"Vote Ron Paul? Who's that, Sean Paul's cousin?"

The two other young guys and I laugh. Ahead of us is a yellowing old Mercedes sedan with the phrase in question written on its rear window in shoe polish. The three of them have been cracking pretty good jokes and talking about girls since I picked them up around Reed College. They're headed down to the Greek in search of phone numbers, and this plus their semi-douchey attire and cheerful sociability (plus the fact the joker's black) suggests that they aren't from the school.

"So man, what was Iraq like?" the joker asks the guy sitting next to him.

"It was all right," he mumbles.

"Oh yeah?" I asked. "What did you guys do over there?"

"Just patrol, like go around the streets and stuff." It's clear he doesn't want to talk about it.

"They got good girls over there?"

"No girls, man. They're all wrapped up in these black ninja robes, only a slit for their eyes."

"Like a Christmas present, you gotta unwrap it to see what's underneath!"

"Naw, they get really angry if you talk to the women. There are some Westernized ones, but you can't talk to them, either. It's like part of the culture that you can't talk to girls unless you're family or married to 'em."

"Bet you're glad to be back here, huh?"

"You've got no idea."

And they go back to arguing about who'll get more numbers.