How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, December 31, 2012

Back in the USA.... For Good.



It's a cold Georgia night and I am curled in my overstuffed living room chair.  A glass of white wine and a brimming over cupful of black bean soup seasoned with a bit of leftover smoked ham sits next to me on a narrow table. The table serves as my catch-all for everything from unread copies of this year's New Yorker to a printed out story written by a former student of mine. This former student brought me joy yesterday when she visited. She filled me with tales of this, her second year of college at my old Alma Mater. She described her professors and her classes. She talked about what she has learned in her Asian History class. She told me about an opportunity she has to fill a teaching assistant slot next term.  I am intensely proud of her, but oh, so envious of what lies ahead of her. This fresh girl, who is a clean slate; tabula rasa. Life will write its story and she will embrace it. To be twenty years old again and know what I know now. But all late middle aged people say that, don't they?  It's our litany.

As for what I have learned this year: that I am my family. That they are a large part of who I am.  That I cannot exist over 7000 miles away while my father's Alzheimer's steals away the last visages of his soul and his body; his life.

 I was supposed to fly back to the UAE this coming up Tuesday. I was to be back at school teaching my 10th and 11th grade girls on January 6.  But this won't  happen.  What I will be doing instead is spending precious minutes and hours with my dad at the Veteran's Administration Hospital. . He will smile at me from time to time. I will bring him home-cooked stews, soups, and casseroles in an effort to tempt his appetite.  I will file his nails, massage his feet, try to reach in and grab his memory with my remembrances of our shared past: the family camping trips to Canyon Lake Dam, the afternoons on the beach in Iraklion, the times he would allow me to tag along on his gigs in Texas while he picked his steel guitar, his driving me to seventh grade in a 1957 Chevy and me begging him to PLEASE drop me off a block from school so the other kids wouldn't know my "daddy" was chauffeuring me. I will hug my dad close, hold his hand while he sleeps, play gospel CDs to which he will occasionally hum note for note.  I will be here for him the way he was for me when I was a child. I will be here for him because I always knew that my dad loved me. Most of the accomplishments in my life have been driven by my need to make him proud of me. And he was. Always. That's why I'm staying.  That's why I will not be on that airplane Tuesday.

I did not out-process in the proper manner, so after January 6th I will technically be classified  a "runner" by ADEC.  If I had attempted to out-process in the proper manner I probably wouldn't even be sane by the time I landed in the U.S of A.  I watched, bewildered and confounded, from the sidelines while another teacher (who had an extreme family emergency) out-processed properly, and it was a nightmare. She spent her last two weeks running from ADEC office to ADEC office; collecting documents from the landlord, the electric company; running from ADEC office to ADEC office again (each office giving her fifteen different sets of instructions); duplicating missing paperwork;  taking hours off work to jump through ADEC hoops.  A Western admin advised me that just leaving the country, rather than going through the ADEC illogical red tape, was preferable.  This was as I suspected and only served to confirm what I already knew. So, I left. I sold what I could, left or gave away what I couldn't, and boarded a plane from Dubai to Atlanta for what was supposed to be a two week Christmas break. But, when I left I  had no intention of returning.

During my last month in the UAE I cried myself to sleep almost every night, held my breathe, sent semi-prayers (coming from an avowed agnostic, this is telling)  out onto the  universe, and tried to bargain with the collective forces of destiny so that my dad would not only be alive when I arrived back in Georgia on December 17th , but that he would remember me. He was. And he did. The universe heard me.

My fellow UAE teachers, forgive me, please. I know it makes it harder for you when a fellow teacher just up and "runs".  I hope my students, whom I will miss so very much, will forgive me also.  But I am where I need to be. I am home. And my dad smiled at me today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's a Dog's Life in the Publishing World...


What the hell is up with all the books about dogs? And they’re listed under the biography section on Barnes & Noble online. There’s “Until Tuesday”, “Dog is My Copilot”, “Soldier Dogs”, “Little Boy Blue”, Thunder Dog”, “The Lost Dogs”, “A Big Little Life”....  The list goes on and on and on.   I walk into the living room and glare at my dog, Truman, lying like a lump of snot on his staked out section of the couch and I ask him, “What? You can’t write a book and help pay for your own damn dog food?” He just looks at me, yawns, and goes back to sleep. 



I want a BIOGRAPHY about a person, not someone’s trumped up fictional version of what they think their dog thinks and feels.  But, I have to admit, the entire concept is sheer genius really. I mean, think about it. A dog can’t step up at a latter date and challenge the author. A dog can’t sue for libel or slander. A dog can’t demand royalties.  A dog can’t grant an exclusive interview with The New Yorker in which he/she vehemently states “That dumbass writer had it all wrong. I never drank out of the toilet bowl or sniffed Rover’s ass. The nerve”.   

I wonder if writing about the life of a hamster would sell? Only problem is that hamsters don’t live very long (two years at max) though, so writing about a hamster’s life would probably only result in a very short novella of sorts. And all they do is sleep, eat, poop, and run on that squeaky little wheel. Speaking of squeaky little wheels, did I ever tell you that a friend  of mine had a pet rat and she swore that one night she woke up and there was another rat running on the wheel? Not her rat, but  a common wild rat who had somehow managed to break INTO the cage so he could run on the wheel. She wore it was true. If you don't believe me, leave me a comment and I will send you her email address and you can ask her for yourself. But, I digress..

What about writing the life story of a common house fly and his struggles in Al Ain, UAE where he is killed by a crazed American teacher welding a blue fly swatter? With only a fifteen to thirty day life expectancy, less if I killed the S.O.B, I’m thinking flash fiction narrative.  But if one were to write about, say a Bowhead whale (which can live for up to two hundred years), the book could end up rivaling “War and Peace” in word count.  

So, I ask again, why all the books about dogs? What about whales and giraffes and meerkats? Methinks there is an obvious case of discrimination in the publishing world towards certain species of the animal kingdom. 

 He smells something rotten in the book publishing industry ... (but he did have his own T.V show at one time.)


Now back to Barnes & Noble online so I can attend to the arduous task of finding an interesting biography or two about an actual human being. I'll have to wade through all the dog books first, but I have $100.00 in Christmas gift certificates to spend. I shall prevail. 


Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Own Little Chirstmas Miracle

Miracles come in the smallest and most unassuming of packages. Sitting with my dad today at the V.A hospital, our hands entwined while we listened to the old gospel classic, "The Old Rugged Cross", dad suddenly focused his eyes so that his gaze met mine squarely. He seemed to study me for a moment and then he clearly and precisely said, 'I love you".  This from a man who can no longer form a coherent sentence. 
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.




Sunday, December 16, 2012

Zero Hour Nine P.M (Aplologizes to Elton and Bernie..)



This Georgia Girl is Home:
I'm back on Southern red clay. A fifteen hour flight from Dhabi to Atlanta, Georgia, and I'm not ashamed to say that when the plane's wheels screeched down on the tarmac of Hartsfield Airport, my eyes leaked great dripping crocodile tears.

Zero Hour, 9 p.m:
 I arrived at the Dubai airport at 9 pm and promptly checked  my bags.  Surprisingly, I didn't go over the baggage weight limit. By the time they allowed passengers on my flight to go past the gates it was already a little before 10 pm, and the plane was scheduled to leave at 11p.m. I was able to buy some chocolates in one of the shops, but nothing else. I was really trying to spend some of the 300 dirhams I had on gifts for people back home.

The security check at Dubai airport was pretty invasive. I was taken into a small cubicle where an Emirati woman copped a feel or two while another stood by unsmiling. In fact, neither one of them smiled or offered any indication that I was even a human being.  If someone is going to cop a feel, I at least want a damn smile. And it wasn't just me. Another American woman boarding the plane told me, "I fly this route about three times a year because my husband works here, but I have never been groped before. That was a first.".

 On Board:
 The plane was filled to capacity and I almost had to check my roll on bag because they ran out of overhead bin space on the plane. At the last minute, one of the flight attendants found a bin in first class for my bag, so I rode economy and my prescription drugs and bathrobe flew first class the whole way. I'm not sure if they were served free drinks and offered hot towels or not. I wasn't.

 I sat in a window seat in a row of three seats, so every time I had to stretch my legs or go to the restroom two men sitting next to me had to pause their movie or wake up to let me out. There was very little room to even move. I am 5'2" and weigh 110 and I was squashed. I have no idea how the poor man sitting next to me, in the middle,  even managed. He was an average sized man too. Not huge, by any means.

I took half a Xanax, watched four or five movies (I lost count) and dozed. I cried at the end of the movie  "Lovely Bones". Seems like I cried on and off the entire flight. I had only slept for three hours the night before, and two hours before I was to leave for the airport I locked myself out of  my apartment and had to have Mr. Ali, the building supervisor, knock off my door lock and replace it with a new one.  I was frazzled, anxious, sleepy, stressed, worried, and hungry by the time I planted my butt in row 47 seat J. And Arthur was starting to act up a little. Not a good combination of emotions and physical state for a fifteen hour flight.

The End:
But at the end of the flight, everything was worthwhile. After going through passport check and retrieving luggage that I could barely lift off the conveyer belt, I walked out into the terminal and there was My Jim waiting for me.  I ran to him, my luggage fell off the luggage cart, and I didn't care. I wrapped my arms around my husband and just sobbed. He hugged me and asked, "What is wrong?".  All I could say was, "I am so happy to see you". He humored my clinging, sobbing self. By the time I walked out of the terminal and filled my lungs with sweet Georgia air it was 7 a.m. I was dressed in sandals and a thin pair of wide legged pants.  It was 44 degrees.

Jim took me directly to Emory Hospital to see my boyfriend, Scott, who had had serious surgery three days previously.  It is a good husband who will pick his wife up from the airport and drive her to see her hospitalized boyfriend.  P.S Scott, come home before Christmas. The neighborhood is lonely without you... I need to see you get well, my friend.

After visiting Scott, my husband took me to IHOP to eat and then before we arrived home he pulled into the parking lot of Barnes & Noble and we went into the store and spent the next two hours in blissful book browsing. I was in heaven.  My husband is the perfect man. He knows what I need before I even utter a word. In yesterday's case, my boyfriend, bacon, and books. The three essential B's.

Seeing Mom again was emotional. She has been going through so very much lately. Back at her house I had dinner with visiting cousins (Jeneva cooked butter beans!) and met my new grandson Cash. As I grow older, I am finding that family is the necessary glue to my sanity.

First photo of Cash and Gigi together:



 I was in bed by 8:30 p.m and slept the sleep of the exhausted and jet lagged. Today I saw my dad at the V.A hospital for the first time since leaving Aug 23.  I am still attempting to process my dad's obvious and shocking decline. I can't even write about it at the moment..

But I am home, and my little dog is glad to see me, and I have dinner in the oven for My Jim. Almost all is right in my little world at this very moment.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

ATTENTION to Drivers in the UAE: You're Morons.



I just arrived home from my daily 50 minute drive from work. Surprisingly, I am alive.

People of the United Arab Emirates, you need major driving lessons, road etiquette lessons, and some common sense when it comes to operating a big ass container of steel that can go in speeds in excess of 150 MPH and, if you crash said big ass container of steel, it is going to cause you and probably someone else to die a horrible, bloody, flesh mangling death. You may be in an all fired  hurry to meet Allah, but I'm not. So, please slow your ass down and stay in your own damn lane. Please. Ever wonder why the number one cause of death in the U.A.E is traffic accidents? Stop and think about it...

Thank you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Seven Days Plus One


I'm leaving on a Jet Plane
This time next week I will be on an airplane at 28,000 feet, heading to Atlanta from Dubai. I'll probably be seated next to some smelly old man who snores. Sixteen hours non-stop. I can only hope and pray that smelly old snoring man misses his flight.. There isn't even a smelly old snoring man outside of my over-active imagination and already I am praying he misses his flight.

 Next week is going to hectic
In the meantime, I have 10th and 11th grade exams to grade Sunday during the day, work and 12th grade exams to grade Monday and Tuesday night, work and last minute packing Wednesday, and work and Global Village shopping (or should I say BACK to Global Village shopping) on Thursday. Sometime in that schedule I have to have henna applied to my foot and ankle. I just think it will look cool to have henna when I go home, plus it will make my daughter jealous that I have henna and she doesn't.

Friends
I am very sad that my friend Ciara is having to go back to Ireland due to a U.A.E snafu. She is a compassionate, caring person who has brought a lot into my life. She has shown me a real life example of what patience is, and she has liked me regardless of if I were being super-hyped-up me or Arthur-bit-my-ass-today me. Life just brings certain people into your life who are unforgettable. Ciara will be one of those people for me. Okay, Ciara, now you can cry. I did...



ZOO!!!!
 Ciara, Suzanne and I hit the Al Ain zoo after work yesterday and had a wonderful time..


Entrance to the zoo:

Mr. Meerkat dude:


I decided this guy looked like his name was Herman. He looks like a Herman, doesn't he?


me and Suzanne.. "...but I'm not dead yet". She totally loves Monty Python as much as I do..

Okay, now conjure up the scene where the minstrel is riding behind Sir Robin in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Work with me here, okay?

"Bravely bold Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot. He was not afraid to die, oh brave Sir Robin. He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways, brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin. He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp, or to have his eyes gouged out, and his elbows broken. To have his kneecaps split, and his body burned away, and his limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Robin. His head smashed in and heart cut out, and his liver removed, and his bowels unplugged, and his nostrils raped and his bottom burned off and his penis..".

Suzanne sooooo gets this.. and that's why she is my favorite tall woman person.

And I rode a camel. A very anti-climatic experience, I am sorry to say. Kind of like wanting to date a guy really badly for months and months only to find out on the first date that he is boring, pretentious, self centered, and not worth a plug nickel. But I rode a camel, so now I can cross it off my bucket list and go on with my life.


Post Script:
Next week I will see my dad for the first time since August 23rd. I have been warned that the change in his physical appearance is drastic. He has lost a  great deal of weight due to his all but absent appetite and his inability to remember how to open his mouth.  I am trying to prepare myself, but how does one prepare for that? I know that seeing my dad is going to shatter me to the core.

 Seven days plus one, and I'll be home.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Day in Dubai

I spent the day yesterday with Suzanne and her son Jarret, a really cool and funny young man who I love hanging out with.

Jarret with his baby Arabic Coke!



On the way to Dubai I had to take photos of all the tricked out cars. The Emiratis decorate their cars for National Day and today marks the 41st National Day, so everywhere I looked there were red, white, green, and black decorated cars plastered with images of the sheiks.



 
Suzanne set the GPS for Dubai Mall and we only got turned around eight times because road construction is so rapid in Dubai that the GPS devices can't keep  up. So, the GPS lady will say, "Turn right at the next roundabout" and there is no roundabout. Or she will instruct the driver to "Take a left in 100 meters" and there is no road to turn left on.. just a huge construction wall. But I knew we were heading for Dubai Mall, and the Dubai Mall is right at the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, so how hard could  it be? Just look for the really tall ass building.

But...but.. IT'S RIGHT THERE!!!


Saw some lovely young Emitati girls hurrying through downtown Dubai and I had to sneak a shot.. I felt so touristy.

Under those abayas lurk some very expensive clothing, think along the lines of Dior...


The buildings in Dubai are beautifully constructed, and Dubai is an absolutely beautiful city that has EVERYTHING. Since I arrived here though I have read articles and heard people comparing Dubai to New York City.  I take offense with those assertions. There are no comparisons at all.  It would be like trying to compare a newly found polished diamond with a mine cut one from the 1880s; both beautiful, both multi-faceted, but in ways so different that they are apparent to the naked eye and the heart. NYC has a history, a feel of stepping into the past in some areas, a feel of continuity and legacy. Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station.

Dubai is sparkling new. No historical buildings, no places to go to remember the past. Dubai is a city intent on being the gem of the Middle East. Old money vs. nouveau riche. There's always a sweat coated mild desperation and barely suppressed inferiority complex that leaks from the nouveau riche. Dubai has that feel. The city hasn't possessed their great wealth long enough to grow into the old dowager who no longer has to flaunt her money or power to prove herself; she just IS powerful and knows it, as does everyone else- hate her or admire her. NYC is the grand dame dowager. Dubai is the mega successful dot com guy who grew up in rural Kentucky and wore hand-me-downs. So please, everyone stop trying to compare the two. Dubai will never be New York City. No city will.

Emotionally charged opinion based rant over..

But just look at the architecture of Dubai!








One can't deny the thought, creativity, and talent that went into building this city. It is breathtaking.

Suzanne, Jarret and I  finally arrived at the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world (why is there such an attraction to the BIGGEST in the United Arab Emirates? A more than slight Freudian phallic physiological issue going on, perhaps? But I digress..).

The Dubai Mall is four stories of shopping paradise. Dior, Versace, Lush, Guess, Starbucks, Levis, The Gap, Virgin Records, Hushpuppy and Clark shoes, Payless Shoe Store, Sephora.. I could go on and on and on. The mall houses 1,200 retail outlets, two anchor department stores, and over 160 food and beverage outlets (Red Lobster, Outback, P.F Chang's, The Noodle House, Chili's, McDonald's.. anything your palate desires).
Views from the fourth floor looking straight down and across the mall



Jarret was enthralled by the scope of the mall, and I almost immediately found a mega bookstore where I nabbed a book (surprise, surprise for anyone who knows me..)


And I had to go into Virgin Records. I just had to. And I had to buy a Beatles CD.  I was helpless to do anything but walk zombie-like to the check out counter, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band clutched tightly in my hand. It was fate.


And I was just as helpless to wander into Lush and stock up on Christmas presents. My God, I love that store!
 Ha! All wrapped so Mom, Stacey, and Lara can't tell what it is!!

I got hungry, so we stopped at P.F Chang's where we ate outside near the fountain. The hostess seated us behind a wall that blocked our view of everything. We had a view of a.... wall. After the hostess walked away, Suzanne, the fearless renegade, said, "Let's move over there" and proceeded to pick up her packages and leave the table for another one. Of course, I followed, protesting how "wrong"  this was, but that didn't stop me. I didn't like the wall either.
About ten minutes later when the hostess with the Mostest walked by to seat someone else she stopped at our now empty table, a look of puzzlement crossing her face, spied us at seated at the "new" table, and I just know she was pissed. You could see it. Well, Suzanne said she could see it. I tried to avoid the withering gaze of the Hostess with the Mostest.

We ended up having a nice dinner: dumplings, honey chicken and rice. Then we took photos to prove we had been there.


During dinner the fountian music started playing (Barbra Streisand and Julio Iglesias)  and the fountain put on a show in time to the music


A walk by the indoor aquarium, a quick sneak photo of an Emirati man probably waiting for his wife to finish browsing, a quick stop at Second Cup for coffee, and we were ready to head back to Al Ain.



National Day pride was dripping from everything. Sheik Mo looks very stern on this billboard. I think he needs to lighten up a bit...

  It took us ten minutes to get out of the vicinity of the Dubai Mall due to the perpetually confused GPS lady..


However, before we left Dubai, we had to make a quick stop at the airport to check on Jarret's ticket for next week because Suzanne hasn't been able to get through to the airline by phone.  She batted her eyelashes at the parking attending guy and he let us park for free (she is going kill me for writing that, but wait until she gets her eyelash extensions, there will be no stopping her).

After going into the airport and seeing it for myself, I now at least know what to expect when I fly out December 14th for Christmas: long lines and a security check where I will carry all my bags through before they check them. No curbside bag check in. Atlanta Hartsfield airport has spoiled me.

We arrived back in Al Ain around 11:00 p.m last night. Suzanne and Jarret went snorkeling today, but I sit here on National Day (Happy 41st National Day, United Arab Emirates!) holed up my little apartment because there is no way in hell I am going out with all the National Day craziness going on. A day to cook a good Australian beef steak and baked potato, read, watch an amazon movie, and start packing the gifts I bought. With all the Lush products I am going to have to pack, my luggage is going to be the best smelling that goes through security!

In the words of Dr. Seuss, (pardon me for twisting them a bit..) "Dubai was good. Dubai was fun. Tomorrow is another one".

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's a Jungle Out There: UAE Malls



Paradoxically I both love and hate the malls and shopping in the UAE.

 The shopping choices in the UAE are MARVELOUS! I have found almost every single store I have looked for: The Gap, Levis, Bath and Body Works, Columbia. True there are no Barnes & Noble and no J.C Penney's or Kohls, but I have discovered H&M, Boots Pharmacy, Le Senzia, and Lush.  

 And this country's shopping culture makes America's consumerism and materialism look like a thin dim shadow on the sundial of economic consumption. The people in the UAE are master shoppers, not mere novices. They are professionals in every sense of the word. And their unending array of choices proves it.

Rhinestone couches? They got 'em.

Sparkly shoes? Check.

Glittery dresses? Just choose one.

It's all here. In triplicate.

The "hate" part about shopping in the UAE is that the nanosecond I enter a store I am instantaneously stalked and hunted by the salesclerk, like a lion zeroing in on a hapless antelope warily gulping water from a muddy creek edge. You scream at the antelope, "He's behind you! Run!" He continues to slake his thirst, powerless to heed your cry of warning. The lion closes in. As the antelope drinks, his eyeballs roll in the back of his head because on some instinctive level he knows his ass is grass. 

I am the antelope. 

I stroll into a mall store to get a closer look at a blouse that has caught my eye from the mall superhighway, and in my peripheral vision I spy the pretty young Filipino salesclerk (jobs here seem to be divided among countries: Indian: taxi drivers, phone/internet installation; Pakistani: construction and apartment building supervisors, Filipino: retail sales, nannies; American, British, Irish, and Canadian: teachers (all Westerners are interchangeable in the UAE).  

 I walk around a clothing rack and the salesclerk ducks and walks around the next clothing rack, mentally calculating how many steps it will take for her to sidle up next to me.  I see the salesclerk as she attempts to predict my browsing pattern. She closes the distance. she goes right and then fakes a left. I go around another clothing rack. I lose sight of her. I quickly change my direction, thinking I have outmaneuvered her. Then I see a shadow. Ten feet....five feet.... two feet. She has won.
"I help you, M'am? Look at shirts?  Just arrive".
 I shake my head, "No thanks, I'm just looking".
She seems not to hear me, She pulls a shirt off the rack and holds it out. "This nice. Matches eyes".
"No, no thank you.. just looking".
 She steps back a foot, but doesn't leave. She trails me as I continue to browse. My concentration is now divided between the stalking salesclerk and my need to get a closer look at a red pair of pants in the back corner. The girl doesn't go away. She follows me. She watches as I examine the red pants, waits to pounce, mentally trying to pair the pants with a blouse from the next rack.  I allow my steps to linger two seconds too long. She rushes towards me. I shake my head at her and walk away from the pants.
But the girl still lies in wait, in it now for the kill, ready to tear the pulsating jugular vein from my debit card. Finally I grow exasperated and walk out of the store. I enter another store, the same thing happens. I swear it's the same girl...

This scenario plays itself out over and over again. Even in the one mall bookstore I have managed to locate, the salespeople stalk me, and believe me, the last place on earth I want to be retail hunted is in a bookstore.

 I have been reduced to contemplating the effectiveness of wearing a huge sandwich board that states in bold black letters:
BACK OFF! I DON'T NEED HELP. I AM JUST LOOKING!

But it would clash horribly with my red pants...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Shopping in the UAE

Didn't go to work yesterday or today while I tried to get Arthur under control. He has hit with a vengeance and I must have done something to really piss him off this time because he hasn't let up for over two weeks now. I finally broke and went to the doctor yesterday. There was really nothing he could do, but he did write me an excuse for two days off so I could rest and try and fool Arthur into going away.  Very nice, young doctor from Philadelphia; Dr. Brent at Oasis Hospital. If you are in Al Ain and need a good doctor I highly recommend Dr. Brent, plus if you are female and young, he is very cute.

Trying to get some Christmas shopping done while I deal with the Arthur attack. Love the shopping. Hate Arthur.

I found two dolls that I'm not so sure about giving to my granddaughters.. I'll let you be the judge:


 I'm thinking they might give the girls nightmares. They might give me nightmares...

The Barbie Arabic counterpart is cute though:


 And I bought Natiional Day dresses for all three granddaughters:


Going to Global Village soon in Dubai and hopefully I will be able to find something cool for my grandsons and nephew. And maybe something for me!

National Day in the UAE is December 7. It's a huge celebration in the UAE that commemorates the formation of the country, and this year is the 41st National Day. There are freaking lights draped/wrapped on everything. I just pretend they are Christmas lights and I sing Christmas songs real loud. Off key. Very off key.

To celebrate National Day, we have a four day weekend off from school: Friday through Monday, and rumor has it that tomorrow will be filled with nothing but National Day celebrations at school and then khallas! The girls will only come back to take exams next week, the following week they won't come to school at all, and then holiday break from December 13 to January 6.

I fly home on December 14th, and am looking forward to eating my fill of butter beans and cornbread. I'll probably gain fifteen pounds my first week back home.

Dad continues to get worse day by day, and it's not easy being so far from him and Mom. I fucking hate Alzheimer's. I know it'll be a shock seeing dad because he has lost a lot of weight and he is not as cognitive as he was when I left in August. But, I am still so ready to see him and wrap my arms around him.

This is my new UAE boyfriend:


 He doesn't say much, but he is fairly agreeable and lets me have my way...




Friday, November 23, 2012

A Different Kind of Thankful...



I do believe this Thanksgiving was the worst Thanksgiving I have ever had. I ended up going to the Rotana hotel for dinner with two other teachers and one of the teacher's teenage son. Neither of the teachers are American, so the emotional significance that this day holds for me was probably lost in translation somewhere. But, I also know they went out of friendship and caring for me.

The restaurant served turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes, but that was about all that was even a bit like traditional American Thanksgiving food.  At one point during the meal I looked around, saw a room full of complete strangers milling about and felt like the most alone person on the face of the planet, never mind the fact that I was sitting at the table with three people I have known since almost the day I arrived in the U.A.E. They still weren't my family.  

 I thought about last Thanksgiving when dad was still home, still able to walk, communicate a little, and eat unassisted. True, not many of the family were able to attend, but it was enough. Dad had sat in his usual place at the head of the dinner table, but I didn't know that would be the last time he would ever preside over a family holiday meal. That day seems like a million years ago, and then again it seems like yesterday. Last year's Thanksgiving  conversation had been family conversation about common stories, knowledge, experiences. The food had been prepared by hands that I knew and loved. A bond of blood held everyone together that day.  

All these thoughts and more started running through my head and heart during the meal at the Rotana last night. My throat constricted, tears welled in my eyes and I couldn't blink for fear they would spill over and then everyone would stare at me, and then I would completely and totally lose the last shreds of my composure and cause a scene. So, I started chatting on about John Kennedy, talking to my friend's teen boy about the band System of a Down.. anything to distract myself.  The conversation was stilted and uncomfortable, I knew. I also knew I was talking too much and too little. I knew I was not talking about appropriate dinner topics, but I couldn't seem to stop myself.  The friend's teen boy and the other teacher started picking on one another, trading insults and verbal jabs. It felt too real, too much like real conflict, none of which I needed due to my already overworked emotional state.  After the meal we waited thirty minutes for the waiter to bring us the check, finally paid, made our way back across Al Ain in the normal crazy traffic, and my friends dropped me off. 
 I rushed into my building, shut the door to my apartment, and cried for two hours straight

The entire night ended up costing 169 dirham  (about $46.00 US dollars). I actually paid good money for the worst Thanksgiving I have ever experienced..

But I am thankful that three people made the effort to be with me on this holiday. Maybe that should be enough.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lord of the Flies: Part Deux

I can now claim the title of serial killer. Doesn't matter that it's only flies. I am a serial killer..

I stalked them, and one by one, I purposely smashed in their dirty little fly heads with glee and joy nestled in my heart.


So, who thinks I need to "get a life"?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lord of the Flies....



Flies, flies flies,  It'll be the memory of the flies that awake me screaming from my slumbers in the nursing home thirty years from now.

 I teach in the middle of the desert. There are 100 houses (I counted them on google maps one night when I was bored) that surround the school. No stores- just houses and houses, a girls' school (mine) and a boys' school.  The entire girls' school is built around an outdoor courtyard/assembly area. The class rooms all open onto the outside. And normally that would be good: fresh air, sunshine, right? Wrong.



There are these flies in Bu Kayrrah where I teach. These flies are everywhere. And they aren't normal flies. They look like Georgia flies, but they are fucking vicious. They are demons. They aren't scared of anything. Swat them away with your hand? No problem.. they'll just come back and dive bomb you, trying their dead level best to enter your nostril, your ear, or some other orifice that flies should not enter unless you are a dead rotting corpse. Or a camel. Or a dead goat.

 It's been a rough week, so the highlight of the past two days has been my discovery of a rotted, bloated goat carcass lying stiff legged in the sun at the entrance to my school behind a trash dumpster. (yes, I am in the culture shock phase commonly referred to as the "Dead Goat" phase). Thank goodness the temperatures have cooled down and we don't have 110 plus degree days anymore. The goat corpse has only been baking in  86 degree heat for however long he/she has been there.  Did I mention there were about two million and two flies swarming all over the goat carcass? A phenomenal sight.

You know something is wrong when you take photos of a dead goat and feel a sense of accomplishment..



Today was a normal, ho-hum, run-of-the-mill day spent killing flies in the teacher staff room. You know, the usual stuff I do at work besides actual teaching. I am the great fly killer. The Arabic teachers turn on the air conditioner in the staff room, open the door, (WTH?) and the flies come in. The flies dive bomb us, they attack us. I try to keep them away from my mouth and my eyes. I cover my coffee cup. The dive bombing flies don't seem to faze the Arabic teachers. The Arabic teachers chat, drink their tea, laugh, visit. They seem oblivious to the swarm slowly overtaking the staff room like some biblical plague of locusts. The flies buzz around, seeking a weak spot. I duck and cover. The other American teacher ducks and covers too. We are the only ones who seem to even notice that the room has filled with about fifty pissed-off kamikaze flies. I close the staff room door and I grab my little blue plastic flyswatter. I stalk flies, I swat flies, I yell out 'Zap!" when I get one.  Fly carcasses litter the floor.  I sit down, triumphant and self satisfied in the body count.

An Arabic teacher gets up, opens the door, then sits down. I close the door, kill more flies. I sit down. An Arabic teacher opens the door, the flies come in, I close door, I kill flies......and this plays out over and over again like Bill Murray's movie Groundhog Day.  Finally at some point I give up, beyond exasperated with the flies and the loud loud chatter of six or seven Arabic teachers trying to out-talk one another.  I have work to do. My ears hurt. My head hurts. There's a fly in my coffee cup. 



This is my daily self determined breaking point,  I leave the staff room, the myriad of flies, and loud chatter behind to seek out sanctuary. Sanctuary that exists in the form of a small supply room that doesn't open onto the outside courtyard, but into a nice, mostly fly free inner hallway. To gain entry to this precious room, I have to open a double glass door and enter a short hallway that houses five classrooms/computer rooms, a custodian's office, and a "special" Arabic Teacher staff room where a few of the Arabic teachers have divided themselves from my staff room camp (I haven't quite figured out the little clique system yet). I then have to open another door and enter a large, mostly empty- empty except for the cushions lined against the far wall and on the floor- "Training Room" before opening yet another door that leads to the supply room. When I enter the first room I have to check to see if anyone is asleep on the valley of cushions.  Teachers and office staff disappear for great lengths of time to catch forty or so winks in this room, and when I open the door, I invariably wake someone and I get the "stink eye" look.



I believe that my sanctuary is not long for this world. I am interrupting nap time in my quest for sanctuary, and this cannot be allowed. I expect to go into work any day now and find that the supply room has been emptied and locked, then I will have no where to escape the flies, loud talking, riotous laughing, and clanking of  teacups. And I will go slowly mad, erupt into a boiling cauldron of unleashed insanity, have my little ass arrested, thrown into a UAE jail, and slowly rot in the midst of a swarm of vicious kamikaze demons while the memory of a fly encrusted goat corpse loops though my brain.

The "doomed" sanctuary.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Birthday....

Today is my dad's 70th birthday. I wonder if he knows?
This has been a very difficult day.  I don't  know if I have any tears left. And who am I crying for? My dad or me?
 Maybe a little of both.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Hollow Man (Short Story)



     
The door slams. Footsteps echo through the house  Hollis glances up from his place at the kitchen table where a lit cigarette has burned down into a stub in the red tin ashtray. How much time has passed?
     He feels someone staring at him.  It's his wife, Mary. 

     "You been sitting there since I left?"
     "Nope", Hollis murmurs.
     "Yes, you have. You haven't moved an inch".  Mary has the worn look of a woman who carries a day-to-day burden on her shoulders, and this burden has been much too heavy for either of them.
     "Well, maybe I haven't."
     "Oh, Hollis" Mary sighs. "I ain't faulting you none. This isn't what...".
     Hollis stands and pushes the chair back, "I don't want to talk about it."

     He shrugs his thinning frame into the jacket resting on the back of one of the worn out kitchen chairs. Chairs that he and Mary bought for their five year anniversary. So long ago. So very long ago.
      He feels Mary's eyes on him. He doesn't look at her, her eyes make him feel useless. He walks heavily across the room to the kitchen door, opens it and feels the sudden, cold gust of the December wind against his face.  He slams the door behind him and walks out into the yard.  He hears the familiar sound of the school bus rounding the corner. School is out already? Where has the day gone?
     Jonsey, the half deaf Labrador that just showed up as a pup years ago and ended up staying, comes out from his spot under the house . The dog walks up to Hollis and then sits solidly on his haunches staring at his owner.
     "Don't you go doing that too. Why's everyone staring at me all the time like I'm gonna drop dead right here and now?"
     The dog stares at Hollis a second longer.
     "I ain't got you nothing to eat, you mangy dog", Hollis said.
      Jonsey cocks his head and then distractedly starts chewing on his hind leg.
Hollis reaches down and rubs the dog behind his ears. "You a good ole dog, Jonsey". 

      Hollis crosses the expanse of what passes for a lawn. He stops at the work shed that holds his tools, rakes, hammers, nails, shovels, and lawnmower. His sanctuary. He pulls the rusted screwdriver from out of the padlock. He always intended to replace that old rusted out screwdriver with a proper lock, but never got around to it. Just like he hasn't gotten around to a lot of things.
     He guesses it doesn't matter much now.  What wasn't done won't get done. And it doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. He swings the shed door wide and the smell of oil and dirt and gasoline hit his nostrils. All the smells he has taken for granted. All the smells that have filled him with satisfaction and comfort.  The smells of tinkering and leaving the world outside whenever he entered the close quarters of the little shed. A shed he built with his own two hands. Now the support beams standing sentinel in the middle of the shed are rotting away. Hollis planned to replace them next summer. Plans, plans. plans. What happened to them? 

     He sits on the shiny-seated wooden stool at his workbench. There is a broken lamp shoved to the back. A lamp he had promised Mary he would fix. But that had been what? Three, four years ago? A china dog figurine missing its head rests under a thin coating of dust next to a glass baby food jar filled with various screws. Why did he keep all those screws? What had he been thinking he could do with them? Could a man ever use up an entire jar of metal screws in a lifetime? He sweeps his hand across the table and everything flies off.  Glass shatters, the lamp breaks in two, metal nails bounce off the concrete floor, the headless dust coated dog skitters and disappears out of sight underneath the old push lawnmower, the glass jar with the hoarded screws explodes  Hollis puts his head down on the table and tries to think. What can be done? How can this be fixed? He lifts his head and runs his calloused hand though his still thick graying hair. None of it makes sense. He can't fix this. Some things in life are just unfixable, like the lamp or the china dog.  He knew when he placed the broken items on his workbench that he'd never get around to fixing them. He has lied to himself and to Mary. He can't lie anymore. He can't fix this.

      "Inoperable", the doctor said. Six months to a year. The cancer will eat him away. He will end up like the china dog. Or the broken lamp. Useless. The cancer will drain his and Mary's bank account and savings: expensive medicines, medical bills, and in the end, hospice care.  Mary will suffer. She will suffer no matter which road he chooses, but at least his way will mean that she won't end up destitute. Having to sell the house, move in with the kids, become dependent. She's too good of a woman to be reduced to that. His decision is made. They have worked damned hard al their lives. He won't; let it all be stolen from them.

      He kneels and pulls a metal box from underneath the workbench. His knees tighten when he tries to stand and he grimaces.  He places his weight on one arthritic knee and pain shoots from it like a knife, but it's a pain that makes him smile, even as he winches. It is the pain of life. 

      The metal box is heavier than he remembers. He places it gently on the  workbench, reaches to his left and pulls a small wooden matchbox from the rough hewn pinewood shelf.  The match box holds one lone object: a small metal key. He fingers the key and studies it before slipping it into the keyhole of the metal box., The box clicks at the turn of the key and the lid pops open, like the Jack-in-the-Box toy lid so many years ago.  Had that toy belonged to Jenny or Kevin? He can't for the life of him remember, and this angers him. Why can't he remember? 

     He picks up the white flannel cloth where it is nestled in the box, and unrolls it slowly. The gun is heavy. Solid. He has only ever used it to shoot the occasional rattlesnake that slithered unknowingly into the yard back, or to target practice on old soup cans down by the garbage dump. All these years the Ruger has waited. Waited for today. The reason for its existence. Its link in the chain. 

        Hollis flicks open the gun's chamber. It is unloaded, as he knew it would be. He takes the gun apart and oils each piece almost tenderly, before assembling it into the whole again. His brain is empty except for the task at hand. His hands work swiftly and surely.  When the smell of gun oil is thick and the air is saturated with a purpose, he loads the gun from a small box of ammunition that he has kept hidden in his toolbox all these years. Mary gave him that toolbox twenty Christmases ago.  He rolls the chamber shut. He places the remaining box of ammo inside the metal box. He locks the box and puts the key inside the match box. 

      He retrieves the shovel from where it has leaned against the wall for years untold, and carries everything to a dark corner of the shed and pulls on his old leather work gloves.  This small space is an area that he never got around to laying slab over. The hard packed dirt has never been disturbed.  He pushes the tip of the shovel into the dirt and leans his weight forward. A clump of rich black soil breaks apart.  He digs until a thin sheen of sweat glazes his brow. He continues to dig the hole deeper and deeper. Jonesey saunters into the shed, "Not now, old boy", Hollis tells him and the dog curls up on an old piece of burlap and silently studies his owner. 

      Finally, the hole is deep enough. Hollis places the metal box and the wooden matchbox into the deep recesses of the hole and shovels the dirt back into place. When the hole is filled in and the dirt packed hard with the flat end of the shovel, Hollis rolls an old metal barrel over the fresh grave-like area. He frowns at his handiwork and then piles musty paint flicked bed sheets in front of the barrel.  That will have to do.  He places the shovel back in its usual place.

     Hollis's thoughts are tunnel focused on the job at hand.  He sits at the bench and picks  the gun up from where it has been waiting. The metal is still cold.  Before Hollis can change his mind, he brings the gun to his lips, kisses the oil licked steel, then just as quickly he levels the gun barrel against the right side of his head. 

      But before his finger can press back on the trigger, he feels his chest seize. It's like a fist has grabbed him from the inside. The pain is unbelievable in its ferocity and suddenness. The gun falls from Holiss's hand.  He feels the world shift and he is falling. His head smacks against the dirt floor and he thinks, "This is strange". Then he is face down on the floor, staring at the gun where it has fallen, not six inches from his nose, and his chest is exploding into sharp wave after sharp wave. 

    Jonsey walks over and cocks his head in a kind of doggie perplexity.  Then Jonesey bends and runs his wet tongue over Hollis's face. Another fist grabs Hollis in the chest and he loses his breathe as the pain clenches at him again. It subsides a bit and Hollis opens his eyes and sees Jonsey staring at him. "Worthless old dog" , he whispers. 

        The beast in his chest shifts into another wave and Hollis laughs. Talk about irony. With every bit of energy left in his spasming body he shoves the gun with such force that it spins and disappears under the workbench with the cobwebs and the forgotten dropped nails. Everything is shifting into a gray fog. So, this is how it ends?  He thinks. Not with a bang, but a whimper. Who wrote that?  But this isn't the long protracted whimper he has feared. He smiles. He has beat it after all. His chest explodes one last time, His breathe stops, his eyes glaze over.   
 
     Jonsey lays his head on Hollis's still body and waits.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alzheimer's Sucks, and I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends



My dear husband keeps me updated on my dad's condition back in Georgia. It's not good. Dad continues to deteriorate almost day by day. He can longer hold his head up for any length of time, and most of the time he keeps his eyes shut. I read where Alzheimer's patients will do that as a way of shutting out visual stimuli that they can no longer process. Dad doesn't eat much and his weight has plummeted.  He might weigh 125 pounds. To put that into perspective, he weighed 186 in April of this year.  I know because he stepped on the scale at my house and I weighed him. Nowadays, Dad either stays in bed or the Geri chair at the V.A hospital, as he is no longer mobile on his own accord.

My daughter took her three week son, Cash, to "meet" my dad at the V.A hospital last week. Not once did my dad look at the baby. My daughter said dad's eyes were closed and when she begged him to look at her, he cracked his eyes open the merest of slits, smiled, and then shut his eyes tightly again. My daughter held Cash to my dad's chest and let my father feel his great-grandson baby against his body. Dad will be seventy years old Monday. Everything stolen way too early from my dad. All he worked for. All he planned for. He never got a chance to enjoy any of it. I'm angry about it all and don't quite know who to be angry at.

So, so difficult to be so far from home when something of this magnitude is happening to one of the most important people in your life. But, it was my choice to come to the UAE. No one else's but mine. I knew it would be hard. I never thought it would be this hard.

My dad is human. He has made mistakes, like all of us. I don't try to shift him to any godlike status because that would be taking his humanness away. My dad taught me how to fight, how to succeed, how to fall, how to get back up. And in the entire wide world I could not have asked for a father who could have come even close to loving me the way he did. I would give up years of my own life to have just one last conversation with him. Just one.

THE UAE
Meanwhile the beat goes on in the UAE. Syria is still rife with violence. Israel bombed Gaza yesterday. My friends and family back home worry about me because they read the news and I am in the Middle East, but all of that is taking place about 1500 miles from where I sit and doesn't effect my normal living and working life. The UAE continues to be a place where the unexpected is the norm though. It is simply accepted and one quickly grows used to practically doing every else's job, and not just in one's own workplace.  The daily customer service industries like the banks, the internet company, the education council- any sector where Emiratisation is prevalent- is rife with inconsistencies. The definition of Emiratisation from Wikipedia:

.."initiative by the government of the United Arab Emirates to employ its citizens in a meaningful and efficient manner in the public and private sectors".
"While the program has been in place for more than a decade and results can be seen in the public sector, the private sector is still lagging behind with citizens only representing 0.34% of the private sector workforce".

The lack of a Western work ethic amongst the National UEA citizenry is something I don't understand or can relate to, and it would be almost laughable, if it weren't so tragic. They are trying to operate in Western dominated and developed industries with Middle Eastern styled "Inshallah" way of doing business, and never the twain shall meet.   Thanks to the influx of redistributed oil wealth in the past 40 years, most of the Nationals have never had to work a day in their lives, and as we are stumbling into the 21st Century and the oil reserves are being acknowledged as not lasting forever, the UAE government is attempting to just about bribe their citizens into employment. The Nationals are accustomed to having expats do everything for them: pumping their gas, raising their children, cooking their meals, washing their cars, serving them in restaurants, waiting on them in stores, and managing their Emirati owned businesses (they provide the capital, an expat provides the skill and sweat).  

The sectors that the government is trying to steer the Emiratis towards in employment are insurance and banking, and these are the very sectors that are providing issues and problems for the Western expats.  These institutions can train the Emirati employees to supply basic banking customer service and services for  insurance claims, if they do not fall too far outside the realms of the ordinary, average services. But hit the Emiratis with an issue that requires a bit more initiative, hours to solve, skill,  knowledge, and persistence and it all blows up.  They will just walk away from the challenge, say "Inshallah" and put it behind them. But the problem doesn't go away. It just gets shunted to another employee who isn't Emirati and that employee has to unravel the tangled strings left behind. And forget about getting any problem resolved over the phone. If an issue arises it is best to GO to the service providers' offices, which means a lot of extra commuting after work. Thankfully, businesses stay open until very late due to the desert culture's internal clock.  So I can clear up any banking issues ( of which there have been several) at 7 p.m and I can pay my internet bill in person at 7:30 p.m.

My favorite times in this country continue to be when I close the classroom door and it's just me and my students, learning together.  My girls are teaching me so much about their culture and themselves, and like teens everywhere they are accepting and love anyone who is willing to invest time in them and show they really care. And, like teens everywhere, they can spot insincerity a mile off.  It's a good thing I don't have to fake my interest and feelings for them. I'd wouldn't last a week. My feelings toward the adults may be full of internal questionings and conflict, but it rarely crosses over to my girls.. I just see teen girls who are delightfully funny, inquisitive, and eager.

Today was Islamic New Year's Day, so we had the day off from work. We had a wonderful program at school yesterday to "celebrate" the Nwe Year. One of the Arabic teachers who speaks English (she may even be Emirati) stood beside me during the program and patiently translated the skit that the children had organized. It told the story of the Prophet Mohammed and his flight from Mecca to Medina, and his eventual return to Medina. I was able to follow along a little because I have researched the life of Mohammed and I guess it was apparent to the Arabic teacher that I had exerted some effort to educate myself about her religion.  As the Arabic teacher was relating the events, she was suddenly overcome with emotion and a tear spilled from her eye. I was startled and then deeply humbled that I was afforded a peek into her heart.  I recognized the deep and sincere love she holds for her God and religion. It was a revealing moment not only about her, but myself.  Her lone tear was a testimony to her faith.


What is Friendship, Really?
Today I was able to spend the entire afternoon with two friends. We visited the Hili archeological dig park and the Al Ain National Museum.  I am thankful for these two friends. In normal circumstances we might not have chosen one another, but I am finding that friends of necessity can become friends of the heart. They tolerate my incessant talking and random conversation shifts, my forays and diatribes about world events, the sometimes sudden mood changes I experience due to the grief and uncertainty over my dad, my dark humor that makes it damn near impossible for me to not poke fun at almost anything and everything, and my Arthur days when I can't make it another step and have to bow out of previously arranged plans. It's a wonder they even take the time to be with me, but they do, and for that I am indebted. 

And because these two friends are not from the United States, I am starting to see a reflection of how my country is viewed by others. Some of these reflections I agree with, some I don't, and some I know is just due to my friends not knowing much about America's history, as I don't know much about the histories of  their countries (I am making an effort to rectify this deficiency). Americans are prideful and boastful and vocal and brash, or as I insist on describing it: we can be "American Assholes". And damn proud of our assholishness, I might add because when we bring out the American Asshole it's simply due to our inherent inability to tolerate half truths, a job half done, or a complete and utter disregard for the rights of other human beings. Americans are always insisting that life be "fair", even when it is apparent that it never will be. That is all the framers of the Constitution wanted: fair.  However, the definition of fair is evolving and the United States is going through some growing pains. 

But I digress. Interestingly, my two new friends provide epiphany moments that otherwise might never have occurred in my brain. For example, today one of them made a rather profound statement that started the wheels spinning and I was suddenly rocked with the knowledge that my perception of the Emiratis as a rude and entitled acting people may just be that they are actually insecure and threatened by their status as an unrepresented population in their own country (around 20%) . They resent the fact that their young nation is overrun with so many foreigners, but they have developed a need for the workforce and thus are unable to sever the ties that hold them to us.  That resentment and insecurity comes across as rudeness and a superiority attitude. I am learning bit by bit.

My new friends provide other viewpoints that enable me to ponder certain issues and questions in a totally different slant and light. They make me think. They push my envelope of comfort. They are astute. They make me laugh. They even piss me off a times (and I know I probably do the same to them, hell, I know I do). They can relate to what I am experiencing on a day to day basis and they can also relate to my angry outbursts towards seemingly illogical behaviors (i.e not "Western").  They know in every core of their cells what it feels like to be the stranger in a strange land. 



I am also fortunate to be working with an English teacher from California who I admire and respect in every way. She is around my oldest son's age (29), and I have started to feel very protective towards her.  She is smart, beautiful, possesses an insight beyond her years, is hardworking, patient, and a balm to me on days when I am feeling surrounded by an ocean of  uncertainty. Again, a friendship born of necessity and situation, but one that is adding positively to who I am and increasing the size of my heart.
  
 I have become all sappy and meandering. My bed calls. I have two more days off from work.  I can rest knowing that I totally rocked my first evaluation Thursday and that my girls have conquered their fear and ignorance of English prepositions.

And I can revel in  the knowledge that encased safely in my refrigerator is a package of REAL American hot dogs that I scored at the pork shop. They taste EXACTLY like Ball Park Franks. It's the little things that make me happy these days.

and tomorrow I go to Abu Dhabi for a good old fashioned American football game that my friend's eighteen year old son is playing in.  

To bed, to bed, potato head,...