The ViM Diaries ~ To the Manor Unborn
I hope it�s Allen who drives me to the airport. His pirated copy of The Chronic 2001 allows me to chill in the basement of my brain. Allen is one of the drivers for the residential hotel that the ViM has been living in for the last two years. I have been here a month. There is an intramural basketball league here in the hotel consisting of four teams: Reception, the Waitstaff, Housekeeping and Security. I think Allen is gonna play for Reception . . . have to remember to ask.
The Pinoys call all customers, especially the English-speakers, �Sir� or �Mum� (their variation on Ma�am.) Since my dad is ‘Mr. Bellman,’ they were calling me ‘Mr. Ivan’ for a while, which sounds kind of stupid. . . so they now they all call me ‘Sir Ivan.’ This is enough to inflate anyone’s ego. Makes going to the mall feel like a frigging royal hunting trip.
So it�s about time for me to be out the door. Five countries in five days, then home. Manila to Hong Kong to London to Istanbul and then . . . well . . . the fifth destination is up for grabs. I originally chose Istanbul because it is in striking distance of Tehran. Then things got worse and worse on the international scene. Every time I mention traveling to Iran in front of a westerner they all say with a smirk, �Maybe that isn�t such a good idea right now?� Whereas all the Iranians, including those I met at the ITI Congress, insist that there is absolutely no reason not to go.
It�s funny because it all goes back to the first ViM (Vanilla in Manila) Diary entry, where I went out with some of the local guys from the hotel bar. Admittedly the places we visited were sketchy beyond good judgment.
Nevertheless, since then, many of my fears about running around Manila have been quelled. Take, for example, when Mr. Maog, Mr. Fox and Mr. Juan (that�s right Souha . . . one in the same) cruised the �Manbars� in Malate. We also hit the Hobbit House, an Irish style Pub where all the waiters are under four-feet tall. Juan claims that the Hobbit House used to be Los Indios Bravos, a watering hole for artists and subversive communists before the government shut it down . . .
Anyway, I felt totally safe chatting up gay-for-pay boys at the Superman Bar. Maybe too safe? Juan chastised me for flashing my cell phone citing how he recently saw some bitchy girl get slashed across her arm while chatting away. This caused her to scream, cry and drop her cell. Her phone went out with the night tide, deep in the ocean of barefoot street urchins.
It is still hard to know who to believe . . . but it�s different now. I think it�s a lot like the mischievous little monkeys at the Hindu temples in Bali. The guide will tell you to be careful. He will also buy your glasses back from the monkeys for 5000 Rupia . . . I don�t think any of the tourist shepards there as malevolent in any way but it is in their best interest to keep you, the outsider, afraid. It solidifies your dependence. This is also true of the media, our governments and even our parents, in spite of however much they love us.
My grandfather was in the military in Iran most of his life. During the Israeli War he was head of the border patrol in the uppermost part of Iran. There were many Jews being persecuted in the north at the time. I am not sure if this is an exaggeration but I�m told that he was responsible for the safe passage of some 30,000 Jews fleeing into what was soon to become Israel. A few of those that participated in that exodus are still around. Mostly they are in their 80�s.
So do I go look for traces of my childhood, my family, my identity in a Tehran that is as long gone as my grandparents themselves? Or do I go to Israel and try to find some of the people that had a chance to live as the result of Timsar�s good will? Or maybe I should just cruise the mosques and the Grand Bazaar in Turkey? Who do I believe? Who do I listen to???
In the end, I guess it really doesn�t matter. It just matters that I go. Go, try to return and maybe bring back something of value.
I have been flying by myself for as long as I can remember. I never thought twice about it but I recently acquired an intense neurosis about air travel, especially international flights. I would drink or take pills or be so horribly hungover I would miss my plane . . . maybe in an effort to beat the terrorists to the punch.
There are two things now in my possession that render me impervious to dying in sky or any other such freak occurrence. The first is a belt buckle, the story behind which is another epic saga altogether. The other is basketball jersey that the guys here from the hotel gave me, the back of which says, �BELLMAN 00.�
I don�t know where exactly these paralyzing paranoid delusions came from . . . horrible stuff that inspired me to lay waste to more than one romantic relationship and at least a dozen friendships . . . but I know they are gone.
And so am I.