So there I was, on the 11th day of what was supposed to be no more than a two-day Time magazine assignment in Amman, a loose collection of dry hills and sprawling white houses and highways that is as close to suburban southern California as you can get in the Middle East — Orange County without the boob jobs. I was sent here to polish off a profile written in New York about a Jordanian businessmen who supposedly pioneered this country’s blossoming trade with Israel but who, once I began reporting, quickly turned out to be something of a charlatan. Not knowing what to do next, New York promptly went on a long Fourth of July weekend and forgot about me.
Resourceful journalist that I am, I did what I what I always do in the absence of oversight and stimulation: I went to seed. The only bright spot in an otherwise downward spiral of room service and pay-per-view television was shutting down the Independence Day reception at the American Ambassador’s residence with a British Army Colonel named Kim.
And then last night I got a call from the head of the International desk in New York:
“Andrew, I’m just wondering where exactly in the Middle East you are now,” he said.
“I’m in the Hashemite Kingdom of Boredom,” I replied.
“Well, I may just be sending you to someplace more exciting.”
So now I have a plane ticket, $20,000 in cash and one change of underwear. In any other circumstance this would be a recipe for a wicked good time, but in this case I’m off to Baghdad first thing in the morning.
So much for my plan to sit out the summer in the cool mountain climes of the tranquil Kurdish north.
The good news is this may be a short stint. The business section hasn’t let me off the hook, and in a matter of weeks I may return to spending my days visiting Jordanian textile factories. After that, the magazine may still send me to Kurdistan.
In any event, those of you who have tired of watching paint peel can now keep track of my movements online. Though it (and I) are still very much works in progress, andrewbutters.com now has a bunch of my published and some unpublished work. I’ll also be keeping a journal of sorts, though in order to maintain some shred of professional dignity and control over information that could possibly threaten my safety, this won’t be available to the general web-crawling public.
To view it go to http://www.andrewbutters.com/notebook. It’s not linked to my homepage, and I’ll ask you to kindly not link it to any other sites.
So until next time, or whenever I run through this $20,000, I’ll see you in cyberspace,