Well, I was going to write a big thing about how dumb 2011 was or all the time I wasted waiting for things around me to come together so I could, I don’t know, have a life or something, but screw it. 2011 blew donkey balls, and not much more about it needs to be said than that, so here’s a fun story I made up about Kim Jong-Il being dead. Happy New Year.
I was sitting at my desk when the call came in, and I assumed it was another telemarketer. Publicists, the same loyal and righteous concerns who buy ads every week, Beers And Bars people, and telemarketers—those are the calls we get, and any one of them can be angry for any reason at any time. Nobody ever calls just to say, “Hey, you know, I think you’re super.” Not even my wife.
It was the Asian accent that made me stay on the line. I thought maybe it was the owner of a convenience store looking for more issues of Weird NJ or something, so I didn’t want to just hang up and incur the wrath of Mark and Mark, but when the gentleman said he was looking for me, I identified myself. I was quiet when he said that Kim Jong-Il had left me something in his will. I mean, I never met the man, had no dealings with him or any relation to him. I’m not even Korean. But the guy was pretty convincing. He said a car would be arriving to pick me up in an hour.
Sure enough, the phone rang 58 minutes later and it was a driver trying to get to the office (no one can ever find it). Less than three hours after that, I was on a plane bound for Pyongyang with no idea why. The word “passport” never even came up. Of course, I was flying to North Korea, on North Korean Airlines, so while the meal served was delicious, I had three stopovers: Chicago, Los Angeles and Hawaii. Terrible. The only decent thing about it was the movie selection. Kim Jong-Il was, in addition to being a megalomaniacal autocrat, a movie buff, after all.
When we landed at George Clooney Memorial Airport in Pyongyang, I was greeted by none other than the pudgy despot’s equally pudgy son, Kim Jong-Un, the next leader in line, and a slew of press types from the state-run media agency, KCNA, who I’d learn later referred to me as “Suyeom San,” or “Bearded Mountain.” Right on.
Kim Jong-Un brought me into his limo and we drove off the tarmac. There wasn’t a word said for nearly 20 minutes until I finally asked why I’d been flown to North Korea and an interpreter translated it for the newly-christened fearless leader. Via her, Kim Jong-Un told me that I was just one of a long series of his father’s last wishes, which were as strange as they were manifold, but which he had no choice but to carry out. I tried to think back to every time I’d ever mentioned Kim Jong-Il in a column, and was suddenly terrified.
We soon arrived at a lush garden carved out of an otherwise urban area in downtown Pyongyang. Tall flowers bloomed around me in a mass of thickly-scented oranges and reds, and I was told to walk down a long pebbled path in the middle, at the other end of which was a wooden box. Half expecting a bullet to the back of my head from one of the two guards accompanying, I stepped forward slowly and made my way over. Kneeling down, my eyes closed against what might be coming, I reached for the lid of the box before me.
Curtains. No, not like, “I got shot in the head and it was ‘curtains’ for me.” Like, literally curtains. There were curtains in the box. They weren’t even that nice. They were red. Apparently in his list of last wishes, Kim Jong-Il decreed that I should be flown from New Jersey to North Korea at state expense and given red curtains. I didn’t even get to keep the box. Before I could even process what had happened, I and my new curtains were picked up roughly by the guards and dragged back to the limo.
From there, it was like the whole thing played out again in reverse. I was taken directly back to the airport, put on the same plane, which made the same three agonizing stops, and then driven back to the Aquarian building, like I hadn’t ever left. If not for the red curtains now adorning my office window, I’d never believe it was real.