Sunday, September 26, 2010

Samiam, Birmingham, Farmland, and the Armenians

For starters I’ve been listening to a lot of Samiam an obsessive sort of way. I was under the impression that they had broken up in the mid-90’s and thought they were doing some reunion shows for shits and giggles when I saw then in the summer of 2009. I was expecting a slew of familiar tunes belted out one after another from their 4 albums. Dumbfounded would be a pretty good description of how I felt 45 minutes into the set with the audience singing along to songs I’ve never heard. The band played for a little over an hour and after the set I walked back to the bar and ordered a pint of Green Flash and sat on the stool wondering what the hell just happened. I finished my beer while I waited for the band to tear down. I approached Sergie (the lead guitarist) and we chatted for a few minutes. We had met a couple of times before, the last being when my band Junkdrawer opened for them at the Aztlan Theater (Denver) in 1995…an epic show that got us banned by promoter Dan Shitburger who went around badmouthing us to other promoters such as Doug Kauffman (NIPP). Doug did let us open for Shudder To Think on the condition that we didn’t wet the stage and left the male cheerleaders at home.

Sergie mentioned that the band never really broke up and had been releasing albums over the years, hence my not knowing any of the newer material. Jokingly I told him a story of why I didn’t get a job in 1993 because of Samiam. I was renting a room in a large house in Southside Birmingham, Alabama from a paramedic named James, meaning he was gone most of the time. James had a lover named Eddie. Eddie would cheat on him with a deaf mute (Shane) when James was at work. Any excuse not to be at the house was good enough for me. Samiam was playing Atlanta so my friend Noal and I drove 2 1/2 hours to see the band, great show. It was a late one. We pulled back into town a few hours before I went into work (a temp maintenance worker at SouthTrust Bank operations center). Later that afternoon I had an interview at corporate to get on full-time with all the benefits. Needless to say I feel asleep at the desk in the shredding room and was late to the interview. On a side note, I moved out of James’ house a week later when the cops showed up to arrest the deaf mute for spying on the house, not before he went tumbling down the 80 or so steps when James chased him. The icing on the cake came a week later when Eddie pulled out a gun telling me that his friend was coming over and if I heard any noise such as gunshots not to worry. I told him to hold that thought, went upstairs to my room, packed a bag and moved out. (If you want the full James story I will email the file)

I’ve since discovered the Samiam albums that had been missing from my collection. Historically they were a band I listened to while making art and here in Egypt is no exception. I seem to be excited about art again already pulling off a couple of linocut editions. I’m working on a concept and will post more about it in the future.

School business. Pickell has been making some new friends around town though Couch Surfing. A friend Karim invited us to his farm on the outskirts of Alex for breakfast (in the west we would call it lunch). The farm was more of an orange grove with pigeons, turkeys, and geese.

You can by a frozen turkey at Metro (the high end supermarket that caters to expats) or you can go to a farm and get a fresh one.

Piegon, it's what's for dinner.

Q: Why aren't there palms on some of the trees.

A: They take water away from the orange trees, so they went bye-bye.

This is where the oranges go.

We were promised a tractor ride and we got one.

Aflac geese in training.

The workers are making bread that they will put into a mud brick oven. A couple of the girls in our possee failed at rolling out dough. Remember, a pro will always make things look easy.

Karim had his workers put out quite a spread of Foul (pronounced fool-think of refried pinto beans but done with fava beans), falafel, eggs, tuna, fresh bread, olives, honey, a milky cheese, etc.

The only open space in Alex. On the way to Nawal's house for dinner, and what a dinner it was. Ana and I had to be rolled home afterwards. We were spoiled this weekend. The French teacher Madame Lobna invited us to her beach cabin in Montaza Palace and Gardens. I will do a post on her soon, she is an amazing woman and her home is a museum.

Bottling day is fast approaching. Bootlegging in the bathroom.

Our Principal "Dingo" and the Dean of Students "The Italian Stallion" shared a birthday and thus a party was held in their honor. There were two cakes served, the first being a multi-colored sherbet one followed by 4 in 1 concoction, perhaps a Swiss Army cake.

But really, nothing says "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" like a platter of toast.

For Analen! Sid Vicious Dead with sequins on a hotpink shirt has made it all the way over to a store in Egypt. Analen and I met through the punk Fanzine Flipside 27 years ago. We were both big Sex Pistols fanatics so we became instant penpals. One year we made "Remember Sid, make his death an international holiday" fliers. To be young again...

One of the advantages of our expat lifestyle is the opportunity to see world renowned operas, ballets, films, etc. for either free or next to nothing. Alex has a beautiful Opera House The Sayed Darwish and hosts many amazing events.

A shot of the balcony.

Nona (our school's resident opera singer) has connections to the Russian Cultural Center and hooked up the staff with invitations to watch The Armenian National Song and Dance Ensemble. The performance was to celebrate Armenia's Independence Day (September 21). The show was quite a treat, check out the videos below.

Monday, September 13, 2010

North Coast, Noise, and F-Bird's Birthday

The Grim Reaper has been hanging out in our neighborhood a lot lately, at least two times a week. The funerals here are something else, I had mentioned them in an earlier post but they deserve another plug. I was re-reading the Sonic Youth chapter in Michael Azerrad's Our Band Can Be Your Life and the funeral outside our window couldn't have been a more perfect soundtrack. It's 930ish at night and try to imagine a PA system like the one you might find in a rock club cranked to 10 with reverb while someone at the mic that more resembles a megaphone belting out verses from the Koran. This intense sound bounces off neighboring buildings and carries on for about 20 minutes and when you think the assault is over (by a five minute interlude of false silence), the next cadaver gets his 20 as well as the third one after that. This is in addition to the month of Ramadan which not only gets you the five standard calls to prayer but an hour plus long sermon each evening. This had been life in Alex since we've been back. Ramadan just ended a couple of days ago and everyone is starting to get back into their normal routines...alhamdulillah

At the end of Ramadan is the 3-day Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr which meant no students and no school. Ana and I wanted to rent a villa on the North Coast (the stretch along the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria to the seaport of Mersa Matrouh). Our friend Ji had mentioned that some of the teachers from the British School would be going to Etap (a very affordable resort 212 km from Alex) so we put the word out and what started as a trip for 5 people turned out to be 18 when all was said and done.

The View from our villa.

Jill-Milk, Baby El, Sandy Pants, and Huck Finn waiting for the Indian family down the street to get their Cricket match going.

The price of our villa included an unlimited supply of ants (note the trail of ants crawling across the living room wall). The ants loved everything we brought from food to plastic bags to humans. The flies were an added bonus. Egyptian brand of flies are slightly aggressive and like to explore your openings: ears, nose, and mouth.

Horseshoes were played... well as "who can stand on the horseshoe stake the longest...

...or the Karate Kid version.

The door for the flies.

Etap has public art...

The area next to the resort.

Make no mistake about it; the water was clear, warm, and beautiful.

The rusted umbrella poles have seen better days...though not quite the caliber of art compared to Seal With Ball.

Another boring ocean shot.

Sunsets were amazing; the light changed the color of the sea and landscape.

Mommy and Baby El.
Jose was happy with his Red Bull.

Etap's famous Beer Tree

Not your ordinary leaf blower. When you heard the sound from up the street you ran to shut all your doors and windows ASAP! Fear the wrath of the Fumigator.

I woke up early and went on a walk and encountered a couple of Bedouins. A couple had guns so I didn't stop to chat. There were plenty of shotgun shells on the desert floor. This shelter was next to the sea, there wasn't much in it.

No waves!

Ana and the sea.

Jose and Pickell's step pyramid built on Scary Carrie.

9 of 18

Last year during the Eid at the Red Sea F-Bird was born. Darth Seth and Kupcake Kristal had bought everyone ice cream and from a drumstick wrapper F-Bird was born. We sat and discussed F-Bird for nearly 2 hours (sober!) and thus his persona was born. F-Bird doesn't put up with BS; he will throw you down and painfully pick at your eyes until they bleed if you cross him in a bad way. In short he's problem solver. Scary Carrie crossed F-Bird... did Jessie James...

...Huck Finn received a stern warning...

...Jose and F-Bird are tight...

...We call Benny Boy "Popeye" these days... well as poor Jackie O... might have been Peso's birthday, but F-Bird was about to send her to the party with the gift of a bloody eye.

Everyone needs a 220 volt outlet in the shower. Taking orders now.