Saturday, 31 December 2005

National Lampoon’s Middle Eastern Vacation

Clark Griswold, his MILF wife and the endlessly rotating cast of people playing their kids are OUT. This guy is my new holiday idol.

Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn’t even tell his parents.

If he doesn’t at least score his own television show out of this then he’s been robbed. Not to mention one of those shithouse American teenage roadtrip movies on the subject. “Four horny college students take a wrong turn in Istanbul and end up in a war zone. Hillarity and sexy action ensues”. It’ll make a million.

Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on December 11.

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies.

Given his heritage, Hassan could almost pass as Iraqi. His father’s background helped him secure an entry visa, and native Arabs would see in his face Iraqi features and a familiar skin tone. His wispy beard was meant to help him blend in.

But underneath that Mideast veneer was full-blooded American teen, a born-and-bred Floridian sporting white Nike tennis shoes and trendy jeans. And as soon as the lanky, 6-foot teenager opened his mouth — he speaks no Arabic — his true nationality would have betrayed him.

Traveling on his own in a land where insurgents and jihadists have kidnapped more than 400 foreigners, killing at least 39 of them, Hassan walked straight into a death zone. On Monday, his first full day in Iraq, six vehicle bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding more than 40.

At least if he’d been kidnapped the papers could have got some serious mileage out of the “Save Farris” headlines that they’ve been sitting on since 1987. Farris Hassan - you ARE TSP’s man of the year 2005. Congratulations. I’m supporting you even if nobody else does.

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