The Fire

jamesrobIn Zimbabwe I lived in a fabulous Hollywood style house with my parents. This house actually belonged to the U.S. government as it was the American Ambassador’s residence.

It was purchased in 1980 and was built around 1978, so it was very modern and had a great view of the mountains.

It was in a section of Harare called Highlands near Chisipiti. The address of the residence was Number 3 Tina Close.

This ambassadorial residence was at times staffed by around fourteen embassy employees, full time or part time: two drivers, three security guards, two gardeners, two cooks, a butler, laundry lady, two housemaids, and a houseboy, if my memory serves me well. I was living in luxury and taking advantage of every opportunity to enjoy my life to the fullest.

I also shared my great fortune with my friends. My parents were the coolest parents anyone could have as they were accommodating about also sharing this great fortune and spent a great deal of their time entertaining. So it was a non-stop party for me. I didn’t do anything except recover from my daily hangover. I barely made it to the pool to swim or to play any tennis on the court.

I took advantage of the garden by growing Marijuana and I made sure that I stocked up on bottles of wine, beer, and Bacardi, whenever I found the liquor storeroom unlocked. I had bottles hidden everywhere. My mother rationed my booze in those days. I was forbidden to drive any vehicle because of the potential of my being inebriated or my regular state of intoxication.

One weekend when my parents were out of town my friends James and Rob were staying over and having a good time. We let the servants off early so that we could blow these huge Malawi Gold joints in freedom. I had the cook prepare some French Fries and Filet Mignon for our dinner for later that night.

My friends seemed to think that some of my talents were in the cooking department but in actuality it was probably the great house and the availability of delicious food that was free. Booze was also in unlimited supply, and we were sure we could smoke Marijuana under the protection of diplomatic immunity in that house, as it belonged to the U.S. government as embassy property.

During this particular weekend I had hooked up with an Israeli chick named Tallie. She had been a previous girlfriend of Jim’s but now was interested in me. Being the opportunist that I was, I brought Tallie some Obex (diet pills, speed) to her apartment, which was about half an hour from my parents’ house.

We were engaging in marathon sex and I had maximized my schedule for spending more time with her. James calls me on the telephone and says, Hey, when are you coming back, Rob and I are getting hungry. We had let the servants go and James wanted me to cook the French Fries and Filet Mignon steaks.

Rob had no opinion because he was so out of it in those days from being medicated by psychiatrists for his Schizophrenia. Rob was the son of a Western ambassador and his parents were the opposite of mine, that is, they were extremely conservative. Rob was on a leash most of the time, so when he was with us he went all out.

So I tell James I am going to do Tallie one more time, and I will catch a cab back and cook the fries. James estimates that I will be back in half an hour and puts the oil on the stove for the French Fries.

He fires up some Malawi Gold with Rob while watching some horrendous show on TV in the TV room. They were probably watching some hideous show on the one and only Zimbabwe television station, maybe Dallas or The Avengers. Maybe even the news. James and Rob forget about the oil.

I arrive at my parents’ house by taxi. This was a taxi that we would use as our personal chauffeur driven car. We specifically picked him because his cab was number 69 (this is another story). We pull into the driveway and I witness the cook, two gardeners, the houseboy, and even the neighbor’s gardeners all lined up with buckets of water and a hose spraying the kitchen, which is ablaze.

The french fry oil had caught fire and burned half the kitchen. James and Rob are stoned out of their gourds and the cook is really pissed. So pissed that he calls the embassy and tells the operator that not only has the kitchen been burned down by James, but that I am also growing Marijuana in the garden, and drying Marijuana in the garage.

I had about eleven plants hanging upside down in a shed next to the garage fully sanctioned by the gardener. The cook did this because he felt that his job was now threatened for allowing us to cook in the kitchen.

The Deputy Chief of Mission arrives to assess the damage. By this time I had gone back to Tallie’s apartment in a state of shock. I couldn’t do too much because I was wired from the Obex, half drunk, miserable from having missed out on the Malawi Gold.

And paranoid that something really bad was going to happen to me because of the discovery of the Marijuana plants drying in the garden shed, and the kitchen having been burned to a crisp. This fancy house of ours had two kitchens and one was now destroyed.

I neglected to mention that this was the weekend before July 4th. My parents were going to be entertaining 500 plus guests in two days, for our National Independence Day celebration, a yearly diplomatic custom.

I spend the night with Tallie, as I am ready to kill Jim, completely blaming him for the incident. Jim is of course blaming me for not showing up in the half an hour as I said I would. Jim even claims that I told him to turn on the stove to heat up the oil, which I probably did.

The next morning I arrive back at the house and my parents have already returned from their trip. My mother is in a state of hysteria, because her kitchen is ruined and she is expecting 500 guests the next day for the July 4th celebration.

James had adopted our family, treating our house as his too. My mother always blamed Jim whenever I got in trouble, believing that he was a bad influence on me, even though it was usually the other way around. I corrupted Jim.

The kicker was that when my parents arrived back from their trip to find a burned out kitchen, Jim was cooking pork chops on the stove in the other kitchen next to the kitchen that was damaged.

He was lounging around and not minding the pork chops. My parents couldn’t imagine why Jim would be using a stove again after the previous disaster. Jim told my mother to relax, that the embassy would fix the kitchen, that it was an accident.

He also remarked that my mother would now get the new kitchen that she had previously wanted. Jim had become such a member of our family that he was privy to my mother having complained that the kitchen was not up to par for the kind of entertaining that she was required to provide as a career ambassador’s wife.

James was banned from the house for six months. This only lasted for three weeks and in the interim James was even allowed to help bartend for the July 4th party. My Marijuana plants didn’t get cured, were not dried properly, because I removed them from the shed. Being so paranoid that one day someone was going to follow up on the report from the cook, I disposed of the evidence.

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