The Saddest Year

alexandria egypt
No one knows what it’s like to be the Sad Man from Alexandria — photo credit The Guardian

Today is the last day of the Gregorian calendar.  The holiday blues will soon be over.

This morning, I clicked through the front page stories of the newspapers that I read online:  The NY Times, The NY Post (mainly for the coverage by Costello of the Jets), the Daily News (for the coverage by Manish of, yes, them Jets), NY Mag, The Guardian (where this story about my beloved Alex saddened me no end, remembering as I do how beautiful The Bride of The Sea once was), Madamasr, and not forgetting to skim the latest b/s in the state mouthpiece known as Al Ahram Online.

Everywhere, the news is grim.


Here in the States, as I anticipated over a year and a half ago when I started this blog, the horror of what a Trump presidency would be like is finally sinking in.

The amount of deliberate destruction of a once beautiful country is astonishing to behold.

I believe the only way this will end is in an outright civil war, whether hot (war) or cold (doing away with gerrymandering, the Electoral College imbalance, and so on). There are too many truly awful people — particularly disingenuous racists, if not outright white supremacists, in this country who are blinded by religion: their ignorance and gullibility does not give them a free pass. They tend to like things just the way they are, and want more of the same, forever.

It’s obvious that a resolution will have to be unfinished — inachevé, as the French say — unless the cancerous underbelly that lurks in America is dealt with root and branch.

Waiting for the angry FLA or AZ geezers to die off will not do it.

The coming year — 2019 — is going bring further calamities and horrors, horrors that the leaders of the West seem unable to deal with.

Now the UK has to deal with the looming Brexit clusterf**k, the homeless roaming London, the slow collapse of the NHS, and what to do with the boat people; Macron is tottering, as the yellow jackets burn the cities; and Angela is leaving.

Who will rise to give the world the hope that it so desperately needs?

In my sadness this weekend, I wrote a stream of consciousness piece about Egypt based on the news.  I also watched a disturbing new Netflix release called You.  It is depressing to see what Manhattan seems to have turned into, a place where I lived for decades before coming to Florida; it is where I spent the most significant years of my adult life, experiencing both material success and borderline tragic poverty, largely due to an inability to put the past behind me.

Penn Badgley is not really a creepily insane person; you can watch him in the much more pleasant Greetings from Tim Buckley, which as of this writing is available on YouTube here.

I have gotten older; I used to listen to Buckley. before heroin took him away.

It is almost tomorrow already in El Gouna.

It is 8PM there as I type this. In a few hours the searchlights will fill the sky in Abu Tig marina, and all the restaurants and discos will be going full blast.  I hope my friend Memo at Smuggler’s has a good night.

My dear mother yesterday told me over the phone that she hopes next year will a better year for everyone.  She is quite sick, as in my uncle in Cairo.

I myself have had some issues this weekend, but they are finally improving.

Porto at night by the famous bridge.  It is rather cold, damp and rainy there in Winter.  Something to keep in mind.

Things will improve even more in 2019; soon, I will be making preparations for the big move to Porto in Portugal (maybe), where I might do the AirBnB 2 week stay, while finding a suitable long term let in April. And there are three, mark them, 3 tennis clubs in Porto where my wife can enjoy her days and make friends. If only Olhão didn’t have this shitty little problem, I would consider the Algarve.

I don’t know if that will be a new beginning, or the end of the line.  The man in the picture above is only 63.  At least I have not had to endure the hell he has lived, or shed tears as salt-filled as his; otherwise I would probably look just like him.

Perhaps this broken life of his will find a place where he can be happy again, with the small things in life — living in a small place by the sea and growing nice things in a garden, or being able to catch fish that swim in clean water once again.

But it won’t happen that way and no one will help him — certainly not the new rich of Egypt as they whiz by El Max in their expensive foreign cars to their even more expensive villas in the Sahel.

That is the name for the now ritzy Mediterranean north coast of Egypt, between Alex and Marsa Matrouh, which as a boy I knew only as the vast empty place where a terrible battle was once fought 10 years before I was born, where many English lads not much older than I was then were killed and remained behind, buried for the rest of time in a vast cemetery of sand and white crosses and austere sorrow, and where in the mid 60s Bedouin grew bitter olives and barley fields and draped fishing nets in the trees to catch migratory birds.

There exists a video of one of the summers we spent there as a family, in that distant era, before Marsa (as we called it: I’m the skinny kid in the black Jantzen) was built up; it concludes with a boat trip to Rommel’s island and the sound track of the Beach Boys hit my band covered with great success two years later.

There was no such thing as the Sahel, then; no gated compounds that covered every inch of this once gorgeous coastline; no groups of phony young Egyptians making a lot of noise and trying to sound and act as if they were Americans: being Egyptian was viewed as plenty sophisticated in and of itself.

The last time I visited that part of Egypt was in ’92.  I walked alone for miles in the desert, and saw two young bedouin, perhaps hoping to catch a Red-rumped Wheatear or a rare Thekla Lark, trudging over a stony trail with their carabine rifles slung casually over their shoulders. I walked deep in the mountains of the Libyan desert until I could no longer see the Mediterranean, and all I could hear was the sound of my heart beating and the blood rushing through my veins under the sun.

When will the memory of ayam zaman ever leave me? Just typing that Arabic phrase, which mean the Olden Days, reminds of supping on lentil soup and stuffed grape leaves in Gouna earlier this year, at Kan Zaman, an Egyptian restaurant I shall probably never see again.

olive oil
Olive oil made by Sinai bedu

I must look ahead to better days, no matter what, and despite the horrible realities of the present. The paralyzing fog of nostalgic depression that descended upon me after returning from Tavira a few months ago is beginning to lift.

lentil soup
My wife’s magnificent lentil soup

Tonight my wife — this coming year will mark 38 that we have been an item — is cooking a delicious lentil soup and white rice meal, the onion and garlic fried in olive oil from the Sinai.  Unlike the shurbet a’tss (lentil soup) at Kan Zaman, this soup is made fresh, instead of being frozen and put thru the micro to defrost.

Porto awaits, or is it someplace else in Europe where I shall land come April 2019?

Stay tuned.

leaving america