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October 26, 2004

London

Planning this visit to London I emailed a friend from my time in Iraq, a British civil servant, suggesting we see "Stuff Happens". David Hare's new play takes its title from Donald Rumsfeld's infamous reaction to the looting of Baghdad. It is routinely selling out the 1100-seat Olivier, the largest of the three halls that make up Britain's National Theater complex.

"I'm mid-boycott of things like Stuff Happens", my friend replied, adding a few words about how annoying cultural assessments of Iraq can be. I understand this.

October 23, 2004

Amman, Jordan

October 22, 2004

Amman

Marc sat in the lobby of Amman's Grand Hyatt hotel drinking coffee and discussing Iraq's elections, planned for sometime in January. A Canadian with wire glasses and a quiet, businesslike manner he wore a gray polo shirt with a blue UN logo stitched over the heart, a souvenir of an earlier assignment.

October 17, 2004

Paris

Jan Morris once wrote that there are only three true 'World' cities: New York, London and Paris. That is easy to remember as one passes through here. Last night in a bar off the Champs Elysees, I listened to a French acoustic duo mangle a generation's worth of American folk-rock. The music didn't much matter, though. The crowd was a pleasant mix of French, Americans, Germans and a bunch of Spanish-speakers who, from the snatches of conversation I overheard, appeared to be from Argentina. It was a good crowd for a Saturday night.

October 14, 2004

Los Angeles

If you are an American living overseas – particularly in the Middle East – coming back to the United States for a visit inevitably entails a single question, one you will encounter from seemingly every person you meet: Is it safe over there?

Do you feel secure?

Can you go out?

Aren’t you worried?

October 10, 2004

35,000 feet above the North Atlantic

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A former western ambassador to the UAE, now retired and working here as a private citizen, told me a revealing story over lunch this week. A friend of his was coming through customs at Dubai and had purchased two bottles of wine in the arrivals duty free shop. As he approached customs a policeman stopped him.

"You have two bottles of wine?" the policeman asked. The traveler admitted he did, silently cursing himself for having picked up a second bottle with a policeman standing right in front of him.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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