I am alone again on the other side of the planet…at another nameless airport…off to find out something new and surprising, but not necessarily good, about me.

There is a random stillness to being tired and hungry 5000 miles from home…watching people pass in and out of your life like drops of water on a still pond.

The guy I sat next to on the plane for 8.5 hours to Frankfurt looked like an Italian gangster…complete with slicked back grey hair, open shirt with gold chain, and a thick Yankee accent. He said he lived in Vidalia, GA on a 300 acre onion farm that he sublet. The onion revenue helped pay for the house.

He drank 2 glasses of champagne and 7 scotch and waters in the span of about 2.5 hours while we chatted.

He started talking about how close Hitler was to taking over the world, how he used to steal a few things as a kid, and how we don’t know how good we have it in the US. Then he had another drink.

He travels 42 weeks a year with his job and I noticed his carry-on had platinum status tags for almost every major airline. His partner from Cuba was with him. At one point I heard him say something about a number of “units” that just had to happen.

I told him about my job (which bored him to death) and he offered nothing except that he was going to the jungle north of Jakarta on this trip and that he has “operations” in Banglore, India too.

He said you couldn’t trust Indians. I told him my story about the Chinese hoping that he would trust me enough to tell me what he did. He ordered another drink instead.

We got to talking about travel and he asked how I’d gotten to see so many places. I couldn’t resist asking how he’d gotten to see so many. “For work,” he replied vaguely and ordered another scotch and water.

He said his wife doesn’t like him to drink Scotch so he drinks Miller Lite at home in Vidalia…”10 cans a night usually. I prefer Johnny Walker Blue Label though.” Right at that moment, and I shit you not, the Duty Free cart comes by and he orders a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue…..and another scotch and water.

Right before we landed he started asking about security at the airport and if he’d have to pass through any on his connection to Jakarta. When the stewardess said yes he shot a bunch of strange looks to his “business” parter.

His name was Nicolas Marsicone. He probably dealt in human organs or something. Drop….ripple.

Then I wander around Frankfurt airport and talked my way into the First Class Lounge because I wanted somewhere nice to sit (my ticket was only business class) and check my email.

I couldn’t get it to work and the guy next to me was complaining about the same thing so we started talking….for like 2 hours.

He’d just come from Badhdad. Only two airlines, Royal Jordanian and Iraqi Air, fly in and out of Iraq these days and sandstorms often close the airport. He showed me a video of one of the sandstorms he was in. It is like the fucking Ten Commandments. (click here)

He said he was doing contract work…helping rebuild the country.

I’d always heard these was great money in contracting in war torn areas. I remember in Istanbul this Aussie said he was a carpenter for the King of Nigeria or something like that, making 10,000 bucks a month and was on his way to Afganistan next (this was right after 9/11).

me: “Why’d you leave then if you were making so much?”
him: “The king was assassinated and the government overthrown by the military.”

So…this guy coming from Baghdad made 250,000 bucks last year, which explains why he was in the first class lounge.

me: “Why’d you leave then if you were making so much?”
him: “The convoy I was in got blown up, so I decided it was time to come home.”

I was going to ask him about it but he had the whole fucking thing on video….and I watched it.

“I was in that car,” he pointed at the screen, “see that other car, they call it a “blocker”, pushed us to the middle of the road and then they detonated. Luckily the car was armored or we’d be dead. It was heavily damaged though. We actually burnt it after that was over so no one would try to salvage it”

I swear to you this video looked like fucking Black Hawk Down. There was shouting and gunfire and broken windshields and exploding vehicles. (Sorry I didn’t get a copy of it. I should’ve.)

And this guy had been everywhere. He was in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Afganistan and Iraq. He expected to be called back to active duty within six months. He’d killed people and been a courier for top secret packages. He had so many stories about being shot at or almost killed I told him I’d be happy to go to the ATM machine and get some money so he could bet it on whatever game he liked because he was obviously the luckiest son of a bitch on the planet. He laughed.

I learned that there are about 10,000 soldiers in Baghdad and that the insurgency is worse now that it was right after we took the city. He said on average 2 soldiers a day die and maybe 10 are wounded.

Baghdad has a big problem staying lit up. There isn’t enough electricity. Saddam used to pump it in from other cities (which left them without it). The US isn’t doing that so there isn’t enough to go around anymore and they haven’t been able to build more stations.

The Iraqis are puzzled that we just don’t go ahead and rebuild the country. They have such a reverence for US know-how that they mistakenly think we could just put up a power plant in a day if we really wanted to.

There are postings throughout Baghdad for soldiers to take cover during soccer games as victory brings “celebratory fire”. The bullets go up….then they fall somewhere else in the city. People are regularly injured.

In fact, I’m looking at the flight map right now (on my way to Delhi) and we are just about over Iraq. I hope there are no soccer games today.

2 Responses to “Celebratory Fire”
  1. Sorry I never got around to calling you back when I was still in the states, man. So far you are correct about travel. Can we email, though? I need to ask you a question about talking to people about your travels. Well, godspeed to your travels. I’ll talk to you soon.

  2. Elliott says:


    Hope Eastern Europe is treating you well. Sure, shoot me an email. You know the address.

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