Monday, January 14, 2008

His Royal Bushness

After the best spinach salad of my natural born life, the rain stopped enough for the traffic to get through the puddles and for me to finally make my way back to Jumierah Beach. After my first futile attempt to catch a cab in the construction mud and downpour, Moore Cafe was the perfect place to stuff my face and wait it out. I really should have known better than try to escape work on time, today of all days. Even in our typical perfect weather, without world super powers showing up, it’s a challenge.

The Emaar Towers are still in the middle of the black hole of construction surrounding Business Bay and Burj Dubai.

Emar Towers cowering under Burj Dubai, His Royal Tallness.

Here he is again, shot from the the grassy
square in front of the new office.

The grassy square

The black hole of construction. The building to the far
right is home to Moore Cafe, and my new favorite salad.

For those who drive, it’s no big deal getting in and out of the building, once you know your way. I'm still cabbing it, so I leave my building, walk around to the front, past another Emaar Tower, then onto the dirt construction road, past the construction workers (about 100 meters or so) and out to the main street. The construction guys thought it was a fabulous hoot watching me hop through the mud this evening, trying to avoid the puddles and splash from passing cement trucks, and cheered me on accordingly. I think I’m glad I couldn’t understand them. On the Emaar side of the road, there are very few cabs, and luckily there are frequent breaks in the traffic, where I can cross the three or four lanes, hurdle the construction barrier into the median, cross to the other side, where I’m safely in the oasis of expensive hotel, grocery store, pharmacy, a puddle large enough to hide the Loch Ness Monster, little cafes and the decadent Moore CafĂ© of bottomless soups, fresh muddled mint and lemon sodas, a rebellious tea pot, and the best spinach salad known to man. Friends, THIS is why the chicken crossed the road.

Bottomless soup at Moore Cafe. I obviously buried my face
Lentil Lamb soup on a slightly brighter day. Delicious.

Despite salad and a nice meeting with creative at the agency, the day sucked, and for no particular reason. It was all thankless work that had left my control days before, to the point that we didn’t even have time for a production brief, and the client had approved voices in Arabic that I hadn’t heard. Of course after I’d heard them, I would have had nothing to comment on anyway, not knowing what normal Arabic intonation sounds like, but they were all right I guess. The scripts had been demolished to 45 seconds of poo anyway, so it’s not like we were still pulling for something award worthy. At this point, it's more a matter of having something approved to put on the air. This was also accompanied by inexplicable exhaustion, since the coffee and tea never managed to kick in. SOMEONE had a sever case of the Sundays.

Yes. The workweek starts on Sunday. The coveted phrase, “Thank God its Friday” translates to “Thank Allah it’s Thursday.” But Thursday will have to wait, because Dubai is still treading water in the torrential downpours and mutilated traffic. And tomorrow the traffic will be worse. Not because of rain, mind you. Because of George Bush.

The American media will probably give the whole thing a cute spin. Oh, how nice. Dubai declared Monday a national holiday, all because George Bush came to town. They love him THAT much. Really, it’s a traffic issue. It took some people two hours to get to work this morning. And this was when Bush was in Abu Dhabi. A different Emirate. A different city that’s about an hour away. Tomorrow he’s in Dubai and will screw up all major roads so much, that the city will basically be paralyzed for the entire day. Why? Because any road His Royal Bushness wanders down, has to be closed for…a while. An all-day-while. This includes Sheikh Zayed Road. It’s the major thoroughfare through Dubai, It’s the main Artery, (the Aorta if you want to get nerdy about it.)

Sheikh Zayed Road. Ten years ago, none of this was here.

People drive like Satan’s riding their bumper down the Sheikh Zayed Aorta. So it’s no wonder they're closing it. I guess security has something to do with it too, but Bush would probaby wet his pants in the Sheikh Zayed traffic, which could be embarrassing. My mother would wet her pants. Anyone’s mother would wet their pants. But he could always say he had a problem with the hose in the toilet to save face. The Prez's people booked the presidential suite (big surprise) at the Burj Al Arab, AND the Madinat, just to keep us Dubizzle dwellers guessing. Lets not talk about how many Pakistani families he could feed with that wasted room rate.

That little blurry speck behind the fishing
boats is the Burj Al Arab, all lit up and pretty.

When I went for my run this evening down Jumiera Beach Road, then out onto the open beach right near the villa, it occurred to me, what with the time of evening, odds are Bush is out on his private little balcony, or facing his bulletproof glass view, just down the beach, staring at the same bit of ocean I am. That’s a little bit weird.

The beach, at night, at low tide, is hypnotizing. It’s bigger than a droopy attitude, it’s bigger than ads, or deadlines, or a poor nights sleep. It's bigger than politics and Bible thumping politicians, or Koran thumping politicians. It just makes everything right again. And thanks to the last couple days of rain, there are actually WAVES. Not Pacific Coast Style, but nice little waves. Okay, they’re pathetic. But at low tide they roll into the shallows at an angle, so it looks like an invisible hand is pulling a string at the edge of the breaker, causing it to unravel down the length of the beach. It’s fast, and despite the smallness of the surf, the precision and speed makes it all the more powerful looking. I want to go play in it. I bet Bush does too. Who wouldn't?

You know, the funny thing about the surf here, the waves are normally tiny, and there’s nothing Dubai can do about it. In the land of bigger than biggest, and bester than the bestest, and shiniest and fanciest and tallest, in this place where absolute is king, and nature is something to muck around with, and invent islands, making the soil itself rise up from the ocean floor with a flick of a royal checkbook, they can’t do anything about their puny little waves. That makes me giggle.

I’m excited about my unexpected day off. I found out about it around 4pm, right when my brain decided it was done for the day, and flicked the off switch. Perfect timing. I’m also excited about a little shift in creative and some new projects to dig into. So the happy-go-lucky day of Bush means, when I wake up, I can go for another run, jump in the ocean and mess up those little waves. If anything, I appreciate His Royal Bushness for that. I can't believe it's raining again. Welcome to Dubai, George. Pardon our puddles. We forgot to install the drainage system.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The villa

So, right around Christmas I jumped down the rabbit hole into a pitch and am just now coming up for air. Granted, my brain feels a bit like hummus now. But a two hour walk on the beach, checking out Poseidon's rubbish at low tide, and curling up in my cozy little room with hot tea afterwards can do wonders for girl. So now I can get back to contemplating uber (with an umlaut) important things, like my new bathroom. Why? Because each bathroom keeps getting better. And for better or worse, this one is all mine. Behold. A hose AND a "bo-day." It turns out that a "bo-day" not only looks very worldly, but it's also the perfect place to wash beach sand off your feet! This bit of porcelain will be well used by yours truly.

Now the hose is another matter entirely. It turns out the last one, "Super Soaker 2000," was just the training wheels. But I was inexperienced and innocent still. And on the first day in the toilet paper. Naturally. I'd just arrived. The hose looked innocent enough, daintily tucked into the corner. It might be nice and refreshing. Refreshing? That would be an understatement. This little twat could blast your entire backside all the way to Egypt. NASA should come over and check this thing out. They could learn a thing or two. From here on out, this public enemy will be known as "Sonic Boom." Water in the toilet bowl? Lets just say it got displaced. the hair on my HEAD got wet! I'm not kidding! I had to change my SHIRT. I'm sure you're all relieved to know that the water pressure good.

A villa. Not a house. I'm not exactly sure what the difference is, except there are a few separate buildings and sections, and a big wall around all of it. But then again, anything here that isn't an apartment, is called a villa. So who knows.

I'm missing photos of the living room and kitchen. I'll add em later. They're all right. Nothing earth shattering. Not really places I'll spend a lot of time either.

I'm sneezing distance from two mosques. This one I can see from my room. Naturally both mosques broadcast their prayers at exactly the same time. I mean, Allah's a busy guy. He has to stay on schedule. This COULD sound amazing if their voices went together, or if their different prayers harmonized somehow. But they don't. At all. And the closer, louder one sounds more like a baritone cat has been stuffed inside a tuba, than an actual human being, singing to God. If a baritone cat actually found itself stuffed inside a tuba, I'm sure he'd have a few words for God anyway. So maybe it's appropriate. Regardless, I don't know what Allah did to deserve that kind of serenade, but it couldn't of been good.

No matter if it's a crazed deep-voiced cat, or just a dude blowing his nose into the microphone, it's loud enough to entertain the good folks on the other side of the Arabian Gulf. And despite getting jarred awake at 6 am, I kind of like it. It's weird. It's foreign. It's this cool reminder that there is some seriously loud culture right across the street, that has nothing to do with shopping, or ads, or fancy cars, or malicious toilet hoses. However, I would appreciate Allah a little bit more if his horn blower could turn it down, just a little bit.

To the best of my knowledge, the main mosque is for the men. Notice the big windows, and chandeliers inside. Notice the low roof, and lack of windows in the next photo, the prayer area for women. Granted, I know I lack context, but we're talking about PRAYER here, not equal pay, not voting rights, not objectification in the media. If you want to chill out with Allah, and you're a woman, you have a tiny little box without light. If you want to talk to Allah and you're a dude, You get a palace. I have some questions for Mohamed. We'll start with, WTF?

An amendment: After this little tirade in my head, I felt, well, ignorant. So I asked a friend at work, why? His answer was pretty obvious. Women tend to pray at home. So there's no need to use up a lot of space and expense when it won't get much use. Makes sense. So, why are women at home all the time? Is this by choice? Do they go to each other's villa's and bring the kids party it up while the men are away? Is this a June Cleaver thing? It really wasn't that long ago that western women were pretty much the Sheikhs of the household, so it's pretty hypocritical for us to judge. (Lets just not get into the whole multiple wives thing just yet. We'll save that for another day of ignorance and misunderstanding.) How come prayer is a social activity for men, and a solitary one for women? Considering the faith is the same, why the different style of worship? What about kids? When do they get pulled into the club? There's nothing like another country to yank your head out of the sand and show you how little you know. It can make a girl tired. Or hungry for more hummus.