Where Is All this Headed?

I woke up today feeling okay. I walked the dog, took care of some banking business then made myself of bowl of spaghetti with fresh garden herbs and Tunisian olive oil.

Suddenly I felt exhausted. And even a slight case of panic. It was still only 11am.

I had Comcast on the Soundscapes channel. My dog was on the couch next to me.

And as I read the news, I began to wonder: where all we all going? where is all this storm and fury headed? who is thinking about and planning for where we are going to be in 20 or 30 or 50 years from now?

In 50 years, will there even be a planet left?

I shall be 70 this summer — a number I never even thought about as remotely possible in my twenties and 30s, when the hard drinking was taking place, and I spent years lounging in NYC dive bars, getting fired from job after job, losing friends, making few new ones, and trying to understand how to deal with what I went through as a severely dissociated teen — after losing everything: my family, my language, my sense of who I was at 16, yoked without so much as being asked from a beautiful country I loved.

I encountered American racism towards Arabs and especially Muslims early on.
They made fun, for example, of how I spoke, or the clothes I then wore, or my ethnicity.
They kept me out of the good colleges I applied, even though I won creative writing awards in High School, scored in the 700s in my SATs, and was in a humanities honors class.

After all, I was to them nothing more than the equivalent of un sale arabe.

They, they, them — if it’s grievances you trade on, let me show you mine.

I guess it hit me, by the time I trudged up to Albany to attend a third rate university that nothing I did mattered.

That the fix was in.
And if the fix was in, then tout est permit, as the existentialists used to say.  And when one day during my sophomore year I came across Douglas Day’s bio of Malcom Lowry, and read The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, I knew my path was set.

Even though alcohol and I were strangers, I would become a drunk.  I would get laid for a while — for I was in fact handsome when young — but would gradually lose my looks.  I would not mind dying before 30, I thought then, so long as the unfinished brilliant novel was left behind, to shame everyone — all those who never believed in me.

After all, nothing matters.

And so I drank, and drank, and drank some more in the lower Manhattan of the mid 70s.

And made sure that I threw away any opportunity that came my way, always managing to snatch defeat — as an Israeli politician once remarked in a different context — from the jaws of victory.

The years started to run, and opportunities became fewer and fewer.  The girls became increasingly more damaged. I began to sleep on the couches of people I barely knew, one night here, the other night there, the other still maybe out in West Side park in a cardboard box in the middle of Winter.

I did not die at 30.

But with each passing day, I traveled further away from that boy who came to America in a boat at 16, ripped for no discernible reason from a place where everything was going his way.

The long nights unfolded, slowly at first, then quickly — as Papa might say. From time to time, I allowed a glimpse of what could have been to show, until the bold arrogance of youth finally gave way to the humiliating uncertainties of middle age.

Now I am 69.

I no longer look anything like that kid, but still feel connected to why he did what he did because will he will never forget or forgive what happened on a January morning in 1967. The guilty remain so even in death.

I cannot fathom what the future holds for me personally.

Eckhart preaches that all we have is now.

But my now is composed of so many interlaced versions of half true, half imagined stories that float with disconnected fury in my mind, then erupt like a volcano that is never dormant for long.

I don’t even know what now is.

Perhaps next year is when I will find this out.

Or next week.

There’s always a next time, something in the distance, until suddenly there isn’t.

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

The Dignity of Sand Cranes

Sand Cranes outside my house in Florida

Since returning from Portugal, almost two weeks ago, I have been engaged in a ferocious internal debate:  what should I focus my energies on next (other than preparing to move to Portugal next year)?

The choice is ternary:

a) Do nothing; hang out; chill; exercise; lose weight; ignore whatever happens with the coming election and the daily fulminations of the orange asshole and his friends and supporters; or,

b) develop a WP plug-in idea that I had a few months ago, one that I think has realistic commercial promise; or,

c) Write the novel I have been thinking (and talking about endlessly) about since 2005.

The first choice is the easiest.  Gripe about Trump, while spinning around in a state of powerless fury and resentment, and spewing forth the occasional rant in this blog that few will bother reading.

The second, ambitious, but — at age 67 — unlikely to happen, except very slowly, if at all.

There was a time when I was quite good at designing and managing the implementation of large-scale financial database applications; alas, tech is nothing if not a young person’s game, and with my eyesight such as is it is nowadays, and my grasp of modern computer languages and paradigms poor to nonexistent, I take an, er, dim view of the likelihood of accomplishing anything notable in that regard anytime soon, even on a hobby basis.  I was good at it, once, and was well paid for it; but that train left the station a long time ago.

The third choice is more promising (and quite frankly, engaging at an intellectual level) — providing I keep my expectations low, keep at it every day, and allow my imagination to run free of any constraint, to go where it wishes, without any self censorship, which has been a big problem in the past.

While writing a book in one’s dotage is perhaps the most clichéd of all endeavors — I find that I continue to have a great interest in literature;  beyond that, the urge to write has never left me.  I can’t stop doing it, literally.

For example today, as I was bicycling past one of the Sand Crane families that live around my house, I was able for the first time to picture the opening scene for that novel I have been thinking about since those أفيون-filled days, when I hung out in hippie Dahab a decade or so ago, before it fell to commercialization and lost its many charms.

So… the answer is clear.  Read widely, write every day, and stay healthy.  Who knows:  maybe, at last, 2019 will the year that I complete a novel.

Should that miracle happen — the one that in fact no one is holding their breath for — I will make sure I send a signed copy to the good folks of Mizna — who rejected a story of mine this year, making it the third submission in a row that they tossed in the trash bin.

My memory is quite long about such things, and I will show them could be a great motivator, except that, at my age, such a sentiment would be unseemly.

Besides, there are a lot of things that need to be talked about through the medium of fiction… horrible things, for sure, undignified for sure, scandalous no doubt, at least to a person holding a stereotypical American or Arab/Egyptian frame of reference, yet insistent on being expressed nonetheless, instead of being swept under the magic carpet of neocon bombast and fascist suppression of whatever stripe.

Let’s see what happens.


leaving america