It's a nice Sunday, and I am even taking a break from watching the news. I have had enough of the media and their latest ploy, the phony poll, to get their Dear Leader re-elected. So it's time to grill a steak, re-run my past life through my head--while debating what to do with my future life--and write a blog entry.
Yesterday I wrote about an episode in Pakistan many years ago, and today will do so about an event in another country even more years ago. Before going off to Pakistan, we served in Guyana, the former British Guiana for you history buffs. It sits on the N.E. edge of South America, has a territorial expanse about equal to Great Britain's, and a population, at least then, of perhaps 700,000. It was a physically beautiful country, but a grubby, mean place. When the British left--a fact bemoaned by many Guyanese--it was a sleepy middle class country producing sugar and bauxite for export. It had a population almost evenly split between South Asians and Afro-Guyanese, plus a few Chinese, Amerindians, and Euros thrown in just to complicate things. When we got there, Guyana had been independent for about thirteen years, and a republic for some eight. Those years had not proven kind. Guyana had begun to look like a bedraggled African republic with a race war underway between blacks and Asians, and a government run by Third World socialists--the kind who think poor people just need slogans and speeches. The economy had sunk into the depths of socialist-induced poverty; productive people and their money fled for Canada, the UK, Barbados, and the USA.
The semi-autocratic ruler of this unhappy republic was Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, a handsome, brilliant, charismatic forty-something rogue, who spouted the cause of socialism and redistribution of income nationally and internationally. As a good socialist, Burnham redistributed several hundred million dollars into his own bank accounts in Europe. He lived a large and colorful life, and died a small and dark death--look it up, it's got a humorous touch.
One last thing about politics. A country faces trouble when the leaders' kids don't live there. Almost no member of the Guyanese ruling class had his children in Guyana. Despite the parents' "hate" for British and American "imperialism and racism," their kids studied, worked, and lived, well, you know where.
Many common goods--e.g., potatoes, apples, canned foods, cheese, light bulbs, car parts, baby food--were either unavailable or very difficult to get. Despite the huge savannah region of the country, and its large cattle ranches, meat, too, was scarce, and cost much more than the government's set price. Much of the beef was illegally exported to Brazil to avoid the price controls. Restaurants without the right connections had trouble getting key items. It was not uncommon to sit down and have the waiter warn, "No meat, no fish, no chicken." One place in Georgetown, the capital, with no such problems was a large, two-floor "establishment"--since burned to the ground--owned by a former labor union leader and politician who had an in with the elite. He ran a combination disco-bar-restaurant-whorehouse that served pretty good steaks--not cheap, but good. To get past the enormous bouncers at the door, you had to be somebody very special, or a white foreigner.
So, yes, about twice a month, the Diplowife and I got into our beat-up, tiny and tinny, yellow, right-hand-drive, 1970 Honda 600--somewhat like an early Morris Mini crossed with a dwarf AMC Gremlin--and sputtered off to the
One late humid night, after our customary steaks, we emerged from the
OK, OK, yes, you're right. Before I go on, let me explain. I was a cheap SOB. No. It has nothing to do with being Jewish, you anti-semitic Blue State bastard! My gross, I repeat, gross Foreign Service salary then was just a bit north of $14,000/yr. It hurt me deeply to give away my money. May I go on, now that you have publicly humiliated me? Geez, no respect for the flow of a story . . .
I told the kids, "Let me open the car, I have some coins inside." Things then began to move very quickly.
Coming from my wife's side of the car, I heard a much deeper voice, "Hey antiman! Give them all your money!"
I saw that a tall shirtless man with dreadlocks had my wife in what looked to be a half-nelson. He was moving her towards the front of the car. He had a knife pressed against her upper chest, just below her neck.
Back then, I was young and stupid as opposed to now, when I am no longer young. I was wearing a Guyanese shirt-jac, a baggy and poorly made local version of a guayabera. Under it, I had my trusty Smith & Wesson .357 Mag with a four inch barrel. So, I had a choice. I could go for my wallet, or go for the .357. And, I chose . . . the .357. I dropped my keys, and drew pretty fast--even if I say so myself--cocked the hammer, adopted the classic two handed stance, and framed him as best I could in the dim light. The kids scattered into the dark. If you know S&W revolvers, you know that their double-action pull is relatively heavy. Cock the hammer, however, and the pull gets pretty light: doesn't take much pressure to squeeze off a round. I had to make sure that in my nervousness, I didn't let one go before I was ready. Adding to the stress was that the Diplowife--who, I should have mentioned, was almost eight-months pregnant--kept jerking around. She, apparently, objected to having a knife pressed against her. I kept breathing slowly and deeply, hoping that would quiet my heart's pounding in my ears and steady my increasingly sweaty hands. I regretted not swapping out the revolver's wooden grips for something more rubbery, less slick. My shirt had become glued to my back, and perspiration was rolling down my face, into my eyes, and spotting my glasses. I was sliding forward towards the unhappy couple, inch by inch. Dreadlocks just kept staring at me as though he could not believe what he was seeing. In my mind, I imagined him as seeing Dirty Harry looming before him. Given, however, how I dressed then, big 1970's eyeglasses, flared pants, Clark Wallabees, shirt jac, and all of it topped off by an Elliot Gould style "Jewfro" and mustache, he probably thought he had run into a deranged member of KC and the Sunshine Band.
In these situations you develop a dangerous tunnel vision. You become so focused on what's in front, that you tend to forget about what might be off to the sides or, worse, behind. I saw that he would cast nervous looks to the sides; I, too, would glance very briefly right and left--Where are those kids? Will they come back?--but I never had more than maybe a 140-150 degree arc of awareness. I stopped moving forward when about seven feet from him. He was considerably taller than my wife, so I had a pretty good expanse of bare chest, neck, and head in my sights. I began to get very paranoid about what might be creeping up behind me. I had to make a decision very soon. I told my wife in Spanish, she didn't speak English then, "No te muevas. ¡Le voy a matar!" ("Stop moving. I am going to kill him.") It dawned on me to repeat that in English so that he would know what I was thinking. Some times it is not good to keep secrets.
"I am going to kill you."
"OK, OK, man!" He released my wife, and pushed her towards me.
I had him lined up just like a silhouette target for a split second, then he did a fantastic Roger Bannister impression, and took off down the dark street. I thought for a second about conducting a test to answer the burning question, "Can a street slug outrun a .357 slug?" My deliberative process was not helped by the Diplowife screaming, "¡Matalo! ¡Matalo!" ("Kill him! Kill him!") In the end, however, I eased the hammer down, put the weapon back in its holster, and bent down to pick up my keys.
We stayed away from the establishment for a few weeks but, of course, returned. Must have a steak now and then. I ain't no vegan.