Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fighting Them with "Haute" Couture: The Diplowife in Action

I continue not to think about the parlous state of our economy, politics, and society. It, simply put, has become downright painful to listen to pundits, on either side, as they describe our avoidable slide into Greece Redux. I hide from the news behind a wall of memories of when as a young man I had no doubt that America could, would, and did kick serious butt on the world stage. I will get over it, and begin to rant about our current mess again, but not today.

Today my mind wanders back to Guatemala, yes, again, sorry. This particular story could get me in trouble with the Diplowife. As the star of this tale, she has not authorized its release to the general public--or even to the six or seven people who read this blog. She, however, has left me alone in the house, unsupervised, with access to the internet, and my only instructions to await a sofa delivery. I, therefore, might get away with it. She rarely reads the Diplomad since, as she so sweetly puts it, "I have lived with you for almost 35 years, and know all about you. I don't need to spend time reading about you, too." I live a fairy tale life, admittedly Grendel and Beowulf, but a fairy tale, nevertheless.

We had lived in Guatemala about a year, and with the arrival of son number three needed a bigger house. We found a huge one within the Embassy's rental allowance. It had an unknown number of bedrooms, a small disco--strobe light and mirror ball, included--high walls, a faux English pub with a large hart's head on the wall, a huge yard with a guest house, and a big fountain with Koi fish. It had drawbacks: the house had lain empty for many months, and it did not sit in the nice traditional rich people and diplomats' neighborhood. To satisfy the Diplowife's demand for a BIG house, and stay on budget, we had to move into a somewhat, to put it delicately, rough neighborhood. The RSO had proved reluctant to approve the house because of the surroundings, but, in the end, relented when I showed him the panic room already built in the house, the high walls, and my formidable collection of weaponry.

We had another in with the RSO: the Diplowife worked for him. She served as his office manager and he needed her because of her fluent Spanish. She wanted the house, so . . . . By the way, before the incident described below she also had acquired quite a bit of fame for her typos in the security notices sent around the Embassy. One of the most famous read, "Yesterday a woman was found dead on the slope of Pacaya volcano. Police suspect foreplay in her death."

Back to the house. It had another problem, electricity. Now here I write on something I know little about, so dear readers, please feel free to correct me. If I recall correctly, the house had three electric phases coming in. Two worked very poorly or not at all, and needed major repairs. Until those fixes got completed, about two-thirds of the house would remain dark. We moved in, regardless. How can you pass up a mirror disco ball even in the dark?

Our second night there, I had to attend an event given by a foreign diplomat. The Diplowife did not want to go, and would stay in our penumbral estate with the three kids, three maids, and the goofiest four-month old German shepherd pup in Guatemala. I went solo. About two hours into the event, the host got hold of me and said, "Zere is somebody on ze phone who says he is a Marine at your Embassy who very much needs to talk vit you most urgently." I took the call. It, indeed, was, from the Marine at Post One, "Sir, your wife called to say there is an intruder in the house. We have sent the roving patrol and the RSO. They are having a hard time getting into your yard. They don't have the key. I am on the phone with your wife." My mistake. We had moved and I had neglected to provide the RSO and the roving patrol a set of keys. "On my way."

I ran out of the party and into my fearsome war wagon, also known as a Ford Aerostar minivan. I tore out of the driveway, checking my .45 as I drove down Guatemala City's very dark streets. I, of course, drove to the wrong house, only remembering as I pulled up that we had moved! Back onto the streets, driving like a Guatemalan. After a couple wrong turns, I finally got to the right house. I saw three embassy vehicles at the gate, and our Guatemalan security folks trying to boost one of their guys over the wall. The concertina wire provided a formidable barrier. I jumped out of the van, opened the gate, and in we poured. We got to the door just as it opened and out came . . .

OK, this will tax my powers of description, bear with me. I don't write well enough to capture the scene.

The door opened, and--hand to God--well dressed midgets began dashing out of the house and running among the heavily armed cops. Well, not that well dressed. They wore baggy clothes. One little person had on a hat, my Yankees cap, a cigar--an expensive Joya de Nicaragua, no less--and a double breasted suit jacket . . . my double-breasted suit jacket! Another little one had on one of my dress shirts, and struggled with my slacks, holding them under her armpits. Another wore one of my suit jackets, with the sleeves dragging on the ground. My wife emerged, talking in Spanish at about 1,000 MPH. She, by the way, had on one of my pinstripe suits, tie and all. I realized that the "midgets," in fact, were my kids and the maids, all led by the biggest "little" person, the 5'7" Diplowife.

The back story.

About two hours after I had left, one of the maids went to the front door to take out the garbage. As she exited, she got knocked over in the dark by somebody coming in. She fell to the floor, garbage everywhere, began to scream, got up, and dashed up the stairs to find the Diplowife. She said, "A man is in the house!" The Diplowife swung into action, but not as I had taught her, i.e., rack a round of 04 buck in the 870. No, she did it her way. She ran about the top floor collecting kids, maids, and useless dog, and herding them into the panic room. She threw the bolt. OK. Not bad. The panic room contained an arsenal and a phone linked to Post One. She could not get the phone to work. It was, ahem, a very "complicated" gadget which required her to press a button that reads "ON" and then scream her lungs out. As she told me later, in her confusion she got some weird form of dyslexia and thought the button said, "NO." Ok. Uh huh. Sure. So what to do? An intruder in the house. The phone "doesn't" work. Trapped. Only a few lousy MREs . . . never mind the gleaming array of American-made firepower hanging on the walls: a caliber for every type and size of intruder. No. As a fashion conscious European woman, she decided that clothing made the best weapon. She would dress everybody to look like men, and then as a group make a dash for another phone. I kept my suits, shirts, ties, and good CIGARS in the panic room. She distributed them among her charges much as Colour-Sgt. Bourne did .577 rifle ammo to his at Rorke's Drift in "Zulu." Would her plan prove as effective as a Martini-Henry?

Dressed to kill--or be killed--the intrepid band of cross dressers emerged from the panic room. To add one more dramatic touch, my wife made them all speak in deep voices. "A bunch of men here. You better go away!" Anyhow, she made it to a phone and the rest . . . well, see above.

The intruder? Who knows? One theory was that homeless guys had found a way into the yard and had used the house to crash. Since the house remained dark after we moved in, they might not have known it was occupied. Other theories were more sinister. We found a spot on a rear wall where somebody had cut the concertina, and then tied it back with string. Whatever the explanation, the intruder did not return. Too many weird men, perhaps?

My wife became a legend at the Embassy. She also learned how to shoot.

Better stop. I think I hear her coming home. Still no sofa.

I will give it a rest for a couple of days. See if I get inspired to do battle with the Obamistas. I don't know. Just feeling very down about the future of my country.

27 comments:

  1. I very much enjoy reading your stories; don't ever think you do not have an audience out here who does not enjoy reading them. They are magnificent. I turned down a FSO job about 10 years ago once I realized I could not live on the starting pay in the DC area, and sometimes regret that decision.

    But after living through the DOS bureaucracy and nonsense in my very brief time in the diplomatic corps, I think I made the right choice, and your description of State's environment confirms it.

    Anyway, I'd rather read about your adventures than whatever I would have experienced in (most likely) a horrible West Africa post. Kindest regards --RB, NoVa

    ReplyDelete
  2. While its possible that you had flirtatious fish, I'll bet you really had those pan-size goldfish - koi.

    I absolutely love your reminisces. Please keep them coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! That's what I get for typing on an IPad! Thanks.

      Delete
  3. ROFLMAO! Your wife must be an absolute delight to be able to come up with THAT solution to her problem! This story bespeaks someone with a quirky sense of humor-- even when she doesn't intend to be humorous. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She is one of a kind, that's for sure.

      Delete
  4. Your stories are fantastic. Please keep them coming! And Thank you for your service.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hilarious! Hope you don't get into too much trouble for sharing. We all needed a great story to cheer us up!

    ReplyDelete
  6. The DiploWife gets major points for adaptability. I'm sure it all made sense at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your wife has my deepest respect.

    ReplyDelete
  8. These are great stories--keep 'em coming. We have to have something to make us laugh in what are less than happy times.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My oldest son mashed 2 fingertips off. My latin fireball paged me with a 991. She told me later that she could'nt remember 911 to call the ambulance. She dialed all manner of combinations but not 911.

    Do you think latin women are wired like that house?!?!?!

    ReplyDelete
  10. SandraC:

    Delightful story. I'm sure all embassy personnel beat a path to your odd wired-up house to meet your fabulous wired-up DiploWife!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ah, Diplomad...

    I hope the couch was delivered as promised. Otherwise you had to sleep on the floor once the Diplowife saw this blog entry...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She hasn't seen it, yet. I live like a condemned man on Japan's death row . . . never knowing the day of execution.

      Delete
    2. I suspect all this reminiscing has brought back a furtive wish for the thrill of danger ... and now you haz it ;-)

      Delete
  12. I suspect that the Diplowife is going to take this post in stride as she must suspect we wives out here take sustenance from her bravery and righteous sense of humor! Go Diplowife! We love Diplomad, but we know that he would not be half the man he is without you!!!!

    sb

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great story, keep them coming.

    BTW, sympathize with your mental state on blogging about the state of the dis-union. FWIW, I am not visiting most of the politiblogs I used to, in despair, as well, but I do come back to those, like this one, where a sense of perspective is healthy, and your humor and wide travels provide that.

    I have told my kids (middle schoolers who have asked 'what will happen now that Obama is again in charge'') that the US has been through tough times before, and despite the challenges, we will get through it.

    I also remind them of Churchill's quote on democracy.

    I hope and pray I am right.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "six or seven people who read this blog"

    Make that eight. Great blog, fabulous stories well-written. My Dad was a career FSO, gone now, but I think he would have very much enjoyed trading stories with you. He had some particularly interesting ones from his time in China and Korea, late 40's, early 50's

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Diplomad,
    This latest tale has me quite concerned. Surely you must know that this could lead to organization of notes, writing and rewriting of drafts, acquistion of an agent, and then publishing. Surely the FSO has outreach programs for post career employees, seek help now! On a side note dressing children like that could easily cause spontaneous coup de etats in several latin american countries.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm wondering how much patience your wife has with you telling tales at her expense? And after you saw to it she learned to shoot? Brave man. I hope you still know where all the household ammo stashes are kept. And inventory them after you write something as entertaining as this.

    ReplyDelete
  17. OT, but per your suggestion I blog a bit about China, I've taken your advice. Just put up a post here.

    http://unclecephas.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good post. Just read it. Do more on the clash of cultures.

      Delete
  18. Diplomad,

    Considering your freewheeling blog style (quite obviously matches your freewheeling diplomat lifestyle) makes me wonder just what gems are hidden in memos, dispatches and reports you wrote during your career...and how many times you were told something along the lines of "okay, very funny, try it again."

    -Blake

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG, you have no idea. I was constantly in trouble but since I was willing to go anywhere . . .

      Delete
  19. Much as I love reading your stories, I think your country needs you ... Check out this appalling report:

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2012/12/10/Benghazi-Source-Unarmed

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm sure at least 10 people read this "blog," which is a rehearsal for your autobiography, which I look forward to purchasing.

    ReplyDelete