In 1982, when I was—well, let’s just say that my age was still rendered in a single digit—my Great-Aunt Y., who was visiting from wherever she lived at the time, decided she wanted me to go on a trip with her. Everything she told me about it sounded exotic and very exciting, so it was with tremendous anticipation that I walked into our living room with her to announce our plan to my parents.
FAUSTUS’S GREAT AUNT: I want to take Faustus on a trip.
MRS. FAUSTUS: That sounds great.
MR. FAUSTUS: Where do you want to take him?
FAUSTUS’S GREAT AUNT: Afghanistan.
MR. and MRS. FAUSTUS: ?!
MR. and MRS. FAUSTUS: !?
(Afghanistan in 1982, for those of you who weren’t alive then, was a very dangerous place, occupied by the Soviets and embroiled in a civil war.)
MRS. FAUSTUS: (makes choking sound)
MR. FAUSTUS: Um.
MRS. FAUSTUS: No.
MR. FAUSTUS: Absolutely not.
FAUSTUS: But whynotwhynotwhynot?
MRS. FAUSTUS: Did you actually expect us to agree to this?
MRS. FAUSTUS: Why would you make such a ridiculous suggestion?
FAUSTUS’S GREAT AUNT: Because it’s a crime that this child has not seen the Khyber Pass by moonlight.
MR. FAUSTUS: …
FAUSTUS: I want to see the Khyber Pass by moonlight! It’s beautiful! Aunt Y. says so!
MRS. FAUSTUS: …
MR. FAUSTUS: There’s the small matter of the civil war.
FAUSTUS’S GREAT AUNT: Oh, don’t be ridiculous.
MRS. FAUSTUS: And the Soviet occupation.
FAUSTUS’S GREAT AUNT: We’ll just take side roads.
(It is clear that Mr. and Mrs. Faustus are not going to relent.)
FAUSTUS’S GREAT AUNT: So you want Faustus to grow up into a provincial buffoon?
MRS. FAUSTUS: Yes.
(Faustus runs out of the room in tears.)
The thing is, I still kind of want to go. But, while I somehow believe that I’d be absolutely safe under her protection, she died seven or eight years ago. So I don’t really know what to do.
You never told me you had an Auntie Mame! I should have guessed.
Questions: Had Auntie Y. ever actually seen the Khyber Pass by moonlight herself at that point?
Did she end up going without you (alone or with another child whose parents didn’t love him quite so much?)
Do you feel that being a provincial buffoon is holding you back in life?
Doesn’t going to Israel last year count for something?
Sparky: I had sort of a composite Auntie Mame, but all its members had flaws that didn’t inhere in the original, like being abusive parents, or alcoholics, or whatever. Nonetheless I have reaped the benefits.
Esther: I believe she had seen the Khyber Pass, but I don’t believe she went again. Something is certainly holding me back in life, but as to whether it’s provincial buffoonery or something else I cannot confidently give an opinion. And I don’t know, I feel like Israel doesn’t really count. I was in Soviet Georgia at one point just before there were riots, but by the time people started throwing bottles I had already left.
You had an Auntie Yetta, didn’t you? Everyone should have one. The Jewish Auntie Mame. Think Lucielle Ball with herring.
I don’t think you’re a provincial buffoon. It was a trick question.
At last, I understand the term great aunt.
In fact the crest of the Khyber pass is 5 km inside Pakistan, and not in Afghanistan at all. How could anyone think that it would have been any more dangerous than, say, the Sheep Meadow by moonlight!
Speaking as someone who’s been caught in the middle of three different riots of varing degrees and levels of danger, just be glad you’ve never been in my shoes. I was at MSU in ’99 and 2000 for the NCAA sports-baby/idiot riots, and in Bonn in the Summer of 2001, when Bush backed out of the Kyoto Protocol. Whilest the first two events were more of a broken glass everywhere/flying boob hazard, the third was scary! I was the only person in my group that spoke German, and had to make quick excuses in in an unfamilar dialect while people in gas-masked Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam costumes beat my party about the head and neck with gas cans. All this to see a goddamn David Hockney exhibit! Trust me, you do NOT want to deal with it, Herr Doktor… Leave dangerous travel to journalists and people willing to dig poop pits.
Aidan: Actually, Y. was on the goyische side of the family.
Esther: But I am! That’s the problem!
lee: I do hope you’ve seen the movie Auntie Mame. If not, rent it at once.
tominsf: Hmm. Perhaps Afghanistan is the best place from which to view the pass?
initials: Why am I not surprised that you cause riots wherever you go?
If you went I think it would have made for an interesting news story as they searched for your bodies. You could have belonged to the ages. Legendary.
Missed it by “that” much.