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All posts for the month December, 2006

A CARE PACKAGE FROM “HOME”

Published December 24, 2006 by jean cohen

My exile in New Jersey continues, while the battle with the Home Office for an entry clearance goes on in England. Jersey is really just one large strip mall, connected by highways and diners. But it sure is some great shopping and eating. I had missed American malls and 24-hour a day breakfasts. And it’s certainly a new experience to spend Christmas, basically, in New York City. We’re all going to see the Holiday Show at Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday, and thinking about New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

My mobile (British) goes off constantly with texts from friends in Weybridge with messages of encouragement and support. It’s great to be missed and cared for.

Karen, Cheese Boy and the gang pulled off a lovely surprise. Mike, the owner of the Grotto, came to New York on business this week, and fedexed me a package. It was supposed to be just my accumulated mail, but when it arrived, it was a huge box. Inside was a beautiful, silver frame (from Pat and Mike) with a picture Lou took of everybody at the Grotto. (Robbie Lee must have missed the photo shoot.)

Cheese Boy had thought very hard, and I got a tee shirt with a picture of me dressed as the queen, surrounded by about fifty Philadelphia cream cheese packages, and a message, in red, saying:

"Hello, I’m the Queen of Philadelphia, and before you ask, YES, that is where THE BLOODY CHEESE IS FROM."

I didn’t get to deliver his gift seeing as I was deported courtesy of those grumpy armed guards, but, obviously great minds think alike. My present to him has a definite "cheese" theme, as well.

The Grotto folks also sent a white tee shirt, which everybody signed. Some of the messages: "Let Jeano In", "You Goddamned Reprobate-Bugger off to Oz with the other Convicts!", "The Grotto Misses and Needs You", "Heathrow Sucks!", "Barbecue 1.1.07: Don’t Not Attend", "Get Back Soon to ‘Sweet Home Weybridge’", "Save Jeano", A Giant’s Helmet, and lots more. Of course, I cried.

Everybody stuck in Christmas cards, too. I actually felt a little better . . . for about five seconds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A PRIMER ON BRITISH IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES

Published December 19, 2006 by jean cohen

Thanks to all the folks who emailed with the rationales for all the crap that happened to me when I got incarcerated by those ‘civilized’ Brits at Immigration at Heathrow. I honestly had no clue. Gee, you travel a lot and think you’re sophisticated. Just because you’re not intimidated by cab drivers in Paris does not mean you are savvy. It’s too bad Immigration doesn’t find it necessary to explain these little procedures to us dangerous criminals, so we understand what it’s all about. The explanations, in no particular order:

The Chest X-ray – This was in case I have TB. Yes, that’s what I said. Apparently a lot of the folks they hospitably let in from Rwanda and Terrorist Training Camps, Inc. have TB. I don’t think TB is an epidemic yet in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. I hope they will send a letter if I have it. Incidentally, as my hand is paralyzed, I could not remove my necklace. The technician wouldn’t do it, and told me to put it in my mouth. Somewhere in Heathrow is a really cool picture of me with thirteen diamonds hanging out of my mouth and nothing else on from the waist up.

Taking away my mobile – This was so I could not take pictures. Pictures? Of What??? Did they think I was going to take a picture of the toilet to show the folks back home? Or pictures of the Arabs I was locked up with? "And this is my friend, Mustafa, from Larnaca, Cyprus. He can assemble an Uzi blindfolded in six seconds!" "And this one, glaring at me, is Mohammed from Damascus. He didn’t like me much, especially as the guards kept yelling "Mrs. Cohen, please sit down" every ten seconds."

Searching me – In case I stashed something in that place Cheese Boy and I disagreed on the correct terminology for.

Searching my purse – Now come on. Would any sane person think I would stash a bomb in my Louis Vuitton Black Alma purse? I was on the waiting list at Saks Fifth Avenue for six months to get that fucking purse. Now had I been carrying the brown signature Louis, that would be worrying, as everyone has one of those these days and they’re expendable.

Personal papers – Yep. Right next to my mp3 player list is that list of ingredients I need to cook a bomb. Given my unfamiliarity with kitchens and cooking, I guess maybe they should have been worried. Seriously, is anybody dumb enough to have an entry in their address book saying "Osama’s mobile" or "the main number for the cave in the mountains near the Pakistan border"? Obviously, they would code such information by using Gregg shorthand.

The secret passageway – They watch too much American telly. I assure you I had no intention of doing an "OJ Simpson" and running through the airport, leaping over luggage trolleys and counters . . . unless somebody told me Sting was standing there stark naked in Terminal 4.

The fingerprints – To check against some worldwide database of criminals. I don’t remember anyone asking me to hold their weapon for them for a second while they went to the loo, but you never know. Maybe my prints are out there somewhere in cyberland in a compromising situation. Maybe they’ll post a letter about this, too.

"Dear Mrs. Cohen. Sorry but your fingerprints turned up on a surface to air missile confiscated in a raid in Beirut. Don’t come back to England. Ever."

The armed escort – In case I took a hostage. You can stop laughing now.

The passport – Apparently, many people shoved on the next plane leaving Britain have tried this trick before. Set fire to your passport in the loo. Or better yet, flush it. I would never have thought of either one. I certainly have no aching desire to fly back and forth from Newark to London for eternity on Virgin Atlantic in coach. Especially since the food positively sucked. And who shows " Snakes on a Plane" to prisoners on a plane for the second time in fifteen hours? I suspect that the Immigration Guy ordered it for me.

This being a dangerous criminal is a very complicated business, and I am definitely not up to standard. They found all the fags I tried to sneak in for friends and confiscated them. And I think two of my Victoria’s Secret bras are missing. That Sikh dude who searched my luggage looked a little funny to me. Note to people in a position to know: Yes, the purple one with the strategic spangles is definitely AWOL.

 

 

 

A ‘FLYING’ VISIT TO THE UNITED KINGDOM

Published December 17, 2006 by jean cohen

Based on advice from my American lawyer, and a British solicitor, I flew to England on Friday night. They both said there was no reason I should be stopped.

I was armed with a letter from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, saying that I could come for short visits any time I wanted, provided I obeyed the rules. I had proof I could pay for my visit, a plane ticket to get home, and letters from both Legal Guys. Don’t ever trust an attorney.

When I got to Immigration, the bloke popped my passport into the little machine, and immediately got 3 red sevens, with fire coming out of them. I knew what was coming next. Off to the holding room for me. I swear the same Arab guys were all there from the last time. We had a jolly reunion, when they weren’t taking turns praying to Osama on the prayer rug in the corner.

Then we played "Let’s Search Jeano’s luggage and open every fucking Christmas package." Wow. That was fun. Then after being searched, we all sat around and read every scrap of paper from my purse, including shopping lists, receipts, and notes for my blog, which I usually write in shorthand. They found this very suspicious. I candidly admitted that the shorthand was Gregg, not Pitman, but I don’t think they believed me.

Next on the activities list was a chest x-ray (no idea why) and an examination by a doctor (at least they said he was a doctor). THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE. He offered to lie, for cash, and say I was too ill to leave. Then they took my fingerprints. At this point, I started to think maybe I really was a professional assassin, and had simply forgotten, due to a concussion, like Geena Davis in that movie. Obviously, I must be a much more dangerous person than I realized..

Then it was "quality time" with an official, who made it very clear that I was a liar. What he said was "You’re a liar." He said I was an overstayer. I offered to show him my old passport, which would have shown that I had never overstayed, but he didn’t want to see it. He went off to "discuss my case," but I think he actually just went to watch a soccer match on telly.

He was back in only three or four hours to say that I was being sent home. I really wasn’t surprised. This time, during my incarceration at Immigration, I didn’t even cry once. I was simply my usual polite American self (read sarcastic, argumentative, and rude).

This is the best part. Apparently, I am so dangerous, they needed two armed guards to put me on the plane. I guess Her Majesty’s Government paid for the ticket; they didn’t ask for my Amex, unless they wrote down the number when they were going through my stuff. In any case, two armed Security Officials turned up, to escort me through a secret passageway to check in for my flight. And they made me push the luggage trolley. Honestly. Telling them I support the Skycap union got me nowhere. I tried telling them that I wasn’t going to ‘make a run for it’ and chain myself to the Louis Vuitton counter at the Harrods at Duty Free, but they didn’t believe me. I know I threatened to do just that in a blog, but I meant the Harrods in Knightsbridge. I got searched again, I guess in case any of the Arabs slipped me a lethal weapon.

The guards took me on the plane, and put me in my seat. Then they advised me that my passport would be returned to me when I got off the plane in Newark. "Do you actually think I might try parachuting into Ireland?" I asked them sweetly. I couldn’t help it. It all seemed a bit over the top. Jean Cohen, middle aged lady from Philadelphia, has just been marched past 200 people on an Airbus by armed guards for having the temerity to try and visit friends in England. God knows what I might think up to do next.

Sure enough, when we landed, I had to wait for the undangerous people to get off first. Why? Because some freaking officious Virgin Atlantic guy had to formally hand me my passport and say "Bad, bad, Jeano. Trying to go to England! Tsk! Tsk! I hope you learned your lesson."

"Oh, yes, I surely did" I assured him. When I got to Immigration on the American end, I was pretty panicked that I was going to have to explain why I had gone to Britain for fifteen hours. Wonderful American Immigration Guy took my form, stamped it, smiled at me, and said "Welcome home!"

That was the nicest thing anybody said to me in a long time.

Note to readers: My legions of devoted fans never seem to know when I’m making stuff up. THIS IS ALL ABSOLUTELY TRUE, except for the part about the three sevens.

A VISIT TO THE RIGHT COAST

Published December 12, 2006 by jean cohen

I’ve been in the good old USofA for a week, and it’s not all bad. Some things are actually pretty nice. The food and the TV are really better. I had a proper hotdog from a street vendor in New York City the other day, and was positively orgasmic. I honestly didn’t realize how much I missed the States.

Best mate, Karen, who tagged along on my trip was, I think, awed by the Right Coast. We had a deal that the moment I turned into an American Princess, she would hit me. The minute I landed in Newark, voila! I was American again and demanding . . . everything . . . immediately. I think she was a tiny bit disappointed in American Jeano.

I will not mention the debacle at the British Embassy. Honestly, do you suppose they think I’m Jewish or something? They can sure as hell tell I’m not an Arab, which seems to be my main drawback. They only let in the Arabs, especially with backpacks.

After a few nights at Mary’s, we took Amtrak down to Wilmington first, to visit Janet and Abe, and then, home, to Philadelphia. We had a super time with Abe and Janet, but I was really anxious to see Philly after such a long time. I confess I cried when I saw Ben Franklin’s hat on top of City Hall and Boathouse Row from the train window. Philly is a walking city, and we did walk. Everywhere. We stayed at the posh hotel my nephew manages near Rittenhouse Square, and I showed Karen all the famous sites. We walked to Independence Hall, to City Hall, and up the Parkway to the Art Museum so Karen could do a "Rocky" and run up the steps. Karen agreed, probably because she was afraid not to, that Philly is much nicer than the Big Apple. (Back at Mary’s, we watched "Trading Places" just so I could point out all the landmarks in Philly Karen had just seen in person. I am sure she was thrilled.)

I did go to see those wonderful folks at the Italian consulate in Philadelphia. One look at Citizenship Guy, and I did wonder why the hell anybody wants to live in England, if the rest of the men in Italy look anything like him. I need to revise two of the forms, and then it should only take . . . hell, I don’t know, and they don’t know, how long the process takes. It just proceeds at an Italian pace, apparently.

I visited with my relatives in Philly and then we were off to Atlantic City, where we stayed with my friends, Ellie and Jackie. We did the obligatory visits to the casinos, and went back the next day to browse the exclusive Shops at Caesars before heading back to New York and Mary’s.

Of course, we shopped, and shopped, and then shopped some more. God Bless America and Saks Fifth Avenue. On Sunday, we drove into Manhattan to do the tourist thing for Karen. We started off at Ground Zero, which I’d never visited. Of course, Karen and I both cried. For different reasons, I’m sure, but I was truly moved by the experience. Then we went shopping at divine Century 21 to cheer up. We showed Karen the famous Christmas windows at Macy’s, Broadway, Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, etc. etc. I still think Philly is much prettier and a whole lot safer.

Karen flew home on Monday night, probably thinking about Lionel trains (private joke) and Borat’s accidental visit to the Jews (another private joke). Translating Karen’s English into Mary’s American was a bit tiresome, but at least I got to use my Yiddish, which was getting awfully rusty. Hopefully, I shall be back home in Weybridge next week, after having attained my goals of eating: a) a cheesesteak, b) a pastrami Reuben, c)a real pizza, d) scrapple, and e) several hotdogs, and watching sixteen real American football games on Scary Fairy’s big screen. Travel is so broadening.

 

 

Mary (a.k.a. “Scary Fairy”) Acquires A Roommate

Published December 8, 2006 by jean cohen

New Jersey, USA

Dateline December 5, 2006

 

Well, it’s official – Jeano is now persona non grata in the UK.  Maybe she should have requested political asylum – from possible persecution by evil relatives and former friends, or perhaps just for being a registered republican in post-November 2006 election America.  I think Jeano does secretly (or not so secretly) yearn to live in a monarchy…but with herself as the Queen!  (I’ve seen the photographic proof.)  Maybe the UK government thinks Jeano may overthrow the Queen Mum?  Or poach Charles away from Camilla?  At least the British recognize the potential trouble-making type – you know, a female who writes well, speaks articulately and has an actual brain in her head  (the sharp tongue, ginger hair and freckles are just a bonus).  As for the true story… Apparently, the visa clerk at the British Consulate in New York City never learned arithmetic and thought Jewish princess Jeano was actually an American pauper, despite the 20 carats of diamonds she wears everyday, even with her blue jeans.  Although Jean tried to point out the woman’s obvious error, no man (or woman) can get between a government bureaucrat and his/her “REFUSED” stamp – the little power rush of being able to say no is probably the only thing that makes the job bearable in the first place.  So Jeano has been “refused” and is officially back “on the Right Coast” in “the States” (god help us!) – at least until she gets reborn as a dual Italian citizen.  I think there’s actually an Italian rebirth ceremony that we’ll have to hold in order to make it official – something about being dunked in a big vat of Chianti (or is it Asti Spumonte?) three times while reciting the recipe for homemade lasagna and meatballs.  I’m sure it will be a rollicking good time.

 

Jean was informed that she could appeal the math-challenged consulate clerk’s decision – by sending an appeal via fax to London. Sheesh!  I still think Scotland Yard and MI5 must have put Jeano on the “naughty” list, perhaps for her acerbic wit and sometimes uncontrollable propensity for queen-bashing…although admittedly that behavior occurred pretty early in Jeano’s British residency and she has been more restrained of late…Maybe it was all those hat jokes – (the Queen: “I am not amused.”).  Who knows?  My advice to Jean has been to start toadying up to the royal family and currying favor in her now world-famous blog.  Get down on her knees and kiss a little royal butt-oski.  Compliment the queen’s hats and fawn over her fashion choices.  Prattle on about her fine sense of style.  Gush over Camilla’s bloom of happiness and healthy beauty.  Enthuse about Prince William’s kindness and admire Prince Harry’s good behavior (of late).  Wax lyrical about what a brilliant couple William and Kate make.  Rave about how lovely Charlie looks in his plaid.  Better yet, say nice things about all the yappy dogs.  And don’t leave out the horses…you know how the royals love their horses.  And the sheep.  Don’t they also keep guinea fowl?  No, those are for shooting parties.  But the pheasants may warrant a mention – that’s pheasants, not peasants.  No, they shoot those too, don’t they?  The pheasants, not the peasants.  Pheasants are impressive served under glass – I’m told.  Peasants aren’t served at all – they do the serving – or so I’ve read.  I’ve never actually known any peasants, but it doesn’t seem like a desirable occupation in all the bodice-ripper historical romances.  Anyway, back to the point.  Kissing royal butt-oski…you get the picture.  Say all nice things and make ‘em gag on sugary sweetness (kinda like I’m gagging now).  Jeano may not get a new visa, but at least she may get bounced off the “naughty” list of buggers who habitually indulge in the sport of queen-bashing.  And Santa may bring her something for Christmas.  To New Jersey, Right Coast, USA.

 

So, back to the subject of this blog entry:  “Mary Acquires A Roommate.”  Since Jeano and I are now going to be roommates for awhile, let me clear up the small matter of “partnership.”  Jeano and I are both definitely hetero (well, at least I’m sure about me) and have never been “partners” – except maybe in a good game of Scrabble.  I would hate for any young, intelligent, wealthy, handsome and eligible bachelors to think otherwise (OK, maybe young-at-heart, mildly intelligent and still breathing will do!).  I don’t recall where Jeano came up with the moniker “Scary Fairy” – but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with Tinkerbell’s feistiness, coupled with my impressive (i.e. scary) cognitive ability and other brilliant talents.  Or maybe Jeano just misses Sesame Street rhyme-time:  Mary…scary…fairy… there you go.  I guess it’s better than hairy fairy or eerie dairy.  What does fairy mean in Brit-speak, anyway?

 

I AM A ROCK, I AM AN ISLAND

Published December 1, 2006 by jean cohen

I am somewhere in the North Atlantic. Okay, to be a bit more precise than ‘somewhere’ – 57 degrees north, 13 degrees west. I’m sure that made it much clearer. Honestly, you can get anything on line. Including citizenship to the Sovereign Nation of Waveland.

Naturally, Waveland was not my first choice as a new homeland. There is no Bloomingdales on the island. Hell, there’s not even a Walmart. But I’ve pissed a lot of countries off, as well as a few states. I thought about Monaco; after all Grace Kelly once lived right down the Roosevelt Boulevard from me, and that should count for something, but there was that tiny incident in Monte Carlo in 1984.

Then I thought about Israel; my name is ‘Cohen’ after all and I do know all the words to Hatikva and Hava Negila. Fortunately, I remembered in time about that other teensy incident, with Moshe Dyan, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, when I trod on his foot and then spilled wine on him. (That one happens to actually be true, if anyone out there is keeping score.)

Although it is isolated, and bloody cold, the Hotel Jacques Cousteau is moderately comfortable. I just wish they didn’t play John Denver singing "Calypso" 24/7. Maybe I can suggest that Robbie Lee do Live Music on Tuesdays?

Since Waveland was invaded by Greenpeace, and wrested away from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, and Dick Cheney, drilling for the copious amounts of natural gas and oil has been halted. The lucrative fishing areas are barren of Carnival Cruise ships, which are now banned, due to a surfeit of ubiquitous Americans from Des Moines in bermuda shorts, black socks, and Dr. Scholl’s sandals.

It is very quiet, except for the gannets, who poop an awful lot. Gannet poop is the chief export on the island. I believe they sell it to the British Home Office.

The Greenpeace invaders are a strange lot. I wonder why animal rights activists and other protest groups always seem to lack a sense of humor, and dress extremely badly. Of course, I dearly miss my mink coat and alligator purse, which are in safe-keeping during my exile. I have had to eschew a lot of really necessary accouterments, due to the curious geo- political leanings of my fellow exiles. Honestly, these days people just don’t cut you any slack if you’re a shallow, materialistic American from the Right Coast.

The journey from Tarwithie to Waveland was basically uneventful, although there was no casino on the Whaling vessel. There were, however, a lot of hot whalers.

Sadly, since Greenpeace bombed the electric navigational beacon during a sissy fit (actually true) , finding a tiny island in the midst of hundreds of miles of open sea is a bit tricky. Because there has been no sunshine on Waveland since 1957, the solar powered beacon erected by the conquerors, is now used by the inhabitants to ‘line dry’ their wash.

I did hope that the inhabitants spoke anything besides Scottish. I get tired of talking to myself.

I think about other famous martyrs, like Alfred Dreyfuss. And like Emile Zola in Dreyfuss’ defense, I say to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in my own defense: "J’accuse!"

Like Nurse Cavell, I, too, "must have no hatred and bitterness toward anyone." However, I am somewhat disinclined to die of frostbite, or boredom, for the Union Jack. Or for the Stars and Stripes, come to think of it.

 

The genuine Laplander reindeer skin clothing issued upon arrival itches. Like Private Benjamin, I did feel it was necessary to ask if it came in any color besides "reindeer", which doesn’t really go with my hair. Maybe I should have had it dry-cleaned first?

I scratch, and think about me on Waveland, and about Napoleon exiled on St. Helena’s. The British have a lot to answer for.