Archived Story

Kenya trip canceled by people not being nice

Published 9:35am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt

I was supposed to go to Kenya.

It was for work, but it was still going to Kenya.

Going to Kenya would be like stepping into a dream that I’d been dreaming all of my life.

We each have simple dreams. Conan O’Brien reported, “A thief broke into a house in Alaska and found $100,000 but only took $20,000. Police are searching for a man with simple dreams.”

We each have big dreams. One of my big dreams was going to Kenya. When I learned that I’d gotten the job in Kenya, there were two of me. I was beside myself with joy.

I was going to go on a safari. I’d be able to say things like, “Safari, so good.”

I would open a treasure chest of nature. I thought of the countless colorful birds there that I’d never seen. They were pigments of my imagination. Flocks of flamingos would thrill me. I’d long heard about The Big Five — lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos and rhinos. I planned on saying nice things about a rhino. I knew it had thick skin, but it still could be sensitive. Giraffes, zebras, hippos, baboons, wildebeests, warthogs, antelopes and gazelles would astound me.

I was terribly excited about my trip.

Yes, I was supposed to go to Kenya.

Then terrorists began blowing things up in Nairobi.

As I read the news reports of the crimes, my brows furrowed. I was left with a taste in my mouth that was worse than it is after I drink orange juice right after I’ve brushed my teeth.

When are people not nice to one another? In the mean time.

Too many bombs went off. Too many terroristic acts.

My trip was canceled.

It was a great disappointment, but I’m used to trudging through the snow to get to the outhouse.

I asked myself, “What would Johnny Weissmuller do?”

Johnny Weissmuller had helped my young mind pick the locks of Africa.

Weissmuller was an Olympic swimming champion who went on to fame as Tarzan of the Jungle in the movies. He’d won five Olympic gold medals and set 67 world swimming records in the 1920s. He made close to 20 Tarzan films, the last one in 1949. He was a yodeling jungle superhero in a loincloth. Tarzan was a good guy who protected his African neighborhood and the treetop home he shared with his wife Jane and his son Boy. Tarzan spent a lot of time vanquishing villainous ivory hunters. His triumphs were followed by chest-thumping victory bellows.

That wasn’t Kenya, but Tarzan was Africa to me when I was a lad. Thanks to endless TV reruns, Tarzan’s exploits were very evident. It was Africa even though the ubiquitous bird that sang loudly in the films, the kookaburra, was from Australia, not Africa.

No matter. I didn’t get to go to Kenya.

It made me so mad, I wanted to swing on a vine.

That’s what Tarzan did. Vines were public transportation in Tarzan’s neighborhood.

My problem was that some of the vines in my neighborhood might have been poison ivy.

Tarzan helped foster my fascination with Africa. That interest was enhanced when I read “The Flame Trees of Thika” by Elspeth Huxley, a beautifully written autobiography about life in colonial Kenya and “Out of Africa” by Isak Dinesen, an autobiography about the Danish author’s time spent running a coffee farm in Kenya.

In preparation for the trip, I’d gone to a shot clinic. It’s a clinic where they give shots that is within a clinic. I went there to get a herd of inoculations. I sat in the waiting area, checking for change under the chair cushions. Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees supposedly called a shot, a home run he hit in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Ruth pointed his bat toward the stands, but the exact nature of his gesture remains undetermined. When I met with the doctor, she put things in terms she thought I’d understand. The shot clinic doctor was better than Babe Ruth, she called every shot.

I was inoculated for yellow fever and nearly everything else.

I obtained malaria and typhoid medication. The typhoid pills will come in handy. Now I won’t have to avoid women named Mary for fear that one might be the infamous Typhoid Mary.

There is no refund on shots given.

I will revert back to my habit of enjoying the simple dreams.

Warren Zevon advised, “Enjoy every sandwich.”

I will.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.