City days: River, culture, speech, sense of first space and the right place

I thought this was the question I most despised...
Near MACLA, downtown San Jose, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I was taking BART into San Francisco one Sunday a few weeks ago when a young man got on the train at the MacArthur station and glanced curiously at me for much longer than I was comfortable with as he made his way down the aisle.

A few minutes later, I heard someone call out, “Excuse me!” I looked over my shoulder, as did several people in my vicinity. It was the aforementioned young man. The train was packed, so he was forced to stand in the aisle, a few rows behind me, from where he delivered his bombshell question to me: “Excuse me, what language do you speak?” Everyone’s head expectantly swiveled my way, waiting for an answer.

Being asked, “Where are you from?” generally annoys me. But I hadn’t known until that morning that being asked, “What language do you speak?” could make me so furious. Was he serious? I wanted to ask, “What the f*ck do you think I speak?”

Thrown off guard, I stared over my shoulder at the guy, mentally calculating my possible responses – my totally b.s. Pukhtu, my fluent Hindku, my ever-dwindling repertoire of German, my passably conversant Urdu. But then, still angry, I responded as coldly as I could: “English.”

“Yeah? Well, I just wanted to say that…” – here, he paused to swing his arm around his head and torso – “your style is really beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I said shortly.

“Where is that kind of style from?”

Guess,” I snapped, and turned around to face the front, eyes forward, jaw tight. Apparently, a red&white wrap-around spring dress from Forever21, and flared jeans, and dangly earrings and flip-flops, and, oh yes, the headwrap, are all exotic items that have no space or sense of belonging in American fashion.

I understand that I look different, and that this will raise curiosity wherever I go. I understand, too, that some people are genuinely interested in learning about others. But I have a right to be angry about how such interest is sometimes articulated, and the manner in which such questions are sometimes posed. Really, I was fuming over being asked – point-blank and in a completely rude manner (how is it okay to make that the very first question you ask anyone?) – about what language I spoke.

Goddammit, I’m surrounded by effin’ MORONS.

I comforted myself with the thought that at least he didn’t tell me how great my English was.

Several people got off the train at the next stop, and, next thing I knew, Mr. Smooth & Charming had found a seat in the row diagonally across from mine. “Hey,” he whispered loudly.

I ignored a couple of the Heys, but I didn’t have a book with which to pretend to distract myself, and, up and down the train, people’s heads started swinging back and forth from me to the guy, so finally I turned my head, eyebrow raised challengingly.

“So, you’re not going to tell me where you’re from?” he asked in a wheedling tone, sounding a bit hurt, as if I were doing him a great disservice.

“No,” I said, spitefully spitting out clipped responses. “You just keep guessing over there.”

I turned around again. A minute later, he ventured, “Are you Gypsy?”

No.” I didn’t even bother turning around, but could still feel him staring.

“They’re the oldest race, you know.”

I sighed, raised my eyebrow again, tried to give every indication of being uninterested, but couldn’t help asking, “Who? The Gypsies?”

“No. The Egyptians.”

“I’m not Egyptian, either,” I said.

I felt like I was actively participating in a guessing game, in Twenty Questions or something, and the ridiculousness of the situation (and, perhaps, of my antisocial – even defensive? – reaction) started to hit me. Everyone on our side of the car was silently watching our childish exchange. I tried to suppress a smile, and he must have noticed my face softening, because that’s when he made his smooth and charming move: “You’re very beautiful, you know.”

“Ha. Uhh, thanks.” And I was trying not to laugh, because somehow, in his cocky yet completely bumbling way, Mr. Trying Too Hard To Be Smooth reminded me very much of my co-worker from my old Sacramento job, and I couldn’t wait to get off the train and call H#3 and say, “Guess what idiot on BART just reminded me of you?”

I turned my head to the left to look out the window. From my right, Mr. Smooth added loudly, “Your beauty will never fade.”

Mein Gott, can we get to the city already? This is killin’ me.

A young mother of two, sitting in the seat across from me – and directly in front of Mr. Smooth – smiled. Most of the other people seated in our vicinity smirked as well.

“Did you know that?” he repeated loudly. “Your beauty will – ”

“Yeah,” I said hurriedly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“When?” he challenged.

“What?”

“When will you keep it in mind?”

Forever,” deadpanned the man behind me. I started laughing, and so did he, and Mr. Smooth, shameless flirt that he was, smiled winningly, as if his charm had finally achieved victory over my cold war. I was still chuckling a few moments later when we reached the Powell St. station, and something about laughter as a letting down of the guard put me in a good enough mood again that I even saluted Mr. Smooth as I stepped off the train, calling out behind me, “Have a good one!”

[+]

While I waited at the Powell St. station for my friend to pick me up, a young man walked by, then paused and said to me, “How do you like your cell?”

I looked down at the cell phone in my hand, where I had been punching in my friend’s number. “Oh, the Razr? It’s pretty cool. I haven’t had it for too long, but I’ve been liking it so far.”

He looked at me oddly. “I said, I really like your style.”

Oh! Thanks, buddy!”

He stood there awkwardly for another moment, then just walked away. I had a good laugh after he had gone. Clearly, I’m an idiot, too.

I told N about these two encounters when she picked me up, and she just laughed and shook her head. “Yasmine, you can’t even tell when guys are hitting on you.”

“I know,” I said. “I’m hella oblivious. Somayya used to tell me I walk like this,” and I placed a hand on either side of my face – narrow focus, restricted peripheral vision. Anyone who knows me would be hard-pressed to disagree.

[+]

At a recent gathering, I chatted with a middle-aged lady about travel and the Bay. Midway through our conversation, she asked, “So, sweetie, when did you immigrate? Are you here on a student visa?”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “Oh, actually, I was born here in the U.S.”

“Where?” she asked.

Berkeley.”

A gentleman standing nearby, who happened to overhear this part of the conversation, guffawed. “Oh, but that’s not the U.S.,” he pointed out. “Berkeley’s a whole different country.”

I laughed, too. “I think I’ll have to agree with you.”

[+]

I was in San Francisco last Sunday for the Global Day for Darfur event. A Sudanese gentleman named Ebrahim gave me a wide, sunny smile and called out, “Assalamu alaikum [Peace be upon you]!”

Wa alaikum assalam [And upon you be peace],” I said, smiling back.

He shook my hand firmly. “Where are you from?”

“Oh, I’m from the East Bay,” I said (evasively, I must admit).

“Ahh. But…originally?”

I have no defense against people who ask politely. I sighed mentally. “Pakistan.”

There was that sunny smile again. “Urdu bolti hain [Do you speak Urdu]?”

I was surprised, and almost responded with, “Ligga ligga raazi [I know a little bit],” before I caught myself – that’s the b.s. Pukhtu response I’ve used since I was a child; it’s not Urdu. (I made the same mistake a few years ago, too, as some of you may remember.) “Tori si bolti hoon,” I said instead, in Urdu this time.

He beamed, and began telling me – in fluent Urdu – about the ten years he had lived in Pakistan as a Sudanese diplomat. I was blown away by his Urdu and struggled to keep up, responding with nods and smiles and monosyllabic answers.

Two of the event photographers paused nearby to take photographs of us talking. I ignored them for as long as I could, but after several blinding flashes, I turned towards them, eyebrows raised, smiling embarrassedly, hands up in a gesture of Enough. I felt like I was being stalked by the paparazzi, and I hate having my photo taken by people with fancy-schmancy cameras (and that includes my friends, too). The photographers laughed a bit; one backed away, but the other approached me to say, “I’m sorry, I was being rude. But you are very beautiful. Still, I’m sorry – that was rude of me, though.”

Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico and one of the speakers at the event, came over to introduce himself, and to stare long enough to make me uncomfortable. “You’re so pretty,” he said. I smiled politely and turned away. Thanks, Governor Richardson. Sure, now you’ve definitely got my vote for the 2008 Presidential elections.

[+]

“What the hell’s wrong with you, Yazzo?” recently asked a friend, impatiently. “Just take the damn compliments, say ‘thank you’ like a normal person, and move the hell on.”

“Easier said than done,” I muttered. “I don’t know how to gracefully accept compliments.”

“It’s called ‘THANK YOU’!” she said. I laughed, while she rolled her eyes.

“It embarrasses the hell out of me,” I said. “Can I just stab people instead, so they can stop putting me on the spot like that?”

No.

[+]

Anna has an interesting post entitled Angry Little Asian Girl on SepiaMutiny. One comment I found interesting (and agree with, at least in terms of my own personal experiences):

…from an American, “where are you from” is exclusive – it says “well, you obviously aren’t one of us, you’re not like me.” From an immigrant, the question is a pleasure because it is inclusive – it says “tell me about how you and I are alike – fellow visitors (or children of visitors) to this land.”

Ennis’ post, What’s the Opposite of Coconut, is also thought-provoking. Go read.

[+]

Recently, I was at a meeting in San Francisco. At its conclusion, we stood around munching on macaroons and exchanging contact information (business cards!). One lady was writing her Ph.D. dissertation on something related to faith/religion/spirituality, and excitedly approached me once she figured out I was Muslim. “Has your faith changed over the past ten years?” she asked. It was a great question.

“Yes, of course,” I said, even though the experience I was referring to was more like a dozen years ago. I began telling her about those eighteen months in Pakistan, and how it was so important to me because it was the first time I began to educate myself about my faith, because it was the first time “That’s just the way it’s done” wasn’t a good enough reason.

The lady interrupted me: “Was this an urban area?”

“No, it was a village. We lived with our grandmother in the same house where our father had grown -”

“Was the food different from what you were used to?”

“- where our father had grown up,” I finished. “No, the food was mainly the same, because I grew up eating Pakistani food, but at home we cook it the way our father cooks it, because -”

“Was it really greasy?”

This was really getting annoying. “- because my dad came to the U.S. when he was seventeen, so he taught himself – and later, my mother – to cook Pakistani food with a little bit of a spin. We cut all the fat off our meat and chicken, for example, and cook our food with olive oil. So our version of Pakistani food was healthier. But in the village -”

Her eyes widened. “Were the people really obese?”

“No,” I said shortly. “It was a village. People were active. They didn’t have the luxury of sitting around and -”

She interrupted me again: “Was there a high rate of heart disease in your village?”

“I have no idea, honestly.”

“Did you have electricity?”

“Yes, although -”

“How ’bout indoor plumbing?”

Not just once or twice, she did this several times, interrupting me in the middle of a sentence. I was irritated. Why even freakin’ bother asking questions, if you won’t take the time to hear the answers?

[+]

At a social gathering in San Francisco, N introduced me to F, another Hindku-speaker who is, like N, from Abbotabad. In fact, as soon as I heard “Abbotabad,” that was that first question I excitedly asked: “Do you speak Hindku, too?” And she did – sort of – thus immediately earning her status as my new favorite person in the world. (It is so rare for me to find others – besides my family – who speak this dialect here in the U.S. that N’s number is entered in my phone under “N____ .hindku!”, exuberant exclamation point and all.) We joked about being Pathan, and how no self-respecting Pathan from Attock (as I am) would ever admit that our district technically falls on the Punjab border. We are not Punjabi, no, we are from the NWFP!

Later in the evening, I couldn’t find the bottle-opener for the sparkling apple cider. So, I did what any self-respecting village girl of my background would do: I dragged one of the shiny, deliciously red plastic chairs (which, incidentally, I had been eyeing and meaning to photograph all evening, ‘though I ultimately forgot to do so) over to the door, kicked off my red heels, clambered up onto the chair, braced the ridged edge of the bottle-cap just over the metal hinge above the door-jamb, and pulled. It must have taken me a dozen tries, but the cap was finally knocked off.

Everyone watched with a mixture of amusement and perplexity. Someone made me pose again on the chair, so she could take a photo. I raised the glass bottle against the metal hinge again, until the camera flashed; then, I jumped off the red chair in triumph, laughing. It had been at least a dozen years since I had opened a bottle in that manner.

“You know where we’re from!” crowed my new friend F, holding out her hand for a stinging highfive. “NWFP!”

That night, F and I took BART back together to the East Bay. She got off before I did, in Berkeley, but up to that point we sprawled comfortably in the blue seats and conversed about this dialect we have in common. I was explaining something, and she stopped me, shaking her head: “No, no, say it in Hindku! I need to practice.” So I switched to the dialect, and, even with F’s halting sentences, the conversation was easy and personal and intimately familiar. Weeks after that exchange, I read a post Maisnon wrote recently, about correcting others’ language mistakes without causing offense, and felt a sense of recognition.

Meh akkhay,” I corrected gently. I threw in words, phrases, grammatical twists, whenever she stumbled in her story: “Akkhnihai… iss jaga vich… ke karnai…? vaisaan…” She watched my face closely, and nodded, and repeated the words after me, fitting them into her existing sentences. It was comfortable and companionable, much as I feel when throwing random Hindku words into conversation with B and N and Zana and Ayesha, knowing that they will understand my references. It is comforting to know that there are some people for whom I don’t have to recreate/re-explain my history – they know it already.

Sometimes, it is their history, too, even if they aren’t Pakistani or Muslim. I think of my friend, the lovely L lady, who has just returned from living for a year in Sudan with her parents and relatives and cousins. In some ways, the core of her experiences is so similar to mine during my eighteen months in Pakistan. And, so, we enjoy these exchanges with our friends and families – and even, perhaps, with strangers who don’t interrupt our stories, provided we give them half a chance and don’t look askance at their interest. I still struggle with this latter part.

[+]

PS: When I told my father about Mr. Smooth, he frowned and shook his head. Seemingly baffled that anyone in his right mind could possibly be interested in his daughters without the aid of illegal substances, the daddy-o’s first question was, “Was he on drugs?”

PPS: Relevant to this post, I would like to give a public shout-out to my beloved Baji, whose blogroll describes me as the “all american crackstar.” It reminds me of this post: Tell me what it’s like to be the one and only All American Girl, the All American Girl, the all amazing crazy girl.

[+]

The title of this post comes from a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, entitled Originally. Thank you, karrvakarela, for recommending it to me so long ago:

…Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.

48 thoughts on “City days: River, culture, speech, sense of first space and the right place

  1. Seemingly baffled that anyone in his right mind could possibly be interested in his daughters without the aid of illegal substances, the daddy-o’s first question was, “Was he on drugs?”

    I think daddy-o more likely believes that anyone (and I’m sure he’s aware that there are many) who would be interested in his daughters would have the good sense to approach them in a more courtly manner, since the strategy of BART-dude’s was clearly not a winner!

    Now I’m even more bummed that I don’t live in SF- but, if I ever meet you in person again, I am SO going to say, “I’m liking your style” and “your beauty will never fade.” Because I’m 12. ;)

  2. Man, you seem to have some interesting encounters!

    Last time I was asked what language I spoke, was when I was on holiday with my family in the Lake District. Little old ladies seemed shocked to see brown people around, and one finally came up and asked if we all spoke English. We said yes and she walked away, really annoyed. Couldn’t really work that one out.

    Oh and “Can I just stab people instead, so they can stop putting me on the spot like that?” made my day XD

  3. Brimful,
    haha I’m 12, too, and now that you’ve pointed out the utter ridiculousness of that “Your beauty will never fade” line again, I’m tempted to use it on some of my girlfriends. I’m sorry we never managed to meet up again before you left SF – clearly, I’m a pro at saying, “Let’s hang out!” and never following up. Let me know whenever you come back to wisit though, and I’ll get it together, I promise.

    mcpagal,
    We said yes and she walked away, really annoyed. Couldn’t really work that one out.

    hahah i loved that. Reminded me of this comment from that SepiaMutiny entry I linked to.

    By the way, dude, you’re a celebrity, did you know? I saw the How Pakistani are You? quiz on facebook, and then I also got it as an email forward a couple of days ago. But we all know my favorite one is the How Marriageable are You? quiz. ;)

    HMan,
    Stop vinking at me, yaar, or I vill esstab you in the head. No, that couldn’t have been you – you’d be crooning ’80s songs to the girls on the train instead. Or maybe making them balloon animals in an effort to win ‘em over.

  4. Anytime, my love. =) You know I can’t, for the life of me, properly tell these stories in person. So here they are. Hey, let’s do dinner week after next, maybe? I’d like to come stalk you at your new digs, and it’ll be nice to be in the city for something that’s fun and non-work-related for a change.

  5. i would have kicked Mr. Smooth in the you know what after the Gypsy comment. That’s kind of ironic though cause one time I told my sister in law “Bhabi looks like a Gypsy!” and we laugh about it to this day.

  6. “Forever!”

    That was perfect, just perfect. There are other cool people out there, yes! And have I told you? I have decided that if I ever do come around to seriously considering doing my PhD in the US, I will be doing it in Berkeley. I will live near Zaytuna and I will scour Frisco and I will go to Berkeley and make friends with people who make it a point to regularly raise a ruckus.
    Yes.

  7. oh and yasmine, you know what is going to happen as a result of this post? what is going to happen is suddenly you are going to be inundated with facebook friendship requests. yessireebob.

  8. amna,
    Seeeeriously on crack. I always get the crackheads. They just naturally gravitate my way. How do they know?

    ZMan,
    Which bhabi of yours looks like a gypsy? The Puhktu-speaking one? I wanted to kick Mr. Smooth as soon as he started with all his Hey-hey-heys.

    fathima,
    Dude, come to the Bay already! Just don’t call it ‘Frisco.’ If you do your PhD at Berkeley (NERD), we are so hanging out all the time and eating gelato at all my favorite gelato places in the East Bay.
    Re. facebook: Umm, I thought that was already happening? Who ARE all you blogistan and flickr folks who are so good at stalking me?

  9. yeah, did calling it Frisco drop my coolness points a lot? do you think Berkeley will reject me when they find out?

    so i told this one guy i was thinking about Berkeley and he said, mind you he works for Microsoft, so he’s pretty corporate even at 21, “oh the hippie university.”

    and hey, you realise we 1) know your name? and 2) can spell it right? and therefore it isn’t exactly difficult to facestalk you? hopefully you didn’t tell Senior Smooth what your name is.
    you didn’t, did you? i mean, most people melt when promised eternal beauty.

  10. oh ew. AHAHA. even as i was writing it i knew i’d done something wrong but couldn’t figure out what exactly.
    i meant Senor Smooth, not um, Senior Smooth.
    god, i need a hole. and also to get off your comments. bye.

  11. you were right! i absolutely love this post hahaha i just wish i had been there to see mr smooth and charming so i could laugh my ass off at him. but you know yaz, i applaud his efforts, he more than tried! haha it’s gonna take HELLAVA man to break down that GREAT WALL around your heart! LOL. i’m gonna start calling it the great wall of yazzo hahahahhahahhahaha i cant believe you told your dad…i wish i was there for that one too! i miss out on all the great moments :( and i really need to meet these other “hindko people.”

  12. oh come on yaz! im SO disappointed in you.
    when someone tells me im beautiful, i tell them point blank they are wasting my time by stating the obvious.
    your story was SOOOOOOOOOO CUTTTTTTTTTEEEE!
    he was trying SO hard. :( at least you arent hitting on or are being hit on by plastics :D

  13. By the way, dude, you’re a celebrity, did you know?

    Yeah, psh, the paparazzi are driving me nuts! Glad you liked the marriage one, it was fun-er to write. (You scored so well, too!). And it was weird, someone forwarded me a link to the Pakistani one, and I was all ‘hey I wrote that!’ and then they were like ‘omg lol vhat?’.

  14. i have to admit, i did laugh at the attempt to woo you by that lad on the train and how unimpressed you were with it, heh. I’ve had the occasional old lady ask me where i’m from when i’ve been chatting to them, but strangers wouldn’t come up to you and ask you point-blank what language you speak- i guess there is some benefit to the British stiff upper-lip! Plus there’s so many brown/foreign/exotic people around i suppose we’re not all that unusal in that regard. I take it the Bay isn’t all that multicultural?

    at least the guy got one thing right, you are a pretty foine specimen of a gal! ;-)

    take care!

  15. fathima,
    You know, there are 500+ women named Yasmine on facebook, so I really don’t know how people would find me on there unless they search me by last name – and I’ve never used my last name on the weblog. In which case, those who know it are seriously stalkers, and I rest my case. But, no, I didn’t tell Senior Smooth (ha!) my name. I’m surprised he didn’t think of asking that question.
    And don’t worry about Berkeley – I’ll do what it takes to help you get in, even if it means I have to bribe the admissions committee with gelato. (Honestly, I have no connections there, but never underestimate the power of gelato, yaar.)

    Somayya my love,
    hahaha THE GREAT WALL OF YAZZO has a nice ring to it. I’m going to tell Baji to trademark it for me. Wish you had been there, too; you would have reminded me of it all the rest of my life, though. I miss you, buddy boy. I foresee a stalking session sometime soon – you and me and seher and L. Let’s make it happen!

    Hemlock,
    Yaar, I’m not as quick with responses as you, in these sort of situations. I just get all tongue-tied and annoyed. =) And what’s this drama about being hit on by plastics? ‘Splain.

    mpagal,
    You scored so well, too!

    I scored 22% on the ‘How Marriageable are You?’ quiz, yaar! hahaha SO great. Topnotch, A-plus, oopar paanch!

    Nadia,
    “That lad on the train” was incorrigible, seriously. And not only was I unimpressed, I was feeling annoyed and awkward and embarrassed, so that’s a great mixed gamut of emotions. The Bay is pretty multicultural, but apparently that doesn’t stop people from being ignorant/confused/annoying about and towards one another.

    Ruqayyah,
    Glad you enjoyed, buddy boy. =) ‘Course, I wanted to stab each of these people at the time, but it does make for good stories later.

  16. omg, you write english, like, so good! where did you learn to do that?

    (btw — “esstab” three times as hilarious as “‘ol Indian EyeBall”)

  17. Salamaat,
    I love your daddy-o; O’ gorgeous one. I too have dreams of moving to “frisco” and sharing those yummy rays of sunshine and endless supplies of slurpies (but I don’t really like slurpies…hmmm…don’t stab me please :) )

    Take care of you and I am glad you can stay grounded inspite of all those stalkers :)

  18. Oh Yasmine I love this post.
    And I think I share the same sort of experiences with you, except I never have any exceptions about my annoyances with ppl and their original questions.
    Phst.

    But, awesooome post!
    And just so you know, if I ever saw you, I would stare and compliment you over and over and over again.
    I guess I’m like Ms. Smooth and caring. :) hehehe

  19. haha i think its just part of using public transport. this one time i was on the bus (mind you, my first time or something!) and this one guy insisted on talking to me in Spanish. he was convinced I was a ‘Latino!’ I kid you not. He really freaked me out bec he came and sat next to me as soon as the lady next to me moved. So, i got out at the wrong stop – about 5 stops away from the library where i supposed to go. and then i got lost on the way to the library and freaked out all over again.

    in my defense, i had JUST moved to Houston and I really did not know how to deal with crazy people on the bus! haha

    -amna :)

    p.s. can i add you to my blogroll?

  20. You know if I can’t even count the number of times someone has called me beautiful on the subway, it is just so irritating. I wish for once, they might say that I am ugly, or that I have a lopsided face, or that my beard hairs are perpendicular to my face. The nerve.

    But on a less serious note – when people do accost you as such, your initial reaction should be to start singing that song by Enya – just the unintelligble refrain – Ahya hayyyy owayy aaayyyo owayyo owayyyiyyyaaa.

  21. yeah, yaz, i don’t know how you are going to hang out with fathima in berkley when you are coming to the east coast for an extended stay.

    let the campaigning begin!
    *hands out buttons and flyers*

  22. Anjum,
    I just can’t do it! Even about the most trivial things! Glad you enjoyed the post. I wanted to turn it into a bunch of short posts, but then I just threw everything together, and hoped it connects enough to make sense why I did so.

    agk,
    oh my god, maybe i learned it in suckool?! i even spoke english in kindergarten, imagine that! hahaha. dude, nothing, and i do mean nothing, will top talking about giving someone the “ol’ Indian Eyeball.” freakin’ hilarious. i talk a lot about stabbing, though, so you will get used to it. =)

    Maliha,
    My east coast contingent (see below) is harassing me to visit The Other Coast. maybe our paths will cross someday yet. but i think you should come on over to the sunshine here, instead.
    PS: it’s okay, not everyone like slurpees. besides, the ones i really like are called icees. but i like the name ‘slurpee’ more. =)

    monologist,
    And just so you know, if I ever saw you, I would stare and compliment you over and over and over again.

    yes, and then you will die. just kidding. but, really, i wouldn’t be able to handle it. let’s just do a flickr/blogistan meetup and, instead of outta control compliments, focus on taking pictures instead – with heads cut off. hahaha

    amna,
    i was at a gathering yesterday where this guy (who is jewish and whose family has lived in jerusalem for hundreds of years, but before that lived in morocco and turkey after the catholic rulers expelled the jews from spain), and he told this story about going to a persian store, and the lady there said to him, “you’re persian, aren’t you?”
    and he said, “no, no, i’m from jerusalem.”
    and she kept saying, “no, you’re persian. i know you are. i know you speak farsi.” and she kept speaking to him in farsi, and he was so lost. it was hilarious.
    PS: yes, of course you may! i’m honored. thank you.

    ayan,
    I wish for once, they might say that…my beard hairs are perpendicular to my face. The nerve.

    hahaha i’m going to start paying more attention to the brothers’ beard hairs now. except, they’ll probably think i’m trying to hit on them. oh, how the tables have turned. fine, i’ll restrain myself. that’s such a hilarious image, though. also, i don’t know that song. i am INCAPABLE of understanding half of your random references, yaar.

    HMan,
    okay, okay, i’ll try to coordinate this, dammit. THE END.

    baji,
    yeah, i dunno either, but stop trying to cancel my social plans for me! hahaha. hey, i bet toronto is closer to DC than to california anyway. what happened to my brilliant idea of a blogistan meetup in The Year of Double-Oh-Seven? where’s chai and najm and shaheen and all the crackheads? we’ve got to make this happen, seriously, because ‘double-oh-eight’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  23. okay, here’s the thing – i can guarantee najm’s participation and i can probably strong arm chai too. i don’t know what happened to shaheen, but if word of the meet up reached her ears, she might emerge. and clearly, hijabman will be present. and LB. and ZP. and COME ON NOW! all you have to do is show up! you can stay with us, we’ll feed you, pamper you, and even let you hold the remote.

  24. “Seemingly baffled that anyone in his right mind could possibly be interested in his daughters without the aid of illegal substances, the daddy-o’s first question was, “Was he on drugs?” ‘

    Fathers are so brilliant. remind me the next time we meet to tell you about how Abuji asked Basil if he had ever tried CRACK – while we were having dinner in the South Bay at Red Lobster. ;)

    xo,
    B

  25. Dude, taking public transportation is one of the surest ways to ensure the entrance of eccentricity into one’s life. In defense of the daddy-o, many of the oddest encounters unfortunately involve people on some mind-bending illicit substance or mentally ill individuals (as conventionally defined) that have been turned away by the federal and state healthcare establishment.

    PS – Between you and Beanay there is definitely enough materiel [sic] to start your own fashion label mA. Sunshine Designs?

  26. yasminay, if you come anywhere on or near the east coast of the US, you are hereby required by law to inform me. There cannot be a flickr/blogistan meetup without me! I would die of heartbroken-ness. I mean heartbreak.

  27. The number of comments on this post is hella making me laugh. I never knew you guys would be so amused by stories like these!

    bdr,
    Sorry, your comments got caught as spam, buddy. Thanks so much for sharing that link. SO AWESOME. I’ve already watched the trailer twice, and have put in a request to get the film in my area. Did I mention, SO AWESOME? I really want to see the whole thing!

    Baji,
    COME ON NOW! all you have to do is show up! you can stay with us, we’ll feed you, pamper you, and even let you hold the remote.

    Ooh, does that mean I can watch nonstop MacGyver reruns, too? Dude, I sent you and HMan and 2Scoops an email. Keep holding me to this, and it just might happen, inshaAllah. =) Meanwhile, give LB a big ol’ hug for me, and bite ZooZoo’s pudgy cheeks.

    Baraka,
    Abuji asked Basil if he had ever tried CRACK – while we were having dinner in the South Bay at Red Lobster.

    I laughed so hard at that! Dude, you HAVE to tell me this story next time we meet! There’s no way I can forget this one.

    2Scoops,
    “Entrance of eccentricity” has such a fun ring to it. Kinda like “conversations on crack,” as well as “sunshine designs.” I’m going to make Bean steal and use the Sunshine Designs idea. You’re a JUNIOUS, yaar!
    PS: Didja get my email? Can we make this East Coast business happen? Blogistan007? Yeah? Don’t make me stalk you – or, at least, let’s set up an East Coast stalking session; looks like the demand is overwhelming.

    Anjum,
    DUDE. You think you’re not one of the first people on my mind when I think “East Coast”? Hell yeah, we are so re-enacting our Berkeley/San Francisco good times! I would never let you die of heartbroken-ness.

  28. the only thing i know about macguyver is what i’ve learned from patty and selma’s obsession with him. now that THAT has been addressed, aye, anjum, you are expected to join our efforts to get these crackfornians over hyah and be part of the welcoming committee!

  29. you are a great writer! amazing how you actually remember all these encounters! of course when people ask me where i’m from, i tell them i’m originally egyptian but i was born and raised here. they find it thrilling and i am proud to share it with them:) you should be too!!! you can’t help it if people find you interesting!!! :):)

    altho you are right, some people jsut dont know how to put their thoughts into words,lol

  30. Interesting!

    If you like to read Islamic Arabic lectures that have been translated into English you can visit DaralislaamLive non-profit: http://www.daralislaamlive.com it has translated lectures of Amr Khaled, Wagdi Ghonem and Khalid Abudllah. For all people who love to read more on Islam! If you like it, please share it, bookmark it, advertise it, jazakum Allah kheir!

  31. you have some amazing writing skills. i could not stop reading your account of all sorts of things. had to stop though because it is really captivating and uplifting to read of your adventures. hope we get a chance to talk and see you soon around the bay.. paz, javier

  32. I love your daddy-o; O’ gorgeous one. I too have dreams of moving to “frisco” and sharing those yummy rays of sunshine and endless supplies of slurpies (but I don’t really like slurpies…hmmm…don’t stab me please :) )

    Take care of you and I am glad you can stay grounded inspite of all those stalkers :)

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