Something very special about air travel: the way it bleeds fear into your soul. The tightening of the stomach. The queasiness. The hands around the throat. The screaming. The dementia. The flailing of arms; we’re all going to fucking die! Mayday! Mayday! Jesus, fuck!

Terrible. Yes.

Yet, if you think about it, all of human life probably began in the air; and after all, the planet we live on is floating in air of sorts—intergalactic-space-air; and women often give birth to twins or sextuplets on planes; and don’t forget all those mile-highers fucking one another, again and again, in cramped airline toilets, or jerking off during uncensored in-flight porno movies, or flirting with hostesses in bum-tight serge miniskirts, or shooting lick-snatch films in tight galleys awash with lysteria-ridden packaged food; or passing semen-encrusted copies of beaver magazines to-and-fro across the aisles.

Air travel is getting to be quite disgusting.

This has not been a happy year for me: my assignment, courtesy of the publicity wing of Advance Iran International, I think they’re called (who cares?) was to travel to the Islamic Republic and report favourably in the popular press on selected tourist destinations.

No problem.

None at all.

Except that there was a gigantic problem: “Respectfully observe our age-old Islamic customs and refrain from alcoholic consumption, kerb crawling, paedophilia, loan-sharking, Westernisation, pro-Israeli thinking, and the rest.”


I wanted to go to Mauritius, but they sent Martin Amis instead, the bastard fucks.

I normally never use vulgar language unless I’ve had a drink or two, or if something really makes me fucking angry.


What is it?

What is it, now.


I remember once reading a disturbing pamphlet, printed in London, probably at some little hand-cranked beer-fuelled press near Whitechapel—Angel Alley most likely—telling me that one million and 33 or 39 years before I was born, a bullet had been fired at my head from furthest outer space, and that it was constantly hurtling through the ether towards me, and would one day enter my head at the third eye, smashing my skull and scattering my teeth, and then driving on into the very marrow of my being itself.

Somehow, don’t ask me for detail, whenever I’m drinking, whenever my mind starts to cloud over, I connect this pamphlet with air travel.

The author was some complete fucking fruitcake called Intergalactic Babu Mickey Reeves.


Air travel; flying thousands of metres above the earth, a fascinating experience; imprisoned, incarcerated, captured; for the duration, in this iron lung, this silver cigar, this dazzling gilded phallus, this cylindrical sarcophagus, this flying pig, this disorienting doodle-bug.

As a journalist, I must keep practising my one-liners.

Christ, how do you get out of these planes; you can bang on the windows, but you’re stuck there, buddy, you’d better believe it: no one gets off until the fucking thing lands.

What sort of plane was this? The fact is, I can’t distinguish one plane from another—I couldn’t tell a stealth bomber from a Zeppelin—though I’ve probably spent more time up than down, I’ve clocked up billions of air miles, high as a kite, let’s go fly!

After a few cheap drinks, I fell in with a group of flat-backpacker types, American lady prostitutes with rucksacks and Masters degrees; the talk was of hash and gash, dope and dick, I could cope with it, but conversationally it was all somewhat turgid.

I just wanted to get to sleep, for godsake, just let me get some wine-dark sleep in the wine-dark sky.

Then we moved into chapter and verse on Ginsberg and Burroughs; okay, I said, I surrender, come on girls.

Inevitably, we had to deal with Herbert Hunke.

Since we were in Beat mode, I tried to steer the topic on to Doris Wishman films, but they weren’t having it. None of them had even seen a film by Doris. Well, they weren’t going to see any in Iran, that’s for sure, Miss Icky-Picky-Choosey, why travel to Iran in the first place ? There’s nothing for the buck-for-a-fuck crowd there, except the possibility of one of their number being executed publicly.

A lot of these Beat girls are very prejudiced, in their own way; very narrow-minded.

I mean, Christ, they were going to holiday in Aspen.

Aspen is not in Iran; somebody tell them, please.


To make matters worse, I had forgotten to pack my books on Iran, my font of facts: the rough guides, the shoestring chronicles, the lonely planetariums, et al. I had forgotten every single one of my reference works as well, my copies of Encylopedia Iranica, Bibliographica Persiana, Indica Zoroastriana, Cambridge Histories of Iran, and the rest.

The essence of the problem was I had forgotten even to buy any of these books in the first place; why would I want all those heavy tomes in my suitcase, they would be a millstone around my neck, they’re a load of piss. I like the plain and simple raw facts; I want them in my face, I don’t want to read about them. Who, for example, would want to read about a vagina, or look at a series of pictures of one in a magazine, when you could stick your own finger in a real hole?

Well, I would, for a start; I like pussy pictures.

I couldn’t find any real women on my plane, I looked high and low, behind every curtain, and into every cubicle.

No real women at all.

Except for those so-called Beat Girls.

I really didn’t fancy any of them.

Except when one of them took off her jeans and knickers and did a series of lascivious gyrations near the galley.


Destination: Tabriz.

I don’t even remember which terminal I took at Heathrow, it honestly doesn’t matter. Who on earth flies to Tabriz these days, now that Iran is in the hands of the mullahs? Not me. Not bloody likely. Anyway, there are no flights to Tabriz, only Tehran. I made a mental note to get off in Madrid. I could always fax my story from there; who would know? Certainly not the sub on my shit rag.


I think I passed out somewhere over Albania, or Turkey, and underwent a near-death experience;  astral projection and all the rest: I’ve been working too hard, too many deadlines, too many travel magazines; too many fucking Condé Nast cocktail parties—drinking cheap white laced with antifreeze—I struggled to keep awake once we had taken off; I took altogether too much acid in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, Madrid is the most expensive city in Northern Europe, I used to live in Norway, they made me a Buffalo, I know what I’m talking about, I wish I’d led a healthier life, the flight seemed to be taking forever—flying over all this bloody water—in a way I just wanted to get it over with. It doesn’t take twelve hours to get to Tehran, but it did this time. I asked a hostess as I stumbled, like a mine-donkey, blinking and screaming at the blinding light, out of the fuselage, how long the flight had taken, and she said “You’ll be fine, sir, if you’ll only open your heart and let Jesus in.”

Is that any way to speak to a passenger? “What did she say?” I asked a passerby.

“Tie a yellow ribbon round your fucking cock, lowlife,” said a huge, grinning bear of a man in a plaid shirt. And thank you, too.

I swear to God I was in that crate for an eternity.

And oh yes, an incredible garbled announcement over the tannoy, by a very aggressive hostess, as we came into land: “You’re all going to die, you swine. Kiss your fucking sphincters adios! Die, fuckers, die!”

Terrifying nonsense.

Then they played Motörhead through the airplane sound system, shaking the fucking guts out of us.

I remember the pilot grabbing the mic and screaming into the sound system, “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuuuuck!”


Obviously, the pilot was out of his mind.

And then, when I came to, the whole plane was filled with stone! There were rocks in the luggage racks, boulders in the seats, pebbles in the aisles, shingles in the galley.


I felt shit, really rough, rotten.

Perhaps my plane was one of those ore-carrying spaceships I saw in Alien; the Nostromo.

I don’t even know what language the woman was speaking, I could have sworn it was Basque! Talk about Mexico! Talk about remote valleys and forgotten people.

Perhaps it was the Arab connection; those dark-skinned people from Seville.

I asked the hostesses what the name of the plane was—a simple enough question—and I swear to God her lips were covered in semen—she said, “It’s the Nostromo, you ignorant fuckwad.”

So there you are.

I was too stunned to reply.

These airlines really ought to tighten up on their recruitment, to say nothing of their staff training.


Farsi, the lingua franca of modern Iran, is one of the world’s oldest languages, predating even Sanskrit, to say nothing of such relative newcomers, Latin and Greek, to say absolutely nought of that baby of all communication, English.

Always leave a tip in a restaurant, or if a bellboy gives you any favours; ten percent is considered sufficient. I’d been warned against the Iranian bellboys; they’d fellate you and then run splabbing to a mullah. Anyway, I don’t want a bloody bellboy, I want a woman. I’m sick of this closet paedophile aspect to travel, Christ, let’s just do some straight fucking for a change, let’s be completely revolutionary and go to a foreign country and for once fuck only the women.


Honestly, I didn’t fancy going to Iran, even if it was for a dogshit broadsheet Murdoch Saturday or Sunday supplement.


I was afraid.

The land of the mullahs; public executions; people tortured in public; people tortured in private, people executed behind closed doors, people buggered up against doors and nailed to doors; men, women, and children done to death; gore, gore, gore: maimed and mutilated people slithering around the pavements, martyrs piled up to the ceiling in your fucking hotel room; cattle and goats slaughtered in the streets, the gutters black with clotted blood, some of it seeping into your fucking bed; horrible Islamic discussions taking place everywhere, plotting bombs, murder, and gore, oh Jesus; come back and sort this fucking mess out, all is forgiven, we didn’t mean any of it.


Breathtaking scenery, genuinely friendly people; the amenities apparently spartan but surprisingly comfortable; and the bill for the whole sumptuous six-course meal coming to less than the cost of a newspaper in New York. Attractive handicrafts can be bought duty-free at the airport, and the staff are friendly, smartly-dressed, courteous and honest.


Customs, again; this time of the border crossing sort, but surprisingly little bother with them; I was startled by the American accent of the handsome, if slightly simian, Jane Fonda-type woman at passport control, not even dressed in a fucking chador, but instead in a semen-stained blue uniform of the sort to be seen in airport lounges, airport toilets and airport-linked motels the world over.


It was snowing when we landed in Tehran.

And what a beautiful city, perched up in the mountains, fringed with Douglas Firs; the log cabins modern, spacious, and elegantly designed. People on the streets were expensively, if casually, dressed; the men smartly bearded, the women pony-tailed.


Iranians have light skins; despite all the prejudicial trash we read in the newspapers, they are surprisingly Westernised—they’re not coons—and on the streets I saw hardly any evidence of strict Islamic clothing, and instead of evil mullahs leering and pissing down at me from billboards, there were advertisements for reassuringly everyday consumer items: Marlboro, Lucky Strike, Coca-Cola, Nike, Versace, Gucci, Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, and some French cunt or the other, I can’t remember his name, he couldn’t design a fucking frock to save his life, I really don’t know what he thinks his game is, the last woman I saw in one of his rig-outs looked like a fucking vandalised corpse at an abattoir. No more fashion assignments for me; I’m sticking to travel. Do you know they tried to send me to Romania? The next time I fill in a job application, I’m putting at the top in big letters: “Say what you like, I’m not fucking going to Romania.” No hack in their right mind should ever have to go to Romania.


American films can be seen at the cinemas in Iran; newsagents and bookshops are well-supplied with the latest titles—I was even able to buy a copy of Women Who Like Men with Big Cocks—printed and published in Santa Barbara—at the cover price! And everywhere the dollar was cheerfully accepted, without the least anti-American sentiment. Do you know that at some hotel in Barbados, the fucking management tried to charge me $100 for a copy of the New York Times? Of course, I put it on the tab anyway, because Murdoch would be paying, but for fucksake, what kind of a price is that! And my room was just across the passage from Michael Winner’s. Perhaps that’s what I was paying for, it figures. I thought of trying to get Winner’s autograph for my daughter, only I don’t have a daughter.

Fuck I wish I had.

I wish.

I should have married Wanda and settled down years ago. Then I could go to parents’ meetings and find out how my kids are getting on at school.


Christ, most of the people on the streets, well-dressed in jeans and tartan shirts, even looked like Americans! I saw almost no evidence of people wrapped in stained tea-towels, soiled bathrobes, or manky Arab sheets.

Home from home; these people looked presentable enough to me.

Officials were courteous and helpful.


At one stage, in downtown Baghdad—the bustling Iranian commercial capital—after a hastily-eaten meal of a flame-grilled Whopper, double fries with extra ketchup and double Pepsi, I just had to have a shit, I just had to, I was desperate with Delhi belly, and I was probably miles from my hotel room. I asked someone in the street for the nearest restrooms and was directed to the rear of a gas station. I expected to have to squat and fart, Iranian-style, in the gutter, with my buttocks and anus in full view of perfect strangers, with gaggles of giggling Islamic schoolgirls in chadors squealing as my non-vegetarian turds hit the pavement, but was pleasantly surprised to discover instead a relatively clean washdown toilet with sensible plumbing and a perfectly lockable cubicle door! After my ablutions, I was able to wash my hands with good quality Palmolive soap and dry my hands on a functioning hot-air dryer. All the bullshit I had been led to believe by press reports about the third world is quite meaningless. Of course it exists if you look for it, but the degradation is greatly exaggerated. Who writes this sort of trash? Sumptuous meals and affordable, well-made handicrafts at realistic prices; excellent value for the budget traveller, or travelling reseller, or peripatetic wholesaler.


You had to laugh.

I was strolling through a huge tree-filled, well-kept, well-attended park in the centre of Tehran—Mohammed’s Park, I think it was called, something like that, I’ll check the map when I get back to L.A.—very much a family environment, with jugglers, therapists, tricksters, Jungians and unicyclists everywhere; when I came across a group of tall, shiny-headed, severe-looking negroes, all dressed to a tee, resplendent in Saville Row suits, Ray-Bans, and expensive, professionally-knotted clip-on silk bow ties.

Switching immediately to jive, I rapped with them as best I could: “Hey, muthafokky nigga! Ho bitch fokky honky bitch nigga fukky! Ho bitch? Ho bitch fukky! Fukky bitch nigga fokky ho nigga fukky!”

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it turned out that these brutal-looking ebony automatons were acolytes of one Elijah Mohammed, and were themselves peddling an uncompromisingly violent brand of negroid Islam! What a waste of time! Someone should have told them that  Iran was already completely converted! Coals to Newcastle, Jesus. I burst out laughing when I heard what they were up to. I nearly pissed myself.

I did piss myself.

Because somewhere in Mohammed’s Park, in the centre of Tehran, an involuntary spasm emptied the entire contents of my bladder into my pants. I simply had to stand there until it was over. I couldn’t get to a hotel, I couldn’t get to a urinal, I couldn’t see any Islamic pissoirs, although they must have been about. Perhaps I had malaria, I don’t know. Not a happy incident, but my bags soon dried in the blistering Iranian sun.


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