Today I will continue my tradition of writing a blog post about my neighborhood without walking a block from my mother’s apartment building.
I’ve introduced you to the supermarket downstairs with the crashing cars and the religious Jewish guy with the condo fliers. I’ve told my tales of the worst McDonald’s in the United States and the seventeen year old black kid who is the assistant manager and the elderly Chinese saleswoman selling porno DVDs. I’ve exposed the evil landlord from Palm Beach, Florida, who is trying to close all the small stores a half a block away to build some sort of Kmart. Today, I’ll move across the street — to the mini-mall next to McDonald’s.
In this non-descript Los Angeles-style mini-mall, there is a small deli, a chicken/pizza place, a hair stylist, and a “car service.” Other than using the car service to go to the airport, my mother doesn’t go into any of these stores. They mostly cater to the Muslim, mostly Pakistani and Afghan community. Now in my mother’s defense, she doesn’t go into the religious Jewish stores on Main Street either. These small insular establishments are not very friendly to the outsider. I’ve tried the pizza at the Muslim pizzeria a few times, and the food was pretty bad. And for the record — women in burkas don’t like you checking out their asses. But I have used the “car service” to go to the airport. The drivers are excellent, despite all of them looking like Bin Laden’s brothers.
Over the car service is a small mosque, built into what seems to be a former dentist’s office. A crescent moon stands proudly on the make-shift fabric domed roof. From my mother’s living room, you can look directly into the mosque. It is Ramadan now, so there are services at night. I sleep in the living room, because the mattress of the convertible bed my mother put into my bedroom is like sleeping on metal. While I lay on the couch, I can look inside the mosque window and in the brighness of the room, watch the religious praying, kneeling and facing Mecca.
Later today, is my uncle’s funeral. It has been a crazy week since he passed away. He lived in San Francisco, but he wanted to be buried in New York — near my father, who was his eldest brother. This opened up some neurotic family discussions, and also a debate over how to get him to New York. He wanted to be cremated, which could be iffy in some Jewish cemeteries.
And the big question — “Can you carry an urn with ashes on an American Airlines flight?”
This morning, I woke up to the sound of my mother’s loud dishwasher. I also heard the sound of prayer. It was comforting, even if it was coming from another religion – from a religious group that doesn’t usually see eye-to-eye with mine. I thought about religion in general, and how we are all alike at heart. All of us trying to make sense of life and death, all having the same hopes and dreams.
And then the whirl of the dishwasher stopped. And what I thought was prayer was not prayer at all. There was no one praying at the mosque. What I imagined as sacred prayer was the janitor’s CD player blasting songs from “Earth, Wind, and Fire” as he worked on his old Toyota out front.