Read by Chelsea Handler
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On safari in Africa, it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s more dangerous: the wildlife or Chelsea. But whether she’s fumbling the seduction of a guide by not knowing where tigers live (Asia, duh) or wearing a bathrobe into the bush because her clothes stopped fitting seven margaritas ago, she’s always game for the next misadventure.
The situation gets down and dirty as she defiles a kayak in the Bahamas, and outright sweaty as she escapes from a German hospital on crutches. When things get truly scary, like finding herself stuck next to a passenger with bad breath, she knows she can rely on her family to make matters even worse. Thank goodness she has the devoted Chunk by her side-except for the time she loses him in Telluride.
Complete with answers to the most frequently asked traveler’s questions, hot travel trips, and travel etiquette, none of which should be believed, Uganda Be Kidding Me has Chelsea taking on the world, one laugh-out-loud incident at a time.
Table of Contents
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MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED TRAVELER'S QUESTIONS
What is the proper way to spell traveler—with one l or two?
Answer: Who cares?
Where are the best places to shoplift?
Answer: It doesn't matter as long as you walk out of the store with the items over your head. This has the opposite impact one would expect.
Why is there no app along the lines of Grindr to find little people within a fifty-yard radius?
Answer: This is more of a pitch than a question. There should not only be an app for little people to find each other sexually, but also for fully grown people to be alerted when a nugget is nearby. The app should include their height, dimensions, and nationality—and, of course, locations for viewing.
Why do black people have better night vision?
Answer: I think it would be racist to presume I know.
Where is the best place to get a bikini wax in Paris?
Answer: Ask Gwyneth Paltrow.
Why do people think other people want to hear about their dreams?
Answer: The same reason other people feel the need to tell you that they were once almost hit by a car.
What are three must-haves when traveling?
Answer: A compass, skis, and a shotgun.
Why do people in certain countries consider meat and pastries to be perfectly acceptable companion pieces to gluten?
Answer: Because they're Communists.
OUT OF AFRIKA
June 21, Thursday
I woke up at 4:45 a.m. in Johannesburg, South Africa, in my bra, underwear, and eyeshades. My head was torqued to the right due to the length and width of the pillow I was resting it on, which had the same dimensions as a panty liner. The duvet accompanying this "pillow" was an inch or two wider and could have doubled as a buffet napkin. I hadn't traveled halfway around the world to dislocate my collarbone while sleeping. The idea was to go on safari; if I had wanted to go to camping, I would have driven four hours north of Los Angeles to Big Sur, taken some mushrooms, and sexually assaulted a tree.
I manually maneuvered my head forty-five degrees in the opposite direction to look over at my lesbian friend Shelly, who was sound asleep and fully clothed in a quasi-respectable pair of pajamas. Adults wearing pajamas are already hard to take seriously; it's even harder to respect that person when she's a forty-five-year-old professional, and the pajamas in question have toy crop dusters silk screened all over them.
Our pickup time from the hotel wasn't until 9:15. I looked at the clock again and deduced that another Xanax would likely induce an eight-hour run of sleep, when really I only needed to kill four hours. My doctor had told me very specifically not to take more than four Xanax in two days; I had already taken seven and slept a total of twenty-five hours in a period of forty-eight. So I picked up a Xanax, bit it in half, and then popped both halves into my mouth, chasing them with a large sip of champagne that was on my nightstand from the previous evening.
My thoughts then meandered to the entire continent of Africa itself, and I whispered a question to myself, so as to not wake Shelly. "When Kim Kardashian finally births Kanye's next black baby, wouldn't it be wonderful if they named the baby Africa with a k? Or better yet, Afrikash?"
In my limited experience as an adolescent/immature adult, I've found it's always best to travel in even numbers, so there were six of us being flown into the "bush." One was my cousin Molly, twenty-six. She is the younger, whiter version of Tyler Perry's Madea. Large—and in charge.
I remembered that Molly loved animals and wanted to become a zoologist before her parents convinced her to aim lower and work on a reality show. If you've ever heard a hippo entering a watering hole, then you know what it sounds like to hear Molly chuckle. Her birth name is Ulrike (pronounced "OOL-reekie") because our mothers hail from Nazis, and in an effort to live a peaceful life alongside our Jewish brethren, she chose her middle name—Molly—to use personally and at McDonald's. While everyone else refers to her as Molly, I call her by her birth name because I find Ulrike both appalling and embarrassing. Over the years, it has been shortened to Ricky or Rick the Dick. However, Rick the Dick has never caught on with others, and I constantly have to explain to people who know her why I'm calling her Rick or Ricky. So I've adapted to referring to her with either name only in intimate settings such as texts or in a whirlpool.
Accompanying us would be my newly divorced sister Simone (I facilitated it). She resisted coming because she and her three children were moving into a newer, better house, and the timing couldn't have been worse. I thought it best to bulldoze right over her plans by hiring movers and getting her a plane ticket, then telling her it was nonrefundable and that I'd be out twenty-five thousand dollars if she didn't come. Simone often refers to me as a relationship wrecker.
The other safarigoers were Shelly, the aforementioned lesbian lawyer who lives with me in Los Angeles; Hannah, my oldest friend from LA; and Sue Murphy, who is a co–executive producer on my TV show, Tracey Lately.
Sue is best described as a female Hunter S. Thompson but with her shit slightly more together. Every once in a while, usually on vacations such as this, she will walk into someone's room or onto someone's balcony at around one in the morning, glue a couple of sentences together that sound as if she had moments earlier suffered a stroke. She is the type of person who upon finding herself with a bottle of pinot noir and no available glass will gladly empty the contents of the bottle into a bowl of cereal and then proceed to ingest both the wine and the Frosted Mini-Wheats with a soup spoon. Sue is probably the best traveling companion of all time, stateside as well as internationally.
We refer to Sue as "sixty, single, and looking." She is not close to sixty, but after this mantra is repeated in front of enough strangers, people often come up and whisper that she looks great for her age. Sue doesn't bother correcting them, and more often than not she introduces herself as Shelly's mother even though Shelly and Sue are the same age.
She is also the only one in the group who is in something along the lines of a "relationship," with a man who goes by the name of Chuck. There are three male names that top the list of making it impossible for me to take them seriously: Chuck, Howard, and Ducky. Sue and Chuck's relationship takes a beating every time I break up with a boyfriend, decide to take a trip across the planet, and force everyone to come with me.
"When the hell did you decide to go to Africa?" Sue asked me when I rode my Segway into her office and gave her information about the typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B shots we would all need in order to traverse to Africa.
"The doctor will be here at three today for you, me, Hannah, and Shelly."
"Chelsea, we tape the show at three thirty p.m. Did you forget that you have a TV show?"
Out of fairness to Sue, there have been times when I have indeed forgotten that I do have a TV show. I've gone to lunches on a Monday or Tuesday with a friend, had a couple of margaritas, and on my way back home gotten a phone call from one of my producers asking if I forgot we have to tape the show at 3:30 p.m. that very day. This, by the way, has never happened, but it's a fantasy of mine. I do, however, happen to be very absent-minded and will sometimes forget about an event moments after it's happened or moments before it's supposed to take place.
"Sue, I'm quite familiar with the show, but we can push it a half hour or do the shots after."
"I don't think I can swing it this time," she told me. "Chuck has planned this entire weekend and booked plans for us to go up to San Francisco to see a Giants game. He surprised me with it on my birthday and he even made a map of San Francisco and a highlighted route from the airport to the stadium. It would be a little bit soul-crushing to tell him I've decided to skip San Francisco and go to Africa because Chelsea's bored."
"Well, first of all, Sue, he didn't need to make a map of San Francisco. That's a little over the top. They have them everywhere, unless the topography has changed—or he's in a Learning Annex summer program for mapmaking." Then I started to sing: "Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map, show me a star…" I trailed off, forgetting the rest.
Sue stared at me expressionless. "The song is 'Matchmaker,' not 'Mapmaker.' And there's nothing about stars mentioned, either."
"Sue, we can move the show or we can do the shots after the show. Whatever. San Francisco isn't going anywhere."
"When did Africa come up? I thought you were going to the south of France."
"I want to know where rappers come from. You know that's always been a passion of mine."
"That wouldn't be South Africa where this safari camp is. You know this, right? What you're thinking is more along the lines of Kenya, where the Great Migration is. Plus, the last time I blew Chuck off for our hiatus, I had to walk around Rome with you and your boyfriend in togas. I mean, can't we go next year, Chelsea? You just had knee surgery. You can't even walk normally. It's starting to feel like we're chasing the dragon."
The incident Sue was referring to was the ACL surgery I had on my knee exactly three weeks prior. I had wiped out badly in Switzerland a few months earlier, and now I was basically walking like a Vietnam vet with Bell's palsy. (If you want the complete Switzerland story now, read chapter 8.)
Due to my newly acquired immobility, I knew that I needed a vacation that would keep me occupied instead of lying around all day on a beach drinking margaritas. I was unable to do any proper exercise, and added calories from alcohol were unwelcome to my atrophied body. My left leg was already half the size of my right; I was starting to morph into muscular dystrophy territory.
"Sue, you can come or not come, but you're probably going to die soon, so it's really your call."
Hannah, who has had different names in all my books and I simply don't have the energy to reread any of them to find out what they were, was also newly broken up and seemed to be extremely upbeat about it. In addition to being my oldest friend in LA, she is also a terrible driver. Once, Hannah left my house on a Saturday afternoon, only to call me the following Sunday and alert me that my driveway had "hit her car." Normally, I would argue with a person this out of touch with reality, but I've known Hannah for fifteen years, and her self-denial is superseded only by her peripheral vision. She can't fucking see.
Hannah also has a very unusual tendency to whisper in the middle of a conversation, for absolutely no reason other than to strain the listener's ears. She will be in the middle of a story about her nephew's summer camp and will then start talking so softly that she's practically lip-synching. And what you can hear her saying is so incongruous to the actual subject matter, you are left with the notion that she is in deep negotiations with Somalian pirates about high- and low-tide patterns. She lacks either of the two key ingredients necessary for a story to be funny or compelling: (A) being funny, or (B) being compelling.
When the doctor who specialized in safari inoculations came to my office, he asked us for all of our personal shot history, specifically hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Hannah arrived thirty minutes late (she's always thirty to seventy-five minutes late) and couldn't get ahold of her personal physician, who coincidentally happened to be on his own safari. She sat in my makeup chair, looked at the doctor we had all just met moments before, and said the following: "[Normal voice] I once dated a guy, [whisper] Luke, and he was a heroin addict—not when I was with him—but anyway…" She looked up at the doctor and whispered, "He had his hep A and B shots. [Back to normal voice] So.… do you think I had my hep A and hep B shots?"
This was the moment it should have been clear to me that Hannah was not the right selection for a safari. Sue looked at me, looked at the doctor, sighed loudly, rolled up her sleeve to expose her shoulder for the shot, and announced she was next.
Safari appealed to me for a bevy of reasons: six grown women in pigtails, matching khaki shorts, open-holed army belts, lesbian hiking shoes, and armed with assault rifles. We would parachute in like typical asshole Americans and be completely clueless about what kind of trip we were actually on, asking questions like, "When do we start shooting the animals? Where is the freshest sushi? When do we meet Aretha Franklin, and where are the squash courts?" I'd also insist on hunting live lobster and killing it with my handgun.
It's also worth mentioning that I'm not a huge fan of brushing my hair and/or showering. In my own defense, I will say that I do not have feculent body odor. I believe my scent is natural, beautiful, and banana. I have several eyewitnesses/employees who can vouch for me. I don't live in the woods and I make it my business not to camp, dine, or linger at Benihana. I do shower before or after working out, but I find excessive showering just for the hell of it overrated. I believe people who shower twice a day are hiding a secret, or a sandwich.
Having said that, I want to be clear that I do not endorse anyone (Brandy) who thinks swimming in the ocean is a logical substitution for a shower. I also do not value a visitor coming over to my house in Malibu (Brandy, again), borrowing a bathing suit, leaving with it, and then returning it to me days later in a plastic bag—still wet.
The main issue with my recent ACL surgery was that due to the anti-inflammatory tape around my knee, showering had become a major pain in the ass.
My Filipina physical therapist guffawed when I mentioned the mere idea of going on safari. This made me more intent than ever to go on one. When I told her I would have no choice but to go over her head and speak with my surgeon, she simply replied, "Well, I guess that means you'll be going, since he's incapable of saying no to you."
This was coming from the same person who approached me when I was on a stationary bicycle during physical therapy and told me I wasn't allowed to read.
I revealed the cover of the magazine. "It's Newsweek," I said defensively, as if I was in fourth grade and had just been caught masturbating to Hustler.
"It doesn't matter," she told me. "Our patients are not allowed to read or talk on the phone out of respect for our other patients." This was false. Every major Los Angeles athlete and several others in the facility not only conversed—ad infinitum—about the same exact injury that we had all endured, but plenty of people talked on the phone, especially the black patients.
"Well, I understand the not talking on the phone, but I'm not reading out loud, and I don't see why anyone would care if I was reading a magazine or not. Is it my breath?"
"It's not really me," "she reassured me. "It's the head physical therapist, and she believes that in order to recover from your surgery you need to be focused on every exercise."
"Not to sound like Lance Armstrong, but I'm on a bicycle," I said. "A stationary one. I really don't think there is much more to focus on." I stopped cycling and unsuccessfully tried to dislodge my feet from the foot straps. "Isn't it really my decision whether or not I want to recover? The last time I checked, physical rehab was not court ordered—it's elective. Would I really put in the time and effort to retrain my muscles if I wasn't serious?" I flexed my bicep and furtively flipped her the bird with my other hand, which was hidden beneath my seat.
"It's up to you, Chelsea… Again, I'm not the one who makes the rules." She grimaced in the direction of the head therapist. Now she was backpedaling while I was front-pedaling, and an embarrassing moment became even more embarrassing, since I was still struggling to get my feet out of the goddamned foot straps that had been unnecessarily added by whoever was responsible for inventing a bicycle that never went anywhere in the first fucking place.
"It's Newsweek!" I reiterated, waving the magazine in her face. "Why don't you send the head physical therapist over to me and we can discuss what I am able and not able to do on what may as well be a tricycle? This isn't preschool."
That night, I called my travel agent and booked everyone's ticket. Sue capitulated, and three days later, we were Africa bound.
Around 7:30 the morning of our departure, Sue, Shelly, Molly, and I were all arriving at LAX (Simone was flying separately), when I received a phone call from Hannah, which I promptly put on speaker.
"I don't know if you guys took the 405, but traffic is a mess."
I looked at Sue, who shook her head. "We all took the 405, Hannah. There's only one way to get to the airport. Do you think we left yesterday, drove to Atlanta to circumnavigate the traffic, and then drove all the way back to the West Coast? Why—"
"Well, anyway," she interrupted, "traffic is a mess. If you guys need to go ahead without me, it's fine."
I handed the phone to Sue.
"Hannah, we're going to Africa, not to the Cheesecake Factory," Sue told her. "We're not going to just leave without you."
"Just hang up the phone," Shelly told Sue. "She'll be here. Or she won't. If she misses the plane, she misses it. Air Emirates doesn't sound like they let Americans call the shots."
By the time Hannah arrived at LAX, we were all three sheets to the wind. We had found a Bloody Mary bar in the lounge and were told there was no table service; therefore it was necessary for us to make the Bloody Marys ourselves. If this was a sign of things to come, then our future held a significant amount of Worcestershire sauce. I made a mental note to pocket an entire bottle in case there was some sort of Worcestershire embargo in Africa, which wouldn't surprise me.
Sue and I hustled over to the breakfast buffet, which included lukewarm spaghetti and potatoes au gratin. She saw me ogling the breakfast options and reassured me that if we ran out of tomato juice while making the Bloody Marys, there would be enough spaghetti sauce to substitute.
Hannah announced upon arrival that she was going to find some kiosks in the airport to buy her nephews some authentic African trinkets.
"Don't you want to get them something from Africa?" Sue asked. "After all, we are going there. Or you could just get them a copy of A Raisin in the Sun."
"It's easier to just get it here and get it over with," Hannah replied. Side note: we were allowed one 40×40-inch suitcase and one carry-on per person.
"All right," I told her. "We'll meet you at the gate."
I was asleep before the plane even took off. I had told the pilot I was pregnant and suffering from severe motion sickness, and after he agreed to let me turn my chair into a bed, I ordered one more Bloody Mary, popped a Xanax, and woke up in Dubai.
I like to sleep as much as possible. I like to sleep on planes primarily to avoid technology. My grasp of electronics is commensurate to my grasp of the moon; I'm unclear as to how either arrived at its current status. Nor do I have the attention span or wherewithal to make heads or tails of why I'm so far behind the general populace in accepting the theory of space and time, and its relevance to my own life. On a side note: I find most astronauts to be class A narcissists.
Other things I like to avoid on planes are "cooked" meats and conversation. Why flight attendants take my lack of alertness on a flight as a personal affront is not something I'm able to comprehend. You'd think they would be delighted that one of their passengers is knocked out during the course of the flight, but they seem more insulted than anything. They act as if we had made plans to hang out and then I came over to their house and passed out on their sofa for eight hours. Anytime I wake up to pee they immediately pounce on me, asking if I'd like a drink or to have the dinner that I slept through. When I tell them I am only getting up to use the restroom and I plan on putting myself back down to sleep when I return, they look dejected. When I wake up thirty minutes before landing, one of them will always come over and make a snarky comment like, "Well, you sure got a lot of sleep."
That said, I refuse to travel alone. So my friends are forced to travel with me and watch me sleep unless they have their own access to pills or pilfer mine, which I'm usually open to, unless I'm running low and headed to a third-world country with pharmacies I suspect will refuse to deliver.
After a short layover, which consisted mostly of curated prosciutto, beef curry, and women shrouded in burkas, Hannah felt it was an opportune moment to regale us with stories of Muslim hate crimes against Jews. "Do you think they're not all looking at our blond hair and exposed faces, wondering what country whores like us hail from?"
We boarded our next flight, which transported us to Johannesburg.
June 22, Friday
We arrived in Johannesburg about ten hours and two Xanaxes later. At the airport in Joburg, which turns out to be short for Johannesburg, we were greeted by a dark-skinned man who introduced himself as Truth. We introduced ourselves as Honesty, Happiness, Honor, Witness, Serengeti, and Schnitzeldoodle. We didn't find out until later, when we met our tracker called Life, that Truth wasn't joking with us about his name. Personally, I felt terrible for telling Truth my name was Schnitzeldoodle. I still think about it. Sometimes I just have to rock myself back and forth and say, "You've offended so many people at this point. Don't try to keep track now, girl."
Truth took us to the hotel airport, where we met up with Simone, who had arrived in Johannesburg about eight hours earlier and had ruined two sets of pants by getting her period on the plane and completely bleeding out.
"What the hell are you wearing?" I demanded upon seeing her.
"These are my safari pants," she informed us, while unzipping the top part of the leg from the bottom part. "They convert into shorts."
"Did you wear them on the plane ride over?" Hannah inquired.
"Yes, because we're only allowed to bring one bag the size of a moccasin and I needed to pack some other minor necessities. Thank god I did. You should see the other pair of pants I had to wash in the airplane bathroom and put back on soaking wet. This was my only other option."
I am always happy to see my sister Simone, yet I couldn't conceal my disgust. "You look like a cell phone from 1991."
"Or a CB radio," Hannah chimed in.
"Well, you should get rid of it—them. Are they singular or plural?" Sue asked, regarding Simone's shorts.
Simone has always leaned toward lesbianism; not emotionally or sexually, but physically. She looks like a lesbian, and if you saw her rounding a corner in a tankini, you'd be hard-pressed not to try to get out of the way. She can sleep with as many men as she wants, but physical dimensions exist and science is science.
"Can you imagine the man you were sitting next to taking a good, hard look at what you left behind in your seat and coming to the conclusion you had miscarried?" I said.
Simone informed us she had a sweater to cover the evidence, then changed the conversation by alerting us that she had ordered a round of margaritas, which arrived in martini glasses without ice.
"Do you think the lack of ice in Europe and other continents—such as the one we're on—has anything to do with global warming?" Hannah asked. We all ignored Hannah and ordered food.
Something orange-y arrived, and Hannah went in for a taste. The next thing she did was grimace out of the side of her mouth and declare, "These carrots taste fishy."
"That's probably because it's salmon, Hannah," Sue told her. We all got up from the table a little more buzzed than when we had sat down and directed ourselves to bed. We were ready for the next leg of this never-ending journey. It felt like we had been traveling for days and still hadn't quite gotten anywhere.
As I lay next to my lesbian roommate, Shelly, I turned my head and said, "Tomorrow will be our very first day in the bush. You must be in heaven. Keep your hands where I can see them."
INTO THE BUSH
June 23–26, 2012
Forty-eight hours after we left Los Angeles, we finally arrived at Camp Londolozi in South Africa and were staying in what was called the Tree Camp—one of the five camps the place had to offer. We assumed that since we were six women traveling together, the Tree camp was where they stored the lesbian guests.
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