Monday, December 19, 2005

Cousin Marie and Dom Joly

I'm going to give today's blog over to a political rant. The veil has progressed another few rows. I've figured out how to do proper hyperlinks here at Blogger itself -- the Blogger Users Group advises against Microsoft Word, anyway. As soon as I get a round tuit, I'll get to work on the sidebar, but they're in short supply this time of year.

Tamar, thank you for your kind words, but no, it was a woman who said that little jackets made bottoms look big. She was complaining that her husband had given her one. Rachel, my hit-counter shows referrals (i.e, people who come here because I'm in someone else's sidebar) and "key words" if anyone should get here via Google, but only IP addresses (if that's the phrase) for other folks. It would be fun to see people coming back. 122 hits yesterday.

Dom Joly

He writes a column for the Independent on Sunday, which I always read. He's Something On Television, too. Yesterday's column -- and of course I can't vouch for the truth of any of this -- found him in Costa Rica, which he had reached after changing planes in Miami. "Big mistake. As usual [because he was born in the Lebanon] I was taken aside at passport control and ushered -- without any explanation -- into a mini Ellis Island where poor unfortunates... sat awaiting 'processing' and hoping to avoid extraordinary rendition...Three times, I explained to one of the officials that I was only in transit and had no wish to enter the country but my plane was leaving in two hours [note the interval] and if I missed it I would have to come in...I was told that this was unfortunate as I was most likely going to miss my plane as US citizens were given priority in the queue...

"I sat and sat while one man gave a Mexican an incredibly hard time for not speaking English. The other three officials ate doughnuts and made phone calls. Finally I exploded as my departure time got to just 30 minutes away but I was told that we were 'Not in Engurrrland now'...

"I was eventually 'processed'...I was released, with no apology, half an hour after my plane had departed for Costa Rica.

"Desperately, I tried to find another flight and managed to buy a ticket on one that was leaving four hours later. I then tried to pass through security to sit and wait by my gate. Another official told me, however, that since I had been registered as entering the country, I had to be stamped out. I joined another interminable queue in another weird office. This process took another four hours and I proceeded to miss my second departing flight. Again there was no apology, no excuse, frankly no point in the whole thing."

He finally got to San Jose, on the third attempt, but his luggage is still in Miami.

Cousin Marie

She was my father's cousin, rather older than he was, born therefore, perhaps, in the 1880's. In 1938 she was travelling alone in Europe. She wrote letters home to my parents, and my mother made a little article from their content which was published in the New Yorker late in the year. It was called "Cousin Marie and the Reich". Cousin Marie was pretty cross at my mother for that.

Marie left Paris in late September, about the time Mr Chamberlain went to Munich and came back with Hitler's signature on that piece of paper that meant "peace in our time". "The American ambassador in Paris was urging Americans to evacuate the city, but he expected them to travel west." Marie decided to take a boat trip down the Rhine.

Unfortunately, her German visa was out of date. At the border "the first inspector who came into her compartment took one look at her passport and started to talk German very fast...When Cousin Marie failed to understand the inspector, he called another inspector, who explained in slower German that she would have to leave the comfortable compartment and the train and come with him to the police station to get a new visa. There was another train for Frankfort two hours later, which he was sure she could take."

The police escorted her to the Rathaus, where she was questioned. "On the whole it was a friendly conversation, but in the end they wouldn't take the responsibility of passing her. The head man handed her passport back to the large, blond policeman, who took her to the Chief of Police....Cousin Marie had been thinking on the way over that she didn't seem to be getting anywhere and perhaps she ought to do something, so when she saw the Chief of Police she said 'Heil Hitler!' She doesn't, as a matter of fact, like Hitler at all, but everyone else was saying it and it didn't seem the sort of remark a captured spy would make. The Chief of Police smiled, but he nevertheless asked the same questions over again. He wound up with an extra one: What was her profession?

"'None,' said Cousin Marie, and then added, 'Just to live.'

"At that he really laughed and the blond policeman laughed, so Cousin Marie thought she could safely laugh too.

"'Ja, zu leben. Eine gute Profession,' said the Chief of Police, and he stamped her passport...

"The Chief of Police had to telephone the station to ask them to hold the five o'clock train a few minutes for her. Cousin Marie had never had a train held for her before."

1 comment:

  1. Truly scary. Scarier still is that for even thinking or implying that there may be similarities, we are viewed with suspicion. I don't know if you ever read "My Left Wing" (, but they had an interesting article on Dec. 19 called "Slouching toward Kristallnacht".

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