Sunday, May 23, 2010

Know What I Think?

Spalding Gray once mused that as a liberal, he had to question everything, even his liberal points of view, and he asked the question, "What if I'm wrong? What if they're right?" 
What would we left-of-centers be saying about the president if we still had "W" in office? How would we react if "W" had said he planned to form a committee to look into it?

Here's a thought--let's invite the CEO of BP and some Louisiana fisherman to sit together with the president in the Rose Garden and knock back a few cold ones, maybe take some "everybody make nice photos", put them on Facebook. Or we could pass a flag burning amendment. Yup. That'll fix everything.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Guests Wishes

Yesterday we said our goodbyes to our house guest and drove her to the airport. She was our second visitor this year who stayed for a week, evicting cats from their spare bedroom hidy holes and who doubled the missuss's kitchen duties. The concept of "help yourself" is a western barbarism, so I've been told, and hosts, in particular Asian hosts and, from my own experience, especially Iranian hosts are obliged to never stop serving food and beverages to their visitors. And as far as I can tell, whether the guest is thirsty and hungry or not, they are also obligated to never say "No thank you" when being served coffee, breakfast, after breakfast tea and sweets, pre-lunch tea and sweets, lunch salads, lunch main courses, post-lunch tea and sweets--serving trays revolving to and from the kitchen to dining table and back again is constant.

This is the second time this year that I've weaseled my way out of "the tour". The first time was last January when my brother-in-law came, and I went to Nepal to do a quick hike up to Poon Hill. This time, praise be, I had to work.

The "Dubai tour" consists of visiting at least four of the world's largest malls. One has an indoor ski slope. Another has an impressive aquarium. One overlooks a marina where the local movers and sheikers park their yachts. The other is part of the Burj Khalifa, and is not only one of Dubai's world's largest malls, but is next to the world's tallest building which must be conquered.

The tour also includes a trip in a water taxi across the Dubai creek (I argue that it's a river, albiet a much lazier river than the Mississippi) where there is an open air market and museum that is a must see. Then there's now also a metro sky train that has to be ridden. And along the way there are food courts and Starbucks aplenty where guest and host stage shouting matches over who's getting the check.

We live in Sharjah, which is Dubai's New Jersey. So the tour also involves bridges, tunnels and the dreaded heavily trafficked and often deadly Emirates road. God forbid I ever have to do the tour and spend each day risking life, limbs and what little sanity I have shooting down Emirates Road.

But then, I thought I'd get to leave this world never having had to do the Statue of Liberty. Last summer I got nailed when the missus and I visited New York. So chances are there will come a time when we have to kick the cats out of the guest room for a week and I'll have nothing on my plate. Maybe I'll be able to fake daily passings of kidney stones.

I used to live in New Orleans, and playing host there was not too shabby. First off, I lived in the French Quarter most of the time, so having to drive was not a must. Second, instead of tea and sweets, guests were usually eager to be steered from one booze house to the next beginning with breakfast Bloody Maries and Mimosas to start the day and which help steel me for the tour which included a ferry ride across the Mississippi (where one disembarks for oysters and booze), strolls through the cemeteries (where one can find a sweet deal on corn bread, red beans and rice, and pitchers of beer), a street car ride up St. Charles (which ends at a bar that claims to have the largest selection of imported beers in New Orleans) photo shoots of mimes and other charletons in Jackson Square (surrounded by 90 proof taverns) and playing the slots where the likker is free.

When I didn't live in the French Quarter, I lived in Lakeview which was a 10-minute straight shot by bus to the Quarter. Now, there's a street car running the line (again), so if I were to ever live in Lakeview (again) and I were host duty-bound to do the New Orleans tour, I would be able to cross two things off the list--cemeteries and the street car ride.

If the winds of good fortune continue to blow other obligations, duties and plans my way, I will escape this place one day and will never have had to do the Dubai tour. My hope is that wherever the winds blow me, I'll end up in a place where there is little to see and do and no reason for friends and relatives to plan their vacations around me. A place like Elk Grove. Or Houston. Or that I end up back in New Orleans. (But not during one of my AA phases).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Time Isn't On My Side

I am not passionate about my job as a language teacher, never have been, never will be. If teaching English as a second language involved leather and silk taffeta, I maybe could get more desirous about my job. But it doesn't. It involves neck ties and long sleeved shirts rolled half way up to my elbows. It involves  red ink stains on my fingers and epic clashes with merciless, paper jamming photocopiers. I have to contend with chatty students whose line of sight and powers of concentration are obstructed by their IPhone or Blackberry screens .  I lack the intensity and diplomacy a language teacher needs to be a moderator of subjects and verbs, making sure that they find common ground for agreement. No. No fires burn in me to make orphaned, fragmented sentences whole.

My enthusiasm for teaching English as a second language is an affectation I often liken to that of a hooker's beguiling exaltation of pleasure. If my students were ever to find out that I've been faking it, I might have to go back to bartending or worse, Korea.

This time of year, my dispassion for my work is felt in superlatives, as you may have noticed. These days, this desolate state of mind has insults added to injuries because I have a whole lot of bleak down time as we head into final exams. 

Unlike final exam time back in the world which, as I recall, was a time for generating  ingenious mnemonic devices while binging on coffee and running for days on Benzedrine and pizza , 'round here, the students, who, because of the nature of their faith, believe that all that has been and all that will be, has been written, do not sweat the small stuff like passing or failing a course. Besides, everything is negotiable.

Although I won't post final grades until sometime late next week, as far as they're concerned, their final exam grades were posted eons ago, way, way, way back in the before man time when The Mighty One penned his magnum opus, this book of being, this book of life.

So we dilly dally on, ex-pats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the vending machines and coffee room. Tick. Tick. Tick. Fingers drum. Doodles are drawn. Emails are checked, double checked and checked again.

We are still about a month away from being officially released from our quote unquote duties and our main responsibility from here on in is to loiter in our offices posing as last minute answer makers for students who do not come with heads full of wonderment.

There will be a few things to do between now and June 4th--the day we shall be released. We'll have to proctor an exam or two. We'll have to have a writing exam norming session, and we'll have to spend a day and a half marking those writing exams. One morning later this month, we're obliged to sit in a frigid auditorium wearing our standard issue academic gowns and sashes that do not flatter our figures while this grand poobah and that grand poobah give plauditory speeches in Arabic before names are called and diplomas are passed out. There will be finger sammiches after the formalities, which I consider to be my honorarium for showing up.

Following these exacting agenda items, we will no longer have to endure the excruciation of tedium. We will not have to sit in our offices streaming Youtube. On June 4th, we are allowed to head out. Tumble weeds will blow across our housing compounds, shudders will creak and a lonely wolf will howl in the distance.

But I 'll still be here.  We couldn't find a cat and Porkshire terrier sitter this year. So, first the missus will have her vacation, and when she returns, I fly out June 24th, or thereabouts, not returning until the end of July.

Until then, I'll probably work on my summer set for those hot and rainy Scambodian nights in which I'll spend time performing in backpacker pubs for free drinks and meals.

While waiting to leave, I may spend more time in the gym. Maybe I'll do a few practice not-too-deep water dives in the Gulf. I'll have a garden to not let die. A cat and dog feeding schedule to adhere to.  Why, there will be hundreds of things I can do to pass the time besides flipping between Animal Planet and the History Channel.

Like. . .?

OK. There will be dozens of things to do besides sitting at my computer trying to break through a firewall to download distasteful erotica.

For instance. . .?

OK,  there will be a few things I can do to bide my time besides meditatively sliding a glass tube affixed to my left pinky finger up and down the neck of a guitar tuned to an open G.

Example. . .?

Things can pretty ugly when I'm bored.

Did I mention I will probably start drinking more and more, earlier and earlier as I count down the days until I'm outta here?