Wandering around aimlessly in downtown one day, I stopped by one of my favorite little shops, only to see the following sign on its door: UNOPEN. Which is a hell of a lot better than the deliberate finality of Closed, you know? UNOPEN means, We’re taking a little break, but we’re not gone, don’t worry! A return is imminent, within the next 5 minutes, or later in the day, or tomorrow, or in two weeks, who knows, but rest assured, we’ll be back! And that’s exactly how I’ve felt about this website over the last few months – except for the fact that I never talk about myself in the plural.
I can’t believe it’s been nearly four months since there has been a new post here. “Update your goddamn blog,” demanded HijabMan at the end of May. Several of you have left lovely comments exhorting me to update. In mid-July, I was watching a poetry slam in downtown San Jose when HMan called to inform me I was GROUNDED for not updating this website in over two months and “may you never taste a blue slurpee again.” Nearly every other day, the sister says, “DUDE! Update!” Even the blogistanis on flickr and facebook are getting into the swing of things. My excuse has been that I’m “too busy with work and livin’ it up.”
Hashim, one of my favorite flickr rockstars, doesn’t understand the point of weblogs. I tried to address his question as well as I could. Contrary to what my four-months absence may have made you think, I lowve blogistan, and although my flickr response seemed to focus more on the functionality of blogging, it’s the community I love the most. I didn’t spend five days on the East Coast for the “Newunion007″ for nothing, you know. [Stories about that coming soon, too.]
Madelyne of Persisting Stars, whom I actually first met through flickr, wrote too many undeserved nice things about me recently, and made me realize how much I missed the blogging community. So, I thought I should come back to this little space of mine to share my stories, silly and mundane as they often are.
So. What do you what to know? Mainly, it’s been a summer of hellos and goodbyes and hanging-out sessions in the sunshine. I once wrote the following about my lovely friend, H:
H#4 (I have too many friends with âHâ and âSâ names. I swear Iâm going to start numbering them like this) tried to talk me out of skipping class one day by grimly informing me that, based on her calculations, each time I skip one lecture, I am wasting $25 of that quarterâs tuition. My friends are such engineering nerds, can you tell?
Now, H – my official Eating & Napping Buddy – has left for graduate school in New York state. When we got too scared talking about how cold NY will be in the winter, I comforted her by saying, “Don’t worry, buddy boy. We’ll all come stalk you!” She will hold me to it, though: Over dinner at her home, the night before she left, we laughed about the two photo albums I had brought for her (a birthday/going away gift, filled with hundreds of photographs from the last several years; “You’ve documented my entire college career in here!” said H. “This is the best birthday present ever!”), and nicknames (“It’s so funny to hear you call her Yasmine,” H said to her parents. “Why, what do you call her?” they asked. “I call her ‘Yaz,’” she replied, then added hastily, “But you’re not allowed to call her that.” “Why not?” “Because only my yaars call me that,” I drawled), and my propensity for photographing food (“Yaz even takes pictures of french fries!” H told her parents). I ate three servings of fish, and two of potatoes, and one bowl of soup; when her father urged me to add some white pepper, his favorite, to my soup, H said, “Try it! It’s so good!”
“I bet you’re going to miss it when you’re in New York,” I said smugly.
“No, I won’t. You’ll bring it for me when you come visit.”
And that was the theme of the evening: “If all my sweaters don’t fit in my suitcase, you can bring them when you come visit.” “When you bring some oranges from your tree over for my parents, make sure you bring a few extra ones for me to New York.” “Oh, those photos you forgot to print out? Don’t worry, you can bring them with you when you visit me.”
I miss her, and those afternoons in college when I would climb the stairs to her apartment and sprawl on her couch, studying biology and physics while she pored over engineering notes, laughing as she pulled one tupperware container after another out of her fridge and freezer and demanded, “What do you want for lunch? Let’s eat!” We watched daytime TV (psycho soap opera dramas), traded music CDs, dozed off and took naps on that comfy couch. H gave me so many HIGHFIVEs that summer, as I passed one neurobiology quiz after another, much to my amazement and my friends’ collective refrains, I TOLD you, you could do it! Now I’m the one sending her highfives through GMail chat, as her status messages update us on negotiations with her landlord and newfound internet connections and settling into her apartment.
A left just a few days ago, too, back to Jeddah after a decade of school and work and play in the U.S. I’m going to miss his voicemessages, all of them with some variation of: “Hey, cracker. I know you’re a busy lady, but call me back!” I called him the other evening to say goodbye, since he is one of the few people with whom I enjoy having lengthy phone conversations [the others are pretty much Somayya and 2Scoops]. “Come visit!” he said.
“Saudi? Sure,” I said sarcastically.
“No, I really mean it!” he said. “When you come for Hajj. My sister lives in Mecca. And we have family in Medina, too. Stay with us. We’ll take care of you.”
“Lookit you all, A, taking over the WORLD!” I laughed. And although I’d rather stay close to the haram while on Hajj, it was a sweet offer and much appreciated, thoroughly in character with what I’ve come to expect from A, who is sort of the big brother I never had.
We always laugh about how we first met – last fall at the ISNA convention in Chicago, where he was tabling and translating at Haji Noor Deen‘s booth. I struck up conversation with A while waiting in line for the Haji to pen some calligraphy with my sister’s name, then lost patience with A as he kept mispronouncing her name. Finally, I grabbed a pen and scribbled it in Urdu/Arabic on a sheet of paper. “It’s like this, see?”
“That’s what I said,” he replied blandly – before repeating it incorrectly all over again.
The next afternoon, I saluted A on my way to stalk HijabMan at his booth, then backtracked for some conversation with A. “Long day,” he commented tiredly, then shrugged in that quintessential way he has. “But it’s okay. My friend and I will be hanging out in downtown this evening.”
Over dinner that evening, our lively conversation faltered into silence as B rapped the table and called out, “Okay, we need introductions! How does everyone here know each other?”
The silence was deafening, as we all looked around in confusion. “Uhh,” I said. “Well. I guess it revolves around me? I work with B. D is my jummah-buddy, and H is her friend from San Francisco. And these two guys…” I paused. “Well, I don’t really know them. But I invited them to the poetry slam in downtown Chicago. The one that WE ARE MISSING because you were all so damn hungry, THANKS A LOT.”
Even a year later, after ISNA2006 and hanging-out sessions in both San Francisco and New York and mile-long, reply-to-all “ISNA buddies” email threads and incessant text-messaging, none of us have forgotten the the fact that we missed a poetry slam in favor of “fine dining” on Devon. I have made sure they are periodically reminded of this. Okay, maybe constantly.
But even amidst all the goodbyes, there are friends still here. D, my favorite swing buddy from college, is now in the Bay for graduate school, and I’m looking forward to our future hanging-out sessions at the park.
And J, the one whom 2Scoops had said sounded a little bit like Malcolm X when I wrote about our interview, is in the Bay now for grad school as well, so I foresee an expanded circle of South Bay shenanigans.
And then, my phone vibrated the other evening with a call I hadn’t expected. I stared at the screen in astonishment, then flipped open the phone to shout my friend’s full name: “K____ A____, is that YOU?!” K is one of my favorite ex-coworkers from our old downtown Sacramento job, sort of another little brother to me, and it felt so good to hear him laughing at the other end of the line: “It’s me! How are you, buddy?” It’d been a long time, and I felt surprised and honored that he called me of his own volition. Scrolling through my phone again just now, I found three text messages I had saved from K:
1. ["Happy new year" in Farsi. At least, that's what I think it is:] Eyde noruz mobarak. Omidvaram sale khubo khoshi dashte bashid.
2. “Hey, G is organizing a fashion show. Call her and bug her to be in it!”
3. “Hey, how is everything? Long time no see. By the way, give me back my hole puncher that I stole!”
Clearly, we will never tire of conversations about office supplies.
It’s been a summer of rockstars and reunions, as you can see. I shall have to tell you all about them.
Meanwhile, I’m back! SweepTheSunshine is OPEN for business, buddy boys.
NOTE: I will be in Chicago (for ISNA, naturally) over Labor Day weekend. You guys were not happy campers when I neglected to tell you last year, so I hope this is enough advance notice. If you want to hang out, let me know! [My email address is on the About page.] I foresee a Newunion, Part Two, to be had, since I’m coordinating hanging-out sessions with blogistan buddies and flickr folks and all-around rockstar friends. So, if you want a ready-made entourage, get in touch. Maybe we can even manage to make it to the poetry slam this year.