Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You pass a fine chocolate shop, a Costa coffee, a garage, a seemingly abandoned building opened for today to reveal the spillover from Seoudi grocery, a rusted sign for a dentist posted on the side of an apartment building, cats and kittens crossing and huddling and scampering and limping away from tires and feet and casting a cold eye, a mostly-dead eye at you if you cluck your tongue or say “kitty-kitty.” They are feral. They are dependent. They are ready to spring. A few of them gather around a styrofoam container filled with water, next to a rotund man in a gallabeya, arms crossed in a chair. You go back and forth from the sidewalk to the road, depending upon the inches between your toes and tires, holes, abandoned piles of brick. There are villas, large and abandoned by everything but vines and small creatures. One old villa is a school, but you can’t see over the yellow wall. There is a bawaab who looks like a gnarled fairy tale tree, and he doesn’t recognize you today, and you don’t think he will ever agree to recognize you.

The men at the green grocer’s are sharing a piece of fruit. The old father figure shows you newly-delivered, enormous radishes, heaves from his chair, stoops, offers them, waits for your nod, then twists off the leaves of one bunch. The rest is tied with palm. Out on the street the first wave of kids is getting out of school, and they buy junk food just like any kids with some change in their pockets, or they buy yams wrapped in newspaper from the guy who pushes his oven around on a cart all day. Little boys dart in front of cars and laugh. Teens kick a soccer ball to each other, back and forth across a street lined with honking cars. The ball smacks against the door of a BMW, once, twice. The driver stares at the car in front of him.

A few minutes later you cross another street, coming out from behind a truck, and nearly get hit by a boy on a bike. He swerves left, then right, whichever way you swerve.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

The weather was like spring today. The sweater-sporting Egyptians might not say that, but, as I rode back to Zamalek this afternoon in the duct-taped back seat of a cab, I could see the blue sky and smell something...fresh? I walked to Metro, the Western-style grocery store located in the basement of an otherwise dilapidated mall. On the way, I said hi to a bawaab who perpetually parks it in a chair in front of his building. A woman in an abaya was walking in the street. Her companion was a toddler in a torn green sweater who appeared to be too far from her grasp. The boy swerved in front of a car, which slowed before it could hit him. The woman chastised the boy and yanked him closer, then promptly let him go as another string of cars passed.

Across the street from Metro is a new Cinnabon cafe.

I got a chunk of cheddar from the Metro deli. The deli guy who grabbed the block of cheese was being watched by another man in a pin-striped shirt. Deli Guy kept switching his plastic gloves under the critical eye of Pin-Stripe. It's getting a little too clean in there - there have of late been several managerial types lingering and analyzing the situation in the store. Thankfully, a fly egregiously sipped at another wheel of cheese, and no one seemed to mind, and that seemed much better than the thought of ever entering the Cinnabon across the street. You know it's time to flee when the Cinnabon comes to roost.

After leaving Metro, I saw the toddler with the torn green sweater sitting against the wall of the building and chewing on a hunk of bread too big for his mouth. The woman in the abaya was there, too, and a strangely quiet baby had materialized in her arms, and she held out her hands and pleaded for money. A corner store had exploded onto the curb with a giant pink gorilla on top of a stack stuff. Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! I nodded to the bawaab, still sitting in his chair. He tapped a folded newspaper against his shoulder.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I just bought a bunch of strawberries, spinach, bell peppers, leafy lettuce, oranges, lemons, apples, green beans, and broccoli for nine bucks! Here's a photo from Midan Hussein, near Khan-il-Khalili. That guy's carrying baladi bread. And that other guy looks to be sneezing...