On Higher Ground

Yes, we’re fine here, all dandy, and nothing doin’…


13:30. 22nd Feb. 2006

I’m in college, sitting in the cafeteria, waiting for the rest of my carpool buddies to finish their lectures so we can go home.
Cell phone rings, I pick it up: “Hello ____ (friend of mine)! How are you! What’s up?
- Where are you? College? Get back immediately, like, NOW.
- Where what? Get who? Why?
- ______ (my name), did you hear what I just said? get back home immediately, streets are Bad now, REAL bad. NOW.
- Hold on, what happened? Come on!

No answer.

- What ______, are things so bad?
- Even worse that that! Where’re the rest of the guys? Round them up and come home. Now better than waiting even for five more minutes.
- Ok ______, thank you. Take care.
- Hey, wait, don't forget to give me a miscall when you arrive home.

With that, I knew that things have really hit the fan... two minutes later I start getting messages from my parents abroad and friends here, “where are you?” “Are you ok?” “How are things where you’re at now?” “Anything happen near you?”
And none of them are telling what the hell happened.
You see, I was up in the computer labs, studying, with no access to the outside world.

How was I to know that The Start of the Civil War almost came and went without me?
I would have really been sore at that.

A feeling of dread comes over all of us in college. The mood suddenly changed. People are still talking and laughing, but you know its just for show, to get their minds off of what’s to come.

We say Byes to all, and tell all to call all when we all arrive, and start the drive back home, from Jadiriyah to A’adhamiyah, passing thru Karrada, army’s everywhere, regulars, thank God.
A few road-blocks, no prob, we’re used to it.. All of us in the car holding our breath, not wishing to put a jinx by saying how the road is comparatively clear so far..

We leave Karrada, and hit the highway.. Oh God, its open, but will it remain so? We had stopped breathing three kilometers ago...

Phone rings again, its ______ again: ‘Hey there, you heading home? Good, now tell the others, the area’s main roads are completely closed, and nothing passes, nothing, start planning for a detour.. And call me when u arrive’
‘Thanx buddy, no worries, nothing’s happening inshallah –God willing-’

‘Ok boys, the area’s sealed, since your houses are across from mine, I suggest you drop me off at the pedestrian cross, and go on on your way..’ I tell them.

However, we take a detour from the main highway, and they end up dropping me a couple of hundred meters from the crossing –a pedestrian bridge over the highway-…
Crap. I don't know this place very well. Guess I better hurry on home then.. ‘Bye guys’ ‘sorry man, but this is the closest we could’ ‘I know, see you later, take care, and call me’ ‘ok, take care’
And I start walking.

Damn. A few minute and I’m on the bridge.
I still the remember the feeling of relief I got when I stepped down on the other side, my side.

On higher ground.

Let all hell break loose, I’m in my turf now. With my people.

Ladies and Gentlemen: its down to that, your people, you’re safe. Strange territory, you’re it.

As I enter my house, family comes over ‘why didn’t you call when you were at the highway?’ ‘What took you so long?’ ‘How’s the state of things out there?’

Miscalls, to and fro, all of my friends and family, I’m here, I’m safe, I made it.

Smartest thing this government did so far was to barricade A’adhamiyah.
Thank God for religious figures on both sides coming out to calm feelings, and ban all violence.

We all breathe a sigh of relief.



18: 01 25th Feb. 2006

-Insert Four Letter word here-

Open War, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Its back to ye old days of yore, 2003, curfews, night raids, explosions, ‘hood-watch.
All over again.
Welcome to A’dhamiyah, we’ve got fun and games.

Where I live it’s a helluva lot quieter than most areas in A’adhamiyah (it’s a really REALLY big place), thank the Lord. We only HEAR the explosions and fire-fights…
Curfew starts from 10pm I think till 4pm the next day, National Guard and police have barricaded all streets in and out of the area, you cant even walk across, let alone drive.

Still, I think the worst is yet to come.
This is a kiddie-tussle, or so I believe. The worst is YET TO COME.

I’m staying home for all of next week, call me a coward, but I don't intend to lose my skin due to unnatural causes, thank you very much.

Religious bans didn’t do much. Barricades lessened violence but did not stop it.

Point is? These are not religious back-lashes. These things are political.
Civil War. A word repeated a million times over the last few days.

I still have my doubts.

I’ll try to post more along the coming days, I have to charge my cell-phone and internet first… curfew ends tomorrow, now that’s both good and bad, good cuz I can go out buy stuff, and bad cuz crazies can also come out blow stuff. –another four letter word-

Catch ya later.
And Then Some!

True Crime: Baghdad

Psst. Hey. Come 'ere.. Let me tell you a secret:
There is no crime in Iraq.

Hey Hey Easy now!
I mean, yeah sure there is, but not in the same sense as Chechnya, or Bogotá, Colombia, or Beirut (Circa 1980ish...)

I was watching a stupid mafia movie on TV last night, when it came to me:

No wonder all of them nice folks outside think we’re another breed, a race of rugged, Spartan survivors! They MUST be watching too much TV!

Ladies and Gentlemen:
TV says that Law Enforcement is unorganized and disheveled, well, they’re not alone.
Everyone else is too.
I’m obviously talking about the petty crimes here, robberies, grand theft autos, hold-ups, and the occasional random killing.

There is none of the cartel-like organizations here, run from behind the scene by ominous Godfathers with thick cotton-enhanced accents.
None local, that is.

As for the much-more organized assassination and kidnapping rings, they fail to generate interest unless the target is a VIP and/or has a non-Iraqi passport.
An Iraqi’s kidnapping or murder fails to register with the media (foreign AND local) unless he or a close relative have business in the Green Zone.

But, I digress.

Once, I said we weren’t survivors, and Lynnette didn’t see my point, well, I’ll try to be clear as to why i believe that:

Iraq is a horrible place no doubt, BUT: it aint too difficult to have a reasonable degree of personal safety...
The rules of survival are causal and finite.

so, this was the logical next step:

Staying Alive in post-war Iraq FOR DUMMIES: (Short Iraqi Version)


1. NEVER EVER go out when IT’S DARK; preferably lock yourself in after 6 p.m.

2. NEVER EVER stop to give help of ANYKIND to ANYONE you do not know, and even then, be careful.

3. ALWAYS give American Hummers the right of way, unless you want to be rammed or turn to Swiss-cheese. Even if your wife is giving birth in the back. ESPECIALLY that!

4. ALWAYS leave at least 100 meter distance between you and any Hummers you see, NOT cuz they have a sign saying so, but, cuz you don't want to be close when they get hit, or when they open fire in retaliation.
5. ALWAYS give right-of way to Iraqi Police and National Guard Vehicles. Unless you want to be rammed or shot at.

6. NEVER EVER use your cell-phone in public when you’re alone. That would draw attention to you, making you stand out.

7. ALWAYS take the main roads, do NOT attempt short-cuts, back-alleys, or any detour from any kind. Try the best to go directly from point A to B, traffic jams and road blocks notwithstanding.

8. NEVER count money in public.

9. NEVER carry anything of value (jewellery, expensive cell phones, laptops, CD/mp3 players) out in the open. CONCEAL is the word here.

10. CHANGE your movement patterns every now and then. Break any routine you have.


Ok, now those are the rules for Iraqis, and as you can see clearly, they are almost universal, what goes for Jasim goes for Jack as well...But, what about all the "Jack"s HERE? The visitors to our country who’d like to go “sight-seeing”? Those thrill-seekers (see: Idiots) tired of the safety of the Green Zone and want to venture out in search of new ground to break?
I dedicate this to you…

Staying Alive in post-war Iraq FOR DUMMIES: (Short NON-Iraqi Version)

1. AVOID coming to Iraq in the first place. If not possible, then:

2. NEVER trust Iraqis, we are a scheming, profiteering, xenophobic lot, and we’d love nothing more than to gain a few hundred thousand dollars from an “Ajnabi” (Foreigner). Even the people who work with you in the GZ, they are vetted and scanned sure sure, but who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?
*the shadow knows…. cough cough*

3. DO NOT leave the Green Zone unless with an Armed Escort, and even then, carry a personal weapon.

4. DO NOT stay at the same place for too long.

5. WATCH who you be friends with.

6. Word of the day: LOW-KEY.



There are many more, but its getting late, and you’re getting bored, and I’m sounding more and more as a hack paranoid bore, who hides his head in the sand when hearing a gunshot… (I’m not like that, really! I usually freeze, unable to move)

:D

I don't know bout hit-prices, but regarding kidnappings, it’s an established norm nowadays that the opening price is about 20’000 USD, everything is negotiable from there, it can run as low as 2000-3000 USD if you’re lucky!

And Another final thing:

Who invented Oatmeal?
No offence to the guy, but I think he should be taken outside and shot.

I hate Oatmeal. Noooo. I H-A-T-E Oatmeal.
What is the point of Oatmeal anyway?
No Color, No Taste. No Smell; Just Texture.

Colorless, tasteless, odorless goop.

But, when someone goes to the trouble of making you a bucket of the stuff at TWO in the morning, you must be polite, say gracious thanks, and down it with eyes closed.

My stomach still grumbles.

Post feels like its unfinished, or unpolished, probably both.
Will be back later.

Everybody in the Place Say Hey!

Hullo?

Anyone here? I know I know, ur gonna hit the lights and jump out saying “SURPRISE!”, give me a moment so I can be convincingly surprised. . . . ok go ahead:

HEYYY! Hello there!

Hella Hella! (insert four cheek-kisses here) How are you dear? Your Life? Your Health? Your Stuff? What are you doing? What are you working as? Where are you going to? Where are you coming from? What’s up?
(typical Iraqi saying “Hi”)

In Arabic (Mosul Tongue) now:
هلة هلة, اشونك عيوني انتة أحوالك صحتك ملاعيبك أموراتك أشقتعمل أشقتشتغل وين قتغوح منين قتجي أشكو ماكو؟
Now that’s over and done with, on to LESS pressing matters:
No phone yet as of this moment.
This has been written offline, undergone much proofing and editing, and hence, automatically better than 99.9% of the crap I fling here..

What is the matter with the world?
Sunni vs. Shi’a, Muslims vs. Denmark, Sharon Stone vs. Gene Hackman, this is a crazy world indeed.

You all know by now of the infamous pics published in what’s it’s name, that Dane newspaper, anyway, here’s my 30 dinars’ worth: (1500 I.Dinars = 1 USD)

I believe in freedom of speech, but, does it constitute healthy freedom of speech if I went to my Gun-toting, thief-shooting, next door neighbor, megaphone in hand, and presented to everyone my relation to his mother in a shady light?
I think in a European country that could get me in court.. Libel, it was?
Here it is less bureaucratic.
Not only it would it warrant that he would not speak to me, aid me in any possible way, I would no doubt begin to have “mysterious” fits of bad-luck and trouble… (hats-off to dead-horse prod.)

I mean, freedom of any kind is GOOOOOD. Democracy is BEAUTIFUL. Respecting the Other’s opinion is AMAZING.

Telling your cousin he’s ugly is one thing, kicking him in the nuts is another.

Its funny tho.
We’ve (Collective Whole) taken a helluva lot more shite over the decades, we sat and yapped for more.. why act now?
My guess its cuz a DANE newspaper did it.
Danes (as are all the other Scandinavian peoples) are a peace-loving, asylum-giving folks.. what can they do? Put sanctions on Arab countries? Like that would make a difference. Most of the population in Arab countries is already living in the crapper. Boycott Iraqi Dates? Their loss. More for me to eat.

In unison, one more time, with spirit now:

“Down with Lego, Down with Sun-Top juice, Down with Puck Cheese, Down with Lurpak Butter & Ghee”

I actually got this on my Messenger.

Lets wait and see what happens.


Reminds me of a Dennis Quaid movie which came out on TV a Thursday night 14 years ago, I was about ten, at a friends’ house, 11 pm, watching it with their 18 yr old son and his female same-age cousin... it had a scene where he and the female lead were on a train carriage, and suddenly out of the beautiful blue, they decide to get on intimate terms.. Now, The TV crew would ensure that sex-scenes are cut out entirely from all movies, watching Iraqi TV, at that young age, I already expected the ensuing scene would mysteriously disappear, followed by the leads of the movie exiting the carriage while fixing their suspiciously-rumpled clothes. But that didn’t happen.
I mean, yes, they exited the carriage fixing their clothes, but only after an almost 20 min. steamy scene in which I was promptly introduced to the mechanics of human copulation.
I can still recall the looks on my friends’ faces:
They were tripping on their jaws, it was pure comedy!
I still can’t believe a human being can gulp, shout, run, and grab for the remote simultaneously!
There were many repercussions:
My parents sat me down the next day to set the record straight bout bees and storks and stuff, with DIAGRAMS. Brrrrr.
We stopped watching that channel for two weeks, during which:
The channel issued a public apology for its public display of “obscenities”
And promptly fired that night’s TV crew.

I think those 18yr-olds eventually got married.

The Point?

Too much ado about nothing.

We were insulted, we were mocked, but that doesn’t entitle us in return to resort to violence. Boycott, fine... Don’t use Dane products, ok, just don't take it to the next level, and start burning, kidnapping and killing.
If the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) was alive, I bet he wouldn’t want that too...


On a lighter note, after a recurring intensified dosage of Stevie Ray Vaughan electric, Muddy Waters delta, and Django-Pass swing/jazz, I suddenly found that I can no more stand most of the old styles I listened to. Except for DreamTheater, and Aguilera.

Of all my vices, none is more serious than my addiction to Christina Aguilera.
I mean, even when she skanked-away most Arab fans, I still held on, adamant to the voice that IS...
No matter what you think bout how she acts or dresses, that girl’s got THE voice!

I’ve always liked shrill sharp voices, James La Brie, Ronnie James Dio, Steve Tyler, Little Richard, and more... Guess that’s why I hang on every note of her songs...

This has been a mixed-bag post to say the least, but its cuz I have a million ideas in my head but so little time to write them down...
Anyway, c ya in a few days, phoneline and electricity notwithstanding.

I intend to dig myself a comfortable hole to live in for the next two days, cuz the “Sheet” is gonna fly here no doubt, its 3ashura, the anniversary of the murder of Imam Hussein (PBUH) –which happened coupla MANY hundred years ago, more contemplation on that later- and everybody wants to show grief in his own way:

a. Some gonna meditate.

b. Some gonna pray.

c. Some gonna choose corporal mortification (ala Silas in DaVinci Code).

d. And Some gonna try to blow up those in “c” above.

So, couple of blankets, a bucket, and James Clavell’s Gaijin is all I’m gonna need...
C ya Saturday!


Oh, almost forgot:

I bet most of the non-Muslim world thinks it strange that we revere our Prophet, Khulafa’a (the Seconds of the prophet), and Imams to such extremely honorable degrees...
Aren’t they dead and done with?
Haven’t they done their duty (as per all other Prophets, Saints, and martyrs?)
What is the point of all this high-worship?
We should chuck all this away, right?

If you answered the last line as “right”, then my friend, you are NOT Arab.
You don’t know Arabs and Arab History... be grateful.

Theirs was THE Age for Arabs (and ALL Muslims as well).
A Golden age of Enlightenment, Science, Religion, Culture, you name it, they made it better.
But alas, everything comes to an end, All Humans, no matter how great, die.

And we’ve been on a downhill spire since then.

We are a people of the past, because we don’t have a present, and seemingly no future either...
I mean, what has the Arab nation produced in MASS since then?

Belly Dancers, Drunks, Adulterers, a couple of Crazies, and Nancy 3ajram. (3 pronounced as A’ a)

Apart from a few prominent characters dispersed here and there, we have nothing of worth. Zilch. Nothing to account for for almost a thousand years.
So you see, we have a right to be proud of the ONLY good things that happened to us.. ah.. it’s a long subject, I have no time.. maybe later..


It’s a new dawn it’s a new day it’s a new post…
And I’m feeling good...

Back by demand:

Sorry People, cant stay much, no electricity, and no phone line, doing this on borrowed time on a friend's computer..

i'm dying to write a full post, but i just cant right now :(

i'll b back in due time! dont worry!

Cheers!