Each night during Forest Festival they staged a free show at 7PM. Have you ever been to a show where the comedian was laughing at his own jokes? The audience wasn’t – laughing. He wasn’t cursing. He was an ex-cop. And just as you’d expect, cops don’t have much sense of humor. Ever get a ticket(“traffic” – it would have been a crime to buy one for this show)? And he made fun of everything and everyone including his wife. Hey! Move on over Donald. Yes, he was lame. I kept waiting for the second act. The announcer never made a move with the hook. Too bad. Nope. He was it. We walked out. I’m not sorry, except that we stayed too long. Sometimes you are just not that funny. Tag, you’re it!
I lived in Elkins, West Virginia more than 50 years ago. Everyone has gone and moved away. The town is so small. I remember it larger. Maybe my legs were shorter. Surprisingly buildings remain and I can remember the people who once lived there.
My third grade school, Elkins First Ward, is now an apartment building. Repurposed and re-tasked, the town has changed so that the number of students has dropped and shifted. The high school nearby is gone too. Third grade to sixth grade. I had a split class in fourth grade. Half were fourth grade students (us) and the other half of the class was fifth grade. We still got educated “good.”
My house – back then – my mom built it. Well, at least she directed the construction. Three bedrooms, we lived there for five years. I lay in the side yard looking up at the clouds and thinking my parents were so old. The summers were endless. Kids in the neighborhood would surround the house and we’d play steal the flag. It’s fifty years later and no tall trees overhang the house. It hasn’t changed too much.
Anne Leyen lived here. She moved to Ohio shortly after I moved back to New York. I tried to reach her. I just wanted to know if she has had a nice life. Her sister eventually replied that Anne does not do reunions and does not do email. Oh boy, I guess she’s older than I thought. Twitter? Her dog Taffy shit in the front yard. We stepped gingerly around her yard.
The Nestors lived here. The youngest daughter painted my brother Eric completely with white house paint. Eric took a bath in turpentine. I can’t imagine it was healthy. The paint eventually came off.
Ricky Solow lived here. He was bigger than me so that put me behind him in the pecking order of kids. Eventually I triumphed – brains over brawn. But the chips you have as a kid you never leave completely behind. We watched Kennedy debate Nixon. I was annoyed because cartoon programming was suspended.
The Trimble house, they lived here a while. It was right across from the school. Colleen invited me to play one day. All I remember is the three speed English racer her brother had in the hallway. Yes, back then it was forward to invite a boy over to play. It’s a nice memory that sat with me more than fifty years. The house changed a lot, but it’s still there. And my memory has mellowed quite a bit too. I rode a Roadmaster Sears one speed. The English racer was so exotic. I ride a Specialized Tricross nowadays. And Colleen remembered that I nearly fell out of the back seat of my father’s car when we were kids. Someone else pulled me back inside and my father drove on without ever checking. No harm, no foul.
I’m out. On the plane. The door closed and I got out of Saudi. Happy! Yup! I was surrounded by African pilgrims for the ride home. Maybe I have MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). They coughed front and back of me all the damn way home. I got it about two days later. Stress lowers your immune system. I have been fighting a vicious cold for two weeks. It’s not fatal. And it’s probably not MERS. These very nice ladies posed for each other during the latter part of the flight. They did not even notice that I stuck my camera up and shot them in their finery. You would have to say it was worth the trip. The ladies would disappear into the tiny restroom for lengthy makeovers. Why dress to return home? Who knows? I will always remember them by this image and the vicious cold they shared with me.
Not quite. I’m not religious. Particularly. In Saudi this view does not fly. So, say nothing. I was advised to do so and for this particular time I did so. So there is no upcoming crucifixion. However, there is always a last supper. My last night in Jeddah, well next to the last, I ate out with the people who cared about me and meant most to me. It was “bye.” We had a very nice peaceful subdued dinner in a Korean restaurant. My circle was complete. I taught Khalid how to use chop sticks in about ten seconds. He’s good. I’ll be missed. And I will miss them. A lot of history was shared these past four years. To paraphrase – what happened in Jeddah, stayed in Jeddah. Or, if you have something nice to say do it. No one likes to hear complaints. To which I can only add, “We sure did some interesting shit.” Yes, that’s the operative word.
Street photography – you don’t aim or compose, you just press the shutter. The idea is to catch spontaneity. It’s mostly because you are afraid or shy to ask to take a picture. Or you are afraid to have an angry objection. And if you are in a foreign place it is wise to be discrete. Auto focus! It works. Aim in the general direction of your subject. Hope for the best. At night I use auto ISO and shutter speed 1/125. Otherwise things will be blurred. They tend to be. So I try to lessen the error.
I had an errand to do in the old city. It’s September and still hot as blazes. The humidity is high. And still, it does not rain. You go out only at night. Daytime is instant meltdown. I live in A/C. My villa has never seen the A/C off in four years. Power outages are very rare. Once it lasted for more than an hour and my friend left to go to a hotel. He did not tolerate heat. Wuss! Well, me too. But for some reason we were on different circuits and my power was on. No, he did not want to stay in my messy villa. As soon as I exited the air conditioned car my camera lens fogged up. I did not realize it. So for a moment, until I checked, everything was fogged. It was an interesting effect. And the shot I could not get… the man in the chair had sweat dripping from the tip of his nose. Sorry. Couldn’t get that. It’s street photography! There are shots I saw that will ever be on my mind. I missed it. But I saw it. If you didn’t get it, you didn’t see it. But I did. Like the eggs. Some days you are in the right place at the right moment. And just a bit later on, you miss. Yes, a drop of sweat, right on the tip of his nose. “Plain as the tip of your nose.” Missed!
I attended a welcome dinner. Two physicians joined our department. I live modestly in hospital housing. This was an opportunity to see how the other half lives. It’s a separation of sexes. No females were in attendance. Someone brought their son. Otherwise it was a banquet of males. Lamb is roasted on a skewer. Standard fare. The sides included lots of rice, salad, and fruit, followed by dessert. Afterward our host played traditional music accompanied by his son. From the outside, the walls are high and drab. Inside, the accommodations are quite the opposite. Elaborate and ornate, it reflected a long life of collecting the trappings of wealth and success. Me? I’m living in two suitcases, ready to go if it’s imperative. The bulk of it will be my dive gear. I’m of the opinion that you can’t take it with you…but…. you can sure store it somewhere else. To be fair, I’ve got a lot of junk sitting around somewhere else… Please don’t laugh too hard.
…Chinese restaurant the I will never return to eat in again. I’ll start with an aside. I don’t eat sushi. But when David graduated from USC we had dinner where my niece’s boyfriend worked. It was the best sushi ever. Perfect. After that anything else would be downhill. Bonnie made a touching random act of kindness and invited me to dinner. She had told me the food was outstanding. It was. Even the rice was soft and fluffy. I don’t wax on about rice. But the very basic staple of every Chinese meal was done to perfection. The noodles are hand pulled. Or, as her husband, Daniel, said – “homemade.” Big difference. But same. (He’s German – language/translation ww) The noodles start as a ball of dough and then as a lump it is pulled into a single thin long noodle strand. The trick it is to find the two ends before you eat it. That would be “Chinese luck.” Suffice to say the meal was outstanding. Rosewood Hotel – Noodles – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. No, you can’t go either. Travel visas are hard to get. Which means that most folks will never get to eat there either. I don’t show you any food pics. It was not that kind of meal. The other gal is Jen, my OR nurse. We almost did not eat there. My colleague Farid was invited. He does not like Chinese food so we were almost set to go to a Lebanese place. But as it turns out, he had to go to parent teacher conference and the invitation was aimed at me. So, yay! We ended up in the best place I will never return to eat. No pictures of the food. What you really remember is the company. Now, read between the lines. When I was studying English and literature, we had to parse the meaning out of everything the writer was saying, analyzing what was not on the written page.
… who knows someone. You know? Six degrees of separation. Well, Mother Theresa is a saint now. She was alive during my time on earth. I am used to thinking that saints were all made before I was born. So there are no new ones. There are a lot of saints. And heaven help your “sainted mother.” But really, everyone has been all agog over Saint Theresa. A saint must perform two miracles. I thought three; I was wrong. It’s hard enough to do two. 1. She made a brain tumor go away. 2. She made a brain infection disappear. Neat! Neurosurgery! Whoa!? Really? I do not know the case nor the circumstance. The church has ruled. It’s a miracle! (Both!)
It’s all good with me. I thought that it’s easier to turn loaves into fish…or whatever. But the miracle for me is that I know someone who actually touched her while she was alive. And she has a relic. That would be real live DNA – a body part (gross) or nail clipping or hair or… I asked. Ginny confirmed. But she can’t find it! But I know she never throws anything away. So it’s around. Things go missing… they don’t know where Kennedy’s brain is. By the grace of god I do not know anyone who died in the WTC on 9/11. But I know people who knew people. That is too close.
There are times I am obtuse. I’m told. So it must be so. That mosque is in Jeddah and quite well known. Jules is in the foreground. We were happily wandering and taking pictures. A large group of Indonesians were organizing a group photo. Some kids were playing soccer nearby. Then, she saw the sign. “No photography!” Who knew? This is the site where they execute sentences – as in “beheading.” No need to lose your head? Stop taking pictures.
I only saw this once. Apparently the police are not allowing such a display to occur again. That year there was vandalism to many shops along the avenue. Too bad. There was such enthusiasm and spirit. A woman asked to take a picture! Really! I pointed the camera at her. She put up her hand and rolled her window up. She wanted me to take a picture of her car. Some things remain the same!
Maybe everyone knew to come by social media alerts. But then again, I have never seen a gathering like this. Cars lined the avenue and just sat. No one cared about moving along. They sat – “ Car proud” – banners waving, costumed, enthusiastic.
They waved at me to take pictures as though I were a news journalist. And so I did. I got worried because one guy grabbed the camera from my hand and did a group shot. I’m trusting but wary. You never know about a crowd. But… it was all a happy day.
It rains in Jeddah and the city of 3 million or so people are paralyzed. Kids get sent home from school like a “snow day.” Traffic is snarled for hours. People don’t do weather here. Maybe they have never turned the wind shield wipers on? Whatever! It rains about once a year. It might rain for an hour. There is absolutely no drainage system for water to run off. Why? It only rains once a year! The rest of the time, why worry? Infrastructure! I’m told a prince stole the money earmarked for the drainage system. Ah! One part of the government stealing from the other. How quaint. It seems to be a habit.
I guess there is nothing that beats the pleasure of riding your bike in the rain and raising hell with the puddles. After all isn’t that a basic rite of childhood?