Part I: Homeward Bound


Eventually it became time in December to leave for R&R again. I decided to go back to the states this time. Of course I arranged a few extra days in Tashkent both on the way out and back. Shortly after they said we couldn’t do that anymore, but I snuck in under the radar. Supposedly there were security concerns for this, but I’m sure it was more of a case of people causing trouble instead. Many people were taking R&R around this time, so the hotel was full of familiar and unfamiliar faces. We had made possible plans to meet Guli and some other friends up in Tashkent to hang out. I suspect it won’t happen, and so does DJ, but for different reasons. It doesn’t, as sometimes happens.

As it often happens, there was a theme song on this particular trip. It seemed everywhere we went, and even more so on Broadway itself, they were playing “Aisha” by Outlandish. It’s a very good song that is a re-make of a Cheb Khaled song of mostly the same name. He’s Moroccan I think. The original was in French with probably some Arabic thrown in, but I am not sure.

DJ and I go out together. We hook up with a friend of ours and wander around in a limo for a while. Our guess is that somebody else actually had requested it, and they were driving around while he was in the club. We certainly didn’t stay in it all night. My gimmick is even better with DJ around because he speaks fluent Russian, and I generally sit there without saying much. I listen to everything going on of course. Invariably, somebody gestures at me, asking him if I can speak too, and I always respond that of course I can’t. Very Happy

Following my normal first day pattern I get completely and totally sloshed. It isn’t really all that interesting. Tim was due to come in the next day, and I think we were going to meet downstairs for a beer at 11 or noon. I was awake, but just couldn’t move. I think I finally made it out of the room 4ish in the afternoon. Of course you just have to eat and go out again. Around 6 PM I called Tim in his room, and he quite lucidly said he’d be down in about 5 minutes. 15 minutes later I called his room again, and more after a half hour. No answer. Eventually we take off without him. It turns out later he’d bought himself a nice friendly bottle of cognac and was quietly trashed. I didn’t even suspect when I talked to him on the phone.

Walking down Broadway we are accosted by the standard array of touts. I generally smile and keep going while making the no thanks gesture. DJ provides more detail: we already ate, thanks. No tout worth their salt could rest there for overcoming objections, so of course the responses are “but we have beer! And pretty girls!” I tell DJ it’s easiest just to ignore them. Obviously, the beer response is easy…”we’re already drunk.” I just don’t want him to get to the point of saying why we are passing on the pretty girls, folk might get the wrong idea. Laughing

There exists a vast difference between beggar types here and back in the states. In Denver, they are on all the street corners, holding (or not) the nifty sympathy sign. Here it’s simply a hand thrust out, and repeated “please please please” or variants thereof. The old ones simply mumble, and don’t even try. I remember a guy in Denver that always hung out down Platte St near the river at a particular intersection. He had a bad limp and his sign advertised that he was diabetic, and God Bless You. He shuffled with this odd sort of almost-dance, back and forth, while waving maniacally yet in a friendly manner. At least he was willing to provide some value for your charity dollar. At any rate, nobody here has a sign. I wonder if we should import some beggars here to teach the locals how it’s done. I notice the local beggars never bother the other locals, but they flock to us like white on rice. DJ has a good one, “I’m a poor student.” This always throws them for a loop. How could Americans ever be poor? We haven’t any idea how rich we are in fact, nor in how rich we are perceived to be.

We get a bit of a scare while walking through a park. There’s a burst of snap-crackle-pop explosions like somebody lit off a whole magazine from their AK-47. The first half-second startled me, but as I am preparing to throw myself flat my spider sense is tracking the noise. It tells me it’s a ways away, so I am not dead yet, and as I snap my vision that direction while leaning forward I see a bunch of kids throwing firecrackers. Someone had lit the fuse on a pack attached together is all. I straighten up with all my dignity and hope no one noticed anything amiss. We tell ourselves that the slow reaction was ok, because at that range, anyone burning down a whole magazine wouldn’t hit anything at all if they didn’t pop it with the first 2-3 rounds. The chances of that, given the range, would be almost nil anyways. Oh well. Shocked There are a few random car backfires the rest of the trip, so we stay somewhat on edge, but laugh it all off.

The militia guys weren’t very active this trip, it seemed that they just didn’t have the numbers. Never saw a pack of more than two, and they weren’t in the mood for games. That’s fine with me, because they can be a pain in the ass.

4 in the morning
came without a warning
everybody’s got a place to be…

On the third night out we end up at Club Istanbul. I get tired of the whole FM / Wigwam thing. It’s beginning to get old, and people are starting to feel entitled to take advantage of us all. Some bit of that is expected, but it’s getting to be too much. I end up talking to Cher quite a lot. We had met before, I remembered her from a trip back in August with Cajun Joe, and she remembered me. I actually enjoy speaking with people who don’t speak English, since it forces me to use the Russian. When someone speaks English, particularly if they do it well, I get no practice in.

We have to meet downstairs at 4:45AM to go to the airport. Soon enough it’s time to go, but we exchange email addresses and all the usual promises to write. I am always beat on the trip out; it makes for a really long travel day…

Go West Young Man!

Our old friend the Afghan lady is at the airport to greet us with sleeve tugs and requests for money. It’s almost funny when they treat it as a game. They know the deal and we know the deal, it’s just a question of finding the ones who don’t, or give in during a moment of weakness.

A poor little kitty kat is scared and crying in someone’s carry bag. It’s one of those carriers that is made of cloth, not the hard plastic. You can’t really see inside, but it can see out. I feel sorry for it, especially since the sound is traveling throughout the whole terminal.

When we board the plane I get to watch some of the travel drama you find on any flight. We have a full plane this flight unfortunately, so it’s a bit crowded. Some guy sits down, gets all situated and comfy, whereupon Mr. Rightful Seat-Owner arrives. Some Guy moves over to the other side of the aisle, sits down, gets all situated and comfy, whereupon…you guessed it, Mr. Rightful Other-Seat-Owner arrives! This genius just can’t be bothered to look at his ticket I guess. Some other helpful passenger opines, “Third time’s a charm!” It’s a cute phrase and all, but I think in this case third time’s proof you’re a dumbass. But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.


Flying into Frankfurt, we get to hang out in the pattern for a good half hour. I amuse myself by pretending we are going guns on the flights ahead of us. The Aerial Combat Maneuvers are amateurish at best, consisting merely of flat lead turns that never seem to pull quite enough to get on target. No working in of even a simple yo-yo or two. How sad. As always, the 6 view of atrocious and poorly modeled, but to be honest the view over the nose was pretty bad, too.

I hate Frankfurt airport. ‘Nuff said.

After a 3 hour layover, I hop a bird for Denver. It will be almost an 11 hour flight. I am cramped and extremely uncomfortable. The movie Seabiscuit is playing. I don’t bother to put on the headphones, since I have no interest in the movie. I do however, derive great enjoyment from putting my own spin on the movie, and making up the plot line and dialog as I go along.

You see, Seabiscuit starts around the time of the Great Depression and Jeff Bridges sees that automobiles are the wave of the future, and becomes rich off of them. Toby McGuire’s family is poor and can barely survive. They sell Toby as a sex slave to Mr. Bridges, who teaches Toby things no one wants to know, and forces him to be a horse jockey in his spare time, beating him severely for eating anything that might help him grow up big and strong, and possibly overthrow his oppressor. Toby finally accepts his slavery and vows to be the best jockey sex slave that he can. His family misses him, but not very much. Later, after mistreating his master’s horse, he is thrown off and dragged quite a ways, like in some old Hollywood western movie, only he wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat. While he lays up in the hospital being all pitiful, his master finds another sex slave jockey who he ends up liking better. Poor Toby has to cope with being a gimp who is no longer necessary nor even loved. This was about where I killed myself so as not to have to watch this tragedy unfold any further.


Finally I get to Denver. I don’t feel any different, other than real tired like. It’s 3 PM, which is about 3 AM Uzbek time. I pass through Customs and my dad is there to pick me up. He doesn’t recognize me at first on account of the beard. I forgot to shave for a couple of months.

I go out to dinner with Heather. It was nice. We were able to talk as normal people. We ate at Hops, which is a tasty steak place. Highly recommended. I think the beard threw her a little bit, too. We got along well, but never communicated after that on subsequent days if I didn’t start it. So I stopped.

I got back to the folks’ house around midnight. I’ve been up at this point for several days, notwithstanding plane naps, which of course don’t really count anyway. I crash hard.

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