Saturday, June 30, 2007

Socializing and Unsocializing

Saturday and car bombs in London and back to work tomorrow. This upcoming week will be a heavy one at work, I’m sure. Nothing to do but just duck my head and get through it. George, head of one program at the Institute, is probably going to be a bit pissed or disappointed with me, but I’ll get into that later.

Last weekend was say-goodbye-for-the-summer dinner with Phil, Enma, Steve, Leah and Hannah. I decided to taxi, for several reasons. I get tired of being in the car, for one thing, and also of having to drink responsibly so I can drive myself home safely. There’s a strategy involved in getting an evening taxi. Right now, evening prayer is about 7:30. You are not going to get a taxi around 7:30, no way. Then, after prayer, everyone and his brother are out on the street trying to flag a taxi. I opted to go early to Phil and Enma’s. The other day I waited 10 – 15 minutes in 110° weather for a taxi to take me down to Honda to pick up my car after its 120,000 km service. This time I walked out the door of my building and bam, there was an empty taxi. That’s how life is. It’s like when you get home from work or from out running errands and cannot find a parking place anywhere near the building so you park a street or so away, and then you walk up to the building and there’s an empty space right in front of the door and you sort of look back over there at your car and think about moving it, but just shake your head and walk on inside the building.

So, I arrived at Phil and Enma’s early. Everyone was already several ahead of me, but I caught up. We had a good time, as always. We talked about everything and nothing and laughed and ate takeaway from the Rainbow Steak House. Phil and Enma are off to Trinidad and then Venezuela to visit her parents. Steve and family are back to the UK to visit his family and then up to Scotland to visit Leah’s family. I have a little less than three weeks left before I’m out of here. Leah and Hannah got sleepy and Steve took them home around 9 or so. I hung out for about another hour talking to Phil and Enma and then I left. It was a nice evening.

Work was typically busy and chaotic last week. Due to new programs just coming online, we have to rework the entire September program of classes for the Institute. Hopefully with a few meetings this week, we’ll get that set up. Also have finals, etc. for three classes which will graduate on next Monday and that means a lot of paperwork. There was also a lot of outside testing last week, but that’s mostly George’s area.

Lorin had called me during the week and said they were coming to Abu Dhabi for Thursday night. She also mentioned that Wendy’s daughter, Kayla, had wanted her mother to get word to me that she had enjoyed meeting and talking to me at David and Lorin’s “Goodbye to B-01” party last month. Kayla is back in Canada getting ready to start her sophomore year of university this fall. Anyway, those exchanges led to Wendy coming down with David and Lorin on Thursday, which was great because I have a feeling that Wendy is becoming family and she’s very good people. Anyway, I had suggested that we all go to Hemingway’s for dinner and get a good burger and some beers.

George has had family visiting him for weeks. Frankly, I don’t see how he does it. He’s a better man than me, that’s for sure. Anyway, he invited me to a party at his place on Friday evening to meet his family and I was pretty sure it was something I wouldn’t make. George throws a great party and I attend when I’m in the mood for a party and think that I can be an entertaining guest. That’s not always the case, so I blow him off. I think it offends him and it’s not meant to. It’s just my nature. Anyway, I invited him and his family to Hemingway’s on Thursday to meet David and Lorin and Wendy and that way I could meet his family and I thought that would cover me. Then, Lorin called me back and told me that Rex (a librarian at the Petroleum Institute) wanted to join us and he was bringing two people. Now, I was up to a table for 12 and Hemingway’s doesn’t take reservations. I’d tried to use some wastuh and get my barber, Jihad, whose shop is at the Hilton where Hemingway’s is, to talk to someone about holding me a table, but they basically said no.

We’d scheduled to meet at 8. I left home about 7:20 and stopped at the petrol station to fill up and then headed on over to the Hilton, arriving about a quarter to 8. Luckily, Hemingway’s “back room” was empty and I spoke to the waiter and he started putting me together a table for 12. He finished about 8 and I ordered a beer and when it arrived I lit a cigarette. I know Lorin and I know George and I know they’re always running late, so I was expecting to sit and wait a bit. What was odd, though, was that the place started filling up and there’s me sitting alone at a table for 12 trying to look cool and comfortable and feeling very conspicuously alone. I think I pulled it off, but it felt really lonely at that huge table for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Everyone started arriving and I felt vindicated. I tweaked the seating and ended up sitting next to George and opposite his family. It was a fun evening. George’s family is sweet and real, just like George, and we hit it off from the start. Everyone talked and drank and ate and laughed and got acquainted and I really enjoyed myself. I took some of George’s family into the Jazz Bar to watch the Jazz Band. The place was heaving, so we had to stand, but the band was the same one that’s been there forever and they’re good. Then, George let everyone know that I probably wouldn’t be at the party on Friday and the pressure started. George knows me. Finally, I promised I would come and fully intended to join them for at least a few hours on Friday. Well, I didn’t.

We got back to my flat about 11:30 pm after Hemingway’s. We sat in the living room and caught up, because I’d spent the evening talking to George’s family. Wendy inspected the flat and I know it seemed like a big change from living on the American University of Sharjah campus. Wendy went to bed first, she had the spare room. David fell asleep on the sofa, as he usually does, and Lorin and I stayed up talking and drinking Paddy’s (Irish whiskey) until 4. We did major damage to that bottle. David and Lorin had my bedroom and I was on the sofa bed in the living room. David and Lorin and Wendy left about 5 pm the next day and I was feeling a bit under the weather. I got my bed back and turned on CNN and settled into my usual position and watched Breaking News about the car bombs in London. (I love London, it’s one of my favorite cities, and I have visited all those places they were talking about on the news.) I did shave and trim my moustache, etc. in preparation to go to George’s, but I just couldn’t pull myself off the bed to shower and dress and drive over there. It played on my mind a lot. Basically, I wasn’t in the mood to go to a party, any party. And what I wanted to do and needed to do was relax in bed and watch Lost and Grey’s Anatomy and House, which was what I did.

Still, tomorrow I will have to face George, but I’ll just tell him the truth and hope he understands.

Oh, btw, so far, the best CD of 2007 is Icky Thump by The White Stripes.

I received an email from my friend Mark Starr. He and his wife work in Kuwait and the email is the long story of this teacher who offended some Kuwaiti with wastuh by putting his son in detention and now is basically being held in the country and not allowed to leave. They put a travel ban on her so she can’t leave the country. The US Embassy can’t or won’t help her. It’s all very shameful. Either I will find a way to link to it or post the whole thing here later. It’s a very eye-opening story.

Below is a link to a story by one of our greatest journalists, Seymour M. Hersch, about the general who did the report on Abu Gharib. I can’t say it surprised me; it’s just typical American government under Bush. Read it tho, it’s an interesting piece.

The General’s Report by Seymour M. Hersch

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Seinfeld Post

It’s impossible to be “up” all the time. I do put on a good show of it though, but it takes a lot of energy. By the time I get to the weekend, all I can do is vegetate. Mentally, it’s time for a vacation, but calendar time says it’s still a little over a month away. I should be going to a surprise goodbye party for someone this evening and I just can’t. I can’t make conversation. I can’t listen to conversation. I will read and watch a little TV and have dinner and go to bed early to start a new work week tomorrow. I’m doing the best I can. Maybe I’m also feeling a little guilty because I should go, but I won’t go. Guilt also drains energy, trust me.

The book I’m reading now led me to two blogs that the author maintains. I was jealous. What I do in my journal, he does on his blog. That isn’t an option for me for several reasons and it’s frustrating.

Do you know that I have maintained this current job for longer than any other job I’ve had in my life? Do you know that I am making the highest salary I’ve ever made in my life? I have more money in the bank and in funds than I’ve ever had in my life. There’s a “but” that should come after that, only I’m not quite sure what it is. I can’t say that I’m unhappy, and yet there are times I don’t feel happy. I guess that’s just the natural flow of life. Plus, I’ve never been 52 before. It makes me uncomfortable.

There’s an 8 x 10 of me that’s behind the bedroom door and I rarely even notice that it’s there. I noticed it the other day. It’s about 10 years old. I’m standing behind the first car I ever bought in the UAE, a KIA Sportage. There’s a story to that car, but I’ll save it for another time. I’m too busy feeling sorry for myself or whining or whatever this is. Anyway, it’s up on top of Jebel Hafit in Al Ain. I remember the trip and that was a good day. We were with Tony and Sarah. I didn’t have any white hair then. I still had a goatee. I look better with facial hair, actually, but I can’t grow it now because it all comes out white. Small children would come up to me and tell me what they want for Christmas. Get the idea?

Sometimes, I wish life came with narration. You know, like that woman on “Desperate Housewives” who killed herself, but hangs out watching and commenting on everything that happens and then usually ties up each episode into a theme. Or maybe not.

I miss my lame attempts at writing fiction. I haven’t plotted or written fiction since the last time I took an online writing course, which was almost two years ago. Val was still here then and she offered support. I miss creating characters and plotting and then trying to put it all into words which don’t embarrass me.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to post this and do a couple of other things on my blog. Then I’m going through each room in the flat making notes of what I want done. I’m going to have a company come in and paint while I’m on my vacation and then I want to re-do several things in the flat after I return. I had thought of moving but with rent inflation what it is here, I’m better off just staying where I am. Then I’m going to make a list of things I have to get done before I leave for my vacation. I like lists. They keep me organized. Then I’ll write in my journal and include all the bits and pieces I can’t say here. I’ll do the dishes and shave and get clothes laid out for work tomorrow and I think I’ll order home delivery from Subway. I’m not in the mood to cook. Then maybe I’ll watch a movie because none of the shows I like to watch are on this evening. After that, about 10, I’ll make a nightcap and read my book (the one by the author I’m jealous of). At 5 the alarm will go off and I’ll switch on the coffee maker before I take my shower.

Some things to read are listed below.

Better to be Hamlet than President George
By Peter Birkenhead

Bush’s European Disaster by Sidney Blumenthal (READ THIS!!!!!!!)

What is The Meaning of Life? By Laura Miller

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bye to B-01

So, it’s June. Weather, hot and humid. What's new, huh? There’s a new photo album to check out. There are a couple of pix from Lorin’s birthday dinner at Finz at Rotana Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The rest of the pix are from this past weekend when we got together to say goodbye to their place in Block B-01. They should be getting settled into their new place as I’m writing this.
I drove up to Sharjah on Wednesday after work and did the usual lunch with David and then a nap. That evening we had dinner at home and then sat in the garden and drank and talked. Lorin had to work the next day. I slept very late on Thursday and then after coffee and brekkie David, Rainan and I took a load of things over to the new flat and ran by the Co-Op for a few groceries. Lorin was a bit late getting home from work and then she got caught up in this movie on Showtime and we didn’t leave to go out to dinner until about nine. We went to this “Sports Club” for dinner, an old Brit haunt that’s been there since the 50’s, I think. It wasn’t that crowded, but very noisy, and a great experience. There aren’t many places left like that in the UAE now. Everything is all glitz and glamour and overpriced. The menu was pretty limited so I went for the All-Day English Breakfast. I haven’t had one since I was in the UK for New Year’s when Jean cooked me one at her B&B. Fried eggs, potatoes, beans, mushrooms, grilled tomato, bacon, sausage and blood pudding, with a little toast on the side, was all washed down with a couple of pints of Amstel Lite. It was just what I needed.
On Friday the boys took another load over to the new flat and then made another run to the Co-Op. Lorin was busy cooking chili for the party that night. Pat arrived early, about 6 or so, and we chatted for a bit and then I went upstairs to wash and change T-shirts. It was a casual party. People started arriving after 7 and continued coming until well past 11 pm. It was a good party. I know many of the people there from all the other parties I’ve crashed on the campus. Wendy was there with her daughter, who was visiting the UAE for the first time. They’re from Alberta and she’s going to university there. Wendy works in the library at AUS and is good fun. She went with us last winter when we did the Big Bus trip around Dubai. Leslie from Wales was there. She’d just finished packing and was flying out about 2 am for the last time, so it was goodbye to Leslie. Larry from Canada was also there and he’s leaving for good in about a week’s time. That’s expat life in a nutshell. The party was lots of fun and sometime after midnight I helped Lorin clean up. Saturday, I slept late as I do, and then while I had coffee, Lorin made French toast, which is a “family” tradition for Saturday before I drive back to Abu Dhabi. Then I showered, dressed and packed up. We took a few last pictures, as you can see in the album, then I loaded up and car and drove home. On the way home I stopped as I was entering Abu Dhabi on the Musafah road to take a picture of the area that gave my blog its name. Just as you’re driving onto (or off of) the island city of Abu Dhabi there is Between Two Bridges. It is exactly what it says it is. There are two bridges connecting Abu Dhabi with the mainland, the Musafah bridge and the Maqta bridge, and this place is between those two bridges. Anyway, there’s the pic at the top of the blog now.

Below is a link to Steve's picture album of our Hannah. There are even a few pix of her old Mum and Daddy.

Here are a few links I've stored over the last week or so, you might want to give them a read.

Memorial Day by Gary Kamiya

America is not Bush by Sidney Blumenthal

The Case for Conservatism by George Will

Words in a time of War by Mark Danner