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Core Samples

As I already had the TV fired up and tuned to HBO for my weekly Sunday-night virtual visit to the New Orleans neighborhood of "Tremé," it was only a matter of time before the news that Osama bin Laden had been taken out by a U.S. special-ops team in Pakistan would reach my non-Twitter-enhanced consciousness.

Somewhat ironically, it came following yet another dark and smartly-written episode in the life of post-Katrina N’awlins when I switched to ESPN. While automatically checking out the bottom-of-the-screen scroll line for late sports scores, I came upon a "teaser feed" carrying the stunning news flash.

My reaction, in retrospect, bordered on the bizarre. Nothing unusual there. There was immediate elation, of course, and an overpowering sense of awe at just how precise the military operation must have been. Admittedly, without diluting any of my normal antiwar sensibilities, I must confess to being totally impressed by the surgical aspect of the covert activity involved.

With a more-than-moderate amount of endorphins coursing through my body and a sense of history being played out in real time, I headed toward that special cabinet where the proper sacraments are kept in order to both honor and punctuate symbolic and momentous events of this nature.

Alas, the pickings were slim. But, as Utah Phillips would say, "Good, though!" Looking back, the fact that a sufficient amount of "Laphroaig" remained in the pantry for such an auspicious occasion proved, at least randomly, providential.

A 10-year-old single-malt Scotch whisky from the isle of Islay, Laphroaig boasts a complexity that first assaults the taste buds with a heavy dose of smoke flavor from the peat fires over which its malted barley is dried. This somewhat-startling introduction is followed immediately by the warm glow of the resultant spirit itself.

Most often, in my normally-quite-sedate existence, Laphroaig is uncorked only when a pairing to some singularly-rich maduro cigar is in the offing. Of late, and this speaks to the only-partially-consumed bottle in the liquor cabinet, such excesses have been few and far between.

However, to honor the removal of Osama bin Laden from the FBI’s "10 Most Wanted List" and the not-so-easily-imagined series of maneuvers inherent to such an endeavor, a complex Scotch would seem to fit the bill. And so it did. Quite nicely!

Having kept my large South Asia National Geographic map close at hand and folded so as to expose Afghanistan and Pakistan in the northwest quadrant, locating Abbottabad north of Islamabad came with very little difficulty. Over somewhat recent times, I’ve found myself becoming rather geographically astute when it comes to this part of the planet.

A lot of this had to do with reading Greg Mortensen’s book "Three Cups of Tea." The bestseller, which returned to the headlines recently when CBS’s "60 Minutes" called into question much of its storyline, almost mandates that readers not familiar with the landscape follow the action with a map.

From K2 in the Karakoram Range on the Pakistani-Chinese border to the Tribal Areas and the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan and from the Vakhan Corridor and the Hindu Kush to Kabul and Qandahar, the geography of Pakistan and Afghanistan has become, while not comfortable, at least familiar.

The Mortenson "Three Cups of Tea" flap had completely taken the wind out of my sails. Like most everyone who read the book, I totally bought in to its tale of hope and promise. I recommended it to friends with a passion similar to that used to get me on board.

No doubt the most damaging testimony came from author Jon Krakauer, who accused Mortenson of fictionalizing many of the amazing interpersonal and school-building exploits claimed in his book. There are also those who accuse Krakauer of taking comparable license with his own bestsellers. So it goes.

Here’s a plot scenario for one of them. What if bin Laden had made off with all those missing girls’ schools that Mortenson purported to have built and used them in the construction of his compound-enclosed mansion in Abbottabad. Someone really ought to look into that.

In the meantime, we can all follow the evolving intrigue that transpired as the White House gathered input and made the final decision to go in after Osama. I’ll see if I can locate a beverage with a complexity suitable to the occasion.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for the past 40 years.


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