After a period of silence on this blog, which I shut down for a while as I worked on my wife’s e-commerce store and did some other technical stuff, I have decided to re-open it to let my friends, family, and blog followers know what I am up to these days.
Let me start by explaining the pictures you see above.
Last week, a hedge in front of our house started going brown. A week later, it was mostly dead.
A manager from the company that takes care of the plants and lawns in this development came by. He took one look at it and asked me: do you have any enemies here?
To make a long story short, someone most likely came by a week ago or so at night and poured a bucket or two of Roundup (this is a brand of weedkiller) on the plants in front of our house.
That is the professional opinion of the groundskeeper who stated that replanting is useless for now, as the ground is completely contaminated: anything new planted here would also die, unless I am prepared to spend thousands changing the soil.
To those who have followed this blog for some time, you know that I had to call the police two years ago, when my wife and I where intimidated by some of our neighbors.
This in a all-white, gated community in Florida where 99 per cent the people who live on this street voted for Trump.
The police did nothing, because I did not have a video of the incident, and so even though I was verbally threatened with physical violence, free speech — according to the police at the time — gave these people the right to stand across the street and menace us.
Of course this is rubbish — there are laws in this state against harassment, but given my current finances, I chose not to contact a lawyer.
Since then, as you know, I decided after the Trump election to see if Nice, then El Gouna, then Tavira (in Portugal) would be suitable places for us to move to.
Nice is way too expensive, and I cannot tolerate the right-wing vibe there — plus the beach still sucks! (I spent a year there as a student a long time ago.)
Egypt is out of the question. It is even more of a totalitarian state then when my family emigrated from there in the 60s.
With the Egyptian parliament making moves to turn El Sisi into President for life (they say only 2026, but that is of course nonsense), nothing has changed since the days of Nasser or, for that matter, Mubarak.
In fact, things are arguably much worse.
For example, there is the matter of the Italian student who was murdered and disfigured and his body thrown in a ditch by the Egyptian authorities, not to mention the continued suppression of free speech, and the jailing of any journalists or writers who dare speak up.
The bad news from Egypt is in fact endless.
And now, the mucky-mucks are going to push the poor out of Cairo, so that the plutocracy can turn the Downtown area (where I went to school as a boy), and various islands along the Nile (one of which I lived in), into their playground for profit — just as they have done in El Gouna.
It is hopeless there; especially as the population increases by 2.5 million a year, and the country further embraces religiosity and intolerance and the unspeakable with the Chinese and the Russians and the North Koreans and the Israelis and it all goes on and on and on, as cynically ruthless rich Egyptians and the clueless tourists soak up the sun along the pleasure domes of the sahel (the north coast of Egypt, between my once beloved Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh) and the Red Sea.
I did meet some people that I liked very much in El Gouna; but sadly I was unable to reconnect in the manner that I had hoped to with a few friends that I grew up with in Cairo in the 60s — probably my fault, but there you have it (read the posts between Sept 2017 and April 2018, if you are interested in that part of my story).
Nasser’s era was a long time ago.
The notion of going back to the beautiful country I grew up in to escape the horrors of today’s America is a foolish one: it is even worse there than here.
So what are the alternatives?
Well, Portugal is currently on everyone’s bucket list; so we went.
I truly enjoyed my recent stay in Tavira, with my wife, in Sept/October — though it’s far too hot to live there year round, and the winters can be brutal, with a damp cold that chills your bones down to the nub — and I kind of don’t particularly care for the overly touristic aspect of the Algarve.
But is was lovely meeting my English cousin Karen and her husband Ian, and I do hope I shall be meeting them again in the years ahead.
Most of all, it was fantastic being in tolerant society, one where the words “Arab” or “Moslem” (or Muslim, if you prefer) are not insults or viewed as code words for terrorist, and where all faiths and ethnicities are welcome (as it used to be, in the cosmopolitan golden era of the Egypt of the 40s and early 50s), and no geezer creeps stand around on the street corners watching your every coming and going.
After our house was vandalized, that was it: what’s next? Am I going to be shot in my driveway, simply for being an Arab American?
So, despite the heat of Tavira, we are going to do everything possible to make moving to somewhere around the Lisbon area a reality by the end of next summer.
We are shutting down the B&M part of the store (but continuing it as an e-commerce operation); selling this blasted house, the furniture, car — everything. This shall be a permanent goodbye, without looking back.
I have had it being a second class citizen in this country.
I’ve put with it for 50 years.
All I want at this late stage of my life is to left alone and have a chance at a low key, modest life in which the possibility of being happy is real — in a place that is far away from the daily drama of living in horrid places like Egypt or the US.
A year from now, I hope to be blogging from somewhere in the outskirts of Lisbon… wouldn’t that be the greatest Xmas present of them all?
In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my friends and family and “followers” who read this blog.
All the best to everyone, as always; though it sounds like a platitude, I sincerely do hope for better days ahead in 2019 for all of us and the fragile planet we all share.