, your best place to eat is at the Carlton’s restaurant.  Head Chef Rosalina Dolmo Martinez gave me her recipe for Hagfish Puerto Cabezas:

    Rinse six Atlantic hagfish to remove superficial slime.  Place in pot of boiling milk for five minutes, then transfer to casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, salt, and turmeric.  Cover with tomato sauce.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.  Prepare bed of mashed potatoes using Balurde Brown potatoes, with two tablespoons of lard blended in.  Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over potatoes.  Pour finished hagfish and sauce over potatoes.  Gordon Ramsay has called this recipe the most outstanding fish dish he has ever eaten. 

    The bars in Puerto Cabezas are on the edgy side, serving mainly fishermen and sailors of the Nicaraguan Navy.  It’s best to have a local person as your escort, otherwise the patrons and staff may play rude jokes on you because we are still “estupidos norteamericanos” in their eyes and therefore fair game.  Capt. Arias took me to the Hagfish Saloon, which is owned by his friend Raul Barahona.  Patrons like to engage in a gruesome variation of arm wrestling involving hot coals, and on Saturday nights the place is turned into a makeshift boxing arena, where drunken toughs can vent their aggression and betting is encouraged.  There is also a dwarf dishwasher who is feeble-minded, and the patrons take turns tossing him into a net.  Raul insists the lad enjoys it. 

    Sailors are also drawn to the city’s two whorehouses.  You need an escort there, too, if you’re an “estupido norteamericano.”   Both are owned by a relative of Daniel Ortega.  Capt. Arias says all the girls are clean.  Many of them are Russian.

    Shopping is concentrated in the Pelotudo Market, which used to consist mainly of farmers selling potatoes off their carts.  But the market has gone upscale for the growing tourist trade.  Tim Horton’s has a donut shop.  Harry Winston has a jewelry shop.  Takashimaya, a big Japanese department store chain, has moved in, as well as American Apparel and Toys R Us.  And guess what!  NO CRAPPY CHINESE MERCHANDISE ANYWHERE!  Amazing!  There is one store that is very peculiar, however, according to Capt. Arias — The Anti-Aging Shop.  “They sell cosmetics to keep the skin looking young.  But there are almost never any customers in the store.  They don’t run sales or promotions.  They don’t advertise.  They don’t have a website.  And they’re not even listed in the Yellow Pages.  Yet they remain there year after year, occupying expensive retail space.  What does all that add up to?” he asks, giving me a sly look.  I confess I don’t know.  “Ach!  Estupido norteamericano!  It’s money-laundering!  Don’t you see?”  Wow!  You could have knocked me over with a feather!

    Puerto Cabezas has two beaches, Malecon and Panocha.  They’re fine to sit on, but that’s about it.  There’s no surfing.  Bathing is at your own risk, on account of the occasional shark.  Don’t go there alone, and don’t carry any money or valuables.  The death rate for Malecon is about one per 10,000 visitors, and Panocha is closer to two per 10,000.  But the latter is a topless beach with lots of hot women with big tits, so it’s worth the additional risk. 

    A mile north of town is the Haunted Lighthouse of Death, so named because a visitor died of food poisoning after eating a hamburger from the snack bar, and his spirit haunts the lighthouse seeking revenge.  Before that it was just the Puerto Cabezas Lighthouse, but these people know how to turn tragedy into opportunity.  The lighthouse actually serves little purpose from a nautical point of view, since there are no reefs or dangerous currents.   But it’s a make-work job created by the government, and if the lighthouse-keeper isn’t too drunk to attend to his duties, the light is turned on at night to serve as an aid to drunken pilots looking for the airport.

    South of Puerto Cabezas is an artificial lake that you won’t find on any map.  It’s referred to as Ink Lake.  This is where the Sandinista government dumps the bodies of writers and journalists who have gotten up the government’s nose.  The name was the inspiration for the Canadian story anthology From Ink Lake (Vintage Canada, 1995), which, unfortunately, was a poor seller because I wasn’t included in it.

    Puerto Cabezas is the site of the world’s only shelter for “hand-walkers.”  These are mentally deficient people who walk on all fours like animals.  Apparently, there are a lot of them in Nicaragua, but no one knows why.  The Indians regard them as cursed.  The shelter is operated by the Church of Santo Cabron, which raises money by selling mail order ministerial credentials through classified ads in tabloids (suggested donation $50).  Father Jesus Humberto Canales, a self-ordained minister not connected to any particular denomination, was once photographed with Hillary Clinton and milks it for all it’s worth.  He also has interests in racetracks and casinos in South and Central America.  The hand-walkers appeared in a documentary on NOVA.  One of them has been offered a scholarship to study sociology at Northeastern University in Boston.

    A new attraction scheduled to open late in 2010 is “Triassic Park,” which will feature large Komodo lizards that roam freely.  Jon Gosselin is the major investor behind it.  He says it’ll be a great outing for parents with too many children.  He also intends to use it for a reality show about a bachelor who has lots of girlfriends, and they all live in this big park full of lizards.  (But TLC isn’t going to get it!)

    Puerto Cabezas doesn’t have a Mayor as such.  Instead, the de facto  power broker of the city is potato tycoon Ernesto Echavarria, who is very tight with Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas.  I was fortunate enough to meet him over dinner at the Carlton, along with Massimiliano Perversi.  By an astounding coincidence, it turned out that Echavarria owned one of my books, I Chewed Mrs. Ewing’s Raw Guts, which was given to him as a gift by an “estupido norteamericano” from Toronto, who went to Nicaragua to pick potatoes.  This book is an out-of-print collector’s item, and you might possibly find it (along with my other books) at www.abebooks.com, although I have no control over prices on the collector’s market.

    I asked Echavarria if Puerto Cabezas had a “sister city,” and he said yes — Burlington, Vermont.  I was surprised, so I investigated further and found that Burlington had seven sister cities, which Echavarria didn’t realize.  We agreed that Puerto Cabezas deserved an exclusive sister relationship, and I said I would find another sister city for it.  And I did — Blenheim, New Zealand.  The deal was sealed with Mayor Alistair Sowman of Marlborough District Council, who will be visiting Puerto Cabezas as a special guest early in 2010.  Capt. Arias promises to take him to both whorehouses and get him drunk at the Hagfish Saloon.  Whether Sowman gets to party in Room 13 at the Carlton, however, depends entirely on President Ortega’s schedule.

    Recommended vaccinations: Colorado tick fever, Erdheim Chester Disease, Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia.

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

    Imagine yourself standing at the mouth of a great river, looking out at the sea.  Through the mist you can see two islands, Imaklik and Inaklik.  On a nearby pebble spit, native Yukaghirs cook walrus meat beside their yarangas, their baydars stacked neatly against a giant sequoia.  The wind blows the mosquitoes out to sea, leaving the eland and moose free to nibble the wild beets and scallions unmolested.  The sound of the crwth can be heard, along with a maiden singing in a strange language.  Floats made of inflated seal stomachs drift in the river, while overhead a flock of cassowaries fly toward their nesting grounds in the Arakamchechen Peninsula.  The sea, the sky, and the land are pure, clean, and peaceful.  Guess where you are….No, not Moncton, New Brunswick!  You’re in Cotabato City, Philippines!

    Book your trip on Philippine Airlines and pay with your American Express Card, and your recommended vaccinations will be free.  Depart from Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Las Vegas, and fly to Manila, then change planes to Awang Airport, which serves Cotabato City.  Look for the pink luxury bus that says “Raffles Cotabato.”  That’s your hotel.

    Nicholas Emery, the General Manager, runs the poshest inn in the city.  Expect to pay about $275 a night (or if you go during the typhoon season, there’s a 50% discount).  The Raffles touch is unmistakable: Lost Continent seagrass carpet, faux-penguin-skin headboards, petticoat-shaped chandeliers with multicolored lasers, vibrating bamboo bimbo rocker, digitized stereo spider monkey screeching from within the walls and ceiling, Spanish Inquisition brocade wall hangings, giant cactus pedestal, spacecraft-style transformer shelves with wheelchair assist, voice-activated hand-shaped entertainment pods, sandstone bathroom with jungle canopy, objets d’art imported from South Moluccas, Baroque combination desk/bar/coffee table/drug station, robot mini-fridge and rare earth ceramic stove ensemble, oversize walk-in closet with Victorian gynecology sex chair, replica Corinthian spitoon, Lunar Receiving Lab environmental control system with Rocketdyne bug zapper, and Siberian-style gulag party bed, flanked by avant garde waterfall from the House of Szemetlada (Oroszlany, Hungary).  Nick Emery is the author of the children’s book Tomaso, the Unhappy Potato Beetle, and he is the godfather of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

    My host for this visit was Butch Bustamonte, who is the head of the John Ashley Fan Club.  John Ashley, star of Frankenstein’s Daughter and other B movies, is idolized in Cotabato City since he produced several movies in this part of the Philippines, including Beast of Blood, Twilight People, and Mad Doctor of Blood Island.  There’s a monument to the handsome actor in the city’s park, and Butch took me to see it.  It’s a fine life-size statue depicting John Ashley as he appeared in High School Caesar (probably his best film), surrounded by a well-manicured bed of crocuses and Venus flytraps.  The monument is cared for by Cotabato City’s civic organization, the Spitola Dumbasa.  The “SD,” as it is referred to, also runs a cake-decorating school for ex-convicts and sponsors the annual Philippines National Spitting Championships, in which boys compete in various spitting skills.

    “John loved the caves.  They’re the main attraction of the city,” said Butch.  He was referring to the Kutawato Caves, a long underground network right under the city.  No other city in the world has such a feature.  Don’t bring the kids on this outing, because the caves are 7 km long.  It’s pretty spooky down there, even with the lighting.  I thought of a good tag line for promoting the caves: Feel the Evil.  Butch laughed and said it was a good one and he’d suggest it to the City Council.  I noticed there were numerous passages that were roped off, and Butch explained that those areas were unsafe.  However, there had always been rumors — call it an urban myth,  if you like — that those roped-off passages led to the underground caves of an ancient race called the Deroes, who may still be alive.  Mysterious disappearances of people and animals have been attributed to the Deroes, including Amelia Earhart and Gordon Brown’s pet hamster.  Butch said John Ashley always believed that the caves led to something the government didn’t want people to know about.  The caves also have a lot of bats.  Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom visited the caves, because Khloe, like her sisters, is fascinated by cave bats.  Odom hated every minute of the tour, according to Butch, and couldn’t wait to get out.

    After the cave tour, Butch took me to eat at a fancy restaurant called Putanginamo, which specializes in zebra mussels, a delicacy for which Cotabato City is famous.  Head Chef Cornelio Cuevas-Pena is the originator of Zebra Mussels Cotabato, and here’s the recipe:

    For the Sauce Cotabato, put four ounces of butter and three spoonfuls of flour in a saucepan and heat until smooth.  Add one cup of eel broth, bring to a boil, and mix in three egg yolks and a can of evaporated milk.  Add a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, one chopped clove of garlic, and the pulp of three or four moonseed fruits.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  For the zebra mussels, wash first to remove grit, then put in casserole with four ounces of white wine and one cup of water.  Bring to a boil, add six chopped shallots, and boil until mussels are open.  Remove the mussels to another vessel and strain the broth.  Serve on the half shell with the Sauce Cotabato and a side of french fries.

    The South Seas Mall, which opened in 2005, draws a lot of tourists, although it is plain and unremarkable by Western standards.  You may prefer the funkier old shopping district downtown, with its odd boutiques.  Kulangot T-Shirts, owned by Ramiro Villagrana, specializes in “mistake” t-shirts with unrecognizable faces and misspelled slogans.  They will custom-print anything you want on a t-shirt.  Pokpok, owned by Marin Agudelo, sells local handicrafts such as eelskin wallets and handbags, burqas for Muslim women, and a wide assortment of personal care products that failed safety tests in other countries.  And Braulio’s Sex Shop, owned by Braulio Soto-Loera, specializes in Filipino porn, which is heavy on exploitation and violence (and you don’t even mind that the Filipina women are flat-chested).

    The biggest surprise of my trip was walking into a dimly-lit second-hand bookstore and finding a worn copy of my 1980 classic, Lightning Struck My Dick.  I bought it as a gift for Nick Emery for $2, since he has a weird sense of humor.  You can try looking for this book (and my other ones) at www.abebooks.com, which serves the collector’s market, but don’t blame me for the high prices.

    The theatre district had two hit plays running while I was there — Cebu Boo-Boo, a musical comedy about life in a Filipino prison, and Shoes, a musical about Imelda Marcos. 

    One item you won’t find in any tourist guide, however, is the Washday Problems Center (note the American spelling), which is a CIA front located in a nondescript building above some stores.  I promised the Agency not to reveal the location.  If you should happen to find your way in, you will see people in white smocks doing laundry.  They’re testing laundry products, ha, ha.  The man in charge is named Mike, and he says he’s from Syracuse.  No, I won’t tell you what these people are really doing.

    Cotabato City is steeped in religious tradition.  Filipinos have always been extreme in their religious devotion, and there is no better example than the Good Friday “Procession of Flagellation,” in which devout Christians drag heavy crosses and whip themselves with flails until their backs are bloody.  The procession begins on Ecorse Road at the St. Rodan Church (named after the patron saint of virgins seeking husbands in the U.S., which rules out all Russian and East European women), then goes along Washtenaw Avenue, then along Packard Road, Geddes Road, and Textile Road, arriving finally at Jollibee, where everyone has milk shakes and burgers.  Street vendors will try to sell you souvenir whips, but they are poorly-made Chinese crap that falls apart after one or two uses (big surprise), not like the authentic Western-style horsewhips I use on that Socialist bitch Olivia Chow, who likes severe ass whipping.  (Hazel McCallion used to be into that but now says she’s too old.)

    I should mention that nutrias roam freely in Cotabato City, and tourists are always alarmed because they mistake them for giant rats.  These big rodents are quite friendly and gentle, and it’s okay to let your kids play with them.

    There are a lot of Muslims in Cotabato City, but they’re just as benign as the nutrias, so don’t worry.

    Speaking of Muslims, Cotabato City now has a “sister city” with a Muslim Mayor — Luton, England.  Mayor Muhammad Riaz has come a long way since the days when he stuck windshields on Vauxhalls at the local auto factory.  Now he’s the Mayor of “Britain’s best town” (according to a survey).  He’s eager to network with the prominent Muslims in Cotabato City and find out about such things as e-mail security, banking laws, and the police.  “We can help each other,” he says.  And he doesn’t mind admitting that he’s ambitious.  “So I’m a pushy Paki.  What of it?  Today Luton, tomorrow the world…..Don’t print that.”  England was once such a great country.  You can read about it in books.

    Somewhere in the U.S. there is a Dr. Jeffrey Brown, who was a dead ringer for John Ashley when he was a young man.  Every time I see a picture of Ashley, I think I’m looking at Jeffrey.  If you think you know him, ask him if he went to Syosset High School and if he remembers his next-door neighbor.

    Recommended vaccinations: dracunculosis, cholinergic urticaria, Yunis Varon Syndrome.

    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

    Tired of spending your hard-earned vacation money on some popular destination, only to find out that it’s so yesterday?  Wouldn’t you like to be in the avant-garde for once, instead of bringing up the rear on a pokey donkey, as always?  Well, now you can!  There is a place that is not yet on tourists’ radar but will be before long.  That place is Snuol, Cambodia (or, as it is also called, Angk Snuol). 

    Conan O’Brien calls it “the most brilliant unknown vacation spot on earth.”  And you will, too.  Happy Cambodians are eagerly awaiting your arrival.  They love Westerners.  Angelina Jolie found her first adopted baby in Snuol.  And now Madonna says that Snuol is her next stop if things don’t work out in Malawi.  They’re in the know!

    You’ll fly to Kratie and then ride south by bus on Highway 7 about fifty miles to Snuol.  (Keep your camera ready for the fabulous Temple of Golonka, half-way along, on your left.  It was one of the locations used in the 1970 movie Horror of the Blood Monsters.)

    If you could float above Snuol and look in all directions, you would see an amazing array of environments: to the north, forested hills of cedar, mahogany, and baobob; to the east, endless fields of artichokes, pumpkins, strawberries, barley, and beets; to the south, a wind-swept mesa populated by penguins; and to the west, a painted desert of cacti, vultures, and gila monsters.  The area around Snuol is a zoologist’s dream, hosting many rare species, including the flying moose squirrel, the red elephant goldfish, Swanson’s screaming bat, the pink-nosed iguana, the tiger anteater, the worm hawk, the trumpet-eared monkey, the Mimico diving giraffe, the Hungarian zipper snake, the Corinthian warthog, the barking sand toad, the gunga viper, the buzzsaw moth, the wild buffalo chicken, Hondo’s chameleon mole, Corman’s monster crab, and the blue-speckled burping manatee.  Exotic fauna are too numerous to list, but visitors will not want to miss the Snuol Museum of Slime Mold, which was established by a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    On the outskirts of Snuol, Donald Trump will be breaking ground later this year on a 50-story condominium/hotel/casino complex, which will be the tallest building in Cambodia.  Until that’s finished, you can avail yourself of the more-than-satisfactory amenities of the Park Inn, Snuol’s only hotel.  Manager Betty Liu was hired in 2006 to clean the place out after the Giant Spider Invasion and now confidently promises, “No spider you will see, or your room it will be free!”  Liu is an enthusiastic booster of Cambodia: “Very honest country.  Very progressive government.  No corruption.”  Rooms at the Park Inn are only $55 U.S. per night.  Cheap!

    Snuol people are friendly.  And most of them speak some English.  But you’ll make a really grand impression on them if you use these handy phrases in Khmer:

    “I am happy to meet you.”  (“Choi ch’kai anh.”)

    “It is very pleasant here.”  (“Choi k’det anh.”)

    “I am looking for the toilet.”  (“Choi k’doi anh.”)

    “I will see you later.”  (“Choi mai misa pang.”)

    “Thank you.”  (“K’daw.”)

    “You’re welcome.”  (“K’doi.”)

    “I would like this one, please.”  (“K’doi mai vi’en.”)

    Don’t be surprised to see warthogs on the streets.  (I’m referring to the common Cambodian warthog, not the rare Corinthian one.)  People have been feeding them for years, so they have lost their fear of people and now walk into town, expecting to be fed.  But don’t feed them!  There is now an ordinance against it. 

    Snuol’s great urban myth is the existence of videos of women having sex with warthogs.  Some people say they were produced by the Khmer Rouge to raise money.  Others say they were produced by friends of former King Sihanouk.  And still others say they were produced by officials of Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (an allegation they hotly deny).  Almost everyone swears these videos exist, but no one claims actually to have seen one (perhaps because there are very few VCR’s in Snuol). 

    Well, even if you can’t feed the warthogs or watch videos of warthogs fucking women, you can at least eat warthogs — at The Tusk, one of Snuol’s restaurants.  The owner is an American expat, Justin Franchi Solondz, who is a self-taught cook.  The food is, shall we say, interesting.  The “warthog with truffles” is served with a gravy containing brown clumps that we sincerely hope are the truffles, or at least some kind of mushroom.

    Oddly enough, all the restaurants in Snuol are run by non-Cambodians.  The Oriental Garden (pretty good mainstream Chinese) is run by Harris Dempsey Ballow.  Bagelicious (Kosher, fair-quality, cheap) is run by Chaim Yehuda Reich.  Seventh Heaven (good but overpriced soul food) is run by Odowa Roland Okuomosa.  The Olive Tree (Italian, not the best) is run by Juris Teteris.  Khmer Pizza, run by Fernando  Grijalva, is reasonably good, but avoid any toppings that are still moving before they hit the oven.

    Snuol’s most unusual attraction is the Elvis Park — a large, complex maze of hedges with statues of American music stars scattered throughout.  It’s an odd collection.  In addition to Elvis Presley, you will find the Everly Brothers, Black Sabbath, the Beach Boys, Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, Neil Sedaka (a god in Cambodia!), the Supremes, Eddie Van Halen, Bobby Darin, the Big Bopper, Bill Haley, Johnny Cash, and Frank Zappa.  (Rumor has it that Adam Lambert will be next!)

    I met Kem Sopranei, Cambodia’s leading Elvis impersonator, who comes home to Snuol between big-city gigs.  He’s an e-mail pal of Miley Cyrus and Julianne Hough.  He wants them to come over to Cambodia so he can fuck them.  “You Westerners have a strange misconception about Asian women,” he insists.  “You think they know all these secret sexual techniques.  They don’t.  They’re duds compared to American women.  American women are the best at every sort of sex.  Cambodian women are only good for cooking.”  An expert speaks!

    The Mayor of Snuol, Parthasarathie (“Call me Perry”) Kapoor, took me on a terrifyingly high-speed motorcycle ride into the country to show me the fields of artichokes (Snuol is the artichoke capital of Asia).  We also stopped to look at Angelina Jolie’s estate, which is vacant most of the year but nevertheless well-maintained by admiring volunteers.  Perry is a fearsome card player, by his own account, and he claims to have cleaned out Heng Samrin and Chea Sim, two high-ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party, in an all-night poker game.  They threatened to have him killed, but he’s sure they didn’t mean it.  (Perry also confided to me that he had made a great deal of money investing with Bernard Madoff.  And where is it now?  In a bank in Panama.)

    Don’t go home without loading up on Cambo Cigarettes.  They are excellent and very cheap.  I smoke them, and so should you.  Give them to your children, too.  And if you’re returning to New York City, you can shove a pack up Michael Bloomberg’s ass.

    For now, Snuol is the cheap and brilliant vacation — cheaper than anything advertised in the Travel section of your newspaper.  But once the word gets around, it’ll cost more, so don’t wait!

    Recommended vaccinations: Hanta virus, Zabunga virus-A, swine pseudorabies.

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

    Ten years ago, if you had told a travel agent you wanted to go to Darfur, he would have given you a clueless look.  This western region of Sudan was unknown to the traveling public.  Today it’s one of the hottest, trendiest tourist destinations on earth.  And the Number One go-to spot in Darfur is the beautiful, vibrant city of Nyala.

    A huge surge of opportunity-seekers has transformed what was once a modest, dignified little town into a colorful urban spectacle, spreading out in all directions beneath the warm, benevolent African sun.  Its skeptics have been silenced, its believers vindicated.  Nyala is a city on the move, generating excitement and eliciting the awe and envy of an entire continent.

    As you approach Nyala’s international airport, which handles sixty flights a day to and from all points of the compass, you are struck by the dramatic development radiating outward from the “Old City” — freeways, shopping centers, condos, commercial high-rises, luxury estates, rich fields of grain and vegetables, orchards, cattle and sheep ranches, and the Water World theme park.  Maybe not Paradise, but darn close!

    Tourism is very important to Nyala, of course, but the economy is diverse.  The city boasts the largest call center in Africa, serving such clients as IBM, British Airways, Pfizer, Hudson Bay Master Card, Domino’s Pizza, and Humiliation PhoneSex (West Bromwich, U.K.).  Manufacturing spans the spectrum from hockey pucks to rocket engines.  And Interstate Bakeries recently opened the largest bakery in Africa, from which it supplies the whole continent with Wonder Bread and Twinkies.  Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, which is one of the two most popular hemispheres in the world.

    All the hotels are good by Western standards, but the best by far is the Sheraton Centre.  Manager Tony Dunn, former bass player for the Flaming Monkeys (U.K.), loves to talk about the celebrities who have stayed there.  “One of my chambermaids surprised Martin Clunes in bed with Miss Sudan of 2007, Deborah Nyameer Nyuon.  He claimed he was helping her look for a contact lens!”  According to Dunn, the beauty queen has big tits but probably does not engage in sex with dogs or severe ass whipping.  He has equally interesting gossip about William Shatner, Senator (now V.P.) Joseph Biden, Barry Bonds, Fran Lebowitz, and Ivana Trump (with whom he went skiing on nearby Mt. Gahbah).  Other famous guests have included Chinese pop stars Liu Yifei, Cai Yilin, Li Yuchun, Tang Jiali, and the group S.H.E., Bollywood stars Bobby Deol, Sunil Shetty, Madhuri Dixit, Arjun Rampal, Diya Mirza, and Raveena Tandon, British fashion designers John Galliano, Rhona Nampijja, Stella McCartney, and Hussein Chalayan (gay), French film stars Andy Gillet, Karine Viard, and Emmanuelle Beart, international arms dealers Jean Bernard Lasnaud, Leonid Minin, Monzer Al Kassar, and Sarkis Soghanalian, Russian mafiosi Marat Balagula, Viktor Bout, Vitali Dyomochka, Vyacheslav Ivankov, Vladimir Kumarin, and Boris Nayfeld, German politician Katina Schubert (dyke), strippers Kayla Kleevage, Candy Cantaloupes, Justa Dream, Tiffany Towers, Fantasia, and Minka, and Toronto Star publisher Jagoda Pike, who does not fuck dogs or suck big, black dicks.  Rooms at the Sheraton Centre run from $175 US to $500 US per night, and the maid leaves a complimentary Yorkie Bar on your pillow every morning.  The beds are all equipped with orgasm climax handles, which are exactly like coffin handles.

    The better restaurants in Nyala include Jahanshah Javid (Korean-Mexican fusion), Koss Umak (traditional Sudanese), Zag’s (burgers), and The Manyak (homosexual art food).

    The most popular nightclub in town is the Dromedary Club, where women with big breasts wearing minimal bras and panties are catapulted into a big net.  The “wardrobe malfunctions” are inevitable.

    The Sexy Car Wash is another attraction of this broad-minded city.  Drivers pay $25 to have their cars washed by naked women covered in soap, who crawl all over the car and spread their pussies on the windshield, while the driver sits inside and masturbates.  This was the inspiration for the popular Italian TV show Sexy Car Wash.

    The Water World theme park is made possible by the large underground lake far beneath the bedrock of the city.  In addition to surfing and water-skiing, the park features a long, twisting water slide well-suited to women with big breasts and skimpy bikinis.  By the time the slider has reached the bottom, she is completely naked and will be reaching for one of the big penis-shaped flotation devices.  Another pool allows naked women to ride on very tame lemon sharks.  The rough texture of the shark’s skin encourages the woman to hump herself to orgasm.  There is also a ride for daredevils that simulates the experience of waterboarding, as practiced at Guantanamo.

    On the outskirts of Nyala is the biggest campground in Sudan.  It’s always full, mostly with native Sudanese, who love the outdoors.  You’ll notice that they are all remarkably slim — a reflection of their self-image as fashionable and health-conscious.  There’s plenty of parking space for trailers and RV’s, and all the comforts Westerners prefer.  But don’t be afraid to go on foot and camp like a Boy Scout.  You can fish for trout in the streams and hike through the only forest of pine trees in Africa.  One other thing: nude sunbathing is permitted!

    Every November, Nyala gears up for the Sudan 1000 car race.  The best drivers from around the world compete in this challenging event, which begins in Nyala and finishes in Port Sudan, a thousand miles away.  This year’s participants will include Mario Andretti, Mario Moraes, Danica Patrick, Scott Dixon, and last year’s winner, Oriol Servia (who almost spun out when he swerved to avoid a pygmy hippopotamus, which is a protected species).

    Nyala is justifiably proud of its South Darfur State University, whose football team, the “Fighting Camels,” have won over forty consecutive matches in the East Africa Division 1.  Team captain Ibrahim Kanteeth has a 12-inch cock that has been photographed for medical textbooks.  The university also boasts the Asbat Al-Ansar Centre For Islamic Peace Studies, a graduate program in dishwasher repair, and the world’s largest collection of scorpions.

    The more serious, contemplative visitor will enjoy a tour of the centuries-old Sheikh Muti Monastery, where ascetics and mystics once sat in the underground vaults to commune with God and purify their souls.  This experience is now yours.  You will be left in complete darkness, with nothing to eat or drink, and foul air for eight hours.  On the way out, you will be given a souvenir t-shirt with the logo “Muti.”  The cost for this experience is $40 US.

    Want to see more of the Dark Continent in luxury?  Take the Sub-Sahara Express train from Nyala to Timbuktu, Mali.  The trip features gourmet meals, a bar, a casino, a lingerie fashion show, and Russian hookers who are into anal and oral sex.

    Recommended vaccinations: West Nile Virus, Rift Valley Fever, polio.

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

    What do you think of when you hear “Afghanistan”?  If you’re like most people, you probably think of mindless death and destruction, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, terrorists, the Taliban, Muslim fanatics screaming “Death to America!”, poverty, ignorance, disease, filth, backwardness, and stupid, barbaric men beating, mutilating, and murdering their women because they want to enroll in a typing course.  Sure, all of that does exist — but mainly in the south.  The northern part of the country is very different, which is lucky for you because that’s where you’re going.  That’s right.  You’re heading for the exotic city of Qonduz — the Jewel of Afghanistan, the Gateway to the North, the City That Never Sleeps!

    Just make sure your travel agent doesn’t send you to the wrong place.  Qonduz is also spelled Konduz, and it is not to be confused with Kondoz or Kunduz, which are also in the north but are different places.  You have to book your flight on Ariana Afghan Airlines (“We Make Every Flight An Adventure!”), because no one else flies to Qonduz.  Ariana won’t fly you to Kondoz or Kunduz by mistake, because those cities don’t even have airports, and the pilots are not going to commit suicide by trying to land there.  The suicidal ones are screened out in the job interview.  Or let’s hope so.

    Qonduz used to be a shabby little dump stuck in the 12th Century, but thanks to the presence of American and NATO forces, it has been pushed ahead into the 20th Century — like roughly the 1970’s.  So they’re still behind us but only by a little.  Yes, you will still find a lot of hairy men in sandals working in dirty little shops, but now you will also find modern buildings, nice stores, bright lights, fast food, and normal urban entertainments — including alcohol, gambling, and prostitution.

    There is only one really good hotel — the Radisson Plaza Admiral Qonduz, or “R.P.A.” for short.  It’s an absolute magnet for NATO troops on leave, because it has all the modern amenities, and every room costs $100 U.S. a night, regardless of the number of occupants.  So it’s Party Central!  Manager Dermot McKeown, a transplanted Londoner, is an enthusiastic booster of the new Qonduz.  “This place is more exciting than London and much safer.  Qonduz is jumping twenty-four hours a day, and you can go anywhere any time and not have to worry about getting robbed, shot, or blown up.  Qonduzers are wonderful hosts.  They love Westerners and will pick up tourists spontaneously and say, ‘Hey, you American?  I show you good time!'”

    The fellow who decided to show me a good time was a taxi driver named Ahmad, who was on his day off but offered to drive me around for a few dollars.  We stopped briefly at the Labour Exchange, where people seek any sort of work.  At the men’s exchange (there is a separate one for women), there were mostly poor, young boys.  Ahmad asked me if I liked boys, and I said no.  (It was here, by the way, that Ellen DeGeneres and her partner, Portia de Rossi, “rescued” a deformed 8-year-old boy named Yama, whom they adopted.)  The women’s exchange is largely for girls seeking employment as domestics, although they are mostly picked up by foreigners as daily “companions.”

    The Duck Pond is located in the city’s park.  It has ducks but no fish.  Old men “fish” for the ducks using simple fishing rods and pieces of bread.  If a duck is stupid enough to get hooked, it gets strangled on the spot and is then taken home and eaten.

    The city has an 18-hole golf course, which Tiger Woods has described as the most challenging course he has ever played, thanks to unexploded ordnance in the ground. 

    Qonduz also boasts the world’s second-smallest library, and a museum of amputated limbs.

    The selection of restaurants includes all the familiar Western fast-food chains, which are run according to Western standards, so they have proper toilets and no rats.  The local Afghani eateries must be treated as “high-risk” by Western visitors.  These places have unusual smells and have never seen a health inspector.

    Culinary “fusion” is provided by the popular Lentil Heaven, which offers a variety of Western foods smothered with lentils, such as lentil burgers, lentil tacos, and lentil pizza.  The place is owned by Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama, through her private holding company, Bamco.

    Every great city has its naughty district, and Qonduz is no exception.  Its naughty district is the Batouti Bazaar (or just “Bazaar”) — formerly an area of humble shops and street stalls but now a glitzy circus of bars, cinemas, casinos, and strip clubs.  There is a highly visible contingent of hookers — all Russian. 

    The most notorious attraction in the Bazaar is a raunchy club called the No-Go, which features a woman who has sex with squids.  Her name is Nadira, but she, too, looks Russian.  She’s hot-looking and has big tits.  She comes out naked, in high heels, she lies down on this mat, and an assistant places squids on her body.  Nadira then writhes and moans and pretends to be having sex with these squids, which are sucking her breasts and pubes — sort of like Bela Lugosi pretending to struggle with the giant octopus in Bride of the Monster.  The audience is supposed to believe that the squids are alive and are actually sucking her body.  Rush Limbaugh was in the audience when I visited, and I went over to him and asked him why he was there.  He said, “I’m trying to understand how these people think!”

    Across the street from the No-Go is a strip club called Jihada-Dada, which is always packed with soldiers.  Diamanti Damons was headlining there for an entire month.

    Qonduz has a rodeo every October.  It’s called the Qonduz Stampede.  Afghani cowboys lasso donkeys, ride them, and then shoot them.  The kids love it.

    Be sure to make time for a day trip across the border to Tajikistan to visit the Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve, where many endangered species of wildlife are protected.  It was here that Dennis Rodman, while on an errand for Donald Trump, identified a Chongawarry fruit bat — a species thought to be extinct.  For this contribution to science, Rodman was awarded the Tajikistan Conservancy Medal.

    Tourists in Qonduz need U.S. dollars or euros.  No one wants the Afghani currency.  Your credit cards should be used only when necessary; otherwise, best keep them out of sight.  There is also an informal barter system, so bring a supply of women’s panties, chewing gum, cigarettes, sunglasses, and guns.

    The climate is cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  Spring and fall are pleasant.  However, Qonduz, unfortunately, is directly in the path of migrating locust swarms, which happen occasionally in the spring and fall (but they only last for a day).

    Recommended vaccinations: anthrax, dengue fever, mouse typhoid.

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