Monica Hunken moved to NYC two days before September 11 bringing with her a family background that included a failed whistle-blower lawsuit and an intrepid immigrant grandfather. These turned out to be fertile soil for the agit-prop street theatre, political action and bike culture that flourished in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions and the 2004 RNC protests.
In 2010, inspired by Follow the Women, group ride for human rights that takes place in the Middle East annually, and enabled by a serendipitous catering gig in Qatar that provided the starting point, she embarked on a 6-week solo bicycle trip across Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
A brief description of this gay outing to a longtime peace activist friend elicited “That must have been quite a shock for the locals.” Truer words were never spoken. But it’s amazing what a six-foot tall blonde American can get valium for felines away with in a region whose inhabitants are bound, on the one hand, by the laws of hospitality, and, on the other, intimate knowledge and fear of the weight and caprice of American state power.
Bringing a “disconcerting American optimism” as she set off just a few weeks before the debut of the Arab Spring, Blondie of Arabia pedaled right into the very heart of the cultural-social maelstrom that is the Middle East, blueballing a series of gallant gentlemen along the way and blithely delivering a terrific whack to any number of gender clichés and hetero-normative sexual political assumptions nestling in a bouquet of Orientalist geo-political post-colonial paradigms and islamo-phobias, as only a woman riding a bicycle alone through Aqaba can.
Safely back on Bleecker Street three years later, she plays it all for laughs for a brisk and thought-provoking hour at Culture Project, nightly through May 11.