I have been saving this entry for a long time as it s been one of my favorite stories to emerge out of my stay in the Middle East. In a compacted nutshell, I shall attempt to re-live the tale. I hope I do it justice in words. I am a much better story-teller than a writer.
A close friend, Emma and I were going together to Berlin to set up my first photo exhibition. ARTBANG BERLIN was about to kick off and I was an invited artiste to having a showing there. I had two weeks to prepare, select the images and frame them to take with me to Germany. I enlisted the best printer I could find in Dubai and arranged to pick up my pieces along the way from Abu Dhabi to Dubai International Airport where we were taking a Lufthansa flight.
Meanwhile a few hours before our scheduled departure, I had just landed from Geneva into Abu Dhabi. I changed at the airport and stowed my belongings in care of a person who was working shift that night. Excitedly Emma and I hopped into Candice’s car, picked up Heidi along the way and jetted off to Dubai to catch our flight. Candice and Heidi were planning a night out in town in Dubai so we caught a lift with them conveniently for Emma and I but inconveniently for them. haha. The entire journey ,I was planning in my head the my answers to the media about my showing, the 11 Fables of Asia.
In the dark night with a sense of excitement in the air, about 45 minutes into our cruise, we pulled over at the last gas station along the vast stretch of road heading towards Dubai to fill up. Suddenly my stomach sank, I felt like someone had punched the air out of me. A feeling of nausea hit and my mind was spinning into the depths of a dark hole.I thought I had covered all the bases before hand. To my grief, I had left my passport in my bag in Abu Dhabi. Fuck, I urged to shout aloud, instead, attempting to withhold my despair, I kept calm and urged my brain cells to function.
A check on my watch showed exactly what I did not want to see. There was no way I could make it back to Abu Dhabi, grab my passport, pick up my photographs along the way, and check in on time unto the Lufthansa flight. I was pacing up and down the gas station oblivious to all. We we put our minds together, but no matter what we came up with, time was not on our side. Nothing seemed plausible at this point. Should I just Fed-ex the photos over without attending? I was not giving up attending opening night.
Past the corner of my eye I saw a vague hand gesture, ushering me over. I had to focus and think, so I ignored and turned my back to whoever was trying to be funny and get my attention. He continued to call out to me. The next 30 seconds were a blur and I stormed over like a hurricane to where this rude person was gesturing me. I was giving him a piece of my mind when my hazy peripheral vision narrowed to a sharp focus, unto what seemed like a small arab man with a bandana and a sleeveless t-shirt. This was quite an uncommon sight in this part of the world. He mumbled in poor english and asked what my dilemma was. My mouth blabbered the entire story and when I had finished, fourteen other arab men in the same odd attire were by my side listening to my tale of woe. They spoke in Arabic amongst themselves and I took a clearer look at my surroundings behind them and saw fifteen monstrous Harley Davidson bikes parked with the headlights on. Now it made sense.
“Have you ever been on the back of a Harley Davidson Before?”
“Yes, many times”. I lied. What could be so different from riding on a motorbike and a Harley Davidson?
“Put this on” he said as he handled over a silver bowl with a strap.
I barely managed to secure the strap under the my gigantic head into this upside turned salad bowl.
“You come with me, my friends will follow” he mumbled at me waiting for my response.
“Emma, please pick up my photographs and meet me at the airport! Here, take my stuff! Do your best to hold the flight open!
“Drive her “ I shouted over my shoulder to Candice. I feel like a tyrant on hindsight. Poor Candice and Heidi were already running late for their party.
“Put your arms around me”
“What” I said, as I removed my arms from the handle bars at the back of my seat and put them around his waist. I wasn’t about to argue to the man who at this point seemed like my life saver.
With those parting words he did not speak to me for the next 20 minutes as he flew down the lonely dessert road in darkness. The roaring winds howled in my ears as I kept my ankles, knees, butt and hands clenched tight at 90 degrees for the entire journey. The smooth leather seat made it very hard for me to stay secure. I knew If let loose ever so slightly, I was going to fly off the Harley. Being found in a dead star fish position in the middle of the dessert road was not how I envision how my life would end. I held my eyes shut tight, as the silver helmet on my head had no visor to shield the force of the wind. Water droplets were being formed at the corner of my dry eyes. I opened my eyes ever so slightly to allow the tears that have swelled up to fly away into the dessert air. It was only at this point I took the opportunity to glance over his shoulder to see the speed at which we were flying.
just a mere 160 miles an hour! WHAT! I swallowed with a dry lump in my throat. I could not wipe that slight smirk off my face. This was turning into a very eventful night.
Arriving into the familiar territory, I had hoped he wouldn’t sandwich himself in between two cabin crew buses to drop me. With the thunderous sound of the engine….He sandwiched himself in between two cabin crew buses to drop me.
Great, and they are just alighting.
Lets just say they weren’t used the this kind of entourage in this part of town. One by one, all the other fourteen Harley’s came behind me and wished me good luck.
Looking back, I should have stood there and immersed myself into the moment.( insert victorious song) Maybe a spotlight would shine on me and I’ll raise my fist into the air.
In reality, I jumped off the bike and offered him some cash. I’m such an idiot.
“I do this for you” he said as he took off his helmet and gasped for breath.
I asked if he was going to take me back to Dubai and he laughed. I looked at his stomach and where my clenched palms had been, was now a sweat patch. I thanked him profusely and ran to get my passport. One second later and this tale would not have a happy ending.
As the frantic driver closed in to Dubai Airport, my taxi stopped right outside the entrance of my check in counter. I paid him an extra 100 dirham for every speed camera he sped through. He thanked me for my generous tip while in fact I should be thanking him. I felt guilty telling him a sob story so he could fly through those cameras. I dashed inside to see Emma holding the guy up behind the counter. He was standing up to walk away when I slammed the passport inches from his face. Till this day I’m not sure what tricks Emma pulled from the hat to make him wait for me. That girl had some skills.
We eventually made it to Berlin with all my photos in boxes. As the following photos show, I also had a kick ass time.
I wished I had taken his number or knew his name, to thank him properly. My arabic Harley Davidson angel sent from an alternate universe. We could have a had beer at some leather biker bar joint I didn’t know existed. If my friends weren’t witnesses to the momentous night, I may just have thought I dreamt it all!
11 Fables Of Asia
We had some time off before the Opening night so we did some sight-seeing. Berlin has got to be my favorite German city! We went to visit the Berlin wall, Brandenburg Tor, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Jewish museum, Fernsehturm TV tower and to the Holocaust Memorial (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas).
So it here it is. The pictures were taken in a haze. After I did my usual rounds and P.R, both Emma and I decided to cement of relationship with the Germans by utilizing our open bar access all night long. Being an invited artiste does have its perks. It was only then I realized my high school German came into good use.