mr. zilla goes to town

Friday, April 11, 2003


To each according to his need. My head is still lagged, so I'm in Kramer's again, truffling through the papers, rooting for meaning I can give away to 'black-elvis-Blelvis', the beggar outside. Somewhere I learned to hate the sin and loathe the cinema. So I squint at the 2000-pound blockbusters that play daily, but in this suckered solar multiplexus, the focus is feckless.

"Why are we at war?" asks Norman Mailer, nodding to the waitress, who pulls us both another beer.

"[The US] is the only nation that polices the world through five global military commands; maintains more than a million men and women at arms on four continents; deploys carrier battle groups on watch in every ocean; guarantees the survival of countries from Israel to South Korea; drives the wheels of global trade and commerce, and fills the hearts and minds of an entire planet with its dreams and desires."
Is that why I'm here? To smell the breath that belches from the belly of this beast? Mailer morphs into Ibrahim the Eritrean freelance journalist & conversationalist. There are no answers yet, but at least the human traffic signals are beginning to cajole questions from the neural noise.

Tomorrow there's a protest, and there I'll see if these streets have more to say. But now its time to try a medieval cure for jet lag: out-drinking two English backpackers. By 2AM I send a stoikingly smashed email from the hostel, and then sail towards a calmer coma.

Thursday, April 10, 2003


The sleep debt comes from being economized for 20 hours, but I'm sure it was the airport-taxi's inauspicious route between the IMF and World Bank last night that has trashed my ability to repay it. The first stumble from the hostel today finds my head scattered raw and eyes grasping at straws. The streetcorner shape of the new world is anchored by global chains and that's... strangely relieving.

Sanctuary was Kramerbooks at Dupont Circle, with twenty seven different vodkas on the wall, a freemail terminal, and a passing involvement in the recent affairs of a President. (Yes, that one. Apparently it was a haunt of Monica's, and the list of books she bought supoena'd). It has an intriguing range of critical Americana, which is great for me, but what if this is just situation-normal navel-gazing for the locals? I gather up half my wits and eventually wander out again.

The metro was unexpected and needs pictures to tell you about. They will be coming before too long.

The streets here in NW DC are lined by gorgeously flavoursome row houses, who seem to feel a little bemused when a screaming convoy of 4 police cars and three blacked-out vans roars past for the second time in half an hour. This time a passing Ethiopian research scientist shares with me his thoughts on the tragic farce of US foreign policy. I pick up a paper: for 35c, Saddam has allegedly been bombed over his dinner. Then a cab goes past - "J HUSSEIN TAXICAB" on the door - could he really be as wily as that? Could he not be? There are contrails in the afternoon sun. I take shelter before I get accidentally liberated.

The suburb I'm staying in is one of DC's chic restaurant hubs, Adam's Morgan. The bar on 18th st I'm now quietly drinking in is the Madam's Organ. I've made it to 6pm without being run over, although since I keep looking the wrong way when crossing it's been a close run thing. A passing white rabbit with a cashmere coat and stogie recommends the shrimp gumbo at the Cajun restaurant across the street. I'll head over in three more amber inches. An evening chill is closing in, and I think some food plus fatigue means I'll be able to sleep soon.

2am. Nope.

But lordy, that rabbit knew his gumbo.