Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Noe Speaks

A (n expat) Toddler Transition Tale: Morocco to Greece
Discovering Humanitarian Spirit on the Trail of the Syrian Refugees
In the beginning, things pretty much sucked.
I first remember being cautiously handed over to my father in a partially-sterile steel box of a room two stories below ground.  The dim bulb threw a depressing shadow of my father on the wall – but his outline was fantastic (!):  I put my crying on pause just long enough to observe his attempts at soft movement and soothing tone – he was fooling no one: I could sense his remorse about being absent from the delivery room (banished due to maleness) as easily as I sniffed out the hysteria lurking behind the thin wall-of-noise cooing he was spitting. Anxious underpinnings were plugging his heart-shaped declaration of love and a promise of a great life – I appreciated the effort nonetheless.  I accepted the rough handling from the Moroccan nurses only after being convinced of their proficiency.  I was shoved onto the nipple with all the delicacy of a pipefitter, but recognized their whittled-down attempts at efficiency. You know, people doing more with less and all that. 
I exited the hospital only after a near-violent standoff. My father screamed, “Who ever heard of a cash-only hospital!” and then whispered to my mother, “If I make a move, follow me without hesitation.” It was all very Bonnie and Clyde, as an early screening of my formative expat years rolled in my imagination to the soundtrack of an administrative office screaming match.  I have no doubt he would have taken a swing at those security guards.
For eight months, I ingested Casablanca pollution on exhaust-level stroller rides to the markets for stinky sardines, only to return to a shitty high-rise apartment with a nutrient-depriving lack of natural lighting.  I was plopped down on decorative tilework, surrounded by a castle-high prison of embroidered pillows and lavish couches.  My whimpering was lost in the maddening mix of ceaselessly impatient honking and unnecessary belligerent tones washing up against all sides of my building Iike a foul moat.  I wasn’t released until I was literally climbing the walls.
(One saving grace: besides all the idiosyncratic Moroccan snapping of fingers in my face, repetitive French-influenced “coucou”ing, and baffling over-concern for any pinprick of sunlight to make contact with my skin, I was treated like a fucking prince from all sides: street vendors, homeless, taxi drivers, our produce lady, local surfers on the beach, the fruit guy, janitorial staff at the school, apartment concierge, ruthless parking guardiens, my dad’s teaching colleagues, spoiled students – everyone. It must have been the novelty blue eyes.)
Finally, my complaints were heeded, and stakes thankfully pulled up.  Now I was asked to endure bullshit strapped-in hard miles: car seats to strollers to airplane rides to “Kid Comfort 1” backpack torture device.  All I wanna do is hoist myself up on a piece of furniture and bouncy-bouncy on my burly legs, and instead, I’m on an endless, binded nomadic tour: car ride north to Tangier, ferry to Sete, France, visit with the grandparents in Nice, transatlantic flight and back again to visit another set of elderly in Florida, long drive through France and Italy, ferry to Patras, Greece, drive to Athens, and lastly, eight more ferry hours to finally disembark “for good” (we’ll see) on Amorgos, Greece. 
Listen closely now knuckleheads: for this place, I’d withstand the journey again, all the way back to the primitive treatment of my legendary body at the Ghandi Clinic.  I’ve gleaned from various Chamber-of-Commerce-type literature, that I’ve landed on a small Cycladic island with less than 2,000 inhabitants.  Santorini is close – I can smell the money - and Turkey can’t be far off, because my dad says he’ll be forced to go there and back every three months.  The water is perfect blue, they even made a movie about it here in the 80’s: “The Big Blue” – and boy, they won’t let you forget it: countless establishments are named after it, and Le Grand Bleu CafĂ© has multiple screenings per night.  I’m constantly being changed in and out of swim trunks, rash guard, and wide-brimmed hats for saltwater baths, which I love, but we could can the annoying preamble sing-song, “Noe want to swim in the blue blue?”
Ahh, but isn’t life easy here; the food grows on trees.  My parents get downright giddy about a process they call “four ageing,” which involves climbing trees, bushwhacking through sharp underbrush and stealthily hopping goat fences to gather figs, grapes, pomegranate, (extremely) prickly pear, almonds, mushrooms, saffron and even snails.  I’m putting my fat foot down regarding those sea urchins though; they’re nasty beasts.  My dad is always marveling at their littered multitudes clinging to all the rocks where I waddle into the sea – he shakes his head at the possibility and mutters to himself about “a spiky goldmine.”  I busted him googling recipes.  I hope their scavenging ways are not indicative of our financial situation; I try not to dwell on how rarely either one of them go off to do any work, or rather how rarely anyone around here seems to work.
I know the “your-ohs” they do have come from working in Vissali’s Language School (which seems like a real step down from the international/American school scene, but I don’t have no say), unless they get paid for “getting brilliant,” which is when they gather a head of stem and mom disappears with paintbrush to the apothiki, dad sits at the computer, and they pace around drinking lots of coffee, smoking cigarettes and pass me back and forth rapid-fire with increasing degrees of malice.  Afterwards (after what?) they verbally congratulate each other, undulate nakedity, and wash off with a swim.
A concern: things are smooth like olive oil on feta, but I’m suffering from a recurring sensation (it’s not poopy pants).  Maybe suffering is too strong.  How to explain?  Each morning, I wake slowly, guzzle formula and survey boat traffic in the port from my spot on the deck: fishing boats in, sailboats out, maybe a spectacular yacht snuck in while I slept.  Rising sun chases ochre along the rocks and out the bay into the Med proper in a race against drenching sunlight.  The water shimmers glassy clear across to the dormant string of picture-perfect restaurants and shops.  I eavesdrop on the day’s plan; I’m never at odds with what I hear:  a swim, a hike, “see food,” generous nap schedule – it’s bliss. My fear is when it ends, because all good things must, eh?   It nags at me, another in a long line of itches, inches below the pamper line, where I can’t scratch.  Dread and doom waft over me. Boom! Sippy cup hits the floor, and I’m reeling like a Greek fisherman on a “weather day” ouzo binge.  It’s frozen perpetual angst for me homies; I’m two seconds from being swooped up and plopped in a car seat amidst a cluster of luggage for a neverending journey, nah mean?  That shit’s on a loop! But it never seems to happen. With each passing day, I’m gaining confidence that nothing is going to happen to ruin/change this.
Well, something did happen actually.  Considering the aforementioned predictable and joyfully mellow simplicity of our agenda, things got slightly more intense this week.  Things ramped up after we went swimming at the scenic Mouros Beach, of the epic sea caves (it’s “slabbalicious” – their words, not mine); that’s the beach where we accidentally left our swim trunks and hats drying on a rock, and they were still there when we returned two weeks later.  My parents acted like they discovered treasure, repeating with elevating enthusiasm, “That’s the kind of place this is.  That’s the kind of place this is!”
Apparently, minutes after we climbed out of that bay, a boatload of lost Syrians washed up on the beach.  They were probably aiming for the island of Kos, which is much closer to their Turkey launch site.  Well, they sure picked a spectacular spot; if there’s a prettier place to swim on the island, show me.  Would you label me dense if I wondered about their ability to extract any aesthetic pleasure on the approach?
Imagine: my parents drag me to this laid-back castaway environment, and I find myself smack-dab embroiled in the world’s biggest news story?  My parents had the idea that maybe I could thin out the towering pile of onesies stacked on my crate with a donation to the baby refugees. Won’t be as fun to topple, but whatever.  My dad is reading over my shoulder now, and wants me to make clear that he is way too selfish (he insisted on the italics even) to be painted as a do-gooder or humanitarian, and that every one of those outfits was generously donated to us (this was an early red flag about their finances).
Under, instead of through, the grapevine, we learned that the refugees, after being fed a free lunch at the Mouros Beach Taverna, were bedding down in the town “camping.”  Next morning, armed with an emasculating bag of onesies with topical design schemes such as mustaches and eyeglasses (we’re taken advantage of, stylistically speaking, as a demographic), we plowed our shitty stroller through the loose rock run-up to the campground.  My parents were excited to put their seven-word Arabic vocabulary (three years at The American Community School of Beirut) to use, and I was excited about stepping up to shorts and tee-shirts. 
And we missed them.  Word was that they had been shuffled onto an early ferry to Athens to begin the process of, well, I don’t really know.  And I had so wanted to give…
Onesies were unpacked and stacked again, and I reflected on my first lesson in island misinformation.  Serves me right for being so ambitious: here they say, “siga-siga” = “slowly-slowly.” 
Almost as an afterthought, I messaged out to my peeps for confirmation on the Syrian departure, just to quiet their plight in my mind.  Only to find I was burned again! They were still here, now being housed down south near Arkesini, in the Agia Paraskevi Church (try that as a leap from goo goo ga ga). I roused the folks for another mission, formalizing their commitment at the most opportune time: midway through a tall bottle of retsina to capture their resin-soaked enthusiasm and ply their liquid courage.
And again, we missed them, by a few hours.  Unlike the campground, which had been cleared of Syrian existence, the church was in full remnant-mode: signs of their presence were overwhelming - I could still smell them.  Long picnic tables and benches were stacked haphazardly along the long covered outdoor corridors running two sides of the church. Stuffed garbage bags were gathered around pillars.  Rejected donations lay around in disarray: shoes, shirts, coats, toys (I had a looksee – I ain’t too proud to beg).  I met a chick, bit of a plastic, named Barbie: I’ve read the negative press, I don’t get it, she’s a doll!
I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.  This time, we cross-referenced and got reliable confirmation that the refugess had indeed slipped our well-intentioned grasp and were aboard the Blue Star on the way to the capital.  These guys were shuffled around quickly, but by all accounts, treated generously, and they were privy to some beautiful spots on the island. I like to think the eye candy slightly softened their horrific transition. Maybe our donations will catch up to the needy babies if we send them on.
I can’t help but draw a parallel between the migrating Syrians and my own traumas.  I puff my pacy and reflect: my life has been difficult so far: I’m rocking goofy used clothes, I got no Fisher-Price and I eat on/off the floor.  Just like them, my roots have been torn out, and “home” has become an abstract concept. I wish I could have looked a baby Syrian in the eye and given her (purposefully picked pronoun) one of my extra sloppy wide-mouthed kisses, and told her things would get better, like they have for me.  I swing in a hammock and stare at another beautiful sunset, at a horizon seemingly mocking me with a pink expanse of possibility. I hope they make it to Germany or wherever they are going. I hope they find a playground that will be their “regular.” Peace to all. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

me and my boy syncing with/despite bleating horns and the shouts of the wild boys

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sahara Desert Solitaire


I've coached everywhere I've been.

I had a great team once.

Starting Five
Joey K
Junior K
David R
Eddie R
Douglas A

Joey (6’, 165 lbs.) was my best player.  He was undoubtedly one of the best players on the entire North Slope that year.  He was aggressive.   He was ferocious.  He was unrelenting.  But mainly he was violent and angry.  I sensed the simmering violence in most of the males in the community - they’re warriors - but Joey’s brand was roiling, more intense – quiet, viscous, final, scalding.  His committed and poetic drives to the basket were a challenge to any motherfucker that wanted to get in his way.  Step in for a charge, and run the risk of getting charged yourself.  By a snorting bull.  Maybe later – outside.  No referee.  That’s where he wanted opponents. He told me to fuck off once.  I had to make a decision.  I let it go.  In class, I could sometimes catch him “reading” with his book upside down.  I let that go too. He would nod at me warily, contemplatively sizing me up.  He might even say something cheeky like, “Good book.”   Overall though, I think we had a fairly respectful relationship.  I was a pretty youthful and idealistic first year teacher, and could play ball better than any teacher he had ever seen.  Joey was cool.  Really.  Spine-crushingly cool.  I could see it.  He had it.  Very physically talented, all the standards – speed and strength and athletic, like liquid…that could drain through any defense, a natural wonder.  All the boys in the school were both petrified and in awe of him.  It was like having a head inmate calling the shots from the inside and handling discipline.   If this community was still nomadic, Joey would be leading the hunting parties and claiming the best woman as his own.  In a static community, Joey’s physicality found an outlet on the court.  And with this savage on the floor, we could contend with anybody.

Joey was the coach’s son.  I should explain that I only served as an interim coach for a six week chunk of season while Tuukak (pronounced two cock) was cruising Hawaii on government money – an extended conference trip.  The Eskimos get a lot of money thrown at them.   I was only a month+ flash in the pan: a heroic grease fire I like to think.  But I did hold the reins during a demanding mid-winter chunk of the schedule, representing at three away tournaments in other villages – plane rides.  Yeah, TwoCock had a firm grip on his team, as well as the community.  Think TwoCock was the alpha male of the village?  He was.  Bigger, more aggressive, higher functioning, employed, more cock: he ruled unopposed.  Joey had been passed the alpha torch…cock – the torchcock. He was Threecock.  There was some rebellious legend about 2 Cock throwing his shoes off and dangling them someplace high and unreachable within the school during his own student days. In a strict shoes-only zone I guess.  TooCock had another son: JR.  He was the closest thing I had to a post player.

Junior was the beefiest player I had on the team.  (5’10’’ and 185 lbs.)  He was carved from the mold of ol’ Double Penis, cut of the same foreskin - baby penis.  Junior/Senior in full effect.  Meaning he was thickset then, but the future belly overhang was inevitable. I worked so hard to get him to play with his back to the basket, when he so desperately wanted to shoot jumpers and drive improbably to the basket like far-more-talented big bro Joey. He grabbed some big rebounds, but his talent was in put-backs, throwing in easy ones from the paint where his frame could greedily monopolize and grow roots.  I really liked Junior.  Saying he was soft-spoken is a bit redundant within the very nonverbal Inupiat community, but that’s what he was: a big soft-spoken bear of a kid – tough as hell, but sweet as an Eskimo doughnut. (To the politically correct: the Eskimos are not offended by the term Eskimo.  I always used “Inupiat” when I was there, not working up the guts till the end of my time there to ask students and other locals  if “Eskimo” offends, and they all laughed and said no.  The majority were also pro offshore drilling, claiming herds of caribou would pass right under pipelines, unfettered.  They didn’t want protester interference.  They wanted money.  And to round out my knowledge on the subject: the term “Inuit” refers to language.)  Jr. had a real sincerity.  I remembering waiting for him to turn in a vocabulary test: you remember: spelling, definition, part of speech, use in a sentence…sometimes you gots to go old school. He was blatantly stalling, all other tests in a pile on my desk, waiting for an opportunity to pull out his crib sheet. I know that vocabulary tests are incredibly tempting for students to cheat on (a real pitfall of rote learning), I myself once taped answers to the inside tongue of my Pony Spud Webb high tops.

I said, “Junior, you’re cheating.  Every time I look away.” 

He replied in the typically drawn out and elongated monotone, “Not now.  Later.”  Completely deadpan.  Not trying for irony or humor. I had to deal with the tension between the brothers often; they were not friends and they rarely communicated, but the pressure hung around the gym like an over-inflated ball ready to pop (kind of a cheap simile – sorry – my foul).  I actually had two sets of brothers on the starting five, not so remarkable a demographic when you consider this isolated island village, north of mainland Alaska, population 300, only sported seven different last names.  Ruby had a different last name.

She was Junior’s girlfriend.  A couple years younger, she delighted in destroying my 8th grade English class.  She was so awful to me.  So pissed off.  Smart too.  She acted aloof, but it was camouflage (she knew her way around a rifle as well): she watched and listened for any chance to trip me up, then riled the other knuckleheads (Jules?  Levi?  Oh shit) into a distracting chaos, while smugly sitting back and smirking at the successful sabotage she set in motion. When I came back the second year, Junior and Ruby were parents – a baby girl added to the mix.  Two-Cock was now an aapa.  Mystery of the pissed off middle-schooler solved: she had been pregnant.  And scared.  Ruby had (at least) two cousins: David and Eddie.

David was my three point bomber, and he arrogantly liked to shoot well beyond the three point line.  A real hot shot.  He could get “off,” but when he was streaking it was game over.  He hit four or five in a row numerous times while I was at the helm.  David was hip-hop.  Most of the village boys were heavily affected by hip-hop: attitude, drug of choice, slang, style: sagging jeans, tilted straight bills, headphones, NBA jerseys, FUBU, etc. – but David was a gangster.  Too cool to ever have a conversation with the tuniq (white man) teacher, his intelligence came through anyway in his writing and general demeanor.  David was a bit limited on the hardwood by his height (5’ 3’’) and his ego.  He didn’t often run the risk of going inside and having his shot blocked or fully committing to defense.  I always thought he would have been an amazing ice hockey player with his stature, aggressiveness, athleticism and dedication to sport - all these boys really.  I could have fielded an all-world hockey team up there.   But basketball was it.  They had a half-ass coed volleyball season and the Native Olympics (jumping events/strength exhibitions/pain endurance), but basketball was the cultural obsession. Outside recreation was seriously thwarted by permafrost, but I could have had ice.  I was always a bit embarrassed because David saw me get

“scoped,” which is the term you use for someone that positions their eye too close to the telescopic sight on a rifle when firing, and comes away with a black eye.  School hadn’t even started out yet, and I was out with my roommate (fellow educator) and a few high school kids shooting a high-powered sniper rifle into the Beaufort Sea.  My roommate was a Desert Storm veteran with a wealth of firearms, and a proclivity for saying things like, “I haven’t killed anybody in a long time.”  I got goaded into participating, with very little instruction I might add, and the recoil blasted me into nausea and left a humiliating shiner.  First day of school, 8:00 a.m., and  I’m making my introductions to bunch of crack shots and accomplished big-game hunters with a fucking black eye.  David’s brother

Eddie was in that first period class.  (5’6’’, 145 lbs.) He differed from the other boys because he didn’t give a shit about basketball; he was not a gym rat, preferring to cruise around on his snow machine. But he was able-bodied and athletic, so he played.  That’s just how it was/is.  The community demanded it.  Eddie had an amazing talent for steals and causing turnovers, and that’s all I asked of him.  Literally.  I told him not to do anything else.  He lacked fundamentals but he was quick, cunning, physical and had a belligerent aggression that was ruthless.  He was a thief.  But his real genius was in the understanding and respect he had for his role.  And that is why I am writing about this team; that’s where this experience surpasses my other coaching gigs.  It wasn’t a team.  It was a tribe.  These boys were so close, mostly related, that they didn’t even really talk to each other.  They were beyond that.  And it translated on the court to a mature confinement of roles, as if they were surviving on the tundra during a blizzard – efficiently wringing their respective aptitudes into the talent pool: leader Joey with his scoring prowess and acceptance of being the primary offensive “go-to” player, Junior with the grunt work of being the “inside” presence and intimidator, David with the long-range shooting and Eddie the turnover king and defensive specialist.  The experience of coaching these guys was a large contributor towards supporting the loony rationale of spending two years north of the Arctic Circle. 

I went up there because I was broke.  By the time I had finished getting a teaching degree/certificate, I was $30,000 in debt to the federal government and various credit card companies.  I was missing payments and getting persistently harassed by truly sadistic creditors with malicious intentions.  I could barely feed myself and my mental stability was slipping.  I went to the Portland, Oregon Professional Educator Fair and walked right past all the brightly decorated kiosks of top school district multimedia firework displays of superior quality of life and smiling groomed representatives talking teacher student ratio and cross curricular planning interactive student-centered high technological pedagogical bullshit and found the sad lonely desk of the North Slope of Alaska tucked away in a corner.  There had a photocopied A4 map of Alaska with an X marking the spot and a pay scale – the highest in the United States. A ten minute interview, followed by another ten on the phone with the current principal, and I was an employee of the North Slope Borough School District. 

Douglas (5'10'', 150 lbs.) was my 5th man, the odd man (out), in a lot of ways.  He was polite.  He was respectful. He was academic-minded.  He was generous.  He was serious.  He was selfless and solid.  And gentle.  Moderately damaged, domestically.  He wasn’t a talented basketball player and he didn’t fulfill an established role, except in not having a defined role.  And I think that the intangibility of his contribution, beyond what I’m willing to contemplate, might have been our X factor – our edge. Doug provided me with the best moment I had in my entire two years:  he had speed, the quickest coast-to-coast wheels on the team.  He couldn’t hit a jump shot or dribble with his left hand, but if he could get to a defender’s hip, then he was already by. And he could make a lay-up.  I constantly urged him to use his gift and contribute offensively, but the killer instinct was hard to arouse - till the late rounds of the prestigious Wainwright tournament.  I knew we needed more offensive firepower, and I had huddled with him privately multiple times before the semi, and like to think I inspired him.  Or scared him with my intensity - I probably cried a bit. The tears just come.  Regardless, he committed.  He would begin his mad dash from as far out as the three point line, head down, arcing towards the basket with very little variation or creativity.  He was just so damn fast defenders couldn’t set their feet in time to obstruct him.  He scored 20+ in the semi and the final, and earned All-Tournament Team.  It was special.  Douglas invited me to be

part of his family’s whaling crew the following September, a rare honor for a tuniq I was told.  I had all kinds of adventures up there including blizzards and polar bears and dog sled teams and the Brooks Range and things you’d expect from the Arctic.  I have a lot of respect for the culture I got to witness and the people I lived with.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

canary tramp

“Sometimes the Wind Can Sound Like a Waterfall”

you begin your ascent according to script
and for the right reason
somewhere between exercise and as an exercise


wisely, with no end goal, you’ve absorbed the Greats

“Be Here Now,” Bhagavan Das, mental floss
satisfied with breath with step with rice without the special sauce

until you heard it


you spun your azimuth
pursued the long hand
and exposed yourself lengthwise
soft underbelly


We All Want Something Beautiful

Steps be-labored now
past the point
of damaged return

false summits



you got slapped with an indifferent and stinging gust
because you refused to acknowledge
that sometimes
the wind can sound like a waterfall


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Paradise Valley

We hiked in Paradise Valley the other day, down Taghazout way.  Yeah, yeah, it’s cool: cascading pools, smooth sunny slabs, jumping opportunities, palm trees – an oasis ripe with canyoning and freshwater-soaking lizard-like hedonism. 

But it was the French family that was memorable.

With some difficulty (unsure footing/pregnant Josie), we had navigated the river to an in-between sanctum for picnicking and solo dipping.  Upriver a ways was the far point (river mysteriously burrowing below ground beyond), the deepest pool with established jumping spots and naturally terraced rock sprouting lunching tourist groups like uninspired mushrooms.  Heading downriver the flow petered to a shallow lack of possibility.
We thought we would be alone.
Big sister was the head of the septuplepede worming athletically up the banks.  Aptly.  Even from a distance, her beauty was obvious: tall, tanned, fit, elegantly nimble, brunette – mesmerizingly and shockingly clad in teeny yellow bikini, flash running shoes, and aviator shades.  Only.  In conservative Morocco?  Hackles.  Wariness.  Paternal-like concern. 
The other six were a blurry fringe, hushed tones out-watted-and-witted by the blinding and brilliant canary hue foreground.  Peripheral consciousness picked up a wealth of trailing exposed skin and familial ties, but little else.  
They kept coming. 
Conscious of her age, and her family behind, I tried to avert my stare, but it was a traffic accident, impossible not to gawk.  They were coming right up on us.  More hackles.  Would they respect spacing?  We were peacefully solitaire, and fiercely protective of that bubble, a cache of facial expressions and body posture set to register irritation, mystification and resentment on the ready.  I held off on cocking the trigger.  Why not have a closer look?
They broke rank and stride ever so slightly, informally huddling on the move.  Hyper-aware, my feelers exact, I confidently (and correctly) surmised they were discussing destination, while also being spurred to simultaneous realization that we were planted right  in front of what might be considered a moderately high launching point into the river for the cautious – or to the family of mixed abilities and mettle. 
We must have appeared very much the content couple in love, spread out on our India blanket over elaborate lunchables with romantic drippings, obviously reveling in our earned and isolated situation.  
They barged.  And this is what I loved about them.  They set up shop in front of us, within a meter, essentially blotting out the river and our entire agenda - endlessly jumping and screaming and splashing and cheering and cajoling and laughing and photographing.  Their boldness titillated me.  We barely warranted a glance, and certainly not consideration.  Maybe there was a highly evolved feeling-out process conducted out of my stratosphere.  Maybe there was a head nod.  But I don’t think so.
Collectively, they gave no fucks.
Big sister had a friend – a family friend.  Same outfit, different colored bikini.  If big sister was a 10 (and she certainly was), the friend was a 9.  These two are friends and high school teammates on some sort of running squad – either track & field or cross country, maybe both: they were definitely mid-distance to distance runners.  I know.  I could tell from their bodies, their rapport, their behavior, their particular athleticism – hell, their entire essence.  I know.  (Later, on the hike out, I watched them act out their runner mentality by choosing to run, with a runner’s efficiency, the steep climb to the parking lot.  Further bolstering my assuredness: they put on running shorts over their bikini bottoms when they reached the car.  Considering their brazenness, I’m sure this was only to avoid burning their upper hamstrings on hot upholstery.  Yes, I was watching closely, but our proximity was merely coincidence.  I swear.)
These two were so confident.  There was virtually no teenage insecurity present.  It wasn’t that they carried themselves like far more mature women, they carried themselves like some other species.  Aliens.  It was as if they existed outside the realm of normal human uncertainty.  I don’t think they considered for one single second how inappropriately dressed they were for this sporting endeavor, not to mention (till now) for this country, where women swim in full burka. But that was their magic.  They didn’t strut and they weren’t arrogant.  They weren’t stupid, vapid, ignorant, or uneducated.  I didn’t find them culturally insensitive or insulting.   They existed on their own plane.  A higher order.  A foreign thought process at work. 
I feel I should further address their attractiveness.  Honor the reality.  Tip my hat.  Fall to my knees.  I would like to narrow my focus to the purely aesthetic, but I’m not going to.  Let your imagination run wild.  Astounding.  Fully mature bodies, before the onset of any mature imperfections.  Crushingly pretty but not prissy. The kind of beauty that is as salty as it is sweet, just as capable of arousing anxiety, paranoia and regret as pleasure.  They’re pain inflictors.  Now…
quietly, in the back of my mind this morning, as I work my way through this experience, I’ve been debating on the necessity of some type of disclaimer regarding this sketchy subject material.  I vowed to not do it, but I’m chickening out: I would put the age of these girls around 16.  I can imagine them in Driver’s Education class.  Despite my goings-on about the exquisiteness of these two, I want you to understand my platonic observations and cravings.  The mental self-gratification I allowed myself in Paradise Valley was a clinical and premeditated exercise.  I got caught up in the idea of how I would have felt about these two when I was 16.  I tried to see them that way.   Yearning was what I experienced.  I just wanted to be around them (not now, 16 year-old Adam).  I wanted to “hang out.” I hankered for interaction.  I wanted face time.  I wanted ATTENTION.   It reminded me of standing outside the house of Pam Hamilton in the middle of the night, and getting off just on knowing she was behind that window sleeping.  I guess that was close enough.  It wasn’t sexual then (I was a late bloomer).  It wasn’t sexual this time.  AND, speaking of self-gratification, I have married a woman so beautiful, so fucking hot, that I find myself no longer capable of even keeping a stable of fantasy women or situations.  The barn door is permanently propped open.  The ol’ right hand has been made redundant.  Anyways…
the girls were really joyful in a non-cheesy way.  But they were being cheesy: tandem jumps, egging each other on, too much I Phone documentation, incessant giggling.  And this phenomenon, and all the other contradictions, is what I think I’ve been trying to mine the last few hours.  They were somehow so delightful, so good-natured, so beautiful, that they were afforded some kind of pass.  All day, in every arena, they transcended all their flaws. I spent the afternoon completely consumed by their appetite for joy and for life.  I wanted to inhale them. 
I meant to tell you about the rest of this amazing family:
-the much younger and fearless brother with the deep and smoky resonating voice that echoed through the canyon all afternoon, despite being “shushed” four thousand times
-the attractive mom, who kept peeking and exposing her breasts to check tan lines
-the smiley dad, snapping pictures with endless patience, seemingly blind to the parading half-naked troupe he was traveling with
-unremarkable little sister, gracefully unfazed by her unremarkableness
(-an aunt/sister I really didn’t examine),
but I am feeling the need now to mine some visceral activity.