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That one long, weird, sort-of Poptropica dream

Okay so a few of you guys were sorta interested in that random Poptropica-related dream I had the other night, so I guess I’ll elaborate? My memory is worse than that of a goldfish, so I’ll just write the parts I can recall. I don’t know if this dream pertains as much to Poptropica as a whole than it does to one specific island in the game, as well as one specific, uh, interest of mine.
As of late my mental state has been worse than usual, and I won’t get into specifics because that’s cringe, but I have been having a plethora of so called “nightmares” over the past few months. Almost every night, actually. And man, they are… They can get really disturbing Lmao. Chalk that up to my oncoming death or the fact that my house is overrun with ghosts of every sort, but before now I rarely suffered horrid dreams. This in turn makes the good ones stand out all the more.
So in this specific dream of mine, I was in the forest. Just me, Snowpaw, walking alone amongst the trees. I live in close proximity to a massive mountain range covered in dense woods irl, so finding places I frequent in my dreams isn’t that strange. What was peculiar about this particular journey, however, is the fact that I was soon accompanied by several of my “friends”. Now, it’s no secret that my real world persona is quite unwelcome by many folk, they find my animalistic tendencies “off-putting” and “aggressive” and also the fact that I “can’t take anything seriously” which is why I have around two friends. Nevertheless my “friends” in this dream were people I’ve never met before, in the real world or non.
You know how dreams are; You don’t find them all that strange until you wake up.
Anyway, I’m walking in the forest alone, until I stumble upon what looks like an old mining town. Squatting among the trees and nestled in a small valley were old wooden mills and railroad tracks weaving between the faceted hillsides. Again, coming from where I do, this isn’t the strangest sight to behold. It was here that my “friend group” sat, encircling a campfire in the glow of the coming dusk. They seemed to be waiting for me. Upon questioning the palor on their faces, one of the boys in the group (of four or so, I think) explained to me that they dreaded the night. He said there was someone or something lurking in the trees, and this being had been responsible for the disappearances of several people in the town over the past weeks. They told me the only evidence hey had on the matter were mysterious arrows found outside the camp, lodged in tree trunks or lying on the ground.
Now I, being the fearless sod I am because of the fact that I actively seek out danger so as to put an end to my wretched existence, suggested we should go in search of the being. My squad was less than thrilled, but after some talking to, realized it would probably be a bad idea to let me go alone.
The sun set, bringing with it a shroud of darkness that coated the tree lined landscape with an eerie aura. My stupidity led the group into the woods. They wanted to bring flashlights, but I said my eyes worked better in the dark. Idk I was probably a werewolf or something. Actually, I’m almost always some sort of monster in my dreams, most commonly a werewolf. Not sure if that’s significant or not but whatever.
Anyway, me and the boys trudged through the woods for what felt like hours. Again, for a dream it’s all very normal; No bright swirling colors reminiscent of an acid trip, no Hitlers at McDonalds angry because of the lack of chicken nuggets, nothing out of the ordinary so far. One by one my teammates grew weary, and after a few hours they decided it was time to head back. Not I, however. I was intent on finding out the source of these disappearances. Again, I didn’t much value my own safety. God put me here for a good time, not a long time.
They turned back like the cowards they were, though perhaps they were wiser. I pushed on, scaling the wooded hillsides alone. I trekked solo through the pines and aspens for a while, but soon I became aware of a soft glow emanating from somewhere ahead. Had I really made it all the way back to camp? Oh no, I must have been going in a circle! Well so much for my super epic adventure walking through the woods by myself. Guess I better turn in my findings- What’s this?
Pushing on through the prickly boughs, I found myself facing a magnificent wooden cabin, standing firm amidst the trees. Some of its windows were lit, suggesting at least somebody lived there. Despite the fact that I was lost af, I wasn’t about to give up now. I crept up to the cabin and drew close to the nearest window, which happened to be open. Peering inside I saw a massive living room, ironically enough, full of dead animals. Taxidermied busts of every animal you could imagine lined the walls interspersed with woven tapestries depicting lakes and mountains. A fire was dying in the hearth, but no matter how hard I listened I could hear no human activity.
Now of course this had my attention because, well duh I mean why did I get internet famous? So naturally I climbed onto the windowsill intent on exploring further. Just as I was about to drop in though, a hand grabbed my shirt. Wheeling around, I found my squad huddled together behind me. Apparently they had been worried that I was gonna die or smn so they tracked me down. Of course they wanted to go back to camp but I was like heck no fam do you know how cool this is? So obviously I went into the house and treaded down the hall, leaving my friends arguing outside about what to do.
Well long story short, I’m exploring this funky house you know as you do, and I’m just looking at this dope wolf head on the wall, when I suddenly feel a chill on my back. Turning around, I find myself face to tip with the end of an arrow, loaded into a wooden crossbow. I’ll just bet you can’t take a guess to who tf was holding-
Yeah it was Myron Van Buren.
Now I just about died on the spot, either from my own desire or because of the actual literal crossbow pointed at my face. As you all know, I’m a major hoe for any older, British man with a pith helmet, a mustache, and a lust for human blood, so our boy MVB was all “yo why aren’t you scared of me sis” and I’m like “bruh i’ve been waiting for this my whole life” long story short, I don’t think I made it out of there unscathed. Also I don’t remember any more. So if you read this whole thing, then…
I’m sorry.
TL;DR: I was hiking in the woods and found MVB's cabin then he proceeded to shoot me. I mean, probably. It could've gone another way tbh.
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Let’s Not Be a Drama Queen About This: Recap of Before the 90 Days S04E07

Welcome to another recap of Before the 90 Days: The Season Where No One is Dating. First off, if you’re watching Geoffrey’s segment, your safe word is “orange”. If that doesn’t work, please lock yourself in a panic room and wait there until the Avengers arrive. If you hear one voice say, “No really, this is totally the Avengers” do not open the door. Or maybe just social-distance yourself from this whole fucking storyline, because we should not be observing this human stain.
Let’s turn our attention to prisoner of war Usman, busy filming a real life version of Get Out. You know it’s bad when the con artist seeking green card access to bolster a floundering hip hop career is the protagonist. I haven’t felt this awkward since last season of Vanderpump Rules when I was forced to defend James Kennedy. Anyway, Baby-Girl Lisa still hasn’t successfully harvested his essence to maintain control over the Dark Crystal, and Usman threatens to throw a wrench into her plans with a daring escape in the trunk of his friend’s car. Then he realizes he left his phone in the hotel room, and it’s got the lyrics to “Dabbing” on it, so he’s forced to return, to face Lisa losing the mind she never had.
She declares that he’s been absent for 30 minutes and she’s upset …which would have also been the case if he were gone for five minutes, or not at all, or if he went to the bathroom unsupervised, or put on his right shoe before his left one, or stood up too quickly or not fast enough. This time, Lisa’s argument is that she was “scared’ to be left alone (with producers in a hotel room). Annoyed with this never-ending wheel of complaint, Usman declares that he can’t win with her. Then BGL cuts him down with “Let’s not be a drama queen about this.” That’s right kids, all aboard the Gaslight Express, where the person reacting to the drama is the drama queen — not the person perpetually creating it. Would someone please take this man’s photo so he can restore his spirit to his body with the flash? GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!
She continues to stitch a verbal quilt of grievances, while noting how irrelevant Usman’s points are, and looking like she’s ready to start filming her episode of Intervention. Usman slowly realizes that Lisa is unlikely to have an adult conversation with his mother, let alone a respectful one, and he may not be able to salvage his Nigerian hip hop career, let alone forge one in the US of A. He goes outside and admits to the producers that he may have reached his breaking point, and would like to know if they have some kind of relocation program. This is not what Lisa expects from a prisoner, and she informs the producers that “the man who left here is not the man I abducted.”
Usman returns at 2AM to sit in an adjacent room and not talk to Lisa, making half of his wildest dreams come true. He lights up a hookah and considers how he has this “wonderful opportunity” to go to the states, and it might be too much to pretend to like Lisa long enough to get a green card. The producers ask him how he’s doing, and he says that anything he does is not enough, and before he can answer further BGL groans her way into the room.
“Nobody’s perfect. You need to make up your mind and make it up quick,” She declares, because that makes sense. He attempts to confront her, and states that he’s always respected her, and she insults him. And if it’s this bad in Nigeria, what’s it going to be like when she submerges him in preservative gel in the United States? “You’re very insecure about this relationship,” Lisa mumbles.
Usman says that yes, he is, that’s the truth. Then Lisa unfurls her scroll of half-assed excuses, including that the whole trip has been stressful, that there’s a five hour time difference, that she’s in this hotel room that bests the average Idaho haunt but is beneath her, and it’s a day of the week that ends in y, and he should know how she feels about that. Then she says she wants to “close it up” which is the closest Usman is going to get to an apology. For whatever reason, Usman decides that this will do, and later Lisa expresses concerns about returning to the US alone, and declares “ it will destroy both of us.” By this she means she’ll be forced to rework the plot into something that ends with her saucy finger, and will leak the unedited version of Usman’s “I Love You” video, because that’ll teach him.
Speaking of horror movies, let’s stop by Silence of the Lambs to visit Creepy Ed, who puts the lotion on the skin or else it gets the hose again. Rose has made the unfortunate mistake of returning to their shared hotel room, where he hands her a robe and tells her to take a bath, then forces champagne on her, and says he’s going to rub her feet. Note that he didn’t ask her if she was interested in any of these things. Ed considers this “showing how romantic he can be” while the rest of us call this “reasons to run out of the room with your shoes in your hand the minute he goes to the bathroom.” As she gets comfortable because he told her to, Big Nightmare declares he’s “staring at her feet and not her pajamas,” and I’m staring into the deep black abyss, hunting for a portal to escape this. Friends, this is it: the Most Cringe Scene in 90DF History. There’s not even any competition. This is the Citizen Kane of cringe.
“It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever its told,” Ed declares, with “Goodbye Horses” softly playing in the background.
“Please let me out,” Rose cries.
Since Rose is recoiling in a manner obvious to anyone who isn’t an incel, Ed seizes the opportunity to ask her for a kiss. She says on her cheek or the end of her fist after a wind up, whatever he prefers. He asks for “the middle” which she assumes means the forehead. He kisses her on the cheek, and then brow beats her into kissing him on the mouth. She gets it over with as quickly as possible, and Ed declares that it was “nice” and Jesus Christ, someone put a collar on this beast.
“Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me,” Ed explains (“Goodbye horses, I’m flying over you…”.)
“Is this called coercion in United States?” Rose asks.
“It puts the lotion in the fucking basket!”
The next morning it appears Rose has finally succumbed to his ridiculous advances, and seems cool with it. She declares a hatred for his under-the-bridge beard, and Ed notes that she has hairy legs, which he finds “gross,”and asks her to shave them to best match his blow-up doll ideal. This is rich coming from someone with a greasy mop of Clairol for Mayo dangling in his face. Soon I’ll kick off a GoFundMe to buy Rose a full-body merkin to insulate her lady flesh from Ed’s Rumpelstiltskin mitts. For now, she goes in for the shave and Ed ditches the beard, and I long for the Wookie days of yore.
Later he heads to Rose’s house to act like a goon around a larger audience. He takes a three hour cab ride to her village, where he is shocked to discover that the Philippines is like the Philippines. First he meets Rose’s son Prince, who initially seems confused, and then declares “daddy!” And embraces him. Big Ed isn’t sure how he feels about being a father again at 54, but he’s totally okay with dating a child. Ed is also uneasy about meeting Rose’s sister Maria, because she hit up Ed for cash. Once Maria meets Ed, she realizes she should have asked for more.
The family is waiting with a little surprise party, and Ed meets Rose’s other two sisters and a brother-in-law. When they ask what he thinks, he wants to know where the windows are, and if he should worry about getting rabies from wayward bats or cockroaches, because he’s heard both things are attracted to the scent of canola oil. Seriously: why can’t anyone on this show make a polite comment to the family except Angela? How hard is it to say, “Well I bet you have a great view of the stars!”
Rose’s family has a nice set of dishes arranged for dinner, including fish, chicken, rice, and the silky gravy of Ed’s back sweat. He asks for something to drink, while they marvel at the river running down his face, and we learn her father is running late because he’s busy at the pig farm, which also sounds suspiciously poor to Ed. When Father arrives he’s quiet, contemplating that his daughter is hoping to marry someone older than himself, who is pushing his food around his plate, and calling a chicken like a dog to feed it from the table. Rose’s father wants to know if Ed knows the difference between dinner and a dog, and then asks what Ed’s intentions are, other than getting on his damn nerves. Ed declares, “I want to get to know your daughter, no games.” Sure, Prince is already calling him “daddy,” but wouldn’t want to create strange expectations by suggesting marriage post-coitus, amirite?
Ed declares that now that he’s seen the depth of their poverty, he worries that he’s just a meal ticket to Rose, and not the man of her dreams, even though he’s after Rose for specific things himself. I mean, a lot of 19 year old women are just jonesing for a controlling, anxiety-riddled man who hasn’t had sex in 28 years to fulfill their hobbit kink, so he has a right to be choosey. It’s important for her to love him like Rose loved Jack in the Titanic, even if Ed can’t draw anything and would demand to be the only body on that floating door, and she’s the only person to consider him king of any world.
Meanwhile, Tom continues his crusade to come off as a sympathetic character by making sad eyes from his good angle for the camera. As he pieces together one of his predictably boring outfits, he says he hopes they can have a conversation and attack the problem and not the person, but admits that he doesn’t care about attacking the person if the person is Darcey and not himself.
He situates himself to await her arrival, while Darcey enters the joint with a Beyoncé track in her head, and dumps her 16 changes of clothing on an unsuspecting hostess who has questions. Then she struts. Her. Shit. This is officially the first time Darcey has donned an outfit that isn’t from her signature Midlife Crisis line, and that jumpsuit is the fuck-you jam, and I want it for my next dramatic public fight with a future ex. She greets him as “Thomas” and passes on the affectionate greeting in favor of a handshake, before settling in for some gold medal passive aggression.
Tom: I’m nervous. Because I’m full of shit.
Darcey: No need. It’s just me. That’s called constipation, Tom.
Tom: How was Malta? If I had talked to you sometime in the last six weeks, I might know the answer to this question.
Darcey: It was nice to spend it with Stace. Thank you for the birthday…text. You said you were going to call or video call, I waited that whole day…but it’s okay. I know you’re a dick.
Tom: What actually happened to us? I’m going to act like what happened isn’t me going balls deep in another chick and bragging about it on instagram.
Darcey: I don’t know, but you must not know about me, you must not know about me. Should I say it twice? That’s kinda weird. It sounded better in my head.
Hannibal Lector: Cut him on the bias, Clarice. Serve him with a nice Chianti.
Tom goes on to say that she “was” this lovely woman, but has very specific things she wants, and she’s really not there for him, because she’s preoccupied with selecting the right filters for her twirling face-angle shots on instagram. He insists that Darcey never lets him talk during the conversations they don’t have, while a waiter with bad timing regrets his water glass decisions, and knows his tip is going to be bullshit. Darcey’s not having it, and knows he’s rerouting the events of the last six months to be about her doing something wrong, so she wants to know what his secret is, and talks to him in a soothing voice that is WAY more terrifying than mad Darcey.
“What do you want to hear?” Tom asks, because he’s still determined to make this about how out of control and unreasonable Darcey is, what with her fancy wanting interaction and silly expectations that he wouldn’t start another relationship before breaking it off with her.
“Tell her she’s insecure,” Baby Girl Lisa advises.
Darcey says she knows about the other woman he’s been posing with in stilted thigh-grab photographs, and Tom says that he met this person three weeks ago, and her name is Shannon, and he was hoping to get some exit sex. Since that doesn’t seem to be working out, he goes with, “I met someone who loves me the way I want to be loved. In three weeks.” Then what the fuck are you doing there, dude? He says, “You had everything of me in your hands, and you didn’t see it. And it was hard to listen to the Jesse thing all the time, when I was busy thinking about other people I planned to bang.” Since this isn’t already ridiculous enough, he says he’s not her notion of love, and that he loves her like a sister he wants to have sex with. Darcey thinks about what this means for her and Stacey, while Tom says he wants to be her friend.
Darcey nixes that bullshit, and says she doesn’t want to be friends. Then Tom tells her to “try not to ruin the next” relationship, and it’s easier to get through this scene if you imagine Tom has a diseased ballsack for a chin, which isn’t far off. He lets Darcey pay for his coffee, and continues throwing his Chex Mix on the floor by saying it’s a weight off of him, and when Darcey tells him to enjoy his life, he responds, “I will now that you’re not in it.” That twice a year interaction was really bringing him down before.
Tom tells the producers that he showed up to see if anything was still there, and because he wanted to be on camera one more time, and because he wanted to have sex with Darcey’s smother-titties before returning to the safety of Shannon’s thigh. Darcey is over this shit, and is ready to watch the baseball bat video with Beyoncé is a yellow dress, breaking stuff.
It’s time to revisit the platonic romantic relationship of Erika and Stephanie. As she stated last week, Stephanie is “waiting” to have sex until she’s actually bisexual, so Erika should start checking out social-distancing hers and hers nursing homes right now. Erika got to know Stephanie as someone with a risqué, fun, and sexual online persona, and she incorrectly assumed that Stephanie would clue her in if her real self didn’t match that presentation. With this in mind, Erika is certain Steph will love her big date surprise: a little artsy neon-lit joint where the last Rockabilly chick in an updo coaches women through the wet wrap construction of boob molds! Is this a thing so one day they can look back fondly on the time their tits weren’t smacking against their knees, or to create a decorative dinner mint container? I want to surprise a friend who will hate me afterwards with this, or arrive with just my cat and wide eyes and my own set of decorative paints. Or maybe I will wake up my partner tomorrow by hovering over him with a jar of plaster while whispering, “it’s time to preserve me.”
Stephanie doesn’t like this because she is wrong, and this is her first time seeing her own breasts outside of the internet. So she sits there awkwardly while everyone has their guns out for a showdown at the double-d corral, wondering why the fuck Erika didn’t see fit to, you know, ask if she wanted to have her tits in the air. All snark aside, I’m siding with Stephanie on this one. Choosing to explore the wonders of titty molds is one thing; arriving at a surprise titty shakedown is another, especially when this doubles as the debut fondling experiment. Something tells me Erika was hoping this would lead to The Sex. This is very Ed of you, Erika. But your fried egg overalls are still amazing.
Anyway, Stephanie decides to play along, and shakes the boxes of medication out of her bra to brace for breast spackle. The other titty sisters preserving their boobage opt to engage, which they will soon regret, and they ask about their relationship, and whether one of them intends to relocate to keep their romance warm. Stephanie, who is pissed off enough that she’s looking for anything to inspire grenade lobbing at Erika, says that she doesn’t think it will last very long if they’re not in the same place. Erika reminds her that she’s a photographer, and already has weddings booked that she needs to complete before moving to another country. Plus, she hears there’s a great plague coming that will leave us all under house arrest indefinitely. Also: it’s day 2. Maybe slow down on a borderline ultimatum. Erika then expresses confusion that on one hand Stephanie is very eager for their relationship to be set in stone, and on the other doesn’t want to have sex with her when they’re working with a tight three-week timeline.
“Is this coercion?” Rosemarie asks.
“Sort of,” Erika reluctantly admits. “I’m hoping it won’t count because I’m bisexual.”
“Still creepy though, and I KNOW creepy,” Ed is there with the confirmation.
Later on they ready themselves for a date, which is really a set-up so Stephanie can interrogate Erika about having a dating app on her phone. Other people would, you know, ask about the app the minute it was spotted, but the cameras weren’t there and this storyline needs Stephanie’s extensions.
Stephanie kicks things off by stating her intentions to take Erika to a nice dinner, and gives Erika a cute tiara headband thing to wear on their date. Once they’ve settled into their table and the thought of romance has dared to enter Erika’s head, Stephanie brings up the “boobie papier mache” and thinks a lot of people get the wrong impression of her, based on what she’s shown and told them. Then Steph demands to know what’s up with the app, and if Erika’s dated anyone else in the four months they’ve been thousands of miles apart. Erika says that she hasn’t and isn’t, but keeps it going for the networking side of things, and by networking she means dicks and vaginas under glass, which are useful in event of emergency.
Stephanie asks if she’d be open to deleting it, so Erika does it, but is annoyed that Stephanie doesn’t trust her and this action is required, and she hasn’t even had any swindle cake yet. Stephanie says the app just makes her uncomfortable, to which an exasperated Erika declares, “Everything makes you uncomfortable!” She says that Steph sold herself as free spirited and then arrived operating with the assumption that presents grant her the right to control her. 87% of the 90DF cast is miffed by this suggestion, and so is Stephanie. Erika takes off Stephanie’s tiara mind control device and storms off, and we get a good look at the extension cords and a sad drain on the floor when they chase after Erika while Stephanie fake cries at the table.
For some reason the producers are still entertaining the Yolanda story, which features her unwavering commitment to displaying total ignorance of British accents, despite the ability to pull up a two minute video on Youtube that would clarify this madness. Yolanda’s daughter notes that Williams appears to have a Nigerian name, address, phone number, accent, and passport, and the caps lock text he sent her reading, “HI I’M NIGERIAN” is a little suspicious. Yolanda is flummoxed, because he lives in Manchester and looks like an underwear model, and why would anyone lie about that? No one is this stupid. Stop it, 90DF. This makes Nicole’s insistence that Azan isn’t already married look convincing. Are there no actual relationships in the queue?
Later, she spends a few days trying to get a hold of him, before she receives an email threatening to release nudes she sent Williams if she doesn’t send money. Kinda like the money Williams asked her to send so he could travel to Vegas. Yolanda thinks this might be part of a rogue hacking operation, scouring the internet for instagram accounts to delete. She needs him to be real so desperately, and I’d feel sorry for her if this wasn’t already outed as an act, and I suspect she made up the email address herself and sent the threat to stretch out her screen time. Have we seen any relationship with Williams up until this point? Other than a string of heart emojis?
Finally, we’ve got Avery and Ash. They’re prepping for a three day trip to the other side of Australia, which Avery doesn’t see as a vacation, because she’s here to get answers about Ash, and you can’t possibly learn about someone by whether or not you’re capable of having fun with them.
“I have an opinion about this,” Erika interjects.
Avery is suspicious because of the shady behavior of Ash’s brother, who at dinner didn’t seem to support Ash’s statement about how easy it would be to take his child away from his mother to live in another country, permanently. Determined to not fall into the dicksand, Avery intends to confront him. They drive down into the country and Avery marvels at the beauty, before they stop in a pretty spot to have a picnic with Ash’s flower shop commitments on full display.
Ash: Yes, I am hearing you, and I am seeing you, and I think it’s good that you have words.
Avery: You’re giving me a rehearsed response. I think you’re sugarcoating the complexities of bringing Taj to America with you. Your brother didn’t seem convinced this would be as easy as you said.
Ash: This is communication, and it is open and honest and from a heart-centered place. I am confident that we can reach a positive outcome in these endeavors, if we continue to co-exist on this plane.
Avery: For fuck’s sake, I get that you’re trying to be positive, but living on planet earth means we’ve got to shovel some shit every once in awhile. Give me a truth bomb.
Ash: I’m afraid the complexity of this will cause you to bail, since you’ve previously dumped my ass. Also, here is some more jargon to plow over that rare moment of honesty, and to speed past the notion of what my ex-wife might have actually said about all this.
Avery: I need to talk to your ex-wife.
Ash: Oh damn.
Next week, Ed is shocked to learn that he’ll be sharing a room with another 54 year-old when he flew in for 19, David walks around Ukraine yelling Lana’s name and putting up missing-person posters, Ash is afraid of his ex-wife talking in plain English to Avery, and Erika is slowly wilting in the face of Stephanie’s highly developed control issues that already dominate their sexless union. Oh, and Darcey is flummoxed as to why Tom had to see her in person to humiliate her on TV, but she’s glad she got to wear that sick outfit, and for fuck’s sake will someone who actually wants to be in an instagram relationship hit her up and work out a hashtag with her already? Fuck!
Thank you, Patreon supporters, my lovely quarantine companions!
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I'mma head out

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Let’s Not Be a Drama Queen About This: Recap of Before the 90 Days, S04E07

Welcome to another recap of Before the 90 Days: The Season Where No One is Dating. First off, if you’re watching Geoffrey’s segment, your safe word is “orange”. If that doesn’t work, please lock yourself in a panic room and wait there until the Avengers arrive. If you hear one voice say, “No really, this is totally the Avengers” do not open the door. Or maybe just social-distance yourself from this whole fucking storyline, because we should not be observing this human stain.
Let’s turn our attention to prisoner of war Usman, busy filming a real life version of Get Out. You know it’s bad when the con artist seeking green card access to bolster a floundering hip hop career is the protagonist. I haven’t felt this awkward since last season of Vanderpump Rules when I was forced to defend James Kennedy. Anyway, Baby-Girl Lisa still hasn’t successfully harvested his essence to maintain control over the Dark Crystal, and Usman threatens to throw a wrench into her plans with a daring escape in the trunk of his friend’s car. Then he realizes he left his phone in the hotel room, and it’s got the lyrics to “Dabbing” on it, so he’s forced to return, to face Lisa losing the mind she never had.
She declares that he’s been absent for 30 minutes and she’s upset …which would have also been the case if he were gone for five minutes, or not at all, or if he went to the bathroom unsupervised, or put on his right shoe before his left one, or stood up too quickly or not fast enough. This time, Lisa’s argument is that she was “scared’ to be left alone (with producers in a hotel room). Annoyed with this never-ending wheel of complaint, Usman declares that he can’t win with her. Then BGL cuts him down with “Let’s not be a drama queen about this.” That’s right kids, all aboard the Gaslight Express, where the person reacting to the drama is the drama queen — not the person perpetually creating it. Would someone please take this man’s photo so he can restore his spirit to his body with the flash? GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!
She continues to stitch a verbal quilt of grievances, while noting how irrelevant Usman’s points are, and looking like she’s ready to start filming her episode of Intervention. Usman slowly realizes that Lisa is unlikely to have an adult conversation with his mother, let alone a respectful one, and he may not be able to salvage his Nigerian hip hop career, let alone forge one in the US of A. He goes outside and admits to the producers that he may have reached his breaking point, and would like to know if they have some kind of relocation program. This is not what Lisa expects from a prisoner, and she informs the producers that “the man who left here is not the man I abducted.”
Usman returns at 2AM to sit in an adjacent room and not talk to Lisa, making half of his wildest dreams come true. He lights up a hookah and considers how he has this “wonderful opportunity” to go to the states, and it might be too much to pretend to like Lisa long enough to get a green card. The producers ask him how he’s doing, and he says that anything he does is not enough, and before he can answer further BGL groans her way into the room.
“Nobody’s perfect. You need to make up your mind and make it up quick,” She declares, because that makes sense. He attempts to confront her, and states that he’s always respected her, and she insults him. And if it’s this bad in Nigeria, what’s it going to be like when she submerges him in preservative gel in the United States? “You’re very insecure about this relationship,” Lisa mumbles.
Usman says that yes, he is, that’s the truth. Then Lisa unfurls her scroll of half-assed excuses, including that the whole trip has been stressful, that there’s a five hour time difference, that she’s in this hotel room that bests the average Idaho haunt but is beneath her, and it’s a day of the week that ends in y, and he should know how she feels about that. Then she says she wants to “close it up” which is the closest Usman is going to get to an apology. For whatever reason, Usman decides that this will do, and later Lisa expresses concerns about returning to the US alone, and declares “ it will destroy both of us.” By this she means she’ll be forced to rework the plot into something that ends with her saucy finger, and will leak the unedited version of Usman’s “I Love You” video, because that’ll teach him.
Speaking of horror movies, let’s stop by Silence of the Lambs to visit Creepy Ed, who puts the lotion on the skin or else it gets the hose again. Rose has made the unfortunate mistake of returning to their shared hotel room, where he hands her a robe and tells her to take a bath, then forces champagne on her, and says he’s going to rub her feet. Note that he didn’t ask her if she was interested in any of these things. Ed considers this “showing how romantic he can be” while the rest of us call this “reasons to run out of the room with your shoes in your hand the minute he goes to the bathroom.” As she gets comfortable because he told her to, Big Nightmare declares he’s “staring at her feet and not her pajamas,” and I’m staring into the deep black abyss, hunting for a portal to escape this. Friends, this is it: the Most Cringe Scene in 90DF History. There’s not even any competition. This is the Citizen Kane of cringe.
“It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever its told,” Ed declares, with “Goodbye Horses” softly playing in the background.
“Please let me out,” Rose cries.
Since Rose is recoiling in a manner obvious to anyone who isn’t an incel, Ed seizes the opportunity to ask her for a kiss. She says on her cheek or the end of her fist after a wind up, whatever he prefers. He asks for “the middle” which she assumes means the forehead. He kisses her on the cheek, and then brow beats her into kissing him on the mouth. She gets it over with as quickly as possible, and Ed declares that it was “nice” and Jesus Christ, someone put a collar on this beast.
“Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me,” Ed explains (“Goodbye horses, I’m flying over you…”.)
“Is this called coercion in United States?” Rose asks.
“It puts the lotion in the fucking basket!”
The next morning it appears Rose has finally succumbed to his ridiculous advances, and seems cool with it. She declares a hatred for his under-the-bridge beard, and Ed notes that she has hairy legs, which he finds “gross,”and asks her to shave them to best match his blow-up doll ideal. This is rich coming from someone with a greasy mop of Clairol for Mayo dangling in his face. Soon I’ll kick off a GoFundMe to buy Rose a full-body merkin to insulate her lady flesh from Ed’s Rumpelstiltskin mitts. For now, she goes in for the shave and Ed ditches the beard, and I long for the Wookie days of yore.
Later he heads to Rose’s house to act like a goon around a larger audience. He takes a three hour cab ride to her village, where he is shocked to discover that the Philippines is like the Philippines. First he meets Rose’s son Prince, who initially seems confused, and then declares “daddy!” And embraces him. Big Ed isn’t sure how he feels about being a father again at 54, but he’s totally okay with dating a child. Ed is also uneasy about meeting Rose’s sister Maria, because she hit up Ed for cash. Once Maria meets Ed, she realizes she should have asked for more.
The family is waiting with a little surprise party, and Ed meets Rose’s other two sisters and a brother-in-law. When they ask what he thinks, he wants to know where the windows are, and if he should worry about getting rabies from wayward bats or cockroaches, because he’s heard both things are attracted to the scent of canola oil. Seriously: why can’t anyone on this show make a polite comment to the family except Angela? How hard is it to say, “Well I bet you have a great view of the stars!”
Rose’s family has a nice set of dishes arranged for dinner, including fish, chicken, rice, and the silky gravy of Ed’s back sweat. He asks for something to drink, while they marvel at the river running down his face, and we learn her father is running late because he’s busy at the pig farm, which also sounds suspiciously poor to Ed. When Father arrives he’s quiet, contemplating that his daughter is hoping to marry someone older than himself, who is pushing his food around his plate, and calling a chicken like a dog to feed it from the table. Rose’s father wants to know if Ed knows the difference between dinner and a dog, and then asks what Ed’s intentions are, other than getting on his damn nerves. Ed declares, “I want to get to know your daughter, no games.” Sure, Prince is already calling him “daddy,” but wouldn’t want to create strange expectations by suggesting marriage post-coitus, amirite?
Ed declares that now that he’s seen the depth of their poverty, he worries that he’s just a meal ticket to Rose, and not the man of her dreams, even though he’s after Rose for specific things himself. It’s important for her to love him like Rose loved Jack in the Titanic, even if Ed can’t draw anything and would demand to be the only body on that floating door, and she’s the only person to consider him king of any world.
Meanwhile, Tom continues his crusade to come off as a sympathetic character by making sad eyes from his good angle for the camera. As he pieces together one of his predictably boring outfits, he says he hopes they can have a conversation and attack the problem and not the person, but admits that he doesn’t care about attacking the person if the person is Darcey and not himself.
He situates himself to await her arrival, while Darcey enters the joint with a Beyoncé track in her head, and dumps her 16 changes of clothing on an unsuspecting hostess who has questions. Then she struts. Her. Shit. This is officially the first time Darcey has donned an outfit that isn’t from her signature Midlife Crisis line, and that jumpsuit is the fuck-you jam, and I want it for my next dramatic public fight with a future ex. She greets him as “Thomas” and passes on the affectionate greeting in favor of a handshake, before settling in for some gold medal passive aggression.
Tom: I’m nervous. Because I’m full of shit.
Darcey: No need. It’s just me. That’s called constipation, Tom.
Tom: How was Malta? If I had talked to you sometime in the last six weeks, I might know the answer to this question.
Darcey: It was nice to spend it with Stace. Thank you for the birthday…text. You said you were going to call or video call, I waited that whole day…but it’s okay. I know you’re a dick.
Tom: What actually happened to us? I’m going to act like what happened isn’t me going balls deep in another chick and bragging about it on instagram.
Darcey: I don’t know, but you must not know about me, you must not know about me. Should I say it twice? That’s kinda weird. It sounded better in my head.
Hannibal Lector: Cut him on the bias, Clarice. Serve him with a nice Chianti.
Tom goes on to say that she “was” this lovely woman, but has very specific things she wants, and she’s really not there for him, because she’s preoccupied with selecting the right filters for her twirling face-angle shots on instagram. He insists that Darcey never lets him talk during the conversations they don’t have, while a waiter with bad timing regrets his water glass decisions, and knows his tip is going to be bullshit. Darcey’s not having it, and knows he’s rerouting the events of the last six months to be about her doing something wrong, so she wants to know what his secret is, and talks to him in a soothing voice that is WAY more terrifying than mad Darcey.
“What do you want to hear?” Tom asks, because he’s still determined to make this about how out of control and unreasonable Darcey is, what with her fancy wanting interaction and silly expectations that he wouldn’t start another relationship before breaking it off with her.
“Tell her she’s insecure,” Baby Girl Lisa advises.
Darcey says she knows about the other woman he’s been posing with in stilted thigh-grab photographs, and Tom says that he met this person three weeks ago, and her name is Shannon, and he was hoping to get some exit sex. Since that doesn’t seem to be working out, he goes with, “I met someone who loves me the way I want to be loved. In three weeks.” Then what the fuck are you doing there, dude? He says, “You had everything of me in your hands, and you didn’t see it. And it was hard to listen to the Jesse thing all the time, when I was busy thinking about other people I planned to bang.” Since this isn’t already ridiculous enough, he says he’s not her notion of love, and that he loves her like a sister he wants to have sex with. Darcey thinks about what this means for her and Stacey, while Tom says he wants to be her friend.
Darcey nixes that bullshit, and says she doesn’t want to be friends. Then Tom tells her to “try not to ruin the next” relationship, and it’s easier to get through this scene if you imagine Tom has a diseased ballsack for a chin, which isn’t far off. He lets Darcey pay for his coffee, and continues throwing his Chex Mix on the floor by saying it’s a weight off of him, and when Darcey tells him to enjoy his life, he responds, “I will now that you’re not in it.” That twice a year interaction was really bringing him down before.
Tom tells the producers that he showed up to see if anything was still there, and because he wanted to be on camera one more time, and because he wanted to have sex with Darcey’s smother-titties before returning to the safety of Shannon’s thigh. Darcey is over this shit, and is ready to watch the baseball bat video with Beyoncé is a yellow dress, breaking stuff.
It’s time to revisit the platonic romantic relationship of Erika and Stephanie. As she stated last week, Stephanie is “waiting” to have sex until she’s actually bisexual, so Erika should start checking out social-distancing hers and hers nursing homes right now. Erika got to know Stephanie as someone with a risqué, fun, and sexual online persona, and she incorrectly assumed that Stephanie would clue her in if her real self didn’t match that presentation. With this in mind, Erika is certain Steph will love her big date surprise: a little artsy neon-lit joint where the last Rockabilly chick in an updo coaches women through the wet wrap construction of boob molds! Is this a thing so one day they can look back fondly on the time their tits weren’t smacking against their knees, or to create a decorative dinner mint container? I want to surprise a friend who will hate me afterwards with this, or arrive with just my cat and wide eyes and my own set of decorative paints. Or maybe I will wake up my partner tomorrow by hovering over him with a jar of plaster while whispering, “it’s time to preserve me.”
Stephanie doesn’t like this because she is wrong, and this is her first time seeing her own breasts outside of the internet. So she sits there awkwardly while everyone has their guns out for a showdown at the double-d corral, wondering why the fuck Erika didn’t see fit to, you know, ask if she wanted to have her tits in the air. All snark aside, I’m siding with Stephanie on this one. Choosing to explore the wonders of titty molds is one thing; arriving at a surprise titty shakedown is another, especially when this doubles as the debut fondling experiment. Something tells me Erika was hoping this would lead to The Sex. This is very Ed of you, Erika. But your fried egg overalls are still amazing.
Anyway, Stephanie decides to play along, and shakes the boxes of medication out of her bra to brace for breast spackle. The other titty sisters preserving their boobage opt to engage, which they will soon regret, and they ask about their relationship, and whether one of them intends to relocate to keep their romance warm. Stephanie, who is pissed off enough that she’s looking for anything to inspire grenade lobbing at Erika, says that she doesn’t think it will last very long if they’re not in the same place. Erika reminds her that she’s a photographer, and already has weddings booked that she needs to complete before moving to another country. Plus, she hears there’s a great plague coming that will leave us all under house arrest indefinitely. Also: it’s day 2. Maybe slow down on a borderline ultimatum. Erika then expresses confusion that on one hand Stephanie is very eager for their relationship to be set in stone, and on the other doesn’t want to have sex with her when they’re working with a tight three-week timeline.
“Is this coercion?” Rosemarie asks.
“Sort of,” Erika reluctantly admits. “I’m hoping it won’t count because I’m bisexual.”
“Still creepy though, and I KNOW creepy,” Ed is there with the confirmation.
Later on they ready themselves for a date, which is really a set-up so Stephanie can interrogate Erika about having a dating app on her phone. Other people would, you know, ask about the app the minute it was spotted, but the cameras weren’t there and this storyline needs Stephanie’s extensions.
Stephanie kicks things off by stating her intentions to take Erika to a nice dinner, and gives Erika a cute tiara headband thing to wear on their date. Once they’ve settled into their table and the thought of romance has dared to enter Erika’s head, Stephanie brings up the “boobie papier mache” and thinks a lot of people get the wrong impression of her, based on what she’s shown and told them. Then Steph demands to know what’s up with the app, and if Erika’s dated anyone else in the four months they’ve been thousands of miles apart. Erika says that she hasn’t and isn’t, but keeps it going for the networking side of things, and by networking she means dicks and vaginas under glass, which are useful in event of emergency.
Stephanie asks if she’d be open to deleting it, so Erika does it, but is annoyed that Stephanie doesn’t trust her and this action is required, and she hasn’t even had any swindle cake yet. Stephanie says the app just makes her uncomfortable, to which an exasperated Erika declares, “Everything makes you uncomfortable!” She says that Steph sold herself as free spirited and then arrived operating with the assumption that presents grant her the right to control her. 87% of the 90DF cast is miffed by this suggestion, and so is Stephanie. Erika takes off Stephanie’s tiara mind control device and storms off, and we get a good look at the extension cords and a sad drain on the floor when they chase after Erika while Stephanie fake cries at the table.
For some reason the producers are still entertaining the Yolanda story, which features her unwavering commitment to displaying total ignorance of British accents, despite the ability to pull up a two minute video on Youtube that would clarify this madness. Yolanda’s daughter notes that Williams appears to have a Nigerian name, address, phone number, accent, and passport, and the caps lock text he sent her reading, “HI I’M NIGERIAN” is a little suspicious. Yolanda is flummoxed, because he lives in Manchester and looks like an underwear model, and why would anyone lie about that? No one is this stupid. Stop it, 90DF. This makes Nicole’s insistence that Azan isn’t already married look convincing. Are there no actual relationships in the queue?
Later, she spends a few days trying to get a hold of him, before she receives an email threatening to release nudes she sent Williams if she doesn’t send money. Kinda like the money Williams asked her to send so he could travel to Vegas. Yolanda thinks this might be part of a rogue hacking operation, scouring the internet for instagram accounts to delete. She needs him to be real so desperately, and I’d feel sorry for her if this wasn’t already outed as an act, and I suspect she made up the email address herself and sent the threat to stretch out her screen time. Have we seen any relationship with Williams up until this point? Other than a string of heart emojis?
Finally, we’ve got Avery and Ash. They’re prepping for a three day trip to the other side of Australia, which Avery doesn’t see as a vacation, because she’s here to get answers about Ash, and you can’t possibly learn about someone by whether or not you’re capable of having fun with them.
“I have an opinion about this,” Erika interjects.
Avery is suspicious because of the shady behavior of Ash’s brother, who at dinner didn’t seem to support Ash’s statement about how easy it would be to take his child away from his mother to live in another country, permanently. Determined to not fall into the dicksand, Avery intends to confront him. They drive down into the country and Avery marvels at the beauty, before they stop in a pretty spot to have a picnic with Ash’s flower shop commitments on full display.
Ash: Yes, I am hearing you, and I am seeing you, and I think it’s good that you have words.
Avery: You’re giving me a rehearsed response. I think you’re sugarcoating the complexities of bringing Taj to America with you. Your brother didn’t seem convinced this would be as easy as you said.
Ash: This is communication, and it is open and honest and from a heart-centered place. I am confident that we can reach a positive outcome in these endeavors, if we continue to co-exist on this plane.
Avery: For fuck’s sake, I get that you’re trying to be positive, but living on planet earth means we’ve got to shovel some shit every once in awhile. Give me a truth bomb.
Ash: I’m afraid the complexity of this will cause you to bail, since you’ve previously dumped my ass. Also, here is some more jargon to plow over that rare moment of honesty, and to speed past the notion of what my ex-wife might have actually said about all this.
Avery: I need to talk to your ex-wife.
Ash: Oh damn.
Next week, Ed is shocked to learn that he’ll be sharing a room with another 54 year-old when he flew in for 19, David walks around Ukraine yelling Lana’s name and putting up missing-person posters, Ash is afraid of his ex-wife talking in plain English to Avery, and Erika is slowly wilting in the face of Stephanie’s highly developed control issues that already dominate their sexless union. Oh, and Darcey is flummoxed as to why Tom had to see her in person to humiliate her on TV, but she’s glad she got to wear that sick outfit, and for fuck’s sake will someone who actually wants to be in an instagram relationship hit her up and work out a hashtag with her already? Fuck!
Thank you, Patreon supporters, my lovely quarantine companions!
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The fight of the carriers

[Prince of Wales, Enterprise]
20/EP 2
The sea was calm, small blue waves were breaking against the grey steel. The bridge was filled with men, the beeping of devices and some commands were a constant rustling in the background. Prince of Wales looked at the clock hanging in the back of the bridge. Ten minutes. The captain was on bridge also, watching over his officers. The day was normal, everyone was servicing the ship or having free time. A few jets were in the air, patrolling the area and spotting for the carrier. The corvettes and destroyers were guarding the giant British aircraft carrier. Her ship was steaming steadily on its course towards the selected destination. Her grey hull was ploughing through the water. She wore her uniform, her cape hung behind her. Prince of Wales was looking at the time again. Five minutes. The next hours or days would be interesting. She looked at the captain, he was reading through a few papers. A giant screen in front of them was monitoring the position of their planes. The clock behind her hit the next hour. 12 o clock. It was time. She looked at the captain again and stepped beside him. He looked up and nodded. Prince of Wales was straightening up. Time to fight.
“Genertal quartes, General quarters, all hands to their action stations!”, she yelled. A few sirens began to blare, red lights were flashing. Her command was repeated via the intercom. The voice was snaring through the hull, vibrating the steel. Every man on the bridge was equipping steel helmets and anti-flash gear. She was organizing her cape, keeping it away from her sword. The captain was also equipping a steel helmet and wore some headphones. Men were running below deck, trying to get to their action stations as fast as possible. The rumbling of steps was shaking the hull. She could feel everything. The sirens were still blaring, commands were shouted on the bridge. A few guns were manned on the superstructure, men were sitting on computers, ready to fight. The whole ship was ready within a minute. A new record. The corvettes were manning their turrets too, preparing for battle. Sirens were blaring across the ocean, lights were flashing. Now she needed a view of the battlefield. She needed information. Her crew could deliver her that information. “Okay, what do you guys have for me?”, she asked. “One plane: bearing 285, fast and cold. IFF says enemy.”, a man answered via com. “Ready the fighters for anti-plane warfare. I take the command of the fleet.”, Prince of Wales ordered. The Hangar was buzzing as the fighters were readied, the pilots were jumping in to start the planes up. The deck was getting filled, some planes were roaring across the deck. The buzzing of jets filled the air as they flew around the carrier, waiting for further orders. The escorting ships were confirming the order of her and requested the new heading.
“Fox three, fox three, missile launch detected. Closing in fast!”, shouted a man across the bridge. A missile. A weapon that could kill and her crew. Her ship was capable of fighting off that kind of weapon, but she needed to command that. “CIWS, prepare for defensive fire!”, Prince of Wales shouted. The White small towers around her superstructure began to move, targeting the missile closing in. They moved slightly, then opened fire. A roaring of bullets was screaming through the air, empty shells were raining on the deck. Red tracers were painting lines in the sky. “Missile destroyed, repeat, missile destroyed!”, came the confirmation. The whole process had taken only a few seconds, but several hundreds of rounds had been fired. Another jet was screaming on the deck. Men were running around, the deck was buzzing with movement. Some elevators were bringing up some more jets, ready for take-off. The screen in front of them was filling with callsigns as the sky was getting fuller.
But the enemy didn’t wait for them any longer. “Torpedo trails, bearing 30, closing in fast!”, shouted one man. Prince of Wales was getting slightly nervous. A Torpedo meant that a submarine was in the area. “Rudder hard port, machine slow ahead. Daring and Duncan, search for that submarine!”, she yelled. The two ships were breaking off the formation, steaming towards the target. “How did it manage to come so close?”, asked the captain. The hull began to tilt as the ship steered to one side. Everything tipped, the keel water was curving behind them. The two destroyers were opening fire, rockets rose from their bow. Plumes of smoke were covering the water, the sound was ripping through the air. Prince of Wales needed to concentrate. She would loose her ship otherwise. She closed her eyes and focussed on the sea. The water was turbulent, moved by the ships steaming across the surface. Several layers were moving below the surface, pulling and pushing around water. But something disturbed the movement. A thing made out of metal. A submarine. An enemy submarine. She tried to visualize the shape of it, the general appearance. It was waiting silently in the depths of the ocean, the flaps were still open. It had shot a few of its torpedoes, waiting for the result. Prince of Wales opened her red eyes. “Enemy submarine, bearing 43, depth 150 metres, not moving! Submarine is classified as Virginia-class.”, she said. Some men were taking the info and fed into some computers. The enemy submarine didn’t know that it was spotted. The friendly destroyers were moving over it, still launching bombs and rockets. But the plane had to come from somewhere. There must be an enemy carrier close by. The Destroyers were launching rockets which were punching through the water. The enemy submarine was getting hit, it couldn’t dive further because of several leaks. The Destroyers were closing in even more. They dropped depth charges and other bombs to kill the submarine. As the leaks were getting bigger, the enemy submarine had to surface. The giant wet steel hull was breaching through the surface, throwing water in the air. Waves were pushed out of the tanks. The colossus was sitting on the surface, unable to fight.
She had to concentrate again. But just as she concentrated, a yell from her captain interrupted her. “Torpedohit at starboard, near the stern. Several compartments breached, we are flooding quickly! Speed reduced!” “Dispatch repair crews and fight the flooding!” The flooding was inconvenient, but it wasn’t enough to sink her. She could take several hits before her ship would sink. “Daring reports; enemy submarine disabled, no torpedoes in the water.” That was good. At least one thing she didn’t have to worry about. She tried to concentrate again. A plane was circling around her. It was almost like she had wings. The clouds were thick, but the sea was quite calm. The jet buzzed through the layer of clouds, leaving trails behind. She tried to concentrate, tried to spot with the radar. The pilot did notice the dials moving by themselves and the jet not responding to his commands. It was worrying, but he was in save hands. Prince of Wales watched over him. A small peak in emissions was on the horizon. A small cloud, produced by an ship. The jet closed in. A few grey ships were in formation, a giant carrier was in the middle. Jets were screaming from the deck, circling around the group like a swarm of bees. The enemy carrier which had attacked her. The jet was breaking off, trying not to get spotted. The jets were starting as fast as possible on her ship. Bombs and torpedoes were loaded, ready to strike the enemy.
She grabbed her sword tight and prayed silently. The next step could end fatal. “All planes, attack the following target. Enemy carrier, bearing 245 at 120 miles. Guarded by two destroyers and three frigates. Attack at all cost, we wont lose this fight. For the Queen!” The planes were forming a formation and began to head towards the enemy. The enemy grey carrier was steaming through the water, leaving giant trails of white waves behind. The shipgirl was standing on the deck, her black coat and white hair waving in the wind. She yelled some commands, jets were also screaming across the deck. The group began to separate, preparing for a fight. The two fleets were steering towards each other, readying their forces.
Prince of Wales watched the enemy planes getting closer. They were the latest generation, capable of annihilating her ship within seconds. She grabbed her sword and pointed it towards the planes. “All stations; FIRE!”, she yelled. Rockets were rising from her superstructure, the many guns were blazing away, sending projectiles towards the planes. The formation broke off, the planes tried to escape from the hail of bullets. Her escorts were fighting hard, the roar of their cannons was filling the sky. The smoke and stench of rockets was everywhere. The jets of her were near the enemy. She had the chance for attacking. She closed her eyes again and focused on the jets flying towards the enemy. She guided them, almost like she was tying knots or directing an orchestra. The jets were forming formations, then they fired their rockets. A big wall of rockets was shooting through the air, steering towards the deck and the superstructure. The cannons of the carrier and the escorts were engaging, shooting down nearly all the rockets. The jets were retreating, trying to outmanoeuvre the defending ships. The enemy carrier had to manoeuvre, slowing down to make such tight turns. The deck was listing so heavily, that jets couldn’t land or start. The completely new ship was unable to fight, but only when it had to manoeuvre.
Rockets were screaming from her escorts, heading towards the enemy. They disabled the escorts, leaving the carrier alone. It was glorious to see her fleet annihilate the enemy. She remembered the old days with her battleship, the many salvos she had fired. But her carrier was great, so capable. She loved her new ship and all the slight drawbacks it had. Her planes were landing again, to refuel and to rearm. They started within minutes again, only to batter the enemy carrier under constant fire. As the night began, the enemy carrier was unable to fight back. Enterprise signalled her defeat. Prince of Wales smiled and released the action stations. All of her crew went back to normal procedure, to clean up the ship and service the jets. The exercise was over, she had won. But only slightly. A simulated torpedo had reduced her speed and flooded her engine. It would have crippled her, making it harder to manoeuvre. But the escorts of her managed to take the submarine out of action, at least simulated. The American submarine followed her back to meet its own fleet. All ships met on the next day, discussing the things they had learned from that exercise. Enterprise was defeated, the first time in several years. But it had been her first fight with her new ship, and she wasn’t completed yet, so it was no shame. But Prince of Wales had won the bet. She had to grin when she saw the face of Enterprise. “So, what do you say now?”, she asked. Enterprise sighed. “Well, I may have overestimated my power a bit. But really, how did you managed to survive for that long?”, she asked. “Actually, I didn’t change my tactic at all. I just used the one from my experience with my battleship…”. Enterprise nodded. “Anyway, I need to report back to the authorities and have a few words with the dock. There are still some things that need to be changed. But then, I will defeat you.”, said Enterprise with a smile in her face. “Oh, we will see.”, answered Prince of Wales, “We will see.”
Personal Note: Hey again, this is more or less the second part to the story from yesterday. I tried to be as accurate as possible, but I just have no idea how modern fighting works, especially in a fleet. Anyway, I have plenty of other stories, so there is certainly something you like. As always, I’m open for any suggestions and critics. Bye 😊
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OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…11

Continuing…
That being handled, I leave a wakeup call for 0430 as I want a shower and a couple shower-sunrisers before we leave. It takes me about 10 minutes to pack. I call home to let Es know what’s going on. She’s not in, so I leave a message. Same for my friends Rack and Ruin of the Agency. They’re thrilled so far with my reports.
The security forces here are absolutely going to freak if they reverse-review my phone records once we leave.
Covert? Schmovert. I’m too old for playing such games.
The next morning, after a sudsy shower and a couple of vodka-infused shower-beers; I’m in the lobby with all my kit, checked-out, and waiting on the tour leader. My passport was stamp-stamp-stampity-stamped here at the hotel, which I thought was weird, but after spending time in this here country, not all that unusual.
At 0545 on the dime, the tour bus pulls into the lot. Without a word, bellhops grab near all my kit and escort it out to the waiting bus.
After tipping each extravagantly, I fire up a huge cigar, and wander around outside, loitering by the bus. I see members of my team at the front desk, checking out. Everything’s been paid for already, they just have to sign documents that they’re not secreting hotel towels or televisions or errant nationals in their luggage.
It’s a weird country.
I see them loading box breakfasts for us as well as box lunches on the bus.
Hell, they’re actually doing ‘field trip’ correctly.
If the bus us fueled up, we can go for days at this rate. There are several coolers bearing the hotel’s brand and I sidle over to see what they’re carrying.
Case after case of iced-down beer and a couple of cases of various high-octane potables; and over there? A couple of boxes of mixers…ah, soda…pop…carbonated citrusy goodness.
“OK”, I sigh, “All is as it should be. Now the field excursion may begin.”
My teammates filter outside as does their luggage. I suggest they get out and keep what is necessary for preliminary outcrop excursions; such as a backpack or knapsack, hammer, acid bottles, field notebooks, Brunton compass, lighters, cameras, personal tobacco products, and the like in the bus. That way, we don’t have to go tearing through all the luggage at every stop.
I pull out a bundle of 100 Hubco™ large geological dual-sample bags. That’s right: ‘dual’ sample…
I distribute these to everyone on the team. I ask that they devise their own numbering system and make absolutely certain I have a copy of it when we’re done. I’ll be correlating and curating all the samples when we get back to the world.
I ask that a cooler of drinks are left on board the bus, rather than in the hold. It’s humid, sticky, and muggy today. We must expend valiant effort in remaining hydrated and this will help.
Luckily, the bus has on-board lavatory facilities.
We are seated on the bus, my 10 collective team members, myself, our 4 ‘guides’, ‘Yuk’, ‘No’, ‘Man’, and ‘Kong’; our driver, relief driver, one incredibly shy national geologist, Myung-Dae Soo, and four of the shiny suit clan.
The hotel wheels out a large cart laden with pastries and a huge coffee urn. A bit of a “Bon Voyage” from the casino and bar crowd, as they put this together for us when they heard we were leaving.
“Hey. That’s really nice of them.” Dax notes.
Dax handed over our raw “elevator waiting” funds as we didn’t have time to run it through the casino-machine before we left. We donated over 75,000 won to our friends at the bar, casino, and massage parlor. The ones delivering our going away present assured us it would be divided equitably.
“It best be”, I laughed, “You never know when one of us might be back!”
There was a collective horrified look on their faces for the merest moments. Then they all laughed and said that they hoped we would return someday soon.
“Nice folks”, I thought, “Stupid as shit country, but nice folks.”
We had all separately left tips for the room maids, bellmen, and matrons back before we checked-out.
There was a flurry of handshaking and goodbyes. Not a bad hotel experience here in the so-called land of Best Korea.
Serious dark coffee was passed out amongst the riders, but Ivan, myself, and Dax were already giving one of my emergency flasks a workout.
Ivan smiled and said: “We drink our coffee the Russian way. That is to say we had vodka before it and vodka afterward. HA!”
Ivan and I are cut from the same bolt.
Faux-doughnuts, pseudo-bear claws and fake-long johns all distributed; the bus is fired up, and rumbling. We are exhorted to watch our drinks as we pull away from the hotel and into the wilds of Northern Korea.
I’m humming away:

On the road again -Just can't wait to get on the road again,
The life I love is bashing rocks in the field with my friends.
And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again.
Goin' places that we've never been,
Seein' things that we may never see again…
--
“Rock?”, Dax inquires.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Do please shut up.”
“Music hater”, I muse and comply.
We’re rolling down the highway, as it were, headed generally north. We all have cameras of one kind or another; and rather than relieve us of them, they quietly and without much fuss, slowly darken the windows.
They claim it’s to keep the sun out and temperatures down, but just before things go all black, we’re seeing sights and scenes of the true North Korea. They’re trying to keep us from seeing that en route to the outcrops.
This new bus has some sort of electronic tint-control gizmo for the windows. However, if one has a pair of polarizing sunglasses, as all good field geologists do, you see right past that and can view the passing scenery unencumbered.
I return from a quick beer-recycling loo trip and am amused to see 10 Western scientists, sitting in a blacked-out bus, all wearing polarizing sunglasses.
It was just the surreal note this trip needed as we left the confines of the capital city.
We traveled north, and the empties pile began to grow. We had a few trash bags we had liberated from the hotel, but the shiny suits were very insistent that every empty can, bottle, and bag, yes they had beer in bags…had to be repatriated to a box in the far back of the bus.
Evidently, they either were paid a bounty on each container or were accountable for each vessel. They were soon to realize just the capacity for drink that a group of 11 seasoned very Senior Field Geologists, and one stowaway geologist-in-training can amass.
As we ply our way northward, we see the agricultural side of North Korea. The contrast between rural areas and the capital was striking. There were miles of rice paddies being harvested by people with sickles in their hands. And no cars on the highway. It was most destabilizing for this Westerner.
I think we saw a maximum of three tractors, as most of the work was done with ox power, there was very little evidence of rural electrification. Oh, hold on. We saw many more tractors, I should correct that: we saw three running and not rusted into oblivion tractors.
The farmers we see are using equipment that is quite literally medieval - single-share plows pulled by large, cranky bovines; sweeping sickles to bring in the harvest, and twin-engine, bilateral, botanical-fired ox-carts to transport it. It’s hard to believe that this third-world level of poverty exists in the same country that’s capable of building rockets, nuclear weapons, and tall, well-appointed hotels.
But when we stop at a motorway service station for fuel - a bizarre alien spaceship-like building squatting over the empty carriageways - we do encounter a jangmadang, or semi-official market. Here they are selling cans of knock-off Vietnamese Red Bull and Malaysian-made King Cobra™ Cola.
It reminds me of Russia right after the wall fell. Off the Trans-Siberian Railway in Krasnoyarsk, the Gateway to Eastern Siberia. You can buy Chinese hams, Chinese sodas, Chinese knock-off liquor, and those bloody delicious little bullets of Vitamin-C, Chinese mandarins.
Here, it’s similar. You can get most anything you desire, except it isn’t of Korean manufacture. That stuff is even too shitty to pawn off on tourists.
Instead, it’s knock-off Malaysian, Chinese, or Indonesian beer, wine, or soft drinks.
“Tiger-brand energy drink. Now with 40% more real tiger.” Here? I believe them.
Vodka from everywhere not known for its vodka distilling prowess. Rural hotel shops sell nastily stale crisps, gummy gummies, filling-ripping ‘chewy’ taffy or caramel, and biscuits with a severely limited choice. Rural hotels do not have full electricity so beer is warm and often tossed on the table, waiting for tourists to arrive - as is the food. We were warned to be prepared for cold rice, cold fish, cold potato – and plenty of kimchi and tofu.
Back on the road again, we’re passing small burgs that are not on any of our maps; even the ones we traded for back in the hotel that are specially marked: “For Internal Use ONLY!”.
They were amazingly the same. Clean. Bright. Uncluttered. And attended by cadres of prim, uniform-clad, though non-military people. They were all doing a day’s work keeping everything neat and clean.
There were no cars, trucks, forklifts…only rickshaws and ox-carts. However every one of these ‘towns’ were identical, and exactly, as Ivan pointed out, ‘X’ number of minutes apart.
“Watch! Is so!”, Ivan said. We passed one of these villages, and exactly 3 minutes later, an exact copy. Three minutes later? Another one. 3 more minutes? Xerox-city.
“What the fuck?” Dax asked.
“Potemkin village.” Comrade Dr. Academician Ivan replied.
A Potemkin village is any construction, literal or figurative, whose sole purpose is to provide an external façade to a country which is faring poorly. It is for making people believe that the country is faring better, although statistics and data would suggest otherwise.
“Russia pioneered the process,” Ivan noted with no small amount of pride. “During Cold War with West, entire cities were built, moved, raised, and razed. Ever hear of Krasnoyarsk-25? Atomic Research City? Supposed place of weapons study and manufacture. Huge ‘accident’. Entire city demolished, total populace relocated supposedly, after massive nuclear calamity.”
“Is that true? Cliff asks.
“No. Not at all.” Ivan smiles, “Deliberate misinformation. At least for K-25. It was diversion for actual towns where accidents; nuclear, biological, or worse, had happened. West so concerned about K-25 because it was big, near big capital city of Krasnoyarsk and suitably located out in the taiga. Easy to spot, easy to watch. Kept Western satellites busy while real towns of I-33, U-10, and AR-13 out in the forest were quietly demolished and people relocated or mass buried after some horrible, horrible accidents...”
“You think it’s the same here?” I asked Ivan.
“No, Dr. Rock”, Ivan smiled, and helped himself to my freshly constructed, but untouched, Yorshch, “This is all fake and bluster. Make West think everything is all A-OK, is that right idiom?”
“Yep.” I reply, “Precisely.”
“Make West believe all is OK and green”, as he winks at me, “And bustling and growing. Cover up what is real case here. We all see it and we see right through. Shoddy even for Asians.”
We all had to snicker and smirk as the shiny suit squad, who sat up at the front of the bus, and were not supposed to be listening; reacted like every cell in their bodies were just hit with a drop of pure lemon juice.
“Comrade Dr. Academician. Decorum, please.” I snickered.
“Oh, fuck them!”, Ivan replied, “I am old Russian. They try and pull burlap over my eyes? St. Petersburg? Moscow? Krasnoyarsk.? I’ve been there, seen them. They think this display of tawdriness…Even goofy American and Canadian can see the fakes they are. Britisher? I’m not so sure…”
“Damn, Doctor., I said to Ivan, “You’re just making friends all over the planet today.”
We all knew it was in jest; but the shiny suit squad certainly had their feathers ruffled and either didn’t care or wanted us to know we were under their observation.
“Fuck them twice”, Ivan said, “Ask them for bottle opener. I’m too lazy to search for my field jackknife.”
I hand him my pocket Leatherman and he pries the top of another bottle of ‘Budveiser’ beer.
“They can’t even make fake the name correctly”, he smirks and drains the bottle.
‘Town’ after ‘town’ and even that parade gets uninteresting. We’re headed north and finally come to a crossroads.
The bus driver, who must be a regular paranoid-maniac because he actually stopped to look for oncoming traffic, which we have seen precisely none since leaving the capital city, made a hard right. We’re heading back and up into the hills, leaving the bright lights of the big city far behind.
After an hour or so of driving, we pull off to the left-hand side of the road.
“Rock, Ivan, Cliff…holy shit, look at this!” Dax was uncharacteristically excited.
It was an open field that leads to a series of low outcrops of polychromatic, obviously sedimentary rocks. Magentas, greens, purples, rust-reds, browns, blacks, olive greens…holy shit. A real sedimentary pile.
We filed out of the bus with our field gear. The shiny suit squad started in with a bullhorn.
“You will wait for tour guides!”
“You will listen to group leaders!”
“You will not stray from the designated paths set up…”
No one heard them as the group of 11 remaining Western geoscientists were already across the highway and hieing for the exposures like outcrop-seeking multiple-warhead re-entry vehicles.
“You must wait!” we heard from exasperated voices back at the bus. “You must stop!”
“You must piss off!” Cliff said, “This is what we’ve been waiting over two weeks to see!”
“They are very angry with us”, Myung-dae the young Korean geologist said. “I find that just too bad.”
“And you are?” I asked.
Myung-dae Soo, the young Korean geologist, introduced himself.
“Well”, I said, “Welcome aboard. I’m Dr. Rock.”
“They are very, very angry”, he repeats.
“So? Are you tagging along to give them internal reports?” I asked.
“No, Doctor”, he replied, “I too am a geologist. I want to get away from those assholes and see some real rocks.”
“Who are you with?” I ask, “What group?”
“I am 5th-year student at Pyongyang College. I am not officially here. We were told in class that you were coming. I decided to see if I could join you. This morning, I was standing by bus and they thought I was hotel worker or orderly. I was given cooler full of beer and told to find place for it on the bus. I did and after that, just stayed in the back. I am stowaway. I am ashamed, but I had to see for myself. But, I like Western field trips so far!”
“No shit? Well, then”, I said, “Double welcome aboard. None of this ‘I am ashamed’ shit. You’re a geologist, but you haven’t even worked through your first field-evening get-together with us. But this is no pleasure cruise. It’s real work, real geology, real serious science shit. You savvy?”
“Yes, sir, Doctor Rocknocker from Sultanate in the Middle East.” Myung-dae smiled.
“And you fucking stay close to me”, I smirked.
I fired a couple of BLAAATS! from my portable air horn.
“Field Meeting! Field Meeting! Assholes & Elbows!” I called aloud.
Everyone gathered within earshot.
“OK, guys, here’s the deal. We do not know how long we’ve got here. So, let’s split up into teams. Geophysicists, go do your structural thing. Stratigraphers? Field relations. Geologists? Let’s go talk to some ronery-rooking-rocks. No offense, Mr. Myung.”
Myung-dae was laughing up a storm. He got that reference. He later told us all around the campfire he thought ‘Team America’ was a “fucking hilarious movie.”
Oh, we are going to be a real bad influence on this poor kid.
The groups spontaneously broke up into 4 or 5 sub-groups. They headed for areas they thought were important and they were photographing, measuring, pounding on rocks, and arguing within minutes.
“No, you idiot! It’s continental. Look at those adhesion ripples.”
“The fuck you know. It’s only a little low-level eggbeater tectonics. Where the fuck would you get continental collision-size energy around here?”
“Oh, the fuck you say. It’s non-marine. Those are mud cracks. Look at the sandy aeolian infill, fer chrissake.”
Formal? Proper? Detached Doctors of Geology?
Not when you’re in the field. It all goes out the window when different opinions collide like subducting plates.
“The music of my people!” I said to Morse.
“I thought that was the ‘Safety Dance’?” he chided.
“We’re a big family. We can have more than one.” I snickered.
We’re wandering around the site, with individual purpose.
We are looking for or looking at items of interest.
We’re hacking at the outcrops.
We’re all looking at…things.
It’s hard to describe. Get a load of geologists or geology students out of the office, lab, or classroom; stick them out on a bare expanse of heavily weathered rock and it’s simply…numinous.
We’re rebuilding worlds here.
This rock says this.
This rock says that.
And you’re not fluent in that dialect. Here, let me interpret for you…
We’re at each other’s throats, in the academic-metaphorical sense. Tempers have been known to run hot. There has been the occasional bloody nose or rocks sailing down an outcrop without the obligate “HEADACHE!” call. Hammers and Marsh Picks have ended up swimming without the owner’s knowledge.
But once we’re back; settled in the hotel room, tavern, or around the campfire, we’re all a Band of Brothers again. It’s an odd thing to watch; as if you’re not of the clan, you’d need an interpreter. It defies all boundaries: political, sexual, educational, geographical, linguistic, social, et cetera.
We’re all geologists first. We share the common scientific bond of Geology.
That’s why Geology is the First Science.
Plus we tend to drink a serious fucking whole bloody awful lot.
We’ve all been on that ‘crawlin’ home puker’.
We’ve also been to the ends of the earth: the deepest depths, the highest heights, we deal with the greatest pressures, the hottest temperatures; we’ve been to the mountain, we’ve seen the elephant, and we’ve held a bear’s nose to dogshit.
We wear the scars attained in our travels like badges of honor.
We’re God-Damned Scientists.
Back off, man. Geologist comin’ through.
Anyways, I’m looking at the bedding-plane boundaries between the purple unit and the underlying olive-green unit. The upper unit it looks, to me, continental in origin. Fluvial, perhaps. The lower unit is much finer-grained. Marine mudstone, perhaps? But what age?
The cadged Korean Geological maps are worse than useless. They never would go down to the outcrop scale. Consulting them, they don’t even note these exposures in a field sense.
Myung-dae, who is working about 35 meters down-section from me calls out, “Doctors! Sirs! Look here! I’ve found something!”
We all wander over as he is hacking away at the dusty, eroded rock. He stands and dusts off his find.
It’s a very large, nearly 1-meter diameter, coiled fossil cephalopod.
I wander over for a closer look. Dax, Cliff, Morse, and Ivan do as well.
“Blimey! Will you look at that? Outstanding, Mr. Myung!” Cliff says.
“Well, that confirms it. This layer, at least, is marine. Look at that suture pattern”, I say, dusting off an unweathered bit.
“Look at the radius of coiling.”, Cliff joins in.
We’re slowly wresting information out of this silent witness.
“Ornamentation?”, Dr. Ivan asks. “Knobs, bosses, and excrutions?” Oh, yes.”
In unison, we declare: “Hyphoplites!”
Morse adds, “And therefore…these rocks are middle Cretaceous. Marine. Not bad…”
“Need to get some samples for geochemical analysis. Dig deep, gentlemen, we need unweathered samples for TOC (Total Organic Carbon) content.”, Dr. Erlen Meyer notes.
With that, we have a relative age of the rock, a good idea of its depositional environment, and therefore extent, ideas of field relationships, and an indication of some of its fauna.
Could it be source rock worthy?
Samples? Best get diggin’, Beaumont.
That unit is right smack in the middle of this pile of rocks. Dax and I will work up-section and Ivan and Cliff will work down-section. We’re going to see what lies above, what lies below, what trends we can discern, and develop an idea of what happened here some 100 million years ago.
This is what happens when you get geologists out in the field with the proper amounts of field gear, outcrops, and alcohol.
Overall, the deeper down-section, and therefore, earlier in geological time you go, the more marine the rocks are. Conversely, the higher you go in the column, i.e., up-section, into younger rocks, the more continental it appears.
We find fragments of marine fish fossils, sea-crocodile scutes and teeth, heaps of mosasaur coprolites, i.e., fossil shit piles, and other indications that the lower, older rocks are Lower Cretaceous ocean basin-fill.
But up higher; we find mud cracks, rain prints, land turtle shells, land-snails (Bellerophontid gastropods), and what may actually be a fossil feather. All indications of a more continental, i.e., fluvial (river), floodplain, lacustrine (lake), and paludal (swamp) deposition.
That’s my particular bailiwick.
I’m ‘elephant walking’ along the upper outcrops looking for fossils. You basically bend over at the waist and sweep from left to right as you take exaggerated step after step, scanning the ground looking for…well…it takes years, but once you see it, you never forget it.
“Fossil sign”.
A disjunct endemism. Something not in situ. Something out of place. A bit of a different, out of context color. Out of context texture. Out of context size. Out of context context.
Something that looks like it shouldn’t ought to be there.
I’m picking up 1 cm. square hunks of what look like an ordinary rock. I taste them. Well, I stick them to my tongue. If it liquefies and runs away, it’s ordinary mudstone, shale, or the like.
If it sticks…well, it might just be fossil bone.
“PTWTWOO!”
“Damn right, Rock”, Cliff says from behind me, “Fucking North Korea tastes terrible.”
“Still, it’s the best way I know to…” I paused.
“Got something?” Cliff asked.
“Look here.” I said, “Anthill. Big, nasty buggers. Look around the edges. Pieces of flat, cream-colored rock on this gaudy purple stuff. Tongue test? They stick like cockleburs. Let’s look upslope, see if there’s a drainage…”
There it was, a nice little drainage incised about 1.5 meters deep into the nearly horizontal rocks we were walking on.
“Any float?” I asked.
“Not yet,” Cliff said.
We followed the weak, little drainage that was cut into the outcrop, up another couple of meters.
There were very scrappy, very small, very scattered pieces of that same cream-colored rock. Some were ornamented with a scroll-work or some sort of striations. Most un-geological. More biological. We followed the trail, up here, around here, over there.
Cliff noticed it first, a soccer-ball sized lump of completely out-of-place crème-colored ‘rock’ working its way out by gradual erosion of the variegated pastels of the continental rocks upon which we were treading.
I got there first and began to clear the area with my Estwing.
“Careful. Careful”, Cliff admonished.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mind your Mincies. [Mince pies = eyes]”, as I’m swinging away at the reluctant, reticent, rocks.
The excavation grew, slowly. From the rounded dome, we could see small sutures that had developed…
Then condyles, fenestrae, then more ‘bone’. Then a jaw, teeth, vertebrae…
“HOLY DOUBLE-DAMN SHIT!” I tootled my air horn. We needed the group to see this.
It was a skull. A dinosaur skull. A small, non-avian dinosaur skull.
Everyone has crowded around and looked at the small quarry we had just built.
“Whatcha got, Rock? Cliff?” Joon asked.
“Fuck me, but I think we’ve got us a dinosaur skull,” I said.
Professor Doctor Academician Ivan walked over and cleared the area.
As Professor Emeritus, he had pole position priority.
“I agree.” is all he said.
I cleared the area and let others take a whack at opening up the quarry.
We may have been low on power tools, but we had a surfeit of opinions.
“OK,” I said, “Let’s look at the facts…”
  1. Age? Cretaceous. Probably lower to lower-middle Cretaceous.
  2. Continental deposits. That’s very fine sand we’re hacking away. Fluvial, without a doubt. Or, possibly aeolian; there’s no such thing as a geological certainty. Dunes? Ephemeral creeks? Low floodplain? Geo-talk… .
  3. Small size. Potentially a juvenile?
  4. Nope. Not a juvie. Sutures are closed, fused. This is, well was, an adult; perhaps a subadult, given its size.
  5. In situ? In place? Or washed in?
Hard to tell when all you’ve exposed is half the critter’s brain box.
“Look at that!” Myung-dae exclaimed, “Squamosal bones and the inner parietals…temporal fenestrae. It had a frill; a small one.”
“OK,”, I said, looking closely at the exposed scrappy remains, “Fucking-A Bubba. Nailed it.” I said, giving him the thumbs up.
“Ceratopsian. Look at those greens-grinder molars. There’s some small osteoderms on the skull; knobby old bastard. Early critter.” I continued.
Others looked around and confirmed my observations.
“Reminds me of Protoceratops from when I was back in Mongolia,” I said.
Dax chimed in with, “Looks something like Psittacosaurus from back in the Cretaceous Belly River of Canada.”
Drs. Ivan and Morse agree. “Most assuredly. It is definitely proto-ceratopsian. Young adult, as Dr. Rock notes by the cranial sutures. Do they have a record of proto-ceratopsians here?”
Myung-dae replies, “I have read reports of Korean proto-ceratopsian found in South Korea. Not long ago, 2019, it is called…ah… Auroraceratops. It is a genus of bipedal basal neo-ceratopsian dinosaur.”
“Bipedal?” I query. “Well, there’s a fine how do you do. All the proto-ceratopsians I’ve known were obligate quadrupeds.”
“Well”, Ivan, Dax, Cliff, and Morse agree, “That should give the shiny suit squad something to report. That’ll keep them the hell out of our hair for a while.”
We photograph each step as we excavate the critter. It’s more or less in situ, buried where it fell. Probably killed by a sand slip off a dune, or a river sandbar slip and burial. It’s not complete, but we do have the skull and a good portion of the post-cranial elements to about just before the pelvis. A good pectoral girdle, skull, jaw, frill, forelimbs, forefeet…easily half-a cute little herbivorous dinosaur. About the size of a smallish Highland Coo or large Great Dane.
We flag it with the team particulars, it’s GPS position, and carefully rebury the animal. We don’t have any of the equipment nor time to excavate it properly, but we can conserve it. Of course, we’ll be informing the proper authorities of our discovery.
I have an absolutely ancient Polaroid instant camera. Before re-internment, I take several pictures of our “Koreasaurus”, as we’ve dubbed the animal, with items for scale; like a hammer, cigar, and oddly enough, a photographic scale. Then I get a photo of the whole crew standing around, drinking warm beers from their individual day packs, smiling about the find ‘they‘ made.
We hear the melodious tootle of the bus’s horns. We make sure to pack out all our trash and wander back to our terrestrial transport.
“You were gone too long!” the chief shiny suited character goes all ballistic on me.
“Watch yourself, Herr Mac.”, I calmly said, “You’re going to burn your nose on my cigar.”
“You left without your handlers…err…guides!” he fumed.
“Hey, Scooter. Cool out. We’re geologists. We never get lost.” I said.
It sometimes just takes us longer to get back than it took us to leave…
“Your impertinence will be reported.” He smoldered.
“Report this, Mother Chuckler”, I observed and held out the pictures of our newly discovered Koreasaurus.
“Show those photos to your handlers,” I said in a mocking tone. “We found a brand new species of God-damned dinosaur for you geezers. It took us less than two hours. You can spin it that it’s a new, never-before-seen species of very specialized dinosaur found right here in beautiful Korea del Norte. Be quite the scientific coup, don’t you think? Trust us. We won’t say anything.”
He immediately shut up and went into conference with the rest of the shiny suit squad.
“Doctor”, one of the clan covert asked, “This is a new dinosaur?”
I had a thunderbolt of an idea.
“Oh! Yes, it is. I’d stake my reputation on it. You’ve had no concerted search here for the beasts and well, with the normalizing of relations between your country and the world, it allowed your specialists to perform real science. In fact, on the bus is the young North Korean geoscientist who made the discovery.” I said. “Give me a minute. I’ll go and get him. I think he was off taking a shi…ah, using the lavatory. Just give me a minute.”
I did have an idea. A wonderful idea. A wonderfully evil idea.
Back on the bus, I ordered the doors closed.
“Gentlemen! Ears and eyes! Please.” I said loudly.
Continuing…
“The shiny suits have their knickers all a-twist because we don’t want to listen to them; the assholes. Fuck that. I’ve got an idea. Let’s make our young acolyte here, Mr. Myung-dae Soo, a national hero. He would probably get his ass in a crack for sneaking on board the Western bus today the way he did. Well, double fuck that. Let’s all say he found the dinosaur. Let him take the glory for the homeland. No one else will ever need to know.” I said smiling.
“Fuck Yeah! You bet! Замечательное! Ihmeellisiä! Maravilhoso! Geweldig!”
Good to know we’re all on the same page. Geologists. You can always count on them…
“Mr. Myung-dae Soo? Front and center. Time to go and become ‘Hero of Best Korea’.” I smiled.
He was absolutely terrified.
“Doctor…I …don't…wait…no…” he stammered.
Cliff, Dax, Ivan, and I trotted him out to confront the shiny suit squad.
“Don’t worry, Myung. We’ve got your back. Trust us.” I said in a low conspiratorial tone.
The shiny suit squad turned as one and gave Mr. Myung the Stink Eye treatment.
“Here you go. The man of the hour. Mr. Myung-Dae Soo, young geologist and up and coming paleontologist.” I say loudly and with the utmost honor.
They look at him and the Korean erupts in rapid-fire staccato bursts.
Cliff just wanders in and interjects, “Yes. Righto. Top form. Found the float. Tracked down that dino like he was on safari. Highest marks. Good man!”
Dax adds more fuel to the fire. “Like he knew where to go, knew where to look. He’s a natural.”
Dr. Academician Ivan blustered forth: “Excellent scholar. Excellent field man. Banner geologist.”
I couldn’t have added more. The shiny suit squad was gobsmacked.
I asked Myung-dae what they were saying.
“They were talking about reprisals. Reporting to authorities. Then, they stopped. You have them completely confounded.” He said.
“How so?” I asked, quietly.
“Between an international incident where we don’t listen to our handlers and this potential important scientific discovery.” Mr. Myung-dae reported, trying hard to parse the evolving situation.
“Yes”, I added to Ivan’s bluster.
To the shiny suits: “I’ve worked as visiting Dinosaurian Vertebrate Paleontology Curator at all the major American museums. This is a find quite unlike anything known. It is a watershed discovery. It will help unravel the evolution and distribution of the clan Dinosauria for the whole Korean Peninsula. Perhaps, even with international impact on the recent finds in China.”
I laid it on with a trowel.
I hit all the buzzwords.
“Yes. Yes, perhaps.”, the head shiny-suiter said. “I will report this bit of very good news to the proper authorities. Myung-dae, with us. We require more information.”
“Ah, we’d prefer him to ride in back with us if you don’t mind. Scientific courtesy, old man. He needs to be classically de-interviewed after such a find.” I insisted, making certain I stand as tall, wide, and menacing as possible while smiling like a damned Cheshire cat, one smoking a very large cigar.
“Very well. We are not far from our evening stop. We can talk later.” He agreed.
We all moseyed, laughing silently, back to the bus; literally supporting our young hero Mr. Myung-dae as he seemed to have gone all wobbly of late.
Myung-dae was ashen-white. He looked like he had just given birth to a basketball. He was visibly shaking.
We get on the bus and I whip up a stout Yorshch for the young hero of the hour.
“Here! This is for you. If you’re going to be a world-class geologist, you’d damn sure better start acting like one.” I smile broadly.
There were hoots, cheers, and cat-calls.
Beers were popped, bottles uncorked; cigars, cigarettes, and pipes lit.
“Damn Skippy!” some anonymous reveler added.
Myung-dae slurped a good half the drink. I offered him a cigar. He stopped shaking enough to accept the novel offer.
Remember “crawlin’ home puker”? He’s taken his first step into a larger world.
OK, just to recap. Here are the dramatis personae left on the bus…
Bus driver (Kim) and his relief (Won).
My team and I. That’s 11 Western geoscientists: Morse, Cliff, Volna, Ack, Viv, Graco, Erlen, Dr. Academician Ivan, Joon, Dax, and myself.
Then there are our guides: Yuk, No, Man, and Kong.
Our stowaway hero geologist-in-training: Myung-dae Soo, aka, “Mung”.
And the four members of the shiny suit clan: Pak, Mak, Tak, and Jak. At least, that’s the names we used when we addressed them.
The bus was rumbling down the deserted highway. We were headed more or less due east, passing the occasional Potemkin Village. They knew we cracked their code long ago, so they didn’t bother with darkening the windows any longer.
We are passing a series of highway road cut outcrops. We’re only going approximately 35 or 40 miles per hour. Suddenly, Morse jumps out of his seat and runs up to the driver.
“STOP! STOP! Back up! We almost missed it!” he barks in heavily Russian inflected English.
The driver, shaken to the core, just slams on the brakes. The bus grinds to a stop. Good thing there’s no traffic out here.
Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Jak of the suit clan jumps up and asks “What is the problem?”
“How could you miss that?” Morse shouts. “Huge fault. Mineralization. I saw that from a glimpse. We must return to investigate.”
“Is not possible. We have appointment at the hotel.” Jak replies.
“Fuck that!”, Morse shouts. I guess he’s just really into faults…
I wander up and try to defuse the situation.
“OK, guys, cool out. Let’s be reasonable. Do it our way. Go back to that road cut. We spend a half-hour there then we go on to the hotel. The hotel will still be there when we arrive, won’t it? Even if we’re a bit late?” I ask.
Jak looks to Pak, who converses with Mak and Tak. They know they’re outgunned.
The driver shifts the bus into reverse and we back down the luckily deserted highway over a mile to the outcrop in question.
We had to admit, it was a mother beautiful normal fault. In perfect, textbook cross-section.
Morse and Joon were on it like white on rice; given the mineralization along the fault plane. All sorts of implications for the thermal and geological history of the area. But with just one exposure like this, more or less just a real interesting geo-oddity.
We spent precisely 30 minutes at the exposure, and when our handlers requested we re-board and head to the motel, we complied like nice, normal sort of folks.
I believe the appropriate maxim here is: “Lull them into a false sense of security…”
Once more down the road we travel. Beers popped, bottles uncorked; you know, the usual.
Forty-five minutes later, we pull into, I kid you not, a replica US of A 1950s Motor-Inn.
“Mr. Myung”, I ask, “What the hell is this?”
To be continued…
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OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…4

Continuing…
Mealtime was a very nice selection of either British or Oriental food, I enjoyed the lasagna especially.
The empties pile was growing at a prodigious rate as it’s a thirsty business flying around the world, defending science, and pushing back the boundaries of knowledge and scholarship.
Besides, it was free.
The lightweights of the crowd, the wiggle-pickers, and the log readers flaked early and were snoring their way to the Orient. The stalwart Russians, the Bulgarian, the Swede, and the Finn were keeping the cabin attendants in shape with their beverage requests. Not to worry, I plan to tip each stoutly upon our arrival.
I thought ahead and ‘smuggled’ a bottle of duty-free vodka aboard. Truth be told, my emergency flasks probably tote up about a liter combined. I kept myself busy with my notes, logistics, field notebooks, and expenses; so I only had to ask for ice, limes, and Bitter Lemon a couple of times during the long flight.
The flight continued on through the night and into the next day. I flaked out myself somewhere over Lake Baikal by my reckoning. The next thing I know, I was being offered a hot towel, tea, and breakfast menu by a stunningly cute and ridiculously attentive diminutive cabin attendant.
The light coming through the cabin windows was intensely bright, as is its wont at 35,000 feet elevation. I wish I could have asked for someone to turn it down a couple of notches.
“Cliff. Could you pull down the window shade? I’m getting zorched over here.”
After abbreviated morning ablutions, I’m sipping some genuinely wonderful loose-leaf black morning tea.
It was augmented by a quick splash of wuliangye, a delightful Chinese liqueur made from sorghum, rice, glutinous rice, more rice, sticky rice, unsticky rice, rice crispies, wheat, and corn which rings in at 52 percent alcohol.
104 proof breakfast juice.
My kind of morning wake-up tea.
Once breakfast was served, I took the time to remind everyone of our mission.
Remember where we’re going. Remember what we’re doing. And remember, these folks probably don’t care much for practical jokes; as I looked directly at Dr. Ivan who made an obligatory fake flatus sound.
Ph.D. Doctor. Academician. And a 12-year old’s comportment. He makes it out of this alive and it’ll be a genuine miracle.
The plane makes a couple of sudden swings. I’ve been through this before, we’re getting ready to land at Beijing Capital International Airport.
“DING!” dings the in-cabin dinger that ding-alerts us that, yes, we’re preparing to land.
Stash that extra beer in your daypack, shove all those extra mini-bottles into your rucksack; we’re getting ready to touch down.
We land, taxi to the appropriate arrivals gate and in merest minutes are headed off the plane into the belly of the airport. I’m last off, to ensure everyone else makes it and to disburse some well-deserved tips to the cabin attendants.
They tried, wanly, to protest, “Oh, no. We cannot…oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
One flight attendant hands me a couple of mini-bottles of vodka and a can of Bitter Lemon.
“It is very dusty walk to customs”, she smiles at me.
I do so love to visit the Orient. Furry Godzillas get some mad respect over here.
We needn’t worry. We were all met at the debouchment of the jetway by a pair of electric convenience carts. We were sort of, kind of, more or less, VIPs, so we’re getting the royal service.
I could grow to like this.
We are taken to an off-axis terminal room behind an unmarked door and told to wait.
Of course, the cigarettes are broken out and I am offered a small Dutch dry-cured cigar from Dr. Viv.
“Here, Rock. Try one of mine.” He smiled.
“Thanks, Viv.” I said and joined the combustible crowd. Nice flavor, burns a tad hot though for my taste.
I take the time to check in back home. Not with Es, but with the Agents. I inform them via answering machine that we’re in China, being treated well, on schedule and will be departing to the final destination in a couple of hours.
“Rock, what’s the bloody score?” Cliff asks me.
“Not sure”, I replied, “Nothing from any agency folks. Perhaps they are taken to quarantine geologists now in light of the global Cheap Mexican Beer Virus craziness.”
An official arrives at the door, coughs, and informs us that our luggage is outside. We will surrender our passports and the needful will be done. They will be returned, and we will be taken to our departure gate.
I spoke up.
“Excuse me, but I’m Dr. Rocknocker, the titular head of this special education class. I think I speak for the crowd when I say that we’re not terribly keen on ‘surrendering’, as you say, our passports. We’re world travelers and that right there is no-no number one on the world wanderer hit parade.” I said.
“Yes, Dr. Rocknocker. This was anticipated.” He replied, without stating his name, rank or even serial number, “Therefore, if you wish, one of your party will accompany us to the customs area and oversee the procedure. It is for your convenience.”
“I understand that and we do appreciate that, but some of us are from countries that have undergone some severe global turmoil in the last few decades. Old habits die hard. Can you give us a minute, please?” I asked.
“Certainly, Doctor.” The official replied. And silently shut himself off.
Or so it seemed, he was very methodical and mechanical.
“OK, guys, here’s the deal. Pony up your passports. Give them to Dax, whom I’ve just elected as official IUPGS ambassador to China.”
Dax does a quick double-take. “What?”
“No worries Dax. It’s a cinch. Just go with Three Ceepio over here and watch over our passports. We’ll hold down the fort on this side.” I said.
“Why me? Why don’t you, as ‘titular head of this special education class’, tend to such duties?” Dax asks.
“Ah, you heard that…” I snickered, “That’s the precise reason. I’ve got to stay and figure out the logistics while you handle some of the ancillary activities. I mean, that’s what second in command duties entail.”
“OK, OK”, Dax exhales in defeat, “Give me your passports, sign a sheet as a receipt to show them we’re not going to be snookered”, as evidently, Western passports, even vague copies, go for major dinero over here on the black market; which we’re not implying is what’s happening here at all.
No. Not in the least.
Dax continues, “Paper trail. Let’s make a real path back from wherever we go. So, hand over your passports and sign the paper. We’ll have Three Ceepio sign it as well once we get him rebooted. Then I go take care of business while Dr. Rock does the needful here.”
Even with the grumbles and snark, we collected a total of a dozen passports, a dozen signatures and once reawakened, Three Ceepio actually signed the sheet of paper we were using to track our documents.
It’s not that we’re paranoid. It’s not that we’re suspicious. It’s not that we’re distrustful. It’s just that we’re very, very careful, cynical, and pragmatic. It’s a survival instinct.
Dax and the Chinese official vacate the room and I wander outside the door to check on our luggage. I had copies of everyone’s bag tags and saw immediately that mine had made it more or less unscathed. It was a real pain in the lumbar region stooping over and checking all those numbers, so I dragooned Viv and Ivan into helping me.
I’d call off the name, and then the last 4 digits of the ridiculously long 18-25 digit tracking number. Viv or Ivan would find the bag and we’d check another off the list. It would have taken me alone a good hour to accomplish this. With Viv and Ivan’s help, 10 minutes later, we're back in the austere waiting room, smoking cigars and taking sips from purloined British Airways liquor miniatures.
All our baggage made it this far. At least, the bag showed up. No idea who or what had been through the interior of the bags, but they all looked intact.
That, in and of itself, was good enough for a couple of toasts.
Dax returned with all our properly stamped, photocopied, re-stamped, visa-ed, and appropriately checked for entrance to our next destination. There were certain countries where if their customs stamps appear in your passport it could cause you to be denied entry. These were all covered with hardly-obvious yellow sticky notes and low-grade sticky tape.
Such subterfuge.
There was a knock at the door and Joon answered. It was an Air China hostess pushing a huge cart loaded with food and drink.
“Hello. Is this IUPGS?” she asked.
“Why, yes; it is,” I replied. “At least, were representatives of that group.”
She pushes open the doors wide as it would go and enters with the cart.
“Courtesy of Air China.” She declared, did a neat little bow and exited before we could say a word.
“Very much like traveling with Dr. Rock”, Volna declares, “We must do this some more often” as he heads to the cart and grabs a very cold can of local beer.
I look at the cart, and at my team members.
“Bon appetite, guys”, I say, shrugging my shoulders and raising my hands in defeat.
Like hungry lampreys on a wobbly Sockeye Salmon, that cart actually shuddered under the onslaught.
Once the food and drink were sorted, Dax continued with his tale.
“Yeah, they were very thorough. Actually had some joker from the place we’re going giving each and every passport the once over. Checking for untoward stamps, problematic visas, and the like Everything was going fine until some knucklehead’s red Diplomatic Passport came up.” Dax chuckled.
“Yes? Hello?” I said, looking up from a very tasty Oriental chicken-wrap sandwich.
“Oh, yeah. ‘Why an American has a Russian Diplomatic Passport’? I didn’t know so I just dummied up. I let them figure it out. A few phone calls later, they hurriedly stamped that passport and shoved it back into the pile like it was made of pure plutonium. Your reputation does precede you, Rock.” Dax laughs.
“They probably called the emergency number inside the front cover.” I chuckled along, “When the Langley operator answered, they probably wet themselves in unison.”
“That”, Ivan pointed out, “Raises even more questions. But I’d rather have another drink than examine that issue here and now.”
“Smart move”, I smiled back to Ivan. He fake-farted back at me.
“Oh, Geez Louise. This is going to be a long trip…” I shook my head in disbelief.
Just a short time later, Three Ceepio arrived back at our waiting area, briefly goggled at the drinks cart that now resembled the post-lunch feeding rig used for the velociraptors in the original Jurassic Park. He announced that we needed to gather our belongings and meet outside for transport to our departure gate.
We gathered up our gear and with cries of “pack out your trash”, we policed the area and left it cleaner than when we arrived. There were 4 electric carts idling along outside, spewing all that noxious angry pixie effluvia into the ether. Our baggage was already gone, explained by one of the drivers that it had already been taken to the plane; and if we’d please be seated, we’d be next.
We zoomed through the surprisingly empty airport terminal towards our departure gate.
A couple of the cart drivers, at the behest of the occupants, were vying to see who could get to our departure gate first; as there was a pile of rubles, yuan, euros, krona, lev, yen, and a few dollars at stake.
It was a near thing, but I wasn’t about to declare a winner. As far as I was concerned we made it there alive and that should have been sufficient to split up the prize four ways. I let the other conspirators handle this little occasion.
Up to the departure desk, and it was a very cursory look at our passports, a taking of tickets, and ushering us onto the plane.
“Sheesh.” I heard someone grouse, “What a puddle jumper. Damn thing’s a tin can and we’re the sardines.”
It was a vintage Boeing 737. Not tiny, but by comparison to what we’re been flying, it looked very small indeed.
We didn’t need to worry, the plane was empty. We were the only passengers on this flight; CA121 Beijing to Pyongyang. Departing 1:25 PM Arriving 4:20 PM.
It’s good to have connections.
Since the airport was so quiet and we were the only passengers on this flight, we were seated, asked our drink orders and sitting back relaxing for only 15 minutes before we heard the doors clatter shut and the jet lurching backward as we push off.
We were asked to drink up so the glasses could be gathered and stored in the galley during takeoff. We taxied a bit, drove left, drove right, and before we even had a chance for some pithy quips, we were airborne headed to our destination.
“Damn”, I said to the vapors, “That was quick.”
We had just leveled out on our ~2-hour flight when the cabin attendants came around with duty-free.
“Last chance to buy!”, they smiled.
We bought them out of booze and cigarettes. They didn’t have any cigars.
Damn.
Then it was snacks and drinks. I was going to say something about watching their intake of EtOh, but, fuck that. They’re adults. Supposedly. They know their limits. I hoped.
The flight puttered along very smoothly. Too high up to see any scenery, plus it was quite foggy with a low lying scud of gray clouds below us. The in-flight movies were execrable and the in-flight magazine indecipherable.
“Yes, I’d love another cocktail. A double, if you would, Thanks. What? Oh, whatever that last one was…”
And so the flight progressed.
A short while later, the annunciator dinged and let us know that we were beginning our descent to that place north of the 38th parallel.
“Gentlemen”, I said, “We are finally arriving at our primary destination. Please, remember decorum. We are international scientific ambassadors, so let’s keep the bilabial fricatives to a minimum.”
I was greeted by a volley of fake-farts, Bronx cheers, and staccato belches that would put any university’s zoo fraternity to shame. Geologists are a weird bunch.
“Yeah. My team. Yeah. Karma hates me…” I sighed and sat back down in my seat for landing.
We touch down as light as lotus blossom on silent golden pond.
We taxied and taxied until our taxi-er was sore, but we finally arrived at the proper gate; one of the two that existed. It’s not that the airport was that big or busy, it was just things tend to move a bit slower here.
Then it sort of hits. We’re finally at Pyongyang International Airport. We are a group of hand-picked global geoscientists on a mission to try and help out a self-insulated, insular, xenophobic, totalitarian, dictatorial, repressive regime crawl out of the intellectual and technological cesspool they’ve created for themselves by providing the insights into the latest exploration, operations, and production petroleum geology to help bolster their own economy, raise the standard of living for all its citizens, and perhaps start them down the path to a slightly more robust energy self-sufficiency where they won’t have to worry over sanctions, global prohibitions of trade, or the vicissitudes and illegalities of black market oil and bring the quality of their geological and associated sciences out of the late 19th century and gloriously into the 21st!
Me? Fuck it. I’m an unrepentant mercenary. I’m in it for the money.
We taxi over to Terminal 2, the arrivals terminal for all international flights. I note, rather bemusedly, that the airport boasts only one runway. I’ve landed at grass-swamp airports on the taiga in Eastern Siberia that have three or four runways, and those are carved out annually.
I’m not terribly impressed.
We arrive at the jetway and wait for the plane to spool down. There are all sorts of bowing and handshaking with our flight crew, as they were marvelous. Unobtrusive, available, and not terribly chatty. Plus, they poured the drinks like they themselves didn’t own it. Hearty cash tips disappeared into pants and tunic pockets.
We gather up our gear and wait for the door to open. It does, after a few minutes, and we bravely sally forth, a scientific cadre ostensibly on a mercy mission.
One to bolster the economy of this particular country and the bank accounts of 12 international geoscientists.
Off the plane, down the jetway. Once we reach the arrivals terminal, we see this huge sign in Korean, English, Russian and Chinese:
“Travel alert March 2020: North Korean authorities have restricted travel to and from China. If entering North Korea from China or Russia, you will be quarantined for one month.”
“Well.”, I thought out loud, “Now there’s an auspicious beginning…they might have said something back in Beijing…”
I wait for the others to read the good news and expect the grumbles, groans, and gritting teeth of a trip thus ambushed.
What I hear, instead, is:
“Whoo-hoo! Triple pay! Force majeure, baby! Tax-free paid holiday! Rock, you’re a genius. Thanks for sending your contract over…”. Dax exults.
The rest of the crowd also received excerpts from my standard piracy form, errr, contract.
They didn’t get it from me, so I’m making a note to Rack and Ruin. They had to be the leak in the reactor that spawned this seepage. Seems everyone had added that codicil to their personal service contracts; almost as if someone knew about this beforehand…
Suddenly the demeanor of the crowd became much lighter.
We all assemble in the arrivals area and see a couple of nationals holding IUPGS signs.
We stood our ground. They stood theirs.
We were the only ones on the plane. We are the people they’re looking for. We’re the only people, other than cleaners, custodians, and clandestine constabularies, in this part of the airport.
“Aww, fuck”, I growl. I’m the head of this special education group. I suppose I’ll go over and break the ice, so to speak.
“Dax?” I say, “I’m going in. You stay here with the rest of the group. Keep them out of the pub; for now.”
“Gotcha, Rock”, Dax replies, as the rest of the group look for someplace to sit and wait until something happens.
I wander over to one of the placard holders and extract one of my business cards. It’s in English on one side and Russian on the other. I hope this character speaks one or the other.
“Good day”, I say, proffering my business card, which he takes. “I am Dr. Rocknocker, and this is the team from the IUPGS. We’ve just arrived and are looking forward to working in your fine country.”
“I am Tongbang Yong-Sun”, the placard carrier said, “You will follow me.”
“Well.”, I thought, “So much for introductions.”
“Dax? Guys? Follow me.” I said to the team.
They all got up, grabbed their gear, and sauntered over to where Toebang or whatever the hell his name was, and I were standing.
“Hello. Welcome to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. You are guests of the illustrious Kim Jong-un. We welcome you as guests but remind you, you are guests here and are expected to comport yourself as guests.”
Ivan gives Grako an elbow to the ribs: “Hey. Did he say we were guests?”
Grako cracks up, “Several times.”
“Oh, yeah. This is going to be some fun…” I muse.
“As spokesman and leader of the team, we say thank you for this opportunity as it is a unique experience. But, I must remind you, we are not a tour group. We are a specially selected global group of industrial scientists who have volunteered our time and education to come to offer our expertise to the benefit of your country. So, we’d appreciate it if you would comport yourself and your team as such as well.” I said.
Toebang looked as if he just struck a thick vein of lemon-juice.
“Your attitude has been noted, Doctor,” Toebang said.
“Good. I’d hate to think you weren’t listening.” I replied in kind. “I despise repeating myself.”
Don’t try your little man ‘I’m a big shit’ here, buckwheat. I’ve gone toe-to-toe with the best of them around the world and my record stands undefeated; I mused.
With that, we sauntered down the long hallway to passport control and customs.
If arrivals were anything to crow about, this is going to be the longest entrance into a country in years.
Down the hall, we’re all lead to a non-descript room off the main throughway. There are easily a dozen chairs there and we are asked to have a seat. The passport agent will be here soon.
I gather up all the passports and figure this must be the North Korean version of VIP passport handling that we experienced in Beijing.
Nope.
One agent arrives and takes his fucking sweet time setting up his tea, stamp pad, rubber stamps, and other articles of officious-dom.
He motions to me and I walk over, depositing a dozen passports gently in front of him.
He looks at me, looks at the pile of passports, at me again and I swear, I see steam issuing from his ears.
“Is there a problem? “ I ask.
“Why you have so many passports?” he asks.
“One from each of my team plus mine equals 12 passports,” I replied.
“ONE AT A TIME!” he screams.
The room fell silent. Bets were probably being laid as to how I’d react.
“Sorry?” I said, “I didn’t catch that.”
The customs guy was starting to go red.
“See”, I continued, “I am deaf to disrespect, much less screaming by some minor functionary. Care to try again?”
“Each brings up own passport.”, he says, seething but slightly less self-important.
“Most certainly”, I reply in saccharine dripping tones, “Here’s mine.” And I offer him my blood-red passport.
He goes to grab it, but seeing Toebang behind me, he cools out and accepts it gracelessly.
He opens it, looks at it, looks at me, looks at it, at me, at it, at me.
“Christ.” I think, “Korean ping pong.”
“You are American?” he asks.
“Yes, by birth” I reply.
“Why Russian passport?” he asks.
“Long story. But please check. It is all legal and above board.” I reply nicely.
He gives me the hairy eyeball, scrunches up his face like he’s just been the recipient of a high-velocity dog-yummy to the scrotum, and viciously stamps my passport. Gleefully over stamping such visas and stamps like the ones from Bali, Seychelles, Bermuda, and Turks and Caicos. Places he might have heard of but would never in a million years visit.
He hands me back my passport and I thought that was it.
Nope. Now it’s time for backpack inspection.
“Now, the fun begins”, I mused.
They literally dump my daypack out on the stainless steel inspection counter. I ask them to take it easy, as I have some seriously delicate scientific equipment there and wouldn’t want it fuckered before we got the chance to use it in your fine country.
Toebang and Shitheels, the passport pecker, looked at me and just ‘Harrumph’-ed.
“What is this?”
“Oh, goody. Show and tell. Gather ‘round gents, after I’m done, you’re all next.” I said to the team.
“That is my field notebook computer. An ancient and trusty device I use in the field for mapping, taking field notes, and making calculations.”
“Open it and turn it on.”
“Certainly.” I did and made sure it booted up under XP and not Win 7.
“You need this?” Shitheels asked.
“Yes. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have dragged it halfway around the world.” I replied truthfully if not a bit snarkily.
“OK.” He grabs my satellite phone. “What is this?”
“Field communication device”, I said truthfully. “For communications via line of sight with others in the field during field excursions.” Which was more or less accurate.
“You need this?” Shitheels asked.
“Yes, just as before,” I replied.
We played this little game with my gravimeter, Brunton Compass, Mohs Hardness Testing Kit, UV lamp set (long and short wave…for mineral identification), map case, clipboard, myriad pens, and colored pencils, and GPS, which was built into a range finder; which I demonstrate the range finding capabilities, but not the GPS capabilities.
He grabbed my cameras and was fumbling around with the two Canon EOS-1D X Mark III bodies I was carrying and the four lenses, primarily close-up macro-photography when I asked him to please be careful.
“They’re new for the trip. I’d hate for them to be damaged before we can find some oil and gas for you all.” I said.
As all lenses were less than 250mm, he just grunted and shoved them back to me.
He didn’t know about the 900 lens I was carrying or the shitload of memory cards still zipped into the lining of my day pack.
“Is everything OK?” I ask?
“Yes. No. Wait. What’s this?” he asks as he grabs my hand lens off the stainless steel table.
“Ah. That, my good sir, is my Scanning Electron Hand Lens.” I said with overweening pride.
“What is it? What is it for? Why?” he fumbled with the three objectives.
“Oh, please, careful with that. It’s a high energy tool!” I said in mock alarm.
He almost dropped it like a live grenade.
The term ‘high energy’ cut through the discourse like a 5 megawatt laser firing for the first time.
I grabbed the hand lens and showed him how it worked on the back of my hand.
“Lens 1. 5x magnification. Lens 2. 10x magnification. Lens 3. 20x magnification. Push this button and you get UV shortwave radiation for mineral identification. Push this button and you get longwave UV radiation for mineral identification. Push both once and you get a low power red laser, push both twice and get a high-power green laser for scanning specimens. That’s for EDAX: Energy Dispersive Analysis of X-rays. Very high tech. I hope to make a gift of it to the university if and when we ever get through passport control.”
It was all a load of cobblers, and my team was snickering, but not too loud. Yes, it was a hand lens with three Coddington precision ground lenses, and a red- and green low power UV sources for illumination and checking fluorescent minerals. But all that LASER crapola?
Jolly joke.
It worked though. He cleared all my gear, confiscating the titty magazine I bought in London so they’d have something to show at the end of the day, shook hands, and motioned to Dax.
The rest of the team went through quite quickly. He already saw what a Brunton Compass was, what was a map case, gravimeter, hand lens, and other forms of geological esoterica.
We were all stamped, carded and assigned our ‘handlers’ for the remainder of our stay.
Since we were most emphatically not a tour group, they assigned four locals to be our “aides”; not handlers.
Sure, they were employed by the Korean International Travel Company, but they were not tour agents nor any other kind of agent. They wanted us to be assured of that fact.
They were, however, all young and named Yuk Seong-Ho, No Young-Gi, Man Suk-Chul, and Kong Chong-Yol.
Got that?
‘Yuk’. ‘No’. ‘Man’. And ‘Kong’.
Well, like we were much better.
‘Dax’. ‘Rock’. ‘Grako.’ ‘Viv’. And ‘Earl’.
What a bunch.
We were lead out of the passport office after we passed muster there and down to baggage claim. All our baggage was waiting for us, including an Air China bag of rock hammers, acid bottles, and other implements of geological destruction.
We were told to tell which were our personal bags. We pointed them out and they were marked with wide black Sharpies® and Post-it™ notes.
One after another was called over to a series of stainless steel tables and asked if this was our baggage if we packed it and if we were carrying any contraband.
The last question struck me as disingenuous.
One at a time, one after another, we have vetted through customs once again, check out our clothes, personal items, and secret stashes of booze and cigars.
They were a rather affable group, these customs folks, and actually quite pleasant.
Kong pulled me over to one corner and told me “They are being nice, looking for gifts or bribes. Cigarettes are much appreciated.”
I was called last and elected to take out the Air China bag as well. I plopped my three Halliburton aluminum traveling cases on the table, whirled the locks, and popped them open for inspection.
They immediately noticed my emergency stash of vodka and bourbon.
“For medicinal purposes”, I chuckled, and absent-mindedly set 5 or 6 airline miniatures of booze on the table. They disappeared with an audible whoosh.
They looked at my boxes of cigars with covetous eyes.
“I suppose I better part with a few rather than piss them off and have them confiscate the lot. “ I thought. I offered them one Camacho each. I explained they were very, very strong and that one should last them a very long time indeed.
“It’s a gift, from us to you.” I said, “We do hope you will enjoy.”
SWOOSH. They disappeared just as quickly as the booze minis.
Then they saw the Sobranje cocktail cigarettes.
My plan was coming together.
I quickly open a carton and offered each a full pack of 20 of the festively-colored little coffin-nails.
They accepted them just as quickly, and now we were all friends. Hell, at this point, I could have smuggled through a fully armed ICBM, these guys were so blissed out at their good fortune.
They did a half-ass paw through my gear and told me to close each. Then they got to the last one and opened my real medicine bag. Here I kept the expensive silver-iodide ointment I was using in conjunction with the tantalum implants. Also, there were travel necessities, like antibiotics, pain medication, muscle relaxants, and some prescription sleep-inducing medications like Halcion and Ambien.
I flashed quickly to Dubai customs where they gave me a ration of shit about the sleep meds, and instantly tried to steer the discussion towards something less likely to be seen as smuggling or illegal.
“Oh? That?” I asked, grabbing the vail of silver-iodide ointment. “That’s for my hand. You see, I’m trying out some new implants before I get a new custom prosthesis…”
I may as well have been discussing Hyper-spatial Calculus with an Atlantic-trench blowfish at that point.
“What? What do you mean? Why do you need this?” the customs agent asked.
“Remember. You asked.”, I said and stripped off my left glove.
I held up my mangled left paw for them all to see.
The female customs agent just plain ran out screaming.
“Yeah, I have that effect on some women”, I mused.
Of the remaining two male agents, one was trying hard not to yarp and the other was calling for a policeman.
Suddenly, I’m flanked by two of North Korea’s finest boys in blue. It’s obvious they don’t speak English and I don’t speak any Korean.
“KONG! I need you”, I said, somewhat loudly.
The cops were talking a blue streak between them, evidently thinking that I should be handcuffed, but neither wanted to even look at my mangled mitt much less wrangle it.
“Kong, please tell these fine policemen that there’s no problem. I am sorry but I seem to have shocked the fine customs agents when they wanted to know why I need this jar of prescription salve. I just showed the…” as I waved my left hand right under their noses.
“Put it away! Put it away!” Kong shuddered. There was much discussion in Korean and I heard my name and IUPGS come up once or twice.
I put my glove back on and suddenly, all was right with the world once again.
“I’m going to have to remember that little trick. Walk into a bank, rip off the glove, and start filling my rucksack..” I laughed internally.
There were apologies, contrition, and deep bowing all around.
We came to an understanding. I wouldn’t be trotted off to the hoosegow if I vowed never to take that glove off again.
“Deal”, I said and thrust out my right hand for a good, solid, manly handshake.
It was like shaking hands with a pantyhose full of yogurt.
At that point, they just wanted us out of there.
"Screw the Air China bag. Take it and go to your hotel."
So we did. Laughing all the way.
To be continued…in a while…
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British Open betting tips & predictions – the British Open Championship returns to Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It will be the 2nd Open Championship played at Portrush having previously hosted the tournament in 1951.. Royal Portrush Golf Club is a private golf club and the 36-hole club has two links courses, the Dunluce Links and the Valley Links. The British Open 2019 – Preview, predictions and betting tips July 17, 2019 by Charles With just a few hours to go before the British Open gets underway, let’s check out the hopefuls for the tournament as well as some betting tips and odds. 3M Open Golf Betting Tips 2020 Advised Bets. Paul Casey 4 points each way at 22/1 with Bet365 – The Englishman has not rushed to play in all events since golf’s restart and looked rusty in The Open Betting Odds. The Open betting odds will vary from the time of writing, but we will update these odds each day for a week before the British Open. Below are the top 20 betting favourites with their best prices: If you are struggling to understand the odds as fractions, check out our simple betting odds guide. Brooks Koepka – 9/1 with British Open 2019: Updated Betting Tips for Major at Royal Portrush Golf Club Rob Blanchette @ @_Rob_B. Featured Columnist July 15, 2019 Comments. Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

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