Groundhogs and Perfect Storms

Have you ever tried to explain Groundhog Day to someone who isn’t from the United States?

Try it some time. See how it goes.

The other day, I made a reference to the famous day when an oversized rodent sees his shadow, and was met with a blank stare. I thought about what must have been going on in his head: “So you watch an animal at dawn to see if it makes a shadow to determine climate trends?”

Well, it works as well as anything else.

But what I’m feeling these days is the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day,” when Murray the weatherman wakes up every morning and finds that it’s February 2nd all over again.
Me, I wake up in the morning and realize I’m still in Cairo

“You’re still here?” a friend said incredulously the other day as I walked across campus.

Yes, I’m still here. I’m here because I’m finishing a video for an NGO that is doing good work with orphans in Cairo. I’m here because I’m still tying up loose ends at AUC.

And I’ll be here a little longer because a perfect little possibility disappeared.

This was supposed to be my last week here, before I started a very cool job in New York that was (and here we go with weather metaphors again) a perfect storm: a challenging two-hour show about global warming, with lots of computer animation (perhaps one of a groundhog seeing a very long shadow) and shot in High Definition, to be completed in a five-month window which matched exactly the time I had between Cairo and my next gig to teach one semester at an Ivy League University.

It was my entry back into American society, back into the documentary TV world, and a foot in the door of a production company where I had long wanted to work.

But in one phone call on Tuesday night, that perfect storm hit the horse latitudes

The division of the company I was going to work for is being dissolved, and the show went away along with it

As my great uncle Ralph used to say: “It’s the kind of thing that makes you say ‘well, I never.’”

Well, I never…

Or, @#$*%… which is more like what I probably said when I hung up the phone.

The lesson, I guess, is the perfect things rarely are.

The prevailing philosophy here is that everything happens for a reason (even giant needles in your feet). Even the cynical businessman I see every morning at my neighborhood coffee shop, who always has something to complain about, wouldn’t let me sulk. “Whenever a door closes another one opens,” he said.

Maybe in a region where slings and arrows are still likely to be used, the slings and arrows of life are more easily suffered with a shrug.

My immediate thought about losing the job that would have started next week was this: it’ll make the next two weeks a lot easier, but the next five months a lot harder.

*             *             *

This is the time of the year when the “hate” part of my love/hate relationship with Cairo hits me.

The heat, the bad air, the overwhelming smell of gasoline in the rattling taxis.

If I stay in Cairo this month, I’m going to hurt somebody.

So I escaped.

Last night I came to Dahab, in southern Sinai, and though it’s hotter than Georgia asphalt, the air is clear, the Red Sea is radiant blue, and the town is laid back and calm. I’ve spent most of the day under water because I’m taking an advanced scuba diving class. Today, I had three firsts on my second dive: I saw a cuttlefish (mmm, calamari), a seahorse and an octopus. And while I’m here, I can clear my head and think of the next move

I’ve had enough of the desert to last a while, so I’m looking at mountains I think I’ll fall back on my original plan and go to Turkey for a couple of weeks. Cappadocia has been on my list for some time.

And then back to Cairo to finish the short video for the NGO.

And on to New York to start looking for that open door.

I wonder, will it be the lady or the tiger? Or a groundhog startled to see light?


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