Lonely Planet has been rocked by scandal recently with the warts and all memoir of a former travel writer. In Do Travel Writer’s Go to Hell? Thomas Kohnstamm reveals that he never even visited Colombia. “The amount they gave me wasn’t even enough for the flight.” Elsewhere in the memoir, he explains that he sold drugs to finance a trip. 

   So what.

   I’ve been working for Lonely Planet for fifteen years. In 1998, on my way home from a 4-week stint in Central America, I was caught at the Mexican border with 3 kilos of cocaine behind my beard – I was dressed as Santa. Since then I’ve been incarcerated in California. I’ve also managed to continue writing for Lonely Planet, contributing to books on America, England, China and countries in South America. 

   How do I do it?

   I have internet access and I’ve managed to befriend a lot of inmates by writing up prime spots for their relatives’ restaurants, bars or taxi services.  I’ve also entertained everyone on the inside with this blog where I’ve claimed to be somebody different everyday. The guys get a kick out of it.

   I get out this afternoon, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to reveal the truth.

   I’m also launching my own book, Do Travel Writer’s Go to Jail?




Always Something There to Remind Me



   He opens his eyes to a white ceiling and then slams them shut under the rush of white pain. His head feels like it’s been stuffed with his stomach; an unfamiliar nausea coats his thoughts. He opens his mouth but no words come out. A voice next to him fills the room:

   “Hello, I wish to lodge a complaint regarding your Quickwhip Blender. Yes. Now, who am I speaking to? How do you spell that?”

    He tries to turn his head but pain stops him short. He lifts his arms up to his head but his reach is blocked by some kind of metal contraption, a metal frame boxing in his head. He tries to remember.

   “Yes, well Ezekiel, I purchased your product three weeks ago. I had high hopes at the time and didn’t expect to be speaking to somebody in a complaints department in the hospital. That part wasn’t mentioned in the infomercial. Do you know what I’m saying Ezekiel? Yes, in the hospital, all thanks to your fine product.”

    He wants to laugh at the story unfolding next to him but he senses it’ll just cause him more pain. He once again tries to open his eyes to orient himself to the world. White slowly grows visible until the ceiling comes into full view but it’s just like his memory: blank.

   “Well, I took the QuickWhip Blender out of the box, read the instructions fully. I spent a good ten minutes on them. I had a tea while I read them. That’s about ten minutes. I plugged it in and then it just took off. It was like a wild bird. A rabid bird. I was on the floor and it was all over me. There was nothing in the instructions that said, stand ten feet back from the QuickWhip when you plug it in.”

     He tries to remember anything but keeps coming up against blanks: name, age, occupation. He knows he’s American but that thought does little to comfort him. He’s a man. Of course he knows that too. 

    “Well then my son came into the room with a baseball bat to get it off me. Can you believe that? A baseball bat!! He’s not a violent boy. And then it was on him. You shouldn’t program these things to attack their owners. Good owners. Well my boy has his share of problems. 34 and still living at home.”

     Does her voice sound familiar? He briefly wonders if he’s the boy who she’s referring to. He waits for more clues, while she outlines the basic problems she has with her boy: posture, diet, erratic volume of voice, etc.  He prays to a God – who he may or may not believe in – that his life was something a little more glamorous. 

   Before falling into this empty blank.

   He waits.