Things we come to recognize as truths

But if I were a good man, would it really happen?
Would you walk me home then, everyday from work?
But maybe I’m a good man, wait and let it happen.
I believe in love, I’m married to my work.

Today.
I am married to my work.
Thank you, Voxtrot.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Dubai. Hope all my loved ones are delighting in their American freedoms and PDA and alcohol.

Hal tazon anani ghabi?

I just wrote a really long post and the whole thing went kablooey. I’m so upset. I flipped the iPad upside down to rest on the MacBook and then on my thigh; when I turned it over, everything else was covered with xxz d :;;$- xz ,,f

During my 30 dirham (US$8.15) lunch, I ate a pumpkin and feta spinach salad. Dubai’s idea of balsamic vinaigrette involves capsicum and poison. It didn’t help that I was sitting in the sun outside the Café Nero, unable to take my blazer off. I’m dying.
From boredom.
Everyone is bored.
We were led into thinking this was well-advertised. Instead, there are 21 companies twiddling their thumbs at each other. In fact. Most people are sitting at their desks– probably playing Bejeweled, if they have any sense. I just launched a paper airplane made out of memo paper, to much appreciation and various thumbs-up. The guy next to keeps feeding me Godiva chocolate and some kind of mentholated lemon Arabic candy. I have a sneaking suspicion these are cough drops.
I joked that we should put one on display as a 12 carat fancy vivid yellow lozenge for AED1 (US$0.27) except we’ve been waiting on some hotshot Qatari. Is that all we have going for us today? Affirmative.

CAN’T BELIEVE MY ENTIRE POST IS GONE.

I tried to explain to my boss why most people in the service industry are sticks-in-the-mud when it comes to humor and humoring people. Generally, you spend the day catering to dozens, if not hundreds, of uptight people who don’t know their way around a toilet bowl. It’s safer to remain neutral in the event you get someone who tries to crack a joke and you’ll offend them either way you react. Best not to react. Best to not get involved.

We cancelled our plans of going to the Burj al Arab. The Skyview Bar and the Al Mahara are both booked up until Friday, so we thought we’d compromise by going to the lobby bar and Al Muntaha. Seems like too much effort and way too much money in order to not get what we want anyway. It’s regrettable, as it’s another neat touristy thing to do, but then again so is camel riding. And we never got a chance to do that.

Meshy, halas.

It is disaster, gentle man.

I’ve spent $15 on a SIM card that doesn’t work. I bought it via the DDC/Multi Commodities Centre, installed it (even though I had to use an emery board to saw it down) and then I can’t activate it. Piece of garbage.

As I’ve read in the newspaper this morning, there have only been 11 beheadings so far in Saudi Arabia this year. Last year there were 76 total, so I’d say we’re right on course. Also, there’s some kind of propaganda about how all Europeans are eaters of horse meat and that the Syrians have leprosy because they’re covered in flies.
What can I say? It’s kind of sweet.

Back to my hotel.
The lobby is beautiful. Marbles and dark wood. Tea carts. Hanging paper star lamps. Real trees.
The hotel is covered in the finest materials but underneath, the infrastructure is crap. I didn’t perform an official count but there are at least 11 switches i can think of for various light control and only 4 of them work. None of them make sense in their location, but at least they have measurable results when you activate the room with your electricity key.
You can’t take a shower without flooding the entire bathroom because the floor isn’t sloped or channeled or anything. Water leaks through the massive gaps around the doors. Go figure.
Also, I thought i might avoid this fiasco by filling up the huge stand-alone bathtub that’s sort of in the middle of my room. I had to boil 5 kettles of water in my room just to get the bath water remotely tepid. Sat in it for the length of a Long Winters song and then got the hell out.

All the employees are from the Philippines or weirder places, like Nepal. Russia. Mongolia.
Everyone is polite but find ways to inadvertently twist it into saccharine. “Yes marm. No marm. Please marm. Right this way marm. May I unfold your paper marm?” Actually, I’m exaggerating. They don’t do this to me, they do it to my boss. Our Nepalese waiter on Monday was trying so hard to be a good sommelier too and ok, he tried his best but you can’t always get a perfect pair. Every other sentence out of him was “Please enjoy.” It would’ve been funnier if he hadn’t sounded so desperate, like without “some enjoy,” he would be denied meals and told to sleep on the beach.
First, my boss’s mezze plate and entrée were cooked together instead of arriving separately. Then the steak was a bit undercooked. By the time he admitted he could use a different glass of wine, the Nepalese waiter was bowing, cringing, and handwringing. My favorite bit was when the waiter shrieked “IT IS DISASTER, GENTLE MAN.”

Last night at the Lebanese restaurant by the Burj Khalifa fountain, the waiter wouldn’t even look at me. Boss had to order the whole meal and the drinks (nonalcoholic.) The food was great, of course, but it’s hard to screw up heavily spiced meats and hummus. Even grape leaves/dolmas don’t take a genius to make. But get this service…
In New York, I used to get pissed if a waiter placed the check down in front of a male counterpart even if I paid and it’s my FEMALE name on the credit card. Could be oversight or pure stupidity. But this guy last night wouldn’t clear the table because my boss stood up for a cigarette. I had to flag him down for the check. He almost fainted when I took out the company card to pay, but he still wouldn’t touch the check until my boss sat back down. I cannot figure this all out.
My boss and I had a really interesting conversation about Dubai as it relates to religion, architecture, economy, lifestyle, law, Westernism, sexism and general perceptions, but it all comes down to WHAT IS THIS SHIT. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.

And more relevant: why am I invisible?

APB for Every Dream

My room service is late.

Normally I’m very forgiving of these things, but this city-state is unforgiving to me so why should I be polite, even? The whole place is facocked. And I can hear room service carts rolling down my hall, but they don’t stop for me. (I feel Emily Dickinson rolling over in her grave when I mind-cry “DEATH?!?”)

I don’t even order room service normally but I couldn’t do another breakfast in that restaurant. No sir. As I was telling my mother via email (my only form of communication available to me) the restaurant is cleverly segregated. The hostess seats the women in a wrap-around section behind and to the side of a wooden divider, which gives the waiters some kind of justification for ignoring them. Us. Me. Low visibility, perhaps?
And I make no exaggeration when I say it took 18 minutes for them to decide whether they should offer me coffee or tea. I knew from the day before that everyone gets their own cafetière. Yesterday, however, it’s like they took someone’s half-used press and gave me a cup of tepid pee-water. For a country situated in a part of the world notorious for coffee like mud and devil’s blood, everything tastes surprisingly like Nescafé and piss. Or maybe it really is just a permanent bad taste in my mouth.

My room service arrived with one hesitant knock on the door. 19 minutes late. Keep in mind I’ve worked in hotels for almost three years, so I know all the shit people pull. There are differences between being lazy/busy and being an asshole. Also, I grant them several minutes difference based solely on cultural time relativity. If we were in Germany or the Low Countries or, ok, mostly anywhere on the Continent except Spain (I posit,) that shit would’ve been on my doorstep by 8:45, if not the original 8:30 I asked for. So their shit’s slow.
But this waiter dude in my room, first I had to invite him in. Then I had to tell him where to put the tray. Then I had to allow him to unfurl my newspaper. And please, press my coffee plunger. Please pour me a cup. Please, go all OCD and center the various jams in their respective containers. Here’s money. Like, a lot of it. Twenty dirhams because your life might suck more than mine. Please leave. Thank you for letting me take my aggression out on you, poor Filipino waiter. Go back to join the ranks of your non-unionized brethren. Someone has to scrub the solidified egg yolk off my plate and it certainly won’t be an Arab.

I either feel like some privileged white rich asshole or else I am a second-class ghost whose drink orders get ignored unless the men at the table remind the waiter I’m there. (Cue: last night.) There’s no middle ground. It’s progressive, it’s not progressive. Either way, I hate it. I was telling my boss over (watery) (overpriced) bourbon last night that I can’t wait to get back to New York where, if people ignore me, it’s because they choose to do so and not because it’s indoctrinated. I can’t wait. I leave late tomorrow night. And then I’m promptly fleeing to the safety of my parents’ household with our fuzzy dogs to squeeze and familiar smells and things that haven’t changed in over two decades.
This place didn’t even exist 20 years ago.
It literally sprang up out of the desert into some futuristic nightmare. Because it’s so business-oriented, it’s like living in a series of office buildings.

Dubai smells natural, though. And it’s clean. I give it that. It’s like oud and rose and cumin and sweat and sun-hot steel. You can’t smell the water at all, where I can see women walking together in their abayas. They must get really dirty on the bottom.

As for it being clean, we were marveling at the lack of graffiti until I remembered they would probably cut off both of your hands if you were caught. These things still happen. And yet, after these thousands of years, Hammurabi’s Law Code has proven surprisingly effective: rule your people with abject terror and cut off body parts for any infraction. You have yourself some civil obedience.

Everywhere is construction, construction, construction. American-made cranes swinging at all hours of the night, and more skyscrapers rising on every corner. Not that there are corners. There’s NO sense of urban planning here, since the streets (all unnamed) are narrow byways that turn traffic into a go kart race. You grip the seat of your $3 taxi ride and hold on.

My hotel is an example of Emrati craftsmanship.
Oh wait. Gotta go downstairs to do something for my boss.
Um. Hold that thought.
craftsmanship.

Longing for the call

Just heard the muezzin call the maghrib throughout the city. I was wondering why we have zero service in the hotel restaurant right now, so either they’re praying or they just suck like everyone else.

So that’s a thought.
Fleetwood Mac was just playing over the bar PA after the call.

I JUST WANT MY TEA.
AND I WANT IT NOW.

A heavy lip and a steady hand

Aaand we’re back!
Actually, since I’m typing on my new iPad, I originally said “Sand were backpack.” Ah, the joys of autocorrect. I’ll explain why I even have an iPad In a second.

It’s been a year since my last travelblog. These are my sins.

I’ve moved out in August 2012. I’m currently listening to one of my roommates watch The Daily Show and say things like:
“It’s true. Every invention for human advancement has been used almost immediately for porn. Except spaceships. But not the Vomit Comet. THAT was shockingly expensive.”
He just brought home kippers and prepared a High Tea at 10pm. Lapsang souchong, toast, tapenade, pickles, peppers, and water crackers. I told him it smells like cat food, and then he brought out the peanut butter. I give him due credit: that is infinitely more adventurous than I would dare.
This is my life now. It’s all kinds of glorious.

Also I’m readjusting to winter while crackling with sunburn. Literally. As we Dominicans would say in Washington Heights (WaHi) i look like chicharrones de cerdo. My skin is peeling off in strips because I just came back from Miami yesterday evening from a week-long work trip. At the very least, I survived. This was in spite of various facts: it was my first trip, had to impress our foreign partner, had to not lose anything, already effed up our hotel reservations beyond belief, I’m socially inept, etc.
Days were 8 hour affairs of sitting in a 20-foot booth while alternately trying to fix the wireless printer and listening to people haggle over expendable luxury commodities. Evenings involved large dinner parties at various restaurants amounting to well over $100 per person. Some of these places include:
-SushiSamba
-Spiga
-Joe’s Stone Crab
-Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
-Macchianella
-Toni’s Sushi

We did well as a company, although it was hectic at times.
The best parts were having the mornings to myself. Almost everyday was spent at the Front Porch Cafe, working my way through the omelette selection. They were the greatest. They also had the best service, so I should probably do them a favor and write them a decent Yelp review.

A surprising amount of waiters were from Russia, and they recognized me as a kindred spirit more or less. Sometimes they tried to guess where I was from. Usually incorrectly. But the Gale Hotel also deserves a Yelp review for the great food, hilarious Russian service and free key lime pie I got as a result of said hilarity.

Overall, not a bad trip. Made a new friend/business contact. Had a lot of drinks. Enjoyed some Florida sunshine away from a New York winter. Got a weird blotchy tan.

I need to just post this so I can catch up.
Dubai is approaching. Gotta blast for now.