Every one has a story to tell. Some tell their stories better than others. Throughout the Gutenberg era, the best fiction always managed to crystallize our own experiences by drawing us into a hyper-real world while giving the protagonist our own powers of observation in terms that we were unable to articulate. The best fiction had to ring true of real life; otherwise, it was bad fiction because it had nothing more to offer than tantalizing distractions from boredom. The best fiction "made y'think." In the post-Gutenberg era, fiction still has its place. This blog of mine for example is more often than not full of it. I'm not proposing that what I put here is good fiction--but at the end of the day, it does make me think, and as result, I am less prone to assholic behaviors. a On TV, the bodies pile up; everyday there is fresh kill, more and more corpses, arms and legs retracted into fetal positions from Thailand to Fallujah to Peru. Let's face it. It's World War 3. It may not look like the third one we'd expected. Strip away the banner of religion. The dead in Thailand were not necessarily disaffected Muslim youth; they were disaffected youth who happen to be Muslim. And there ain't much any of us can do to stop it. This summer, when I go wandering about third world shit holes, I will over tip my porters, bellmen, waiters, waitresses, guides, translators and the sisters of mercy. I don't need a swami to tell me that this is all I can do. Turning off the television helps.There is an integration of all events in the best of possible worldsI just finished paying for Julia's film camp, so for my three day weekend, instead of flying south to Bahrain or Dubai, I'm going to gas up the rented Nissan and head north to Umm Qasr on the Kuwait/Iraqi border. I've heard from a few sources that it's possible to drive there. My students tell me Bubyan Island is within shouting distance of Umm Qasr. I doubt if I'll be able to cross over, but it will get me out of the apartment. 4"And God has put us on the earth in order to be pleasant to each other." (EM Forster) Those weary homeless cats death strut past us at a quicker pace. The evening traffic brakes, halts, dashes forward a few inches, stands still again, new lanes quickly merge, then just as quickly divide; drivers square off like gangsters giving each other the evil eye trying to claim the most important prize ever--a gap up ahead that will move one of their cars at least a half meter ahead of the other. Here we are, deteriorating in our fuming cars, battered by the excesses of affluence, demanding to know why it has come to this. Who's at fault? Who do we murder? A breakdown? A collision? A checkpoint? No excuses. The hand of God is absent at the Sheraton roundabout in Kuwait City on a Wednesday night. Shaytan indeed walks the earth. Forgotten in all of this are these final days of serene breezes and an affable sun. This could be time for a meditation, a chance to quiet the mind. Make oneself comfortable. I'm driving over a mountain thick with silence,forgotten by time
What isn't forbidden is squatting in a doorway being rail thin and looking frightened. It isn't forbidden to accept a giftBut for my money it wasn't a gift. It was a purchase. I wanted to buy from him a little dignity. He had more than I. I lost mine in a tangle of sheets back at the Al Bustan Hotel. I don't mind shouldering my share of the white feller's burden as long as there's something in it for me. As the afternoon dims to twilight, a familiar, reassuring voice consoles her. It is her mother's voice, recalled as the voice of happiness not hopelessness, of comfort not despair. The voice comes from behind her, spoken softly the way she remembers it when her mother used to braid her hair. The voices whispers, "Now is the not time to neglect our successes. Look outside. There's going to be a full moon tonight
Less than six weeks after leaving Jeddah, a gun battle broke out in that "more open, western friendly" city on the Red Sea. The revolt may be plodding along, but it hasn't been put down. The Ministers of Interior tell the Imams to tone down the sermons, and they have. Last night on Saudi Television Two I watched an Imam in Mecca giving his Friday sermon with an English translation voice over. He was surrounded by members of the security forces. The Imam condemned the killings and promised that the killers would "go to the fire" not paradise for murdering innocent Muslims. He basically said that killing innocent people Muslim or Non-Muslim was evil, but emphasized that one was more evil than the other. The biggest losers in all of this once again are the Palestinians. I pray for them and hope that soon a charismatic leader of a serious passive resistance movement will emerge.
Her heart raced. Her heart raced. She kicked off her blanket and pushed herself out of bed. She stepped into a pair of unlaced tennis shoes. There were still slivers of broken glass scattered about the dresser that she hadn't swept up. Her hands were shaking. Somewhere behind the wall, in the dark spaces of pipes and tangles of wiring, she could imagine the skeletal body covered with thick dust and lifeless eyes looking to her for justice. The police had come when she'd called them. The neighbors had explained to the police that the baby wasn't theirs, they'd only been helping a friend by caring for it, that the infant belonged to colleague who had been preoccupied with packing for a move, that she'd since returned to Cairo with her husband and her baby.
Last night the desert tried to retake the city. The cries of wind blasted through unsealed gaps in my windows like peals of thunder. I dress for work, take the elevator to the ground floor and begin my daily rounds. Whether or not it will be a day to remember or one quickly forgotten has yet to be determined. Last night I dreamed about a flood.
Tidal waves ]phalanxes drowned a small fishing village. Taxis and cars of every make, model and size rushed to join the traffic jam on the main artery to town. The sun shone dolorously yellow. Men in orange jump suits chatteled about tending to weeds and litter. Other men hosed down sidewalks or sat in front of the bakala markets with their newspapers, taking note of the latest enraging body counts. Some of the dead used to be young. Some used to be old. For some the future was the promising land. For others home had become a hostile, foreign country. Here is where we are.
This place has been made for us (not this "place" as land, an area of the world with a name, a flag and borders, but the place that makes us who we are today). Let's lose ourselves in the howl of the wind and the yellow sky.Let's remember those things which subdue our intemperate moods. Let's stand here, together. (Story continued--first draft)
She stretched out on the bed, becoming hyper aware as she analyzed the various members of the committee.
The committee was now fully in session. She was not alarmed. They required particular attention but each member was patient and always spoke in turn. At times, they could be demanding. When she was a child, she decided to give them names and assign them to various duties. This created order and organization that has since been hallowed and consecrated by the passing of time. This is how I've always acquired guides and translators when bopping around third world shit holes.
I refuse to go to an agency only to have a guide who insists on dropping in to see his many cousins and uncles who happen to own shops displaying over-priced trinkets. Here's the drill. On the first morning after arriving,
I and my Belle de Jour first visit the hotel coffee shop. There is always going to be a waiter who has a good working knowledge of English; he wouldn't have the job otherwise. Unlike the agency's scroungers and baksheesh hustlers, these fellers have always shown me the real thing, their home and at the end of the day, they are eternally grateful for earning 10 US dollars for four hours work. His name wasn't Ganash, but I'll protect him and call him that. For five days we used him as our guide, he wore the same white shirt and black trousers, his waiter's uniform. I've used Ganash as a translator several times since and I can't recall ever seeing him in anything else.
On this trip to Kathmandu, the Maoist rebels had made headway in their need for proper weapons. A year prior to this visit with Therese, I'd gone alone to spend New Year's Eve at the New Orleans Café in Thamel where I have over the past six years taken my Martin guitar to have a good jam session on stage with the owner and his friends.
At the time, the Maoists' arsenal consisted of single shot rifles cobbled together from pipes; most had only Ghurka knives and clubs. They were laughably referred to as a terrorist organization. Since that trip, they'd successfully raided several remote army and police outposts and were now carrying ancient Lee Enfield rifles swiped from the soldiers and security men they'd killed. Bush had recently given the Nepali government 29 million dollars to fight "terror" The Maoists are not really Maoists, that is, they have no support from the Chinese government; in fact, they have absolutely no support from any outside country.
It's a bonafide old school peasant revolt and they don't stand a chance. I wanted to find out more about them. So in between shopping expeditions, visits to stupas at Swayambhunath, Boudhanat and our daily constitutionals up the 360 odd stairs to Monkey Temple, I asked Ganash many questions about the rebels. My first question was how did his government spend the 29 million dollars?
"Yes, Dai, it is like this" – Ganash called me Dai—Nepali for "brother" (Therese was Didi—sister), "many countries give Nepal money for many things, for schools, for hospitals, for roads, for the military." He spoke in the usual hushed tones of a man who has been conditioned to believe that it is possible someone with a gun could be listening. "If some country like US give Nepal ten dollars, the government. . ." he put his fingers to his mouth as though he were about to eat a pinch of rice, "Nine dollars go" he opened his mouth and made a slurping sound."One dollar goes to Nepali people." According to Ganash,
Nepal had become an economic outpost for Indian, Kashmiri and especially Tibetan merchants. The way he described the Tibetan take over of commerce in Nepal reminded me of the Cuban exiles bolting to Miami and rebuilding that city in their own image. Nepal was a buffet table and many ravenous multi-national corporations had beaten a path there to take advantage of its unregulated free market. The Maoist seem to be carrying the banner for those who see themselves as true Nepali, that is the Kirati, Newars, Magars, Gurungs, Thakalis and Sherpas.
These people had dick and they had to beg for that from the outsiders. According to their spin on their history, neither the Tibeto-Burmans nor the Indo-Aryans belonged "Why it is that many Tibetan people live in a house with ten rooms," Ganash quietly asked me as we walked to Monkey Temple one morning, "and my family lives in one room? So go the Maoists." Ganash would never say whether or not he was a Maoist or if he wanted to join the Maoists, but he was certain that if they were to succeed in their aims, then his people, the Nepali would be living in the ten room houses. On our last day in Kathmandu, after we'd been to Bhaktapur where we spent a morning on the roof of our hotel passing out pads of papers and paint to a group of street kids, after our visit to Chitiwan where we didn't go on an elephant safari, but we did manage to take one of the beasts as a taxi from the village to our resort, we returned to Kathmandu. We wanted to buy Ganash something that would help his family, you know, give a man a fish, feed him for the day, but teach him how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.I wanted to buy him a Kalashnikov and battle dress uniforms. Therese refused. Instead we bought his wife a foot pedaled Singer sewing machine.4/23/Noble Truths"
Three are the signs of a hypocrite: when he speaks he tells a lie, when he makes a promise he acts treacherously, and when he is trusted he betrays." (Hadith 89) "The rumor mongers will not enter Paradise."(Hadith: 151) Schizophrenic Language Teacher Burn Out Story (first draft continued)There was a time when she felt attached and loved, when she felt considerable passion for many things. There used to be people she admired, people she wanted one day to try to be like. She'd once had lovers. She'd once had her hobbies. When she was a child, she collected geodes. They were pieces of eternity that she could hold in her hand. From the outside, they seemed to be common, inelegant, ugly rocks, but when broken open they became as bewitching the stars. Untitled and unfinishedIn a city surrounded by sand and perfumed gardensdry heat hobbles through the nightlike a three-legged cat spoiling for a fight. I see you in waking dreamsDrunk on chardonnay and Lady DayYou lay in bed listening to her Sepia voiceSing you from this world of will and shame.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,The cowbells follow one another into the distance of the afternoon. t my right,In a field of sunlight between two pines,The droppings of last year's horsesBlaze up into golden stones.I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on,A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.I have wasted my life
Gossip mongering amongst one another is similar to one eating the flesh of the dead." She had forgotten how to express the range of emotions which once made her feel like every one else, emotions ranging from despair to hopefulness, to joy or elation. They were quieter now. The committee had adjourned. That's what she called the voices. She stared at the patterns on the curtains and looked for the familiar faces of the man on a horse, the dancing woman, the angel on the wing, the two cows laughing riotously--at her. Sometimes the patterns became other things as when clouds shape shift when gusting across blue. Whenever she had a moment to herself to think about things, say if she were in a cab, in bed at night, if she was waiting for water to boil, she thought of nothing else other than those who conspired against her and today that happened to be every one. She could just leave the country; let the injuries go, let time put it all in perspective. She could also start taking the pills again. But why should she? She wasn't at fault. They'd started it. She could not just let it go. But suppose that after a year she thought about things and found out later that not only was she in the right this time and on all accounts with each and every one of her enemies? How would she feel about herself? How could she sleep at nights, look at her reflection? This feeling was like a chronic pain, a lingering illness and she knew it would not only be there in a year or two, but for the rest of her life--unless she traded blows now. She would have to act now if she were to exchange blows with them all. She had to do it.
Now.The impulses of the burnt out disgruntled employee...The impulses of the burnt out disgruntled employee are as capricious as the needs of a child. They have been made delirious from years long on rage, short on empowerment . Their trail of years has been corrupted by an expansive brooding virulence. I had a run in with a top shelf schizophrenic recently. The upshot to schizophrenia is you know you won’t die alone. /In this paradise, Kuwait, where the ocean meets te...In this paradise, Kuwait, where the ocean meets ten miles of coastal shopping sprees, I turn forty-nine today. Neither am I up for it nor does it bring me down. Early this morning, I received a text message from Jeddah, "Happy Birthday". To celebrate, I think I'll get a haircut. 4/18/Malapropisms of TK: forfilled for fulfilled.
World wind for whirlwind.
I met Isaac Singer once in Miami. He was in a wheel chair and he'd just finished reading from The Magician of Lublin . I sat in a student desk in a room. Singer was born in Radzymin, Poland. He'd gotten out in 1935. Ten years after leaving, his entire family back in Poland would no longer be. He wrote about Krakow throughout his life. He was Polish and he was Jewish. I got a sense that of the two, the first is how he defined himself. He was in his late eighties when I met him (he would live to be a hundred).
My one question to him was," Would you one day consider living in Poland again?" He said, "Of course. It is my home." He said this despite Auschwitz, Majdanek, Plaszow, Stutthof, Belzec, Chelmno, Groessrosen and Treblinka. He said this despite the locally hired goon squads contracted by the Nazis to rape, to beat to death the inmates if the urge stroked their fancies; hired to collect the gold from the teeth and shoes from the corpses of his family--and from friends, Juden and Pole alike. He knew. He knew that perhaps half of the dead were Jewish.
The other half were not. What the dead had in common was their mother tongue and flag. I am thinking today about Poland. Everyone remembers Václav Havel and Czechoslovokia, the Velvet Revolution, the western collectives of Lithuania and Estonia, Georgia et al breaking away in 1989-1990 because CNN was there. But a decade before all this, before CNN was on hand to make it real, there was Lech Wałęsa. He was a labor leader, sort of the Polish Jimmy Hoffa although unlike Hoffa--who went to prison for racketeering, Walesa won a Nobel Peace Prize.
By 1980, Poles had no problems telling the USSR to fuck off. In Jeddah, I had in my crosshairs a Pole. She has no teenage children. Check. She is close to my age. Check. She is married. Question mark. Here's why I think maybe, sans husband or at least with husband squirreled out of the picture in Poland, this might work.Few are mothers, these American teaching here and although this may have helped a few of them to slow the onslaught of years upon their faces and figures, for some it seems to have damaged their thinking and the ways they express their demands to have these instinctive cravings fulfilled, these mama instincts in full costume, ready for the curtains to part, but there in no nor has there ever been an audience to receive these needs for caretaking, nurturing, safeguarding and invigilating. I have no interest in locking into step with many of my male counterparts who drown themselves in their own slobber trying to acquire a tiny Thai wife, a cunt of their own, one as collectible as Chang Mai porcelain.
She ascended from the dismal poverty of unimaginable brutalities caused by war, cause by occupation--two brutal regimes (neither of the two exists anymore in part due to the sacrifices of people like her parents, her grandparents, uncles, aunt and the blood and bones of many others who speak her language as a mother tongue, who celebrate Christmas in similar fashion, who spell their babies' names with the same diacritical marks). I think today I'll float from here to the mountains like a balloon escaping on a gust. We are all bi-pedal critters spending a lifetime ricocheting between decisions and indecisions. Get used to it. Unrestrained from choices, we are free to rejoin our shrewdness of apes, to skedaddle from this constant brood of cackling, flightless birds, and breathe. Where I go, you'll follow, you'll always be there to search for the heart of the matter. Just checking into the counter I encountered these mooshkeelas:1. Mooshkeela. At the counter: No record of my reservation despite having made it yesterday and reconfirmed. Go to the Gulf Air ticket office.2. Mooshkeela. At the Gulf air ticket office: Can't upgrade to Business Class for less that 90 US. The upgrade on the flight from Jeddah to Kuwait was half as much. 3. Mooshkeela. There is no record of your reservation. (check again)4. Mooshkeela. There is a record, but you are on stand-by. (Check Again.)5. Mooshkeela. You are actually scheduled to fly from Kuwait today. (CHECK AGAIN).6. Mooshkeela. Go to counter 17 to register a complaint.7. Mooshkeela. Now at counter 17: After ten minutes an agent passes by--the counter is closed. (But I was told to come here). Let me see your ticket.8. Mooshkeela. There are seats available, but we have no confirmation of your reservation. What can I do? (You can remember you're in the service industry and that you now have a customer who needs your help due to a mistake your reservation agent made yesterday. Her name is Rose Marie. I reached her at 335-777. Here is the confirmation number: PMPCIA. Try once more to find my reservation or I will call her manager.)9. Mafi Mooshkeela. Oh, here it is. No problem. We can reschedule you now. Have a nice flight. (Thank you) I returned the thank you. Having just had my ashes hauled from Bahrain to Tunisia to Morocco in a double-billed tag team production (which came in under budget by the way), I was in a better humor and less prone to assholic behavior. "One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and the otherwould have us all on a straight pepper diet" (Bill W. and others) 4/15/Room Service
What I loathe about me this morning is the way I react to being hustled. For breakfast I ordered two poached eggs, wheat toast and fresh fruit. The person taking my order said he understood and gave me the price. Instead I got the Full Monty British breakfast including all kinds of sausages and fried hash browns, canned fruit cocktail and baked beans. I sent it back hoping that the cook wouldn't rub his dick all over on my toast when he remade my order. (When I took my orals for my Master's, I was so anxious and out of it from studying, I went early to the room and did this to the chairs where my committee would be seated. I passed five out five--I only needed three out of five--but I didn't earn "with distinction") My order came to the same price as the British breakfast--about six bucks more than the agreed upon price. I tried to send the food back, but the bellman began his sub-continental blathering--talking wildly with his hands, wobbling his head back and forth and instantly getting heated, "no sir this and no sir that." I asked him to please stop and listen to me. I wanted to begin explaining that I'd already discussed the ala carte order and the price with the person who took my order over the phone and that I was paying ala carte--less price than the greasy UK breakfast that first showed up. But I could only get perhaps three or four words out. This is how the sub-continental handles dispute--by interrupting you and just blabbering away with jabberwocky syllables. I invaded his space and grabbed his flailing arms. This left him in shock. I forced his arms to his side and straightened his body into a perfect military "Attention!" posture. I put my hand over his mouth and said, "Shush." I said this in calm, measured, spine chilling and hushed tones, "Listen to me. Shut up and listen to me. Go back to your boss. He knows the price." Touching him and a positioning him like a puppet was far worse than any sort of freaked out screaming rebuttal. Had I yelled, he would have just kept talking, waving his arms about and bobbling his head from side-to-side. It is the sub-continental way of closing off the ears with fingers and chanting "I'm not listening. I'm not listening. Oh say can you see, the dawn's early light. I'm not listening." Physically invading their space gets results, but it strips them of all dignity. I may have inflamed his own feelings of bottom feeding self esteem--provided of course that he has ever had the luxury of the sin of pride. I felt like an old fashioned school yard bully, a feeling I wonder if other American or British ex-pats also have following similar situations--and I've seen plenty of these rants and rages at hotel front desks, train station ticket windows and restaurant tables. This is why I chose to be different and instead of increasing the heat through an increase in volume, I went chilly. Now I have to wonder if this is still the sin of pride, this feeling that I feel at least carries some hope for me and my own bi-pedal condition only because I've been schooled in the belief that in fiction at least whenever the anti-hero realizes his part in the cycle of asshole profusion and good Samaritan famine, I am supposed to argue in my short essay answers (one to three paragraphs) that hope exists for our Byronic protagonist. I keep forgetting that as I've aged, I've become heavier, not so much in the belly. I have widened, especially in my shoulders. I'm not tall, but I am wide below the neck. You could nickname me "Bull" if I was a few inches taller, an angry six footer. I look as though I could break bones and snap necks with one quick jerk, but I can't. I'm too soft, mushy and unmuscled. Still, the clothes hide the mush and the youthful face creates the illusion of bulk combined with quickness which can be intimidating and I don't seem to mind using it at moments like the one this morning. I mind it afterwards; I am shamed by it.4/14/YESFrom the University of Maryland regarding evening work at Camp Doha teaching US troops! I did this last time in Kuwait and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career. Plus, for Thanksgiving, I always brought a honey baked ham. I could buy one at the PX. And unedited Esquires.Hello Mr. Oliver, I have received your e-mail and would like to know where you are located in Kuwait now. We are planning our Term 5 schedule and I would like to talk with you when possible. What is your telephone number. Thank you. Sincerely. . .University of Maryland.
Till then I salute you with a significant look that you do not forget me."
He hoped that when he finally entered her she'd be able to feel a closeness while attached to him. He wanted to look her in the eyes during those moments, find something there in bed besides obliging squeals, something closer to unity. " (Chasing Christianne, Me, short story idea, a few days ago) Of the saddest among us, we must include the sensual gourmand with his broken heart of gold. He does what he does for affirmation as much as anything else, and in this way, he also dies a little more each time he makes an arrangement.
Living Well is the Best Revenge (The Bahrain Boogie)"I hate to see that evening sun goin' down. . .that could only mean, I'm on my last go 'round" (St. Louis Blues, WC Handy)
Dawn Again The muezzin sang just before light returned color to the street scene below. My cats sat on my legs near the foot of the bed, staring at the horizon and listening for the sound of sunrise. They wished they could open the window and fly away. To the east--sharq--the night turned to gray and gave up color. The first color given up by the night is red on the horizon. The sky scrapers were no longer silhouetted against the night. Some of the building guards, the harrasses (whose job too often is to harass, especially if there is a KD to be made in looking the other way) in their Egyptian galibayas, their striped day and night wear--different from the Kuwaiti gowns for men, the white dishtashas in need of gold cuff links and creases that can cut your throat, different because the Egyptian gowns are colorful and have short sleeves--make their way to the mosque. Others harrasses have cars to hose down and buff. It's a job, isn't it? Yousef once said to me, answering my question, "Which is your favorite salat, (prayer)?" "The first one." He was a big feller, an entrepreneur who bought discarded communication cables, took them to the desert, burnt off their insulation and salvaged the copper to resell to scrap yards. Of course he had a ministry job, most Kuwaiti men do. Its sort of a Kuwaiti dole system. He didn't have to be on the job. This meant he had a little influence with someone or some family above his family's station in life; this influence is called wasta and it is a combination of all the unethical business practices we make laws against in the US and sometimes, we even enforce these laws such as cronyism, corruption, kickbacks, nepotism and so on. What I have always found compelling about life here is how human nature is an awkward mess of moral contradictions best left under the amorphous veil of "a different way of looking at things". Does the US understand that this is how things are done here and in Iraq? Does the US have this clue? They must. Yousef carried a pager and if his Indian assistants needed him to sign off on a decision, Yousef would hear from work. His real office was a sheesha bar where he smoked strawberry tobacco and drank sweet tea. His other office, which he seldom visited, was in the communications ministry (need a telephone bill dispute resolved quickly-call Yousef) where he was one of the men in charge of the air conditioning system. He had first dibs on discarded wiring of course. "I like the morning salat," he said to me. "It is the baby of the day. And everybody love the baby." I lay in bed thinking about my first trip to Nepal with CMV. We took an early morning bus across the border from Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. The clouds drifted around the mountains hiding their peaks.
It was still early morning. The first time I set foot in Nepal, the bus that brought me from India pulled into a rest house with a tea shop. I saw a man slinging a bag of bricks on his back, carrying them with the bag straps fitted to his head. It's a job, isn't it?
The clouds and the haze made uphill and downhill travel a little iffy. I found myself in my seat, leaning against the bus as it took its sharp turns as if my body weight would keep the bus from slipping off the road and into a deep, Himalayan ravine. CMV was traveling with me. She slept on the bus. She could sleep anywhere, standing if she had to. My ears popped all morning. When the waiter at the rest house brought me tea and veggie Mo Mo (Chinese dim sum, Korean mandu, same same) I used these words for the first time, "D'hanyabadt" which approximates "thank you" in Nepali, though it is not quite the same. To thank someone for a a gift is an insult, like saying, "But I didn't get you anything."
D'hanyabadt is more of a blessing, a recognition of the other's light.
I have been looking forward to being awakened by the co-mixing of voices and bare foot steps outside my room. My bathroom would be a hole in the floor capped in porcelain, a spigot and two buckets. One bucket is used to flush--CV reminded me the flushing must be done even after a pee.
I'd leisurely soap and rinse then join the voices and their foot steps. I would go to have a cappuccino at an Internet café, would leave there and walk to the temple and pray from the bottom of my camouflaged heart for nothing.
I went to a meeting last night and said, "See y'later," then got a ride home from a member who offered help if needed, if, for example, the counter agent caught that Mimi and Jimmy are approved by the Thai Airways for transport to Bangkok on the Thursday flight, but not for tonight.
Once, in the Dubai airport, on my way to Sri Lanka, the boarding had closed though there was still an hour until flight departure. I argued and got nowhere. I flipped off the agent, a woman, a Muslim woman. After the police put handcuffs on me, they walked me outside, and we started for their office. I shuffled and stalled. They told me to walk faster. I came to a complete stop and said, "Is this fast enough for you?" I kissed the pavement in a most severe manner. I am sure I wasn't practicing Vipassana that night.
Tomorrow I will hear from the new, private rich kid's university here in Kuwait about a mid-semester hire. What balance! Last fall, I resigned at mid-semester because the Saudi job was about to fly me away.
I will never go back to my alma mater again. A semester later, I am in Kuwait, and someone here has resigned to go home. She'd taught last year in Jenin. The nightlife in Jenin last year was limited by the patrolling tanks, bulldozers, infantry skirmishes, bombs bursting in air and an iffy Internet connection. She's ready to go home. My year back there had its limitations.
That's why I'm here.
I can still have my vacation needs met in Bahrain or Luxor, return Friday night and meet my class Saturday morning. Jimmy and Mimi would also stay in a cat house.
I want to dig in somewhere, I really do, but I'm in no hurry.
Staying here, I'd know by June if I want to stay or accept a better offer, either for money or for lifestyle.
Julia is going to college in 16 months. She's my daughter and a priority. I've actually met her--twice.
I have yet to meet an employer in the English teaching business who believes that during a probationary period the second party eyes the first party suspiciously as well.
"Cuz I'm non-stop, and I'm always hustlin' twenty four seven" (2Pac)
Yesterday, an instructor at the school gave her notice and she's leaving in two days. I'm in country. This could be luck or coincidence.
There might be a job here starting Saturday, with a furnished two-bedroom apartment.
I actually used therse terms: prior arrangements, other opportunities, need to know as soon as possible.
Today I am taking life one hour at a one time.
I will self immolate the next time I hear someone in Kuwait talking about money; "KD" is to the spoken word here as rain is to spring time in Louisiana. There's more to life that money said Marge in Fargo. "Don't you know that." 4/11/I am not going to Hua Hin. I'm taking the advice o...I am not going to Hua Hin. I'm taking the advice of a feller from work who just spent the last fifteen years in Thailand teaching English. To teach and play music, go to Ko Samui.
Hua Hin appealed to me because I know my way around. T. and I spent a week or so there. I'm setting up an agenda and this one will not involve stepping back.
The feller said, "If you go to Thailand, you won't come back."
Indulge me. Let me in on it, the mystery, the secret, and the joke. Let me believe in you (again) as the jet leaves the ground, when my eyes are hazy and fixed on the horizon where ocean meets sky. I am always thinking of you. Let's dance in this beam of sunlight which my portal reflects, let our bloods boil. Let me ease your suffering. Let me believe in you.
I remember too much.
My earliest memory is being put into my parent's bed for a nap. I was young enough to remember the womb. My consonants and vowels had a system, understood by no one but me. I might have been between 18 months and 2 years old, but I had drawn and exhaled a breath a half a million times or more. Soon I would be able to walk along side my mother in the supermarkets, on a leash.
I had no concept of time; a minute or an eternity passed.
I couldn't sleep. I became restless. I could stand, but I had no sense of balance. I used my hands to grip the headboard and I pulled myself upright. I strained to hold on.
There was a window above the bed. I saw parked cars on an empty street. It is a vivid memory. I may have been electric with wonder or maybe not; maybe it was just a sunny window sill that warmed my body. The light on the other side of the window and I were old friends. I smiled and welcomed it. We'd met many times before. I loved it more than I loved bubbles.
I turned around when I heard the door open. I recognized my mother's voice and this sound. "No!"
My first apartment in Korea, I had a roommate who was born without ears. For furniture we each had a "yo", a bedroll mattress in each room and a lot of blankets scattered throughout the fish-stunk dump. The doorbell didn't chime. It tweeted a sound I had never heard.
My first apartment in Kuwait was a four bedroom cave with a living room as long as wide as high ceilinged as a hand ball court. For entertainment, I'd adopted a three-legged cat and named him Ken Shabby, and I had a digital clock radio called a "Dream Machine". I could pick up Armed Forces Radio. The highlight of my day was a rebroadcast of David Letterman's top ten lists and yelling at Rush Limbaugh. I didn't know I was picking on a strung-out oxy-contin monster.
I also bought bootlegged Nirvana's Unplugged and the Beatles BBC sessions 1963 - 1964. I had a Walkman. Hearing Kurt Cobain take a deep breath during a tacit moment at the end of his cover of Led Belly's "In the Pines (Black girl Black Girl)" then exhale a scream, a primitive howl made me shiver and call him an asshole for robbing us of his gift.
I also remember appreciating the Beatles; live in a studio, performing for the archives their Hamburg bar band sets. They were a bar band for almost as many years as they were THE BEATLES--a really good bar band. The harmonies on "To Know Her Is to Love Her" were live, no overdubs, and no less perfect than their last great and maybe greatest vocal number "Because".
My first apartment in Saudi Arabia was a clapboard unit in back of a cement factory. I spent a lot of time and money escaping there to Bahrain. I remember more about that year than I'd care to.
Today, I bought a ticket to Thailand. Mimi and Jimmy, my felines are coming. We leave Thursday. I will stay there until I decide which university gig I will take because once I get last year boinked out of my system,
I am going to Hua Hin eventually, or some place like it to get my mind right. What I need is a slumber party. We'll bake s'mores and break out the Ouija Board or the magic 8 ball.
look everywhere, but you can't find it. You've worn a pattern into the carpet during your search, but this is not apparent because you are too close to the ground to see it. You take stock and find nothing in the basement, the back room or the attic. You're out of inventory. You feel exposed. You need a bird’s eye view of these well-trod paths. You need to retrace your steps. Maybe you'll find what you're looking for there.
The problem is, that over time, you have built a ceiling without giving it much thought; for sure, you never thought that you'd have to rise high above everything to examine these patterns, naked to grounded eyes.
So, until you can see these patterns, that missing thing will stay missing. You decide not to stay confined to the ground any longer. You need to take flight.
You spin the globe, study all of its longitudes and latitudes; tilt it from axis to axis. Just being on the wing has its advantages. Somewhere else, or any place but here, you feel you have never been more alive.
Job offers keep coming in. Today an offer at a university in Saudi Arabia--eastern province, thirty minutes from Bahrain, weighed in.
I'll go to Kathmandu to sort it all out. There is a Vipassana meditation there.
I'll go to Thailand instead.
They also have Vipassana meditation centers. Then again, Spalding Gray was deeply schooled in Vipassana. He says that when he stared at a wall for six hours straight, he began to see pornographic shadows)
He sprawled in his bed, thumping the remote into the palm of his hand, trying to revive it. The sound was muted on CNN. He did this during business reports and commercials. Now the program had changed to the headlines. There was another video feed from the reporter's laptop. Somewhere on the road refugees moved in one direction, soldiers in the other. The woman reporter, that one with the Beatlemania bangs and dark brown, watery eyes, wore a bulletproof vest. He'd pressed the mute button several times but no sound.
He had earlier been out shopping. He’d first smoked some hash at a coffee shop. Then he bought a bottle of chardonnay, a bottle of pinot noir, a ball of Edam, a thick round disk of Gouda and a fat cube of Maasdammer cheese. On his way back to his room he stopped by another coffee shop and smoked a little more hash. He then walked across the canal bridge to his hotel in the rain.
His hotel, a retired riverboat, was dry docked and now rested on the Amstel River, a fifteen-minute walk from the main entrances and exits of Amsterdam's Central Station. Its annual white wash never lasted more than a month or two, here and there, weathered by exhaust fumes, rain and fog, previous white washings blotched the boat hotel's complexion, aging it a little more each year he returned to it.
Now, he was trying to do two things at once, to unmute the sound while waiting for a knock on his door. Both gave him a low-intensity feeling of stress in his stomach. He thumped the remote harder and the batteries flew out of their case. Each landed on opposite ends of the berth, no more than twenty feet apart. The TV remained silent but the channel changed to a Dutch quiz show.
There was a knock on his door. She came into his room. He’d asked the agency to send a European, thirtyish with hips not too thick, not too thin.
“My name is Jack, and yours?” he asked. “I’m Alyson, “ she said, taking off her coat and scarf. Her breasts were rounder and thicker than average. He’d requested that she not have implants of saline or plastic jelly. She looked motherly and kind.
After the money exchanged hands, after the shoes came off, he began by offering her a glass of wine. She sat on the bed. He sat across from her in a chair. His first question, was "“Do you have children?”
He asked this question for a reason. He knew this question was commonly asked by the nice fellers, and they were all nice fellers. But his was a leading question.
He hoped that when he finally entered her she'd be able to feel a closeness while attached to him. He wanted to look her in the eyes during those moments, find something there in bed besides obliging squeals, something closer to unity.
"Yes, two," she answered.
Is today the day I let go? Maybe.
I stepped from the shower today and my towels weren't there. I looked here and there. I raised a scary ruckus on the phone and a maid brought towels to my soaked self wrapped in a blanket. After I dried myself off, I saw the towels had been swept off the bureau by the cats and there they were, crumpled behind a curtain. I apologized with a tip on my way to catch a taxi. I don't know how to say, "I am sorry" in Bangla Deshi other than "Here's some money for you."
If a miracle is an event that defies explanation, then I have to say my being here today is more than a stroke of luck.
Since 1992, when my Honduran guide, Jorge, met me at a sidewalk tavern one early evening in Tegu, military map in hand and an assurance that most of the landmines on our trek route had been cleared by the Meskito Indians, I have been a war zone voyeur, or more accurately, a behind the lines war whore--a non-combatant, a scavenger of someone else's destitution.
How to locate a near war zone: go to the US State Department's advisory board and flag the places they strongly urge you to give a wide berth.
Am I not just a rubbernecker who can't take his eyes off the footage of that second jet firing up the other tower?
Why? Many reasons I suppose, besides bragging rights.
1. WWII newsreels footage--I freeze my channel surfing every time I find those Doolittle bombers lumbering off the rain swept flattops.
2. Going through basic training and learning how to shoot, move and communicate during a period in US history when we weren't policing the second and third worlds. As an infantry medic in peace time, I developed a hang-over cure for the walking wounded which consisted of Tylenol, Benadryl, ice packs and light duty.
I suppose I could be forgiving of myself. I can't stay mad at me. I give away dollars by the fistfuls wherever I go. I always remember all the beautiful people as just the way I want to remember them, not how they were. I want these memories to course through my veins, riding every ebb and flow of my temperament like driftwood abob on the great routine of a sea of all things, which have always been and will be there until the seas give up their mountains again. I want to feel the gratitude and the light in everything I do.
Indulge me. Let me in on it, the mystery, the secret, and the joke. Let me believe in you as the jet leaves the ground, when my eyes are hazy and fixed on the horizon where ocean meets sky. I am always thinking of you. Let's dance in this beam of sunlight which my portal reflects, let our bloods boil. Let me ease your suffering. Let me believe in you.
I try imagining myself back there last year in the spring when a salty disquieting faith in her along with a measured obedience to the settler in me, and unashamed ignorance of the truth in before my eyes gave me the sense that I could believe in something. I became a father that year. My daughter, Julia, ocean eyes and all came into my life everyday through Emails then phone calls.
I can't imagine what I felt when I first saw her even though I lived the moment. Imagine seeing your eyes and hands fully grown on another. Now imagine having that all go away, slip back into the shadows. I do succeed at relinquishing and adopting everyday.
I want to know on what day it is that I will let g...I want to know on what day it is that I will let go and start to accept that this thing won last year, in May, when I was exchanged (during the day, but certainly not at night) for a full summer's worth of abandon, of all day clay throwing and wine drinking, what could have been a life lived simply if not fully. Had it only been two summers before this that we discovered each other against a backdrop of guitar, a fiddle, an accordion and a chorale of Cajun lullabies?
Only two years before this, one summer for two weeks, in the early mornings, we would board a bus or train in France, she with her cameras, me with my guitar, and say goodbye to the townsfolk who gave us bed and brandy the night before, after the show.
My answer: Not today.
Would I have done the same thing to another human being. Nope.Doesn't matter.
Tell me, how can I abandon Beatrice in Purgatory?
So now it's Wednesday and I am sitting in my office two hours ahead of my schedule doing this. Here comes the weekend.
I phoned J. last night. Jeddah. Jeddah is not happy about being in Jeddah.
That I've removed Jeddah's name, gender identification and relationship to me says much about life under the regime. Jeddah fears for Jeddah's job, safety, reputation and who knows what else might be at stake?
Today I am one day closer to the land of a thousand smiles. If I go for four or five days, it will be to renew my visa because I will be going to work at the university with Dr. S. sooner than later. A proper English department again! And the school is a satellite campus of a decent mid-western university in the United States. The U of M sends the curriculum and certification. Kuwaitis earn a US degree without going to the US.
This is a booming educational industry here in the Gulf since the attempted quadruple Saudimization of the US on. . .now, what was that date? These swarthy, Semitic features don't want the hassles anymore than I did in the land of tyrants and assholes.
I'd heard that a Sikh in America was beaten to death after THAT DATE because some tyrants and assholes only knew this about him: that he wasn't wearing a baseball cap, askew or reversed, but headgear of sturdy cotton, wrapped in tight, hand woven layers and that he was from some very different place, he had a beard and his skin was dark. So if it was true what I'd heard that these fellers beat him to death with their bare hands, who am I to label?
How long does it take to die when one is being beaten? Not quickly. Not quick enough to not know what hit you. You know what's hitting you and you know you will not be able to beg and reason your way out of this. You know you are finished with this world and all its relationships.
Being beaten to death by a small mob introduces the faces of one's death to you.
Did he hear someone in the mob who said, "Maybe that's enough?" and turn to him, making offers, trying to breach the kindness, attempting to widen it, exploit it. Live. Dying alone might be just as bad, maybe worse. Maybe he was able to give up a secret or two before the ghost, realizing that one among his murderers might live long enough to try to undo the sin and remember the words at the moment of his death, be moved to confess, find someone in his pool of family and tell them the gist of his final words.
They need our universities here.
Soon I will find out if I am going to the land of a thousand smiles on a visa stamp turn around or I am going there to live for four months until fall semester (sounds so much nicer than "cadet cycle", like we're churning them out of a washing machine.
The land of a thousand smiles is cheaper and I can easily find work. I would go to Kathmandu but there is only volunteer work and Julia needs to go to film school summer camp and I need to start putting away for her university.
I will enjoy the sun and sand and monster prawns, play open mike nights and have my scattered ashes swept together then hauled from here to eternity
Gonna "Get my mind right" as they say in Cool hand Luke.
I have been offered a job at the university starting in the fall. We're waiting to see if next week a position is available.
I've been told by a teacher/friend already on faculty that a person may be resigning or even "doing a runner" (ESL/FL speak for vanishing overnight)In that case, they will need me very soon.
It took a morbid death trip, but I've done it--from a heart and life shattered into a thousand pieces, (Inferno) through barbed wire and machine guns in the land of a thousand tyrants (Purgatorio) back to the ivory towers and constant book babble in less than a month in the faculty lounge with hops to the land of a thousand smiles (Paradiso) where I can indulge myself in my Beatrice, swinging from vines in tropical rain forests or white water rafting during monsoon season when you get eight foot river swells washing over you like a river tsunami. And I didn't even need my Virgil to escort me.
I offered her one of two wines Esquire recommended for a first date--a pinot noir and a chardonnay. She turned me down and said she didn't drink. I didn't think Heaven was much farther. It seemed so near that I could hop off the bus and walk to it from there.
I think on top of everything else she was by then cheating
These men in their taxis, in their Pakistani punjabis, with their cell phones and prayer beads, ogle me and my potential to add a little more money to their lives, now, now, now--whatever the cost, whatever the scam. The concept of a return customer is a ridiculous one.
I want to keep in mind the trifles of goodness they might have and completely forget their on-first-glance assessment of me.
I am part of their problem. Before, they had a dream that it could all happen again.
In 1990, the answers to their prayers came marauding across the border with helicopters, tanks, jets, missiles and jackboots. There was no CNN or BBC on hand to videotape the aftermath, but the cameras were there in Baghdad when the US returned the hurt. I remember a year ago, in Baghdad, seeing locals hauling off swag, but there were also a lot fellows from farther east of here pushing carts and pulling wagons of loot. And as far as they were concerned, didn't they have it coming to them? Weren't they good guys, their bosses the devil? In some cases, of course.
I can't use words like "oppressed masses" and "class struggle" because these words have no meaning after the last century built this century's foundation on the skulls and bones of people who'd wished they'd never heard them.
Yes, it's part this (fundamentalism) part that (nationalism) part the other (clash of civilizations) but the fattest slice of the pie chart belongs to the Haven'ts wanting what the Haves have.
With a start I awake in the morning as the shops beneath my window begin hosing off the sidewalks and emptying the trash from yesterdays haul. Kuwaitis are for the most part some of the most per capita affluent folks on this planet. They need gleaming jewelers' windows, florists shops, personal tailors, and confectioners. The pleasure domes of the gallerias and many gilded castelled malls aren't losing money. The whole country can easily bear the needs of the rich and the well off. My lifestyle here is not nearly as effed up as it was in saudi, but I want it all.
Walking along the streets, having taxis drivers make visual contact with a white guy on foot has removed some of the tint from my rose colored glasses. Now I remember--Kuwait is more hustle than bustle. I resolve to hire a car. Then I can at least get around as an equal wannbe and of course, this one tweak to my life will make me forever happy because then, I will have it all.
Too quickly since stepping off the plane, I telephoned Jeddah and asked about my birthday in a few weeks you know
I was told, "All the time you think too much of this."
If this is true it is only because I am homesick for a homeland.
Sex is our common heritage, our homeland. It is the most ancient of civilizations, an ancient country whose people, like the Mongolians, once traveled the Earth spreading its culture, customs and bloodlines wherever its crusaders invaded.
When visiting this ancient country, see it not as a tourist, but as a returnee to the promising land.
Respect its Diaspora's traditions.
Learn to speak its salutations, bow your head down further than the person you first meet if necessary to demonstrate your willingness to serve, but remember to ascend from the bow specifically referring to your own wishes.
Immerse yourself in its proclivities and culture. Covet its sights, enjoy its sounds, breathe deep its ambrosial fragrances, hunger for its cuisine, then dive naked into its sheltering sea.
Attempt to learn a few steps of its traditional dance, the dance from which all the dances of the world have evolved. Here is where the steps of the Flamenco, Ballet dances, the Belly Dance, the Waltz, the Cancan, the Tango, the Hora, the Mambo, Samba and Rumba, the Polka, the Hula and even French Canadian Clog dances have their origins.
Set aside some time for silence. Enjoy the afterglow of dusk. Drift homeward when its time to go, but remember that as long as you are away, all yearning prodigal sons or daughters will always be welcomed back.
I was so homesick this time last week, I'd wanted to believe that a routine forty-something lower G.I. procedure meant not that I might have cancer and that I might die, but that I could escape from Saudi Arabia to some third world shit hole to ease my pain.
Let me rephrase that. I wanted to leave one third world shit hole to enter another third world shit hole, the place where the Buddha was born and where, unlike the former T.W.S.H., it is not forbidden to love the whole of humanity.
But, here, today, in Kuwait, I am reborn and I'm ready to pass through the customs control of the body and soul, and then enter the place from where we all originate.
Heard from a friend this morning. I have to wonder, "what are we up to?" I'm missing her kissing.
Got hold of a temp. sponsor last night. I've been more or less out of the program since December. Not out completely. I've had a couple of face-to-face meetings with the lone member in Jeddah. He loaned me the Joe and Charlie step study tapes. I've said my 3rd step prayer everyday, sometimes twice a day, especially "Relieve me from the bondage of self!" part--and that my friends is what it is all about. Getting out of your freaking pitiful "me".
Tough decision to make for someone who enjoys nothing more in life than getting blasted and wallowing in Sysyphean squalor.
I mean, suppose Jeddah thang is for real? But then with TK there were these two weeks driving around, hiking through villages in the rain, and rafting down the river where Bridge over River Kwai was filmed, nearly drowning in Sri Lanka--all of it completely sober, 100%, she and I both, not even antabuse involved, simplicity at its best (It's best that we don't drink).
The only time alcohol was involved in Sri Lanka--Rob's girlfriend, a Singhalese, kept us from having lunch at a former British colonial club which still catered to British and practiced colonial rules like "No locals allowed."
(But she's with a bloody Brit and two Yanks?"No Wogs!")
I asked if I could at least have a look around. The doorman said, "No problem (whitey)"
I found the lounge, which was empty. I knew that Carmen liked Brandy so I quickly nicked a bottle of B and B, stuffed it down my pants, managed to pass it off as cock and balls.
Back in the van, I struck a blow against the empire and presented Carmen with a free bottle of Brandy courtesy of I was asked twice today about T. Once by a man--"Y...I was asked twice today about T. Once by a man--"You don't still love her do you?" and once by a women, "Do you still love her?"
To the man I laughed at myself and gave an unqualified, foolish "Yup." To the woman I stammered. I phrased it like this, "Well, in the program, we are taught to say this, 'love the person, hate the disease.'"
Love? Probably not the right word. Just another addict addicted to an addict who is addicted to addicts who are addicted. . .?
Yup. I hate this disease, this THING, and what it's made me do to others, what it's caused others to do to me.
The sunset view from the corniche can now be enjoyed by sitting on the patio behind the science museum.
Marriages survive and endure, shouldn't they?
What are we supposed to do then when for this or that reason, we find ourselves ripening quickly and when we start talking about our futures, our retirements even and nowhere in the scenario do we find ourselves talking about what we might do, that is, why my friends and I talk about retiring in the solo "I" voice?
I know I wouldn't have enjoyed a church service and reception and that I have taken myself to places which were mostly anywheres but there.
I am awestruck by how much has changed while at th...I am awestruck by how much has changed while at the same time, how much is still here. Kuwait has prospered, the people now dress themselves in as much denim as I wear off work or on the weekends. A couple of hours and five hundred years south of here is Saudi Arabia.
Today when I found an old haunt nestled behind or between the dozens of new towers of offices, the half dozen or so new, three, four or five levels of marble floored , castled malls, I found an old companion thumping around my despirited heart, one whom I haven't seen for four years. We lived together a five minute walk from this Internet cafe in the Patchi Chocolates Building, a five story twin towers of block apartments behind a confectionery store where what's his name, the kind but slow-on-the uptake feller from Beirut used to work. CMV, then Mrs,. Vogt Oliver now only Dr.Vogt was the only one of my three wives who had lawyerly recourse to soak me for more than a little pocket money when she went home to work on her PhD.
I missed her most of today. There was the Banking Institute where she worked for 75 bucks an hour, where I walked off the job because I didn't get along with the manager AND I had another class set to go for the University of Maryland. There was the tailor shop where she had here self-designed quasi-sub-continental work dresses designed to de-accent her impressive busoms. There's were we walked along the corniche and planned our vacation to Varnassi.
The lines around my eyes don't automatically swap me out for who I was then to what I should be now. I still need lose these same ten pounds I carried with me to Korea when I met and married the future ex-Mrs Vogt Oliver now just Dr. Vogt. I know Artrama carved those lines into my face--but it has always been a youthful face which had its drawbacks in petty positions of authority--now I have the look of someone with character. Now as then, actually having character is something I debate with myself everytime I look in a mirror--which is why I shave mirrorless, in the shower. Don't have time for guilt in the morning.
I have this hobby in the places I return to. I return a lot.
I try to remember in the sights and smells of what has become, what is now and all that used to be. On the same hand, I have always felt a special disdain for the places I return to when I discover not just the same town but to the same years I'd left behind.
One of the last blasts of cruelty she shot at me was that she didn't leave to be with her daughter but she left me. That wouldn't explain her twice daily tracking me down on instant message as soon as she was in the US while I was still in the UAE nor her inviting me to come home to help with her household expenses and to invest in her reputation as a "locally renowned artist" now would it?
As I ate my burger alone, and listened to Fats Domino singing "Ain't That a Shame" I remember her smiling at me with an explicit understanding that I would help see to her future plans to get that doctorate and build a non-profit watchdog group. I must add that although I indeed helped to fund a large part of her education, the hard work and hours of lost sleep I know she endured, plus the crappy part time jobs she held, plus the commute to and from Orange County and the USC campus had nothing to do with me and I am sure that even without my monthly endowments, she would have succeeded somehow on her own.
What is all this anger going to bring to me in the end? An anonymous death at 66 here in Kuwait like that of Crazy Joe? I might have a happier ending. While he also hauled a bed partner from Saudi Arabia, a 22 year old Sri Lankan houseboy who must feel today that he really earned that piece of land back home Joe invested in, A. is not a 22 year old Sri Lankan houseboy but a highly qualified surgical and endoscopic nurse. She would also have her place and I'd have mind. That would be a first for me in these relationship trainwrecks since, well, since never. Maybe it wouldn't be a train wreck.
I met A. in Jeddah and found someone who probably wouldn't mind following me to a nearly deserted beach one day to live, a life of certain great sex and laughter. Trouble is she's married and I have never seen myself as a man some woman would leave another man for. I would not accept that responsibility well at all.
What if I were to find her a nice position as a surgical nurse in one of the private hospitals her, one safely priced to hire white nurses and European doctors?
Don't misunderstand me. I am not into "it" again. This time, I swear, it would be different. I don't think she's looking for a boost up or a rescuer.
The last time I saw Jezebel she looked up at me with tears in her eyes because the words needed to say goodbye she only knew in her native langauge. Whatever it was she said to me in English was not what she wished for me to understand, and she knew I only got a little of what she had meant to express. What I wanted to express could only be said in the language of carnal linguistics, and this was interrupted when her South African roommate came home. I had to quickly jump off her, rebutton my jeans and swing myself into a chair at her desk where I'd been fine tuning some part of her computer. As her roommate passed by the bedroom door which may or may not have carried the scent of what was brewing, I said too loudly, "And that's how you reset your Hotmail."
Well here is to Jezebel and to me and I hope we have a happy future with or without each other, in the open, in our beachside bungalow or in secret hotel rooms in Dubai.
When my driver picked me up at the airport in Kuwait (a Kuwaiti Shebab by the way with not so honorable job but a job nonetheless) he asked about Mushkeelas for Amerikis in Saudia. I told him what is my inarguable truth, my subjective opinion based on my experience.
He said, "Not here. Kuwaiti love Ameriki too much".
I was here five years ago and the growth since then is amazing. OK--no booze but if that's you're biggest hang-up, get help.
Other than that, the corniche is as lovely as Abu Dhabi's and the skyline now more resembles Dubai. Five years ago when I left (after nearly five years through thick and thin) I posted a message in the journal section here which basically expressed my concern for Kuwait and the region in general, a posting that beat Friedman to the punch by four years--what's to become of the youth who lack opportunity?
At the time I imagined them storming the palaces with placards and Molotov *beep*. (they've actually bleeped kocktails?) But then, who could have imagined the angriest young men would have turned the WTC into smoke, fire, dust and rubble in response.
Five years ago, there seemed to be little opportunity, too much inshaillah talk.
But then, I was only vaguely aware that the Sabahs have always been trusted here by the Kuwaitis, even those with more money, to think two or three move ahead. Sheikh Jaber and his family have managed to keep this emirate independent longer than the US has been independent--they even beat off an attack from Abdul Aziz's wahabis in the twenties at Jahra--the Kuwaiti Yorktown--mention the battle of Jahra to a Saudi if you want to see someone hang their head in shame. Mention it to a Kuwaiti and they'll treat you to a shwarma and a Barbicon.
Abdul Aziz had it in his mind at the time that since his family had been exiled here, then here too he had some divine mandate to conquer by sword of steel then sword of flesh. He was thrown back despite outmanning and outgunning the Kuwaitis.
There seems to be some sort of IT and trade causeway which extends from here to the UAE and even over Saudi into the former colonial Arab states, bypassing Saudi Arabia.
The freaking work is bypassing Saudi Arabia. Go there. Live on a 3/4 empty compound--see for yourself.
Saudi Arabia? No need for sanctions, they're offing themselves out of prosperity. Containment? They're working on it without outside help.
The zeitgeist here is that Sheikh saber's visions will live beyond his grave or most likely even be improved upon--he's in his 90s, like Zayed--and like Zayed he has been in power since the day (of mud huts a handful of date trees)/
Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Syria--the old regimes are passing the torch and once again, I see hope for the region after all.
When both Arafatites and the Sharonies go to meet baby Jesus, maybe even there, Peristroika will occur naturally.