Friday, November 28, 2003

From the New York Times, Friday, Nov. 28, p. A21:

"Iraqi General Dies In American Custody"

Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 27 (AP)

"An Iraqi general has died while under American interrogation, the American military said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an air defense general captured on Oct. 5 in a raid near the Syrian border, was being questioned Wednesday while in American custody in Qaim near the Syrian border when he lost consicousness after complaining he didn't feel well, the military said in a statement.

He was pronounced dead by a United States military physician. The cause of death and interrogation techniques are under investigation. His head was not hooded during the questioning, a statement from the 82nd Airborne Division said.

General Mowhoush, who served in the Republican Guard, was captured in a raid in Qaim. An American military spokeswoman said General Mowhoush was believed to have been financing attacks on allied forces." (emphasis added)

Like, was he screaming? Or did he just say, "I think we need to take a break, I am not really feeling very well right now, it makes it hard for me to remember exactly what I was up to in the days leading up to my arrest"?

I keep thinking of the kids who have written home to say vague things like: "I've done some things in Iraq that I'm not proud of..."

* * * * *

Back to blogging. Well, it's ironic that my unsociable life manages to develop conflicts.

The fact that Irene cancelled the Thanksgiving trip to Chicago because she preferred to go to Canada with Tatiana worked out perfectly for me, because it meant that I could take care of Carol and Larry's cats without a problem. But now, I hear that Monique is coming from Paris for eight days at Christmas, which is just at the time Irene now wants to go to Chicago.

Bernard and Monique are probably my best and oldest friends from France. I have not seen them since 1990, Monique says, but I myself think it was Christmas 1986, when I took my Chinese friend Wan Hong over to show her Paris before she went back to Beijing.

I remember my last evening with them, a superlative homecooked meal. I had brought them two huge bunches of enormous "perroquet" tulips, those flamboyant yellow/red/orange/green whoppers with frilly-edged petals, and they had opened up completely during dinner and started their tulip dance in an extravagant display on the sideboard. I have a photo of both Bernard and Monique sitting in front of it, looking very jolly, Bernard pulling at the sock of one of his feet.

Anyhoo, Bernard is not coming this time. He is cat-sitting their three cats, nobody can do it for them, apparently.

Bernard is retired now. He is a year older than me. I met him through mutual friends, let's see, some forty years ago. We were never romantically involved, even slightly, but we went out together, as I remember it, at least once a week for quite a time. Even after he met Monique, because she used to go up to Lille two days a week, where she taught romance literature, if I remember correctly.

Bernard and I would drift through Paris, exploring all the sleazier neighborhoods, we ate strange foods in ethnic dumps, we saw strange movies in little art theaters where you pay half price if you buy your ticket before noon and sit in the first five rows. We would buy merguez sausages, and take them in, or French fries, or deep-fried zepole kinds of beignets, and praline almonds from street vendors, and sometimes we smuggled beer in; and Bernard would keep up a witty running commentary on the B movies we would watch religiously, as if they were art, and he would keep me in hoots, and sometimes the rest of the audience would join in, or sometimes they would shush us, but we carried on anyway. We would zig-zag our way along the unfashionable boulevards this way, laughing at our poor stomachs filled to excess with the most unbalanced, delicious junk foods bought on the street. We always went dutch, in those days.

It went on for some fifteen years before I found out what Bernard did for a living. He was giving me gratuitous advice on insurance, I hadn't even asked him, and I said: "And what do you know about insurance?" And he said, matter-of-factly, "I'm an actuary".


It was probably a few more years before I found out he was possibly one of the top insurance men in France.


That, I believe is the greratest difference between American culture and European culture. Europeans relate because they find each other interesting, no matter what their backgrounds. When you meet an American for the first time, within five minutes he is interviewing you to make sure you are worth knowing, and if you don't belong to his socio-economic group, he won't waste any more time getting to know you. He just, normally quite politely, says: "Nice knowin' you", and moves on.

In America, if you went to Yale, for instance, you will only keep in touch with those yalees who have kept to the politically correct career path. In Europe, you would even keep up with the dropouts who have gone on the bummel, as long as you still liked them, as long as you still had what the French call "atomes crochus", compatible atoms that manage to hook the two of you up, enabling the electric current of friendship and communication to continue flowing.

Different strokes for different folks.

I am in a terrible quandary about this visit of Monique's. I so want to spend time with her. In the state of my finances I am most unlikely to go to Paris any time soon, and if I did have the money to go anywhere intercontinental, it would be more important for my life to go on pilgrimage to my head temple in Japan, anyway. So I am not sure yet how I will handle this. I have three days to decide, before Irene returns from Canada.

Waa has allowed me to pet him briefly, today. Success! The little runners in the corridors were all bolloxed up, I think they must have had a terrific cat rodeo last night.

Today is wet and foggy. I have updated my firewall. I am going to do a little laundry, make a hearty Tuscan lentil soup, and control some paper tigers. I'm going to cull, that is. Things is getting outta hand in here: I can't even see the carpet any more. I only hope I can start some of my projects without getting the itch to start the furniture waltzing around the room one more time. Or, who knows, I might start a quilt without even noticing.

On the way home, I stopped off at Bloomingdales for a quick look at the 5th floor designer rooms, but all have been dismantled to make space for the shopping goods. I had a good look at the Calvin Klein bedding instead. Nobody comes close to being as good, absolutely nobody. But it's a little rich for my blood, almost $50 for a standard pillow case....

Next to Carol and Larry's building, I noticed a very elegant little town house. It is painted the palest of greens, what the French call "tilleul", linden blossom green, with white window frames. On the parlor floor, three tall, curtainless windows, with small window panes, and window boxes, identically filled with bright pink cyclamen on each side, with lots of dark, white-veined leaves, and three tiny little pretend yews in the center of each box, all formal and dark.

Oh! What a joyful, elegant show they made in the flat white light of this winter day.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?