The Promised Land

 

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The Promised Land

Amman, Jordan; February 2013

I think they are from Iowa in the United States, but I can’t say for sure.  They are middle aged with grey hair, expansive waistlines and Midwestern accents.  “I can’t believe we are really here,” says the woman.  “This is where it happened.  This is where it all began.  God told Moses that the lands of Israel belong to the Jews.  Look honey.  Isn’t it amazing?  The map points everything out.  All of Israel is before us.  Can’t you just imagine God and Moses standing here, on this very spot and God pointing it all out. All this land belongs to your people Moses.” 

“That’s why they call it the Promised Land,” says the man, “God promised it to the Jews.”

I am standing about ten feet behind the couple.  I am politely waiting for them to finish their turn at the lookout before I step forward to check out the special view.  We are on Mount Nebo; another Biblical tourism hotspot.  It is the dramatic setting for the closing scene of the Book of Exodus.  According to the story, God talked to Moses here and gave him the lands of Israel. Walking around the Mountain, it’s fairly easy to understand the origin of the story.  The view is spectacular.  All of Israel is literally spread out before me like a single plot of land.  I, myself, can almost hear the voice of god talking. “It’s all yours my son, it’s all yours.”  No doubt about it, the guy who wrote the story probably sat on this very spot and dreamed the whole thing up.  Sure, why not, a complex metaphor, a well designed plot and lots of interesting characters.  Put it down on paper and it will be a best seller for years to come. 

If you ever find yourself in Amman, Jordan, or anywhere else in Jordan for that matter, you have to try the lamb mensaf.  As a general rule, I like to sample a great variety of meals from the many different cultures I visit and when I arrived in Amman I intended to work my way through the full range of culinary possibilities.  But I had the lamb mensaf my first night there and I could not bring myself to order anything different for the whole week afterwards.  Oh my god… so delicious.  I could probably eat it every day for a year.  One of these days, I’m going to have learn how to make it myself.

When not eating lamb, I drink coffee and tea and smoke shishas.  I move from cafe’ to café and restaurant to restaurant.  I wander along the wide streets and meander through the narrow souks of the big city.  I don’t see many tourists or Westerners; it’s a very Arab and very crowded place.  There are ruins to see in the city; some ancient columns, a citadel and a Roman theatre.  I also have a couple of excursions planned.  I am going to see Jerash on one day and I want to go to the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo on another day.  I’m saving Jerash for the very end though and the Mount Nebo thing is complicated by the lack of public transport there.  I don’t really want a tour and hiring a car and driver for a day is a bit pricey.  While I hesitate, I have a few days to just hang out here in downtown Amman and learn a little about the proverbial Arab Street.  Continue reading

Revolution 101

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REVOLUTION 101.

Don’t get burned again.

Democratize the money supply. Until you do, all the elections in the world won’t make a damn bit of difference.

You are a data point in a marketing algorithm not a citizen participating in an election. Politicians work for their financial backers, not the voters. Voters are just the customers buying the crap the politicians are selling.

Remember Barack Obama, the peace candidate, who has now bombed 7 countries.  Remember George W. Bush, the “compassionate conservative,” that opposed “nation building” who then tried to “re-build Iraq” after he destroyed it. Remember Billy Clinton, the “liberal democrat”, who transformed social services into mass incarceration and let loose the vultures of finance capital onto the carcass of the US economic system. Remember the other Bush who wanted us to read his lips and Ronnie who opposed big government and gave us the largest government expansion ever.

So now Bernie is selling socialism that is not really socialism. In the spectacle of propaganda that is the US election performance, he is playing the extreme left character to counter balance the extreme right character of Donald Trump so that Hillary seems the rational, wise, compromise middle when they crown her queen. If Bernie ever did win, his economic plans would not get through Congress and socialism would take the blame for the next big crash. The important thing about Bernie is, he convinces a whole lot of people that they have a say in the process. Many of these people probably just about gave up after the travesty of Obama. But good ol’ Bernie has them believing again. What does he have them believing in? The empire? In the control of a wise and compassionate man, the power of the empire can be used for good…

I don’t believe in the empire. I oppose the empire. I believe in the decentralization of power structures and the localization of economies. The US empire should immediately withdraw its military and all of its fossil fuel consuming aggressively postured horrible weapons systems from their threatening positions around the world. And until they do, I’m certainly not going into a little booth to pull a lever and pretend that the people responsible for such madness represent me. I don’t care how good their healthcare plan is. That’s what I believe.

As such, I don’t vote in Presidential elections. This country and the world needs a political and economic revolution. Not another figure head sitting atop the same broken political/economic system. The revolution I’m talking about is conceptual and practical and non-violent. We have to replace a linear mechanical economic system with a dynamic organic one. A system that thrives on continuous war must be replaced by one that encourages peace. That may seem like a rather complicated maneuver but it is possible. It’s not going to happen at the voting booth though. The whole voting game is a distraction. But it can happen. All we have to do to make it happen is teach people the truth about how money functions and then democratize the money supply.

I’m serious, money is the tool the oligarchy uses to enslave us. The only way to free ourselves from their oppression is to change the way the money game is played.

What is money? We are taught to believe that money is a thing. Like a chunk of silver or gold that you possess and trade with others for what they possess. The more chunks you collect, the wealthier you are. But money is not a thing. Money is not real. Money is the symbolic representation of your legal right to use economic value within the jurisdiction of the government that issues the money. Understand. Money is your legal right to do stuff. Without money, you can’t do shit without getting arrested. You hear a lot of propaganda about government handouts and welfare queens and lazy people wanting free stuff. But the truth is, what you are talking about is the basic human right of all citizens to interact with their environment. What kind of a bizarre culture gets all excited and enthused about the right to own a gun but never ever talks about the RIGHT to food and shelter?

Next question; who controls the money supply? Is it democratic or oligarchic? When new money is added to the system, who gets it… where does it go? Do you personally have an open credit line with the Federal Reserve Bank? Of course not. In the last several years, the Federal Reserve has added over 4 trillion dollars to the economic system through a process called quantitative easing. Did you get quantitatively eased? Maybe. The money was used to add liquidity to the stock market and the market blew up like a balloon. If you have made money in the ever rising stock market in recent years, then you did effectively get quantitatively eased. Some people got eased more than others because that is the way the system is designed. It is called trickle down economics…. Capitalism…. Neoliberalism… A rose by any other name. The four trillion dollars was not distributed democratically among the citizens, it was given to large corporations and banks and hedge funds. They were supposed to pass it down through the markets to investors and employees and customers and citizens. And they did, sort of, a little bit.

The fundamentals of money supply are fairly easy to understand but rather difficult to apply. Every jurisdiction has an evolving amount of economic value available. Some value gets used up (food is eaten) and new value is added (food grows). The challenge of money supply is making sure the amount of currency in circulation corresponds to the amount of economic value available. If there is too much money in the system and not enough economic value you will have inflation. In other words, you will need more and more money to use comparatively less economic value. If there is not enough money in the system, the opposite happens. Economic value that is available gets wasted because no one can afford to use it. It is the job of the money supplier to find the perfect balance between the two situations. It is important to understand that money is a tool or mechanism that is used to manage underlying economic value. Money itself has very little real economic value (you can’t eat it but at least paper money will burn to keep you warm, the dots on the computer screen won’t even do that.)

How much is a loaf of bread? How much was a loaf of bread ten years ago? I can remember when a millionaire was considered incredibly wealthy. I have traveled in countries with a whole lot of zeroes on their money. When I was in Zimbabwe once, the exchange rate wasp 5000 to 1 when I arrived and 11,000 to 1 when I left two weeks later. After a while, the extra zeroes no longer mean anything. Chop them off the end or add them to the front. The money itself is not real. It is merely a symbol of your legal rights to use economic value. Since a human being cannot exist within modern society without using economic value, money is really a symbol of your legal right to exist.

Think about that for a while. And then think about all the different prongs of the empire that citizens have to crawl before in order to get enough currency to exist. Corporate slave wages, Unemployment, welfare, social security, disability…. Small Businesses have the same problem… they have to beg for grants or loans from their far away masters. Employees get the trickle down that their bosses had to beg for. Don’t you see. The problem is the money supply. When new money is added to the system, it is given to the wealthy. Politicians tend to argue a lot about the re-distribution of wealth. But what about the distribution of wealth in the first place? We presently have quite literally a trickle down money supply system. The revolution I’m talking about would replace that with a bubble up or bottom up money supply system.

Democratize the money supply. It’s that simple. The revolution is not complicated. It is a straightforward concept. A single demand. Democratize the money supply.

Intellectuals and pundits who theorize about such things sometimes refer to the concept of basic income. Another metaphor one hears from the propaganda box is the social safety net. But such metaphors tend to put the person who receives money into the role of loser or victim who must rely on charity rather than into the role of human who has a right to exist and interact with the environment where they live. In other words, we must replace the concept of welfare with the concept of investment.

Get rid of all the multi pronged social service bureaucracies and replace them with a money supply system that makes sense. All citizens receive the same package of economic rights through a monthly investment from the central bank or government. What is the fair market value of food, shelter, basic healthcare and education? In exchange for the monthly investment package, the citizens agree to pay in taxes 50% of everything they earn by participating in the free market back to the central bank or government. Every citizen gets the same deal. Dynamic economics. The monthly package of economic rights through an investment and the 50% tax on everything they earn. Many people will probably pay back more than they receive, some people will break even and some will probably just live off the monthly investment and not earn anything in the free market. But that is okay. In a world of over consumption, an economic system that does not punish people for choosing to live simply is a good thing. The important thing is that the money continually flows through the system; back and forth; dynamically. From central bank to citizens in monthly investments and from citizens back to the government in the form of taxes. It’s a contract; an agreement that all citizens agree to and all citizens benefit from.

So that’s it in a nut shell. The Revolution. Money or currency flows in a cycle that all citizens have access to instead of trickled downward to the lowly from the powers above.

The Empire will oppose it with the full force of propaganda and maybe even violence because the oligarchs who control the Empire understand the truth about bargaining position and the myth of a free market. The corporate business model is dependent upon a “slave” market… desperate people who will do what they are told because they desperately need money to survive. If citizens have economic rights they have bargaining position. They have the ability to not put up with bullshit from asshole bosses. Who is going to work at Walmart if they don’t have to? The US military is dependent on financial slaves as well. That’s why recruiters target poverty zones. A promising career in the military is a way to escape desperate poverty. If all citizens have economic rights, they wouldn’t be so eager to serve in Imperial wars. No doubt, brave volunteers would defend the homeland against invaders but that’s a whole different thing than going overseas to kill foreigners because it’s a good job or career. The US has not fought a defensive war in my lifetime. They are always on offense.

That’s because we have a linear mechanical economic system that requires continual growth to thrive. The clearest way to add economic value (growth) to a government’s jurisdiction is to take control or conquer the economic value of another jurisdiction. Does the economic system cause imperialism and continuous war or is it merely used as a cover story to explain human behavior? If we change the economic system and remove the underlying incentive for war can we stop lots of wars from happening. I don’t know. But it’s worth a shot.

In the natural world, energy (growth) and entropy (distribution) are always engaged in a dynamic balance. Life is what manifests in between them. The US economic system is fundamentally flawed on the entropy side. If we don’t fix it soon, the whole thing will go down in flames.

I believe in real free markets… not fake ones. A market can’t be free unless all the participants have basic economic rights. The right to interact with the environment and provide for your own needs is really the most essential human right. The government restricts that right by dividing the environment into “owned” pieces and enforcing laws that require payment of currency to owners for the use of the pieces. Accordingly, the government must provide enough currency to each citizen so that they can provide for their basic needs or the government violates the most essential human right and thereby renders itself illegitimate. I want to live in a world where empowered citizens seek and create work that inspires and interests them. I don’t want to live in a world where desperate people have to beg for jobs from corporate masters. In other words, I want a non-violent economic revolution. Would you like to join the cause?

The revolution is not copyrighted, please feel free to share it with anyone and everyone.

 

Family Travels Begin

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Dancing in the moonlight… Indescribable joy. An emotion so powerful it overwhelms reality. How did this happen to me? I know, this sort of thing happens to humans all the time on a regular basis all over the world. It has happened throughout history and will happen until the end of time. It is, you might say, the quintessential human experience. But still, I like to think I’m special. Has any father anywhere ever had it so good?

It started with intense anguish of course. All moments of great joy are preceded by tormenting anxiety. That’s just the way the universe is constructed. Joy and anguish… two sides of the same peso… You can’t have one without the other. Before the big moment, there must be the ordeal. In this particular case, the ordeal was intense…

All I want is a scenic spot to park where it is warm enough to camp and a beach within walking distance. We begin the quest in mid February in upstate NY and go south to Pennsylvania. We are hoping to stay the first night in Pittsburgh with friends but we get a late start and little A. has a meltdown in the back of the camper van shortly after sunset. Crying babies on busy highways are super stressful. We end up in a Quality Inn on strip mall road in everywhere America. As a hotel room in a corporate chain it is an adequate prison cell with all the necessary creature comforts. But it definitely doesn’t dazzle with originality. A Bonanza restaurant next door is our only dinner option. Corporate food and a corporate bed. Not surprisingly, I have nightmares and diarrhea. Apparently, my system doesn’t agree with “the system.” Continue reading

The Jihad Cafe’

As the vehicle slows to a stop in traffic on the interstate and the baby cries in the back, I can’t help but wonder if the traffic jam we are encountering was caused by the wreck of the Republican clown car.  It was not our intention to arrive in South Carolina on the day of the Presidential primary, it just worked out that way.  The great American spectacle unfolds and we are driving through the middle of it as we meander south in the camper van.  The TPP is approved, the largest US military budget ever is passed, more and more NATO military assets are moved closer to Russia, the blown up financial system is ready to pop but HEY everybody look at Donald Trump!

When I was in junior high school I used to watch professional wrestling on tv. Then one day, my older brother informed me that wrestling wasn’t real.  It was acting.  The wrestlers are characters in a story who are following a script.  The outcome is pre-determined.  I have thought the same thing about US politics since the 1990s.  This year’s presidential performers are sure putting on a show…

This week’s travel story is from the Middle East a couple years ago.  Not surprisingly, it has some connection to the ongoing presidential extravaganza.

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Amman, Jordan; February 2013

The Jihad Cafe

The first one I went to was in Turkey but I have probably been to a hundred since then.  I go almost every day.  They are everywhere in the Islamic world.  Comparable culturally to sports bars in the United States, smoking cafés are ground zero for male bonding and intense conversation.  Muslims don’t drink alcohol so tea and coffee are the only beverages but a variety of tobacco smoking options are also available.  I don’t speak Arabic or Turkish, of course, so I don’t understand the conversations going on around me.  But I like to sit in the smoky atmosphere and listen to the flow of foreign words as I sip tea or coffee.  As a general rule, I don’t enjoy tobacco products, but this whole shisha thing is kind of fun.  I’m not an addict yet but I am becoming an aficionado of cultural immersion.  If I want to understand their ways, I have to participate in their rituals.  We drink beer and argue about sports and politics in the U.S. while they smoke shishas and discuss Islam and jihad in the Middle East.  It really is the same bowl of potatoes.

So, here I am again, at another café drinking tea and absorbing the scene.  I have a balcony seat today.  I am overlooking a busy street in downtown Amman, Jordan.  Meanwhile, just inside this glass door there are dozens of crowded smoky tables effervescing with animated conversation.  I am searching for a sliver of peace in between the chaos of the outside and the chaos of the inside.  The server comes out the glass door bringing a bucket of hot coals and the loud conversations from inside come roaring out to the balcony. I am trying the mint flavored tobacco today.  The server uses some tongs to put hot coals in the basin of the shisha.  I inhale deeply as the tobacco lights up.  I know it’s not good for me but still, the burning sensation on my lungs feels good.  It has some kind of mystical power.  The server turns and goes back inside and closes the balcony doors.  I exhale a rather large cloud of smoke towards the sky above.  It feels as if a sensory volcano is erupting inside of me.  And then, all of a sudden, something remarkable happens.  I overhear a conversation taking place just inside the glass door of the balcony.  Somebody is talking in English.  And the subject they are discussing is jihad…

Amman, Jordan is the original Philadelphia that the Philadelphia in the U.S. was named after. The City of Brotherly Love in Jordan should now, however, probably change it’s motto to the city of Refugees.  Located at a crossroads of several war zones, Amman and its environs are home to one of the highest concentrations of war refugees on the entire planet earth.  There are Palestinian refugees and Iraqi refugees and Syrian refugees.  They crowd the cafés; fill up the buses and occupy space in the overflowing streets.  There are now more refugees than official citizens but the country keeps welcoming more.  Give us your tired and your poor and your hungry and your war torn.  We have no more space or resources but we will accept them anyway.

I arrive in the afternoon but the bus does not stop at a Central bus station.  Instead, I am somewhat unceremoniously dropped off on the side of a busy highway underneath an underpass.  There are, however, a bunch of taxis there so it’s not a problem.  The taxi takes me to a cheap hotel on Faisal Street somewhere near the center of all the action in downtown.  The ancient Roman theater is around the corner on the main road and the Citadel is straight up the hill that rises behind me.  But those are the tourist attractions.  For now, at least, I’m more interested in the everyday attractions.  I hope there are some good restaurants and cafés.

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A Pathway Not Much Trod Upon

Greetings from the great American roadway… Highway.  As we wind our way South in the camper van on the crowded roads of the United States, I tell Ms. B. about other journeys in far away places.    This week’s story is another in my series about fun travels in Islamic countries.  Pennsylvania is a long way from Morocco but the terrain is surprisingly similar and humans are nice everywhere.

The original title of this story was “The Road Less Traveled.”  I thought it was an appropriately respectful literary reference to Robert Frost’s famous poem. But alas, I have since been informed that the road less traveled has been traveled upon too much in literary circles. It has become a cliche. Wrapping my brain around that onion of irony caused my circuits to over-load so I slightly modified the title to protect my readers with overly sensitive circuits.

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Azilal, Morocco; Dec. 30, 2008.

Two pathways diverge into the horizon. To the left there is the main highway and a direct luxury bus that will take me all the way to the Promised Land of Marrakesh. To the right there is a side road and a crowded collective minibus that will take me to the mouth of the Todra Gorge….. On the map of Morocco, the Atlas Mountains cover the entire center of the country. On the southern side of the mountain range in the very center at the bottom is the Todra Gorge. Going north through the gorge and up into the mountains there are a series of dirt roads and poorly paved roads that continue climbing until they reach the village of Imilchil in the very center of the High Atlas mountains. From Imilchil, you can continue on more precarious, dangerous roads over and down the other side of the mountains to reach the main highway that connects Fez with Marrakesh. Between the Todra Gorge and the main highway is approximately 180 kilometers. There are no buses or regularly scheduled transportation services along this route but there are occasional trucks that take villagers back and forth between the various markets. Theoretically, if you have patience, and you don’t mind walking some or getting stuck in a village for a day or two, the route can be traversed without too much difficulty….. But there are lots of beautiful women partying in Marrakesh and the mountains will be very cold this time of year. I hate the cold and I love partying with beautiful women. It makes no sense to take the long way through the mountains. Come on Pat… It’s only a luxury bus. You can do it. Don’t be proud….. I don’t know, perhaps it’s a sign of some deep seeded psychological problem that I choose to suffer so. But, nevertheless, I do. The party in Marrakesh will just have to wait. I shoulder my pack and head for the crowded minibus to take me to the gorge…….

 It is Christmas morning when I check into Hotel La Valle at the mouth of the gorge. The gorge is an up and coming place for rock climbers and Hotel La Valle is kind of a climbers’ crash pad. I spend the day hiking up and down various side trails that branch off the central gorge. The scenery is spectacular with bright sunlight shining on massive rock walls. At one point, I hike over a ridge and circle around to reach the top of the gorge and look down from above. It’s always fun to stare into the abyss. I get a little lost on the way back and have to play charades with a Berber mountain man to find the right trail but I make it back to the hotel in time to watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace. I sit back, smoke some hashish, and watch as rays of sunlight illuminate complex images within the contours, cracks and crevasses of the massive red rocks. All in all, it is a very nice Christmas despite the fact that there is no heat in the hotel and the temperature is below freezing.

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A Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere

The Amazon Jungle is a long ways from the Middle East. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a location more geographically re-moved from the Islamic World.  Nevertheless, it is all connected by the international news media and all the victims may yet unite against the common aggressor. This week’s story re-examines last week’s fear of travel theme from a different perspective.  It is a mirror in the fun house to last week’s story. Same author, different time… different reality.  If you read the two stories together, it is almost like passing through a time/space portal.

“But is it real?” says Ms. B. from the front of the camper van, “or are you making stuff up again?”

The story is fiction but it is based on a real experience.  In 2002-2003, I went on a 5 month journey that began in Rio De Janiero, Brazil and ended in Lima, Peru. I found the overall experience so intense that I wrote a novel about it.  The novel is not exactly auto-biographical though. The main character is a young and naive American on his first ever traveling adventure. He is also carrying a big bag of cocaine.  When I traveled all the way up the Amazon River in 2003, I was a fairly experienced traveler with many overseas journeys under my belt and I wasn’t carrying any cocaine.  But I did go to all the same places at more or less the same times as the young hero(David) in the novel and we did have several similar experiences.  The incident in the restaurant at the center of this week’s story really did happen to me but it happened in a different small town.   What is truth?  What is fiction?  You tell me because I don’t know anymore.

This story is also one chapter in the long novel.

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A  Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere

April 2003.

David awakes in his hammock in the early morning and the area around him is a bustle of activity.  People are scurrying about, taking down hammocks, packing up suitcases and backpacks.    They are all getting ready to get off the ship.  He rubs the sleep from his eyes, climbs from the hammock, walks to the rail and looks at the river.  Sure enough, a rather large town is up ahead.  By the time he takes down his own hammock, packs up his pack and organizes his stuff, the boat has just about pulled into dock.  The final photos and goodbye hugs are being exchanged among the passengers.  A few people shake his hand, say goodbye in Spanish or Portuguese and even ask him to join in group photos.    The spontaneous short term community is breaking up.   The old guy, “Bobo”, is not around and neither are Catherine and Giroux, but the three Colombian amigos are there taking part in the fond farewells.  They approach David and offer to escort him to a hotel on shore.

A line has formed by the gangplank and passengers are now filing off the boat.   David and his three amigos join the line and are soon on the dock, solid ground; land again after seven days.  It feels kind of funny to walk around.  The legs need time to adjust.    They wait by the dock until they find Catherine and Giroux.  They lingered in their cabin before exiting so as to avoid the crush of the crowds.  When they see David, they wave and rush over to him.  Their mood is extremely optimistic.

“Feels great to finally be on shore again,” says Catherine. “Do you know where you are going to stay?”

“Bobo recommended the Garcia Guesthouse,” says David, “but I have no idea where it is.  These guys offered to show me the way.”

“Residencia Garcia?  That place is recommended in the guidebook,” says Giroux. “We looked it up last night.  It’s in Leticia, not Tabatinga.”

“Leticia is supposed to be a better place to stay,” says Catherine.

“Where are we now?” asks David.

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The Fear of Travel

Ms. B. won’t let me take little A. to the Congo yet so we are all going to Florida on a camper van journey instead.  Most likely, this first ever full family wander will involve at least a few escapades worth writing stories about.  In the meantime, I will be continuing with my series of stories about traveling in Islamic countries.  It will be interesting to see how family travel now in America juxtaposes against independent travel in Muslim countries then.  Perhaps there will be a way to mingle stories from the opposing worlds for interesting literary effects. Hmmm…  I guess that all depends on what happens.  Anyway, this week’s story is from Jordan in 2013.

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Amman, Jordan (February 2013)

The Fear of Travel

 The verifiable truth is; a lot more Americans die each year in household furniture accidents than die in terrorist attacks.  But household furniture accidents don’t sell news coverage; household furniture accidents don’t sell advertising revenue; household furniture accidents don’t sell weapons or war.  Household furniture accidents are boring.  As such, most people are blissfully unaware of the great danger household furniture poses.  That is unfortunate because… the good news is… your chances of getting killed in a household furniture accident are greatly reduced during the entire time you are traveling out of the country. But most Americans never travel out of the country. Less than 30% even have passports. Many people won’t travel because they are afraid of terrorists. And there you have the paradox.  While it is true that traveling outside the country may slightly increase your chances of getting killed by an act of terrorism, the reduction in the threat from household furniture more than makes up for that slight increase.  Reality is sometimes confusing but it does make sense.  Don’t be afraid of terrorists.  Be afraid of household furniture instead.  Go traveling.  You won’t regret it.

After my hike in the canyon near Dana, I linger at the Dana Tower Hotel for a couple extra days.  The food is incredible there and the couches on the rooftop terrace are nicely atmospheric for creative writing.  Indeed, I manage to complete my non-traditional story about Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments before I leave town.  I also have several interesting encounters with some fascinating people.

On one particularly delightful afternoon, I share a shisha on the rooftop terrace with an older backpacking dude from Austria.  As luck would have it, he is a man with a traveling gene similar to my own.  He works seasonally in Vienna and world wanders when he is not working.  He is presently in the midst of an extended Mideast journey that began in Turkey and circled through Iran and Oman before bringing him to Jordan.  He tried to go through Saudi Arabia as well but the Kingdom would not let him in.  With the worst human rights record in the region and perhaps the world, the Saudis are not too keen on independent travelers.   The only westerners allowed to visit them are oil buyers and weapons sellers… not tourists, travelers or journalists.  Now isn’t that just a fascinating little factoid. Meanwhile, my extended tour of the Mideast also began in Turkey.  I, however, circled through Cyprus and Egypt before arriving here in Jordan.  I, too, suffered through a case of journey interruptus for political reasons.  The passenger ferry from Cyprus to Haifa in Israel no longer runs so I caught a cheap direct flight to Cairo instead.  The best laid plans of world travelers are so very often interfered with by the mice and men of world governments and their petty disputes.  Sometimes, the world is just not fair.  Oh well, the Austrian and I meet at the crossroads of a roof top in Jordan and trade our traveling tales.  As the shisha smoke swirls up into the atmosphere, the stories stack together like stones in a stone wall.  How much fun are humans allowed to have?

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