Happy New Year-- But Not In Dubai
You may know that I'm an inveterate traveler-- and have been since I first left my parents home in Brooklyn at age 16 and hitchhiked-- with $48 in my pocket; there were no credit cards back then (at least that I am aware of)-- to Los Angeles in order to stow away on a ship-- a series of ships-- to go make a new life on Tonga. I never got to Tonga, having been caught on the first ship, bound for Hawaii. But eventually I managed to travel to 100 countries-- theoretically a member of the Century Club-- normally just ones I want to visit. One country I visited that I didn't chose to was Dubai, a grotesque, feudal dictatorship where half the population lives in effective slavery.
3 years ago I decided to spend December in Kerala, a lovely state in southwest India that I had liked a lot when I was there in 1970. The easiest way to get to Kochi (Cochin) from L.A. was by Emirates Air from L.A. with a very short stop in Dubai. Roland and I flew back to L.A. on January 5 on a flight that left Kochi at 4:35 am and arrived in Dubai at 7:05 am for an hour-and-a-half layover. I was flying in business class and Roland was in economy. When the plane landed, the airline attendants hustled me off the plane and fed me some cock'n'bull story, as it turned out, about the plane not going on to L.A. What they did was give my seat-- and the seats of several other business class passengers-- to some people connected to the Dubai "royal" family, which is the sole owner of Emirates and which they treat like a family asset. So I got stuck in the godforsaken country overnight. I really hated Emirates Air-- whose attitude about the whole incident was shocking-- and I disliked Dubai as much. What a hellhole!
And yesterday, as you've probably seen on TV they had a double bread-and-circuses event: a fire in a skyscraper next to an amazing fireworks show.
Look, it wasn't Donald Trump or even P.T. Barnum who first said, "the show must go on." It was-- even before Freddie Mercury, Leo Sayer and Pink Floyd-- English playwright and composer Noël Coward (who wrote a song, Why Must the Show Go On? in 1953). Yesterday, though, it was an official of the Emirate of Dubai who made a show must go on decision as the 63-story luxury Address hotel and residences burned. It took 5 minutes for the fire to spread from one floor to 40 floors but it took an hour for the first firetruck to arrive. The Address is part of the same Downtown Dubai development as the 160 story Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, which was at the hub of Dubai’s New Year's firework spectacular, which went ahead despite the fire. The Address had been advertising itself as "the perfect place to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks." If you can forget you're in a desperate hellhole the western powers play footsie with.