A Bag of Second Hand Memoirs...

Do you remember your teen-age years ?

Memories of this period of my life are terribly vivid, still...

I consider teen-age years as the most difficult, in any case that was true for me.
One is not really an adult, not a child, just a someone, hovering somewhere in between.
Rejecting authority yet seeking its safety...
Not a woman but not a girl either. A body that changes, an identity that emerges, pulsations that manifest themselves and you don’t know what to do with them and where they will lead you...

I sublimated mine in books, "causes" and the search after the "perfect love."

The only thing that really lasted were the books. And I don’t even remember half of them...

As for "causes," they have not only remained unresolved but have worsened...
As for "love," I smile–laugh when I look back...How could I have been so bloody naive, I keep repeating to myself.

But then, those were the teen-age years and everything was possible. Change, revolutions and eternal love...

But a rebel, I was. I think it is genetic in my case.

I simply could not accept the given status quo. I had to question which I still do...A problematic attitude if you want to get on in life “smoothly.”

But then my life has not exactly been a smooth ride either. War after war after war after war...And my name is Layla Anwar.

These wars have shaped me more than I care to admit, intimately shaped me...leaving marks inside, like the foot-prints of some soldier's boot on wet mud, that eventually dry up in the sun and become like some old totem that one carries around one's neck...

And with each “war” and there has been so many of them, the totem becomes alive again and that rebellious spirit against the madness that injustice engenders, re-emerges...as if it has just woken up from some temporary hibernation.

A lost cause? Maybe...But I told you, in my case it's genetic.

Which reminds of a saying by some “good old feminists” who used to repeat,
“If I am determined by my biological make-up, do me a favor, do not tell me how to behave.”
So I guess, am determined by my “biological make-up.” So kindly spare me your comments.

A few had difficulty dealing with my “biological make-up.” In particular my mother and some of my "eternal loves". I guess I was not obedient enough and was not easily molded the way she/they would have liked me to be.

My mother for instance, one of the things that used to literally drive her up the wall, was my love for second hand clothes. She could not understand why on earth I would go out of my way and buy second hand clothes when I could buy something brand new.
She would flip when she saw me sneak in old, worn out army shirts, jackets and trousers...made in the USA.

She would go ballistic and say: “Do you have to be dressed like a soldier and like an American soldier for that matter?"
To which I would reply: “ All soldiers look alike – I, on the other hand, am a rebel, a guerilla fighter.”
And she would go even crazier and say: “ Guerilla fighters don’t wear shirts with the U.S. flags on them and they are not called Tom either...” referring to one of my favorite army shirts which had the name Tom sewn on it.

I guess she had a point there. But that was the closest I could get to look like a guerilla fighter...then.

Of course, today, am laughing my head off as am typing this...

"L’habit ne fait pas le moine” goes an old French proverb – the “uniform” does not make the monk. But I did not know it then. I was full of good intentions and...lousy discernment.

I think one other reason for my “love” for second hand clothes, was the fact that I could escape to the souk downtown called “al Balat.”
A souk where you can rummage for hours, amidst the tumult and noise...And escape, I did.

It all felt so alive for me. Finally real people, I’d say to myself. Nothing like my class mates, all fake and disjointed from the reality that surrounded them.
That was real life for me - the souk for second hand clothes.

I witnessed with my own eyes, some of the deprivation and that was like fuel for my rebelliousness...my “eternal” revolt. But I was nothing but a teenager then...

Three decades have elapsed since and I still remember these second hand stalls. Strange don’t you think ?

In fact, I remembered them yesterday, when I opened my closet and chose a look alike khaki army trouser (made in China.)
Okay, I agree, some things never change. I admit to that. But how do you explain the following part?

“Hit by war, unemployment, sectarian violence and the flight of capital, beleaguered residents of the Iraqi capital have taken to rummaging through piles of imported second hand clothing..."
It is more important to buy new things for the kids. We can manage ourselves from the second hand shops," said the 53-year-old father of five.
"Life has changed a lot in the past few years. It is a problem for badly paid state employees and those with limited incomes," he said.
"I try to pool my resources to buy what the boys and girls need. As for me, I will buy second hand items...said Jabbar...”

The owner of this second hand shop is jubilant: “Due to increased demand, Abu Hussein has set up agents in other parts of the country. “I now have many outlets to sell my goods," he said. (full article here)

Little did I know then, that the second hand souks I loved, would turn as the only outlets for clothing...
Little did I know then, that the majority of Iraqis would be wearing second hand clothes...
And, little did I know then, that the majority of Iraqi teenagers would be working to support their families, forsaking their studies and future...
While yours are sitting around TV screens getting pissed and smashed out of their brains...and whilst you arm with them weapons to carry to school, as if these were some lunch bag...encouraging them to become a new Tom...
And surely, I did not know then, that some Tom in an American army shirt was responsible for all of that.

Over three decades have elapsed, my love for second hand clothes has disappeared, but the “guerilla” fighter’s spirit in me has not died...
How can it, when there are so many Iraqis carrying bags of second hand clothes, when Iraqi teenagers have been robbed of their youth...and when American Toms in army clothes are roaming around?

Mother, hope you understood by now...All of my past revolt was nothing but a preparation for...today.
Oh, and you were so right about those Toms in army clothes.

I will no longer buy second hand, promise. It's all brand new and untouched from now on...
Virgin like some undiscovered territory, clean and fresh like some morning dew, and as ardent as a budding desert flowery cactus...
No second hand here, Mother. Its a daily, new surprise...in every souk, behind each house, in every alley way, around every corner...

Painting : Abdel Ameer Alwan, 1992.


Anonymous said…
"I will no longer buy second hand, promise. It's all brand new and untouched from now on..."

You must've found quite a few Saudi and Khaliji johns; the $$ of the "sectarian" Shias--whom you and your fellow Sunni muck had been leeching for so long--are no more!
Layla Anwar said…
Oh "Zainab" welcome back...
What happened ? You missed me already ?
Or are you having difficulty finding a TOM in the U.S, now that your backside has gone past its expiry date - ya shroogiyah.
They are known to be too lax when it comes to matters of this sort.
Or maybe your master Mullah, has not been at it quite as needed...despite your perfect Muta'a offerings...
So you come here for more flagellating...I understand.
I can't help you though. You are already past your prime in the circles you frequent.
Take care dear "zainab."
Anonymous said…
My Dear Sister,

It is true our life is shaped by what surrounds it. Hate, love, forgiviness, are all a part of growing as a person as well as a people or tribe.

Am I asking you to forgive the white nations for what they have and are doing to your people? No! Just an understanding of what you are up against.

My people like yours has seen wars for many years, death to our children and women by the cold hearts of others. But we have learned that if we don't let the hate go the sickness grows inside of our being. This stopping our growth as true loving people to others and to our mother earth.

We found that to carry the totems of hate only put a lot of weight on our hearts. This only gave those that did not understand us the advantage of putting or trying to put fear into our life and hearts.

Instead we would learn about those that killed our people and use there weakness as our tools to build better, stronger warriors. We as a people will always have pride for we live for truth and honor. The day will come when the dog will sleep and like the shadow of the north moon, coldness will take their bodies and spirits.

Keep on writting dear sister and friend Layla, for the truth will hurt them more then ten thousand deaths over. Take care and let the spirit guide you.

howling wolf
Anonymous said…
Layla I can understand your mother's reaction regarding second hand clothes. My mother used to react the same way and very melodramatically. I think they associate these clothes with poverty - not aware that they are very popular with young people.

By the way I am enjoying the exchange of Iraqi curses between you and Zainab. It makes me feel homesick. I hope the theory 'Les ennemis de mes ennemis sont mes amis' does not apply here and you form an alliance with her against 'The Jew' (namely me).

Anyway I am well prepared for a barrage of insults from both of you.
Anonymous said…
has anyone ever spoken to you about the old Veterans Village in St Louis, Missouri? it was destroyed a few years back for their urban renewal. you would have loved that place, mountains and mountains of old clothes, furniture, toys, tools, artwork and refuse from the rich american suburbs. i still wear pure cotton shirts i discovered 20 years ago in that musty place. keep safe, lady.

and dear Layla, you too crack me up.
Angel said…
Hello Layla,

I have been missing for a few days. Sometimes it is good to be able to escape from reality. No such luck for you.

There is little doubt the war has left "footprints" on you, inside and out. Is it any wonder though, when the US has it's very own Bigfoot?"

There have been numerous reported sightings of "Bigfoot" in the US over the years. One would assume they are all fit for the lunatic assylum, due to this belief.

Anwar and Bigfoot. Things are not looking good for you. May I suggest annihilation of a fairytale, rather than a name change?
Mister Paradise said…
I used to have a Kashmiri friend who told me how the iraquis behave back in the eighties when they visited Kashmir. Well, they used to do as if they belonged to a superior race and nation, sounded as if the iraquis believed themselves as the 'masters' of the Middle East. Now you sound as a 'fallen master' who has been replaced by the ones who made your 'nation' powerful back in the eighties. If you really feel superior now in this days of distress it is the time to prove it. Or was it the dollars from Uncle Sam that made you feel like Nabudoconossor? As for the 'arab question' as a Moroccan friend told me "we the arabs really do have arms of mass destruction: treason and deception, mostly among ourselves" And if you still cling to the notion of the 'iraqui nation' you are no better than Al Qaeda (the islamic nation), the shias (the ayatollah nation), the zioinists (the chosen nation of Israel) or the anglosaxons. It is all the same: war games and cries.
LostHere said…
Thank you! Layla
Anonymous said…
I am a Vietnam veteran who as a combat medic has seen the utter barbarity, futility and waste that are war. Below is an excerpt from Thomas Paine’s essay entitled “Thoughts on the present state of American affairs” written in 1776 when the British were occupying the American Colonies.

“Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain, and, still hoping for the best, are apt to call out, "Come, come, we shall be friends again for all this." But examine the passions and feelings of mankind: bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature, and then tell me whether you can hereafter love, honor, and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land? If you cannot do all these, then are you only deceiving yourselves, and by your delay bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connection with Britain, whom you can neither love nor honor, will be forced and unnatural, and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first. But if you say, you can still pass the violations over, then I ask, hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant.”

The brave men and women of the Iraqi resistance will drive out the murderous and barbaric occupying army that is devastating their country. My heart goes out to them in their struggle. May you prevail.
Anonymous said…
"Zainab" is neither a Shia, nor a Muslim for that matter.

She is just a "phallotheist" sharmoota, that's all.
Anonymous said…
very sentimental!!
Mister Paradise said…
Moreover, Saddam knew how to die, his bravery is well documented during his trial and, even more important, right before his execution. However, until 1991 he did not know really what was going on, an even after the first war he was not the leader he thought, maybe for that reason he was picked up by the CIA in Egypt back in the old days. The Baath party is really part of the past, when the middle east arabs looked at the West as its source of inspiration, well, now you have all the West there.

The new arab must break away from the West and, even more important, the new arab must regain his lost religion, the new arab has to take it away from the hands of the various branches (sunni, wahabi, shiite) by way of true understanding, by way of developing a sound criteria.

This war is all about that, and in his last days Saddam proved to understand this, and he left signs for those who ponder.
Anonymous said…
Iraqi Zionist,

"you form an alliance with her against The Jew (namely me)."

Give us a break, you lousy melodrama ham actor !

Everybody knows that it was your treacherous ancestors who opened the Gates of Babylon to the Persian hordes, and ever since your twin-soul imperialistic elites have done nothing but bill and coo and plot together to weaken and divide Mesopotamia and the Arab nation as a whole.
Layla Anwar said…
Howling Wolf,

Hello. My country is soon to be partitioned into three different states. This will be the blackest day of my life. You say do not let hate fester in your heart.
And I say to you we will be ending up like Native Americans in reserves. We are already in ghettos and will end up in reserves as a tourist attraction.
What do you have to say to that one?
God bless
Layla Anwar said…

Am looking forward to the day where they will find another city for all the brave boys belongings to go on a jumble sale.
Your end will be jumble sale and our end will be jubilation day.

20 years to keep a shirt is a long long time in my opinion.

Did you pass on any medicine today?
Layla Anwar said…
Hi angel,

What's the fairy tale ? I know stories from cuckoo land but no fairy tales...
Be well.
Layla Anwar said…

Thank you for visiting,the Thomas quote and your words of solidarity.
It feels good to hear an ex veteran wishing for the brave Iraqi Resistance to prevail.
That shall make my day.
Layla Anwar said…
iraqi jew,

Regarding second hand clothes, I don't believe my mother's objections were due to poverty or anything along these lines.
I sincerly believe and am having them too now that am older...is that second hand clothes carry other people's energies, even if you wash them and soak in Dettol, which I used to do...
I can no longer buy second hand clothes anymore. It was a outerphase but the inner phase stayed on.

And since you are nostalgic for Iraqi "idioms" let me remind you of this common saying in Iraq.
" Takloon wa Tekhroon bel Jeder"

You must enjoy it watching from afar Kissinger's motto coming true in Iraq : " let them kill each other".
Layla Anwar said…
Frankly I do not understand your ramblings.
your kashmiri friend knows nothing for starters. he probably confused his gulf patrons with some iraqis.

secondly,you are so confused about Saddam Hussein, the history of Iraq, etc...that all you have done so far is probably regurgitate what some other friend of yours has dished your way.

No Saddam Hussein did not die like a brave man . Saddam Hussein died like a HERO. One hell of a Hero.

Moreover from what you wrote, you seem to know nothing of what is currently happening in Iraq.
Why should we give up the idea of an Iraqi Nation?
Would you like the country you live in, be partitioned into a thousands pieces?
What kind of logic do you spew here?
Please go and inform yourself more before talking nonsense.
Thank you.
Layla Anwar said…
last comment above was for nirvana, aka "mister paradise."
Anonymous said…

"You must enjoy it watching from afar Kissinger's motto coming true in Iraq : " let them kill each other".

Actually No! What kind of a human being do you think I am?

Not even one's worst enemy can enjoy watching what's happening in Iraq.

I don't enjoy watching bloodshed under any circumstance and I resent
you comparing me to Kissinger or any other potitician - Arab and non arab!
Anonymous said…
Anti hypocrite - Now the Jews are to blame for letting in the Persian Hordes?

I thought the discussion was about the present time and the growing influence of Iran in Iraq.

What has this got to do with my ancestors?

Is there anything you don't blame on the Jews? Go for it. It still does not change what is happening in Iraq. You should eliminate the word ANTI from your signature.
Mister Paradise said…
You seem entrapped in the notion of the modern 'nation-state', that is the seed of assured destruction.

I am pointing out a very simple logic: don´t get rid of a foreign chain to put in a national chain for your neck will not notice the difference nor your soul, maybe your mind would come up with some kind of an illusory justification to prove that the national iron is different from the foreign iron, there could be a slight difference but overall it will be the same.

Saddam (and I prefer brave men better than heros, even in arabic the word for brave sounds much better than the one for hero) realized the priorities so let be no smoke curtain in between the goal and the people, and if you have doubts about the goal then read the book that Mr Hussein just to bear in his right hand during his trial.

Besides my kashmiri friend knew very well the difference between an iraqui and a gulf beduin.
Anonymous said…
anti-hypocrite said...
Iraqi Zionist,

"you form an alliance with her against The Jew (namely me)."

Give us a break, you lousy melodrama ham actor !


well said that man
Anonymous said…
Layla Anwar said...
Howling Wolf,

Hello. My country is soon to be partitioned into three different states. This will be the blackest day of my life. You say do not let hate fester in your heart.
And I say to you we will be ending up like Native Americans in reserves. We are already in ghettos and will end up in reserves as a tourist attraction.
What do you have to say to that one?
God bless


probably sum crap abt the great spirit
Anonymous said…
Layla Anwar said...

Am looking forward to the day where they will find another city for all the brave boys belongings to go on a jumble sale.
Your end will be jumble sale and our end will be jubilation day.

20 years to keep a shirt is a long long time in my opinion.

Did you pass on any medicine today?


i dont think layla wants 2 b your friend frank
Anonymous said…
can pple plz stop posting pointless comments.......layla is a very busy n intelligent woman n does not have the time nor the inclination to respond to this crap
Anonymous said…
no comments which will lead to sectarian divide either plz......thats means u zainab
Layla Anwar said…
hey jr,

frank is a friend...He cracks me up sometimes. And I try to do the same.
Layla Anwar said…
mister paradise,

Honest to God, I don't know from which tantric bed you have just woken up from !
Hello, good morning, Iraq IS UNDER FOREIGN OCCUPATION.

And you are telling me to do away with the idea of nationalism-patriotism when we are UNDER OCCUPATION by FOREIN POWERS.????

Do me a favor, go back to SLEEP.
Anonymous said…

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