Saturday, August 21, 2010

What a trip back to America means

First of all, it means relaxing. I posted once that daily life in the UAE can be like death by a million paper cuts... here in the United States of Awesome, all the paper has nice, rounded edges that don't injure the clumsy. Ramadan, for instance, is a religious observance that the faithful adhere to, not a government mandate against fun and drinking coffee at my desk. Hell, I even have a five-bar wifi signal outside, as opposed to what is usually provided by the good people at Etisalat.

And as I mentioned in my last post, it also means a million mundane but wonderful events, like being able to walk to breakfast and visiting restaurants that serve amazing food without the pretense of being "five-star luxury." I'm looking at you, Uncommon Ground meatloaf.

So far, it has meant taking pictures of everyday things--a baseball game! A pool table! A sun-dappled backgammon board!--and posting them online as though they were interesting to anyone but me.

Boring to look at? Maybe. Excellent way to spend a Friday afternoon? Definitely.

It has also meant wishing our friends from the 'Dhabs were here to enjoy it all. Besides wishing Mrs Blog were here (as I type this, she is cruising around Napa with some girlfriends, drinking the valley's finest and basking in the glow of gourmet cold cuts), I find myself thinking several times a day, "wow, Person X [not a real name--ed.] would love this." Sometimes "this" is a most excellent local beer, sometimes it is a friend's DJ set, sometimes it is farm-raised pork.

So there you go. Sure, constitutional protections and the super-awesome "citizens only" line at customs are great. But, you know, in reality, joy comes from the little things. And there are tons of little things here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I just flew in from Abu Dhabi, and boy are my feet tired

This is Day Two of my sojourn to the United States of America. I already feel like I have been here weeks, and I mean that in the most positive of ways.

The one thing I was a little nervous about, renewing my about-to-expire driver's license, went smoother than any bureaucratic process has a right to. And then I went out with a dear friend and had celebratory margaritas and Mexican food--real Mexican food, made by real Mexican(-Americans) using real ingredients like, say, pork chorizo. On top of all that, Mrs Blog sent me the perfect birthday present, which I am listening to right now.

And if that weren't awesome enough, somehow some Cubs tickets fell into our laps. Because I am able to use my awesome U.S. smartphone, I was able to document this blessed event:

I win! But Cubs lose.

Today is a very special day, and I celebrated by running errands... but not before buying an Elmore Leonard paperback at a neighborhood bookstore down the street and reading it as I enjoyed my breakfast at a Lincoln Square cafe. Breakfast, in this case, was a bloody mary, skillet potatoes and a bacon, egg and cheese croissant. Then I hopped on the Brown Line and headed downtown.

This... is Western. Doors open on the right... at Western.

Chicago is a wonderful city. And it is basically perfect summer weather. Downtown was the ideal kind of crowded--a concentrated blend of locals, tourists and conventioneers. After taking care of a few things, I settled down in the park behind the museum of contemporary art and read my book. Later I got the perfect haram sandwich, a spicy pork number from the Vietnamese bakery around the corner from our old apartment in Chicago.

Being back here is refreshing and invigorating. Life in Abu Dhabi puts life in the U.S. into sharp relief: You see the diversity more, you see the relaxed atmosphere, you see people of all social strata rubbing elbows--literally--on the L, and you appreciate it all a lot more. Chicago is a comforting place, and I would be proud to show anyone around here.

As for my feet, they are tired because of one other distinction between Abu Dhabi and big-city life in the U.S. I have walked more in the last 24 hours than I probably do in six months in the UAE.

And that's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nicer than "Red Asphalt"

One of the great things about being involved in a developing media environment is watching media develop. In this case, a young reporter is thrust into the role of being both the subject (of going through driving school) but also the reporter (about what it takes to go through driving school).

The end result will be posted to serve not just as entertainment--ha, ha, look at him slide down the chair of death!--but also as a guide for expatriates trying to navigate their way through the impressively dense tangle of red tape that surrounds every bureaucratic process here.

So, to recap: a useful and entertaining use of technology. Almost as good as 8-bit Halo.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm not lazy, honest

Just busy. I mean, really busy. The past week has taken us from dinner parties to goodbye parties to Filipino dance halls to a margarita-off (I won) and back again. There were many highlights. The easy lowlight was getting turned away from a hotel bar (let me say that again--A HOTEL BAR) because I was wearing sandals.

Let me remind you that I live in the desert and it was like 110 degrees outside. And these were nice sandals. And I was wearing the clothes I wore to work. Which also were nice.

But enough complaining. You know what's fun, besides traipsing around the UAE doing fun things?

(thanks, Friend of the Blog Chris)

Next week--if I'm not lazy--I'll tell you all about staying at the Atlantis this weekend.