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Interview With P.J. O'Rourke on 'Holidays in Heck'

Former war correspondent's frightening vacation fun

Q. What would your ideal retirement be?

A. I'd get rid of the business travel. I like the speaking, but the travel drives me crazy. Between airline deregulation, airline business failures, bankruptcies and consolidations, every seat on every damn plane is filled — and with a person twice my size. And with the charges for the luggage, every overhead bin is spilling out onto my head. Then there's airport security.

Q. How about video chatting or Skype?

A. Oh, people pay to meet and see you. They're only partly there for the content, and I wouldn't even want to go so far as to say what part that involves!

Q. You spent a lot of time as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. Do you miss that hustle and bustle?

A. During the Arab Spring, I was looking at what went on in Egypt and thinking, why is it that I'm not feeling like I'm old and out to pasture and wishing I were there, back in the action? I think I'd heard too many people yelling at each other and at me. That's a big feature of the Middle East. Everybody is quite dramatic. I'd even go so far as to say the whole region has an adolescent personality. It's very warm and charming and attractive in many ways, but socially it's stormy and unpredictable, with a predilection for physical and emotional violence that's just under the surface. I thought, boy, have I had enough of that.

Q. When you decided to live in New Hampshire full time — after splitting your time between there and Washington, D.C. — was that about knowing your own mind as a mature person, about being more decisive?

A. I'm a rather decisive type. There's no concern on that front. But when one is married and has a family, there is more than one mind involved.

Maureen Mackey is an editor and writer based in New York.

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