You Lie, Mervis!

If you live in the DC area, you’ve no doubt heard the overly-dramatic voice of Ronnie Mervis on the radio urging you to buy your woman’s love with one of his expensive diamonds. Milking his South African accent for all it’s worth, despite having lived in the US for decades, Ronnie implores customers to spend the average price of $8700 for a diamond engagement ring in order to show how much you love your lady in the most shallow and commercial way possible.  Continue reading “You Lie, Mervis!”

The Hotel Job

This is something a little different. A new piece of fiction, in sort of the international spy thriller genre. Just something I’ve been playing around with, inspired by real events in  South Africa in 2014 which saw a Rwandan former spy mysteriously strangled in his hotel room. 

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. All characters are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.

Smith was standing in another bland and sterile hotel lobby. As he waited for the polite but nervous receptionist (Thumi, Trainee, according to her name badge) to figure out the credit card swiping machine, he pondered the complete lack of any identifiable culture that large international hotels displayed. Continue reading “The Hotel Job”

10 YEARS, 28 COUNTRIES: 2008

In 2008 I only made one trip, to South Africa and Namibia. It was my first visit to Namibia. I visited a communal conservancy in northwest Namibia called ≠Khoadi-//Hôas, which means “elephant corner” in the Damara language. Then I went to Kwa Zulu Natal for a meeting marking the 10th anniversary of WWF’s African Rhino Program. Here are some pics highlighting those travels.

Roadside donkey. Namibia. 2008.
Roadside donkey. Namibia. 2008.

Continue reading “10 YEARS, 28 COUNTRIES: 2008”

10 Years, 28 Countries: 2005

This month marks my 10th anniversary at my job, and I have been very fortunate to have traveled extensively throughout Asia and Africa over those 10 years. I’m going to photographically document some of those travels here, starting with the first trips I took in early 2005. Work related travel in 2005 took me to Cambodia, Indonesia, South Africa, Kenya and India, with layovers in Bangkok and Tokyo. I had a very cheap low resolution camera back in those days, so apologies for the poor resolution of these earlier pics.

Srepok River, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia. 2005
Srepok River, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia. 2005

Continue reading “10 Years, 28 Countries: 2005”

Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

New feature here at Upscale Shack. Occasionally we’re going to review books. It’s rare that I select a book based on a written review. Often, when I do read a book review, it’s after I’ve already read the book, usually to see if other readers have come away with the same impression I have, or if I missed some vital bit of information that someone else picked up. I’m going to strive to keep these reviews short and simple, to not be tempted to divulge spoilers and plot details in the vein of a 5th grade book report, but to hopefully offer something more substantial than the one-line reviews so often offered by the philistine trolls on Amazon. You’ve seen them: “Reading is hard. This book sucks, bro. This writer is lame.”  Continue reading “Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden”

Chapter 1: A Cape Catharsis

This is an excerpt from a much longer work of fiction I have been working on for a very long time. These characters have been haunting me for the better part of twenty years. I think the time has come to share them with the world. 

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. All characters are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, alive or dead, is purely coincidental. 

Walking down a narrow street lined with stout oak and sycamore trees reminds Jake of his childhood in the Ozarks. He thinks of Halloween when he was five years old, going house to house trick-or-treating in the small farming community where his grandparents lived. The smell of rotting leaves and wood smoke in Cape Town’s cold night air takes him back in time twenty years, holding his older sister’s hand as they walk along the sidewalk in their costumes, carrying their bags stuffed with candy, their mother following along slowly on the street in the family car, keeping a watchful eye on them. Continue reading “Chapter 1: A Cape Catharsis”