Saturday, December 31, 2005

Back from Hiatus

Been a while, B/S. Sorry for the holdup. Writing hasn't been convenient, what with the strep infection, the long cross-country road trip — no more plane flights for me, until I get my no-fly status sorted out — then the holidays.

I'll catch you up soon. I'm having the year-end meeting with my accountant today. And I always go to the barber and get a deluxe straight-razor shave on the 31st of December.

Resolutions by tomorrow? We'll see. I only have the one aspiration, of which you're well aware. (But I wouldn't mind dropping a few pounds, too.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thousand of Dollars, Hundreds of Friends

If you're wondering, Brother/Sister, why your favorite Internet Personality has served up nothing but radio silence in almost a week — well, that's because he's been hard at work earning THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS and HUNDREDS OF FRIENDS.

A man of true ambition finds his way in the world, B/S. I might have been down-spirited when I last wrote, but life is about picking yourself off the mat, shaking off the hangover, stopping down by the hotel lobby for the continental breakfast, and going once more into the breach.

I could give you a blow-by-blow of the last few days, but there was a lot of driving, waiting, loading, driving, unloading, and driving again — and that part was boring as hell. So I'll keep it brief and snappy for you, B/S:

We've been smuggling illegals.

Now don't get all moralistic and start quoting to me from the U.S. immigration laws. If you were jobless and stranded in a Texas border town with a compadre eating his way through your savings, and said compadre — as many of them are — were a native Spanish speaker . . . well, it might occur to you that there are certain obvious ways to turn your frown upside-down. And if, in the process of inverting that frown, you just so happened to incur the enduring gratitude of some forty score hopeful and able-bodied Mexican workers . . . well, now you're thinking you might have the rudiments of an army, if at some later date you might need one.

What bright-eyed Internet Personality with World Domination aims wouldn't act as I did? The legal stuff we can clear up later — if we even have to. That's what lawyers are for.

PePe and I have made fourteen runs (that's over the border and back) in four nights. The work is so easy it's like money falling out the sky. The hardest part was getting the Ryder truck — they pretty much staff the rental joints with federal agents down here. You can't rent a simple cargo truck without fielding twenty or more probing questions from the guy at the counter. And when you're finished navigating those treacherous waters, you're asked to pay cash up front. So we had to go around the corner to the pawn shop and hock all our belongings — rings, watches, black wheelie bag, iPod, EVERYTHING. PePe had a hard time parting with his pipes, even temporarily. But we swallowed hard, pooled the money together and got us a truck.

From there it was smooth sailing. We made all the money back in our first two runs and bought back all our worldly goods just as the pawn shop opened the next morning (though I had to wrest my iPod from the grasp of some early-bird grandmother who thought she'd just landed Junior's dream Christmas gift on the cheap). PePe had all the contacts, made the calls, talked in Spanish, arranged the pickups. I was the licensed driver. We had a secret route over the River. There's an old abandoned bridge —

I'm saying too much.

Suffice to say, we netted $500 per haul — not counting the homemade Mexican delicacies our generous passengers gave us over and above the charged fare for the transfer. We had only one incident — last night — when we happened upon some Minutemen. You may have heard of them, B/S: they're these nutbag border-watch volunteers who call in suspicious activity along the Rio Grande. It took five minutes' cajoling before PePe would put down his empanada and pipe me up some redneck-thrashing music, but once he did, I was able to get to the bastards and lay them out before they could dime us to the Border Patrol. There were three of them parked in a jeep. They had night-vision goggles and satellite phones. Real Delta Force wanna-bes, these jerks — I gave them a big, thick dose of AVVLAIDF, had them all knocked out and piled into the truck in thirty seconds flat.

Just for kicks we took them over into Mexico on our next run, left them for the Policia. See how they like it.

Anyway, we're sitting on seven grand right now, and rather than push our luck, we're going to pocket the money, settle up at the Motel 6, and ditch Del Rio, Texas ASAP. Some 800+ newly arrived Mexican-Americans have my business card, and I have their contact information entered on this computer (these people may own next to nothing, but you wouldn't believe how many of them cross the border with mobile phone accounts). Some people might worry that I'm leaving a trail of evidence behind, but not me. You get ahead in life by making connections. I got these people safely and comfortably placed in the Land of Opportunity at a reasonable price. I want them to know they can call on me for help — for work, for mentorship, for a favor. I don't demand reciprocity down the road, but I won't refuse it either.

Not everyone can make more than seven Gs and 800 close friends in four nights. It's a sweet deal, if you can swing it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Money Problems

I apologize, Brother/Sister, for the tone I took in that last post. As anyone who has had to resort to smuggling himself over a border inside a refrigerator could tell you, I've been under a fair amount of stress lately.

These cash flow issues don't help. You may remember from way back that when I first left for Peru, I prudentially tucked away $500 for a return flight. What I didn't know — and could never have guessed — at the time were (1) that I would have a Piper to fly home alongside me, and (2) that he and I would together get booted off our plane two thirds of the way through our itinerary, and (3) that friggin' American Airlines would refuse to refund me for what their Customer Service Personnel have described as an "interruption in service."

I call it a screw-over, Brother/Sister. If the airline overbooks a flight and bumps you, it puts you on the next flight. If you get hammered at the hotel bar and arrive to the gate too late, they find a way to book you through to your destination.

I don't see how my situation is any different. In fact, I think I make a stronger case for assistance than most people who miss a flight. In my case —

("Our case," PePe says. That's fair.)

in our case, we missed our flight because the government was persecuting me because of my political ambitions and assassin's training.

But those punks at American Airlines are unyielding on this point, it being their strict policy not to make travel allowances for people who suffer an interruption in service due to their no-fly status.

What a bunch of patriots they are.

Anyway, Brother/Sister, I'm coming to learn how crippling illiquidity can be to an enterprise — even a non-profit sociopolitical movement like mine.

We've blown through my $500 travel set-aside and are now dipping into the balance of $343.78 in the World Domination Fund. Come tax-time, I don't think I'll have any problem justifying the cost of this extended involuntary layover as a "business expense."

Still, I don't like borrowing against the Fund so early on in the project. I was saving up to buy a share of Google stock, but if PePe keeps eating the way he does — my God, you'd think they were starving the guy at the Secret Mountain Redoubt — we'll have run the Fund down to zero on his potato-chip consumption alone. (And between you and me, my loyal and voracious Piper is not exactly bringing home big bills from his busking gig downtown.)

So that's why I'm a bit testy these days. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a get-rich-quick scheme, but I'm fighting a real sense of discouragement, bordering on depression. It's a struggle even to get out of bed these days, much less beat the streets for business opportunities.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Stop Asking Me This

Some my Brothers and Sisters have written in to ask me whether I abruptly terminated my visit in Peru in response to readers' "lack of interest" in "that particular subplot."

I wish I could find an adequate way to express my utter disgust with that kind of cynicism. But right now I'm coming off a long weekend spent stranded in a Motel 6 in Del Rio, Texas — and I've pretty much exhausted my capacity to express disgust.

But know this, Brother/Sister, because I will not be repeating it:


I am on a mission. This weblog exists to chart my progress and to report to my several loyalists on the progress of that mission. The weblog does not come before the mission.

Do you really think I would cut short my valuable training in the Ancient and Very, Very Lethal Art of Incan Dance-Fighting just to win myself a temporary ratings bump? Would I flee Peru just when I was getting somewhere with Flora Posada, the Most Beautiful Girl in the Country?

("Pachado," PePe tells me. "Flora Pachado." He's been downtown Piping, Jimmy Atahualpa-style, for travel money to get us back to Cambridge, and he just walked in the door.)

Would I bug out on Flora Pachado, without finishing her screened-in porch (if you know what I mean), just because Burping Squid isn't interested in Andean cultures?

I got the heck out of Peru because people in Peru wanted me dead. It's possible I'll be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life — or at least until the Master Trainer gives me the all-clear sign. These people want to kill me.

And by the way, if at some point before I ascend to power I'm driving my car, and I look in my rear-view mirror, and there appears to be somebody tailing me, I'm going to try to lose them. You're free to suppose, Brother/Sister, that I'm just serving up a car chase to my readers — you know, because everybody loves a good car chase. But if that's what you're thinking, I don't want to hear it.

This is insulting. This is my life. And so what if the Peruvian Tourism Board, or whatever it's called —

("Comisiòn de Promociòn de Peru," PePe says.) —

so what if they wrote me a check a couple of months ago? I don't like the way you people are picking around in my private affairs. It was 300 bucks, and I put it directly into the World Domination Fund. If the Peruvian government were making me personally rich, I'd be on a first-class plane to Boston right now.

Instead, PePe and I are scraping pennies together right now just to get home in coach before Christmas. I'm sorry if that "subplot" doesn't have enough zip for you, Brother/Sister, but life is what it is.

If you want fantastic tales of great adventure, go somewhere else.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Stupid &#$@* No-Fly List!

There’s always a wrinkle, Brother/Sister. I breathed a sigh of relief when I arrived in Bolivia (in part because that refrigerator was a tight fit and my oxygen tank was running on empty). I thanked my lucky stars when PePe and I got to the airport in La Paz, cleared security, and boarded the plane. Everything seemed to be going without a hitch; the Master’s plan to get me out of harm’s way was airtight.

Then our inbound flight to Houston was diverted to Laughlin Air Force Base (I wonder what third-grader designs these military websites). FBI agents boarded the plane while we were on the tarmac; they reviewed the passenger manifest and took PePe and me into custody. It appears that Your Favorite Internet Personality was on the Department of Homeland Security’s “No-Fly List.”

What a crock.

They separated us, and two agents sat me down in a room and did the Good Cop/Bad Cop bit, e.g., one of them brings me coffee, and the other one says I have to take it black. Recognizing this dynamic for what it was, I demanded an attorney. The Good Cop told me a guy was coming from the Public Defender’s Office. The Bad Cop told me the guy was a drunk and an evangelical Christian, and he wouldn’t arrive for another six hours.

“Screw it,” I said. “I’ll waive my right to an attorney. This is just a big misunderstanding, anyway. Let's clear it up and get on with our lives.”

They told me I was on the No-Fly List because they had intelligence that I was training at a leftist terror camp in the Andes mountains.

“Oh, no,” I said. “You’ve got it all wrong. That’s not it at all. I was learning the Ancient and Very Very Lethal Art of Incan Dance-Fighting at my Master Trainer’s Secret Mountain Redoubt. It’s like a martial arts thing.”

“But we’d never heard of it.”

“That’s because the techniques are for secret assassins.”

Bad Cop stepped in, at this point, to zip-cuff my hands behind my back. It occurred to me that I was not making a very strong case for my release.

“All right, all right," I said. "That doesn’t sound good, I agree. But I assure you, the Elite Incan Dance-Fighters are not terrorists. They don’t really do much of anything, in fact, except fight each other about their club by-laws. And sometimes when the ninjas get uppity, they fight them.”

"But we're not worried about the Dance-Fighters. We're worried about you."

"Me?" I said. "You've got to be kidding. I'm not a terrorist. I just went down there to get that training because I'm on a mission to take over the world."

Bad Cop stepped in again, this time to put me in leg irons. Should have waited for the lawyer, I was thinking.

"No no no," I said. "I was just kidding about that 'taking over the world' stuff. I didn't really mean it."

"But it's consistent with our intelligence."

"Your intelligence?" I asked (not that I would ever call these bozos' intelligence into question).

"We've read your weblog."

Shit. Think fast think fast think fast think fast —

"Oh, that," I said. "That's just fiction. That's just something I made up for fun. Silly old me, always telling stories, you know —"

At this point the Good Cop (inexplicably) gave me a Koran, and the Bad Cop gave me a form to sign, certifying that the Koran I had just received was in pristine condition and had not been defiled in any way by the United States government. As I had no pen or pencil to apply to this document — and my hands were cuffed behind me, in any event — I stared blankly at the form for a short period of time.

During this period, the agents just stood there quietly, with hands folded. The silence was long and awkward, so I started talking again.

"I mean, really, if I did have designs on taking over the world, and I went to Peru to get assassination training that I truly planned to use to gain political power by force — if all that were true, would I write a weblog about it? I mean, that sort of thing could get me in all sorts of trouble. It's fiction, Mr. and Mrs. Cop. Fiction, and nothing more."

Good and Bad Cop walked over to the corner of the room and whispered to one another. They left me alone in the room for 5.5 hours. Then the Bad Cop came in and freed me from my restraints.

"You make a good case," he said. "You'd have to be an absolute idiot — I mean, really . . ." and he trailed off, mumbling to himself.

I assumed I was free to go.

Fifteen minutes later I was reunited with PePe. By this time, though, our plane was long gone on its happy way to Houston with the other passengers, and we were stranded at this Air Force Base, six miles from Del Rio (the nearest town), without transportation in the sweltering ninety-degree South Texas heat.

The two of us were worn-out, sleep-deprived, and emotionally spent. I don't know where we would be if that lawyer hadn't pulled up and offered us a ride. The situation was not ideal — the guy lectured us about Jesus Christ and kept veering off the road toward gigantic saguaro cacti — but PePe and I are now comfortably ensconced at a Motel 6, and when I finish writing this "fictional" (heh-heh) post, I'm going to crash for the next sixteen hours — at least.