I went to Bahrain last weekend, to meet with a guy I used to work with in Russia.
There were big protests on the other side of the city, around the Formula One race they were having; over in my hotel in the Gold Souq, however, we just watched the protests on the TV in the bar.
Bahrain is a bit seedy at the best of times, but the whores seemed particularly fat, sad, and ugly this time around. I'm sure the good ones flew away to greener pastures. It's a bad time to be a whore in Bahrain, no doubt. There's very little traffic across the causeway these days, whereas a few years ago, it was a bumper-to-bumper clusterfuck.
We wandered through the scores of mottle-faced Asian hookers and grungy bloated expats at Digger's, but left quickly, terrified by the specter of our possible futures.
We ran the gamut of full-bodied Ethiopian booty queens in our hotel bar, and even wandered up to a "Russian show" in a hotel where four Siberian single moms in snake-skin bodysuits sang and danced for the two of us, as we were the only ones in the room. We got embarrassed and left after our beer, though we did request "Ya Sahla C'yma:" by Tatu in memory of livelier and more hopeful times for all of us.
The next day, we were having lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (as you do, in Manama) and Duran Duran's RIO video came on the TV.
"If you ask me about some formative influences in my life, I'd have to say that Duran Duran RIO is probably one of the most important," I said.
"Yeah, I remember watching that as a kid and thinking I wanted to be there, on that beach -- I don't even know which beach that is -- just on any tropical beach, on a boat, doing stuff like that."
"You wanted to be a rock star?"
"No, I just wanted to be on the beach fucking around! And I did that, you know, I spent a shit-load of time fucking around on the beach. Phuket and Ko Samui, mainly . . ."
"Yet you ended up in frozen-ass Russia for nine years."
"Well . . . anyway, mission accomplished, as far as I'm concerned. Admittedly I'm not nearly as cool as Simon Le Bon."
I considered. "You know, back then, when I was kid, where I lived, you didn't even really MEET people who had travelled. Certainly nobody fucking backpacked. People went to Florida for a week. But then in college, I had a friend who did a year abroad in France, and she told me about backpacking. I did that and then after I went back to America I found some LONELY PLANET guidebook to India and Thailand in the library. Five dollars a day for a hotel? Sign me up! That die was cast."
And the world is no doubt richer for it.