Sunday, July 5, 2009

glitz and glamour--reporting live from the gutter

       "I'm feelin' rough, I'm feelin raw, I'm in the prime of my life. Let's make some music, make some money, find some models for wives..." The words are rolling off of my tongue in a karaoke session through the arrivals terminal of our LAX-DXB journey. Participants: 1, with an 8 person entourage. I can be a little inconsiderate at times. I walk out of the exit gate. LA family? Check. Luggage? Check. SLR? Around my neck, baby. Was it Oscar Wilde who wrote that we all lay in the gutter, but some of us choose to stare at the stars? Because I have a panoramic view of the sky from here, baby! I'm in Dubai, every architect's guiltiest pleasure! As I exit the gate and embrace my displaced Iraqi cousins in the glitzy land of more, it hits me. Everything is different. Everything will be different. Everything will stay different.
       Flashback 2002, during one of our annual Iraq trips. My cousins received us, the same way...but in Jordan. In the hours that ensue, we would rent a couple of orange and white GMCs, chain smoking driver included, and loathe the 12 hour journey from Amman to Baghdad. I would stare at the stars for most of the drive, never able to sleep, and debate whether the repercussions of bumming a cigarette off the driver would be worth it. No. Never. Moms would kill me. By the way, I wasn't listening to the Dead Kennedys with my punk crew. I definitely did not have my Misfits tee on. I left my skateboard back home. I had no one to impress. Yes, I definitely went through a bit of a rebellious patch. The bulk of our time was spent at checkpoints, where moms would bribe the guards with American cigs to get us through quickly and smoothly (I never got used to my mom dealing with cigarettes, as she has never been a supporter of any smoking habits). Under the unspoken contract of the ciggarettes, mom's dozens of suitcases, overflowing with clothes and medicine for impoverished locals, would always cross the border untampered. Likewise, the border patrol would refrain from drawing any mandatory blood for tests. Mama always feared the needles, as Iraq had been under sanctions, preventing the import of needles and many other necessities for vitality.
God bless that cowboy in those grimy commercials, because them all-American Marlboros got 'em every time. We would carry on with our journey, and eventually pass the dune with the blown up Jeep from some Gulf War, abandoned and antiqued. From that landmark, I would understand our relative location in the lonely and vast desert.
       Reality, 2009. My family has migrated. Everywhere, anywhere. The cousins who I would have been staying with in Iraq live in Dubai, and are picking me up from the airport. What a spoiled, first-world brat. Here I am, crying over the fact that Iraq wont be the same for my little vacay. People's lives have changed. Masses have been killed. Depleted uranium and other sorts of chemicals have led to a surge of cancer patients (and that is a repercussion of the Gulf War that was decades ago, only God knows what's to come with the current turmoil).
       Reporting live from that gutter, and the mood is slowly growing anxious...

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