Saturday, December 29, 2007

Paradise Found!

Take that, Milton. You and your Puritan pessimism should check out my BEACH! The three minute walk from my front gate to the sea is probably the best three minutes since I arrived a month ago. A massive sense of relief just about knocked me over, face first in the sand. Luckily I had a giant blended Mocha to keep me steady.

Dubai is suddenly different. It's peaceful. There are PARKS, with TREES and GRASS, and SHELLS where the water breaks. That means there might be FISH out there...cute little Nemos waiting for me to paddle around with my goggles and find him! And just like South Beach, the sea is the color of Jolly Rancher candies in flavors they haven't dreamed up yet.

Welcome to my new backyard.

Beach: 1
GI Joe: 0

When he's not rubbing sand out of his beard with his over-engineered beach towel, you can find one of my sheikh neighbors hanging out here. That's right, this is a villa, not an extension of Microsoft. Microsoft only dreams of being this high tech and shiny.

These palatial villas are about a block away from my humble little room.

I'm not sure what this is. It looks like it's a little gathering room connected with (what i'm guessing is) a club of some sort, just behind it on the beach.

front yard

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the great move, episode I

From the 17th floor of the Twin Towers in Deira, Dubai looks pretty succulent. If you turn around, the office is another matter. Welcome to Purgatory. Thanks to the holidays a lot of folks are missing the chaos. This basically means less claustrophobia in the creative room, fewer people in the photos, and less smoke in the air. The new office will be smoke free. Merry Christmas to Cindy's lungs. Now we get to see an entire ad agency go into nicotine withdrawal together. Won't that be cute? I expect it'll resemble a sorority house celebrating a giant, raging, synchronized PMS. God help me.

Here's another view from the hotel facing Dubai Creek and New Dubai on the other side. The Burj Tower is still under construction. That's the tall one to the left of the other high rises, and yes, they are respectably tall high rises. Now they just have a complex. The corporate-hood surrounding the tower's called Business Bay. But don't be fooled. It isn't a bay at all, and isn't even on the water. Maybe they'll make their own fake bay when it's done, but for now it's a dusty construction zone. The agency will be right next to the Burj Tower starting Saturday. Being so close to something so huge makes us very very long as the giant Arab phallus doesn't fall over.

If you look past the window reflection, you can see yet another shot of Dubai Creek. What can I say, I think it's pretty. Creek is such an understatement, especially for a town that's hooked up to an IV of overstatement.

Carolers wandered around the hotel on Christmas Day. They were completely tone deaf and sang in an odd, Malay-Indian-Eastern-Something accent, and it was perfect. This is at Churchill's, the hotel pub where I was plowing through Stella and the Gulf News before I was intercepted by The Walking Cliche. more on him later. It's past my bedtime.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Let them eat salad!

I have a new understanding of vegetarianism. I tried to get lunch meat. No, I did get lunch meat. According to the label, this is Pastrami. The green shade around the edges had me a little bit concerned, but they spice everything here with things I can't pronounce much less recognize, so I didn't really care what color the pastrami spices were, until I touched it.

Friends, that glare is not the healthy reflection of fresh, moist meat. That glare is a solid layer of slime covering said lunch meat. I tried to take a piece and wash it off, but it just seems wrong. It was SO SLIMY. Avery, you'll be proud to know that the whole damn thing is in the rubbish, even though I'm sure the layer of muck is normal, it's not my style. I was in the grocery again this evening. And for some reason, I had no desire to replace it, even with the imported Butterball turkey slices. I'm sure they're not slimy, and well well preserved in the good American tradition of anti-slime chemicals. But after the last surprise, salad sounds nice.

Now this little can of wonderful was the first thing I guzzled down at the Dubai airport, and what a fabulous little welcome my tongue received. Who wants a Coke when you can have a Bandung?! While the name sorta reminds me of large animal feces, it's actually a "rose syrup milk drink. Delicious chilled. Shake well." And yes, (I know you're wondering) it's pink on the inside too, as any self-respecting ambrosia should be.

In the last few weeks I've become addicted to the Gulf News. Dad, I know this makes you proud, and yes, I've even started clipping. I swore I would never be a chronic clipper. But I also never expected to find articles about the price of trendy sacrificial sheep during the Eid holidays. Yes, really. If you want to waste some MORE time, click on the image. It should blow up big enough to read. The little tidbit to the right..."Keeping slaughter legal" is not about banning animal sacrifice. It's about making sure the QUALITY of the animal getting knocked off, is right where it should me. So, if you're a sheep, better to be a good for nothing rebel sheep, the black sheep in the family, if you will. 'Cause if you're a goody-goody sheep with a 4.0 and nice manners and bows in your hair, you're basically screwed.

Kinda sorta like south beach

It was an evening for sunsets on the beach, and fabulous 360 degree views from a little club/restaurant at Jumeirah Beach Hotel called.....wait for it.....360. If you want to drink in Dubai you have to go to a hotel. It's the rules. If you want to use ichat, You have to go to another country. It's the rules. So 360 it was, and the view was fab. It almost felt like I was back in South Beach. Except the salsa music was missing, and the women weren't quite busty enough. But I could pretend.

These decorated camels are all over Dubai, following the trend of painted cows in Denver and painted Pigs in Seattle. I think Dubai wins for best critter choice. They're just plain sexy.

I am the proud owner of Arabic Toothpaste! Don't get too excited though. It tastes the same.

And this little SUV was just begging for some attention. Only in Dubai. Note the Sheikh in the sexy sunglasses on the right. Rarr.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mushy like a peep

The last two weeks are mushy. They've melted in my head like two marshmallow peeps you'd find melted in your car, sometime in July. Milk goes bad here, rather quickly. Who cares? Well, I did this morning when my swiss granola was very slightly on the sour side. Barely noticeable. Poor little granola chunks of sweetness. They didn’t deserve that. But I found a place to live which totally makes up for the milk that went down the drain. That was part of today's scramble. Went and looked at a couple more rooms from my new Lebanese landlord friend. I’ll have a nice little room in a nice little villa available sometime next week, complete with fresh paint! Ah, sweet fumes of freshness. And it’s on the BEACH. About a ten minute drive from the new office, that sits in the shadow of the Burj Dubai (that phallic skyscraper that's been all over the news? Yeah, that one.)
But back to cooler things, like my VILLA and how it's 100 meter walk from the sand, with a haphazard collection of international folks like myself happily dwelling inside and cooking with GARLIC. It's across the street from a Mosque, and down the street from the big ex-pat grocery store, a bank, and I’m not sure what else. Dubai might actually start to feel like a real town in a real country, and less like a mall. Phew.

I think I’ve been hit by a train. No. A turbo charged camel caravan. They came through the office at some point today, and ran me over. It wasn’t just the day, or the scramble for this villa, or the 50 briefs getting thrown in the air, or the agency meeting, where it became clear that I was going to be on every live project known to man, cause apparently all the writers are taking December off. It is December, so this isn’t surprising. But somehow in the midst of getting my health back, and my head screwed back on straight, I was able to get out and wander along Dubai Creek (think grand canal of old Dubai) So by old, it probably means they built it sometime last week, but so it goes.

So I had my first sleazy flirty old Arab encounter in the pool last night. he was very round, and very talkative, and kept high fiving me, with his greasy hands. He looked like the monopoly man! Note to self: Always say you're married. Always. Even to an Egyptian Monopoly man.

"You have boyfriend in Dubai? Haha! Now you have boyfriend in Dubai! High five! You have husband? No? Pretty girl like you, no husband? Now you have husband! Haha! High five! You come to Cairo. I show you good time!"

I bet. Don't get me wrong. He wasn't rude, or offensive. Just jolly, and very very hard to get rid of. I'm not sure how to be civil and polite without encouraging. I never knew the Monopoly man was Egyptian. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Just duck underwater and keep swimming.

Some weekend fun!

Milos, Deger and I went for lunch on Dubai Creek before Milos took us for the grand romp around the city last weekend. After a week of jet lag and general confusion that goes with being on the other side of the planet, after staring blankly at the Durhams in my wallet with very little comprehension, while coughing up a lung, without any sense of direction, or any desire to drive and get my confused ass creamed behind the wheel, this helped. A lot.

The construction is just a token of what's going on here. They're building whole micro highrise cities, all at once. This is a small little residential area near The Greens. I think. Which is actually green. Oh, and that blurry shot. My first camel. Granted, it was all decked out for the tourists in front of Jumeirah Madinat, this gorgeous resort modeled after a traditional Arab Souk. He crossed at the crosswalk, like every good camel should.

The International film festival is also in full swing. Deger found a documentary flick about a Gypsy Music Road Trip through the US, that had me weeping in my beanbag. It was free. It was outside in the middle of Media City, and we watched it from a sea of beanbag chairs. It was beautiful. So naturally, my camera battery died, but not before Deger could show all of us how delighted he was with his sandwich.