Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welcome To My Family, Genia

Last week, Genia came to my house to meet my parents. No, we're not dating, and no, this isn't anything like meeting the parents and "taking our relationship to the next level" or anything. We were both in Illinois and had vacation time, so we spent a day together. That's all.

We spent the afternoon being pretty lazy, hanging out in the yard with my mom and watching cable. We later went out to dinner with my parents. That's what I usually do when I'm at my parents' house. It's an effing vacation right there!

After dinner, we were all kind of standing around in the kitchen when my dad decided to begin "preparing the fruits." This is an almost nightly ritual that takes place at my parents' house. Dad gets out several fruits, probably about five types, and begins preparing them. Oranges and pears are peeled, blueberries are washed and presented in a beautiful bowl, strawberries get the green parts chopped off, and melons are shaped into attractive pieces. Peaches and kiwis are avoided because he can't stand the way the fuzzy skin feels. Those ones are up to my mom to prepare.

Then comes the inevitable...Dad goes to the refrigerator in the garage, reserved only for fruits, giant jars of olives and pickles he makes himself, and a variety of beers that nobody ever really drinks. He returns with a crate of figs...and I use the term "crate" quite literally. This particular crate is about 12 by 24 inches. Full of figs.

So here's the part where Genia gets initiated. It has happened to several people so far, Tara included. I think my dad took her out to the garage and opened the trunk of his car, asking her "Do you like dates?" She was dating my brother at the time, and was thoroughly confused, until he showed her the giant-raisin-looking fruits stacked in his trunk, again, in crates, and made her sample one. It was probably all she could do not to spit it out. Actually, maybe she did spit it out later, covertly. Tara? Any information?

Okay, I'm digressing. Here's how it went:

Dad: Genia, have you ever had a fig?
Genia: No, I don't think I have
Dad: Come over here, have one. These are the most delicious things you will ever eat

Genia samples a freshly peeled fig straight from my dad's hand. She likes it, which means she's in! Approval abounds, and she and my dad chat as they eat a few more figs each. My mom and I mention this one time we had dates wrapped in bacon at a tapas restaurant, to which my father replies (and this is a direct quote by the way...I wrote it down immediately after he said it, for the soul purpose of later repeating it in this blog):

When you want to mock lovely fruits, you put chocolate on dates or cheese on figs. This is an insult.

Beautiful, right? My dad is a lovely, beautiful man who just wants to share the wonder of unadulterated fruits with the world. Only, then the initiation turns into a weird sort of hazing. He pulls out the gross dates, the hard, round, yellow ones that taste awful to probably everybody except him and Auntie Vicky.

"Try this one," he says to Genia. As I watch her attempt to choke down a tiny bite, I think of my cousin Laith, who, when traveling in Saudi Arabia, was served a plate of cooked pigeon. Not wanting to insult, he began eating it. The men around him laughed, explaining that they always serve pigeon to "The New Guy." He stopped eating, relieved, knowing that he was officially part of the Arab business world, and waited for his meal of plain old regular lamb to arrive.

My father watches Genia and says "You don't like this one, do you?" She shakes her head honestly and he holds out his hand to take the half-eaten date and put it in the trash. "Not very many people do."

As I stand back and observe, Genia and my father keep chatting as if they've known each other for years. She asks him how dates grow, and he says "I will show you. Hold on a minute." He disappears from the room for a few minutes. Then we hear the voice from the front of the house, calling insistently "Genia! Come over here!" Genia, giggling, goes to find my father. A few minutes later, they two of them are leaning over the kitchen counter looking at a beautiful photo album that I've never seen before. My father explains that a patient of his used to travel in the Middle East in the 1950s and was a photographer. After my father treated him, the man wanted to give my father a gift. He put together an album of photos from Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, complete with captions, and gave it to my father. The pages are full of date palm trees, camels, people working in the souks, minarets atop mosques...these are some of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. And, per my father's request, little to no evidence of war or religion anywhere.

"Dad, where did this come from?" I ask in amazement. He looks at me, shaking his head and smiling. "Reemie, this has been sitting in the living room for about twenty years."

I later relay this entire story to my brother, who has never heard about this album either. It blows my mind that things like this exist in my life and only seem to surface as a result of the beautiful connection brought about by figs and dates.

Maybe I should try fresh dates again. Maybe I'll be justly rewarded. Maybe fruits are the answer to everything I've been looking for. What a lovely solution.

Things That Are Making Me Happy Today

*Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt
*Toast with butter
*Vampire Weekend
*The Hold Steady (I can't believe these nerds made the list)
*My bed:

*The breeze and the lanai:

*Having a vacation day with nothing that important or pressing to do
*White clothing for some reason
*Various blogs:
My sister
Awesome MacKenzie from college
*My awesome beach/pool bag:

*The fact that my earrings are so organized right now:

I just thought you all should know!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Okay dudes. So I am writing this blog, but before I even get into it, I must give credit where credit is due. This blog is inspired by Tara and Sara. Tara was the original inspiration, and Sara helped with the research. So although the brilliance this blog is about to entail is by no means my own, I'd encourage you to keep reading. Others are hilarious too, you know! BOOM! I'm so conceited.

So, I was gmail chatting it up with both Tara and Sara this morning. Tara and I were discussing sports, specifically The Olympics, and talking about how Michael Phelps is a little bit funny. He's on the US swimming team and has broken like 78 world records. I think that's the exact number. Anyhow, check it out:

10:26 AM
Tara: im kind of scared of michael phelps' noodle-y body
me: haha yeah! can you imagine him giving you a big hug??
10:27 AM
Tara: gross
10:28 AM
like when he's warming up and flips his arms around and they are like disconnected
me: I'm telling you..
yeah! they are noodle-y! good description!
10:29 AM
Tara: he's like those inflated things at car washes and stuff, you know?
they wiggle all weirdly in the air
they totally gross me out
10:30 AM
Tara: this is why im a little scared of him
10:31 AM
me: see, I LOVE those things! And I'm not usually scared of Michael Phelps!
only when I imagine him hugging me
10:32 AM
Tara: look at him when he's getting ready at the pool and he flips his arms around
he looks just like one of those thigns!
dude are you going to write a blog about this, or am I?
Tara: hahahaa

Basically, I envisioned the blog as showing videos of both the noodle-y things and of Michael Phelps. The problem was that I had no idea how to find what those things are called. Now, since I was chatting with my sister at the same time, I thought to myself, "Sara is a smart cookie! Why not take a shot in the dark and ask her what she thinks those things are called?" The conversation went as follows:

10:34 AM
hey I have a question
you know those guys outside like car dealerships and gas stations? the things that wave their arms all crazy in the wind?
not real people, btw
Sara: yup
me: how do you think you would look that up on youtube?
to find a video possibly
10:35 AM I wonder what they're called...
Sara: well, on family guy they call them Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man
me: HAHAHAHA omg. how do you know this
Sara: heh heh i'm a genius
10:36 AM
me: okay I'll look that up specifically
Sara: tell me if it works
me: you know what?
it did.

So, let's all say a great big thank you to Tara and Sara (say their names so they rhyme. It's funny) for providing us with the hilarity that will inevitably follow after watching the following videos. Good work everybody!

Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man (found with Sara's creative genius):

Michael Phelps before a race (you have to go to about 1:12 in the video. Don't worry about watching the rest). Tara found this one!

I also feel that I have to add that my sister called the Wacky Waving things "gentle giants." Oh my effing god. Today belongs to Sara and Tara.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Going Batty (sorry, I had to)

Where do I even begin...?

Well, I should probably begin with me, I guess. I am sometimes a little paranoid and irrational, as well as a jumpy son of a gun. Once I was out at picnic point with Lia and Elsworth and JV, and there was some animal getting in the trash about 20 feet from us. I was terrified; I "hid" by standing up on a bench, huddling behind Lia, and watching what I thought was a bear. I'm pretty sure I ran back to the car, and if you have ever met me, it's probably pretty clear that running does not happen too often in my life. Later, my father made fun of me severely, taunting me with "Oh yes, Reemie, I'm sure there are many bears in Madison. Yes, I'm sure they spend time right by the university with all the young people drinking. In the middle of a mid-sized city with a population of a few hundred thousand people." You get the idea. He was probably right though. I was being pretty irrational. It was most likely a raccoon. Maybe a giant, horse sized raccoon, but a raccoon nonetheless.

Another time, when I was 23 and working in a preschool in the basement of a church, it was my job to open the building in the mornings. I was alone in the dark classroom, and I went into the kids bathroom to make sure there was toilet paper. I looked around, and all of a sudden something caught my eye. There was a dead mouse floating in the toilet! I screamed and backed away. Why did I scream? I don't know. The mouse was clearly dead. I was alone. Nothing was going to happen. Still, I screamed. I knew the kids would be coming within the next fifteen minutes, and there would be a lot more screams (probably a lot cuter than mine) if I didn't take care of the situation. I put on two pairs of gloves - one latex and one of those yellow rubber dishwashing ones - and lifted the mouse out of the toilet. I think I may have put it in the trash...I don't remember. What I do remember is bumping into a door afterwards and having somebody's jacket fall off the door onto the floor. The sudden noise made my heart jump and I screamed again. Because of a jacket calling on the floor. A jacket and a dead mouse...and a blood curdling scream. It's a little ridiculous, don't you think?

But tonight. Tonight was different. The screaming and the heart jumping and the slamming of the doors and almost crying and sending out frantic texts was all totally rational tonight. You know why? Because there was a fucking BAT in my apartment. Right in my living room, flying back and forth into my kitchen. A bat. Fuck...

I had just returned home from a lovely evening at the High Noon, where there was a benefit for lovely Miss Erika. I'd also made a lovely stop at lovely Taco Bell because damn, I wanted a quesadilla up in here. I sat on my couch, watching the television a bit, checking the email a bit...all the usual. All of a sudden, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. What the fuck?? There's this monster of a creature flying over my head and zipping by right in front of my face. I cower on the couch with my legs flailing up in the air, brandishing a pillow over my head as I let out short little gasps and screams. The airborne monster flies back and forth from my kitchen to my living room, which is really just one big space, never stopping to land a single time. At this point I am absolutely freaking out. I HATE flying animals in any buildings; even birds in airports or Sam's Club creep me out, although they have all that wide open space. I've seen birds get in the house before, but never a bat. I was absolutely terrified.

I ran into my bedroom and slammed the door shut. I'd peek out from time to time, only to see the giant bat flying back and forth at breakneck speed. Several times, it seemed to turn and start flying right towards my hiding spot behind the door. At those points, I would once again slam the door. I'm sure my brand new downstairs neighbors appreciated this at 11:30 on a school night. I didn't know what to do, so I tried several things, all of which were stupid and pointless and did not help the situation. I threw a pillow across the room, and the bat ignored it. I ran across the room and opened the door to the hallway, which the bat went nowhere near. I managed to frantically gather my phone and computer (and for some reason, turn off the television) while the bat was in the kitchen for a minute. I ran back into my room and slammed the door again, bracing myself for a long night of being held hostage in my very own bedroom. Suck!

At this point I'm very close to crying. I send out a frantic text message to four people, only TWO of whom answered (Schabow and Uncle Juice, you two are in the dog house until further notice). And here, my friends, is where I must thank my lucky stars for the one and only Miss Genia, who called me back within minutes. She sounded slightly amused on the phone, and about ten trillion times calmer than I felt, and she said she'd come over. "I'm actually kind of excited about it," she confessed. Well Genia, your adventure is my nightmare. Keep that in mind.

Genia is a life saver. She came right over, instructed me to stay in the bathroom, grabbed a broom and a giant towel and was off on her way to save the day! As I sat, biting my nails and cringing, listening at the door to hear the action, I heard Genia calmly talking to the bat, saying such soothing things as "don't be stupid, little bat! Get out that door!" Through some act of brilliant genius, or talent, or whatever, she was able to get the bat out the back door and out onto the lanai. I cried a few tears of joy, and several tears of horror and hugged Genia as hard as I could. Now that's one badass woman right there.

Since I was in no shape to be in the same room whilst the great bat chase of 2008 was taking place, and I couldn't have asked Genia to do anything else, no pictures were taken. You know what you do when you can't get live pictures? You reenact. Below are the reenactment pictures of Genia fighting like a warrior and me acting like a total boner in the bathroom. Notice the one of me with my head down. I was most likely crying like a toddler during that one.

Genia wields her broom of steel:

Genia wields her towel of steel:

Reem bites her nails in the bathroom like a total boner:

Reem cries:

So yes, I'm terrified of a tiny little animal, which you all may find ridiculous, or hilarious. ButI know deep in your heart that one or two of you must be a bit concerned. What of the repercussions, you may ask? What of the victim in the this story? Yes, I may have acted like a wiener, but damn, this was a bit scarring! I can guarantee you that if I even end up sleeping tonight, the sleep will be oft interrupted by dreams of bats, intermingled with pirate ships and homework, I'm sure. Even as I sit here writing this, every time I close my eyes, I imagine a red tunnel with hundred of bats flying right towards me. And for some reason, the tunnel looks like the inside of a throat and the bats are all cartoons. Every noise I hear when I'm on my own will make me jump. I'll have to sleep with all the windows and doors closed for weeks to come. I'll be frightened every time I open a drawer or the refrigerator - maybe a bat will fly out! Every shadow I see will make me run under the covers or put up the hood of my jacket. I'll be forced to keep my hair in a ponytail just in case a bat gets in and tried to get all tangled up in my hair. I won't open my mouth for fear of a bat appearing and flying directly into it. Anybody remember the Simpsons episode where there are rats running around and Bart yells "Milhouse, don't open your mouth!" and as soon as he does, a bunch of rats land directly inside? Yeah. That's how it feels.

The last thing I'll mention is that I did a few other irrational things whilst waiting to hear back from the people I texted. I immediately went on facebook and changed my status to something like "reem needs help getting the bat out right now." I put on a lot more clothing; I put on pants, a hoodie that I zipped all the way up, and for some reason, a pink hat. I think it was the hair tangling theory there. Ugh. I considered going up to the attic to wake up Xiao and see if he could help me. I considered living in a hotel for the rest of my life. I most likely considered calling YOU. Look what you could have been a part of!

So that's the story of the bat. And how I, as a grown ass women, still act like a total baby. A paranoid, neurotic baby. Waa waa. Eat it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Xiao and Tell

Although I've lived in two different apartments in the last three years, I've had the same landlords this entire time. My landlords are couple who live in Beloit, about an hour south of Madison. Their names are Anne and Xiao (pronounced "show"). Xiao is from China. He is about my height (short, I know...about 5'4") and probably about 110 pounds, soaking wet. He has longish, shaggy black hair and he usually wears a t-shirt and cargo shorts. His accent is often close to undecipherable (this, from the daughter of the foreigners!), but I can usually make out what he's saying.

Yesterday I ran into him and asked him if he could help me remove a couple of wasps nests that were forming on the lanai. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: Hi Xiao! I was wondering if you could take a look at these two wasp nests...
Xiao (interrupting): They will be gone by tomorrow.
Me: Oh, wow, great. Let me just show you...
Xiao (again, interrupting): No problem, no problem, you won't even see them tomorrow. They'll be gone.
Me: Oh great! That's so great. Thank...
Xiao: You won't even see them. They will not be there tomorrow.

Awesome. Xiao takes care of the business. Once he felt that I was completely convinced that I would never see those nests ever again, he asked me if the noise was bothering me lately (he's doing a ton of work in the attic and until recently would start hammering and sawing at about 8 am. I had a lovely conversation with Anne and they agreed not to start working until after 11. How nice!). I said things were fine, but I was sorry if he woke up early with nothing to do all morning. He replied with this:

No! This is wonderful! I wake up and relax for awhile, and then I work on my painting and drawing all morning! It's getting better...

How beautiful. It reminded me of a couple of other beautiful moments:

Xiao sits with me on the porch of my old house as I read the lease for my new apartment. All of a sudden, completely out of the blue...

Xiao: Do you watch the Discovery Channel?
Me: No, I don't have cable, but I like it when I do see it!
Xiao: Yesterday I watched this beautiful program. It was about all the animals of all the world. From every country. China, Egypt, The United States....all of them!

Another time, Xiao spotted the empty box from when I'd bought my digital piano. He was like "what in the world is that from?" and I explained that it was from the piano I bought. I swear, Xiao's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "You have a piano??? Upstairs?!? In this very house??" That's basically what he said. I was like "yeah, come on up and see it!" As soon as he saw it, he started begging me to play. I literally played about 10 seconds of Für Elise before I heard him saying "So beautiful...so wholesome. So beautiful. Wholesome." Over and over again. Wholesome? Really? Sometimes, these days, when I'm playing without my headphones, I'll hear him in the attic walking over to the space right above where I'm playing and get quiet. I'm still working on not getting self-conscious during those times.

When Gwen and I first moved in together, one of the doors to her bedroom was missing. Xiao said he'd look for it, but that in the meantime, he could "hang a beautiful beaded curtain" in the doorway. He did this with several grand hand gestures.

The last thing I'll say about Xiao is that apparently one time he told Gwen that Begonia the cat "knows all the secrets of the world."

Okay, one more thing. The reaons we say "Xiao and Tell" is because Anne talks so much, so we call her Tell. It all makes sense, see?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Real Live Hobo

I wrote this one awhile ago but just reread it and remembered how awesome hobos are...

So I drove to Cottage Grove today at about 9 am to go some piano lessons at a house, and I got to the end of the driveway, and as I turned to head up towards the house, this man emerged from the cornfield holding something over his shoulder, and I could only make one assumption, being...

This man is a hobo and the thing over his shoulder is a bindle.

It has got to be true. He's a hobo with his bindle and he's "tramping" through the corn fields belonging to my home school family, in between riding the rails and swapping stories for sponge baths. It has got to be true.

But I look closer, and really he's just a grown ass man in a full suit of camouflage, carrying a paintball gun over his shoulder. I stare at him, my car stopped in the middle of the road, and he looks back, brushes some leaves from his uniform, and carries on down the street.

Here's the part when I feel little "...?" about my thought process. As soon as I realized he wasn't a hobo with a bindle, I forgot all about him and never stopped to ask or think about what the hell this man was doing in the cornfield, and why he was wearing camouflage, and especially why he had a paintball gun over his shoulder. At 9 am. In Cottage Grove.

I guess it just didn't matter anymore, once he wasn't a hobo.

Sometimes when I can't sleep I like to read a book I already have read 28 times: Fried Green Tomatoes. I've been reading it for probably over ten years, and this has never stood out to me before, but the other night I was reading and I laughed so hard and then couldnt go to bed for even longer because of the beginning of the chapter starting on page 17. Here it is:

Davenport, Iowa
Hobo Camp
October 15, 1929

Five men sat huddled around a low-burning fire, orange and black shadows dancing on their faces as they drank weak coffee out of tin cans: Jim Smokey Phillips, Elmo Inky WIlliams, BoWeevil Jake, Crackshot Sackett, and Chattanooga Red Barker - five of the estimated two hundred thousand men and boys roaming the countryside that year.

Oh god. Oh GOD. How was this not the most hilarious thing in the world before recently? I mean, Crackshot Sackett? Weak coffee out of tin cans? Give me a break. I cant believe that, at one time, I was able to read seriously about hobos, hobo names, and hobo camps. I mean, god. that shit is the funniest thing anybody can even discuss. Ever in life. Damn.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What Happens When Two Things You Love Get Put Together

I guess I should say three things, because

1. Bang Camaro
2. KG


3. Brilliant vocal harmonies.

Let me marry each of these men, please. Plus Jack Black times a billion