east of west coast journey: from Saudi to Bwoston to New Haven to Durham
i took the opportunity to run-down the dream of being a perfessional musician by going to a music skool in Bwoston for a year. Enroute, as described in the rat cabin & victorian's coda, i had the chance to see my Dad on a visitor's visa where he was working in Khamis Mushyat, Saudi Arabia (400 miles south of Jeddah and 70 miles inland). A practitioner of general surgery in San Mateo, California, he had become disillusioned with the burgeoning malpractice industry in the mid-70s and had always had the desire to pursue further experiences of the kind he had been engaged by onboard the ship Hope for a stint in Indonesia and Bali in the early 60s.
As i kid i had thought i wanted to be a doctor from the experience of going with him on "rounds" to one of the three different hospitals he worked at. We'd walk into the person's room and they wood light up when they saw him. i was very moved by seeing how much my Dad's assistance meant to these people. Nevertheless, as i grew older and realized more specifically just what was involved to become such a perfessional, i lost interest in pursuing such a path.
i had resolved in Eugene that when i was in Saudi i wood tell my father i was going to try to get into a music skool i had heard of in Bwoston called Berklee and finally pursue the exploration of a music source potential for my life. He seemed to have mellowed somewhat. One afternoon i proceeded to lay out for him what i intended to try once i got back to the states. He didn't challenge me as i expected he wood and, among other things, referred to a quote of Winston Churchill who, when asked what one quality he wood wish for another if he cood just pick one replied, "enthusiasm." Dad knew well my great enthusiasm and that it was the a vital attribute of mine. He said he thought what i was going to undertake was much more difficult than what he had done because expressive art was a much more constantly challenging endeavor just to keep the ideas coming than something like surgery.
i went to Saudi Arabia with my step-brother, Dave Whitehead. At that time, the only way one cood travel there was on a visitor's visa as "tourists" were not allowed. We found ourselves in an extremely different cultural milieu that itself was experiencing staggering changes. For thousands of years the desert land had been home to the Bedouin, a nomadic people whose communities were only as large as the desert's "law of scarcity" wood allow. i cood well appreciate what Frank Herbert wrote of in Dune about the Freman and the law of a land without water. The Bedouin were a living manifestation of such a culture.
During the early twentieth century Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud, known thruout the world as Ibn Saud, had distinguished himself as the person who "forged a modern nation out of a collection of tribes scattered across vast tracts of the Arabian Peninsula". Once the extent of the presence of oil was ascertained after WWII, Saudi Arabia found itself inexorably propelled, in the span of a few short decades, into the alien-to-its-experience consumer-based preoccupations of the impersonal twentieth century "modern world".
While there, i saw a people who previously had never had any awareness or conception of getting things, being bombarded with alien western materialistic images vaunting a consumer's paradise-on-earth, albeit in a muted form because of the existence of Mecca and the Koran which the people in government used for their own purposes of maintaining political and economic control of the society. Outside of the Sea of Cortez in Baja, California, i had never before travelled to a foreign land. i was struck by how, looking into the eyes of people in the souk (sp?) (public market place) i experienced a new sense of not having any idea what they were actually thinking, particularly about me.
It was a very different culture where women never went out in public unless they were accompanied by a male member of the fam'blee (this was not proscribed in the Koran but had been adopted the during the time when the Ottoman Empire invaded and occupied the desert land), where one wore clothes to cover up all but face and hands (in a western "supermarket", every single copy of a "Summer Fun" issue of Time, with a woman wearing a one-piece bathing suit on the cover, had been magic-markered so her arms and legs were not visible), and where if your car was parked and a Saudi driver crashed into it, you were at fault because you were an infidel, one of the great unwashed.
We took one trip down the escarpment (i think the descent was something on the order of five miles over ten miles of driving) to the Red Sea. A sense of timeless eternity was present there. Waking up the first morning and looking around, i felt as if this cood be someplace millions of year before the dawn of homo sapiens. We were at the edge of the Red Sea Basin's great coral reef and snorkled in water that was at least a steady 85 degrees. The different sizes, shapes, and colors of coral, blended with the myriad of marine life, was astonishing. i had never before experienced such a temperate, salten world so removed from any remnants (besides our car) of ever-present industrial world "scaffolding".