Posts filed under ‘fake life’

fourth of july fAkE lIfE

Fourth of July    fAkE lIfE    Fifth of July


Sometimes I think, wow I’m really in Yemen. This is real, for real, and I’m living a very tip-of-your-fingers-taste-of-your-tongue for real life. Yes, I can taste it. Yes, I can feel it. Yes, but no.


fAkE lIfE is so really fake and extremely fakely real.

Now, I’m not much of a patriot, but I do miss those quiet nights in the land of the relatively free, sipping tall boys while others do in kind, quietly but openly, a bit hidden but not veiled.


I spent Uncle Sammy’s birthday eating eggs at a fish mokhbaza, sans booze of course, and driving around Sheikh Othman with my friends so that the other American, Sam Sam from Alabama, could see a camel (yes, yes, there are pictures). Plus, I was bummed because my hard-wrought love letter was read its rites even before it was D.O.A.


So the day after the fourth rolled around, and I decided that I really needed a slew of red, white and blue brew.


But the closest PBR tall boy is bobbing up and down in the surf outside of Jersey, so a Georgian (the state) friend and I settled for Heines at the bar here in Aden. I don’t know what this bar is called, but it’s about two city blocks beyond the Seaman’s Club (a wildly decadent, neon red nightclubish relic of the British occupation) in the Tawahi district of Aden.


The bar is situated along the busy thoroughfare of Aden’s port. You can look out from the rickety tables arranged on a gravel ground, beside the water, towards giant tankers and barges that have come in to drop this off, or to pick up that. Across the bay is a series of large cranes, which drop and pick up shipping containers. Nearby, there is a structure that looks like an inverted L. This is where the U.S.S. Cole was bombed in 2001.


But we didn’t sit outside. We walked into the bar / restaurant area and sat down. Groups of mostly middle aged men and a few women gazed at us as we sat down.


Like the Seaman’s Club close by, this bar is a hang-out for Yemeni and Saudi men, who never stopped drinking after South Yemen ceased being a socialist republic and came under the control of the more conservative / traditional north.


Women come here too. They are mostly prostitutes, according to expats, who may or may not really know (sexpats?). A few women came in fully veiled. They sat down and threw their niqabs back over their hijabs. Two of them were wearing a remarkable amount of foundation, which gave their cheeks a chalky pallor. The other woman, who was a bit bigger, had a black eye. All were chewing qat.


A few stray cats scurried in between the tables. My friend thought they were rats at first.


We ordered the beers and cheered to this and that. The Prince came up quite suddenly, but he made sure to kiss both of our hands and welcome us and to pledge his help for any problem we might encounter. He was drunk, and animated. He made sure we understood him when he said, ‘I am a prince from southern Yemen.’ And he was insistent that ‘we are all…from Earth.’ ‘This,’ he continued, pointing at my heart, ‘this is the most important! Surprise. Surprise.’


One of the uniformed guards outside, who had been checking bags and even looking under some men’s shirts, noticed the Prince talking to us. He walked in, and the Prince seemed to know why. He yelled something at the guard, then turned towards us. He said something in English, with emphasis on the word ‘surprise’, and then something else in English, or Arabic. Then he cursed the guard for grabbing his shoulder, but he seemed a bit relieved to be leaving.


Then the Californian came up to our table. He was a middle aged man with a stylish limp. He wore khakis, a black pin stripped shirt with the first four buttons unbuttoned, a New Era hat with a big $ on the front, and a belt buckle in the shape of a .45. “Excuse me. I’m sorry. You have to be careful.’ He patted my friend’s hand. “Yemenis, they aren’t good. Of course I am from Aden” he continued, now patting my hand, “you must be careful. They will…I’m from California.” He took out his wallet, and showed us his California driver’s license. “You see? I will be sitting over there. You need anything, you come over.”


Thank you. He nodded, and sat down with his friends.


My friend and I drank to this and that, shared some stories about Addis Ababa and love and hearts and minds, oh, and we surreptitiously discussed Jerusalem and its claimers using letters such as P and I.


The Cousin, who had been looking at our table as he slowly made his way through his own bottle of Gin, stood up at the Californian’s table, shouting and gesturing at the Californian. The Californian looked around anxiously, but didn’t stand.


The Cousin moved to another table, then came to our table. ‘Excuse me,’ he started, ‘you are American?’ Yes. ‘I was in argument with him,’ he said, pointing towards the Californian, who was anxiously watching him. ‘I was talking to the embassy today, in Sana’a. I talked to them today,” he continued, as the guard outside started to gesture towards him, “they…they transferred me to the Yemeni official,” he said incredulously. “I called them…my cousin. He owns a shop in New York. Very successful. Lots of money. He owns a shop. He bought trucks, you know, like to transfer gasoline. I found out accidentally. I’m drunk.” My friend excused herself to go to the bathroom.


“He’s going to drive the truck to the United Nations. He will use it as a weapon. I have a guilty conscience. I found out accidentally.” He started to weave a bit. “I want, I called the embassy. I tried to tell them.” By now, the guard was opening the door and looking towards the Cousin. “There are too many people in the United States. Innocent people. I have a guilty conscience. I don’t want to watch this on the news.  I swear on my mother’s grave…will you, if you please, will you give me the number of the FBI or the CIA? Or I give you my number, and you tell them, the CIA or the FBI, or Homeland Security?”


My friend came back from the bathroom. The guard gently patted the Cousin on his shoulder. He looked a bit embarrassed, but a little relieved to be leaving.


Then the Californian came up. “You have to be careful,” he started, looking around, “just be careful. You need anything, you come to my table.”


We thanked him. My friend shot me a what-did-I-miss look. I shot her a you-really-really-don’t-want-to-know look, and we both raised our glasses quietly.


July 7, 2008 at 1:19 pm 3 comments

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