Tuesday, December 2, 2008

1 year in Dubai. 1 list of tipsy randomness.

1. drunk. No. To be fair, tipsy.
2. i have officially been in Dubai, exactly 1 yEAR.
3. tipsy :)
4. already said...more on that later.
5. No tycoons. No camel race victories, however, have found camels. Wild ones. Rode one. Not wild. Triumph.
6. i should put this on da blog.
7. i like artichokes. haven't had one since i arrived. but that's not dubai's fault. i blame the artichoke, for being such a second thought vegetable.
9. is an artichoke a vegetable?
10. What if, by going to the other side of the planet, I've become a second thought vegetable?
11. Turkey day involved splendid turkey, prepared by the American-Cuban-Spanish-Southern-Boston dude, who's really just American. He just insists on claiming all the extra baggage too, but can cook a mean turkey. Mucho stuffing made by the fabulous Turkish dude. more folks from random nations, including but not limited to Syria, Philippines, Atlanta (a nation in itself) Canada, Egypt, France and probably a couple others I've forgotten. please refer to number 1 and 3. Wow that was long.
12. Russel Peters was HYSTERICAL tonight, as was his opener, Oz something who Iv'e heard of before, laughed with (not at) before but can't come up with the rest of his name for obvious reasons...
13. elipsi are cool...screw you, professor...ad teacher types. What did the poor ellipsis ever do to you to deserve all the hate?
13. The two Stella afterwards proved yet again that I'm a terrible lightweight.
14. This is a very long top ten list.
15. It's National Day tomorrow. No work. Lots of green white and red stuff, everywhere. NO WORK!
16. Dubai is not in Iraq, for anyone still wondering. Catch up, USA.
17. Beach is good. Straw cowboy hat for beach is good. Good is good. Sleep is good. Running out of laundry detergent is bad, but not nearly as bad as turned milk. Comedy is good. Cultural comedy, making fun of accents in the most accented, culturally integrated place in the world is simply AWESOME.
18 A roommate just came home with a random girl. Great. Or weird. I'm not sure.
19. Tomorrow's National Day! No work!
20. This is an exceptionally long top ten list. Double the list, double the pleasure, double the typos, double the realization that a year ago today I was in a plane on my way to Dubai. And yes, the beach is still beautiful. Oh turquoise splendid refreshingness, i will see you tomorrow....after a nice little run along the walk. Am I spoiled or what?
21. "Splendid" is British. I am not British. That word is annoying, and yet I over use it like an unintentional pretentious snob. (Barfs in the corner...and not from the Stella.) 1 round of apologies, on me.
22. Between the Russel Peters show and BarZar for beers at Madinat Souk, we passed an African midget...aka....exceptionally exceptional short person with a very dark complexion, IN a Dishdash, in a city with very few of all the above mentioned...the odds. Unbelievable. The remainder of the evening was uneventful, save for the random bloke who tried to pick up a couple girls we were with, with his cell phone.
Bloke: (with big ears and cell phone in hand. Big ears weren't in hand. Cell phone was.) Do any of you happen to know how to spell reciprocity...
(or some equally absurd word to text, while clearly not terribly certain about what it means, much less how to use it in a sentence.) BUT the line worked. He got this Irish girl's number by time she left. Unbelievable.
22. German word for nipple, when back translated = breast wart. hehe. Way to go German. You've always had a way with romance. Oh wait. That would be the romantic languages. Never mind. Good effort though. Good effort.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

the great camel encouner

With fall came the clouds
the cool breezes, wild camels, and visiting friends from the far reaches of the planet. With fall also came the economic belly dance that leaves everyone a little bit confused–hopeful one day, as the economy's teasing hips sway towards you, then back away, gyrating until you have to find the horizon to steady yourself. Everyday I start work with the New York Times. And almost every day, the economic outlook is different. The Market's looking up. The economy's in the toilet. No it's not. Oh wait, yes it is, and someone flushed. And the dance goes on. With fall, came a global celebration as relief ripples from the Obama epicenter, across the pond to the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and probably a few undiscovered tribal islands somewhere in Micronesia.

Regardless of how hopeful, or disappointed or confused you feel, I invite you to set the small politics aside. Forget about your party. Forget about pro-choice or pro-life. Forget about race. Forget about taxes. Forget about oil. Forget about health care. Even forget about the economy, just for a moment, and consider this:
In the last eight years, I've been out of the country...a lot. And on Wednesday, November 5th, for the first time in close to eight years, the United States was not hated. How do I know?

In my agency, we probably have close to 30 nationalities represented. (I didn't count. Everyone's really from everywhere. When folks say that about Dubai, they're not kidding. Really. This is basically a little snow globe of the globe. minus the snow. Okay, maybe it's more of a sand globe.)

My British roommate, woke me up, banging my bedroom door down with the news. At work that Wednesday, my many-nation office celebrated. People congratulated me as if I has singlehandedly put Obama in office. The Iranian guy high-fived me. We did a happy dance.
In the weeks leading up to the election, they wanted to know who I was voting for. Why was I voting for him. Why wasn't I voting for the other? What did I think of the running mates? How biased was the media in the states? Was I biased? Who did I think would win and why? The Egyptian chap I sit next to was probably more informed and unbiased in forming his opinions than the average American. On Tuesday the entire planet watched. On Wednesday, they celebrated, not just an election. They celebrated a new leader of the free-world who they wanted to talk to, instead of punch. The global community knows all too well, that whatever the U.S. does, it will have a direct impact on them, while they're the mercy of the American voters, many of which (through no fault of their own) have never been off American soil. The little sand-globe here, celebrated the U.S. President Elect as if he was their own. They were celebrating the United States, not hating it.

Fall in Dubai, didn't bring gold and red leaves. There's no hot cider, no nip in the air, no corn mazes, no pumpkin patch day-trips. There's no Annie's Mac and Cheese. There are no snow dusted peaks. There are spectacular sand dunes, truckloads of hummus, rad friends, Krispy Kreme Donuts...

And of course, camels! Wild ones!

As you drive out into the desert towards Al Ain, the sand gets softer and redder. Looks like paprika. Doesn't taste like paprika though. Trust me.

The great dune trek. Just add epic soundtrack.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice has competition. He's tall, Turkish, cooks amazing Thanksgiving stuffing and stuffed mushrooms, and could out sorcerer Mickey Mouse in a second. But he wouldn't. He's too nice for that.

360 degrees of sea breezes and mood lighting

360: Trendy club at the end of a jetty just next to the Burj Al Arab (that hotel. Yeah, that one.) It's round, glam, with a 360 view (duh), beer, Shisha, and with the right people, it's chill and fun. In this case, the people were great, the beer was cold, and the shisha smelled of grape to go with the purple mood lighting. An odd-cool mix of creatives from the agency, an amazing Austrian photographer his amazing producer and an amazing friend from ad school. Awesome.

On the way into 360. You can see the jetty in the background, and of course the over rated, over publicized Burj Al Arab.

Trey and Sheik Bin Elephante face off at a shop at Madinat Souk.

Lucky for Trey, his Royal Elephantness wasn't prepared for the green curry.

From the top of the Emirate Towers.
This little bar at the top of the city reminds me of Lost in Translation. Shelly says it reminds her of Shanghai. I'm not sure what I remind her of, but it can't be good. Perhaps, terrifying.

Say 'Prune'
Fake glam poses for a glam place. Oh fab. Um...where are my Birkenstocks? Hm. A picture of the view would have been nice here. Maybe I'll add it later.

Coming soon....Tales of more camels and Shisha at Bab Al Shams.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Epiphanies from the Chic Side

Epiphany #1
Celebrity horse jockey, Frankie Dettori owns a fancy little Italian restaurant on "The Walk" at Jumeirah Beach Residence. Naturally, if something is fancy, my instinct is to just throw on some heels with whatever else I happen to be wearing, and it usually works out all right. Well, Frankie's is fancy, in that the raviolis are still ravioli's, but there aren't very many of them, they just cost a little bit more, and odds are, the company you're with tends to be a little bit fancier as well. So, good thing my heels did their job and spruced up the little denim skirt just fine. The thing is though, "The Walk" is cobbled, making my journey between cafe di Roma and Frankie's a complete pain-in-the-ass. And that's when it struck me: Cobbles and heels are stupid together, which is funny, considering shoe makers and fixers are called cobblers.

Epiphany #2
When you go out to dinner with fancy people, at a fancy little restaurant, in a fancy little city like Dubai, where shiny is in, and most everyone around you knows the difference between this season and last season's Gucci, always, always order from the expensive side of the menu. If one person orders drinks, order your own drink. Hell, order two. Here's why. If you're at said restaurant with said fancy people, and if you go, thinking you can order on the conservative side, and have a nice experience without going broke, you're wrong. You're wrong because some twat at the opposite end of the table is bound to say, "lets just split the bill," probably because that person feels a little bit too tipsy to care, and doesn't want to deal with doing 3rd grade math. As a creative who managed to turn the math side of my brain off a few years back, even I would be perfectly capable and willing to do it. I've got a brain, and a pencil and a phone with a calculator function. Bring it. Send the bill down to my end. It might take a while, but I'm ready and willing to tell you exactly how much you owe. Just don't expect the one kid at the table not wearing this season's LV or DG or P or G to cover your lazy-ass extravagant ordering habits. It's okay. I'm over it. The moral of the story? Order expensive, and let the rich assholes cover the difference. Sure Babycakes, lets split the bill. Better yet, if you're rolling in it, why don't you just cover my sirloin and 4 martinis, and we'll call it even. Cause clearly, while you're feeling lazy about a little bit of simple arithmetic, I'm thinking about how the economy's going down the toilet back home. Maybe you won't know the difference, but I will. And then on the way back home...there were those confounded cobbles again, trying to devour my heels for dessert.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eid Mubarak y'all!

Eid ended the month long Ramadan fast a day sooner than we expected! Woot! The moon did its lunar thing, and the guy who goes and looks at the moon did his thing, and bam, I get a text message from work last night at ten with the joyous news that Eid's begun. It's a great festivus of eating! No work! It's like a snow day, only longer, and no snow, with an Islamic backstory I understand better than I did, say, a year ago, but still don't know nearly enough about it. What I do know, is the crazy shop hours, and all the closed cafes, and perpetual fear that I'll forget about Ramadan and take a swig of water on the street, is over. Sidewalk cafes are open during daylight hours agian! We can eat lunch IN the restaurants, as opposed to mandatory takeout.

Among the ex-pats, it seems like there's some mixed feelings about the Ramadan thing here. If so many people in Dubai are not practicing Muslims, then why should we be subjected to the closed restaurants etc? Isn't the point of fasting during the daylight hours, to test your willpower, and deny yourself temptation until sunset? So then if there's no temptation, what's the point? While I get this school of thought, I don't agree with it.

I don't care how much you stuff your face when you get up for the 4am prayer. After that, no food or drink till sunset is brutal. There's a reason they shorten the hours of work. Even when I eat breakfast, if I don't eat lunch, the talons come out by 2. You don't need other people wafting their butter chicken in your face. Not to mention, we're all guests in an Islamic nation. And the place is super liberal, with the bars, and the clubs, and an open minded attitude that lets me feel comfortable wearing a strappy tanktop to work and a bikini on the beach. The least we can do is endure a month of slight inconvenience during their holy month. I mean, it's sacred, and if it's not your style of sacredness, fine. Appreciate the nice tax break. We have very little to complain about. But I AM glad it's over, so I can coffee shop my heart out night AND day. Yay Eid!

I moved. It was a villa thing.

It was a co-habitation thing. Another hiccup from the conservative side of Dubai. The villa-shares in Jumeirah are complicated. Otherwise known as illegal, as they're making Jumeriah a family place, and "letting" the single debaucherous ex-pats migrate to Marina, or the Greens. And I don't think it's so much that they want Jumeirah to be family only, or that they're really so concerned about single people of the opposite sex living under one roof to save money. I think it may be more an effort to get the ex-pats to bring these newer areas to life. Fill 'em up fast, get retail business rolling. But this is all theory. Either way, the police are laying down the smack, shutting the share's down, and while there are a few folks in my villa who blew the lid off awesomeness, everything happens for a reason. 'Cause now I have MARINA to explore, complete with a GORGEOUS beach, little restaurants and shopping plazas, an Italian coffee shop with an ocean view (YUM) all in walking distance, not to mention the 5 swimming pools within a 3 minute walk. If I wasn't working my ass off, I'd consider myself officially spoiled.

The new backyard.

Jumeriah Beach Residence is big. It's not just one tower, it's many. It's not just one plaza with towers surrounding it, there are a lot of those too. I fondly call it Gotham City. When you catch the lighting right, these towers feel cartoonishly foreboding, looming overhead. Yes, this WHOLE thing is part of the same complex. It's huge, it's beige, and the longer I live here, the more it grows on me, in an UN-mildewy sort of way.

Just one piece of JBR = the tall beige towers behind the palm trees. The squarish hotel isn't that old, but they're tearing it down anyway, so they can put something glam up in its place.

The contrast between finished spaces filling up with life and the raw manic construction still impresses me. This is a fountain on the second floor plaza level of JBR, looking across the beach towards The Palm. Just to the left of this photo is a Krispy Kreme, which requires a double dose of will power. So far we're batting a 50 percent average, and during Ramadan, when everything but the grocery store was closed all day long, a dark KK was just depressing. I'm much happier using my own willpower than Islam's. But seeing that I'm a guest in an Islamic country, who am I to complain? At least my God wants me to eat :) When the sky isn't so hazy, you can easily see the Atlantis at the end of The Palm, from this fountain, (or Krispy Kreme's delicious windows).

If you turn around from this little fountain, head across the plaza, you'll cross a road and a bridge over the marina channel, and end up at Marina Walk: plenty of coffee, overpriced restaurants, pretty views of yachts, sweet jumpy fountain you can play in and get drenched, some nice walk-side shesha places, and of course...Johnny Rockets. Oh, sweet succulent chocolate malts, how I love thee. AND I just found out the legendary Fudruckers of my childhood just opened up a mere five minute walk from my front door. For those of you un-familiar with the best hamburgers in the world, familiarize yourself. You won't regret it. I just hope this one lives up to my nostalgic standard, but on the other side of the planet you never can tell. KFC here?...lets just say the Colonel would roll over in his grave.

Marina Walk
I ended up here the other day, lost, trying to find the one coffee shop in Marina that was supposedly open during daylight hours during the holy month of Ramadan. They all fast like manics. I found it in time for it to be...closed for a couple hours before they opened again at 6 pm. Oh Iftar.

And then one morning in the midst of the late summer heat, came the haze.

When the breeze kicks up and the sky turns an opaque haze, blurring the distinction between the skyscrapers and the skies they scrape, Timeout Dubai says the sun is hiding. The shadows are there, but dim. And while it’s technically sunny out, the odd glowing coin in the sky looks more like a paper cut out pasted against a set backdrop to the stage that is Dubai.
In the spring, the windstorms bring a shift in weather. With each storm comes a new wave of heat. But now in mid-September, there aren’t any drifts of beach sand piling across Jumeirah Beach Road. The sun just gets a little bit shy, and the mornings wake up a little bit cooler. The nights though are heavy with water, so my jeans stick to my legs as we go swimming through the humidity. Sweat beads in my cleavage, but it’s finally just cool enough that I don’t mind. I don’t mind a bit because I can finally sit outside all evening with friends over Moroccan green tea and Krispy Kreme donuts (talk about a brilliant mashing of cultures) and welcome the condensation on your skin because the breeze that comes with it, is finally just cool enough to wish the heat away.

A sea plane! just like Seattle, only not at all like Seattle in so many ways.

work hard play hard, and scribble like a maniac
Ramadan makes everyone a little crazy. Those who are fasting, are, well, hungry-crazy till sunset. Then after Iftar, they're crazy-full. the post-fast belly, is truly "tight like a drum" and it reverberates like any decent timpani. And then the happy person said tummy's attached to, falls asleep in a happy little ball of digestion.

Those who are not fasting go a little stir-crazy. In my case I had "sympathy hunger." I've never been so hungry at around 4 pm, as I was during Ramadan. I blame the fasters in our office. They couldn't eat or drink, but shared their parched hunger with me via osmosis. I had to go stuff my face on their behalf. Lasagna with your tea? Yes please, and I'll take that side salad too.
Then there's the stir-crazy rebellion. This time it involved a house party, some fruit punch, and....MAGIC MARKERS! If I'd understood the full potential of these magic wands of color as a kid, I'm sure I would have turned out about the same, but with a little more trouble mixed in. Lucky for my parents, I'm a late bloomer, so now they get to endure images of me with some orange cock n' balls scribbled across my forehead floating about on the internets. All of them. Good thing I was coloring inside the lines at the time, and good thing we know to color outside the lines now. Sadly, the camera didn't come out till we hit the elevator on our way out around 4 am.

Rad friends + magic markers = tomfoolery of awesomeness.
(The fact that my spell-check just fixed how I spelled awesomeness, is awesome.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

And with June came the humidity

A little narrative excerpt...

And they rose up out of the sea. Some said it was the heat, that it could trick the eyes. Some said it was simply humidity hanging thick in the air. But I knew it was more than that. The Gulf itself would send her men crawling up the shore, stepping out of the waves to wrap their arms around the palms, to kiss the woman who floated across the expansive sand on the wings of her Abaya. And the few cars parked at that hour out on the open beach would never see them pass. Headlamps, you see, only illuminating the obvious. Yes sir, the humidity came. It crawled across the sands and into the unsuspecting arms of Jumeirah. It crawled under the villa gates, over the villa walls and across the hidden gardens and courtyards within. The men of the gulf crawled out of the jolly rancher sea and poured their hearts around the half built skyscraper shells of Marina and Business Bay. They smothered the sandy beige of the desert and dusty greens of Safa Park till the grass and brittle palm fronds glistened. The flying lights down the city’s artery, Sheik Zayed Road, pushed through the clutches of the humidity, unaware. The men rose from the surf and made sweet illicit love to the neurotic empire until the construction lights grew into vast holy halos in the night, until the city of Dubai was illuminated by it’s own hungry construction, glowing as if it had already sunk into the sea.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Days of randomness

What's more random than giant bugs, shesha, graffiti, wine bars, pissed camels, the great grocery caper, evil Betty Boop, and of course, jellyfish.

Jumeirah Madinat Souk...aka cool market that actually does justice to Arab architecture.
I like. This place is a maze. It took me a good 20 minutes of circling just to find a Starbucks I'd visited quite a few times before. And no, it's not my crap sense of direction. I have a splendid sense of direction, thank you very much.

Freaky evil Betty Boop.

View of the Burj Al Arab over the Madinat Hotel rooftops. Any self respecting...anything has a hotel attached. Madinat Souk is no exception.

Outside there's a walkway lined with overpriced restaurants and bars. But the atmosphere is worth it. The crappy service is not. But it wouldn't be Dubai without "leisurely" service.

Beach day with Milos and fam...
Totally over exposed. Yes, it was THAT bright out. but I sorta like how surreal and floaty it looks :) It was also the day of the tentacle-less jellyfish! The girls collected them off the beach, cramming them into a plastic grocery bag, because that's the most obvious thing to do with a washed up jellyfish carcass. Save it for later.

Awesomeness. They're like crazy tough blobs of J-ello, and fun to poke with your finger.

Different beach, different day, different mood. Sunset. Shesha. Beer. Not sun-burnt, preceded by a dissapointing buffet with nasty sweet Sangria that may or may not have had an liquor in it. (A good reason to hit one of the awesome-decadent buffets later on.) Good day though, complete with a view of hump-less camels cruising for tourists on the Marina beach. Isvel and Intern-Dave thought it'd be fun to go say hi to our camel friends. Here's Dave's splendid recap. Oh, sweet eloquence. Sing to me, Dave.


Nice kicks, eh? Everyone loves a hip cameltoe.

The new Westin is open. And we approve. Good wine bar. Good vodka bar. Cool funky hump-beds.

Comfy red lounges. Awesome friends.

Oh happy happy wine, you make me blush.


Notice how the giant grasshopper nearly fills half the brick. We had a nice chat, then went our separate ways, both marginally traumatized.

In the land of TWAB

Daryl tries to block out the world. Big headphones = heavenly solitude.

Mural art in the making. Forget big brother....Buddy Holy is watching you.


Every self-respecting art-falcon carries his own camels.

Then one day the chickens hopped their villa wall and set out down Jumeirah Beach Road. Like good little pedestrian chickens, they used the crosswalk.

BJ Services anybody?

This is a screen inside our elevators at work. It shows you what sort of happy surprises you'll find on each floor. The folks on the 3rd floor have yet to move in, but as you might imagine, we're all eager to see just what line of business they're in.

Never trust a pizza place that brings your silver sealed in tacky smiley face plastic.

A lot of the trucks that carry scary fluids around...anything from sewage, to gas, to camel milk, to lord knows what...are all decked out like it's Christmas. This is a wee bit blurry, but you can still see how colorful it is. The cement trucks are usually red and white, where you'd expect peppermint candies to come flowing down the chute.

I have no idea what they use these trailers for, but the walls are made of reeds or palm or something of the sort. This one is parked a few blocks from my place, outside the compound wall of a palatial villa.

This is how folks here announce an engagement. I *think* this is the bride's house.

Camelicious...not so licious
The Sheik owns this brand, and all the lactating camels. I hear he has a thing for camel milk. I was curious. I tried it. I will not be trying it again. It comes in three equally disgusting flavors: Regular, Saffron, and Strawberry.

Parmesan? Tacky camel picture frame? Jesus?

Yoghurt. Guaranteed homemade. Guaranteed sterility.

The Sultan grew these mushrooms just for me. Direct from the Sultanate of Oman. Crazy weird.

Beach art

One of the big real estate developers here held a marble carving competition among some international artists. From what the security guy told me, they were trying to reflect something of the Arab culture, or desert gulf setting. Here are some of the results. There's a whole new lineup of these bits of misguided rock outside our office building. That are even uglier than these.

Your guess is good as mine.

There's not very much tagging or graffiti around Jumeriah. Maybe it has something to do with living within meters of the Chief of Police, who I understand is also part of the royal family. Any big government title stays in the fam.

Speaking of the Royal family, you can spot them by their license plates. The lower the number the more important they are. I imagine this particular number went to someone super special.

Meet my new mascot, The Ferocious Chiwawa. Rarr. If it's a crap day at work, she growls on my behalf.