April 28, 2004

A Conversation with Japanese Tea, Part Two: No Problem Baghdad, Big Problem Baghdad

'You were in Baghdad last month?' I asked, astonished.

'Yes, no problem!' Chai answered. 'I fly to Moscow and there I met an activist on way to Iraq, and so I thought: I go to Iraq too!'

Chai recounted his exploits with a remarkable childlikeness and an incredible sense of humor, not to mention an outrageously appropriate Japanese accent. His English was not good, and it would take a Dickensian writer to reproduce its maximum comic effect. Very quickly, though, Her Lad and I realized we had stumbled across a completely unique and wonderful specimen of our silly species.

'One can go to Iraq?' I asked.

'Ah, yes! No problem! There is no government there, so man at border, he just stamp my visa. Welcome to Iraq!' Chai reenacted the scene for us with robotic precision, air-stamping twice forcefully, then adding another 'No problem!'

I asked to see the entry stamp and he showed it to me. Indeed, there it was, a round and green inkblot, slightly faded with Arabic script. He had made a land crossing somewhere along the Jordanian border. 'Wow!' I remarked. 'I want to go to Iraq! Can anyone just go? Isn't there a war there?' Her Lad suggested, 'Probably only Americans can't go, like Cuba,' to which I replied, 'But don't we rule the place now?'

'No, you can go! Americans too, no problem!' Chai insisted. 'I met American activist and she said, "No problem! I just say I from Costa Rica!" No problem!'

'What was it like?' Her Lad asked.

'Oh, very nice, very nice. People very nice. All day I hear boom here and boom there from bomb explosion, but everyone smile and say: no problem, it normal!'

'Did you see Americans around? American soldiers?'

'Ah, yes.'

'What were they like?'

'Ah, eh... They were not friendly. They'--he mimics a thick, scary infantryman with a big weapon.

Chai then got a tad more serious, but just a tad. 'I think they have big problem, though. Big bisexual problem.'

Beat. Eh?

'Four times in Iraq I have bisexual problem. I go to bath, you know, bath of Turk.'

'Like a hammam?' I suggested, well acquainted myself with that oriental luxury.

'Yes, hammam, yes. And I sit and old man'--Chai then mimed massage--'and then he'--followed by a shampooing mime--'and it'--another mime, this time of soap running into his eyes--'and then'--nervous, mischievous smile--'he kiss me!'

'What did you do?'

'I go "Fuck you!"' he said, once again shoving his Arab assailant away.

'Was there anyone else there?' Her Lad asked.

'Yes, and they say, "Oh, be careful. Old man bisexual." I think Arabs have big bisexual problem. A taxi driver, he lean to me and make bisexual!'

'What did he do?' I said, entertained now beyond my wildest dreams.

'He lean forward'--Chai does so, towards me--'and he'--Chai extends his arm my way--'grab'--his hand opens--'my'--closer, leaning in--'dick.'

'Whoa! Wow!' exclaimed Her Lad. 'What did you do?'

'I say in Japanese, "Fuck you! No way!" They have big problem in Iraq with bisexual. I think they no real Muslim there.'

'But you liked it there?' Her Lad asked, perhaps not believing someone could have with all the bisexual around.

'Ah, yes! People very friendly! I go to cinema and it was pornography. All pornography! I sit down and see only man and think, "Iraq women no see movies." But then it start and I think, 'Oh, that is why!' because it all pornography. Big pornography. Just big sex! The men sit'--he sits straight up, expressionless, without emotion--'and watch. Only pornography!'

The conversation turned then to things more mundane. Where are you from? Where are you going? Japan, he said. He studies medicine at a large university there, but has no place to live, so he sleeps in the Art Club room. 'I am president of Art Club!' he said. 'Oh,' I asked. 'You are an artist?' 'No, but I am president of Art Club! I sleep in Art Club room!' Chai was turning out to be very extraordinary and wonderful indeed.

'So where you from?' he asked.

'San Francisco,' Her Lad answered.

'Oh, San Fransisco. I heard. Bisexual paradise?'

Nervous laughter. 'Yes, yes. Bisexual paradise.'

Chai was not impressed. 'And Amsterdam, too, I hear is bisexual paradise. They marry each other there, men do.'

'And in San Francisco too,' Gene informed him, Chai's face then manifesting shock and slight horror.

I spied a brown-skinned man nearby, listening in. He was dressed like a Muslim cleric and had a long, grey beard. My eyes opened wide, as I thought, Oh my! He's been listening to this all along.

'It is a fact of life!' the wise-looking one said in answer to my anxious stare.

'Yes,' said Chai. 'Gay people everywhere.'

'But they are a peaceful people,' the newcomer announced. 'You never see one of them blowing people away with a machine gun.'

'Are you Egyptian?' I asked.

'No, I am from India.' His accent should have given it away. 'From Bombay.'

There we were, then, Her Lad and I, at the Israeli-Egyptian border, sitting with a Japanese boy fresh from bisexual assaults in Baghdad, and a broad-minded imam from Bombay preaching the peace-lovingness of gays. The people one meets.

'You like Israel?' Chai asked us.

'Well... Let's say it was difficult,' I answered diplomatically.

'You go to protest?' he asked.

'Protest? What protest?'

'The protest of security wall. You know, they build big fence around Palestine? I go to protest. It was very good! No problem!'

To be continued...

Posted by djsmall at April 28, 2004 02:20 AM

I am howling with laughter. I am at work. It's embarrassing.

I love you. Oh god I love you. I walk around thinking about your entries for days.

Posted by: didofoot at April 28, 2004 06:16 PM

Well done Dan, a gun-sight precise recreation. I was unsure if I'd be able to explain that experience. Exactly as it happened.

p.s. now as i read my comment i realize that without face to face communication statements can be seen as sarcastic. to clarify, I'm not being sarcastic, this is truly how it happened.

Posted by: gene at April 29, 2004 12:14 PM