In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

How Not to Lose Your Keys

Sort of. I have a friend with a very forgetful and thunderous husband who is forever losing his car keys and then it's panic stations until they are located -- 30 seconds or 15 minutes later. Yes, they've tried having a designated spot for them. No, that doesn't work -- because if you could remember where to put your keys then you wouldn't lose them in the first place.

So this is what you do. Stop fighting it. Accept that keys will be misplaced. That is their nature. Misplacing them is not the problem. The problem is not having them... yes?

Make 10 copies of the keys in question. Salt them around the house. Keep 5 in one drawer as your go to, automatic replacement. Leave one or two outside, in those tricky little faux rocks -- but put them in your neighbor's yard for a little added security. Lost a key? Here you go. Lost your keys again babe? Here you go. Lost your keys? That's ok, hon, here you go. Repeat nine times, then go make more keys.
And now for a key story: Before I went to Afghanistan for the first time in 2002, I was rattling around my house and came across a skeleton key. I had obtained it from an antiques store, now shuttered, down the street, when I was trying to find a key to fit my slavaged back doors (I ultimately did, out of the whole coffee can of keys.). For whatever reason, I tied it on a bit of string and hung it around my neck, and there it stayed. I was at a cocktail party with a bunch of Pentagon types, when then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers sat down next to me and asked me what the key was all about. I explained that I found it in my house, and it just felt like a good thing to have.
Fast forward a couple of months. I'd spent 4 weeks in Afghanistan, some of it at Bagram where I had incredible adventures with a civil affairs team that drove me wherever I wanted to go (a major victory, since the Special Forces guys wouldn't take out a girl on a mission, and I kept getting passed over for one of the dozen male reporters. So those guys fought over going on a single mission every other day, and I was outside the wire for 8 - 12 hours every day -- at health clinics, tiny villages, orphanages, girls' schools, Alexander the Great's redoubt, boneyards of Soviet tanks... and once saw a warlord getting a v strange visit from a non-US helicopter that turned out to be a big deal but I never found out what it was).
Anyway: The first Loya Jirga was finished and Hamid Karzai was beginning his presidency so I was packing my bags for home. I planned to check out of the Shamshad guest house in Kabul and head to Peter Jouvenal's guest house for my last night, which was a far superior accommodation. The Shamshad smelled like rotting meat (because of the rotting meat hanging around) and had the barest trickle of water in the single shower in the whole hotel. But I woke up every morning to sit on the porch and watch the BBC radio crew do its live show broadcast back to England from the garden, which was cool and caught me up on world news. So Shamshad had its charms. But that meat smell. Ick.
Jouvenal's guest house was said to have belonged to one of Osama Bin Laden's wives before the invasion, and there was an apricot tree dropping fat apricots all over the yard, which the kitchen staff turned into the most wonderful cobbler, drowned in fresh cream. It tasted about as good as anything I'd ever had and was a fresh relief from my days of dirty flat bread and flies at Shamshad.
So I was eager to get there. I moved my bags into the Shamshad hallway and turned to lock the door. No key. I ripped through all my bags. No key. Through the room. No key. I called the house manager, a kid of about 17, and he got every key to every door in the guest house and tried to fit it in the lock. No love. I was at a loss -- these were ancient doors and ancient keys, and leaving without returniung the key was tantamount to rendering the room uninhabitable. No Westerner -- the only ones who were renting -- would stay in a room that couldn't be locked. I put my hand on my chest to show him how sorry I was and I felt the key around my neck. I fished it out of my collar and held it out to him. "Maybe this?" I asked. He disappeared into the kitchen, reappeared with a two-foot curling knife, slid it up between the key and my throat and slit the cord. The key slid into the door and turned the lock. Door swung open. True story. I left the key there, which I regret.
What if that key opens EVERY door?

1 comment:

  1. I am always losing my keys! I don't even know how it's possible because my pepper spray and other big key chains are hanging on them. I need a key organizer or a place to always hang them.