Monday, October 21, 2013

burn these photographs

Earlier this month, I entertained some of you with my long and unruly locks in portrait of the artist as a hairy guy.

Over on Facebook, that post took a rather unusual twist.  Someone suggested, with my hair that long, it was time for me to buy a kaftan or a jellaba and move to San Miguel de Allende.  There was loose talk of a pony tail.  .

And that led to a confession.  I was once the proud owner of a jellaba.  In 1976 I was waiting at an airport outside of London for a flight to Spain.  A young English couple (Bob and Hilary Wells) started chatting me up.  It turned out we were headed in the same direction.

In those days, I tended to avoid casual conversations with strangers.  The KGB had turned western Europe into a very productive fishing pond.  But I took the bait.  After all, who would ever suspect I worked for the American government in this get-up?  

  And, yes,that is a camera around my neck.  Pretty inconspicuous, eh?  (The first person who asks, "I see you, but who is the guy on the left?," will get a talking to.  Did mens' slacks actually look like that back then?)

Part of our journey included an excursion across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco.  And I knew what I wanted to buy.  An outfit like Peter O' Toole's in Lawrence of Arabia.  It took me a bit to realize we were in Morocco, not Arabia, and my dreams of hajj couture would go unrealized.

Our local guide took us through the bazaar -- undoubtedly stopping at the shops of his cousins.  Where my art of negotiating prices was more Don Rickles than Henry Kissinger.

Fortunately, I escaped from under the Sidney Greenstreet fez.  But I did not return empty-handed.

I finally found myself garbed in a jellaba.  And a head scarf.  In a different era, I would call it my Jellaba the Hut outfit.

Looking at it now, I feel like an extra from Star Wars.

When I returned to my base, I started wearing the jellaba, head scarf, and boots to each of the officer formal parties.  My flair for the eccentric is not a recent acquisition.

A few years ago, I told you about my lost memories from that trip in fading thoughts at lunch.  How Bob and Hilary, while visiting in 1988, laughed about me in my get-up riding a camel.  I thought they were nuts.  I had never been on a camel in my life.

But they whipped out a photograph.  And there I was.  Complete with a camel whip.  The same camel whip that hung on the wall of my library. 

I wanted to share that photograph with you.  But Bob says this is the entire set in his possession.  He thinks they left it with me in 1988. 

That is possible.  I will look in the albums at my mother's house next month.  There may still be another post in this thin gruel.

In lieu of my embarrassing photograph, if you look at the photograph at the top of this post, that is not me.  It is Bob.  On a camel.  In all of his KGB glory. 

At least one of those things is true.

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