Linda's Interim Journal

Post-Chateau d'Oex, en route to Hong Kong

featuring Alf's Return

Sunday, January 30, 2000

(From Linda, carrying on as best as she can):

Shortly before yesterday's unfortunate hurl to the ground I spoke with Alf via his cell phone. He was in good spirits, as was Denise. But, perhaps some lurking sense told him that things might go horribly wrong. It was so out of character for him to dictate one of his oeuvres ... but, yesterday he did. And, thank God, he did. Otherwise there would be a nasty gap in the journal ... something Alf would not have wanted. In a few hours I'll be airborne ... I am rushing to Geneva to sort things out and to do what I can make things seamless for you, dear reader.

(Linda pushes the "drone" button):

(Alf's pre-plunge voice is heard):

Thanks to Mrs. Michael Nalen (T. Smith), my weary readers will no longer have to suffer through Mr. NEWNES'S constant harpings on who and what came to pass during those rusty years that have long since gone down the drain. Also, Wescott's dribble about the mortification of saints is just too depressing ... besides which, my recently verbalized doubts as to whether Christ should have been sporting any form of halo during his teenage years has caused some to huff. So, the doings of NEWNES and Wescott have nudged me to another planet.

Today I am going to introduce you to a little, but useful, work by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht: THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL BOOK. Whetting your appetite: how to escape from quicksand, how to break down a door ... and even more helpful aids.


1) Jump straight down. If you leap off and away from the building at an angle, your trajectory will make you miss the Dumpster.

2) Tuck your head in and bring your legs around. To do this during the fall, execute a three-quarter revolution - basically, a not-quite full somersault.

3) Aim for the center of the Dumpster.

4) Land flat on your back so that when your body folds, your feet and hands meet. When your body hits any surface from a significant height, the body folds into a V. This means landing on your stomach can result in a broken back.

BE AWARE: The Dumpster may be filled with bricks or other unfriendly materials. It is entirely possible to survive a high fall (five stories or more) into a Dumpster, provided it is filled with the right type of trash (cardboard boxes are best) and you land correctly.

(Linda sagely observes):

I like to think that this little list saved his life. And, as they fell, maybe Alf shared these helpful guidelines with Denise.

Monday, January 31, 2000

(Linda, tilling through Alf's notes and talking to herself):

Jesus, what can I use?

(Linda, vaguely aiming her words at the chambermaid; but only just after finding lukewarm leftover scribbles in Alf's journal file):

What a mess! The man keeps everything jotted down on tiny bits of hotel stationary…on those little pads you guys keep putting next to the phones ... like this one.

(Linda, again to herself, after figuring out that the girl in the apron didn't understand a word she was saying ... or doesn't care):

Shit! Who cares! Might as well just start with this one.

(Linda, pausing to pirouette the small pad on the top of the desk. This little act unknowingly seeded an idea):

Hmmm .... After this ... what to eat? Chinese?

(Linda, forcing her thoughts from Dim Sum and mumbling them back to the task):

They spell Geneva real funny on this thing ... with an "e" at the end. But I guess it's only the stuff in pencil that counts here.

(Linda, faithfully typing out Alf's pencil parts):

Buried away in Esquire's 1999 Dubious Achievements Awards is one reason to stop (or take up) drinking. Oh, the headline is theirs.


"Denying that his troops were committing mass rape, Serbian deputy prime minister Vojislav Seselj said, 'If you look at what has been coming out of the slums in Kosovo, only a blind person could rape something like that'."

(Linda, to herself):

Now what? Hmmmm…maybe the newspaper has something:

[from The International Herald Tribune]
1925: French Films

PARIS - The French Academy has decided that the word "film" shall have a place in the French language. French comment upon this incorporation is to the effect that there will be more French films in the future.

(Linda, thinking aloud):

That was boring ... doesn't Chinese soup cure everything ... I've got to do something to get out of this job.

(Linda to Paul):

Come up with something. Anything! Now!

Tuesday, February 1, 2000


This is your First Officer John Norris. Welcome aboard British Airways flight 31 to Hong Kong, with continuing service to Manila. Today's flight will take approximately 11 hours and 55 minutes ...

(Linda, in seat 5K, responding to a question from the reading material cart):

The Herald Tribune, please ... and Cosmopolitan, if you have it.

(Soft clicking sound of a ThinkPad):

[from The International Herald Tribune]
1900: Turkish Captive

CONSTANTINOPLE - The Italian Embassy on Tuesday (Jan. 30) addressed an ultimatum to the Porte declaring that if the Italian subject Sylvia Gemeli was not handed over to the Embassy today, diplomatic relations would be broken off. Signorita Sylvia Gemeli is an Italian girl who was kidnapped by a Turkish official and placed in his harem. On the protest of the Italian Embassy the Turkish Minister of Justice took the girl from the harem and brought her to his own palace, but refused to surrender her to the Italian authorities.

1925: Jazz Mania

SAN FRANCISCO - Sixteen year-old Dorothy Ellingson shot her mother to death because the latter was "too old fashioned" and sought to end the self-willed debauchery of the girl at the hands of the "night life" sheiks. After shooting her mother and hiding herself in a tawdry rooming house, Dorothy that same night attended just such a "party" as her dead mother so often objected to, and it was while she was trying to "date up" a youthful friend for another nightly whirl in the world of jazzmania that the police stumbled upon her trail.

1950: 'Rotten' America

MOSCOW - The Tennessee Williams play, "A Streetcar Named Desire," a hit in New York, London and Paris, has been condemned by the newspaper "Soviet Art" as "pornographic" and "perverted." "This drama is full of drunkenness, orgies, pathological scenes, rotten eroticism and perversion," said "Soviet Art," in a scathing review of "depraved" plays which it said the United States is at present exporting.

(Linda, flipping pages back to front in Cosmos):

Gee, for a $100,000 contribution to the Democratic Party you can get a "Camelot weekend" at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.


Is it a Fly-Drive-Swim package?

(Linda, feigning crossness):

Shut up. You are supposed to be dead. Anyway, it sounds like you plagiarized it from the Esquire Dubious Achievements Awards?

Wednesday, February 2, 2000


Is it really over?


Yes. We can go back to being normal.


Good. Here's your pen back.

On this pass, Linda and I will be in Hong Kong for just a couple of days. We arrived from Geneva, via London, about mid-morning. The airport was practically empty because of the impending holidays (and the fear of terrorists?). We are on our way to Beijing for Chinese New Years; and we didn't have time to pick up our Chinese visas before we left home. Here at The Peninsula we can get them in 24 hours.

Usually we stay in the old section of the hotel. This trip we are up on the 18th floor of the new addition. This suite probably will make John LeCarre very nervous; it's named the Orchid Pavilion.

As we are blending from New Years 2000 into The Year of the Dragon the Hong Kong skyline is magnificent. This is the view from our bedroom window.

Good night!

Thursday, February 3, 2000

We stayed in the hotel. We ate here. We slept here. What we saw of the outside world was filtered through glass.

Tomorrow we are going to Beijing.

Next: Beijing for Chinese New Year

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