Archive for the ‘Arab -isms’ category

Israel’s Violation of Press Access “Unprecedented”

January 6, 2009

as a much more somber follow-up to the post below…

This article from today’s NYTimes explains Israel’s admitted censorship of free press in Gaza since its invasion of the occupied territory, which has almost completely shut out international press from the areas in and surrounding the war zone, while practically offering guided tours of every uninhabited piece of dirt in Southern Israel that has fallen victim to a Hamas rocket. 

The Foreign Press Association of Israel has summed up the shut-out by stating that “the unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.”

And what is the job of journalists?  To report the news, to expose the truth, to inform a public that needs to make informed decisions.  These restrictive practices only serve to point the compass of public opinion towards the conclusion that exposing the truth and informing the public may not be in Israel’s best interests after all.

* * * * *

This accompanying blog article on the NYTimes website offers a cursory glance into the extremely well-planned PR campaign Israel has been implementing — pretty interesting.

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Two Weeks in Turkey — Thoughts and Tips

December 1, 2008

blue mosque.jpeg
I actually got back from Turkey a month ago, but better late than never i guess.  It took me a while to get my pics up…more on that later… and then i got busy and started planning my next trip.  But below is a summary of the trips, highlighting the ups and down, my honest impressions, and traveling tips for those as absent minded as I tend to be while traveling…enjoy
 
My 2 week adventure in Turkey, as I expected and hoped, turned out great.  I was traveling with my best buddy Haricot, and after i picked her up from work so we could take public transit to the airport, the trip took a sudden and amazingly early downfall.  The cheap-ass luggage I bought already started fucking up on me.  I was walking down the street and suddenly realized that there is no way it should be this hard to wheel my bag along with me, as I did not pack that much stuff.  A quick glance around was all I needed to see the back wheels of my suitcase sticking out horizontally from the sides, nearly flattened and barely turning and I walked.  Amazing how just two days before when I bought this new luggage set I thought I had found the best deal ever (“Wow, a 10 piece set for $19.99, and it comes with a coupon for a 6 pc. Chicken Nuggets at MickeyD’s?? Sold!”).  I suddenly got dramatic and imagined myself carrying my suitcase on my back all around Istanbul…but Haricot assured me that she saw the wheel turning a bit and I’d be fine for the trip. Wheeling it everywhere for two weeks wasnt easy, but luckily it held up.  Lesson #1 — buy reliable luggage…the peace of mind is worth it alone.
 
Haricot was able to sleep the entire trip as I jealously stared and contemplated sticking things in her ears and nose to bother her and make her stay awake with me. We stopped first in Madrid, where we are held up for 5 hours after extensive delays.  We sneak our way to the front of the boisterous Spanish check in crowd, and land in Istanbul a  few hours later, at around midnight.  Lesson #2 — In airports, nice guys finish last.
 
We take a taxi to the house of our host, an American living in Istanbul whom i met online and was willing to let us sleep at her place for a few nights (every budget traveler should do this, great way to save).  She wasn’t there the first night tho; her brother, who recently moved in with her, was there to greet us.  Won’t get into the nitty-gritty details, but walking around that first night with him kind of made us consider sleeping on the street that night, or if it got too cold, whoring ourselves in return for a place to stay.  Luckily our host arrived the next morning, and she was a cool chick and helped make our stay in Istanbul a cozy one. 
 
The mosques were beautiful, though after a while you feel like youve seen them all.  Can go on and on about sites to see, but some of my best memories came just from walking around and soaking it all in.  Istiklal Caddesi is the Broadway of Istanbul, and the nightlife is PUMPIN.  It’s packed until pretty late Wednesday-Sunday, mostly with 20-somethings in small groups, looking for a place to eat, smoke shisha, and/or get wasted.  Plenty of options there for all three. I thought people there were pretty good looking, and while the females were varied, most the guys usually seemed to come from the same mold, at least with regard to style and fashion [see Turkey pics above].  This of course is when youre out on the night scene; take a walk through Kumkapi, Balat, Fener, and the rest of old Istanbul during the day and you’ll see the colorful clothing hanging from laundry lines tied across narrow cobblestone streets, boys playing soccer barefoot in alley ways and jumping out of windows of seemingly barren buildings, girls in colorful flower-laden dresses, whispering and laughing, women conversing from their respective stoops as they sew or shell nuts or trim vegetables, hear and smell the crackling of fresh fish on the giant street-side oil vats, and you certainly wont hear any English — not even the “Yes, please!” that is a constant in the touristy areas, where vendors try to convince tourists to visit their stalls.  But anywhere in Turkey, if you have a guide and have two functioning hands with which to gesture and point, youll be fine.   I learned about 10 words in Turkish: yes, no, bus station, train, and various types of food.  And I did just fine.
 
Cappadochia, the central region of the country, was an unforgettable place in large part because of the other-wordly landscape.  It is a land of compressed volcanic ash shaped into towers and pillars that fill the innumerable valleys cut into the a sprawling mountain range.  We rented motorcycles and biked from village to village, which was truly the best way to experience the region.  We sampled [devoured] all types of ethnic food the region had to offer, and fell in love with it…you didnt think fresh bread could taste that good, but it does there.  We saw traditional dances (in the few touristy places) and listened to old men making their instruments cry to the tune of Turkish folk songs.  We crawled through underground caves, explored tombs carved into mountains, hiked steep paths, picked and ate fresh wild produce along the way (including amazingly sweet tomatoes and cucumbers, disgusting apple-like things that tasted like cement powder, atrocious berries that made your mouth feel like it was being glued shut, and raw pistachios). Clean air, bright skies, quiet nights, friendly people, plenty of cheap hostels full of care-free young travelers to explore with.  Cappadochia is a must if you have the time.
 
Went to Ephesus also, near the Aegean coast and the most famous spot in Turkey to see the old Roman ruins.  The ruins are amazing but more sparse than I imagined.  Nice little side trip if you have the time.
 
Other random notes on Turkish-isms:
 
Random people will always ask you where your from if you speak another language.  If you’re from an Arabic country, they might not be so happy about it either (i gather this is because they want to distance themselves from the “arabic=religious extremist” stereotype as much as possible).  Avoid political conversations with people you don’t know!  Most Turks I spoke with had trouble acknowledging recent political history (see Greece; Armenia).
 
The food is pretty good but not spicy like I thought it would be…next time I go, Im bringing my own hotsauce.  The world-famous doner kebaps Turkey is famous for?  You can get much better ones from NYC street vendors.  Trust me.  Baked goods (anything bread-y) are great in Turkey.  Nevisade street + surrounding area in the Beyoglu section of Istanbul is restaurant/pub heaven.
 
Get an akbil pass (Turkish version of a metro card) for ultimate transport convenience on Istanbul’s extensive and really reliable transit system. Walking is great, but wear comfy shoes — hills galore.
Turkish delight (lokum) is….delightful.  Love the stuff.  If you go, bring me back some please…esp. the honey/pistachio ones (fistikli in Turkish).
 
Intercity travel — shop around the bus station and go to each office to find the best price for intercity travel. Be sure to get an official printed ticket and not some dude’s chicken scratch writing on a post-it note.  Make sure the name of your destination is printed on the ticket, and be sure to ask whether or not you have to change buses at any point — bus companies will go to great lengths to confuse and cheat weary travelers at intercity stops.
 
During long inter-city bus rides, the buses will stop at rest stops every few hours, cuz there are no bathrooms on board.  GO TO THE BATHROOM. Even if you dont think you have to.  Just do it.  And be sure to bring change, as every public bathroom charges a small fee (rarely more than a lira).  It helps to have a little pillow to sleep with on the sometimes cramped buses also… like one stolen from an airline perhaps…especially from Iberia Airlines if you want to pay them back for the 5 hour instruction-less delay they made you endure!  Just a hypothetical tho…
 
“Every price can be bargained down — except for movie tickets.”  A turklish saying, according to my Turkish homie.  Totally true from my experience.  Don’t be afraid to walk away — either youll get a cheaper price or youll find it for less somewhere else.
Pics soon!

Abductee Fighting to Have CIA Torture Acknowledged

June 9, 2008

I was so glad to read this story.

I wrote about the plight of Khalid al-Masri in this post back in October, describing the disgraceful US Supreme Court decision to exercise a loophole and avoid hearing the case of man who was abducted, sent to Afghanistan where he was tortured and interrogated, and then later abandoned by the CIA. But al-Masri hasn’t given up yet. Along with a growing bastion of supporters, he is again putting pressure on the German government (he is a German citizen) to acknowledge what was done to him hold accountable the agents involved.

The ACLU has taken up his case in the US. We’ll see how far that goes.

Good for al-Masri for sticking to his guns and having the courage to relive this horrible ordeal in order to expose governmental corruption and receive the public apology he desrves. I hopes he gets a few billion out of it as well..though a billion dollars probably only exchanges to something like 3.5 euros. Good luck dude.

To read more about this case, click here.

Thinking about renting out your apartment? Be warned!

May 21, 2008

People are weird.  Especially people you meet online. And if you’re planning on letting these weird people you meet online rent out your apartment, do yourself a favor and think about it real hard.

I’m planning on going away for a few days and figured I’d try to recoup some of the money I’m spending on my trip by following the lead of a few friends and renting out my apartment when I’m not there.  Basically, the idea is that if you’re going away for a while on vacation, and being you in a tourist hot-spot, there would probably be a bunch of people who’d be willing to rent out your place while they are in town.  Sure, my place might be considered a slight downgrade from the Mandarin Oriental, but it’s a nice apartment in a great location, and not staying in a five-star hotel means that the guest won’t pay five-star prices. I’m just looking for a normal dude who wants a cheap, comfy place to sleep and shower.  Not too much to ask for, right?

OK, the view from the Mandarin is pretty nice… but my fire escape/laundromat view is right up there.OK, the view from a suite at the Mandarin is pretty nice.  I don't mind my fire escape/laundromat view that much though...

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way for me. 

I put an ad on craigslist and only got one response (I posted it kinda late).  I spoke to the woman on the phone and she sounded really polite and sincere.  She was visiting from Florida and her parents were visiting from India, and they have family that lives in the area, but they didn’t want to stay with them (understandably).  We arranged for her parents, who were already in town, to come see the place that night. 

So they get there, and they seem normal enough.  Pretty quiet.  They bring their brother-in-law. He goes into the bathroom and stays there for five minutes.  I’m near the door.  No tinkling sounds.  This dude is totally snooping through my meds…or taking them (was actually hoping he’d take some deodorant, because the dude was stank).  The parents are walking around, not saying much but exchanging a few comments in Hindi.  We start shooting the breeze a bit, and they seem very friendly and interesting.  By now the brother-in-law is laying on my couch, perusing my coffee table books.  Things are going well with the parents, until:

Mother: Your apartment is very nice.

Me: Thank you.

Father: But, uh, can you move some things?

Me: Huh? Oh yea, sure, I’ll clear space on the dresser for you guys to put your things on, no problem.

Father: No, uh, other things. 

Me: What things?

Father: These things (pointing to picture frames littered throughout the room) and those things (pointing to the posters on my wall).

Me: What? You want me to take down my pictures and posters?

Father:  Uhh Yes. Yes.

Me:  Why?  You know this only for a few days, right?

Father: Yes.

Me:  So then…? (giving a wtf are you talking about look)

Father: Maybe someone will come who doesn’t like those posters and these other things.

Me: What? Why not? Who will come?  Are you planning on having guests?

(Father abruptly pulls out a phone and starts talking to someone in Hindi for 3 minutes, then turns back to me)

Father:  (Looking at wife, then me) OK, we will be frank.  Some people will come to see us here.  (pause) And they cannot see these things. (pause) We would not keep these things in our house. (pause..notices my intensifying glare) OK, because, we are going to tell them that we live here.  That this is our apartment.  So we cannot have these pictures. You see now…you know the truth!

Me: But, how would, why would, are you saying that..

Father: Yes YES exactly! You see now! I am a hindu priest, I cannot have these things! Hookah? No I don’t smoke a hookah, you have to hide this.  And these children [in the pictures], they know my daughter, these are not my children. You see now!?

Me: ………..

Mother: You don’t have to take down everything.

Father: No, no. Just this, that one, these things, yes just take them down, those things, yes see it can come down quickly (nearly ripping poster)..

Me: Don’t touch that poster!

Father: Ok you can do that later of course. Ok so here is some money where do I sign?

Me: Um yea I don’t know about this..

Father:  Oh yes dont worry here take the money we have to go now take the deposit call my daughter to arrange dont worry heresthemoneycalldaughter.

(Door closes behind them)

Ok.  WTF just happened?  Telling people they live here?  How many freaking people were they gonna have over? Why would they lie about that? What else are they lying about?  If there weren’t posters that wouldve busted there cover and would have been impossible to discreetly remove, would they have bothered to tell me this? I doubt it.  And I don’t like the idea of them moving all of my pictures, plaques, posters, arab-esque decor and anything else suggesting that this apartment is not usually inhabited by a conservative Hindu Indian couple in their 60s, which would be a whole lot of stuff.  I’m not trying to come home and re-decorate my apartment, or worse, see something missing and have to put a 60 year old Hindu priest in a head-lock.  Not to mention the fact that they seemed ready to have a Diwali party in my apartment (I thought that wouldn’t be a concern with 60+ year old guests)… and if I came home to see the tall, lanky brother-in-law sitting on the couch, wearing my underwear and watching a pay-per-view bollywood movie, I’d have to kick his ass, then just set my apartment on fire and find a new place to live. 

Actually coming home to this Diwali party would be pretty fun… 

Even if none of this actually happened, having these thoughts run through my head is not my idea of peace of mind, and that is something even more valuable than the small amount of money I wouldve gained for the short rental.  How much value it has to you is something you should strongly consider if you’re ever in the same boat.

My Jury Duty Adventure

May 14, 2008

They got me.  After years of evasion, including several name and address changes, fake social security numbers, and 4 years of college just so that I could qualify for the student exemption, they found me. I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  No one can escape from…Jury Duty! (queue evil foreboding organ music]

I spent a few hours trying to think of ways to get declared exempt, which has become increasingly difficult in the NYC court system.  With my job and education, I couldn’t get the language exemption, and I’m not over 75 or whatever that age rule applies [there is no age limit for jury duty, but those over a certain age have the choice of declining].  I tried making a helmet out of foil and wearing my shoes and shirt the wrong way and taping a plastic parrot onto my shoulder, but in NYC, I realized that I would pass more for a hipster from the East Village than for my intended mentally-disabled exempt-ee.  Deflated, I just sucked it up and went to Queens County Criminal Court to start what would be a long day, finding some solace in my paid reprieve from work.

The first day was long and boring…200 people spending all day in a room waiting to be assigned to a case.  Once that happens, the pool of jurors for a specific case get sent to a court room to be questioned by the judge and the attorneys (in a criminal case, the attorneys would be a defense lawyer and an assistant district attorney).  There were so many jurors that my turn to be questioned didn’t come until 4pm the NEXT DAY (I came early the next day and waited..and waited…).  Finally, selection was over.  I was the last juror picked.

[quick sidebar:  during the first day of jury selection i was sitting behind an annoying woman who kept trying to make converation with everyone, except that she was rude and loud and no one wanted to talk to her.  Everytime the lady in charge would excuse people who claimed that their english wasnt good enough for jury duty, this lady would slap her knees and bitch about how “these immigrants are disgusting! they come here and dont wanna learn the language.  They spit on our great country and we have to clean up after them! Bla bla bla bla bla, I’m a whore, a lousy  wretched whore!” At least that’s how I remember it.  I shot spitballs into her hair all morning.]

Jury selection was brutal.  But then the case began.  And contrary to what both lawyers said to us during opening statements, the next few days actually did play out a lot like an episode of Law & Order. (I’m pitching a new idea to NBC…seeing since Law & Order has so many versions on TV already, I have begun writing a script for the latest volume –  Law & Order: Pissed Off Jurors.  Starring myself of course.  Open auditions next week for the role of sassy Court Officer.)

The case sounded boring at first – the defendant was indicted on the charge of bail jumping, a class E felony.  During trial, however, it was revealed that the defendant violated her bail not just for missing one court date, but by trying to jump ship so as to never show up at all; the defendant was brought into custody 8 months after the bench warrant for her arrest was issued.  And while the exact nature of her original charges were not specified (due to the hard-fought wins of the defense during pre-trial motions to suppress that information for fear of prejudicing the jurors), it was revealed during witness testimony that there were no less than 8 counts brought against her, a number of them felonies. 

The drama reached a climax when the ADA was conducting her direct examination of the former attorney of the defendant.  That was a risky call because her own witness, as a former representative of the defendant, had motive to be hostile and withhold information on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.  And hostile she was, though she proved no match for the ADA in the battle to see who could get the most flustered.  The ADA got so hot n bothered by the countless sustained objections and the obviously fabricated ignorance of the witness that she looked as if she might, at any second, charge the box and ninja kick her in the face (I was hoping she would; I noticed that the court officer had a taser handy).  Instead, she resorted to yelling over the calls from the judge to cease her improper line of questioning, and after being reprimanded by the judge for her lack of self-control, she unleashed the soliloquy of all soliloquies, explaining to the judge that we were all here to find the truth but no one could handle it, and how this was supposed to be about justice but she’s not being allowed to ask the questions she needs to ask…basically blaming the court for everything short of ozone depletion just because she couldn’t figure out how to properly phrase her questions.  She even turned around and started yelling at the trial spectators, and asked the judge to throw them out because of their constant snickering (they were laughing at her).  I felt really embarrassed for her, but I couldn’t help but feel excited by all the drama. As a fellow juror put it, “They put hot sauce on it today, boy!”

This is just about how it happened, more or less…

Yes.  Jury duty was spicy.

I won’t dwell on the deliberation, but that part was exciting too and I took an active role in explaining to the other jurors the deductive approach we had to take in order to reach a fair verdict, as well as my personal opinions on the case.  In other words, I used a stern tone and menacing glare (framed by my dark evil arab eyebrows) to render them my mental slaves and subsequently instructed them to find this chick GUILTY.  It worked in swaying all but one of the holdouts who kept insisting that the judge had something against the defendant, forcing us to take another whole day to deliberate, locked up in that dreadful musty back room. I was pissed, but she would not relent, and we went back and forth.

She eventually had a change of heart.  (I had a taser, too.)

The verdict? Jury duty is cool!  I give it a rare “whatchu talkin ’bout Hasselhoff?”  thumbs up. 

When Family Ties Become a Noose

April 8, 2008

Last night I went to bed at 2AM, much later than usual, and even then I couldn’t sleep. My mind was too busy formulating arguments, acting out imagined confrontations, and wondering how their consequences would shape my future. I was thinking about remote places I could move to so that I could avoid similar confrontations, then chided myself for entertaining the idea that even an ocean would provide a carpet vast enough for me to sweep my demons under. Sure, Fiji is pretty far away, but the demons that inhabit my head would still be within a whisper’s reach…unless I could somehow unscrew my head and punt it into orbit. Yet even then, would I finally find solace, or would what once were whispers turn into ear-splitting screams, increasing in pitch after every attempt to drown them out?

Probably the latter. But I didn’t go quite this far last night in bed. I was just pissed. I had just finished a two and half hour long “conversation” with my older brother. We barely speak unless we have to, and these days, I strongly prefer that arrangement. He does not. He wants me to call him more often, and he wants me to want to call him more often. He wants to be close, the way were raised to be, the way brothers are supposed to be. To many this may sound logical and wouldn’t be the subject of much debate. But when dealing with personal relationships, especially familial ones, how can there be a blueprint for the way they are “supposed to be”? Don’t all siblings have different relationships with each other? Relationships are based on mental and emotional connections between people. If every person is different, would not a relationship reflect that distinctiveness? Shouldn’t it?

The problem lies partially in the fact that my brother has an idea of the kind of relationships brothers should have, and he wants ours to conform to it. But I don’t feel that way. Not that brothers should not be close, but rather the relationship should be built on that mental and emotional connection, rather than the inherent physical one that family members are born into. I do believe that there is something innately unique about the familial bond, the idea of a shared origin and history. But I also feel that my brother, and many other people, get too lost in the melodrama of “the same blood coursing through our veins” bullshit and forget the bottom line – I’m and adult, you’re an adult, I’m this way, you’re that way, I believe this, you believe that…and in this case, I believe that you’re way of being and adult makes you an asshole.

There, it’s out in the open, sitting on the table both of us were envisioning in our minds as we spoke on the phone. A little box that my brother’s astral form walked over to and opened, pulling out the sweater that my astral form knitted for him. It was a thick, heavy sweater with an unattractive horizontal stitch that made him look fatter than he was. And in the middle of the sweater, it read, “ASSHOLE.”

He refused to wear the sweater, of course. I tried to explain to him in a sincere and sympathetically blunted fashion why it was a perfect fit for him, but when I held it up to his chest and he stole a glance in the mirror, he didn’t like what he saw, and threw it back in the box. But I explained to him that I didn’t knit that sweater alone; he had been knitting it with me, guiding every pierce and pull and knot of thread. Whether or not it looked the way he wanted it to look is irrelevant. We both made the fucking sweater. Wear it, Goddamit. I’m sick of hearing that the sweater should read “BROTHER” instead. If you want, you can make it read “ASSHOLE BROTHER”…but he never relented because he didn’t believe that the two words could form a meaningful phrase.

But you know they can. You have a sibling. You share a deep bond that will probably last your entire lives. You say you probably love him or her in a way…but really you know you do and just don’t like talking about it. You haven’t had such a fucked up lifetime movie-esque past that would cause you to completely deny those feelings, or to outright abandon them. But you can love someone and still dislike them. How you interact and socialize with someone on a regular basis – not when compelled to by circumstance, but rather on the basis of trust and comfort – will be governed by whether or not you like that person, rather than by virtue of a shared genetic code that too often unravels and takes the shape of a noose that tightens with every struggle.

Unlike my brother, I am OK with not being that close; our relationship is 23 years in the making, and I accept it for what it is. I cannot will myself to change how I feel about him, nor will I attempt to in an effort to recreate p. 17 of the Happy Family Handbook. I am not against change, but if it happens it will happen naturally, just like it always has. I am lucky enough to have people in my life who I genuinely like and trust and can count on for support, mainly close friends. And while my brother spent a lot of time last night on the phone trying to impress upon me the fact that friends can never be family, and warning me that they cannot be counted on the way a brother can, my past and recent experiences, as well as my observations of the experiences of others, have proved to me that anyone who believes this has not been blessed enough to experience true friendship. Your brother or sister may also be your friend, but then again, they may not be one at all. My brother was quick to regurgitate what he felt were time-tested nuggets of traditional wisdom, but given that he has proven himself to be unworthy of my trust, they were interpreted to me as nothing more than clichés – hollow and meaningless, and certainly inapplicable. I can’t help but imagine someone sitting in small lonely boat out on a lake, hookless, baitless fishing lines deeply submerged, floating stationary and lifeless as the fish swim by, attentive but not persuaded.

What I’m trying to say is that while family ties are special, they should not be taken for granted so as to simply assume that they can forge and maintain a healthy relationship amongst those between whom they exist. It is not that easy. Meaningful relationships rarely are, and they shouldn’t be. Trust may lie in the heart, but it is not necessarily bound by blood. And while the grounds for closeness might be more fertile in the family plot, it also requires a hell of a lot more water. If it’s important to you, you would be wise to tend to it often, because even if the flowers never completely dry up, it is actually quite easy for them to grow apart.

La Ville de Vent

March 17, 2008

chi-room-view.jpeg

Just back from my long weekend in Chicago. Being that I am scouting cities around the world as possible near-future residences, I was amped about visiting chi-town for the first time, and it did not disappoint. Chicago is a beautiful city with a lot to do and see, and really laid back, friendly citizens. As a NY’er I wasn’t used to it… I had to learn not be so skeptical of ppl who stop you on the streets to pass out flyers, ask questions or advertise events. I found myself checking my pockets way too many times… not that I had any good reason to other than my innate paranoia of being jacked. But never fear, travelers – you can leave your box cutters at home. South-side Chicago is definitely rough, but as long as you don’t venture too far out you should be straight. The Mile was Magnificent and I spent an entire day walking around, taking pictures, and being an annoying tourist. I met some great ppl and made some new friends in a city I’d like to visit more often. I also stayed in a baLLer apartment in Streeterville procured by my bigshot companion for the weekend..the above pic of the view was taken (amazingly, on my usually shitty credit-card rewards gift camera) from the terrace outside the bedroom. I done moved on up, biatch. Well, at least for a weekend.

Tips/Notes:

¤For skyline views, go to the one at the Hancock Observatory. The view is beautiful, you can see the Sear’s tower, and admission is quick and hassle-free. I can’t stress how important that is. Skip the Sear’s Tower at all costs! It sucks cuz you can’t see the main thing you wanna see in a Chicago skyline – the Sear’s Tower itself. Worst of all, the lines are craZy because the security there is airport-like. There was only ONE working metal detector and the line was out the freakin door. Then after you get cavity searched, you go to a separate line to buy tix [buy online if you can..thank God we did]. THEN you go to a room where they make you wait for 15 minutes before they herd you into a screening room where they make you watch a crappy video about the tower’s construction which they stole from the History Channel (I’m gonna check to make sure that they have fulfilled their copyright obligations…if not, they’re going down). Only then can you cram into the elevator that takes you up to the skydeck…the elevator pressure kills your eardrums, worse than any flight Ive ever been on. Oh, and not only do they keep you locked up forever in lines and rooms, they don’t provide cell reception either, efefctively cutting off any lifelines. I felt like a freaking hostage. What a waste of time. [I could go on but I am now remembering that this post is supposed to be about how I loved Chicago…but angry rants are so much more fun.]

¤ I went in March cuz I wanted to go with my friend who had an important obligation…otherwise try go in April or later, when theyre are so many more events and the weather isn’t nearly as cold, and getting around is so much easier (the outdoor trolley runs, the free walking tours, the boat trips around the city, etc). Plus you can make use of the beach that borders the city in the north.

¤ Deep dish pizza is good, but this chicago-pizza-is-better-than-new york-pizza crap I’m hearing needs to be put to rest, cuz it ain’t [see, ranting is easier].

¤ Where are you, Chicago arabs? People there were friendly, but I still felt deserted. I went to two shisha places, and the first was blasting reggae music, and the second had pop music. No arabs in sight, only brownies (desi ppl) and the occasional eclectic white posse. WTF? Where were the TVs showing music videos of Nancy Ajram hand washing laundry in a bucket between her legs, Tamer Hosni wearing tight leather pants and pretending to ride a motorcycle, Rubi in a red-dental-floss-and-sequin outfit doing her seizure-like belly dance in the middle of a bustling street, Hisham Abbas attempting to bhangra in front of a cutout of the Taj Mahal, or some random heavily made-up arabic chick singing a pop song while feigning exercise on an elliptical machine while the camera zooms in and out to capture all the glorious, supposedly-seductive angles? Where were the rude and spacey waiters who take your order and never come back, then overcharge you before making up some excuse about how things always cost extra on Wednesdays between 5:56 and 7:42pm? And where were the all the chubby old arab men alternating shisha pipes with camel cigarettes, chest hair protruding, bitching about politics and how business is at the store, and competing with young wannabe arab casanovas with overly gelled hair and freshly threaded eyebrows [and chest hair protruding as well..we re all hairy bastards] for the attention of the band of young arab girls who all told their parents they were going to a friend’s place to work on a project for school so they could get out of the house and away from the watchful eyes of their moms whose only goal in life is to preserve the freshness of their daughter’s flowers? If I move to Chicago, I’m opening up a shisha bar, with the full array of arab-isms intact.

Thanks for a great weekend, Chicago. We shall meet again.

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