Thursday, February 26, 2004

Devotion, fidelity, truthfulness, promises--two wholes assembled to become one.

Odd numbers are unable perform the simplest operation; they can be divided by two of course but not without losing integrity, that state of grace, wholeness, undividedness.

Still odd numbers can be a potent force. They not only have the ability to turn our worlds upside down, they can easily become those missing pieces of a Transcendentally crafted jigsaw puzzle, that thing we think of as our souls.

Finally is not an ordinal number. Finally is a touchstone and a tombstone, finally becomes the rope or the the cross around our necks; finally is our last sunrise; finally can be drinking muddy water and sleeping in a hollow log.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

When the oil is gone

When the oil is gone or there is no more need for ...When the oil is gone or there is no more need for it, this jaundiced desert will one day reclaim the land. It will not take eons to cover the concrete highways and bury the Starbucks in the shopping malls. It's a waiting game. The desert mountains surrounding Taif have been carved by the same incessant winds that carried to Abraham a demand for sacrifice, that heard the Son's agonizing question, "Why?" and delivered the songs of Gabriel to the Prophet. Now the desert shares nothing with us except for its loud, parched flurries and sand storms. It turns us yellow and dries us out like old newspapers. The bedouin still sleeps in the shade of his tent, waiting for the moon to rise. I wait for its cycles, the waxing, the full, the waning moon, the illumination, the pollination, the end of the month, wait for the months to pass, wait for my next time out. I awaken in dark solitude and listen to the voices beyond the walls and barbed wire, on the other side of the brown guards dozing behind their sand bags and guns. The muezzins cry out the greatness of God and His messenger. Each morning I stay in bed those five extra minutes listening to the voices, remembering your smile. I want to reach out for you but my hand is consumed by pitched dawn.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Southern Drunks

I wish I had more tolerance for those who do not understand that cleverness requires the ability to remain voiceless upon discovery of the obvious.

There was a young family who lived above us. The husband wasn't very smart, he was overweight and he loved his wife's soft face. Below them lived a couple who spent their weekends either fucking or fighting with equal severity.On a daily basis, I explored new ways to provoke in her some cheer. I characterized my efforts not as labors of love but as the things I had to do for marriage, the rudimentary things

I'd always overlooked in relationships with women beginning with an impassioned elimination of me.Some women simply leave the men they no longer love. In my case, they contact sisterhood underground, gain new identities and go into something akin to a former lover's witness protection program.

Those first few days, sunning by a five-star pool with a bottle of chardonnay, her pleasant face, had begun to show symptoms of my patchy success.Her skin was no longer flushed with apprehension. Her big round eyes no longer appeared off balance, always puffy from crying. I had never been able to promise anyone anything close to devotion, but for her I'd pledged to myself to always try to keep her spirits from lapsing. Those first few days were all we had to go on later, when we used to call a truce, not much later, when things got out of hand.

. . .to curl up next to her Mama, close her eyes, and feel the delicate touch of her weightless fingers stroking her forehead, for just a little while longer. In her daughter, she sees her mother.the sun sets while somewhere the wind blows, and the tides ebb. 

He waits for her to remove her veil; she removes it, and then waits. Happens every day. The smell of a railway station at 3 AM; the lingering smell of departures and of home comings. One of the last things that we'll understand about life is that the most significant learning and the greatest opportunities for personal and spiritual growth emerge from our most painful experiences.
The train pulls in at the platform, hissing like hot iron in water. The long rails swerve into the distance. A hot cup of coffee in a loud restaurant. The waiter is a happy man. More and more orders keep him running. Soon he’ll be able to marry. 

Sleep on the train--make use of travel time and save on a hotel room. Read on the train. Take in the scenery. In the morning, you get your passport back with a croissant and a cup of coffee.posted by Zaytuni 3:35 AMThursday, January 29, Same"I took two, waited ten minutes, nothing happened, I took two more." (anonymous)Oxy-Contin, Oxy-Codone. The 60% who thought the President looked good as the warrior King, that whole George II thing--they're strung out on back pain medication.William Burroughs as a junkie priest (Drug Store Cowboy) on the subject of demerol:"Demerol is for pussies.""It's not about the sleep. It's about nodding off." (anonymous)"I can't go through treatment with those people. I'm middle class." (anonymous)"The Full Elvis: xanax, viagra, crack, scotch, weed, speed, a tattooed, red headed crack whore and a room at the Roadway Inn."

bin cats in the Khaleej.Most of them can't be approached. Still, you will find the occasional ueber cat, the rare one who works out the math and deduces that it is in its best interest to suck up to a bi-ped or, as they say in Felinese "the openers of cans". Most of the stray cats in the gulf are doomed.I collected my first cat family in Kuwait, these cats later accompanied me to the US for a year then when my Saudi opportunity presented itself, and I could find no foster homes for the arrogant hair balls, I hauled them to Saudi with me.T. would eventually take in my first cat family. 

Two of those cats are still living together with my nieces. They are brother and sister all white cats--Latif and Leela. Leela is a morbidly obese white cat with one blue eye and one gray eye.T. and I collected my second cat family from the Gulf. Of those two, our favorite has since died. Her name was Blanche. A couple of years ago, when we had Blanche neutered, an inexperienced Camel vet from India almost gutted her.

Blanche had to be revived. When we brought her home from the vet's, we fed her through an eye dropper.T. held Blanche on her chest throughout the night. Blanche's eyes had rolled back in her head and her tongue dangled. I'd never seen a cat look like that in the night and by morning still be breathing. I knew she'd be there in the morning with us.posted by Zaytuni 6:30 AMRain Forests and beaches that have played Vietnam: Mexico, Thailand, Filipinos, Costa Rica.Deserts that can play the Arabian Gulf: Arizona. New Mexico. Indian extras can play either side. posted by 
AMJ. in second grade. Her seventh or eighth birthday. Her dress has a tartan pattern--red and black with yellow stripes. In her lap is a piece of birthday cake, chocolate with white icing. Her eyes sparkle.Five years later, 1999, J. is wet but still smiling. She's not wearing a helmet. It must be raining. There are still some fall colors along the river bank but mostly the trees are now bare. J. is glad to be alive.Her smile is like her mother's: broad, dimpled, sweet, warm.J. wears a life jacket and rests an oar across her lap.
"posted by Zaytuni 2:31 AMWednesday, January 28, When J was three, she would crawl into bed and wrap herself in her mother's arms. Her mother stroked her hair and told her that every thing was going to be fine.
The last time I was in Munich, I had a telephone interview with a university in the UAE. Eventually, T. and I would both work there.This time, like the last time, I arrived in Munich on a wet day. Last time it was in June. It is now late January. These puddles are made from slush.The last time I was here, I had very little money and the money I did have, I'd borrowed from T.I eat breakfast in the train station.  
The station is warm with hot German bread, hot coffee and diesel fumes. I order coffee, toast, jam and an apple. My waitress has a pierced tongue and a tattoo of some butterflies hovering on the small of her back.My favorite train station breakfast was in India. C. and I rode private first class from Delhi to Hardiwar. First class on a train in India can mean twin steel bunks in a gray room with bars on the window. 

 Every whistle stop is the same: boys and girls selling popcorn or cups of tea. Two rupees for a small clay cup of hot tea with fresh cow's milk and sugar. They run up and down the length of the train shouting, "Chai. Chai Purri. Purri."My first German dialogue in Frau Shoop's German 101 classes: Good morning Mr. Schmidt. Good morning Mrs. Braun. Today the weather is horrible. Yes, it's been raining now for three days.I had to wait 25 years, but I was finally able to use this today with a taxi driver here in Munich. I got to tell him, "Das wetter ist schlecht, heute." and "Es reignet shoen drei taege"posted by Zaytuni 4:43 AMTuesday, January 27, Not too long ago,
I recommended Kuwait University to a fellow who had given some thought to teaching there, suggesting that there was much free time to develop hobbies and that if he were seeking a meaningful relationship with a scandalmonger, then he just might find the love of his life. If he had a problem with this unendangered species, then he might wind-up in alcoholic seclusion.Scandal mongering and getting drunk soon and often are the easier and more common roads taken by language teachers in the Khaleej, the Arabian peninsula's eastern coast.F. Scott F. writes "and so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Which past? The simple? Perfect? Ceaselessly indicates something continuous--progressive.The "current" he mentions is not the result of the will.
It is beyond our will.

That would require a passive voice a passive continuous: a "be" verb, a present participial, objective case "by" something. We are being borne back ceaselessly by something not of our will.This shameless resignation tense exists in Hindinglish. English English has little tolerance for a continuous "be". We don't say, I am being."Will" is the most dishonest of modals."Might" is the tastiest.posted by Zaytuni 5:53 AMMonday, January 26, On the groundIt's going to snow in Amsterdam tomorrowWhere do the junkies go when it snows?I will wash clothes tomorrow night and dry them for hours. It will give the junkies a place to stand.posted by Zaytuni 12:09 PMSunday, January 25, When are you out again?The closer we get to The Hajj, the muezzins become hoarseI am out tonight. First to Cyprus. I'll sleep in Larnaka in the airport.Usually I have tried to vacation in areas where a low-intensity civil war irritates. US State Department Travel Advisories result in great bargains on rooms, guides, food, tours, companionshipBefore the Maoists blew its first cars in Kathmandu, a room at the Excelsior cost about 25 USD. The last time I was there, a fire bomb had gone off in some neighborhood A room was negotiableI had an invitation to visit Cambodia.

An employee is marrying a beautiful, intelligent woman.I saw a documentary last week on the sex industry in Cambodia.H. has a story about Southeast Asian Women He is the local ballroom dance instructorOne morning, before classes he blurts out
"Have you ever had a song suddenly come into your head that you just couldn't get off your mind?"I asked him which song. He said, "The Laotian National Anthem." Can't say that I know it.He told a story about the time he was in Laos. He had lived very near the Laotian army barracks. Every night as the flag came down, the national anthem played, mortar rounds exploding just a few neighborhoods away.

Recalling the song, he began to think about all of those Laotian ladies trying to get the hell out of Laos by any means possible. I asked him if he'd considered taking any of them up on their offer. He shook his head firmly and said, "NoI asked, "Why not?"He said he wasn't interested in marrying at the time. I asked him why he hadn't considered holding auditions. Again, he shook his head, "No."I told him, "You have ethics!"All T. and I had really acquired was shared bragging rights about where we'd been and what we did when we were there. Our brief lives combined included many roads stretching away into the distances far from her home.
We started out tracing Van Gogh’s path from the lifeless skies of Amsterdam to the south of France that had been the painter's inspiration for his nervous, short strokes of sensibly balanced colors.Along the way, she'd composed her first anecdote in a train station in Brussels when she’d been yelled at by a restroom attendant for not having a few coins to exchange for three sheets of toilet paper.We'd wildly sexed on trains, in one train station toilet, in three-star hotels and in dusty, dank guest houses.

We'd had our first fight over something that would eventually become the unchanging same old shit that would lead to our apocalyptic ending.

On a brilliant Sunday afternoon in Paris, Bastille Day in fact, when I'd gone to buy our return train tickets to Holland, she'd left the hotel and was missing for hours. I insisted that she should have left a note. She'd gotten lost in Paris once already.She never felt obliged to tell anyone where she was going or why. 

She'd gone to drink wine alone and watch the jets fly-over streaming long trails of blue, white and red. I'd forgotten that this was what drew me to her early on. Nobody was ever truer to self. And this keeps linking me back to her like a whistler in the night, a door blown open by wind gusts, the sudden popping of a balloon. Like thunder in the distance, seeing her at that cafe in Paris, sketching with a waiter's borrowed pen on a napkin; sketching what? a lone feather on a sidewalk; an old woman's hands, the hungry eyes of a three-legged cat--remembering her in Paris always startles me from consciousness and brings her right back to me.We'd married, sort of, on a summer day when Louisiana rain fell non-stop for hours and Baton Rouge roads were treacherous with flood potential. My divorce to C. hadn't been made legal. C and I had a brief sort-of marriage. Our brief lives combined included many roads stretching away into the distances far from her home.

And married housing.T. and I thought this might make an emergency exit.

We weren't as keen on being married as we were on obtaining a marriage license in order to work as man and wife.By the first of September, the year the United States was Saudimized, we were no longer living by the clock. We were living in the Arabian Gulf.

The clock doesn’t count time in the Arabian Gulf. The day begins with the rising of the moon and setting of the sun.

We had gotten full time jobs working part-time hours teaching English. I taught on the men's campus. She taught on the women's campus. We had a lot of free time in that country, a lot of ways to spend money and immerse ourselves in luxury. Each afternoon began with a few glasses of white wine and most evenings ended buying some small decorative object for our rent-free, multi-chandeliered villa.

On the weekends, we started drinking early, marking time by cups of coffee. Early meant after our second cup.There was a young family who lived above us. The husband wasn't very smart, he was overweight and he loved his wife's soft face. Below them lived a couple who spent their weekends either fucking or fighting with equal severity.On a daily basis, I explored new ways to provoke in her some cheer.

 I characterized my efforts not as labors of love but as the things I had to do for marriage, the rudimentary things I'd always overlooked in relationships with women beginning with an impassioned elimination of me.Some women simply leave the men they no longer love. In my case, they contact sisterhood underground, gain new identities and go into something akin to a former lover's witness protection program. 

Those first few days, sunning by a five-star pool with a bottle of chardonnay, her pleasant face, had begun to show symptoms of my patchy success. Her skin was no longer flushed with apprehension. Her big round eyes no longer appeared off balance, always puffy from crying. I had never been able to promise anyone anything close to devotion, but for her I'd pledged to myself to always try to keep her spirits from lapsing. Those first few days were all we had to go on later, when we used to call a truce, not much later, when things got out of hand.

It's twenty past five a.m. Monday morning, Sunday night back there, Oscar night specifically. The morning is cool, still and empty. The night passed quickly.A few days ago, I thumbed through a journal I'd kept while traveling through India with Christina Vogt Oliver. That was the year I left her in Kathmandu because I had to return to work earlier that she did. She went back to India, met Mother Theresa and two days later, the saint on earth died.

We had been to Rishikesh, a village made famous because the Beatles went there to learn at the feet of the Maharishi and write the White Album. I think most guide books point this out more than they do the importance of the sanctity of the village.We'd walked down a street lined with small snack shops and everybody remembered Christina from her ashram days. 
They'd remembered her mainly for her haggling prowess and her large blond hair.I was grateful for those moments. 

We were financially well off after working four or five jobs between us throughout the year in Kuwait. We passed out a lot of money to beggars.It was my first trip to India and I hadn't expected the beggar scene to be so irritating. Handing them money did no good. In fact, it made them more aggressive; no amount was ever enough to shoo them off. On a Saturday afternoon, on our way to the Red Fort in Delhi, we walked passed two beggars, mother and daughter huddled together, squatting Asian style on the sidewalk. As soon they saw us, the mother dispatched her young daughter to run after us. I was about to give her ten rupees, but CV intervened. She was really hacked off and she yelled at the kid. I didn't understand at first how she could yell at a child.
The child took it in stride and returned empty handed to her mother.CV explained to me, "Didn't you see the jewelry she was wearing-the earrings, the necklace? Her dress was new. That bracelet on her wrist means she's an upper caste. 

This is just a Saturday afternoon sport for them. Save your money for someone who really needs it."I'd forgotten how annoying beggars can be until I moved to Taif and onto this compound. There are a lot of Bangla Deshi men wandering about picking up trash, weeding the garden on the round-abouts. They all want to earn extra money, and the only option they have is to get hired on by one of us as a houseboy and gardener.
For less than a hundred dollars a month, I could have a well tended lawn, rose bushes, a landscaped front and backyard, my house cleaned everyday, clothes washed, ironed, bed made, hot meals waiting for me.
The problem is choosing one. As soon as I come home from work, they are waiting outside my house. Three of them yesterday. Four the day before. "No suh, I am good house boy, hire me. Please suh. I not lazy boy." Yesterday a fistfight nearly broke out. "No suh, I come to you first. He lazy boy."These are men, like me, far from home, like me, with children. I have a child. They do not sleep in a three bedroom villa. They sleep ten to twenty to a warehouse floor. We are all lonely for home. It is as heartbreaking as much as it is irritating. 2/29/The military work is not much different from worki...
The military work is not much different from working in an intensive university or community college language program, that is classroom management can often have you staring into the abyss.The real problem seems to be the officer-in-charge. You might luck out from time-to-time and during a particular cycle have a genuinely enlightened officer who conducts himself with admirable bearing and is willing to allow the teachers to do the job they were hired to do--teach. This fellow will be sure to back you up in the classroom and give some thought to any tweaks you might have for the program.On the other hand, you could easily wind up with a socio-pathic task master who has about as much tact and humanity as an SS goon pummeling the elderly and infirmed hobbling off a cattle car at Bergen-Belsen.
When the oil is gone or there is no more need for ...

When the oil is gone or there is no more need for it, this jaundiced desert will one day reclaim the land. It will not take eons to cover the concrete highways and bury the Starbucks in the shopping malls. It's a waiting game.The desert mountains surrounding Taif have been carved by the same incessant winds that carried to Abraham a demand for sacrifice, that heard the Son's agonizing question, "Why?" and delivered the songs of Gabriel to the Prophet.Now the desert shares nothing with us except for its loud, parched flurries and sand storms. It turns us yellow and dries us out like old newspapers.
The Bedouin still sleeps in the shade of his tent, waiting for the moon to rise. I wait for its cycles, the waxing, the full, the waning moon, the illumination, the pollination, the end of the month, wait for the months to pass, wait for my next time out.

I awaken in dark solitude and listen to the voices beyond the walls and barbed wire, on the other side of the brown guards dozing behind their sand bags and guns. The muezzins cry out the greatness of God and His messenger. Each morning I stay in bed those five extra minutes listening to the voices, remembering your smile. I want to reach out for you but my hand is consumed by pitched dawn.2/28/"You don't want to hear the truth," she said, agai..."You don't want to hear the truth," she said, again."I didn't say I want to hear the truth," he opened the door and turned towards her. "I want us to be honest with each other."She had pulled herself into a ball, quietly sobbing on the kitchen floor.He believed less in the truth than he did in lies. A lie for him was closer to honesty because of its transparency."Please don't leave.” she said.For him, the truth is to honesty what falling is to flying."You have your truth; I have mine.""I want my Mama," she sobbed."You only think you do, " he said. ""Mama," she sobbed.He closed the door with a thud.

Life in Taif is like living in a sci-fi bubble city on a distant planet. The compound stands alone and is about ten miles from the nearest town--which is Taif. We are much closer to Mecca than to Jeddah. The holiest city is at the foot of the mountain; Taif is near the top. Yesterday, there was a shoot-out in Taif between the Saudi military and two members of Al Qaeda. The security for this compound is tighter. At the first checkpoint there is not only a heavy machine gun but what looks like something heavier, sort of armor piercing gun like the kind mounted on a Bradley, probably a 22mm. The soldiers guarding us wear helmets instead of soft caps. They speak no English. Once inside the compound there are about fifty or so houses that they call villas. They are these working-class three bedroom numbers, nicely furnish, carpeted. They would make a good starter home for a young family. Unlike my flat in Jeddah, my house came with a Mr. Coffee, a large micro-wave, TV, washing machine and dryer, dish washer, a blender and a cuisinart.
The sofa and chairs are thickly cushioned and covered with durable dark blue fabric. The living room curtains are 70s style striped beige, orange and dark brown. They match the patio curtains.I brought the scrawny kitten "Timmy" with me. I found him scurrying around a dumpster outside the Jeddah compound. When I call him, I use the Southpark voice the kid in the wheelchair uses; the only word that kid says is his name, "Timmy." A. sent me an Email full of lasciviousness winking and drooling emoticons; consummation of friendship is imminent.

Last night I telephoned A., the Polish nurse with the nice ankles and asked her if she'd like to have supper with me. She agreed. There was one small problem. As a single woman living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she couldn't tell the gate guard that it was ok to give me a pass onto the compound.Fortunately, I know a couple who lives there. I know him from work. His wife and I do what we can to rehabilitate dumpster cats. They phoned the guard house and had my name put on the safe list.I rendezvoused with A. at the appropriate time and place, but she looked surprised to see me. "What are you do-in'k here?"
Her accent was no thicker than Meryl Streep's pitch perfect performance in Sophie's Choice.She was wearing a white tank top with the number "88" on the front, a pair of washed out jeans and a thick white belt. She'd applied eye liner that suggested she'd been reading up on ancient Egyptian beauty secrets. Her blond hair was cut just above her shoulders, with bangs, a bit like Beatles '66."I'm here to have dinner with you." She looked relieved when I told her."I thought'chu w'are the other Dafeed."

There are five "Dafeeds" on this job project. Apparently he'd called her a few times during the week, as I did. I suppose our voices and accents are indistinguishable. But more than that, our tentative flirtations over the phone most have covered the same ground, "how was your day?" "how is your roommate?" "have they finished painting your apartment yet."I find it amusing that the other David and I conduct ourselves similarly when initiating pre-date chitter chatter.I wonder if he and I have read the same articles on first date dinner conversation, those which suggest to the feller to not talk himself up at all, but to ask sincere questions about her family, her life and her work. I wonder if the other David would have learned by the end of the evening that her parents divorced when she was seven, that her older sister is much older--eleven years.
Would he have also found out that Saudi women are the most battered of any women in the other countries where she's worked as a nurse?She also gave me a Polish folk remedy for my cough."

Put one peeled onion in a glass and three soup spoons of sugar on the onion. V'ait twelve hours then drink the liquid that is sweating from the onion. "Theeze is very gut, I swear eet."After the meal we walked back to her apartment for a cup of tea and some chocolates. We talked about this and that. I did not look through her medicine cabinet.I had to have the truck returned to the motor pool by eleven, so I didn't have plans to make a move. Still, I wanted her to know that she excited me, so I asked for a kiss."

Dafeed," she said, "Why you v'ant to be so quickly?"First date for chrissakes.
The best I could come up with was, "I'm only human and you're very attractive." Oh, the games we play.I told her there is a really nice Chinese Restaurant on the beach and that next week when I come back to Jeddah, I would like to take her there.""Sure," she said, "Vy not?"I gave her the European air kisses near both cheeks, walked briskly back to the truck and had the keys returned to the motor pool by

Tomorrow afternoon, I move to Taif. I'll have a th...Tomorrow afternoon, I move to Taif. I'll have a three bedroom, three bathroom villa there. I'll also keep my one bedroom here in Jeddah. I think the place in Jeddah will be home. The place in Taif will be just a place I stay in five days a week. This isn't cast in stone. I have a few things on my walls here. Hanging on one wall is the wooden bug-eyed spirit head from Sri Lanka. 

I put up the Arab cast iron skillet with the three foot handle. They use this to roast coffee beans over an open fire. T. gave me a painting of the two of us embracing. I also put up the only picture I have of my late father. In the photograph he is about seven years old. It was taken during World War Two. He must have belonged to some sort of young boys’ home guard as he has on an Army dress uniform, smiling proudly as if it he'd just been awarded a Medal of Honor. I also have the Home magazine cover from the 1920s which was a wedding gift from PB to CV and me second year in Kuwait.Some men leave their walls bare. They stay with the same blinds or water-stained curtains which were there before they'd moved in. The same goes for the bed linen and blanket. They aren't interested in making an attempt to settle in. They are here to make a boatload of money then leave, carrying the same two pieces of luggage they brought with them.Other men make an effort. Even though the flats come furnished with a bed, sofa, chairs, a table and a desk, overall, they need something less Spartan. So they collect extra pieces of furniture. I knew someone who bought a two thousand dollar Barca Lounger with as many push buttons as a calculator.
I've known men who have brought spoils of their travels and display them in cases; things like Tibetan Thangkas, Tibetan prayer bowls, hand carved Japanese begging cats, rugs from Morocco, Iran, Afghanistan.I am somewhere in between. In Taif I plan to pick up a couple of asparagus ferns for the cats to chew on, a couple of ficus trees,mother-in-law tongues, occasionally a bunch of flowers and maybe come cacti.When I first went to Kuwait, I'd brought along a Dream Machine alarm clock. My Martin guitar easily killed three or four hours each day.
The radio was for the news. 

We picked up Armed Forces NPR. The only other thing I'd collected there was a three-legged cat with a rhino infection that daily built a mask of green snot so thick around his nostrils that he had to breathe through his mouth.The two times I've been "married" over here, I lived in Better Homes and Gardens.2/24/Listening to the rain at three in the morning is t...Listening to the rain at three in the morning is to hear the angels drumming on your window, reminding you that there is no such thing as what could've been, or what might've been or what used to be. The only thing in this world that we should concern ourselves with is what is happening now. Everything is happening now and everything is as it should be. Forgetting this is forgetting how to live.Post Hajj Flus, Blues and Mardi Gras KrewesMardi Gras ended yesterday. Let the Lenting begin. If everything in the universe has its polar opposite, then Mardi Gras has Hajj. The former is for spiritual degeneration; the latter for spiritual regeneration. This year in New Orleans, a woman in a crowd of thousands trying to catch beads from passing floats was gunned down in a random, senseless shooting.This year at Hajj, nearly 300 people in a crowd of hundreds of thousands, on their return trek from throwing stones at the devil, were trampled to death. A Muslim would not consider this to be senseless.
It is Inshaillah. God's will. If you die on Hajj you enter Paradise first class with a backstage pass. Islamic Paradise surprisingly is not unlike Mardi Gras. There are rivers of wine, and platters of fruits, meats and breads in abundance--sort of like a buffet at Mr. B.'s Bistro.The main difference is the virgins awaiting Muslim men in heaven are not only chaste, but they don't pee, poo, or have periods. I guess that means the men don't have to share their food and drink with the women. A man in Islamic heaven is issued 72 of these secretion and defecation deficient virgins. The Quran promises him that he will he spend eternity horizontally.The Quran doesn't say what women are entitled to when they leave this world. If she inherits 72 virgin boys, does that mean she has gone to Hell?Paradise for me would include a couple of Eastern European 30 something pros and an unlimited supply of hundred dollar bills.This year, the avian influenza arrived in Saudi Arabia from Indonesia. 

This overshadowed the usual outbreaks of Hepatitis B from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.I have had some sort of aggressive flu off and on for three weeks now.I better understand why the women here in Saudi Hijab (cover) with a full face veil. In most Gulf Arab countries, the women mainly Hijab with only head scarves and Abiyyas, the thin black robes. Only a few women veil in Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Oman. Here it is the other way around.

They veil their faces to protect their skin from the sun, to protect their modesty from leering men and to protect themselves from airborne diseases much the way Koreans wear surgical masks in large crowds of pedestrian traffic.2/24/Tomorrow night there will be another Filipino disc...Tomorrow night there will be another Filipino disco party. It will be a poolside dinner party with the disco floor set up inside the restaurant overlooking the pool.The buffet and the people will be a mix bag from the Philippines, Arab countries, America, the UK and South Africa. There will be mounds of pancit, sautéed noodles with fresh vegetables and shrimp; samosas and buriyani, barbequed chicken and deep fried fish.The Filipino women will all be wearing their sex kitten uniforms; their black leather pants or LBDs; some will have on their push up bras attempting to cast a shadow of cleavage. They will be accompanied by their more mature husbands, those western men with their middle-age pot bellies who have finally found their beautiful life partners on the Internet or from mail order brochures; men trying to roll back all those years spent waiting for Fate to deliver someone special into their lives.There will also be a lot of Arab homies--the shebab--wearing oversized ankle-length pants with cargo pockets, baseball caps pushed off-centered or reversed, their short black hair slicked down and parted down the middle, and of course running shoes as big as combat boots with laces untied.Some of the South African nurses from the compound next to mine will tag along. I used to think that most of them are of Indian descent--they have the same skin tones, mocha bronze, but as it turns out they come from basically the same racial mix as the creoles of New Orleans--white male settlers and African women.They are called the Khoi-Khoi (pronounced key-key) people of Cape Town. The whites call them Hottentots.I might go if A. is up to it. 2/24/Character Sketch Though he was confident that ...Character SketchThough he was confident that he could handle all manners of dialogues and discussions on just about any subject whether he knew a lot about the subject or nothing at all, he was beginning to question his method of defending his argument. At the first suggestion that he might not be an authority on some subject--a quote mistakenly attributed to the wrong person, the wrong year for a water shed moment in history--he had a long standing habit of falling back on one-liners that he'd been using since his days at the university or even earlier.“Well, you can make that claim, but then there are those who claim to have been abducted by UFOs,” or “what I find troubling about your logic is that it isn’t unique,” or “you won’t have to tell me to keep your opinion secret. It isn’t worth repeating.”
LIFE IN TAIF An EFL Teacher's Attitude of Gratitu...LIFE IN TAIFAn EFL Teacher's Attitude of Gratitude and other ramblingsTAIF is not an acronym for Thanks Allah It's Friday. Taif is one hour from Mecca; Mecca is at the bottom of the mountain; Taif is on top. There are several parks around town, and it is one of the few cities in this part of the world where trees don't require their own desalinated irrigation systems. Taif is cold in the winters and cool in the summers. Jeddah is about an hour and a half from there. I'll keep my one bedroom in Jeddah and I'll be issued a three bedroom villa in Taif. On weekends, I will come down from the mountain, giving Mecca a wide berth then head north towards Jeddah. On the road to Mecca there is a Christian by-pass.

The sign reads Christians Exit Here as infidels are not allowed to enter Mecca. The sign doesn't indicate whether or not half-stepping Buddhists must also take the exit. On my visa application I checked Christian for my religion only because there wasn't a box for a half-stepping Buddhist. When I was a child, and my friends and I would play "ring the doorbell then run", I always volunteered to be go up to the stranger's house, sneak up to the front door and ring the doorbell while my friends hid in the bushes. That part of me begs the question, what would happen if I didn't take the exit?I thank you oh Mystery of Mysteries, the Creator of all creatures big and small, all things bright and beautiful, the Granter of two-for-ones and Lord of fat free Pringles for this opportunity to have both a pied-Ã -terre two blocks from the Red Sea and a three bedroom villa in the Saudi summer resort of Taif.Part of this Al Anon program strongly suggests prayer. They say fake it till you make it. Brothers and sisters, I am afraid I've been faking it. Yes, I do get on my knees most evenings and most mornings and pray. I pray the Serenity Prayer.'"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Please. Amen."I sometimes begin the prayer this way: "Whoever You are, Wherever You are, Whatever You are. . . You He? You She? You It? You They? If You are there then please "Grant me the serenity. . . .I digress.Any sudden changes on the compound, like my transfer, creates a distraction from routine and gives the compound scandalmongers the conspiracy theories they need in order to breathe. Without rumors, they'd dry up "like a dream deferred." (Hansberry)In all likelihood, 

I am going to Taif because it was my original assignment.The new cycle of officers here in Jeddah have about half the number of students enrolled as last cycle--sixty; there are already six teachers. I am redundant here.
In Taif, they are desperate for teachers. Still, there may also be another more dubious reason.If the pros and the cons of living and working in Saudi Arabia were thoroughbreds crossing the finish line, there would be a photo finish with the pros winning by a nose based on the sweet salary package. In a race best two out of three, the cons would take it.Last week, the officer in charge of the operation, a Major Al Zipperhead (zip is close to the Arabic word for penis) held a brief meeting that had nothing to do with curriculum; everything to do with our responsibilities vis-à-vis late students, sleeping students, students who don't do their homework, etc.And just how is a lowly infidel language teacher supposed to discipline a Saudi Army captain? (Do I have to refer to Joseph Heller's Yosarian here?)Simply put, the students' non-academic shortcomings are 100% the teacher's problem. A student wanders in late--the teacher is at fault. The student nods off during class--the teacher is to blame. A student chatters inclass or whips out his cell phone and begins making calls--teachers are to blame. A student cheats on a test--the teacher is in a world of hurt.So as our brief meeting concluded, this Saudi Major asked, "Any questions?"I said, "Yes." This was a faculty meeting, wasn't it? I am faculty. Faculty asks questions in faculty meetings. I didn't invent this protocol.I proceeded to ask a couple of relevant questions like, "Can we depend on classroom leaders, those higher ranking officers with the most time and grade to assist us?"He responded with a terse, "No. You have to do it all."I then asked (not provocatively but proactively) "Can we offer some sort of incentives to encourage student cooperation and unit cohesion? Use a carrot as well as a club?"I imagine that during an execution, when the warden grimly gives the nod, everyone in witness room holds their breath just before the executioner throws the switch. That was the sort of tension that I felt after asking the questions. 

My colleagues began to scan the ceiling, drum their fingers, look at their watches, look away from me, a few cleared their throats."Any questions" as it turns out is an idiomatic expression that means, "Shut the eff up and get back to work you infidel scum."He didn't have any answers. He'd just had his military leadership questioned. There is no such thing as esprit de corps or unit élan in the Saudi military.The US should stop sending Israel so much money for so many reasons, most of them ethical and moral based on the unforgivable way the Palestinians are treated, but another reason is that the Israelis don't need the money.
In a stand-up fight between Zionists and Gulf Arabs, it could end up a one-sided slaughter. Gulf Arab soldiers aren't asked for input, never ask questions and in combat, the ability to take charge during crisis from the lowest grunt on up is how battles are won.When battling with Gulf Arabs, to avoid slaughter, simple take out the leader and the fight is over. No soldier of lower rank is permitted to make his own decisions nor question arbitrary leadership. With the leader out of the way, everyone else will throw down their rifles, hitch a ride home to have tea and surf for porn.Point of anecdote: 

One never questions a Saudi officer, nor suggests a tweak to an established method of instruction.Sub-point of the anecdote: the Saudi royals no more wish for things to improve for the Palestinians than the 51% of Israelis zealots who feel the same way. If the 49% of the Israelis who are human enough to recognize the injustices their country inflicts upon the six million dispossessed Palestinians (an ironic number, no?) could have their way and do the right thing to bring an end to the suffering, the thousands upon thousands of members of Saudi royal family who live in obscene opulence wouldn't be able to use the smoke and mirrors of Jew baiting demagoguery to plunder the oil wealth while most Saudis earn less than a US high school kid working thirty hours a week at Burger King. 

Those kids flipping burgers in the US are saving for cars, guitars and prom night. Most Saudis have families to support.Sub-sub point:Why is it that Hollywood loves to make films which champion the rights of all the world's underdogs? The blacks of South Africa. The Tibetans in exile. The gentle but brutalized people of Myanmar and Cambodia. The plight of Mexican migrant workers. The Bosnians. The Kosovars. Rocky Balboa. All of the world's underdogs have had Hollywood going to bat for them, that is all of the world's underdogs except one. Six million people whose families have called that strip of land that looks like a dagger their home for as many thousands of years as their oppressors. Six million people who are also Semites and who in all probability have Hebrew ancestors. 1,500 years ago they converted to Islam in order to keep their heads. Then for 700 hundred years the Turks slapped them around just for the sport of it. 60 years ago they were sent packing because the UN told them they had to. Now there's a story about underdogs.
The movie could begin with a bang by re-enacting the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla, massacres every bit as gruesome as the Washitaw River, Wounded Knee or Baba Yar. Why won't Hollywood tell their story? I'd really would like to know.2/22/Driftage (initial rough draft) (The idea for th...Driftage (initial rough draft)(The idea for this story is based on a relationship I had with CV in Kuwait a few years back. At the time, I kept handwritten journals. These notebooks covered about 15 years of my life--the good, the bad, the butt ugly. I'd kept them in a closet, unsecured. I had asked her not to read them alone. I told her that it might be fun to go over them together. I would gladly read them with her. But I didn't want her to take anything out of context. I don't know what CV got out of my journals other than a lot of resentments.

 Our marriage never recovered from her snooping. If there's a theme here that I wish to work with it is our inescapable subjective pasts and how others seek to be empowered in a relationship knowing more about us than we know of them)Her face was flushed with anticipation as she took her deliberate time to look through a journal he'd kept before he met her. She turned each page slowly and carefully so as not to disturb his sleep. Each page had in its upper left hand corner the date written American style month/date/year. Under that, he'd noted morning, afternoon or night. On the back of the previous page of writing were illustrations with scribbled after thoughts. The drawings were hers, his previous companion. Under the sketches were cryptic love notes--she'd written a line, passed it to him and he'd answered; most of it seemed to center around their secret language for sex.
He'd also jotted down ideas for stories based on their experiences. There were no blank pages.The pages also recalled conversations which had taken place mostly in cafes, in restaurants, airport waiting areas, hotel rooms and on forms of public transport like buses and trains. Scattered throughout poems, nothing longer than four or five lines. There were also matter-of-fact accounts of where they'd been, what they'd eaten, how much they were spending and descriptions of the people which sounded like police bulletins--young male, brown skin, 5'5, approx. 15, polished dress shoes with no socks, selling bottled water. Of the people he'd met on planes and in the hotels, he seemed intolerant . Of the local people in towns, and villages, his words were always soft and sympathetic.

Of his previous partner he'd written, We are sitting in a sunlit Japanese restaurant. She has ordered no food, but only green tea. The lunchtime place is empty. Our waiter's eyes are very dark and they match his hair.""she never answers questions about her past; won't make a commitment beyond the end of the summer. She shrugs her shoulders whenever I ask for some input or give her an opportunity to do something besides those things I suggest. She never expresses emotions which are insincere or manufactured for effect. It is the wine that makes her tears seem spurious, as it does for us all.
In fact, sober she is rarely herself at all. Sobriety has the effect of clouding her senses, obscuring the happy-go-lucky girl, the girl so full of life. It isn't until she has her first glass of wine in the evenings that she is able to break her silence and waver between the unhappy introvert, lacking in energy and enthusiasm and the romantic, exotic lover full of ambitions, unaware of limitations. Both her sadnesses and joys seem to eclipse all of the worlds revolving around her life--her teenaged children, the single mothers who see in her the answer to their prayers for the one person whom they just knew could turn their troubled sons and daughter around.She could turn her back on everything but the most basic elements, concentrating all of her psychic energy on the simplest elements like earth, water and fire.
Most women I've known slowly assemble a home and life by an amassment of furniture, framed prints of Renoir and Matisse, collections of herbs and spices , recipes and always boxes and boxes of photographs.

Her best friend has eight rooms in her a house and a television in each room; she has only a radio in her studio which is tuned to classical and mellow jazz stations. She is an oddity in the town because she didn't live for the cycle of insult and retaliation plus she lacks gossiping skills. She knows she has failed as a soccer mom, but this never causes her to lose sleep at night.Stapled opposite this page was a napkin in which she'd sketched the waiter's eyes.2/21/"Weekend nights are a rare excuse for one to look...
"Weekend nights are a rare excuse for one to look both shaggable and amazonian public."

Sometime after she finished her first glass of wine, before she got too deeply involved with her second, she could become this lighter than air creature, always in control of the men around her. By the end of glass three, she had this dark side to her, and this slightly jealous side; a side that she herself wasn't aware of. He was no picnic at the beach. In the beginning, generally lasting up to a year, being with him could be bliss. One year and twenty-four hours later , if things didn't go his way, he could be hell on earth. He was aggressive and being in love with him meant putting up with his relentless name-calling and threats to leave--he always threatened to leave her.If they were both sober, life was safe, but they could be bored stiff with each other. But the periods of sobriety were short lived. First she would cave; days later, resentments got the best of him, and he would ask her to pour one for him.Before he left the country again, it was just after Thanksgiving when he once again made an appeal, the same one he'd made weeks earlier, and weeks before that, going back to the time they'd just gotten back from France, the summer the pattern became apparent to him. late November. She was on holiday from school. He was waiting for his visa Saudi Arabia. He suggested a four day period with no work, no stress, a week that would include modest but invigorating walks, a diet of lemon water and fresh fruit. A few days that first would exclude alcohol and most certainly drugs. 

They could read twelve step literature or the Kabala, the Koran, maybe some Sutras, Baghavagita, even the Alchemist if necessary."What can I say?" she answered. He said, "I don't know."She paused at length then said, "What i want to say is yes. It sounds great. I could use a holiday from my life. However, it is not fair to you.""Why?" he asked."Because, " she said, " I am not in the place you want me to be in and all your hard work in sobriety would be lost. I am being so honest. I hold you deeply in my heart but it would be selfish of me to take you back to the way things were.Your suggestion is a good one,but I couldn't handle my own failure right now. I can't handle any more disappointment. And if I fail, if we fail, I will not be able to ever move forward from this thing."2/20/BS called yesterday afternoon and invited me to di...BS called yesterday afternoon and invited me to dinner. His wife, C. is from Mexico. I wouldn't complain if I had to eat her black bean soup every day of the week for the rest of my life.My companion was A. a nurse who has been in country just a few months. She works at the military hospital next to the Air Defense Base where I teach. 

She is from Poland and her accent is thick but charming; it is not any heavier than, say, Greta Garbo.A. is tall and slender, not busty; she has attractive ankles. We talked for hours about everything and nothing, our family trees, politics Polish cinema.This morning I called to be sure that she got home OK, and, worked in an "Oh, by the way, how about dinner Monday?"Time elapsed between my asking and her answering .025 seconds.Tone of voice: an enthused, "Sure, why not."DK came by at ten to rehearse some St. Patrick's Day songs. We played for about three hours.I met the Filippino dance band for our first rehearsal around 2 and we practiced until ten tonight. They do a version of the Cranberries "Zombie" which really gave me a buzz. It was a blast playing melodic solos outside of the pentatonic blues box.I still miss T., but it's time to move on.I really thought I had a shot at a life long monogamous relationship with her. Yes, I miss her, but I don't miss the drinking and the brawls; my life has gone completely back to normal without her.2/19/Currents (short story synopsis) (The theme I w...Currents (short story synopsis)(The theme I wish to approach here is knowing when to let go)We rafted our way towards the Bridge over the River Kwai--not the one in Myanmar, but the one in Sri Lanka. Years ago, William Holden and Alec Guinness had come to the Kitugala River to film a movie.We'd shot most of the grade four and five rapids before 8 AM. Between 8 and 8:30, we'd come to bend in the river where the current wasn't too strong. T. and I jumped in without our life jackets. I find the life jackets restrict movements and the helmets make it difficult to hear the guide calling out the strokes. The water was swift. T. was immediately pulled down river. I swam after her, reached her and held onto her. I tried to swim us both towards the bank kicking hard and pulling us along with my one free hand. Soon it became apparent that I had only enough physical strength to get myself to the river bank. I gave her a strong push towards the bank before I released her and swam on my own, not knowing if she could. For a brief moment, I had to imagine that I had to save myself or we'd both drown. The shove helped her reach the river bank. After that she wore her life vest. Later, when we came to the footbridge strung 70 feet over Hollywood's River Kwai, Sri Lanka's Kitugala River, when we jumped off the bridge, her life vest rose to smack T. in the face, nearly breaking her nose. Up river, someone hunted river foul. I could hear the rifle reports in the distant. As we pulled the leeches off our legs it sounded like, looked like, felt like "Vietnam: the Movie."

Nothing is ever the way it's supposed to be." Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture ShowBaton Rouge has never been a quaint and rustic deep south jewel. It has its Oak trees. There are one or two relics of an ante-bellum life style--pablum like a third-rate plantation home and an old state capital building that even Mark Twain once panned for its ridiculousness.During the Civil War, the city was hammered into rubble and burned to cinders by the fellas from the north. Most the books I've read about this war don't even include this event as an asterisk. Maybe Something greater than ourselves, a Higher Transcending Authority willed this to happen; perhaps He wished to put in its place a botanical paradise. Maybe rebuilding the town was an act of defiance and to this day, this is why nothing fresh or original has ever borne fruits of success there.As long as I've lived there or have had family there, its pathetic heart has been overgrown with weeds. Everyone in this city knows everyone else's business because everyone's business is virtually the same, day in, day out, year after year.
In Baton Rouge, more so than any city, state, country, there is almost nothing to do that doesn't involve boozing, getting treatment for boozing, refilling pills, receiving treatment for pills, thinking about football, watching television, eating Chinese food or taking your kids to a multi-plex cinema or a water slide park. There is however this one peak experience which I'm afraid to say is as good as life gets for most people there. It is even better than knowing for fact that there is life after death. It is getting away with fucking someone other than your husband or wife. That's it.I learned this when I taught my first year at a university there. Nailing students was like shooting fish in a barrel. 

When I'd decided to pick up a degree in literature when I was 18, I'd considered this to be the most supreme perk, but after a few years of habitual dippings into that barrel,my wormed turned, my yin yanged and I entered my parallel universe where this perk went from godsend to perdition. I fell into into a deep, dark spiritual chasm. And as I looked ahead to the next twenty or thirty years of passing out course requirements while eyeballing the gullible, I said to myself, no more. I took Claudette to a dense jungle for Christmas where we rafted like Huck Finn down the Rio CoCo on a balsa wood raft until we reached a village tucked away in a safe, triple canopy rain forest. For Christmas dinner we drank a local moonshine called Chi Cha and dined on roasted rain forest rat. When I came out of the jungle, I planned my liberation.I quit teaching freshman composition and introduction to literaure, took a few courses in how to teach English as a second language and moved to Pusan, Korea. I got out.Eventually, so did T. But she went back after one year.
Then I followed her months later with this thought that in my absence, maybe the Baton Rouge I'd remembered did have some problems, but then, maybe the problems began with me and who I was before I ran off.When T. returned from her year in my life, my world of arrivals and departures, taxis to trains to hotels, North Face, hiking boots, tea in the morning instead of coffee, to announce her return as local artist turned adventurer, she made arrangements with her best friend to have a show at the local arts council. 

Having a best friend at the Baton Rouge Arts Council who is responsible for scheduling shows is like knowing a doctor who will give you free B complex injections on demand. You could piss on the gallery floor, give it a name like "House Cat Crossing the Red Sea" and the local art critic will obligingly bang out one of her generic five-star reviews.The show was called "Moments of Grace" and its hook was that she and I were sponsoring a village school in Nepal. This wasn't true of course. I mean, we had run a day school one morning on the rooftop of a medieval Nepali village called Bhaktaphur, and I did have a vision (which later I questioned as my own delusion) that one day we would return to Nepal and open that school, but at the time, there was none. It was a crock, but its how things are done there.When I asked her if she could get away with this, inventing whole cloth a shadowy act of charity, she told me,
"People want to believe that what they're seeing in a gallery is more than art; they want to believe that there is a story behind it. The story increases its value." Besides, this is Baton Rouge. Nobody is going to ask questions.I now take pity on the town; I see it as sort of an overlooked, not-to-bright middle child. Its older brother is to the east--New Orleans. New Orleans is Louisiana's hot blooded son who has succeeded beyond all expectations at everything he has set out to accomplish. New Orleans has countless loyal friends throughout the world.To the west is Lafayette, the cherished baby of the family that can do no wrong.Between these two cities is a feckless sibling, Baton Rouge.
This and That "Fool! -- you fell victim to one ...This and That"Fool! -- you fell victim to one of the classic blunders -- the most famous is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia.' " (William Goldman, The Princess Bride)The capture of Saddam is what all of humanity has been striving for since humankind first became bi-pedal and capable of improving on last year's garden implements. Finally, we will now have an end to disease, crime, poverty, famine, war and God willing, Justin Timberlake.I wonder if my being here now will qualify me for the VFQ--Veterans of Foreign Quagmires.I've narrowed down my alternative job choices in the event I have to leave Saudi Arabia soon: teaching 5 year olds at a Hagwan in Korea at same place called The Happy Top Language School or I can go to Amsterdam and get a job mopping up stalls at an adult video store.Who wants to do the math? At the current rate of US KIAs, and if the increased percentage continues to climb exponentially, when will we hit 58,000 (give or take), the magic number for calling it quits during our last no win war?Is it just me or has Ramadan has really gotten to be too commerical? For example, remember when Ramadan lights didn't go up until mid-month of Sha'aban? Now we see them around town as early as the month of Rajab! And the lights should come down the first week of the month of Shawwal, but I've seen them still up and blazing away as late as Dhul Qa'da.Rushdie's premise in THAT book was that the Prophet was motivated by profit. If you skip past the Bollywood actor parts and other framing devices, THAT book actually is not a bad piece of historical fiction. (I'm bucking for a fatwah)True! Sign at a Yemeni mental health clinic "When I was here I wanted to be there. When I was there, all I could think of was getting back. . .Every man has got a breaking point" (J. Milius, Apocalypse Now!)You say hooker like it's a bad thing."San Francisco is a gay mecca" "South Beach is a mecca for sun worshipers" "Paris is a mecca for gourmands." So what do they call a popular gathering place in Mecca?I can understand why the Saudis want Americans to have an extensive physical before entering the kingdom, but Canadians? Everybody loves Canadians. They are all just so darn cuddly.If Paul McCartney reverts to Islam, then Makkah would be a mecca for Macka.Do they have hamburger joints in the holiest of cities called Mecca Donald's?There are many flautists in Saudi. You will also find mouth organists, bag pipers, piccolo players, tube steak trumpeters and joystick whistlers. Unfortunately, it's mostly an all male orchestra."Deferred gratification" or BSB syndrome (Bachelor Status Back-up) does not cause permanent brain damage.Being straight and unmarried doesn't necessarily mean one will have a sexless life in KSA, unless your definition of sex includes being with another person.I heard "Baker Street" on the radio today driving home from work today. I'm retitling it Shurra Al Bakr""

This desert city makes you feel so cold It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul And it’s taken you so long to find out you were wrong When you thought it held everything. . ." (G. Rafferty)Intellectual stimulation or even job satisfaction might be too much to ask. I'm more interested in a job well done, not just endured. One major difference between the "threat" of Judeo/Christian fundamentalism vs. Wahhabism, is that back in the US we can loudly question it, criticize it, lampoon it, satirize it, ridicule it, vote against it. Obviously, the neo-cons haven't thought this thing through. I think an introvert has an easier time playing the extrovert on an as-needed basis more easily than an extrovert can behave as an introvert if called upon to do so.As with any Arab langauge program, caveat grammatista .In the first book of the Bible, Adam and Eve entered into the first monotonous marriage, did they not?2/16/The last time I was in Saudi Arabia was four years...

The last time I was in Saudi Arabia was four years ago and at the time, the words "What in the hell am I doing here?" spun on a loop, round and round, throughout the day and into my long unsettled night. Only on the weekends did the loop mercifully pause.I was on the east coast, living in a 10 by 15 monk's cell on a compound called Euro Village. The clapboard row of single room flats resembled a chicken coop. There were no walls topped with barbed wire. No machine gun bunkers guarding the gates. In those days, we fought tedium not terrorists.On Wednesday afternoon, the beginning of the weekend, I would drive from Al Khobar across the causeway to downtown Bahrain where I checked into one of the dozens of two-star hotels.Polina, Rozalina, Lolita, Alina, Klementina, Natalya, Liliya, Natasha, Alexandra, Anna, Raisa, Veronika, Sophia, Irina, Lidiya, Marina, Nika, Svetlana. . .Sisters, wives, daughters, mothers would begin tapping on my hotel room door five minutes after I'd entered my room. They were in their early twenties, but in many ways so much older and aging faster than necessary. Their contracts kept them in Bahrain for sixty days.
They were strictly confined to the hotels the entire time. The only sunshine they experienced came through windows. They weren't even allowed to go up on the roof. They were detained but not against their will. They could go home at anytime, but they would go home broke and go home to more of the same life that led to their decision to pick up the phone and call an agency.These must be some of the most disquieting memories for those who decide to accept money to open their legs for many hundreds, maybe thousands of strangers over the course of a few years. It must be one of life's most inextricable regrets. 

I can imagine that they must either end up born again Christians or middle aged junkies to forget this part of their youth.

As I man, I can think of no counterpart decision that we have to make regarding our bodies and our dignity.

From Wednesday afternoon through Friday afternoon, these Slavic angels of mercy came and went from my hotel room, each time offering themselves for less than the cost of a dinner date at a TGIF back home. I often haggled for the best price, and sometimes I was able to negotiate a bargain, a happy hour arrangement, buy one, get the second for half the price. Nearly every weekend, April through August, I made that drive from my chicken coop in Al Khobar to a two-star hotel in Manama, Bahrain.I put a stop to it in August. In August, off the coast of Murmansk, on the bottom of the Barents Sea, deep inside the belly of an iron whale, the tapping had stopped.Anstice, Egor, Fjodor, Boris, Ilya, Konstantin, Demyan, Kostya, Vladmir.The men of the Russian submarine Kursk had joined the ages and would stay forever young.And as for those words, "What in the hell am I doing here?" they unmuted that weekend and the loop went round and round every day of the week.

That weekend was my last visit to a two-star hotel in Bahrain.2/15/Maid Day. I love coming home on Maid Day with the ...Maid Day. I love coming home on Maid Day with the purifying smell of lemon furniture polish wafting through the apartment on the cool air of a window unit. The kitchen sink has been emptied and scoured.

The bowls, dishes and silverware are where they should be; the bed is made, clothes have been washed, dried, ironed, folded and put away in drawers or hung up in the closet. The books and magazines scattered around the bed have been put back on their shelves. There are no more gritty beard nubbles in the bathroom sink. Sara, my new maid from Indonesia, even cleaned out the litter box, moved the couch and vacuumed. My Eritrean maid didn't even like my cats.Imagine that--someone who doesn't like cats.All this tidiness helps to take away the restlessness of another day in the magic kingdom. We drive to work, drive home from work, try to limit our movements beyond the walls. I try not to think about the walls, thick with layers of concertina wire or the heavy machine gun bunkers dispersed at the front, side and back gates. These aren't the ivy covered walls I had aimed for when I declared myself an English major back in the day.Last year, back home, living with T. 

I tried to tidy up before she came home. I worked out of an office I'd set up in her dining room. I'd spent many hours throughout the day, from January through May, marketing Artarama, tweaking the web site, promoting the web site, scheduling newspaper, magazine and radio ads, answering dozens of calls and hundreds of questions on the phone. I also tried hard to make a home come together for the two of us.On the weekends when her daughter came from her father’s house to visit, we even had a family. I’d stock the refrigerator with frozen pizzas. I picked up large bags of gummy bears. I rented videos and set up a karaoke machine for her and her friends when they slept over. I trusted I'd found home.

Without a doubt, I felt at home for the first time in my life. T. and I even had plans to take the marriage of convenience, arranged only to acquire a license in order to live in an Arab country, from its gray marital area and on the far side of summer, we had plans to make it official now that my marriage to C. had been dissolved by the state of California.Only my sisters and her best friend knew that my marriage to C. hadn’t officially been dissolved and that T. and I had a quick out if things between us soured.Last spring, T. would come home every week day shortly after five, fatigued, bewildered and fed up. 

She spent her days with emotionally debilitated teens who were attending a last resort high school. T. had been out of the local school system for a year. 

When she’d returned to the states, there were no other positions available. Like many of the other teachers there , she was desperate for work. Unlike many of the other teachers, she hadn’t been fired from every teaching job she ever had.She was always short on art supplies; her boss was this raging crackpot from New York who could whip up an accent and attitude that suggested New Jersey mob ties if he aimed to intimidate.
He frequently claimed that he had come to the south on a personal mission to save it from itself.Every weekday, 

T. came home stripped of faith, bled empty of hope and incapable of giving or receiving love. Moreover she still grieved for her mother. On top of that she was heartbroken and baffled by the way her brothers behaved during her mother's final days. They both had an appetite for aggression and were silly with greed over whatever impending money and trinkets would come from her mother’s meager estate. 

On the day their mother died, one of her brothers had threatened to beat her senseless for looking through a box of photos on her own.T. was also beginning the process of grieving for her children who were no longer children but teens and on the brink of wandering off on their own.Artarama was going to fix all of this.Often she came home to find candles burning in the living room and bedroom, a tub full of hot water and bubbles and a large bottle or two of her favorite wine. And there would be flowers. I bought a lot of flowers last year.Sometimes this helped. Sometimes we would eat our broiled chicken breast and reminisce about our time in Thailand, France, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Ireland, all the striking beauty we’d seen and all those beautiful people we had met.Other times I ended up making her queasy with my excitement over our future, the promise of a light at the end of her long, dark tunnel of grief, the end of my many years of wandering off on my own.We were going to travel back to Nepal for our honeymoon. There was this village we'd stayed in and there were people to whom we’d made promises. 

I even hoped we could take a few of those emotionally debilitated teens with us and teach them how to teach, to pass on their secret gifts.The sad city of Baton Rouge, a desperate city built on so many uninspired and failed dreams. 

This is where I'd grown up.
T. had once thought of it as a place to be passed through. Then she met and married a local boy who had deadweight dreams about leaving town. Then she was stuck.I had no clue that as I was spending my retirement savings, money from a sale of land in New Mexico, I was also risking being stuck in this place, this place to be gotten away from. I had no inkling that by July, I could very well be sleeping in roadside parks and scrounging for hand-outs.Sometimes T. didn’t have the energy for our dreams--which turned out to be just my dream alone. Sometimes she and I wouldn’t have anything to say to each other and instead of reminiscing about beautiful places and people, we’d have glass three, four, glass five trying to light a flame.Most of time, when we’d emptied all the wine bottles in the house, she would let me know, sometimes with just a look, other times with the cruelty of a truck stop waitress, "You ain't doing it for me, honey."

When we’d emptied all the wine bottles in the house and she turned into that waitress, most of the time I would fly into a panicky rage, shout, yelp, shriek, slam doors, bounce of the walls like a rubber ball then race out of the drive at top speeds with no place to go other than away.Most of the time, the result of these instances was I would stop drinking for several days or even weeks and beg her to join me.

This was never an option for her. She had to spend ten hours a day in ramshackle building that had once been a bank and work alongside teachers--most of whom were also alcoholics and at least one of whom was a crack addict. Sobriety was a luxury she couldn't endure.

There were also times, before or after I tore out of the house when she would lay into me, ripping my shirts. Sometimes she would strike me with her fists and once she drew blood.Then there were times when she would collapse on the floor and sob heart broken tears and cry over and over, "I want my Mama." 

When she did this, I would have pulled the moon out of the sky for her if doing so would have allowed her to curl up next to her Mama, to close her eyes, and feel the delicate touch of weightless fingers stroking her forehead, for just a little while longer.In the mornings, we'd make up, make love, press on with the dream. We made plans to make good on our promises in Nepal, promises to each other to not look back, to keep our eyes on the horizon.One of the things I remember from Algebra is that a single point is dimensionless, and only one line can pass through two of these dimensionless points. 

A difficult one for me is the concept of parallel lines. Parallel lines don't run into infinity without connecting. They seem to intersect on the horizon.We could've lived our lives like parallel lines, where nothing gets criss-crossed, life isn't complicated, everything is always wonderful. It could have been an illusory life. We were two different people whose problem may have been that we didn't have that many differences. We had a lot of shared knowledge of the past. We both grew in large, loud families. It was easy for us to see ourselves headed into the same uncertain future like parallel lines seeming to intersect one day on the horizon.Sometimes

 I think that life is unnecessarily long and too complex. Our cravings for distractions don’t allow us to travel safely from point A to point B. There are too many choices. Our diversions keep us from carrying ourselves swiftly from one logical step to the next and all too often they keep us from reaching our goals, which for most of us is answering the call to return home.Why can't we complete our travels as children, as teens or even as blossoming adults? Have them dealt with earlier on, learn from them, be redeemed by them, so that if one day we realize what it is we are supposed to be doing, we can bolt upright and sprint like a two-legged cheetah the rest of the way through life without limitations and hazards, and in the end, find our way home.Why can't we have the wisdom that is so much a part of our final years awarded us much, much earlier and why is it we can finally outlive our deepest regrets when death becomes our silent partner, still carrying those regrets to our dying beds?
Why do we allow ourselves so many choices when we have the capacity to understand that free will and choice are overrated? Why can't we choose to not ever have to choose, live a life of subtle rewards, humble ourselves in safe routine. What is it that allows us to go with our gut feelings and the consequences that follow?

There had been someone else after the divorce, before me. She loved him the most because he seemed to express joy in everything he did. She found certain sensuality in his self-indulgence. They quickly became the best of friends. They’d held hands when they slept and often made love in the early morning.
When she'd had too much to drink, he would carry her to bed, put socks on her feet and crawl into bed beside her, hold her and keep her safe. They often talked about the day when they could abandon the sad city and live off the land his family owned.Her ex-husband retaliated by entering into an emergency face-saving second marriage. Their children were programmed like heat seeking missiles to bring an end to her happiness.

Her companion abandoned the situation for a woman who had no talent and less local prestige, and far less beauty, but no children, no ex-husband. All T. had then was a painful silent bed, and the cold discomfort of fear. At one point, she'd taken lots of pills, but they only made her late for work the next day.Travel became a matter of choosing life or death; travel was escape. It didn't matter how she got out of town or who got her out of town.

 Step one was getting away. Step two was as unimportant as how she got out and who it was that would take her away. She had to do more with her life than endure. She had to breathe, to prevail.Through a friend of a friend, we found each other. She found someone who would take her away. It was like finding a rare shell on the beach. She carried me in her hand for a while, and then threw me back into the sea when it was time for her to go home.I chose to love a woman who has a heart as mysterious as the face of God and a sorrow as secret as the human soul..2/13/First day back on the job after my break which too...First day back on the job after my break which took me from Jeddah to Cyprus, Cyprus to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Munich, on to Prague, then back again, repeating the itinerary only in reverse. 

This morning entered my room with cats gnawing on my fingers and toes an hour before dawn as the morning calls to prayer, echoed voices slurring half and three-quarter tones, roused the faithful from their slumber. Yusef, a Kuwaiti wheeler dealer who bought and sold copper salvaged from wire and cables told me once that he liked best the first call to prayer because it woke him up in time to experience the "baby of the day," adding "and everybody likes the baby."I fed cats and micro waved water for my instant coffee, drank my coffee while checking my Email, then showered, dressed and waited for my ride.We have no students this week--the next cycle of officers begins Saturday, but we have to be there, put in the time--7 until 2:30. Everybody in the office brought books, newspapers or their lap tops. We spent a good part of the morning making small talk over subjects like "Where were you when you first heard the news about . . (Kennedy? John Lennon? space shuttle Challenger? 9/11?).

Exhausting that topic we got onto junk food (Chicago for pizza, New York for hot dogs, Cincinnati for pretzels and chili, Memphis for BBQ).When the topic was spent, we went back to killing time; some of the fellas went back to their lap tops and games of free cell, other talked up baseball stats; BG and I discussed the South African nurses, who may or may not have their dance cards (so to speak) filled on the weekends. It surprised him to hear that most of the nurses who'd come to the Valentine's Day shindig with me are mothers, many without husbands.

We got onto to the subject of being involved with a single woman who has children. My advice to him: "Don’t do it unless the Dad is either a dead beat or dead, because if he isn't, if he's on the scene and a hands-on parent then the divorce is a divorce on paper only. Whatever the relationship became once the judge's gavel officially split the sheets for them, the fact remains that there is still a relationship and a most important one at that."This wouldn't be a problem if the ex happened to be a good man, but as Eudora Welty insists, finding one ain't easy.A few years ago, in a Korean conversation class, I brought up the subject of divorce Korean style. I'd been told that in Korea, as in most Asian countries, when a couple split up, custody of the children is customarily given to the father. My question to the class was, "Since Korean men are opposed to domestic duties like child care, who tends to the kids?" My class answered in near unison, "Why the new wife of course." "Then what happens to the ex-wife?" "She goes back to her family", a student said. "Doesn't she ever remarry?" "Not usually. Korean men don't like to marry women who have had another man's children." At the time, I thought this Asian attitude a barbaric one.Years later, when I made a choice to become involved with a divorced mother of two, I found out that in the US, the attitude is not the same, not even similar, yet from a certain angle, you could say there isn't much difference either.US Dads (and somehow the kids seem to go along with this), are expected to remarry.

Dad can't be without a woman, now can he? Moms, on the other hand, are not allowed to feel incomplete or lonely. They must be earth-mothers, rugged individualists, angels, dedicated completely to their children despite the cost to themselves.If Dad wasn't porking someone, he wouldn't be much of a Dad.Here's an interesting statistic. The number of men who stalk their ex-wives is ten times greater than ex-wives who obsess on their ex-husbands. (Divorce Magazine)I think this is an abomination and borders on savagery. What is especially detestable is how Dads fire off their salvos using the kids as grape shot. I suppose I understand why. Like God and the Devil or Hank Williams and Garth Brooks, Love and Hate are two opposing sides of the same coin, good and evil vying for the same ends. I can see that as far as the children are concerned, a contentious, spiteful, tit-for-tat relationship between Mom and Dad is better than no relationship. It was important that she travel; travel meant escape. It didn't matter how she got out of town or who got her out of town. Step one was getting away. Step two was as trivial as how she got out and who it was that would take her away. She had to do more with her life than endure. She had to breathe, to prevail.There had been someone else after the divorce. She thought he was special because he seemed to express joy in everything he did. She found a certain sensuality in his self-indulgence. They quickly became the best of friends. They held hands when they slept and often made love in the early morning. When she'd had too much to drink, he would carry her to bed, put socks on her feet and crawl into bed beside her. 

They often talked about the day when they could abandon the city and live off the land his family owned. Her ex-husband retaliated by entering into an emergency face-saving second marriage.When her companion abandoned her for a childless woman with less talent, local prestige, and far less beauty, all she had left was painful silence, and the cold discomfort of fear. At one point, she'd taken too many pills, but they only made her late for work the next day.Through a friend of a friend, she found someone who would take her away. It was like finding a rare shell on the beach. She carried him in her hand for a while, then threw him back into the sea when it was time to go home.

The person who gets my sympathy is the emergency back-up second wife. Although she is not a sympathetic character at all, she is a bit like Milton's Satan, that is her mind is her own place and can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven depending on whether or not she's taking her lithium or has replaced it with more oxy-contin. It would be a sin not to wish her peace of mind.

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing P..."Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing Passing from you and from me Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming Coming for you and for me. Come home, come home Ye who are weary come home" Will Thompson Sometimes I think that life is unnecessarily long and too complex. Our cravings for distractions don’t allow us to travel safely from point A to point B. There are too many choices. Our diversions keep us from carrying ourselves swiftly from one logical step to the next and all too often they keep us from reaching our goals, which for most of us is answering the call to return home.Why can't we complete our travels as children, as teens or even as blossoming adults? have them dealt with earlier on, learn from them, be redeemed by them, so that if one day we realize what it is we are supposed to be doing, we can bolt upright and sprint like a two-legged cheetah the rest of the way through life without limitations and hazards, and in the end, find our way home.Why can't we have the integrity that is so much a part of our final years awarded us much, much earlier and why can't we outlive our deepest regrets, still carrying them to our dying beds? Instead, we are given these things called choices. We can either choose behavior with its subtle rewards and live out our lives in safe routine, or we can go with our guts and the consequences that follow.2/11/When I first stepped into a classroom at the Air D...When I first stepped into a classroom at the Air Defense College, I introduced myself by telling the students my name, where I'm from and some of the other places in the Khaleej where I've taught. When I told these officers-to-be that I'd taught in Kuwait, every student to a man responded the same way."Teacher. . .really. . .w'allah. . . boys. . .girls. . . same classroom?"

I told them yes, but the reality is that the classroom usually divides with all the girls on one side, some empty rows of desks down the middle and the boys seated on the other side. Still, my students are awed. Imagine, sitting in a room with women who are not your sisters or cousins and the only thing between you and them is an infidel English teacher and a couple of empty rows of desks.My students, the future officer corps, as with the future Aramco managers, future bank managers, tomorrow's airline pilots and doctors are all probably just as anxious as the rest of the free world to find out which way the winds of progress will blow once King Fahd is called home to paradise.

 When that happens, there is no telling whether this country will continue to embrace social progress or remain where they are, behind even their closest neighbors along the east coast in Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman.Radical change regarding women's rights to drive in Saudi began when the press floated the rumor. These days, on any given day, the English daily, the Arab News, runs a number of articles about women's rights in the workplace, in education, behind the wheel of a car and how none of this is forbidden in Islam. orials are generally pro-limited women's rights (wouldn't you rather have your wife drive herself to the market than to have her ride with some stranger from the Filippines?) Saudis write to the editor and insist that Saudi women should be tending to Saudi women in hospitals and that Saudi women should be teaching Saudi children--like that.It appears that limited driving rights are close at hand--daylight hours only, probably during school hours--drop off the kids, go to the market, pick up the kids, go home.These poor fellows are in a quandary. Their grandfathers in all likelihood had to wait until their wedding day before all of the pieces of the puzzle came together, as did all of the fathers before them. My students' fathers had a lot of questions answered before their wedding days because 20, 30, 40 years ago foreigners from the west came by the tens of thousands and so did furtively smuggled magazines with pictures and books with stories--not that much different from how I went about solving the great riddles of sex. The difference between us of course is that I walked the same school halls and breathed the same air as the objects of my ardor. 

By the time I was fifteen, I'd solved most of the mystery. My Saudi equals could only catch a glimpse of their cousins coming and going from behind closed doors when families came together for the holidays.But these fellas today have the Internet. The government's firewall is something to be ridiculed--just check the history bar at the Internet cafes. For them it must be like having the bitch next door go into heat and you're on a very short and sturdy chain.I tell fellas who are considering taking a position here to bring a complete set of Jack London to read in order to commiserate with others who have gone it alone, surviving against all odds in the wilderness.
/Baton Rouge, Louisiana. John Kennedy Toole referre...Baton Rouge, Louisiana. John Kennedy Toole referred to it as "the vortex of despair" long before multi-plex cinemas came into being. As trailer parks are magnets for tornados, so Baton Rouge solicits despair. Baton Rouge puts the prosac in prosaic.

There is basically one road and one street in BR. There is Perkins Road and there is Government Street. The two are connected by Park Boulevard. Park doesn't belong in Baton Rouge. It is peculiarly out of place with its university sensibilities.

I know a woman who has a heart as mysterious as the face of God and a sorrow as secret as the human soul.She went to Baton Rouge to indulge in those university sensibilities not planning to stay too long. She met and married a townie who had deadweight dreams. Ever since, she has been waiting around to die. Her method of self injury: death by mediocrity and chardonnay2/10/Bronchial Pneumonia is no fun despite the extra ti...Bronchial Pneumonia is no fun despite the extra time off from work. So much for rainy, windswept  sea coasts. I’d heard that the compound doctor, Abdullah, had recently become a grandfather and I congratulated him. I asked him how one says "Grandfather" in Arabic.

 He told me it is "Jedd". Like Jeddah? I asked. Yes. The city Jeddah, means grandmother. Eve is supposed to be buried around here. The doctor must be a true believer because he said the government won't spend the money to find and mark her grave.I had to sign some papers with the nurse, and we chatted a bit. Turns out she and her husband have a band--Filipino of course. I told her about my one-off gig with the Elvis impersonator in the UAE to a throng of Filipinos who'd come en masse one fall evening to a golf course at the Al Ain Hilton Hotel. Some Filipino actors had come to town to tell jokes and sign autographs. They were three hours late. The band and I played a decent raunchy blues jam session after we played the ten songs we'd rehearsed. My slide made the show of course.I'm going to a Filipino St. Valentine Days party Thursday night. The band needs a lead guitar player.Off to the hospital tomorrow for chest X-rays. 2/9/The compound is quiet this morning.

 It's Monday
The compound is quiet this morning. It's Monday, hump day here. Two more days to go until the weekend.The cats are outside chasing crows. If they were to catch one, they would kill it just to have something to do. Despite their yen for intense meditation, cats are not Buddhists.Last night, coming out of the baggage claim area, a Saudi asked if I needed a taxi. I told him where I lived and asked him how much? He said, "100 riyals."I told him "50". He said "60". I said no problem.He shoved in my direction a twenty-something mutawa telling him in Arabic the price and destination.
A mutawa is a sort of community volunteer. 

They have a notorious reputation which as far as I know may be more urban legend than reality. I don't doubt that they roam the streets of Saudi Arabia reminding people of what they should or shouldn't be doing--mostly shouldn't be. But I have never actually seen one live up to the horror stories which sometimes include people being lashed with a camel whip for having their sleeves rolled up. They look like they'd make great villians though.I have found them, the bearded ones, to be the most genteel of the Gulf Arabs. They don't whoop and yelp in class, mostly they do their homework and try to learn. Not all of them are clergy--I suspect few are. 

They mostly have regular jobs, engineers, soldiers, lawyers, taxi drivers, bankers. Maybe some are freedom fighters or terrorists or whatever, but that takes a lot of time and time being away from home and time being away from their families.As for bin Laden--I've heard from different reports of how he was a terror on the disco dance floor before he went to fight Russians in Afghanistan. He's one of like 40 children, maybe more. I wonder what his birth order is? He seems to have middle child attention issues.As we walked to his Chevy Caprice, the sedan of choice for many Saudis, we passed by the proper cab stand. A Pakistani saw us and was so moved by the sight of this American and Mutawa walking side-by-side that he started waving his arms and shouting, "No suh. He not real taxi. 

He has private car. This real taxi suh. Come suh."I thought this through. If I were a member of Al Qaeda, and if I wanted an infidel for target practice or to hold for ransom, I think I would go to the airport to find one. Easy pickings. Jet lagged infidels, just happy to have cleared customs, don't ask a lot of questions when somebody offers them a ride home.Adrenaline kicked in. There was only one of him. I wanted to see where this might go.He took me home, not straight home. I had to use my limited taxi Arabic to give him lefts, rights, straight aheads, and turn-around. We listened to Quranic recitation on cassette tape the entire drive. 

I tipped him with my remaining Cyprus pounds. Almost nothing to write about except for this:As we were leaving the airport, we entered the line at the exit toll booth. A hub cap suddenly rolled past the front of the Caprice. I saw it had come from the weather beaten Toyota in front of us, and that the driver of the Toyota was unaware a hub cap was trying to escape. I got out of the car, trotted off to get the hub cab, trotted back and handed it back to the driver.When I returned to the taxi, my driver said to me, "Allah Kareem." (God is generous). Maybe that's why he decided not to take me out to the desert.My weekends have become routine. Wednesday nights I go the dance class (and flirt with the clatter of South African nurses from the compound next to ours). Thursday morning I have my diving lessons. Thursday night I go on a hash, that is a walk-about the desert with the other skeletal remains of the western ex-pats who have stayed on. Friday D.K. comes around with his Ovation and we sit in the dining area. I've converted it to a music studio.We haven't started working up a set yet, but we have done one of his songs twice, a Texas swing tune called "If You Wanna be a Cowgirl". I know some rock-a-billy licks and as Brian Setzer has shown us, rock-a-billy and swing are first cousins. As Jerry Lee Lewis has demonstrated, first cousins can be much more than first cousins.I showed DK my approximation of the "Jump, Jive, Wail" solo, which has nice slurs, ballsy couplets and sounds best with a whammy bar. If we had a horn section, we could be Lyle Lovett.Being a musician in Saudi Arabia isn't as superfluous as it may seem. 

In the "day", before the bombings, post first Gulf War especially, there were lots of parties on the weekends with live music.Home again."Home is where the heart is, ain't that what they say/my heart lies in broken pieces, scattered along the way."(S.Earle)Emmy, the abandoned adult cat I took in was luke warm on my coming home. She hadn't been outside since I left. Emmy has been fixed. A lot of the strays on the compound have been fixed. Many have been housecats most of their lives, but after the Riyadh bombings, a lot of families left, not bothering to take their cats. The kittens, Jimmy and Mimi were full of joy--not "they were doing back flaps" dog-slobber joy, but they expressed their delight cat style. I got a few head butts. They've been shadowing me.My cats are Mimi, Jimmy and Emmy. 

They can each pronounce their names. Sort of. February 07, "One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there's nothing but unanswered pain. That death's got the final word, it's laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory, feels something smiling through it." TMalickSaturday night in Larnacas. Tomorrow night I'll be in Jeddah.I like my job. My new cats--Jimmy, Emmy and Mimi. I named them so that calling one would be calling them all.The housing is fine.I was looking for a tree house to rent in Baton Rouge.A mile stone tonight: I started my fourth stepAs Dwight Yoakum says, "I may be slow but I aint blind," it just occured to me why Artarama might've failed. Scandalmongers. and the Strawberries. The strawberries.posted by Zaytuni 10:19 AMI skipped the breakfast buffet this morning and went for a walk, first up and down the length of the beach front then back to the hotel area and into this Internet cafe. I did chat with a Scottish school marm, a soft spoken older bird in her late 60s who teaches in Riyadh and uses the word "considerably" a lot. 

Her sentences ended with the tag questions: "isn't it?" or "don't they?" She had gaps in her big British teeth. She said she had to send an Email reply to a job offer in Khartoum where she wanted to teach the "wee ones" which she pronounced "w'ayns."I saw a movie last night, "Lean on Me", about a principal who accepts a job at an innercity high school made up of mostly poor students who had been expelled from other schools. 

How different things might have been between T. and me, if she'd been allowed to bring a baseball bat to school where she taught, also a teenage wasteland.posted by Zaytuni 2:26 AMFriday, February 06, If it hadn’t been for the breakfast buffet, I'd still be in bed.It took me a few hours to fall asleep last night. About 3:30 AM, I caved in, turned on the TV, paid for a movie. Twelve minutes later, I was finished with the movie and before 4, I fell asleep with this thought: don't ever love unconditionally. Love should be like a kissExpect to get back all that you give out. This is not Christmas.
This is love, not an exercise in manners. Giving it without receiving is something else, something far less, a bottom feeding emotion like fear--that stomach cramping, neck tightening fear of being alone, that 4 in the morning and can't get back to sleep fear, the product of some disquieting memories of years behind and the misgiven guesswork of the years ahead. Truth is, we live lives of lubberly exasperation and most of it is not lived in the simple present tense.The most irritating modals: could, would, shouldIn the late afternoon, the shadows of the palm trees lengthen then disappear in the dark. In the morning the sun returns from the dark side of the world and the shadows reappear softening the new day. Six thousand years ago, along this ocean front in Larnaca, wedding and funeral precisions went by and people by the sea witnessed the sun and moon dodging one another. The eyes of the ancient world were calmer. They accepted what they saw then and accept it today.Morning is an artist looking for patterns. I know where the day is going. Today, I am hardwired to make sense out of everything. Symbiosis makes sense. Love should. Human behavior isn't so complex as an object of scientific study. We respond to environment according to what others seek from us, what we in turn hope to get back from them. The complex part is learning how to make the good choices and respond to the environment in a manner reflecting the progress of civilizations. Sometimes we live through unbelievable, sobering difficulties. We are overrun by constant, invasive imbroglios and all the while try to maintain a level head while trying to do what is just.
Our days are beleaguered by setbacks. These setbacks must be overcome. Still, no matter how hard we struggle; the evil eye won’t look the other way. Memory wounds fester. We are besieged by things which obscure our purpose. Belligerence follows.
The physical environment becomes the incarnation of our psychic meltdown. Aggression and often destruction soon follow and if it's caught on camera, on CNN, we can watch over and over the fiery blossoms and clouds of glass, concrete, paper and human remains filling the air.There is no bad or good thing we can do that would keep us from Perfection. Compassion. Tranquility. Detach from expectations, embrace 4 Am whether you are alone or wrapped around a lover."How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doing this? Who's killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might have known?" Thursday, February 05, Homecoming is not always redemption. Departure is not always running off.I went back to the US for a visit a few years ago, late 90's between Gulf postings and the changes I noticed then were these cigar emporiums (now turned back into sports bars) on every block. Digital cable was replacing regular cable, 300 channels instead of 60. Restaurants now had ATM machines inside. ATM machines were everywhere.
The local Sunday paper went from a dollar to a dollar and a half. The hallowed KB drugstores in New Orleans were gone.People had not changed. At the time, I took comfort in this. Family and friends were pretty much doing what they'd always been doing. It was nice to know that although my environment and country of choice changed every year or two, that somewhere in this world, lives and routines had been chiseled in stone. I couldn't wait any longer to go back, watch the nieces and nephews grow, have J. visit in the summers, take T. on import buys twice a year. Came pretty damn close to achieving all of the above.
The same week my mother was mauled by her pack of stray dogs, my dream turned to shit. If I could, I'd blame it on the dogs, on T., on family, even the Bossa Nova. But I can't. I can't blame myself either.
All I can do is examine my part in it--granted, not a small part, but certainly mine was not the only instrument of destruction. There were a lot of collaborators.Last year I went back and stayed for a year. I now can't ever imagine going back to be among those people without significant changes taking place, if not in them, then in me.Does all of America wear a gang face now? I doubt it.The masks worn during my brief sentimental journeys home were warm, hospitable, caring.
Children did homework on their own and families had sit down dinners. Family dysfunction seemed to have gone out of style. Everyone lived for Christmas and the Fourth of July and other holidays to intermingle with family. Turns out, the holidays are less about families and more about getting drunk and remembering why you didn't get along with your in-laws in the first place.My poor sisters.
Two out of three are married to old school southern alcoholics. One of them is a cross between a character in a John Grisham novel and a rabid badger. The other one has even less on the ball. The former I feel would evolve into a decent fellow if he went to a couple of hundred AA meetings. The latter has turned into about 230 pounds of whiskey sopped stars and bars meanness. When I first met him, he had it together, was in AA , spoke in hushed tones and seemed like a nice fellow.The third sister didn't marry a bad guy, not really, as a matter of fact, he doesn't mind cats--he gets a thumbs up from me just for that--despite his solution to all of America's foreign policy problems, Nuke 'em til they glow; let God sort them out. I would like to believe that it is all tongue in cheek.I add to my list of changes the way I react to old school alcoholic rednecks--indifference. That's easy enough to do with 8,000 miles between me and the source.

If I can adapt to these interpersonal changes, one day at a time, I may be able to narrow it to 800 miles.Maybe the President has set this mood. He can't open his mouth without sounding bitter. Even his gait is embittered. They say he's in recovery for alcohol and cocaine. But on TV he plays a man living a life of "self will run riot". Bush the second doesn't seem like the "Easy does it" type to me.When those fellows, most of them Saudis, took out the World Trade Center, it was, according to them and their ilk, pay back for the rape of Palestine. Rape is always some sort of pay back for the rapist--all of it delusional. How does a deluded rapist behave if he is in turned raped?

Has to happen every day in some prison, somewhere. Instead of looking at his part in the way things turned out, my guess is that the deluded raped rapist will feel more sure about his need to avenge himself. Is that what American foreign policy has become--payback time for a deluded raped rapist? Who has America raped? It's a stretch to say Palestinians. We didn't rape the Afghanis--we just didn't return their calls. The Iraqis--we slapped them around for toy country molestation, but we didn't tell them to take it all off.A lot of Arabs and Muslims--I'm sure even some Palestinians, profit on a per-capita basis from this sad affair as much as the US arms industry does, but they're not anymore interested in examining their part in the mess than say T. is in seeing her part in our microcosm of terror.This is not to say that the US hasn't raped before.What to do? The answer is simple. Listen well, learn, be willing to let go of expectations and embrace compromise.Last night walking on the boardwalk, enjoying the cool sea air, a couple approached from behind. I heard them coming. They were walking briskly and they overtook me. As they went around me, I heard this much of their conversation.He said, "The answer is no. I can't do it again."She said, "I'm glad to hear you say that."He laughed and said that he would have quit sooner if he had known how she worried.Compromise solution.posted by "Removing blame means never assigning responsibility to anyone for what you're experiencing. Why do this: If you take responsibility for having it, then at least you have a chance to also take responsibility for removing it or learning from it." W.DyerFor six thousand years, Larnaca has been at the crossroads of civilization. It was a hub city when Babylon traded with the Greeks. Upon hearing of the news of Alexander's death, the market crashed for twenty years. It's sort of like that around here today.
The palm-lined seafront of Larnaca town isn't bustling with trade--not early February. It is drizzly, rain and wind swept. It is, however, the perfect place to brood. Running back to the hotel means running back to a blast of warm air and comfort. The cafes, tavernas, shops and bars are open but empty. I enjoyed watching the British snowbirds hovering around the breakfast buffet this morning. They have lived a long time and it seems that fat sausages, fried potatoes, fried eggs, rashers of bacon and baked beans have done them little harm. They probably take evening constitutionals. I think I'll try to get a flight to Jeddah on Monday. I need to look around this town, try to find a forty-ish Brit school marm who might be in turn looking for a wintry holiday romance. A Shirley Valentine type. We can talk about how hard it is to lose those ten pounds.In the internet cafe across the street from the ancient Mediterranean Sea, there is no one in the place except for me and some Brit with a bored Russian hooker on his arm. I wonder if she's heard of me?In the cafe, around the corner from the computers, the family watches "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

I wonder how many times they've watched the movie?posted by Zaytuni 2:33 AMThere should be no shame or blame involved--just a simple look at what we do to cause harm to others.It's a simple lifestyle.

This is not a solution that demands much--except do not blame yourself (I ruined my life) blame others (they ruined my life) but see it this way: when others behave in a way that is not according to my plans, I am disappointed. when I don't live up to what others expect of me, I disappoint. Then evil gets a foot in the door. The answer is so simple--fucking simple even. I miss T. Think about her often. Wish she were here in Cyprus with me. Throughout my life, there have been many to whom I am indebted to for their support and companionship, whom in ways too numerous to account for, helped to shape my life. I'll only include those who endured two or more years of my chronic whining. was the most misunderstood (but loveable) and a great travelling companion. There has always been a certain familiarity about her, as though we had known each other from somewhere beyond this present life. She is intelligent and immensely beautiful, wild and ungoverned. T. was a constant source of inspiration. Someone who is still most precious to me. Favorite memories: The time I wasn't supposed to be seeing her last summer--but I accepted her invitation anyway. She met me in her hallway wearing the white lacy nightgown we'd bought in Galway. She'd brushed her hair--a rare occasion. Her eyes were bright with life, as though she had been alive for a thousand years, was still in her youth, and would still be a gorgeous young red head in another thousand years. She was happy. She'd been painting all day. Sadly, she'd also had too much wine. The time she, her son Josh and I tried to drive to the mountain in Al Ain, UAE, got lost and ended up in Suniyah--the industrial area where Afghani truck drivers and dirt roads control the night. The time she cradled Blanche in her arms and held what we thought was pretty much a dying cat upon her breasts, sheltering her from eternity for a little while longer, two more years in fact. C.V. is a reflection of many teachers and spiritual leaders, none of whom I ever met. She lived on ashrams for a few years. Although she never achieved "Devi" status, she could really carry a tune; she has a lyrical singing voice. She is someone who has added a new dimension to my travels; she is fellow traveler and a teacher who taught me many different things about getting around third world shit holes. We spent much time together, but drowned in each other's resentments. She is an intelligent, a beautiful person who worries a lot about everything. Favorite memories: One night in Seoul, with her roommate out of town, she cooked me a spaghetti dinner that tasted like home. In 1997, trying to avoid a demonstration  that was about to get violent, we told the tuk-tuk driver to take a short cut, and he did. It was raining hard, night was minutes away and we were stuck in the mud in an Indian cornfield on our way to Luck now, Kathmandu and elsewhere. I sent her the page from my journal years ago and I wonder if she still has it. Ironically, it was her snooping through my journals that put up a wall we couldn't tear down. I haven't really kept notebook journals since. Later that summer, she met Mother Teresa. Two days later, Mother Teresa died. I was back in Kuwait, gearing up to teach another quarter for the University of Maryland.C.H. has been like a sister to me, still is and the closest I've ever come to having a "wife"--one day I'll have to asterisk this and add a footnote that will say something about my three marriages that weren't marriages, lawyerly speaking. She is a warm and loving person. She introduced me to the secret world of cats. Favorite memory It would have to involve Ken "Buddy" Shabby, the three-legged cat from Kuwait who found his way to New Orleans via Heathrow and JFK. He rode a limo from the airport to the hotel one night in New York City. Not too shabby for a tri-pedal. Drinking Irish coffees in San Francisco, watching the sun set beyond that bridge. And many, many others.C.M. was a good friend who hung in there for six years. She hardly knew my family. That says something about our longevity. She has a sharp mind and is good with money, a trustworthy companion who wandered deep into the Honduran bush with me one Christrmas Eve, emerging from a seven hour ordeal, adventure, all night long, till well past midnight, we rafted down the Rio Coco in the rain, the balsa wood raft travelled like a submarine, completely submerged under our weight.. 

We came into Krataura, a Tawakhan Indian village about 1 AM, we drank Chi Cha, danced, ate roasted jungle rat and somebody stole my shoes.

She finally got her litter of children. Three to date, will probably have three more.Favorite memory: Our first Christmas morning together. She came from the kitchen with two cups of coffee wearing Victoria Secret's red panties, a push up bra and a Santa helper's hat. Calvin had climbed into a box that previously held the coffee maker. We took his picture. I still have it.LN was a funny and a weird sister in her family. She managed to make me laugh despite "that time" in my life. She gave birth to J. What else?LN hates me very much. J. on the other hand is a source of immense joy.I'll pay for J.s college, hope to help her buy a car soon and maybe I'll look for a home one day nearer her--if that's what she wants. That's the best I can do.Favorite memory with L.: Having a beer with her the night she told me she was not going to have an abortion.Favorite memory with J.They're aren't many. I first met her last July. She has my eyelashes.She introduced me as her Dad to her music teacher. Perfect.This single moment was well worth the last year, the last 48 in fact.RQ was a diamond in the rough. She touched me in ways I had never been touched before. Favorite memory--I'll keep it a secret. She might be dead.LR was a gentle and flamboyant soul, an exotic beauty with a dancer's build who kept me balanced with her Jewish common sense and sense of humor. Memory?Taking her cousin back to her university, upstate New York. The transmission went out, stranding us in the snow.LB has a sharp intellect and a great pair of legs. Having sex in a study coral in the university's library. Tuesday, February 03, Amsterdamaged.Now wandering between the canals, through the alleys and streets of the Red Light District, it all seems so profane. There is nothing mysterious about this place. Saw Rembrandt's house again. Visited the Botanical Gardens and walked through the Rijkmuseum.I'm off to Cyprus, the island of Aphrodite., February 02, Back in drab Amsterdam: the happiest place on earth  about five hours. It can get pretty dismal after being there, doing that, buying the souveneir.
Walking briskly past the window girls, the human train wrecks. The maximum number of times one should walk through the Anne Frank House. One. > one should see Rembradt's "The Night Watch" one should have a group sex experience. Twice> one should eat rattlesnake. One.Changes must occur. Every now and again, we need to reshuffle the deck. Positive thinking is possible, but it's not necessarily going to result in changes. Change needs to happen, especially in a marriage, one of convenience or otherwise. If you don't have a partner, then you only have yourself to blame. Put the blame where it belongs--on African rhythms and the Dark Continent as a whole.posted by, February 01, "What would you do if you saw two trains heading towards each other on the same track?"I wouldn't shout, "Stop!" That would do no good. I'd watch a train wreck. I've never seen one.posted by 

Kutna Hora is a mining town about an hour out of Prague. I saw a plague column, a memorial to victims of the great plague. There is a bone church ossuary, featuring the intricately laid out remains of nearly 50,000 victims of the great plaque.Walking in the city of Prague at night, with the mist rising from the cobble-stoned alleys, is to walk in the footsteps of Kafka. The eyes of great grim statues look down upon you accusingly throughout the colossal medieval squares of this city. Cafes are everywhere. On the Old Town Square, people are nighttime sightseeing. In the cafes, talk is lively, in Czech, Italian, German, French, English. If you were twenty in the summer of 1997, Prague was the only place to be. 

The Prague evening, with air like soup, heavy with oven baked smells. Perhaps no truth is more momentous and none more difficult to face, than the blackest, most abject one about oneself. The aloofness in T that had attracted me is understood.  

Drinking numbs her too and turns her into as big a bully as me.Our needs don't come from what somebody else has that we lack. These needs stem from what we can't give to others and ourselves. What's missing in our relationships is what we're not giving.

Years ago, as a pre-teen, a teen or even in my twenties I would sometimes find myself in a situation with someone much older--someone who might have been at the time, the age I am now, a forty-something, or older--a fifty or sixty-something. I have always had a yen for imagining my future. Futuristic visions in movies or Disneyland never excited me because I thought these space shuttles, instant meals, bubble cities on a desolate planet, video phones, people flying more than driving were no brainers. In the sixties, we had these things either as proto-typical versions or in blueprint form. What I wanted was my own forecast--not from a Ouija board or a French Quarter tarot charlatan. I wanted my vision to come from someone who had, as my friend Raymond says, "been there, done that and bought the t-shirt."Eventually, the one question I would ask that brought despair to their tones of voice and seemed to sop the life out of their eyes was this one: "Do you have a family?"An answer would come back. "Well, yes, I have a brother. Last I heard he was living in Ohio. But I haven't spoken to him in years."I didn't ask the next obvious question--why? I didn't want to know.  

I didn't want to see how one day through a series of events and miscommunications, actions like unpaid loans or acts betrayals or for no other reason than envy, these family members had lost touch. How? 

How could family not find judiciousness resolve or a language of diplomacy? How could it be that one day, the final tie would be cut with a letter from an in-law--"You're brother has died." And what rattled me more than imagining this was what else I knew the letter would say. "Just before he died, while he was taking a lot of medication for his pain, he told me that he regretted what had happened and that the two of you had lost touch. I want you to know that in then end, he was thinking of you.

"Mother. Fucker. “

How does a person get from here to there? Which sin was the hatchet man? Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, which interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride? Desire for what the other owned or could do? Gluttony? Unnatural or excessive cravings for the pleasures of naked flesh? Anger or furious resentments? Greed or selfishness? Sloth? Could simple moochers eventually cause two people, conceived from the same parents to avoid one another for the rest of their lives? I am here now, in the future. 

I have lived in my bubble cities in desolation. I have avoided moving sidewalks in airports usually because I am in a hurry. I have eaten my prepackaged banquets heated in minutes. I have flown long distances much more than I have driven them. The only thing keeping me from living in space is money.Now, I only get my futuristic computerized family missives if someone needs to vent anger towards another family member or towards me, or if someone needs some money.

 I have some sisters. I haven't spoken to them in months. I have a brother living in Ohio. I haven't spoken to him in years."All you need is a little slow music and you'll have a third-class funeral." Heinrich Boell, Billiards at Half-Past Nine (Signet, 1962)He could not rebuke her. She lied to him, stole from him, betrayed their intimacies, and even once punched him in the nose.She needed forgiveness and she would have it. The inclusion of so much tragedy in her life is the foundation for her absolution. She can't be held accountable anymore than a mother who is certain that God is her soul's administrator. and that He demands she drowns her babies or crushes their skulls with heavy stones. He couldn't get his mind around this paradox. There were many people he knew who belived all actions in life were results of personal choices and personal responsibility.  
It is an AM talk radio ethos that has much of the country by the throat. Yet, these same people base their arrogance and demands on the Power of God. How can it be both ways? How can there be a God who has already made all of our choices for us even before we were, yet, He is not responsible for what happens? If you believe that a woman (or a man for that matter) has no choice but to run into a blazing house to save a life, possibly the life of her child, that she is moved to action because she is powerless over her actions. She is not the commander of her soul. If we accept this as part the mystery, and I do mean THE Mystery, then how can we rebuke a person who is equally powerless over spontaneous but damnable actions? 

Haven't we accepted beyond our understanding there is a force? Suppose it's true? Suppose the devil is real, and he walks among us? What else could it be that would so bedevil this woman? Why would she teach her children and her students about moral responsibilities, about personal choices, about canvasses--negative space, foreground, color combinations, about Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim responsibility when she herself cannot commit her life to her own moral relativism? And what's more, when she gives her children or students examples in such a way that they’re practically forced to believe in them, then where is her grace? When will she finally live in the illusive moments of grace that are beyond her reach? Could the answer be as simple as a lack of money and a daily craving for alcohol? Money is not transcendental. Truth is.There is no veritas in vino.

He was afraid of her. She feared me. He now has to choose to believe that there was much more going on than we could understand.He misread her smile.She couldn't love a peripatetic, fuck him, yes, love him, No..And he now knows that even if he had given her the life she'd told me she wanted, she would see it in the end as a waste of time.It is his belief now that her divorce from the father of her children was the result of two identical counterparts whose commandment and prohibitions worked them like two nodding finger puppets. he'd like to see their despair resolved.If you believe that a woman (or a man for that matter) has no choice but to run into a blazing house to save a life, possibly the life of her child, that she is moved to action because she is powerless over her actions. She is not the commander of her soul.If we accept this as part the mystery, and I do mean THE Mystery, then how can we rebuke a person who is equally powerless over spontaneous but damnable actions?

 Haven't we accepted beyond our understanding there is a force?Could the answer be as simple as a lack of money and a daily craving for alcohol?Money is not transcendental. Truth is. There is no veritas in vino.He was afraid of her. She feared me. He now has to choose to believe that there was much more going on than we could understand.

He misread her smile. She couldn't love a peripatetic, fuck him, yes, love him, No..And he now knows that even if he had given her the life she'd told me she wanted, she would see it in the end as a waste of time. It is his belief now that her divorce from the father of her children was the result of two identical counterparts whose commandment and prohibitions worked them like two nodding finger puppets. he'd like to see their despair resolved.3/28/Sunday, March 28, Timmy, Jimmy and Mimi, my ...Sunday, March 28, Timmy, Jimmy and Mimi, my latest hairball hackers, now have their feline passports. In the next day or two I will go through the mechanical process of leaving for the airport, checking in cats and guitars then board a plane for. . .at this point, who knows. The job in Kuwait is supposed to be a flying me out in a day or two. I received an Email from Oman.

Of course they called it love. Perhaps it was just that. They invigorated one another. They knew it way back then, and they haven't forgotten it even up to the present days. She was indispensable to him. He needed her like a weary mule needs an act of kindness. He was integral to her not because he'd tried to make her happy, but because he taught her what little he knew of the importance of self preservation. But their kindnesses always fell short. They were not integrated at all. Integrity is an even division, the same road with two paths, two parallel lines running forever in the same direction but never intersecting except in an illusory sort of way, up ahead, on the horizon, they seem to merge. Plus, there are no halves or thirds, or any fractions in an integrated whole. Their life together was a patchwork of split seams, pulled apart by the minor points, by those who were less than whole. All kindnesses fractured for the both of them. And as for those years that they'd pledged to one another? They passed on too quickly. In groups, they were both at the center of all the dynamics crucial to all small parties, to all those threadbare conversations and old ideas. They kept many evening get together from dying early. It was a gift they both had and they shared it freely, easily, like the first recognizable notes of a Protestant hymn.There were problems, though. He knew her to be more in touch with her feelings, and less in touch with truths; still, he cared.   

He cared deeply. Alone was a dangerous time for them. By themselves, they were in constant danger of free falling into earth shattering moods that ran along shifting plates and fault lines, and when they'd had too much wine, that is to say, just about every fractious night (except for those when he returned to the church basements and the steps and traditions), if one those slobbering, staggering night they couldn't resist one another, then they schemed to avoid complacency. She could set fire to the night with a look, a smirk, an aside. He would set fire to the night using words like raging flames and slamming doors that caused sonic booms. They both had their talents. She said of him, "He sees beyond."He of her, "She thinks outside the box."Perhaps it was this choice of words that caused them to wonder why? Why when they were alone, why could they never see things harmoniously, the way they did when they were in a room with others. Alone, too often, their ideas and theories collided and they defended themselves with rotting examples. When they fought, the fought outside the box, fought beyond Queensbury rules. It might have been nothing more than simple enviousness which finally drove them apart. If they had relied more on their strengths and resourcefulness and less on their dimities and gloomnities, had they learned to create those best of all possible worlds that they dreamt up during the first few months when their love making had no timing and had yet to settle into their preferences and their dislikes, and had they figured out how to slip away from and evade their Godforsaken moods, then maybe with this seed in hand, they could've sown an ability to live fully in the present moment (Devotion, fidelity, truthfulness, promises. . ..?)The first odd number is "One" It can never be divided neatly by an even number.Devotion, fidelity, truthfulness, promises--two wholes assembled to become one.Odd numbers are unable perform the simplest operation; they can be divided by two of course but not without losing integrity, that state of grace, wholeness, undividedness.Still odd numbers can be a potent force. They not only have the ability to turn our worlds upside down, they can easily become those missing pieces of a Transcendentally crafted jigsaw puzzle, that thing we think of as our soul, my dream last night, I saw her deft fingers at work. In her hands, the odd and even numbers became ordinals. First, she told me to lay back. Second, she told me to take a deep breath, third. . .fourth. . .Finally is not an ordinal number. Finally is a touchstone and a tombstone, finally becomes the rope or the the cross around our necks; finally is our last sunrise; finally can be drinking muddy water and sleeping in a hollow log.__ Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.3/24/What to do? This friend Miss A has everything and ...What to do? This friend Miss A has everything and more than I have ever sought. Unlike tk, unlike cv--the truth seems to carry weight. She is stunning beauty: clear, tanned skin, deep, intelligent round eyes, powers of observation only other men's wives have--never mine; she has a healthy, naturally toned body. Great ankles. And bosoms the size of tennis balls. Though she's been in my life now five or six weeks, last week was the first time we held each other. Tonight I breathed in her fragrance and tasted her. But hat I feel from her, in this timeless moment of perdition is a familiar avariciousness. I am easily convinced that if she were to straddle me tonight, she could bloom a rose in the bottom of my heart. The other night. in my dream, she lay on her stomach while I felt her wetness through her legs, tasted the moisture and breathed in her heard sighs.Codeine. That's what they've given me. Three days worth, twice a day. It takes the pain of having a camera rammed up your intestines. 3/24/The Arabs have a saying: 'Leyum asal w/leyum basal...The Arabs have a saying: 'Leyum asal w/leyum basal.One day honey. The next day onion.The Poles have a cure for a cough. Place a sugary substance like honey on an onion, wait one day, then drink the honey flavored with onion.3/24/He came from New York to save the south from itself He wasn't a handsome man;he wasn't a kind man. But he had enough time on his hands to sell a of genius. It wasn't even the brainchild of someone with above average intelligence. But like concept of an alternative school to city of Baton Rouge. His idea wasn't particularly fresh or a stroke most of the local artist in town, his derivative works had earned him a scrapbook filled with generic reviews, not unlike the local artist who bought an alabaster foot in Cairo and presented it a local show as her own--got a good generic review too. 

The mongoose today. The snake tomorrow.3/21/I headed for Jeddah Tuesday night.Today I gave a lesson on shopping malls, and in the book there was a diagram with a first and second floor of block which were supposed to be mapped out shops numbered 1 -20. Number one was a department and we discussed the variety of goods one finds in a department. Number six was a food court and we talked about the sorts of fast foods one finds in a fod court. Nu,mber seventeen was a New Age bookshop."
Teacher, what means New Age?"A capital offense in Saudi Arabia is mysticism; that is, folk cures, bells, books and candles are not only forbidden, but anyone caught practicing magic will have his or her day in chop chop square. Weekly decapitations is a much anticipated event and one of the few events in this country where crowds are allowed to gather.New Age? "Well, for one, they sell candles and incense. . ." what else? "You can buy greeting cards and nice stones like geodes." I was surprised the publishers allowed it.Then again, no student would argue that Jins in Oman fly on palm trees like witches on brooms. Jins we know as genies.In the Hadeeth, the book of sayings by the prophet, we are warned that if we piss in a hole, we'll wake the Jins.Oh, and you are not allowed to poop on a toilet facing Mecca.Strange place.Human Soft, Kuwait Human Soft, "Human Soft" Kuwait Human SoftToday, more than three quarters of the villas on the compound are empty. There is a skeleton crew of defense contract teacher and trainers. The slides and swing sets sear and corrode unused in the heat. The pool is always open for lane swimming. Of course the pragmatic Saudis schooled in concepts of real politik and international trade are still hoping for the best. But it is that conservative element again who are giving no ground. They seem to have developed a seige mentality and they've circled the wagons. Hence, the 60 mm German MGs and 22mm guns posted around my compound's barricades of concrete and concertina wire. Saudis were running the show in Afghanistan--who could argue that they weren't. Perhaps the western educated editorialists for the Arab News and Dubya's hunting buddies (and most but certainly not all of the royals) are quick to point out bin Laden is a wanted man here as well. But if music wasn't the devil's doing, the shebab would be singing his praises.If the madrassas' curriculum conflicted with wahabi's twisted spin on one the world's most exceptional faiths--for example, if the madrassas taught that women were the equal of men and had the same rights and privileges--do you think the funding would have still been provided?

I teach soldiers--enlisted--the rank and file, sons of the great unwashed not-so-silent majority. This isn't a matter of defending their faith; it is a matter of ridding the world of infidels (with extreme prejudice) because what's been drilled into them is that in the best of all possible worlds, tending one's own gardens is passe. Saudi Arabia is a freakish country made the more freakish by its veneer of modernization. The abuse of women is appalling and this one issue alone, in my immodest opinion, makes it one of the world's largest pariah states and should receive no less than those sanctions imposed on Libya or South Africa.
After the massacres in Spain, there was much high fiving and a general mood of jubilation among my students. Sickens me to think about it. I’m doing what little I can here and elsewhere--blogs, discussion threads. Letters to hometown newspapers. I don't doubt that I am simply whizzing in the wind, jousting with windmills, what have you, but it's better than doing nothing. I’ve lived in Kuwait. UAE. I know the abuse of TCN labor occurs in each, but I do recall the English dailies in both countries reporting abuse and government action in each country resolving the problems. As for the UAE, well, can there be a more enlightened visionary in these parts than Zayed or Maktoum? The Crown Prince in Kuwait seems to also be a pretty decent fellow, a square shooter. There, Sheikh Jaber has the backbone to tell the mutawa to bugger off each time they propose limiting women's rights to equal education. Sanctions. Boycott. Maybe under better leadership, Iraq can become the world's chief supplier of oil. Then I for one would be glad to tell the Saudis to go eff themselves until they mend their barbarous ways. Or they can just send home all the infidels and live in isolation behind their sealed borders ala China before Nixon or Nepal before the the late fifties--until their own low profile visionaries have the cajones to tell the barbarians to make haste for Mecca and Medina and stay there. Why are these enlightened Saudis so freaking gutless anyway? Aren’t they the majority?

Saudi money is without doubt killing innocent people in Moscow, Madrid, have murdered over 3,000 Americans, just murdered another 200 or so in Baghdad.Still, the forward thinking Saudis dare not speak out against the (what?) the ten percent who insist that their brand of Islam is THE brand of Islam. and who run the show here. The bearded ones are outnumbered. Their ideals are more than just a little responsible for the murders of non-Muslims throughout the world.Now that Spain is pulling out as a direct result of the recent slaughter, expect more of the same.3/20/So here's the plan if these things are not benign....So here's the plan if these things are not benign. I'm going to Nepal and checking into the Excelsior. I'll have Hari make runs to the drug stores for Over-the-counter codeine, valium, percodans. I'll give it a week, maybe two, then poof! Maybe I'll do the Al Pacino thing and have a nice meal and order up a rental. 

I 've enjoyed my life. I'm pretty sure they'll find nothing they can't remove and I'll have another chance. But what if? Since finding out, I've asked myself this question time again--what have I missed? What's left? I met my daughter last year. I used to worry that that would never happen. My insurance has her college covered.I can't think of any mysteries (worth solving) haven't I solved. There hasn't been a new lesson in 20 years. The mistakes I've made in recent years were the same I made in earlier years. I'll never be any more focused than I am now--in fact, I'm probably on the brink of becoming less and less focused.I really don't care what next year will bring. I could wish for more satisfaction, contentment, love, and laughter.

 Money is easy to come by, easy to lose, easy to get back, easy to throw away. Pussy? Sure. I'll miss it. I doubt if I will probably more than anything else. But how will I know I'm missing it? Music? I can't remember the last time someone said to me, "Wow, you're really good," and it meant something. Frankly speaking, death is a pretty fair trade for not having to put up with anymore bullshit.3/7/J. seems to have been blessed with a contented character. I am sure he prays daily, asks for nothing in prayer but protection of his wife and children who are not here with him. J. was on one of the Riyadh compounds that was bombed last May. The explosions broke windows in his house.S. is a pariah.

He won't stop talking about himself. Worse than that, he won't let those around him stop listening. How can this fellow not be aware that a person who won't make eye contact and who only lets out an occasional, non-committal grunt hears only static? With my face hidden behind a book, how can he not understand that I wish him to shut up? I am not listening to him when he is talking about his ex-wives, talking about his last job, talking about his hobbies, about where he's been, why he only goes out with women half his age, how many important positions and how much prestige he's previously held.

Yesterday, I returned to the office. J. hadn't returned from class. S. looked busy highlighting exercises in a book. There was a comfortable moment of silence that lasted 15 seconds before S. asked me, "So where do you think you'll go your next time out?""I haven't decided." I mumbled then buried my nose in a book."Me? I've decided I'm going to the United States for several reasons, and I'll tell you why." he began, gorging himself on that defenseless moment of silence.3/7/One day fades into the next. I need to believe that what happens next will be different. This is what has always sustained me. This is also why routine brings on decay. I have always and will always choose change over survival

/I sit in an office waiting for classes to begin, thirsting for patience. Two years on this job means early retirement to Hua Hin, Thailand. That's how long most fellows stay. It's a matter of remembering what I will want versus what I want now. The last time I had a job in the magic kingdom--post CV/pre-TK-- I constantly thirsted for nothing else except for weekly escapes to the two star hotels of Bahrain. I lasted nearly a year, but saved no money. The spirit was willing but the flesh was impatient. I'd either forgotten or ignored my purpose, that is, to keep moving on to another place, leaving all behind except for a suitcase, a guitar and a couple of cats. Unlike every other country on the planet, Saudi Arabia suffers from a lack of female energy in the work place. At work there is no sense of life, sense of self, of death or regeneration. It is all male contempt for one another and quiet competition to lead the pack.3/6/Here in Saudi Arabia the highway is the bread and wine changed to that of the body, blood and soul of God's will. God speaks through the holy spirit of drivers making sudden turns in any direction at top speeds without warning. Traffic lights and speed limits are blasphemous signs of infidelity. What we call "road rage", drivers in the kingdom think of as His will be done because according to Islam, nothing happens haphazardly or by chance. Drive from Jeddah to Taif at night, climb the escarpment that winds through the mountain passes. Caution won't protect you from the oncoming eighteen wheelers trying to over take other trucks. Having the right of way is irrelevant. Drivers are not responsible for their actions. If an eighteen wheeler bashes head on into you, it is no accident. Last night I caught a late ride back to Taif with D. and M. The full moon glowed like a pearl in the handle of a dagger. The road cut through a chain of battered, bald mountains; for thirty miles the road was one wide undivided, unmarked lane with trafic headed in both directions. Several times, beams of light up ahead shone on both sides of the road forcing swerve onto a graveled shoulder creating a great cloud of dust. For an instant, I saw myself as nothing more than a mote in that gray dust and I felt my spirit preparing to leave my body behind and head into the light. Rehearsal with the Filipino dance band lasted today from noon until 6 pm. I now know the chord progressions for "It's Raining Men" and "I Like the Night Life". I'm beginning to like pancit. How the mighty have fallen.3/4/Polish third date lines I've rehearsed today.

Caprice--the car of choice for Saudi suidice bombers. The US consulate guards will get as much a kick out of this as she will I'm sure.

My driving force, my impulsion has always been my scrutiny of my lacking. I would look around and see that though I had my basic needs in stock (and more often in surplus) I had nothing that I really wanted. Whatever I had, I'd give away. I could have sold things, but usually there was not enough time between my decision to skedaddle most lickety-split and the day of my skedaddling. Airline tickets? Check. Passport? Check? Money? Double check. Cats in their cages and their papers in order?"And he's off." 
Whomever I depended upon for comfort and sympathy, I'd try to forget about. I could imagine that some day, somewhere as a result of providence or coincidence, there would be this roomful of irritated women with this to say, "well, the sex was better than OK, but there were issues."So, wherever I had settled and found safety and familiarity,

I'd leave. Of course,

I'd miss it all the moment I'd find someplace else, but by then, the road back was inaccessible. Or if I could clear a path, when I returned I quickly found out that though everything had changed; nothing had changed. I'd scrutinize my life, look around and see that there was nothing I wanted. I'd begin to crave all those things I knew I lacked. "And he's off." 3/2/When I sit and listen to the songs carried on the ...When I sit and listen to the songs carried on the wind, I hear that life is softer than I think.

There is only one small problem. I can sit, but I have a hard time listening. /Time Warp I sometimes have these moments which ...Time WarpI sometimes have these moments which occur too quickly like deja vu, a misfiring in the brain. During these moments the past and present exist simultaneously much as patterns are displayed on a tapestry. During these moments, consequences and effects do not seem to be the end result of my weather beaten determination nor do they appear to be the logical outcome of every choice I've ever made--the good ones and the bad ones. They seem to be more like the weft across the warp. These intricate patterns, like all the geometrical beauty in the natural world, I recognize (but only briefly) as the work of deathless, celestial hands. And when the moment passes, I am left once again to wonder what have I done with my life?

What has happened to my life while I've been arriving and departing from concourses, loitering around luggage carousels, waiting to clear customs, waiting for a knock on my door in a hotel room with a view?My nearest family has become my distant relatives and all of my friends have become these people I used to know. I am to them a loose cannon with a fuse ablaze. They are still back there, pretty much as I left them, carefully managing their lives with some help from television and movies, from whiskey and wine or doctor-prescribed whatevers that get them through their safest and happiest days.

Maybe I have finally muddled my way through the maze of years to find a home on top of this mountain. For now.3/1/As I walk through the house, I look around and see...As I walk through the house, I look around and see that I have everything and more than I need. I no longer wonder how or when I will put into motion change. Change used to be a high-priority; the thought of change was an indivisible constant. In the past, wherever I'd finally arrive became the place where change needed to occur. It's what I did--pushed away, pushed on then tried to go back. There was never any confusion about my purpose. There were never any limits to my impulses of hope and passion, my exhalations of aspiration, my dreams of obtaining the unobtainable. My driving force, my impulsion has always been my scrutiny of my lacking. I would look around and see that though I had my basic needs in stock (and more often in surplus) I had nothing that I really wanted.

Whatever I had, I'd give away. I could have sold things, but usually there was not enough time between my decision to skedaddle most lickety-split and the day of my skedaddling.Airline tickets? Check. Passport? Check? Money? Double check. Cats in their cages and their papers in order?"And he's off."Whomever I depended upon for comfort and sympathy, I'd try to forget about. I could imagine that someday, somewhere as a result of providence or coincidence, there would be this roomful of irritated women with this to say, "well, the sex was better than OK, but there were issues."So, wherever I had settled and found safety and familiarity, I'd leave. Of course, I'd miss it all the moment I'd find someplace else, but by then, the road back was inaccessible. Or if I could clear a path, when I returned I quickly found out that though everything had changed; nothing had changed. 

I'd scrutinize my life, look around and see that there was nothing I wanted. I'd begin to crave all those things I knew I lacked. "And he's off."
Tomorrow night or the night after that, in all likelihood, I will have to explain when and where I got that crappy tattoo on my chest. They never notice it at first. We have other things to do. But sooner or later, wrapped up in our first overnight embrace, they see it and ask about it. The story will begin, "When I was fifteen years old, I never thought anything I could do would last a life time."

Every one has a story to tell. Some tell their stories better than others. I ran across this excerpt from The Future of the Book (Berkeley; University of California Press, 1997), pp. 209-237. In those pre-blog days, Landow posits that "reading and writing fiction in this new environment doesn't in any way represent the death of fiction. In fact, just as the cinema and television, which to some extent have displaced print- based fiction, both draw from it and influence it in turn, so, too, one can expect that e- fiction, particularly hypertext fiction, will exist in such a rich relationship with that created for the print world." Throughout the Gutenberg era, the best fiction always managed to crystallize our own experiences by drawing us into a hyper-real world while giving the protagonist our own powers of observation in terms that we were unable to articulate. The best fiction had to ring true of real life; otherwise, it was bad fiction because it had nothing more to offer than tantalizing distractions from boredom. The best fiction "made y'think." In the post-Gutenberg era, fiction still has its place. This blog of mine for example is more often than not full of i

t. I'm not proposing that what I put here is good fiction--but at the end of the day, it does make me think, and as result, I am less prone to assholic behaviors. This thing started out as an Al Anon exercise, that is to deal with a lot of anger 

I had towards active alcoholics I've loved and loathed. Later, the blog became what it is supposed to be, a journal. And as a journal, what I put here for God and everybody to read is partially based in truth, but it is my truth. And that truth for another may very well be pure bullshit, i.e. from another's perspective, my blog is pure fiction. I had a conversation last night with a friend and the subject of toxic gossip within this ex-pat community came up. A few weeks ago, this blog's address was circulated literally worldwide among current and previous colleagues. For the gossip mongers, Christmas came early. Living the life of an ex-pat is not living a life of empowerment (unless one defines empowerment strictly in economic terms). An important substitution for empowerment is being in the know on someone else's private affairs. Passing along the latest tattle produces a sort of adrenaline high to know something about someone else that they'd prefer to keep secret. What I find liberating and self-empowering about my web journal is that I know how deflating and anti-climatic the whole gossip experience can be when one party asks a second party, "

Have you heard about. . ." and the second party answers, "Yes, I've already heard. . ." Basically they are good people as we are all good people, and they see themselves as such, maybe even more so when blabbing inside information. Perhaps they see a good in it. But if you were to ask them if they thought rumor mongering and snitching are worthwhile human enterprises, they'd all be sure to tell you,"No." 

However, as with all people who are dis-empowered; spiritually, philosophically or economically impoverished or just plain emotionally demoralized by the onset of years, it’s easy for them, for any of us to lose all sense of indignity. 4/29/Today the sky is gray and somber, putting gloom in...

Today the sky is gray and somber, putting gloom in Kuwait on the cutting edge of depression. It's been a Zoloft kind of day. On TV, the bodies pile up; everyday there is fresh kill, more and more corpses, arms and legs retracted into fetal positions from Thailand to Fallujah to Peru. Let's face it. It's World War 3. It may not look like the third one we'd expected. I mean, we aren't living in some post-apocalyptic Mad Max Thunder dome world, but if you open a map and start sticking red pins into all of the countries in the world that have been rocked by explosions, have seen gun battles in the streets or have dispatched soldiers to some place other than home to shoulder a weapon, I bet you'll see that probably just as many countries are involved in this one as the last one; and I am sure more countries are involved this time than the first one. So what's the problem? Strip away the banner of religion.

The dead in Thailand were not necessarily disaffected Muslim youth; they were disaffected youth who happen to be Muslim. And there ain't much any of us can do to stop it. This summer, when I go wandering about third world shit holes, I will over tip my porters, bellmen, waiters, waitresses, guides, translators and the sisters of mercy. I don't need a swami to tell me that this is all I can do. Turning off the television helps.4/28/"There is an integration of all events in the best..."There is an integration of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not traveled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts." (Voltaire) I just finished paying for Julia's film camp, so for my three day weekend, instead of flying south to Bahrain or Dubai, I'm going to gas up the rented Nissan and head north to Umm Qasr on the Kuwait/Iraqi border. I've heard from a few sources that it's possible to drive there. My students tell me Bubyan Island is within shouting distance of Umm Qasr. I doubt if I'll be able to cross over, but it will get me out of the apartment. 4/28/Roundabouts"And God has put us on the earth in order to be pleasant to each other." (EM Forster) Those weary homeless cats death strut past us at a quicker pace.

The evening traffic brakes, halts, dashes forward a few inches, stands still again, new lanes quickly merge, then just as quickly divide; drivers square off like gangsters giving each other the evil eye trying to claim the most important prize ever--a gap up ahead that will move one of their cars at least a half meter ahead of the other. 

Here we are, deteriorating in our fuming cars, battered by the excesses of affluence, demanding to know why it has come to this. Who's at fault? Who do we murder? A breakdown? A collision? A checkpoint? No excuses. The hand of God is absent at the Sheraton roundabout in Kuwait City on a Wednesday night. Shaytan indeed walks the earth. Forgotten in all of this are these final days of serene breezes and an affable sun. This could be time for a meditation, a chance to quiet the mind. Make oneself comfortable. I'm driving over a mountain thick with silence,forgotten by time
Meanwhile in New Orleans, it is after midnight. Ja...Meanwhile in New Orleans, it is after midnight. Jazz fest week.

Tidal waves like Roman phalanxes drowned a small fishing village. Taxis and cars of every make, model and size rushed to join the traffic jam on the main artery to town. The sun shone dolorously yellow. Men in orange jump suits chatteled about tending to weeds and litter. Other men hosed down sidewalks or sat in front of the bakala markets with their newspapers, taking note of the latest enraging body counts. Some of the dead used to be young. Some used to be old. For some the future was the promising land. For others home had become a hostile, foreign country. Here is where we are.

This place has been made for us (not this "place" as land, an area of the world with a name, a flag and borders, but the place that makes us who we are today). Let's lose ourselves in the howl of the wind and the yellow sky.Let's remember those things which subdue our intemperate moods. Let's stand here, together. (Story continued--first draft)
She stretched out on the bed, becoming hyper aware as she analyzed the various members of the committee.

The committee was now fully in session. She was not alarmed. They required particular attention but each member was patient and always spoke in turn. At times, they could be demanding. When she was a child, she decided to give them names and assign them to various duties. This created order and organization that has since been hallowed and consecrated by the passing of time. /

So Go the Maoist
When I took Therese to Kathmandu we spent many hours each day with a waiter from our hotel. This is how I've always acquired guides and translators when bopping around third world shit holes.
I refuse to go to an agency only to have a guide who insists on dropping in to see his many cousins and uncles who happen to own shops displaying over-priced trinkets. Here's the drill. On the first morning after arriving,
I and my Belle de Jour first visit the hotel coffee shop. There is always going to be a waiter who has a good working knowledge of English; he wouldn't have the job otherwise. Unlike the agency's scroungers and baksheesh hustlers, these fellers have always shown me the real thing, their home and at the end of the day, they are eternally grateful for earning 10 US dollars for four hours work. His name wasn't Ganash, but I'll protect him and call him that. For five days we used him as our guide, he wore the same white shirt and black trousers, his waiter's uniform. I've used Ganash as a translator several times since and I can't recall ever seeing him in anything else.
On this trip to Kathmandu, the Maoist rebels had made headway in their need for proper weapons. A year prior to this visit with Therese, I'd gone alone to spend New Year's Eve at the New Orleans Café in Thamel where I have over the past six years taken my Martin guitar to have a good jam session on stage with the owner and his friends.
At the time, the Maoists' arsenal consisted of single shot rifles cobbled together from pipes; most had only Ghurka knives and clubs. They were laughably referred to as a terrorist organization. Since that trip, they'd successfully raided several remote army and police outposts and were now carrying ancient Lee Enfield rifles swiped from the soldiers and security men they'd killed. Bush had recently given the Nepali government 29 million dollars to fight "terror" The Maoists are not really Maoists, that is, they have no support from the Chinese government; in fact, they have absolutely no support from any outside country.

It's a bonafide old school peasant revolt and they don't stand a chance. I wanted to find out more about them. So in between shopping expeditions, visits to stupas at Swayambhunath, Boudhanat and our daily constitutionals up the 360 odd stairs to Monkey Temple, I asked Ganash many questions about the rebels. My first question was how did his government spend the 29 million dollars?

"Yes, Dai, it is like this" – Ganash called me Dai—Nepali for "brother" (Therese was Didi—sister), "many countries give Nepal money for many things, for schools, for hospitals, for roads, for the military." He spoke in the usual hushed tones of a man who has been conditioned to believe that it is possible someone with a gun could be listening. "If some country like US give Nepal ten dollars, the government. . ." he put his fingers to his mouth as though he were about to eat a pinch of rice, "Nine dollars go" he opened his mouth and made a slurping sound."One dollar goes to Nepali people." According to Ganash,
Nepal had become an economic outpost for Indian, Kashmiri and especially Tibetan merchants. The way he described the Tibetan take over of commerce in Nepal reminded me of the Cuban exiles bolting to Miami and rebuilding that city in their own image. Nepal was a buffet table and many ravenous multi-national corporations had beaten a path there to take advantage of its unregulated free market. The Maoist seem to be carrying the banner for those who see themselves as true Nepali, that is the Kirati, Newars, Magars, Gurungs, Thakalis and Sherpas.
These people had dick and they had to beg for that from the outsiders. According to their spin on their history, neither the Tibeto-Burmans nor the Indo-Aryans belonged "Why it is that many Tibetan people live in a house with ten rooms,"

Ganash quietly asked me as we walked to Monkey Temple one morning, "and my family lives in one room? So go the Maoists." Ganash would never say whether or not he was a Maoist or if he wanted to join the Maoists, but he was certain that if they were to succeed in their aims, then his people, the Nepali would be living in the ten room houses.

On our last day in Kathmandu, after we'd been to Bhaktapur where we spent a morning on the roof of our hotel passing out pads of papers and paint to a group of street kids, after our visit to Chitiwan where we didn't go on an elephant safari, but we did manage to take one of the beasts as a taxi from the village to our resort, we returned to Kathmandu. We wanted to buy Ganash something that would help his family, you know, give a man a fish, feed him for the day, but teach him how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.I wanted to buy him a Kalashnikov and battle dress uniforms. Therese refused. Instead we bought his wife a foot pedaled Singer sewing
Down the ravine behind the empty house, The cowbells follow one another into the distance of the afternoon. t my right, In a field of sunlight between two pines, The droppings of last year's horses Blaze up into golden stones. I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on,A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home. I have wasted my life./Ghibah"Gossip mongering amongst one another is similar to one eating the flesh of the dead." (interpretation of Surat al-Hujurat, Ayah 12) Schizophrenic Language Teacher Burn Out Story (first draft continued)When she felt, mostly she felt betrayed. She continued to think about him, thousands of miles away. The good was not going to be forgotten. She imagined him now on some dusty off road or stony mountain path going nowhere special except from point A. to point B. She imagined him laughing, but he wasn't alone. He was at his best hiking through the clouds in the rain. She thinks about how maybe, right at this moment, some gentle waiter in a gentler village was bringing him (and whoever she is) their bowls of lentil soups and rice. He will try to say “thank you” in the waiter’s lyrical tongue. Time to Go (Schizophrenic Language Teacher Burn Out Story)The sun was bright with afternoon, so she'd closed the curtains. She lay on her bed in the dark, resting, not thinking, and not feeling. Her flight was scheduled for Thursday, in two days--but it may as well have been another five hundred years before her departure. She had no concept of time; a minute or an eternity had passed since she collapsed there. She needed to go home now.

She had forgotten how to express the range of emotions which once made her feel like every one else, emotions ranging from despair to hopefulness, to joy or elation. They were quieter now. The committee had adjourned. That's what she called the voices. She stared at the patterns on the curtains and looked for the familiar faces of the man on a horse, the dancing woman, the angel on the wing, the two cows laughing riotously--at her. Sometimes the patterns became other things as when clouds shape shift when gusting across blue. Whenever she had a moment to herself to think about things, say if she were in a cab, in bed at night, if she was waiting for water to boil, she thought of nothing else other than those who conspired against her and today that happened to be every one. She could just leave the country; let the injuries go, let time put it all in perspective. She could also start taking the pills again. But why should she? She wasn't at fault. They'd started it. She could not just let it go. But suppose that after a year she thought about things and found out later that not only was she in the right this time and on all accounts with each and every one of her enemies?

How would she feel about herself? How could she sleep at nights, look at her reflection? This feeling was like a chronic pain, a lingering illness and she knew it would not only be there in a year or two, but for the rest of her life--unless she traded blows now. She would have to act now if she were to exchange blows with them all. She had to do it. Now.

The impulses of the burnt out disgruntled employee...The impulses of the burnt out disgruntled employee are as capricious as the needs of a child. They have been made delirious from years long on rage, short on empowerment . Their trail of years has been corrupted by an expansive brooding virulence. I had a run in with a top shelf schizophrenic recently.

 The upshot to schizophrenia is you know you won’t die alone. /In this paradise, Kuwait, where the ocean meets te...In this paradise, Kuwait, where the ocean meets ten miles of coastal shopping sprees, I turn forty-nine today. Neither am I up for it nor does it bring me down. Early this morning, I received a text message from Jeddah, "Happy Birthday". To celebrate, I think I'll get a haircut. 4/18/Malapropisms of TK: forfilled for fulfilled. World...Malapropisms of TK: forfilled for fulfilled. World wind for whirlwind. I "I got a little gal who wears her hair up high,the boys all whistle when she walks bye. . .Mind your own business then you sure won’t be minding mine." (Hank Williams) I met Isaac Singer once in Miami. He was in a wheel chair and he'd just finished reading from The Magician of Lublin . I sat in a student desk in a room. Singer was born in Radzymin, Poland. He'd gotten out in 1935. Ten years after leaving, his entire family back in Poland would no longer be. He wrote about Krakow throughout his life. He was Polish and he was Jewish. I got a sense that of the two, the first is how he defined himself. He was in his late eighties when I met him (he would live to be a hundred). My one question to him was," Would you one day consider living in Poland again?" He said, "Of course. It is my home."

He said this despite Auschwitz, Majdanek, Plaszow, Stutthof, Belzec, Chelmno, Groessrosen and Treblinka. He said this despite the locally hired goon squads contracted by the Nazis to rape, to beat to death the inmates if the urge stroked their fancies; hired to collect the gold from the teeth and shoes from the corpses of his family--and from friends, Juden and Pole alike. He knew. He knew that perhaps half of the dead were Jewish. The other half were not. What the dead had in common was their mother tongue and flag.

I am thinking today about Poland. Everyone remembers Václav Havel and Czechoslovokia, the Velvet Revolution, the western collectives of Lithuania and Estonia, Georgia et al breaking away in 1989-1990 because CNN was there. But a decade before all this, before CNN was on hand to make it real, there was Lech Wałęsa. He was a labor leader, sort of the Polish Jimmy Hoffa although unlike Hoffa--who went to prison for racketeering, Walesa won a Nobel Peace Prize. By 1980, Poles had no problems telling the USSR to fuck off. In Jeddah, I had in my crosshairs a Pole. She has no teenage children. Check. She is close to my age. Check. She is married. Question mark. Here's why I think maybe, sans husband or at least with husband squirreled out of the picture in Poland, this might work.

Few are mothers, these American teaching here and although this may have helped a few of them to slow the onslaught of years upon their faces and figures, for some it seems to have damaged their thinking and the ways they express their demands to have these instinctive cravings fulfilled, these mama instincts in full costume, ready for the curtains to part, but there in no nor has there ever been an audience to receive these needs for caretaking, nurturing, safeguarding and invigilating.

I have no interest in locking into step with many of my male counterparts who drown themselves in their own slobber trying to acquire a tiny Thai wife, a cunt of their own, one as collectible as Chang Mai porcelain. She ascended from the dismal poverty of unimaginable brutalities caused by war, cause by occupation--two brutal regimes (neither of the two exists anymore in part due to the sacrifices of people like her parents, her grandparents, uncles, aunt and the blood and bones of many others who speak her language as a mother tongue, who celebrate Christmas in similar fashion, who spell their babies' names with the same diacritical marks). I think today I'll float from here to the mountains like a balloon escaping on a gust. 

We are all bi-pedal critters spending a lifetime ricocheting between decisions and indecisions. Get used to it. Unrestrained from choices, we are free to rejoin our shrewdness of apes, to skedaddle from this constant brood of cackling, flightless birds, and breathe. Where I go, you'll follow, you'll always be there to search for the heart of the matter.
Far Gone"There's more to life than a little bit of money, you know. Don't ya know that? I just don't understand it. And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day..." (says Marge, Coen Brothers, Fargo)Two things on BBC World this morning.One--Northrop has edged out Raytheon on a spy plane contract. Call it Shaeden Freude, but "Good Two--US Embassy and Consulate non-essential personnel have been ordered out of Saudi Arabia. Somewhere in the magic kingdom I expect sub-contractors living on the merchants of death compound from which I've recently bailed could be losing some sleep soon.
I wonder if the NSA has flagged my blog and labeled it chatter. Here's my impression of Richard Clark. I personally don't feel that the defense contractors' compounds are adequately prepared to deal with mortar rounds being fired from a back yard or RPGs from the rooftops near my old compound. The guards aren't the best and brightest. They're overfed, overweight and not all there. Molotov cocktails would shake them up, scare them off. The gate opens slowly, but it also closes slowly and wouldn't be hard to squeeze through during a mad minute. What about diversions? A well-timed telephone call would take the phone operator's eyes off the security monitors. If this were to happen simultaneous to a fender bender in front of one of the machine gun bunkers, it would be easy for a couple of fellers with folding stock Kalishnikovs and back packs full of C-4 to use one of the many trees surrounding the compound as cover, to use wire cutters on the concertina wire, and to cause a whole lot of grief, now wouldn't it? Bob H, Bob S, Dave K, M Scott, B.G. and Mark P.--reread the "Fargo" quote. The rest of you'se guys--see you in hell.4/15/Sitting in the airport in Bahrain on a visa re-sta...Sitting in the airport in Bahrain on a visa re-stamp run. Mooshkeela.

The Arabic word for problem; Just checking into the counter I encountered these mooshkeelas:1. Mooshkeela. At the counter: No record of my reservation despite having made it yesterday and reconfirmed. Go to the Gulf Air ticket office.2. Mooshkeela. At the Gulf air ticket office: Can't upgrade to Business Class for less that 90 US. The upgrade on the flight from Jeddah to Kuwait was half as much. 3. Mooshkeela. There is no record of your reservation. (check again)4. Mooshkeela. There is a record, but you are on stand-by. (Check Again.)5. Mooshkeela. You are actually scheduled to fly from Kuwait today. (CHECK AGAIN).6. Mooshkeela. Go to counter 17 to register a complaint.7. Mooshkeela. Now at counter 17: After ten minutes an agent passes by--the counter is closed. (But I was told to come here). Let me see your ticket.8. Mooshkeela. There are seats available, but we have no confirmation of your reservation. What can I do? (You can remember you're in the service industry and that you now have a customer who needs your help due to a mistake your reservation agent made yesterday. Her name is Rose Marie. I reached her at 335-777. Here is the confirmation number: PMPCIA. Try once more to find my reservation or I will call her manager.)9. Mafi Mooshkeela. Oh, here it is. No problem. We can reschedule you now. Have a nice flight. (Thank you) I returned the thank you. Having just had my ashes hauled from Bahrain to Tunisia to Morocco in a double-billed tag team production (which came in under budget by the way), I was in a better humor and less prone to assholic behavior. "One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and the otherwould have us all on a straight pepper diet" (Bill W. and others) 4/15/Room Service

What I loathe about me this morning is the way I react to being hustled. For breakfast I ordered two poached eggs, wheat toast and fresh fruit. The person taking my order said he understood and gave me the price. Instead I got the Full Monty British breakfast including all kinds of sausages and fried hash browns, canned fruit cocktail and baked beans. I sent it back hoping that the cook wouldn't rub his dick all over on my toast when he remade my order. (When I took my orals for my Master's, I was so anxious and out of it from studying, I went early to the room and did this to the chairs where my committee would be seated. I passed five out five--I only needed three out of five--but I didn't earn "with distinction") 

My order came to the same price as the British breakfast--about six bucks more than the agreed upon price. I tried to send the food back, but the bellman began his sub-continental blathering--talking wildly with his hands, wobbling his head back and forth and instantly getting heated, "no sir this and no sir that." I asked him to please stop and listen to me. I wanted to begin explaining that I'd already discussed the ala carte order and the price with the person who took my order over the phone and that I was paying ala carte--less price than the greasy UK breakfast that first showed up. But I could only get perhaps three or four words out. This is how the sub-continental handles dispute--by interrupting you and just blabbering away with jabberwocky syllables. I invaded his space and grabbed his flailing arms. 

This left him in shock. I forced his arms to his side and straightened his body into a perfect military "Attention!" posture. I put my hand over his mouth and said, "Shush." I said this in calm, measured, spine chilling and hushed tones, "Listen to me. Shut up and listen to me. Go back to your boss. He knows the price." Touching him and a positioning him like a puppet was far worse than any sort of freaked out screaming rebuttal. Had I yelled, he would have just kept talking, waving his arms about and bobbling his head from side-to-side. It is the sub-continental way of closing off the ears with fingers and chanting "I'm not listening. I'm not listening. Oh say can you see, the dawn's early light. I'm not listening." Physically invading their space gets results, but it strips them of all dignity.

 I may have inflamed his own feelings of bottom feeding self esteem--provided of course that he has ever had the luxury of the sin of pride. I felt like an old fashioned school yard bully, a feeling I wonder if other American or British ex-pats also have following similar situations--and I've seen plenty of these rants and rages at hotel front desks, train station ticket windows and restaurant tables. This is why I chose to be different and instead of increasing the heat through an increase in volume, I went chilly. 

Now I have to wonder if this is still the sin of pride, this feeling that I feel at least carries some hope for me and my own bi-pedal condition only because I've been schooled in the belief that in fiction at least whenever the anti-hero realizes his part in the cycle of asshole profusion and good Samaritan famine, I am supposed to argue in my short essay answers (one to three paragraphs) that hope exists for our Byronic protagonist. I keep forgetting that as I've aged, I've become heavier, not so much in the belly. I have widened, especially in my shoulders. I'm not tall, but I am wide below the neck. You could nickname me "Bull" if I was a few inches taller, an angry six footer. I look as though I could break bones and snap necks with one quick jerk, but I can't.

 I'm too soft, mushy and unmuscled. Still, the clothes hide the mush and the youthful face creates the illusion of bulk combined with quickness which can be intimidating and I don't seem to mind using it at moments like the one this morning. I mind it afterwards; I am shamed by it.4/14/YESFrom the University of Maryland regarding evening work at Camp Doha teaching US troops! I did this last time in Kuwait and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career. Plus, for Thanksgiving, I always brought a honey baked ham. I could buy one at the PX. And unedited Esquires.

Hello Mr. Oliver, I have received your e-mail and would like to know where you are located in Kuwait now. We are planning our Term 5 schedule and I would like to talk with you when possible. What is your telephone number. Thank you. Sincerely. . .University of Maryland. . . 4/14/"Till then I salute you with a significant look th..."Till then I salute you with a significant look that you do not forget me." ( To a Common Prostitute, Walt Whitman, published posthumously, 1900) "He hoped that when he finally entered her she'd be able to feel a closeness while attached to him. He wanted to look her in the eyes during those moments, find something there in bed besides obliging squeals, something closer to unity. " (Chasing Christianne, Me, short story idea, a few days ago) Of the saddest among us, we must include the sensual gourmand with his broken heart of gold. He does what he does for affirmation as much as anything else, and in this way, he also dies a little more each time he makes an arrangement. 4/13/Living Well is the Best Revenge (The Bahrain Boogie)"I hate to see that evening sun goin' down. . .that could only mean, I'm on my last go 'round" (St. Louis Blues, WC Handy)

he muezzin sang just before light returned color to the street scene below. My cats sat on my legs near the foot of the bed, staring at the horizon and listening for the sound of sunrise. They wished they could open the window and fly away. To the east--sharq--the night turned to gray and gave up color. The first color given up by the night is red on the horizon. The sky scrapers were no longer silhouetted against the night. Some of the building guards, the harrasses (whose job too often is to harass, especially if there is a KD to be made in looking the other way) in their Egyptian galibayas, their striped day and night wear--different from the Kuwaiti gowns for men, the white dishtashas in need of gold cuff links and creases that can cut your throat, different because the Egyptian gowns are colorful and have short sleeves--make their way to the mosque. Others harrasses have cars to hose down and buff. It's a job, isn't it? Yousef once said to me, answering my question, 

"Which is your favorite salat, (prayer)?" 

"The first one." He was a big feller, an entrepreneur who bought discarded communication cables, took them to the desert, burnt off their insulation and salvaged the copper to resell to scrap yards. Of course he had a ministry job, most Kuwaiti men do. 

Its sort of a Kuwaiti dole system. He didn't have to be on the job. This meant he had a little influence with someone or some family above his family's station in life; this influence is called wasta and it is a combination of all the unethical business practices we make laws against in the US and sometimes, we even enforce these laws such as cronyism, corruption, kickbacks, nepotism and so on. What I have always found compelling about life here is how human nature is an awkward mess of moral contradictions best left under the amorphous veil of "a different way of looking at things". 

Does the US understand that this is how things are done here and in Iraq? Does the US have this clue? They must. Yousef carried a pager and if his Indian assistants needed him to sign off on a decision, Yousef would hear from work. His real office was a sheesha bar where he smoked strawberry tobacco and drank sweet tea. His other office, which he seldom visited, was in the communications ministry (need a telephone bill dispute resolved quickly-call Yousef) where he was one of the men in charge of the air conditioning system. He had first dibs on discarded wiring of course. "I like the morning salat," he said to me. "It is the baby of the day.

And everybody love the baby."

I lay in bed thinking about my first trip to Nepal with CMV.

We took an early morning bus across the border from Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. The clouds drifted around the mountains hiding their peaks. It was still early morning. The first time I set foot in Nepal, the bus that brought me from India pulled into a rest house with a tea shop. I saw a man slinging a bag of bricks on his back, carrying them with the bag straps fitted to his head. It's a job, isn't it?

The clouds and the haze made uphill and downhill travel a little iffy. I found myself in my seat, leaning against the bus as it took its sharp turns as if my body weight would keep the bus from slipping off the road and into a deep, Himalayan ravine. 

CMV was traveling with me. She slept on the bus. She could sleep anywhere, standing if she had to. My ears popped all morning. When the waiter at the rest house brought me tea and veggie Mo Mo (Chinese dim sum, Korean mandu, same same) I used these words for the first time, "D'hanyabadt" which approximates "thank you" in Nepali, though it is not quite the same. 

To thank someone for a a gift is an insult, like saying, "But I didn't get you anything."D'hanyabadt is more of a blessing, a recognition of the other's light. "I went to the crossroad, babe, I looked east and ..."I went to the crossroad, babe, I looked east and west Lord, I didn't have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, I'm in distress" (Crossroads Blues, Robert Johnson)I have been looking forward to being awakened by the co-mixing of voices and bare foot steps outside my room. My bathroom would be a hole in the floor capped in porcelain, a spigot and two buckets. One bucket is used to flush--

CV reminded me the flushing must be done even after a pee. I'd leisurely soap and rinse then join the voices and their foot steps. I would go to have a cappuccino at an Internet café, would leave there and walk to the temple and pray from the bottom of my camouflaged heart for nothing. I went to a meeting last night and said, "See y'later," then got a ride home from a member who offered help if needed, if, for example, the counter agent caught that Mimi and Jimmy are approved by the Thai Airways for transport to Bangkok on the Thursday flight, but not for tonight.  

Once, in the Dubai airport, on my way to Sri Lanka, the boarding had closed though there was still an hour until flight departure. I argued and got nowhere. I flipped off the agent, a woman, a Muslim woman. After the police put handcuffs on me, they walked me outside, and we started for their office. I shuffled and stalled. They told me to walk faster. I came to a complete stop and said, "Is this fast enough for you?" I kissed the pavement in a most severe manner. I am sure I wasn't practicing Vipassana that night.

Tomorrow I will hear from the new, private rich kid's university here in Kuwait about a mid-semester hire. What balance! Last fall, I resigned at mid-semester because the Saudi job was about to fly me away.I will never go back to my alma mater again. A semester later, I am in Kuwait, and someone here has resigned to go home. She'd taught last year in Jenin. The nightlife in Jenin last year was limited by the patrolling tanks, bulldozers, infantry skirmishes, bombs bursting in air and an iffy Internet connection. She's ready to go home. My year back there had its limitations. That's why I'm here.I can still have my vacation needs met in Bahrain or Luxor, return Friday night and meet my class Saturday morning. Jimmy and Mimi would also stay in a cat house.

I want to dig in somewhere, I really do, but I'm in no hurry. Staying here, I'd know by June if I want to stay or accept a better offer, either for money or for lifestyle.Julia is going to college in 16 months. She's my daughter and a priority. I've actually met her--twice.I have yet to meet an employer in the English teaching business who believes that during a probationary period the second party eyes the first party suspiciously as well."Cuz I'm non-stop, and I'm always hustlin' twenty four seven" (2Pac)Yesterday, an instructor at the school gave her notice and she's leaving in two days. I'm in country.

This could be luck or coincidence. There might be a job here starting Saturday, with a furnished two-bedroom apartment. I actually used these terms: prior arrangements, other opportunities, need to know as soon as possible. Today I am taking life one hour at a one time.4/11/I will self immolate the next time I hear someone ...I will self immolate the next time I hear someone in Kuwait talking about money; "KD" is to the spoken word here as rain is to spring time in Louisiana. There's more to life that money said Marge in Fargo. "Don't you know that." 4/11/I am not going to Hua Hin. I

'm taking the advice o...I am not going to Hua Hin. I'm taking the advice of a feller from work who just spent the last fifteen years in Thailand teaching English. To teach and play music, go to Ko Samui.Hua Hin appealed to me because I know my way around. T. and I spent a week or so there. I'm setting up an agenda and this one will not involve stepping back.The feller said, "If you go to Thailand, you won't come back."Indulge me. Let me in on it, the mystery, the secret, and the joke. Let me believe in you (again) as the jet leaves the ground, when my eyes are hazy and fixed on the horizon where ocean meets sky. I am always thinking of you. Let's dance in this beam of sunlight which my portal reflects, let our bloods boil. Let me ease your suffering. Let me believe in you. 4/11/I need another flight. I'll depart tomorrow for Ba...I need another flight. I'll depart tomorrow for Bangkok. I'm exchanging sand and fire for sand and perfumed gardens.I remember too much.My earliest memory is being put into my parent's bed for a nap. I was young enough to remember the womb. My consonants and vowels had a system, understood by no one but me. I might have been between 18 months and 2 years old, but I had drawn and exhaled a breath a half a million times or more. Soon I would be able to walk along side my mother in the supermarkets, on a leash. I had no concept of time; a minute or an eternity passed. I couldn't sleep. I became restless. I could stand, but I had no sense of balance. I used my hands to grip the headboard and I pulled myself upright.  

I strained to hold on. There was a window above the bed. I saw parked cars on an empty street. It is a vivid memory. I may have been electric with wonder or maybe not; maybe it was just a sunny window sill that warmed my body. 
The light on the other side of the window and I were old friends. I smiled and welcomed it. We'd met many times before. I loved it more than I loved bubbles. I turned around when I heard the door open. I recognized my mother's voice and this sound. "No!"4/10/My first apartment in Korea, I had a roommate who ...My first apartment in Korea, I had a roommate who was born without ears. 

For furniture we each had a "yo", a bedroll mattress in each room and a lot of blankets scattered throughout the fish-stunk dump. The doorbell didn't chime. It tweeted a sound I had never heard. My first apartment in Kuwait was a four bedroom cave with a living room as long as wide as high ceilinged as a hand ball court. 

For entertainment, I'd adopted a three-legged cat and named him Ken Shabby, and I had a digital clock radio called a "Dream Machine". I could pick up Armed Forces Radio. The highlight of my day was a rebroadcast of David Letterman's top ten lists and yelling at Rush Limbaugh. I didn't know I was picking on a strung-out oxy-contin monster. I also bought bootlegged Nirvana's Unplugged and the Beatles BBC sessions 1963 - 1964. 

I had a Walkman. Hearing Kurt Cobain take a deep breath during a tacit moment at the end of his cover of Led Belly's "In the Pines (Black girl Black Girl)" then exhale a scream, a primitive howl made me shiver and call him an asshole for robbing us of his gift.I also remember appreciating the Beatles; live in a studio, performing for the archives their Hamburg bar band sets. They were a bar band for almost as many years as they were THE BEATLES--a really good bar band. The harmonies on "To Know Her Is to Love Her" were live, no overdubs, and no less perfect than their last great and maybe greatest vocal number "Because".

My first apartment in Saudi Arabia was a clapboard unit in back of a cement factory. I spent a lot of time and money escaping there to Bahrain. I remember more about that year than I'd care to. Today, I bought a ticket to Thailand. Mimi and Jimmy, my felines are coming. 

We leave Thursday. I will stay there until I decide which university gig I will take because once I get last year blanked out of my system, I have to settle and prepare for the Julia Rae College Fund. I am going to Hua Hin eventually, or some place like it to get my mind right. What I need is a slumber party. We'll bake s'mores and break out the Ouija Board or the magic 8 ball. It’s natural. Before T. went to work at EBRATS, before that job drowned her in Kendall Jackson, I joked that if she went before me, I would go to Thailand to grieve. Har har. I'm on my way. I ask my eight ball if I will meet the love of my life soon. I shake it and turn it upside down. Floating fish belly up is my answer: try again. Fear of Landing You look everywhere, but you can't find it. 

You've worn a pattern into the carpet during your search, but this is not apparent because you are too close to the ground to see it. You take stock and find nothing in the basement, the back room or the attic. You're out of inventory. You feel exposed. You need a bird’s eye view of these well-trod paths. You need to retrace your steps. 

Maybe you'll find what you're looking for there.The problem is, that over time, you have built a ceiling without giving it much thought; for sure, you never thought that you'd have to rise high above everything to examine these patterns, naked to grounded eyes.So, until you can see these patterns, that missing thing will stay missing. 

You decide not to stay confined to the ground any longer. You need to take flight.You spin the globe, study all of its longitudes and latitudes; tilt it from axis to axis. Just being on the wing has its advantages. Somewhere else, or any place but here, you feel you have never been more alive.Job offers keep coming in. Today an offer at a university in Saudi Arabia--eastern province, thirty minutes from Bahrain, weighed in.(I can't decide where I need to go to restock my inventory. I think A. I'll go to Kathmandu to sort it all out. 

There is a Vipassana meditation there. B. I'll go to Thailand instead. They also have Vipassana meditation centers. Then again, Spalding Gray was deeply schooled in Vipassana.

 He says that when he stared at a wall for six hours straight, he began to see pornographic shadows)I met Allen Ginsburg once. 

He signed my book of his poetry. He wrote one word. Breathe.4/9/“ . . .the conceit of the long-distance traveler i...“ . . .the conceit of the long-distance traveler is the belief that he is going so far that he will be alone." (Paul Theroux, 1975)Chasing Christianne (draft 2 Act One)He sprawled in his bed, thumping the remote into the palm of his hand, trying to revive it. The sound was muted on CNN. He did this during business reports and commercials. Now the program had changed to the headlines. There was another video feed from the reporter's laptop. Somewhere on the road refugees moved in one direction, soldiers in the other. The woman reporter, that one with the Beatlemania bangs and dark brown, watery eyes, wore a bulletproof vest. He'd pressed the mute button several times but no sound.He had earlier been out shopping.

 He’d first smoked some hash at a coffee shop. 

Then he bought a bottle of chardonnay, a bottle of pinot noir, a ball of Edam, a thick round disk of Gouda and a fat cube of Maasdammer cheese. 

On his way back to his room he stopped by another coffee shop and smoked a little more hash. He then walked across the canal bridge to his hotel in the rain.His hotel, a retired riverboat, was dry docked and now rested on the Amstel River, a fifteen-minute walk from the main entrances and exits of Amsterdam's Central Station. 

Its annual white wash never lasted more than a month or two, here and there, weathered by exhaust fumes, rain and fog, previous white washings blotched the boat hotel's complexion, aging it a little more each year he returned to it.Now, he was trying to do two things at once, to unmute the sound while waiting for a knock on his door. Both gave him a low-intensity feeling of stress in his stomach. He thumped the remote harder and the batteries flew out of their case. Each landed on opposite ends of the berth, no more than twenty feet apart. The TV remained silent but the channel changed to a Dutch quiz show.There was a knock on his door. She came into his room. He’d asked the agency to send a European, thirtyish with hips not too thick, not too thin.“My name is Jack, and yours?” he asked. “I’m Alyson, “ she said, taking off her coat and scarf. 

Her breasts were rounder and thicker than average. He’d requested that she not have implants of saline or plastic jelly. She looked motherly and kind.After the money exchanged hands, after the shoes came off, he began by offering her a glass of wine. She sat on the bed. He sat across from her in a chair. His first question, was "“Do you have children?”He asked this question for a reason. He knew this question was commonly asked by the nice fellers, and they were all nice fellers. But his was a leading question.

He hoped that when he finally entered her she'd be able to feel a closeness while attached to him. He wanted to look her in the eyes during those moments, find something there in bed besides obliging squeals, something closer to unity."Yes, two," she answered.4/8/"If people would tell their stories of battles in ..."If people would tell their stories of battles in this simple way, I think the cause of truth would not suffer by it." (Thackeray, Barry Lyndon)Is today the day I let go? Maybe.I stepped from the shower today and my towels weren't there. I looked here and there. I raised a scary ruckus on the phone and a maid brought towels to my soaked self wrapped in a blanket. 

After I dried myself off, I saw the towels had been swept off the bureau by the cats and there they were, crumpled behind a curtain. I apologized with a tip on my way to catch a taxi. I don't know how to say, "I am sorry" in Bangla Deshi other than "Here's some money for you."If a miracle is an event that defies explanation, then I have to say my being here today is more than a stroke of luck. //

Since 1992, when my Honduran guide, Jorge, met me at a sidewalk tavern one early evening in Tegu, military map in hand and an assurance that most of the landmines on our trek route had been cleared by the Meskito Indians, I have been a war zone voyeur, or more accurately, a behind the lines war whore--a non-combatant, a scavenger of someone else's destitution. How to locate a near war zone: go to the US State Department's advisory board and flag the places they strongly urge you to give a wide berth. Am I not just a rubbernecker who can't take his eyes off the footage of that second jet firing up the other tower? 

Why? Many reasons I suppose, besides bragging rights.1. WWII newsreels footage--I freeze my channel surfing every time I find those Doolittle bombers lumbering off the rain swept flattops.2. Going through basic training and learning how to shoot, move and communicate during a period in US history when we weren't policing the second and third worlds. As an infantry medic in peace time, I developed a hang-over cure for the walking wounded which consisted of Tylenol, Benadryl, ice packs and light duty."

I got a mojo, yeah don't you knowI'm all dressed up with no place to go." ("I Aint Got You, Jimmy Reed)3. Addicted to pandemonium. (It's quiet. Too quiet.)4. Great bargains on accommodations, guides, and companions. Name it. You want I kill some heem for you? ten dollah.5. They haven't invented a pill yet that can give me the same buzz.I suppose I could be forgiving of myself. I can't stay mad at me. I give away dollars by the fistfuls wherever I go. I always remember all the beautiful people as just the way I want to remember them, not how they were.

 I want these memories to course through my veins, riding every ebb and flow of my temperament like driftwood abob on the great routine of a sea of all things, which have always been and will be there until the seas give up their mountains again. I want to feel the gratitude and the light in everything I do.I don't want to walk or talk about the Jesus just want to see his face. (Mick and Keef, 1972)Indulge me. Let me in on it, the mystery, the secret, and the joke. Let me believe in you as the jet leaves the ground, when my eyes are hazy and fixed on the horizon where ocean meets sky. I am always thinking of you. Let's dance in this beam of sunlight which my portal reflects, let our bloods boil.

Let me ease your suffering. Let me believe in you.I try imagining myself back there last year in the spring when a salty disquieting faith in her along with a measured obedience to the settler in me, and unashamed ignorance of the truth in before my eyes gave me the sense that I could believe in something. I became a father that year. My daughter, Julia, ocean eyes and all came into my life everyday through Emails then phone calls.I can't imagine what I felt when I first saw her even though I lived the moment. 

Imagine seeing your eyes and hands fully grown on another. Now imagine having that all go away, slip back into the shadows. I do succeed at relinquishing and adopting everyday./I want to know on what day it is that I will let g...I want to know on what day it is that I will let go and start to accept that this thing won last year, in May, when I was exchanged (during the day, but certainly not at night) for a full summer's worth of abandon, of all day clay throwing and wine drinking, what could have been a life lived simply if not fully. 

Had it only been two summers before this that we discovered each other against a backdrop of guitar, a fiddle, an accordion and a chorale of Cajun lullabies?Only two years before this, one summer for two weeks, in the early mornings, we would board a bus or train in France, she with her cameras, me with my guitar, and say goodbye to the townsfolk who gave us bed and brandy the night before, after the show.My answer: Not today.Would I have done the same thing to another human being. Nope.Doesn't matter.

Tell me, how can I abandon Beatrice in Purgatory?

So now it's Wednesday and I am sitting in my office two hours ahead of my schedule doing this. 

Here comes the weekend.I phoned J. last night. Jeddah. Jeddah is not happy about being in Jeddah. That I've removed Jeddah's name, gender identification and relationship to me says much about life under the regime. Jeddah fears for Jeddah's job, safety, reputation and who knows what else might be at stake?Today I am one day closer to the land of a thousand smiles. If I go for four or five days, it will be to renew my visa because I will be going to work at the university with Dr. S. sooner than later. A proper English department again! And the school is a satellite campus of a decent mid-western university in the United States. The U of M sends the curriculum and certification. Kuwaitis earn a US degree without going to the US.This is a booming educational industry here in the Gulf since the attempted quadruple Saudimization of the US on. . .now, what was that date? These swarthy, Semitic features don't want the hassles anymore than I did in the land of tyrants and assholes. T and A can be a good thing, but not in the magic kingdom.I'd heard that a Sikh in America was beaten to death after THAT DATE because some tyrants and assholes only knew this about him: that he wasn't wearing a baseball cap, askew or reversed, but headgear of sturdy cotton, wrapped in tight, hand woven layers and that he was from some very different place, he had a beard and his skin was dark. So if it was true what I'd heard that these fellers beat him to death with their bare hands, who am I to label?How long does it take to die when one is being beaten? Not quickly. Not quick enough to not know what hit you. You know what's hitting you and you know you will not be able to beg and reason your way out of this. You know you are finished with this world and all its relationships.

Being beaten to death by a small mob introduces the faces of one's death to you. Did he hear someone in the mob who said, "Maybe that's enough?" and turn to him, making offers, trying to breach the kindness, attempting to widen it, exploit it. Live. Dying alone might be just as bad, maybe worse. 

Maybe he was able to give up a secret or two before the ghost, realizing that one among his murderers might live long enough to try to undo the sin and remember the words at the moment of his death, be moved to confess, find someone in his pool of family and tell them the gist of his final words. They need our universities here. So we have built them. They have enrolled. Australia has one. American U. has one. U of M has one. 

And several more are under construction. Dr. S., by the way, published a book in Germany in 1998 called Die Tyrannei von eintausend Prinzen (Tyranny of a Thousand Princes) It has since sold a half a million copies in German alone. The book is a series of brutal anecdotes about life in Saudi Arabia when he was posted at a university there in the 90s after Gulf War I. 

He used to bring occasional translated passages to our writer's circle. Soon I will find out if I am going to the land of a thousand smiles on a visa stamp turn around or I am going there to live for four months until fall semester (sounds so much nicer than "cadet cycle", like we're churning them out of a washing machine. 

The land of a thousand smiles is cheaper and I can easily find work. I would go to Kathmandu but there is only volunteer work and Julia needs to go to film school summer camp and I need to start putting away for her university. 

I will enjoy the sun and sand and monster prawns, play open mike nights and have my scattered ashes swept together then hauled from here to eternity Gonna "Get my mind right" as they say in Cool hand Luke. I have been offered a job at the university starting in the fall. We're waiting to see if next week a position is available. I’ve been told by a teacher/friend already on faculty that a person may be resigning or even "doing a runner" (ESL/FL speak for vanishing overnight)In that case, they will need me very soon.

It took a morbid death trip, but I've done it--from a heart and life shattered into a thousand pieces, (Inferno) through barbed wire and machine guns in the land of a thousand tyrants (Purgatorio) back to the ivory towers and constant book babble in less than a month in the faculty lounge with hops to the land of a thousand smiles (Paradiso) where I can indulge myself in my Beatrice, swinging from vines in tropical rain forests or white water rafting during monsoon season when you get eight foot river swells washing over you like a river tsunami. 

And I didn't even need my Virgil to escort me.4/6/"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome..."In Xanadu did Kubla KhanA stately pleasure-dome decree. . .Down to a sunless sea. . .Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war!. . .The shadow of the dome of pleasureFloated midway on the waves;Where was heard the mingled measureFrom the fountain and the caves.Beware ! Beware ! . . .For he on honey-dew hath fed,And drunk the milk of Paradise. " (Coleridge, 1797)The first time I saw her, I offered her one of two wines Esquire recommended for a first date--a pinot noir and a chardonnay. She turned me down and said she didn't drink. I didn't think Heaven was much farther.

It seemed so near that I could hop off the bus and walk to it from there.The last time I saw her, we both drank Sake. I drank a little. She had to get stewed. Only she among her tribe knew that 90% of her victimhood was built bullshit. I was taken in by her story about her grandmother working in a pickle factory and her Masonic granddad chiseling cemetery cherubs from large stones. I think on top of everything else she was by then cheating on her EBRATS buddy with me. She was the best person to get to know, but what a bitch she can be later.For her birthday, we met up with a lot of EBRATS teachers in New Orleans--they all ran up a huge liquor bill and fought over who was paying the bill. 

She automatically offered her credit card. 

What else did she expect from a crowd of drunken down-at-the-heels teachers that they could be reasonable? about paying for what they drank? 

I grabbed the credit card from her and tossed the bill back at them She got angry with me and ran outside where her new buddy followed her and calmed her down. I'm sure he understood her victim hood and cared more for that than why she no longer had smooth skin. 

Do we know this about them: that they are happy briefly but not for long, only when they have baby weighing down their hips? 

I went to an Al Anon meeting last night. It was pretty hard-core. I was reminded that sometimes those we care about don't get help and they die.Tough call.I won't ever go there again with money or airline tickets, certainly never to help her with her slacker kids, to build a business nor to her four postered, but I will always be there for her if she asks for help because that's how this program works.

 We gotta install microwave ovens Custom kitchen ..."We gotta install microwave ovensCustom kitchen deliveriesWe gotta move these refrigeratorsWe gotta move these colour TV's" (Mark Knopfler)These men in their taxis, in their Pakistani punjabis, with their cell phones and prayer beads, ogle me and my potential to add a little more money to their lives, now, now, now--whatever the cost, whatever the scam. The concept of a return customer is a ridiculous one.I want to keep in mind the trifles of goodness they might have and completely forget their on-first-glance assessment of me.I am part of their problem. Before, they had a dream that it could all happen again.In 1990, the answers to their prayers came marauding across the border with helicopters, tanks, jets, missiles and jackboots.

There was no CNN or BBC on hand to videotape the aftermath, but the cameras were there in Baghdad when the US returned the hurt. I remember a year ago, in Baghdad, seeing locals hauling off swag, but there were also a lot fellows from farther east of here pushing carts and pulling wagons of loot. And as far as they were concerned, didn't they have it coming to them? Weren't they good guys, their bosses the devil? In some cases, of course.I can't use words like "oppressed masses" and "class struggle" because these words have no meaning after the last century built this century's foundation on the skulls and bones of people who'd wished they'd never heard them.Yes, it's part this (fundamentalism) part that (nationalism) part the other (clash of civilizations) but the fattest slice of the pie chart belongs to the Haven'ts wanting what the Haves have.With a start I awake in the morning as the shops beneath my window begin hosing off the sidewalks and emptying the trash from yesterdays haul. Kuwaitis are for the most part some of the most per capita affluent folks on this planet. 

They need gleaming jewelers' windows, florists shops, personal tailors, and confectioners. The pleasure domes of the gallerias and many gilded castelled malls aren't losing money.

The whole country can easily bear the needs of the rich and the well off. My lifestyle here is not nearly as effed up as it was in saudi, but I want it all. Walking along the streets, having taxis drivers make visual contact with a white guy on foot has removed some of the tint from my rose colored glasses. Now I remember--Kuwait is more hustle than bustle. I resolve to hire a car. Then I can at least get around as an equal wan be and of course, this one tweak to my life will make me forever happy because then, I will have it all. 4/4/"There's a hit man facing A compromising situation..."There's a hit man facing compromising situation With just a shabby doll And a very neat line in character assassination She’s just a shabby doll." (Elvis Costello, 1982)Too quickly since stepping off the plane, I telephoned Jeddah and asked about my birthday in a few weeks you know (hint). Come and visit me (hint hint), have lunch at the pearl museum (big hint). Shake hands with the friendly staff (really big hint).I was told, "All the time you think too much of this."Who? Me?If this is true it is only because I am homesick for a homeland. Sex is our common heritage, our homeland. It is the most ancient of civilizations, an ancient country whose people, like the Mongolians, once traveled the Earth spreading its culture, customs and bloodlines wherever its crusaders invaded. 

When visiting this ancient country, see it not as a tourist, but as a returnee to the promising land. Respect its Diaspora's traditions. Learn to speak its salutations, bow your head down further than the person you first meet if necessary to demonstrate your willingness to serve, but remember to ascend from the bow specifically referring to your own wishes. Immerse yourself in its proclivities and culture. 

Covet its sights, enjoy its sounds, breathe deep its ambrosial fragrances, hunger for its cuisine, then dive naked into its sheltering sea. Attempt to learn a few steps of its traditional dance, the dance from which all the dances of the world have evolved. 

Here is where the steps of the Flamenco, Ballet dances, the Belly Dance, the Waltz, the Cancan, the Tango, the Hora, the Mambo, Samba and Rumba, the Polka, the Hula and even French Canadian Clog dances have their origins. Set aside some time for silence. Enjoy the afterglow of dusk. Drift homeward when its time to go, but remember that as long as you are away, all yearning prodigal sons or daughters will always be welcomed back.I was so homesick this time last week, I'd wanted to believe that a routine forty-something lower G.I. procedure meant not that I might have cancer and that I might die, but that I could escape from Saudi Arabia to some third world shit hole to ease my pain. Let me rephrase that. I wanted to leave one third world shit hole to enter another third world shit hole, the place where the Buddha was born and where, unlike the former T.W.S.H., it is not forbidden to love the whole of humanity. But, here, today, in Kuwait, I am reborn and I'm ready to pass through the customs control of the body and soul, and then enter the place from where we all originate.4/3/Wanda: "I hate people, don't you hate people?" He...Wanda: "I hate people, don't you hate people?"Henry: "No, I just seem to feel a lot better when they're not around." (Barfly, Charles Bukowski, 1989)Heard from a friend this morning. I have to wonder, "what are we up to?" I'm missing her kissing.Got hold of a temp. sponsor last night. I've been more or less out of the program since December. Not out completely. I've had a couple of face-to-face meetings with the lone member in Jeddah. 

He loaned me the Joe and Charlie step study tapes. I've said my 3rd step prayer everyday, sometimes twice a day, especially "Relieve me from the bondage of self!" part--and that my friends is what it is all about. Getting out of your freaking pitiful "me".Tough decision to make for someone who enjoys nothing more in life than getting blasted and wallowing in Sysyphean squalor.House cleaning once again, mostly back to taking my inventory, backing away from taking others'.This thing has many names:DiseaseAlcoholismMessianic ComplexNarcissismCo-dependencySpiritual bereftnessThe VoidChronic Assholic Behavior SyndromeAcute Stress Disorder Generalized Irrational FearIrreversible ChumpnessGeneralized Anxiety Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Most (but not all) Marriages Panic Disorder Posttraumatic Stress Anxiety Disorder Social Phobia Generalized Crazy Mother Fucker DisorderBooze has long been the cheapest and most available form of self medication for most of us Bozos on this bus.Prozac and others sort of help. Diazapagm makes it better for two or three days then it compounds the problem. The program is the one solution I've found that doesn't require genuflecting, bowing, shaving one's head, spinning like a dervish, disappearing into an ashram, relocating soon and often (my favourite).I may have found some Al Anon meeting here in Kuwait.As for T. and me--fuggit. It's not like at this moment she's going to have a 14th hour conversion and admit what she had admitted when I first met her, that she, like I, has a problem--not with drinking--which is a symptom--like her lying to me, my addiction to pills (currently, on hold), her lying to herself, my addiction to Russian hookers (currently, on hold), her lying to anyone who will listen, my arrival/departure addiction (currently, who knows?)--all of these are symptoms of this thing.But, then again, why not? Why not a 14th hour conversion?To her son couldn't she say, "Yes the man once threatened to beat you to death with a leg from a broken chair, but you had taken money from him in exchange for working on your high school diploma, jacked him around for days on an assignment he'd pretty much completed for you anyway. And you did get a high school diploma which led to your stellar career as a Gas and Go sandwich stocker. And come to think of it, you did cost me five grand by shutting down at the Catholic school I'd worked 16 hour days to send you to."To her sister? She could say, "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves." Her sister's head is filled with Botex and Collagen injections that won't matter what she says.Her daughter? Why not. All she'd have to say is, "I'm the freaking mother; you're the freaking daughter. Only one of us can be in charge."Her co-workers at EBRATS? She could say "fuck 'em" EBRATS has two categories of teachers--those fresh out of university and re-thinking their decision to be teachers; those who have drugged and drunk themselves out of every teaching job they've ever had--one of whom has now found his way to her four postered bed (do they use our toy collection? That would be disugisting).But soft!I mean, suppose Jeddah thang is for real? But then with TK there were these two weeks driving around, hiking through villages in the rain, and rafting down the river where Bridge over River Kwai was filmed, nearly drowning in Sri Lanka--all of it completely sober, 100%, she and I both, not even antabuse involved, simplicity at its best (It's best that we don't drink).The only time alcohol was involved in Sri Lanka--Rob's girlfriend, a Singhalese, kept us from having lunch at a former British colonial club which still catered to British and practiced colonial rules like "No locals allowed."(But she's with a bloody Brit and two Yanks?"No Wogs!")I asked if I could at least have a look around. The doorman said, "No problem (whitey)"I found the lounge, which was empty. I knew that Carmen liked Brandy so I quickly nicked a bottle of B and B, stuffed it down my pants, managed to pass it off as acromeglia of cock and balls.Back in the van, I struck a blow against the empire and presented Carmen with a free bottle of Brandy courtesy of H.M.4/2/I was asked twice today about T. Once by a man--"Y...I was asked twice today about T. Once by a man--"You don't still love her do you?" and once by a women, "Do you still love her?"To the man I laughed at myself and gave an unqualified, foolish "Yup." To the woman I stammered. I phrased it like this, "Well, in the program, we are taught to say this, 'love the person, hate the disease.'"Love? Probably not the right word. Just another addict addicted to an addict who is addicted to addicts who are addicted. . .?Yup. I hate this disease, this THING, and what it's made me do to others, what it's caused others to do to me.4/2/P. is still a great lunch partner and conversation...P. is still a great lunch partner and conversationalist. A pleasant afternon.The sunset view from the corniche can now be enjoyed by sitting on the patio behind the science museum.Marriages survive and endure, shouldn't they?What are we supposed to do then when for this or that reason, we find ourselves ripening quickly and when we start talking about our futures, our retirements even and nowhere in the scenario do we find ourselves talking about what we might do, that is, why my friends and I talk about retiring in the solo "I" voice?I know I wouldn't have enjoyed a church service and reception and that I have taken myself to places which were mostly anywheres but there.Still, when I see pictures of Julia growing up, drawing, learning to read, enjoying her birthday cake, I also see that I did miss out on something that will never be accepted as a "Fuck it." (That's my routine response to hurts and blunders--fuggit).Now, if one day she walks down the aisle, that is if she didn't inherit my feet (don't fail me now), and instead prefers that life in a place where the seasons come and go according to a schedule, will I wipe away a tear or two or more than I can count? I want to have no secrets from Julia, I hope to never disappoint her; I hope one day we can talk freely without being restrained by 1. those years I wasn't there and 2. the years she was kept from me.4/1/I am awestruck by how much has changed while at th...I am awestruck by how much has changed while at the same time, how much is still here. Kuwait has prospered, the people now dress themselves in as much denim as I wear off work or on the weekends. A couple of hours and five hundred years south of here is Saudi Arabia.

Today when I found an old haunt nestled behind or between the dozens of new towers of offices, the half dozen or so new, three, four or five levels of marble floored , castled malls, I found an old companion thumping around my despirited heart, one whom I haven't seen for four years. We lived together a five minute walk from this Internet cafe in the Patchi Chocolates Building, a five story twin towers of block apartments behind a confectionery store where what's his name, the kind but slow-on-the uptake feller from Beirut used to work. CMV, then Mrs,. Vogt Oliver now only Dr.Vogt was the only one of my three wives who had lawyerly recourse to soak me for more than a little pocket money when she went home to work on her PhD.I missed her most of today. There was the Banking Institute where she worked for 75 bucks an hour, where I walked off the job because I didn't get along with the manager AND I had another class set to go for the University of Maryland. There was the tailor shop where she had here self-designed quasi-sub-continental work dresses designed to de-accent her impressive busoms. There's were we walked along the corniche and planned our vacation to Varnassi.The lines around my eyes don't automatically swap me out for who I was then to what I should be now. I still need lose these same ten pounds I carried with me to Korea when I met and married the future ex-Mrs Vogt Oliver now just Dr. Vogt. I know Artrama carved those lines into my face--but it has always been a youthful face which had its drawbacks in petty positions of authority--now I have the look of someone with character. Now as then, actually having character is something I debate with myself everytime I look in a mirror--which is why I shave mirrorless, in the shower. Don't have time for guilt in the morning.I have this hobby in the places 

I return to. I return a lot.I try to remember in the sights and smells of what has become, what is now and all that used to be. On the same hand, I have always felt a special disdain for the places I return to when I discover not just the same town but to the same years I'd left behind.This was the case last year when I returned to Baton Rouge, when Therese had fled to there from the UAE, breaking her contract in order to take a job at that disgracefully third world like and grungy charter school EBRATS, what I am sure will contribute greatly to the sad wine soaked death of her.One of the last blasts of cruelty she shot at me was that she didn't leave to be with her daughter but she left me. That wouldn't explain her twice daily tracking me down on instant message as soon as she was in the US while I was still in the UAE nor her inviting me to come home to help with her household expenses and to invest in her reputation as a "locally renowned artist" now would it?Today, I went to Johnny Rockets for a burger and fries. Christina and I would have our weekly lapses from dry grilled chicken salads at Jean's Cafe in the Sultan Center across the street on Murbarak Al Salam. As I ate my burger alone, and listened to Fats Domino singing "Ain't That a Shame"    

I remember her smiling at me with an explicit understanding that I would help see to her future plans to get that doctorate and build a non-profit watchdog group. I must add that although I indeed helped to fund a large part of her education, the hard work and hours of lost sleep I know she endured, plus the crappy part time jobs she held, plus the commute to and from Orange County and the USC campus had nothing to do with me and I am sure that even without my monthly endowments, she would have succeeded somehow on her own.The Thank You I have long expected from Christina was eventually constructed into a monumental resentment, but it is nothing compared to the resentments still blazing away over Artarama.What is all this anger going to bring to me in the end? An anonymous death at 66 here in Kuwait like that of Crazy Joe? 

I might have a happier ending. While he also hauled a bed partner from Saudi Arabia, a 22 year old Sri Lankan houseboy who must feel today that he really earned that piece of land back home Joe invested in, A. is not a 22 year old Sri Lankan houseboy but a highly qualified surgical and endoscopic nurse. She would also have her place and I'd have mind. That would be a first for me in these relationship trainwrecks since, well, since never. Maybe it wouldn't be a train wreck.I met A. in Jeddah and found someone who probably wouldn't mind following me to a nearly deserted beach one day to live, a life of certain great sex and laughter. Trouble is she's married and I have never seen myself as a man some woman would leave another man for. I would not accept that responsibility well at all.

What if I were to find her a nice position as a surgical nurse in one of the private hospitals her, one safely priced to hire white nurses and European doctors?Don't misunderstand me. I am not into "it" again. This time, I swear, it would be different. I don't think she's looking for a boost up or a rescuer.

The last time I saw Jezebel she looked up at me with tears in her eyes because the words needed to say goodbye she only knew in her native langauge. Whatever it was she said to me in English was not what she wished for me to understand, and she knew I only got a little of what she had meant to express. What I wanted to express could only be said in the language of carnal linguistics, and this was interrupted when her South African roommate came home. I had to quickly jump off her, rebutton my jeans and swing myself into a chair at her desk where 

I'd been fine tuning some part of her computer. As her roommate passed by the bedroom door which may or may not have carried the scent of what was brewing, I said too loudly, "And that's how you reset your Hotmail."Well here is to Jezebel and to me and I hope we have a happy future with or without each other, in the open, in our beachside bungalow or in secret hotel rooms in Dubai.When my driver picked me up at the airport in Kuwait (a Kuwaiti Shebab by the way with not so honorable job but a job nonetheless) he asked about Mushkeelas for Amerikis in Saudia. I told him what is my inarguable truth, my subjective opinion based on my experience.He said, "Not here. Kuwaiti love Ameriki too much".Wow.(No need to remind me why, I occasionally read a newspaper or tune in CNN)

I was here five years ago and the growth since then is amazing. OK--no booze but if that's you're biggest hang-up, get help.Other than that, the corniche is as lovely as Abu Dhabi's and the skyline now more resembles Dubai. Five years ago when I left (after nearly five years through thick and thin) I posted a message in the journal section here which basically expressed my concern for Kuwait and the region in general, a posting that beat Friedman to the punch by four years--what's to become of the youth who lack opportunity? At the time I imagined them storming the palaces with placards and Molotov *beep*. (they've actually bleeped kocktails?) But then, who could have imagined the angriest young men would have turned the WTC into smoke, fire, dust and rubble in response.Five years ago, there seemed to be little opportunity, too much inshaillah talk.  

But then, I was only vaguely aware that the Sabahs have always been trusted here by the Kuwaitis, even those with more money, to think two or three move ahead. Sheikh Jaber and his family have managed to keep this emirate independent longer than the US has been independent--they even beat off an attack from Abdul Aziz's wahabis in the twenties at Jahra--the Kuwaiti Yorktown--mention the battle of Jahra to a Saudi if you want to see someone hang their head in shame. 

Mention it to a Kuwaiti and they'll treat you to a shwarma and a Barbicon.Abdul Aziz had it in his mind at the time that since his family had been exiled here, then here too he had some divine mandate to conquer by sword of steel then sword of flesh. He was thrown back despite outmanning and outgunning the Kuwaitis.

There seems to be some sort of IT and trade causeway which extends from here to the UAE and even over Saudi into the former colonial Arab states, bypassing Saudi Arabia.The freaking work is bypassing Saudi Arabia. Go there. Live on a 3/4 empty compound--see for yourself.Saudi Arabia? No need for sanctions, they're offing themselves out of prosperity. 

Containment? They're working on it without outside help.

The zeitgeist here is that Sheikh saber's visions will live beyond his grave or most likely even be improved upon--he's in his 90s, like Zayed--and like Zayed he has been in power since the day (of mud huts a handful of date trees)/Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Syria--the old regimes are passing the torch and once again, I see hope for the region after all.When both Arafatites and the Sharonies go to meet baby Jesus, maybe even there, Peristroika will occur naturally.
Every day now bombs redu...This is really happening. 

Every day now bombs reduce houses to rubble and there is no end in sight to grave side grieving. The main story reports murders. The story following that reports murders. Once there was a time and place where we cherished changes of seasons. Bird songs echoed from trees and warmed our hearts. Now and then, we ask for a break and get one. 

She is seven and she is from Pakistan. She was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body. Her face was blue from lack of oxygen. Her father took her to the Heart Center in Delhi and surgeons cut her open. Now her heart is in the right place. 5/30/What I want to forget about those mornings are the...What I want to forget about those mornings are their nights before. What I want to remember about the nights before are the late afternoons when the sun began to set on promises before the promises were broken. 

Our days passed going here and there, doing what we had to do to get through them. How many days began early in the morning with coffee using softer words strung together from desire to forget whatever we could remember from the night before?5/30/I read the Asian Wall Street


I read the Asian Wall Street Journal article linked from Elizabeth's site and I have saved it to floppy in the event I teach critical thinking and intro to composition in the not too distant future. The article is about the lack of meaningful companionship for western women in Asia. The subject of the article mentions that meangingless sex, though easy to seek out and obtain (as was her case when a couple she'd met in a hotel lounge invited her to a slumber party), this is not what she wants in a relationship. She goes on to say that for men, it is easy. But her example begs the question, assumes the truth. She says, "and you can't believe what walks out of (these Thai nightclubs)-- the ugliest, grossest men with beautiful Thai women. It's so easy for the Western man." Easy?   

 No my dear. Cheap. 5/29/More attacks on compounds in Saudi. This time in A...More attacks on compounds in Saudi. This time in Al Khobar. 

Earlier this morning, I heard from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, ten minutes from Al Khobar. I'll file that offer under plan Z. Plan Y is going to Amsterdam to work in a sex shop swabbing up spooge in private video booths. My supervisor here suggested I talk to the president about working here next year. He wants me to stay. I've told several students that if they want to sign up for my classes next fall, they should descend on the president's office and whine post haste. A member of the folk group who works in logistics at Camp Doha strongly suggested I tweak my CV and submit it to operations there where they need someone to write contract proposals. My pre-frontal lobe system patiently awaits its next assignment. It sits on the verdandah focused on some indeterminate schedule, planning nothing further than getting a good night's sleep. Last night the Rose of Tehran and I attended the Kuwait Singers summer concert at the Marriot. A dramatic chandelier with a thousand crystal prisms hung from the vaulted ballroom ceiling. Focusing my attention it for two hours kept the fidgets to a minimum and I didn't mind having to sit through the standard amateur ex-pat choral group program: "Ave Maria", "I Want to Live in America", "Summertime", "I Feel Pretty" and a number or two by that Andrew Lloyd Webber feller. 5/28/Cheese FriesZaytuniDraftDeleteIf Thursday night is date night for the man and his woman (other than his wife or wives), then it is also wife or wives night out. Chili's was jiving and wailing last night to the Chili Cheese Fries Boogie. A few had children in tow, but most of them left the wee ones at home under the tender, watchful eye of their Malaysian, Filipino, Bangla Deshi or Sri Lankan khadema (maids). More than half of the wives hijab, that is wear scarves over their hair. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the hijab is rarely simple black and here bangs fall freely Jackie Kennedy Onassis style. The hijab can be a tasteful measure of silk, a yard of lace or floral patterns in colors across the spectrum--Kuwaiti Progressive Islamic chic. As it was explained to me last night "hair is the chief seducer of men" 'round here. From the neck down, modesty is not as agreeably defined. Jeans and t-shirts, the tighter the better, big chain link brassy belts slung loosely like gunfighter holsters are "in". They drew their mobile phones in tandem. The Filipino and Filipina wait staff sprinted from kitchen to tables with plate after plate of mucho macho nachos, raging skillets of sizzling fajitas and mugs of alcohol free margaritas. Nobody turned down dessert. Doggy bags were not necessary. Friday night is maid's night and driver's night out. In the grassy areas surrounding the Sheraton roundabout downtown Kuwait City, the chatter will be in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati, Singalese and a dialect of English spoken in hyper drive that is indecipherable to me. Up and down the foot paths along the coast and between the date palms brown heads will bobble both in agreement and disagreement over thoughts about life and death, pain and love. Like peacocks feeding on the banks of the Ganges, brown men will stroll hand in hand with other brown men, women with women. Lingam will hunger. Yoni will thirst. Neither will be gratified. They are the gears in the machinery of luxury and leisure. Tomorrow I probably have some work to do, a test to proctor, papers to mark, grades to post. Many of my students want to register for my courses next fall. I shall encourage them to share this with administration. They--the students--are not use to not having their way. I wouldn't be surprised if a contract were to be offered. Can't count on it though. I also have an interview with a Kuwaiti feller who owns institutes which are in need of coordination and direction. My CV and the Artarama web site have cracked open a door and generated some interest. How about a clay room? A canvas room? We can have an open house once a month and a show featuring the children's best work. I can teach web design! Introduce them to computer animation! Perhaps a locally renowned artist who happens to also be the fire of my loins, my erotic muse as well as my alpha and omega will be on hand to guide the wee ones on the road less taken. Stranger things have resulted from surrender of one's will. I miss drinking coffee in bed with her the most. These desert roads loop from one round about to the next. The gig in Oman is my comfortable spare tire. 5/27/BarakaThey need my answer now, so I've accepted the offer in Oman. I've opened a dialogue with a university in Bangkok, a position for a summer program with a concentration in hotel and tourism. Also drifting into view is an offer to help coordinate a program in an institute called "Skills". If those skills involve going back to the desert and roaming from water hole to water hole, I can be of great assistance with the roaming part. I suppose I could have gone back to the head of the search committee or spoken to the director, but neither of them has been offered a contract yet. This place where I park my rented Nissan among the rows of Jaguars, BMWs, Lexuses and Mercedes, is a private university established under the mentorship of an American school. It is a baraka, a blessing for the moneyed Shebab and Banat (fellers and females) who meet up in the coffee shop and cafeteria, sitting boy-girl-boy-girl skipping classes rejoicing in their pherenomes and designer labels that would make the G's and bee-atches in the 'hood green. There is no other place in this country where so much co-education subversion is practiced so openly. They might not be up to braving CS gas and water cannons, but they are doing their best to advance modernity. 5/27/R.E.L.A.T.I.O.N.S.H.I.P.Listened to a hilarious N.A. speaker tape last night by Mickey Bush, a Brit who has vague connections to the 60s Brit invasion. Apparently he's the master of recovery acronyms. Here are a few: Really Exciting Love Affair Turns Into Outrageous NightmareSobriety Hangs In Peril. F.UCK E.VERYTHING A.ND R.UN T.HIS I. M.UST E.ARN Here's a link to an interview in Real Media format with Mickey B. which begins about the 40 minute mark. More than any other speaker I've heard over my years in and out of recovery, his story rang bells for me. His drug of choice? He says was "Your drug of choice. Whatever YOU had, I wanted." I thought of my own experience. How many countless, blindingly uncomfortable social gatherings have I been to in people's homes that were made suddenly and surprisingly enjoyable after excusing myself to have a quick slash and look-see in their medicine cabinets? It used to be and still is baffling to me that someone can hold onto prescriptions for Demerol or codeine cough syrup with expired labels. I thought I was doing them favor.The interviewer was one of three former lead singers for a band called Three Dog Night. I never cared for them but their oldie hits are now tolerable in a toxically nostalgic sort of way. Mickey BushMickey B.'s interview begins around the 40 minute mark. 5/26/I'd forgotten that simple but effective suggestion...ZaytuniDraftDeleteI'd forgotten that simple but effective suggestion, "Let's just be friends." There will be confrontation of course, but it is my hope that it would be of the low intensity variety. Last night I went into the stairwell and, starting from the ground floor flight, I took the stairs to the seventh floor (US translation Floors 1 - 8), then returned to the ground floor and repeated this two more times. For my vacation I will either bop around western Himalayan villages or spend time in Mae Sot, Thailand, either way, I'll need far more lower body strength than I now can muster. Following that and a quick shower, I settled on the couch and checked Email. Euro News muted, every few minutes or so that US idiot who was appointed president by the US Supreme Court to alienate 9/10ths of the world from the US blathered on about something or other to a US War College, probably the one college in my country of origin where the students are guaranteed steady jobs and health care for the next ten years. Part of the health care package should boost the value in stock for prosthetic limbs. Without warning, my floral Persian beauty and her big hennaed hair walked in without knocking, carrying a grocery bag of gifts. A calendar for me, cat toys for Jimmy and Mimi, a tape compilation Eva Cassidy, a map of Kuwait and of Iran's beaches along the Caspian Sea (a potential get-away. She also carried a book of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Before it got to be too late and she had to get home to her yappy dog and inventory of beauty products, she curled up in my arms on the sofa entertained me with a reading of Rubaiyat--in Farsi while I looked on the opposite page at Fitzgerald's translations. Farsi is an Indo-European language that has its share of Slavic consonant clusters. To my ears it is not without its charms. Last night was not the night to just be friends I think it best that I not get too involved with someone who hangs orange wicker fans on her bedroom wall. The yappy dog doesn't help her case. Her yappy dog, like all yappy dogs, was put on this earth for one reason--to remind us how precious silences can be. Then there is her arsenal of Lancôme products which for me have limited appeal, very limited, a fifty minute hour usually sates my appetite for a vacuous babe with big hair and pedicured toes. I can't imagine a steady diet of hair spray, powders and perfumes. The short affair wasn't a mistake so much as a necessary correction, like adding an extra day every four years to our calendar or the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to slow down a bull market. My desired Leit Motif these days is an integration of polarities, a union of the Godly and the Bodily, that is a balanced and consistent flow of blood throughout my Chakras. Outside of myself there is, from left to right and back again, an attempt underway to reconcile the most primitive and most maligned, i.e. the urge to merge the stuff we own with the urge to have the house to myself for great, long moments. My Motif Lite is disintegration within the 'hood, selfhood that is, and that usually means a shag or two or three followed by disquiet. This can be achieved one of two ways.A. the hard way--slamming doors, staccato bursts and loud usage of "fuck" in all its declinations, wear her down with a chorus of "I'm outta heres". But this would also mean I'd have to move. B. the softer way: not return phone calls on time and delay answering text messages. She'll dump me over the weekend, probably no sooner than tonight, no later than Friday afternoon. Until I complete these blood curdling fourth and fifth steps, hip sit-com openness ("I don't think this is going to work") is not possible. " Tareek seeda, w'dawar" they say here in Kuwait. Go straight if you want to turn around. We can't make sudden U-turns. The roads have been divided with concrete barriers and date palms. The only choice is to go with the flow. Eventually, there is a place up ahead where you can go in any one of four directions. My roads have always been chained together from one roundabout to the next, so I should be able to negotiate these sudden turns with my eyes closed. Here's what's coming next: I'll either have a house full of thirsty plants and a lot of nice shit hanging on the walls or the other worn out shoe will drop and I'll skedaddle while the skedaddling's good. There appears to be a third choice, that is not making a choice. In theory and for some, very much in practice, I sense that if I keep up with this program, my detached days will continue to float by with a lot less turbulance than they have. Great Enthusiasm and Limitless Excitement, my conjoined twins raised by wolves, pull on their choke chains and bay at the moon, but they no longer keep me up all night. 5/23/1-2-3, What Are We Fighting For?"The trouble with you foreigners is you're not interested in building a nation. You have no spirit of Harambee. You just make money, and then go back where you came from. . ." (Paul Theroux, Two in the Bush) I spent the evening with a few members of my NA group having dinner in a flat in Jabriya. We ate chicken curry and listened to music I couldn't identify. Guitars came out about the time tea or coffee was served. It was late. I took tea with milk, more milk than tea (no sugar). Four Persian cats circled the room. D. is leaving tonight. He's been here for a year, his first time out of the US, working as a US military sub-contractor. He not only has a lot of sobriety, but he has quality stuff, primo. He misses the US and is anxious to get home. Two nights ago, we went out for smoothies and I launched into my Wal-Mart/Kinko's/Domino's/Blockbuster spiel. "Travel anywhere in the US these days and try to live more than fifteen minutes from a Home Depot or an Outback Steakhouse. Travel the Interstate, I-10, I-75, I-whatever and as you come into any metro area, this is what you now get for local color." He said nothing. Didn't change his expression. Just sipped his fruit cocktail smoothie. Made me think. I have to agree with him. So what? These places are convenient. Like cars. Or wheelchairs. Like serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Like the Excelsior Hotel in Kathmandu. Like in-call services in Amsterdam or knowing how to give directions to taxi drivers and ask where's the toilet? in several languages. Like doctor shopping for diazepam prescriptions in a country with a system of national health care clinics. Like staying in a one place long enough to begin a home garden--even if it’s not much more than a few herbs in a windowsill. When I first came to Kuwait, I only had three months left in the spring semester. I came in early March and left in mid-June. I pinned a calendar to my refrigerator with magnets and "X-ed" off a day first thing in the morning. At first, I wrote a lot of letters and towards the end of April, I made friends with a few people who home brewed spirits. I stopped writing letters and began making long distance phone calls. I yelled a lot over the phone. A significant factor in that particular melt down--spring '95--was the inconvenience of the country. All electrical shops were located in one part of town, appliances in another, clothing stores in another, hardware in another. I had to buy groceries yet somewhere else. Now there are super malls and extra super malls with quadra-plex cinemas, tires, Victoria Secrets and cat food all under one roof. Is this what we're fighting for; is this our way of life? Is this what they're fighting against? Food courts and Glamour Shots? I have always had a hard time having to decide between the simple way of life and the complex one. DaVinci says, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Thoreau (on d'udda hand) says, "Let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand." I say get yourself to the nearest Home Depot and buy some dirt and seeds, even if it's just for your windowsill. 5/22/The SearchersGoogle searches last week which linked to my blog: Winner: i miss watching jedd play baseball Placed: birds poop swingsetShowed: Natasha Murmansk Foto Single Kid Also rans:christina+vogt (an ex-wife)anita pallenbergFilippines + furniture + source sample age eleven lolita youth sofa throws in "al khobar"Veronika pusanKing Fahd causeway statisticlast great act of defiance eagle posteri like the night" baby " she said " my desire lyrics5/22/Ich bin googled gewesen.Bipolarität UngebundenIronies tragen mich unten. Was sind wir annahmen, um über sie zu tun? 5/22/In HeatZaytuniDraftDeleteThe heat has arrived. There are only a handful of breezy evenings left before we'll all be driven indoors. This time next month the temperature will plateau at 45 degrees Celsius and stay there until November. Times 2, add 30—that's roughly 120 degrees Fahrenheit. There might be one summer thunder storm, but other than that, the weatherman has nothing new to report from day-to-day. Most western ex-pats go home, leaving in mid-June, returning early September. . امدح اللّه للمكيّف (praise God for air conditioning) This year I won't make that twenty-four hour trip back to the US. That's not to say I won't be boarding and exiting planes or trains, but my travel time won't take more than the better part of an afternoon. I'll go somewhere nearby—mountains or beaches (a decision that I will have made for me) where a few hundred dollar bills will be exchanged for a stack of bills as thick as a book with multiples of zeroes after the 1. Chances are the currency will be some sort of rupee, possibly baht, either way, room and board will run no more than five to seven dollars a day. And everything—EVERYTHING—will be negotiable. I have only spent one complete summer in the Gulf. I was in Al Khobar, teaching ata college prep center. That was the summer I spent my weekends in Bahrain introducing British Ian and Irish Tony to the two-star hotels and non-stop knocking upon the door. Mania ran high as it tends to do for me in the heat, a trigger mechanism that probably has something to do with childhood (blah) houses without air conditioning (blah, yadda) racetracks and booze (blah blah yadda yadda). But mine was not mania in the superlative. There was British Ian. There was Irish Tony. My association with each began the same way—-in a compound pub swilling sty flavored micro brewed ale and answering their electrified, stammering questions. "A-a-and are there really girls from all over?" "All over the former Soviet Union." "A-a-and you say for twenty quid, you can have it all?" "A-a-and tell me D-D-Dave are there darker women as well, cuz I fancy the darker ones, d'y'know what I mean?" "No. But the maids are from India." I was the anti-sponsor, the devil's protege-in-disguise. In each case, they both returned on a weekend without me to drive them there on Wednesday, collect them on Friday and drive them across the causeway to home. One Saturday, the first day of the work week, standing around the compound pick-up point, first, "What happened to Ian?" "He went to Bahrain over the weekend. He never came back." On another Saturday morning. "What happened to Irish Tony?" "Bahrain. Didn't come back." I knew they were both destitute, most men are when they first arrive in Saudi Arabia, why else would we go? Where they went over the weekends, I hope was to get help. They made me look stable.5/21/Bi-Polarity UnboundIronies are wearing me down. What are we supposed to do about them? More importantly, what am I expected to do about them other than note them, resent them, make plans to do my share. . .which is what? ruck up and kick in? Think globally, act locally? Prepping my students for the listening exam, which will be a pre-recorded textbook company supplied mini-lecture, I had them go over the questions before listening and taking notes. I taught them two terms, one formal, one slang. "Common sense" and "A no brainer." So, for example, practicing with a mini-lecture on Computer Ethics, one question was: "The lecturer agrees that (blank) should practice the ten commandments of computer ethics--a. only students b. computer manufacturers c. all computer users Irony spotting is a reckless use of our powers to observe. Mostly we spot them, point them out, wave our spears about then move on. Ironies are no brainers, they're "no shit Sherlocks", and they're "well duhs". What we do about them, even just taking the first step beyond making the observation and deciding that we should initiate solutions begins to separate us from the toolless quadrupeds we share the planet with and sometimes eat. Ironies and their injustices are probably abounding no more, no less on a per capita basis now than in the past, but 24 hours of news reporting magnifies them, overemphasizing their "points" and never suggesting what we can be done about them. That's not ironic. It's just how it is. Yes, it's ironic that the world's only super power seems to send in the troops to protect people's basic liberties only when those people are sitting on resources the US needs. So? So what are we going to do about it? How can we fix it? Yes indeed, it's ironic that as our ability to cross reference and communicate an awesome amount of information to one another round the globe in less than seconds, the globe implodes into a clash of civilizations with the potential to be more lethal than any we've ever witnessed and is at the very least the most unresolvable as long as global propaganda campaigns can be launched from an Internet cafe or on a laptop. And my point being? Isn't it ironic how, when we are in between relationships and especially stranded between sex and all that jazz, we can think of nothing else from the time we awake until the time we sleep, then continue to devote ourselves to the pursuit of one in dreams--BUT--when we obtain one, we begin to miss the hours of solitude, the long hours of bodhisattva-like self examination and ego/super ego/id integration which we have now abandoned by giving up our weekends to doing stuff together? Change and progress are within my reach, but first I must focus more on the solution than the problem and the ironies which spiral round integration, disnintegration, re-integration, and so on. Now if one clown like me has to spend a good portion of his life getting his head around standing on principle, then how can we expect universal compromise/solution? That's a no brainer. It'll never happen. Think globally. Act locally, as local as from this room to that room and no farther than our front doors--so to speak. 5/20/Blue Torch LoungeThe Blue Torch had a Motel 6-sized swimming pool surrounded by five sofas, two or three matching arm chairs per sofa, cafe tables with checkered table clothes and scented candles, a bar and an improvised stage which was a carpet from the Baloosh region of Iran. Lamps modeled on gas street lights and fitted with blue globes jutted from three of the four walls. They had been seductively dimmed. The crowd of mostly western ex-pats--teachers, oil company men and women, embassy staffers, retired military now Department of Defense workers, was thickest around midnight. The lounge had all the neighborhood ambience of a Friday night in any one of hundreds off ramp inns scattered along I-10 from Jacksonville to Los Angeles. We arrived around 9 and soon afterwards, the band positioned themselves on the carpet. The lead singer--tall and brown, young and lovely--could have been from Ipanema but was actually South African. She sang songs by women she sort of resembled--Sade, Tina Turner, Tracey Chapman, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson and Lena Horne. The band of ex-pats embraced their evening's celebrity wearing Blues Brothers shades with their cigarettes a' dangling. On guitars and bass, forty-something oil company suits by-day, wore black, confident that the t-shirts made their pot bellies invisible. The audience sipped ethyl alcohol called "sid", from the Arabic word sidiki or friend; this is a brutally potent moonshine distilled at great risk to the moonshiners and is usually mixed with tonic and fruit juices. I drank tonic water on ice all night and managed to cop a placebo effect old fashioned olfactory memory buzz. We all raised high the roof of illicit celebration in the Blue Torch Lounge. The evening was a delight all around--delightfully cheesy, delightfully charming, and delightfully distanced from the double helix of violence and death just up the road a piece. 5/19/Quantum RecoveryListening to a speaker tape last night, driving home along the glitz and ritz of Gulf Road, I heard this pearl as it applied to recovering alcoholics, but can also be applied to my own program of recovering assholism. "Let the tailgater pass." 5/18/splashToday, classes end. On Saturday review week begins. Grill and drill. So that about wraps it up. I was interviewed yesterday for a position in Oman and it seemed to go well. I told them if they were to offer me a contract early next week, and if I were to sign it, then, I promised, I'd be there in the fall. My visa expires here June 15th. I could be out of here by the tenth. So far, I haven't had a chance to save, but then I've only been back in the show since December and I've been happy just to have a pocket full of useful keys. Instead of going home early last night, I went for a swim at Messila Beach. Like the ocean with its cyclic rise and fall, my appetite for monsoon rivers and steep mountain paths expands and contracts. It feels as though I'm standing on a jetty on a moonless night bristling with stars, and I'm frozen by my indecision to dive or not to dive into water which I know will be much colder than expected. Still, I know that once I am committed to the plunge and I begin to splurge forward, fully submerged, I won't have the will to leave what has become warm and embracing. I won't make the final decision. The wind will change direction and thrust me once again into flight. Some of us take risks; others have risks thrust upon them. 5/17/I Have Your Name Tattooed on My ArmK. is a homey, a geologist from Mid-City, New Orleans, a graduate of UNO, a blues harp player and he's recently divorced. He has a tattoo on his arm that says "Your Name", a pick-up line that will fade only when his corpse begins to rot. Just below his tattoo is a scar which looks like a long pink zipper. Behind his right ear is a miniature copy of the scar on his arm. They are machete scars. K. lives alone in a four-story villa--fourteen rooms, seven bathrooms, two full kitchens a swimming pool and night club in his basement called the Blue Torch Lounge.Last year, he bought a home in Mid-City for his wife. She moved home and filed for divorce. He writes lyrics and I went over last night with the Martin to try to add chord progression and melody to his sad words about separation and despair. A few years ago, he was posted in Papua, New Guinea and last night was the second time this week I'd heard stories of a paradise where every home, hotel and business is a fortress, where public combat involving machete duels and gun battles are as much a part of the local color as the hundreds of species of parrots. He took his family out to the only Mexican restaurant on the island a few days before they were to be transferred. After having their enchiladas and fajitas, he, his wife and his two boys left the restaurant and as they were climbing into the car, out of the shadows charged a local thug, howling and whooping, twirling the machete above his head. The boys had been trained to lock the car doors. K. said the first blow felt like he'd been hit with a club; it didn't feel like he'd been sliced ot cut. During the struggle, the thug dropped the machete and K. picked it up. "Imagine hitting a couch cushion real hard with a baseball bat, " he said, "that's what is feels like when you pound a machete into someone." The attacker had a cohort who came out of the dark only to stop the slaughter and to drag away his bloodied friend. The attacker had been sliced open to the bone in several places, and K. got to keep the machete which he waved around last night while telling the story. Getting to PNG is expensive. You're routed there through Australia to Port Moresby, Once there, however, there is a five-star luxuriant holiday to be had for very little money--idyllic sea views, swaying palm trees, mocha-flavored Dorothy Lamoures wrapped in sarongs, verdant, fecund indolence and post-colonial pampering. It is advisable to avoid certain parts of town, sort of like New Orleans, except for the sea views and the sarongs. 5/16/Bardo State"I guess time gave up the ghost too late" (Elvis Costello "Tears before Bedtime") I lay awake last night conscious of the acreage of apartment blocks surrounding me in this labyrinthine weaving of streets and alleys, fields of sandy lots, corner groceries, pedestrians heading to or coming from the Shi'a mosque. This is my neighborhood, Midan Hawalli. This is also the neighborhood bordering mine, Jabriya and the one after that, Khaldiya and all those beyond--Adaliya, Shuwaikh--from ocean front to oil fields, tower after tower of apartment blocks are ringed by Kuwaiti family villas, each seeming to be its own walled compound. This is Kuwait, a post-modern urban sprawl without any real slums to speak of but a hell of a lot of nice cars. I was also conscious of my queen size bed, the thick, quilted comforter and the rich pile of pillows--six--all provided by the university. I am never deprived of a cool side. I was mindful that my two cats had positioned themselves near my legs and were to a large part responsible for how my body conformed to the mattress. By morning they worked their way up to the pillows and just after sunrise, Jimmy reminded me that it was feeding time. He gently sank his teeth into my nose. I have tried to add snooze minutes to my mornings burying my head under the comforter, but the other cat, Jimmy's sister and sidekick Mimi, is a tunneler and she waits for me there, fangs and claws ready to do their stuff. I am keenly aware that (exclusive of feline companionship) each night I sleep alone and for the first time in my life, I see not only what my part was in this, but those parts which are extraneous. In the past, these reasons had always been as clear to me as crystal. Now, they are as clear as a polished mirror. Guess I had it coming, huh?Not so long ago, I used to look forward with great excitement to the end of the day and the repetition of a mechanical process which began in the bathroom with toothbrushes and synchronized spitting. She would climb under the blankets, knees drawn up to brace her book--a book she would always finish. I would have my book. A book I seldom finished. I read on my side, extending the pages towards a dim reading lamp. When the lights were turned off, my legs would find hers; every evening was the same, except for Sunday. Sundays we'd have clean sheets which somehow gave the end of the weekend a last "hurrah". These days I have gotten used to sleeping alone. I do on occasion share my bed, but a yappy dog and two cats have to be gotten home to; then there is work in the morning and a routine that requires her own hair shampoo, conditioner, body shampoo, body cream, moisturizer, make up, perfume and a blow drier (not to mention wardrobe). She also has neighbors and neighbors here, like anywhere else, talk. She is not in my bed long enough to leave a lasting scent on the pillows. I can't afford to miss Ms. T's candles, her classical radio station which she plays all night on low volume, the dim lights left on throughout the house, lighting the way to the bathroom. I can't afford to miss her. I can, however, spend some time now remembering the details. I am in the Bardo state of relationships, between the tomb of one and the womb of another, trying to decide what I should let go of and what I am comfortable taking with me.5/15/Boundless Alternatives"When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past." (Nabokov, Lolita) I'd forgotten that during the final week of classes, attendance is rare to medium rare. The students are only concerned with taking the final exam. Those who have been showing up regularly have done the math and know that at this point, even if they miss all of the classes from here on in, then they might receive an absence warning. There aren't enough classes left to receive the 9 absences necessary to be expelled. Word will circulate as to the date I'll give the practice exam--which generally is a mirror image of the final. On that date, attendance will run high. These are the last days of mild breezes. The temperature peaks in the lower nineties. Basically, my job will be to keep producing materials. For my writing class, the final will focus on spatial description. So far, I've produced bare-bones blue prints of the Simpson's home, two shopping malls, an airport, the end of Fourth Ring Road in Kuwait where the posh shopping district begins. They've described their own homes and Kuwait Towers. Today, I'll whip up a hospital or perhaps another mall. To the left of, behind the, in between the, in the corner of, near the, on the. . .topic sentence: I will describe (blank). Conclusion: I have just described (blank). Four points for originality. (In the restaurant there are many good things to eat, for example hamburgers.) Fifteen years ago, when I taught Marlowe's Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, I'd thought I'd arrived. Reading lists, books on reserve, research papers, how to use the MLA, PMLA, the OED, cover pages, end notes. Yup. Then there were those irresistible female students; the heat, the fusion, the whirling mushroom clouds of what I then considered to be some sort of compensation for a pitiful remuneration, much of which went towards student loans. To my shame there was back home waiting for me each day a remarkable soul mate who shared her house with me, who let me dig up her backyard to construct an aquatic garden and shared with me front lawn duties. I didn't seem to mind then that each week just before payday I would have to see to it that my last twenty dollar bill was able to cover gas and gas station tuna sandwiches. I used to like to believe that those were the salad days. I had an itch that neither soul mate nor the Heathers and Ashleys could scratch. When I first began teaching English as a foreign language in this region, when I understood nothing about their learning styles and priorities, I was miserable, resentful and embittered. I pined for those days of virtual poverty, plumply dimpled co-eds, my aquatic garden and good natured up-for-anything Claudette. Now I think after all the shit, I've found my inconsequential corner of the globe where I really don't mind that I'm no longer preparing heavily be-bossomed 18 year olds for pedantic coffee klatches and cocktail party insider's references during my after hours when I should be grading papers or preparing tomorrow's lesson plans. That was then. This is not. Now my concerns are knowing that I'll have a contract next year, knowing if and when I will be going to Mae Sot to teach Burmese democracy refugees and while I'm in the bush, knowing that Mimi and Jimmy will be fed and watered daily. 5/15/Movin' OnShe left Tehran 12 years ago after spending three days in prison. Her hijab, her headscarf had been pulled back to reveal a few strands of renegade bangs. A woman covered head to toe in black, carrying a Kalashnikov led her to a van and locked her in it with other miscreants. One of them wore red nail polish. Another wasn't wearing socks with her sandals. For three days she sat in jail until an Imam, a preacher, came to lecture them on their slatternly ways. Then, one by one, each woman was led to a room, strapped to a table and given thirty lashes. When it was her turn, she cried and threw up. It was decided to release her without the lashes. She has a degree in business administration. She begged her company to send her to a branch in Italy where she had a brother and other relatives who'd left the country one step ahead of the mullah police. There were no position vacancies in Rome, but she could immediately be transferred to Kuwait. In two or three years, she would have the opportunity to apply for the Rome gig. She's been here ever since. Although she's already invited me to spend a few weeks in the villa in Rome this summer, my heart is pretty much set on Mae Sot and teaching Burmese refugees. Tonight I wasn't feeling well, and she made a trip over with Chinese chicken soup and OJ. Now that's sumptuous living.5/15/Helb me, teacher, Blease"So here I go into the last week of classes. The lesson plans for the week will center 100% on the exams as we instructors all try to dance around the forbidden fiery circle of resignation to the reality. The flames, like a Zoroastrian fire of the all knowing and inescapable, represent the proverb we all abide by, but the proverb that dare not speaks its name--teach to the test. Attendance will increase each day as we draw closer to the end of official classes and the girls and boys, the banat and shebab, steal into the classrooms like thieves in the mid-afternoon and ask us point blank "What final exam having teacher?" You can't really blame them. For many centuries the learning style here has been solely remember and recite. Integrating language and content, cooperative learning, total physical response, any cognitive language learning approach any concern for low affective filters and comprehensible input won't do much good. What will help them is reminding them to use a simple verb after a modal--no "s", no "ed"; "s" on subject, mafi "s" on verb. Drill, drill, drill. Next week is review week, and some students take this mean they have the week off to study on their own--the chafe. You will find them in the pool halls and sidewalk tables at one of the dozens of Starbucks in town. The wheat will come and that usually means tutorials for three or four students who sincerely want to improve their English. By the end of the week, I should know about summer school and contracts.. 5/14/VeilsThe Chinese Restaurant didn't have tables or booths. It had privacy cabins with locks on the doors and buzzers to summon the waiters. The local men meet their kept women for dinner on Thursdays, spend Fridays with their families. "So many social engagements, so little time." There was a time in the west, especially in the US, in particularly during the 1920s, when these veils of secrecy in the world of sheikhs were seen as enchanting. There was a perception that nobility co-existed with the dominion of slaves, servants and midnight cutthroats. Flowing from Valentino's desert robes was an Arab’s great passion for prohibited love which was not completely detached from his obsession for revenge and preserving family honor and dignity. At roughly the same time, flowing from pop journalist and mythmaker Lowell Thomas was a multi-media lecture series about TE Lawrence (of Arabia), which, like the Godfather films with their Norman Rockwell friendly Italian gangsters, stereotyped negatively, but negatively in an appealing sort of way the brutalities of the desert and its people. Similarly, as I watch CNN and take note of the contrasts between the solemn martial funerals of the Israeli dead and the immediate juxtaposition of the mobs beating their breasts and shouting their slogans as Palestinian corpses, wrapped only in their funereal gauze, are carried to their unmarked graves, I see not only how dangerous these sterotypings can be for the peoples on my TV, but for America. The US hasn't a clue, but good Lord, if there was ever a time it needed one, it's now. "Here God strictly insists on accuracy in all things--beginning with supplication to Him. God wields a sword of justice called life that is shameless in its inequalities and brutalities. Here no one attempts to make believe that this isn't how things are supposed to be. In life, you are either born a slave or slave owner. That's the answer. That's what it's all about. And for this, God is immeasurably generous, wise, compassionate and merciful. Here, people aren't expected to love their neighbors, but it seems somehow they do. There is no greater joy than watching their children play with the neighbor's children in the sandy lots that become football stadiums after dark." (archived 25 January) These veils of secrecy can no more be lifted on a simple dinner date with some woman other than a wife or wives than they can be lifted from the furtive operations of American-owned defense contractors like Halliburton, Raytheon, Vinnell, Lockheed Martin. . . . Still, whatcha gonna do? Me? Tend my own gardens, of course. I used my new Chinese restaurant pilfered coffee measuring spoon this morning, a morning that I held in abeyance until 11:30. Pillow chatting post-veil lifting, post-clothes shedding, post-performances went on till the first call to prayer around 3 AM. I move on dragging myself farther and farther from my heaven, my Mother Cabrini promises. 5/13/"An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an ob..."An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." (Newton) This afternoon, I lay on the couch with the cats, Euro News on low volume and listened to the wind rattle the windows. The wind blew sand into the sky. It's another yellow day. The sound of a football match in the lot between my building and the police station faded into and out of untroubled afternoon lucid dreams. There seemed to be some jubilation here and there in the world, where people aren't talking about decapitation and sodomy over evening supper. The European Union ceremonies keep the helium balloon sellers busy and prosperous. In India, the paranoid lunatic party, the BJP or Bigots and Jackasses Party, is out of power and the Gandhis are back in fashion. So there are two large masses of land and collections of various languages and peoples where olive branches are swishing about. I look forward to a little slap and tickle tonight. I'm going to a Chinese restaurant where I plan to nick one of those ladle-like spoons they give you for eating won-ton soup. It's a secret tradition of mine, since college. I use them for measuring coffee into my coffee filters, and whenever I have a new one, it is a sort of home warming gift I give to myself. I will be mindful of samsara and over tip the waiter. I guess I won't be getting married in Italy this summer.5/13/Morning AfteFolk night began with a meeting, anonymity by candle light. Experience, strength and hope for all. Around 8 folks and folk musicians arrived. The Sting song "Fields of Gold" was well received—someone in the room said, "Do it again" and so we did it again. The person who had personally requested the song must have been quite moved by it. An hour or two afterwards (it's hard to gauge time when strumming and singing) she excused herself and went into my office, first door down the hall on the right, and collapsed into a heap of wild henna hair, black stockings and crochet blouse. I threw a blanket over her and left a pan by her head, returned to the guitarist circle and played for another hour (or two). Jimmy, my latest main man/main coon feline, chewed on many toes and bounced from lap-to-lap, knocking over cans of NA beer and glasses of home brew wine and ethyl alcohol mixed with fruit juice. The other Dave on guitar played a song for Jimmy called, "The Cat Came Back". I build fun cats. After most people left, two audience members and Nigel, the hammer dulcimer player (who teaches physics) sat around having a chat about this and that. Nigel's stories of life in Papua, New Guinea were nightmarish. Twenty years ago, when he'd taught there, days and night were filled with tropical heat and constant gun fire. The gun fire wasn't the product of war or revolution, but of tribal members who had come out of the hills and bush to work the copper mines. Even as late at ten years ago, there were tribes in New Guinea who had not only never met a whiteface, but had never met a member of a neighboring tribe. There are around 800 different languages there. It's a philologists dream job. When the various tribal members received pay, it was commonplace to drink and have shootouts. While Nigel was spinning his yarns about the bad bush, a low, sad moan came from the office. This was followed by the unsettling sound of an explosive, gut bursting vomit, projectile type. She'd missed the pan. It took four of us to carry the casualty to my bedroom. This morning around 5:30, while sleeping on the sofa, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A sheepish voice asked, "What am I doing here?" I couldn't answer her question. I don't know what I'm doing here or why I'm still here. Even Stephen Hawking, with his models of white holes, black holes and curves in the space time continuum, couldn't have given her an answer. It comes as no surprise to me this morning that my first hosting of folk night had a sharp edge to it. 5/11/Folk Night ZaytuniDraftDeleteNow it is almost the middle of May. I am close to finishing my emergency contract. I have not been offered one for next year, but then, nobody has, not even the head of the hiring committee. I could be between lives again or not. I have a lock on a job at the flagship school for petroleum and minerals in Saudi, the magic kingdom. The upshots are the pay and the proximity to Bahrain. I'd worked in the eastern province before. Downtown Manama is thirty minutes away. Since I can now come and go into and out of Kuwait on a visit visa, I could even make it back up here if need be in less than three hours. What's different about this time from the last time is I have lost any desire to ever return to the US again, meet the right woman, settle down, plant a garden and lull in bed each Sunday with hot coffee and five pounds of newspaper. Last year sobered me from that delusion. I wonder each day what has become of Ms. T; if she reads this, if she's figured out the anagram, has she decided to follow some path with another drunk. Or did she recommit herself to the promise she made to herself the week I sent her orchids after she'd claimed to have gone four days without a drink. On Friday afternoon I found the bottles rolling around underneath the truck's driver seat. By Saturday night, I had my hands around her throat. I wonder if she'll ever see the part she played in that night. I hope she's found work for next year or at least met someone who has a little money put away. She was about to lose her house. Maybe losing it would be the best thing that ever happens to her. She should see a lawyer and take out a restraining order on the whole city of Baton Rouge.Tonight I host folk night. I've rearranged furniture placing the sofa and its matching off-white arm chairs on one end of the flat, beneath the windows over looking the four minarets of the Shi'a Mosque. On the other end, I've set up the straight back kitchen chairs for the guitar players and Nigel, the hammer dulcimer player. I've stocked up on chips and dip and NA beer—the only kind of beer permitted in Kuwait. I've learned a song tonight for Mina who has become a good friend. She's the fiery Iranian whose Semitic features give her the appearance of a Long Island J.A.P—I have long been a Hewbress-o-phile. It's "Fields of Gold" by Sting, and it's an easy song to play, three or four standard chords, maybe a couple of jazzy passing chords. I can't really sing the song, but most people will know it so I'll pass out the lyrics and turn it into a sing-along. There is a repeated line in the song about fields of barley. I wonder how long it will be before Budweiser options the song for a commercial. 5/11/Il GoogledCercatore Quando 3 PersiCome possiamo misurare le lesioni del passato in cui ci è soltanto questo momento? 5/11/Seeker When Lost 3How can we measure the injuries of the past when there is only this moment? 5/11/Southern NovelI want to write a southern novel. As a southern writer I could substitute local color for substance. I have as an opening line: "The week my Mama and Step-Daddy were fixing to have the grand re-opening for their bait shop on Bayou La Teche, my grandmother was mauled by her pack of mongrel dogs --Lucky, Beauregard, Caleb, Aunt Flossie and Princess. Every person in town knew her as Dame Drusilla, the crazy dog lady who lived on the corner of Graceland and Redemption Streets." From there I would transition to a diner where some people are sitting in a booth having a breakfast of biscuits with honey, grits, cheese omelets and chicory roast coffee. Their discussion of the tragedy would be peppered with phrases like "she done had it coming, what befriending all those mangy mutts" and "y'all don't know nothing about her past." The waitress would not have a beehive hairdo (my concession to originality) but have her blue hair tied into a bun and skewered with a pencil. She would also have a deformity (my concession to cliché)--maybe a wooden leg or glass eye. When she's not waiting on customers, she sits at the counter working crossword puzzles. At some point, there would be a scene in the bait shop where the step-father and step-daughter bond over the process of filleting a catfish. There would be quasi-religious imagery: "She watched him slip the rusted wire under the soft spot on the fish's head. It was maybe a three pounder. Its eyes were wise and perfectly round like those of the baby Jesus hanging in her Sunday school classroom; they looked upon her with piercing compassion." The novel would have several floral images including those of crape myrtle in bloom, dying periwinkle, wild zinnias, monstrous sunflowers, and a wide variety of herbaceous perennials growing in back of the bait shop. I suppose I'd have to include scenes of a contest or two like a death struggle knife fight in a road house and maybe an auction for a kiss from this year's Miss Strawberry beauty contest winner that becomes surreal like a scene from a Nathaniel West novel. . A drunken uncle, the one who was always threatening his family with a .45 pistol, would shoot himself, and his secret tragedy from the war would tie the whole story together. The last paragraph would be: "A full moon glowed like a pearl surrounded by a deep velvety cushion like the one I'd seen in Maw maw's bureau. Coming from somewhere back by the Negro shacks I heard guitar music and someone singing a song about crying in the rain. I wished I had never kissed that stranger from Marksville. I wished I could have done more for the baby bird I'd found fallen from its nest. I wish I had told Alvin who it was that had really taken the money from the cash register that night. I guess what I learned that summer was that somehow this is what life is, that somehow we will always be full of wishes. Some people will always be lonely while others will always be chasing their dreams, turning their backs on what's real and good. I decided then that there was no need to hurry home after all, that I would take my time and walk, walk for miles if I felt like it just to breathe in the cool night air."5/11/There is a better than average chance I could wind...There is a better than average chance I could wind up on the Thai/Myanmar border this summer. The Burmese Volunteer program sent me this: "Our office is based in Mae Sot. If you were to just turn up and see whatpositions are available, I would say that there would be about a 70% chanceof something being available for you." Food and shelter in exchange for subjects and verbs. If I'm offered summer courses here, I may just go for a three weeks in August. 5/10/I've been El Googled La consideraría una buena ...I've been El Googled La consideraría una buena vida si un día puedo encontrar un cierto pedazo inaplicable de césped, una esquina obscura, inconsecuente del planeta -- con excepción de Baton Rouge. Oigo que la economía está escogiendo para arriba en Timbuktu.5/9/homeThe closest I can come to pandemonium these days is grocery shopping. Since my maid cooks my weekly fare of chicken buriyani, masala, curry and yogurt salad, I only have to think about breakfast, a light snack and the cats. Skimmed milk, light yogurt, ramon noodles, a bag of apples, some plums, grapes, bananas, brand flakes, 98% fat free pop corn and a dozen or so Barbicons. Barbicon is an NA beer. I buy lemon flavored when they have it; settle for apple when they don't. Ten pounds of cat litter, a couple dozen packets of wet food, a bag of dry food and I've resupplied my home for the week. The music of the spheres harmonize, all of God's children have joined hands, balance has been restored to my universe. Work doesn't require much psychic, mental, emotional or physical energy. Surf's up. Yup. It's quiet. Too quiet. I can't turn my back on my devils completely. I have stripped them naked and tied a leash around their necks. What I have now is what any of us can ever hope for in life: controlled chaos or regulated pandemonium. If you're fortunate, play your hand right, you might have someone you can depend upon. You'll maintain reasonable health most of your life and you won't die without being comforted by someone who loves you. I'd consider it a good life if one day I can find some irrelevant piece of turf, an obscure, inconsequential corner of the planet--other than Baton Rouge. I hear that the economy is picking up in Timbuktu. 5/9/pole to pole"I think now that it was a great mistake to move east again. . .instead of somehow scrambling for the Mexican border while the scrambling was good so as to lie low for a couple of years in subtropical bliss, until I could safely marry my little Creole for I must confess that depending on the condition of my glands and ganglia, I could switch in the course of the same day from one pole of insanity to the other. . ." (Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita) There was nothing wrong with Humbert Humbert that 100 mg of Zoloft a day couldn't have cured. "it's better to rule in hell than serve in heaven" (Milton, Paradise Lost) I've just finished reading Quinn's posting "Descent into Madness". At the same time, I checked my referrals and saw that someone had googled Therese's daughter's name and that search produced a link to my site, archived from my own descent. Oops. That was then this is not then. I guess my descent into madness--which for me typically results in chronic assholism, bottomed out in Saudi just a few weeks ago but this most recent tumble had its beginnings in the UAE around the time Therese's mother died. Ms. T. slipped into an inconsolable grief at a time when we had just imported her troubled teenage wasteland son (who'd quit school and run away from his father's home) into the land of falafels and sand storms. There it became my responsibility to get him through an online high school program and make sure he didn't trash the house. Imagine a graph that begins February 2002, follow the line as it zig zags downward with the occasional hump toward saner moments. Every now and again the boy would complete a course. I'd have a gig at the Hilton. The three of us would explore the surroundings. The zig zagging continues until May 2003. The week Rob came to town, Artarama was about to open and my mother was mauled by a pack of stray dogs she had collected over the years--they'd put her in intensive care with multiple lacerations and broken bones. I was attempting to establish a relationship with my daughter--Julia--17, whom I'd never met. This confluence of events caused the line to plummet off the chart. There's the proverbial phrase--"method to madness". The method I needed to ascend into something other than stark raving, danger-to-self-and-others lunacy began with my returning to the land of falafels and sand storms, first by taking a job with a defense contractor in Saudi Arabia, a job nobody in their right mind would take at the time. That wouldn't have described me. Although it can be somewhat offputting to live in a country where there happens to be a bounty on the heads of all Americans, especially those affiliated with the defense industry, it beat staying in Baton Rouge. From there I'd planned to save just enough money to make it through the summer knowing that a university gig wouldn't be hard to find. And that's just what I've done. So here I am. Not only am I back on the chart, but the line continues to shoot upwards. Last night I got a call from the blues band singer by night/ Chevron oil field suit by day and he asked if I was available to join the band. It's the only band in town so they gig often at embassy affairs and every so often they head to the American military bases along the border to perform for the troopers and trooperinas. Part of me wants to go back to those final days in Saudi when my assholic behavior danced with the devil day and night and delete every mean spirited posting. Another part tells me to keep the posts as a reminder of how things were and how they can be if I don't vigilantly work this program of recovery from assholism--(my child, my spouse, my father, my friend, my own). As for Molly and Josh? She can sing like and angel and it's too bad she's not doing anything with her voice. Josh will always be there for his family and friends. I'm glad I took a big part in helping him get started at a time when his mother couldn't stop crying, couldn't get out of bed. The last thing her mother said to me before she died was, "You take care of things" and I did, or at least I tried. From pole to pole, right? I've applied for a summer volunteer job teaching Burmese refugees along the Thai/Myanmar border. If a paying summer gig doesn't come my way, I hope to find myself there saving a little cash and perhaps doing a little good.Even as late as this morning I wake up remembering the whiff of what mattered most to us in this world--a cup of coffee brought to you while you're still in bed. Now that was living! That's a devotion we could smell, taste and hold in our hands. I still set up my coffee maker the night before--dump the old grounds, rinse the filter, eye ball the measurement, fill the tank with water. Then I brush my teeth, wrangle the cats, grab a book and forget to lock the door. Yellow clouds slowly fly over the fields of towers here in Kuwait. Sandwiched between the desert and the sea, the city-state can only grow upwards. Five floors beneath my window, traffic creeps and weaves, sorrowful maids wait for their shuttles, pigeons loom and I wait a few more hours before going into work. What have I become now? An inner city dweller trying to remember to breathe, chill out in a traffic jam, always on the hunt for a parking space. Each day brings distractions, disillusions, spontaneous virtues and of course a little faith, a little hope. At night the city is filled with bright lights and neon; a light dust that settles on everything. People go out shopping for gold, flowers, to pick up tailored made clothes, pick out new shoes, load up their grocery carts with all their favorite foods. My lazier dreams roam from here to there, to Kathmandu where autumn is dry docked year round. Beneath the bright sun, I wait for summer, wait to listen to a sarangi fiddler playing to the rhythms of the morning. 5/7/I've been Le Googled. ites-moi davantage des n...I've been Le Googled. ites-moi davantagedes nuages sinistreset un fleuve sous la pluie,de votre consentement de sanguinedans l'obscurité parfumée,d'un lever de soleil accroché vers le haut dessusun orage lugubre,et le vent de waywardcela nous chante au quiet.5/7/Take up the White Man's burden-- The savage wars ...Take up the White Man's burden--The savage wars of peace--Fill full the mouth of Famine,And bid the sickness cease. . .(Kipling)Yesterday was massage day. Massages do little for me. Still, I wanted to give my maid some extra work. But at the same time, I need to save money. So, for the equivalent of 30 US dollars, she came over and whipped up a tub of chicken buriyani, and vat of chicken curry and a cooling yogurt salad to help tone down the south Indian heat. The 10 Kuwaiti dinars included the cost of the food, spices, labor and cleaning. She earned in about three hours, a third of what most maids and other hired laborers earn here in a month. I'm saving about 2/3 of what I'd normally spend in restaurants and the school's cafeteria for the week. Am I shouldering the white man's burden? I don't know about that. But her buriyani is without equal to any rice, veggie, chicken mélange I've had, including Jambalaya from K-Paul's. And she put a little more folding money in her slender purse. She said to me while she diced onions, "Sir, I think maybe massage make you nervous." By "nervous" I think she meant "gives me the wrong idea". Perhaps. Perhaps having a woman rub baby oil all over my body both front and back, head to toe does loosen things up a tad. I feel it's best she stay in the kitchen on Thursdays. While she was barefoot and in the kitchen, Alex the Armenian drummer rang me. There was a jam session at a villa somewhere off the Fahaheel expressway. I hadn't unpacked my Stratocaster since the Filipino dance band in Jeddah--so I went. The villa is a three-story palace--not including the "basement". This is how the ex-pat American oil field suits live. When I was an undergraduate, I thought I was sticking it to the man by choosing a creative writing track that excluded math requirements. The "basement" is the roughly the size of two side-by-side tennis courts. The center piece is a swimming pool; surrounding that is a small nightclub, including a bar, several sofas, cafe style tables and chairs. There is a dance floor and a stage area. Set up on stage is a lot if expensive sound gear like a Sunn P.A. system and a wall of amps including Marshalls and Mesas Boogies. There were stage lights that flashed red and blue. The spinach dip was impressive. It was a night of coincidences. It turns out this "band" was the latest line up of the Chevron band, that is a group of like-minded American chemical engineers who are earning the big, big bucks and spend their off hours belting out the blues. Coincidence one. I jammed a few times with the previous Chevron band five years ago. My connection was Stacy, whose husband, Randall, worked for Chevron. Stacy was in our writer's group. The singer last night was her husband's replacement. Coincidence two. The singer is also from Louisiana, New Orleans, Mid-City, not only one of my old haunts, but also where Therese grew up. He knew at least one of her thug brothers. His watering hole was the Parkview. Mine was Mick's. We ran through an improvised set of Meter's songs--"Fire on the Bayou", "Iko Iko", "They All Axed for You". My shining moment was a bluesy version of Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" which I nicked from the Cowboy Junkies--sort of. The main riff I nicked from John Lee Hooker's "No Shoes". I played a lot of slide. It's what I do. Somehow or another, a clutter of Bulgarian flight attendants showed up. They're in flight attendant school. Reportedly 75 of them have just been hired. They seemed most awed by the indoor pool and the opulance of the make-shift night club. They will likely become regulars of the jam sessions. I've been invited to play with the band at an Austrian Consulate affair June 3. I was also invited to move into the palace. The N'awlins fella is recently divorced--we had that in common as well--and he offered to rent out a floor to me. If I sign a contract, I'll take him up on his offer as we're given the option of a housing allowance and I don't think I could find a place with an indoor pool, nightclub and other perks for what the university pays me. All in all, I hope to stay in Kuwait. I need to learn how to say, "Would you like to go out for some ice cream?" in Bulgarian.5/6/"Most China sailors don't go back. They pull twent..."Most China sailors don't go back. They pull twenty-thirty yearsthen shack up with a Chinese girl and open a bar." (The Sand Pebbles, Richard McKenna) I'm staying in today watching Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles. He gives an English for Specific Purposes lesson to a contracted Chinese laborer. Live steam flows through the pipes below deck into a condenser where it is turned into water, where it is '"made dead". McQueen demonstrates this first by drawing a thumb across his throat. The worker winces. McQueen then chooses to say, "the steam goes to sleep." I saw "The Sand Pebbles" when I was twelve, in 1968, in a theater in Scott City, Kansas. I was fascinated by it. The seedy Asian bars, brothels, paying coolies to do your wash, cook your breakfast. Les barres asiatiques seedy, brothels, payant des coolies pour faire votre lavage, font cuire votre petit déjeuner.Blame Hollywood. 5/6/On European news this morning, a bunch of spindly ...On European news this morning, a bunch of spindly teenagers in Delr Al-Balah, Gaza threw rocks at an Israeli tank. The tank lurched forward turning rubble into gravel. The tank's turret spun around this way and that. A couple of the boys--blues jeans, sneakers, t-shirts, moptop haircuts--hopped ontop of the tank and started a small, harmless fire on the armor. They reminded me of ancient hunters trying to bring down a mastadon with clubs and stones. Why did that photo of a student in Tiananmen square have so much resonance for Americans? It's like that poster from the sixties of an eagle about to dig his talons into his prey, a mouse. The mouse, resigned to his fate, is seen giving the eagle the middle finger and the caption reads, "A last great act of defiance." We like stories of last stands, fighting to the last against all odds. Those Palestinian kids have a beef, they have balls and if the US refuses to pay attention to their motives, we should at the very least be paying them a little respect. Me? I haven't been offered a contract for next year yet. Then again, nobody has. In all likelihood, I will stay at this university, but I'm not taking any chances. Once again I'm flooding the job market with my CV. On June 9th my temporary contract ends. Once again, I am trying to decide--do I bide my time in Bhakatpur or Thailand. Cost effective serenity. 5/5/Maybe I see things differently afterall. Perha...Maybe I see things differently afterall. Perhaps not everyone believes that change is what matters most. Maybe not everyone saw, as I did when I was a child, that a spinning top had to keep spinning, that when it stopped, it died. I can participate in the average, the common place, do what we all like to do. I like to sit at cafe tables when the sun is going down. Sometimes I'll even ask for a cigarette to go with my drink. I can do small talk. I know I can. I've done it many times--ten, maybe more. I like to piss outside when the air is chilly. 5/4/Tell me more of foreboding clouds and a river i...Tell me more of foreboding cloudsand a river in the rain,of your sanguine consentin perfumed darkness,of a sunrise hung up on a doleful storm,and the wayward wind that sings us to quiet.5/3/Chitiwan"What you’re doing for our country is so cool! I mean, war, man. Wow. War. Y’know? Wow. Okay! And now for your enjoyment, here’s my famous ping pong ball trick!" (Says Winona in South Park: The Movie) We walked from the lodge past the rice fields where the women, knee deep in the paddies, sang songs about an imaginary day when their true lovers came to them from the other side of the mountain.The village blossomed with single room homes The teenagers didn't have time to stand before mirrors and feel bleak or lonely. There wasn't enough day light to waste on tedium. Can you imagine a life so simple that it is empty of guilt and regret? We stood in the drizzle and took photographs, unable to record the delicate music. Similar to field songs which mutated into Delta blues, the rhythm and the beat were slow and deliberate, but the melody was more uplifting, more Celtic, sung in a major key, sirenic and enchanting. She needed to send an E mail home, but the lone E mail cafe's service was in pretty bad shape. The Maoist had destroyed the transmission station. Woefully underfunded for a terrorist group, they hadn't bombed it or shot it full of mortar shells. They'd simply poured a lot of gasoline on the building and the tower then lit a match. On our way back from the hour and a half it took to get off one E mail to her sister, we stopped to take some photographs of the charred transmission tower. Coming down the dirt road, an old man led an elephant. I offered him a few rupees and he made the elephant kneel. We'd thought camels were bumpy rides.5/3/ADDENDUM (Negative Space, silence and balance""Try the distancebetween the desk where I sit, in the room I share, in aformer-hotel-soon-to-be-former-dorm, on the south side of Chicago, to DurbarSquare in Kathmandu. . .Waiting in the airport-- which has always seemed tome one of the loneliest places on earth. A long plane ride to change planesin a place where I don't speak the language. Listening to every syllable,yearning to make sense of it. Another plane ride, gazing out the window,afraid to miss a single inch of the tiny world below. That's a distance thatmeans something. Or try the distance between all the if's and when's andwhere you are right now."(Quinn Carey) 5/3/Seeker when lost: Is separation the silence betw...Seeker when lost: Is separation the silence between the notes? Is having nothing to say mindful expression, unencumbered by desire and expectations? Doesn't negative space have the most impact in a photograph, a sculpture or a painting? The number of stars doesn't impress me. They mean nothing compared to the distances between them. Darkness began tonight with a sand storm, followed by a drizzle and muddy rain. Still there is a grace behind the veil of city lights, a silhouette glimpsed between white lightning flashes. Divinity blooms in the glare of the green lighted balconies of the minarets. I live in four rooms. In one of the rooms I strum my guitar and sing. In another room, I heat water and eat Ramon noodles. My cats eat there too. In another room, I hop on this computer and watch BBC World with the sound muted (guns and corpses, guns and corpses--the corpses have the most to say but nobody wants to interview them). In another room I read before going to sleep. These days, it's a re-read--Lolita In all of these rooms I wait for the next true distraction to my life to skirt past. 5/2/Seven weeks after leaving Jeddah, some Americans, ...Seven weeks after leaving Jeddah, some Americans, Brits, Australians were gunned down in an oil refinery not too far from my former home. Apparently the body of one American was dragged about for over an hour. The security guards were in on it. As a result of these events, I've begun to systematically delete my angriest postings from the past four months. Why add to the misery? I don't regret having put them on here to begin with. Looking back and seeing just how big an asshole I can be, especially when I've adopted a siege mentality has its benefits. God willing, I won't ever feel under siege again. For my part, I shouldn't have been there to begin with. I repeat ad naseum a line from one of my favorite movies: "There's more to life than a little bit of money, you know. Don't ya know that? I just don't understand it. And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day..." (says Marge, Coen Brothers, Fargo) Last night two Imams on the English language Saudi station chatted about this latest attack in Yanbu. I listened for about a half an hour to them agreeing how appalling this and other attacks have been because Muslim brothers are killing innocent Muslim brothers. Then I heard the following which I will qualify as not taken out of context, not stated for reactionary purposes; take it for what it's worth: One Imam said, "when they kill one of their enemies, this is understandable. But they can't be forgiven for killing other Muslims." The other agreed. Last week, I listened to a voice over translation of the sermon delivered in the Grand Mosque of Mecca regarding last week's attacks. What was preached there was this line: killing innocent people anywhere is evil, but it is far more evil to kill innocent Muslims." I left the country because I found myself slipping into a deep, dark place coming home and going to work facing heavy machine guns, shoulder slung sub machine guns and 22mm cannons. All it's going to take is one true believer behind a gun before more Saudi ex-pats are killed. We should be paying attention to the Imams. In simplistic class struggle terms, there is the potential to assemble a large guerilla army opposed to the royals. BBC World this morning reported an estimate that this army already numbers in the tens of thousand. Palestine was never mentioned in this BBC report; what some of the Saudi intellgentsia talking heads suggested was that the discontent is based on the disparity in lifestyles. For those who have been in Saudi or are there now, we know what they're talking about. The disparity is between your average farm boy Saudi grunt who earns, what? 1500? 2,000 SR a month, and who is fed buckets of manure every waking moment of his soldier's life (dished out by the wasta endowed officer corps) and the lifestyle of the thousands of princes who live in not one but thousands of Versailles palaces. Bolshevism did not have as an added incentive Wahab Islamic rigidness. Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman have reconciled both modernity and the prosperity it brings with their deep Islamic faith. Here and there, the citizens prosper, commerce is good and outside investors aren't uneasy about doing business. 5/1/Bhaktapur (for Seeker When Lost)Wet clay left out to dry under the mindful eye ofGanesh, the patron of potterswhere truant children preyamong contented cows The potters' wheels spin. In this square,the innermost wheelsare sustained by a deathlessmomentum,spun round the prevailing curves of a soft world windwhere wewander lost among samsara.**samasara is where your next life will be basedon the actions taken in the previous one 5/1/I drove past my old stomping grounds, Camp Doha wh...I drove past my old stomping grounds, Camp Doha where for four years I was the English Department. I headed towards Jahra, saw the old red fort where in the 1920s the Kuwaitis pushed back Abdul Aziz bin Saud when he was out to conquer the peninsula by sword of steel and/or sword of flesh. I then headed for Umm Qasr, Iraq--not expecting I'd ever get there, only to see how far I could get before turning around or being turned around. About ten miles up the road, at the first US Army checkpoint, I turned around and drove back to Kuwait City. The traffic was thick. It reminded me of the causeway from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain on a Wednesday afternoon. The difference of course is that these vehicles weren't packed with Saudi young fellers on their way to knock back a few col' ones, shoot pool and throw some money at dancing Natashas. This traffic was mostly trucks of all shapes and sizes carrying God only knows. I suppose it's a no-brainer to say that war is good for commerce. I bought a bottle of water from a boy. 

He wore a ragged Pokemon t-shirt and blue jeans. I wondered where his parents were. I imagined that his father was in one of the trucks somewhere in the queue and that he regularly makes this run from Kuwait to Iraq carrying. . .what? Green bananas? Medical supplies? Cheap plastic sandals? Bottled water? Enterprising bidoon (Arabic for homeless person) that he is, he probably stocked up on boxes of water and decided to haul his boy on his runs to and from the war. The boy was conceivably 9 or 10 but he was already grown up. He walked the length of the traffic queue uninterested in making a sale. I paid him 250 fils, a hundred more than he asked (150--miya khamseen). He sort of shrugged his shoulders as he took off down the line. I wondered if he'd be allowed to keep the tip. Poem du jour that you won't hear recited in Riyadhfor "Seeker when lost"(Pablo Neruda)Always I am not jealousof what came before me. Come with a manon your shoulders,come with a hundred men in your hair,come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet,come like a riverfull of drowned menwhich flows down to the wild sea,to the eternal surf, to Time! Bring them allto where I am waiting for you;we shall always be alone,we shall always be you and Ialone on earth,to start our life!

Graciously, my maid entered the flat, confident with purpose like a bird softly landing on a window ledge. She has come a long way and still has far to go before she can return home. She can’t afford the luxury of thinking about time and distance separated from her family. Despite this, she remains a pleasant woman and laughs easily. Yesterday she came by at 5. I had scheduled a massage. I don't really care for massages. I have had maybe three in my life. I give them of course, usually for the first and last time on the third date. But my maid has lost some customers recently when Americans went home for reasons I suppose that have something to do with war. I'd slept through nearly thirty minutes of twittering doorbell and door knocking. The building guard assured her I was home. 

He sees all. She persisted. Finally, I came to and realized that the doorbell was not coming from BBC World on the TV which is where I'd placed it in my dream. I had some place to be at 5:30. I'd forgotten the massage. I canceled and paid her the 5 KD (about 17 dollars). She said, “No sir" about two dozen times before I convinced her that taking the money was the right thing to do because, I said, "If you don't take the money, you will make me feel bad." She says she is a good cook. On the 12th of May, I'm hosting the folk music group and will hire her to whip up a feast.

Days Ablaze The days blaze by, getting hotter, even the evenings are beginning to glow. Throughout the city, construction never stops. There are sidewalks to be jack hammered into rubble so new bricks, identical to the old bricks, can be laid. Eerily, the workers manage to endure the heat. The roads simmer and are out of focus on the horizon. SUVs and German cars zoom from here to there, drivers chat on phones and shiver from the chill of their air conditioners. If I were to join a road crew, even for a day, a half a day and work as hard as those men, you might as well measure me for a coffin. How can they work in the heat, in standard issue road crew jump suits, hard hats and orange safety vests? While they work, they chat, joke and smile and return the greeting when pedestrians--who are dashing from their frosty cars to frosty buildings-

-acknowledge them with "Salam Alaikum." It's nearly 150 degrees Fahrenheit out there at noon. Still these brown fellows haul heavy loads, dig and dig deeper holes and lift hundred pound sacks of concrete. They aren't big men. Where I come from, construction workers tend to be burly--which means fat yet muscular, and they are paid as much in one day as their Arabian Gulf counterparts earn in a month. You wouldn't describe these guys as burly. They are skinny, pint sized and wirey. They come from East Asian villages in Bangla Desh, Pakistan, Nepal and India. When they finish their work day, they don't knock off and head for the road house for a few cold ones. And they don't hop in their pick-up trucks and speed home to meat and potatoes. 

They pile into the back of a panel truck which looks like a paddy wagon from a 1930s gangster movie, the door is bolted from the outside, and they are driven back to their barracks. They sleep in warehouses twenty or more to an open bay. They subsist on a diet of rice, lentils and curry, maybe a couple of small pieces of chicken. Some fresh fruit if they're lucky. Some of them have Fridays off. Many grab buckets and rags and plant themselves in shopping mall parking lots. They'll wash your car for three bucks.Know how they do it? Know how they keep going, spending years and years away from their families?They have faith. Not go-to-church-every-other-Sunday faith or New Agey bell, books and candles faith, but the real thing. Hindu or Muslim--they quiet their minds with prayers. I wish I had their passion and devotion. (I also wish I had their metabolism)6/29/2005EditFor the past three nights, my students have been a...For the past three nights, my students have been asking a lot of questions.  

This is the whole of chapter four in our text book--how to ask simple "Yes. or No." questions and how to ask meddlesome questions--who? what? where? when? why? For one gap fill, a student mistakenly asked "Who did you do last night?" I corrected him, "What?" and he asked, "Why?" I told him, "See me after class." Towards the end of the class we played twenty questions. This was somewhat prickly. Where I come from, the only question you're allowed to ask the "It" person which is not "Yes/No" is "Is it an Animal, vegetable or mineral?" Mineral is anything that's inorganic. Vegetable can include trees and fruit. Animal can include life ranging from humans to jelly fish. The problem here is that it is "haram" (forbidden) to suggest that humans are animals. So I changed it to mammal. After explaining "mammal", my students nitpicked and said you couldn't call a fish or bird a mammal. In the end, the culturally, linguistically correct starter question ended up becoming:Life (Central Nervous System)Life (No Central Nervous System)Something Not Alive. 6/29/2005EditStuffBeing on the move may enrich our lives but it can also be blissfully impoverishing. Recently my incidental other helped me to pack my suitcase for a move across town. Astonished to find that all of my clothes, important papers, framed photographs and current books fit into one medium-sized suitcase, she shook her head, "tisk, tisked" and felt it necessary to point out that there should be more, especially for a man with "your education and especially at your age." If a card shark had been on hand to interpret my poker face he would have told her:He not only has everything he needs, he has much more than most. Most people, that is the majority of people scrounging about terra firma spend their entire day in pursuit of enough sustenance to negotiate another day of nourishment. For them a good day has little to do with hair, losing five pounds or catching all the green lights coming home from work. A really good day for the majority of people in the world consists of what they don't have--Cholera, Dengue FeverDysentery, Hepatitis A, B, C, E, HIV, Malaria, Meningitis, Polio, Rickets, the Plague. Whenever I am feeling low, really low, bluest and bummed, I try to remember this and forget the rallying cry of the haves, "Fuck 'em."6/28/2005EditThe Empirical Has No ClothesDoesn't every one need hours each day to be alone to re-conceive banalities? It takes countless long hours of dicking around in solitude for an extrovert to cultivate an introverted, misunderstood demeanor. Unfortunately, there are some who are attracted to aloofness.One of the first things you learn when you raft rapids is that if you dunk your paddle starboard and give it quick series of hard twists, the effect is that your raft will begin to veer to port. If you dunk your paddle and twist to port, you veer starboard. I have initiated the pull back. 

  I've made myself incommunicado and tried to keep my weekends booked with living room acoustic jams. It's backfired. Unannounced drop-ins, what we might see back home as stalking, has become the mode.Gentlemen of the jury, who among us can turn away a middle-of-the night offer, especially from an offerer whose agile, soft palate opens like a lotus. 6/27/2005EditA'amali al yoomi اعمل يومي (Make My Day)An ex-pat in the Gulf probably more so than anywhere else east of the Suez, west of the Sea of Japan lives a life of limited empowerment. Our fat wallets mean nothing here. Here the locals drive better cars than we do and live in bigger homes. We can't bully the natives here the way we can in places like India or Nepal. The lifestyle in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE can be the most sumptuous and luxuriant of ex-pat lifestyle anywhere in the world. But there's something missing when the locals can't keep a straight face when you demand to see the manager or when you give a license plate number to the police when some young Turk cuts you off in traffic--he in his Mercedes, you in your rented Hyundai.There is a rumor afloat that soon in Saudi Arabia, Prince Abdullah is going to permit American ex-pats to start carrying firearms. 

Where I come from, deep in the uncharted bush of Baton Rouge bedroom communities, just about everybody I know has multiples of semi-automatic rifles and larger-than-life hand guns in their homes to protect the family from God knows what--that evil axis of inner city gangstas backed by tattooed bull dykes on Harleys and Paratrooping Pakistani convenient store owners? These firearms never have and never will be used for this constituionally protected purpose. However, occasionally, some kid will pry open the cabinet and blow away the neighbor's kid or bust a cap on his Algebra teacher for dissing him with a C minus, but other than that, the guns just sit in their cabinets, show pieces for the den, peace of mind for beer sot in his barcolounger.But now, according to the rumor mill it may soon be possible to strap on a .357 or to sling an AK-47 when we go out for a bite at TGIF on Gulf Road aware that perhaps somewhere in the night, a bearded one is driving around town with a trunk full of C-4, unleaded gas and sacks of cow shit hoping that today is the day he leaves his woes behind and hooks up with his 72 heavenly virginsI for one can't wait for the moment when my nachos arrive without the extra jalapenos. "Maybe you didn't hear me the first time," I'll say as I calmly place my mini-cigar in an ashtray and slowly stand, smoke curling around squinting eyes, two pearl handled Colt .45s worn low on each hip, "I said, 'lemme see the manager.' "6/26/2005Edit(vaga) BondingI must make a visa run to Bahrain before the 8th of July. I may stay overnight, maybe even stay the weekend and price apartments. I want to lay low from "subject + verb + object" (English) and "Verb + Subject + Object" (Arabic) electrochemical decoding of things. In fact, I hope to avoid verbs as much as I can--the simple, the perfect and the progressive tenses, active and passive voices and all modalities. Let my synaptical responses be almost entirely subject to whim and to objects of desire--in that order--with an implied verb phrase omitted at the end of the sentence. "And you (might be)?" "And the price (might be)?" "And one hour/all night (might be)? "The latest flight out (might be)?"I need an alternative to this hastily assembled bond of two (in)significant others. Her hyper-vigilant scrutinies of my dissonances and harmonies, consistencies and inconsistencies have rekindled my debate over why the dinosaurs became extinct. Giant Meteor Impact Theory or Fear of Intimacy Theory. Some self-evident western truths apparently do not have a Farsi amoral equivalent.Migratory lifestyles, like Strunk's elements of writing styles, need to be concise. I might choose to live on that island soon. I might live there and scootch back and forth across the causeway five days a week. With the sweet salary package at the university across the waters from the Babylonian Eden, I might be where I should be. 6/25/2005EditVarying landscapes and the people who influence my...Varying landscapes and the people who influence my social engagements is a good example of the cure becoming the disease. 6/24/2005EditBread and bed"And the rain came down Like an angel come down from above. . . It'll wash you away and there ain't never enough" (Steve Earle) Today, the air is calm so the sky is blue and we have a sun. What other colors might the sky be? Many, depending upon the strength of the wind. Yesterday it was business-pages yellow. On Monday, we had Mexican rice saffron with splotches of rinsed out blond. Last week it rained and a buttery mud fell from the sky. Today I should feel as though I am in my element. The swimming pool beyond the terraced garden helps as does the electric piano in the living room. Four premium movie channels are gravy. The book shelves stacked with National Geographics to the right and left of the bathroom door are right where they should be.Did you know that there are more slaves today than were taken from Africa during the entire four-hundred year era of trans-Atlantic slave trading or that two-thirds of the world's Zebra population roams freely in only two countries--Kenya and Tanzania? A Peace Corps math teacher shakes off her hang over every morning, takes a quick sponge bath and goes into an inner-city one-room class full of teenagers who would just as soon put a bullet in her as listen. Why doesn't she quit? Is this what we mean when we say a person has faith? Is she just a tourist with a low-paying job? No. 

She's a traveler.Travel without having to suppress natural fears and an underlying sense of panic is pointless. When we are in a place where we need to heighten our sense of suspicion, we heighten all of our senses in the process. Who in their right mind would accept a job in Saudi Arabia right now except for a traveler who sees that the primary reason it qualifies as a place to be is the very reason it is a place to be avoided.6/23/2005EditDemon Life"Did you ever wake up to findA day that broke up your mindDestroyed your notion of circular time It's just that demon life has got you in its sway" (Mick and Keef, Sway)I don't set out each day in search of joy, pain, anguish, the light, the love, the fear, the glory; all of these things are waiting for me between bed and kitchen and my first cup of instant coffee. I run a gauntlet of moods on my way to the kitchen, some moods bring me a sense of sensual unity while others bring emotional discord--my "rapture and rupture". While the microwave rotates my cup, bombarding my Nestcafe crystals with waves of electromagnetic heat, my awareness of the world around me evolves from reptilian to one that is noticeably more hominid. A recruiter from a university in the Magic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia called me. He was in town, and he wanted to see me for a face-to-face interview. The last time I left the kingdom I was crawling on all fours howling at the moon and everybody and every thing beneath it. I had to run some errands near his hotel anyway, so I agreed as long as he didn't mind that I wasn't dressed for it--I had on yesterday's denim shirt and last week's blue jeans, my basic county jail ensemble. Since I bailed from Saudi in March (after realizing that I was hoping I had colon cancer so that I could take some time off), several serious, deadly attacks on westerners have shattered bones and lives, including a recent gruesome beheading of an American defense contractor. . .with a knife. The interview went well, and he offered me a job. The salary package is sweet. I'd have a multiple entry/exit visa which means I could live in Bahrain and commute daily across the causeway in no more time than it took to drive from Mandeville on the Northsore to New Orleans. Why is it I have this knack for taking Norman Rockwell-like common sense and fragmenting it into as many screwy angles and twisted dimensions as a Picasso nude? The multidimensionality of my mind I believe is where my demon life draws its sustenance and authority. I accepted the offer; I can always block the man's Email address if something better offer comes along.6/22/2005Edit“A ‘tropic’ is the line where the sun "turns" sta...“A ‘tropic’ is the line where the sun "turns" starting its journey back toward the other pole of the seasons. . .We incline toward the tropics as the other pole of our too-polarized existence.” (Annie Gottlieb "Voyage to Paradise: A Visual Odyssey")Last night I began my class at the language institute adjuncted to the embassy. Lesson one was the simple present tense and its difference from the present continuous. One is used for habit and routine. The other is for doing and living in the moment, the now. The simpler form avoids conflict. The other engages it.Example: Habit and routine paralyze. Example: Problem solving is living. It is the exo-ego's answer to the question "Why are we here?" The other half, the endo-ego's answer is that we attempt to live in appreciation of one moment's exclusiveness from another moment's. Seeing each moment distinctly is to exalt it. As I've boomeranged from hemisphere to hemisphere, both endocentrically and exocentrically, I've always felt that routine was an obstacle in my flight path. Routine clips wings. So long as I've avoided the simple present and its habits and routines, so long as I've broken up repeated patterns like the progression of seasons, I believe I've inched closer to life living in the solution. When I don't break patterns, I try my best each day to aggresively exterminate their reality. I take comfort knowing I am not alone, that maybe we are all in this together. gain energy, look trim, barnyard shenanigans...sexually explicit, cum on in, Get some right now, bestest medications at 1/2 the price, cheap prescription drugs, orgasmic extacy...When I habitually check my Hotmail account and routinely delete my junk mail folder, I am reminded of the dangers of subsisting on a daily regimen of restraint. It is 180 degrees from what its designed to do. It throws us off balance. 6/22/2005EditThe Goo Goo Googliest of the WeekGoogle Search Winner:Chandelier "quantum" "baseball bat" observeI'm putting an asterisk next to this one. I'm the only hit, so it is suspect. However, even if it is rigged, it shows effort as the copying and pasting of words came from different postings. Search tip to searcher: no need to put single words in quotes.Future rules: the search must have more than my site as a hit.Runners-up:Gilgamesh pursuing Utnapishtim220vv salad shooter 6/21/2005EditSomber Solstice"Sin, guilt, neurosis, they are one and the same, the fruit of the tree of knowledge. . ." (Henry Miller)I have spent most of my life living near the Tropic of Cancer, separated by six degrees, 29.3° north (Kuwait) 29.9° north (New Orleans, Baton Rouge). I don't think my issues are latitudinal. My mother is from the north--Ohio. My father is from the south--Tennessee. My mother's bloodline Irish. My father's Italian.My polarity problem seems to be one of longitude. West of Greenwich just doesn't work for me.I feel less like a stranger in the eastern realms than I do when I shift to the west. This estrangement is not uncommon especially for Americans who have lived outside of those sheltering western longitudes for a substantial length of time. It takes a lifetime to adjust to the routine of Interstate tedium--those five-day work weeks off ramped by impotent weekend after impotent weekend like gas, food, lodging exits between heres and theres. It takes a lifetime to adjust and a whole lotta lumps of sugar in our coffee. . .see what I'm saying?Once we leave to wander in the eastern bewilderness for any substantial passage of time, retooling ourselves to the American way of life can be downright agonizing. It's not the tedium of time so much as it is our methods for coping with it.I am certainly not in a position to judge and I am sure I would be dismissed post haste from jury duty, but I can be called upon to be an expert witness.I point a finger at my spam folder. Exhibit A: Recreational Pharmaceutical Spam. Valium, Oxy-Contin. Xanax. Didrex. Phenedrine. Exhibit B: "All this country needs are more explosive orgasms, not a health care system" Tired of having that little weiner? Need larger breasts? Howz'about some Gee-neric Viagra? Feel like having a pull on it right where you're sitting?, follow the links!I have been a migrant most of my life, and as any well-heeled itinerant knows, as soon as you step off the boat, you try to blend in. And last year I did just that when I went home--with the wrath of God cheering me on. I can't imagine traveling west of Greenwich in the near or foreseeable future. Specifically, I can't imagine what demon would possess me to think about returning to the one place in the world where I have had little success at performing the rituals of lifestyles that we would want to pass on to our grandchildren. On the other hand, I can identify both Exhibits A. and B., which is nothing to feel guilt, shame or neurotic about. It's what many of us do back there just to get by and sometimes "getting by on getting by" is better than good enough. 6/20/2005EditFreelancing in Kuwait at this moment in their hist...Freelancing in Kuwait at this moment in their history is like kicking off your shoes to run barefoot through a field of dandelions--peppered with bees. I am most definitely to mine own self being true. I get to step out of character each day and be the negotiator during interviews. One of my extreme hobbies is haggling with Arabs. They're good, very good, but I can hold my own.I am leery of most offers but I am neither calloused nor detached. Negotiation in these parts spirals around the purpose of the meeting searching for common ground. I usually bring up food. We talk about their food, my food, our struggle to keep the same waist size year after year.Once a kinship is established, both sides begin to punctuate offers and counter offers with "habibi", which universally means "my darling"--and that might put us white bread types off but in N'awlins it means "baby" and the term is used uni-sexually as well. My mnemonic for remembering habibi was "Huh, baby." which in the Big Easy translates into the affirmation, "Yeah you right."Throw in a handful of "Enshallahs" (God willings), a couple of "Hamduillahs" (Thank God), drink the tea when it's offered, and don't pull back if they try to seal the deal with a kiss on each cheek.6/19/2005EditA Wine Bottle Taught Me How to Write My Name"Pure as the expanse of Heaven; I thither wentWith unexperienced thought, and laid me downOn the green bank, to look into the clearSmooth lake, that to me seemed another sky." (John Milton)Circumstances in these parts are believed to have been foregone concluded from the instant the Creator dreamt up the cosmos and circular time. Everything that has been, all that is and allthat will be is beyond of our will to control. Isn't it a pity? I have long thought, that as we move forward and try to progress in all ways possible we have to move farther and farther from where we began? So--we finally get to "there"--that peregrine place other than from "there". We unpack. We get our lives wired--to lights, music, telephones, cables--all the while sussing out the nearest pizza delivery, sushi bar and dry cleaners. We would like to meet our new neighbors but they are too busy spying on us to introduce themselves. Just in case, we fill ice trays, buy a ficus tree or two and hang our neat shit on the walls.But too soon, El Dorado becomes familiar. Its gold loses its luster. We begin to feel as though we haven't moved on at all, that despite our progresses, distances and passages of time, we begin to realize that the road wasn't linear afterall, that it had a slight, deceptive hook to it, a crook as unnoticeable to us as quicksilver dropping overnight. When we awaken, we notice that we've gone full circle and that we doubled back to where we started. We want to believe that we are growing but in fact, as we age, we shrivel. It's easy to imagine in the face of an infant the features of the old man he will become.I am in Kuwait but I am also in Miami. It is summer 2005 but it is also spring 1978. Some people I used to love very much--the family Rand--are missing, but they can be replaced by people whom I will come to love (though sadly, not with the same ease and innocence as before)Even my guest bedroom, with its wall to wall sliding glass patio doors and the terraced garden outside that leads to the swimming pool is familiar. All I need are some bagels and cream cheese, apple juice and a Miami Herald in the morning and a family of lapsed Hebrews (though not lapsed Jews) sitting around a breakfast table discussing their various bowel movements to complete the scene; entertaining the shaygetz goy boy whom their Daddy's girl dragged home for a Passover meal of brisket, beets and Mogen David wine.I await the parents going to sleep and a knock on my door.I am beginning to understand that the dream I conjured up when I left Miami in 1981, traveling north in a 1973 Chevy Monte Carlo to move back to New Orleans and become a man physically unachored and emotionally adrift, the same dream that this time last year became the source of a series dramatic/traumatic/comic scenes, has been welcomed back like a prodigal son of a bitch.Someone is missing though, someone irrecoverable, irreplaceable yet not irredeemable. Raku fires are still ablaze.6/18/2005Edit. . .Who Can't TeachI now have four suits--two smokey gray and two pin striped--dry cleaned. I'll have to find a one hour place today after afternoon prayer to overcharge me to have my shirts done. I wish I could go bush and wear a dishdasha. No tie. No socks, no shoes, no zippers. Designer sandals and customized cuff links indicate he who has and he who has more than others. But I think it is forbidden for non-natives to wear one to work. It's what the local "suits" wear to set them apart and it indicates authority. The traditional "suits"--jackets, windsor knots and belts--hold passports from other countries and are answerable to the dishdashas. Today I disappointed Asalina again (not much of a challenge there) by staying home and doing some work trying to secure work, plus I have a "business lunch" at the SAS to discuss a job setting up a language program for a training company--these companies are as ubiquitous here as Wal Marts are in the US. I have three of these offers Emailing me daily as it is. Business English. Its need for commitment has in the past sent me doctor shopping for nerve tonics. Am I the chicken or the pig? A chicken makes a contribution to our breakfasts. A pig makes a commitment. The work I have to do today is to write (Google, copy, paste and plagiarize) assessment forms for workshops on "Team Building", "Time Management" and--I'm not making this up--"Interpersonal Skills". I have had a lot of practice as a motivational speaker teaching both lit. and ESL. (The hero dies at 33!--Christ died at 33!--messianic metaphor alert--you can remember that! or . . .ends in a --y is an adjective!--ly is an adverb! easy peasy Japanesily!) After channeling my father last week (where else would that "accurate communication is the grease in the wheels of industry" rabid babble have come from?), I have some idea that maybe I can do the Binness Thing. Here's a metaphor: "He owned a nice suit, but he only wore it to funerals." 6/17/2005EditI've started flat sitting for a couple I've known ...I've started flat sitting for a couple I've known for about eight years. He is a virologist. She is a painter. The apartment is large and full of natural light. Both the air and I are free of disturbances today, both of us calm despite the heat. Visibility outside is four miles. Visibility inside is measured by rare moment's of grace like playing with Nigel on dobro or hammer dulcimer. 6/17/2005EditOEDFound this on some discussion thread today:"Billmonguy,Set me up with three fingers of Bushmills, please. Neat. I think we've been saudimized again."I believe I need two more independent references then I can contact the Oxford English Dictionary "Sirs and Madams". This one contribution to the English language will not guarantee me a grave at Westminster Abbey, but it's worth a shot.6/16/2005EditMutability"Yet haply they sought but a wider range,Some loftier mountain-slope,And little recked of the country strangeBeyond the gates of hope." (Black Sheep, Richard Burton)or"And you may find yourself in another part of the worldAnd you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobileAnd you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautifulwife And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?" (David Byrne)Yesterday I shook hands with each "graduate" of my business writing seminar. With our free hands we held their certificates which looked as impressive as a Doctorate of Philosophy degrees. Digital photos were taken with each smiling face. My original signature appears on the certificates, just below the watermarks. The ceremony had all the polished surface of a marbled veneered floor, of which there are many in this widely veneered, widely veiled part of the world. At the end of the day, I vacated my accomodations, met Asalina, drove to my transition domicile and added an extra key to my key ring. Jimmy and Mimi, both cats less than a year old, have so far had five different views from five different windows, five different locations for their litter boxes, five different sets of curtains to climb. I can relate.Last night was home. Calenders with dates circled, post-it notes with reminders, a place for everything, everything in its place, salad and roasted chicken served on a table. A Solomon's treasure of stuffed bears, extra towels and troll dolls. I could get used to this.Today, with possessions stored here and there, I run a few errands and search for gratitude while I try my best to mend my malcontented ways.6/15/2005Edit"My third maxim was to endeavor always to conquer ..."My third maxim was to endeavor always to conquer myself rather than fortune, and change my desires rather than the order of the world" (Descartes)In a couple of hours, I turn in my keys to the university accomodations. I'm down to a car key again. Thursday I begin flat sitting for two months and a key will be waiting for me under a mat there. As far as I know, I will only be responsible for these two locks over the summer. Who says you can't have it all? 6/14/2005Editaccording to someone elseHere's what they say:"At your age (40 plus) you are prone to try and escape the inevitable through various mechanisms. You will want to have affairs with younger women.You will want to develop an exercise routine and become obsessed on maintaining your body. You will become a workaholic to avoid thinking about the crisis of mid-life. You will find a balance between family and work."Here's what I say:All my life, I have been prone to try and escape. An affair is supposed to be an extra-marital activity, is it not? Do non-marital affairs count? Isn't that an oxymoron? and what do they mean by younger women? How much younger? Ten years? That would mean (very) late thirties. While these are the wells where I have been drawing my water gratuitement, they would not consider themselves to be younger women. Though I have to say, anybody under 45 I consider jailbait.I am sure they mean early to mid twenties. I admit that I have guzzled the cool, clear water of these alluring oases but not without un petit prix. Now what's all this then about "developing an exercise routine?" Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. Tomorrow. First thing.Workaholic? Like 4 AM to 10 PM? Tried that last year. That's why I'm back here. Here, an ordinary work day is very much like the day before Christmas holiday begins back in the US--half the staff phones in sick to go shopping and hooks up with friends for chili cheese fries, the other half shows up for a day of snacking, instant messaging, text messaging, maybe getting a little work done, then they cut out early.I am trying to find a balance between not having to work hard and not doing a lot of weird shit to myself and others that inevitably lands me into some sort of institution.

There is a family, sort of. I think about Julia everyday, and I've promised to pay for her university. I am sure that if I didn't have this blessing--and I am not being flippant here--then I'd be scraping by in Kathmandu teaching for three dollars an hour and either looking for bliss high up on a hill with a belly full of black tar temples balls or at the no prescription required pharmacy around the corner from the Excelsior Hotel. 6/13/2005EditGray Area"So put a shine on your shoes Put on your pin-striped suit. Can't lose those early-morning-can't-stop-yawning Push and shoving rush hour blues." (Ray Davies, Kink's Rush Hour Blues) I played a part today that I hadn't really auditioned for. I wore a gray suit, freshly dry cleaned and drove my rented Nissan to Kuwait Towers where I conducted a corporate training seminar. I had only glanced at the book, saw that it was a simple and pretty much locked step-by-step lesson plan. I drafted my introduction in about five minutes, using the view from the classroom as a visual aid.I stood before 15 Kuwaiti yuppies who were seated around a U-shaped configuration of chairs and gift packets of pens, notebooks and calenders. 

 The trainees were mostly women and all employees of some benevolent Kuwaiti global development organization which doles out money to piss poor countries in Africa and Asia in need of electric lights and paved roads. I was flanked by a white board and a lap top that beamed a Power Point Slide presentation behind me as I babbled. I introduced the seminar by going on about the wheels of industry and how "effective communication is the grease that keeps the wheels turning, keeps the machinery of commerce from breaking down." I was a 404, a seagull manager. I had no idea what I was saying, have no idea of the source of these words, but they sounded pretty good to the trainees scattered around the "U", 82 floors above the contented blue sea and the restless bustle. The experience was part parody and part Samadhi. As I spoke, I actually left my body, stood aside and watched myself starring in a 1950s scratched, grainy gray corporate training film with a distorted, jumpy soundtrack. I wasn't . . . or even Mr. . . .(as formal as I've ever gotten with students). 

I became Mr. , The O Man, the Organizational Man, the Office Man, the On-the-Go Man in his gray suit with his ten gray hairs and two gray cats, the man who understood exactly why he was given the breath of life and knew exactly where he belonged in that life, a man who liked and loved the person with whom he shared his bed--the mother of his five children. In my gray suit with my gray tie, for one "ohnosecond", I imagined that all his life he had hoped for nothing more than being the On Time Man time, the Omni Building Man, the On Board Man. I imagined he drank an occasional scotch during a two-hour power lunch. In all his years of marriage there was only this one time when he had once nailed an accounting secretary after an office party (she was very drunk, so he drove her home then went upstairs for coffee). I imagined that he'd had sex with this one woman, just this one time, his only indiscretion outside of his thirty year marriage and that he could remember every detail about the experience, remembering if she sighed or moaned or if the scent in her hair was sweet like hazelnut liqueur or sweet like almond liqueur; he remembered that the color of her eyes were smoky gray and if he ever forgot these details then it would make a difference as to whether or not he would be allowed into heaven. His other deepest most disturbing secret was a gray area homosexual experience he'd had at scout camp when he was 13. The thought of it could still shiver his spine and he couldn't help but wonder if there was something in his blood that could answer why his eldest son, his namesake, had never married. I wonder what his second day will be like? 6/12/2005EditGeorgia on my Mind"The old traveller Chardin, in describing the Persians, says their "blood is now highly refined by frequent intermixtures with the Georgians and Circassians, two nations which surpass all the world in personal beauty." (Charles Darwin)She gives easier than receives, doesn't suffer in her stolid day-to-day routines. She is rigidly flexible. In her heart is the center of the world where her core burns with molten passion but it is buried beneath a thousand tons of shifting tectonic plates. She protects herself with benign venom. Embodied with intolerable humaneness, she pursues her pragmatic dreams with whatever-it-takes resignation yet this she does with a sparkling vitality.I've never been involved with someone who didn't grow up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Has there ever been a psychological study done on bi-polar depression feeding Groups A and B a steady diet of PBJs on spongy white bread while giving Control Group C nothing but chelokebab?6/12/2005EditSearchesGoogle Searches last week that brought up my blog on the first page:win: was there a law against well hung soldiers guarding virginsplace: hottentots sex marriage bed customsshow: "body shampoo" west palm beachalso rans:mick's glamour imagesbutt khoi khoiburiyanijeddah gay doctorsjeddah cost of living 2005 and 2005living in taiffatima yousef contact emaillast great act of defiance (three times)6/12/2005EditMe Inc.The three day report writing workshop begins tomorrow. This will pay for the car rental. It also seems to have opened a few doors. Training companies are blue chip industries here in Kuwait and with 65% of the population being under 30, they won't be cashing in the chip anytime soon. One option for language components is to go through institutes. That costs a lot of money. Another option is to have free-lancers on call. Time to take my Thai tailored suits to the one hour dry cleaner. Tonight I take a look at the center where Al Artarama will happen starting July 3. A feller in one of my 12-step groups has decided to quit his job in Baghdad. Not unlike my situation a few months ago in Saudi Arabia, the ubiqitous sight of heavy machine guns, knuckle-dragging guards with AK 47s who have that Osama bin Laden 1,000 yard stare in their can-I-get-a-witness eyes in addition to all of warnings that go with a simple drive to and from work (remember to vary routes!) has gotten to him. He's been offered an opportunity here, behind the lines, in the rear with the gear.I said to him last night during coffee break, "I hate to use the term, but what we're doing is sort of like war profiteering."He answered, "Not sort of, that's exactly what we're doing."I'd prefer to keep the end in mind, that what we're doing is our part towards building a calmer peninsula. 6/11/2005EditArtarama ReduxZaytuniDraftDelete"If I had wings and I could fly,I know where I would go.But right now I'll just sit here so contentedlyAnd watch the river flow." (Bob Dylan)One possibility that seems to be coming into focus is to find a Kuwaiti sponsor--costs about 600 dollars a year--and freelance. Between private lessons and six-week institute contracts, the reconstruction of an Artarama-like institute in partnership with a western educated local, I may have an option I hadn't considered. This option might allow me to pay bills, take Rob off my block messages list, as well as fix my own schedule to take planes to trains to buses to destinations where there are no hotels, only guest houses, wooden shacks or tents. A couple of weeks here and there always blows the pipes. I will visit temples and watch the faithful lay baskets of fruits, bags of rice, coins and red flowers at the base of altars. I am not one to mind that other westerners, those Swami Whozitnanda devotees who have gone bush while going through their post BA in humanities, tired-of-working-temp-jobs eastern spirituality phase and who not-so-humbly wear the red kum-kum marks or novice safron robes may see that I am not a true believer nor ceremonial practitioner--merely an observer. I don't mind being tagged an exoteric follower who is a little too pleased with himself for coming so far on an MA in literature (with an emphasis on creative writing) from the University of New Orleans: GPA 3.5 (and that bumped up only because I somnambulated my way through an ESL certificate--straight A's--thus raising my post-graduate GPA a notch or two above the level of the habitually undistinguished. If I have a companion--say the hennaed rose of Parsi-land, we'll take photos. If I go alone, I won't carry a camera. Tomorrow I begin working developing curriculum and activities for a summer camp ages 8 - 18. It's a two month gig. I'll have counselors to do the grunt work. I have to find a source for clay and glazes and someone who has a kiln. I wish I could import Therese for the summer. She could make a small fortune here. In addition to this I've started freelancing as a technical writing instructor for a Kuwait Oil sub-contractor. It's a three-day job and depending on its success, I might be doing it now and again as long as I am here in Kuwait. I begin flat sitting on the 17th, but I have to be out of GUST accommodations on the 15th. 

This is a minor inconvenience that could turn into two-days of hotel living should I decide to decline Asalina's invitation to stay with her. The main reason it's best I make other arrangements is that my felini domestici find little value in pursuing even the most casual relationship with her yappy dog. 6/10/2005EditParadise RunnersZaytuniDraftDelete"I now race from place to place, dissatisfied with wherever I am andturn my step toward Utnapishtim, godchild of Ubaratutu, who lives a pious life in fair Dilmun where the morning sun arises as itdoes in paradises lost and won." ("Gilgamesh". 2,400 BC)In Sumerian mythology, Dilmun was the most sacred island in these parts. It was the place where Gilgamesh searched for the waters of immortality. It was believed that the island of Dilmun was the passage to paradise, to Eden. (many elements of the Biblical story of the flood, by the way, were nicked from the story of Gilgamesh)Gilgamesh was the king of the ancient Babylonians about 5,000 years ago. Today we call them Iraqis. They were the first people to develop a system of writing and the tales of Gilgamesh are the oldest stories ever transmitted in written form. From this gift, the ability to codify knowledge, Homo sapiens, who had spent 40,000 years or so having to commit to memory and pass on to succeeding generations recipes and cold remedies, made the leap in 5,000 years from clay tablets to blueprints for pyramids, to maps with longitude and latitude to flat screen technology to Far Side calendars and more.Today, we honor those ancients by sending them our finest trailer park trash reservist in camouflage uniforms who are being all that they can be one weekend a month (but sadly all that they can be is trailer park trash in uniform) where they amuse themselves by making the descendants of the ancient Babylonians build frail human pyramids out of naked, humiliated, imprisoned bodies all the while taking thumbs-up photos of dead bodies and threatening their prisoners to wank it in front of a female soldier who looks like a cross between a troll and the bride of Chuckie--wank it or taste hot lead.Today Dilmun is called the Kingdom of Bahrain (which means "Two Seas" in Arabic), and I flew there yesterday on a visa stamp turn-around.Behind my Row 27, in Row 28, the last row where the seats won't recline because they are pressed against a dividing wall that separates the cabin crew's work station and the tail end of economy class, two American men talked non-stop. The Americans worked in the oil fields, probably as rig managers judging from their Texas accents. They were on their way to Bahrain for some rest and relaxation, and a small slice of heaven--golf pun intended.Here is a difference between not only them and me but me and my family, my two redneck alcoholic brothers-in-law (whose spare bedrooms and pantries full of junk food I have always deeply appreciated)My sub-par paradise in Dilmun once meant hiding out in a two-star hotel room with no less than five twenty Bahraini Dinars, equivalent to around 65 US dollars and several splits of cheap champagne in the mini fridge. Sometimes the curtains in my room would be opened to let in the sun and the sea view. Sometimes I'd take a 20 BD from my wallet then draw the curtains closed. At first it was paradise won; later it was paradise lost.During a few minutes of nasty turbulence, the American fellers behind me joked about crashing and dying. I couldn't imagine any other nationality on the plane who would find this puerile form of graveyard humor amusing. They joked about the Islamic promise of 72 virgins in paradise saying, "Tell you what son, if this plane goes down, you can keep the virgins. If I end up in heaven, I hope it's playing Pebble Beach or Augusta." They were completely aware that most of the passengers surrounding them were Muslim. To be sure they were overheard they talked loudly and laughed like schoolyard bullies."Yeah," his friend said, "If we go to hell. we'll probably have nothing but sand traps.""Hell sounds like ending up back here." Har har.I wonder what they and I would agree on besides "poontang good", "speeding tickets bad"?I am sure we all would agree that we need governments and that governments need to enforce laws and protect their nations with armies. We'd probably disagree on which laws should be enforced and what we mean by defense of a nation.I am sure we would disagree on country music. I listen to Hank Williams. I am certain they listen to the anti-Hank, Garth Brooks. I listen to Kitty Wells. They probably listen to Shania Twain, the anti-Kitty.We might agree on at least one book of divine revelation and a couple of prophets. At the very least we would agree that the message delivered in the Sermon on the Mount is what it's all about. We might not agree on the value of the Gitas and I am especially certain we would't see eye-to-eye on the Quran. I doubt that they would agree with me that the Islamic Holy book of God's recitation through the angel Gabriel was Divinely inspired and that the message was specifically delivered to Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him).They would know it only as the rag head Bible. Har! Har!I can't imagine we'd have much in common when we consider a philosophy. They both sounded like good old boys from LSU or Texas AM and I am sure at some point in their studies names like Kant, Spinoza, Rousseau and Sartre came up on a final exam. Today, however, AM talk radio I'm sure provides for them their basic didactic answers.Still, if we were to meet in a bar and if I were drinking with them, and we all ordered up a few rounds of Budweiser, somehow I’d steer the subject away from golf and politics and get them to agree with me that poontang is where it's at. Because I was once in the reserves, I could talk to them with some authority about firearms, but I would rather turn them onto Steve Earle.6/9/2005Edit"Forget it Jake, It's Chinatown"Over night in the diwanaya tents pitched in vacant lots off desert roads where the movers and the sheikhers converge to smoke sheesha--strawberry or apple cured tobacco--and to contemplatively sip sublime shots of caramel colored coffee--where today's gossip and yesterday's hearsay construct irrefusable offers--where favors are traded like black market diamonds and promises are approved like low interest mortgages--telephone calls were made. Someone phoned someone who knows of someone who is owed a favor by a friend whose cousin has a brother-in-law with some nebulous ties to the university's administration. Depending upon a student's wasta, grades will be changed. Policies will be bent. Wasta is taking care of business desert style and it is as old as the wadis. It's how things get done here and there is neither a right nor wrong to it. This is what we infidels must try to bend our western what's fair-is-fair "Let-me-see-the-manager" "I'll-see-you-in-court" "I'll-write-a-letter-to-my congressman" myopic minds around. A western-style democracy? A WESTERN STYLE DEMOCRACY? Are we out of our fucking Euro-centric Waspish minds? The word wasta doesn't have a perfect one-word English translation. To convey its meaning one must string together words like nepotism, influence, insider trading, back room wheeling and dealing, stroke, pull, "not what you know but who you know", family ties, tribal loyalties and favoritism. Here the people are as resigned to this system as we are to paying taxes. Piss and moan, wish for changes in one hand and shit in the other. . .but in the end, accept it. Going to jail for kickbacks is seen here as absurd as going to jail for holding hands with an unmarried woman in public is seen there. It is something to be ridiculed. Academia is not unaffected. Now, as for those wastaly endowed students who have missed 70% of their classes, turned in no homework, failed the midterm and the final for the third and, in theory, last time, scholastic deception will gust like mustard gas changing direction on a sudden, noxious shift in the wind. This virulent stream will eventually settle upon the teachers' trenches like a yellow stain. They will be told to go with this flow if they want to keep their minimalist, semi-retired jobs at this three-ring university of language, science and technology. Either failing grades will be changed or teachers' name plates will be removed from office doors. A collective sigh of shameless resignation will sound like one of Miles' dissonant notes and annual leave will begin on a downbeat. 6/8/2005EditMore interviews today here in Kuwait, collecting o...More interviews today here in Kuwait, collecting offers to consider tomorrow. I fly to Bahrain at 9 in the morning, return to Kuwait in the afternoon. During the five hour lay over I will not find a taxi to take me to a short-time stay in a two-star harem hotel. Instead I'll loiter in the bookshop, maybe buy a new watch, blog on my laptop, and wait until my return flight at 4. I'll be back in time for folk night. In the meantime I have another few hours at work to be on hand, amusing myself by eaves dropping on the heated debates raging up and down the hall as the customers raise Cain trying to undo a semester of loitering and apathy. 6/7/2005EditBed crumbsZaytuniDraftDeleteI dreamed about Therese last night. I saw her in bed with a bag of Oreos. She said she was happy but the bag of Oreos was nearly empty and there were crumbs in her bed. Even in my dream we couldn't communicate how we felt. Fear stood in the way so we baited one another into sarcasm, unable to express how we felt about each other. When drunk and when words failed us, when we were on guard, we always said "Fuck it," and meant what we said. We resorted to death-defying primordial fucking, screwing like runaway beasts of burden, frantically and insanely grabbing, grazing, blowing, jabbing, probing and humping until the world became so out of focus that it seemed to be only a dimly lit dying star a million light years away. In the end, that's how we told each other how we really felt. 6/7/2005EditRunning with the Bulls...shitToday is one of two six hours day I put in at work. The students' grades have been posted, and so I am obliged to sit in my office and explain to students, who have missed 70% of their classes, failed to take a midterm, turned in zero homework YET were still allowed to take the final--and failed that as well, why they failed the course. I won't have the final word. In fact, the word begins with me then malodorously wafts down the halls, seeps through the electronic sliding glass doors and eventually pollutes the administrative offices, those entangled tentacles of the accounting office. There might not be many procedures or methods to the madness at this place except when it comes to collecting the big money tuition--12,000 US a year. I can't imagine any student here being drummed out for failing grades. Here a family name and a telephone call from a godfather within a ministry will somehow reinvent a student's semester. There is not only the tuition at stake but the concessions as well. The students could do just as well by going online and buying a degree but then how would they be able to model their butt hugging jeans and big hair? 6/6/2005EditBorders and FrontiersThe last two days I've been a shut in living on pain killers and skinless grilled chicken. Asalina has been as attentive as a Yiddish mama down to the "Eat, eat!" chant and I told her this. She has enjoyed exploring this opportunity to take control of many of Maslow's needs. She spoon fed me yogurt custard. She's made my bed and fed my cats. She brought over a bootleg DVD of Cold Mountain last night. I had to draw the line allowing her to bathe me. I am grateful but I confess, I have to work at it. It is my hope this sort of generosity here isn't like it is where I come from. There--in the US--acts of kindness are too frequently shadows of subtle warnings. They are many times vague, inexpressible feelings of hopes and expectations. The caretaker expects more, always much more than pure and simple good neighbor policies. Where I come from, these self sacrificing acts of charity are like flowers and scattered greenery suddenly appearing during a warm January day called false spring, a day proceeded by a severe cold snap. 6/5/2005EditSwimming to Spalding GrayThe unswerving nuisance of lifelong nonconformity has you on one day entangled in your lover's limbs, laughing, telling healing stories; the next night you are alone with your existence, incomprehensible.I understand the need to pour bliss and privation into the same river and label it the waters of life. You jumped into the waters and as your feet hit the sandy bottom, you dreamed of your dear one's sinewy arms reaching out from the shore, trying to haul you back into your body so modestly alive. 6/4/2005EditStrollin StoneThe Rose of Tehran has become my sister of mercy. We went to an Austrian Embassy ma salama (Good Bye) party on the coast. I'd brought my Fenders and was looking forward to jamming with K., my homey from Nawlins who keeps a rusted machete on his wall. Nausea ambushed me an hour into the event and my nether regions began to burst into flames. I recognized the symptons from January 2003. Then, as a result of puking and incessant pain "down there" I ended up in the hospital. The radiologist pumped me full of dye and snapped a few photos. A kidney stone, probably no bigger than a grain of sand tried to work its way out of my right kidney and into my plumbing. It clogged the pipes. They shot me full of lotus water (or maybe it was demerol) and the pain merifcully transformed into an orgasmic junkie nod. Some physical therapy pushed the stone back into my right kidney where it has since been strolling around keeping a low profile. Last night it tried to make a be-line for my ureter. Alex the drummer told me between sets, "Nothing personal but man, you look like shit." Three in the morning, after the first call to morning salat, the pain became unbearable. My moaning was so loud, I wondered if my neighbor thought I was getting a bj to end all bjs. I can't imagine going into labor being much worse. I telephoned my Persian Rose, my Asalina (asal is arabic for honey --ina is an Italian female diminutive). 

She threw on a t-shrt, some blue jeans, she wore no make-up, she never looked lovelier.She stayed with me bedside in the Casualty Ward until 11 o'clock this morning and has since been running errands, bringing me medications and homecooked Iranian flavored grilled chicken with saphron rice and cranberries. I took a demerol and stretched out on the couch, the cheesiest Hollywood epic of all time--Cleopatra--leached into my dreams. And I think about Asalina now--and, well, maybe, just maybe. !Dave says check it out.  

I will leave Gulf Un...On Thursday, the 17th of June I will leave Gulf University Housing and begin apartment sitting for a friend leaving for the summer on annual leave. As much as I would get out of heading into the hills to subsist on a diet of Dahl baht (rice and lentils) what has been decided for me is that I will stay on in Kuwait until I move to Oman. 6/2/2005EditLife in Taifis rife with strife.Gun battles at the check point around the corner from the compound where I'd unpacked my bags for a few months. 

Old Long SinceNew Years Eve 2001/2002, Al Ain, UAE. For breakfast before dawn we drank champagne and streamed New Orleans oldies radio, waiting for midnight back home. I'd found a link to audio files of local radio, music, d.j.s, commercials and all from the fifties and sixties. The angel child sang, 

"Rosenberg's, Rosenberg's, 1825. . . Tulane!", and the lady singers, most of whom are probably dead by now, sang "By the beach, by the beach by the Pontchartrain Beach." The music and blasts from the past wrapped around us like the arms of mother love. We danced slowly, swaying. We kissed at midnight, Central Standard Time, then tuned in Denver radio, listened to ballroom music, drank more champagne and kissed again, midnight Mountain Time. Drank more champagne danced some more and kissed once again at midnight Pacific Standard Time after finding an L.A. station. Now I sit here between being in between people and places. On my right, memory floats into detached silences; on my left, I look forward to remembering nothing except for New Years 2001, your Hula dance and that bathroom in a train station somewhere in France.

They saluted the fallen and the missing in action then they high fived the president who was, during the war, missing from action.In Vietnam tourists can buy tickets and queue up to crawl through tunnels. Some pay extra and get to fire machine guns, just like those we've seen in the movies. I wonder if the tour package includes a simulation of how it feels to go into shock from hemorrhaging, and would this attraction also include a life-like final glimpse of this beautiful world, perhaps shafts of sunlight raining down through the triple canopy of tree tops? Can you imitate a final breath and the feeling of sudden ease as memory and thought stop dancing around your head? 5/31/2005EditThis is really happening. 

Every day now bombs redu...This is really happening. Every day now bombs reduce houses to rubble and there is no end in sight to grave side grieving. The main story reports murders. The story following that reports murders. Once there was a time and place where we cherished changes of seasons. Bird songs echoed from trees and warmed our hearts. Now and then, we ask for a break and get one.She is seven and she is from Pakistan.

 She was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body. Her face was blue from lack of oxygen. Her father took her to the Heart Center in Delhi and surgeons cut her open. Now her heart is in the right place.

Aspirations to separate the latter from the former sets limits. 

Even anattempt to moderate self destructive supersensuality can nullify that mosttransmundane peak experience of peak experiences."Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it.We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided thatwe do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other words, wetreat sex as we would any other problem.Trust me on this one. It's a tough call.7/29/2004EditTwo Interns?"Half measures availed us nothing." (BB)Mindfulness may come to us, but we might not find application for it. Itsvalue is seldom considered. External circumstances and obligations,complicit with instincts and sentiments, keep us from using mindfulness tosuffuse our pasts with beauty. We want to give new meaning to our oldideas. The patterns of the past create this phenomenon of a desire tochange it. Yet we are who were are because of the patterns which havebrought about being mindful of change.Here is where we stand at the turning point. 

We seek to be mindful aconsciousness willing to forget and let go. But instead of pressing on,the turning point takes on another meaning. It becomes the point where weliterally begin to turn as in "pirouette", body and soul fiercely eager tofully grasp our tales.We need willingness. A willingness to surrender our wills. Find the willthen give it up. Turn it over. Hand it in. Redeem it like a pistol in aguns for toys program.You can see the dilemma we're in. We are endowed as individuals with agluttonous need to feed the fires of isolation with the staples ofcompanionship. Once this is accomplished, we hunger to be alone.Accordingly, mindfulness is awareness minus thought.answer: Pair a' Docs7/28/2004EditD'VINALLIA D' VOLEREWhen we see we stand to lose that which we value the most, we hit bottom.Bottom isn't always pushing a grocery cart and sleeping under a bridge.Along the way we ignore the real symptoms--resentments, screwymotivations.Or cheating at Latin anagrams ignoring correct spelling and stems.7/28/2004EditEvolv'd dialer in La:IP cloaking works on Who is, but can still be read on others including3rd trace route. Drop me a line and I'll help you trouble shoot. (Soonerthan later, I'm running out of annagrams)7/27/2004Edita dalin lover loved evil ale and ran livid (twice)I don't think I've ever been to Plano, Texas.7/27/2004EditDire? Vain? Love AllZaytuni's fourth day on the road to Step Four.He had only come as far as this in the past. It's called Step 3:"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God aswe understood Him."15 years ago, He would go to meetings wiped out on herb and those roomswere like ashrams . He would listen to the old timers and get the samesort of "Wow" He would get if he would stayed at home and watched Nova onPBS.He had known others who had come to this third step completely pissed andin that state asked for help from Something/Anything that transcended himor herself and got it.That his first "wows" in the room were embellished by his switchedaddiction at least for him wasn’t antithetical; however, if in the roomswhere the primary purpose is only likker or pills or cocaine or ginch, hewouldn't mention how he first drifted into his understanding of Himbecause even in that state, He kept coming back and it ruined hisdrinking. One multi-war head hang-over has since been able to ply me withenough remorse to urge me to find a room in some church basement somewherejust to announce, "I’m back and I'm just hear to listen."It does not go against traditions in the program of AA or NA or Al Anonsor Sex Addicts Anonymous, Overeaters A., the whoevers or whateversAnonymous if people got together as a separate group to better understandHim if they all understood Him to be, say, Elvis Presley or HaileSelassie, so long as they didn't publicly refer to themselves as an AA, NAor whatever A. group.The simplest path for him to Him doesn't lead him to a Him whom can bedrawn or painted as an entity with either testicles, a vagina, ordepending on the God's mood both.He had no words which can describe this "Him". And He am not the first toback off and simplify this lack of understanding by calling "Him" anUnknowable Mystery. We baffling, powerful and cunning linguists, shouldn'tget hung up on the pronoun.Zaytuni (then) is not endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous, NarcoticsAnonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Al Anon, or his own fledgling one-stopflopping, Arsholes Anonymous but he can, according to traditions writtenby Bill W. and parroted by the other groups, tell you that he is a memberof this wonderful fellowship so long as he protects (or in this case)tries to amend his dubious anonymity.While there isn't at this point in time a tradition stating we takespecial care to guard anonymity at the level of the Internet (to date itsimply reads at the level of press, radio, film and television) He canplea bargain to get off on a technicality for having broken my anonmyityon this infernal machine.Having said that:Zaytuni shares his unendorsed understanding of Him by linking a program ofserenity which was founded a millenium and a half ago when a rich Indiankid gave it all up and sat under a tree until he had peace of mind to thisother strikingly similar program which was founded on June 10, 1935 when aNew York drunk pestered an Akron drunk into a having a cup of coffee withhim to avoid going back to his hotel where happy hour was in full swing.Zaytuni (then) is not endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous, NarcoticsAnonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Al Anon, or his own fledgling one-stopflopping, Arsholes Anonymous but he can, according to traditions writtenby Bill W. and parroted by the other groups, tell you that he is a memberof this wonderful fellowship so long as he protects (or in this case)tries to amend his dubious anonymity.While there isn't at this point in time a tradition stating we takespecial care to guard anonymity at the level of the Internet (to date itsimply reads at the level of press, radio, film and television) I can pleabargain to get off on a technicality for having broken my anonmyity onthis infernal machine.Having said that:Zaytuni shares his unendorsed understanding of Him by linking a program ofserenity which was founded a millenium and a half ago when a rich Indiankid gave it all up and sat under a tree until he had peace of mind to thisother strikingly similar program which was founded on June 10, 1935 when aNew York drunk pestered an Akron drunk into a having a cup of coffee withhim to avoid going back to his hotel where happy hour was in full swing."May I examine my mind in all actions and as soon as a negative stateoccurs,since it endangers myself and others, may I firmly face and avert it."LOJONG: Eight Verses for Training the Mind.Offered by His Holiness the Dalai Lama"Here are the steps we took: 10) Continued to take personal inventory andwhen we were wrong, promptly admitted it."Big Book of Alcoholic's Anonymous"When someone whom I have helped or in whom I have placed great hopeharms me with great injustice, may I see that one as a sacred friend." (DLibid)"When a person offended us we said to ourselves, 'This is a sick man. Howcan I be helpful to him?'" (BB ibid)"When I see beings of a negative disposition or those oppressed bynegativity or pain, may I, as if finding a treasure, consider themprecious, for they are rarely met." (DL ibid)“practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity . intensive work with other(s). . . .There may come a time when I amonly able to preserve my immunity through my work with the newcomer."(ibid)7/25/2004EditOver Ill Evil Dadnaïve lover did allOutside it is morning, a new day on paper.He’s lived this stretch from darkness to light before, walking the floors,from TV to computer chat rooms, observing the night life of cats.So, he’s flushed the pills--prescribed or otherwise. Emptied the bottleinto the sink.Tonight, he itches, and he has to calculate my way through simplesentences.It's called a slip. He like that. "A slip." less than "a stumble", noteven suggesting a trip, falling ass over elbow headlong onto the pavementtaking down with you close to a hundred people--family, friends, lovers,sons and daughters of lovers, in-laws, colleagues and sworn enemies. Thesepeople are injured beyond amends.He’s just had a slip, that's all. A bit of a false step, une petite fauxpas.The definition of a slip is nearly antonymous of how his slips can bedefined: a firey plunge from 40,000 feet, leaving in his wake a maelstromof debris, populating the sky with flaming bits of flesh and bones whichare scattered widely over desert sands, slim pickings for the hungriestdesert lark.This slip is replayed over and over like those twin towers crashing to theground;flashed like sequenced lightning from one Democrats and Republicansconvention year to the next.Has it really been four years since my first summer in Saudi? Has itreally been four years since the Kirsk sank? since my first Russianslumber party? since He asked my sister to introduce me to a penpal with asense of humor?He wonder what ever happened to her and her sense of humor?Whatever happened to British Heian or Herish Tony? To all the Natashas?What ever happened to Gene K. from El Paso? Or that skinny woman inLafayete who would meet a man in a chat room in the morning and screw himthe same night? To that Zydeco band He briefly hit the road with, playingto a wild crowd of young, lawyerly types in Atlanta on Mardi Gras night?My "slips" wind up begging every man's least favorite morning-afterquestion: Hey, which one of you girls nicked my wedding ring?But now He know Julia. And He'm beginning to hone in on how she feelsabout being used as an excuse to work in faculties where they work hardly.In J.s (award-winning) first screenplay, a Faustian farce, the child ofthe devil asks the devil:"How come you never stood up to paternal responsibilities?!" and says,"Y’know, He suffered from acute emotional and psychological distress dueto lack of closure."The devil tries to defend himself, "your mother knew my work comes first!She agreed to personally see to your upbringing!"The child of the devil goes on, "Y’know, if you didn’t work so much, maybeyou’d know more about my home life. Like He’m adopted cuz my mom’s been ina coma since He was born."Ay Carumba. He doesn’t need a Googled translation from God on this one.But "be that as it may" my flights of fantasy wouldn't have imagined thislatest position in a job a step up from all my others, in a dream locale,unfamiliar.In the devil's defense, he did drive for four days to spend three hourswith her with her on a Sunday morning. He wanted to see her school, thestreet where she takes her piano lessons, the ice cream shop and mini-mallwhere she and her friends play in moments which she will remember as thebest years of her life.He'll try to make amends.Time to "Spring into Action Against Those Seasonal Allergies." Zaytuni hasto run.7/25/2004Edit"That the man who is making the approach has had ..."That the man who is making the approach has hadthe same difficulty, that he obviously knows what heis talking about, that his whole deportment shouts atthe new prospect that he is a man with a real answer,that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothingwhatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; thatthere are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people toplease, no lectures to be endured these are the conditions. . ."7/23/2004EditThere Must Be Some Way Out of HereIn the early nineties, before the grungy suicide of grudging corporatelackey, Kurt Cobain, I went on my first trek abroad, flying down toHonduras, spending only one night in the city, in a hotel room with bed,shower, and toiletThere were four of us who'd signed onto this two week trip through theHonduran rain forest. We were to travel on foot, on rafts assembled frombalsa trees, and by dug-out canoe.It was and remains the most primitive and memorable trek I've ever taken.Before the trip, while still in the US, I tried to envision what it wouldbe like to spend time among people who had no cognition of American popculture. I expected I'd return from the jungle with a Margaret Mead-likeunderstanding of me and my people after observing the day-to-day routinesof a faraway culture purified of references to 60s TV, Tom Robbins novels,film noir homages and year end "best of" lists.The night before we set out from Tegucigalpa, our guide came to our roomto show us the route on terrain maps and to give us a safety briefing. Atone point in the briefing he said, "We won't have to worry aboutlandmines. Last year the UN paid Mequito Indians to go out and find mostof them, paying them fifty US for each mine.""Most of them?"At the no-return point of the trip, that point where if one of us hadbecome ill or seriously injured we would have been fugged because thenearest village with a ramshackle clinic was at least a three day hikebacktracking, I thought I'd made it out of range of Coca Cola and Prozacwhen I saw a group of kids coming towards us on the foot path. One of themwore a Bart Simpson t-shirt that said, "Don't have a cow, man!"I guess Bart had made his way there by way of missionaries.I've just finished read Chan'ad Bahraini's report on the hip hop scene onthe island.At first it might be easy to say that hip hop in Bahrain or throughout theregion exists here by way of ex-pat English speaking schools or by theelectronic missionary--the satellite dish, and that it is only aknock-off. But how or why it sprung up here is unimportant. Whether or notit has a legitimate reason to be acknowledged for its aesthetic begs thequestion; otherwise, it would be only a knock-off, like Taiwanese boybands.Can Gulf Arab youth justifiably put on their curricula vitarum experienceswhich are relative to the brurva's back in the US of Areous? For instance,is there a need for "keepin' it real"?Well, for one, if you don't keep it real and you diss the wrong jigga, youcould easily have a K round splatter your brown ass all over Sheikh IsaHighway.The Crips and the Bloods have their own warehoused in San Quentin. TheKhaliji Shebab have theirs in Gitmo and Al Gharib where the chucks haveput many of them there for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.Is there a reason for these boys to feel that the best opportunities arereserved only for those who have a lock on prosperity? and that the bestthey can hope for is driving a cab and recommending which hotels have thebest hookers when their fathers had the opportunity to work in offices?Hip Hop is not rap. It isn't only about turn tables, fashion statementsand sound systems. There a little more to it than that.The seeds of feast or famine are sprouting throughout my extremepost-adolescent years. I am never overheard. I am never asked to "speakup".I am always heard. Sometimes I am heard through the walls of houses nextto wherever it is I am presently calling home.In recent months I have been somewhat involved with yet anotherinsignificant other and this one has accused me of being stoic and oflacking passion.She doesn't understand the clean and sober thing. Or the trying to stayclean and sober thing.These are difficult times, trying times. Foreign land is becoming harderand harder to run to. For someone who has cultivated his trail of yearswith geographical remedies, and especially for someone whose earlier yearsand later years are indistinguishable one from the other, it is no wonderwhy I am not in a euphoric, trance-like state of rapture over my latestjob offer.I have been hired to set up and run a writing lab at an universityaffiliate in the region whose mentor school is Ivy League. The terms ofthe contract are as economically rewarding as a Saudi job--without havingto live in Saudi. Plus I'm back on track with those great three weekbreaks between fall and spring semesters and those two months off with payin the summer.I know instictively that this is not too shabby for someone who narrowlyescaped a lynch mob in a culturally bankrupted southern city this timelast year. But getting one's life back on track in the case of a personwhose life has been subjected to as many self-inflicted derailment jokesas Amtrack reference will allow, good news like this is not news.Still--you there at Delgado in New Orleans who regularly comes to thissite through your Lycos mail link, would you please get in touch. I have afew questions about writing labs.And I haven't forgotten the three hundred dollars I owe you and yoursister.And you who comes to this site through Cox Baton Rouge (aka Internetprotocol number 68-225-106-124) drop me a line.7/20/2004EditNo Woman No CryConfident now that he had experienced all manners of being there andwhile there, doing that which he sensed was not in context with the localshard and fast rules, he'd come to a place in his life when his commonsense had finally decided to follow advice; this came as a program ofsuggested living according to a dozen principles which were probably notunique to most others.One such suggestion advised that he should surrender the necessity ofhabit. Another suggestion took the position that he would no longer haveto be his concern.These principles had a surprising, contradictory effect on his unfocusedperceptions of who he was supposed to be, that is, this surrender of hiswill did not make him feel as though he had somehow stopped short on hisjourney towards total manhood. These principles offered to him what he'dalways admired in those fabled few, good men.Despite accepting that the lifelong process of quality living would nowdepend on taking these suggestions under serious advisement, there weresome things that still didn't blow past him. For instance, lately, bothday and night, he couldn't set aside a question. It had caused him to losesleep.Who in Baton Rouge, rather, who in the hell would bother to waste theirtime reading his crap?Whoever they were, he had no doubt that he probably owed them money andthat this was probably the simplest answer to his disturbing question.7/18/2004Edit"Come down off your cross, we could all use the wood."(Tom Waits)I am adjusting to the phenomenon of life by degrees. Today I indulged inan early morning bowl of Mueslix. Three days ago this artless luxury wouldhave been an abstraction, a bowl of higher-fiber, low-fat surreal. Thistailspin from the pearly gates must resemble the same feeling a man ofconscience has coming home from his first day of work at a slaughterhouse.I have tried these metaphorical circumnavigations of the globe from poleto pole for nearly my entire life, but each time I have failed to discovera principal axis; the laws of planetary orbits have always been beyond myability to comprehend. And after each escapade, the cat ran away(figuratively speaking)."This morning I got "the call" from one of the four universities in theGulf which had either made me an offer or where I thought the interviewwent well enough that I expected one. After I hung up the phone, Iimmediately loosened the rope from around my neck and stepped down fromthe chair where I'd been standing, trying to gather up the good sense tokick it out from under my feet.The ending for all of us is never in doubt. The mystery of course is themystery of eternity.For me the greater mystery is that despite knowing the first one withtotal certainty while we have very good reasons to invalidate the other,most of us still endeavor to stabilize our worlds with the knowledge thatthere just might be celestial Personal Planner after all.I wish I'd known that the last time I left the country to have my visarestamped.7/16/2004EditFault LinesIn a conversation class last Tuesday night, Khalid gave a presentationon Freud. He's just earned his BS in psychology at Kuwait University andis preparing to take the GRE in order to get into the University ofIndiana.He's soft spoken, polite, gentle, and full of good humor and curiosity. Heis also not the only titleholder of these traits among many Kuwaitis inhis age group. It is lamentable to imagine that one day soon he willmake it to the campus in Indiana only to find out in the time that ittakes a corn-fed son of the great Midwest to call him a "camel jockey"that Khalid will sense that all along he'd been nursing a dream aboutstudying in his fool's paradise.In his presentation, he talked about the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego.While I jotted down some notes on his pronunciation and syntax, my own egobegan to lament dreams-that-came true fool's paradises, all these placeswhere I'd found what I was looking for-- noise, people, confusion,crumbling infrastructures and places where a wallet fat withmulti-colored denominations in the thousands and hundred thousands (yetonly exchageable for a little US pocket change) could be invested inlow-cost, algorithms demanded by my id and encouraged by my bush league,sycophantic ego.Last week, forces set into motion once again my lifelong hankering forbi-polar trailblazing in Bahrain. My id had its basic needs met thanksto a prescription for Reductil, a reality and an appetite suppressant.My ego on the other hand, was reluctant to comply with my Id-iotic'sill-intended suprression of belief.Although by its nature, my ego must recognize that others have their wantsand needs, at the same time, it has its duty to give id what id wants.Last week I and my id were in-flight to Bahrain. We were going tointerview for a position with a school and to momentarily secede fromintergration and form a confederacy of disunited states of delirium afterdark. Like a boiling asthenospheric plate, the seething id found a weakplace in the lithosphere of self which caused a major self quake alongthe fault line running from pole-to-pole. In its wake it turned spirit,hope and faith into rubble.This natural disaster isn't a story with beginning or end. It occurs inthe middle of moments when I need to experience events which make itunnecessary to look back or to look ahead.7/10/2004Editsemi-polarManiaWhen others are alone in a hotel room, they seem to exhilirate withpotential. The heart beatd with limitless secret desires.When he first enters a hotel room, he doesn't feel the sense of ease andrenewal when the cold air washes over him e as the bellman turns on thelights. As soon as he walks through the door. He always feels on edge andthat his life is constantly being recycled.His hungers surface in those fifteen minutes while he troubleshoots theremote, a’ sprawl in bed, a' wandering around the TV's mostly Arabicprogramming.He drifts in and out tuning in staticky memories which sound like 2 AMroad trip radio shows, remember vague things like lost summers in India,Nepal, Rajasthan, Sri Lanka or even the Grand Canyon.Alone in a his hotel room he rewinds tapes, slipping his hand down hispants for a little tugging and a pullin' and he plays back in slow motionhe memorable moments like that one night with Cathy Mell and how in themorning when they woke up before class they'd heard for the first timeHeart's Magic Man--a song he later learned to detest--while she and heread passages from a book of quotes by Bertram Russell.He recites to himself his rotuine:After my laps in the pool, a shower and the mandatory club sandwich, justas the sun set, those mercenary damsels of mercy swarmed up and down thehall like apocalyptic locusts wearing thongs and heavy make-up.In this case, oh young man, it will not be as memorable or as fun if youdon't negotiate a slumber party.They= settled on a price--four companions for 35 dollars a piece.Champagne appeared. One of the girls broke out some hash. They came to hisroom and lit candles. Their nom d'hookers were westernized: Sara, Angie,May and that one who could lose ten pounds, he'd forgotten he namerIn the candle-lit dark many of lips and tongues found other lips andtongues, as one weary bone machine became entangled in their hearts ofdarkness. Spirited, inharmonious gigglers scatterwauled youthful slumberparty noises for two hours in a Stravinsky-like high-pitched discord.Like a man left to die in the desert sun by a dishonorable coyote, he wentwhere he thought he was expected to and he did what was expected of him.Apparently most customers don't do much mouth work south of the equator,and it's kind of a fetish for him, and it also allows him to believe thatout of the hundreds upon hundreds of others, perhaps because of this, hemay be remembered. "You know how it is, he tells a companion later at thebar, If you bring candy to school, you have to bring enough foreverybody.Soon enough the howl of dawn blared from the mosque across the street cuedhis compsnions to sort out their thongs and push-up bras while he rolledover in bed and got a jump start on tasty, dreamy surrealism. He stretchedand his much coddled and abused achy " big boy", never had a chance torelease. "Yes," he thought," I had to bed down with a round lodged in thechamber."Gentler temptresses delivered themselves to his burning bed and into hisdreams of impassioned restraint.7/8/2004EditManiaI made a Visa run to Bahrain.. I also interviewed with the head of thearts and languages department.The hotel was overflowing with Thai gals. I guess you could call what Ihad was a slip--a major one at that. The Full Elvis. Mamasan gave me agreat deal on a clutter of giggly Thai girls. From pole to pole, right? Itwas my reaction to having to work this summer when I really wanted to dosome work on Thai/Burmese border.7/7/2004EditThe New and Improved Bahrain RunBack in Bahrain this weekend, staying a few nights at the Gulf Gate Hotelbecause I have an interview in the morning with the new director of thearts and language program at the University of Bahrain.My taxi driver wasted no time recommending "Good hotels with lovelywomen."I declined his offer using my limited pidgin Arabic which is alwaysappreciated by locals because not only is it a hard language to learn butany attempts by a Gharabi (westerner) who gives it the old college tryindicates that the white boy is not just here to earn a boatload of money,then yallah imshi (go away quickly) The white boy is here to take part inthe culture and perhaps stay a long while. It indicates that it may havebeen more than just fast money that has interested the foreigner.Also, they generally chuckle when they hear my botched pronunciation andmy botchiered syntax.I told him, Rahees Fondook (cheap hotel) No good. Fi (they have) too muchNatasha. Natasha mooshkeela kabeer.(Big Problem) Alroossyalth sadika tajyaKhulal eyla ana bab wayeed!Too many Russians girlfriends come to my door and ring the door bell everyfifteen to thirty minutes between 10 PM and 4 AM. Plus the Saudi ArabianShebab (laddies) hang their holier-than-thou arrogance next to theirthobes in the closet for the weekend. They cross the causeway in denim andsilk shirts, carrying boom boxes and baseball caps worn in reverse. Theycome to shoot pool, have a few beers then visit Natasha around my bedtime.sonically The boom boxes boom everything from Egyptian hip hop toMetallica. halls. All night long, the doors up and down the hall open andslam shut following loud price haggling. A few years ago, I thought likeGilgamesh and saw these nights in Bahrain as heaven on Earth. Bahrain asan Edenic portal to immortality. But something happened. Something insideof me has changed--as it's supposed to when a feller stands on thethreshold of fifty.As we drove to the Golden Gate Hotel, I performed a little stand-up for mytaxi driver, first knocking on the dashboard three times then imitatingNatasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. "'Ello, darlink. I'm Natasha. You vantme one hour, Feefty dinar." I don't believe he got the reference but heunderstood the accent to be Russian hooker in spirit.Nope-siree. No more two star brothels for me. I own four suits. Now, I paythe extra 25 dollars to stay in a four star hotel room with clean sheets,a small window overlooking a parking lot, nightclubs anmd other hotels andof course a mosque. This is the life. In the bathroom there are waterglasses wrapped in sterilizing wax paper, many extra towels, an array ofsmall round soaps (impossible to open without finger nails) and manyshampoo packets. I have fifty channels on TV--of which at least five arein English.Still, despite this upgrade, my porter didn't hesitate to ask me on theway to my room if I wanted a woman. Telling him I was seeing someonewouldn't have made any sense.The hotel's Cinderlosers weren't Russian. They were Thai. And I am on adiet, so to speak. But slumber parties are always debatable. I fell asleepabout four.7/5/2004EditGin and ChronicThere was nothing unique about us that week we spent in Hua Hin. Ourcycles of profusion and famine were habitually chronic.In the early morning on the beach, I braided the red hair of this slenderwoman while horses galloped in the sand.All around us, the air, the sea, the barefoot steps on the boardwalk, thechatter and laughter teased us into believing that maybe things could bedifferent or at least they could go back to the way they were or morerealistically, the way we thought they had been.The previous evening, a gentle forgiving rain fell--more forgiving than wehad ever been to each other in the evevnings. Mornings were different.In the morning, we hopped on a motorcycle and rode south along a coastalhighway for many miles and many hours while the damp sea air chilled ourbare arms and turned the liquidity of time into ice, freezing this us inthis moment forever; one of those moments that make the end of an affairso agonizing in retrospect.We everntually found the small mountain which had the cloistered cavernwith a natural cathedral ceiling. Inside the cave, directly beneath theblue sky was a natural rock formation which looked close precisely likethe silent Gatama sitting in an eternal lotus position.Down the winding path of this mountainside, a short distance from wherewe'd left the motorcycle, a Thai family picnicked under a lean-to roadside cafe, sharing a bucket of dried shrimp. They offered us shrimp andbeer. She turned down the beer and asked for wine. The owner of the cafedisappeared into the kitchen and came out with a gallon jug of rice wine.It was one of our purest moments.Later, close to sunset, we returned to our pier hotal where now, beneaththe floor boards, the tide lapped, waves crashed,wind whispered andsighed. The sun set, we lit candles and made love.Our window faced the sea. On the black horizon a long strand of emeraldsseemed to have been strung from one edge to the other of an unknown world.They were shrimp boats and the lights helped to attract their catch.We showered then dressed to attend an old colonial club style happy hourin a lounge complete with mounted heads of game now endangered. Shesketched on napkins as we swallowed quickly--not sipped--gin and tonics,taking them onto the verandah.The verandah was surrounded by a topiary menagerie measuring many acressquared. We walked beneath thirty foot elephants with their young, wovearound twenty foot crouching tigers and long green crocodiles and mammothsnakes. We were Lilliputian sots stranded on Fantastic Planet.But something happened. Something always happened. Provoking words. Or acombative looks. Road weariness, exhaustion. Gin.That night we slept with anger. She fell asleep before I did. I laid inbed and softly moaned with each breath until she asked me to either stopit or walk it off.In the morning, when the shrimpers came in, they were welcomed back bytheir families. She and I stood on the pier, held hands, drank coffeewhile a young Thai girl played with a pet monkey on a leash.There was nothing unique about us that week we spent in Hua Hin.7/4/2004Editالأجنبيّ (People to Avoid)ZaytuniDraftDeleteIt's the Fourth of July and back home they are putting out the flags andbreaking out the yellow ribbons. We are celebrating Independence Day,Freedom Day--Liberation from Tyranny Day.Meanwhile, somewhere in the Middle East, the liberated are as confused asthe day is long and hot.How do we even begin to explain to the grateful, liberated people of Iraqthe concept of "trailer park white trash"?Paul Theroux reminds us in his book, "Fresh Air Fiend" that "The Arabic(word for) 'foreigner' is ajnabi, and the root means something like"people to avoid." Another word for foreigner is Al Gharib it literallymeans, "The West". Al Gharbi means "Westerner", also something to beavoided.Exceptions to these connotations are the obvious: unless they havesomething that we need like the know-how to turn oil into unimaginablewealth or unless they are Russian women who have reconciled their naturalsense of dignity with the necessities of single parenthood and haverelocated to a two-star hotel in Bahrain for the the next three months orunless they bring to your door two large pizzas and a litre of Pepsi.Someone has to collect the trash, sweep the streets, drive the taxis, deepfry potato skins, teach subject verb agreement and provide bad sit comsre-runs. Ajnabi can come in handy, sometimes,What isn't the exception to the "assass" or root denotation of thesewords--people to be avoided--are US hillbilly army reservists from dirtpoor mining towns, that is those inbreds with their vacuous Mongoloid,eWest Virginny eyes and who were once stationed at, ironically, Al Gharibprison or I suppose we can say, "The Westerners to be Avoided Prison"I suggest that we begin showing on Iraqi satellite TV the movie"Deliverance. I receive this station on Showtime and so far it seems tohave no other programming than a lot of movers and sheikhers talking (andtalking and talking). We might also include some thoughtful commentary onthe hillbilly fetish for buggery, juxtoposing images of real white trashin their mobile habitats, like West Virginny's own cousin-humps-cousinbred dominatrix and cigarette smoking ass-freak, Lynndie Englandwith scenes from the movie, particular Ned Beatty's most challenging role. Of course we'd have to dosome sound editing: "Squeal like a *bleep*, squeal like a *bleep*" torespect Islamic dietary laws.7/3/2004Editهذا ليس مسألةً شخصيّةً . إنّه عن كسب المال ."It's nothing personal. It's just business."(Ciao Marlon!)I sank down like dead weight in the leather chair of the lobby at theRaddisson Hotel. I watched the gathering of men wearing dishdashas,slumping in chairs around the lounge like bored teenagers, their legsextended and knees spread wide, cell phones in one hand, prayers beads inthe other. All that was missing was a parrot, a ceiling fan going aroundand around, and Sydney Greenstreet wearing a fez and clapping his hands tohave the tea boy bring his honored guest a hookah and a cup of Turkishcoffee. I didn't know if I was Humprhey Bogart or Peter Lorre.Mohammed was Sydney Greenstreet. We shook hands and immediately didn't getdown to business. The lounge was dim and smelled of sandalwood incense.First we talked at length about nothing, about the heat and airconditioners, exercise and losing weight. About traffic and aboutholidays.It was Mohammed's meeting so it was up to him to end the small talk andget down to business."First, I like your idea about using computers for afterschool artprograms. But now I would like for you to think about developing programsfor businesses." He had the air of a Wazeerissuing an e'lan or proclamation.It has taken us a month to get to this point where he realizes I am notbuying into Inshallah promises of splitting profits only after I do all ofthe work setting up classes and training instructors and where I realizethat there actually might be an opportunity to earn a nice second incomeby patching together a few English for Business and Commerce courses.More than this however I've enjoyed experiencing the process ofnegotiation which has involved many delayed or canceled meetings on bothends and Mafioso-like arbitration through suggestion and ambiguousimplication."Nothing personal. It's just business"I drank my tea and in a voice that was somewhere between a whisper and amumble I said, "I can write course syllabus on my own time. This is noproblem. I enjoy it."Translation: I'll plagiarize similar course descriptions from various websites and I won't charge you for my time.He said, "Inshallah you will have them by Monday and I can begin promotingthe class."Translation: "Please have them ready within the next two weeks and I willstart making the rounds at the diwaniyas using my wasta to get otherpeople to use their wasta to get contracts with ministries andbusinesses."I came back with, "The syllabus is easy. But the class schedule is thehard part."--I expect to be paid once you have students signing up and you need acurriculum.He said, "The ministries have training department managers who controlhuge budgets. A lot of outside training programs are awarded especially topeople they can trust."--there will be kickbacks and under-the-table wheelings and dealings, butif all goes well, you'll be sure to get yours.I said, "Inshallah."At this point, he clapped his hands, and twenty belly dancers presentedthemselves, some fanned us with palm fronds, others fed us peeled grapeswhile others shook their jangly plumply bellies.7/2/2004EditScandals and SandalsThroughout the day and into the night, in palatial homes, in diwaniyatents, in restaurants and in new shiny cars, they never (ever) seem tostop talking. They hold their mobile telephones to their ears even duringface-to-face conversations, constantly panning the rivers of their manyleisure hours for precious ingots of gossip.They scrimp and save hearsay, investing in it their own richness ofimagination and contempt for others then pass it along as if it is thetruth revealed to them by none other then "He Is Who He Is" Himself.Gossip here, similar to any close knit community like, say, a remotefarming village in Bhutan or on the dismal streets of Government andPerkins Road in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a bloodlust sport.7/2/2004EditGoogling around the world wide web last night, I s...Googling around the world wide web last night, I saw an ad for an artteacher at EBRATS, that bottom feeding charter school in Baton Rouge. Ihope this means TK has moved on. God be with her and hers.7/1/2004EditIt seems to be one of the Kuwaiti customs that the...It seems to be one of the Kuwaiti customs that the world will have toadapt to--as long as Kuwaitis have more money than most of us.A business appointment is often arranged not so much to meet at adesignated time and place, but to get the second party into the place sothat the first party can telephone to say, "I'm running late. I should bethere in 20 minutes." You go to the trouble of driving to meet the firstparty, sometimes it takes an extra hour to get there in the traffic. So,once you are in the waiting room, why not wait an additional twentyminutes. Relax. have a cup of tea. Inshallah, the first party will stepoff the elevator momentarily.At the thirty minute mark, you receive another phone call and you may beasked to wait another ten to fifteen minutes. Why not? You've come thisfar and have invested 30 minutes in the wait. The secretary is pretty asndchatty. So you agree to stay put.I don't. Not anymore. When told to wait 20 minutes, I reschedule. That'scalled negotiating from a position of "I think your full of shit.".6/30/2004EditDays AblazeThe days blaze by, getting hotter, even the evenings are beginning toglow. Throughout the city, construction never stops. There are sidewalksto be jack hammered into rubble so new bricks, identical to the oldbricks, can be laid. Eerily, the workers manage to endure the heat. Theroads simmer and are out of focus on the horizon. SUVs and German carszoom from here to there, drivers chat on phones and shiver from the chillof their air conditioners.If I were to join a road crew, even for a day, a half a day and work ashard as those men, you might as well measure me for a coffin.How can they work in the heat, in standard issue road crew jump suits,hard hats and orange safety vests? While they work, they chat, joke andsmile and return the greeting when pedestrians--who are dashing from theirfrosty cars to frosty buildings--acknowledge them with "Salam Alaikum."It's nearly 150 degrees Fahrenheit out there at noon. Still these brownfellows haul heavy loads, dig and dig deeper holes and lift hundred poundsacks of concrete.They aren't big men. Where I come from, construction workers tend to beburly--which means fat yet muscular, and they are paid as much in one dayas their Arabian Gulf counterparts earn in a month.You wouldn't describe these guys as burly. They are skinny, pint sized andwirey. They come from East Asian villages in Bangla Desh, Pakistan, Nepaland India.When they finish their work day, they don't knock off and head for theroad house for a few cold ones. And they don't hop in their pick-up trucksand speed home to meat and potatoes. They pile into the back of a paneltruck which looks like a paddy wagon from a 1930s gangster movie, the dooris bolted from the outside, and they are driven back to their barracks.

They sleep in warehouses twenty or more to an open bay. They subsist on adiet of rice, lentils and curry, maybe a couple of small pieces ofchicken. Some fresh fruit if they're lucky. Some of them have Fridays off.Many grab buckets and rags and plant themselves in shopping mall parkinglots. They'll wash your car for three bucks.Know how they do it? Know how they keep going, spending years and yearsaway from their families?They have faith. Not go-to-church-every-other-Sunday faith or New Ageybell, books and candles faith, but the real thing. Hindu or Muslim--theyquiet their minds with prayers. I wish I had their passion and devotion.(I also wish I had their metabolism

2004EditBlast in the PastGULF NEWSObscene gesture lands drunken man in troubleGulf News reported: An impatient traveller who was late for his flight made an obscene gesture to an airport official - and ended up facing a suspended jail sentence. Zaytuni reports: TK was on her way to the US because her ex-husband wouldn't sign for her son's passport. The 17 year old slack master quit school, ran away from week in order for him to pay rent to these two recovering alcoholic Lesbians who'd taken him in. The money would last about eight minutes between the three of them--TK's boy and the two members of Sapphos Sluggers. He was calling Mama every night, crying, "Help me, Mama." She was drinking every night, crying, missing her boy, he daughter and unsure of what to do. 

Finally, TK and Zaytuni got paid and Zaytuni said, "Go get him." It cost them around three thousand US total to fly her home and for them to bring him back. Each time she went home, she also felt obligated to treat her daughter and her sister to hotels and meals. This continued to run up her credit debt, one of the things she'd hope to resolve by going to the UAE.Zaytuni had a few days off as well. There was no work. The school as closed due to the Islamic New Year, the Al-Hijri, commemorating the first Hadj. He was going to Sri Lanka. They'd both gone to the local Kon Tiki restaurant and ordered a couple of bowls of booze before their respective flights. The drive to Dubai was about an hour. They usually had a bottle of wine for the drive. There was no time. Zaytuni tried to smuggle two Konanlua type drinks complete with umbrelllas and pineapple, out to car under his shirt. The waiter who had served us came out of the restaurant to stop them (you think California has tough DWI laws) and he ended up having to dive into the bushes lining the fountaining or be run down.Gulf News Reported: The Dubai Court of Misdemeanours sentenced the zuggly American to a suspended one-month jail sentence to be served within three years if the act is repeated, and a Dh1,000 fine. He was charged with drinking, making an obscene gesture and resisting arrest.Zaytuni Reports: He dropped her off at her Terminal, drove to his and proceeded to the check-in counter one hour and fifteen minutes before take off. The ticket agent said that the flight had already shut its doors and moved away from the terminal. He said a few words. The middle fingerreaction wasn't overt, and had it been to the Filipina agent, no problem, but the gesture was made to a Muslimess. wasn't overt. Gulf News Reported: He was acquitted of resisting arrest. Zaytuni says The policen came and cuffed him. As they were walking Zaytuni from the terminal to an airport police station, he adapted the gait of Steppin' fetchin', the shameless 1930s stereotype sub-species negro of thrities comedies (I'se don' know if'n I likes to go back in them there haunted house mr. Hope) He was shuffling along, some might say it was more of a stagger. This sergeant on the beat, a Bruce Van Schwartzenstallone Dubai copper said, "You! Walk faster!" Zaytuni came to a complete stop and said, "Is this fast enough for you?" Quick cut. He is kssing the the concrete and something heavy, wooden and that really hurt kept hitting his back and legs. His nose was bloodied.The Gulf News Reported: According to court reports, on February 2, the accused reached Dubai International Airport at 2am and was late for his flight. As he reached the first counter, the airport employee asked him to move to the third counter.He moved from behind the desk, a prohibited area, towards the counter and submitted his papers to M.M.R., an Iranian assistant customer services employee, to get his boarding pass, but she told him that the gates had closed. D.A.O. was outraged and started an argument with her. Finally, he made an obscene gesture at her.Zaytuni Says "Sort of"Gulf News Reported: M.M.R. called the police who came and asked the accused to go with them for questioning, but he tried to get his boarding pass. So one of the officers pushed him and asked him to move faster. He fell on the floor and injured his nose. During questioning, the Zuggly American told the prosecution that he had drunk two cans of beer that night and denied making an obscene gesture. He claimed that he had been trying to fix his hair. He also claimed that he hadn't resisted but, instead, was going along with them when one of the officers pushed him and he fell on the floor.Zaytuni Says: No. No. No. La, la, la.The Gulf News doesn't report that a week later, he had this 17 year old high school drop out living with him, tossing cigarete butts on the living room floor and leaving cdozens of empty cans of Dr. Pepper scattered through the house.8/28/2004EditPickle Woman of Odd fellow's Rest and the Free Mason's Bone OrchardI've been working on a proposal for the Writing Center for what seems like 1001 Arabian nights.I will be online all night drinking and pissing cans of Red Bull because I have to meet the Dean tomorrow and show him the goods.OnSon week-end était presque à son extrémité. C'avait été un week-end qui a examiné son désir de changer. Il avait considéré son problème plus soigneusement chaque jour qui l'a apporté plus près de son nouveau travail. Il a su que sa vie de ce moment vers l'avant l'un ou l'autre le mettrait pendant un cycle familier qui a toujours commencé par beaucoup de conforts. Mais ces conforts initiaux étaient comme les chansons des temptress. Ils étaient les mensonges réprimandés par argent de son diable. Cette fois il a pris une décision. Il a dû y avoir changement. Il qu'il a dû commencer par l'honnêteté rigoureuse. D'abord, il a dû stopper mentir à se. Oui, naturellement il était toujours infiniment dans l'amour "elle" et incapable d'aimer n'importe qui autrement (ou toute autre chose) jusqu'à ce qu'il ou ait conduit ce sentiment par son coeur ou l'amour est revenu à lui. La deuxième chose qu'il a dû faire était de dire la vérité à quelqu'un qui avait hérité sa vie, apparaissant comme un ange de la pitié envoyé vers le bas du ciel pour être pas un traitement mais un opiacé. L'ange a mérité d'entendre la vérité et ainsi il lui a dit qu'et quand il , elle a volé hors de sa vie. Maintenant il était seul. Il était seul avec une douleur presque unedurable, une douleur qui a continué à le prier de dire une prière pour l'ange pour réapparaître même si la prière signifiait qu'il a dû mentir à se, à l'ange et à Dieu. En conclusion, il a admis qu'il était encore impuissant au-dessus de son amour pour la femme il à gauche derrière. Les prières qu'il avait dites avaient disparu sans réponse dans le passé. Et tandis qu'il attendait les prières à répondre, tout autour de lui s'est cassé à part, au delà de la réparation. En outre, beaucoup de gens ont été endommagées en raison de son incapacité de se rendre compte que les prières ne seraient jamais répondues. Il y avait seulement une chose qu'il pourrait maintenant maintenant échapper à la douleur sans rechercher un opiacé. Il a dû prier que Dieu lui accorderait la paix de l'esprit pour comprendre qui lui permettrait de cesser de prier pour l'impossible. C'est la prière qu'il a dû dire surtout. Il n'a pas compté qu'on lui répondrait tout de suite. Mais il s'est senti comme s'il avait finalement croisé cette ligne qu'il n'avait jamais eu la force à croiser avant. D'un côté il a vécu une vie d'individu . De l'autre côté, il a tourné qui plus d'à Dieu. D'un côté, la volonté a réalisé des résultats plus rapides et les résultats finis dans le désastre. De l'autre, les résultats pourraient prendre un jour ou dix ans avant qu'ils ont hérité sa vie et l'ont changé en personne qui il avait l'habitude d'être, la personne il avaient eu lieu de son premier jour dans sa vie.And if he couldn't get Google to hide it in shakey French, he knew a of song which basically expressed the same fluctuating mood .HOLD ON (Tom Waits)They hung a sign up in out town’if you live it up, you won’tLive it down’So, she left monte rio, sonJust like a bullet leaves a gunWith charcoal eyes and monroe hipsShe went and took that california tripWell, the moon was gold, herHair like windShe said don’t look back justCome on jim(chorus)Oh you got toHold on, hold onYou got to hold onTake my hand, I’m standing right hereYou gotta hold onWell, he gave her a dimestore watchAnd a ring made from a spoonEveryone is looking for someone to blameBut you share my bed, you share my nameWell, go ahead and call the copsYou don’t meet nice girls in coffee shopsShe said baby, I still love youSometimes there’s nothin left to doOh you got toHold on, hold onYou got to hold onTake my hand, I’m standing right here, you got toJust hold on.Well, God bless your crooked little heart st. louis got the best of meI miss your broken-china voice How I wish you were still here with meWell, you build it up, you wreck it downYou burn your mansion to the groundWhen there’s nothing left to keep you here, whenYou’re falling behind in thisBig blue worldOh you go toHold on, hold onYou got to hold on Take my hand, I’m standing right here You got to hold on Down by the riverside motel, It’s 10 below and falling By a 99 cent store she closed her eyesAnd started swayingBut it’s so hard to dance that wayWhen it’s cold and there’s no musicWell your old hometown is so far awayBut, inside your head there’s a recordThat’s playing, a song calledHold on, hold onYou really got to hold onTake my hand, I’m standing right hereAnd just hold on.8/27/2004EditDaily Reprieve"Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss" (don't make me cite the source)Between the time I wrote yesterday's post on Kathmandu and today, the Maoist have backed off.The mice that roar are now allowing the ancient buses, the rattle traps Frankenstein's monster cars and vans, the deisel fume spewing trucks and tuk tuks to once again careen around those death defying, too beautiful for words Himalayan foothill curves.Apparently the insurgents were hoping that at some stage there would be a popular urban uprising. Although they have the support of a lot of Nepalis I've met and with whom I've discussed this issue at length, I suppose it is not the easiest of missions to incite an uprising in a country whose two major religions have a central dogma of passivity and moderation.The Maoist have no Che Guevara, no Danton, no Jefferson or Thomas Payne, no Lenin, no Trotsky. Hell, they don't even have a Mao.There is nothing similar to a Ho Chi Minh trail. No sympathetic allies who are going to order 300,000 soldiers to silently wade across the Yalu river. They don't have a rich kid gone bad like Osama bin Laden to write them blank checks for RPGs and AK47s. There is no threat of dominoes toppling throughout Central Asia. No promise of virgins in Paradise for the faithful.Rag tag doesn't even begin to describe the "Maoists". Most of the real weapons they have, they've snatched from the few remote outposts they've been able to overrun with their zip guns and machetes. All they have had up till now is the ambiguous support of an impoverished, unempowered, dispossessed and wildly diverse mixture of ethnic groups, none of whom (by themselves) make up a majority population.George W. gave the government a couple hundred million to fight the Maoist terror threat, and even if only a ridiculously small percentage of the money went towards bulking up the Army, the King still wildly outspent his enemies.They can only load their guns with resentments. If you resent a bank that folded and a government that can't or won't do anything to help you recover your life's savings--so go the Maoist. They'll fix it. Yeah, sure, sure. Trust 'em.I can't blame Nepalis like my friend for resenting the Tibetan middle class because they are the people whom the tourists have flown half way around the world to gaze at in a stupefying awe that was inspired by a shelf full of Joseph Campbell books and some dirt cheap cassette recordings of the Dalai Lama's aphorisms read by one of those Redgrave girls.I guess some pro-active comrade back at Maoist HQ must have convinced his commissar that if the blockade will only make an almost unedurable life worse for people whose loftiest aspirations go now further than two hot bowls of rice and lentils a day, then what's the point? The people don't have an "other" which can inspire enough loathing to rise up, an "other" like Hitler's Jews or the Vietnamese imperialist government or the occupying forces of non-believers. The closest they have to an other are the Tibet Tibetans who fled their country when the man himself, Mao Tse Tung, took over their country. But several of the ethnic groups in Nepal have close Tibetan roots to begin with so it's not as though their exile can be seen as an invasion. It is more of a cousin helping a cousin.The refugees who linked up with their Nepali-Tibetan cousins came with enough loot to buy, to build and to own. They own the restaurants, the hotels, the souveneir shops and the travel agencies. They built the tourism business. It is my (mis?)understanding that given a choice between having to work for a Tibetan immigrant and one from the land to the south, they prefer the Tibetans.Do the math. Until the 1950's, Nepal would not allow foreigners into the country. Tourism was forbidden. The Tibetans went into exile in 1950. In 1953, Nepal began to allow foreigners into their country and right away Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (with Edmund Hillary and his wallet right behind him) became the first man to reach the summit of Everest. And an industry was born.As far as I know, there are only two "others" that the Maoists can use to rally popular support to sustain their fight and these are 1. corruption and 2. the caste system. When Mao himself invaded Tibet, to his credit (and I could be shot at dawn by Martin Scorcese for saying this) he dismantled the caste system and made corruption a capital offense. To his discredit he stole a country, destroyed an ancient culture, murdered enough people of with a common heritage and language to call it a genocide, robbed their fields, starved to death those who weren;t machine gunned en masse, and shipped in enough Chinese to give them a majority status in Tibet.Well, the reality is that today, there is no Tibet. There is a Chinese province called Xi-Zang. The Tibetan culture that exists there is permitted to practice the old rites because it brings in tourists--the same tourist who have Free Tibet bumper sticker go to Xi-Zang and help to fuel a tourist industry for the Chinese.So what does survive only survives the same way Native American culture has been able to remember their customs and rites-- by endearing the world with their old ways to the extent that they can maintain a virtual culture. They come to this country, visit Unitarian churches, put on the big head gear and chant the ancient songs for the price of an admission ticket. And they have nice neighborhoods in Kathmandu like where Bodnath temple is--and if you ever go there, it is not a shopping area where you can dicker about the price.So, where do the Nepali fit into all of this? First of all, who are the Nepali? The Brahmin and the Chhetris? The Rai and the Limbu? The Newaris (part Tibetan, part Burmese), the Tamangs and the Sherpas (the main group of Nepali who have mostly a Tibetan heritage)? Just to name a few.Even their languages differ in forms that are not just the product of branches evolving from the same root. There are more than fifty dialects of Sino-Tibetan and the same for dialects of Indo-Aryan.Unless these scattered people who share a country where for centuries one kingdom was completely cut off from another that was just a few miles away as the crow flies (but not as the hominid walks) can offer the outside world a little than the most breathtaking, the most sublime and the most humbling scenery on the planet, then its doubtful that they are going to risk their two bowls of dahl baht a day for a pipe dream being fought with knives, a few stolen rifles, some guns made from left over water pipes and a couple of pretty cheesy web// sites.Kathmandu is under siege. The Maoist have surrounded the city. My friend and guide has sent me an Email a day begging me to help him come to Kuwait. He could be a security guard, a pumper of gas, a gardener or a tea boy/photo-copy runner in a bank. I'm doing what I can to find him a sponsor, that is, a Kuwaiti who could arrange for his visa. The Nepali doorman at the university is from Kathmandu. He said the only way my friend could come here would be through an employment agency. But these days, they're not to be trusted. My friend might sign on for a job as a dock worker in Kuwait or a lawn attendant (he has completed a horticulture class and has a certificate in hand). He may even become a round-about attendant, planting flowers and maintaining shrubs and date trees. Or he could end up in Iraq. He's soft spoken and has a decent well-rounded (mostly self-taught) education. He owns two white shirts and a pair of black cord trousers. He shines his black shoes every night and he wears them with white socks. He has large, round eyes. I see my eyes in his--or at least with a chew of black temple ball in my stomach, I did, once. He's sort of like a son to me. His uncle slapped his hand most severely when he was a child for disrespecting a Buddhist shrine. My friend is a Hindu, but in Nepal, they have as much reverence for Buddhism as they do their own faith. In fact, they revere all believers in God, no matter that others might have Gods which don't permit reciprocity. For the Nepali Hindu man on the street, a God by any other mask is still God. Still, his story about the hand slapping incident, which came up during one evening constitutionals and was a follow-up to an earlier discussion about childish willfulness and answered the question about when it is time to spank a kid. Because he was tall enough, which meant because he could, he ran ahead of his uncle to a small Buddhist shrine in a Durbar square, ran a full circle around the shrine, spinning each wheel as hard as he could the way a boy in America might press every elevator button in an apartment building or ring a neighbors door bell then run and hide. Except this had a bit more gravity to it than momentarily ticking off a few grown ups. This would be as taboo as blowing out all the lit candles at a Catholic altar for the dead or entering a mosque or Hindu temple still shod. Apparently the local papers aren't being generous with information about the siege. News of the siege could kill the trekking industry--which is THE industry in Nepal. I'm sure the Maoist could be avoided by a guide who knew the back roads. Plus the local twin engine prop plane that makes runs to Pokhara, the trekkers rallying point, is unaffected. Then again, for the right price, anything is possible. I once offered a rafting guide enough money to take me on a river during monsoons, a river that was rising fast and that had six foot swells charging down river like unstoppable Panzer divisions. Making the front page of the local paper instead of the encirclement is a story about a baby born in Iran with two heads attached to one torso. But in other countries, there are reports of a fire fights with the army and a nationwide bahn, a strike, and all shops have been ordered closed by the Maoist. For the first time since these by-the-numbers peasant revolutionaries started building an arsenal by fashioning clubs, sharpening knives and assembling single shot firearms from water pipes, duct tape and matchsticks, foreigners are targets if they don't get out of the way of the fight. This must mean that the movie theater where my friend is working has shut its doors. Theaters are deliciously soft targets, just right for Molotov cocktails. He earns around 50 dollars a month. Fifteen dollars pays the rent on his one-room flat (running water comes from the community well--an urban community well, poop and pee go nto the community squat toilet flushed only when one pours a plastic pitcher of water into the hole. ) 1o dollars a month is needed to pay for his son's education. The rest of the money he gives to his wife to fill the kitchen jars with rice and lentils. The kitchen is in one corner of the room. The stove is a single burner camping cooker fueled by a small gas cylinder; bricks and boards make up the pantry. The agency that would send him to Kuwait (and maybe on to Iraq) charges a one lakh Nepali rupee fee if paid up front, one and a half times that if paid in installments. That's one hundred and fifty thousand N.R. or 1,500 US. In Kuwait he'd probably earn around fifty to seventy-five KD a month (150 - 175 US or one tenth of his agency fee). The first year of his contract, he'd work for very little as the agency fee must be repaid as soon as possible. He wouldn't be able to bring his family. The minimum salary requirement to bring in his family is 400 KD a month (about 850 bucks) . After three years, he would get a free round trip ticket home for a two month stay. Maybe I could help him, but the chances are slim. Most of the hard labor in Kuwait comes from countries where guerilla wars have been hot for years. To prevent the bleeding hearts from taking in too many stray refugees, the sponsorship laws are strict and limiting, even for Kuwaitis. This also helps to eliminate an unofficial prostitution industry like the one in Bahrain or the UAE. But if I could bring them here, his wife could earn money cleaning houses; he could pick up some extra pocket money washing cars on the side in mall parking lots (for a small unofficial licensing fee) or hanging out around the open bed trucks parked near the used furniture souks. I would be able to afford to pay for his son's education at a low-end English speaking school (Pakistani probably). I'm sure that low-end in Kuwait would look like five stars to him. They could live in the extra room I have, the one I use to store my extra TV and cat litter box. I'd move the litter box to my balcony. The year I decided to return to the US and start a couple of businesses--one, a studio/gallery for TK; the other, an import business dealing in Tibetan trinkets (singing bowls, Thankas, non-violent leather popular among Richard Gere fans and newly recovering co-dependents) I'd gone on a buy to Kathmandu during the Christmas season (which happened to coincide with Ramadan and Eid that year, and I was flying up from the UAE so the spirit of generosity was thick), I bought a bicycle for a child for the first time. I hadn't met my own child yet. Her mother and I hadn't even agreed that it was a good idea if I should ever meet her. When TK and I went to see the potters in Bhaktapur the year before that, we tipped my friend with a new foot-pedaled, hand cranked Singer a sewing machine (price--45 US) as a means of providing his family with some sort of life insurance should something happen to him. He had been hinting that the Maoist army was looking for recruits and out of ear shot of TK, he nodded his head yes when I asked if he'd like some cargo pocket pants, a backpack, a canteen and a rifle. If something were to happen to him, his wife wouldn't have to sign-on as one of the 50,000 Nepali women who are trucked each year to Calcutta and Mumbai to fuck and suck middle-class Indian men. She could sew Thanka covers. Mend clothes. Embroider t-shirts with the words "Yak Yak Yak" under three ready-made patches which bear a slight resemblance to a Yak, one of the Nepali beasts of burden. My friend is a Newari. His wife is a Nepali of Tibetan descent. They come from the same village and are of equal caste status. At one time, TK and I promised him we'd be back every summer to help establish a non-profit summer camp to teach English, painting and drawing. Breaking that promise was of many broken by the Kendall Jackson vineyards, one of several that rearranged the ebb and flow of my seritonin uptake and which turned me into a Berserker willing to accept a military contract in Saudi Arabia.. It could still happen, the school in Nepal, though I might have to drop the art classes. Today I made a phone call after chatting with my sponsor. It was another rare moment, like the one where I got off a plane bound for Bangkok. I'll call it progress."I cannot deal with these resentments over last year without letting some of the anger surface. It isn't fair to you to be a witness to or a target of my stuff."I think we're going to be friends (full stop). Nothing more. That's what she said. We'll see.Back home, in the days (and nights), if I'd lost track of time, spent most of my money and pissed away my dignity, that is if I'd stayed out too late at night, I could get a fix on the hour when I walked or crawled from my car to front door and heard the songs of the Louisiana Water thrush in heat.Here, the morning song birds are momentarily drowned out while muezzins announce "Fajr" prayer which is the first "salaat" of the day. The call goes out just as the sun begins to suggest its presence as a thin thread of less dark stretches across the horizon in the darkest hour of new day.Though I move from car to front door with a sure and steady gait these days, with money in my wallet and my dignity holding its own, my furtive homecomings are witnessed by the bearded ones who wear the hems of their dishdashas just above their ankles.Some of them try not to glare at the infidel carrying two guitars and a leather bag full of patch cords and effects devices as they hurry to Masjid.I got in around five this morning.Last night I sat in with two music groups. One was the more family-oriented, living room gathering, the first Folk Night of the season where I and my Dobro made our debut; the other was at the Blue Torch Lounge where I strapped on my aging Telecaster with the action of the strings raised about an inch off the fret board for my salty open tuning slide solos.Flok night didn't go well. The quieter gig of last night's two gigs was cut short after the guitarists played and sang too many American standards for the tastes of the British purists. The loudest UK critic of American twanging songs didn't recognize that the basics of all this "Down the Mountain" music came from the Isles, and Africa of course. One style came either by choice or servitude. The other in chains.After the strummers were scolded like public school hooligans for hogging the Flok night with their American nonsense, I decided to make like Dylan in '65 and go electric. I arrived at the Blue Torch Lounge about 10.This morning I came home very late or very early (depending on your Catholic guilt or Protestant work ethic) because after the crowd thinned down, I got into a good jam with T., a Kuwait jazz guitarist.Around two in the morning, the Blue Torch looked like any other bar in the US, post-last call, when the last of the staggerers stumble to their cars, and all the fat chicks at the end of the bar finally get invites back to his place, when the band members have to pack up and wait around for the bar owner come out of his office with the pay.Only a handful of hard core night hawks remained, the shebab who don't generally go home until sunrise anyway.Also hanging out after hours was the Armenian drummer, A., whom I've been playing with in this country since 1997, and my homes, K., from Mid-City New Orleans,lead singer, harp player, the keeper of the castle (five floors and a basement den converted into the Blue Torch) T. stuck around as well. T. is a Kuwaiti jazz guitarist who raves on and on about his faith, the one true faith laying out his position with an endless number of specifics--usually after he's poured about 3/4 of a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label down his gullet.Last week I asked him if he knew any Kuwait musicians who played Arabic sea chants, Al Samri music. I love the stuff. And I want to record with some. It's the traditional music and although I haven't done the scholarship, I am pretty sure its roots are African, perhaps the same African origins as the cotton field chanting which is the mother tongue of the blues.For sometime now, I've worked on fusing the two. Last year in the US I went so far as to dig up a feller who played Arabic drums for a belly dancing troupe and we played some downtown arts festival or other to good reviews from those who stopped by to listen. T. didn't get the connection between Looziana delta blues and Gulf Arab sea chants. So around two thirty in the morning, I took out my dobro, he his acoustic guitar. A. sat on the floor with tablas. I tuned my Dobro to this open tuning: DGADGC which is close to that of the Oud.The sixth and fifth strings are dropped whole step same as an open G, one of Elmo James' tuning. On those lower strings, I play notes familiar to both styles. The fourth string goes down six steps. In other words--its dropped way down there and is extremely bendable and great for pull offs. The same thing is done for the G string. The B and high E strings go down even lower--seven steps. All this flexibility helps to manipulate the strings to hit the quarter tones in Middle Eastern scales.You can hear Jimmy Page using this tuning on several songs. I'm not breaking new ground, but then, his fusion of Middle Eastern modes and Delta blues in 1994 was in Morocco, which is much closer to the source of Western African riddums and so the sound was less off-the-wall than what I am attempting to do."If you have decided that you want what we have and are willing to go to any lengths to get itthen you are ready to take certain steps. (BB )Zaytuni's sponsor "suggested" I remove all my tracking devices. Sometimes you have to throw the baby out with the bath water. I got a kick out of seeing IP addresses from servers at NASA, Time Warner, CBS and wondering "who in the hell. . .?" But then I started noticing this one IP address from Baton Rouge dropping by not every now and again but several times a day, everyday. I started to ping it, track it, resolving it to DNS and domains. I even found some trial software that gave me a fix on longitude and latitude. I became obsessed trying to figure out who in that God forsaken "vortex of despair" (John Kennedy Toole, Confederacy of Dunces) would want to read my pedantic, purple prose bullshit.I soon found myself writing about those best of times, worst of times and even reached a point where I once again began opening my Email accounts in the morning hoping to read that she'd been to 90 meetings in 90 days, had a sponsor and wanted to make amends for her part.In other words, on the verge of starting this job of Jobs, I was regressing to the three don'ts of Al Anon: "if only", "I should have", and "but this is different". I even hacked into what I knew to be a dormant Email account I'd set up for her in the UAE just to nick of few sentences and post them to verify that it was indeed my ex-kinda-sorta wife, the loveliest, enormously talented little flower of Jesus when sober but who also happens to be a really mean gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis who never heaved right across her shoulders but did kick me in the shins once or twice when drunk (which is every night after work and all day Saturday and Sunday).What would possess her to keep tabs on me? Gotta admit. It bugged me. big time (how do they say it with that annoying BR falling dipthong--"it bugged me big Tie-am or Tim).My guess is that one of the three hundred thousand miserable lowlife thieving scum-sucking lower-than-snake-shit, under rocks dwelling lawyers (like the lunatic my sister bred with), who make up 63% of the population in Baton Rouge, advised her that she could take part in East Baton Rouge's fourth favorite pastime--serving someone with papers. In this case I imagine she was snooping for libelous remarks. (28% of the population is in "marketing"--whatever the hell that means. The rest are teachers because they can't figure out how to work a cash register or are too old to be lap dancers).The other BR favorite pastimes you ask? Number 1--getting drunk; Number 2--fucking someone other than who you are supposed to be fucking when drunk, then getting drunk and telling everybody and their little brothers about it; Number 3--staying drunk while waiting for that thread bare, bush league blues scene to become internationally recognized because some one hit wonder named Tabby Thomas says it's gonna happen anyday now on his pre-recorded, self-aggrandizing two hours-a-week high school radio show where he plays nothing but Tabby Thomas records, while drunk, and bitterly tells whoever will listen that he discovered Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Tab Benoit. The wait for the world to recognize BR's legendary blues status is now in its 32nd year. They don't get it. Buddy Guy made it because he left Baton Rouge and never looked back, not because he was from there. Tabby's boy Chris made it because he also got on the bus and got the duck out of Fodge (he's plays the Robert Johnson character in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?"I removed the trackers. And it is my hope that anybody from that town who comes to this site will piss off after reading this post. Or be inspired and leave town.When I removed the html codes, it felt like I was flushing pills or getting off that plane bound for Bangkok. So my sponsor was right on the money.I left the Bravenet counter on because it's pretty weak, doesn't include a Who Is? link and in a month or two, I'll hit some magic number and the free trial will end.She rested her head on his chest as they caught their breath. Then the subject came up again. She said, "I don't ask you for much. I never ask you for anything. I only want to have one piece of paper and a baby." Because they were living in a Muslim country, she needed to have a marriage on paper if one out of a few hundred million of his sperm cells were ever to break through the outer walls protecting her ovum and produce a result. Without the paper and with a result, she could do jail time and be deported. She promised that she'd keep her own place. He could stay in his. He reminded her that he was working on many issues, that he didn't feel like he had recovered sufficiently from old wounds to be a parent. She persisted. "I will do it on my own. I don't need anything from you. I have money saved, property back home." It was time for him to break out the big guns, the emergency back-up stuff about himself which generally inspired the smarter ones to voluntarily hightail it out of his life. He started with the standard introduction--went on for a few minutes explaining how she didn't know anything about him, added another couple of minutes essentially saying that she didn't known what she'd be getting into, he would ruin her life., ruin her credit rating. Her family would turn their backs on her. He waited for her to say it couldn't be that bad, which she did, and that was his cue. "Okay,," he started. He'd been an arsonist and had once nearly committed murder. "Years ago, during my first marriage, I helped my father-in-law torch a house just to get shed of some annoying neighbors. He drove the get-away car while I lit the pile of newspapers in the carport. We thought nobody was home. If another neighbor hadn't driven up just as the fire was consuming the house and if he hadn't gone into the house. . .well.You see there was a woman sleeping in one of the bedroooms." "Still you didn't kill anybody, right?" He'd been guilty of grand theft and fraud. "I used to bartend in college, right. So I got this idea to start duplicating credit card vouchers. I would use the numbers to order first class airline tickets and the invite women to spend the weekend with me in New York City." She thought for a moment and said,” You know that the credit card companies don't make the card holders pay fraudulent bills. I bet they even sent them a gift and raised their limit." He could not be trusted. in a relationship. "Once, when my second wife was out of town, I picked up a stranger in a bar, spent three days and nights at her house. Then to get rid of her, I invited her to my home. She snooped around when I went into the kitchen, read the names on same mail and said, 'You never mentioned you were married.' I said, 'You never asked.' How rotten is that?" "You can be with as many women as you like. I just want one of your sperm cells." He sat up in bed and began to speak, his voice growing louder with each point he was trying to make. "Lookit. I'm a drunk who’s lucky if he can go six months without a drink, an addict who wouldn't mind getting cancer because it would mean a lot of free morphine. I'm a sex addict who once traded his wedding ring for a blow job." "Just one sperm cell and a piece of paper." "I'm not finished. I have an irredeemable, unsolvable problem with anger. I have panic attacks in traffic, I scream at anyone who remotely pisses me off. I've been diagnosed Bi-polar, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive and I have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I'm an Agoraphobic, a Sociophobic, a Misogynist, and a Hedonist. I don't think babies are cute; they do nothing but poop and cry and they cost a lot of money. Don't you get it? I've never had a checking account opened for more than a year, a home address for more than two or a relationship that didn’t end without having to spend a night or two in jail. I hate small dogs, fresh vegetables, walks along the beach, sunsets, sunrises, clouds never look like anything else to me other than clouds. And between friends, family, the IRS and my student loans, I owe enough money for an eighteen year old to retire and live comfortably to be a hundred." "I never said I like you or that I want to marry you. You scare me." She put her hand on his crotch, "But," then she grabbed him "this isn't about you." I went to the Ahmadi speak-easy to strum a few tunes for a small gathering of Department of Defense workers on leave from Baghdad tonight. They'd trucked back a few cases of Heinekens and a couple bottles of scotch. I stuck to Zoloft with an N/A Barbican lemon chaser. I had my daily reprieve.Over the weekend, I picked up a Korean made Dobro. I adjusted the effects device to heavy tremolo and reverb, tuned to an open D for my Ry Cooder/John Hammond impressions and gave them some Delta blues on the Arabian Gulf. It was a down and dirty night juke joint night.The boys are on their way to Bahrain as I type this.. I can not only recommend hotels but who to ask for and what the true last price for Americans is. I reminded the skank-mongers of Zaytuni's rule of thumb when one goes out-of-control wenching: cheaper by the dozen.I'll call the boys Austin 1 and Austin 2, Lafayette Bob, Fort Myers Doug and the fat man from Watertown.Austin 1 wanted to know where in Bahrain he could find sub-continentals. I told him his best shot would be a maid on the game.Austin 2 said, "Sheeit, I don't wanna sound like a redneck but most of those Indians I've encountered have a different concept of hygiene than I am used to. ""I hear you. " Fat Man from Watertown kept a cigarette in his mouth as he talked and drank. He was on his hundreth BBQ'ed hotdog. "In 1996, I was working for Dyna-Corp right here in Kuwait when wife #2 decided she'd rather be bumping beaver with some Chink waitress down in Poughkeepsie than live with me here in Kuwait. I survived for a year on a steady diet of Sri Lankan house maids."Fort Myers Doug drawled out a perfect 10 "Sheeeeeit." He drank scotch shooters. "In Jeddah, I was reduced to scrounging up Eritreans in malls who charged 500 Riyals for a 'lay still and let Mister do his business' performance. Price gouging and stanky poothy."Austin 2 noticed I was eaves dropping and addressed me when he said, "Negroids and sub-continentals had better be able to suck the proverbial golf ball through 20 feet of garden hose for my money.""Chrome off a trailer hitch," some one said."Unscrew the head and work on the wires." another added."Inhale so hard your head caves in.""Suck so hard you'll have to pull the sheets out of your ass when she's done."They all fell into a quiet meditation.Then Lafayette Bob spoke up. "I guess I'm pretty much a caucausaphiliac. I have great concern for nipple to flesh color contrast, minimum half dollars in circumference. And I want to see at the very least a martini glass patch of fur. With the right TA-50, Mister don't mind if they lay there and think of the Queen. It's all in the visual aids."Zaytuni remembered TA-50 as the nomeclature for the gear soldiers hump into combat. "Go to the Phonecia," Zaytuni said. "You'll find Cossacks by the hoards there.""Dig it," said Austin 2. "Ruskies and Thais. Now those Thai girls have that nipple to flesh color contrast goin' on in spades but the spoiler is they are also deforested. It's what you call ironic. Or is that a paradox?""Stay at the Dilmun, " I said. "Ask for Maha.""Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." (Hassan bin Sabbah, 11th century)Hassan Sabbah was a man of faith, a true believer, a real back to the basics kind of guy whose neighbors might have described him as "nice" but who "kept to himself" (the same way many of our garden-variety serial killers are described by their neighbors as the police find skeletons in closets, basements, backyards and refrigerators).How did they come to live a life shrugging off what shouldn't have been and what might be? How was it they knew the secret of quieting the mind? What drove them? Better yet, why weren't they driven?He and virtually everyone else he has known or (he suspected) everyone else who had been, is now or will ever experience what Shelley calls "fast influencings" never seem to get the hang of this thing.His life operated much like a suspended-ball desk toy, clicking and clacking, demonstrating the key principle to a dogma which defined him. One prime of life yields a twilight which yields an infancy which grows into another prime of life. Every remedy unbalanced his psychic system; every ailment was an anchor. Adversity was quieting. Complacency filled his head with unwelcomed, ambient noise. Click. He sat up in bed and mouthed "Sod it." Clack. He picked up the phone and dialed a number.8/3/2004EditMountingIf Mallory hadn't tried and failed time and again, eventually vanishing somewhere on the side of the mountain, that is, if he'd succeeded and hadn't left a headless pile of bones up there, then Hillary would have only had a mountain to climb, not a myth to conquer. 8/2/2004EditAmnesty Intrarational"What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." (BB)He stood trance-like at the crossroads, looking east and west.The abyss stared into him. A two-headed hell hound growled, dripping strands of bloodlike drool from its great gaping jaws onto the Kuwait Airlines ticket office carpet. He saw it all yet felt nothing. That peculiar supernumeral sense of being in a place not just familiar but well known down to smallest details anaesthetized common sense. This was the plot point which set up the final act in his mid-summer divine comedy of errors.He listened to that voice. "Go on! Embrace the choice with all your heart. You won't be alone in oblivion. You'll eat your favorite foods, drink your favorite poisons. Put them pills inside you--the ones that go this way, the others that go in the opposite direction. There will be no short supply of perfumed predators who will take you into their mouths like never before. And we never know. This time, we might not have to hear the muezzin callin', tellin' us it's time to break up the party. Also, the sun might never rise."A moral numbness slackened his jaw and he asked the question.The ticket agent stopped typing the flight information and instead used the mouse to bring up a screen which would give him an answer about hotel discounts on Exhibition Avenue.The voice whispered, "There are worse things in this world than being kept alive on tubes and an air pump."Tubes and an air pump."You take care of things, " her Mama had said to him, the last thing she'd said to him.Earlier that day, he'd opened a bank account. The furniture allowance was on its way. The contract had been signed. He had a list of ground floor flats with patios in his folder. The business cards would be ready next Saturday: Director/ Writing Resource Center.Then, that peculiar sense of familiarity had taken him back to another late summer, a summer that opened into a fall when she came. Within days she had the entire bedroom wall painted with a mural of her three favorite muses and a cat beckoning at the moon. She then began to plant a garden in the middle of the desert. By her third week in country, one early evening, together they went to sign-onto the local geographical society--she to learn more about desert flowers, he to eat finger sandwiches. It was there that they first heard about the blooms of smoke and glass which had chased thousands through the streets of Manhattan.Then, in that ticket office, something happened in the amount of time it takes to say "something happened." The two-headed hellhound stopped drooling and began to morph into two fat cats who began to chew on his fingers to remind him that if it weren't for his uncanning ability, they'd suffer starvation."No, wait." he said. "Keep the ticket as it is with the one hour lay over and same day return."8/1/2004EditThis exploration of similarities is where they fou...This exploration of similarities is where they found common ground. For both college had happened despite family and finances each as dark and as vague as the other's. 8/1/2004EditBalanceIt wasn't her studio. There were no cats, no wine, no songs on a radio. Still, she knew how to use the stick to power the wheel. As the wheel gained speed it sang a weary, rhythmic mantra. She focused her eyes on the clay while the potter poured water over her hands. Her fingers and her heart worked towards the center of gravity. When she found it, she worked her small hands outwards, balancing herself by locking her knees. The ancient wheel wobbled and hummed, unlike her electric wheels which whirled steadily but bitched, whined and moaned everytime they spun. The potters in the square had no reason to make every pot incomparable one from the other. People used these pots.By the time he finally returned to the square with a young man who spoke enough English to ask the potters if they'd mind letting her have a go at their wheels, she'd already shaped a half dozen pots and the attention of the entire village was riveted to this unreal figure, this white face woman covered in mud with a laugh that was unrestrained and contagious.

After a meeting with the division liaison, I told her, "I probably can have it done before Wednesday."She asked (her intonation wasn't one that we generally use for a question, but one used to emphasize a strict imperative, "Why don't you rest? Why don't you get some sun?"My schedule so far is to teach one language skills course per day beginning at 10, ending at 12. I'm going to hold three writer's workshops a week for one hour that, of course, there's the lab thing. Some students asked me if I would be the faculty advisor for a music club. Inshaillah.My response if someone I haven't seen since spring 2001 asks, "how have things been?" will now be summed up in a word, "Discordant."I like my job because of the elevator. The back of the elevator is made of glass. From the ground floor to the 3rd floor, which in my country is the fourth floor, I can see the Arabian Gulf.I also like my job because I have two offices.Today we had free donuts. Tonight we had a meeting. Finger sandwiches were served.I came home from work and drank milk.That's why I like my job.“Normal people. I hate 'em. They spend their lives trying to avoid tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations." (spoken by Harry Dean Stanton's character, Repo Man)She insisted, "You are normal. You think you're not. So you don't act like a normal person. Stop thinking that you are not normal, and you will become normal.""Oh." I said. "Why didn't I think of that?" Maybe she's on to something. And if she is, I wouldn't be surprised if that Eli Lily (not to be confused with La ilaha il Allah) Company issues a death fatwah on her.Things we do when we've been sitting at a computer for three days and two nights building a web site for work.I've built websites before, for classes mostly but once for a business. I don't have much to say about those four months I spent hold up in a back room/slash office, the early years of my hermit phase--teaching myself how to build a commercial web site complete with online purchases as well as skills I'd anticipated needing for the business (teaching the fundamentals of animation to kids.) Later, I was accused of wasting days and nights tapping away emails to a daughter I had yet to meet--as if that would have been a character defect.This weekend I am deprived of sleep. Last summer I became increasingly depraved when I realized that my 40 acres of hill country in New Mexico essentially were cashed in to take a lot of teenagers to dinner. Resentments. When the "wind don't blow, the grass don't grow and the sky ain't blue, " (Thomas Berger, Little Big Man) we have to find someone to blame, am I right? Am I right?A well worn folksy proverb reminds us that "Expectations are resentments under construction."I have to take issue with any suggestion that a "resentment" can be associated with anything constructive. As that once though not future morally and financially bankrupt Wall Street speculator Bill Wilson says (and he says it all as far as I'm concerned when he does) "resentments are the number one offender." Left unchecked, they can be lethal.The similarities between web site building then and now are clear as well. Mostly, they have a lot to do with using a computer with the capacity to remember things about as well as, well, as well as me. And like their "where-the-fuck-did-I-leave-my-glasses-car keys and wallet owner, when both comps were asked to multi-task, they experience melt down.I'm still working on a first draft for a novel now that I hit my not-so-arbitrary word count (following some advice I'd read by Phillip Roth years ago). I have given some thought to the characters and the setting (Saudi Arabia during quasi war time) was inspired largely by a Graham Greene novel "The Heart of the Matter" about a fiftyish ex-pat working for the British gubment in in Sierra Leone--which had a quasi-part to play in the big war. Greene's character is passed over for a promotion by page two--and the plot goes into first gear. He tells his wife who knows that the gossip at the club will be merciless and from that point on she becomes bed ridden until her husband can scrape up the money to ship her to South Africa. The main character's shameless resignation and acceptance that he has gone as far as he will ever go with his career reminded me when I read it last year in Saudi Arabia of some of those fellers who had previously found some measure of toleration for compound life with wives and kids around, but who were clearly on the verge of understanding where I am most of the time and why I say and do the things I say and do. They were going nuts. Welcome to my world.I ran this by The Mighty Quinn a few days ago and she suggested I focus on those tiny toy Thai wives a lot of men buy to limit the hours spent staring into the abyss, alone.Zaytuni found last year that he could commiserate with just about everyone near his own age though some maybe had five or seven years on him.When people asked where I'd worked before coming to Saudi, I told them, "back in the US for a year" and to a man, those who asked the question expressed the same thing: business went under, huh?And most followed that up with, "Did you get anything out of the divorce other than a suitcase?"Two things thus far are making the pencil plot hard to figure out. Greene's character's flaw that leads to a very unhappy ending is a random act of kindness. While inspecting a Portuguese ship (a neutral country during the war), he finds a letter taped under the toilet tank. The ship's captain has a daughter in Germany and he'd intended to pass it along to another neutral ship heading that way. The Captain sobs--his career is not only over, but he will probably spend who knows how many years locked up. Greene's character gives in--hands him back the letter, says, "See that it doesn't happen again." But this is war, and fifth columnists lurk behind every bush--the plot takes off from there. Complications? He goes to a Syrian loan shark for the money to send the depressed wife off to South Africa, something not against regulations, but something that, if word it reached the ex-pat community, he'd never live it down. Young punk in charge wonders where the money came from--a bribe perhaps. The knot plot tightens.I need a "letter", so to speak--something to push the plot into fourth gear. Suggestions and comments are welcomed, but I have to draw from experience and a random act of kindness may be hard for me to tap in to.Here's the telephone lady reading parts of where I want the novel to begin.Liberation. as read by Ima Sari.9/7/2004EditI asked her if she'd gotten the flowers. She sai...I asked her if she'd gotten the flowers.She said, " Yes. But I wish you hadn't."I said, "I know. But I sent them anyway. Did you read my suggestion?"She said nothing at first. When she finished speaking, she said nothing I wanted to hear."What do you want me to say. Do you want me to say yes, sounds great. That I can afford run away again. Take another vacation from life? It isn't fair to you. And I am not in the place you want me to be. I am being so honest that it is painful. You. You need to focus on getting ready for next week."I interrupted her, and asked if I could respond."Please, " she said. "I would rather you didn't."She said, "your suggestion is a good one. but I can't handle any more."I could see her sitting in the wicker chair, taking a long pull on her glass of wine.She said, "I would like to see you, but I am afraid of you and I am afraid of me. And as usual I am crying, and I wish I could stop. I don't know if its me or the full moon. I listened.Outside Someone who'd been trying to start a car had given up. I heard him yelling as he slammed the door.9/6/2004EditWhen I am half awake and bemoaning every heart bea...When I am half awake and bemoaning every heart beat, when it is still dark and the cats crawl out of hiding to parade across my face, I remember things that might or might not be entirely true.It could be that one unreliable memory might float up, creating itself from the scintilla of a dream that floats away like smoke from a funeral ghat on the banks of the River Ganges.Every body has memories which sometimes return from the dead like a person who'd gone missing for several years.Are the characters in these memories based on people I might have actually known? Did I really once stand on the landing in Algiers, opposite the skyline of downtown New Orleans. Was there a cool wind blowing clean air against my face aglow from champagne and OJ mixed in a plastic cup? I think this one might be true. I hear someone saying to me as we sit on a bench and hold hands, "When I was very young my grandmother used to bring down here and we'd spend all day riding the ferry back and forth across the river. She would pack us a lunch of peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. My sister and I would sometimes have contests to see who could hold their breath the longest while my grandmother would wait for someone to leave the Sunday paper behind so she could read us the Sunday comics."I found this memory early this morning. I am not sure if it even belongs to me. If I could, I'd take it to the lost and found like a pair of keys left behind on a table in a Morrison's Cafeteria.9/5/2004EditBi-cyclic Evidence Exhibit A and BExhibit A The white youngin', Lulu (an Arabic word for "pearl") attaches herself to my robe in the morning while I bottle feed her. Exhibit B A sampling of key search words which bring up my site (which claims to be themeless): sensual body massage in hua hin "droppings of last year's horse" sexy group in jeddah sex porn teens fucking nurses bulgarian school for flight attendant drown my tits in cum kids pictures fouk "to a common prostitute" interpretation whitman sex jeddah queen filipina thai bahrain gin "wall street" "video booths" ruskies prostitute bangkok Whitman "to a common prostitute" sex arab fouk lynndie england dominatrix 9/5/2004EditBi-cyclicSomething needs to happen. Without an event that sets in motion a day unlike any other , there is no story. Someone has to enter a room and say something that causes someone else to do something which begins a chain of events. There has to be some kind of threshold crossing. I thought by now I'd be able tell a story about a man who crosses a line, or more accurately, breaks free of the circle of a serious illness some refer to as life.If that were the case, I could easily conjure up a story based on what I know--write what you know--and my story would have a likeable character with a gift for being sensitive towards the needs of other. In fact, that is how people describe him and that is why people want to get to know him. He has the characteristics of a good man.It's not that I haven't had blissful years of blandness and boredom that would give me the details I could draw from to tell a story about him, some guy who has to disconnect the telephone line from the wall in order to have a quiet afternoon alone with his woman. But as the story progresses, his woman is eventually betrayed, and in due course, the telephone line never has to be disconnected from the wall.No matter. I can still draw enough from experience to tell you about a character of great strength and resolve, someone who refuses to resign himself to the enervating vortex of shame. His shame in fact, like his guilt and the unending din of regrets which hum along in his mind like chronic tinnitus indicate that somewhere in the primordial soup where his soul will evolve and walk upright in human form (in about 800 million years) , predatory hope and awareness feed off guilt and regrets in symbiotic cycles of profusion and famine.He eventually concludes that she deserved more, he knew it all along and that he did had to be done for her out of respect for her beauty. Her beauty had always held him in awe, you see, and he knew that the time had come for her to wake up and realize she'd been squandering it by wasting a few years with him.Bouncing back into life after a few false starts and broken hearts, he is able to hijack the the controls from fate and fly his own life through many more jagged moments of turbulence. His luck holds out and somewhere far from the place where he'd started, he settles into a new life full of yawning and (whatever the opposite is of) sublime moments of gratitude.9/3/2004EditI Thought I Was Old ThenI see that my friend from a not-too-distant past and band mate Lisa has really taken off on her blog. She got off to a slow start because summer school was drawing to a close and there were papers to grade and the like. I can't remember if Lisa is a geologist who plays keyboards and guitar, writes poetry and songs and the mother of two or a mother of two who writes poetry and songs and plays keyboards and bass, or a guitar player who spins plates, taps dances, rebuilds deisel engines and dabbles from time to time in raising the dead. I know she once danced the Hora with Julia Roberts at Cafe Brasil and had a front row seat to an open heart surgery. She's posted some of my baby pictures. 9/3/2004EditOnce There Was This GuyBegin with a hook. Grab your reader's interest as early as the first sentence, no later than the end of the first paragraph. Since it is now too late for me to have accomplished a first sentence with a bell ringer, and since I am getting close to finishing my first paragraph, I ought to get down to business. I ought to but I can't; I can't because I don't know if the newspaper story headline will reel my reader in quicker than a sentence about falling seventy-five feet from a footbridge in Sri Lanka straight into a river cleverly using the word "falling" as a pivot in sentence which refers to "falling in love."A good story should also introduce tension right away. The tension can be plot-based, character-driven or both. If the tension arises from plot, then there should be a protagonist and an antagonist. Their conflict with one another drives the story page after page until the reader finds out who walks away from final round and whose soulless body ends up in a pool of blood. Character-driven tension still needs to have both a protagonist and an antagonist. The reader should be able to see as soon as possible that the hero is also an anti-hero and like Milton's despot of Pandemonium, it is when the main character's personality swings from hero to anti-hero that the most story picks up steam. Sympathy for this tragically flawed master of self sabotage also turns pages because the reader needs to know whether or not his fatal flaw defeats or it is defeated.My character driven story opens with a headline from an Arab English daily newspaper which reads:"Obscene Gesture Lands Drunken Man in Trouble in Dubai. That should be enough information to introduce the tragic flaw."The other opening sentence sets up a story driven by two people:"They jumped off the bridge together falling farther than they had ever fallen hitting the water at the same time, surfacing simultaneously."The fall hints at an allegory which paraphrases the first fall of a man and a woman whose riotous self will drove them from paradise. This allegory of free will rising up against the will of a transcending power brings us to theme, the notion of polarity and how a lack of balance disintegrates not only self will but brings down self with it.


Back in the pool hall internet cafe. Nine months later. What have I learned?I have learned since March that I don't need to know how the conservation of the soul and presence my joylessness is what defines the overall disorder of the my universe.I understand the spirit of the universe is a constant; I view this as a physicist views matter.We will one day all come to understand, come to know that love may be classified as kinetic, potential, never completely impotent of life.Emotional response deals with my reaction to what goes on around me. Potential despondency results from too much wanton liberation.I can't imagine how desert heat has transferred wisdom from prophets to us: we the objects of life.Almost 50 years since I broke my mama's water and left the cozy environs of her belly for what why have heah, and what have I learned? Hmm? HMMM?Truth is beauty as the man said once, and that is all ye need know.

Julia got into her home state's art academy. She has found sanctuary. Her future is on the wing.Julia is the daughter of two people who created her while studying for an MFA in creative writing. Her mother was reasonably sensible, jolly, almost entirely alcohol and drug free and careful with money. The father was the anti-thesis of these attributes. But they made a good looking baby.

This father is on his way to Muscat tomorrow to make sure his three cats have the proper papers to get his cats out of Oman and back into Kuwait.In three weeks or so, he will transfer his life away from his current wife--the Rose of Tehran--back to Oman, but in its deep south, Salalah.Sa is Arabic for "see whadda mean" La is Arabic for no. Y'understand nope nope, Oman.
There are monsoons in Salalah. In the summer a giant sea breeze between the Asian massif and the Indian Ocean is one of the most significant natural phenomena that influences the everyday life of more than 60 percent of the world's population. Job of old testament is buried in Salalah. In summer, this southwesterly winds intensifies as the heat beckons from Oman, directing it to its coast, and blowing hard on Job's tomb.

Everyday I drive past an expanse of sea.The simple present in English asserts our daily truths.In Latin it indicates a belief which is felt to be true but not necessarily at the moment in time when the speaker speaks his piece.Everyday I (am capable of) driving past an expanse of sea.The simple present in Hindi like all Hindi tenses indicates more than what is believed in the moment--time is only one consideration of a Hindi verb tense.I drive past an expanse of sea, and I suppose I do this everyday. But what is important to me at this moment is that today--as on all days--I drove past that expanse of sea again.In Arabic, first off there is no "be", no "I am." The simplest expression of what we feel, think, hear, believe, know, love and hate can only be expressed as a continuation from this moment on and into the future, as though to say "I believe in God" is not sufficient for this moment, like no moment can be pinned down. I believe is "I believing". The "be" verb is superfluous, perhaps blasphemous. Like Hebrew, there is an auxiliary form, but it is only comes off the bench to emphasize a point.Today I drove past an expanse of sea due to the grace of God as I did yesterday and God willing tomorrow.I can define what it means to use the simple present in English--it defines and consecrates our habits, our comfortable routines, our believes--which to others are just opinions; it announces our immediate experience of the senses.What I can't say is what it means to me to live in the simple present.Like Latin, I can tell you how I feel and believe, love and know, think and hear at this moment--perhaps it is similar to the past, but it might not actually be --at this moment.Like Hindi, what I tell you I believe right now is only the rock rolled in front of the tomb. It would take something greater than myself to roll the rock away. Hebrew, like Arabic, what is in this moment I feel to be my truth, could just as wel be untrue, because even as I speak it, that truth is running.In the holy places I have been to--that is to say, in the Hindu temples, the Islamic Mosques, the synagogues, the revivals in circus tents, in the rooms where I go and listen to the experiences, the strengths and hopes of people who have been allows been able to feel more than many can bear, so they try to live in the moment because they, like me, have always lived in their --ings, in continual movement away from their "truths".--I go to learn in Buddhist temples during Catholic masses to try to understand how to live in not only the simple present, but know the Simplest Presence. We don't say in all these rooms--the domed, the steepled, the smoke filled basements when weon our knees, our become procumbent, our sometimes sitting cross legged in a folding chair chugging coffee that we believe--we say whether we admit it or not that we WANT to believe--and many of us settle this. . .this willingness to believe.I go to these rooms in Seoul, in Jeddah, in Kathmandu, in Bangkok,in Baker, Louisiana, in St. Louis' cathedral in the Vieux Carre,in Notre dame in ashrams, in AA meetings, NA meetings only to ask that maybe one day I will get It.I have gone there looking for miracles and have often found them without knowing it until years later.I have gone when I needed a new employer, a new sex life, to dry tears, to eat free finger sandwiches, to keep my doomed cat from suffering throughout another night, to ask that my mother experience a moment of pure joy before she dies; I have gone to become less and less me and to become more assured of some Presence.I have gone to learn tolerance, patience and how to not only give but how to receive without asking a hundred befuddling questions beginning with why do good things always happen to you, why bad things to me?.I go to find out what it is like to be a reasonable man.Now is not the time to think that somehow I willed all of this to happen.In the past, yes, every success was an assurance that my human will can be triumphant.I have a lot of things to be grateful for. I want to remember them on a daily basis.Today, after I drove past an expanse of sea,, I went to a mall and I encountered a Nepali guard whom I've met before and talked to before, who, when he sees me, exchanges a "Namaste" , using the appropriate hand gestures. He is a slight man, unassuming, tough steely eyed, and extremely mindful of all that happens around him. Still, when he sees me coming, he recognizes a Divine Presence in me--the same presence in all of us, as I seein him.So we clasp our hands together, bow our heads slightly and whisper, "Namaste."

He comes from a Post-Modern American tradition where parents are expected to fuck up and these spouses have a choice to either go through endurance marriages or move on, leaving in the wake of divorce a shattering of children's self esteems which now populate a nation of walking dead working for minimum wage.He comes from a nation where a lack of interest in overcoming grounds for divorce is a source of personal pride; it is an individual's constituionally protected right--the right to avoid intimacy, a right celebrated in song and on film.Where he comes from, parents and children participate in a national, cultural obsession of acting out self-destructive behavior--annually they celebrate this obsession on a day called Super Bowl Sunday.In his country, the citizenry adhere to an enlightened ethos needs to self-inflict emotional and sometimes physical wounds on themselves and on one another.I his country, family relations include fathers, mothers, step-fathers, step-mothers, live-in boyfriend fathers and mothers, non-blood line Dads who raise someone else's kids, somewhere in the middle of nowhere there might be biological Dads, back home under one roof one finds siblings who are full or step or half or sometimes even quartered--their cousins are either strangers though often male cousins are responsible for deflowering their female cousins.Grandparents are endured and often their rotting remains are interned in pre-death gulags known as retirement communities.Young men and now young women join a military which protects a way of life which in someways contributed to building a nation: ceaseless mobility, disaffected loss of contact with an extended family memebrs, where grammar school myths of pioneers indoctrinate a restless spirit and now recent lifestyles depend on two-wage-earners. Infants are interned in day care centers.In his country there is no news in news reports of increased adolescent pregnancy. The current parental regimes see their own childrens' increased drug abuse as child's play compared to their teenage wastelands.Now she comes from the original Aryan nation where it is customary to have family members as best friends.In her mother country people are capable of respecting a hierarchy of family members.In her country people remember their best friends as eternal friends; friends of one family member become friends of the entire family. Friends made yesterday, become old friends today.In her country, they naturally have many social contacts. They know their neighbors. Their neighbors are people who welcome the chance to can make telephone calls to help their neighbors find the god deals. "family is the most important social institution and children are the focal point of this institution, they are loved, adorned and sometimes spoiled. For many families the relationship parents have with their children is more important than the marital bound between the husband and wife. Many Iranian parents simply live for their children. Families stay together and are expected to be the priority for all members even long after they have left the nest"He comes from a background where the pervading trend is to be alert to and alarmed by what's wrong rather than what's right. It's all that people seem to want to talk about.Her background is just the opposite where a salutation might begin with, "Did you see the moon last night?"In her country, family relations include (often under one roof if not on the same street): grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts (elders who are concerned with each other and especially concerned with the youngest and the oldest members of the family.Care taking is considered both an emotional and financial responsibility.It doesn't result in 12-step programs or a lexicon of words like dysfunctional family, codependency, living in denial, addictive family of origin, recovery centers, now it's my turn, self-sabotage, fear of abandonment, Attention Deficit Disorder, Adult Attention Deficit Disorder and "Let It Go."Instead, their language is more accustomed to phrases like BALLI, BALLI, BALLI ! (I totally agree with you) SALAM ALAIKUM (Peace be with you) SAFAR BEKEHIR (Have a nice journey )All children--brothers, sisters, cousins are praised (we call that affirmation and it is something we have to practice as it doesn't come naturally),All children are looked after and are brought up to be inter and intra-dependent on their families and to learn how to follow family traditions and rules. (We call that self-sacrificing our inner-childhoods)This couple in the photo:Success in their marriage depends on her ability to share in his nihilistic vision of the world and his ability to adapt to her notions of a life of familial fulfillments.They do have something in common. Today, they are both without a country.

I read what she had to say and said to myself," Usually what we have to say is said to make some point.Often the point we learn is this: "Bring me a mustard seed from the village of the sane." Of course, the Buddha ends up sans mustard seed. But that is the point to of the story.Julia writes, "I know it's "all part of growing up" and it's pretty cool to be able to actually notice my brain changing and expanding and getting to those higher levels that I didn't even know existed a year or two ago, but I've been beginning to feel like a lot of who I am, inside, when you dissect every little tiny piece of my mind apart, is crazy."I'm paraphrasing Rodney Dangerfield here: "The only sane people are the ones you don't know."She's lucky to learn early that we all have that devilkin internal dialogue going on, non-stop.If it were only as easy as naming those devilkins, like the seven sins. On one level it's greed. On another it's lust. On another its lust, pride and so on.Julia--it's all of those things and more. We have our angels too. Our Swamis. Our guides.Pride, by the way, is a cross-dresser, the proverbial baby in the bath water.She goes on to say, ". I'm sorry if anything I say doesn't make any sense. I'm never good with saying what I mean in words when it comes to any sort of stuff beyond the surface, if that even makes any sense. "It makes complete sense. What you have to say can only be suggested with words and most of us are hard of hearing. That is to say, those devilkin voices drown out most of what people are trying to say."I know I'll probably regret it tomorrow, but in June or July 2003 I started taking bass lessons with Sandy, a 50-some odd guy who works for my piano teacher. My piano teacher is the Music Director at this" creative learning center" type place…all music teachers there are under him, and then Sandy left and the job was filled by Jai. . .Jai was one of those people that you meet and you know you'll never meet again in any other person, who is so vibrant and full of life and is just all-around, even in the simplest settings, an amazing person, though not everyone would see it that way. "He has charisma. He is real and full of life and majesty; he is enchanting, enticing.By the way, charisma is an anagram for several ways to express what you saw in him. 

He "is a charm". I "am his arch" A "chasm" of blithe "air."Come April 04 Jai and I actually established (something) nothing more than friends) and then I had a lesson with him on a Thursday, and the next Monday he never showed up . . . disappeared into thin air. Just like that, no goodbye and no warning, just poof. Well, in hindsight, one warning might've been that the last time I saw him, he told me not to worry about love at my age and not to trust men." To say the least, this upset me quite a bit. So now that I've actually STARTED somewhere, that triggered (and has been the backbone of) this mental and emotional "big bang. . . over the past almost-year, and I've just recently started to realize that something, or somethings, have escalated so much that I'm completely lost in some aspects, not in the growing-up sense, but in the sense that I don' 't even know, I mean I do know but I'm lost or I'm lost in something like what's who or who's what, in whatever part of my mind. It's all gone and I can't pinpoint anything because I don't even know if there is one point to pin."You naturally write using a narrative stream of conscious, a choral of devilkin voices seven part harmony. When you use your words in this way, your entire story becomes the point. In telling a story which seems to make no sense, your point may just be that--nothing makes sense. Not for long anyway.She goes on to say, "I've just recently started to realize that something has escalated so much that I'm completely lost in some aspects (not in the growing-up sense) but in the sense that when I actually try and think about where I'm lost or what I'm lost in or even what's who or who's what, in whatever part of my mind, it's all gone and I can't pinpoint anything because I don't even know if there is one point to pin."There was. But now it's gone. In his twenties,  

Mick Jagger has a lot more to say than he did in his forties. As for love or beauty, or truth or the pearls we cast at swine, in the end "Our love is like our music. It's here and then it's gone. So take me to the airport and put me on the plane I've got no expectations to pas through here again."She closes by saying, I'm really sorry if I've caught you off guard, or if I'm making no sense to you, or if I'm alarming you in any way, because I don't mean to. "I say, "Don't be alarmed when I say, I hear your love." When Jagger says in the song "No Expectations", he addresses himself, his duality; he was at the height of his experimental androgynous phase. His loves songs were from him to him. When he says "you, he means I or me.When he says your, he means mine.He says, "You heart is like a diamond. You throw your pearls at swine and as I watch you leaving me, you pack my peace of mindJulia writes, "I don't even know anymore. I feel fine most of the time, and then when I get by myself, I can just tell. I know it's not all "crazy"-type stuff, I mean the average person is pretty weird. "In Repo man Harry Dean Stanton's delivers a line that should carved on his tombstone. Quickly we learn in the movie that the most normal people in this world of grunge, rock, and drugs are marginalized, and after Stanton's had a few beers he sees a group of preppies. He turns to Emilio Estevez, his protégé and says "Normal people. I hate them"Later, one of the punk rockers self combusts and a by-stander quips: Just remember. “It happens sometimes. People just explode.” 

I'm really sorry; I don't even know what I'm trying to say. I can feel it, but I can't say it, I know what it is, but I don't know how to put it into anything tangible. (Even though tangible isn't technically the right word.) (I think you mean complete crystallization of thought"

I'm really sorry if I 've caught you off guard, or if I'm making nonsense to you, or if I'm alarming you in any way, because I don't mean to. It seemed like there was a definite purpose. . ."There was and I got it.I think DH Lawrence says on one hand what I want to say:"Something else is necessary for polarization to be alleviated or discharged. You must be able to focus; that is that the left and right, the north and south, all the opposites within you must find a point - a place, a wall, a curtain in front of you, upon which you can focus this polarization. This place can be, by coincidence, you canvas...falling changes into suspension...the canvas is no longer being worked on. The canvas, or rather the place that coincides with the canvas, is working on you. You are being worked. If you fail to respond in this way, you cannot remain suspended; you fall.  

It is the suspension of individuality...."If you weren't where you are or who you are, you could go to NCS and get a degree in education. Where you're going, you will find out that words are often the frames we put around our canvases in order to let people know that although you have more to say, for now, you needed to say something and have people stop to listen. Suspension of your will which has dominated your young nature is now the only way to heal your own separation from that once, forgotten and future will.University will be the place where you can, by coincidence, find your canvas. Your canvas is no longer being worked on. The canvas, or rather the place that coincides with the canvas, will working on you. You are being worked my darling Julia. If you try to work it, you cannot remain there will fail. It is now your time to embrace your the suspension of conformity.Even when you sometimes he feel the need to go home, stay where you are because you are getting back to the original garden.You are not in a state of diffusion.