Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bernhard Meinhof at the Grand Canyon

They started a conversation on the shuttle from the park's visitor centre to the top of the trail. It was clear that they had just met on the bus. He was American, she was Russian and he spoke about the "Red Army of Bernhard Meinhof Gang". She had not heard of the Bernhard Meinhof Gang and so he continued: They were Germans and they liked East Germany. Carlos the Jackal was part of it. They attracted mainly supermodel type girls who only wanted to sunbathe when they went to training camps to help the Palestinians.

She was not that interested in his story but she did want her photo taken at almost every rock on the trail. For that purpose, she posed with her hair flung out in various reclining positions in numerous spots overlooking the Canyon. Occasionally she would shriek something that she must have heard in Russian versions of romantic Italian trash.

By the time they reached the first stop, he already had his arm around her. Soon thereafter they were kissing. A few hours later, on the way back, he was vomiting.


1. Is bringing up Baader-Meinhof (or his version:Bernhard Meinhoff) a proven chat-up line?

2. Did he play sick to get her to play nurse?

3. Does the Russian girl need an immigration visa?

4. Did she poison him in order to play nurse to prove her long-term value?

F****** on Amtrak

A couple of months ago, I took a train from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano. Two friendly-faced young black men were talking quietly in their seats across the aisle. At some point the not so young white woman who sat in front of me called across the aisle “excuse me, please do not use that word.” And just in case it was not clear, she called out the letters “F-U-C-K”.

The word fuck was not even used as a swear word in their conversation and the black young men looked at her with some bemusement.

"Why do you object to the word?” I asked. “I am an English teacher” was her response. “Yes?” I said. “This is not a nice word” was her explanation. “Fucking is a word for something rather nice, actually” I said “don’t you think?” This was too much for the lady; she got up and said, “I am getting the train supervisor.”

A few minutes later, she returned with the ticket collector who asked the black men to refrain from using blasphemous language on the train. “You must also tell him,” the white moral authority said pointing at me and the ticket collector told me to please behave on the train. Blasphemous language should not be used on the train, I was told, not even in private conversations. I asked about my rights under the First Amendment, and whether they do not allow me to say fuck on the train. But the ticket collector said no, adding that she did have the authority to instruct me.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Tickets to the Frankfurt book fair allow entrance (to non exhibitors) from 9:00 onwards. My first appointment was in Hall 8 at 9:00.

Hall 8 is a ten-minute walk from the entrance and I did not want to be late. I tried to explain this to the ticket controller but he would not budge. “I am only following orders”, he explained. There were four or five more people in a similar situation.

I asked to see the supervisor who, after a few minutes and some shouting, agreed to let me in before 9, provide I could show her evidence that I did indeed have a 9 o’clock appointment. Fortunately, I could.