Monday, December 25, 2006

Chapter XXVI. In the mosque

It was natural that I would look for a mosque close by for social interaction with people of the same faith as mine. To me, a mosque was not just a place for worship, but rather a social hang out as well. When I started to go back to my religion, sort of a born again mulsim, I chose the mosque that was closest to my home. I was still single back then. The grand mosque of Cleveland was my choice. It was the biggest mosque in north east ohio. It was well designed and very clean. The community was almost split half and half between arabs and non-arabs. Most of the arabs were from Palestinian origins. It was natural since the Arabic community was mainly Palestinians in Cleveland.

In the beginning, I would go to the mosque on weekends (and Friday prayer) especially in Ramadan. Many families would cook home cooking food and bring to the mosque for those who don’t have access to such food (like students). It was fun where we would eat then maybe sit down and talk about islam or any social issue that relates to the community. However, it was not always healthy environment. The arab muslim community still have racist behavior against non-arabs (like Pakistanis…etc). But most notable, was the racism against blacks. It was kind of silly (and sad) when you hear comments like “abeed” which means slaves in English. This was a common term used by arab muslims when referring to black muslims. It was also disturbing when the Islamic school charges high fees for tuitions where poor black muslims couldn’t afford it. And when the Eid calibrations happens, and the community decides on an activity for the Eid, they choose an activity where the fees are $50 per person. Hence, rarely you could find black muslim family attending such celebration. Was it intentionally organized? Maybe, but I do recall hearn some arab muslims saying that they won’t allow their kids to attend a celebration where blacks go too. Things that make you wonder how some think.

Then there is this power struggle inside the mosque between arabs and non-arabs. Ultimately, a group of arabs decided to start their own mosque, and they did. It was about 15 miles away and you would rarely see non-arabs there. It was too obvious. Some blacks too aligned themselves with mosques in the east side of Cleveland where most of the African American community live. Such struggle also affected the decision as to when announce important dates like Eid or Ramadan. I remember one year in the early 2000’s when the muslim community started fasting on 3 different days.

Sometimes, visiting the mosque was a challenge. A challenge to restrain yourself from reacting to the ignorance. One day, a friend of mind wanted to invite others for food in the grand mosque because his wife just gave birth to a baby girl. So I went there. I sat outside with group of people who talked only about business. Suddenly, one took playing cards from his pocket and now they started a game. I was just sitting down watching in internal anger. Then, the prayer call started and I went inside for prayer. There were only 20 to 30 people praying. But the faces are not the same as those outside. I then went back outside only to see the majority of the people there are still there playing cards or watching the game. I just wondered how those guys couldn’t at least ptay for 5 minutes then go back and play. Or even try to hide their idiotic behavior by not at leat playing cards on the door of the mosque. It was simply pathetic. To me, it was ok for others not to pray (kind of), but at least don’t exhibit such behavior.

One day, and during the last days of Ramadan, and while the imam was persuading the faithful ones to pay their zakat, an Egyptian man burst in the mosque and lashed out on the imam. This was in the far west side of clevaland in a small town called Lorain. I started going to that mosque after I married and bought a house closer to that area. At any rate, this Egyptian man was angry at the imam for suggesting $10 dollars per person as a zakat to be paid for the poor ones. This man wanted the zakat to be paid as “food of the land”, and not as money because 1400 years ago, that was the norm. The imam was kindly trying to persuade this man that there was a fatwa indeed allowing zakat to be paid as money because some families need milk and medicine instead of a pile of sacks of potatoes. In the end, the Egyptian man screamed at the imam saying ‘I swear by Allah that if given the chance, I will kill you for changing the rule of Allah” and he walked away. The imam was in total silence for what he just saw and heard. Sadly, you may have a community of 100 families, and all it take is just one man to ruin it for all.

To give you another example, I was at school on one Friday, and it was time for prayers. So we went to one room in the library building to attend the prayer. We were about 40 students give or take. While I was sitting down, I saw a Lebanese female student. I know her pretty good. But this is the first time that I se her praying. She was wearing a jeans and a tshirt. As I understood later, this was her first attempt to pray for she was thinking about wearing the veil and starting prayer. So she was dressed in a jeans and a modest veil. Suddenly, our visiting imam (he was either Palestinian or Jordanian..don’t know) looked at her and asked her to leave because she wasn’t dressed for prayer. She asked if she can at least stay and hear the lecture without praying. He became angry and demanded her to leave for her presence in this area was not healthy for others. Suddenly, she started crying and walked out. A group of muslims (including myself) stood up and screamed at the imam for turning away a muslim who is eager to pray, and we walked away and had our own prayer, and included the girl with us and anyone walked out.

Islam in America is very tricky. The imams here don’t get approval for their lectures and hence, are not monitored by any authority that makes sure that the lecture is within Islamic teachings. This becomes very dangerous into turning some people to terrorists, or even causing the wrong “islam” being practiced. Whos to say that a self-imposed imam will abide by the real Islamic teachings? What about his followers? For that reason, mosques became heavily infiltrated by the counter terrorism authorities and personals, and that made it difficult for others to feel secure or safe from either fanatics, or the hands of the FBI that sometimes blindly put people in jails for long period of times.

Today, I go to the mosque close by my work and would pray and leave very soon after fearing any negative interactions. I wish I can join in social activities for the mosque, but with all honesty, it’s very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut upon hearing the different versions of islam depending on who is lecturing or talking. Eid was announced a month ago to be next week Sunday, yet , everyone else is saying it will be Saturday. Who is right? I don’t know, but I’m following Saudi Arabia these days. But before I leave you now, I have to tell you this little story. During one Ramadan, we had 2 vistors from out of town who stopped by for “taraweeh” prayers. At any rate, the imam finished praying the first 6, and he then started reciting some supplications and he was doing it almost like a song or “nasheed”. The two guys stood up, and told him that he is wrong and leading others astray, and declared that his prayer was wrong, and waked out angrily. Maybe his prayers were wrong, and maybe not. But this was no way a way to help someone corrects an action. Anyway, I’ll talk to you tomorrow, and it may be my last chapter in my life, and will go back to normal posts again. For those who are counting, this was chapter 26. I want to make my next chapter about freedom of expression in the united states as I feel so strong about such concept. Let me know what else you wish me to talk about. Have a great holiday and enjoy your time off work/school….etc.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A strange trip

and I think I even got molisted in it. You can close your jaws now. I know that hearing that from a 37 years old man is a bit disturbing. This is how it started. 8 days ago, I was flying on a business trip to boston. We have a plant there (special plant but can't give you details what they make). So, I am up at 5 am to catch my flight at 7:30. My beloved wife made me a quck cup of coffee, and a kiss "see ya later" and I was in my car by 6:00 am. The airport is about 24 miles away so it took me about 30 minutes to get there. Parked my car and took the shuttle to the terminal. 6:15 now and I need to hurry up.

So I take my last cigarrette before entering the terminal, and go straight to the gate. But before the gate, I have to go through security. So I took my shoes off, belt, keys, ring, watch, and my jacket. Walked to the explosive dtection device..and...beeb beeb beeb. Suddenly, all eyes were looking at me. Heck, some even stood there watching me. The dude said "ok we have an alarm here, step to this side please and someone will be with you shortly" So i did. I saw a cute looking girl searching a woman in the search area. She said "I'll be with you in few minutes sir". Thats ok anyway, everyone is now looking at this ugly arab guy waiting to be searched. no problem at all.

5 minutes go by, and she leaves the area. then I saw this freaky looking guy (actually, too soft to be a man). He told me "please step in here sir" with a soft tone. Damn it bo3bo3, we were building hopes on the cute girl now see who we have to put up with I said to myself. Made me take my wallet, and spread my legs (don't get any ideas please :) ) and said "I'm going to pat search you". So he starts searching..down to my legas..all the way up to my shoulder..then back down again, then on my back down to my feet..then ..then..then...the damn thing is taking too long. I started to suspect what this guy wants. I've been searched before as I fly at least once a month anyway, but this is no ordinary search.

I sat down afterwards and he said "why did the machine beeb?". Duh me. I told him "I don't know, I didn't make the machine, but maybe there were traces of chemicals since I work in a chemical plant" He didn't like my answer, so he signaled to hi guys. Two guys started interegating me, and 8 minutes later, they let me go after they saw my low level security clearance. Ran to my gate so fast cause i heard my name in the intercom. Got there and went to detroit. Our travel agent gave me 45 minutes only between flights, and I had to run from gate A22 to gate C4 in McCenmara terminal. If you know the terminal, you'll know that it will take you about 25 min running (incluiding riding the train) between the 2 gates. No smoking yet. anyway, got to boston and did my work.

On the way back, the NWA agent told me that my reservation is taking me from boston-detroit-pittsburg. Ok ma'am why the hell would I wanna go to pittsburg if my home is indy? She said she can get me flight from pittsburg to indy and I'll get home at midnight. It was 4 pm at that time. I said "No No No ma'am, I don't wanna zigzag between the states to get to indy, just fix it". So she did and I got to detroit. the flight was late as usual, and it was raining. Now I had to run from C4 to A22 and barely made my connection. No smoking yet. The flight to indy was only 48 minutes but was the worset flight i ever had. The plane was shaking sideways and people were screaming. A dude next to me going home from college was scared. I just wanted to smoke a damn cigarrete so freakin bad. I got to indy picked my car and drove home. Kissed my wife and junior and straight to bed.

Poetry moment

Just want to post some poems I wrote over the past weeks for a change. I have developed this love toward gothic poetry and started to try and express some poems. In the same time, I also wrote love poems which reflects an opposite picture of what you will see here. Here are few examples of gothic poems I wrote some time ago and recently.

How dare you

How dare you judge me
But your own actions, you can’t see
Driven by my faults and mistakes
And one look at yourself is all what it takes

You cast all these stones upon me
These sins I have commited are not all I see
You try to deny your past and present
You pretend it didn’t happen, but it is so evident

Accusations and harsh words burn like the sun
And deep inside you know what you have done
For once, open your eyes and shut your mouth
Your actions is what this is about, stop your wrath

Different from mine they may well be
But they are similar do you see
Your labeling me harshly with disgrace
And your own actions you can’t face

How dare you judge me
And pretend to be someone you can’t be
Seek inside your soul and you shall see
That you are just another copy of me

AAA 12/20/06

I hate you

I hate you..and everything about you
this poem is for you

All you ever did is making me cry
Hating what I have done…
that’s no lie

Wishing to slaughter my emotions
Drowning them like a sinking ship….
in the oceans

Watching them diminish slowly
to the unknown
Your death….I shall never postpone

I despise you, and everything about you
these words are for you

I am not your toy, nor was created for your joy
My feelings were never made for you ……
to destroy

I know…I really know what you’re doing
I see…I see what, in your heart,
…You are brewing

A fool, to hurt, torture, and to use as a clown
But today, I see, I hear, and I’ll never again….

AAA 9/6/06


I'm trapped here in a life I can't understand
forced to live the so called way while hands are bind

nothing I think of or do can ever be right
from the eyes of those who believe God is their sight

I'm here to live happy not to fulfill someone else's need
so why must I endure all this pain, agony and greed

I'm ripped apart with every stereotype and neglect
just because I don't fit in to what they think is correct

but I shall end this torture and not be attacked
for I am me and nothing shall make this heart cracked

So I'll break their chains and take their weapon
they can't control me and trap me into this prison

AAA 8/7/06

Lonley Illusions

So many intersections I have passed
So many bridges to cross, gotta hold fast
I am lost and can't seem to find my way
As I run passed the forest, in dismay

Loneliness lives inside me, and more
I can see it, feel it, the agony , a burning sore
So many miles to walk…. where do I begin
To express my hopes and my dreams within

I am lost, don't have a clear destination
I need to regain strength, and find salvation
Thoughts, constantly spinning in my head
Trying to determine what’s really, for me, ahead

It is cold and wet, yet again, today
The rain is falling, the sun is far away
Thinking deeply, of life ….and be deaf,
Insignificant to anyone …..except myself.

Loneliness is not a curse nor is it a regret,
It is a time of seclusion, when I forget
Not meant to be shared, nor even understood
My only salvation, from realty, if I just could

So yes, I’m truly stuck, in within
Where could I start, or just begin
But myself I promised, never to write again
About loneliness, for it too much of a pain

Tomorrow, a new page, new sight
Of love, pleasure, and no longer fight
With white doves flying, and trees so tall
I no longer, to loneliness, shall ever fall

AAA 6/24/06

I am who I am

I am who I am, greatness in me
I've become an exaggerated part …
of my individuality
Trying to think weird thoughts
and getting mad at my simplicity

I've become a joke to me
Lost my real self,
For me
And for someone else

Now it all coming back.. you see
So farewell to you..and me
Farewell to what once the center…
Of insanity
Setting the sail, and looking back
Trying to once again, let go my mentality

I walked through the shadows of insanity
Slipping slowly by those never before seen me
Declared the ghost....master of abnormality
Smiling constantly at those who lynched me

Optimistic, but realistic while hope is still in me
my pains don't run that deep, no more
Just an ecstasy
For I see the way, back to my realty
As I waive my hand to you, and to me

You haven't really got any clue about me
What it all means to you, is not the same
To me
Slip sliding away, turning my back on me
Slip sliding away, the long waited journey

AAA 6/7/06

Unholly Warrior (a bet disturbing, read with caution)

My soul is the blood of life, as I fall
I sleep in blood that I keep thinking of
My hunger and desires, for no one at all
Death is hell and i do not desire love.

If love is to be desired, than what I wish for?
If not, than when, might I ask, do I wish for hope?
As I hold the sword of death, I seek you no more
Eternal happiness, through darkness, I shall cope

I cannot speak nor do I really dare
to express truely how I sincerely feel
For those that take of my words I can't spare
Those that I have loved, I can no more conceal

There maybe no importance in my words
I will not desire anything that will expire
And allow me to send the flying birds
I cannot trespass on that unholly fire.

My heart stained by love from the past
That keeps reminding me of the darkened soul
Though I tried to extinguish the fire fast
But the flames kept growing higher as I fall

To you I seek an everlasting peace
A blow, or anything that would ease
This torture inside me, that won't decease
Damn you I am calling on you......please

I can see the end, the moment of time
When I hold on this sharp knife of mine
And as I look at it's beauty, such a shrine
And hold it high above, seeking my own devine

As it enters the heart, I feel the dying fire
The peace at last, for this freaky soul
Twisting and tearing apart and lefting me higher
From this doomed body once and for all

Oh sweet one I need you now as before
Free me from this miserabe desire
Revive me....I seek me no more
I feel this heart is getting dryer and dryer

As I depart ...finally from this body of the weak
I look down on what was nothing but a freak
Blood is flowing and from me it'll never again leak
As I haunt all those, who of me made this freak

Shine and rise oh great soldier of death
Fasten your sharp knife and after who have sailed
To flow the rivers of blood..with your mighty breath
Now it's my turn to seek, those me have failed

With one blow, your head is to fly
And your flesh I shall eat, don't ask why
As I cut through your veins and hear you cry
Questioning my action, how dare you, just die

Feed me off those who set my own fire
And watched me agonize and me, neglect
Today I revenge, with your skull lefted higher
on my spear..a warrior who came back to collect

AAA 6/4/06

Dark Tears

I feel fatigued, tired and in so much despair
My heart beats miserably, wrecked beyond repair
I wish I could go to sleep, and never ever awake,
But I've always known; life is never ours to take.

If it was all up to me, I'd want to die while a sleep,
There's no one to stop me and the cut is already too deep
I could slit my throat, and no-one would even care,
But I know deep inside of me that I wouldn't dare

Sitting up all night, alone in my room
Shaky and weeping, imagining doom
Nothing here to distract my mind, my fears.
There's no-one around, to even dry my tears.

So as I held the blade, feeling my veins
A cry from within, screaming, please refrain
I looked around and no one do I see
Yet, somehow, my soul decided to once again, be.

AAA 12/5/05

Monday, December 18, 2006

Chapter XXV. The coffee shop

Immigrants here in the states tend to hang out in places where their own “people” are around. There is little italy in the east side of Cleveland where Italians hang out and you could see the restaurants and the café’s. Little china is another one and so was little greek in the near west side by the orthodox church. As for arabs, there were few hang outs. One was “beit hanina” where Palestinians from that village have a social club and a wedding hall. Weddings take place in there. I went to a couple of weddings, and quit frankly, they were mistakes. I never wanted to go, but the guys insisted that I go. It’s not because I didn’t like to be around my own “people” but I just get the sad feeling of back home during weddings. Keep in mind that I was also single at that time, and for a single man, that was harsh I guess.

In those weddings, there are few things that makes you want to pull your hair. Maybe that’s how I lost my hair after all. Ok I can’t blame it all on the weddings, my dad’s genes has something to do with losing hair too. In one night, I went to a wedding. I didn’t know any of the families, or anyone. I just went out for fun that’s all. To my surprise, I saw strange things. I have never seen gold in my entire life as I saw that day. One lady was walking (and I don’t know how she could) with a necklace..wait..not just a necklace, but to describe it..ok..imagine those rose necklace that you get when you go to Hawaii, well, it was all gold. Probably 5 kg of gold around her neck. Other women had such fashion in the wedding too. Do I sound envying? Maybe. But the fact of the matter is I never seen gold in my life as I saw that day. Then they started giving money. So, there was the big guy, the kahuna of the family, and he took the microphone and started mentioning names and amounts. So and so has given $1000. The thing kept going on. Then he demanded that all dancers leave the dance floor, and started talking about how he was close to death and had a stroke, and god saved him. He then said that he wanted to thank God, so everyone leave the floor, except his sister so and so so he can dance with her. Frankly, it was pathetic. I thought he was going to donate money for charity.

As I got up to go to the men’s room to wash for the prayer, I saw kids fighting and cursing in a language I could only hear in the show soprano’s. At any rate, few of us started praying on the side while the music kept going on and the dance was still active. Not that I mind, but I wished that we could’ve found a different spot to pray. I couldn’t wait too long there, and went home. I just didn’t feel comfortable, you know, single in a wedding is not a good thing I guess.

Then I discovered the coffee shop. I used to smoke shisha so it was the perfect place for me. One night, I went to the coffee shop on lorain road, and sat outside by myself. I could hear guys playing cards and again cursing at each others. They cursed God, sisters, mothers and fathers. Yet, they were all smiling. I loved that place as long as I kept my ears shut. I would go there, sit alone, smoke the shisha and sip my tea and go home. I just needed an hour alone with my shisha, that’s all. On occasions, I meet guys and sit with them, but I never get to meet them again. Rarely that I see the dude again. But the hour was enough time to vent problems and harships. One guy in particular sticks in my mind. He was a Palestinian muslim who was married to a Christian Palestinian. They divorced few months after marriage and his mother in law took their child and baptized him and sent the video to him to torture him. I don’t have anything against my fellow Christian arabs at all, on the contrary, I enjoy their company a lot. But this incident sticks in my mind because I could see a guy crying without tears at all.

Another old man, a Jordanian Christian, whom I enjoyed so much. I saw him 3 times. He reminded me of home. He left his family back in Jordan and came to the states to work and support his family. You’ll be amazed of how torture this man went through. He invited me to the new years party at the Arabic church on West 117th street about 15 miles south of lorain road. Can’t remember the street name but it was known. We had good food and a nice music. Saw lots of people that made me feel home some how. But again, his story sticks to my mind. Oh..and the story of the Palestinian student who was hooked on drugs and his dad came to take him back to Jordan. This was devastating for all who knew the guy.

A fight broke out one time between some Jordanians and Palestinians guys in the coffee shop. I witnessed the fight while I was smoking my shisha. Simply pathetic. The two Palestinian/American guys went to Jordan last year and they were humiliated at the airport. It seems that they, as I heard early that night, threw their US passports at the guy who worked the airport passport booth. He didn’t like their attitude so he called security and it seems that the two guys were humiliated. In the coffee shop, they were cursing Jordan and all Jordanians. Couple of Jordanians didn’t like what they heard and that’s how the fight broke. Chairs were flying and shisha were breaking in the air. The police came and took all to the station. Yep…it was pathetic in all means.

Before the coffee shop opened, there was a night club owned by a guy from beit hanina. It was for arabs of course. So when I used to drink, I went to that place. There was a good singer, his last name was “haddad”, a Jordanian. He has a lovely voice and he would sing for Palestinians/Lebanese/Jordanians/you name it. I sat at the bar having my drink, and suddenly, a fight broke loose. It seems that a guy was hitting on someone’s wife. So they fought and knifes appeared and someone was cut. The police came and it was not a pleasant sight. Another night, I over heard someone discussing the details of how they would implant someone in jail to kill the killer of his brother. There was some money discussion. I don’t know the outcome, but the brother seemed to be pushing to kill hi brother’s killer in jail. Arabs drink pretty wild when they do and I do remember on a couple of occasions that I took some guys home because the owner, who was a friend of mine, asked me to take them home and don’t let them drive. Thanks God I am done with that stuff now.

Taking you back to the coffee shop, it was a nice place to be for someone like me. I got to hear omm kulthoom singing while I smoke my shisha. I loved the atmosphere. It meant home for me. I could hear stories of back home from guys who just came back from a visit. I got to kill time as I really needed to murder time in some instances. But it had it’s negatives of course as I mentioned above. I came to realize that arab hang outs are tricky ones. One needs to make a hang out for each religion, each country background, and each age group. Mixing all the above together spells troubles.

Then I decided to join the mosque, and that will be very exciting. Arab mosques in America are not fun either as I well show in the next post very soon. But right now, I had a long drive from Indiana to TN and feel exhausted. But since I’m staying for 4 days here in TN, I’ll have all the time to write while stuck between my beloved four walls that toughed me all about life and the importance of isolation while sipping coffee and smoking my camel’s light cigarette. See you soon.

Who are you?

Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand who you really are. Seriously, you seem to know who you want to be, or who you were, but when it comes to today, you struggle to understand who you truly are. They say that admitting realty is half the way, but you still need to go all the way. So who are you?

Funny that you go through a past that is full of so joyful memories, yet, it is also full of painful ones. You think that you are better off by pulling the plug of those sad memories. I admit it that sometimes, I wish I can somehow plug my brain to some kind of machine and do a partial formatting to get rid of those bad memories. But what we fail to understand is that those sad memories are an essential part of who we are. Who are you?

Forget about describing who you wish to be some day, or what you want to be. Just focus on analyzing yourself in the current situation. You may laugh at this, but I sometimes sit down and start this debate with myself. True I have hard time convincing myself of what my aim is, but it’s worth the troubles, believe me. Crazy? I may be, but I know that I give so much importance to know who truly I am. So who are you?

Those nights I may stay awake thinking of things that can only make me feel sad or maybe shed a drop of tears…or two. Or those days I start day dreaming about a certain day in history that involved me. In the end, I came to realize who I am. Maybe not the full picture, but a close one. It’s like writing a resume or some kind of a description about yourself, with it’s positives or even negatives, it doesn’t matter at all. Do you really know who you are?

A flirter, but never intended to hurt anyone? Maybe. A very sensitive man who is pretending to be the macho of all men? Again maybe. It just takes lots of guts to confront yourself and demand from it to come out lifting that mask you may like to wear all the times. It ain’t easy giving up the mask. It’s like having two choices, one that show you naked and transparent, or another with colorful clothes that makes others say “wow…that’s cool and pretty” It just not easy. One should weigh the positives as well as the negatives of such naked body. Are you ready to be naked in front of others? Do you know who you are?

But clothes are important to portray a certain image of ourselves. Being naked is like being vulnerable to others. I gotta say that I am never a big fan of this nudist movements, but with all honesty, I am a fan of the nudity of the soul. Never mind about those clothes, just attempt to confront yourself, and demand to know the truth. Maybe you know the truth, but you are not brave enough to admit it. Who know. I don’t. Who the heck are you?

I love fun, and social life, but feel isolated. I love the bar atmosphere, but not a drinker and hate the smell of alcohol. I love humor and consider myself to be good at putting a smile on others, but can’t tell a joke. I am a strong man, who developed a certain personality, but very weak and would produce tears for the simplest reason. I love love itself, but seem to be lost with expressing with words. I…well…I am attemting to be naked, but it doesn’t seem to work at all, for my nakedness will cause so much….lets say mess to me and to others. Do I fear the accusations and the looks of others? NO. Do I care about who others see my nakedness? NO….But I seem to be so attached to the clothes and the mask that I’m having a hard time letting go. Can you let go?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Part XXIV. Family Guy

I guess I’m not done bragging about myself, am I? Bear with me a moment for only very few things in my life that I can brag about, and this is one of them. There will be more time for lynching myself for errors and mistakes, but for now, I need to feel good about myself. Especially that I’m now stuck in the airplane while they fix the captain seat after it got broke. God I hate Detroit. Anyway, lets go on shall we.

I was brought up amongst 7 other brothers and sisters of mine. We were four x four, and it seems that my dad has discovered the secret of manipulating the child’s sex. Ok ok..he didn’t. We were always trained to listen to dad and mom, and never question any “command”. Yes they were commands and I think my dad thought that his house is an extension to his office. We would only start eating dinner after he takes the first bite. No TV when he took his afternoon nap. Those of us who stayed late at night, we would hear it pretty harshly. Some of the punishment was TV time deprivation. Allowance was another tool in his arsenals of punishments. But needless to say, he did have a system and he was tough in implementing it (except the youngest one, he always got away with it).

Early in my childhood, I was known to be a trouble maker. Some of the incidents are embarrassing, but oh well, it can’t get worse can it now. I am told that at the age of 5 years old, my mom punishment me very harsh. She caught me naked with a girl and trying to get her naked. Now before you think this or that, keep in mind that the mind of a 5 years old is not capable of such wicked thoughts. I’m sure there was something else in my mind at that time, and I doubt it was related to “sex” again due to the impossibility of a 5 years old boy thinking about such stuff.

In some cases, I was punished for putting my youngest brother in the freezer and told him not to get out until we count to 100. I was lucky that my parents came early that night and saved him. Of course I got punishment in the story I told earlier when I was chasing my sister with dad’s gun. So yes, I got in trouble when I was growing up. Troubles that included “un-allowed” interaction with the Pilipino maid, or driving my dad’s car. Many instances, but for the most part, my parents depended on me heavily when they were hone out of the house. I took care of my brothers and sisters (with the exception of the freezer thingie).

I’m the oldest amongst my brothers and sisters, and according to the constitution of my family, I was second in command. My brothers and sisters knew that and they followed the rules. I got to plan for any fun in the house while my parents were away. I took care of the kitchen planning, trips, who collects woods and who starts skewing lamb on skewers. I planned for the Eid schedule for them, where to go, and who goes where. I can’t say I was a dictator, but I was learning from dad. So there were regulations in the house. When I was around 14, I started taking care of breakfast. Every morning, I would get up before them, and would start the breakfast. Cheese, eggs, and sometimes, cereal. I made the milk (you do remember Nido, the dried milk), and made the tea. I would then wake them up, and get the teat to my parents while we had breakfast.

I then started saving my allowance to get the little ones candy and toys. I was 15 and my youngest brother was 2 years old. There was a specific chocolates that had a picture of a lion on it, and he loved it so much. My 4 years old sister loved twix. I managed to save my allowance so every Thursday, they would wait for me on the balcony and as soon as they see me, they would rush to the door to get their candies for the weekend.

Ok, they just announced that they fixed the captain seat so I have to shut down now, and will continue once the airplane on the air. Ciao

Back again, finally. Just because we were growing up in the UAE, people quickly assumed that we are sissy kids. Kids who are hooked on kitkat or twix. Maybe we had chocolates, but we as kids went through life, just like other kids. We didn’t have all what we wished for, again just like all kids. To me, being the oldest son, made me feel responsible somehow. Weather it was about taking care of the little ones, or the big ones, I tried to me the family guy as much as possible.

I gotta admit it that from the first day I left home, to the states, I felt like someone who was simply pulled away from his family. Suddenly, I’m not that captain anymore. It may sound silly, but I started thinking a lot of times if my brothers were getting breakfast or not. Who now brings the candy for the two youngest ones? Who helps dad going to the market? Why does this and this and some of that? I felt with a big void after I left them. Now, tea doesn’t taste the same, nor milk. Breakfast…stopped in my life for it lost it’s meaning. It kind affected me so much that even when my brother grew and became 13 years old, I would ask him on the phone if he wanted me to bring him candy. Those of us, who left little brothers and sisters behind, know that the thought of them growing up was never in our minds.

So, as a natural reaction, I carried this behavior with me. I was in charge of cooking for the guys. No, they didn’t make me wear a French maid outfits, but they did enjoy my cooking. But before I could make good food, I had to practice, and they all agreed to be my genie pigs. I remember one time we wanted to make “maglooba” (or ma’looba as some may prefer to call it). I instructed one my roommates, who was from gaza, to buy the needed mterial. Cauliflower, potato’s, rice, and beef. We didn’t know about the lamb yet in America. So the dude came back with all the stuff. I started frying the vegetables (potato, cauliflower), and during that, the meat was cooking. The meat was done, and to be honest, it looked funny. I asked my roommate if he got the right meat, and he said yes. But the meat looks different. So I pulled the package from the trash, and there it was, pork. So we ended up substituting the meat with 3 cans of tuna. Honestly, it tasted …well..really ok, and we liked it.

We were creative in cooking, and we seemed to wanna learn so much. One time, I was sitting with two roommates of mine, well..semi-drunk, and we said “how about a stuffed lamb?”. As soon as my roommate said that, I looked at him and smiled. It was the challenge now, and must do it. So we called all those who were interested in the stuffed lamb. The turnaround was 9 guys. Not bad. So we bought all the needed material, and decided that we make it in our apartment. We didn’t have any recipe at all. But we did well. It was one of my roommates and I who took charge in the cooking. The remaining 7 were to split the cost on all seven of them, which was not even 120 dollars total. We spiced up the lamb, stuffed it with cooked rice mixed with ground beef, and we poked the lamb so many pokes and stuffed every poke with garlic. We marinated it with yogurt and spices, then wrapped it all around and put it in the oven. The guys gathered and it was a great gathering. We enjoyed it.

There were times where we didn’t succeed in such work. The time where we tried to make stuffed cabbage and the damn cabbage didn’t want to role easily. I discovered that I needed to boiled it with water first. Or when we tried to make mlookheyyeh and the whole thing fell apart. We were luckier on the falafel side after the second try. That paid real good in the end. I mean there were students who relied on junk food, and there were others who put on the kitchen gear (not the French maid outfit) and started learning.

On occasions, even after we got married and started out own families, we would get together and bring back the good old days of single life days. Well, except the drinking side, some of us remain drinking and some gave it up. I can say that this family guy business has affected how I look at things related to responsibility. Today, if my wife or junior wanted any piece of cloth, I would not hesitate to buy it as soon as possible. But if there was something I liked for myself, I would think so many times before buying it. Maybe this is not related here, and maybe yes, but what I’m trying to say is it is so easy to convince myself to buy things for them, and is so difficult to convince myself with my buying needs. Makes sense? I guess not. Oh well. Gotta leave now, we are few minutes away from Boston. See you around.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chapter XXIII, Part three

It’s a guy thing. If you give every woman a dollar for every time she hears that, she’ll be a rich woman. After all, I’m an arab typical male/man/husband. Guilty as charged, yes sir/ma’am. The funny or sad thing is that this mentality carries on anywhere you go. Whether in America or Jordan, an arab man will always be an arab man. So I’m not stand up here and defend the action of an arab immigrant man, but rather will present them hoping that it makes an woman smile, and a man thinking “dude…you have given out the secret”.

On one day, we were invited to a her friends house. She had this Jordanian friend and she wanted to introduce me to her husband. I went along her plans of course. Now, I was brought up in a mansaf infested home. A home where mansaf has a rituals. It has to be made the right way, or else, I start to hallucinate. So we walked in their home and ..uhhhhh..the aroma of jameed and mansaf is filling the house. I knew I was going to be good friends with this guy. The two ladies started the conversation and we got involved. He was a Christian Jordanian man. A very nice man I shall add. So we talked about the usual arab topics; food, politics, and how we value the super bowl commercials. Then came the time for the seductive mansaf to kick in and we sat on the table. I suddenly saw spoons and plates. I panicked, but quickly gave up to the looks of my wife daring me to open my mouth so she can hit me with her purse. I remember her purse, and no I will not want to be hit by it again. So I shut up. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that they may have thought I eat mansaf out from the plate and with a spoon. Then I saw the mansaf..but..but..wait a minute..what is that? White meat? Chicken? Now I lost it. And just as I was to open my mouth, she pinched me in my leg. Ouch..that hurt. I looked at her, and she looked at me begging me to keep my mouth shut.

How can withstand seeing mansaf with a plate..and a spoon laying next to it? If my dad ever found out that I ate mansaf with chicken, he will send my cousins to assassinate me. What to do now? I wanted to scream, but knew if I did that, I’ll end up sleeping in the garage. So I decided to shut up tearing inside, eating chicken mansaf. I went through hell before, but this was a different hell. I couldn’t wait till I got back to my house.

My wife is a peaceful lady, but she is Jordanian too (well, off Palestinian origins like me). When I married her, many of my friends advised me to look for a veiled muslim woman. I was smarter and searched for a good quality woman. So one time, we went to the mosque for a social gathering. My wife wasn’t praying at that time, and she wasn’t wearing veils. The usual jeans and the t-shirt. So we walked into the mosque, and she grabbed a hold of a veil from the mosque and simply placed it on her head. Her hair was showing of course. I was sitting with the guys. Then the time to go home came, and we got in our car. She started complaining about this Syrian woman who refused to shake my wife’s hands in the mosque. I told her relax honey, this is how people act in the states. The funny thing is that my wife never forgot this story as you’ll find out soon.

2 years into our marriage, she asked me “would you want me to be veiled?” I said “it’s all up to you for your doing it to God not me, and you’ll always be you regardless if you wear veil or not”. So she decided to wear the veil. And we were invited to a birthday party, and the Syrian woman was there. Now, I know my wife real good, and as I said, she is peaceful, but she is an arab woman after all. So she goes and sit down without shaking the hands of that woman. I was watching of course for I knew that my wife will do something. Then the Syrian woman approached my wife and I could hear her congratulating my wife on the veil. My wife was smiling at her, but I knew these smiles real good. They are the smiles before the storm, believe me I know you arab ladies. Then the Syrian woman said “I’m glad that you wore the veil, because I honestly didn’t shake your hands because of the lack of veil”. Here, I looked around searching for a place to hide behind. My wife told her “aren’t you ashamed of your self? How can you reflect a good image of muslims? If you thought I was wrong by not wearing the veil, you should’ve tried to talk to me, but to do what you did, that was a shame”. I laughed so loud, and I saw my wife getting up and coming to me asking if it’s time to go home or not. Now, to all of you, this may sound like a question. But to me, it wasn’t. It was a command “you either get your behind up now and take me home, or I will start a fight that you will not be happy about” So we got up and execused ourselves and drove home.

Or the time when I acted so stupid..just for a box of chocolates. So it was her birthday…and just like all arab men, I forgot about it. I walked home, and she was sitting down. I sat down, and said “the food honey?” She started crying and here I knew I was in trouble. To make a story short….she was mad at me for forgetting her birthday. I got mad at her for getting mad. She said “not even a cheap box of chocolates/”. I got up and started eating by myself, and that box of chocolates caused me 3 weeks of no chocolates. Till today, I refuse to bring the chocolates….it’s a guy thing.

So now she needs a driver’s license. I started training her on how to drive. Bad idea because I am a lousy driver, and I get angry a lot. After few trials, I called my friend and he started teaching her driving. On the test day, I took her, and in the car, was comforting her preparing her to fail. “honey, it’s ok if you fail from the first or second trial..look at me, it took me 3 trials to get my license. We went into the place and her turn came. A guy approached her and said “bring your car around”. So she did. Junior was only 7 months old. So I started thinking about how to comfort her when she comes back with the failing results. 30 minutes later, she came. I stood up and prepared myself for the lines I was memorizing the past 30 minutes. I said “lets go honey, we’ll talk about it in the car”. She said “no, I need to have my picture taken..I passed”. What? No way. A side of me wanted to yell at the tester for passing her. How can she be better than me? Again, it’s a guy thing.

Back in 2005, and when she was in amman, I decided to buy her anew minivan. So 3 days before she was to arrive to Detroit airport, I bought this brand new minivan with DVD player and all kind of options. When I picked her up from the airport, she was happy to see the new car. 2 days later, she hit the garage with it. Minimum damage but was enough to hold it against her for eternity. A guy thing of course.

It was difficult for us to make friends. I was very picky, and so was she. We hade our great Christian Jordanian friends., A Syrian couple and 2 palestinian families. We were hanging out together always. Friends were a rare thing to find in America. We needed people that we can communicate with, and feel comfortable around. But then she started making friendship with Americans. This was nice because it will allow her to pick up the accent. So suddenly, she started going out to the mall with her friends. Then to the hangout, the secret woman’s place of the olive garden in Westlake ohio. That proved to be a good step for her.

I wish I can talk more about the behavior of married arab men, but I fear the guys will take revenge against me. But it’s a fact, that arab wives put up so much with our behavior. We could be living in the states for 20 years and it would mean nothing. We still don’t know the value of the cheap box of chocolates, or the simple “I love you” statement. We think that the twins in the bud light commercial is what women should look like, but in the end of the day, we go wild if we see our wives dressed up openly in the public. Damn…now that I’m stuck in some hotel room in Cincinnati hundreds of miles away from her, I feel the need to call her before I go to bed…again. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to leave now. Hope she is still awake now.