Thursday, June 30, 2005


Why would I think the bike was stolen?
Because he was riding another bike, holding the second one by the handle, awkwardly?
Because it was not the correct size bike for him? Because it had no seat and looked brand new?
Because I was driving in a not so good neighborhood?
Because he was black?
I tried to imagine the same scene in the more expensive neighborhood uptown. A white guy riding a dirty bike, handling a brand new one with no seat. Would have I had the same thought?
"Stolen. Definitely stolen".

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Arabs in their natural habitat

I went down with friends to the Mall to the large "Folklife Festival". The theme this year is ill defined. There is the Forest service, Oman and the "Culture of food". Go figure.
The place is not as packed as usual and we stroll into the "Oman" enclosure. There are several booths: music, some arts and crafts (pottery and metal work), calligraphy. At one of the booth, we stop to listen to a man dressed in white, explaining how to find water in the desert "If there are large and green trees, there is water". What a revelation! People are nodding their head. Clearly they never gave the matter great thoughts. A woman is working, sitting at the feet of the guy dressed in white. She is all dressed in black and we can only see her eyes. She is not looking up, although I'm sure she has already noticed that we are all dressed in short and light T-shirts because of the heat. Women at the front row wear sleeveless shirt with skimpy shorts. Their hair is free and flowing. I think about this woman, forced to sit here for us to look.
I feel like I am at the zoo. "Come to see Arabs in their natural habitat!"
We leave shortly after that.

Monday, June 20, 2005


I was trying to get tickets for the new Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt movie. So I call the Fandango number. The movie is playing at 3:30 and 4:15 PM but my friend and I have already agreed to see the 3:30 show. I call and I get the theater code, the movie. Now I am selecting the show time.
The voice on the recording is sweet and sticky. "At what time do you want to see this movie?" "3:30 I answer. "Sorry, I didn't understand your answer. At what time do you want to see this movie?" "3:30" I repeat. "I'm sorry, I still didn't understand. At what time do you want to see the movie?" After another round of me saying the time and the recording saying "I'm sorry I still didn't understand your answer, the machine hangs up. Fandango cannot understand French accent. They advertise with Indians actors poking fun of their accents, but they hang up on the French.
I call back and the same thing happens. I can't get pass the "3:30" show time. The machine just does not get it. I have to call again and I am seriously considering getting the 4:15 show which should be easy to understand even with my accent. As I am preparing for another fight against the machine, I think of keying the time from the phone pad. It works. We will see the "Treeee Zerty" show after all...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Too hot for walking

In an overcrowded zoo, waiting with friends for the orang utans to go to their other enclosure. They will use the "O-line", a suspended trail 70 feet above ground that allows them to move like in the jungle to the delight of people below them. The towers have live wires below the small platforms where the apes can rest so they have to keep going until the last tower, located in the middle of the other enclosure.
The volunteer in charge is explaining the logistic, the details, mixing interest facts to gross precision (linked to the fact that apparently, the orang utans love to go to the bathroom when suspended 70 feet in the air...). All are listening attentively.

The zoo is filled with kids of all ages. I hear a boy about 6 or 7 saying with a small voice "I wish I didn't have to walk that much". His mother does not answer. She just smile at him. I can almost hear her thinking "You're supposed to have fun! This IS fun!!".
It is hot.

Max la Menace

In the bus, the way the woman right in front of me was talking on her cell phone. It's one of those phone that opens in two segments. She tilts one part to listen and then brings the phone a bit down to talk.
From behind her, it gives her the air of a secret agent from the 50's. "Max la Menace" as the TV show "Get smart" was known in France.
She is about 60 years old. Maybe that's the look she is thriving for.

Divorce, french style

I called my lawyer the other day for matters related to my car accident two years ago. The case has not been settled yet. So I say my name and he answers "Ah! you're gonna be happy! I filled the papers yesterday and all is fine". I am happy indeed and ask him what's gonna happen now.
So he launches into a long description of a judge reviewing all the papers and as I am thinking that I would not be sad to see this case close, I hear " and so, if all goes well, you'll be divorced in 6 months!". I'm trying to process the information, slowly realizing that he has mistaken me for someone else. I'm not sure what to say so I hesitate "That's fantastic especially because I am not married...". There is a silence at the end of the phone. "You're not Mrs. XXX? " he asks giving, in addition, the name of the person who is indeed getting divorced. "Well, obviously not. I'm calling for the car accident". I can almost feel his embarrassment and he tells me that he will work on the case soon before hanging up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Check them out

On my way to work, some day last week.
It's about 7 AM and I'm stopped at a red light, right at the corner of 14th and W street. There is a large parking lot filled with people. They're all seated against the wall to try to catch a bit of the shade on this already hot day. They're all black. All ages.
I see a white guy coming in the lot with a small white van. He goes from group to group and just point to some people while walking. About half a dozen people follow him to the van. From the atmosphere of the scene, I was half-expecting him to check out their teeth.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Fucking cousin!

On my way to a movie, as I turned the corner of 11th and E to get to the theater. I see two guys facing each others. One is trying to push away a third guy in a wheelchair, the other is standing in front of him, blocking his move. I hear him say "This is my fucking cousin, man. You're not taking him anywhere". The guy behind the wheel chair shakes his head as the other man keeps saying "dyou know what I mean? This is my cousin. This is my fucking cousin!"
As I pass them I can see that the cousin in the wheel chair is holding a bucket with a plea written on it. He is smiling an absent smile, his head tilted toward the left at an awkward angle.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

I have issues

The woman is wet, soaking wet in this not so hot evening. I'm just exiting a showing of "Crash" at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring and I'm on my way back to my car. She must have come out of the fountain that stands in the middle of the fake square, in the fake downtown they opened less than a year ago.
She is wearing a T-shirt claiming "I have issues" that sticks to her skin. She is laughing at her friend who is shaking his head.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Taxi ride

I boarded the taxi in a bad mood. I had arrived on time at the bus station but still missed the bus because I was reading the paper and didn't notice the bus coming and leaving. I had a meeting at 9:30 and not much choice but to get a cab.
The driver greets me with a warm "How are you?" but, still reeling from the missed bus, I launch into a long explanation of what has just happened. I am in a mid sentence when I realize that it's not the driver's fault so I laugh and stop bitching about what has just happened. We start
to talk and he tells me that he is from Sudan ("Far from where the war is" -- he says, refusing to tell me if he is from the South or the North). He came 6 years ago after winning a green card at the lottery and recently got his American citizenship. He has the certificate in his car and passes it to me. I can see the date May 25 of this year, his picture and the signature of the governor of Maryland. I am a bit jealous of his luck. I've been here more than double his time here and I am still years away from being a citizen. We talk about America. He says he likes it 50/50. Some good, some bad.
I try very hard to convince him that I think it's more than 50% good but he can't believe it. "You're French," he keeps saying, "don't you think that France is better than here?"
Nothing I can tell him will made him change his mind. France and Europe was a paradise closed to him, so he came here. A consolation prize.