Wednesday, June 30, 2004

JUNE 2004

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)

For 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."

The 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.

A'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.

(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.

6/3/2005EditYup!Dave says check it out. June 2.

6/3/2005EditOn Thursday, the 17th of June 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.

6/2/2005EditOld 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.

6/1/2005EditSearchersLast week's Google Searches linked to my blog:win: matisse window painting theory introvert extrovertplace :What does it mean when you have thick green snotshow: the gift the king of spain gave to George WashingtonFavorite Philippines Search: Filippines grave deepest spotfilipino women's name list migrant to uaesexy filpinasfilippines under fireeuro-village compound al Khobarbangla deshi school Jeddahdavid oliver(Google listing, page 16)mouse eagle defiance posternight life at Euro villagedesert wind translationporking fun single woman2005 chevy caprice in saudi arabiacommon flowers seen in oman – salalah1 2 3 what are we fighting for"I'm On My Last Go Round" Johnson

6/1/2005EditIt is Memorial Day weekend back home. Bikers, ...It is Memorial Day weekend back home. Bikers, some of whom are Vietnam vets, others who just think they are roared into Washington on their Harleys to honor those who have made the supreme sacrifice. 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?