The Exploding Brain

Consider the culinary.

My wife and I had lunch here yesterday

If you are planning to leave America, and lead a hedonistic lifestyle in a place like Gouna, you might think to yourself that you are being irresponsible.

Should you not be doing more to save the world?


As an Epicurean, you don’t have to sweat such trifles.

For you have arrived at a stage of life where your goal is to achieve true happiness.

There is little you can actually do to prevent or even materially reduce the general misery that is so prevalent in the world: the best you can hope for is to remove misery from your own life.

A quote from one of my favorites books might be useful here:

“… grasping the way things really are is the crucial step toward the possibility of happiness.”

It’s not the indolent life that is sought by the Epicurean; rather, it’s the stripping away of all that is non-essential to happiness.

This means seeing through things such as avarice, jealousy, overweening ambition, and the desire to dominate others.

It means wanting very little for oneself except a calm life, far away from the din of the hordes of anxious believers, though there is nothing wrong with enjoying what life has to offer, such as the meal shown in these pictures.

Happiness means that if you had only 6 minutes left to live, that you would be perfectly content sitting completely still for 5:59, without any illusions, but also without any fear of what lies ahead, since as an Epicurean, you already know that when your élan vitale is snuffed out at the 6 minute mark, you will no longer care about anything.

Unless your brain perchance has pre-exploded.



Bob Dylan’s Moonshiner


“Sometimes I wonder where my next’s meal coming from.”

You can’t express it more plainly than that.

I’m not too far removed from where these people have been. You can see the amber pharmacy vial behind the computer screen.

My perspective on things still ain’t quite right after what happened in Istanbul. You can see that plainly too.

I was drinking too much arak and smoking far too much hash than is healthy for my mojo.

Midnight Express was never far from my mind.

tarabalsiSo I decided to quit. I got the shakes, so someone on the street in Tarlabasi gave me an AA book in Arabic.

After the DTs stopped, I thought it might be good to hit a goshdarn meeting, although these are well-known, born-again spy nests that prey on credulous Islamics with a drinking problem.

So I looked. Nothing for a while, until finally I found one in a less skanky part of town.

I walked in to a room with a framed poster of From Russia With Love hanging on the wall. There was only one guy there, sitting on one of the vintage Kohn bistro chairs that were arranged in a circle on a tattered carpet. He looked complicated.

I sat down next to him, and waited.

Finally I asked the guy when the meeting starts.

Soon, he said.

This meeting been around long?

Five years.

Then he said, you’re the first one to ever show up.

I considered this.

Then I said, you manage to stay clean that whole time?

Mostly, he eventually replied.

They say there’s no such thing as a bad meeting.

Funny thing is, I’ll be back in Istanbul airport for a few hours in mid September, on my way to Gouna.

You can listen to Dylan ‘s complete version of Moonshine here.


Good old Irish tune; so knock back the Guinness on this one.



52 Days Away!

map of Gouna and Hurghada

A map I picked up 4 years ago in Egypt

The obsession with Trump in the media and commentariat such as Ezra Klein, Glenn Greenwald and David Frum is reaching epic proportions.

This does not include the thousands of liberal/progressive (this is the mealy-mouthed version of Liberalism that is too ashamed to say its own name) bloggers who rant daily on the Internet on the malediction that is Trump.

Without seeming to realize it, the entire country has gradually drifted into terminal lunacy, like a frog sitting in a saucepan of cold water on a lit stovetop burner. As the water heats up, its body compensates for the gradual rise in temperature, and the frog doesn’t jump out. Eventually, Pepe is boiled alive.

nyc antifaThe Thinking Man or Woman is the anti-Pepe that jumps out.

He does not waste words or time bemoaning Trumposis, or embracing the doomed antifa cause.

Nor does he attempt to make sense out of an insane system that is guided by a loathsome agenda.

He recognizes a brown shirt when he sees it.

He pities the economically naive and politcally gullible segment of the Trumpian base that is “conservative” about everything except saving the planet.

But he is not a fool.

He knows voting is for suckers, that the game has always been rigged.

Instead, he stands apart — noble, and tall, with a firm and manly jaw line — from the general madness of peasants, hands unsullied by voting levers that even industrial-strength sani wipes would fail to decontaminate.

From his aristocratic perch, The Thinking Man evaluates the situation objectively.

If, on an overall basis, the policies of a particular country seem unsuitable, he will leave for more temperate pastures. This particular stance is of course only possible with multiple passports, and a bank account that provides an escape hatch from doctrinal suffocation or provincial entrapment.


How’s that “Fuck your feelings” thingie workin’ out for ya, Pepe

The Thinking Man does not attach himself too closely to any one country; an exit strategy must alway be in place.

After all, all countries, like most people, have more or less sordid histories to one degree or another.

Moreover, The Thinking Man is an agnostic, in politics, business or especially in spiritus. When it comes to religion, he will, at best, cautiously murmur something about agápē, for all religions, too, have lurid pasts.  All saints have skeletons in their closets, and many sinners, as the song goes, were once saints.

If you are young and idealistic, you might tell yourself: no, that is so wrong.

You might instead cry out: I will stay in America! I will change the system! I will make the world a better place!

This is of course a complete waste of time. My generation attempted to change the system once. There were millions of us who wanted to do so. Nothing changed. What chance do you have, junior?

Everyone knows the world is set up is to protect the connected and the well-heeled.

Everyone knows the primacy of sex, money, and power.

If you are young and smart, you will have ample opportunities to enjoy these illusory pleasures.

For instance, there has never been a better time to become rich through technology. Solar, for example, is now huge.

With the knowledge that comes with a deep mastery of cutting edge technical skills, be it advanced solar panel research, or designing driverless car systems, or whatever opportunities one chooses to target, it’s possible to achieve relative financial independence at a young age. But then what? Give it all away? Move to New Zealand? Sue Internet ‘zines? Become a serial entrepeneur? Trade out for another, better wife or husband? Buy a bigger brownstone in Brooklyn?

If, on the other hand, you come from money, you will seem to have all the advantages. This is another illusion, of course, for you will most likely sink into a drug-addled, alcoholic morass, or engage in a parasitic lifestyle that is otherwise depraved and pathetic. This almost always happens.

The Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard are bursting at the seams with vile bodies who, er, embody Balzac’s dictum:

Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente
est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait.

Leaving the United States in the age of Trumposis is the Thinking Man’s only reasonable option.  Better keep thy counsel and stay far away from the obsessions, the lies, the constant agita, the fruitless investigations, the wild accusations, recriminations, molestations, and drama queen bullshit.

Obviously the Republican party is out to screw the poor, the old, and the defenseless.

Obviously a significant percentage of white Americans are racist anti-Semites.

Obviously the United States is a war mongering nation that cannot get over its love affair with guns.

Obviously there is no respect for personal privacy in the United States, unless (1) you have the money, time and inclination to occlude your digital and public footprint in a variety of tedious ways that will complicate your existence exponentially, and (2), had the foresight and perspecuity, as I did, to deregister your vote from your state’s election database (in some states, you will have had to have refrain from voting for at least two successive presidential cycles in order to foil Trump’s operatives).

Now what about being a first generation Arab immigrant in America in the age of Tromposis?

Some say, the hate is normal. Each generation of immigrants dumps on the next one. Soon, Arab-Americans will start to vilify some other Yahya-come-latelies.

Except that Arab Americans are not new to this country.  They didn’t just get off the boat yesterday. In fact, they have been around since the 19th century.

One hundred years ago, downtown Manhattan was a thriving Syrian enclave.  Right where they banned the building of a mosque after 9-11.

But still the human garbage that appears on the Australian Rupert Murdoch’s various hate mongering media outlets talk about Arab Americans as if they are not part of the fabric of the United States.

So, if you are an Arab-American, as I am, the choice of becoming an expat is a no brainer.

The drumbeat of some sort of heinous “Moslem registration” system is getting louder, and various travel bans and increasingly intrusive facial scanning for US citizens exiting Gulag America at domestic airports will soon become a reality.

“Denationalization” is being peddled in the White House by grotesque hate scumbags, such as Frank Gaffney, Pam Geller, and the rest of the despicable crew that trades in Islamophobia for a living.

So… you could leave…. or… remain costive in America, accept second-class citizenship, and forever look over your shoulder, every time you leave your house, for fear of some alt-right thug lurking in the bushes.

Is this a life?

I do not define my existence through any religion, nor do I practice one. But I need to know that I have that right, should I choose to do so. I need to know I will not be discriminated against when I travel, or apply for a job, or am up for promotion, or wish to buy a house, or belong to some club.

This is no longer possible in America for many; not just Arab-Americans.

I will spare you the soap box rationale, and cut right to the point.

Following the election of Donald Trump, I decided I’d finally had enough.

I’d had it with putting up with my ethnicity being endlessly reviled in the media and slurred with impunity by local and national right-wing politicians; or with being made to feel by neighbors that I somehow do not belong here — even though I have owned the house I live in longer than most of them. I’d had it up to here with being made to feel, in ways large and small, somehow less than, a ticking menace to society, a suspicious Other.

If America chooses to betray its own alleged principles, so be it.

Perhaps the noble experiment turned out to be the biggest illusion of them all.

I no longer care.

After all, the Thinking Man never forgets that Patriotism is nothing if not a provisional game, played by knaves and fools.

Look at the map up top. That is where I shall be chillin’, exactly two months from now.

There, in my troubled country of origin, I shall be far away from the Trumpian confederacy of nunces that has overtaken America. There I can finally be in touch, again, with my inner Epicurean.


Tee patch, from better days

I plan to kick back in Gouna, where the beauty in the surrounding desert can take your breath away, maybe sip a cool glass of Stella beer once in a while, perhaps after a pleasant day spent writing fiction or movie reviews. I shall snorkel in crystal clear water over pristine reef. I may join the Rotary Club and engage in charity work with Bedouin children. Most of all, I look forward to visiting with friends from time to time, friends who would never think of labeling Islam, or any other religion for that matter, in deeply insulting ways.


It shan’t be missed; and though I have lived here for half a century, I’ve made no plans to return.


Late breaking news: This is of course a rather disturbing, if not ominous development. I’ll be hanging out in Nice first, come early September, before flying to Hurghada, then taking a private car to Gouna. If Egypt is too unstable, my UK/EU passport allows me to reside in, say, France, should I choose to do so — at least while Brexit negotiations drag on.