Typical Weekend Part II

Posted on January 29, 2007


My plan after the book signing was to repair to Maadi, where E had masterminded (and I mean masterminded) the fantastic coup of assembling 15 or so of the Shabab in one place – and an expensive place at that…without advance notice! Mad props. Not knowing my way around that chi-chiest and warren-like of neighbourhoods, like most humans, I had arranged to meet a friend at a certain location to convey me to our destination. However, I forgot my cell phone at Amnesiac’s, subsequently realizing that I could not go back for it since she had gone out; nor did I know the number of a single one of my friends, or of the place we were going to. I have the worst sense of direction in the world and am generally totally oblivious to my surroundings. However, through some extraordinary brain malfunction, I managed to remember where the house of a friend of mine is (Dreamy Brown Man), a place I have been only once. I alighted in front of this gentleman’s building, then realised that in fact I had no idea what floor he lived on; nor was there any bawab or security guard to ask. I looked around and spied a guy of around 20 (Che Guevara Hat) going up the stairs, who I asked if he knew my friend. To my astonishment he was going up to his apartment, and after conferring with DBM’s brother, he agreed to take me to the bar in question (the Red Onion).

I had previously been apprised that Dreamy Brown Man’s younger brother’s friends were all philosophy buffs who went so far as to listen to philosophy lectures on MP3 when they were high. Thus, I was not surprised when one of Che Guevara Hat’s introductory remarks was a question on where I stood vis-à-vis Descartes (“How do we know we really exist anyway?”). Uncomfortable with these alts, I flippantly remarked that lawyers didn’t need to think. We then had a lovely chat about stand-up comedy (my friends and I are working on organizing a show in Egypt). He dropped me off and eventually the friends arrived, and to my amazement we all found seats and proceeded to have a great drunk time – although the male members of the group attempted to convince me that they all had penises exceeding 8 inches. I bet one of them a hundred pounds that this is not true. They also didn’t think I looked particularly hot, the bitches. Shirley Schmidt!

Life proved extremely difficult on Friday without a cell phone, having agreed to meet my friends at the Cairo International Book Fair. This is obviously precisely the sort of enterprise where one needs to make innumerable phone calls, the grounds being vast and Egypt not being a very map-friendly place. It’s not a place I wanted to get lost in either, Egypt also being generally unfriendly to lone young females. I managed, ultimately, to spot them in the general area they had indicated, Faisal being of enviable stature and loudness and thus very spottable. They were laden with bags of books; their eyes red with lust and their persons brown with dust. I myself didn’t buy anything because I find it difficult to buy books with friends…I want to take my time. Also, I want to be free to pick out what Faisal referred to as “books with curly fonts” without shame.

Afterwards we went to one of those colonial-era cafes in Heliopolis where one can still pay 9 L.E. for a beer. Amongst the topics of scintillating intellectual debate brought up, we discussed what each of our characters would be should one of us have a Dungeons-and-Dragons-themed wedding. Usually when the guys in our group who are, regrettably, into fantasy and sci-fi talk about it, the girls roll their eyes in so strenuous a fashion as to surely be medically dangerous. But by casting it in the guise of a wedding, with attendant sartorial dilemmas, the guys managed to get us to talk with interest about the various role characteristics for a good 45 minutes. Unfortunately, no characters were found to correspond with my generally abrasive, negligent, frivolous character – although one of my friends kindly introduced “funny”. I don’t think either sci-fi or fiction dabbles in humour, though – those genres take themselves with deadly seriousness. We also discussed what, exactly, being pigeon-chested involves. It involves a man having one of those round puffy chests with little nipple pyramids – not man-boobs, but just booblets, you know? I made little squishy motions with my fingers in the air to demonstrate, which seemed to bring it home to my audience.

Somehow, later on, I found the energy to go to the Cairo Jazz Club where a friend of a friend was singing with her band. Normally I think she has a great voice and enjoy their performances, but I think musically improvising for three hours would tax the resources of any talented person. It was at that point, a few years too late, that I realized that I do not in fact like the Cairo Jazz Club. I like the bands that play there, but otherwise the music is house or trance – two musical categories that make me feel both violent and hysterical. I seriously want to scratch my eyes out when I hear them. Along with self-mutilation, the club also causes choking from the unbelievably poor ventilation and insane crowds. If you just stand in one spot for two minutes, you garner more – and more varied – sexual experiences than in two minutes of participating in a pornographic film.

The upshot of all this was that I wanted to leave earlier than everyone else did, especially as I had to get up at 7:30 am for a trip to Port Said and Ismailia. In fact, E had promised that we were not going to stay long so we could get some sleep before the trip. However, she was having fun and – to my horror – actually dancing to the bullshit house music. You’d think she never grew up in Kuwait! She left me to the tender mercies of the guy friends, one of whom began to needle and annoy me to such an extent that I was going to punch him in the face. Someone else had to actually intercede to prevent hostilities from breaking out. This mediator, an international playboy of sorts, exercised enormous tact and inherited diplomatic skills in chilling me out. He also drove me home (although not until 4 am!), going out of his way. A very charming man, really, as I suppose international playboys have to be – but not smooth or anything gross like that. I’d forgotten about charm as a possible quality completely, not having been exposed to it for a very long time.

Naturally I missed the trip, having sent E messages threatening dire harm if she attempted to wake me for it. Instead, I trotted around to my great-aunt’s place, where my mother’s cousin was celebrating her birthday. Apparently Canada has exercised a deleterious effect on my timing, as even my best efforts to work with Egyptian time resulted in my being the first person there. Some six hours later, everyone had assembled, including rarely seen specimens such as Half English Cousins 2 and 3 and Filmmaker Cousin. My mother’s family are inveterate and irreverent jokers and many of them have crunchy granola tendencies, being involved in activism and development in various capacities. This combination always results in my having a fantastic time amongst them. For example: Filmmaker Cousin has an Islamist beard – the sort without a moustache. His entire person presents the appearance of someone clearly brewing acts of social discord. Every day of his life he is stopped by some member of the authorities on suspicion of being a fundie and asked to produce his ID. This usually causes confusion, as his name is vigourously Coptic. Narrowing their eyes, they immediately accuse him of being high or drunk – Islamism and substance abuse being the only two excuses acceptable in Egypt for growing a fluffy beard. Alternatively, they recognize his last name (his father is quite a splash-making activist) and engage in a series of unsettling questions. Apparently, the trick to avoiding such exchanges is never making eye contact with “plain-clothes” “police”. In their infinite wisdom, the authorities have decided that maintaining your eye level at, well, eye-level, indicates guilt. This, of course, is well known to all the females of this country, who have long mastered the skill of not falling on one’s face while looking no man in the eye. I conveyed some of these tricks to Filmmaker, who insists on retaining the beard for humorous story purposes. Next, his brother Prawn Head related the story of the time he was walking by the Egyptian Museum with a heavy bag of books which slipped off his shoulder. Immediately 12 guys placed their hands on their revolvers and took a step forward. Wetting his pants with laughter he picked it up and walked away, occasionally letting it slip down a little bit accidentally just to freak them out. These stories work a lot better in Arabic, unfortunately.