Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lucky for us

the Aishas had installed the Caddy on the edge of the midan a few weeks back, the better to catch the last dribbles of the Gulf sex trade, and they tipped us off by phone to the gathering storm outside. Nige hoisted the lathe onto his shoulder and disappeared toward the lift, a prototype Nefertiti in his right hand, trailing woodchips while I packed up the still and directed Ahmed to gather up the weasels. A moment later he too was gone into the night, Fatma and Mohamed squealing and peeing on each other with excitement at their sudden expulsion.

I was in the lift as the beetle-armored hordes poured up the stairs and kicked in the door of 309, raising shrieks of rage from the copulating Germans they found there.

Zahi was supervising this personally. He was out there somewhere in the night, commanding the raid on our little operation. I could feel his presence as I slipped through the kitchen, 12 meters of coiled copper pipe over one shoulder and the 30 liter distillation tank on the other. The staff finally earning those exorbitant tips by staring at the ceiling and seeing nothing until I had clanked out into the piss-sticky alley and was piling the goods into the back of the Caddy next to the chickens.

So ended our days at the Atlas, and so, nearly, this latest enterprise. Fortunately, when the troops finally found the right room, all they found was a litter of empty Stella bottles and Peking boxes, some shitty local magazines and a few dildos that Ahmed made on the lathe one night when no-one was there to stop him. Nothing to satisfy Zahi, and I imagine him there now, eyes crossed in rage, kicking at the evidence of our miscreance and cursing this latest narrow triumph of his competition in the fake antiquities business.

As I write this we are laying low in Imbaba, our capital equipment carefully concealed under a layer of chicken manure. Mohamed and Fatma have been released to forage and we see them only during the early morning, when they slink in guilty, jaws moist with the blood of their prey.

But our new headquarters are nearly ready and soon we shall be headed south under the cover of night, to set up again and execute our plan to flood the market with cheesy Horus repros, fake Nefertiti heads and off-struck 1st century coins.

[Nige - get someone to pull an archive headshot of Zahi for the hed. Thanks. HR.]

Friday, September 14, 2007

So there we were,

getting gloriously fruitcaked down at the Amoun with HR laying out his latest grand plan to put the NOP empire back into the black and wolfing down a Chinese takeaway. The boys were getting heavy on the merits of Britney’s spray painted abs, when Sandy chances on a copy of Egypt Yesterday that had been wrapped around the wontons to keep them warm.

What a vile, sycophantic load of shit.

Seems that, according to new-daddy Patrick Fitzpatrick, the shitty state of the country is the fault of the lazy poor who won’t own up to how they are “stakeholders.”

Tacking up a picture of himself in drag on the cover, Futzfudgy claims to have at last scored his long-sought interview with Egypt’s first lady Susan "Umm Jimmy" McBarak. A couple of quick calls, however, confirmed the obvious: that Fitzfudgy in fact interviewed only himself for the article, standing in front of a full length mirror dressed in last year’s Barbara Bush Hallowe’en outfit.

Futzpudgy claims Canadian extraction and there is a rumor (which he’s never denied) that his former career as a journalist in Zagreb was brought to a creaking halt by a public indecency conviction.

Dismissing out of hand “the talking class[’s]” concern for paltry shit like good governance, corruption and so on, Futzwudgy has his doppelganger opine that it is rather the excessive dependence of the shiftless poor on the benevolence of the Egyptian welfare state that has brought the country to its calloused old knees.

Three cheers Fitzgidget! Three cheers for the integrity of the fifth estate, oops, “talking class,” and down with those do-nothing taxi-driving mofos and tit-sucking laborers who hang about all day waiting for their handouts. Somebody should ram a broomstick up their collective ass.

The whole thing made the ulcer kick up. The milk in the minibar was sour and our pre-relaunch planning committee session was disrupted by a bout of violent retching. Bad night all round.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ramadan Karim feature - DRAFT

Sinking. Sinking slow and low into the Egyptian night, Cairo spread out below like a crazy coal-bed of sodium, like some kind of slow burning hell. And the fucking plane goes eerie silent for a moment.

We had, I realized, flown into holy air. It was the first day of Ramadan and the exhalations of the pious millions below were enveloping this invading alouj-ship, quieting its foul and vexatious fartings. How could I have forgotten?

I reached out then and touched my duty free liters, imagining myself in that moment to be Richard crossing into Turkey, fingering a silver cross hung about his neck. Doomed, to be sure. Then, mind slithering sideways like a gut shot anaconda, I saw that I had been doomed by my own talisman: no silver cross on this crusade, but a quarter kilo of half dried mushrooms, trophy of a frenzied Amsterdam lay-over, rolled up in little baggies and jammed into my suitcase between a half-read Penthouse and some dirty socks, were what hung about my neck. I began to cry. I could smell them. My head jammed against the coolth of the window, I could smell their dreadful telltale reekings wafting up from the hold below my seat. They were stinking like a well-hung albatross. I couldn't believe that there hadn't already been an uproar. Tears of repentance were streaming down my face as I started to pray to a god unknown in the land below.

The fact that I’m free to write this now, clinging to this desklamp in room 311 of the Amoun Hotel in darkest Mohandiseen, is due only to an extraordinary coincidence of fate. A gift from a god of unknown size. Leaning here on my elbows, fighting off sleep, a fifth of malodorous scotch and the effects of a ball of hashish the size of my left testicle, I can hardly believe that I have once again escaped.

Ok. Will file full draft tomorrow-ish. Can someone cut this back to a 30 word lede? Make it something – fuck. I don't know. Clean? Thanks. HR.