The American Colony
Our senior contributor Molly Young’s groundbreaking journey to the Middle East concludes today. Relive those memorable Jews and Arabs in The American Colony.
Enjoy the final edition of
The American Colony
by Molly Young
Lauren Bacall and Graham Greene stayed at our hotel (not together), and the bar this time is identical to Rick's Cafe. It will probably be decades before I get to stay in another place like this, I think. We go to the bar and Ida orders an Old Fashioned. The rest of us have champagne, and it tastes just like honey.
At breakfast the next day there is no one but me. "Excuse me, would you like to have more coffee, maybe?" asks the waiter. Yes. His name is Jihad. Gentle Jihad with a mustache like black toothpaste squeezed across his upper lip. I imagine if my name were Jihad Young, or the English equivalent, Holy War Young.
This reminds me that I dreamt, last night, of learning to fire a gun. It was so lucid a vision that I believe I could do it, in real life, if someone handed me a weapon. When my stepmother and Ida arrive and start fussing over the buffet I can't concentrate on my newspaper.
I explore the corridors after coffee, looking at displays of Islamic pots and old photographs. I pick two apples from a bowl of fruit. I am so lucky at this moment, I think. I'm warm, not hungry, I have no cramps or headaches, my clothes are clean, and best of all there are things to look forward to.
The guide who takes us through the old city is a zealous Jew named Mark Sugarman. He repeats over and over again that he remembers the Holocaust every time he sees a beautiful Jewish child. My secular dad nods. Never forget, says Mark, for the fourteenth time. We spend hours twining through the different quarters of the Old City. African churches are built in the round, I learn, so that Satan can't hide in the corner. The logic is impeccable.
Israeli soldiers are lounging around in the sun. A Jordanian king sold one of his London apartments, Mark tells us, to purchase twelve million dollars worth of gold for the roof of the Temple Mount. We go to see it and are quickly ejected; it is Muslims-only for most hours of the day. There are stands and shops everywhere selling cheap clothing and confectionary.
Just as the mixture of old and new is surprising in Jerusalem, so is the neighboring of sacred and profane. The place where Jesus stopped to rest while dragging the cross to Golgotha is three feet from a kiosk selling Kodak film. I hate the way tourists are alternately disdained and coerced.
A few times a day there is a Muslim call to prayer. The sound system is dodgy and the prerecorded incantations sound like someone burbling through a tub of syrup.
After our tour I break off alone, charging up and out of the Old City through the Damascus gate and heading back to the hotel for coffee.
I sit down and think for a while. Jerusalem has struck me architecturally and historically, but not spiritually. I wonder if growing up without religion has made me less receptive to Big Ideas. I do not understand ideologies or movements. This may be the reason why my little appetites preoccupy me more than anything else. It isn't the Church of the Holy Sepulchre I dwell upon but the graffiti on the way back: AHMAD WAS HERE, in red paint on the wall. Beneath it is a crudely-drawn weenie.
It should be the other way around, I think. But I have no ethnic or group affiliations to speak of, no cause to further and nothing really to push against. Which is nice, of course, and I'm happy. But plucked out of the usual environment, I feel a bit like Tonio Kröger. Everyone dancing and I can't hear the music.
Molly Young is the senior contributor to This Recording. She currently lives on the West Coast but we are hoping she returns to this one. Her site is Magic Molly.
congratulations are in order
MUSIC FOR JIHAD YOUNG
"Choppers" - Holy Fuck (mp3)
"Safari" - Holy Fuck (mp3)
"They're Going to Take My Thumbs" - Holy Fuck (mp3)
BEST OF MOO
1. Teen Wish, Co.
2. Prune Whip
3. Winter Hideaway
4. Scorsese Week
5. The American Colony
6. The American Colony, part II
7. Bonjour Tristesse
8. The American Colony, part III
9. The American Colony, part IV
10. A New Kind of Porn Star
betty joan perske
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
The gorilla arrived when you least expected it.
A childhood in Ursula Gullow’s afternoons.
The gladiator signed their check.