Monday, May 31, 2004

MAY 2004

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. Birds' songs echoed 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.

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 they were broken.

Our days passed 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

I read the Asian Wall Street Journal article and 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.

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

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.

These desert roads loop from one round about to the next. The gig in Oman is my comfortable spare tire.

Baraka They 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. teI'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.

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.

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.

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

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 at a 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.

Bi-Polarity Unbound Ironies 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?

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,

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.

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.

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.

I Have Your Name Tattooed on My Arm K. 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.

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.

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."

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.

She 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.

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..

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."

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.

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."

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.

Morning After Folk 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.

Now 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

How 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.

The 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. 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. . ."

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.

, 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

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. 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.

"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.

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.

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.

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 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! 4/30/Maid Day IIGraciously, 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.