Third World Adventure

I once knew a German professional photographer (let’s call him Georg) who, along with a fellow German photographer (“Klaus”), decided to do one of those photo safaris — driving from Cairo to Cape Town, snapping pics along the way — that sounds so good back in Hamburg, but is completely foolish in reality.  Anyway, driving a mil-surp G-Wagen (not a bad choice, BTW), they set off and made it through Egypt without incident.  At the border, they had to get a “passing through” visa to get across the Sudan, which essentially allowed them to be in the country for three days.  When they got to Sudan’s southern border, however, the sole guard at the border post (just a hut) wouldn’t let them leave the country because they had the “wrong visa” — and they’d have to drive back to Khartoum (a two-day drive) to get the right one.  When Georg pointed out that their existing visa would expire en route and they would, in essence, be in the country illegally and imprisoned if caught, the guard just shrugged.  Not his problem.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.  Last week, faced with a looming legal deadline, I had to fly up to Chicago to get a legal document out of the Cook County Court archives.  (Why I was unable to access the document online, or even manage to talk to someone in the County Clerk’s office to send me the document is a story all by itself.)  Anyway, after having had my 5am flight canceled (thank you, American), I made the 7am flight only by dint of paying the full fare (don’t ask) and arrived at the Cook County courthouse (2nd District in Skokie) at about 11am, with all the data needed for the request on my trusty laptop..

Of course, there’s TSA-type security at all these places these days, which is where I had a Sudan-type encounter of my own.  Reason?  No laptops allowed in the courthouse by members of the public.  I know, it’s inexplicable but hey, Cook County.  I looked around for any storage lockers:  none.

“So where can I store my laptop?”
“You’ll just have to take it back to your car.”
“I don’t have a car;  I just flew in from Dallas.  So what can I do?”
Like the Sudanese border guard, the fucking security guard just shrugged.  “Not my problem.”

At this juncture, I should point out that every single glass window and door at the courthouse has one of those idiotic little “No Handgun” stickers displayed.

I’m not saying that I would have shot someone — in fact, I absolutely would not have, even if I’d been able to bring the 1911 with me — but let me tell you, after a day which had begun at 3am, experienced a canceled flight and a massive fare surcharge along with all the other hassles of modern-day travel (full flight, idiots with too-large bags, crowded train from the airport into the city etc.), only to be faced with indifferent bovine officialdom at the end of it, I can quite believe that some other guy  might  have dropped the hammer.

Which, by the way, is what Klaus did at the Sudanese border.  He told the guard that he had the correct visa back in the car, fetched his gun instead and shot the guard dead.  Then he and Georg got in their G-Wagen and raced off into Uganda.  A real African tale, that one.

And now, the rest of my  story. Read more

Sans Blade

Because we flew up to New England and didn’t check any bags, I couldn’t bring a handgun or knife onto the flight because TSA [25,000-word rant deleted] and because they have some strange shitty laws about Texans carrying handguns around New England [250,000-word rant deleted].

Of course, our first full day of vacation was spent shopping in Kittery, Maine — home to a jillion outlet stores — so New Wife was well pleased to spend a morning shopping (as was I, you will see).  While she was shopping in the Ladies’ sections, I was off looking at guys’ stuff — and at Eddie Bauer, found a couple of beautiful white cotton shirts (my go-to everyday wear) at 50% off, which made them only a little more expensive than the Target / Wal-Mart equivalent, at much higher quality.  (And  made in Sri Lanka and not in China, for the win.)  Also a summer-lightweight cap from Barbour, at 70% off (making it merely expensive rather than Barbour-price i.e. nosebleed). Then it came time to remove all the price tags and such, which required cutting the little plastic loop thingy on the shirts, and a sturdy piece of string on the cap.

No knife.

Well, I wasn’t going to be put about like that, and because I’ve been to Kittery before, I went over to the giant Kittery Trading Post to buy a knife.

My original intention was really to buy a cheap $10-Made-In-China POS, then just throw it away before getting on the return flight.

Unfortunately, the Trading Post has an excellent selection of lovely knives… and you all know where this is going, right?  Here’s the rather old-fashioned Case two-blade pocket knife that followed me out of the store:

I have probably about three or four Case knives at home, and I love all of them:  they are the perfect “working” blades, and I have a soft spot for the “sheep’s foot” type (the upright one, for those unfamiliar with the term).  So for $35, I now have a(nother) decent pocket-knife, and  made in the U.S.A. withal.   And yes, it’s a fingernail-opener rather than the modern button-opener type;  don’t care.

And I’ll just have to check my bag when we fly back, because I’m not going to risk having this lovely little thing confiscated by the Airport Gestapo.


En passant:  KIttery Trading Post has an excellent selection of lightly-used second-hand rifles, so I did spend a little quite a long time browsing that aisle.  New Wife of course was shopping downstairs in the Ladies Department, so the trip ended up costing a little rather more than $35.  Don’t care about that either.  All worth it.

Life Under The Liberals

To the surprise of precisely nobody, a government which welcomes illegal immigrants, allows people to live like animals (under the guise of “compassion”) and muzzles the police from actual policing  ends up with a situation that is (unexpectedly!) dire:

Images from the downtown area show trash piling up as workers struggle to keep the area sanitized. They are pictured wearing face masks among the dirt and grime.
Rows and rows of tents line the sidewalks of Skid Row in the sprawling 50-block area, home to around 4,200 homeless people, many in tents and shantytowns.
Some lay passed out in the street, seemingly from the effects of drugs as others are pictured lugging their property around, in search of the next spot to set up.

I’d post lots more pictures, but I imagine that some of you haven’t had yer breakfast yet, so I’ll content myself with the most inoffensive thereof:

There is no  amount of money that could persuade me ever to visit L.A. again.  I come from the Third World, I’ve been back to it a couple of times, and I have no desire to see it here in the United States.

Safety

And I’m not talking about the usual stuff (guns, SHTF supplies etc.):  it concerns overseas travel.

I’ve been following The Zman’s adventures in Scandinavia, Russia, and parts between with some interest.  (Go ahead and read them first, if you want, starting with the Out Of Lagos post — I had no idea he’d been living there for years — and his point about London’s Heathrow Airport is absolutely spot-on.)  I’ve never been to any of the countries he’s talked about so far (Finland, Estonia, Russia), so I was of course interested in his observations.  

Then something which happened to him in Tallinn caught my attention:

In Estonia, I realized I had no cell service at all.  I was not worried until I tried to buy something and all three credit cards were declined.  To make matters worse, I had no cash of any type with me, as I planned to just charge everything.  That meant I had no money and no way to call the credit card company to get the issue resolved.

I don’t care how much you think the rest of the world has modernized:  it often hasn’t, and sometimes that realization hits you hard, with a potentially-serious outcome.  In those situations, you need cash.  Hence my admonition:

Never travel overseas without cash.

How much cash you take is up to you — I usually take about US$100 (or £100, or 100€) per day I’m going to be out of the country, mostly in small bills (5s, 10s or 20s).  Don’t piss about with some piffling sum like $10, either:  it won’t get you diddly Over There except maybe a couple bottles of water and some chewing gum.  Back in 2017 when I went over to Britishland on my extended sabbatical, I didn’t take that much because a.) I didn’t have that much available and b.) the UK is pretty much a cashless society anyway, so I only carried a few hundred or so, in total, some of which went towards buying a burner phone to escape the ruinous roaming fees.  But when I go on my next trip to a place where nobody speaks English, French or German, I’ll be cashing up beforehand, you betcha.

Now a lot of seasoned travelers are going to throw up their hands in horror because “you’re a target” / “you’ll lose it all” / “blah blah blah”.  Of course  you have to be smart about this:  I have two wallets, a well-hidden one with my real cards, ID and maybe a quarter of my cash in it, and another in an outside pocket with fake ID (got it in some junk mail, a reasonably-accurate facsimile of a California driver’s license with another guy’s photo), a couple of “sample” credit cards (also courtesy of junk mail) and maybe $50 (small bills, to make it look thicker with cash than it actually is).  If I do get mugged, the fake one will be handed over quickly.  Most of my bring-along cash is hidden elsewhere on my person, to be found pretty much only if I’m dead and the money has become irrelevant.  (I also carry a fake phone:  an old, decommissioned cell phone with a stone-dead battery, which I use only as an alarm clock, plugged into the wall socket at night.  Good luck stealing that  one and expecting to get anything out of it.)  And of course you have to be cautious —  to top up your on-hand cash, you only resort to the “roll” at night in your hotel room or in the train toilet, for example.

Here’s the thing.  I have been poor a couple of times in my life — I mean, no cash, no job, sleep-in-the-car-soon-to-be-repossessed, only a small suitcase of clothing / possessions kind-of poor, and the only thing I fear about being this poor again is to be in this situation in a foreign country where I don’t have any friends I can call on somehow.  For those who’ve never traveled in a country where the language is completely unintelligible (in my case, that would be Finland,Russia and Estonia, to name but three), nothing beats the feeling of helplessness at not being able to hail a cab / catch a bus to the U.S. Embassy, buy some street food, buy a burner phone, or check into a cheap hotel.  Take my word for it:  being broke and on the streets in a strange land fucking sucks, Bubba.

Oh, and by the way:  this is especially important if (unlike Zman) you’re not traveling alone.  By yourself, you can get okay with pretty much nothing for a short-enough period of time.  With a wife, girlfriend or (eek) kids?  The dangers of short-term poverty become exponential.

People always talk about safety when you travel:  avoiding skeevy areas, staying with crowds, having complete situational awareness and so on.  But you only have a modicum of control over those things, especially in an unknown country.  How much cash you can carry, however, is completely under your control.  So control it, and minimize your vulnerability in a place where nobody  knows your name (or speaks your language).

Lest We Forget

As Britishland totters on the edge of Brexit/ No-Brexit/ Hard Brexit/ Soft Brexit/ Whatever-Brexit, it behooves us to remember just why they hate the EU enough to want to leave its clutches warm embrace.

Example #1:   Control

‘Intelligent speed assistance’ is at the centre of a European road-safety shake-up.
These systems are capable of automatically stopping cars from exceeding the limit or cutting the speed if they pass into a slower zones. But the Department of Transport insists that mandatory systems will not physically slow a car.
It says drivers will simply be alerted by a dashboard light and an audio alert, similar to existing warnings when seatbelts are left unfastened.
The technology will have to be installed in all new cars from May 2022 and in existing models two years later. Other features include automatic emergency braking and a system which keeps a vehicle in the centre of a traffic lane.
The EU Commission claims the mandatory devices could help avoid 140,000 serious injuries by 2038.

Note the weasel word “could”.  The infernal things “could” also cause still more deaths from equipment failure, because none of this shit has ever been tested, yet.

Example #2:   Hobbling the Internet

The directive, which passed by 348 votes to 274, seeks to update the EU’s copyright legislation in light of recent technological changes. Its most controversial elements, passed much more narrowly, are Article 11, a “link tax” requiring social networks and news aggregators to pay publishers to display snippets of their output, and most of all Article 13, an “upload filter” making larger online publishers like YouTube responsible for copyright infringements in material uploaded by their users.

This is akin to the “holding gun manufacturers responsible because a few assholes murder people with guns”  rationale.

Example #3:   Unstable currency

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told a Paris conference that the currency union ‘is not resilient enough’ to emerge unscathed from ‘unexpected economic storms’.
Lagarde acknowledged that the currency union was now ‘more resilient than a decade ago when the global financial crisis struck.
‘But it is not resilient enough,’ she said. ‘Its banking system is safer, but not safe enough. Its economic well-being is greater overall, but the benefits of growth are not shared enough,’ Lagarde told the gathering, which was organised by the French central bank.
The warning comes as signs are multiplying of slower economic growth, especially in powerhouse Germany and the bloc’s second-biggest economy, France.
On Friday, indications of a weak first quarter for the eurozone mounted as a closely-watched survey pointed to March output being dragged further down by manufacturing weakness.
Manufacturers in the 19-nation single currency bloc ‘reported their steepest downturn for six years’ as pressure mounted from trade wars and Brexit fears, data company IHS Markit said.

This is what happens when you couple one or two “strong” economies (Krautland, Frogland) to fucked-up economies (Eytieland, Spicland, Porroland etc.) and expect good results.

So the Brits want out of all this shit (they’re quite capable of fucking their country up all by themselves, without any assistance), and no wonder.

The only thing which still puzzles me is why a “hard” Brexit — in essence, just telling the Europigs to FOAD  — is seen as a Bad Thing for the UK.  I’m sure there’s some sophisticated response to that simple question, but as said response would only come from the turds who lost the Brexit referendum (a.k.a. the Remoaners Remainers), I think we’re safe in ignoring it, and them.