Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Springtime on Planet Earth

        A senescent president spends

Beyond measure the wealth 

Of his nation, and supports a

Comedian’s nation pitted against

A Slavic warlord who dreams

Of the war his comrades applaud.

Seeing his foes embroiled,

The leader of Sinitic millions

Likes his chance and seeks to meld

Taiwan into a Chinese whole.

Japanese and South East Asians

Younger than those locked in

Western Ukraine arm themselves

Thinking that they are

More formidable than

The Chinese believe.  In the world 

We try, those of us standing aside,

To hide our faces and hope these

Onslaughts pass us by; yet fire

Burns brightly where we stand.

Somewhere beyond our ken

A malevolence watches these

Stirrings, dipping a finger

Now and then to taste its

Progress.  Humans blind

And dumb in its midst 

Roil inside the growing heat.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Relating to the crises in Nigeria, sort of

I just saw on the news that Nigeria is on the brink of an economic meltdown.  In seven months, if I live so long I’ll be ninety.  It often seems that I can’t watch any news program without relating something in my past to it. In this case, in 1988 I was Project Engineer for the delivery of the last two DC-10's.  One of them was purchased by Nigerian Airlines.  Alex, representing Nigerian Engineering and Ali representing Nigerian Product Support coordinated daily with me.   I got to know them both fairly well.  I was a member of the Long Beach Police Pistol Club at the time and took them both shooting two or three times.  Alex was especially interested in buying one of my guns, but the gun he wanted was the one I took hiking most often; so I wouldn’t sell it to him.  

Alex apparently found another gun to buy.  He said there were bandits where he lived who would approach a house, shout and wave old rifles about and demand money, but if the home owner could produce a gun, they would run away.  Ali scoffed at that.  He had been in the Nigerian military and had a rifle at home.  The bandits never bothered him.  At the range it turned out that neither could shoot very well.  Alex fired a round through the overhead at one point.  His targets had shots, the ones that even hit the target, all over the place, but he was proud of it and took it back to Nigeria with him.

Ali was educated in Scotland and had a heavy Scottish accent which made him difficult to understand.  Alex was a Catholic, but as it happened I got along best with Ali who was a Muslim.  We discussed a wide variety of matters including religion.  I had read the Koran by then and found his interpretation of various passages far different from my understanding, but the same sort of thing goes on with Biblical interpretation so I wasn’t surprised. 

Ali spoke of having important political connections and of being about to inherit a large property.  I was invited, but didn’t go on the delivery flight.  Shortly after he would have arrived in Nigeria, he called me at home, He left a return number which I tried, but his accent was so strong I wasn’t sure I got it right.  In any case I couldn’t get through.  I wondered at the time if he was going to offer me a job.   What would that job have consisted of?

Shortly before delivery of the Nigerian DC-10, I received a copy of a document reporting “Nigerian B-707, on 12-13-88 crashed near Luxor, Egypt after diverting from Cairo due to low visibility.  Aircraft shot tso approaches at Cairo before diverting.  News media speaks of running out of fuel and crashing into six houses and three classrooms.  Initial report of fatalities were the eight Nigerian crew members and one 51 yr old Egyptian woman on the ground.  Serious injuries were sustained by one other adult woman on the ground and four children.  One of the children reportedly died later.  No report of fire.”

Another note said, “Operator “Nigerian date “12-15-88 Nigerian Airlines reportedly fired 3,000 employees.  This included their ‘manager’ or ‘General Manager’.  No further details.”

I learned from Chuck Watkinson, the McDonnell Douglas contract administrator for Nigeria that there had been a riot at the airline and the army had to be called out to quell it.  As a result of the riot 3,000 of the 8,000 employees were fired.  The most critical two were Okojo, the Managing Director and Legal Advisor who was in the process of reviewing our contract prior to signature.  The contract needs to be signed quickly so that title transfer can occur on 12-23-88.”

Those who had been on previous delivery flights of airplanes to Nigeria reported that it was best to go to a luxurious facility in Lagos and stay there until it was time to return home.  There were all sorts of horror stories as to why one didn’t want leave that facility and travel more widely in Nigeria.

As it happened, Susan had scheduled a visit to her sister in Marfa Texas; so Nigeria and Bangladesh (the later offered a side trip to Kathmandu) were out of the question.   Susan’s sister’s husband, was in the Border Patrol and took me on a consolation trip along some of the places on the border where illegals were known to cross.  We didn’t see any on that trip.  

Perhaps Ali had assumed I would be on the delivery flight and he could say whatever he wanted to say to me then, but on 12-23-88 Susan and I were on the way to Marfa.  Whenever Nigeria makes the news I do wonder what it would have been like to have gone there, something I never really wanted to do, but when one’s mind wanders, that sort of thing is bound to come up.