Somewhere between Missouri and Kansas, it was time to get a cup of coffee. That is not always an easy thing, especially if you love coffee and the coffee you love is not popular. We were not on the main highways and consulting with google maps, we found ourselves taking a few lefts and rights into a small town and into a restaurant. People were there eating lunch, it was full and awkward, not sure where and from whom one gets a cup of coffee, it took a few minutes listening to the clicking of silver against porcelain (neither silver nor porcelain), before we were handed large cups to fill from the large thermoses.
Back in the car, smelling of over-fried fat, Ola looks at me and says: “did you see how no one in that place had any teeth?” And it is an image that stays with me reconstructed in time, faces looking to my direction, faces of bodies around dinner tables, in this image they are all friendly faces, smiling and chewing and talking and yawning without teeth.
I never did drink that coffee. It sloshed back and forth until I threw it out. I do not think it was coffee.
Not a sandwich
There are places where food is not food. The most expensive meal I ever ate was a “gourmet cheese sandwich” and tea from dunkin donuts. One square yellow plastic barely melted between two brown square plastics and scalding hot water with a thing in it that seeps a bleak brown color. The least plastic thing of the affair was the paper cup, the true waste. I am sorry, sad and sorry that anyone would eat this.
My friends waving goodbye in San Francisco said: “you will miss the food.”
This is not about poverty or access. This is about wiped out cultures. Isles and isles in huge supermarkets with nothing to eat, not really. This is about capitalism and globalization and inhumane priorities packaged in greatness and the American dream and supa pawa bulldozer. Coming from the land of (where things are being corporate sabotaged as I write) freshly fried falafel sandwiches with freshly made hummous, unpretentious fresh cheese-in-season and beautiful traditionally squeezed olive oil (precious), I cannot help but wonder what the fuck happens to a people if they do not have access to good food? To real food? Can they be happy? Are they angry? Always hungry? Never satisfied? Just think of one person on a diet of deprivation multiply by a nation.
As we drive and hunt for food or stand at a beautiful view point, Ola wistfully says: “all I want is some tabouleh (really fresh, sour and salty and hot serrano chili) and a glass of arak.” I dream of kibbeh niyyeh and arugula.
(imagine this, the sun shining across a blue sky, in the middle of war and economic depression, a small town by the water, a sexy sun-weathered man smoking brings out a dish of freshly caught immediately grilled octopus and in the other hand two small glasses of ouzo and an ashtray.)
I am angry at how the usa fucks up people’s lives around the globes with wars and globalization and mc-democracy to scratch its narcissism and greed, lives like mine. Now after months on the road I am also angry for the usa-americans whose lives have also been fucked by usa.
In the middle of what felt like nowhere. In Kingman, Arizona. We stood outside the bar, no, too many tv screen.We stood outside another bar, maybe not, are we too brown?The bar tender says hello and she brings a basket of perfect popcorn and everything is ok.“Can I ask you a question?” The truck-driving-looking-white-guy asked (it turns out he was a truck driver). Ola at the juke box. Two butch women kicking two bike riders’ male asses in billiards. “Sure.” I said. “Say, is this an Arab gay bar?
At the end of a day exhausted (yes, beauty and nature and sweet beast encounters can do that over a long day), hungry and ready to kill for a beer, we stopped at the busiest most local looking bar and grill in Forks, WA. Walking in, everyone was white and they all turned slowly towards the door squinting and are staring at us (actually, they were not, maybe a couple did but there were TV screens). A server camp-swings by and says “sit wherever you like ladies.” And we take the seats best to watch everyone.
It was too early to sleep, too dark to walk, too cold to hang out in a little town in Oregon on my way to Seattle from San Francisco just after the solar eclipse and all the hotels were no-vacancy and I will sleep in my car but I really need to pee. I walked into the only place open: the bar. Akh, all men. Except, the voice from behind the bar is a woman’s and she says “hi, what can I get you?” And everything is good. He asks: “where are you from?” And I say: “San Francisco.” And he says: “did you get to see the eclipse over there?”
Off the path, in the smaller places, there are mechanics. We changed the oil and checked the tires every three thousand miles on average, every once in a while the car demanded some special attention. About mechanics:
Most mechanics are gay men
The rest are men with ambiguous sexualities
All mechanics are really clean
The mechanic in Santa Barbara did not trust the news. I think he was racist, it is really hard to say and he did call our car “the cleanest car from Michigan.”
I did not understand anything the tire-guy said in Bakersville North Carolina. I really liked him. With the help of his boss they kept trying until they figured out an historical problem with the tires in the 2009 subaru. They succeeded. Thank you.
Anywhere we traveled to or through, if there was anything more than the gas station, it would have been a Chinese restaurant first. From an article entitled A Very Brief History of Chinese Food in America by Emelyn Rude published on Feb 08, 2016 on the Time magazine website “Today, according to the Chinese American Restaurant Association, there are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants currently in operation across the United States. This number is greater than all the McDonald’s, KFCs, Pizza Huts, Taco Bells and Wendy’s combined.”
I would go back to ABQ if only for those Paletas
After Szu-Han told me about Pop Fizz, I ate a paleta a day until we left. On the day before last, Irene brought 2 for each person, so we did not make the trip on the last two days. I am not sure if that was a sweet act on Irene’s behalf or I will never get over it for not choosing my own last! I cannot decide if my favorite was indeed the avocado (hi Shadona), or was it one that I did not try. Thank you Szu-Han. Thank you Irene.
I found myself in a Ziker ذِكْر circle on a Thursday evening while in Herekeke, the artist residency in Lama mountain near Taos, New Mexico. I was curious to visit the Lama Foundation, a spiritual community founded in the late sixties. Holding hands, staring eyes, stepping sideways and going in circles while listening to music, it was really hard or me, mentally and technically to repeat all the Ziker phrases and chants in American Arabic. Ola had already withdrawn to the library (and they sure have a beautiful one), and when I got to the points in the circle where our eyes could meet, it took all I had in composure not to giggle. Being tone deaf and self conscious about my singing voices I tried my best to keep up with all the nasal, thin, soft, not at all ص or ض or ق or throaty and gutty and sometimes words blend in together and it is hard to say when one word ended and when another started making up new sounds and music, vowels too long, vowels too short.