Saturday, December 3, 2011

Revolution! Or something.

Somehow, somewhere, shit just got real.

So here I am, dear reader, in Kinshasa, sitting on my porch.  It is the eve of DRC election results being posted to the public.  This is being done, of course, with all the expectation of violence, hurt feelings, shouty noises, and jagged pointy bits flying through the air which that kind of thing normally entails.  

I have a beer in one hand and an air raid siren in the other.

At The Gates' Slaughter of the Soul (great album) is playing on my stereo.

Just in case, I'm wearing pants.  According to, the color of these pants is labeled as "trunk", which opens up a different set of questions entirely.

What strikes me as funny is this: not only am I in this position, but this is THE THIRD TIME.
In the past six years, on three different countries, I have had the distinct pleasure of bearing witness to a country going completely bat shit crazy, with the aforementioned jagged bits flying fast and furious.

Allow me to give you a small taste of the madness I have seen over the years.

Four years ago I was sitting in some greasy back alley in Bangkok, drinking a beer on  a small sofa bar whilst munching down a hearty repast of pig face and scorpions, when suddenly a mob of angry red shirts (unfortunately not the Star Trek kind) ran down the alley screaming, waving sticks, and looking generally ill intentioned.  Shortly thereafter we had the watermelon fights, leading to the acid attacks, and ending up with the always popular "grenade thrown into a crowd of people" maneuver.  The latter tactic won't win any friends, but seems to be a popular way of forcing one's opinion into a 25 foot radius.  After a month of violence, elections were called for the following year.

The year before I was in Myanmar, in a taxi.  I was heading towards a food store with a serious case of creepy Asian doughnut rage when, cresting over the hill, a mob of people came running towards me.   I had stepped out of the cab and tried to get back in, only to see the driver peel out down the road, his betel stained teeth flashing apologetically.  The crowd came towards me and I insensitively balled my fist but  was happily ignored.  They surged around me, paying me no mind, which was pretty confusing until I saw the reason why:  two large jeeps, loaded with soldiers and anti aircraft guns, came barreling down the street at the group.  They were shooting into the air, I think (hope).  Luckily, a nearby, off the road beer station gave me shelter and beers (and those weird fish crackers Myanmar people frikkin love) for a few hours until the roads were clear enough to get back home.  Now, five years later, the US Secretary of State is visiting their new, "civilian" government. 

Both times I remember thinking, damn, I'm too old for this.  Dying alone due to grenade attack would be a rather lame way to go (unless you're that guy from that one kick-ass A Team episode).  In spite of that, though, here I am again.

Watching the walls.

At least this time I have better music (In Myanmar I was stuck with The Eagles).

On the one hand, I know I should feel privileged to have been able to witness people fighting, desperately, against all odds, for their freedom, for their voices to be heard.  It has really given me insight to both the nobility of man and the inherent, painful transience that is the sum of human existence.  To watch people stand up and say, with one voice, "enough!" is evocative of that line from The Grand Historian: "With one fist raised to the sky, the world is changed."

I think The Sex Pistols stole that, by the way.

 In that sense, it's completely empowering, and I am honored to be able to bear witness to the changing tides of history.  On the other hand . . .

I know, I know, everyone has seen this picture.  But man, it's still funny as hell.


  1. I kinda know what you mean. Had Jenny and I chosen to go to Cairo this year we would be in a similar boat. When everything started falling apart in Feb. I was amazed how many people said "oh it'll be settled down by the time you go." I sat there thinking that if we went we'd be such adventurous, worldy, and sophisticated people and might just witness firsthand an amazing bit of history. Then I thought that if we ended up getting our shit wrecked in the middle of a flash mob riot we just went from sophisticated and worldly to being the dumbest motherfuckers on the planet. There seems to be such a fine line between the two. Godspeed and be safe.

  2. For the sake of efficiency I'll just second my comment above from almost two years ago. Strange coincidence that this time it's Cairo for you as well.