Flying High with Mira






By Steve Korver  


I. Kitsch Personified
It had already been hypothesised that my JAT flight from Amsterdam to Belgrade was delayed five hours because the wife of Slobodan Milosevic wanted to make one last visiting hour to his jailed ass before her three-day visa ran out. So I had some time to feverishly imagine the possibilities of sharing business class – yes darlings, I was booked business class – with Mira Markovic, Lady MacBeth of the Balkans.

She began as Slobo’s teen queen love, and together they rose to rule Serbia and jumpstart the wars that destroyed Yugoslavia. Many Yugos had described her as Evil disguised as a squeaky-voiced kitsch bitch…

So I needed to make a decision. I wondered if I should just go for the Pulitzer and take on a Jeremy Paxman intensity and start quizzing her if she was truly the brains behind the throne. Were the rumours true that she took delight in liquidating political opponents in baths of sulphuric acid? And how, Ms Markovic, did you manage to maintain such a consistent output of bad poetry?

But perhaps I should be more self-serving and see if she could arrange for me a summer as suave gigolo to the lonely wives of incarcerated war criminals? Decisions, decisions.

Naturally this was all fantasy and I knew the only thing I could possibly have the guts for in such a scenario is the pulling of goofy faces – and perhaps the holding up of a “Hi Mom!” sign – whenever I made it into a network camera’s viewfinder. But I did ease some fresh batteries into my recording Walkman in case she did actually show up.

Always comfortable in the realm of fantasy, I was definitively taken aback – my slack jaw dropping down to touch my cramped knees – when WOCKA there she was for real, settling into the seat directly in front of me after being paraded through the plane from the back. I vaguely heard from some snatch of English conversation that this route was taken for “for security reasons” — something I vaguely considered as odd since the “security” had not even bothered with the standard hand luggage scan after the tickets were taken…

But mostly I was in a state of HOLY FUCK as I realised that if I leaned forward pretending to search for the JAT-logo barf bag in the magazine pouch on the back of her seat, then my brain was a mere 20 centimetres from her brain. I cursed the Swiss Army for not having developed a Pocket Brain Scanner. I looked around and noticed that I could see no reflection of my own state of absurdoplexy in our fellow travellers who were mostly impeccably suited biznis men who only seemed united by the fact that there was little to distinguish their chin from their chest. Everyone seemed indifferent.

Mira and the boytoy lawyer that accompanied her both seemed positively jovial as if it was all biznis as usual. Hoping to fade into the background, I started to chain-smoke. (Yes of course you could still smoke on this flight.) After a few drags, I was calm enough to deploy one of my previously plotted fantasy scenarios: armed with the knowledge that Mira was a non-smoker, I began to blow my smoke forward. However, I stopped with this wimpiest of all possible forms of political statements when I noticed that I was getting the most intimidating of stares from a rather large fellow across the aisle who I immediately assumed to be part of her private security detachment. Boy did I feel silly later when I found out that he was a network cameraman.  


II. Two Hours Later
So  there I was in a plane heading to Belgrade sitting directly behind the notoriously insane Mira Markovic who was returning from a short visit to her husband Slobo’s jailed ass. In short: Lady MacBeth of Serbia was in smelling range of Boy Peckerhead from Suburbia. And indeed I did regularly lean forward to check if I could catch a whiff of desperation emanating from beneath her famously black lacquered and obsessively combed hair. But alas I had to turn to other senses since my nose was temporarily fried from the chain-smoking I had undertaken as a futile attempt at political activism. I could still employ my eyes to fetishly follow the groomed trails left by her combing – a ritual so secretive that it is said that not even Slobo is allowed to witness it – while imagining how later I would walk into the airplane’s toilet and catch her in the act. Combus interruptus.

And while it was also remarkably easy for me to hear the easy girlish giggles she was sharing with her studboy lawyer as they leafed through the Belgrade newspapers, my ears were not equipped with the language-converter for me to engage in some real prime eavesdropping. My seat companion was certainly no help. Sure, he was willing in the first two minutes of our conversation to share his life story (how he left Novi Sad 25 years ago to play pro-football in Holland and remained there to build a bizness empire…), the reason for his return to his homeland (to visit his mother’s grave…), and every manner of intimate detail (his wife’s mastectomy of two days previous…). But the second I knew we had a basic bond I whisperingly asked him ‘Whataretheysaying? Whataretheysaying? Whataretheysaying?” He shrugged his shoulders indifferently and suggested that I should concern myself less with such old news as Mira and more with what football matches I should catch while in Belgrade.

This indifference – which was visibly shared by the other passengers – was really beginning to worry me. This could mean that the sea of cameras and journalists I was expecting to be there on our arrival in Belgrade would in fact just be a puddle and hence seriously jeopardise my Fantasy Plan #7a which had me pushing Mira aside and pretending to assume that all the attention was actually for me. I would wave, curtsy, blow kisses, and gush: “Goodness me you darling Balkanites, I’ve heard about how hospitable and welcoming you are but this is really just tooooo much…”. I would then grab the journalists’ notebooks and start autographing them.

As this scenario started to sink into the realm of wishful thinking, my brain started to scramble in the name of damage control. Perhaps if I was lucky then my smoke-damaged nose was unable to pick up the fact that my body was currently busy absorbing the stench of Mira. Crippled with a clinging cloud of hairspray and the sweat of antique sausage, I could then write a story about the kind and inspired folks at Belgrade’s Center for Cultural Decontamination and their noble search for a cleansing product that would purge me of the clinging must of Mira…

III. Two Days Later
You may not remember me but I sat behind you on a JAT flight Amsterdam-Belgrade after you had visited your Slobo’s jailed ass in Den Haag. At the time I marvelled at how close and potentially crushable your fantasy-ridden skull was. But my views have since mellowed and matured thanks to certain citizens of this ex-country you helped destroy who convinced me of your current irrelevance and taught me that it is just too cheap to prey on the weak. This newly attained benevolence has inspired me to send you this thank-you note for the most cultural of evenings I just had. If it was not for you, I would not have struck up a conversation with my seating neighbour on that flight in the hopes that he would whisperingly translate your girlish giggles and conversation for me. But luckily, he did consider it much more relevant to inform me that one of the best Gypsy family bands on the planet played in a Dutch-themed restaurant attached to the football stadium in Novi Sad.

Sweet coincidence had it that my sweet hosts were long befriended with said band and were in fact the only non-Gypsies at the leader’s wedding. I even got some juicy gossip. (For example, that leader’s dad was Marshall Tito’s favourite singer, and that leader’s dad had a mistress who was shot by leader’s mom…).

This whole cosy scenario ensured that when we ended up going there to eat and drink, the band played for hours around, on, and even – when the fiddling leader tripped, fell and rolled – under our table. I was so blown away – with my emotions as raw as my throat which had taken a particularly harsh beating by providing Anglo harmonies to a  Romani version of ‘My Way’ – that I was about ready to pay the band the highest form of tribute by committing ‘Beli Bora’: the act, as I understood it, of smashing a glass on the table in front of you and WOCKA bringing my wrists down hard on the shards and rubbing them around.

But I was interrupted: not by my pesky brain suddenly deciding to ruminate about how this Beli Bora ritual may be related to the more happy-go-lucky habit of the Greeks to throw plates – and how the wimpier Greek ritual may be more in keeping with EU membership — but by a friend of the family singing a song of undying love to MY date. It quickly became clear that in order to defend my honour — and oh yeah: hers… — I had to highnoon it with this dude with a duel to the death. But after a tender moment of male bonding with date’s dad as he toured me through the choice of firearms, it all turned out to be just a joke. But hey what did I know? I’ve just seen a couple of Kusturica films and read the sporadic Sunday supplement… Until now that is. I have now been emersed.

But anyway, I merely wrote to thank you for your role in making this most memorable/educational of evenings possible and to recommend this restaurant to you whenever you are in Novi Sad and have a craving for some of that honest Dutch fare that you have been having so much of lately. Tell them Beli the Kid sent you and the jenever will be on the house…


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