Friday, February 17, 2017

Man of the City

When you meet someone. When you eat with them. When you dance with them, even if you don't know their language or how to speak with them. When you come close, too close for prejudice, but close enough for contact. When you are at a complete loss. When you don't know who they are and they don't know who you are, but you are glad of the company, anyway. This is new. This is old. This is different from what I expected. This is. Something.

I met Arabs in Gaza. Jews who came to my school and taught us folk dances. Bedouin who made us coffee over a charcoal fire. A Jewish family who had us over for Seder. And Muslims who took us into their home in Bethlehem, the City of Bread. I walked through the streets of Jerusalem. Be careful of the stairways, there is a ramp down the middle for wheel barrows. Don't trip. I visited the souks. Bought coffee from vendors. I always asked them to add the spices. Cardamom. Cinnamon. Cloves. I loved making an evening cup of rich coffee before bed. It was a wonder I slept at all. Must have been the opium.

And I watched novice Americans get taken big time for cheap, Holy Land crap. It was embarrassing. It was enterprising. It was not surprising. They saw our kind coming, like all good con men. And they had camel leather jackets and water pipes and Roman oil lamps to sell a'plenty. All for outrageous prices. I could bargain them down to a tenth of the price, if I even wanted the crap. I had become a Yerushalmi. An inhabitant of Jerusalem. I started to see them coming, too. It was obvious. And I cringed. These are my people! Um. Were my people? Where's my souk? I can fleece them as easily as the next guy. How easy it is to go native. I was a man of the city. I was starting to understand. To know how to be one of them. To be one of us. And to look at them.

You can't hate these people, once you know them. Any of them. All of them. I was one of them.

Oh, dear. Who am I now? Wanna buy a water pipe?

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