Oh those halcyon days before this novel Coronavirus descended upon us, driving us into our homes, away from each other, anxious, suspicious, terrified, panicked. Back when we worried about climate change and, before that, radical Islamic terrorism.
Well, I have a book about radical Islamic terrorism + surfing releasing this coming summer, right when the Tokyo Olympics should have been. It is broken into three parts, Yemen, Lebanon and Yemen again, ambling along exactly as I did with my best friends Josh and Nate. Here is a small taste. If you like you can pre-order here and have it delivered to your door early and signed.
Part 3 Chapter 3
Josh pulls his Das Boot as tight as I am trying to pull my Wild One, and I can tell the glacial wind is getting to him too despite his growing up in rural northern Minnesota, despite his jacket being designed to protect its wearer from the frigid North Atlantic, not just the whips and chains of rival gangs, like mine.
“So how is Wahhabism not what we’re chasing here?” I shout. “How is it not the headwaters of modern radical Islamic terrorism that led to our current Global War on Terror?” A giant semitruck roars past, caravanned between two technicals overflowing with Yemeni troops in chic new desert camo.
Last time we were here, Yemen’s hinterland had been an untamed sandy wilderness. This time there are real roads, asphalted roads, and real semitrucks roaring who knows what to who knows where. The Global War on Terror had gutted oil production with improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers ripping giant holes in Vice President Dick Cheney’s dreams of energy dominance, and Yemen, previously thought to be oil free, was now puking black gold, its tribes seemingly purchased and compliant—or at least for the time being.
“What?” Josh shouts back, “You are talking at Nate volume!”
“I am not!” I belt, quietly missing Nate’s patently low, mostly inaudible voice and dour attitude. “But if I am, it’s because my throat is parched for those delicious headwaters of modern radical Islamic terrorism that led to our current Global War on Terror.”
Josh frowns. “I wish you’d stop calling it that because it really sells it short. What we’re after is the grandpappy of all transnational radical ideologies. The oldest, most durable factory of anti-state violent rebellion. The ideology that dandled on its knee every radical from Barbary pirates to Baader-Meinhof. The tiny little school that in three centuries has brought the British Empire, the French Republic, the Soviet Union, and finally the American ideal of freedom and crushed them each like a soda can—and it all begins here. Or that’s my theory.”
“Oh…” I shout, only hearing the words “Baader-Meinhof” above the wind and picturing the phenomenal stylings of the group that terrorized West Germany through the 1970s. “…and did you fix it yet?”
“I think so…” he hollers, climbing onto the seat and giving it three good kicks. It buzzes to life and he throttles it a few times while blue smoke fills the air. It sounds like a no-frills, older-model Honda Civic.
“Okay!” Josh hoots. “Let’s go find some lunch!”
“Tony!” I scream. He points his video camera from the camel to me and I wave him off. “We’re hitting the road again! Tell Mohamed we’re going to find a restaurant in Thamud!” He nods, and his brown corduroy pants scamper to the super microvan, where Mohamed al-Behlooly is sitting like a saint in a striking gray gown and skullcap combination paired with a perfectly baggy blazer, his green jambiya setting it all off nicely.
We had called Haitham, the son of Yemen’s ex-president and the owner of the country’s FedEx franchises. He was the man who made our exploration possible. Since we had survived our first Yemen blitz, Haitham decided we didn’t need Major Ghamdan al-Shoefy, who looked very wistful when we hugged him both hello and goodbye upon arrival, but we were going to need a chase vehicle where Tony could ride and film, plus our surfboards in their shiny Mylar coffin that we brought again, just in case, so he offered up a very respected elder from his tribe, Mr. Mohamed al-Behlooly, who worked in security at Sana’a International Airport and turned out to be a saint. The un-Ghamdan. He never forced his will, never ordered feasts, never pressured for illicit company, never questioned where we needed to go or why. He would get us through sticky checkpoints with his beatific smile alone, pulling intransigent guards aside and winning them over with grace.
He was the only Yemeni I’d ever met who didn’t carry a gun, which meant he never shot at sunbathing families. More importantly, it meant that Josh could carry a gun, and Sana’a’s gun market was our very first stop. Josh purchased a Brazilian-made Taurus 9mm and kept it stuffed in his waistband.