“When you’re a jet you’re a jet all the way!”
I have tried not to pound my latest book through our BeachGrit, excessively, as self-promotion is ugly to see and stomach-turning to do but sometimes but sometimes pride overwhelms and especially where the Men’s Journal is involved.
Men don’t get journals anymore and the august publication, floating virtually alone in a modern sexless world, feels like a glorious last bastion. The only place I dreamed of appearing outside of Out.
Here is an excerpt from the Men’s Journal excerpt because I can’t help but glowing.
We treat al-Mukullah over the next ten days the way sloppy Germans, Danes, and Poles treat Mallorca, ambling around in the heat of the day between shops that sell ice-cream and internet cafés, driving out to the wave for a surf, driving back for a massive chicken lunch, driving out to the wave for an evening surf, driving back for a dinner of fried fish balls and banana mush next to the mosque.
Major Ghamdan mostly stayed in his room as far as I could tell and seemed resigned to whatever would happen, throwing up his hands and letting God decide our fate, really and truly getting into the “inshahallah” spirit the way all good Muslims and Calvinists do.
Irate younger men would approach semi-regularly, especially after evening prayers, eyes burning, and tell us that George Bush is a dog. Yemen was severely punished by George Sr. for holding the position that Arab nations should not intervene in the business between Iraq and Kuwait during the first Gulf War and even more severely punished by Kuwait and her neighbors as thousands of working Yemenis were expelled without warning.
George Jr. had just taken Baghdad in the second Gulf War not two months ago as the Global War on Terror found a new theater and was saber rattling through the rest of the region, demanding that nations were either for us or against us, and if they were against us—well, things would not go well.
Depending on our collective mood we would either argue back that the Bush family was a proud American legacy or agree and either way the conversations would end with warm proclamations of friendship and hand-holding beneath the starry skies of Mukullah, a striking town that grows better with experience.
The way the light bathes it in the day, the way heat radiates off every surface at night. The mix of Indian, British, Persian, Indonesian, and East African influences. Architecture, food, and dress harkening to the days when it was a center of the trading world. Osama bin Laden’s family chose their region well, and my desire to live in the Hadramawt grew unchecked.
Most nights belonged to music videos or accidentally CNN’s international version. The Horse did indeed have televisions and not one but two music video channels from Saudi Arabia and from Lebanon, which worked brilliantly when one switched to Live from Mecca programming unless they both switched to it at the same time. It blew my expectations out of the water, and even though Josh would semi-regularly reference how epic the hotel by the mosque was and how it was also closer to fried fish balls, we all feasted on Stone Temple Pilots, Ricky Martin, Alicia Keys, Incubus, Uncle Cracker, Nelly Furtado, and Enrique Iglesias with equal relish—especially the Enrique Iglesias video featuring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mickey Rourke in an epic ballad that brought me near tears every time it played, particularly when Enrique Iglesias looked deep into Jennifer Love Hewitt’s eyes and said, “I can be your hero, baby. I can kiss away the pain.”
One evening, as we traipsed back to our hotel from fried fish balls, a group of young men followed us into a small, empty corridor and unsheathed their jambiyas, flashing the curved steel and yelling that we were Americans. Josh lowered his shoulder and ran at them like a corn-fed University of Michigan fullback. They tossed them into a nearby bush and took off sprinting, and the whole scene felt wonderful, harkening back to a simpler, less litigious time when back-alley street fights between rival hoods were commonplace.
“When you’re a jet you’re a jet all the way!” I shouted as they rounded the corner, Josh hot on their wedge-sandaled heels.
Another evening as we sauntered back we saw a massive crowd out front the shopfront where we bought our morning coffees. A sea of turbaned heads sitting cross-legged on a piece of Astroturf rolled out for the occasion. As we got nearer we saw they were all watching a tiny rabbit-earred television, and as we got nearer still saw the television was showing a pro surf contest from Hawaii the year earlier.
I couldn’t believe it. Here in al-Mukallah—a thousand miles from the nearest semblance of surf culture and ten thousand miles from Oahu’s North Shore—a few hundred men were silently basking in the Pastime of Kings. I elbowed one wearing a particularly neat turban-skirt combination, pointed at the television, and told him that’s what we did, what those men were doing on the television, riding tables on the ocean exactly like them. His eyes widened and I almost invited him to watch us live the next day but thankfully caught myself, realizing that while we indeed rode tables on the ocean exactly like the men on television, our surfing looked very different. So different, in fact, that it might have been confused as a separate water game altogether. One not so graceful or exciting. Still, the entire scene was so gorgeously surreal it made me positively giddy for days afterward.
And then, one hot morning, it is time to move on.
What did we find?
What a time to be alive and self-promoting.
Take that, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West!