Wednesday, December 31, 2003

This Christmas, I Smoked A Cigar

Here's looking at you, kid.
Christmas 2003 I got a double-fistful of Cuban cigars from my aunt. It was the most amazingly 'out of left field' gift that season! What a hoot! That alone was worth it.

So now I'm thinking..."today's a slow day, New Year's Eve is tomorrow...what would it be like?" I haven't smoked anything in 24 years. Last week I'd followed a guy smoking a joint on the street. But that was it.

Erring on the side of caution, I saw off an inch from the tip of one of these beauties [fake or real Cohibas, they have a very sweet aroma], and put it in a pipe. I'm sitting out on the balcony, and light up. Blue smoke! euphoria! This is great! I'm in love!

This eternal state lasts 15 minutes. Then I feel my chest constrict. My head is lightened considerably. I sink backwards. I feel an ominous rumbling in my lower depths. I stand up with effort. I am off-plumb by 10 degrees. Stumbling in to the can, I drop trou and unsteadily release the Chocolate Hostage. I sit there for a while, while time shifts from Cretaceous to Jurassic. I stand up, uncertainly. Mr Nausea makes an appearance and I call Uncle Ralph on the Big White Phone.

Looking at the wreck of my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I brush my teeth with the my remaining disposable brain-cells. I stumble back out on the balcony, fall in the chair and pass out.

I came to 30min later. My mouth is oily. I'm hammered. I get up, run some errands on my bike. I'm praying for an oxygen displacement. I come back home and fall down again, this time for an hour.

It takes over 24 hours for the taste to leave my body. I realize, with a mixture of regret and relief, that sometimes you can't go back. I recall with fondness the most excellent education I got the summer of '73 in Havana when I smoked Cuban cigars, drank the mojitos, and managed to get over it. Now I've got as pink a lung as I'm going to have here in the LA Metro area, and it's not the same.

The upshot is that I will happily give them away, so that people who want to enjoy them can. I say happily, remembering the sour bad manners of one Jack Miller in 1973 when presented with a box of Cubans as a wedding gift. He loudly told all and sundry to "come and get them".

I did. That was the first time I smoked real tobacco instead of the loose-leaf burning tires I had been exposed to earlier.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Evolution of Leadership In Iraq

Saddam is in the bag. The insurrection continues with no let up. The Bush Administration is deluded in this process. Iraqis hated Saddam. And now that he’s gone, they hate the Americans more. This is not what Bush & Co had in mind, and it certainly riles Paul Bremer, the erstwhile caretaker. All this was not “supposed to happen” Why?

Leadership is undergoing rapid evolutionary change. For the first time in thirty years Iraqis have decentralized decision-making opportunities. Sunni, Shia, nationalist, Baathist—everybody is on the move. People are making direct decisions without oversight, or approval from a distant centralized source. Motive and weaponry intersect neatly in a wide-open gun-culture that would make the NRA proud. Some will be caught and killed, no doubt for their own good, if the Coalition is to be believed. Along the way they are sharpening their game. The knowledge-base will increase.

Coalition appointees like Chalabi have been sidelined, and they are uneasy. They know that sooner rather than later, the US will abandon them, and their countrymen will come after them. They may have something to negotiate with. They probably won’t. And the sponsors in Washington, Bechtelistan and Halliburtonia will murmur their regrets.