03 April 2007

Home Again, Momkin

I started to put my room back together. I moved all my stuff out and put it into storage so I wouldn’t have to pay rent while I was away, and when I returned last night the room looked weird. It was familiar. Very familiar, but none of my stuff was here and the furniture was moved around. The furniture is still out of place, but my stuff is everywhere. I brought only one suitcase back to Jordan, and here is what was in it: yarn, coffee, a picture of K and I, and a skirt. When I woke up this morning I laughed as I really looked at what my priorities clearly are (coffee and knitting). So now I’m sitting here in my semi-room and I’m listening to music I downloaded while we were at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the most beautiful place in the world.

I’m coming up to my 7th month here. And, I often think about Mary Douglass’ concept of “Matter Out of Place,” as this succinctly describes my place here. I just returned to Jordan from a three-week vacation in California, and to my surprise I felt just as foreign there as I still do here. I don’t mean this as most foreigners here, particularly Americans, mean it. I don’t mean “Hey, Jordanians! I feel at home here because my country has so utterly fucked up this region and I’m with you!” Though, certainly that’s true. What I mean is that I feel out of place everywhere now. This struck me just over three weeks ago when I came back to the States for the first time in six months. I flew into Chicago, and I had to go through security to take my flight from Chicago to LA. I stood in the security line, and it was there that I learned that I now needed to put my gels and liquids into a one-quart Ziploc bag, and place this bag on the top of my stuff. I didn’t have a bag, but I did have a tube of Burt’s Bees chap stick. I placed it on top of my jacket and the security man began a tirade over it. He announced to the line, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the single biggest reason for hold-ups at O’Hare Airport is people like this young lady who fail to comply with security procedures! Your gels and liquids need to be in a one-quart bag…” Blah, blah, blah. Having been in Beirut just one month before, I found it hilarious that I was now supposed to fear chap stick. Seriously, as far as I could tell from my time in the States, all Americans need to fear is that Howard K. Stern may not be the father of Anna Nichole’s baby. I apologized to everyone in line for my egregious security breach. Last night when I got on the RJ flight in Chicago to return to Amman I saw that the man sitting next to me had a huge bag of liquids and gels. I asked him how he got that through security, and he said, “I just didn’t take it out of my back pack.” Amazingly, we arrived safely in Jordan 12 hours later.

So I felt melancholy about returning. Not because of Jordan so much as because I just wasn’t ready to leave K and my folks again so soon. I got back into Amman and I got my date stamp in my passport and I picked up my suitcase and I went out and saw A waiting for me. We got coffee and A hassled his friend for calling girls as we drove up the Airport Road. They dropped me off, and I stood outside feeling sad. But, then I opened the door and Janet was there. Her face lit up and she said an ecstatic Welcome Home! Somehow, I felt at home. I live here with this funny group of others who are also probably out of place, and for just a few months we are this strange kind of family, and it made it good to come back. W suggested Hasham tonight.

So, let me put down some of my thoughts about California before I forget them. JM asked me what my impression of the States was, and I realized that everything there is really soft and fuzzy. Everything is covered in carpet and plants. This should go without saying, but my God Americans are rich. I never realized how many unnecessary stores there are in the States. I mean, there is store after store that sells nothing necessary. There is so much stuff. Just a few months away made me see how excessive we are. Not that I didn’t suspect as much. That said, I was happy to be back in California. It was restful and beautiful. Having lived in SoCal for so long I forget that not all Californians drive FUVs with “W ‘04” stickers on them. I did not miss the righteous Christian extremists that clog the freeways, and a visit to NorCal was a good reminder that the state is actually beautiful and that it’s not subversive to recycle. It was reassuring to be reminded that I can never forget how bizarre it is to be dangerously cut-off on the highway by an SUV with a “WWJD?” sticker on it. It made me feel at home. It also made me want to leave again. But, I think this is part of what I mean by out of place; things are familiar, but in no way reassuring. In Jordan things are reassuring but rarely familiar.

K planned an amazing road trip for us which we embarked on during my last week. As with our trip in August, not a moment was a drag for me. It was beautiful everywhere we went, and the weather was nearly-perfect. It rained in San Francisco on our first day there, which sucked since I made us walk around downtown in search of Art Yarns. We found it, and I bought a few balls of yarn, and then we booked it back to the hotel, but we were soaked. I’m getting ahead of myself here. The day before, we spent in Santa Cruz. K found a bamboo sanctuary where we each had an hour massage and then we sat in a spa for an hour and sipped tea while looking at bamboo. This stands out as one of the highlights for me. We were both all rubbery from massages, and when we got into the warm water it was so relaxing. It was like forced relaxation. By that I mean that there was no way either of us could have felt anything but relaxed. Very cool. We’d had a great breakfast at Zachary’s that morning, and then after the spa we went to this neat place and had a great dinner. Then we drove to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse where we spent the night. It was cold and raining. There were German’s everywhere and one American woman who apparently knows everything. Somehow we left the next morning and avoided her. Dodged enlightenment again! Ha! We drove up to the Crapevine and pigged out. Then we went to our cute hotel which we somehow managed to find without problems. They serve shots of cold tequila upon check in. Nice. After we returned from the yarn store we were both hungry, and the nice guy at the hotel suggested an Indian place just around the corner that kicked ass! The food was cheap and delicious. I ate everything they brought me and would have licked the plate clean if K wasn’t such a kill-joy. We bought beer and headed back to the room where we watched a zillion episodes of Law and Order. I missed that show. The ones with Lenny, I mean. The new ones are not as good. But I digress. It was so nice to hang out with K and watch stupid TV shows.

From The City we drove into Sonoma. This time the grape vines were naked. Some have a few new and tiny leaves on them, but most did not. We stayed in Healdsburg (sp?) this time. I think I can safely say that no matter the time of year, wine country is beautiful. The day that K drove me around the vineyards was wonderful. I just sat in the car and looked around. Everything is cute, and there were hardly any people. The lilacs were in bloom, and everything smelled sweet. We only bought 4 bottles of wine this trip. K thinks he’s not a wine drinker any more. Several good meals and good beverages later we began to head south. That gave us one more opportunity to hang out in San Francisco for a few hours. We went to Noe Valley and ate at Pasta Pomodoro. I know, it’s a chain, but their food is good and inexpensive. We walked around and found a cheese shop a couple of blocks away from the Pasta Pomodoro. It was stinky, but we went in. We picked up a loaf of rosemary bread and asked the lady there to suggest a cheese. We got a wedge of some kind of Swiss. At first I didn’t care for it, but actually it was really delicious. K and I headed out of The City back to the Lighthouse and we had bread and cheese. The next morning we had breakfast in Santa Cruz one more time. Then we headed for SoCal via Highway 1. K drove the beautiful stretch between Monterey and Cambria. This was also like forced relaxation. I sat in the car and watched for whales. There were flowers everywhere and everything smelled sweet. That drive is amazing.

My last day in SoCal was great too. We met C and S for drinks and then my folks showed up for dinner. C and S joined us and we went to Joe Greensleeves for a great meal that I mostly remember. It was an unexpected and great way to end my time there. So, what I’ve left out is how much it sucked to say good-bye to everyone again. And I also left out my evening with A, S and Miss C. I’m saving that for another entry because it involves mimes. Two mimes were crucified before our very eyes. It was hideous.

Right now Amman is really green. The hills are green and fuzzy and I’ve seen four Black Irises already! I’m trying to organize an Iris-looking expedition for the end of the week. I guess I don’t have much more time to try and see them.


Blogger Weeping Sore said...

Lovely "What I Did on My Vacation" essay! Can't wait to see pictures of the black iris!

5:39 AM  
Blogger Miss Carousel said...

man, i knew i was low on the totem pole, but i don't even get a narrative??!?

curses, i tell you: curses.

3:14 AM  
Blogger Frances Goodman فرانسيس said...

No mime pictures, no narrative. Acutally, I'm still composing that post. I'm holding off because my big revelations are in that one, and I'm not sure I should give my dissertation away for free on a blog. You're in my heart, though!

4:44 AM  

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