Michael “Mohammed” Jackson

5 07 2009

Our trip to Egypt involved three airplanes, the worst part being that I lost an earring that was irridescent blue. I blame that plush neck pillow (the one that looks like an inflated toilet seat) for pushing it out of my ear during an eight-hour slumber (thanks, Ambien!). On a trip when so many things can go wrong, that having been the worst of it is OK by me.

At the airport before we hit customs, we went through a screening for swine flu by people wearing surgical masks. A woman asked me to walk up to a yellow line, and proceeded to adjust a camera. I smiled big. Turns out she wasn’t taking my picture, just training an infrared device on my face to reveal my temperature. If I’d had a fever, they would’ve detained me.

The drive to my sister-in-law’s house took an hour and 10 minutes, though with a normal driver it would have taken 90. My sister-in-law, an excellent cook, gorged us on stuffed white eggplant, roasted chicken, rice with chopped liver and mouloukheya, a green, earthy soup that is slightly slimy in consistency but has a tender sweetness to it.

We awoke before dawn to the call to prayer, the athan booming in a staggering echo from several mosques nearby. It felt hot in the room, so that with jetlag made it tough to fall back asleep right away.

Daddy Yankee’s childhood best friend dropped in to visit. He is married with four kids. I remember his wife in a prior visit saying she got pregnant twice with an IUD in place. Doesn’t say much for Egyptian birth control. After he left, my nephew mentioned that his eldest son had fallen in with an ultra-conservative crowd who had convinced him that going to school was haraam, or forbidden. This was hard on his father, a high school teacher. The boy soon dropped out of school and went to work among some bushy-bearded fellows at a deli. My nephew claims to have beat him up, and the boy hasn’t been seen in town since.

Among the other discussion topics:

-My sister-in-law’s father-in-law, who is struggling with diabetes, Alzheimer’s and various stroke complications, says he wants to come to America to die. Even if the chance of his frail 80-year-old frame of surviving any kind of surgery are slim, he’d rather be abroad. He has no use of his hands or feet anymore. In his salad days, he had a reputation from traveling Europe chasing women. That booming voice he once had has been replaced by a tiny high-pitched mumble, barely understandable.

-Michael Jackson converted to Islam before his death and is demanded in his will to be buried according to Islamic law. My mother-in-law insists this is true. “He invited young boys into his bed,” I told her. She came back with a quick reply: “Who knows, maybe he repented before God!”