Friday, September 10, 2010

My short happy war in Afghanistan

           On the way back home to NY City from London, my wife Karen drove our 2CV into a ditch just before the Czech border.  The car was scattered for 25 yards in the bottom of  the ditch with our luggage. It began to rain.
       We were headed back to America by way of Iran, India and Japan.  After a week of healing in a little railroad hotel in Amberg, Germany I took a train to Cologne and bought a lovely little used VW Karmann Ghia and we headed east for Istanbul, and Bombay.
The Blue Mosque in Herat, built 1200 AD

   It took two days to cross the border from Iran to Afghanistan.
The 2 lane black top built by America & Russia
Some of their guns were flintlocks
                     Driving into the sun out of Herat,  to Kandahar, two lane blacktop snaking across a vacuum of sand and lumps of  villages abandoned a thousand years ago, something. . .  Something black across the road.  Hard on the brakes, sliding back and forth to scrub off speed we bang a welded gate.  The windshield pops and a dozen men arise over a sand ridge in white robes waving rifles, screaming.  Ululating.  Surrounding us.  Pointing their guns at us.  “Our gate, our gate,” one of them yelled, “you have broken our gate. You must pay.”
           I was so pissed off.  If this were Afghanistan now, I would be terrified.
          But this was 1969.   “I didn’t break your fucking gate.”  The black steel bars of their gate was a mass of welds but it wasn’t broken.  “Your fucking gate broke my windshield.”
           “Your windshield is not broken.  We will help you put it back.”  And they did.
             We were driving from London  through Paris, Athens, and Istanbul on our way to India, and back home to New York.  I was a Creative Director at  JWT London.  A little like Don Draper with a corner office overlooking Berkeley, Square. They offered me a seat on the board.  and my wife said, “let’s take a trip around the world instead.”
              I thought that was a great idea. Still do. One day, maybe we’d be rich enough to go around the world in style.  But we’d be cranky old farts.  We were only 30, and this was the time to see what we could see.  We saw Teheran, drove over the Khyber Pass and down the length of India. Swam in the rainbow aquarium ocean in Ceylon, bicycled around the Angor Wat.
               When we got to San Francisco just before Christmas, the TV showed demonstrators in Phnom Penn chanting and waving posters, DOWN WITH SIHANOUK, GET THE REDS OUT OF CAMBODIA.  We had just been to Phnom Penh and in 1969 people spoke Khmer and/or French, but virtually  nobody there spoke or read English.

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