art bikes food

Blondie of Arabia

At the last minute my new friend Allison suggested I join her at the Living Theater for something called Blondie Of Arabia on Friday night. At the mention of theatre/performance art I almost baulked – let’s face it, we’ve all been burnt – but I’m so glad I didn’t. It was a one-woman-show written and performed by Monica Hunken, who describes herself as an activist, Amazonian blonde with a superhero fetish. The show tells the story of her quest to bike alone through the Middle East, after she scored a trip to a royal wedding in Qatar working for a high-end catering company.

The theatre was tiny and intimate – read: impossible to escape should things turn weird – and the sassy, political opening monologue made me a little nervous. But when the music struck up and Monica rode a bicycle around the audience in superhero costume, it quickly became clear she wasn’t going to take herself too seriously. With impeccable accents and mannerisms she reenacted run-ins with the military and the “po-po”, couch-surfing with an eccentric Russian woman and handsy arab guys, and a bit of a romance with a scholarly, devout Egyptian tour-guide. She indignantly remembers him making her don his turtleneck to go swimming so she felt like “a drowned bee-keeper”, and unconsciously rubbing salt into the wound he mooned: “You know why I know I could marry you Monica? You’re not sexy.”

Her observations of the different cultures – from the Disney princess decadence of the royal wedding, to a kohl-eyed desert tour guide deviate she dubbed Johnny Depp – were hilarious and also moving. A tiny example that kinda sums up her approach was when she describes a boat ride in Egypt, hip-hop blasting as she watched a woman in full hijab and wondered what, behind the veil, she thought of “The Thong Song”. One of the saddest moments was actually when she had to leave her bike behind when flying out of Turkey!

It was a really great show and Monica even answered questions from the audience afterward. Next she hopes to take the show around Europe and dreams of finishing up with a performance in the Middle East. She’s also donating to a fascinating cause called Follow The Women, well worth checking out, who demonstrate for peace by doing bikerides.

The weird thing about the night was that on two seperate occasions people stopped me on the street thinking I was Blondie! I guess one amazonian blonde in red lipstick is interchangeable with the next – but I will definitely take it as a compliment!

We finished the night with a late Indian feast at Spice Cove – $10 price fixe three course meal? Yes please! The urban legend about this stretch of East Village they call Little India is that there’s just one kitchen hidden out the back, cooking for all the dozens of different restaurants with moody lighting and cushions and sitar players. Admittedly, all the restaurants are on the same side of the street…

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