How I Got a Cell Phone

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We tried owning a cell phone a few years ago. But we could never think of anyone to call or what to say if we did. And since no one called us, we gave it up.

But now, we have a new one on its way — an Iridium phone.

“Ya, ve vill buy ze phone for you,” said Hans on Friday of last week.

Hans and Dag are two very nice German fellows, who came to see us in Paris. They work for Land Rover near Köln and are planning a long road trip through the Andes Mountains, in order to show off their new model Defenders. They invested a lot of time and money planning the trip — which involves shipping 10 cars across the Atlantic, a whole crew of automobiles, staff, travel writers, mobile doctors, hotels, flights, etc., etc. They carefully mapped out the route by satellite images and old military maps…across deserts, over mountains, fording rivers, bouncing along on abandoned mining tracks.

Then, just a few weeks before the trip was scheduled to depart, they discovered that they had neglected an important detail. Their caravan needed to cross private property in order to get from the main road to the Atacama Desert — and part of that property is owned by your editor. Because of the configuration of the ground in that area, there is practically no other way of getting where they are going — unless they reorganize the whole trip.

Speaking on the phone a few weeks ago, we had refused permission. Not that we had anything against them or the Land Rover caravan, but we had asked Francisco, the farm manager, and he was worried that since we didn’t know exactly when they would cross a remote section of the farm, they would leave the gates open and the cows would get out.

So, Hans and Dag came by to pay us a visit. We explained that we had no phone on the property, and thus, no way of staying in touch with the caravan. As a result, they kindly offered to buy us one, in return for permission to cross the ranch. We happily consented.

And since we have no car or truck down there either, we had an idea.

“What are you going to do with all those Defenders after you’ve made your press trip?” we asked.

“Ve’re not sure,” Hans responded. “It’s so expensive to ship zem back to Germany; ve’ll probably sell zem into ze local market.”

“Well…if you could give us a good deal on one of them…we’d like to buy it.”

“A good deal…ya…zey are not ours, of course. Zey actually belong to ze English company. But ve vill get a good deal for you. Ya…ve’ll bargain on your behalf…”

“Ya,” Dag added, “ve’ll really take dere pants off! Dat’s a German expression. It means to get a very, very goot deal.”

“Great, then…take their pants off!”

u2022 We went to Palm Sunday mass at Notre Dame of Paris.

As you might imagine, dear reader, the place was packed. Churchgoers crowded into the seats in the middle…while an unusual crush of tourists worked their way around the periphery, taking photos, gawking…but maintaining a respectful silence.

The tourists made up a homogenous mass — all clad alike in jeans, sneakers, and sports jackets. “Where did they get the idea for such get ups?” we wondered. They reminded us of Edward’s theatrical boom-boom on Saturday night. Same outfits. Same dull expressions. Same ratty styles, inspired by U.S. music videos. What do they think about? What gods do they worship? After three thousand years of Judeo-Christian culture…what does modern man have to show for it? Star Academy…piercings…and leveraged mortgage debt?

Above us…around us…in our eyes…in our ears…maybe even in us…were some of the most remarkable sounds and scenes ever to have reached our senses. Statues…stained glass…soaring buttresses, perfectly sculpted and laid up before the invention of the internal combustion engine, chiseled out of hard stone by soft flesh, and pulled up by ropes and pulleys by tough human arms, elegantly curved, reaching up above the galleries with their stone columns and arches, up to their nooks and crannies, where a Quasimodo might have sulked…

…and the magnificent organ…with its polished wood, its gleaming towers of copper and brass…swelling, echoing, rolling and pitching with the musical genius of Mozart and Thomas Byrd…

…and the Palm Sunday mass itself…carefully worked and reworked…considered and reconsidered…practiced and rehearsed over 2000 years…exquisitely performed.

Three times came the knocking on the great doors at the west end of the Cathedral. And then, the ports were opened — slowly, grandly. And we, sitting near the front of the church, saw the blaze of light just as we were meant to see it; and the Archbishop of Paris entered with his curved staff of gold, and palm frond in his hand, and his entourage of priests…and the whole lot of them made their way down the aisle, reenacting Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. What a show!

But what did the gawking tourists think of all this, we wondered? Did they envy the faithful…or despise them?

Bill Bonner [send him mail] is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century and Empire of Debt: The Rise Of An Epic Financial Crisis.

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