Dealing with Failure

florida beach
The beach near my house in FLA. I hang out here a lot less than I used to, and come 2 or 3 times a week to exercise by walking a few miles up and down a mostly empty beach that’s a protected nature preserve

The observable fact is that things are improving.  That is the current datum.

Why is that?

I am not sure.  For 17 long years, things were going downhill.

I am an emigrant from Egypt and the UK.

I came to this country in the late 60s.

I lived in NYC, and worked in Fintech most of my career.

In 2001, I lost a great job due to the tech meltdown. So I moved to Florida.  Went to France for the summer, plenty of money in the bank still, thinking that when I got back I could take my pick and choose my next great career move.

Now during this time, a highly mysterious French programmer wrote a piece of software called “b2/cafelog ,” and a college kid called Matt noticed.  I didn’t, though.  I was too busy trying to find a job and feeling sorry for myself.

Hundreds (or maybe it was only 15, I can’t remember anymore) of resumés send-outs later, I still couldn’t find work.

Let’s see, I had worked as a programmer and systems analyst in Manhattan for over 25 years at some of the biggest financial companies in America, and I couldn’t get a job?

Why?

Was it 9-11, you know the Arab thing?

Bad luck?

Age?

All of the above?

So I wrote to a childhood friend who, at the time, had great tech job in the Gulf and his answer was basically I’m kind of busy right now. This is a guy who I once helped by pulling family strings to make things easier for him in terms of being drafted in the Egyptian army.  Send your res to Bayt.com, he said:  that was his response, instead of, say, introducing me to any one of his many contacts in Dubai who might have offered me work.

Understandably, I got a little miffed about that.  I learned that people have short memories.  I learned that loyalty is not a two way street. I learned that people don’t always remember down that road what you once did for them, that sometimes they prefer to forget it entirely.

But I still had money in the bank.

So I said, fuck it, I am going to walk the deserts, not like some of the geezer Birkenstock tourists I recently saw in Tavira, Portugal, but like a nomad, a sort of Bruce Chatwin, minus the gay thing, with a knapsack and notebook, travelling literally to remote deserts, and spending the little money I had saved from selling the Greenwich CT house on a sort of extended Leaving Las Vegas binge. I wrote a few stories, during this time; they got published in Mizna, until that pub stop liking me and I told them to go fuck themselves.

This worked for a while, but underneath it all I was worried as shit.  I was still in my 50s.  What was I going to do with the rest of my life?

This more than kept my up at night; it ate me alive with worry.

And I did become embittered.

Finally, from all the stress, I contracted Graves’ Disease.

It almost killed me.  This life-threatening autoimmune disorder resulted in my body attacking itself; unfortunately, I exhibited ever possible manifestation or symptom of Graves, from pretibial myxedema to bulging eyes to erratic mood swings to purples bruises on my faces and elbows.

Unable to deal with the nasty behavior that hyperthyroidism often engenders in its victims , my wife almost left me — we separated for a year, and commenced divorce proceedings.

Alone, depressed, jobless, I was no longer the handsome young man with a bright future that she fell in love with some twenty years earlier.  I had become the angry, resentful old Florida guy no one wanted around any more.

My life stopped having any meaning and my vacuous days seemed pointless.

I didn’t give up completely, though.

I still emailed strangers — or, rather, company bots — about getting something akin to my old “datum” job back, but I kept getting shot down, and finally no one even bothered answering my job applications any more. My wife even suggested at some point that I change my name — Americanize it, the way many immigrants to America used to in the past — and shave years off my birth date: in old school IBM punch card terms, to fold, spindle and mutilate my true identity into some fictitious heteronym; that is to say, to no longer be who I am; to become, in effect, a living lie, instead of a human being.

Finally, a friend took me aside, when I went up to DC, in a last-ditch attempt to get a consultant subcontracting gig.

He was someone whom I had hired in the old days, when I was a tech honcho at a billion dollar company based in Virginia.

He said:  do you mind if I be honest with you?  Even if you never speak to me again, I owe you this.

I said okay.

He took a deep breath and said your life is over in tech. You were at the top, once, but now you’re not a player any more. Face it: you’re never going to be hired in a tech position ever again, let alone be considered the IT visionary you once were. That was a long time ago, before all that went down happened. Tech is a young man’s game.  You warned me about that yourself, once.

So do yourself a favor, he said.

Look in the mirror.

Ageist as this sounds, would you then have hired you as you are now?

My conclusion was that I could either turn to something like becoming an airport limo driver, or giving up and turn into the guy who goes to the liquor store at 9am and is never seen in public except for the early morning, darting beer and whisky runs.

What do you do when your life is over, except commit suicide on the installment plan, or be the codger who packs shopping carts at the checkout line at the supermarket?

In 2016, a lot of people were like me.  The 2008 housing bubble had wiped them out financially. For some, it was the lack of construction work; for others, it was globalism that outsourced their well-paid union jobs; for white collar workers, many had simply gotten older and were no longer welcome in the offices where they once made other people rich.

And so, many of them voted for Donald Trump.

They needed to believe the con that he would make it all better.  That he would put the screws on those guys who were responsible for your life turning to shit.  Because that wasn’t your fault.  What had happened had nothing to do with you.  You had played the game fair and square and they came with their Moslem and Mexican and Jew ways and fucked your life up. It was Them that did it, those fucking bastards who wanted to take your place, and live in your house, and fuck your white daughter, while leaving you out on the curb with no place to go except rot like a piece of garbage.

Somebody had to answer for that.

Or so it went for many.

Others vanished.  They became zombies, which is essentially what I did.

I stopped taking care of my physical appearance.

I stopped reading, because it was too hard for me now to do so, and I couldn’t afford the cataract operation.

I pointlessly walked the beaches, first for days, months, and then years.

For no reason.

With no purpose, except just to not to sit around.

Sometimes I saw the carapace of dead turtles that had washed up on the beach and were being picked clean by the seagulls and crabs.  Sometimes I saw small boats that had shipwrecked.  But mostly I saw old guys like me, either fishing or walking the beach for no reason other than there was nothing else to do.

What do you do when your mind is still alive yet no one wants you anymore because no one wants to deal with what everyone perceives is a loser?

Many people say they would rather starve than be pitied and turn into charity cases, but the soup kitchens are full people who had to swallow their pride for the sake of their families.

How do you stop from going insane, as everyone around tries one way or another to pry ever last dime you have on some car or insurance or payday hustle and you finally find yourself alone waiting to die in some 600 dollar a month studio with barely enough money left over to pay for food, your  meds, and the beer you drink now to make all the hurt go away because you don’t matter anymore to anyone except every few years when some politician in a smart suit says this or that or the other thing and then goes away till the next election?

Of course not everyone my age went down that route.

Some started taking steroid shots, so their knees could withstand logging those he-man mega clicks on their expensive bicycles; others administered themselves testosterone injections and even Viagra, to get rid of the moobs and still be able to fuck that trophy wife or girlfriend; while others still pumped iron and did everything in their power to make the comeback that never happened, until they realized that there comes a time when not even Michael Jordan can play basketball any more.

So where did that leave me?

With all the gun shops in Florida, taking yourself out is a real easy option.

But… ultimately…. I finally ended up going another route.

Stay tuned for Part II of this maybe completely fictional, maybe not, post, when the reference I made earlier to the history of WordPress will start making sense and I’ll start to talk about positive solutions, despite still being trapped in a suffocating world that was slowly killing me.

leaving america

Achtung, habibi!

Moods Gouna
Moods restaurant in Abu Tig marina in Gouna

With the retweets of the Britain First videos, Donald Trump has now earned the right to be called the Terrorist in Chief, striking fear in the heart of all Arab-Americans that they will now be the target of even more violence and intimidation and harassment by the state and right-wing nut jobs across the United States.

This confirms that my instinct for survival — after being physically threatened by my neighbors in the state of Florida  — was on the money and that my decision to leave America was the correct one.

Few Arab Americans are truly safe today in America.  The Terrorist in Chief has seen to that.  But fight back we must — in the most effective (and legal) way we can.  In my case, before fighting back anything, I still have a way to go on that score;  I am still too shaken, too damaged, by 16 years of living in the American Taliban-controlled Deep South.

To that end, I am signing on Monday a deal to move into a villa (see pics in previous post) in a much quieter section of El Gouna, Egypt.  I feel safe here,  thanks to ironclad security in this part of Egypt.

Here I do not have to apologize or disguise the fact that  I was born Moslem.  Here people pronounce my name correctly.  Here  I can once again speak the language I grew up with and spoke as a kid, which I once could both speak, write and read with fluency. I cannot tell you how much emotional satisfaction that gives me on a daily basis:  to recover the Cairene Arabic slang of my childhood, and to begin again to think like an Egyptian, not some bogus transplant who never quite fit in in America, though for after 3 decades of living in Manhattan, I lulled myself into thinking differently.

My beautiful wife will be joining me in mid December.  She, too deserves a break from the devolution of the United States into a viperous quagmire under the illegitimate reign of the Terrorist in Chief.  I hope she will like the villa, and enjoy playing tennis with some of my childhood friends who have moved here.

I hope she will be happy to see me again, after all these months!

True, Gouna is not perfect.  In particular, Abu Tig marina is only suitable if you’re a tourist passing through, or a young couple here for a long weekend at Party Cerntral.  It is too loud, too transient, and frankly, I did take exception to the nightclubs discoing the nights away as all of Egypt was in a 3-day period of mourning after the Sinai terror attack against the Sufi mosque.

Sometimes there are young Egyptians who come to this apartment building who, to my way of thinking, obviously should not be here; there was one such quartet last week, and they make a lot of noise and acted very arrogantly, and then they left.

Yesterday, a young German couple arrived; they were booked to stay in the same apartment as the Egyptian quartet.  I heard them moving in, but soon I heard the German guy shouting very loudly in outrage about the state of filth and disrepair the quartet had left the apartment, which had obviously not properly been cleaned after their departure.

The German guy demanded another flat, and that was that.

Today, I will not be thinking about the Terrorist in Chief, or about the unending stream of horrifying news that is emanating daily from America.

I will, however, briefly contemplate how similar my reaction to the Nov ’16 election results to the German guy’s vis a vs his holiday rental: get me outta here!

In effect, in January of 2017, I looked at what America was becoming, and said, no, I will not stay here in this evil, hate-filled hellhole, a place that was slowly turning me into something I am not: an embittered, angry old man, who felt powerless, and less than.

But then, after dismissing the thought as ridiculously facile — leaving your rental flat is one thing, abandoning your adopted country quite another –I shall spend the day relaxing at Moods (see pic above), and will have a nice burger for lunch, read a bit, then go for a swim (if the water is not too cold) on its private Red Sea beach, to which I have free access as a resident with a special card, far away from the clutches of the Terrorist in Chief and his troglodyte acolytes.

Life as it should be, as they say here.

Achtung, habibi!

 

leaving america