(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for osama

The Apian [sic] Way — طريق النحل

International fliers are expected at the Islamabad airport three hours early. In 2007, a botched suicide bombing attempt was foiled by security guards; in 2001, a ticking time bomb was discovered and taken to an airport parking lot to explode impotently. Security is tight, and we were three hours away. In the end, I’d arrive at the first pat-down only 75 minutes before the flight, but plop down in the massage chair of the business class lounge (entry: $8) with an hour to spare. See, thirty kilometers from Abbottabad in the wrong direction, there was something even more beautiful than two extra hours with airport security.

The famous Karakoram Highway (the KKH) connects Pakistan and China at the 15,397-foot-high Khunjerab Pass, earning its title as “the highest paved road in the world”. It begins in Abbottabad and ends 800 miles later in Kashgar, a Uyghur city in China’s Xianjang region. The road wound up into the ridge and looked down on Abbottabad in the valley, where less than six week earlier, a couple American helicopters had dropped by to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist.

We branched off just outside of town and climbed up into the foothills towards Thandiani, the first hill station — a rest stop and camping site for vacationing locals to eat and hang out. It was June, and Lahore was 110 degrees with hardly any trees for protection. Over the Salt Range and up onto the Potohar Plateau, Islamabad was no better. At 4,000-feet, Abbottabad was already a glorious 92, but the best was yet to come. Thandiani, in the local Hindko, means “cold wind.”[1]
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My Day at Osama Bin Laden’s House — رحلتي الى بيت أسامة بن لادن

Very long story short: it seemed like the right time to go. Once, in the romantic glory days when Osama had just been killed and we all saw the world through rose-colored sniper scopes, daytrippers from the capital or from Lahore would come in to Abbottabad (EPP-ta-bad) to pose for pictures in front of the ex-warlord’s house. It is not as big as it looks on TV. Now, men in camouflage weave through the grass holding rifles and eyeballing everything that moves. Dozens of cellphones have been smashed, and, on the first day I was supposed to drive north to Abbottabad, five “CIA Informants” were arrested by the Pakistani government for cooperating with Americans. Still, it’s a very pretty town. Nice hills.

[My apologies, this story has been submitted elsewhere and cannot honorably be published here. Until we can give up on “honor”, I can offer only the poor summary above. To read the full story about my tea party with Osama and the long games of bridge we played while I waited for Seal Team 6 to do the honors (maybe — you’ll have to find out!): send an email with a sentence including the words “Boca”, “curry”, and “fuckface” to INGULFED at GMAIL dot COM]

The Karakorum Highway starts here.

Abbottabad Hills.

Cricket in Abbottabad.

Country home.

Pakistani Suburbia.

More pictures from pakistan here.

Osama and Me — انا و اسامة

I don’t appreciate what Osama Bin Laden did yesterday.

Everyone has someone with whom they agree to disagree. You live your respective lives at peace with the fact that there exists someone who you cannot change, whose every fiber contradicts the principles woven into your DNA. Think of your neighbor Geoff who you don’t speak to anymore and who has stopped poisoning your gardenias to flex for you, ad infinitum, his forbearing cold shoulder. Osama and I were like that — or at least I was — and just like you would for Geoff, I lived my life hoping nothing I did would ever make him happy and I cheered and high-fived people when I heard he was, as your other neighbor Lorenzo would say, swimming with the fishes.

Yesterday though, Bin Laden’s voice was given a sounding board from the bottom of the sea, and with it he praised the valiant struggle of citizens across the Middle East and North Africa — the struggle known as the “Arab Spring,” which is (curse him) valiant.

The equilibrium I struck that allowed me to stress less in his existence was balanced on the expectation that we would disagree on everything, just as we’d promised. To hear any semblance of reason from a sworn enemy of good sense was to come face to face with the fragile foundation of my inner status quo. The quo until yesterday was one in which I was more comfortable ignoring, more secure behind a wall of cultural insolation built from lazier bits of my own personality.

This is certainly a window into the other side that the reasonable can analyze for clues into the psyche of bad people with bad opinions that are wrong. It is perhaps an opportunity to come to terms with our absolutism and to engage more deeply with nemeses and the Other.

We may even humanize the world’s devils as we allow that there may be overlap — the reasonable — between our minds and theirs.

Meh, fuck it. And Osama. And screw your neighbor Geoff, too.

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