THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #197

We went to Planet Fitness and one of the employees took us on a tour. She showed us all the exercise equipment which we politely nodded at, but she quickly became disgusted with us after she asked what our fitness goals were. “To be tan,” I replied, quite seriously. She scoffed somewhat but controlled her rage and gave us the tour of the massage chairs, tanning beds, and body vibrator things. This looked delightful so we signed up at once.

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NEW YORK CITY: Blizzard Queens

She said something profound right then, after tutting dismissively at me, “You just live, Ben! Don’t listen to anybody, and if they ask what’s wrong, say that you fell in a damn ditch and you hurt your knee. OH! And always talk to the bartender; he has all the right answers and you don’t have to take him home.”

“Queen!” I muttered, but I don’t think she understood.

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DOHA: Asia At Last

Land returned to view and I was delighted by my first sight of Saudi Arabia. The sands were red and lovely. I smiled to myself, getting over my depression, I was flying over regions of the world that nobody in my generation would have dared to dream about years and years ago. So many of them still believe that the Middle East is a dangerous place — and it can be — but so can small towns in America. There is danger everywhere, but it need not ruin our ability to explore or lessen the chance to broaden our horizons. The world is absolutely wonderful and I’m so in love with it. I’m so glad that I got over any cultural fear I had and let myself discover this beloved region.

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LUXOR: The Mystery of Chicago House

Nobody bothered me as I stood there. All the touts knew me and knew I had my people. They were nothing but friends and strangers now. I was no longer a source of revenue. I was just a man. I was just Ben standing beside the Nile. I really don’t know how long I was there, but as I did, my life began to pass by in my memories. I was back at Egyptian Treasures with my dad and Donald, talking about Cairo and dreaming of treasure. I was on an ancient computer in elementary school furiously printing pages from the Theban Mapping Project. I was in Barnes and Noble buying discounted books. I was in the Louvre staring at hieroglyphs. I was screaming at textbooks. I was dreaming of the future. I was back on a rooftop in Giza with Lady M. I was wandering through temples with Abdul. I was breaking the Ramadan fast at the Khan el-Khalili. I was dreaming of digging. I was in raptures at the thought of the basements of the Egyptian Museum. I was drinking Stella again with Hassan. I was back by the Nile. And I was an Egyptian through and through.

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LUXOR: The Ghost at Esna

I was lost in reverie when the temple first came into sight. And once my eyes had latched onto the yellow-brown stone, I felt the most inordinate connection. It wasn’t like I had been here before, or anything like what Lady M would have discussed at midnight on a rooftop in Cairo, this was something absolutely new. It was relief. I know that doesn’t make tremendous sense, and I can’t claim to understand the sensations I felt there myself, but I took great comfort in the Temple of Esna.

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THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #181

I quickly fell head over heels in love with the author, Barbara Mertz. When I learned that she was a trained Egyptologist with a degree from the highly respected University of Chicago, well that was it for me. I knew that I needed to do the same. So I wrote a lengthy letter telling Barbara that she had profoundly impacted my life. When I went to research the address to send it to, I read that she had died. I felt overwhelming loss. I was devastated for the longest time because I would never get to befriend Barbara. And I was sad because Amelia had been frozen. She would never come back to life in the pages of a book. Imagine my rapture, imagine my thrill, imagine my delight when word spread that there was an unfinished manuscript about Amelia!

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LUXOR: The Best of All Birthdays

I don’t mind aging so much. I joke about it frequently, but I feel as if I was “eighty before I was eighteen.” I was a grumpy old man for the majority of my life. I didn’t do anything terribly exciting or socialize or have a dozen boyfriends or wake up on a riverbank with no memory of getting there. Honestly, I can’t say that I regret that, but there are times when I wonder what I missed out on during the course of my tame youth. I feel younger now than I did back then. I still haven’t woken up on a riverbank, but that’s just fine. I have woken up in five star hotels, so that’s better.

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LUXOR: The Karnak Conundrum

Coming to the end, a well-uniformed security guard approached me and told me that I was sure to get a wife now. I smiled and chuckled to myself and replied, “Inshallah.” This pleased him inordinately, and so I was led on a long walk with him into more to those off-limit sites for a bit of baksheesh. Everybody’s charmingly corrupt in Egypt. He led me into a chamber with something to do with Alexander and went to find a man who was going to give me great good luck. I shrugged again, any luck was better than no luck, after all.

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