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Posted Thursday, September 18, 2008

'This one gets the red bin,' calls out the Black official to a colleague stacking up the X-ray machine bins. 'He's a Special, the Black adds.

click for origin[Previous Radical's Diary]

September 8, 2008 (Monday)
Key West (Florida)

NORWAY has invited me to speak at a literary festival in May next year, all expenses paid and a fee. That's nice. I am writing to their embassy in London first, though, to inquire if there are objections. I do not want another misunderstanding like when those Vienna "students" invited me to speak.

Three p.m a lengthy phone call from Daughter Jessica in Sloane Street ... I say I will be back in London on Wednesday. "I am looking forward to seeing you," I say, and she says, "Me too."

A Johnny H. writes from England: "Jolly good to hear the historian David Irving on the recent BBC Radio 4 programme. 'Torpedo Running' - a wonderful phrase which I distinctly remember from the book about the forgery. Sincere regards and keep on writing and broadcasting!"

I did not hear the programme myself, as I was in Denver. I will post an audio file of it when the BBC sends me one.

Around one a.m., the winds outside the cottage are already picking up [Hurricane "Ike"]: strong, but not really hurricane strength.


September 9, 2008 (Tuesday)
Key West - Miami (Florida) -

A LOUD gale is bending the trees behind the cottage. The sky is dark, and the Internet is down, so I cannot get emails before I leave. Take off back to London tonight at 8:50 pm. Supper tomorrow with Jessica! I doubt however that I shall see [...], or perhaps ever again.

I set out from Key West at ten a.m. after final fruitless visits to the Post Office (still shuttered) and to the bank; even the mail-drops are shut except for one just behind the bank which has a loose cover. I stuff one letter into that. Ridiculous. My bank has taped over its ATM and it has no mail slot. Every bank on the Overseas Highway up the Keys is closed, as are all the post offices.

Frightening torrential rain pours down in parts; for a hundred and fifty miles, most of the way north., Highway U.S.1 is absolutely deserted. I find a post office on the mainland at Homestead -- after accidentally driving south instead of north for twenty miles on U.S.1 as a come off the Turnpike, before I spot that the hurricane clouds have seemingly changed direction.

I post sixty copies of my new book to my major supporters and others. I also find a Western Union office, after stopping at seven others that are out of order or shut, and send her final pay to Gabriela in Buenos Aires; she phones me at six, duly gratified. I also buy a small iPod for Jessica, though with heavy heart, as she will ruin her hearing playing her Black Rap Crap too loud.


AT MIAMI airport I am taken out of the shuffling line of passengers, as is now usual, and directed to a special security area: "This one gets the red bin," calls out the Black official to a colleague stacking up the X-ray machine bins. There are two that are red, the rest are of the usual muddy gray. "He's a 'Special'," the Black adds.

I glance at my boarding pass. Sure enough, it is rubber-stamped "SSSS" and the check-in desk has highlighted it with a star in red-ink. Special. Listed somewhere. I idly wonder if Mohammed Atta's boarding card was stamped TTTT -- terrorist. The Nazis stamped J's on the papers of their opponents (and we British did much the same, though more discreetly). But this is peacetime.

I am led into a new glass-walled pen, like a bull in a rodeo, waiting to be unleashed on British Airways Flight 208. This is the enclosure with the see-through X-rays, I believe. I don't mind. I'm not a Jew, or a terrorist, or a revolutionary, just an SSSS special person.

The Black gives me a close body search and checks the contents of my cases. He confirms the meaning of the SSSS -- "You're to be given the VIP treatment," he says with a friendly water-melon smile. "Ah dunno know what you dun."

"I write books," I explain mechanically, and he pretends to understand.

Running his hands down my back he detects The Lump, probes deeper, and asks what it is. "A lump," I say. Sotto voce I add, waving a hand at all the costly police-state equipment, "We've got Israel to thank for all this," and he understands again.

I've been aware ever since that San Francisco arrival episode in May 2000 that every British airline specially notifies the US authorities by telex of what flight I am arriving on; and so they should too. A pity, though, that the real terrorists still seem to get through.

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