friday | kabul | a grand habana | & penelope cruz

friday afternoons we usually go for a drive. rather we usually intend to, until something comes up -which is often- and disrupts these plans. the plan is to either go for a long drive to shamali, or for a shorter version of it to the foothills of that big huge mountain behind the darul aman palace where i have bought a piece of real estate resting on a tiny hillside. we go there to glance over the huge expanse of streets and houses and cellphone antennas and dusty trees that is west kabul and to puff at the occasional cigarette and breathe some fresh air -maybe those two things do not go together all that well now that i think about it- and to listen to good music streamed from the car’s ipod dock with the doors open.

it did not seem likely between invitations and family gatherings but we managed to get out last friday afternoon and went to darul aman. the hills are azul green with grass thanks to an unusually generous spring reason of rain. the place bustles with people, but we get to our corner of the land and stop the car just short of a precipice like slope, facing the city. out of nowhere the rain starts. and just like that, out of nowhere, it stops. a deluge, then a drizzle, and then -and then, the most incredible sight of all: right above us, the bluest of kabul’s blue skies and in front of us -framed by the windscreen like a giant hi definition plasma screen, a city overhung with low clouds, and the most perfect and well-defined rainbow i have seen in my entire life. i can count the whole roy g. biv of it -that’s how well defined it is. the few times i have seen a rainbow, it has been a part of the arc -but this one, you can see it end to end, in a perfect downward arc and where exactly it touches the ground. i believe one of it is somewhere to the right, and the left end of it inside the campus of the american university of afghanistan. i decide against the idea of packing a shovel and going digging there one of these afternoons, but s says that another version of the myth involving rainbows is that if you pass under the arc, then you automatically transmute into the opposite gender. needless to say, we wait until it fades before we hit the road. by this time the giant, handrolled grand havana cigar that vero has brought over from her recent visit to cuba has finished and i, not a smoker and having just smoked a whole cigar, am having quite a buzz in my head. my bit of hedonist pleasure. the cigar has hit the spot – though my primary reason to try it is because of the romantic allure always attached to grand habana cigars -and because ernest hemingway was such a big fan of them.

i envy vero and we decide to get to cuba before the last of the old guard is out of the door and before the rapid process of change that has set in changes the face of this country from a setting for poets, mojitos, grand habanas, and larger than life revolutionaries to a character-less playground filled with chain stores and wall marts full of cheap chinese made consumer goods and touristas.

that night we watch woody allen’s vicky, cristina, barcelona and agree that penelope cruz is a force of nature and sweeps the viewers of their feet with such a full-hearted and wholesome performance and leaves even the otherwise breathetaking scarlette johanssen a little bit breathless and pale by comparison. she is even better than in volver and we thought that was the best already. and no surprise she is a muse to almodovar and woody allen. that picture of hers and woody by annie leibovitz in the recent issue of vanity fair was beautiful. and speaking of this movie and cuba, javier bardem stands his own ground pretty well too. i have seen him in three movies (before the sun goes down -as a gay poet emigre from cuba, no country for old men -a sociopath who won an oscar, and this one) and he is a gifted actor.

and then on saturday, we get chased by a jolly good photographer who is doing a photo essay on young afghan returnees and their lives in kabul. i don’t know how it is for others -but sometimes that i think, there is not much of one that i can boast of. it’s work, work, work with a bit of movies and videogames and the occasional family gatherings worked in it. i don’t even get to the trendy wakhan cafe that is apparently filled with the yuppie and the young up and coming professionals. mental note to get there before it mysteriously goes downhill like just about every other good place in kabul. maybe this afternoon?

i have finished -and i mean really, literally finished- the game i have been playing over the past month in between stuff and when i should have been working out on the threadmill. this has rarely happened to me before -when i unlock every secret, win every last battle and finish the game to the point where credits begin rolling on the screen like at the end of a movie. usually, as with reading and watching movies, i lose interest and patience halfway through and change into another book or movie or game -unless the stuff i am watching/reading/playing is really good. this one must have been good. i even dreamt of it one night. i won’t tell you which one it was as that is too embarassing.

somewhere in between all this i heard that i will be going to istanbul soon to attend a conference and do not have to work hard at doing a paper for it. i must say i do look forward to the trip, the city, and the good conversations. i just hope i can finish orhan pamuk’s snow before that.

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~ by safrang on May 14, 2009.

3 Responses to “friday | kabul | a grand habana | & penelope cruz”

  1. Good luck with “snow”.. it was not exactly enjoyable read for me.. but you might feel differently about it.

  2. I loved ‘Snow.’ I wish I’d gotten to Istanbul when I was in the region.

  3. […] when, as the old timers would say, the henna is still fresh. we struggle to steal away together on weekends but don’t always manage. we correspond quite a lot via email and phone, and between late […]

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