All thanks go to our wonderful intern Brett for finding this link to a full recording of Tom Waits' Atlanta show! It was a truly stunning performance and it is so amazing to be able to hear it in its entirety once again.
In this last week with my love, we felt inspired to do things that we always talked about doing together but never got around to.
He never had a root beer float before, so I made one for him and made sure he saw the weird way it bubbles. He thought it tasted weird at first but by the end of the giant mug he said he wanted more tomorrow. "Bidi camaan."
He came with me to get a manicure and pedicure. While a regular activity for me, it was amazing for him. I had to look away because I couldn't stop laughing at him sitting in the spa pedicure chair, remote for the massage chair in one hand, grinning huge and staring wide-eyed at the woman working on his feet. I'd hear him say to himself in wonder, "Another step? Another tool? Oh my god," then he'd lay his head back and close his eyes. Priceless. Hilarious.
While out for dinner, one day I insisted that he order a shrimp dish, on another he encouraged me to order the pork dish that I really wanted. With my shellfish allergy and him being Muslim, we have always avoided both when around each other.
He bought me my first pair of Crocs. He knew I wanted them, and I think also knew that I would never buy them for myself for fear of my sister's relentless mocking of how ugly they are. He also told me repeatedly how cute they looked on me.
This was also the first time that we lived together- albeit for a short time, just a week. It was lovely to be together in this way, and I hope that my presence helped calm him during the unbelievably anxiety-filled days before moving to the other side of the world. We enjoyed lovely lavish lunches side by side.
This week was also filled with constant awareness of "lasts", a very strange reality in a relationship that has spanned nearly six years. The last time we were at certain restaurants, the last time we listened to certain songs, the last time I felt his body through his clothes as we held each other as we said goodbye at the airport.
But as Jill pointed out, this week is not the first time we have said goodbye forever to each other. However this post is the last time I will offer any hope for my future that includes him as a partner.
Rather, I actually touched several sharks, and more than once. With a lifetime fear, okay more like complex about sharks, this is huge, huge for me. And here is the proof from my first trip to the Georgia Aquarium today:
THIS IS ME TOUCHING A SHARK!!! And it happened several more times with several other sharks. At first I just touched the dorsal fin, but then I got braver and touched its back. It felt amazing. The last one I touched, I actually ran my hand down its side for several seconds, from behind his head down to his tail. I have butterflies just typing about it!
My new friends. My dad would be SO proud of me today. I am so proud of me. I still can't believe it.
Over a bowl of delicious coconut soup yesterday afternoon, I told my dear old friend Jill about my preparations to say goodbye to Mohammad. I shared with her how one of the things I'm most surprised about is how this experience has prompted me to deal with other relationships, particularly some unresolved wreckage that I am responsible for. It has also pushed me to try to be better in relationships where there perhaps there wasn't wreckage necessarily, but time and life have moved us apart.
Jill, as she is prone to do, understood immediately what I was talking about. She said that there is great clarity in pain. Pain cuts to the craw and makes very apparent the things that matter and those that don't. It lifts the haze that may be on your life and sorts the pieces out.
Jill is my oldest friend in Georgia and our relationship has lived largely through spontaneity, we almost never make actual plans to see each other. She is so good at paying attention to me from afar and sensing in the universe when the right time is to rest her wings in my world for a bit.
2. I do a bunch of things in my house that I've been wanting to do but never found the time: rearranging my living room to make it more intimate, hanging the lovely Palestinian print Mohammad gave me for my birthday last year, pruning my massive book collection of some of its weight. It is amazing to me how easy I find accumulating books and how hard it is to let go of their words.
3. While going through the books, I found several pressed plants from years before - some magnolia leaves from Oakland Cemetery, Blue Orchids from Tangelia's wedding, a large leaf of Lambs Ear from Ireland.
5. I have a 20 minute debate with my 11 year old neighbor on the lessons and merits of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. versus Frederick Douglass.
6. I go shopping at Trader Joe's - something I never do - to buy snacks to make me feel like even my eating is on vacation. I buy some of my favorite things including baby roses, smoked salmon, blue potato chips, beets, olive tapenade, and havarti cheese.
7. I have a lovely dinner at Six Feet Under with Mohammad. We laugh a lot and he uses the word "kudzu" when he really means "kudos". After a hundred tries now spanning months, I finally am able to say in arabic "once upon a place in an ancient time" I eat fried catfish, corn and spinach.
8. We watched The Simpsons while drinking root beer floats and listening to the thunderstorm.
Remember those electronic phone books- like before blackberries, palm pilots, etc? They would be about the size of a calculator with a full keyboard and you would thumb in each of your contacts.
Well imagine one the size of one of those TI 83 graphing calculators, maybe more like one and a half times the size actually. I found one of those on the shelf of Mohammad's apartment as we were packing up his stuff to move.
I picked it up and giggled a little, and mimed how it would make you walk crooked cuz it was so bulky and heavy. The outside of it was that sort of texture that used to be really common that would get sticky and crusty no matter even if you didn't put it in your chewed up gum wrapper-filled purse.
He looked back at me, forehead wrinkled, "maybe somebody would want it. It used to be great."
I stared wide-eyed back and opened it up and jammed my finger on every button uselessly trying to turn it on. "It doesn't work. Its gigantic. Its sticky. No one will use it. We're throwing it out."
To which he shrugged his shoulders and lifted his hands up and stated "It's such a shame."
It's such a shame. Almost as if it was taken from my father's lips. I've realized that my honey is similar to my dad many, many times before, but this simple gesture, the use of the words "it's such a shame" are the cherry on top. I love this regcognition I've seen in both of them, that something is old and broken and useless coupled with the unwillingness to get rid of it.
What makes it even more funny is that I co-opt one of my mother's tactics, placing the humongous glorified calculator in a place slightly out of his sight, and then smoothly slide it into one of the bags of trash that were on its way out the door.
Later that night Mohammad asks me, "So did you throw it out?" I avoid the question. I think to myself, young man, you have some learning to do. My dad would have anticipated my mother's move and pulled that calculator out of the bag on his way out to the trash and then place it in the basement, safe out of my mother's sight. He would have had the sneaky smile on his face all the while he was doing it too.
When I tell my sister and brother later of the incident and reiterate once more that I am dating my father, Reem mentions that there is in fact some form of an electronic address book actually sitting on top of the bar in the basement of the parents' house.
And then, just moments ago as Mohammad realized that I was writing all this down - I needed to remember the model number of the graphing calculator I mention above so I had to ask him, see- he starts arguing how revolutionary his address book thingy was, how it was like a mini-computer and that he can't believe I'm comparing it to a graphing calculator.
Not in function baby, in size. He then references some arabic saying something like "don't mock the glorified once they've fallen."
My darling cousin Layla has recently become a carry-your-camera-with-you-all-the-time convert which I couldn't be more delighted about.
In an effort to encourage this terrific but occasionally dangerous behavior (like shooting pictures while driving 80 mph down the highway), I want to share two of her beautiful shots that she sent to me this morning. I particularly love the second one with the double rainbow and the lightning bolts.
Because he brought me a gift of a home-made terrarium to house the dead butterfly I found a week before. I found it on the ground outside his apartment when I was leaving to go to work; I have always wanted a real butterfly and this one was in perfect condition. He looked at me like I was a crazy person when I asked him to keep it for me until I could figure out what to do with it, but then he showed up at my house with it preserved in a glass votive, legs held still by drops of wax, sealed from the world with plastic wrap.
Because when I was sad, he wrote me a bedtime story about the basil plant he rescued from the trash and is nursing back to life.
Because when happily and proudly flashing a victory sign after winning Scrabble, he looks like a grown up Palestinian boy (which of course he is), grinning at a reporter's camera. How I will miss those moments when his youthful spirit shines through and mischief glints in his eye.
I often feel inadequate when I sit down to write about a show performed by a band I love. When reflecting on the magnificent Tom Waits' performance in Atlanta on Saturday night, it's words themselves that seem inadequate to capture even a fraction of what this brilliant mad man did on stage.
So there's the disclaimer: this post will simply do no justice whatsoever for what we witnessed. It can't. Words can't. Pictures help- gratitude and credit go to the lovely Ela for providing the photo above- but nonetheless, this was a classic case of you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it.
From the moment he entered the stage, gruff dark charming handsome with a permanently guilty expression, he captivated me. Singing Lucinda "...Like a kid who captures a firefly and leaves it only to die in the jar" and stomping his foot to the beat, smoke (flour?) would fly up from the ground. He was always one for theatrics.
He would stretch his arms out like he was flying but then wiggle his fingers like a hummingbird flies. No, a bumble bee. Oh my god, it was jazz hands. Okay, so Tom Waits is the only person on earth who can not only make Jazz Hands look cool, but makes you want to wiggle your fingers right back at him.
We were lucky enough to hear him play "Hold On" here in Atlanta. That song has meant so much to me; I played it on repeat for the following month after my darling Grandmother passed away in July, 2000. I remember hanging out with my old friend Howie on his deck overlooking Cloudland Canyon listening to it over and over. We would sit and drink beer, watching people hang gliding through the canyon and listening to Mule Variations on repeat. My grief was so heavy then.
Howie told me a couple years ago that he will always think about me with the line from Hold On that talks about dancing with no music in the cold. Being associated with a Tom Waits song is seriously the highest compliment I think you can be paid and it still makes my eyes well up to think about it.
But I digress.
My notes are hazy because a) I was writing in the dark b) liquor from the flask spilled a few drops and blurred my ink and c) the notebook binding is falling apart and the pages are all out of order, but some of what I can decipher include:
"drunken marionette" "old speakers strung like pots and pans in Sweeney Todd's kitchen" "dances like a zombie playing baseball"
There's so much more than can and should be said for this glorious night with Mr. Waits himself. But as I said, this blog will not do him, his band, his music or the show justice. But it will help me remember a night I should never forget.
Here's the set list- I think I got it right. If you took notes and found a mistake in my list let me know in the comments. I'm including album names because we were trying to figure those out afterwards.
Tom Waits Set list - July 5, 2008 Fox Theater, Atlanta Georgia
1. Lucinda /Ain't Going Down to the Well (Orphans: Brawlers) 2. Down in the Hole (Beautiful Maladies) 3. Falling Down (Big Time) 4. Chocolate Jesus (Mule Variations) 5. All the World is Green (Blood Money) 6. Cemetery Polka (Rain Dogs) 7. Cause of it all / 'Til the Money Runs Out (Heartattack and Vine) 8. Such a Scream (Bone Machine) 9. November (Black Rider) 10. Hold On (Mule Variations) 11. Black Market Baby (Mule Variations) 12. 9th and Hennepin (Rain Dogs) 13. Lie to Me (Orphans: Brawlers) 14. Lucky Day (Black Rider) 15. On the Nickel (Heartattack and Vine) 16. Lost in the Harbor (Alice) 17. Innocent When You Dream (Frank's Wild Years) 18. Hoist That Rag (Real Gone) 19. Make it Rain (Real Gone) 20. Dirt in the Ground (Bone Machine) 21. Get Behind the Mule (Mule Variations) 22. Hang Down Your Head (Rain Dogs) 23. Jesus Gonna Be Here (Bone Machine) 24. Singapore (Rain Dogs)
Encore 1. Eyeball Kid (Mule Variations) 2. Anywhere I Lay My Head (Rain Dogs)
There is little else better than pink cake- like the kind from the box mix. Not strawberry, stawberries don't taste like that. Pink. I like my pink cake with the pink frosting, but Mica prefers cream cheese frosting and since it was her birthday I figured her needs should come before mine.
Happy Birthday to my dear friend and sister pink cake lover!
I’m finding myself more and more jealous of my friend Pepper. She has created a life that I am craving. She has a beautiful big old house in a neighborhood that is dear to my heart. She fixed up this house in a way that shows her dreams and desires and has filled formerly empty spaces with massive, stunning oil paintings.
Mostly though what I am jealous of is that she spends a good portion of her days writing. Writing. The word makes me sigh at this point, I long for it so deeply. I receive snippets of her day's work in my email box. By reading them I get to experience from a distance her beautiful appreciation of all kinds of people, her simultaneously uncanny and hilarious ability to write the truth, and the unfolding of her lifestory.
I am so jealous.
I have found myself struggling with writer’s block lately. The times I have to write I look around blankly and realize that I’ve got nothing. I shake my head hard. Still nothing. The times when I do feel the inspiration it’s not the time to write: first thing in the morning when I’m already late for work, or in the middle of the night when I’m struggling with insomnia. The words spin around and around in my brain but I can only choose one: keep trying to sleep or start typing. I’ve been choosing sleep lately. It’s easier and my uninspiration trumps the need for words to get out of my head.
I’ve got some big huge transitions coming up very soon in my life and I think I’ve figured out one way to help deal with them. I’m going to start coming in to work later in the morning, and take that time when I first wake up and my brain resembles alphabet soup – or maybe more like a neon marquee-- to sit down and type for awhile.
I remember my writing teachers telling me to that the best way to overcome writer’s block is to just start writing down words. So that’s what I’m doing right now as we wait for the lasagna to cook. I’m drinking sparkling wine that tastes a little like sweet tears. Like laughing tears.
And I’m thinking for the hundredth time this week how much I want a life like Pepper’s, to roll out of bed and retreat to a beautiful black, dark red and silver room and dig out those words from my head. Once you get a level or two down the digging becomes more like pouring.