Herb Benham is "on assignment"?
That sounds good, doesn't it? Like I morphed into James Bond. As if I were doing work so secret and critical that lives and national security have been at stake.
The phrase is what ran in the space where my column usually lands the last few weeks.
It suggests that I may have gone undercover, snuck across the border, infiltrated the Medellin cartel, gained the trust of its highest-ranking adviser and relayed key information to the CIA by attaching a message inscribed with a secret code to the leg of a pigeon.
I’ve been busy. Over the two weeks while I have been out, I have cured cancer, solved global warming by bringing the average temperature down to a comfortable 78, and figured out the starting rotation should the Dodgers reach the World Series, including which pitchers the team should bring in the sixth inning to pitch to those pesky lefties.
That freedom fighting can be a weight enhancement program. My khakis still fit as long as long as I don’t tuck in my shirt, wear a belt or breathe. A man gets hungry when he’s out in the field — hungry, thirsty and incapable of turning down dessert, especially chocolate ones.
Jokes aside, I have been in South Africa and Mozambique. Sue has been too. She’s a good person with whom to be on such an adventure. I’ve given her a promotion recently and I like to think of her as my personal aide-de-camp, one that makes me look good, not that that is a full-time job.
South Africa. Apartheid ended in 1991 but things can get tense there between the blacks, whites and the creams (called the Cape Coloureds because their ancestry includes indigenous Xhosa people, Europeans — Dutch and British — and slaves imported from the Dutch East Indies).
Things were tense but not anymore. After eight days in and around Cape Town, I’ve solved that problem. Everybody is getting along now. Three hundred years of ill treatment — fuhgeddaboudit.
I spoke to Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa and convinced him to stop looting the treasury.
“Jacob,” I said, over a flat white (the South African version of a latte), “I think a billion dollars is enough. You can live on that even with your six wives, 21 children and several girlfriends.”
We spent three days at a safari camp near Kruger National Park. I know people are concerned about the black rhino becoming extinct but you can start counting rhinos in your sleep because that worry is extinct. The black rhinos were so energized by our presence that after a furious round of mating, one black rhino is expecting twins and the other, quintuplets.
I spoke to the poachers. Firmly. They're going to get real jobs.
Two weeks is enough of that kind of work. I am glad to be home. See you at the Pulitzers in 2018.