Thursday, April 5, 2007

3/25/2007 (backdated)
With a “bismillah”, I hit the button, and pricked myself in the thigh. Easy. Seemed appropriate to invoke the name of God for such a thing. Moroccans do this for everything: an old man entering an elevator, merchants taking money, anything involving tea, and so forth. There was a good Paul Bowles story about this. He was sharing a mountain taxi with an old man, who disembarked in the middle of nowhere. The old man closed the door in haste, and severed the tip of his finger. Uttering “hamd’ullah”, he retrieved it from the dust, tightened it with some more dust, and walked off into the mountains. Thanks be to God that it wasn’t the whole finger, for example. This is what we mean by Allah hu-rahim hu-rahman: God, the merciful, the compassionate. Examples of God’s mercy and compassion are replete. So every day should be Thanksgiving.

Tales of Matt’s continuing puzzlement at his own culture: episode 47, the Beard. The degree of luxury in service to which people are accustomed is rather surprising. Pamper me, people say, tend to my every need. Many expect compliance as supply it. After a couple weeks away from my adored adoptive home, unavailed of a reliable Moroccan barber, my beard was out of control. I am not very good at trimming it myself, even with a properly working right hand. I used to grow it fuller, but now I think shorter suits me better. So I had to go to the haircutter.

First of all, a woman in Morocco cutting a man’s hair is unheard of. I didn’t need a haircut, but I paid close attention to the fellow preceding me. She appeared to have done quite a stellar job on him: condition, product, etc. She provided a number of gushy justifications for her professional choices, as if the guy had questioned her judgment. But this kind of self-effacement counts for a lot in the service world. Women dig this for each other, but I find it rather insipid. She was an attractive woman, of Syrian and Lebanese extraction. She said to me, “I’ll use the clippers on your beard, but I’ll trim your mustache by hand.” Oh, for Pete’s sake. It grows back, right? I want it all short. Make it easy on both of us.

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