Tag Archives: america

Secret Cookie in my Pocket

Give me a book and the cookie. Spare me the class.

I didn’t read the book for class, but I did have a secret chocolate chip cookie in my pocket. Whereas the rest of the class intended to mire themselves in the angst of post-modernity, I intended to wait for a little bit and then eat my cookie.

Oh it was going to be delicious. It was by far the best cookie in the classroom, possibly the best in Cairo, and a certain contender for the best cookie in all space and time. Its buttery taste, the fluffy yet chewy texture of the crumb, the chocolateyness of the chocolate chips….yes, bringing this cookie to school was likely the best decision I was going to make all week.

The class begins and my eyes instantly glaze over. I am already far from this place, my mind slowly orbiting around three topics: “I have a cookie in my pocket. How will I make it in San Francisco? I need to do laundry today.”

As if through a window, I see the professor in front of me yammering about something, the other students nodding in agreement. I find myself doing the same, compelled by a primal instinct that forces the human to avoid scolding by pretending to listen.

Group work is vicious, dragging me to back to the classroom to offer my own fabricated insights. This is difficult to do because of the cookie distraction. One day the students will turn on me, pointing their fingers at me and saying in unison, “This one sucks.” But that day is not today. The work ends, and we return to our own worlds that are supposed to revolve around the professor and whatever she’s saying. I go back to thinking about the cookie.

My stomach growls and I know the moment has come.

I remove the cookie from my pocket, its tender body protected from my coat pocket by a thick layer of foil. As I unwrap it gently the foil yields forth its precious burden. The student next to me gasps.

I know what she is thinking. Yes, this is a chocolate chip cookie baked fresh from my kitchen. Yes, it is America itself contained in a bit of flour, butter, and sugar, and it is likely the most valuable thing at the university at this time. It is mine, and I’m going to eat it now, and as the crumbs dissolve on my lips, I too will dissolve away from here and from this classroom where words are being said about the novel I didn’t read, the point of which only the author could understand.

This cookie, however, I understand. Why couldn’t the author write something more like it?

P.S. You should try “The Chewy Recipe” for your cookies, courtesy of dude Alton Brown. They are very delicious and better than homework.

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This Guy Sucks

Hey! You suck! 

There sure are a lot of problems these days. The way I see it, things kind of suck the whole world over. Here in Egypt, people are pissed off that life isn’t much better after the revolution. It turns out you can’t teach old scum bags new tricks and the old men who stayed in charge from Mubarak’s era are still good-for-nothing tax gobblers. In America, even though we are completely satisfied with our politicians, we are still constantly embarrassed by, among other things, the extravagant cost of higher education, pesky racial divides, our obesity, our impressive income inequality, and the fact we want to stay really rich but seem to have no money.

I could go on and discuss the pathetic state of our judicial system, the fact we’re losing our competitive edge to  developing countries whose foods we like, and the seeming illiteracy of the coming generation, but then I’d start to get sleepy from the sadness.

When confronted with all these issues, it’s hard to know who to blame. There are simply too many candidates. Do I blame Barack Obama, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Soviets, Europe, poodles, Mom, Dad…who? And I can’t blame something nebulous like “human nature” or the “capitalist system” or “greed.” That’s not nearly satisfying enough. I want a face I can yell at, an ugly mug I can jab at and say, “You suck!”

That’s why, for the past five minutes, I’ve been searching relentlessly for someone who can be the recipient of all our rage, some lame schmuck that can be the symbol of every inefficiency and injustice that exists. After minutes of intensely focused effort,  I think I found him. It’s this guy.

It’s all his fault! He did it! He decided to invade Iraq, Vietnam, and Cuba at great financial and moral cost to the US. It was him! He’s the one who has been melting the glaciers and strangling endangered species.  At night, while good Americans are at home with their families, reading their children bedtime stories, he’s out whispering into the ears of politicians and selling them his fancy new weapons and giving them ideas for how to use them.

He causes skin cancer! He stokes the fires of racial division! He made our educational system unequal! It was fine before he came along, but then BOOM everything was awful!

He’s why Americans are too fat! He’s why middle school girls dress like Ke$ha! He’s the cause of partisan conflict in the White House! He’s why Oklahoma isn’t Colorado! He’s why many Americans have their most intimate relationships with TSA officials! He made healthcare expensive! He created Valentine’s Day!

It’s his fault! I don’t care about the other issues. What will the stance of our future political leaders be on this guy? Will it be a resolute “Let’s get him!” or a pathetic “Let’s allow him to continue trampling our society and future.” Isn’t the answer obvious?

I say let’s get him and while we’re at it, let’s have a good yell.


photo credit: Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net

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Another Okie Heading West

As I stood on top of one of the Twin Peaks and looked out over the bright city of San Francisco and into the bay beyond with its rust colored Golden Gate Bridge and the lumpy green mountains beyond that, and looked behind me and saw the setting sun and its reflection in the water so it looked like two suns, and glanced down and saw my lengthening shadow on the earth, and felt the coolness coming from the trees, and considered all the combinations of colors of green and blue and brown and bright that lay before me, I thought to myself that there is no other city I have found in this earth that has such a high concentration of everything I love. Creativity, nature, color, coffee, books, floral dresses, and sidewalks all combined and laid out on a grid set between hills on a peninsula in the bay.

And then I thought that I would like to live in California, if it would have me, and especially if it would find me a place to live and pay my bills. But those might have to be personal journeys. I would make the effort, though. It would be worth it to live here.

Here I come, just another liberal arts graduate with a job in retail.

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Desert Madness: S’more Edition

Illicit s’more innovation

Desert madness manifests itself in many ways. Some bury themselves neck deep in the sand and drool. Others lose the ability to internally narrate. In our cozy group of four, however, desert madness took the form of wild and, at times irresponsible innovation in the s’more field, urged on in particular by one go-getter we’ll call Stew.

Stew is an active young man of about 22, and though I had only met him briefly before our trip, by the end of it I knew two important things about Stew: he’s hungry, and he never settles for second best. Whereas I always leap at the chance to settle, Stew refuses to even look at the second tier of life.

This is a man that used to drink multi-thousand calorie protein shakes before bed in high school in order to put on weight. Wait! Can you hear that? It’s the gooey sound of millions of dieting men and women exploding from rage. Eighty percent of his conversation revolved around things he had once eaten, liked to eat, or was planning on eating very soon. While listening to his culinary fantasies, one was also drawn into his passion and shown an eatable world of which only geniuses and madmen could conceive.

Since we are real, red-blooded Americans, each night we would crack open a couple bags of marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate, and graham crackers and get our s’more on. The first night passed quite lamely, featuring the usual discussion about how we like to roast our mallows: charred or golden brown and melted all the way through, etc. And just when I had accepted this level of normality, Stew remembered there was an unopened jar of peanut butter sitting on the sand. He hatched a plan, and then the magic began.

The next three nights were a kaleidoscope of different, almost unimaginable combinations of peanut butter, chocolate, marshmallow, twinkies, jam, and both roasted and unroasted banana.

Stew would be silent, and then burst out with a statement like, “What if wrapped this twinkie in foil with chocolate and peanut butter and then roasted it? You know what? Yes! I’m going to do it. Yes.” Never have I seen such a go-getter. There was no delay between the formation of his food wishes and their realization. In one night he ate nigh on 10 twinkies, all prepared different ways. It was a wonder and a blessing to behold. Were I a business person, I would hire Stew for any job that I had, especially if it involved him walking around without his shirt on or grabbing pushups on the go, two things he also excelled at

I once even heard him utter the words: “I’m going to impregnate this marshmallow with chocolate and then roast it.” This is the kind of literary and functional innovation that has made America great. Thank you, Stew. You make me proud to be an American.

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Volunteering: The Ladies Love Us

Guess who the foreigners are.

Friend and I have gotten into the vicious habit of volunteering at a church here in a lower-income area of Cairo. Our current project is setting up an early childhood development center, something friend and I aid primarily through an abundance of good wishes due to our utter lack of qualifications.

Why do we donate our semi-valuable time? Though it’s mostly for the Arabic practice, there is also a small part of us that wants to “help people.” There’s something to be said for the furry, balmy feeling you get when you delude yourself into thinking you’ve made life on this earth a little more bearable for someone. While this morally indulgent feeling is great, it’s simply not enough. I need something spicier, so this is how I make the most of my volunteering experience:

Step One: Hunger Monger

Since I know our five hours of volunteering (probably) won’t include treats, I eat a tiny breakfast. Thus, without fail, I begin starving roughly 30 minutes after arriving at the volunteer site. The awful rumbles coming from my stomach provide a great backdrop to the children and cat screeches coming from in and around the church. Volunteering is even more interesting as I become a hunger zombie and spend my last kilojoules of energy planning out exactly what I’m going to eat when I get home.

Step Two: Sleepy Time

I never get an appropriate amount of sleep the night before involving myself in charitable work. This is a trick I learned during Ramadan, when I would regularly stay up until 4 am and then leave to volunteer at 8:20 am. Living life was so much more meaningful and full of nausea while running on less than 4 hours of sleep! While at the church, I would gaze into the distance with glazed eyes and wonder when I could leave and be reunited with my bedding and a bowl of ramen noodles. The feeling that nothing was real added an special depth to our projects.

Step Three: Ham it Up

The ladies love us, and by the ladies I mean all the females at the church, regardless of age or relation to puberty. They be smiling at us, giving us those eyes, coming to say hi to us…. Though it doesn’t take much additional work, I try to look as clueless and non-Egyptian as possible in order to create an even bigger spectacle and stir up more interest. Wacky faces and disturbingly broad grins seem to work well.

Step Four: Keepin’ it Real

In Egypt, there’s something called the “foreigners’ complex,” which means that anything involving foreigners is automatically considered better than something made from scratch in Egypt. Thus, when I wake up in the morning, I wrap up in my big ol’ American flag I keep beside my bed, throw on a cowboy hat, and grab a 64 oz. soft drink cup before heading out the door. There will be no question as to where my nationality lies.

And that, my friends, is how you volunteer.

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