Zahma

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The world today is a crowded place, and all sort of people push their way in on to the subway car at rush hour.
The tracks are creaking from what in Arabic is called zahma, the crowd, and the price of your ride keeps going up.
But you are different, you tell yourself.
You are not part of this horde.
You think for yourself, and at heart, you are a Bohemian.
And so you ask yourself: Why does one read a novel or view a painting?
Is it to pass the time?
To see the world in a new way?
Why do you still tape those art posters on the walls of your shotgun apartment?

Let me tell you a story.
There was a group of Egyptian artists, once.
They rose during the time of Farouk the King.
Many if not most spoke French.
They traveled to France. They picked up the mannerisms of the Surrealists.
Then of course they wrote a Manifesto. (It’s charmingly dated, like a Tristan Tzara sendup, but worth the quick read, especially the French version.)
Après tout, all Surrealists had to also be pamphleteers.
Some were arrested for threatening the King’s rule.
But then Farouk was forced to abdicate, and the young Surrealists, dubbed Les Inquiets by the art critic Aimé Azar, became super patriotic.
They believed in the Socialist dream.
Nasser loved and supported them. They served a useful political purpose: they proved that his hukooma was not only about hanging those who disagreed with him.
The Inquiets created images of the New Egypt.
Then the Socialist dream turned to ashes in 1967.
Many years passed, and the art of the anxious young Idealists was appropriated by the State, and ended up in dusty government warehouses and in the storage rooms of dilapidated museums.
The revolving ministers of Culture in Egypt saw no value in them.
Neglect fell upon the land of Egypt.
But then, slowly, a market emerged, fueled by private collectors.
Suddenly, Egyptian billionaires like Naguib Sawiris — whose presence is global, even though he purportedly rides around El Gouna in a bicycle — were snapping up paintings by the likes of Abdel Hadi el Gazzar for millions.
Cairo dealers woke up to the commercial value of yesterday’s Idealists, and thus a market for fraudulent art was born.
It continues to thrive in the phoniness of today’s Egypt, as President Peepee and his henchmen arrest and even torture anyone in sight who might speak out the truth.
Just like Mubarak and Sadat and Nasser did, and the English during the time of Farouk and Fouad before that lot. Just like when the young Idealists were nabbed and beaten in jails when Egypt was a kingdom for the few.

Now I ask you again, why do you read novels?
Why do you look at paintings?
Do you say, oh I’m hip to Ganzeer, I know all about how the dreams of the Arab Spring turned to sewage. I know all about Using Life.
Do you?
Do you really know anything real at all about Arabs?
As the truth about what happened in 2016 becomes clearer by the day, yet the abydocomist-in-chief remains in the Oval Office — you might ask yourself: how is America different in that regard from Egypt? or Iraq? or Iran? or Israel?
You will surely continue to hear, from the xenophobes and charlatans, oh these Arabs do not belong here. This is our land. These are terrorists; they are not part of our culture.

But then you might also hear, by chance, a whisper about some obscure novel and your curiosity is piqued: Is it possible, you say? Did Arabs really emigrate to NYC in the late 19th Century?
Was there a little Syria in the borough of Manhattan on Washington Street, right by where 9-11 took place?
And did an Arab-American writer who lived there during that time produce a sophisticated novel in English as far back as 1911?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes again.
And so you read this novel, The Book of Khalid, and you read about the unusual life of Ameen Fares Rihani, and your astonishment grows, particularly if you were an English major in college and thus able to make the connection to Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus.
Sartor Resartus? Carlyle? Arabs? And Surrealism too?
Is this possible?

Arabs are animals, they say.
Many have spent their lives over the centuries trying to parlay this idea.
You stop and think:
They speak French, these animals?
They produce culture?
They write novels and create works of art?
In America, more than a hundred years ago, and in the world at large for a thousand years before that?
These are the same animals who are busy producing some of the best fiction being written today, despite the threat of imprisonment and death?
These are the terrorists you hear so much about?
You might also ask yourself:  why is it that the 9-11 Memorial Museum suppressed any mention of Little Syria and the tragic if not obscene irony of a generational catastrophe in the very place where Arabs once thrived in lower Manhattan?
What’s that all about?

You stop and again ask yourself.
Why read novels?
Why look at art works or street graffiti?
To be entertained? To make a killing in the art market one day?
Or is it something more urgent?
Are these the last remaining places to find out a deeper though always provisional Truth, as the zahma threatens to leave you brain-dead amidst the rats on the subway tracks to nowhere?
Is that it?
Is it, in fact, the last vestige of what’s left of your humanity?

leaving america

Ramadan, the Hot Month

His Magnificence, Generalissimo Sobhy, hoping he’ll never have to ever fight a real war against Israel

Here’s the latest from the sandy lands of Arabia….

As Cairo wilts under a heat wave on the eve of Ramadan, President Peepee’s much decorated Minister of Defense, one Sedki Sobhy, has just spent quality time earlier this week in Vlad Land with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu.

Because of what is going on in the Middle East, pleaded the Generalissimo, who seems to have forgotten how effective SAMs and other Ruskie military paraphernalia were during the 6-Day war, we Egyptians are wetting our beds nightly because we don’t have enough machine guns, enough tanks, enough helicopters, or even enough spyware to monitor and arrest protect Internet and mobile users in Egypt.

Said Sobhy: We could be shot in the dick at any moment by that ragtag bunch of desert vermin lurking in the caves of Northern Sinai, whom we have already completely vanquished in the latest anti terrorist operation of course, but still… they could return at any time, with the bloodlust of holy vengeance, if we don’t have the latest takh takh at the ready!

Meanwhile in America, many got boners at the sight of Jared and beautiful Ivanka attending the heart warming ceremonies for the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, because that means The Lord is coming any day now.

It’s the fault of the left-wing media that the children of Gaza are suffering today, scoffed David Friedman, a lovely human being if ever there was one, as images of unarmed protesters being mowed down by the Israeli army were beamed around the world.

Back in Egypt, President Peepee is in a quandary.  What to do?  After last month’s sham Presidential election, his position is still shaky.  What if his best friend, the Orange One, is removed from office?  What then?  While it’s true that things are going well on the Morsi front (the only legitimately elected President of Egypt is slowly dying in prison, which is such great news!), Peepee knows things can turn on a dime.

So he sends the Generalissimo to play footsie with the Russians, because what Egypt needs now above all else is a stronger army to enslave defend the Egyptian people, who should know better than to oppose a strong, noble and handsome man such as himself.

In Gouna, on the Red Sea, where I just spent 7 months, the mandarins of Abu Tig marina continue to relax, uneasily, under the broiling sun — their houses and yachts secure (for now), as tuc-tuc drivers sweat it out for a pittance.  Soon these pseudo Egyptians will be retiring to their chalets in Switzerland and Northern Italy and villas in the South of France for the summer, though many will party in Knightsbridge, or their love nests in, say, Romania, one of the enlightened EU countries that is joining the US in relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.

“We will only destroy a few filthy Arabii huts in East Jerusalem for this Christian project,” said a high Romanian official, who spoke to Haaretz on condition of anonymity.

With all these latest developments, Jews everywhere are rejoicing.

They have won. Bibi has won. The Big Lie that is at the heart of America’s support of Israel’s right to “self defense” has won.

what the people want

Not only have the vast majority of Egyptians been turned into geldings vis-à-vis the Sahyouni project, but endless war prevails in the Middle East, which is of course a very good thing for the only Democracy in the region, still so unjustly misunderstood.

President Peepee, though, readily grasps the current global situation and acquiesces daily to the glory of the Zionist entity: he has in fact become Bibi’s second bestest Arabitch friend.  They talk on the phone all the time, joking about how easy it is to hoodwink gullible Americans with The Coming Rapture jive, or starve and kill Palis, who are nothing but untrustworthy goat fuckers anyway.

Wonders are many, but none more than how Peepee allowed Israel to celebrate its founding at a recent soirée at the former Nile Hilton — with Nasser no doubt rattling in his nearby mausoleum, but with few of Cairo’s current crop of ruthless effendis seeing a real problem with it, or the latest Israeli-Egypto gas deal. Alas, the venerable Ros el Youssef did not see fit to  let this welcome Israeli diplomatic event pass without publishing a deeply troubling cartoon.

And so Ramadan arrives, bringing peace and joy everywhere to the Muslim world.

The House of Saud, too, has lately been hot on Bibi — isn’t that marvelous?! how more Guardians of Mecca can you get?! — as is their new good friend Peepee, who was nice enough to gift Mohammad Bin Salman a few Egyptian islands in the Red Sea, in return for a trifle of baksheesh, and of course that mega project in the South Sinai.

Everyone is waiting for the next adventure: the bombing of Iran — as once called for by the now dying but already canonized McCain — for that should be great fun!

More money for everybody at the American taxpayer’s expense, and more opportunity for all those kids who are stuck scraping by at Walmart and Jimmy Ds to join the army, kill some camel jockeys, then retire before they are forty with full pension and en-surance bennies for life.

Sweet deal!

And it’s not even the oh so aptly-named Ramadan yet.

 

leaving america

America the Unbeautiful

hate

The face of American hate

It was only a matter of time.
I have barely been back in Florida three weeks, following a seven-month hiatus in El Gouna, Egypt, and already the intimidation and harassment on the street by the notorious Gang of Three has commenced.
Today, as I returned to my house on my bike after a 15-mile ride, one of these individuals — let’s call him Loafer Guy — was standing in “his” driveway, which is about 200 or so feet away from mine, with the nasty white-haired old hag — known as The Wraith —who lives across the street from him.
They stood like sentinel plants, insolently staring at me pull into my driveway, as if I did not really have the right to do that — in a house I have owned for nearly twenty years — as if, as an Arab-American, I did not really belong in this country.
Suddenly Loafer Guy hocked up a loogie then, ptooie, spat it out in my direction, making a deliberately loud khaptouf sound in this grotesque process.  The Wraith did nothing except continue to stare, as if this behavior were normal and in fact called for.
Not to be seen was the ringleader of the Gang of Three — a despicable New Jersey runt, whom I’ve nicknamed Roger.
Rogee is pushing 90 and looks like a homeless person with one foot in the grave. He lives directly across the street from me, and has threatened me with physical violence in the past: I called the police; they did nothing.
Unusual for him, Rogee was not around for this little drama, but of course had again left his garage door open all day — though it is against the association’s rules to do so — as if to assert his twisted territorial rights.
Loafer Guy is in his 50s and has been unemployed at least a decade.
He hangs around on this street, after being thrown out by the County Sheriff for non-payment of his mortgage, around when the housing bubble crashed, in another association not far from here.
Now he’s just waiting for his 90-year-old bedridden Mama to kick the bucket so he can inherit the house and perhaps move on to wherever.
He’s from Middle America, one of the God-forsaken flyover states, and has spent the last twenty years as a transient in FLA, always lurking around its reddest fringes.
The Wraith with the dead husband — she could be from anywhere — is a hopelessly angry old coot who rarely leaves the immediate surroundings of her house.
This street may be in the middle of Nowheresville, but it’s their entire, pathetic world, one that they never leave, one they zealously guard against the blacks, the Mexicans, the Jews, the Arabs, Democrats… and whatever FOX news tells them is the enemy that is secretly plotting to make their way of life vanish.
When I left El Gouna less than a month ago, a few people whom I had become friends with bought me a goodbye present.  I am still wearing it — a Bedouin style ID beaded bracelet with my name on it — that has been on my right wrist since the day I left Egypt.
Yet when I arrived here, not one person bothered to say hello and welcome me back.
I don’t imagine it’s breaking news to anyone reading this post that most of Florida, especially white, old Florida, is Trumplandia every inch of the way.
No matter what the Orange Turd does, these despicable racists will vote for him as well as for every corrupt right-wing pol who supports their Fascist agenda.
For the most part, around here at least, these are deeply uneducated people: boorishly ill-mannered, and filled with hatred — perhaps because at some level they must realize how deeply pointless their wretched lives have turned out, how at the end of their miserable existence they never amounted to much.
And so for that they have to find someone or a group of people to scapegoat. They are not adult enough to recognize that they simply failed in life and it is nobody’s fault but their own, that they were never good enough or intelligent enough to do any better than hate and poison the body politic with their toxic collective disappointment that they can never squarely come to terms with or it would destroy whatever shred of self esteem they may have left.
I am not talking about the traditional grumpy old geezerhead here; I am talking about the sorts of people you find in places like Florida, whose every word is laced with the acid of self hatred turned into a perpetual sense of aggrieved victimhood.
Imagine condemning yourself in old age to being… that, a loathsome monster filled with impotent rage that once in a while turns murderous.
Meanwhile, what should I do?
Buy a pistol?
Take Concealed Carry and Krav Maga courses, which are popular around here?
Lurk around gun ranges?
Seal the outside salt filter system in case Loafer Guy creeps onto my property one night and dumps lye or strychnine in my water filtration system?
Hmmm…. let’s see.
I do actually have an October 1st return ticket booked on Egyptair to Gouna… only because it was cheaper to do so, not because Egypt with its even more rancid governing junta offers any kind of solution.
In the meantime, I will continue to make my 66-year-old body stronger. This incident has only motivated me further to body build — not bulk, but lean taut muscle — such that these creeps, and any others like them, might think twice about crossing that invisible line that keeps us all from reverting to some primitive feral state of being.
Buying a gun or taking Israeli self-defence course is only becoming one of them, just another crazy Florida creep.
Time has a way of sorting things out.
The Wraith and Roger are probably not long for this world. They cling on — in fact I refer to them, and people like them, as Klingons — as the poison of rancorous hatred courses more strongly through their varicosed veins with each passing day, giving them some putrid reason to continue living.
As for Loafer Guy, no doubt when Mama keels over he will get his money and end up drunk or stoned and in jail somewhere for assault or worse.
From my point of view, as a classic old-school Manhattan Liberal immigrant, the three of them are a perfect metaphor for the still beating, unbeautiful, right ventricle of a 47% diseased, black-hearted America.
I’m going to bide my time.  With each month that goes by, I grow stronger.
As the French say: on verra ce qu’on fera.

leaving america