Passages

grand central
Litttle boy lost

I had now made it to Grand Central, after a grueling trip that started at dawn in warm Hurghada on the Red Sea, passed through Cairo International and JFK, and ended up on the NYC Airporter Express shuttle bus, with the night cold and blustery.

I had been away from America for seven months, and now it was time to visit my Mum in Westchester.  I was going to spend a few days with her, then, on Tuesday, I would fly to Florida, and finally sleep in my home under my roof.

I stood in the Grand Concourse and looked at the Stars and Stripes and the Grand Central clock.

How many times have I commuted through here? How many times have I said to someone, meet me under the clock? How many times did I look up at Grand Central’s filthy ceiling before they cleaned it up? How many times when I struggled did I clutch a morning 16-ounce can of Bud wrapped in a brown paper bag before they got rid of the benches in the Waiting Hall that the bums and derelicts would call home? How many times did I rush to the Lexington Avenue subway on my way to Wall Street, starting way back when a huge Kodak sign blocked the eastern staircase and the slimy pig was making his first big move with the Hyatt? How much time went by as I remained a little boy in a man’s body, lost in a world that waits for no one?

grand central clock
Meet ya at the clock!

I was in what was once my home town, before it too, changed beyond recognition, thanks in part to Giuliani and then Bloomberg.

And now, I was back, still standing, having lost much of the weight that had disfigured me.

I would visit with Mum for a few days in Westchester, help her out with this and that, and then I would take a car service to the madness that is LGA.  I would search for the counter where I could check my ratty black suitcase (didn’t know I would have to pay and extra $25 for that!), and a short vaguely Indian woman in an official jacket would ask me if I had a Priority Pass and I would reply no, I am just an ordinary person, and an attractive young woman in a smart outfit who was standing nearby would overhear that and grin at me.

bagel
NY bagel with a schmear at Mum’s on Sunday morning. This is what I live for.

True I’ve left a lot on the table, over the years, which is nothing special, but there’s still enough time to make a last run for it.

I believe that, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, and despite how I have always — like my doomed Palestinians soul brothers — managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

So there’s still an appetite in me for the new, despite the enormous challenges ahead. I’m nonplussed by articles that claim that Boomers are reaching the end of the line in terms of creativity or thirst to accomplish still more with their lives.

grand central
Metro North platform at GC

Of course there’s the challenge of being older, but to me it’s more a function of being away from places like New York most of the time, thus out of step, with the cultural scene, as well as more mundane things, such as, say, the state of current suburban commute technology. I happened to see a guy use an eTix, on the train to White Plains North that I took. These were introduced last year.

I had never seen this before, and I joked with the conductor, saying how do you punch a smartphone?

The fact is, nowadays, conductors walk around with scanners that they can point at the ticket QR code that can be displayed on a passenger’s smartphone. I thought about thinking about the social and privacy implications, as we passage into the future of train travel, but was too exhausted to go Deep Think, after being on the road and in the air for some 32 hours straight.

At any rate, I’m unlikely to ever return to Egypt.  That is not the future for me.

The seven-month stay in Gouna made that obvious.

allah's gifts
The etching reads: “And in Allah you will find prosperity and grace”

And now I was back in New York. I made it past TSA at LGA with a baggage snag (the exquisite Asfour crystal present my uncle had given me in Cairo was the culprit, as it went through the X-ray machine: apparently crystal shows up black and they can’t tell what the object is) and then found myself sitting in an empty row on shiny new seating of a gleaming, two-week old Airbus 321.  This is the same aircraft model that crashed in the Sinai in October 31st, 2015.

But there was to be no crash that day.

Three hours later I would land in a Florida that was a bright shimmering green, with my beautiful wife awaiting me.

I was back.

leaving america

 

Tawila

 

taewila gouna brochure

Tawila is an Arabic adjective that means tall.  In this form, the gender definition is feminine, as signified by the vowel ending. So let me tell you a few tall yarns, just for the hell of it.

Today began badly: no internet service, again.
I figured it was time to pay the bill, so decided to go to Abu Tig to the Orange Office there and do so.
But first, I had to sweep the villa clean.
It has been windy for the last day or so, and there’s been sand everywhere.
It got cold, too — again.
Last night Sandy the desert cat slept with me. Tommy was bothering her again, and whenever that happens, she yowls.
I am her protector.
So I let her in, and we slept with the TV on, but then I let her out around 3AM so she wouldn’t crap or pee in the villa.
This morning, as I was sweeping the designer brick front steps, I had to chase Tommy away by throwing a glass of water at him.
Then, after calling the Orange TV Triple Play help line to alert them about the Internet situation, I went to Abu Tig marina.
To do this, I had to deal with the Gouna microbus fiasco, which I will not describe here: it is too comically inept to even get into, other than to mention that I was almost nailed while getting into the Marina Line bus by a pair of pliers that fell down from the roof of one of these no-suspension contraptions. It had slipped out of the hands of a bus driver who was perched atop the roof of the adjacent West Golf line bus (the drivers park them in a slender as Red Sea rainbow sardines row in the dusty parking lot that’s in front of the Budget taxi and limo service office) and attempting to rig together a fan gizmo that was seriously falling apart.
At the Orange office in Abu Tig, I had to wait for some old German guy to decide on a TV/Internet plan. The crux of the matter was that he was staying 3 months and 4 days, and Orange only offers monthly plans (in 30-day serial increments, beginning anytime during the month.) or 3 month plans, etc, but not a plan geared specifically to this old coot’s stay.
So this guy spends at least 25 minutes trying to convince the desk clerk to let him buy a plan that matches the exact length of his stay, as I sat on my hands waiting.
Finally, I had enough. I said, can I pay my bill while you step aside and decide what you want to do?
The German asshole ignored this. You know the type: old, slow, rigid, overtanned, with in-shape but weird girlyman-looking, slimly athletic legs (he was wearing cargoes) for his age, and determined to get what he wants by being as obnoxious as possible. I turned on a dime into the taweel Luca Brasi of Gouna, and punched the Nazi fag shithead in the face. As he lied in a pool of blood gurgling out of his ugly old German mouth, I calmly paid the bill and left.
Okay, so none of that actually happened: I waited for the old coot to leave, then I paid the bill.
What is it about old turds that makes them oblivious that others exist in the universe?
I took the joke bus back. But first I had to wait for it by the hot dog stand in Basin 1 in Abut Tig. There, I was easy prey for all the tuc tuc shitheads who kept circling around and around right in front of me as I waited.
Finally the bus appeared, and when it was less than 20 feet away, another tuc tuc shit head appeared and made an abrupt (and dangerous) U-turn right in front of the oncoming bus, slowed down just so in front of me, and said in that annoying assholean way of theirs, tuc tuc?
So I punched him in the face, too, then kicked him in his lib-lib nuts for good measure. As he writhed on the street, also with blood gurgling out of his mouth (just like the Kraut), I stepped over him, got into his white Uber tuc-tuc, and drove home.
Okay so none of that happened either, but it could have. I certainly thought it.

Now for the good news.
With the weather warming up, I’m planning on taking a trip out to Tawila island.
Because of Operation Sinai, rumor has it the Egyptian navy is shooting at any zodiac that tries to head from here toward that often-contested peninsula — after all, Sharm is only 45 minutes by fast boat.
All I know is that I need a break from being trapped in this villa, even if it means only seeing only one island instead of three ( there are five in all that run parallel to the coastline of El Gouna: two are off limits for military reasons, and three that are usually accessible to the public).
When it finally became beautiful again today, I realized I had that I need to work out my frustrated writer hostilities by doing something other than trying to at least figure out the plot of my game-changing Gouna novel, that being the tallest tale of them all.

Expect gorgeous pics around Sunday or Monday, weather permitting.
leaving america

In ze bag

siiwa bag
She wants it

Yesterday, my wife Erin, and I, went shopping.

She bought a blue hoodie in Abu Tig, and a lovely big white bag (which you can view her modeling on Instagram at @gounaman) in downtown Gouna

Erin also picked up an assortment of pressies for some of her friends back home.

There is a red bag, also handmade in Siwa, that she also wants, but I will not know of its availability until Saturday — ditto some beaded trinkets made by Bedu women in Al Arish in the Sinai.

Erin in front of 7th Star

So the preparations for Erin’s upcoming departure are in fuller gear, given that we are flying up together on Saturday to CAIR, then parting: she back to the US; me remaining in Egypt, and returning solo — alas! — to El Gouna.

Yesterday, the West Golf Line bus broke down, so we had to walk to town at 7PM for dinner at Kan Zaman.

Walking is a good thing for losing weight, but with all the perambulations we’re engaged in nowadays, my right knee gave a little, so I’m going to have to be careful today.

I’m going to have both knees looked at by my orthopaedist in Florida when I return in April. It’s radically difficult to lose weight and firm up when your knees can’t take much stress, but I shall keep at it.

Sinai bedu beads
Bedu beadwork

But here’s the big news.

I just heard from my Gouna rental agent, who’s currently in the UK. Leasing this villa for another six months, commencing October 2018, and into the month of April (the most beautiful month to be in Gouna) 2019, is now in the bag.

This means I shall be returning to FLA sometime before mid April, but returning to Gouna only 5 months later, for another very long stay.

I would say my plan to become a Sun Bird expat is coming along nicely. Erin loves this place too, so it’s likely that she will be with me most, if not all, of that period.

We have decisions to make.

What is the best way to unwind her retail business in Florida?  What about health insurance?  Should we rent out our house in Florida for the winter? What to do about the cat?

Sinai bedouin craftwork
Handcrafted bric-a-brac

The takeaway from all this is that I’ve succeeded in my goal of making the present incarnation of America largely irrelevant to my life. It can be done.

I barely watch CNN any more, as I am disinterested in what goes on in Washington.  They don’t think about me, so why rent space in my head to them?

El Gouna
Erin on our dock, wearing the new hoodie

Instead, my focus in life has narrowed, yet, paradoxically, deepened and gained in resonance since my arrival in El Gouna four months ago.

I no longer waste time dwelling on tiresome phenomena that no longer concern me, most of which I can do nothing about anyway. I focus largely on what is meaningful to me: books, my wife and family, getting healthier, writing, the Red sea, the desert, and the mountains that I see in the distance from where I now live.

They call this the paradox of ageing:  how many people come to regard the last few big turns around the bend as the happiest time of their lives.

Put simply, I’m deliberately choosing, nowadays, to know more about less and less — as I’m no longer concerned with hearing the latest pop songs, or keeping up with the latest technologies; the latest must-see movies; the latest tweets; the latest manifestation of political ineptness; the latest evidence of corporate greed or malfeasance; the latest viral vid on YouTube; the latest match scores of teams I used to follow avidly, as if the latest exploits of multimillionaire athletes on the pitch of dreams actually mattered for toffee.

Improbable Gouna– one of the least likely places I would have imagined where I would finally make peace with myself and the world after a very very long war indeed.

leaving america