Jim Milak
•Easy Sex the Hard Way

Kiki Mercury
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•Iranica/Opposite Day in Iran

Matthew Shultz
•Animals in Pornography

Eric Ottens
•A Message to You
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Mike Toe
•Bob Chinn's Crab House
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•My Young Coconut Juice

John Dugan
•My Terrorist Romance
•Politics in Your Coffee



John Dugan
My terrorist romance: covert love operation.

(continued from page 1)

Then things started happening. The first note was discovered every few days and the crush would read them to her friend the statuesque Greek girl with lifetime straight As. Then one day, a buzz developed around her as she found a second note. A circle formed around my target’s desk one afternoon and the unthinkable out-loud reading of a note took place.

John Dugan of the Red Brigades

They were mystified, mesmerized, utterly confused. Luckily, I was probably the only one in the class with the vocabulary of propaganda, communist rhetoric and anti-imperial bombast to translate this stuff I was writing so the notes were even more mysterious and bizarre to everyone else including the Tolkein freaks and the fourth grader who studied high-school German. The notes included maps, things I cut out of magazines, references to places and people that were utterly impenetrable. My crush’s divorced parents were a doctor and lawyer, not State Department or Army Intelligence officers, and she therefore, even more confused. I can’t recall if anyone ever wondered if the notes were real, even if I’d love to believe they did. But as for getting my crush’s attention, intriguing her, my project had done their job.

But I was horrified by the fact that my crush had made my works of art public so quickly. Then I very quickly realized that I had set myself up for embarrassment or the class for massive disappointment or probably both. Where was this going? I was in a jam. Luckily for me, the class was unaware of the actual context my covert love operation was taking place in.

At the same time this was going on, the real Red Brigades were making headlines in my neighborhood. US Army Brigadier General James Dozier was kidnapped from his home in Verona, Italy, on December 17 by an Italian Red Brigades terrorist cell. An eleven-year-old who sometimes read the Washington Post I got the story wrong mishearing an adult conversation between my parents and confusing it with what was on the news. I somehow decided that Dozier’s family lived in my neighborhood, as there were two twin girls whose father was stationed in Germany at my previous school. On a daily basis, I tried to imagine the depth of their pain and suffering even as I continued to type my coded notes, not realizing that I was in effect siding with enemies of the state. Dozier was held for forty-five days until Italian special forces rescued him on January 26, 1982.
In contrast, my scheme ended so uneventfully that I can’t remember the details except that it all went down just after a final note was discovered in the desk. I revealed my identity to my potential significant other and a few others with the expectation of facing a kind of elementary school firing squad reserved for total nerds, like dodge ball or “smear-the-queer” targeted at me. She reacted instead with a kind of theatrical disgust that neither hurt my feelings nor made me regret my enterprise. In retrospect, I think she might have even been flattered. The kids in the class had forgotten about the whole thing by the next day. Either that, or they just chalked it up as a minor eccentricity in a class of hyper-intelligent and somewhat hyperactive grade schoolers. Life went on. I played soccer, got decent grades, studied the Samurai, bought books at the mall with illustrations of the world’s combat aircraft and learned how to draw naked women from borrowing my buddy’s Playboys.

The bittersweet epilogue to the story has nothing to with violent terrorist groups with great style but a little bit to do with the Violent Femmes. The scene is the break just after Gang of Four’s set at a free outdoor musical festival in a grassy field of Northern Virginia. Back from college and basically single (okay just plain 19 lonely and desperate), I was having little luck searching the crowd for familiar faces and whomever I had come to the gig with I had basically ditched for what reason I can’t remember, probably because they reminded me of high school. As my eyes searched the crowd, they suddenly stopped on a face that I had studied in the school yearbook under more than one nightlight. Memories of playground courtship came flooding back to me. We chatted, made plans for the weekend and paled around for the rest of that summer of ’91. Over the next couple years had one of those mythical platonic relationships that don’t come around too often. Of course that’s only because I completely lacked the will or the interest to go any further with the relationship. My grade school crush had grown into a bright, together, kinda foxy young woman and in turn had (in the fashion of unattainable ‘80s teen movie crushes) fallen hard for me over the summer, perhaps because I so clearly was not trying to get laid as we saw movies, ate ice cream and shed the baggage of our last dating train wrecks. I had taken a hostage and had not even typed a note or demanded ransom. But with many hours between our Midwestern liberal arts colleges (rather like the distance between Moscow and Rome) and no car I couldn’t see committing myself to her or even keeping things up to that level of giddy summer of the La’s intensity. The girl I had wanted to draw into serpentine international intrigue a decade before was ready for something real and I couldn’t get over the weirdness of it all even as that boyhood dream was now easily within my grasp. Gradually we fell out of touch but neither of us, to my knowledge has mailed a letter bomb or kidnapped a member of the military.

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