Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Disappeared

Image hosted by Photobucket.comFellers cross the causeway. They check-in for a day or two. They exhaust the ATM machine across the street. They seldom recross the causeway.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Life for TEFL teachers in the Arabian Gulf is a waiting game in the sense that if you don't or can't wait, then the greater the likelihood of griping yourself to death. Sending out CVs, flying here and there for interviews is easy. At least there is momentum is these activities. Following a successful interview there is usually a flurry of Emails requesting documents, an express mail or two with contracts and maybe some important document that needs to go to a ministry to process your visa. Then the waiting takes control of your life. Most often, you quit a job and move out of your home; the weeks or months spent waiting ages you by years.

This is my first wait with a home, a wife who has no reason to change the locks on the door because most of the shit in the home already belongs to her.

Patience is a handy virtue and as virtues go, its arguably the best. I don't know if I possess any virtues. If trying to force from my life most of life's vices qualifies as a virtue, then there's that.

For the Gulf Arab TEFL teacher, life is measured in time waiting, a collection of cool Arabian shit to hang on the walls and monthly bank deposits.

When bank deposits aren't being made and fat savings accounts aren't growing fatter by the month, when all your cool shit has left your walls, the Arabian Gulf teacher is left only with waiting, usually waiting for something--a telephone line, a driver's license, a three-week holiday or a visa in order to resume work, in order to collect fat monthly salary deposits, in order to bargain hunt neat Arab shit in open market souks and bazaars to hang on your walls. But the visa wait, more so than all the other waiting around this part of the world, really does feel like waiting around to die..

It becomes easier to imagine dying here when you can't do much except check you Email each day. It's not a bad thing is it? to think a lot about mortality? doesn't a death trip help us to appreciate the moments of breath we still have?

I'm here one day, checking my email waiting for a visa. Gone the next day with several hours left on my account in a nearby Internet cafe.

I see my corpse lying in government hospital morgue. I see it being buggered in a morgue be a Bangla Deshi janitor. I see my violated corpse being wrapped in a sheet, driven to the desert and tossed without ceremony in a hole. All that remains of me is an Email account or a blog that will dry up from disuse sooner or later. Then "poof"--dust to dust.

There used to be a time for me when I collected anecdotes and took a lot of photographs believing that the day would come when I'd one day go home and find there people shedding hair in anticipation of listening to my stories and gazing enviously at the photos of me taken on a steep Himalayan foot hill or of me soaked to the bone after a rigorous assault on monsoon flooded rapids in some triple canopy jungle, somewhere in this world where monkeys share the urban landscape with teeming crowds of brown, hungry people. I don't do that anymore. It got old.

There was a time when being stopped at a roadblock by brown men in green uniforms holding hi-powered automatic rifles excited me. Made me feel like the star of my own Oliver Stone or Peter Weir film. Then one day, about eighteen months or so ago, I was in Saudi Arabia and every third mile or so I had to come to a stop in a long queue of cars. It had become a time to yawn and play with the radio tuner.

Today, a bright desert sun underminines the long moments of a life lived outside the endurance of routine like a criminal on the run. Maybe I've achieved bliss and I don't even know it. Maybe I had achieved bliss, didn't know it. Maybe we get only one shot at it in a lifetime.

Bliss for me was freedom from worry, especially worrying about owning shit.

I once thought it was the chief aspiration of a spiritual seeker. What a load!

Now I have come to believe bliss is not opposed to materialism. Materialism can be a final mortgage payment. Bliss is happiness.

Therefore, there is no difference between the materialistic aspirations of family and friends and me--the wandering bordello dog.

In fact those mortgageurs could more just as easily book a holiday, carry their passports in a ziplog bag along with a thick bundle of currencies measured in low dominations beginning with one thousand. After the holiday, they could return to the place where they own a lot of shit. And have their own brain cell murdering boring tales to tell.

Owning a lot of shit is a noble goal.

In my life, I've owned a lot of shit. I've been married or sort-of married a few times as well. I am a dude. A dude walks away from a marriage or quasi-marriage with a suitcase. The dudette keeps the neat shit. It's an axiom easily enforced by changing locks on a door. If the dudette wants to keep all the neat shit and assuage her guilt by stepping into the role of victim, she may go so far as to seek a restraining order. There's great drama in that. Like Lyndon Johnson used to say, "It don't matter if it's true or not, I just want to make the sunabitch deny it."

The blissful experiences of restraining order sex by the way deserves its own blog.

So, at this moment, I have once again started to collect shit. But it isn't making me happy. It's all in storage. It's waiting for me to get a visa. When my visa is finally authorized, I will have my latest collection of shit sent to me. From where I stand right now, I am fairly certain that once I and my shit are reunited, I'll be happy. Life will be blissful.

I guess that's how it's done. We don't achieve grace. We bumble our way into it. Or worse.

Could be that it's like frantically searching for a set of keys that you're holding in your hand or a pair of glasses that have been pushed back ontop of your head. What a drag to think that we might have it in our mitts all our lives and never realize it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Visa Wait Limbo

``If, reader, you are slow now to believe
What I shall tell, that is no cause for wonder,
For I who saw it hardly can accept it.''
Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto XXV.

Limbo is an important part of the Inferno system. Those who haven't been graced with a beatific vision of redemption are powerless and unrehabilitated. They are left in a lurch. Their drives are stuck in neutral. There is no going forward, no going backwards. They wait. How long they have to wait is not revealed to them. It probably wouldn't be such a bad place if they had a book of crossword puzzles.

Visa wait limbo is a bitch. She's a harpy. She harps on the past. She's looks and sounds like one of my ex-wives--the one who decided to get a PhD after being denied Devi status on an ashram and took it out on the world. Visa wait limbo constantly announces "There is no hope." Visa wait limbo wouldn't be so bad so long as there was a refrigerator stocked with several boxes of university art-opening caliber wine and I thought I could live a life of substance and be a drunk simultaneously.

I've accepted more part time work with a local, well thought of language institute. As Townes Van Zandt says in song, "It's better than waitin' round to die."

I try to maintain an attitude of gratitude. The Rose of Tehran leaves for work every morning around 6:30. before she does, she leaves behind a tray with a banana smoothie, a yogurt, a croissant and a note which begins "Tio Amore".

I've been in visa wait limbos where spare bedroom or couch space privileges were scarce.

During visa wait limbo I usually read books about Stalingrad. They cheer me up.

Or I rent the movie Casablanca because its plot revolves around a bunch of white people stuck in an Arab country waiting for travel permits. The expository voice over says in the beginning of the film that they, "wait and they wait and they wait."

They also go to Rick's every night and get snockered. So again, visa wait limbo can be endured with booze.

But I'm such a chowderhead, I deny myself this solution because there's this program of living I am trying to follow which says the first step to this new way of living is to not depend on booze.

It doesn't say anything about benzodiazapams. I'm on the verge of visiting an Egyptian medicine man.

Until then: IknowIknowIknow.
Live and Let Live. Let Go. Let God. One Day at a Time. Easy Does It.

Damn that alcoholic marker on my DNA.