Friday, June 09, 2006

Bishop's right in the comment to the post below: I'm quite into "The Blues Are Still Blue." I dare say as of today it's my new favorite song. I can't remember the last time a song made me want to gyrate my hips in the driver's seat, but maybe that's because I haven't driven much in the last 10 years. And even though the temp's edging towards 50 Celsius, the track may actually have convinced me to buy a convertible. (It's not totally an impulse thing. I have to buy a car anyway, as I'm not allowed to use the company wheels forever.)

I'm going to the Cannes advertising festival a week from tonight. I'll be there for a whole week. I haven't been to the south of France since September 2000, a fantastical little holiday I took with a woman with whom I had remarkably little in common. She was into horoscopes and Wicca. We don't really keep in touch.

But hey, don't get the wrong idea! Life's not all about convertibles, clear skies, sunny days and French resort towns. No, no, no, no, no. After all, I'm here alone in the office on a Friday, which totally sucks (Friday being a weekend here in the supposedly Muslim world), I have no social life (I'm new in town and have no close friends although there's a tentative squash arrangement tomorrow followed by a tango lesson) -- and worst of all, the acupuncturist told me I can't drink booze. The latter makes it difficult to keep my mind off the dreadful and hopeless aspects of life. But anyway, that song totally rocks! And I'm getting a convertible! And by jove, I'm gonna finish that novel!

Dude!!! It's the video. OK, the video doesn't quite match my initial feelings about the song. It's a bit more, shall we say, on the low-budget Scottish hipster side as opposed to me driving around a half-built desert metropolis in my new convertible, wayfarers on baby. I hope you can make the necessary mental adjustments.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The new Flaming Lips album is so phenomenally disappointing, I want my money back. Not like, say, this cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I finally picked up the new Belle and Sebastian album. It’s not really so new, as it came out last year, but I only recently saw it for sale. I don’t know why it took me so long -- well, yes I do, I was living in Cairo -- but I guess I also figured a friend would buy me a copy and give it to me when I swing through Prague in July, but I can’t wait for that, so I bought it. Isn’t it funny how sitting at home alone listening to a new album can make you feel different in such a good old-fashioned way, and different is better if you were in the kind of mood I was in yesterday, and different is better especially if you have a frozen pizza. I’m writing this last night because I don’t have Internet at home. And I can’t think of the last time I bought a new CD. Funny, even the one song I know well, “Another Sunny Day” sounds different when it’s played on the album even though I’m sure it’s exactly the same track I downloaded a couple months ago and I’ve been listening to on my Ipod. I know it’s such a sad song. Well it’s an interesting record anyway. I do like the parts that sound like T-Rex. I pretty much like anything that sounds like T-Rex. It’s a fun record, but the funnest part is the liner notes where all the kids write to the band and the band takes turns answering. For instance: “Dear Stevie, I just picked up the courage to ask this ultra-cool girl out to the pics; her response was that I have to compile a CD with only 10 songs on it, that’ll help pass away a rainy Tuesday afternoon in February...” I believe this is an actual letter sent to the band but I don’t believe that story actually happened because I don’t think such a girl really exists. Well, maybe in Wales, where the guy wrote from. Also, this: "Q: If Bono owns any of your albums which do you think it would be? A: the next one. Like us, he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for." Ho ho ho! I also got the new Flaming Lips CD but as of this writing I haven’t yet removed the plasticwrap. (Update: Listened to it in the car on the way to work today. Not nearly as impressed with that as I was with B&S, but I've only listened to each of them once.) Also I’ve started going to a Chinese doctor for acupuncture. Ouch!

Monday, June 05, 2006

A friend recently I'd be better off practicing my Arabic on the spot here in Dubai rather than learning to speak Italian, which is one of my recently conceived goals in life. (Yes, I am in fact taking Italian lessons.)

The thing is, this isn’t really an Arab country in any meaningful sense of the word. In fact, I don’t know how the rumor got started that people spoke Arabic in the United Arab Emirates. In most public places (McDonald’s, Starbucks, the malls, in taxis, on the national airline) not only is Arabic not spoken, but they often won’t even understand you if you try. This isn’t because of all the Western expats, but because of all the Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and Bangladeshis who do all the actual work around here. Less than 20% of the population is native Emirati. (With all the expat Arabs from around the Middle East here, you do in fact here Arabic spoken around and about, and considering the number of Italians here numbers in the low thousands at the most, I’ll grant you that opportunities to practice Italian are pretty low. But you get my point)

So if you’re going to study a non-English language and practice it here, Hindi would be a better choice than Arabic, because then you could use it with the cab driver and discuss strange-looking vegetables with the market vendors. I consumed a bitter gourd, and boy, was it bitter. I haven’t yet touched the dreaded durian.

I befriended one Indian guy named Hari who works as a sub-editor at a local English-language paper. Hari’s from Bombay, or Mumbai, or whatever they call it these days. He’s a bit older and his life companion is his dog which he left back in India with some people that run a Chinese restaurant. (Really, that’s 100% true. It’s what he told me and it wasn’t a joke.) Occasionally a friend checks in on the dog to make sure it’s OK with the Chinese restaurant owners.

Hari works ten-hour shifts, six days a week. He doesn’t have much time to do anything here but work and sleep. Occasionally he’ll go out for a beer after work. That’s his whole life. He laughs loudly and often, sometimes for no apparently reason.

Earlier last month Hari and I went for a walk in the evening along Dubai Creek. Outside the Dubai Museum is a big model ship. Hari says he dreamt about that ship before he came to Dubai. He often has dreams about the future, he says. I ask him what else he dreams about. Different things, he say. His dog, for instance. He laughs.

I’ve lived here a month. I occasionally consider, in a reflective Eleanor-Rigby sort of way, what it would be like living the way Hari does for the rest of my life, as so many people do. The idea sort of makes me want to drink a liter of lead paint and chase it with a shot of mercury, yet Hari seems perfectly happy, living a solitary existence and dreaming about his dog back in India.

Seems. Actually, I recently asked Hari, after a few beers at a local subcontinental hang-out, if he was really as happy as he let on. He confessed, with a laugh of course, that it was a bit of a façade.

He then asked me if I would consider dating or marrying a woman with a child. I replied that it would depend on whether or not the kid and I got on, since I’d basically be marrying the kid, too. Hari says a fortune teller once predicted that he would one day meet his ideal companion and that she would be a single mother.

And that's about all I have to say right now about my friend Hari.