Sunday, November 25, 2007

Monitoring Morocco

I might have left Morocco, but still it resonates in my regular thoughts, an experience not yet entirely digested and translated into memory in the way of Provence or Madrid. A wool blanket on my bed, a green-felt jellabah in the closet, leather tasseled slippers on the floor, & fourcontinents itself all remind me of stories left untold and impressions that remain fluid and uncertain. Loading today's New York Times recalled the political ambivalence I feel yet months after the democracy dialogue. Andrea Elliott writes about Tetouan and its ties to the Madrid bombings and fighters in Iraq.

Her point about the social pressures is a good one, but how oh how do you even begin to sway opinion at such a local level? Where can change occur such that the neighborhood soccer squad serves as a force against terrorism instead of a recruitment zone? A lot of this is still poverty & hopelessness, but development alone isn't going to solve everything. These men are from a relatively liberal Muslim society and still get caught up in the campaign - it makes it hard to hope for change anywhere. Thoughts?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Reading Life

A friend recently asked about my writing habits and aspirations, and though I answered the question simply enough, it made me remember something I had written nearly a year ago for a completely different audience. Nonetheless, its words speak true to my current life as a dedicated reader and occasional writer-dabbler, so I'll repeat myself here...

like every other girl who ever dreamed of becoming an author but graduated from college pursuing more practical career goals, I keep a notebook around most of the time, in case that one true story ever falls out of the blue clear sky. in the meantime, that notebook gets filled with minutiae and grocery lists, the occasional musing or rehashing of my uniquely dysfunctional family for the millionth time. online, I find myself blathering about benign misadventures in far-off places and mumbling my discontent with the world. somewhere in my mind, I berate my home and my roots for offering such meager material: surely there should be some great tale to be mined from the missouri river mud, but so far it seems that mark twain told every damn one.

instead, I read. I read sometimes like I'm drowning - a book in a day, never rushing my pace but simply ignoring everything else for the sake of the story. I fall in love with alice munro, whose women always make me feel less neurotic and offer vague hope for my wandering future. I wonder at andré gide and find myself wishing I possessed the theology (or the poetry) to open a dialogue about human nature. I get lost in gabriel garcía márquez and return to find the solid world made unfamiliar by his vivid reimaginings. I feel alive, sparked and yet isolated by this intimate consumption of others' thoughts. I want to write, but they leave my mute in my appreciation and humbled in my abilities. the reading list forever grows while the notebook is overrun with doodles: the truest reader makes a lousy writer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Food (as usual) in New York (aha, someplace new!)

New York continues to keep me off balance. I had finally adjusted to my local supermarket, the Great Wall, which sells two brands of peanut butter but seven kinds of dried fish. Seriously, there are live eels and durian popsicles. Still, I'm an adaptable sort, and I'd adjusted to shopping there (not that I've bought live eel or durian popsicles yet...)

Then today on my way home, I decided to roast a chicken. It was a chilly evening and I found myself craving comfort food, so on my walk from the subway station, I poked my head into the neighborhood's halal butcher. I got one whole chicken, some lentils, and was soon in my warm apartment with the oven preheating and a cookie sheet tin-foiled into a makeshift roasting pan. Pulling the chicken out of the grocery bag, I realized for the first time just how whole it was.

Content omnivore that I am, I'm willing to handle whole dead chickens, giblets and all, but one with glazed eyes still staring up at me was almost too much. I fished out a knife and finished the cut the butcher had begun, then decided the reptile feet were simply too much and left them on, picking the meat off the slightly-charred leg bones rather than trying to figure out how to twist, pull or hack them off.

It reminded me of Morocco - except that my halal birds there still came headless and clawless. I thought of a Tomie di Paola story from my childhood, an episode about going to his grandfather's butcher shop and pretending the chicken feet were his hands, scaring his grandmother and girls in his class as he pulled the tendons with his (hidden) real hands so the dead toes jumped and pinched. I remembered thinking how stupid it was to be afraid of chicken feet - but I think I see the creepy factor better now.

Now all I have to do is pluck my own bird. There's no way I could actually kill it myself, but as far as adventures in meat-eating go, I've got to admit that head-chopping and foot-handling isn't actually all that bad.