The Power of Advertising

Ok, so I'm walking down Prospect Street in Cambridge. It is early in 2001. I had just had a huge fight with someone and I am cranky. Sadly, cranky is a common state for me in early 2001. I'm waiting for the light in front of Store 24 to change and I see a Volkswagen Beetle, wrapped with advertising for something called Thomson Safaris.

In my Rio for the past few days, I'd been playing David Wilcox's album East Asheville Hardware, which Russ had loaned me. On that record is a song called "Johnny's Camaro" in which the heroine goes to Africa and has a life-changing experience.

So, I think to myself "**** it, I'm going to Africa."

That weekend, I am out in Holliston visiting my parents and I show my mother the brochure I received from Thomson. She asks if she can come too. We sign up.

So much to do. It is good to be prepared by doing searches for things like "safari catastrophes" and "man-eating lions." At that point, I decided to stop doing research.

Fast forward a few months and we are on a plane from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, watching films like Miss Congeniality, The Family Man and What Women Want. They were all really bad, but they killed time adequately. Watching kept me from bursting with anticipation. I know that I am a world-weary, jaded late-twenty-something -- mid-career according to my friends at WorldTeach -- and that I shouldn't be feeling like a six-year-old on Christmas morning. You know what? I don't care. Haul out the holly -- I'm looking out my airplane window at *Africa*.

It was exciting to be flying into Kilimanjaro (the airport, hopefully not the mountain itself). I spent a little time reading up on my Hemingway before leaving, so I was expecting to see the wide massif, the point of Kibo and the frozen carcass of a leopard.

We saw nothing that night. It was dark when we landed and the mountain was shrouded with fog. What we did see was three men coming to greet us - Charles, Harrison and Leonard.