Call to Prayer


Well, I finally came down with that awful, awful bug that has decimated the ranks of the USC staff at the RFC.
I decided I was not going to suffer from the particular dysentery-like symptoms that have plagued others.
I locked myself in my room and fought the disease with a steady diet of bottled water, lentil soup, and Real Madrid TV.

About a week ago, when Robert was helping Ahmad on his night shoot, Chris made some well-intentioned suggestions.
“Shut up, bitch,” Robert said.
We laughed.
A few minutes later, Chris made another suggestion.
“Shut up, bitch,” Robert said again, then, inexplicably, “I’m serious.”
“I’m serious, let me do my job.”
From henceforth, every sentence has been followed with the phrase “I’m serious.”

In the throes of my illness, the weirdest dreams assailed me.
I dreamt that Alice was cheating on me with a large Cuban man.
I dreamt that my flight from LA to Jordan was grounded in Cleveland because someone in Amman was running frantically through a hotel. No one could catch him.
I dreamt that I was an Arabic cat, hiding underneath a warm car from other, meaner cats. I dreamt that I bit into a falafel sandwich and it expanded in my mouth like a balloon. I couldn’t breathe.
I dreamt that dozens of cameras were thrust into my face, asking impossible questions, blinding me with lights.

I arrived back at the workshop to discover that there were audio problems. Some of the tapes we gave out, HDV/DV tapes instead of regular DV tapes, had audio dropouts and funny little electronic pings. Not everyone who used these tapes had the problem, but the problem showed up only in projects that used these tapes. The night we gave them out we were out of regular tapes. We thought they would be ok. The students who had the problems looked dejected. I felt bad. We told them to cut their movies normally, and that we would figure out how to fix the spots where the audio was distracting. It sucks that these guys have to deal with this, especially since it wasn’t even their mistake.

Someone suggested to Nidal that he make a movie about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
He dismissed the idea, not wanting to deal directly with the politics of such a thing.
“You can make it allegorical,” I say.
“What,” he asks, “Al-Gore-ical? What’s that?”
I guess it’s taking a good idea and sucking the life out of it.

I walk out to the terrace around sunset. Reham is sitting in a chair, listening to the call to prayer. I sit on the ground next to her. We listen for a while. When it’s over, she says, “Well that was nice, wasn’t it?”
“What are they saying during the call?”
She proceeds to translate it for me. Sharif comes by and helps her.
Soon, there is a group of students, taking breaks from editing, cycling in and out of a lively discussion about Islam, its role in the middle east, and its relationship to the chaos that’s going on and the conflict with Israel and the West.
By the end of the night, the call to prayer that started it has been replaced by a slightly drunk Sharif singing some Jordanian pop song to the others in the middle of the street. At some point along the way, someone is sent out to get hummus, falafel and beer. They drag the big table onto the terrace, and we eat together like a big family. Samer lights the scene expertly. At the end of the night, they beg us to let them stay all night to edit.
“Lock us in,” the plead, “we’ll be ok.”
Just at this moment, Samer, being carried upside down by Motaz, drops a beer bottle onto the floor and it shatters.
“No way.”
I tell them they’ll have time tomorrow. We tumble out of the villa onto the silent street.


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