Oblivious in Dubai: Part 17

It’s time.

We land in Canada; Montreal to be specific; and part ways.

No more war. What was I thinking? Fuck.

My friends pick me up at the airport on my final trip home; three heavy bags in tow. I give them pashminas from the bazaar. It’s two in the morning when we arrive at their house. We smoke. I sleep soundly on the couch.

I wake to an empty house; they’re both at work. After showering, I sit on the stoop smoking a cigarette.

The significance of the feeling of the grass between my toes was something unfathomable moments ago.

He notices each cold and individual blade of grass touching the soles of his feet.

Every car seemed to be speeding past the house. Conditioned to hover at a constant 15 kilometers per hour in his bongo or his right-hand-drive, navy blue, SUV; he’s caught off guard by the constant flow of traffic running perpendicular to the walkway leading to the house connected to the stoop on which he’s sitting.

Sheeeeeit.

I need a Tim Horton’s coffee and a shower.

My first shower back in the world was awkward. Since my last trip home; this is the first shower I can recall taking in a tub-sized shower stall. My body; mannerisms, actions, instincts; my sense of self and situational awareness; were completely bombarded with new sensory input that I found frightening. I found it frightening that I found it frightening. This shower belonged to 20-something female friends of mine. Every ledge, every corner was full of bottles. Every color of the spectrum was squeezed into the limited ledge-space available in their tub.

I kept knocking things over. Every turn was stressful. My elbows hit things I should have known were there. My mind was screaming, “Oh shit. Oops. Crap. Oops. OUCH. Damn it,” for the duration of the activity.

The level of anxiety I felt while completing the most basic of daily tasks foreshadowed the inevitable fall from grace that was to come.

Fall I did.

As we all must.

Until the birth of my child; the destruction of my ego was greatest gift I had ever received from the universe.

The most troubled among us are often not prepared to completely change our ways; sometimes we have to be pushed.

 

 

‘ANTS!’ by Oblivious

At the peak of the 24th century; man has been extinct for about two-hundred years.  We reached this state of extinction by allowing our differences to define us; thus allowing the technology of the day to solidify those distinctions – permanently.

What has become of this world is the result of mistakes made and bridges crossed and burned.  We used the brightest of our species to build weapons to offend and defend these superficial differences between the members of our species.

One button; one push; that’s all it took.

This wave of residual irradiated mist that swept across our planet removed us from it.  It also changed those species that remained. Millions of species died. Some rather quickly; chronologically speaking; and some very slowly. Our species lasted about forty years from N-Day. Our extinction came in waves.

The first wave was short; it lasted a few weeks. It started in the major city-centers where most of the ordinance was aimed. The effects rolled out of the cities and eventually swept across the plains to burn, deform, and sicken those unlucky enough not to have a previously unknown genetic predisposition that allowed them to last a little longer.

Those killed by the first incarnation of Un-Natural Selection were the lucky ones.  Their deaths only lasted a few days or weeks; they didn’t have to watch the Armageddon of the aftermath.  The fanatically religious embraced it; they anticipated their entrance to paradise. As a result; they did nothing to protect themselves – not that they could have done much anyway.

This first wave resulted in the reduction of our species from fifty billion to about five-hundred million – scattered around the globe.

Many of the survivors of this first wave of death were spared by genetic luck.  Something in their DNA made them slightly more resistant to the effects of the nuclear pestilence.  Still, many more were spared due to a properly executed response after N-Day.  Those without the genetic predisposition to resistance would fall in the second wave.

The second wave was the long-game; the slow, unstoppable and invisible force that caused deformities and strange ailments.  It entered our corporeal containers through our food, our water and our air. What could we do? We had to eat. Everyone has to eat. Our choice was to starve now; or to eat and risk suffering later.

The effects on animals were quite intriguing.  Millions of species wiped out; just like us. Some immediately; some slowly.  Some with obvious deformities; and some that simply didn’t reproduce after N-Day.  I’m sure they had no comprehension of the magnitude; as they are but simple animals – eating, sleeping and reproducing.  Their cognitive capacities simply weren’t there to fathom what was really going on.  Lucky them, perhaps.

Some species seemed unaffected – the ants in particular… at least at first.  After several of their generations – about twenty of our years – they started to get bigger.  Not much bigger at first; but soon they became the size of small dogs.  They still behaved as ants; just on a much larger scale.

Their hills became the size of football stadiums; and their preferences in food extended to a carnivorous desire for human flesh.  The few of us that remained were hunted.

Ants are known for having an incredible strength-to-size ratio.  This didn’t change when they did.  A small group of modern ants; in their advanced evolutionary state; could move cars and chew through front-doors.

The few of us who remained had to be vigilant and intuitive in the defense of ourselves and our homes.  The simple and routine acts of hunting or foraging for food were inherently dangerous, yet necessary, ventures.

Granted; we could see a swarm of ants coming on quickly in the distance; like a pipeline of Alberta crude bursting and flooding a city street.  These creatures would emerge from one of their tunnels like biblical locust swarms being sent to rid the world of whatever it is their jaws were tough enough to chew.  Human flesh and bone didn’t come close to that limit; akin to our species munching on a stick of celery.

After some time; it wasn’t the physical evolution of the ants that was the most troubling aspect of their change.  The most troubling aspects were their cognitive enhancements.  Ants have always behaved as a hive-mind.  Group-thinking and making decisions without words – almost as if being controlled remotely – was the standard method of work for these creatures.

They never did learn to talk; and we never figured out exactly how they communicated – though it appears to be telepathic.  Whether they use words or images; and how deeply and clearly their minds connect is beyond our understanding.

What we know for sure is that they’ve gotten smarter and more efficient over time.  You can almost see them thinking and problem-solving; silently; when they encounter a challenge.

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PART 2

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Oblivious in Dubai: Part 8

We spend several hours at the ‘tourist village’.

We eat atop cushions in the sand, sitting around a circular stage. I drink cans of Budweiser – as per protocol.

A female belly dancer and a man dancing in the Sufi whirling fashion take turns on the stage entertaining us tourists.

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We finish our meal; take photos with the entertainers; then load up in our vehicles to head back into civilization. I, relatively full of Budweiser; take my spot in the front – beside the driver. Because, why not?

The night is dark and humid; the stars are bright. I am drunken and near-sleeping as we rip and roar through the streets of Dubai. Flashes of neon signs and the night life of the city are burned in the back of my brain. My eyes half-cocked; taking in a small percentage of the visual stimuli present around the vehicle. I’d really like to spend more time with that man’s wife. Nice lady, I thought.

The couple and their friend get out of the SUV at some uncertain location; the driver tells me we should be back to my hotel within 20 minutes.

We get there; and I disembark to the warm embrace and welcome of the friendly security guard who arranged my impromptu adventure. He was delighted to hear I had such a good time. I thanked him warmly and repeatedly for suggesting the tour.

A quick chat with Salazar; and then up to my suite to shower and pack my things for my flight. Drunken and ridiculous, I make my way to the lobby. Beautiful and dark walls of stained wood fill the elevator and reception area.

They give me back my passport; and they hail me a cab. This was no ordinary taxi, there wasn’t a meter or a rooftop sign. This was some guy’s car who said he’d take me to the airport. Most of the rest of the past 24 hours had transpired in a similar fashion; so why not?

I make sure to take a business card from the hotel. This is the best way to ensure you make your way back to a place you have once been.

He takes me to the airport; I thank him and make my way through airport security. I check my bags; get my boarding pass; and make my way through the endlessly commercial international circus that is the Dubai International Airport.

Diamond stores, electronic stores, fashion stores, drug stores and liquor stores; a shopping plaza primed for international travellers. Inflated prices (though the booze was moderately priced) and exclusive designer clothing filled the miles of commerce.

I locate the general direction of my gate; and stop at one of the many pubs along the way to have a stiff beverage – the undying friend of a weary solo traveller.

Part Nine

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Oblivious in Dubai: Part 7

The perfectly matched convoys of SUV’s, full of tourists, rolled around the sand dunes; somewhere on the outskirts of Dubai. We stopped for photo ops at picturesque and scenic spots that only locals could find on their own.

Wild camels; a goat farm; a high ridge from which to look off and enjoy the endless red hue of the desert sand. The lady riding with us was beautiful; she said she was from India. Her husband wasn’t a fan of mine. All I did was make polite conversation; I asked her to use my camera to take a picture of me.

Unfortunately a gust of wind came along. I got a brilliant picture of my gut; on a background straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. After basking in the late-afternoon heat of the Arabian desert; our convoy loaded back in to our white Range Rovers and were told we were headed for supper at the “tourist village”.

We drive in a straight line. Up and down; up and down the dunes. We hit a perpendicular strip of pavement; turn ninety degrees; and head down a two lane highway.

Suddenly we take a sharp-left. A path clearly beaten by other vehicles; we were on our way down. We arrive at a sand-bottom parking lot that leads under an arch and into a bazaar-like atmosphere with a stage in the centre.

“This is where we eat.” the driver said.

Families; foreigners; couples; and camel rides. In hindsight I should have rode the camel.

I walk under the arches and into the ‘village’. To my left; kiosks and mini-shops with trinkets and souvenirs. To my right; a hookah bar and a regular bar.

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I approach the hookah-master and ask what flavours he has. He says, “Double-apple is most popular. If you want to use hookah; use double-apple.”

He gives me a plastic contraceptive mouthpiece and instructs me to pick a seat. I choose the back wall of the circle de smoke. Having my back against the wall allows me to fully observe my surroundings; spotting danger and having multiple exit strategies – just in case.

This caution wasn’t a result of any sort of conditioning I gained while living in theatre; this was an introvert defensive strategy. I also enjoy people-watching. Observing people, while acting natural outside of their natural habitat, is infinitely intriguing and interesting. The way they interact with one another and their environment; I’ll never understand. I’m fairly certain that I’m not of this planet. I think that a lot of moderately-insane people feel this way.

It’s not us that are strange for being different; it’s all of you that are strange for being so alike.

Part Eight

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Oblivious in Dubai: Part 6

From hoards of cars and people; to a lonely two lane highway in the middle of endless miles of sand.

Plenty of room; sitting in the back of a beautiful white Range Rover in mid-afternoon. There was a couple, a dude; the driver; and myself.

We stop at a strip mall beside a white-and-blue billboard in the middle of the fucking desert. There was a restaurant; clothes shop; and a shoe shop.

After ordering coffee, I try on some local clothes (which, in hindsight, should have been purchased); take pictures of the shoes, and take a picture of the white-and-blue sign. I then wait for these slackers to eat.

We’re met with a whole convoy of similar Ranger Rovers.

Oh fuck.

After a moment I realized that this is not dangerous at all; I’m over-reacting. This is a tourist destination.

Neat; it’s relaxing not to be doing stupid, dangerous shit.

The drivers of each of the white Range Rovers take out tire-gauges; flip them over; and start letting a bunch of the air out of the tires. I learned something very valuable that moment; if you’re ever stuck in sand… let some air out of your tires.

Not all of it. Just a bit. More traction.

For the purpose of trying to drive hits to the site. I’m going to post some of the pictures that I took that day under this line of text.

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I’ve been to Dubai six times.

The city of Dubai is beautiful. It’s industrial and it’s a ‘boom-town’; but it’s beautiful. I’ll contrast it to another oil ‘boom-town’ that I’m familiar with as a Canadian – Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Both cities built on the back of the oil industry; one of them a beautiful tourist destination – the other is an industrial wasteland. Maybe we just don’t hear about the cancer rates in that part of the world.

It struck me as the Vegas of the Middle East. It was the place to go; it was the place to be. Flights land there from every country within the distance of an air-plane-gas-tank.

We scale sand dune after sand dune. Our convoy of white SUVs; other convoys of SUV’s.

Idiot locals on quad bikes. I hate loud noises; can’t handle them at this moment in history.

Loud noises.

Safe mode

Cover mode.

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The problem with loud noises is that for the past three months I’d lived with air conditioners; generators; planes; helicopters and vehicles running around the clock. My auditory system had adjusted itself to the beautiful and constant, military-flavoured white-noise that was our existence while in-theatre. Anything aside from the constant hum of the ebb-and-flow of life on a military base was not something my mind was prepared for.

A sudden, loud, and unexpected noise was usually bad.

Most of the time it meant a rocket.

Many times I could feel the impact; we all could. Then we took cover. Then we heard the alarm. Then we heard the voice over the loudspeaker, “Rocket Attack! Rocket Attack!“.

The rhythmic wailing of the alarm became the most exciting time to be alive; knowing that there was a slight chance that all could go wrong; right then; right there.

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Part Seven

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