Friday, December 30, 2016

Dar es-salaam

My mornings begin with a walk or a run down past the kasbah, past the white sentinel lighthouse and along the crashing surf.

I return to hear the songs of prayer emanating from the Sufi shrine next door.  Their songs of the beauty and oneness of God envelope me as they rise in unison to the heavens.

I spend my days feeding stray cats (I keep a pocket full of la vache qui rit cheese) and giving silent alms to the blind. 

I wander through the labyrinth maze of the medina, looking for brighter pastel walls, more intricate door knockers and more colorful mosaic tile wells.

For me, Rabat is a city of peace.  For me, Morocco is "dar as-salaam," an abode of peace.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gastrodiplomacy Rosetta

My host brother Yassine departed this morning back to New York. His aunt, whom lived with us fifteen years ago is here now for a few days before she heads back to their village in Beni Melal.

She doesn't speak English or French, but some Fusha (modern standard Arabic), Dereja Maghrebia (Moroccan Arabic) and Berber (not the few words I know of Berber from Algeria). We have been communicating in Fusha and a smattering of Dereja to make sense of our shared space.

Of course, it is fascinating. My Arabic is okay, but comes covered in a layer of rust. Many things I can express or talk around, but often I am lost, left picking for words in a manner that feels like I casting line into the lexicon abyss. But we seem to understand each other for the most part.

Tonight, I was cooking spaghetti and a veggie tomato sauce. She looked on while I sauteed the garlic, onions, peppers and zucchini; stewed the tomatoes; simmered the sauce. When it was done, we sat down for dinner.

She had a tajine plate that I believe a neighbor had prepared for her; I had my plate of spaghetti and vegetable sauce. I made a small plate for her to try the spaghetti. She picked out the tomato chunks and onions, and explained that she didn't really like those veggies. I laughed at the hilarity since that was what the sauce basically consisted of.

She bid me eat some of the tajine, and I took a bite of potato with my bread. That was when it got interesting.

She indicated that I should take the tajine, and that she would eat the small plate of spaghetti I had made her. I protested, trying to explain that the tajine was her dinner, and that I had my plate of spaghetti.

But Moroccan hospitality is profound, and we argued because she wanted me to eat the meat and potatoes as I was the guest. There was honor involved.

But I wanted her to eat the tajine she had since I knew she couldn't have liked the spaghetti that much, and I had my own plate of veggie spaghetti that I had cooked, which I wanted to eat—not the tajine.

We literally had a moroxican stand-off of protestations in Arabic. I told her: eat, and that I wanted her to eat the tajine; I had my own food.

She protested and tried to generously give me the tajine. We reached a point where my Arabic wasn't strong enough for me to explain that I really just wanted to eat my veggie spaghetti and wanted her to eat the tajine.

Then I had a Rosetta idea.

I ran and grabbed my ipad, and switched on googletranslate.

أنا أحب لطهي ولكني لست قادرا دائما لأنني السفر. أنا أحب اللحوم، وأحب أيضا الخضروات. أنا أحب الخضار في المغرب.

Basically it says that I love to cook but I am not always able to because I travel. I like meat, but I also like vegetables. I love the vegetables in Morocco.

I had the googletranslate speak the message in its computorial lilt and she got it. Thanks to googletranslate, she understood that I was happy to eat my plate of veggie spaghetti, and that she should eat her plate of meat, and we would both be happy.


Rabat Days

I spend my days feeding stray cats (I keep a pocket full of cheese) and giving silent alms to the blind. I wander through the labyrinth maze of the medina, looking for brighter pastel walls, more intricate door knockers and colorful mosaic tile wells.

I saw a group of Chinese tourists wheeling their suitcases through the narrow medina, lost trying to find their way via smartphone.  Sorry, in the labyrinth maze of the medina, google maps is worthless.

On wealth and poverty

In my travels and journeys, I have witnessed a lot of wealth and a lot of poverty.  I would say this: none are more poor than those who are mentally poor.  No bank balance, no bottom line will ever leave them feeling secure.

As Gandhi understood, both wealth and poverty are both relative and absolute qualities.

My Patronus; My spirit animal

My patronus is an owl, but my spirit animal is a stray cat.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Le Sceptre d'Ottokar

I am proud to report that I have fully completed translating my first book (Ok, comic book/graphic novel).

Earlier in the year, I received a very kind gift from Stela Doci in the form of the Tintin adventure, "Le Sceptre d'Ottokar" in French as a way to improve my French.

I went through the book, page by page and translated the whole thing from French to English. At first, I had the dictionary out for every word; by the end of the story, I could get through whole pages.

Merci Stela, for the wonderful gift that helped so much with my French studies!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

L'Etranger

An old unpublished memory of the last time I can remember laughing and crying at the same time, from Tours, France:

After school ended for the day—early on mecredi, I decided to head to the Musee de Beaux Artes in Tours. I took my camera, and captured images of my school and city in its autumn graces.

The afternoon was getting late, and I was getting hungry. I walked through the city to Rues Colbert, where there were many restaurants.

I walked into a nice restaurant, but the woman told me it was closing.

The afternoon rain was starting to drizzle down on the city.

The second and third restaurant also said they were closing.

The fourth was the same.

Quelle heure est'il?

Deux-heures et demi.

Closing time for lunch in Tours,
as I found out in the next restaurant as well.

There might have been a sixth too, I forgot amid the pouring rain.

Apparently Tours takes a sieste.

I was getting soaked, so I ducked into a Turkish kebab joint that was the last chance. Success.

It was good too. Kebab, frittes et boison (Coke de cerise) for the prix étudiant de cinq euros et demi.

It was good, and I was full. It was still raining so I made it another block before ducking into a bar to get out of the deluge.

I sipped my bierre out of a great glass goblet as the dark skies passed.

I read 17th century Japanese haiku poetry by Matsuo Bashō.

First winter rain -
I plod on,
Traveler, my name.

The storm passed and as I was about to leave, the woman behind the bar asked me in French:
De quel pays?

États Unis

Mais de quelle origine?

Juif

Moi aussi,” she said as she showed me the star around her neck.

Shalom.

Shalom.

She gave me the warmest kiss on both cheeks.

Shalom.

Shalom.

I walked out into the slowly-drying afternoon, putting on my sunglasses block my wet eyes—the yellow hiding my dampening gaze.

I met a stranger in the night 
Whose lamp had ceased to shine 
I paused 
And let him light his lamp from mine. 

A tempest sprang up later on 
It shook the world about. 
When the storm was gone 
My lamp was out. 

But back to me the stranger came. 
His lamp was glowing fine. 
He held to me his precious flame 
And rekindled mine. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

My Hanukkah miracle

I spent the morning wandering down by the crashing surf along the Moroccan coast and through the medina alleyways of Rabat, feeding the stray cats.

After some morning work. I retired to sip sweet mint tea in the tea house in the sturdy ochre kasbah. Filigree-covered metal doors guarded the Moorish arch doors and windows of the whitewashed riad to my eastern vantage.

I studied French in the tea house wrapped in colorful tile patterns, sitting on a royal blue wooden stool with a royal blue wooden table as my desk. I am distracted by the lilt of Spanish from the tourists playing card games (droves of Spaniards have descended on Morocco for the holiday season), and the young lovers whispering in Arabic behind me. The language studies problems of a polyglot.

In the calm Bouregreg River that slowly runs below, fishermen stood on old blue-and-white wooden boats as traffic in Salé passes unnoticed. In the far ground, waves lap slowly and gently against the sands.

I finished my studies, and as the tourists piled into the tea house, I escaped to the gardens to site under jasmine and read “Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card (Of Ender fame):

Impossible. Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to and the ones she doesn't belong to. I am this and this and this, but definitely not that and that. All your definitions are negative. I could make an infinite list of the things you are not. But a person who really believes she doesn't belong to any community at all invariably kills herself, either by killing her body or by giving up her identity and going mad.”

And facing my own exile, this Speaker for the Living gave moisture to the dead.

As I was finishing up the chapter, I heard a sound that sent shivers down my back.

It was Hebrew.

A large tour group of Israelis. In Morocco. Something unheard of fifteen years ago when I studied in Rabat, when the second Intifadah smoldered.

I could hear the Sephardi-accented Hebrew of Morocayim, and I was in shock.

I closed my kindle and began walking to the gates of the walled fort. The group was also leaving, and as I passed them, I said softly: Happy Hanukkah.

At first, the woman closest to me didn't understand. Ech? Hanuka? Huh?

I said it a few more times, then added a bit of phlegm: Chanukkah Sameyach!

Ah! The group immediately understood. And we began chatting in Hebrew.

I was literally in shock, as we chatted. I told them that they were the greatest Hanukkah present could I receive today; they were literally my Hanukkah miracle. They sang Ma'oz Tsur, and it was so unexpected that my heart thumped with emotion.

As we walked out into the parking lot, they gave me a big hug and wished me well. A gentleman said to me about how all the Jews all over the world are connected. I smiled and replied, Kol ha'olam kulo gesher tsar ma’od ...(the whole world is a narrow bridge).

I ducked back into the medina, beaming with joy and tears running down my face. I put my BluBlockers on to hid the streaking tears and I giggled to myself down the narrow lanes. It is such a curious thing to laugh and cry at the same time. It is a moment that comes rushing out, like a confluence of two rivers. Such a curious thing, indeed.

Arabiya

Morning light to you; 
Praise to God. 
This is what I hear in the mornings in Morocco. 
Around the world too many people hear Arabic, 
and they hear their own fear. 
I listen to that lilt and
I hear blessings.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Gastrodiplomacy Posits

Gastrodiplomacy posit (I): there are few things better than cold tajine leftovers for a slow Sunday breakfast.

Gastrodiplomacy posit (II): From rich culture comes rich food. - Badr

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Arms and short-fingers on the nuclear button

"Let it be an arms race." 

This is truly terrifying.

How long until Trump America is considered a rogue state?

How long until Trump America is considered part of the Axis of Evil?  

A prayer....

Trump's Inaugural will have a prayer service....A Prayer for Owen Meany:

“AND LOOK AT WHAT WE CALL ‘RELIGION’; TURN ON ANY TELEVISION ON SUNDAY MORNING! SEE THE CHOIRS OF THE POOR AND UNEDUCATED—AND THESE TERRIBLE PREACHERS, SELLING OLD JESUS-STORIES LIKE JUNK FOOD. SOON THERE’LL BE AN EVANGELIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE; SOON THERE’LL BE A CARDINAL ON THE SUPREME COURT. ONE DAY THERE WILL COME AN EPIDEMIC-I’LL BET ON SOME HUMDINGER OF A SEXUAL DISEASE. AND WHAT WHILL OUR PEERLESS LEADERS, OUR HEADS OF CHURCH AND STATE…WHAT WILL THEY SAY TO US? HOW WILL THEY HELP US? YOU CAN BE SURE THEY WON’T CURE US—BUT HOW WILL THEY COMFORT US? JUST TURN ON THE TV—AND HERE’S WHAT OUR PEERLESS LEADERS, OUR HEADS OF CHURCH AND STATE WIILL SAY: THEY’LL SAY ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ THEY’LL SAY, ‘THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR FUCKING AROUND—I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO IT UNTIL YOU GOT MARRIED.’ DOESN’T ANYONE SEE WHAT THESE SIMPLETONS ARE UP TO? THESE SELF-RIGHTEOUS FANATICS ARE NOT ‘RELIGIOUS’—THEIR HOMELY WISDOM IS NOT ‘MORALITY.’
‘THAT IS WHERE THIS COUNTRY IS HEADED—IT IS HEADED TOWARD OVERSIMPLIFICATION. YOU WANT TO SEE A PRESIDENT OF THE FUTURE? TURN ON ANY TELEVISION ON ANY SUNDAY MORNING—FIND ONE OF THOSE HOLY ROLLERS: THAT’S HIM, THAT’S THE NEW MISTER PRESIDENT! AND DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE FUTURE OF ALL THOSE KIDS WHO ARE GOING TO FALL IN THE CRACKS OF THIS GREAT SOCIETY OF OUTS? I JUST MET HIM; HE’S A TALL, SKINNY, FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD BOY NAMED ‘DICK.’ HE’S PRETTY SCARY. WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM IS NOT UNLIKE WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE TV EVANGELIST—OUR FUTURE PRESIDENT. WHAT’S WRONG WITH BOTH OF THEM IS THAT THEY’RE SO SURE THEY’RE RIGHT! THAT’S PRETTY SCARY—THE FUTURE, I THINK, IS PRETTY SCARY.”
-John Irving, "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

The Death of the Idea that is America

Visiting America itself gave us the sensation of having stepped into the television, into something bigger and better. For a time when I was a teenager my father worked in the coal industry in West Virginia. He would return with stories about new things we could not imagine, like cable television with 50 stations. Packed in his suitcase were running shoes for us, in styles that had not arrived here yet. That was more than 20 years ago.

Things were changing long before this election. Trips to Asia are now more likely to startle us with modernity. Bangkok, Singapore, even Mumbai have shocked me on visits over the last few decades, not just the wealth and development but also the music and fashion and public transportation. For all the intractable problems in our region, there is a sense of forward movement.

When we visit America now, it feels like the opposite, like decay. Roads, airports, an economy, perhaps even a society, falling to pieces. We are left in awe by the extreme poverty as well as the extreme wealth.

And maybe it is because of your poetry about yourself that the turning current has been harder for Americans themselves to see. "
-Lisa Pryor, "Dear America, why did you let us down?"

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Moroccan Return cont.

I had posted previously about how with my return to Rabat had seemingly fallen into a wormhole of nostalgia and memory--well it came even more full circle.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had lived with a Moroccan family, the Taoufiks, whom had become my own family.  Since then, they had all moved to America, so I did not think I would get to see them here in Rabat.

But al-Humdulliah/Baruch HaShem, after I had posted about my return, the AMAZING Debbie Taoufik--my brother Yassine's wife let me know that indeed Yassine was in Rabat for a visit.

And now, this nomad who has been without a home for over 3 years is now living in the same home that I lived in fifteen years ago for my Morocco sojourn.

As I like to believe, irony is God's sense of humor.  He hasn't been back in a few years, and I haven't been back in fifteen years and yet here we are again under the same roof, still having the same discussions on the world, on family and on faith.

I feel like Michael Phelps, swimming through a sea of memories.

“Why did you come to me?”
“Because I had to come to you. It wasn’t a matter of choice.”
“Fate?”
“Call it whatever you want. Things get kind of circular, when you’re me. Cause and effect get muddled.”
-The Time Traveler’s Wife

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Smile

I have a secret for you. Do you want to know what the face of God looks like? It is the smile of a complete strangers.

The first encounter was an old lady in a jelaba, pushing a wheel chair around.  She may have been demented, I'm not sure.  But her smile was literally so big that it lit up an overcast morning.  It was like looking directly at joy.

Later that evening; I was wandering through the labyrinth of markets, lost in thought as I took in the vibrant life.  I was thinking about how wonderful it was to simply observe, and just look without care to snap pictures or buy anything.  In the tight commotion, I stepped around a slew of jackets.  On a small cart on the ground was a very small deformed woman who was receiving alms.  I don't think she had legs and had small deformed arms.

I didn't exactly notice her as I stepped around, then it all registered and I stopped and turned around to give her a few dirham.

I smiled big at her; and she burst out in the biggest smile back at me.  She waved at me with her one good arm.  I don't think I will ever forget the smile she gave back at me, it was so full of joyous emotion.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Algiers revisited

I had been in-transit and then my computer was on the fritz so now finally a chance to track back.

I had a nice time in Algiers. At first, I was concerned that there wasn't much to do.  To be sure, it doesn't have the frenetic energy of say Casablanca or Rabat, but I ended up really enjoying my time there.  As I mentioned, the architecture is without compare, and there were a nice amount of things to do to keep me occupied.  And for what its worth, Algiers made great people watching as Algerian girls are really beautiful.  A mix of French style and Arabic swarth makes my heart melt.

On Friday, I took a nice long walk down the boulevard overlooking the ocean, taking in the scene of the Bay of Algiers and all the stunning French architecture.  I sipped sweet mint tea from a park bench as I admired the scene.  I later hopped the surprisingly-nice metro (clean, efficient, quick) and visited the lovely Jarden d'Essai and wandered through the symmetrical French gardens with their reflecting pools, over through the swathes of banyan and other huge trees.  I stopped at the nice restaurant in the middle of the park for a decadent meal of poulet de l'estragon, a chicken in tarragon sauce with fries and a stuffed tomato.  I worked on my French grammar book as I sipped a post-prandial espresso.

I got some wrong advice that the Musee National des Beaux-Artes was closed on Friday so I headed back to my hotel for a mid-afternoon nap.  I spent the afternoon doing some work, before having my dinner at the hotel (included in the price at the Hotel Britanique, a surprisingly great value).  I did a lil walk back out after dinner for some mint tea and a delicious piece of baklawa at the Milk Bar, which I enjoyed while translating Tintin.

On Saturday, I returned over to the Jardin D'Essai area to check out the Musee National des Beaux-Artes, which also turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise.  I kept climbing up floors to get to the gallery, wondering if I would find anything in the museum but sure enough I found a few things.  First, I found cats that lived in the museum!  There were a whole slew of cats wandering around the galleries.

The galleries had a rather unexpectedly good collection.  There were a few Monet, Pissaro and Degas works.  More interestingly, there were a few sections of galleries on Algeria through a French romantic perspective that featured some excellent paintings of Algerian life and culture.  As I said, I did not expect much and so was quite pleasantly surprised.

But back to the cats!  As I was going to leave, there was a cat on the staircase that came over to me.  I sat down, and he climbed into my lap to let me pet him.  He sat on my lap and purred as I stroked his fur.  It was exactly what we both needed.

I left the cats and museum, and caught the funicular up the hill.  The cable car was incredibly packed, I was actually a lil concerned with the numbers.  But the climb was quick and I made my way up to the Martyrs' Monument on the hill top.  In the Martyrs Monument, there was a museum about Algerian history and fight against French colonialism.  It was interesting with lots of paintings, artifacts, maps and dioramas, but was a lil heavy handed and could have used a bit more context.  But I am glad I got to see it, and need to read up more on the colonial fight in Algiers.

I caught the cable car back down, and the metro back, and wandered around the city a bit before grabbing dinner at the hotel.  The dining hall was a bit busy, so I joined the table of a fellow.  We got to chatting, and he was quite nice and spoke English well.  After dinner, I made my walk over to Milk Bar for tea and an almond cookie sweet, and some more Tintin translation.

Saturday I walked around a little bit, and waited for Nadia, my hijabi taxista to pick me up.  She was supposed to get my at noon to take me to the airport by 1pm for my 3pm flight to Casablanca.  She called at 11:30am to say she would be there at 12:15pm.  No prob.  At 12:30pm, I started getting concerned. Since my French is more stilted on the phone, I had the front desk call Nadia--and she said she would be 10 minutes.  At 12:45, I was having kittens and wondering if I should ditch her.  Really, I was fuming.

But she arrived, dressed like an avenging angel in full white with white hijab, apologizing for the traffic.  I threw my stuff in the car, and she drove like a bat out of hell.  Literally.  Swerving like a Michela Andretti through traffic, offering thumbs up and little honks as she passed cars left and right and burning down the shoulder lane away from the traffic stall.  Yes, she was flying down the shoulder.  But it was an amazing site to see, and calmed my nerves knowing that I was in the hands of a real pro.  Amazingly, she got me there by 1pm within the two hour window and came with me to the counter to make sure I got checked-in to my flight correctly and without issue.  That is service.

B'slama Algeria.  Looking forward to my return in February (inshallah!)

Making it official

Now that the Electoral College has made it official, I will do the same: I will NEVER work with a Trump administration.

I will never work with a Trump administration that stands as the antithesis of my values; I will never work with that administration of racists, oligarchs and kleptocrats.

Therefore, I am announcing that I will be discontinuing my work with American public and cultural diplomacy moving forward.  I will not work with a Trump State Department led by an oil executive and I will never do public and cultural diplomacy on behalf of Trump America.

I am finishing out my season with Next Level, but will not continue moving forward to future seasons.  I am no longer pursuing other State Department grants for Levantine Public Diplomacy.

In short, I am done and I am out.

I don't know what is next, so hold the questions; you all know me well enough to know that I will share it when I do.

Peace.

Monday, December 19, 2016

the return

For years my quest was exploration, but as I have learned of late, there is something equally intoxicating in the return.  As I peer around old corners that I remembered, as I catch the familiar smell of baking bread wafting down the same alleys, I am taken to a netherworld that exists outside of time.  A wormhole of nostalgia and memory.

I write this from the balcony of a tea house on the edge of the perfumed gardens of the casbah d'oudayas.  I sip sweet mint tea and eat almond paste cookies covered in fine powdered sugar as the rains trickle down and the Bouregreg River laps against its shores.

Conrad was too apt.  Memory and nostalgia are willful and capricious, but they are also lurid stimulants.  Taste and smell are so intimately tied to memory.  I ate these same cookies and sipped this tea from the same vantage point 15 years ago; I wandered down these same pastel alleys, past the same brass rosettes and intricate brass knockers; past the same intricately patterned tile wells.

I loved it all then, yet the taste is more sweet and meaningful, the patterns more ornate now because they have been given the lurid varnish of nostalgia to amplify their value.  I loved it once; I value and treasure these same memories even more now in the present.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Morocco--the return

A year that began on in South America, in a hammock on the Colombian-Caribbean coast, will now end in North Africa with a triumphant return to Morocco.
Some time last year, I wondered what adventures I would take in 2016. The thought crossed my mind that since it was 15 years since I studied in Prague and Morocco, perhaps I would try to return to both places. I quickly dismissed the idea as impractical, as I had no idea how it would come about. But dharma shapes direction, and my journey through memory is complete with my return to Morocco.
I return to Rabat after 15 years since I studied there. I arrived to Morocco on the Spring Semester of my Junior Year abroad, on the heels of the 9/11 attacks. It was that period of living and studying in Morocco that most shaped and changed my perception of the world for years to come—forever giving me the enduring belief in the power of cultural exchange.
I lived in the Medina with a lovely Moroccan Muslim family, the Toufiks. I had a slew of host brothers, including Yassine who was my own age. We spent days eating long Moroccan lunches between class-- watching the world from a different perspective on the satellite channels, and late nights talking about the world, about family and about faith. I saw that this wonderful family was no different than my own family. I will never forget the smiles as they tried matzah, and I attempted to explain its significance. We slathered it in butter and jam, and everyone thought it made a fine crackery thing.
I will never forget seeing my host mother, unveiled in my presence at home, for the first time outside of the house in her hijab; with it came the realization that this piece of cloth really meant nothing more than a simple veil covering hair for a bit of modesty's sake.
I loved that semester in Morocco, with all the adventures therein. I would wander through the medina of the Moroccan capital, trying to find new alleys to get myself lost down. Or I would sit in the casbah and sip mint tea and eat sugary cookies while laying on pillow divans as I stared at the Bouregreg River and the city of Salle across the divide.
I traveled all over Morocco that semester and visited cities like Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Tetouan and Essouira. I ventured into the Sahara, and got vertigo starring at the endless desert stars. I saw what still constitutes the grandest sunrise of my life across the Sahara sands, as the sands turned pink, then gold then orange in the sun's morning rays. And I adventured all the way down to the Western Sahara for an independent study project on that forgotten conflict, in what was a trek that gave me the initial confidence to venture forth into parts unknown.
Now I return for about a month's stay in Morocco as I retrace my steps in a journey through nostalgia and memory.
“Nostalgia plays lurid tricks with the memory”
-Joseph Conrad

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Algiers--The Orientalist Paris

Algiers is one of the most fascinating cities I have encountered. It is like an Orientalist Paris, covered in a layer of dust and decay. Like a French North African Ozymandias, if ever there was one.

Meanwhile, the Algerians have claimed me as one of their own. "You have the face of an Algerian. You look like a Berber," the tea merchant remarked as he poured lemon juice in my tea. I smiled, and replied: thimarth. (Thanks in Amazigh)

Hell's Angel

Gonzo journalism predicted the rise of Trumpism.  Hunter S. Thompson, ever the prophet: 

Trump Grill Could Be The Worst Restaurant in America

"Donald Trump is “a poor person’s idea of a rich person,” Fran Lebowitz recently observed at The Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. “They see him. They think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that.’” Nowhere, perhaps, does this reflection appear more accurate than at Trump Grill (which is occasionally spelled Grille on various pieces of signage). On one level, the Grill (or Grille), suggests the heights of plutocratic splendor—a steakhouse built into the basement of one’s own skyscraper....

The allure of Trump’s restaurant, like the candidate, is that it seems like a cheap version of rich. The inconsistent menus—literally, my menu was missing dishes that I found on my dining partners’—were chock-full of steakhouse classics doused with unnecessarily high-end ingredients. The dumplings, for instance, come with soy sauce topped with truffle oil, and the crostini is served with both hummus and ricotta, two exotic ingredients that should still never be combined. The menu itself would like to impress diners with how important it is, randomly capitalizing fancy words like “Prosciutto” and “Julienned” (and, strangely, ”House Salad”).
-Trump Grill could be the worst restaurant in America

Monday, December 12, 2016

Taxistas

And I found perhaps the only hip hop-loving, hijab-wearing female taxista in all of Algiers.

We bumped Algerian hip hop as she sped down Ave Didoune-- past façades of faded French glory, as fireworks pop-popped to celebrate the Prophet Muhammed's birthday.

"The whole world is a narrow bridge, and you mustn't be afraid to cross it."

The Simon Rockower Awards video tribute

Check out this short film about my great-grandfather Simon Rockower and the significance of the American Jewish Press Association's Simon Rockower Awards.

Named for my great-grandfather, the Simon Rockower Awards are considered to be "The Pulitzer Prize of Jewish Journalism."



I was honored to spearhead the campaign in my family to continue these awards for future generations.

You can read more about the Simon Rockower Awards here: http://www.ajpa.org/

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Foggy Bottom

I have literally taken shits of more diplomatic value than this guy.

And Ambassador Yosemite Sam as his deputy.

American diplomacy and public diplomacy is truly, wildly and deeply fucked.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Torquemada

I'm still waiting to see who Trump is going to pick for the all-important Cabinet post of Grand Inquisitor.

It is gonna be the biggest Auto de Fe ever, it's gonna be yuuge!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past

A sad, beautiful and poignant article on Syrian cuisine amid loss and exile. Shukran Dr, Curtis.

And what is remembrance without a madeleine?

Tunis, Tunis

 Tunis, Tunis, bathed in white
...And yet, and yet...
Because everywhere reminds me
of somewhere...
the mountains towering over the lake
takes me back to
Managua, Nicaragua.
Because everywhere reminds me 
of somewhere.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Golden Prague

Some scenes of Golden Prague, in the morning before the hordes of tourists come out.

Prague is truly a beauty, even more so than I remembered.

When I first saw Prague in 1999, I thought she was the most beautiful city in the world; almost two decades later, and after many other stints in other locales, I still think so.











Monday, December 05, 2016

Welcome to the new age

So begins the age of exploitation; the age of misinformation; the age of anti-social media. Faux is the new truth. Welcome to the new age.