TOP SECRET – Full Disclosure!

I am not a spy, secret agent, terrorist, or anything like that. And I am not a paramilitary operator or mercenary, although people often think that when they see my enormous physical strength and lightning quick reflexes.

However, I have had – through no fault or desire of my own – more than my fair share of encounters with people who live in this secret underworld.

The other parts of my homepage and blog have been written for fun. But the stories I am now disclosing here are all true, and I am disclosing them for one purpose only: to save my life. Only by FULL DISCLOSURE can you be sure — after seeing what I have seen and learning what I have learned — that you will not one day simply disappear.

You’ve already read several blogs from my clandestine friend (Mr. Tradecraft) – now please stay tuned to read about my adventures.

 

A Texas Safari

A guest blog, by Charles Ritley

South Texas, East of San Antonio, is a giant cattle ranch: grassland chock full of quail and deer—and those who hunt them. While Californians discuss ways to save endangered species, Texans swap recipes for cooking them.

But hunting, like golf, is a socio-drinking experience. Guys form clubs that sub-lease tracts on the large ranches—-and build fancy clubhouses, with overnight accommodations, air conditioning, and satellite dishes. They co-exist well with the cattle, it’s extra income for the rancher, and the basic ground rules are: OK to shoot quail, OK to shoot deer, not OK to shoot cow. (But after you pay the rancher, you may keep the cow.)

Now, I don’t hunt. I did hunt when I was a kid, because everyone did. I was a trap shooter for many years and president of a trap club —- but in my later years I chose not to kill things.

But I had a client who wanted to go hunting. I knew a local business who had part of a game lease, and asked them to help. They set up a quail hunt on a big ranch, and I went along as my client’s bodyguard.

QuailThis hunt was a circus. They had a large 4-wheel drive truck with two chairs bolted to the front, where hunters sat, and two bolted to the sides. In the bed of the truck: extra passengers, the dogs, and their handler. Plus, it held 4 people in the cab. Periodically, when they passed a likely spot, the truck stopped, everyone dismounted, and the dogs were set loose to sniff out and flush quail.

(Now this whole thing made no sense to me. I grew up hunting birds. They have a very sharp sense of hearing. A quail can hear a truck this size when it’s two miles away. But, I withheld my advice. I was just another outsider.)

Eventually, the dogs would flush something, birds would scatter through the sky in all directions, and everyone would start blasting away. (Like London in 1940, but without the sirens and searchlights.)

GinThen everyone would pile back into the truck, where they had: 2 liters of gin, a large bag of limes, and a couple of jugs of tonic water, and proceed to make a round of Gin and Tonics. (One part gin, two parts tonic, one slice of lime.)

After several stops, about a hundred rounds were fired, no birds were harmed, and everyone had consumed at least one G-and-T per stop. At this point, my client—-a nice guy and a close friend—-said he wanted to come because he once sold shotguns but had never been hunting. But now he had enough. In fact, he was scared – really scared. So, I had a conversation with our hosts, but their engines were running, and they weren’t about to stop. So, the client and I just stayed close to the truck and out of what we believed to be the line of fire.

But then another problem arose: when the guys climbed back into the truck, some were full of gin and didn’t bother unloading their shotguns. Now, trust me, you do not want to be bouncing along a pot-holed trail in a 4-wheel drive truck in compound low, crammed into a cab with 4 guys full of gin and 4 loaded shotguns. You really, really, really don’t. So the client and I—-claiming we wanted a better view, jumped up into the bed of the truck with the dogs. The dogs, at least, were stone sober. And unarmed.

Shells

They got a few quail that day, and as I recall they were thrown away. Quail are good to eat, if you pick out the shot, and no one would do that. Eventually, the gin ran out and we headed home. The client and I fired a few rounds into the air, just to act like good ole boys, but I managed to do no harm to anything or anyone. The client, however, did manage to hit–quite by accident–some kind of little wild canary. It kind of exploded in this yellow poof. He felt rather bad about it.

 


 

This guest blog was submitted by Charles Ritley, an adjunct professor of computer science with several major universities in the San Antonio area.

 

Hilton Head

HH1

Hilton Head Island – the “low country” home of the famous movie stars, vacation retreat of U.S. Presidents – but I shall always remember it as the place where the police tried to arrest me for driving a Honda in a neighborhood where there are only supposed to be Mercedes.

This has happened to me now twice: in HH, and in the Hamptons on Long Island – an occupational hazard of having friends who number among the mega-wealthy!

Indian Tales 1: Shopping in Dehli with an Auto Wallah

AutoDriver

During my first trip to Dehli, in the middle of the hot summer, an auto rickshaw driver was surprisingly honest with me: he asked if he could drive me to a store for tourists, because he would receive a 100 Rs “commission” from the owners for each tourist he delivered there. It was the “off season,” he said, and he needed the extra money for his family.

I have NEVER seen such honesty and openness from an auto wallah before!

So I made a deal with him: he would drive me to as many of these tourists stores as he could: I’d shop for a few minutes then buy nothing and leave, he’d collect 100 Rs from each store we visited — and at the end of the day, we would split the proceeds 50%/50%.

After a few hours we hit nearly 15 different stores, my voice was hoarse from 15 repetitions of the question “Do you have any little paper maché elephants made in Kashmir?” and his pockets were full of money!  Because I didn’t need the money but wanted the fun, I then told him he could keep it all, because he was so honest and open.

He was really happy with this, and we spent another 2 hours in which he took me on the best auto tour of Dehli anyone is ever likely to get, even stopping to drink tea with his other auto wallah friends near this great big stone arch-thing.

Motto: The people who want to take advantage of you can often turn out to be very nice people – and sometimes you can have a lot of fun by turning the tables and taking advantage of the system itself!

Amazing coincidence!

Scientists will tell you there is nothing special about coincidences. As we live our lives we experience a continuous stream of sensory inputs – so it’s only natural and expected that from time to time that our internal pattern recognition systems will alert us that some random event triggers a meaningful response.

But still and all . . . I find the following story almost too incredible to be true.

Hiranandani

Just a few weeks ago I was was in Mumbai. With well over 15 million inhabitants it’s slated to become the world’s largest mega-city by the year 2020.  And on one evening I was enjoying the warm weather, walking down a street in the posh district of Hiranandani, when I accidentally ran into a friend and previous colleague of mine, Sandhya!  The last time we had seen each other was in 2007 – when she and I were both in Bangalore, a city some 500 km to the south of Mumbai.  I had no idea she moved to Mumbai, and she had no idea I was there on business.

Is this an amazing coincidence?!

We agreed to meet a few days later for coffee. At the time, back in the day, she was the best software engineer I knew. (At a very young age she absolutely mastered a very complex document management system, Documentum.) And I was both impressed and thrilled that she continued in her career, now a senior project manager leading huge international projects with dozens of people for the Indian company Cognizant!  Way to go, Sandhya!