Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Dear White Women

Dear white women, 

Image result for megyn kellyI’m growing more disillusioned with this band of self-serving prima donnas. We can agonize for eons over how under-privileged we are when competing against poster boys of white male privilege, but we must also own up to our own flaws if we expect for our grievances to be taken seriously. If we do not confront our own privilege, we will be nothing but hypocrites. The privilege flaunted by white women is like cloying perfume. I get a nauseating whiff of it every day, but the offenders don’t seem to realize when they have run afoul of decent behavior.

Image result for tina fey sheet cake
Related imageIn this diatribe, I must first address white women who needlessly call the police on black people. You must realize we are disproportionately privileged in having a law enforcement that protects us and responds to our every complaint, even the baseless ones. Our exchanges with police are much more respectful and far less likely to end with us getting killed. Let’s try not to draw any more scrutiny to people of color going about their daily lives. They are targeted enough already.

Next, stop making everything about you. When taxi drivers honk their horns at you, it’s not because you’re attractive; it’s because you may need a ride. Be mindful that you’re a first-world guest in a country full of third world immigrants. Refusing to tip the man who takes out your garbage is frowned upon. Complaining about your house cleaner is also a sign of extreme entitlement, and it makes you sound like an insufferable spoiled brat.
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When the ladies at The View are mourning the tragic loss of eleven worshipers killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh and fretting over the direction our self-destructive country is headed, don’t argue that you’re a responsible gun owner. This isn’t about you, Megan McCain! You had America's sympathy when your father died. Now pay the same respect to other people who have suffered a tragic loss.

Image result for gwyneth paltrowSometimes, we can all be out of touch. Let’s just realize when we make mistakes and own up to it. This is not bowing under pressure of political correctness. It’s called being a good person who cares about others. Step down from your pedestal and come back down to earth.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Horsey Wedding

What is more romantic than a horse-drawn carriage ride or two lovers riding a horse into the sunset for a fairytale photo shoot? Well, just about everything, but a horse scenario I’d prefer to either of those is a gang of horses invading a pre-wedding party on the beach. That is exactly what happened last weekend when my brother got married in Maryland. All the guests were enjoying the festivities when the horses swaggered in, ate the chips, marshmallows, and chicken, and then made a puddle of piss at the food and drink station. They didn’t move on until a park ranger came and kicked sand at them. When asked how she held such power over the wild horses, the park ranger said the horses recognized her uniform. Perhaps if we had wanted to be left alone, we should have all dressed up like park rangers.

The horses left and came back, more confident this time, knowing that the most we would do was stand back and take videos on our cell phones. Some guests followed the park ranger’s example and kicked sand at the horses, to absolutely no effect. My new sister-in-law’s father, who is hard of hearing, confronted the horses, armed with a foldable chair and a sausage on a skewer. Despite some people calling for him to stop and let the horses pillage and plunder, Katie’s dad continued to try to be the hero. I’ve never been so afraid for someone’s safety, yet so amused at the same time.

At the beginning of the party, my only concern had been lightning and bugs, not lightning bugs, but actually being struck by lightning and being mobbed by bugs. My hair, as well as other guests’ hair, was sticking straight up, a bad sign that we were susceptible to being struck by lightning. Then my cousin Tammie, who I hadn’t seen for over thirty years, showed up and I had such a good time talking with her that I disregarded my previous concern of getting hit by lightning. Then the horses invaded and I stared dumbstruck, forgetting all about lightning and bugs. Fortunately, the bugs weren’t too bad and we all left the party with a great story to tell.

For the wedding ceremony I was a bridesmaid, an honor I’d never experienced before. Katie looked gorgeous and my brother looked like a handsome 1950s milkman in his all-white suit. For the photos, we donned horse masks, which along with the wind, messed up my perfectly coiffured bridesmaid’s do. Although the wind messed up my hair and whipped my dress around, it created a nice wind-swept goddess look for the bride. The waves crashing in the background also looked spectacular and I am looking forward to seeing how the professional photos turned out.

This was the best, most entertaining, most meaningful wedding I’ve ever attended/taken part in. I had a great time and it was well worth the thirty hours of flying and six hours of driving it took to travel from Kuwait to Maryland and back. I have since returned and am still recovering from jet lag, not to mention exhaustion from all the horsing around.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


My two full days spent in Lviv were idyllic, and although two days were just enough to see everything I wanted to see, I would have been happy to stay longer. This beautiful little town on the eastern edge of Ukraine sits right next to Poland. It’s a five-hour train ride from Kiev and another five-hour train ride to Krakow. Eighteen years ago, I visited Krakow for just one day, so it was tempting, especially being so close to Krakow, to try to squeeze in one more day, but alas, I didn’t have enough time. I will just have to save Krakow for another adventure. Maybe, depending on who I am traveling with and what our plans are, we can visit both Lviv and Krakow.

I had a wonderful time and I enjoy traveling alone, but Lviv is full of great restaurants and coffee shops, frequented by groups of friends and close companions. When my Airbnb hosts asked if I was traveling solo and I answered yes, they each made a sad face. I understood their sympathy when, walking around the city center, I saw friends and lovers walking hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, and joyful people sharing lively conversations over dinner and pints of beer.

Traveling with friends could also have its drawbacks, like feeling pressured to move too quickly through art museums. I am the type who must read and ponder the signs next to practically every painting. At the Pototski Palace, I swooned over the beautiful paintings by Italian and Dutch painters, but I was even more fascinated by the collection of sculptures, jewelry, figurines, and weapons, which had belonged to the last emperor of China, Pu Yi. I had recently watched the film, The Last Emperor, about his fascinating life, and this exhibition brought me a bit closer to this strange and fascinating figure. I read on the placard that one of the items in the collection was a stamp custom made for Pu Yi, which featured leopards chasing each other with golf clubs. (I’m not sure if the leopards were actually holding the golf clubs, or if the English translation was just weird.) The golf clubs were a tribute to his teacher, played by Peter O’Toole in the movie, who introduced the emperor to the sport. I went back and forth through the exhibit, determined to find this stamp, a search that would have exhausted even my most patient friends, but I couldn’t find it. How this collection came to be in this Ukrainian Palace has something to do with Stalin, and the false promise that Stalin would protect the desperate emperor from the Chinese communists, but the details of the Soviet acquisition of his stuff were unclear to me.

While walking around Lviv, I messaged my friend Kat in Seattle to let her know where I was. She told me she’d wanted to visit Lviv, ever since having a roommate in college who was from there. That made me feel a bit selfish, as if I were hogging a large, delicious meal to myself. Speaking of delicious meals, the coffee culture and restaurant culture in Lviv are superb. For breakfast one morning, I went to Lviv Coffee Manufacturer, which doubles as a coffee museum. I liked the brick warehouse atmosphere and if it weren’t for the Brazilian jazz playing, I might have felt like I had traveled back in time. My most exquisite meals were at the restaurants Mons Pius and Amadeus, both of which I highly recommend. At Amadeus, the pretty blonde server brought me a glass of champagne, simply saying, “Gift,” with no other explanation. I was delighted to receive a free glass of champagne, but I wondered if, like my Airbnb hosts, she felt a bit sorry for me for dining alone.

On my travels, I like to buy paintings and drawings of recognizable streets and landmarks, art that captures the essence of a city. After visiting St. George’s Cathedral, I hoped I could find a painting that could do this gorgeous cathedral justice. The camera on my phone certainly wasn’t doing the trick. Sitting in the pews, I listened to the Ukrainian service, which included singing and put me in a peaceful trance. In the gift shop, I looked for art commemorating the cathedral, but just like my search for the emperor’s stamp, I came up empty handed. It wasn’t until later that day when I stumbled into a fancy jewelry store that I saw a collection of paintings and prints. There, I found exactly what I was looking for. I bought a large beautiful print for a bargain price of about $20. I hope this ink drawing will help preserve my memory of visiting that cathedral and feeling so completely at peace.

When I checked into my Airbnb, my lovely host had a Fado music CD playing. That and the Brazilian jazz playing at Lviv Coffee Manufacturers were the only instances of me hearing music to my liking in Lviv. I am a bit persnickety about music and I can’t tune out noise that displeases me, so bad music, like what sounds like Soviet children’s songs or flute renditions of George Michael hits, grate on my ears. That is my one and only complaint.

Ukrainian people are warm and friendly and the ones I have spoken to express their fondness for Americans. They also expressed their dislike of Russians. I laughed when a man told me, “Russia is a fantastically bad country.” That’s a delightful paradox and one I think I’ll use. I’m currently writing this in a train car, which I am sharing with three Ukrainians. All of them have offered me food. Two women offered me half of their sandwiches and a man offered me some of his chips. My delightful Airbnb host was rightfully proud of her city and wanted me to read a coffee table book about Lviv, which she happily pointed out was written in English. Ukrainian people are thoughtful like that. While reading the book, I couldn’t help but laugh at the descriptions. I think I’ll call the writing “fantastically bad.” To give you an idea, here’s one of the sentences, which I had to write down for memory’s sake: “When you feast your eyes on the stone dolphins framing the ground floor windows of Bandinelli Palace, you seem to enter into invisible elements of success, as these enigmatic beings have symbolized great achievements in ancient times.” Yes, entering invisible elements of success. Couldn’t have put it better myself. But try as I might to weave some fancy words together to accurately describe the allure and beauty of Lviv, I’m going to simply say it’s magnificent and requires a stay of at least two days.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Ukraine's Fight is Our Fight

The word “maidan” means town square in Turkish and Persian and was adopted into Ukrainian. It’s how residents of Kiev refer to their Independence Square, where over one hundred Ukrainians were murdered or went missing, presumably kidnapped, during the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. When I visited this week, the mood in Maidan was somber, with people milling about, taking photos, and paying their respects to the victims who died so that their country would have a brighter future. A statue of an angel holding a rose branch high over her head rests atop a column, overlooking the city. She represents independence and was built in 2001 to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine finally breaking free. The presence of this statue serves as a painful reminder of the high price of freedom and the promise to never again kneel to a hostile power.

The woman who served as a model for the statue was the sculptor’s daughter, an American, but the connection between Ukraine and America doesn’t stop there. We must look at the situation in Ukraine as a lesson, and maybe borrow a few tips from the brave citizens who gathered and demanded that their corrupt president step down. Our sleazy politicians and finger puppets of Vladimir Putin are no better than Ukraine’s disgraced president, Viktor Yanukovych. People like that care only about themselves and are willing to sell out their country for their own ego and financial gain. Scumbags like Paul Manafort have blood on their hands from helping to orchestrate the massacre of innocent Ukrainians in 2014. Perhaps when the walls are closing in around our fake president, he will flee like a desperate rat, seeking asylum with his moral equivalent, Yanukovych, in Moscow.

With American support for Russia on the rise, a search for our soul is imperative. We can’t just look at Ukraine’s tragedy and ongoing fight as something that only pertains to them. This is our fight too. The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea could be precursors to a much more dangerous and far-reaching aggression, all plotted and schemed by the grand puppet master and dominatrix to our gimp of a president, Vladimir Putin. In Pulp Fiction, this is the scene when Bruce Willis is about to flee his captors’ den but stops and experiences a moral dilemma. Should he save himself or go deliver some samurai-style vengeance? I vote for the latter. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

First Day in Kiev

I spent day one in Kiev torturing my legs and feet and feeling breathless, also known as exercise, on hilly cobblestones and bell tower steps. My friend, Tania, wore sandals and did not seem fazed by the hilliness or the duration of our walking. I suppose there is a direct link between living in a physically demanding city like Kiev, one with lots of steep hills, and being in good shape. I realize I need to walk more. I’m sitting up in my hotel bed right now, feeling muscles I’d forgotten I had. Did I just hike up the Carpathian Mountains? No, I went for a simple stroll in a beautiful old city with a beautiful old friend. So why am I grumbling about my debilitated body? Because I’m out of shape, that’s why. Who knew movement could be so hard? I discovered ballet flats are not viable shoes for conquering this kind of rugged cobblestone environment. I will wear my running shoes today. And I will try to adapt to the hills and cobblestones and not complain so much.

I think I also need to improve my knowledge of history and read more to satisfy my curiosity. The old Soviet occupation of Ukraine has me curious about the psyche of Ukrainian people, their emotional memory, and how history has influenced present day tensions. I talked to Tania about the annexation of Crimea, but try as I might, I cannot fathom what it must be like to have an aggressive nation swoop in and steal a piece of my country, and then worry that they’re going to try to take even more. It would be like Canada occupying Buffalo and staking maple leaf flags in the ground everywhere. Like I said, completely unfathomable.

The highlight of the day was visiting Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, an 11th century church. The architectural plan is similar to the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. I wasn’t allowed to take photos, so you will just have to imagine the Hagia Sofia in all its Byzantine glory, only a bit smaller, and instead of Greek inscriptions, imagine Cyrillic ones. The painting of the brown and white feathered seraph angel in the Hagia Sophia can also be found in Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev. In Saint Sophia’s, there are three seraphs in a row, reminding me of the lullaby league in The Wizard of Oz. While walking around with Tania and her little boy, Misha, I wondered what the difference is between a mosaic and a fresco. (I noticed that when my friend Tania and I were referring to the same religious art, she used the term fresco while I called it a mosaic.) At the risk of being wrong I’ll continue calling them mosaics until I google the answer later. I wonder if mosaic artists in the olden days followed patterns, like, I dunno, mosaic by numbers? Looking at any number of haloed saints, I can’t help but think I’ve seen its exact replica somewhere else. I find myself staring at ancient fragmented faces, asking, “Have we met before? I think you have a twin in Istanbul.”

One more question I am pondering is if I have any need in my life or room in my luggage for a Ukrainian power stick, also known as a bulawa. Walking down Andrivskaya Street with my friend Tania, we saw these items for sale and I was tempted to buy one. Tania was telling me that it’s a symbol of power that many high-ranking men depicted in statues and paintings are shown holding. I don’t know what purpose this object would serve, other than giving me a heightened sense of importance and being a great conversation starter. I think I just answered my question. A power stick is a must-have souvenir from the Ukraine. Until next time.