Thursday, July 28, 2011

People Like You Make Me Sick

Hmmm....I never got around to posting this before I left Doha: so, now, I will.

Not people like Sirish (actually, Suresh, but I’m sticking with my first spelling, so let’s just ignore the fact that I got his name, and much else about him, wrong, ok?) It’s not like he’s going to read this blog, although I would strongly encourage him to!, which does remind me that I wouldn’t write about my other colleagues in Qatar, although oh boy the stories I could tell! which means that I am treating Sirish (or Suresh) as someone I can write about, without worrying that he’ll storm into my office saying “Hey, Pal, you think you can just write about me and post it for the whole world to read, without giving a shit about what I think?” to which I’d respond “Yeah, go ahead and post whatever you want about me, because I’m so smart and charming and bullet-proof, that whatever you post will just enhance my global reputation.”

Just don’t send any of those pictures, ok?

No, Sirish does not make me sick.  Over time, we developed a healthy and warm relationship.  He’d ask me for money, and I’d ask him to bring me coffee or juice.  Really.  When I’d see him the first day of the week, I’d say “So, Sirish, how was your weekend?” and he would reply “I need more money.”

He did bring me coffee.  LOTS of coffee.  He started walking in to my classroom during class with a big mug and a glass of water, and I would thank him profusely.  I was slightly embarrassed by this – did my students think that I ordered him to bring me coffee in class, as a way of establishing my authority? – but I was more embarrassed by the fact that I always had to pee like crazy about 20 minutes before class was over.  If there is a big mug of coffee, and a glass of ice water, in front of me that I’m going to drink it.  Hmm.  I should learn something from this.

I think he was sad to see me go…hard to say whether he liked me, which I think he did, or whether he saw me as his ATM, because I ended up doubling his base salary by cleaning my apartment and this and that.  I couldn’t find him before I left, so I wrote him a note and left it on my desk.

I did learn that Sirish gets up at 5 a.m., catches the bus at 5.30, arrives at Georgetown at 6.30 and then works from 7 to 5 for about, as I calculated, $1.30 an hour, give or take.  He shares a room with 7 other guys, who sleep in shifts, I think, because there are not enough beds.  Sirish needs some surgery on his stomach for reasons that are not clear to me, although one of my colleagues suggested that it was from a shrapnel wound he received during the war in Sri Lanka.  Oh, Sirish is Tamil, and the Tamil Tigers were on the losing end of the war.  The end did not include an unconditional surrender as with Lee at Appomattox, but a slaughter of the remaining Tigers.

One sleepy afternoon, I asked Sirish: Do you ever want to take a nap?  He said of course….but if he were caught, he would be docked on week’s pay.  He knew this because someone had narked on one of his friends.  Wow.  One week’s pay.  I think I’m a couple years in debt. 

Awhile ago I posted a Fascinating! Insightful! Truly wise! blog about the fact – and yes, it’s a fact – that I make tons more than Sirish because of dumb luck.  I reposted this on Facebook on a discussion thread about taxing and deficits and blah blah blah.  I thought it would be warmly received for the fascinating, insightful, wise gem that it was.  Instead, the first comment in response, after a few gratuitous slurs towards the middle east, was something like:

“If you [me] were a man, you’d give half your money to Sirish and ask him to move in with you, rather than asking the government to steal my money.  People like you make me sick.” 

Now, I really am for freedom of speech, really, and even for dickheads, not that this specific person is a dickhead – although I have my suspicions – and I am glad folks engage in political discussions, so more power to him, but my gut responses were:

Hey, it’s possible for people to believe that good societies should have police, libraries, and bathrooms without personally volunteering to be a cop, a book, or a toilet.

Hey, my post didn’t say anything about government or taxes, and so is it possible that my precious few readers, which may or may not include you, because I’m not sure if you’re reading this or just looking for more pictures, which I don’t have, because I lost my camera, don’t actually bother reading my posts?  Hey, dickhead, and yes now I am talking about you in particular, can you take the time to understand what I’m saying before commenting on it?  Thanks.

And Hey! On the social network that is FB, is it possible that a friend of a friend actually would post for the world to see “People like you make me sick”?  This from a person I haven’t met, but who is a friend of a friend.  WTF?  We’re doomed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My True Self

The article "In Search of The True Self" intrigued me.  It begins with this story....

Mark Pierpont used to be an important figure in the evangelical Christian effort to help “cure” gay people of their homosexual desires. He started out just printing up tracts and handing them out in gay bars, but his ministry grew over time, and eventually he was traveling the world and speaking to crowds that sometimes numbered in the thousands. There was just one problem. Mark Pierpont himself was gay. He continued to feel sexual desires toward other men and was constantly engaged in an effort to suppress them. In the documentary film “Protagonist,” Pierpont movingly describes his inner conflict, saying that he sometimes felt an almost physical revulsion at his own desires and would then think: “Good. I hate this.  I hate sin, just like God hates sin.”

The author then asks: Which one is Mark's true self?  The Christian? The Homosexual? 

The first answer is:  both.  He is just as much Christian as homosexual, even though these seem to be in deep opposition to each other within Mark himself.  

The second answer is: if you ask others which one is Mark's true self, they will give the answer in accordance with their own values.  Some will say:  Mark, dude, you're gay.  You'll be much happier if you just accept that that is indeed your true self.  Others will reply: Mark, your Christian self is your essential self, even if being true to your beliefs involves personal struggle.  Both will say the true self is the self that they think is more important.

Now, I don't have a dog in this particular hunt, as I'm about as Christian as I am gay.  Have fun with that one, friends!

But I was reflecting on this while having a lemon mint, a rocket salad, a hamour plate, and a green apple shisha at the local Al Shami Home Restaurant tonight.  I would have taken a picture of my meal, but it looked disappointingly as if I had ordered from Applebee's Home Restaurant.

The view around the room was more interesting. The waitrons -- both men and women -- wore black pants, white shirts, orange striped vests, and black bow ties.  The patrons were wearing, well, who knows what the guys were wearing, various guy stuff, I suppose, but the women were divided into those wearing the traditional black abayas and sheilas, and the Kardashians.  It was the Sisters of Mercy and the Jersey Shore, dining together.  I felt like I was on a highway with some driving 70 and others 30 -- either speed is fine, but having both on the same road made me grip the steering wheel a bit tighter than normal.

Back to the Which Self is the True One?  I think the choice here is not between the "Good" self and the "Bad" self.  Which would be which for Mark, not me Mark, but Mark Pierpont? Evangelical Christians would (mainly) say that the devout Christian is the Good Mark.  Others would say that the Gay Mark is the good Mark, and that the form of Christianity that suppresses homosexuality is itself a force for Evil.  (Myself? I can imagine that God would say: "You don't have to choose between being a Good Christian and a Good Homosexual.") I also don't think the choice of true selves is between the self we "Are" and the self we "Want to Be", but between two different, but equally "true" selves.

Which brings me to Anthony Weiner.  No, what really brings me to AW is that all bloggers everywhere apparently are required to write about him, or at least to have an opinion about him.  It would have been more interesting if he had been sexting Sarah Palin, or Albert Haynesworth, so I could blog (!!!) multiple (!!!) parties (!!!) at the same time.

What is AW's true self?  He may not know, and I'm pretty damn sure no one else knows either, other than (as above) by saying his true self is the one you say it is.  Maybe he is truly a libertine; maybe he is truly a devoted public servant.  Maybe he is both, or maybe he will somehow resolve for himself which self is more true, the obligatory-and-cliche rehab notwithstanding.  

As for me, I like having those multiple selves.  Well, maybe not those multiple selves, but, anyway.  It's more interesting having two selves, at least. I always have someone to talk to -- an amusing person, too, always good for a laugh or an insight or a story! -- even if he never quite fully understands me.

Update: Warning! Highly graphic, explicit political commentary follows.

Should Weiner resign?

The small "d" democratic in me is willing to leave that to his constituents.  I mean, our Congress has historically been loaded with idiots, imbeciles, drunks, thugs, racists, crooks, and that is just Weiner's home district I'm talking about.  (Apologies, NY's fighting 9th District!)  

Senator Vitter, a married, family values Republican was handily reelected after doing hookers.  Laissez les bon temps roulez, Lousiana.  If Vitter's good enough for the good folk of Louisiana, fine.   

Was Vitter, who broke laws while actually having sex worse than the sexting Weiner?

The large "D" Democrat in me said that Weiner should resign.  He was the visible face of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party (Howard Dean reference!), unlike who-the-hell-is-Vitter?, and his continued presence in Congress will harm the Democrats.  Refusing to resign places his own interests above those of his party.  Go away.

Oh, wait.  President Clinton got a blow job in the Oval Office from an intern.  This is worse n every way than what Weiner did, and I didn't want Clinton to resign.  

I'll let my inner selves have a bit of convo about this over breakfast.  Maybe they can work out my internal disagreement.

Meeting Quota

Time is running out: two more nights in Doha.  The first two years I posted 21/22 blogs, and so I'm far behind now....I've got to meet quota somehow.

Here's a glimpse into the new Georgetown campus, where I spend my days.  Usually.  Mainly.  It's fab. Lots of eye candy in the building...Above you can see the corridor I traverse each morning.

I know, trying to catch up on blogging by posting multiple times back-to-back is like trying to floss your teeth numerous times before going to the dentist.

Which I do.

When the dentist's assistant asks me: "Have you been flossing?" I want to reply....

"Can't you tell by looking?  Why are you even asking me?"

Instead, I reply...


The Gtown building has some nice nooks for napping.  Not that I do.

I wish I had napped here!  Very womblike and calm.  I think wombs are calm, at least so far as I recall.

Lots of interior balconies, too.  Here I'm looking down at what I think is the main lobby by the front door, but I've never seen anyone use that door, as I think everyone comes up through the garage.

The garage, in fact, was the topic for one of my student's final presentations.  The topic?  Georgetown should allow students to park in the garage for reasons of equity, efficiency, safety, health and so forth.  Those ideas were pretty interesting, but the guy mainly just wanted to park in the garage, I think.  I seemed to sense rationalizations instead of arguments.

The class was split on this issue into two groups: those with cars, who believed the current policy was inequitable, inefficient, unsafe, and unhealthy; those without cars, who (I sense) thought the first group might just be lazy and, after all, couldn't the money be better spent on other things (that, coincidentally, were those things that appeared to benefit the car-less group).

I don't doubt that both groups were sincere, but it did look self-interest, not public spirit, determines arguments.  Yes, my students are human, too.

The view across the cafeteria towards the library.  Look in the upper right below the flags.  That room jutting out is a lounge area, with a pretty comfy bed.  A nap there is also on my list.  I might have to return next year.

The library is grander than my camera would allow.  It's also a good place to nap.

This is making me sleepy.  But I'll revive: I have more blogs to write!

Monday, June 13, 2011

You Think I Make This Stuff Up?

See, there is a Ferrari Saloon.

Note the air hose on the right of the screen.  This was used in my facial, I believe.

I splurged after my facial, and got a fresh squeeze from the Juice Stall next door....

.....and a shawarma from Al-Ennabi....

Ok, I didn't take that last photo, but the shawarma was so shweeet!

The next photo is mine: I'm delivering these donuts to my class this morning.  Blood sugar spike, here we come! Yes, they are Dunkin.

I Said "Yes"

Feeling a little fluffy Friday, I drove to the barber.  I chose the Ferrarri Saloon, because my head is like that race car (sleek! fast! hot! needs constant care!) and what better place to get a haircut than a drinking establishment?

Oh, right: Ferrari Salon.

My man didn't speak much English, and I didn't speak any of whatever he's speaking (Ferrarish, maybe?) but I made it clear that I needed a haircut.  At any rate, that I wanted a haircut.

Now, Laura usually cuts my hair, and she does a fine job.  But, you know, being able to mow a townhouse lawn doesn't exactly make one a master gardener, if you get my drift, and Ferrari dude was good!  He didn't just run the mower back and forth.  He held the clipper in one hand and a blade in the other, moving both like Edward Scissorhands.  I swear he cut each individual hair, one by one.

Scissorhands now points to my 2 week beard stubble, as in "Let me perform my magic on that, too!"

I said "Yes".

I'm feeling great, my head is even sleeker, fast, hotter than before, so I'm going to keep saying yes to whatever he asks.....

This is usually not a good idea.

But, so, the facial began.  I haven't had a facial before, certainly not one given by a guy speaking Ferrarish, so I didn't know what to expect.

I got various potions and lotions that tingled, or stung, or stunk, or abraded, or sometimes all.  First I think he began with the "asbestos and arsenic" paste (reenacted above).

Then he used a blowtorch to dry it, as if I were the creme he would brulee.

Ok, at this point I'm thinking that he may be doing all this for the amusement of the other six guys in the Saloon, none of whom are either are cutting or being cut.  I'm suspecting he charged admission:

"Come on, come all, see how I can afflict the foreigner, who will still thank me and pay me!"

More potions, more lotions:

I was beginning to feel like a cheeseburger.

A cheeseburger to go, for that matter, after he put my head in the bag.

A steamed cheeseburger, even.  Ferrari dude would stick a hose under the bag, fill it with steam to the point that my eyes were beginning to poached like eggs....

Is that laughter I hear from the audience?

Some of his ministrations struck me as unusual.  But what did I know? I had said yes.

I was becoming more and more suspicious.  My eyes were also beginning to swell shut.

Every so often, he would spritz my face without warning: water-boarding lite.

Two hours later I paid Ferrari dude as much, almost, as Sirish makes in a week.

Was it worth it?  Well: My skin was Oprah-smooth, and remains so, mainly, after a couple days.

Sometimes it's good to say Yes.  The guys applauding the show thought so.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Morning Mosques

This morning I pointed my Civic in the direction of the National Mosque.  My plan?  No real plan, if by plan you imagine that I had any idea of what I was really going to do.  I figured I'd just start at the National, then wander home, turning in the direction of any mosque I saw....

The National Mosque looks lonely to me.  It has a great view of the city, and a large parking lot.  This morning I was the only car there.  I mean, I wasn't the car itself, although I do consider myself pretty much a Civic kind of guy.  The place was deserted.

If it were crowded, and if I was a VIP, then I did discover the Stairway to Heaven:

Mosques are fairly easy to see because they're common and the feature they have in common is their minaret.  Wait a minute.  Perhaps mosques don't all have minarets, although it seems that all minarets have mosques.  So I followed the trail of the minarets.

Most are small, and they're often tucked into commercial areas.

I wished I had a mosquetect in the car to explain the different styles.

Choices: I could make either the minaret vertical or the building vertical, but not both.  Ahh, perspective does shape reality.

All these pictures were taken with a cheap point-and-shoot Kodak.  It was SO bright out I never could see the display screen, so I more-or-less-point-and-shot.

I did edit each picture to chop out the extraneous.  I don't take such care editing my blog.

Can I tell you a secret?

This probably makes me a bad Facebook friend, but it bugs me when a person downloads every picture from their chip, no matter how ill-focused, redundant, redundant, or redundant.  Edit, folks!

The previous sentence should read "ill-focused or redundant".  But now I've added yet more extraneous words....

So now I'll let the pictures speak.

Tomorrow: My smooth skin, and other tales from the neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

People Like You Make Me Sick

My carefully crafted, and artfully illustrated, blog on this topic just got vaporized.

I blame human error.


I'll try again tomorrow, dammit.