Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cheques in the mail

I wonder how many women returning from a girl's night out come home to discover a baby oily computer mouse sitting to the left of the monitor and wonder why the Internet options history folder has been deleted?

Do they know they can run a regedit, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Explorer\ and open the tree to RunMRU to view recently visited folders and files or that they can check file extensions under Recent Docs, specifically looking for jpegs, gifs, mpegs, mwv's, avi's, etc? Chances are your default media player has added a few to its library unknowingly.

I bring this up for two reasons.

One: it isn't you after all. He still loves you sugar. So, forget about the boob job and tummy tuck. Laugh lines are a sign of character. Y'all been married how long? ten, fifteen years? It's just a phase.

Two: is more brood than lewd. My blog is one of attraction, not promotion.So i f you find out through your registry or you run a DOS program to find a bug, you can also see where your browser has been since the day you first went on line. Just so you know, I blog only because it helps me to keep from losing the last of what used to be an impressive collection of marbles.

I get hits from people from all over the world who visit my site for zero seconds, according to my stats counter (how on earth does one measure zero seconds?) . The IPs are from all over the world and the key word analyzer tells me what attracted these enthusiastic Onanists to my site even though they didn't stay long enough to find out that I have my jpgs don't show muchy flesh. These good people who chose to practice solo intimacy don't stay long enough to read my blog. I can imagine its dificult conducting an effective Google search with just your left hand (or if you're right handed then visa versa )

Search words which bring them to pastimperfect: russian teens blow job hookers bahrain filipina massage underwear poontang balls, penis, titties, etc, need to be put in quotes. True, these words are in my nearly two year old blog, but they are scattered over 700 entries and used in contexts different from what the one armed searchers are seeking.

But to be fair to me, all of my hits aren't limited to furtive self-abusers.

I do get some regulars hits from friends who are probably just being polite because their stats counters recorded that I checked in on them. I get hits drunken axe grinders pissed because I turned down the occasional crap job. I get a few people from Baton Rouge, probably people wondering if they're any closer to being reimbursed for a few hundred bucks now than they were two years ago. Oddly, I got hit a couple of times from the East Baton Rouge Arts and Technical School Probably some gossip monger nosing around.

And I've also been throwing a lot of holiday funked jibs and jabs at the deconstructionists of three great faiths hoping to rile up some whacked fringe members, all these faiths trace their roots back to Abraham. Two of them believe in a prophet born of a virgin (as the story goes)--oddly, these two faiths are eager to kill one another off. As we used to say in the day, "Fuck them if they can't take a joke."

Now, recently I got this Email (which is posted as a comment somewhere recently from a 20-something British slacker who needs to lay off the bong for a few days. (I've been there--trust me). Now get this. I this young Brit feller has during (what I'm imagining to be) a moment of epiphany no doubt enhanced by some primo cannabis. He believes he can put the bite on other bloggers to send him money so he can avoid work for a year and travel the world to do something he believes to be unique. He wants to get down wif' the peoples and live among a dozen different cultures--and then write a book and never have to work again.

Now why didn't I think of that? I've hardly been anywhere--four days without a shower riding trains from one end of the sub-continent to the other, spending weeks at a time living with the foothill sherpas in the Himilayas. I've toured the slums of Cairo and Delhi and Colombo and Bangkok. I haven't done shit.

I've tried though. I have paid my respects to the ways in which others bow to the Creator as they understand Him in Synagogues, Hindu Temples, Buddhist Temples, Ba'hai places of worship; I've even smoked a pipe in a sweat lodge. Now I'm trying to learn how to do Rakat without having people take notice of my presence--that would distract me and negate the Salat. So I do it at home.

First of all, Mr young British Twenty-Something, why are you begging for money to finance your slacker's paradise when you have Richard Branson's attention? Maybe he'll cut you a deal on his airlines and let you fly free; maybe he can put some folding money in your wallet--God knows he has it to spare. Me? I do not.

These days I'm married to an Iranian now for over a year and Ishe has never worn the same outfit twice. More importantly, I also have a tragicaly estranged daughter in university.

And let's see, I owe Raymond about 300 bucks, Cathy his ex-sister-in-law around 600 hundred, maybe more, the H., sisters about 300 bucks, not to mention a few employees who got shafted when the art gallery folded. The there's poor Rob. Sorry Mr Young British twenty-Someting-no can do.

I have one other suggeston. I know this very polite and etxremely principled young man living in the Ivory Coast. His name is Harrison Nzi and he has a bout 15 million bucks--some he'll split withyou for a small favor. Go here and get his email address. Y'all might hit it off. But remember this--if you visit him in his home town--DO NOT PEE IN THE VILLAGE WELL!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Learning, Earning/ Burning and Churning

Slowly, each day is another day for me to re-educate myself and look through the attic for some of the forgotten basic survival skills I once knew, life skillls which are peculiar to the region and not practiced by those who are not indigenous members of the culture.

We are not indigenous yet we number in themillions we who have been hired to assist Gulf countriesput into operation indigenization programs.

Mostly, we come to earn not to learn. We don't gross much more for the same work back home. But we net increased earnings by as much as 30%, by not paying taxes, and another 40% - 50% with free or subsidized accommodations. Once we adapt (which is poles apart from learning), once the first year is behind us, we may stay for as long as we are needed. The more we teach, the more the indigenous Khaleejis learn, each year fewer and fewer jobs are filled by strangers. Slowly, -ization takes place.

Acclimatizing your body to the two seasons of pleasant breezes or intolerable summers if you work outdoors but tolerable when we don't and welower the air conditioners and hunker down-- Saif malesh, no sweat.

Acclimating to the working culture requires patience and resilience. It also requires redefining western concepts of what we observe as dodgy thinking and practice "at the art of deception". (J and R)

When we find it necessary to get along—not just getting' by, when we understand that to evade the rules and to sneak around the fluid evolutionary procedures-- "consecrated by time and hallowed by usage" (Coen Brothers), we should not think of our actions as dishonorable or against the natural laws of man. It isn't really sneaking around. Priorities change. Here skewed truths are embedded into instinct and recognized as non-pathological thinking.

I have learned a few tricks. My perceptions must be fine tuned. I have overcome the dread of my own core, subsistence moral values. The unfamiliar plots unfold according to a different formula. Where I come from, we plan our days and our lives in a more simplified composition of behaviors and actions. I'll shorten these to "plot"

Act One: We get to know a few names and quickly determine the characters that are the elements of our lives and stories.
Act Two: We are suddenly (but not unexpectedly) overwhelmed by a complication. We are on a quest. Or we have to solve a mystery. Our sphere of influence becomes distorted. We face challenges in order to find answers, solutions and clarity.
Act Three: We settle back into a design for living that doesn't make it necessary to keep on our toes. Constant vigilance is pathological, and if badly affected by this disease, no problem. See a doctor and get a prescription for something to take the edge of hyper-awareness.

We are like clerics in a sense. We are here to spread the message of modernity. It is not up to us to reconcile this with the locals who have a fight on there hands we have been drawn into but it shouldn't be our fight. The fight should be between those who reject open markets which peddle western immorality like Barbie Dolls and Pokiemon, and those who embrace their faith as a faith of moderation. Unfortunately, a handful of extremely violent traditionalists took the fight to America, hoping that America would respond exactly it did and as they--the tiny percent who have a stronger voice than the majority by virtue of their RPGs and AK-47s, hoped the US would tromp around like a bull in a china shop. Moderation begins to shift when CNN shows collatral damage like the armsless orphan. Back in the US, a majority begins to make noise--it ain't our fight!

Some may call it running away, others might see it as a paper tiger super power without the stomach for a fight to the death. Who the fuck cares how it's perceived. Young men on all sides are dying. Young American men are dying because Dumberer did not have a step 2 beyond step 1--step 1: go to baghdad. Step 2: uh, well, lemme think, maybe we should. . .no that wouldn't work. . .how about we say that we're. . . no we tried that in Vietnam, didn't work. . . think, think. . . I got it, we have come to Iraq to build a country ruled by deomcracy--no, wait, just a sec', democracy anywhere has its demogogues, and a true, hands off democracy may bring to power people who don't like us. Think! Think! What is step two?

Meanwhile--body bags are filled with American teenagers and sent home with papers for coroners reading--extremities missing, head separated from torso, dental records are decisive. Widening the divide between what they need, what we know and what we have to offer. Somewhere in there, I am beginning to understand that they also have a lot to offer.

We are here doing a job which in practice is a job which is supposed to make us redundant.

Once upon a time, we knew that when enough locals learned and some learned well enough to teach, we'd become obsolete. ,.ndigenization is complete.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

"'cuz if you mind yer own business then you won't be a'mindin' mine."

I had most of Christmas day off to take care of personal bidness with The Firm. I've never worked so closely within an organization of locals. What a trip.

I carried to the administration building the hammer I used to crack through the marble veneer covering the Arab mind; I want learn more.

The Arab mind gives very little away. Individualism is important but what's the point in revealing it to strangers? Individualism is also key to understanding westerners, especially, 'mericans. It's in reverse sadly; whether they want it or not, strangers are often subjected to learning just who it is they are talking to regardless of whether or not this is of concern to them.

If...I...sp-ah--eak, (point finger out)..know...what...I (point finger in) ..mean (point to the brain)? Hell....lo-O!

(The little Bengali tea boy just smiled and whobbled his head from side to side and thought "What an asshole")

True, we outsiders are guilty of misunderstanding the culture, making our hasty generalizations based on assumptions; we prove our hypothesis about the Arab mind without following any scientific methodology other than, if I don't get what I want when I want it, some lazy sunnabitch dropped the ball.

However, some responsibility for our misreading rests upon the Arab mind as well. Drop those metaphorical knickers and show us what you got because I am really confused.

For example--I can read Arabic--simplified, billboard, street sign, store front Arabic. I know that in Kuwait there is a large mall called "The City Center", and in Arabic, instead of the sign reading in translation "Al Markez Al Medina", it transliterates:from right to left "retneC ytiC".

So, naturally I might ask, why would they do that?

Big mistake. Never ask why. There's a simplified reason. There's Andalus. There's transparent. Then there's Kufti.

The beauty of cryptic Kuftic calligraphy is in harmony with the purposely complicated arrangement of streets and alleys (designed to disorient marauders), and both reflect the super ego of an indigenous population that went from village wells, candle light, and one town battery operated radio crackling away with the latest promises of Gamal Nassir to unify under his guidance.

Then came modern urban sprawl in fewer generations than "son of, son of".

Grandpa remembers the radio. He once had a donkey. Now worry about his eye sight so let an Indian driver shuttle him around in the Merc.

(Talk to Grandpa kids, talk to him while he's still around, ask him what it was like, get it on tape. It may be of some personal value someday).

"So we beat on, boats against the current", push on just a wee bit more, we may with some effort realize we've only peeled away the layers of the onion which are exposed purposefully so that we come to believe that we're actually getting to the heart of the matter.

Sometimes we believe we've reached the inner circles; American women married to Arab men often get this far and it's as far as some will ever get.

Put on a hijab. Volunteer twice a week to work at the A.W.A.R.E Center. Say "yallah" a lot. You'll fit right in. Right where you are supposed to be. There's more, but why trouble yourself. Isn't life a mystery? Do you enjoy life? Look at the stars. Do they make you wonder? Are you awed? Go with it. Go with the feeling. Go with the silent feeling. Go with bliss. Don't spoil it with questions. Silence. With a neglible, imperceptible degree of exception, the universe almost entirely exists in total silence. That is God's domain. Quiet.

Questions make too much noise.

Don't delude yourself Miss America.

There's more to discover.

You're still on the outside, now locked out of the main chamber which is hidden behind many layers of drawn curtains. On the other side of the curtains--more dissimulation and accessible doorways which lead to inaccessible labyrynthine corridors which spiral down then up then down then up, finally we might reach another labyrinthine structure: but we're tired. So we learn that all we really need to know are a few phrases, salutations and rationalizations set out like a buffet, a quick answer to questions which satisfy the immediate needs of people who want to know how is your color? (Thank God) how is your day (God is generous) you've lost some weight (Mashalla). See you later (God willing)

This is all the conversation ye need know. National compreres working side by side for 20 years never get much beyond this level of discovery. Why should we strangers be any different?

You want a different answer? Well, he hasn't come in yet. How's that?


Take a seat.

Have some tea. How much sugar do you take with your tea?

God willing, an answer may come around mid-morning. Maybe tomorrow. God willing.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"Beat my head against a pole, Try to knock some sense, down 'side my bones"

My incantation: Bah Humbug! Bah Humbug! Bah Humbug! Bah Humbug! I want to evoke the ghost of Christmas past. 1992.

C.M and I spent the last of the five Christmases we shared in Honduras, in a Tawakhan Indian village.

Today, C.M. is C.B. She's married and the mother of three boys. She's lives in Reality, Louisiana, just outside of Hammond.

I don't want to revisit C.M. so much. She's an ex-girlfriend, true. But also true, she's happily married, and I'm happily married.

And as the late Johnny Thunders reminds us "
You can't put your arms around a memory—so don't try."

When she was still C.M. and I was Mr. O. and we had each other for one last Christmas Eve, we were both at a cross roads.

Although she still worked in a restaurant, she had taken her first steps down a path by enrolling in some college classes where I was teaching, and telling me point block--"It's been five years. This year we start working on a family or. . . ."

I was suffering decision paralysis.

I was teaching composition and introduction to literature. I was not yet forty, so I still had time to put off trying to choose a path. Granted, not much time, the clock was ticking. I couldn't decide whether or not I should follow C.M. down her road, which was well lit, well mapped out, comfortable, and offered few surprises—marriage, children, a bigger house. A PhD. Faculty parties.

Affairs with students.

She deserved more.

And that was my out. "You deserve more. You deserve better."

Whenever I told her this, she'd flash her sweet, toothy smile and embrace me, assured me that I was all she wanted, assured me that she was in love. She watched a lot of day time TV. I squirmed loose. No, I mean it, I'd say, you deserve better (which was a close as I could get to the truth--I'd been with a few students)

A lack of hugs wasn't my problem--our problem. Our problem was me and how I feared the well worn path she'd started down, confident that I'd follow. Our problem was my fear of the known and my attraction to the unfamiliar, the untested, the heart of darkness river which flowed from the safe bends crowded with cities into forests so thick with overhanging trees and shadowy mountains, that they seemed to flow into the the blackest of nights, into a forbidenned zone where Dali dreams melted clocks and allowed fish to fly like birds.

C.M. obeyed every traffic law, paid her bills, went to her dentist regularly. She called her Mama twice a week. She kept a log book for her car. She bought raffle tickets from kids going door to door trying to raise money for a road trip for their school marching band. If her checking account didn't balance to the penny, she'd be on the calculator and going through her cancelled checks and receipts for as long as it took to resolve the conflict.

If my canceled checks cleared and I still had a positive balance in the bank, that worked for me.

She deserved at least some feller who had these small but not insignificant habits which she used to skillfully balance her unblemished credit record and no-risk car insurance life.

We had settled into a North Shore subdivision (north of New Orleans across the world's longest bridge), only twenty miles as the Caucasians fly from Britney Spears' suburban home village. Her Daddy still lives there, alone, a .357 magnum in one hand and a fifth of Crown Royal in the other, last I heard.

Christmas season, 1992, C.M. and I had a friend who had a friend in Central America who knew a couple of self-starters who wanted to start up an eco-tourism business which would one day include white water rafting and mountain trekking through the Honduran rainforest. Our friend and his friend invited us. Besides the tickets and the food, the self starters didn't ask for much more. They wanted some white faces for the trial run. They would use us to see what worked and what didn't.

So C.M. and I flew "Stay At Home, Stay Alive" airlines; the national carrier for Honduras (SAHSA) and spent Christmas in a rain forest.

Christmas Eve.

After five or six days of rafting, canoeing, climbing, hiking, up the hill down the hill, up the hill, down the hill, Christmas Eve morning began the pre-dawn hours for me when I woke up with a start on the "Ka!" part of an impending projectile vomit. As I awoke, simultaneously, I opened me eyes and twisted my bodyfree from the sleeping bag and managed to shove me head outside the tent flap before the downbeat--the "Boom!" in Ka Boom!"

The roasted jungle rat we'd had for dinner probably needed at least thirty more minutes on the spit.

I sat out most of Christmas Eve day hanging my head over the side of the raft having my faced awashed in brown river water. The raft we were road sat low in the river from the weight of the luggage and the passengers.

We'd started out with a separate luggage raft but the river ate it. I began to feel frisky around sunset and took up an oar to give whoever needed it a rest. The sunset and the Tawakhan village Krautara were just around the bend.

Just as the sun went down and night fell, the sky opened up. Fact of life. You visit a rain forest, and you're going to get wet. The rain turned to a deluge around 9 and the river swells began to wash over us, sinking the raft with each slap! It soon began to move through the river like a submarine. Krautara just around the bend.

Around 10, there was thunder and there was lightning and there was wind blowing from all points on the compass. Our only light guiding us out of the black was a flash light. It got worse before it got better. I could go on, but I want to get to the good part.

Around eleven the showers eased up. Just around the bend. . .the village.

The good part starts--

Just after midnight, C.M and I were dancing cheek to cheek in the one room school house like two drowned rats. One of the local boys had a boom box which played loud, staticky Latin Mambo Jambo. We drank Chi Cha, the local moonshine which smelled like cat piss and tasted like bad lemons mixed with cat piss.

--the good part is over.

A year later, she was seeing someone else. I was in Korea.

I don't want to go there tonight with any regret for not choosing to tag along after her. I chose a different path and that's all there is to it. But it would be nice to dance a little Mambo Jambo and sneak a little chi cha into my hoary visitation from the ghost of Christmas past.

So, Bah Humbug. Bah Humbug. Bah Humbug.

Friday, December 23, 2005

". . .St. Claude and Dumaine"

I'd forgotten that "Christmas in the Oaks" was constituitionally incorrect as it crossed the line between religion and good taste.

Since Dumberer set up Homeland Security, a gubment agency that wipes its Nazi jackboots on the constitution, its nice to see signs here and there that someone back there remembers that without a constitition, we basically don't really have a union of states and that the US Civil War was just an off-season practice war and not a imcomprehensible four years of slaughter over interpretation of the document.

In fact, all the "good" wars shouldn't count. How can we commemorate the fallen when we now have a president who gives the press the middle finger when asked about Homeland Security's executive mandate to ignore anyones right to liberty or property--screw due process of law. (There goes the Rose's green card if Homeland Security's software flags this blog).

So all those young men who over the years responded to Uncle Sam's "We Want You" finger, who signed on actually believing that they had to help stop 'them' in Cuba or the Philippines, in Mee-hee-Ko, or France and Belgium or France and Belgium and the South Pacific, should have stayed home and slept in on Saturdays.

Turned out after all that trouble, all it took to make confetti out of the US constitution was a few carpet knives and then having the fiery, gory senseless death and mayhem replayed on 24 hours news feeds over and over and over. What should have strengthened American resolve to maintain basic US civil liberties, turned out to have the opposite effect.

Constitution? Collateral damage.

Moving along.

When the Yankee gun boats damned the torpedos and broke through confederate defenses at Mobile Bay, New Orleanians saw the gun boats steaming their way, sent a message to the yankee admiral that read, "Don't shoot, we would raise our arms to surrender but we have cocktail beverages in our hands." So New Orleans sat out the civil war. And some yankee general outlawed spoons because ladies spat on sidewalks. Something like that. I could be wrong. Often am.

It has been called Celebration in the Oaks for some time now.

When the levee broke, billions of gallons of toxic sludge water from the lake turned New Orleans' city park into a cess pool. At least the swans got the hell out there. Seems they flew uptown and relocated.

And Mr. Bingle somehow made it to the opening of the city park light's display.

Evidently there is a Celebration in the Oaks this year.
And every other day, another parade krewe says, "We're rollin' in 2006 aft'a all."

Meanwhile, FEMA (the gubment agency responsible for fixing up American disaster areas) is sending thousands of mobile homes to New Orleans. Sites for trailer parks are also being approved.
I was mostly concerned about Zulu--the only parade worth fighting the crowds to see.

Zulu rolls early Tuesday morning of The Big Day. Anyway, I depress.

C'mon New Orleans, open your eyes, squeeze my hand sugar, speak to me, doll. The doctors say you gonna make it.

New Orleans? I know you can hear me, shoog. Don't make me hunt you down and start pinging y'alls' IPs. I can ping for longetitude and lattitude and use Google Earth to come afta you wh'ich.

Y'all took a beating. You right about that. But turns out it was only a tunnel; it wasn't lights out for good. Just keep rolling till you see the light.

I wonder how Grandma Blanco is doing?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Adeste Fidelis

Christmas music haunts me as I open E-cards with sound files. This morning I was ambushed by the hymn which commands the faithful to go to Bethleham.

If I were to go to Bethelham, I would have to ask immigration at the airport to not stamp a visa in my passport. Immigration here and in other GCC countries would not let me collect my luggage and be on my way.

These days in Bethelham there are many Chanukah Yamulkes clashing with olive drab green uniforms on young men with machine guns.

If someone tries to circumvent the metal detectors, tries to by-pass the 26-foot high concrete, apartheid wall, somehow manages to sneak through the IDF helicopters, the herd of tanks and snipers keeping vigil on this Christmasy week (financed largely by billions of tax dollars I no longer contribute to as an ex-pat) then the young men with machine guns have orders to shoot to kill without first asking questions.

The young men must protect a few, degrade a few thousand there in the little town of Beyt-Al-Hem where some people believe that a long, long time ago, a virgin gave birth to a boy created without man seed.

Upon a bed of straw, witnessed by an audience of camels, sheep and goats and three heavy thinkers from the east,
Zoroastrians, in their beliefs some Bible as history pseudo-historians tell us (makes sense as they were the first monotheist in these troubled lands, brought the miracle baby some joss sticks, a year's supply of Lamisil and a golden commemorative coin one of them caught at the Zulu parade one Tuesday morning when he began to think before 9 AM. None of these thought sots were social thinkers. They were heavy thinkers, and they were themselves kings; they were thunken south Persian kings and in their thunken states of mind they named the child "The King of all kings".

Joke--A little boy unwraps his presents one Christmas morning then remembers his best friend Abe Rosivich who had told him his family won't be opening presents on Christmas day. "Daddy?" the boy asked his Dad, "Why don't the Jewish people open presents on Christmas day?"

The Daddy replied, "Because on Christmas day they get up early, put on their best clothes and go down to their shops and play "Oh What a Friend We Have in Jesus on their cash registers."

This Christmas day, in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, Emirati shop owners in their fine white dishdashas and Emirati women in their black abiyas will no doubt do likewise.

I have to walk past a palace on my way to the mall. And here as elsewhere, whenever I try to take care of bidness and pleasure, someone points a gun at me.

As I approach Christmas, the levee in my heart breaks, and a river floods its chambers with hazardous nostalgia.

I want and could have it all if it was not for this chronic heart problem.

The problem is this:

in the four chambers of my heart, where both oxygen enriched and oxygen deprived blood "thubs" into the atrium, bringing with it the perception of charity and selflessness, this blood is absorbed on the "dubs" as my ventricles try to push out only clarified blood, but takes along small dabs of misgivings. These missgivings have, over the years, caused major blockage of sensible thinking as substantial amounts of bedeviled doubts reach my brain.

From the server side of my life, the Great Spirit continues to upload files on everything that has ever been, is now and will ever be.

This is how I see myself as I stand before my Judge who will download all my good and bad deeds.

Uncertain of how his browser while display my home page, I am doing my best to delete links to forbidden pages by making amends wherever necessary

In the All Mighty's browser of choice, Opera, I see that my drop down (drop dead) navigation system points to a 403 page of "FORBIDDEN ERRORS".

One sub-link I built when I was five. How can I ever make direct amends for this?

A file named my_dck_on_dsply.htm; view the source, you wil see there META TAGS = A mystery revealed too early to the extremely impressionable minds of post-toddling girls; I should not have gone along with the other boys, as we showed the young girls in our pre-school gang, what it is we have that they don't, how we use it to pee, how we have this great advantage which gives us mastery over them, how we could stand and pee awed the girls, then we made a point of demonstrating our superiority by presenting them with a visual, we boys urinated on a rose bush.

Another page I developed when I was thirty. I undivinely intervened in the fate of a capricious Capra hircus otherwise known as a goat.

I once lived in the country in a rent house, on a farm owned by some hard core Cajuns.

One morning I saw that his calico goat had escaped its pen and was trying to decide what to do next.

As the goat stood on the country road five miles from downtown Lake Charles, Louisiana, half relieved it had gotten through the wire, half distressed by the little it knew of the world beyond the wire, I picked up the phone, called my landlord and told him his goat had gotten out of its pen. I'd done my good deed for the day, I thought.

A week later, I drove back Sunday evening from a weekend of playing soldier, and I didn't see the goat. I later asked my landlord about the goat.

"We ate him," the farmer said--implying with his expression that I was a bit thick, having asked a question with only one obvious answer.

It will be lots of nickel and damn bullshit like this which will lose my name to the ages as soon as I cross the river Jordan.

I don't come from a tradition which holds in the high regard the names of ancestors because our blood line has always had a migrating spirit (which means that somehow it has always managed to get out of town one step ahead of the law).

I see this tradition as being closely linked to the form and meaning of Judgment day.

I will most likely leave this world not bound for Paradise (he was a man's man, a mench, a man who had the courage to out maneuver harsh conditions and he left behind a legacy which our family enjoys today) or Hell (that motherfucker died owing me two hundred dollars!) but someplace in between.

My name will be lost for many years except for this likely scenario. A photograph of me, left behind by my proginy. They will abandon some rent house, leaving behind a box of photographs during their midnight run from the lease and a search warrant.

The box in the attic will collect cobwebs for several eternities before someone finds it and brings it into the light. This someone will begin to flip through the forgotten photos and eventually come to this photograph of me. This someone will turn it over and read my name written on the back. Once my name is read out loud, for that second or two on some day while my bones are bleaching somewhere in the desert sun, that part of me which stood before the Judge and had no luck telling Him to "Lemme explain this part."
will be released from its cardboard limbo of anonymity. The photograph will be tossed back into the box, the box will be bound for a trash pick up.

Two days before Christmas Eve. Five days before my one year anniversary. I need to turn the air conditioner on high. There will be no house cleaners today. I'll have to make my own bed. Daughter J. is in Houston with her Mama. I should write her.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wednesday Morning

Wednesday morning is the beginning of the end of the working week.
I have begging questions lining the hallway that leads from my bedroom to the kitchen. With outstretched arms and palms up they plead with their eyes. I can read from their eyes what it is they ask for today.
There are familiar faces asking:
Who set all of this in motion?
What's it all about?
Why are we here?
Where is this path taking me? (yawn)

When will my destiny be revealed? (another yawn)
When I know what it is that I am fated to do, will I be strong enough l to accept its challenge without blinking or stammering or feeling the urge to fight or take flight?

Oh bugger off, I tell them.

I don't have to tell them more than once. They are more dignified than Indian beggars. They are more like Sri Lankan or Nepalese beggars. One half-assed, weary "bugger off" and they leave me alone.

There are the new guys who joined this crowd when I turned fifty and quickly learned then when I say bugger off, they may as well retract there arms and squat Asian style.

Is there something waiting for me once I am shed of skin and bones?
Will next year be the year I go Mac or Linux freeing myself of the Greatest Satan, his constant updates and patches,his empty Mephostophelian/Satanic (MS) promises?

There's a young beggar in the kitchen I don't recognize who humbly asks, "Why do you set your clock to get up an hour and forty five minutes before you need to leave? I know you think you need at least four cups of coffee before performing your pre-dawn ablutions. but if you slept the extra hour, don't you think you would get more rest and not need four cups of coffee?"

The young beggar hasn't learned that I am bakheel with answers, a miser.

Bugger off! I scream and raise my fists.

The ragged urchin runs from the kitchen and hides beneath the shabby sarong of "Will my good deeds outweigh the bad when I step before my final Judge?"

Then I fix my first of four cups of Nestcafe return to the bedroom and log on to life dot com.

Abu Dhabi is a beautful city.

Many of its streets have been designed using blueprints of Jennah, Fardous, Paradise, Heaven as described in Torah, Bible and Qu'ran. And it is close to Christmas. Date Palms with entangled Christmasy lights have never made me wish harder for a real Christmas, the snow blankets and frosty windows, the scent of pine and bourbon, the Christmas I think is either a memory or something I once read in a book.

Christmas among palm trees, sandy beaches, and people who know people who can get whatever I need for half the price wasn't something I first experienced when I came to the Arabian Gulf.

I used to have similar Christmases back when I spent a few years running with a clan of New York type Hebrews in Miami.

Today I run with different category of Semites who don't realize how much they have in common with their lox and bagels eatin' first cousins.

Back home, an old friend, seen on my profile photo singing into a microphone, is now living Somewhere, Anywhere, USA with two kids; she is one family of hundreds of thousands who are without a city this year. The place I called home. Unlike Texas, you don't (or didn't) have to have New Orleans on your birth certificate to call it home. Anyone who passes (passed) through and stays (would stay) for a few while can (I mean used to) call it home if they so desired.

Desire. Not only the cause of all our pain as stated in one of the first of four noble truths in Buddhism. Desire Street. Desire Housing Street projects.

Can't, I mean couldn't get there by streetcar anymore.

Used to have a bus. Guess Christmas in the Oaks is not on this year.

Mr. Bingle was history anyway.

So was Nash Roberts. Strange--they disappeared around the same time. And you never saw them in the same room at the same time. Nash would have made that nasty ol' hurricane go somewhere else.

Ahh New Orleans, where'y'at, sugar?

Lisa has composed a Christmas carole.

I will copy and paste the words to one peculiar ballad. (I can come up with great chord progressions but I never could write a lyric)

"It's Christmas in Heaven" by Monty Python If you are unfamiliar with the tune think "Calypso beat."

It's Christmas in Heaven,
All the children sing,
It's Christmas in Heaven,
Hark hark those church bells ring.
It's Christmas in Heaven,
The snow falls from the sky...
But it's nice and warm and everyone
looks smart and wears a tie.

It's Christmas in Heaven,
There's great fil ms on TV...
`The Sound of Music' twice an hour
And `Jaws' I, II, and III.
There's gifts for all the family,
There's toiletries and trains...
There's Sony Walkman Headphone sets
And the latest video games.
It's Christmas it's Christmas in Heaven!
Hip hip hip hip hip hooray!
Every single day,
Is Christmas day.

It's Christmas it's Christmas in Heaven!
Hip hip hip hip hip hooray!
Every single day,
It's Christmas day.

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Everyone's lookin' for someone to blame. . ."

Oman? The pay was low, and nobody wanted to take responsibility for making any decisions.

The second part--the no decisions part-- of that sentence was familiar to me when I came back to the Khaleej.

The first part had been introduced after 9/11 for assorted obvious reasons but summed up briefly as a boom in private universities—recruiting students amid a booming market of private universities is a lot harder than hiring teachers. Besides, private universities are owned by trading companies and they have long taken advantage of the scattered-brain drain in India. Indians, Pakistanis, North African-Arabs will work for half the salary and jump through fiery hoops if told to do so.

Oman's Technical Colleges hire mid-twenty something backpackers mostly from Canada. The schools crammed students into classrooms filling all 40 some odd chairs.

What mattered most? Curriculum? (You shittin' me boy?)

What's a Kerr. . .ick. . . q. . .lem?

Fuck kerrickyou whatever, just take attendance so we can free up some seats in the classrooms.

Why? Because the Arabian Gulf's era baby boom has started taking their frustration out on the world—first it was blowing themselves up on buses full of Jews, which wasn't a bad thing as they were encouraged to do this from day one; then they brought down the World Trade Center which was sort of bad, but, well, channel Saudi One television continually ran a bumper clip of some Palestinian woman who was so overcome with joy after hearing the news of the death and destruction in New York she wept for the camera and proclaimed "Praise God! Praise God."

I may be going out on a limb here, but I'd say that constitutes some sort of approval from the grand poo-bahs.

Anyway, I digest.

In Oman, I also worked alongside some easy going sub-continentals and maybe a few Nubians from Africa. I'd been married to the Rose of Teheran for a few months and from courtship through marriage, I began to take hammer and to bust me up a couple of layers of marble veneer. Beneath it was a slightly different and a better informed perspective into the average Arab mind.

My first and long lasting impression made about Arabs (about ten years back that-a-way) was no different from the "I'll carry-it-to-my-grave" impressions I still hear on the bus every morning and every afternoon pouring from the mouths of guys my age. Arabs are lazy bastuds.

Seems as though we have all come here to work for The Firm. It is our Alamo, the only line of defense we have against privatization, shitty contractors and competition from the 20 somethings, the sub-continentals and the northern dark continentals. What I hear now is what I had long ago falsely assumed. No--they're no lazier than your Jose-six pack hard working Meh-hee-can.

The Gulf is a world which has (metaphorically speaking) a thin layer or two of marble which hides a concrete, unspoken truth that only some westerners have rare glimpse into.

Arabs are not lazy.

It is not sloth. It is fear.

Inside the top secretive homes and gardens, children learned a Voltairean philosophy; just at that point towards the end of the novel, when the Turk drills into Voltaire's hapless, clueless Candide, the answer to his quest for the truth:
"In life, we must all tend to our own gardens."
In other words, keep yourself to yourself because if you don't, it's a good way to lose your head. . . or job.

Mind your own business or at least appear to be minding your own business.

There is a reason for the veils, the imbreachable walls surrounding homes, the basement swimming pools shut out from the sun, first cousins marrying first cousin (keeping it in the family)

More to the point: they strictly disagree with Oscar Wilde and his quip, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

Make a wrong move, let some skeletons out of the extended family-tribal closet and you might just find yourself a bottom feeder, scraping along, attending the diwaniyas where nobody knows anyone who can get things done for you. You will have to live in your own country like an ex-pat. You'd stand in line at the bank, BE allowed only 26 kg of luggage on a flight—economy class ticket.

So, the obvious answer to avoid becoming the topic of any tosic gossip in a place where guilt is assumed before innocence and where some smoke is in the air, somewhere there must be a burning bush, don't stick your neck out.

Remember-- Chop! Chop!

Now, it is accurately assumed that Americans watch too many movies.
The male of the species proudly accepts responsibility when he reaches a position in life where he has becomes an important decision maker: whether it is an officer in the army whose decisions might get himself and his men killed or a businessman with a corner office, windows on the world, making a decision that could either bring in or lose a lot mountain o' money--one path leads down a "that-a-boy", pats on the back path, the other path leads towards humiliation and joblessness.

Still, if he's wrong, with pride, before going to the gallows, he says goodbye to former co-workers and underlings when he enobly announces, "I accept full responsibility for my actions."

If one has to make a decision in this culture, an important decision--and the odds are 95 to 5 that it is a right or wrong decision, live a day at a time. Tomorrow is in God's hands. Maybe He will be merciful and make the situation go away.

My supervisor for example, is a kindly, Desmond Tutu-ish/ Koffi Annanesque, Sudanese chap who is in theory the head teacher and one would think he'd be concerned in up-to-date pedagogical theories being put to the acid test.

Uh uh.

He has one life or death task to perform throughout the day. He must report to the Emirati Wizeera who towers over all of us and waits each hour for a head count. When he gets the head count on both teachers and students sorted out, he's done his job, and he is safe from the one towering above him.

There is a twice-a-decade Gulf Cooperation Council Pow Wow taking place across the street from my temporary c'mpany guest house.

It's also a guess house. Since the answers to my questions might be wrong and traced back to the one who gave them to me, information is as preciously hidden as the face of a thirteen year old bride when she weds her 84 year old Saudi husband/purchaser.

The best answer is no answer. The best position to take in a decision making process is to get oneself out of the process as expeditiously as you can.
Because if there is a person above you, who has as his duty a decision to make—and he can either fire you or forgive you, you're fucked. There's that 5% chance that by showing compassion and being merciful, someone above you will have your head on a pike by sunrise tomorrow.

I mean, they can't blame it all on the Jews.

They've tried that. They've raised a bulging, bloated demographic of baby boys to manhood and girls to womanhood (with plenty more on the way) who are beginning to think that maybe someone behind the palace walls has made a few questionable decisions and those walls might not be as unbreachable as previously believed. So with youthful recklessness working against them, they have made a decision and some have acted upon on that decision.

"tell me again--why is it called Saudi Arabia? It can with some effort be switched back to plain ol'Arabia.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thank Friday

My Esouse d'Moment has reached this stage of our relationship.

As for me:I fly to the Emirates sometime next week. I think it's either Monday or Tuesday. I know it's in the afternoon.
I'll figure it our soon enough.

On the day I usually leave with my one suitcase and my Martin guitar (I bought it the same year my one-shot-at-immortality ask daughter J. was gestating in her mother's womb. It was a really nice womb. That womb was a part of whole with a black belt in karate.

polyhydramnios known more byits street slang amniatic fluid and a restraining orer.of their emotional sensitivity, they are strong-willed and have no trouble expressing what they want, then finding a way to get it.