Monthly Archives: November 2010

Hot tubbing, desert style


I grew up in the middle east… and, of course, we had a hot tub.  Not really the first body of water you imagine fantasizing about on a hot day.  Still, it was water.  I was in college.   We hot tubbed.

Christmas break.  We were home from school, eating well, visiting old friends, sleeping in (or just sleeping off the jet lag).  It was inevitable that the parties would commence.  You would think that parties in a dry country (by dry, I mean alcohol free) would be similar to church lock-in’s.  Not the case, and I would know.  I attended more than my fair share of lock-in’s.  Did I find Jesus?  No… but to be fair, I wasn’t looking.  I did find a cute boy.  Actually, I knew he was in that youth group.  That’s really why I went.  I joined a youth group for a cute boy and awesome scavenger hunts.  I never faked the desire for religion again after that.  Lock-in’s become weird when you’re an adult.

ANYWAY!  The parties were a bit more exciting than Twister and Clue.  Did you know that illegal alcohol is much more interesting than legal alcohol?  It’s also a hell of a lot more potent.  People made their own – like during prohibition.  There were stills.  There were explosions.  There was 180 proof moonshine, affectionately named “Siddiqui” or “my friend” in Arabic.   It could make you go blind.  So, we had parties.  A few of which my three surviving brain cells can recall.  After some of those parties, we went to my hot tub.

When it’s hot and you’ve been drinking 180 proof alcohol in a muslim country, you should probably get into a hot tub.

I must premise this with the fact that none of us died, in case you are scared that this story may take a dark turn.  We didn’t lose any friends, but we did lose some clothing.  I will not name names, because someday one of these people may want to run for a government office, and I am counting on selling photos to the National Enquirer to pay for my retirement.   When you are drinking dangerous alcohol, and hot tubbing in the buff, then you should probably have some adventures.  I can’t tell you why this seemed like a good idea, but those few shriveled and dying brain cells failed to stop most of us.

Up on the rooftop, reindeer paws…

That wasn’t what the clop clopping was, that I kept expecting my parents to hear.

I was never brave enough, or my three brain cells were too strong to completely relinquish hold on my sanity.  I never actually made the roof ascent with my friends. Even though there was nudity and alcohol, I was still modest enough to keep my girly parts submerged.  Oh if I could have that early 20 something body back, I’d probably be streaking through the streets instead of typing this.  We had some fun.  Laughing, talking, listening to tapes on the boom box. Dancing on the rooftop.  Making brownies at 3 a.m.

And then my dad got up.

He routinely exercised at around 4 a.m. in Saudi Arabia.  This was because once the sun rose, it was just too damn hot.  Not too hot to hot tub, but certainly too hot to exercise.  There we were, bleary eyed, wrapped in towels, eating brownies.

“Hi, Daddy!”  (I know.  I am embarrassed to admit it, but I still call my parents “mommy” and “daddy”)

“Wow!  You kids are up early!”

um.  well.

“You know.  Jet lag.  We were hungry.  Made brownies.  Have a great bike ride!”

“Those sure do look yummie!  I’d better get out there before the sunrise, though.  See ya later, everyone!”

Whew.  That was our sign that the party was over.  Off to bed.  We repeated the scenario night after night, anyway.

Until the night of the homemade wine.

Oh god.  Never never drink homemade wine that your buddy who is not yet 21 has concocted in his bedroom.  There we were, in our hot tub, after the parents had gone to bed, drinking homemade wine.  Or should I say, liquid bread.  It didn’t taste anything like wine.  It DID taste like yeast.  Of course, our refined palettes didn’t complain too much, it was alcohol after all.  Illegal alcohol, no less.  Bedroom brewed alcohol.  Okay, just give me a glass.  In the morning, as the sun rose, and my dad returned from his bike ride, the sickness set in. I was the first to get it.  The fever.  The chills.  The stomach pain.  URGH!  I discovered that the hot tub had another use!  Thawing out the chills of a yeast borne fever.  By noon everyone had it.  Was it alcohol poisoning?  I doubt it. Food poisoning?  Probably.  We’ll never know.

What do we know?  We know that the boy who thinks he knows how to make wine, should not.  And he should not share it with his friends.  Until it has finished fermenting.

My bubble used to have a hot tub.  Then I grew up.  And had a baby.  Now my bubble has a hot tub at the gym.  I rarely go in it because I’m scared of partially clothed people who are not my intoxicated friends.

If you do go in there, and someone offers you a glass of wine, you should refuse.


The Life-cycle of the Turkey Fart


I remember laughing so hard I nearly peed when my aunt told me, “It’s not like their shit smells any differently than ours!”

I had never in my life heard that expression, and I thought that really summed up the world at large.  I mean, Jennifer Anniston poops.  The Queen of England poops (although, I bet it’s not very often).  Even Oprah poops.  Of course, Oprah probably has some million dollar poop oxidizer in her bowl that instantly turns her turds into flowers that can then be planted at her school in Africa.  Oprah.  She’s just the best isn’t she?  Pooping out flowers.

So, when I think of bodily smells that creep from our orifices, which I obviously think about far too often, I think of farts.  Will I ever reach an age when they don’t make me laugh?  Well, I think that age is around 86.  I know a guy who is 86, and I never hear him laugh when he farts, which is rather regularly. When we are children, we let them fly with pride!  It’s like a craft project we made at preschool!

“I did that!  All by myself!”

When we get to middle school and the teen years we are mortified if one sneaks out and makes a noise that may identify it as our own.  When we get to middle age, we aren’t as embarrassed, but we still don’t claim them with the insurmountable pride of childhood farts.  I think that in our old age, we simply have lost our sense of hearing… and perhaps our sense of smell.  The old guy I know, he walks along, sounding like there’s bongos in his underwear.

“thump, bump, a wump, a wump, plump… thump.”

He doesn’t even look around mischievously.  That surprises me, because I imagine myself at that age, dropping those bombs with a bit of intention.

Certain foods do make different smells, that’s a known fact.  So, maybe Oprah and Jennifer Anniston do smell differently than the rest of us mere mortals.  I imagine they live on emu infused wild Alaskan salmon with sides of caviar encrusted ginger roots.  And calorie free chocolate, injected with vitamin A to make your skin flawless.

I must say that on Thanksgiving my sister and I discovered a new smell.  Well, not a new smell, but we identified an old smell.  Okay, not “old” per se, but “familiar.” We created a scientific theory, based on the not so subtle turkey fart.  We all know the turkey fart.  We have lived through so many Thanksgivings, so many turkeys.  Of course, the turkeys did not live through so many Thanksgivings.

Sorry birdies.

After eating far too much yummie food, and performing the asparagus experiment (eating asparagus and peeing at different intervals to see just how long it takes for your pee to stink – by the way, it takes longer than a minute, and less than an hour.  I was drinking beer and was distracted from my other intervals), we started to experience the need to expel some noxious fumes.  Instead of stepping outside, like Jennifer Anniston might do, or retreating to the bathroom with Oprah to arrange some flowers, my sister and I took two young hostages and locked them in a small room with us.  It was not nice, but these two really had been asking for it.  So we locked them in, with the premise of “playing games.”  Well, we actually did play some games.  But we also created more space in our descending colons by allowing some air to escape.

The smell was intense and putrid, like The Ghost of Turkeys Past was haunting our nostrils, yelling (or gobbling), “How dare you eat me?!  I was young and vibrant, allowed to roam free and eat non-cement based foods.  Still, you cut off my head in your weird celebration.  I am NOT giving thanks to you.  I am giving evil, potent GAS to you!  Take that, stupid humans!!”

We laughed, which confused the hostages, who were already a bit confused by the air assault that was taking place.  They grabbed their game pieces frantically, getting more agitated by the minute.  This made my sister and I laugh harder, which again, forced out more of the stale air.  I stated the obvious, that these farts were like nothing else.  They were heavy and stale and so very smelly.  But they had a strange personality to them.  They did not linger.  It’s like they sprouted legs and crawled upwards towards the birth mother’s nostrils and once inhaled back into the original host, they disappeared again.  Only to be expelled a few minutes later.  A lightbulb went off over my sister’s head.  She excitedly jabbered her new scientific theory, “I’ve got it, it’s the Turkey Fart Cycle.  The Life-cycle of the Turkey Fart!”

I do believe that we’re on to something.  You toot the turkey fart, it leaves the host, is inhaled into the lungs and quickly reabsorbed into the bloodstream where it is turned back into gas.  Then the cycle continues.  We do need to perform some more experiments before we can get it past the “theory” stage, so we’ll keep you posted.

I don’t think our hostages were amused.  They started to rise up against their captors.  We released them before there was any blood shed.  The night ended somewhat peacefully, other than the occasional turkey fart attempting to escape our bubbles with the burning desire to infect other hosts (but being only farts, they don’t realize that they must be ingested by the host via turkey meat).   Instead they were inhaled back into our bodies, as we dreamed of our upcoming fame in the scientific community.  Somehow, some way, the Life-cycle of the Turkey Fart is going to save us from future parasitic nastiness.

Just wait.  You’ll see…

You can call me Grace, but that would be weird.


Something I am not, nor ever have been, is graceful.  Today I braved the gym.  Because the overindulgent holiday of Thanksgiving is coming, and I must exercise ferociously in advance of the upcoming calories.  I must eat, GUILT FREE!  I do something at the gym that clumsy people should never do… the stairmaster.  This is a torture device that a sadistic human created to make us act like we are going up an escalator and never quite reaching the next floor.  I’m sure that by this time in my life, I must have summitted Everest, at the very least.  Of course, I could never really summit Everest because there is hardly any oxygen and climbing icy peaks while reading People magazine is dangerous.

Watching people ascend nothing on the stairmaster is a fascinating pastime.  Some walk, step by laborious step, in obvious boredom, counting down the seconds until their turn is over.  They are the smart ones.  Then there are people who drape themselves over the arm supports and go as fast as they can, thereby defeating the purpose of the machine entirely.  Then there are the runners.  I am not a runner.  I am a tripper, but I manage to get the job done.  I sweat like a professional wrestler.  It’s a lovely experience all around, and after I survived my stint today, I was in serious need of a shower.

As I have previously mentioned in other blogs, my least favorite place on earth is a locker room.  Especially when I am one of the naked people in the locker room.  But there are times it must be done.  I got out of the shower and put on my clothes with the speed of a teenager, interrupted in a compromising position.  Alas, there was another lonesome sole dwelling in the locker room.  She was in the shower, so my modesty was still protected.  I was listening to Blondie on the radio.

Call me!  On the line, you can call me any, any time… call me!

I admit it, my post exercise euphoria was taking over.  I was probably not terribly alert as I grabbed my stuff from my locker, spinning around quickly to stuff it in my gym bag and skadoodle off to work.  I turned.  Hair was in my face.  Blondie was singing in my ears.  All of the sudden, my locker room buddy was right smack in my path.

And there were boobs.

I was off-balance.  I had such great momentum from my brief Blondie rock-out that I couldn’t stop.  I could see them coming.  I made some sort of weird animal groan.

I was falling.  Falling.  And my landing strip was someone else’s boobs.

I must say a little thank you at this point to the genetic gods who made me a bit taller than the average woman, or I would likely have done a face plant.  Into her chest.  Instead, I smacked into those cushions with my hands (one of which was holding my sweaty gym clothes).

“I’m SOOOOOO sorry, oh my god, I’m sorry, I just had such great forward momentum, I was off-balance, I’m soooooo sorry!”

“No problem,” said the topless one.  Really?  Because I would have been in therapy within the hour if it had been me!  As she continued to flit about the locker room, brushing her hair, putting on lotion, and never bothering to cover up her gonzagas, I was hit by a fit of the giggles.  I thought to myself, “why aren’t we both busting up and laughing about this?”  Instead, I covered my face with my towel and exploded in silent fits of laughter until I got a grip.  That grip lasted until I got to the parking lot, where I proceeded to lose it again.  All day I have been cracking myself up over the gracelessness that is me.  Thank you bubble, oh bubble of mine, for filling my life with such unbridled humor.

I guess I should wash my hands.

Joe Camel meets Robert Smith


I had an extremely unusual simultaneous love of Euro Trash music and Heavy Metal, as a young woman.  I still do.  It makes absolutely no sense.  I can pop around to Dead or Alive one minute, and then blast some Guns n’ Roses the next.  Switch from the dead fish dance, to the head banger.  I can’t head bang any more though, it hurts my neck.  My chiropractor has warned me.

My absolute favorite concert in the history of my life was seeing The Cure at the Leysin Rock Festival, in Switzerland, in 1990.

I was so excited the entire day leading up to it, that my stomach started a series of seismic eruptions.  I couldn’t eat.  More importantly, I couldn’t drink.  I was going to see my favorite band of all time, completely sober.  What a blessing that turned out to be, because I remember it!  yay!

We walked down the mountain to the concert arena.  There were massive amounts of people and I promptly lost my group.  Normally, that would stress me out.  Not on this night.  I wormed and wiggled and squirmed and crossed my fingers ferociously that my stomach would behave.

Robert Smith did his silly British floppy dance across the stage, with his geisha-caught-in-the-rain-and-promptly-electrocuted-style make-up and hair.  I couldn’t move.  I was a mere 25 feet away from him.  I stood still while people bounced against my stiff body.  I was transfixed.  I’m sure I looked like a complete loon, eyes bugging out, trying to watch the entire stage at one time, but being constantly drawn to the bouncing white boy in his oversized shoes.

Boy's Don't Cry

When the concert ended, I found the people I had gone there with and I floated back to the dormitory that I was staying in.  I climbed up to my top bunk, put my Greatest Hits tape in my bright yellow Sony Walkman, and I listened to The Cure all night long.  I made a list of each song they sang, in the order they sang it.  I wrote my boyfriend a letter, and shared the playlist with him.  Poor guy.  That was probably not the most endearing love letter.

“I love Robert Smith.  He’s so great.  He was awesome.  I love him.  Oh yeah, I love you, too.”

The next concert I went to was about a year later.  It was Guns n’ Roses.  In Tacoma, Washington.  What a difference.  Instead of walking down the mountain to see some European glory, we drove down the highway in my loaner car to see America’s kings of white trash.  I should have known it would be a strange day in my rain soaked bubble when we started out at the gas station and I proceeded to smash the car door into the gas pump protection post.  Whoops.  That’s why those posts are there.  I made my sister drive.

When we were nearing the Tacoma Dome (no longer in existence) we got stuck.  For a long long time.

Here’s where my penis envy and white trash horror collide.

A man in a car in front of us got out of his car and peed into a bottle.  Right in front of us.  Wow.  I had to pee too.  I hope he remembered to dump it out.  Or do I?

We found our seats in the Tacoma Dome, way up in the nose bleed section.  We had exams that morning, and our friend Amy (who has such an awesome super hero power of falling asleep absolutely anywhere, anytime) promptly laid her head down and started snoring.  My sister and I gawked at the ladies wearing their tiny half shirts and acid wash jeans.  There was even a forty-plus-year old wearing a prom dress.

Americana.  Nice.

To our mounting dismay, the opening band began.  Motorhead.  Have you heard Motorhead?  Well, when I said I was a fan of Heavy Metal, I meant the pop-ish kind of Heavy Metal. Not Motorhead. This was pure noise, with fingernail on chalkboard  undertones.  And screaming.  Wow.  I actually plugged my ears for their entire set.  The next band was Metallica.  I didn’t really like  Metallica until I saw them perform.  They put on a hell of a show.  The mullet sporting dude in front of us thought so, too.  He was fist pumping and head banging.  I was so glad that Amy was awake now, because I had to point out his fabulous jacket.  He was wearing a high school letterman’s style jacket, with Joe Camel on the back.  Underneath the graphic of Joe, instead of saying ‘Joe Camel,’ it said, in bold letters, ‘Camel Toe.‘  Once I pointed that out to the girls, we proceeded to laugh so hard that somewhere under the words ‘Camel Toe’ we managed to bedazzle that jacket with at least one snot bubble.

Finally, Axl and the gang came out on stage.  He performed his side to side hip thrust, sporting black spandex pants, a bandana holding back his stringy red hair.  It was phenomenal.  True white trash glory!  While I loved the performance, I did not go home and recreate the playlist in my head.

Had I grown up?

Well, not really.  I did dress up as Axl for Halloween that same fall, hair dye and head band in place.  I crashed my sorority’s dance, solo, and reenacted the side to side hip thrust next to the romantic slow dancers.  Someone’s date drove me home in that same loaner car.  As we neared campus I woke up, only to toss my guns n’ roses right out the window and down the side of the door.  Man that loaner was destroyed when I gave it back.

I have a certain yin and yang to my music personality.  I admit, neither one is Mozart.  But I still find it helpful to fill my ears with different tunes, to wake up with some Justin Timberlake dancing in my brain.  My bubble is always bouncing with a good beat.

Every bubble needs a soundtrack.  It keeps things interesting.  You should get yourself one.  I won’t judge it.  Unless it’s country.

Thank you my seester, for reminding me of the loaner car and the G n’R concert.  Memories.  I know you have a soundtrack too, I can hear it all the way over here at my house.  It’s rockin’.

Turkey or no, you should disco


I spent most of my childhood in a country that really didn’t understand American holidays.   Imagine, having never heard of Halloween, and one night you look outside and there are kids parading through the streets, dressed like monsters, and princesses, and Richard Nixon.  AND they’re not just parading, they’re coming to your door saying “Trick-or -Treat!”  It’s got be the most bizarre scene.  Most of the Arabs gave it their best.  We’d hold out our giant pillowcases, and they’d willingly fill them with odd cookies that had no sugar and stuffed grape leaves.  We’d look at each other quizzically, say “Thank you!”  – quickly bolting to the next house.  I always felt guilty throwing those home-made treats away.  It was such a good effort.

Thanksgiving became something of a non-holiday to me.  There was no media madness surrounding black friday, there were no super market flyers invading the mail box, ranting about discount turkeys.  Even the concept of pilgrims just really didn’t translate.  We still had our family day, which consisted of eating too much.  You can’t take the gluttony out of an American, no matter where you transplant them. When I went to high school, it seemed rather ridiculous to fly across this great earth for a one-day-binge-fest, so I stayed in New Jersey and went home with friends to binge-fest, U.S. style.

I went home with my room-mate on a few such holidays, and witnessed the fun of big family gatherings!  I’ve always wanted the loud interactions, the drunken uncle, the auntie sporting the latest in kitty sweater fashion, the grandparents nodding off on the couch, the babies cooing and pooing.  Okay, I didn’t really want the poo, but feel free to pass the pie.   All of these characters gathered around a big table, eating and drinking and being a family.  It was fascinating for me to watch.  I drank in the experience, enjoying the smells, and the tastes and the soft cozy light.  I was home sick for a giant family that I would never have.

I attempted to achieve this high Thanksgiving standard in college.  The first couple of years I spent the holiday with my grandparents.  Though it was nice to be with family, it didn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving when we went to the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.  When I moved to Colorado, I had my first Thanksgiving as The Hostess.  Oh.  It was interesting.  Pretty?  Yummie?  Well.  That wasn’t important, there was beer, my two room-mates, two foreign exchange students, and a strange quiet giant from my printmaking class.  We made it a whole new holiday.  Martha Stewart would not have been proud.

We began by commencing beer drinking very early.  Maybe even for breakfast.  That was followed by the food prep of mashed potatoes, Quiche and stuffing.  None of us were brave enough to cook a turkey.  We wanted to celebrate, not murder our guests via food poisoning.   The first guest to our carbohydrate feast was a student that was in one of my roommate’s classes.  She was Japanese and not going home for Thanksgiving break.  I knew how that felt.  She brought a friend with her, who was also Japanese.  Between them they spoke 12 words of English.  The friend had hot pink lipstick on her teeth the entire day.   My eyes were drawn to that pink stain like they were rubber necking at a massive car accident on I-70.  All day.  I stared at her mouth, fascinated that not even the mashed potatoes could remove that stain!  Finally, my art buddy arrived.  We weren’t actually buddies, I just felt sorry for him, and was a little obsessed with his posture.  He was a big guy, but he took up hardly any space.  It was amazing. He’d sit in these little pretzel type formations, appearing smaller than he actually was.  Like a human rear view mirror.  This was an indulgent day for me.  I got to watch the incredible shrinking man and the pink-toothed woman, while dining on broccoli Quiche.  I was thankful for our anti-Martha vegetarian Thanksgiving.

I do believe that we had cookies for dessert.

After becoming so full of beer and other starches, the strained conversation with the Japanese girls became too laborious.  They departed, babbling to one another in Japanese, probably about how they had figured out the reason for the American obesity problem.  Those teeth were still pink.  Incredible.

We were full; my room-mates, myself, and the little-big guy from my art class.  Like most Americans, we decided to finish our day of gluttony with some football….Football? Have we met?  Never!

Disco Inferno? Now there’s a way to burn off some calories.

Don’t ask me how we managed to bounce around to that crazy music with bellies full of potatoes, and not blow chunks, but we did.

My Thanksgivings since have never compared to that one.  It was monumentous in its lack of tradition, language barriers, and disco music.  There was no family.  There were no expectations.  There was no turkey.  I’ve always envied the big family gatherings, but I bet there’s some people uncomfortably squirming in those gatherings who would rather be disco dancing.  And eating Quiche.

In my bubble, my shiny pink bubble of happiness, I have never cooked a turkey.  I just can’t go there.  I still eat it, but I pretend it was never a bird.  I like to think it’s a ball of yummie tofu that has been molded into the shape of the turkey, and no creature had to give it’s life for me to celebrate a holiday that I don’t really understand.  I mean, if it’s about the Pilgrims and the Indians, shouldn’t I bring a side of smallpox?

I married a guy who insists on green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and rolls to go along with his turkeya bird that he has cooked at least three times with the plastic bag of gizzard and crap in it.  A couple of years ago I made the mistake of grabbing a roll of french bread to accompany the turkey.   He was mortified… running out to the store at 9 a.m. to grab some “real” rolls (made by that pudgy Pillsbury dough boy).  Last year I tried to substitute cornbread, with an equal reaction.  So this year, I am getting the damn rolls.  My sister is hostessing, so the turkey won’t be plasticized.  The pie will be pie, and not chocolate chip cookies.  The football game will be on the tele.  It may be rather traditional, but little does she know that I intend to install a disco ball in her basement and sneak away for a few minutes after dinner.  My bubble needs a disco injection from time to time, especially when I’ve eaten too many potatoes.

I wonder if I should surprise her and bring Quiche?

Wait, unhand those tampons!


The first time that I realized Saudi Arabia was totally different from Idaho was when I was in the airport, age nine, and got hauled back by the biggest man I’d ever seen in my life, to the airport security room.  Yes.  Age nine.  I was bored, we were waiting for our bags, so I decided to play with my dad’s telephoto camera.

Zoom in.  Zoom out.  Zoom in.

Zoom out.

You’d think that in zooming in and out I would have noticed the signs on every wall that had a basic drawing of a big camera  with an “X” through it.  oops. Fortunately for me, my dad has a (sometimes annoying) ability to speak to absolutely ANYONE. It’s like his superpower.  He started his funny babbling engineer speak, which consisted of a lot of  “well, she’s just a kid.  the camera has no film.  don’t know the culture.  i’m an engineer.  i like to tell stories about molecules and metals. you want to hear one?  well, even if you don’t I’m gonna tell you anyway.  even though you don’t speak english. if I just keep talking eventually you’ll get so sick of me you’ll let me and my infidel nine-year old leave your security office…etc…etc”

It worked.

When flying into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there were a series of predictable events that took place.  First, all the women on the flight who were wearing jeans and designer t-shirts suddenly were replaced by Arab women in abayas.  Next, the lights would be dimmed and prayers would begin.  Maybe this was only on Saudia Airlines, I can’t quite recall.  What I do recall is the first time I experienced it.  I was sure we were crashing.  No lights.  Call to prayer.  Um.  And then, aha!  There’s the runway.  Jesus.  Let me just go ahead and pull my intestines out of my left eye socket.  I think my fingernails drew blood from the arm rest.  Messy.

Once the plane had started to land, you immediately surveyed your surroundings to see if a Pakistan International Air plane had just landed.  If they had already entered the terminal, you may as well succumb to your fate because it was going to take at least 2 hours to get through immigration.  If they were coming in behind you, you knew it was time to wake those flaccid limbs that had not moved in eight hours and SPRINT.

After disembarking the plane you either began that Olympic sprint to the airport terminal, or you boarded an overcrowded little bus that would transport you through the oppressive heat to the terminal.   The sprint was painful, but always the better option.  It gave you a false sense of control over what would happen once inside the airport.

Once inside the airport, you entered a very long immigration line.  This was never the right line.  Just like at the grocery store.  It may look shorter, but it never is.  There’s some invisible hold up, someone who thought they were in South Africa instead of Saudi Arabia.  Someone who left their passport in London.  Someone who thought it would be wise to get totally trashed before landing in an alcohol free country.

As you slowly neared the immigration agent behind his little plastic window, fears of forgotten booze that may have some how fallen into your suitcase start to mess with your sanity.  You wonder if maybe someone at school could have accidentally stashed a joint in there when you were packing your bags.   Even if you had absolutely nothing to hide, you would start to sweat as they perused your passport, looking at you for any possibly signs of… what… I don’t really even know, but it made me sweat even more than the 100 plus degree temps.  I remember being terribly thirsty, thinking,” god I want a giant glass of water… but this guy’s looking at me like I’m hiding hash between my butt cheeks.” So instead of swallowing my dried up saliva, I batted my blue eyes.   My contacts stuck, but I just tried harder.   Ah.  He smiled.  The universal symbol that you are not being regarded as an imminent danger to society. Sometimes you have to break out the big guns.  Even if it’s just to get closer to a water cooler.

Finally, you would get to reclaim your baggage, provided it had actually made your flight.  Then there was the luxury of walking with all your crap through the customs lines.  This was fun.  Fun like the dentist.  The customs agents would literally take EVERYTHING from your suitcases, feel the sides (for a fake wall or maybe an inflatable woman?), open your novels, tear pages out of your People magazine (or just chuck ’em), and poke fingers into your chocolate .  The finger poking was to see if there was alcohol in the chocolate.  Sometimes the customs agents would make the baggage handlers eat a bite.   Then what.  They’d return the remaining piece to you.  yeh.  Thanks.  I suppose it was all a bit demoralizing, but it was how you got home.   There were no other options.  It helped to remind us how much we valued chocolate, especially the liquor filled kind, and non-torn magazines.

It helped realign your priorities in life.

All that may sound bad to you, but trust me, it was nothing compared to the departure.  On your way out of the Kingdom, you’d arrive at least two hours before your flight left.  After waiting in lines and walking through multiple different x-ray machines, you would approach your final station like the mud pit at the end of the obstacle course.

The Search.

Okay people.  You think that this x-ray stuff in the U.S. airports is scary and bad.   Try having your tampons dumped out of your carry-on, in front of the teenage boys you go to boarding school with. Try having your little teenage bras and undies spread over a table for all to see.  Try being taken back to another room for the “search.” This was a lovely process in which a woman (or possibly a wookie, who knows.  She was camouflaged in her abaya) took a handheld, beeping, metal detector and ran it over your body.  I mean, touching your body, beeping, mocking – your ENTIRE body.  I stood stock still (didn’t want to show fear.  I think they pick up on that… like horses and some spiders), grimacing, while simultaneously trying not to grimace, because if you were uncooperative you would be sent into the “OTHER” room.  I held my blank stare and focused on my still fresh embarrassment over the poured out tampons.  Don’t glare.  Think, tampons.  Think, boys snorting about tampons. Think, I must buy some better bras.

My bubble was once a humid, hot, shwarma filled place.  It was my home.  In order to get to and from my home, I had to go through security that was just a tad more intense than LAX or DIA.  I didn’t have rights.  I didn’t even have a voice.  I did have tampons.  I was embarrassed, but safe.  I survived more than 13 years of flights.  I like my safe bubble.

Though, I could have done without the beeper thing on my crotch.

Something’s fishy


I wonder if my parents ever danced?  I think not.  The gene pool of engineers, artists, and fishermen did not benefit us in the rhythm department.   I did ballet for a couple of years when I was little.  I LOVED the blue eye shadow my mom put on me before class.   That was pretty much all that I loved.  Oh.  And the mouse ears!  I was good enough to be one of at least 100 mice in the Christmas production of the Nutcracker.  I had the job of waking up Claire.  Until the night that I became preoccupied with my floppy ears during the performance and forgot to wake up that snobby bitch.  I’m sorry, that may sound mean.  She WAS the dance instructor’s daughter.  I was demoted to just a mouse. A mouse who did not have the feet for dancing.

Besides my feet being genetically uncooperative, I have the build of a logger.  I have the grace of an elephant.  And I tend to break a toe at least once a year, by tripping over rocks or walking into walls.  I started crying at night because my feet were sore (and the jealousy over my sister’s toe shoes got to be too much) and I was allowed to quit.  That was at the ripe old age of 8.  After that, I didn’t even want to dance until junior high, unless you count the occasional moon walk.

In junior high I discovered tap.  All the cool girls did it.  They had snazzy outfits, and shiny shoes, and crimped hair.  For some reason, the tap teacher never returned my calls.  I thought she didn’t like me.  In reality, I think my mom never paid the sign up fee.   I watched the junior high girls perform in the talent show, tapping through Corey Hart’s I Wear My Sunglasses at Night.   They were so cool.  Their moves were flawless.  It was like watching Cirque Du Soleil. Can you tell that I have not yet actually seen Cirque Du Soleil?  I mean, junior high tap dancers?  Not quite the same level of talent.  Those girls were probably just as uncomfortable as I was in my early teen body, except that they were on stage in front of the whole school.  They probably tripped, and slipped and totally messed up the timing, but to me the performance was epic.

I went to a couple of painful school dances in junior high.  And the first high school dance that I attended?   A senior asked me to dance.  To Stairway to Heaven.  He was not a sexy senior.  He was shorter than me.  He was kind of greasy.  I felt undeniable claustrophobic in his too tight embrace after about nine minutes of that song.  God that song is painfully long.

Fortunately for me, in high school I discovered the dead fish.  This became my signature dance move for the rest of my dancing days (and apparently kept many creepy boys away… probably the not-so-creepy ones, too).  It involves a shoulder shrug, limp arms, straight legs – that flex only a bit as you bounce up and down.  Picture a mosh-pit, for one.  That is my dance style.  Sometimes I break out of my comfort zone and move my arms like on I Dream of Jeannie. It’s quite a sight, I’m sure.

When I was a senior I used my dead fish dance moves to survive the winter blues of a New Jersey boarding school.  At the end of study hall, I would race up a flight of stairs to my friend Heather’s room.  She was actually one of the famed tap dancers from junior high.  It didn’t take her long to forget her once choreographed moves.  I can do that.  Make people forget how cool they once were. While the other teenagers would go hang out after studying, putting the moves on their love-interests, we would put on some Madonna, and do the dead fish.  We danced and danced, emerging from our winter funk… stopping only when the laughter overtook us and we thought we might pee.

Bathed in cheap lamp light, tears of laughter running down our cheeks, beads of sweat forming on our brows, arms limp at our sides, bouncing up and down to Madonna.  If anyone saw us from outside her dorm room window, I’ll bet we looked as cool and talented as those junior high tap dancers.  Or people thought we were stoned (probably more likely).

Since it was working so well for me, I carried on this particular dance style through my college years.  I would go to the clubs, and before there was even time to get properly intoxicated, I would be out there, sporting my combat boots, flannel shirt and a beaming smile, doing the dead fish.  I attracted some odd dance partners, usually ones that seemed to be on heavy drugs.  They looked at me like quizzically.  Probably wondering what kind of drugs I was taking.

Just high on dead fish, baby!

Once everyone else was drunk and dancing, I usually bailed.  A dead fish needs her space.  I wish my dead fish partner lived a bit closer. We are both mommies and massage therapists, now separated by the borders of our countries.  If she were in my neighborhood, I’d walk over to her house right this minute, some freshly downloaded Madonna on my iPod, and we’d demonstrate for our daughters how to effectively dance away the winter blues (and most boys, besides the druggies).

When winter comes, and family is taxing your resources, and you’ve had a cold on and off for two months, and your toes refuse to warm… just do like I do. Call your sister and vent.

Then!  Break out the dead fish.  Drop those arms, put on some excessively cheese ball music, and dance with only slightly restricted abandon.  My bubble is always ready for a mosh-pit of one, or two (good bouncy walls to crash into, without injury).  Be warned though.  It might make you smile.  Or accidentally blow your nose just a little upon landing.  It’s probably best I never made that tap dance team.  I don’t know if they could have handled such awesome moves.