Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It seems that the vice president is staying here tonight

Not, I'm glad to say, the Vice-President of the US, Richard Cheney. Nope, it's Nole De Castro, Vice-President of the Philippines.

I have to say I'm glad it's not the current holders of those positions in the US. Whenever President Bush visits Phoenix the result is a major traffic jam. Detour Dan, the KTAR 620 traffic guy makes fun of it; it seems that whenever President Bush is in town the airspace above Phoenix becomes so holy that the Alamo Rent-a-car traffic plane is grounded. I've seen the black helicopters flying above Mummy Mountain and over where Lincoln and 32nd meet.

Whenever President Bush is in town my drive home from the office becomes a nightmare. My drive takes me north along 44th street across Camelback Road. To the left is the Biltmore district which, as far as I can make out, is THE part of Phoenix to be in. I think of it as South Yarra. To the right is the Phoenician resort, apparently THE part of Phoenix to stay in. I think of it as Toorak. (My Melbourne readers will understand).

Whenever President Bush is in town they cordon off the Phoenician to the right and impose road blocks around the Biltmore to the left. 44th Street goes through the middle and whenever I have to drive it during those times I see motorcycle police at every corner from about Thomas Road up to Lincoln Drive.

Given that there are only 4 viable routes from the office to home and two of those are freeways and the third has traffic lights every half mile for about 20 miles, I'm sure you can see the problem. I don't drive Arizona freeways. Strangely enough, I will drive Texas freeways. That should give you an idea of how bad an Arizona freeway is :-)

My room here at the Baguio Country Club is on the second floor. Today, when the room staff came to make up my room I went, as is my wont, to an open air plaza on the same level, overlooking the entrance. I don't want to stand around like a spare part while they make my bed and I'm quite sure they reciprocate the feeling! It takes them about as long to make up my room as it takes me to smoke a ciggy so I smoke two, just to be sure they have a decent getaway!

So there I was, about 11 this morning, smoking a ciggy and, having gazed my fill on the lower village, I turned my gaze to the entrance. Just in time to see a convoy of vehicles rolling up, sirens blaring from the leader. Uh huh I thought, the mayor's come for lunch. Nope. This was the advance guard for the Vice President. I knew this because of the large banner over the entrance that I read backwards, welcoming the Vice President.

Then came the security sweep. Armed men with the kind of face that tells you not to mess with them! As you might have guessed from previous writings, I'm from a place where guns are not terribly evident; there is no state in Australia where you have the unambiguous right to carry a weapon. On the other hand, this is my ninth visit to the Philippines; I'm certainly used to seeing armed men patrolling the hotel, the customer site and Shell Petrol stations! They even have the Shell Logo on the stock of the guns there!

Have I actually clapped eyes on this protected dignitary? I doubt it though I wouldn't recognise him if he shook me by the hand. But dinner tonight at the Par 7 bar was so ordinary that, had I not seen the motorcade and the banner, I would not have known that we have a dignitary in residence.

I wish President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would or could make so little impact when they visit!

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