Saturday, March 18, 2006

What's so wrong with decaf coffee, anyway?

Friday, March 17, 2006

I haven’t broken the news yet to Nadia, my housekeeper, that I’m leaving Cairo. I’m not sure how I should do this. Her son Ahmed calls me “Uncle Scott,” which is funny because I get pretty damned annoyed with his running around my two-room apartment when I’m trying to work. (I think Nadia sensed that, and hasn’t brought him around in the last few days.)

Yesterday Nadia saw me packing up my laptop and asked if I was leaving, i.e. going back to Dubai or Kiev or some such place. I replied that no, I was just going to a café to sit and work on my computer. (I just wanted to get out of the apartment, honestly. Nothing to do with Nadia or Ahmed.) She struggled to ask if it was a problem that she, “I am Nadia,” was here in the apartment while I was trying to work. I said no, everything’s cool. (All this with about 20-30 words in common.)


In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay, I just came across the word “mucilage,” as in, “a stack of black rectangles and a pool of yellow mucilage that she felt obliged to identify for him as toast and eggs.” As I’m writing this, I’m not online and I’m unable to look up the precise definition of the word, but it reminds of a strange brown glue-like substance we used in the early stages of elementary to school to – well, to glue two things to one another. It came in a plastic bottle with a rubber top with a slit on it through which the slimy stuff was dispersed. Can anybody remember this, and what it was called, and why it wasn’t called simply “glue”? And please don’t answer that glue was, by definition, white stuff from a plastic bottle, graced by a cow named Elmer, with a pointy orange lid. (Was the lid orange?)

When I was in first grade with Mrs. Connelly – a teacher blessed with the special talent of being able to put her leg behind her head, although I myself never saw this and relied upon my two older twin sisters for the information (they’d had her years earlier, when she’s been single under a different name) – we had a store. The class started a little play store in the back of the classroom. There was much debate over what we should call the store. My proposal seemed eminently catchy and reasonable at the time: “The SuperStore.” (Granted, at the time I didn’t spell it in the one-word way with a capitalized S in the middle.) We voted on it, and the name that won in the end, “The Calorie Store,” seemed just stupid at the time, but today I really do see its merits.

One day Mrs. Connelly sat us all down on the floor in the front of the room to talk about the news from the previous night. She asked, Does anybody know what happened? Yes, we said. John Lennon was shot and killed. Does anybody know who John Lennon was? “He was in the Beatles!” one girl yelled. Mrs. Connelly went on to explain to us the basics of the national debate over “gun control.” I find it remarkable that she was able to have this discussion with a group of six-year-olds.

The first news item I remember were the hostages in Iran. One day I got up early and watched the TV. I ran to my parents and woke them up with the news that the hostages, apparently, were doing OK. That’s the first thing I remember from the TV, that and imitating Jimmy Carter’s silly grin. Because I was able to imitate Carter’s silly grin, I was surprised to learn from my grandmother, may her Republican soul rest in peace, that Carter bad, Reagan good.

Ah. Mucilage: A thick gluey substance, often produced by plants. Mucilage school glue dries clear and is non-toxic. It is useful for crafts and scrapbooks and is a must in the classroom.

UPDATE: I got some complaints -- OK, one complaint -- about the comments not working, so I put the old ones back as a back-up.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hello, hello. Announcement time. On May 1, I'm moving to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to take a full-time job at managing editor of a trade magazine for the Middle Eastern advertising industry. This is big earth-shattering, life-changing news, since I haven't had a proper 9-to-5 job since early 2001.

In the meantime, I have more words I have to write than I can even think of (fortunately I can repeat a few of them) so I shouldn't be blogging too much.