By Appointment Only

What could be more exciting and fulfilling than the life of a consul? Well, lots of things, actually.

But these are not matters upon which Corps members like to dwell. "There was some unpleasantness there, yes," comments secretary Nabil Achkar, succinctly summarizing the Martel affair.

A Benign Imperialist
Richard Allan Nixon, who likes to joke that he is not a crook, became the HC of Grenada this past spring, thanks at least in part to a business card. Nixon, who works for a telecommunications company, kept running into the same problem with investors. "They'd say, 'You're asking me to build a hotel in Grenada and handing me a telecommunication card. Where's the link?'" Nixon recalls in his slightly clipped British accent. "I was explaining this to the prime minister [of Grenada], and he said, 'Listen, how'd you like to be our consul up there?'" Within months Grenada's senate had stamped its approval, and Nixon had a new set of business cards.

But Nixon makes little pretense of his status as a diplomat. He is a businessman who has come to where the deals are made, a benign imperialist seeking to remodel his homeland, project by project. "I think the whole focus of diplomacy is going to move toward industrial development in the Third World," he says earnestly. "To assist these countries in bettering themselves."

There is something almost quaint in his rhetoric about privatization and tax incentives and his tiny nation pulling itself up by its bootstraps. It is all so Reaganesque, from the earnest insistence that the U.S. invasion of 1983 was in fact a "rescue" to the two gold-capped Montblanc pens that peak from the pocket of his crisp shirt. Once a high school radical, the Nixon of today says he is sick of seeing the children of Grenada walking around barefoot. With the proper incentives and a good diplomat to broker the deal, those small feet, he argues, could be sporting bright new Nikes.

A Sense of Closure
At a cocktail party not long ago, the local representative of a once-great empire stepped atop a cooler of soda pop to address his besotted subjects. "I am glad to have this evening to properly recognize the people who have made my stay here such a joy," announced British consul Philip Grice. "Unfortunately none of them showed up this evening. Actually, as many of you know, I have been called back to London, on exceedingly short notice, I might add. They want me to help set up some sort of new trade department. I am truly sorry to report that this will be my last function here after over three years. Yes, yes, quite sad. But the point of this gathering is business. Also, please sign the visitors' book there in the front. Our government reimburses us a dollar-fifty for each name. I hearby proclaim the bar reopened." By Her Majesty's command, the spirits renewed a steady pilgrimage from smudged bottles to girdled bellies.

The three dozen Britons wedged into Grice's consular office mingled with ferocity. My, did the business cards fly. Safari guides swapping with travel agents, journalists trading with bar owners. The problem was, everyone seemed to be selling, and no one buying. This lent the proceedings an air of gracious desperation, not entirely inappropriate given Britain's economic malaise.

Grice, an amiable, fortyish chap with a bowl of blond hair and a radish nose, spent his last party clutching a Coors, openly rueful. "Come, have a look at my office. Now isn't this a spy's paradise? Look there, you can see all the planes that come into the airport. And 'round here all the ships that dock in port. But that's all James Bond stuff," he sighed. "I spent three years here, you know. Beautiful weather. Like in Cuba. I was there during the missile crisis as a secretary. Damn glad you bastards didn't drop the bomb on us."

In the next room guests feasted on canned ham and sausage, the flatulent reek of Stilton cheese -- "Britain's finest" -- rising from a mound on the table. For two hours Grice dutifully made the rounds, until it was just him and the consular staff and the stinky remains of the Stilton.

"When I applied for this job, there were sixteen other applications. Everyone wants to be in Miami," Grice lamented at the end. "If Florida were a nation, it would be the thirteenth-largest economy on earth. Bigger than Australia. Damn sorry to be leaving." He tugged discreetly at his crotch. "You've even got cable.

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