Wednesday, January 04, 2006

“I’m put together beautifully...I’m a Festival, I’m a Parade”

Before coming here, I was dreaming of a liberation—a scruffy beard and scraggly hair spilling over my ears and the back of my neck. I was going to go for that dusty nomadic international look, neo-hippie gap shopper, a fading flannel shirt that doesn’t evoke early ‘90s Seattle, corduroys faded at the knees and scuffed boots never once worn from or for hiking. Somewhere between art-punk anarchist and anti-globalization activist. At most, I was trying to make a break, crafting and indulging in a whole new fantasy. In the least, I was rationalizing this production with the oncoming and fabled Kabul winter.

This lede—a long obtuse one at that, was supposed to bring me to winter. The previous line works much better for that end. So: Winter is here, it snowed the past two days, finally. Rang in the new year with a new season, a second late for the former, a few weeks late for the latter. It’s not that windy, yet, the snow coming down small and wet and soft. It reminds me of D.C. this time of year, and has made me the most homesick yet. But the point was the beard—it’s impetus, my crafted image and my intentions. It’s keeping me a bit warmer.

By in large, crafted identities don’t factor here, at least the identities I’m used to, nor in a way that I’m used to. In fact, that is an incredibly brash and revealing statement. I’m sure crafted identities exist here, human nature...blah blah blah... More likely my Americanized hegemonic cultural imperialism doesn’t let me see them, the differences between the afghani that wears nikes and stonewashed jeans and the afghani that wears a Corduroy Cathart jacket and an NYPD baseball cap. That’s not unexpected. (I wonder if in general, because of our mass exporting of our culture, and complete vacuum of importing other’s mass culture, non-Americans have a remarkable advantage at reading and operating in American cultures and American’s with the inverted disadvantage.)

It’s not that this place is untouched by American/Western cultural tags. It’s just that they are heavily distorted and blended and misinterpreted and filtered and repackaged and so on and so on. This place, in particular, is probably inundated with a wider sampling of other cultural tags. Frequency Canceling vs. Fourier Transformations vs. Cultural Syncopation: The Mashup Release. Being inundated with it all around (and by this I mean being driven in an SUV with an armed guard), one starts to see and hear differently. But these two senses are far from yet developed. Maybe a few more months and a few thousand more interactions with Afghanis will help.

So I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt, that this “effort,” this beard growing laziness was pragmatic...though it may be useless. Realizing that certain identities are intrinsically parochial. American/western identities, crafted through our overwhelming consumerism and materialism, are some of the most guilty transgressors. Beirut and Japan are probably up there too. But this is no plea for a “flat-world” or globalized harmony. Because in a few more weeks, I may be able to pass off for a full-fledged Taliban, my beard growing much more on the bottom, adopt an Afghani identity of my own. (And yes, some of these issues were touched on in the previous post, especially in the comments, as Elizabeth pointed out that religion was a topic I glaringly gave short shrift, if not overlooked. AND...this was supposed to be a light hearted post, quoted a song at the top and the way it’s a great song...more on music below.)

But there is Kabul and “Kabubble”, two distinct places. Kabul: the place where the plane I took here landed. The place I point to on a map and silently say “You are...h-e-r-e,” my eyes following concentric circles through surrounding cities I don’t and will likely never know. This is a separate place physically, culturally, and even most of all existentially. (Ugh...I hate to say existentialism casually, I apologize. Moreover to say that just throws a glaring spotlight on how removed I am from this place while still “being here.”) Kabubble: Umm...see that past sentence. Ah, the compounded life.

This always happens. Whenever I’ve spent a more than a month a way from the confines and comforts of home, a home for the past 20 years, the comforts of the known. Whenever I’ve lived someplace without actually settling someplace new, without making that place home, this dispossession strikes, even in the U.S. (so much for that cultural hegemony). Like I said before, a few more months, and a few more interactions...


Elizabeth said...

On behalf of Pacific Northwesterners everywhere (mostly in the Pacific Northwest, however), I would like to say that the flannel shirt is not early 90s Seattle. It is all-of-the-time-in-the-Pacific-Northwest.

It just so happens that there is only one time in recorded history that anybody paid any attention to how we (mostly loggers, machinists, and computer programmers, with a few social workers thrown in) dress. That was in the early 90s, thanks to Kurt Cobain et al.

You looked, you imitated, you were replused at your reflection in the mirror and you came back to your senses. You can still spot us a mile away in our faded jeans, flannel shirts, old caps, and galoshes with no umbrellas even in the rain.

Q. A. Shah said...

In proxy for Pacific NWs, they thank you. Readership, take note of E's corrections.

I was intending to try to NOT evoke a 'reality bites' poster child. Evoke, ah, I'm such a poser.

and don't forget old broncos or IHs. You all seem to only drive those. And a few Suburbans for those w/ families of four. I'm envious of the IHs, btw. and pot, y'all smoke a lotta green.

Thankfully, I think, I was stuck in my skater/punk, but not skater-punk, phase throught the grunge thing.

And I always love what I see in the mirror.

katie w said...

wasn't sure which post to comment on, but since this was the last one read before i goes:
don't care what anyone says, you're my music mentor as i've already paid the price of shunning your advice purely to be insolent and now i'm stranded listening to bad oldies in tulsa. off to exercise my capitalistic desires. but before i go, i wanted to update you on life on the range: definitely different.
here i set off to a deeply red state with high goals of learning patience, of communicating my values without being defensive, basically healing the nation in time for the '08 election. turns out i hate evangelists more now than ever. doh. at least i've been true to my little 'read, run, raise a dog' plan regardless of whether such a self-improvement plan is a fake silver-lining of a generally undesirable job placement. it's a funny town. funky remodeled garage turned dyke-run hair solan with free bud light next to a youth ministry with the slogan "I am e3 (evangelizing everyday everywhere)" [not making that up] next to desi-wok, my 2nd favorite tulsa restaurant & i'm only sharing because its in the spirit of your desi-mex and it's b.y.o.b. to boot (but only if you're discrete & a regular). beer is 3.2% here b/c we're in the bible belt and you can't buy porn with penetration. there's a blasphemy statute on the books. the favored gentlemen's club serves a hearty brunch. very thick with contradictions & i dare say hypocrisy but for the fear of anyone shedding the naughty behavior in favor of the preaching as a response to the accusation. besides the obvious fact that everyone and everyplace is wrought with hypocrisy. trying to settle into my homebody routine and take what i can from the job. thrilled for you & what you're up to while selfishly wishing you were in Cook's chambers down the hall! will be in better touch. and i look forward to more posts.

Q. A. Shah said...

Katie!...i'm switching to email. But i'll have to look for yours. if you have mine still, send me a quick message and i'll reply.

Is the dude that took my job in Cook's chambers that bad?

and email might be best, so that i don't have to scroll down and check exactly which post you commented on. i get email notifications w/ new comments, but it doesn't say to which post the comment is on.

katie w said...

i let my at&t account expire because they charge, so email me at! (of couse, being a tranparent airhead, i misplaced your info too)