To the tune of: Ennio Morricone – Paranoia Prima
It was when the morbidly-obese man’s armpit started sweating on my shoulder, as the Armenian driver hurled the minibusload of LA entrants around the corners of downtown, that I realised my hands were aching fit to burst. ‘That would be from all the hand-wringing’ I thought, ‘which would be a natural lead into a flas…’
I’m sat in the plane. I’m going to be deported. There’s no way around it. I’ve sat here for ten hours, shocked and traumatised, and I’ve come up with a huge range of ideas and excuses. I haven’t moved, I haven’t watched a movie, I’ve just stared at the pixelated plane arcing towards DOOM-LA (on the interactive map which is bizarrely in Spanish) and thought of plans for getting out of it. My hands hurt so much from the endless wringing but at least my fingernails have been chewed a bit shorter, which is lucky as I had to drop my nail-scissors in the sharps bin at security…. anyway, PLANS:
- I tell them that I’m not a journalist, I’m a writer, and confuse them with etymology THEN MAKE MY ESCAPE.
- (The floes off Greenland are flat like damp sugar, impossibly large and hostile. Glaciers grind over the uninhabitable land.) I grab a guard’s gun and get him to shoot me in the foot, then claim he attacked me, then on the way to the hospital MAKE MY ESCAPE.
- (Manitoba is passing beneath, at midday, and the sun and clouds are perfectly reflected in something that might be water or frozen oil. It’s impossible to tell scale from up here.) I tell them honestly that I’m a journalist, but rely on the email I’ve just sent (which I really sent, making me look like a huge dick) telling all my contacts I wasn’t going to do the work for them after all and that I’ve come to LA just to collect assets for Gamespress (which would have been true.)
- I walk down the steps from the plane, erroneously assuming they exist, and just keep walking, grabbing a Mexican worker’s dungarees to disguise myself and walk off into LA, MAKING MY ESCAPE.
- I try speaking in Greek to them and when a translator turns up, I speak English to him/her, just to confuse them WHILE I MAKE MY…
- I admit everything and break down in tears. (This plan almost has me crying on the plane.)
- (Flying over Utah and Vegas now, the great stained desert, desolate, mostly uninhabited.) I claim to be a consultant, point out what proportion of my income is from writing (sadly small), and use the contract from Warner Bros, which I inadvertantly brought with me, to prove that I’m a bigwig, ringing Rob Donald if necessary to prove that I’ve worked for them and that I’m not a journalist, oh no no.
- If they don’t let me talk, I’ll tell them how beautiful their country is from the air, so clear on this day, and how I regret nothing, nothing! Then GET DEPORTED.
- (LA is so huge. How many people are lost in that? I stare and stare and the fear grows as the plane comes into land). I change planes when I get into the airport and sneak in over the border with Mexicanos, disguised as a itinerant Hermanos Rabbi. If I don’t GET SHOT or GET DEPORTED then everything will be hunky-dory.
- Actually, most of the imagined plans ended with and THEN I’M DEPORTED or AND THEN I GET SHOT.
Why am I talking about this? I was going to LA. I was going to LA and…
…a nice old man in a brylon British Airways waistcoat took my passport, just as the departure gate was closing, looked up at me and said;
“A journalist are we, Mr Griliopoulos?”
“URK” I gasp, eloquently.
“Doing any work out at E3?”
“No, you’d have to be mad as crabs.” I actually said, reddening.
He started laughing. My passport didn’t mention journalist or E3. He knew. He KNEW.
My journalist iVisa has expired. I’ve had it since I left OXM, all those years, the Dorian picture of OXM Grill not ageing as Dan does. It let me go to the USA and write stuff but, finally, it’s expired. Just before I’m due to fly to LA. To write stuff. I ring the American embassy, at great expense. A nice lady on the other end of the phone starts organising me an appointment to get a new iVisa, after I told her my name, passport number and when I’m flying, then pauses and sucks her teeth audibly.
“Can you go to Belfast?” she asks.
“URK” I gasp, eloquently.
“Otherwise you can’t get your Visa in time and you can’t fly.”
“Can’t I just…?”
“I would STRONGLY ADVISE YOU NOT TO FLY, SIR.”
“BUT… I’m not just a journalist, I do other things, like.”
“SIR! I cannot advise that you travel under false pretences. “
“… I have to fly.”
I’m at customs. I’m sure they’re going to pounce. I think of revealing myself, a new plan, pre-empting them, explaining the situation to catch them off balance, and then…
…I’m talking to the security guy. He’s coffee and blue, lots of numbers and badges. And he’s looking up from my biometrics and passport, and raising an eyebrow and;
“What are you here for?”
“Oh, E3, the games convention.”
“Cool! You games guys. That’s why you’re so tired right, you’ve been up all night?”
“YEAH.” I smile fixedly and rub my hands beneath the counter.
“Well, have a great time!” The smile sticks and I MAKE MY ESCAPE.
And that’s why it hurts so much to type this. GOOD START TO LA, I think as I am forced sideways into the large man’s moobs by the latest lost soul the Armenian driver has crammed into the car as he talks loudly about how much better life was under Communism, under a totalitarian ordered system, where he didn’t have to work a seven day week just to feed his family, where he knew his neighbours…