At first, I couldn't believe my eyes. Then, I looked again, just to make sure. A discreet sign hanging half way up a light pole, pointed down a lonely alley to an establishment called "Club Osama."
Was is possible I had inadvertently stumbled on the hiding place of one of the F.B.I.'s most wanted men, taking refuge in a bar, down a side-street, in one of Bali's popular tourist areas? Had the relentless attacks of coalition forces reduced the once defiant Saudi millionaire to a lowly pub keeper serving loud tourists screaming for another beer? Or, was this part of a growing international network, parading as a franchise operation that, while "hiding in plain sight" was cleverly evading detection by Interpol, the C.I.A. and local police authorities? As my mind raced through these myriad possibilities, beads of cold sweat broke out on my brow.
The urge to "scoop" this news story was too much to resist. Visions of the electronic newsletter's equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize danced in my head. Sequels of a book and, later, guaranteed to follow - a film depicting how I single-handedly uncovered the hiding place and interviewed the world's most wanted man on a tropical island resort. A mental note: Check if Brando or Meatloaf are available to play the lead role of the brilliant investigative reporter. Sadly, John Candy is dead, for I am told by many that the resemblence is uncanny.
Slapping my face to shock myself out of this flight of fantasy, I gathered the courage to cover the last 75 meters down the dead-end alley that led to the door of Club Osama.
Checking the skies for incoming canon fire or the tell-tale sound of helicopter blades, I ducked inside the dark and dimly lit pub. There, determined to blend in with what would surely be a Central Asian décor, I grabbed a towel left on a chair by a tourist from the nearby beach, wrapping it round my head as I made my way gingerly to the bar. Ignoring the shrieked protests of a woman trying to grab away my newly fashioned turban, I noticed that her language was unintelligible. I wondered, was it Pashto as spoken in Kandahar or a perhaps dialect of Stryne specific to a south Sydney suburb?
Arriving at the bar, I grunted my order for a double to the waiting barman, trying desperately not to sound either Russian or American. Systematically I surveyed the crowded bar, looking for anyone who bore even a passing resemblence to the establishment's namesake. The mounting stress of my precarious circumstances in combination with the attentive service of the bartender, strangely drawn to my pink-striped and overly damp turban, quickly saw three (or was it four?) double shots of "Jack Daniels" ordered and consumed. Still, no sign of the man whose interview assured me a place in the e-zine hall of fame.
Then, growing bolder with the effects of so many sour-mash whiskey's, I saw a bearded man at the end of the bar holding a microphone, standing before a woman recording the encounter with a video camera. Aware that CNN or another electronic media was in the process of "stealing" my story, I forced my way between the bearded man and the camera-wielding woman, craftily knocking the camera to the floor in the process.
Tasting certain journalistic victory within my reach, I fixed my stare into the bearded man's eyes and from a distance of no more than 6 inches splurted, "Are you Othama, ethhxcuze me, I mean Osama?"
To which the man replied, "Piss off, Yank. The name's Bruce, and I was singing Karaoke to me wife until, you pushed in!"
BALI UPDATE NOTE: While our correspondent recovers at home from his hangover, we include photographic evidence for our HTML version and website readers that "Club Osama" actually exist on a small side street in Bali. When we asked, the staff insisted that like the rest of Bali, Americans and all nationalities are always welcome. They also explained that their name "O-sama" most probably derives from the phrase "sama-sama" - Indonesian for "togetherness."
Anyone who feels they may have lost a pink-striped towel in a pub near a beach last week should contact our office.
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