Yom El Din


I woke up at 3am today thinking about Babylon.

I like waking up early, when everyone — except the guilty — is sleeping. It is a time of muted presence, bar the quiet hum of the SSD of my new comp — presence in the sense that Sufis call hadra.

Once there was never any quiet in my life.

Like many who have — how shall I put this? —  wrestled with their inner demons on the precipice of the malbolge, there was always some insane voice in my head that rarely shut up, that always wanted to push things a little further.

Drinking was the only way to stifle  that voice, to dull it, if nothing else, until some fanciful picture of the world as it should be emerged, replacing the unacceptable realities of the present, not to mention the depredations of the past, far and near.

But it never lasted.

Adays of wine and roseslways in the end I was Jack Lemon in some seedy big city motel room, with a huge Vacancy red neon sign flashing just outside the room’s window, left half open, with the curtains flapping in the breeze, and me sitting on the edge of a beat up, stained mattress covered by a filthy sheet, shiny from the sweats I had when I had passed out earlier, coming to with only one warm unopened can of beer left, and no place to go in the morning.

It is as such times that one can be cornered into making a choice, perhaps walking outside in the mist and rain in front of some house of worship, its doors locked, and standing alone at the bottom of its granite steps, begging the void, with tears streams down your cheeks, just for the ability to not have a drink that day, just this once, or if that be too much, just for the next hour, that looms before you like sixty impossibles before sunrise.

An aching soul such as this can feel no rest until it palpably senses — at long last! after so much suffering! — the presence of the Spirit that is invisible yet everywhere.

It happened to me, on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John Divine, on a terrible night in October of 1986.

It is not something one readily forgets.

These days, I am thinking a lot about Sufism.

Sufism has become very fashionable in America — complete with out-of-context Rumi quotations, self healing life styles, and ponderous New Age blather.

I am interested in Sufism because I am a Sunni Muslim, from Egypt, where Sufism is practiced by a large segment of the population — looked down upon by the country’s co-called élite and the government-appointed imams at Al Azhar.

When you are a Muslim, there is something intensely visceral and pleasing about hearing the call to prayer — not as it has become in Cairo today, with dueling loudspeakers on countless minarets harshly cutting down the dawn with ear splitting, droning harangues — but perhaps more along the lines of one given by a sweet-voiced youth standing barefoot on a hill in the desert calling the faithful to assemble before God.

But I am also half English  — born of a Christian mother — and have experienced my share — despite the haunting pull of the Ayenbite of Inwyt, that which Joyce called the agenbite of inwit — conscience, dameer in Arabic — of sins of the body against that dominion of spirit, cavorting along with agnostic self-confidence in the allure of technocracy as a panacea, a substitute, for what we have all lost. (E.g.: this virtual prayer rug that I weaved on CodePen.)

Yom el Din.

The way I see it, every day is a potential day of judgement, on ourselves, others, and the world around us.

Is the ability to suspend that judgement part of the Sufi way?

All right.

Enough of this self-indulgent meandering.

Am I not the sort of person who has Chrome Canary on his desktop, rather than a would be Eckhartian influencer who traffics in unprovable imponderables?

Time make some ahwa, take in this presentation, and get on with the day.

Poochie will soon be demanding her morning walk!

leaving america

Mum got a COVID vaccine appointment!

My mother, who is in her 80s, is all set to get her shot tomorrow.  She lives up in WestChester, 30 minutes away from Grand Central Station in Manhattan by train.

Good for her!

Who knows when my wife and I will get ours, living as we do (for now) in a cesspool state.

I figure we should be okay by summer, in terms of us both getting shots — after all, my wife isn’t even age qualified to get the vaccine here yet.

Then I hope we will be able make plans to visit a place in France — maybe !! — to see if we would like to retire there permanently, and get the hell away from this angry, racist, largely moronic state for good — (sudden pivot) do you remember Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick?

Former Miami Dolphins running backs Jim Kiick, left, and Mercury Morris, right, smile at Independence Hall assisted living facility in Wilton Manors, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Both were teammates on the 1972 Miami Dolphins team, the only NFL team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. Morris visits Kiick regularly and both cherish each other’s friendship. (John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Look at those vacant eyes, bro, now, alas, gone.

Back to 2021.

More on that France thingie by summer, when it becomes possible for Americans to again travel to Europe, and our plans materialize.

Letting Go in 2020

It’s the second of January 2020, which means half the world has finally recovered from the New Year’s Eve hangover, and is looking into that dreaded full-body mirror.

Ugh.  Is that really me?

Ah, repentant Jan Detox is at the door, again… so full of ambition and crazy if not barely still realizable hopes!

Maybe, yes, it’s finally, finally the right time, the right moment — yet again! — to morph into the New Me.

I’m not immune to this.

I too wish to be Adonis at 20.  Unfortunately, I am fat and almost 70.

After wrestling with a weight problem since my thyroidectomy in 2014, I have tried with varying degrees of success to become thin again.

Hope springs eternal, and this year is no exception.

My goal in 2020 is to go from 270 lbs in January 2020 to 190 lbs by Nov 1st.  2020.

Not too ambitious or anything, yeah?

Helping me in this effort will be the German German shep puppy that’s going to become part of the family on Feb 1st.

Geneva (Neeva is her nick) is one the cute little pups you in the vid above; nothing like trying to train, and keep up with a vigorous, healthy, young German shepherd dog, to get oneself off the potato couch and out into the real world.

Another thing I am going to start doing is increasing the distance of my bike rides.

This past summer, I was clocking 10 – 15 miles every other day, as I cycled to a local gym for my workouts and yoga exercises. Serious bikers might dismiss this distance as amateurishly trivial, but when you weight 250+ lbs, 10 miles is a long haul, fellas, and everyone passes you by, including geezers older than even you.

But then I had my awful bike accident, and regained the 20 lbs I had lost in only 2 months.

Bummer, but I must slog back in shape (to avoid diabetes, strokes, etc), despite the pain caused by the damage sustained by my left axillary nerve due to this bicycle fall.

To this end, I’m going to resume yoga exerices, and also begin doing deep stretches in the pool.

I am also planning to engage in a variety of other types of flexiblility exercises on a daily basis, such as this, this, this and this (if, like me, you have a bad shoulder).

SOP boarding on the Loxahatchee River
Fat me on my SUP at the Jupiter inlet

Combined with a resumption of SUP boarding at the gloriously beautiful Jupiter Inlet, and consistent weight training (using 20 and 30 lbs dumbbells), I should be in much better shape by Spring — particularly if I manage to keep off the ice cream and limit myself to modest portions at meal time.

A fit body is only one aspect of my 2020 regen project.

The mind, too, must be exercised — at my age, which is currently 68, you lose it or lose it:  thus I’m planning to tackle an ambitious but necessary reading list exercise, which I will be alluding to (no more than capsule reviews or mentions!) in future posts.

In addition, I might resume developing animated Islamic motif SVGs. More on that, too, in later posts — unless a writing project I have been thinking about since Gouna takes off.

Lastly, there is the spiritual or mental health dimension of being healthy.

It’s no secret that we are living in a time when many people in America and around the world are stressed out.  Suicide is on the rise.  Many despair at having to deal with a mentally ill occupant in the White House.

Under such circumstances, being trapped in an apparently hopeless old age rut — such as the one you can easily fall into while living in Florida in a gated community — can result in lingering depression, losing interest in everything, and becoming permanently enfeebled, sick and physically dependent on others.

Travel goes a long way (haha) to way to combat this tendency.  I’ve done my bit in that regard, as you can see here from my Instagram pics of the 7-month trip I took to the Red Sea in Egypt back in 2017-18.

This year, I’m looking forward to returning to NYC, at the end of March, to attend Palestine Writes, the first Palestinian literary festival in North America.

Who knows….?

I might yet write another hikkaya this year.

As the fitness Guardian article states (see link above), the trick is to keep motivated, despite the setbacks that are bound to crop up along the way.

No reason to despair.

Waking up in the morning, at my age, is already half the battle won: the rest of the day is just icing on the cake!

leaving america