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Travel Advisory 

Crank Call

Published March 14, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

Regular readers of this column have emailed and phoned, both to me and to Seven Days, wanting to know "where I am" and what has happened to "Crank Call" in the last few months. There is an answer, but I'm not yet ready to speak of it fully. The reason for my absence is still a little too raw and traumatic, not to mention too lengthy an explanation for this space. But that story will be told in time.

Meanwhile, everyone's going to have to put up with the jokes. A friend wrote to ask if she had missed "the memo about [my] six-month trip to Borneo, or was it the deepest Amazon? Or was it a long stay in the rubber room they keep at the re-education center for those who insist on seeing reality and calling it by name?" I answer, as best I can, that the last comes closest to the truth - it was my own loud mouth that got me into trouble to begin with. Bear with me here.

We no longer live, if we ever did, in a place where a loud mouth is exempt from arrest. We're all supposed to be quiet, like little sheep, and just take it - as sheep do when their clothes are searched, their shoes taken off, their "body parts" probed. It is the very definition of dissent if you do not submit to this, and if a bourgeois people now wonder how this could happen, I have no answer except to say, "Try it. Get on your horse. Demand your rights. Refuse the rules. And see what happens to you then."

As things turned out, I was in England for weeks and weeks, when I meant to be there for only four days. This had to do with legal and "immigration" issues, because I had gone there for specific purposes, without knowing, or remembering, that there is a law in Britain which demands you have at least six months' time remaining on your passport in order to be admitted into the country.

This law has been on the books for ages, apparently, but generally was never enforced - certainly not against Americans, who won the war! But now it is, very strictly (welcome to the "War on Terror"). And I can tell you that it is almost as hard to get out of Britain on no passport than it is to get up or down a hill in Charlotte in the middle of winter - a winter that will never end, it seems to me, no matter how many times they turn the clock ahead.

On going to London, my passport had only about a week remaining before it came up for renewal, which is why I went when I did - to take advantage of the short time left. Silly me. I was marked at once as a "suspicious character" and "possible terrorist" and was literally clapped into irons when we landed at Heathrow. (I should have been Snoop Dog, against whom they tried the same thing - only Snoop Dog had an "entourage" with him who beat up the Heathrow police until they finally gave up and sent him home. "We ain't got no 'omeland security 'ere," one of the policemen said to me, "and God 'elp this country if we ever do.")

I knew I was already on the "Watch List" - as opposed to the "No Fly" list - someone who doesn't ever shut up, and who is therefore considered a "risk." And of course I have Islamic relatives - my father, his Moroccan wife and my little sisters, great American girls who have been raised in the full knowledge of their faith and what it means. It means devotion and observation. It means practice. It means everything you may have thought about some other religion, without knowing that "Islam" is as great as them all, and not to be dismissed because you don't like it.

If I had time and space I would give you Gore Vidal, who understands that all these religions suffer from the same problem: "infallibility." Here is where the problem arises and stays - no one is content merely to worship; no one seems to understand that they are talking about the same thing. Tower of Babel, indeed.

Well, at least I have some of this off my chest. I really believed I could write nothing adequate to this situation, but, thank God, my editor came in with all fires blazing and said, "We are here to keep you on your horse, riding forward."

So it is done, at least in part. The full, whole story awaits my nerves and inclination. "Stay tuned," as they say in the media. Just stay tuned.


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Peter Kurth

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