Hello Imane

I must interrupt my story here, since we have a visitor. Imane, a beloved guest, has arrived from Jackson, Mississippi. She is a Fulbright student scholar at Jackson State University, a historically black college in a ghetto of a run-down city-town. She’s one of the only Arabs there.

Last year, she was my student at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh. Imane was assigned to me as a thesis student. She, like her four colleagues, had to write a paper to graduate from the University. The five of us formed a little research group and we worked together, meeting each week at a hanout (little shop) with plastic tables and chairs outside. Together, we went over the topics of the papers (the “Moroccan Sahara vs. the Western Sahara,” “Jews in Marrakesh,” and “Amazijh Women as Creators of Culture.”)

Imane’s paper was on “Racial Profiling in America.”

That turned out to be relevant. Now she’s here, living out her findings.

Mohammed has a ladder installed along his spine, to keep his vertebrae straight. “It sets off the airport security every time,” he said to me awhile ago. “And there’s nothing like being a brown guy to set them off anyway. I always have to get to the airport hours early.”

A few days after Imane arrived at our house, she received a package addressed to her (Arabic name) from her friend (Arabic name). It was already opened. “Hmm,” I remarked to the mailman. “Funny how they slit it right open.”

The mailman shrugged. “Already like that,” he said.

Imane is here in Seattle for the month. Here’s a picture of her up on Hurricane Ridge, taken yesterday. She’s never been in the snow before.

And, there she is– on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. From Marrakesh to Seattle. From a little hanout next to the salmon-red wall of the university to the green and white of the Olympic Mountains.

Living in a Painting

So, back in the early 1990’s, I hung out with the backroom guys in that law firm in Seattle, and I saw more of Mohammed’s paintings. Ambrosavage, the cartoonist, spoofed office life and dipped into political satire. “My sister’s in the FBI,” he said. “Don’t want to get carried away.” Ambrosavage drank constantly and encouraged everyone else to join him. We admired it, but couldn’t ever quite keep up.

On weekends, Mohammed painted more and more sprays of color, more figures of women reclining, more ladders connecting land and sky, more airplanes. I’d go visit his house where he and his wife Marcia, a solid socialist who was a kindred soul of my husband Gary’s, lived on Beacon Hill in Seattle. Mohammed worked in an unheated garage set against the hillside and we’d sit in there with a portable heater blowing. I’d sit on a stool and watch him paint. We’d drink beer and point to the images. “Like ’em?” Mohammed would say. Then he’d grin. Sometimes, at dinner, he’d goof around and pretend to poke a fork in his eye. The prongs would bounce off the lens of his glasses. Continue reading “Living in a Painting”