Sunday, September 26, 2004

Big City Life

It's a grey cloudy Sunday in New York and the dorm that I'm staying in is utterly silent. Guess Sunday morning is sleep-in time around here. I arrived here on Friday afternoon and surrendered my brain to jet lag on arrival. Even though I'd stopped for a night's sleep in Vienna, my body had no idea at all of the time in New York. By 4 pm it was 11 pm in Cairo and my eyes were complaining but we kept them up for a few hours so that I could get into NYC time as quickly as possible. I hate waking up at 3 am with a body that says it's time to feed the birds even though the only birds around here are pigeons so fat and complacent that I almost stepped on the utterly flattened remains of one that had sat in the street long enough to get nailed by a truck. No sense of self preservation those birds! Not like our Egyptian pigeons who are their ancestors. Most of our pigeons belong to someone or are totally wild and act like it.

My body decided to play along and I slept until about 7 yesterday, when I got up and went for breakfast at my favourite breakfast place here, The Deluxe. It's just up the street from Tom's (famous from Seinfeld and Suzanne Vega and for its terrible service and worse food) which is for some people a favourite morning spot. The Deluxe has tables outside on the sidewalk for decent weather, which we had yesterday, and they make wonderful homefried potatoes to go with the omelets. I parked myself at one of the outside spots and watched the city wake up.

It was odd to sit and not see any donkey carts rattling up the streets but there haven't been any here for a while. As I sat sipping my coffee I noticed that Manhattan street theatre is about as good as Cairene. No wonder the kids loved it here for school. First note to myself was not to order tea in the US. I did at first and it was awful, having been made with water that wasn't hot enough. REAL tea drinking nations know that the temperature of the water is all important. I'd forgotten why it was that I learned to drink coffee here. At least the coffee was good.

At 8 am on a Saturday morning, they deliver beer here. More varieties of beer than we can remember in Egypt. Hmmm, another nice thing about New York. Most of them are rather hedonistic reasons. I watched two Spanish speaking young men wearing back braces flinging beer kegs out of a truck into the street, from which they were loaded onto hand trucks to move to the sidewalk. Good thing those kegs are strongly built because they really took a beating. Way back in the dark ages of my tenure in grad school I was a bar tender at the Grad Student Union at the University of Waterloo and I remember the amount of foam that kegs used to spew forth when they were first connected, and if the treatment of the kegs on Broadway were any example, now I know why.

Another interesting thought that came to me along with my raspberry jam and multigrain toast was just how heterogeneous the poplulation of Egypt is, even though locals assume that because they are "all Egyptians" it isn't heterogeneous. Manhattan is a wild mix, especially near Columbia University, but aside from the Asian population (which we also have, by the way) the people passing me on the street could have been the various flavours of Egyptian as well. The fact is that humans are simply becoming wonderfully mixed any more. After centuries of welcoming and absorbing travelers and invaders from various parts of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, Egyptians now appear in all sorts of colours, sizes, and shapes. People come and want to see "real Egyptians" and we always have to laugh. They are all "real Egyptians" but if they mean ancient Pharaonic type Egyptians, then maybe the citizens of Aswan or the now-displaced Nubians could qualify. Even so, the ancient Egyptians had Syrian, Phoenician, Cretan, Greek, Assyrian, name it, whoever traveled in those days...blood mixed in due to war captives being brought home as slaves or victors who occupied cities in Egypt, so what a "real Egyptian" would have been is anybody's guess.

Well, time to snag a shower before all the kids get up.

1 comment:

Joshua Salik said...

I am back today (I had to stop blogging yesteday).
Question: Aren't the coptics (if I spelled it right) the original Egyptians? Somehow I got that impression.
Joshua Salik
Salik Games
"The empty half of the glass is always at the top"