Aunt Alice in Arabia – My First Times

April 19, 1990

The first time in a Las Vegas casino, I was shocked at the shorts, t-shirts, jeans and cheap dresses of the gamblers. It didn’t look like “Dallas.”   I was also surprised by the free food and drinks and discounted hotel bills. Rather than gamble, I played Pac Man for the first time.

The first time I was in a Monte Carlo gambling casino, I was astonished at the artistry and plushness of every square inch of the place.  I was also shocked at the whole idea of gambling, and gambling such lush funds as to supply the gross national product of an entire nation.

The first time I spoke French in France, I was surprised that those funny sounds actually meant something to the man who had picked me up hitchhiking. I was even more astonished when he said some more and I knew what he was saying, only to find his reply to my simple “C’est jolie,” regarding the countryside was indecipherable.  As was most anything else he or I tried to say.

The first time I experienced cross-country jet lag – from San Francisco, California to Atlanta, Georgia  – my usual eccentric and outspoken introductions to new people were excused and forgiven because of jet lag.

The first time I ate shrimp I didn’t know it. My Vancouver  friend had forgotten I was from Chicago and her gourmet cooking was foreign to me.  Since then I’ve had a first time eating salmon, octopus sushi, falafah, tabholla, kebab, gado gado and more.

The first time I said “No,” to a man who asked me to marry him was painful. A woman had once told me, when I asked her why she married her husband, “He asked me.” My shock was obvious.  She added, “It was a lot easier to say “Yes,” than to say “No.”  She was right.

The first time I came to the Gulf, I was on the airplane, over the Atlantic Ocean and suddenly thought for the first time: ‘What happens if I can’t handle it?’  It was the best time to think that because the plane wasn’t going to change its mind.

The first time I came to this Gulf country, one of the guards at the airport looked at my American passport and gave me the thumbs-up salute, “Americans good.”  Nothing like feeling Ah lan w’ahsahlan! (‘Welcome’ in Arabic)