Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dubai: Still Standing!

First off, did this magazine cover give anyone-- OTHER THAN ME-- a freaking heart attack???

(Thankfully, the story was about someone else, meaning that the anonymity of yours truly is still intact... for now... !)

Second, I'm genuinely sorry that I haven't written in so long. It's not that I don't think about you-- I do!-- it's just that I've made the scope of this blog so limited (i.e., our family's "adventures" in Dubai) that it doesn't lend itself to philosophical diatribes about our rather boring daily existence. This realization has inspired me to perhaps start *another* blog, the focus of which would be our rather boring daily existence... but in the meantime, I apologize again for the lack of Dubai updates. If nothing else, you can take comfort in the fact that no news is good news (cuz lord knows if there was any trouble brewing, I'd be whining to you guys about it).

Third... heard anything about Dubai lately?

Lots of friends have been emailing to ask whether the recently sensationalized Dubai debt situation is affecting us, and how it is being spun over here.

Well, I can’t speak for Daddy, and I’m sure he could explain more eloquently the impact that the Dubai World debt "restructuring" is having on his business prospects, if any. But as far as I can tell, the impact has been minimal on us, for two reasons. One, Daddy’s job is based not out of Dubai, but Abu Dhabi, which has a far more stable financial foundation; and two, the news as it has been described in our local newspapers presents a slightly more ambiguous-- or even optimistic?-- picture than what has been presented to the world at large. Not only is the restructuring being couched in less certain terms (as in, "we as UAE journalists don't know whether Dubai World actually *cannot* pay its debt at this time, or is merely *postponing* debt repayment in order to ultimately make a greater return on the investment"), but also, we are being reminded that it is not the government *itself* which is ostensibly out of money, but merely one huge project in which the government is a part-owner.

That said, if it’s even partly true that Dubai has run out of money, and that at least for now the fairy tale has come to an end, then it’s very bad news indeed for the already-fractured skyline of this city. Everywhere you look, there are half-built skyscrapers and inanimate cranes and enormous craters that have been dug out of the sides of highways, all of which could very well remain frozen in time like this... forever? The omnipresent construction zones and orange cones and scaffolding and affiliated chaos is one of my least favorite things about living here, and the idea that the city might be paralyzed in this half-formed state is downright depressing. Driving on the disjointed roads is perilous to say the least, and at this point, I have given up on hoping for street signs and just hope for pavement instead. So in this regard, yes, I guess the debt "crisis" is impacting us, but thankfully, in only superficial ways as far as I can tell.

[Note to Daddy: It's entirely possible that the Dubai debt crisis is having a huge impact on us financially, and that you have told me about it at length. If this is the case, I'm sorry, I don't think I retained any of that information, I blame the children, any conversations that take place after 8pm are likely to result in your simply talking to yourself while my eyes glaze over and my thoughts drift to some version of "Where did it all go wrong?" as I mentally inventory the children's various misdeeds of the concluding day. Apologies all around. Do tell me again, but preferably not in the comments section of the blog. Email would be best, as I could then reread it in the freshness of morning, and I will amend the blog accordingly.]

What else has been happening. Well, a couple of people asked me about the recently celebrated Eid holiday, but I don’t really have much to say about that, because it only substantively manifested itself in our world insofar as the schools were closed for a week (the Eid holiday coincided with UAE’s National Day, so in total the kids were home for 10 days, woohoo). Well wait, we did traipse out to the Marina Walk to check out the National Day activities one night, but it was so crowded in the temporary "Heritage Village" construct that we just took a few pictures of a growly camel and left. PopPop and I also took Sushi and Screamer to a National Day parade, but again, it was only minimally noteworthy (Sushi saw her life flash before her eyes when we realized—too late—that we were standing right next to the pyrotechnic tent; poor skittish little thing that she is, I fear that from this day forward, the mere sight of a bandleader baton will trigger her PTSD).

One nice recent event was Thanksgiving: unlike last year, when at the end of November we were only 1 week into our Dubai adventure and were far too overwhelmed to be bothered with a turkey dinner, this year we properly celebrated at our house with The Australian and her gorgeous family (her idea! otherwise we might have just ignored it for a second year in a row). It was particularly lovely because, as I explained to Mr. & Mrs. Australian and their two angelic daughters in a toast, we didn’t do Thanksgiving last year because it is a holiday meant to be shared with extended family; and whereas last year we had no extended family in Dubai, this year, thanks to them, we do. Mr. Australian did a stunning job with his very first turkey, and Daddy single-handedly cooked just about everything else, so cheers to both men. (Hey, I was responsible for decorations and general ambience, which is no small feat. Have you ever tried to iTunes-ify an entire holiday event from scratch? These playlists don’t write themselves, people!)

What else. Well, we were exceedingly proud that Sushi was selected by her teacher to be one of only three presenters at their "Winter Performance," and even though she was literally trembling with nerves at the time (she later said, "I knew I was scared because I had goosebumps"), she delivered her line perfectly. If she’s inherited any of her parents’ overly-theatrical DNA, it will hopefully be the first in a long line of starring roles. J

[A note about the Winter Performance: Boy, they’re not kidding around with this Christmas thing at the American school. I mean, thankfully, I didn't hear any discussion of Jesus himself in the lessons, but wow, they really hammered the kids with Christmas trees and Christmas carols and Santa Claus (they even visited a PTA-sponsored "Santa’s Grotto" in the front lobby, where kids had the option of having their photo taken with Santa) (Sushi didn't, and yet I still saw her eyes light up with glee when all the teachers started screaming, "Santa's here!" like groupies, which broke my heart for the kid a little bit). The three songs Sushi’s class sang at the performance were "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jingle Bells," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." And even though I privately mentioned to Sushi’s teacher that we aren't, ahem, Christian—and she received the news with respectful passivity ("That *shouldn’t* be a problem here in the American school..."), I also haven’t heard any overly inclusive messages yet. It's ok, though; Sushi and Screamer seem to be fine with the idea that Christmas is a holiday celebrated by other people just like Ramadan and Eid are... and with Alice and Z-Man in the house, we have built-in recipients for all such holiday-specific school-sponsored crafts. Still, I never expected that a Christmas onslaught would be a problem I'd face here in Dubai...!]

Finally, if anyone's wondering why I am not posting anything specifically about the Festival of Tights (shout out to those of you who were reading this a year ago!), it's because it hasn't really gotten started yet. I mean, sure, the holiday has already come and gone in the real world, but here in Dubai, where I think we're just about the only News (second shout out!), we can set the Newish calendar however we like. And Mommy? She likes the Festival of Tights to take place smack dab in the middle of school break, and for the schmandle lighting to be a sunrise ritual instead of a sunset one (all the better for toy-enjoyment, methinks). So check back in a few days to see how the all the latke-induced shenanigans all went down... xoxo!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Just went on a tour of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi with some fabulous visiting friends (holla, J & J!). Above are my photos (which of course don't do the breathtaking architecture justice), and below are some blurbs about the mosque that I am lifting from Enjoy!

"The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, popularly called Grand Mosque by local residents, is seen as a “globally unifying” landmark from its conception to completion, bringing together designers, features, materials and suppliers from nearly every corner of the globe: Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Iran, China, Greece and the UAE.

"The Mosque’s initial architectural design was Moroccan, but it evolved to include many global features, including exterior walls that are of traditional Turkish design. Natural materials were chosen for its design and construction, which include marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.

"The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque features 80 domes all decorated with white marble. The main dome’s outer shell measures 32.7 metres in diameter and stands 70 metres high from the inside and 85 metres from the outside - the largest of its kind, according to the Turkey Research Centre for Islamic History and Culture.

"The Mosque has 1,096 columns in its exterior and 96 columns in the main prayer hall which are embedded with more than 20,000 handmade marble panels encrusted with semi-precious stones, including lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother of pearl. Furthermore, beautiful minarets standing 107 metres are built on the four corners of the Mosque.

"Artifical lakes, totaling 7,874 square metres and laden with dark tiles, surround the Mosque, whilst coloured floral marble and mosaics pave the 17,000 square metre courtyard. The pools reflect the Mosque’s spectacular image, which becomes even more resplendent at night.

"An equally impressive interior design complements the Mosque’s awesome exterior. Italian white marble and inlaid floral designs adorn the prayer halls and the Mosque’s interior walls have decorative 24 carat gold-glass mosaic features. The main prayer hall also features the world’s largest hand-woven Persian carpet (7,119 square metres).

"Furthermore the Mosque features seven 24-carat gold-plated chandeliers which were imported from Germany, all designed with thousands of Swarovski crystals. The largest of these chandeliers, which hangs from the main dome of the Mosque, is considered the biggest in the world; it measures 10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height, and eight-to-nine tonnes in weight.

"The Qibla wall, on the other hand, is 23 metres high and 50 metres wide, and is subtly decorated so as not to distract worshippers from prayer. The 99 names (qualities) of Allah are featured on the Qibla wall using traditional Kufi calligraphy and are subtly back-illuminated using fibre-optic lighting. Twenty-four carat gold, gold leaf and gold glass mosaic were also used in the mehrab (the niche found in the middle of the Qibla wall) and the crescents topping the domes.

"The Mosque has 80 Iznikpanels - highly decorated ceramic tiles popular in the 16th century - which feature distinctly in Istanbul’s imperial and religious buildings. Traditionally hand-crafted, each tile was designed by Turkish calligrapher Othman Agha. Three calligraphy styles - Naskhi, Thuloth and Kufi – are used throughout the mosque and were drafted by Mohammed Mendi (UAE), Farouk Haddad (Syria) and Mohammed Allam (Jordan). The Mosque can accommodate up to 40,960 worshippers from its prayer halls and courtyard."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Movies, as The Good Lord Intended Them.

So after being a loyal patron of movies for about 35 years now, I finally figured out how films are *supposed* to be watched:
in GOLD CLASS, of course! (I now shudder to think of the cumulative years I have wasted sitting in fold-up, craptastic, traditional movie theater seats with my feet stuck to the soda on the floor, ick.)

Yes, folks, the local film establishments can kiss me and my semi-steady business goodbye: I have been indoctrinated into a higher level of moviegoing experience, and this popcorn-lovin' girl ain't ever going back.

Welcome to GOLD CLASS seating, courtesy of Dubai's Mall of the Emirates. Last night Daddy and I escaped (the near-constant din of some child or other's discontent) to catch a showing of Michael Jackson's "This Is It," and while the movie itself was excellent, I might have been able to sit through 2 hours of test pattern and still emerge just as exuberant.

Picture it:

Separate entrance (automatic glass doors, boldly announcing the crossover into GOLD CLASS to keep any riffraff at bay);

Pre-movie foyer (much like the first class lounge at an airport, where perhaps one can discuss one's expectations for the upcoming film) (or, in my case, go to my "happy place" and try to stave off the onset of a tantrum-induced headache) (yeah, it was MY tantrum, so what);

Smartly attired attendants at the private concession stand (though it can hardly be described as a "concession stand," due to the...)

Full dinner menu (!!!) (I ordered a chicken caesar salad, which was served to me in the movie theater);

Assigned seats (yet with only 40 chairs in the full-size cinema, it was impossible to have a less-than-perfect view of the screen);

Oversized, individual, leather reclining sofas (full range of movement from upright to bed-like) (yes, someone too-predictably fell asleep and was loudly snoring in the second row, the seats were *that* comfortable);

Blankets (I suspect that they intentionally made it chilly in there, just so they could show off the amenities);

And-- the pièce de résistance-- a private call button to summon the waitstaff for any and all unmet movie-related needs during the show.

Seriously, it was cinematic *heaven*.

And no matter that it cost more than triple a standard ticket (100 AED versus 30 AED, which is about $28 vs. $8). Can you even *put* a price on 2 hours of uninterrupted escapism in a giant La-Z-Boy chair?

So you can have your day spas, your facials, your yoga... Mommy has found a new way to pamper herself. And with Baby becoming more opinionated every minute, Sushi regressing into tears every time things don't go her way, and Screamer taking it upon herself to unapologetically swipe any item of interest from any unsuspecting sibling, it couldn't have happened to me at a better time. xo.

p.s. A gratuitous note about "This Is It": I never considered myself a *huge* Michael Jackson fan, and kinda wrote him off as just another tabloid casualty after the horrible molestation allegations eclipsed his existence for a while. But I have to say, I sobbed intermittently throughout this entire movie. The combination of Michael's still-spectacular musical gift (I can no longer squeak out the tunes I sang in college, whereas here's this 50-year-old guy doing pitch-perfect, brilliantly choreographed renditions of songs spanning his entire lifetime)... plus the jaw-dropping spectacle of his concert's planned theatrical and special effects... plus the audience's knowledge that this man only had 9 weeks, 8 weeks... 2 weeks left to live-- while he himself had no idea-- put a lump in my throat that just wouldn't quit. Michael Jackson still had so much life to deliver unto his audiences, and this world is a little less magical due to his untimely death. If you haven't seen this film already, please do.
I promise you won't need a Gold Class ticket to leave the theater feeling inspired. :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Post Script to Obama Entry

A family friend sent me this in response to my recent Obama blog entry. It's a short video clip of a decorated colonel testifying last month before the United Nations on the subject of Israel's alleged warcrimes against Palestinian civilians during the Gaza conflict.

Worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Consider Me Culturally Understood.

Recently I visited the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. During our nearly two-hour session, about 20 of us sat on the floor sampling traditional Arabic foods while an Emirati woman (meaning, she is native to this region and enjoys certain privileges reserved for nationals) answered our questions. We were not given any guidelines and therefore no subjects were off-limits.

Here I will do my best to recreate some of the dialogue. I must say at the outset, however, that I was not taking notes during the actual session, and I'm assuming these answers represent the viewpoints of just one Emirati woman (albeit one who has been given authority to speak on behalf of Arab culture!), so please don't quote me or take any of this as definitive gospel. Just trying to give you a sense of my experience.

[See if you can guess which questions *I* asked. Hint: it will be obvious.]

Q: What do we need to know in terms of etiquette?

A: It is very important never to take anything using your left hand. Always use your right hand to give and receive things. Even if you are left-handed, you take with your right, and then transfer to your left.

Also, it is considered impolite not to eat what is put in front of you. We believe that any gift or food that is presented to you was predetermined as yours from the moment that it was created or grown. So, for example, if someone pours you a cup of coffee, you should drink it, because the coffee beans used to make it were intended for you from the time of their creation. Similarly, we do not send each other thank you notes for gifts, since it is God whom we should be thanking for creating that gift for us.

Q: Why offer this forum?

A: This type of question-and-answer forum is nothing new; in fact, by law the Sheikhs are required to have an open forum once a month in which all Emirati citizens are invited to come and ask questions and present their concerns. There is one Sheikh who uses a retina-scanning machine for his visitors and will reject anyone who has asked him a question within the past 6 months. Technically, this is improper.

Q: What percentage of marriages are arranged in the UAE?

A: Let me say the answer and then quickly clarify it. One hundred percent of marriages here are arranged. But wait! Proposed arrangements can be rejected. There is one woman here at the Centre who has many men wanting to marry her, but she has rejected them all, usually on the basis that they are not yet financially secure. Oftentimes, though, parents strongly encourage their children to heed their suggestions of whom to marry; parents know children better than children know themselves. Also we tend to marry at a young age. If you are a woman and not married by 27, men will just assume you are too high-maintenance.

A: Is dating allowed?

Q: No, we do not date romantically before marriage. If you like someone, you marry that person. If it does not work out, you get divorced. It is no big deal to get divorced; there is no stigma here in the UAE. Many divorces occur right after the honeymoon, even if the marriage was consummated, which is fine. We would much rather that young people get married and then divorce instead of having relations before marriage. If a man and a woman are caught in a car together doing something inappropriate, then they will be married.

But by the way, this is not to suggest that we are opposed to sex. Once you are married, anything goes!--with the exception of necrophilia and anal sex. You are married, after all, you should enjoy this person! There is a store here that sells sex toys and lingerie, go ahead and buy them!

A: What happens if you get pregnant outside of marriage?

Q: This would be a very big problem. If you get pregnant, you had better get married right away. If you are pregnant and unmarried, you could go to jail for 10 years. Sure, this sounds harsh, but it is not difficult to avoid getting pregnant when you are not married.

Q: Is birth control permitted?

A: Within marriage, yes, although only insofar as you are attempting to space out your children. Large families are encouraged, and most Emirati women have 5 to 8 kids. We believe that it is best for the health of the mother to allow for 2 years between births, however, so we encourage birth control for this purpose.

A: Are men allowed to have more than one wife?

Q: Yes, technically a man is allowed to have up to 4 wives, but the vast majority of them have only one wife. Imagine how you'd feel if your husband came home and said he wanted another wife; we feel the same way. Really, the idea of multiple wives is most useful for motivating women to treat their husbands in the way they should be treated, it keeps us on our toes. Sometimes we are amazed by the way Western women treat their husbands: they don't even bother to stand up to greet them when they enter the room. How could you not stand up to greet him? He is your husband!

[Editorial Note: (laughing).]

Q: Does the culture promote the subordination of women, both in attitude and in dress?

A: No. First of all, we choose to wear the abaya (black robe) and headscarf. We feel that we have been instructed by God to cover ourselves, and it is between us and God to honor that instruction. Now, there is disagreement among Muslims as to how much of our faces are required to be covered, if any; this is why you will see some women with only their head and neck wrapped in a scarf, whereas other women cover everything but their eyes, and other women put their entire face behind a veil. Sure, covering our heads and bodies is a bit uncomfortable at first, especially in the summer heat, but you get used to it, just in the same way that you get used to the discomfort of wearing a bra. And no, it doesn't always have to be a black robe; you will sometimes see other colors worn in other regions. It's just a matter of tradition.

Second, we believe that men were put on this earth, whereas women are being borrowed from God. So in that sense, we are more valuable than men. It is why sometimes you see a woman following behind her husband; he is protecting her.

[Editorial Note: Not entirely sold on that last part, based on some couples I've observed.]

Q: Do Muslim men really believe that when they die, they will be presented with 72 virgins in heaven?

A: The 72 "virgin" thing is a bit misleading; it suggests a sexual nature when none is intended. The idea is that a man who goes to heaven is rewarded with 72 *perfect beings*. Women, on the other hand, are simply reunited with God when we go to heaven.

Q: I'm Jewish. How scared should I be living here?

A: [chuckles] Not scared at all! We believe that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, and that our religious texts are just 3 volumes of the same book. That said, you will certainly find people here who are willing to argue with you on the topic of Israel; for many people this is an emotional subject. When we hear someone declare that they are Jewish, we usually brace ourselves for an argument about Israel. Otherwise, we assume, why would they be telling us of their religion? We consider religion a subject that is most appropriate for the home. But no, you shouldn't be scared. In fact, sometimes Islam hardly feels like the predominant religion in the UAE; have you seen the way Christmas decorations take over the shopping malls? And if you encounter an occasional person here who expresses prejudice about your religion, there are prejudiced people everywhere, even in your own country.

Q: So then why are there no synagogues in the UAE?

A: If there are enough Jewish people here, then it can be assumed that the Sheikh would grant them land for a synagogue, just as he has done for the Christian people and the Hindu people.

[Editorial Note: Very encouraging, but too good to be true? Hmmm....]

[Editorial Note to the Editorial Note: According to Wikipedia, 96% of the UAE population practices Islam; there are 31 Christian churches and 1 Hindu temple here.]

* * * *

All in all, the Centre was a totally interesting experience. I plan to go again soon; have any questions you'd like me to ask? xo.

p.s. If you're in the mood for even more cultural understanding, you can check out a little blurb about each of the Five Pillars of Islam at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Barack Obama, as Viewed by the Middle East

This is the front page of our Sunday newspaper. The magnified excerpt reads, in its entirety:

"Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

In just over a month, you will receive the world's most prestigious honour, the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian committee made it very clear that it was hoping the prize would encourage you to fulfill your promise of promoting multilateralism and peace.

You have a historic opportunity today to make your mark, bring justice to the long-suffering people of Palestine and pave the way for a real and enduring peace in the Middle East. An internationally acclaimed jurist has placed in your hands what can be considered a key to finally deliver to the Palestinians "dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own", which you promised in your historic Cairo speech. It is called the Goldstone Gaza Report.

The report has been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, which has referred it to the Security Council. But your administration has for the past few weeks been lobbying to bury the report. Today, the future of peace in the region rests on the willingness of your administration to declare that Israel must be held accountable for its crimes in Gaza. Today you have a chance to right a wrong, pave the way towards peace and actually earn the Nobel."

The letter continues on pages 12-13; here are some other noteworthy passages:

"As you rightly and 'humbly' commented after the Nobel committee's announcement, there are in fact people more deserving. By your own admittance, you have yet to achieve something that could warrant such an award."

"Just a reminder, Mr. President, this promise [to promote multilateralism and peace] was made by you on your first day in office-- it was prominent in your inaugural speech. You said, 'America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.'

"One need not have actually been there to speak of the relief the Palestinians must have felt as they listened to that speech in their besieged homes in the West Bank and Gaza. They probably felt, for the first time in a very long and bloody six decades, a glimmer of hope. A flicker at the end of the tunnel.

"To be honest, the majority of Arabs experienced a similar feeling. . . . We still cherish your words in Cairo, when you addressed the Arab and Muslim nations. 'So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achiever justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,' you proclaimed.

"But what really defined that moment for this region, troubled and stressed by six decades of wars and tension, was when you declared that 'America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.'"

"Judge Goldstone has understandably come under attack by the Israeli government [for the Goldstone Gaza Report], which had refused to cooperate with the UN team from the outset. But what is perplexing is the scathing attack that came from your administration, which called the report 'deeply flawed.' A few days ago, Judge Goldstone said he was shocked by this comment and challenged you, Mr. President, to identify the 'flaws.' . . . By the way, Judge Goldstone, who has been called in your country a 'Jew-hater' and an 'anti-Semite,' is a Jew and a self-proclaimed Zionist. Thus, he cannot be accused of bias."

"Today, the future of peace in the region rests not on the much-appreciated and well-intentioned efforts of your envoy, Senator George Mitchell, but on the willingness of your administration to declare that war crimes will not stand; to declare that oppressive occupation must not be tolerated; and Israel, which has enjoyed international impunity, must be held accountable for its crimes in Gaza."

"Your moral responsibility compels you to put the Goldstone report on the table, to debate it and act on it. This is the justice the Palestinians have long been waiting for.

"Today you have a chance to right a wrong. This is your chance to pave the way for peace in the Middle East. This is your chance to address the long-entrenched Arab belief that America is just as guilty of atrocities in Palestine as Israel."

* * * *

In reading this op-ed piece, I was once again struck by the editor's suggestion that the prospect of peace in this entire region hinges upon an age-old dispute over a parcel of land about the size of New Jersey. Particularly because I am 99% atheist, I find the idea that so many thousands of people are driven to kill-- or willfully die-- in the name of this theological dispute utterly confounding.

Living here for almost a year now has certainly been an education in my own prejudices. When we first arrived, I was astonished to hear people casually referring to themselves as "Palestinian," or to see a Palestinian flag being marched in the elementary schools' International Day events... just as I was taken aback to realize that on the majority of maps here, "Palestine" is labeled in the space where I had instinctively assumed I would see Israel's name. And it still leaves PopPop gobsmacked (to borrow an expression from our Supernanny) when he reads a newspaper article that states, as its origin, "Occupied Jerusalem."

But over time, the shock has worn off. I have stopped unconsciously scanning the lineup for an Israeli flag during the kids' International Day festivities, just as I have stopped doing the reflexive double-take when a mother at school says that her family is from Palestine. Of course living in this region has made me more sympathetic to the "Palestinian" point of view; the gory newspaper images published here during the Gaza conflict will probably cause me to forever second-guess the integrity of both the American and the Israeli media machines. Why is it that, before we moved here, I had been programmed to always take the Israelis' side? And why, before we moved here, had I never been substantively exposed to the very real suffering endured by Palestinian mothers, fathers, and children?

Surely my own ignorance is partly to blame. Being Jewish, I took it as a given that I was always supposed to defend Israel's actions, regardless of the circumstance: If Israel attacked, I believed, then it went without saying that someone else had attacked it first, and it was simply acting in self-defense. So I never truly educated myself as to the Palestinian cause, and to this day I remain largely uneducated in this regard (though I intend to change that, because what good are political views if they have no foundation other than an emotional one).

But now, I am finding it harder to convince myself that Israel is, in every instance, the white knight, the hero. I read UAE newspaper articles on a regular basis describing what appears to be Israel's disproportionate military response to unsophisticated Arab uprisings; for example, yesterday the front page reported that Israeli soldiers "stormed" a holy Muslim site with tear gas after some Arabs had thrown rocks at them. Even if this journalism is overtly biased against Israel and doesn't at all reflect what actually took place that day, is there really any doubt that this *could* have happened? Isn't it true that Israel rarely shies away from an opportunity to showcase its military prowess? Does my growing distaste for Israel's military conduct make me a bad Jew??

I hope not; for anyone who knows me will tell you that being Jewish is a big part of my identity, and that passing this cultural and historical legacy on to my daughters is of utmost importance to me. And yet I am coming to see that taking pride in my Jewishness does not necessarily equate to Zionism, nor does it mean I think that Israel is always in the right. Families are families, and children are children, and at the very minimum, all of them (American, Israeli, Palestinian, whatever) *deserve* to lay down their heads at night knowing that it is safe to close their eyes. That's not too much to ask, is it?

[Coincidentally, today's paper ran a piece on Amnesty International's report, "Thirsting for Justice: Palestinian Access to Water Restricted," in which it is alleged that Israel's water policies have deprived Palestinian families of "an adequate standard of living" while Israeli colonies boast swimming pools and well-watered lawns.]

Of course I don't know the answer to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis; if I did, surely I would be hosting an all-hands meeting with President Obama right now instead of sitting here at the dining room table in my pajamas. But I believe that each of us needs to put our religious and emotional reflexes aside just for a moment and remember that we are ostensibly rational adults, not tempestuous children who cannot control our impulses. It seems obvious to me that if Israel misbehaved, as the Goldstone report alleges, then Israel should be punished. And if the Palestinians are laying claim to the same stretch of land as the Israelis are, then we must figure out a way to divide the space so that both sides get a little of what they want and lose a little of what they want. Because even if you believe that your personal politics are dictated by the Divine, I'm relatively certain that, if there is a God, he would not want for innocent children to die, regardless of their ethnicity.

And so, President Obama, it's time for you to embody fairness and objectivity, even if it means defying the all-powerful Israeli lobby. You have been handed what is likely a once-in-a-generation opportunity and you are intelligent and driven enough not to squander it. The whole world truly wants you to succeed; now put your Harvard smarts to use and go make history, wouldja?

On behalf of all of us living here in the Middle East: Thanks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Familiar Holiday

For those who asked whether the kids will be able to trick-or-treat here in Dubai, here's a glimpse into the aisles of our local supermarket...

(The racks are full of wicked witches and spooky goblins and plastic pumpkins galore, in case you can't tell from the pic.)

Supposedly our neighborhood is THE place to be for going door-to-door and, in another happy surprise, Sushi's school is even importing giant pumpkins for purchase.

So please don't bother with that care package of candy for the girls: I have a feeling that between the girls' costume parties at school, and the trick-or-treating, and the ADULT Halloween party that Daddy and I are even planning to attend, we'll have more than enough so-called "sweeties" to placate the masses. Which can only benefit our reputation of keeping pediatric dentistry in business since 2004. xo.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Family Update.

Hi... it's been a while since I've just updated you on the family's whereabouts, so even though I have plenty of heady stuff that I want to share with you (i.e., my recent visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, among other things), I'm too tired to do that now (you'll see why, in a minute), so I'll just keep this light and easy. Here's our stats:

Daddy- Currently on a business trip to Cambodia. Was already in Hong Kong earlier this week. Will stop by Thailand before heading home. Was probably enjoying a nice stretch of uninterrupted slumber in a king size bed of a 5-star hotel last night when I inadvertently (or intentionally??) called him and woke him up (I stand by my story that his text message saying "Getting ready for bed, call if you can" arrived, for some reason, 2 hours after he sent it). Oh well, at least he has several more nights of uninterrupted slumber in a king size bed of a 5-star hotel to make up for it. ;)

(Side note: In fairness I must say that the insanely generous, IMPOSSIBLY hardworking Daddy *did* invite me to go with him to Hong Kong for a few days, and would have absolutely treated me to whatever room service meals and spa treatments my little heart desired. But, alas, I turned it down. You know, because Screamer had a stomach ache that day! And what kind of mother would I be if I didn't stick around to make sure it wasn't the first sign of swine flu!)

PopPop- Still going to the gym, still subverting the laws of nature. I sometimes find myself doing a double-take when he walks in the room-- seriously!-- because between the Ray-Bans and the tank top and the deep tan and the slicked-back hair, there are moments when it's as if a teen heartthrob, and not my dear old dad, has just shown up. But don't hate him because he's beautiful! He defied ALL the odds to get to this point in his life, and he deserves every single moment in the (literal and figurative) sun. Go get 'em, Dad! I only pray that your fountain-of-youth genes were passed on to me wholly intact.

Sushi- Thriving at the American school, hooray. Wanted so badly to show off to her new friends the trophy she was temporarily awarded in her weekly playball class (a "floating trophy" that needs to be returned? what new age child educator came up with that strange concept?) that we had to slightly bend the rules for her Show and Tell item, which this week was supposed to begin with the letter "G": 'twas a trophy representing GREATNESS, of course! (Could have gone either way with the no-nonsense teacher; fortunately, she took the bait, and even commented to me that it was a clever idea. Whew.) Brought home a class photo in which she undeniably resembles a flight attendant, but because we all assured her that she looks VERY GROWN UP in her "formal" school uniform, she now has it hanging in her room so she can gaze lovingly at it as often as humanly possible.

Screamer- Turned 3 last week, which was bittersweet because 2 was so totally HER year. Everything that is incredibly endearing about Screamer right now is so connected to her 2-year-old-ness: her tiny physique, all tiptoes and wiry musculature; her almost indiscernible lisp, noticeable mostly when she sings "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star;" her stories that begin with a meaningful plot and end unsatisfyingly--about 9 minutes later-- with whatever she happens to be looking at in the room or overhearing someone talking about nearby; her desperate desire to do whatever her big sister is doing, only better; her utter lack of self-consciousness as she is talking to her dolls or making up a song or concentratedly putting on her shoes. As she inevitably becomes more self-aware with every passing day, I am sure we will see less and less of this magical little sprite who is our Screamer. Sniff!

Baby- Apparently showed up at nursery school with one goal and one goal only: WORLD DOMINATION. Would you believe that this little kid, who is technically still not even old enough to enroll (the cutoff is 18 months by September 1; she won't be 18 months until November, but thankfully we had some sibling goodwill on our side), is the class RINGLEADER? Was sent to the "time out" corner (technically, a crib, which I fear only fortifies her strength) 3 days in a row last week because she refused to stop banging on the lunch table until all the other sheep/classmates were banging on the table, too. Teacher says it's disruptive? I say it's initiative! In fact, we ENCOURAGE that kind of behavior in my house. If there's table banging to be done, goshdarnit, my kid had BETTER be the lead banger! (One thing that does risk ruining her street cred, however-- her insistence, when asked, that her name actually is "BABY." Then again, if it worked for Dirty Dancing...)

ALICE- Was not at all attached to Julia, it appears. Is perfectly fine, and has effortlessly absorbed the few duties that Julia was responsible for. In fact, she even has a bit more of a spring in her step (though this may be the result of the pop music radio station that I now have constantly playing in the kitchen; I think of it as the soundtrack of my independence from the undercurrent of tension that came to define our relationship with Julia).

HARRY- Pass. No news. It's a cat.

Z-MAN- Have to pass again. Not a cat, but only slightly more forthcoming than the cat is. Will assume he is well. (Seems particularly pleased when the kids run into his massive arms, though, which is often.)

ME- Oh so tired. And so relieved that this weekend without Daddy around is over. Fridays are Alice and Z-Man's day off, so there was an interminable 24-hour stretch this weekend in which it was Mommy + PopPop + 3 kids under the age of 5. Add to that 1 bloody lip (Sushi's) and 1 dramatic fall off a swing (Screamer's) and 1 extremely bad attitude due to a headcold (Baby's) and you've got 2 completely spent grown-ups. Now I realize that 2 adults adequately care for 3 children all over the world, every day, without incident... but you must remember that PopPop and I have become terribly spoiled. Usually on a weekend, if the noise level is approaching Chaos, the adults can take turns with the kids so that each of us can momentarily step away from the insanity to catch our breath. But for that one (LONG) day and night, my dad and I had only ourselves to rely on, and I'm thrilled to report that all the kids are sleeping soundly as we speak, with nary a permanent physical or psychological scar to show for it. When all is said and done, my father and I make one helluva team; always have.

You know, for as much as I sometimes have mixed feelings about how long I want our Dubai experience to last, I have never wavered as to the joy it brings me to have PopPop living in this house and helping us raise the girls. And if moving back to the USA would mean that he would get his own place somewhere else and not be a part of our day-to-day life anymore, well, then, I guess I'm not ready to leave here anytime soon. I love you, Dad. xo.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Julia = History.

Well, this was a long time coming. In fact, it was probably written in the stars about 4 months ago, when she defiantly *insisted* that, in her village, a baby had been turned into a serpent (which scared the HELL out of Sushi and caused smoke to come out of my ears). Yes, folks, we had to let Julia go.

It is both a sad and a happy development. On the one hand, Julia was committed and eager, and did occasionally work miracles with Baby when I had my hands full with the other two rugrats. On the other hand, she was moody, needy, and heck, not even that good a cook (we hired her in part to help out in the kitchen, a place where I've never been). At the end of the day, however, it all came down to one thing: her visa.

I tried to research this and am not coming up with much... but I'm pretty sure that, in the UAE, an individual family can't sponsor the visa of someone from Nigeria, as Julia was. This is probably why, out of the hundreds of housemaids I've probably encountered here in Dubai, the VAST majority of them are either Filipino (as Alice is) or Sri Lankan. Not sure if I've ever even met another housemaid from Nigeria. Rather, only a company can sponsor the visa for a Nigerian passport holder, which caused all sorts of headaches for Daddy right from the start (when you employ a housemaid, it is expected that you will provide her with a residence visa and full-time accommodation; this is the justification for the much lower salary than a nanny/housekeeper would get, for example, in the USA) (that said, we still consider the going rate unconscionable and pay more, despite ongoing passive-aggressive insinuations from the people down the street that we are upsetting the delicate equilibrium of the entire community by doing so) (don't even get me started on the dirty looks we began receiving once word got out that Julia was living in the master guest room-- complete with king size bed and flat screen plasma tv!-- instead of some "maid's quarters").

Anyway, the logistics of the whole thing started getting too complicated, not to mention expensive (even in the most straightforward instance, it costs the domestic employer around US$1,700 to sponsor a visa). And it certainly didn't help matters that, by this point, Julia's moping and sighing and obvious discontentment with what she perceived to be an insufficient amount of responsibility had gotten on my last nerve (hey, lady, what do you want from me, I'm a glutton for punishment, I choose to take care of my rotten kids even when someone is literally standing around waiting to take them off my hands).

Letting her go was nothing short of dramatic. She cried, she raised her voice, and, in a surprising move that ruffled even the feathers of the unruffleable Daddy, she accused us of firing her because she is black. (What? You're black??)

We arranged to have her come and clean out her room yesterday when the kids were at school (her decision to throw the race card at a Newish American who has a Christian Filipina, a Muslim Pakistani, and, until recently, a Born-again Nigerian living under his roof pretty much ruined her chances of a star-studded farewell bash). Interestingly, I started blubbering like a baby when I saw her coming up the walkway... For as much as she has rubbed me the WRONG way over the past several months, I suddenly found myself envisioning the children running joyfully into her arms (which-- trust me-- was discouragingly rare, but still), and the baby giggling at her bird calls, and Alice humming a happy little song as she loaded the dishwasher and Julia swept the floor nearby. We may have been a dysfunctional family, but we *were* a family for a while, and the time had come to say goodbye to one of our own.

Thankfully, such sappiness was short-lived, and we have resumed a Julia-free life with nary a hiccup. The kids only briefly asked about her whereabouts (I explained that we were unable to get her a "ticket to stay in Dubai," so she'd probably be going home to Nigeria for a while) and Alice seems utterly unfazed at the prospect of once again handling this (humungous) house on her own. If anything, the attitude around here is noticeably lighter: it's liberating to be able to walk around in your own house minus the eggshells.

And so another chapter of our Dubai adventure has ended. Not sure if we'll revisit the idea of a second housemaid (again, we originally explored the option only because it was actually more cost-efficient that the occasional babysitter). Right now, I'm just trying to focus on the positives: we have our guest room back, so plan a trip to come visit us already! :) xo.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Our Toybox Goes International: It's Barbie, UAE style

The box for the male doll, Jamil.

The box for the female doll, Jamila. I have to admit that I've seen no pink sports cars around here, but I appreciate the statement she's making.

The female doll right out of the box.

Her hands have henna...

as do her feet. Rad!

Under her abaya, she's wearing this sensible outfit...

and under her clothes, she's permanently modest.
(Are those Spanx?)

Compare her to trampy American Barbie... Where are your undergarments, young lady?

The male doll right out of the box.

Dig the goatee!

Under his robe, he wears only his undershirt and shorts...

which are removable. Nice six-pack!

Hey Ken, get thee to a gym.

Friday, September 25, 2009

ESSAY: What I Did Over My Summer Vacation (a.k.a., The Long Road to Lambert)

So this part of the blog will have nothing to do with Dubai—aside from the fact that the story I am about to tell would not have been possible but for the fact that I LEFT Dubai in order to chase down a dream (literally—I dreamed about it, a lot; however the specifics of such dreams shall remain ambiguous for the purposes of this family-friendly blog, ahem).

Now if you (A) only read the blog to find out dirt about the UAE; (B) think that the study of and salivation over celebrity heartthrobs is a juvenile waste of time (Editorial note: it IS); or (C) have anything even REMOTELY more important to be doing right now, then I urge you to stop reading. Because I will not be able to give you these minutes of your life back.

IF, on the other hand, you (A) are a fellow devotee of American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert (or, are not a fan, but can concede that his expertly choreographed sex appeal transcends his own personal orientation and could, theoretically, make him IMPOSSIBLY attractive to both gay men and straight women); (B) ever stalked (did I say stalked? I meant “made yourself generally available for becoming acquaintances with”) some other celebrity with a passion usually reserved for first crushes and unrequited love; or (C) are sitting at your desk desperately avoiding some hideous work project, then I offer you this painstakingly chronicled tale of Hollywood romance, heartbreak, and suspense.

Those who know me personally have observed a disturbing transformation taking place in me over the past 8 months: I morphed from a relatively level-headed (ha!) full-time mother of three to an absolutely obsessed-to-the-point-of-distraction (“Leave me alone, kid, I’m watching YouTube!”) fan of Adam Lambert’s. Not sure exactly when I went off the deep end; probably somewhere between “Ring of Fire” and “Mad World” (non-Idol watchers, all you need to know is that there were tight leather pants and a smoke machine involved). Once I was hooked, I was a goner… in fact, I hadn’t been this gaga over a celebrity since I’d slept alongside a t-shirt autographed just for me by Richard Grieco of 21 Jump Street “fame” back in the tenth grade.

The fact that Adam ultimately lost the Idol crown did nothing to temper my adoration: it was clear to me and everyone else who had a head that the reason the gay, Jewish, occasionally flamboyant contestant was defeated by the wholesome, married, flannel-uniformed Christian prayer-leader had very little to do with talent. To the contrary, the defeat only made him *more* desirable: now not only was he sexy, gifted, and gorgeous, he was also the victim of a grave injustice. Poor baby! Mama kiss it and make it better!

So by the time we were preparing for our summer visit to the USA I was spending as much time daydreaming about Adam as I was about my packing strategy (again, for those who know me, this is saying a great deal). I had planned my entire May 8th around the time of day that tickets went on sale for American Idols Live! (punctuation intended), and could now board the plane safe in the knowledge that my center section floor seats had been secured. (Surely it was fate, and not mere coincidence, which situated our visit back to the US smack dab in the middle of the Idol tour schedule, not to mention that there was a concert venue a mere 15 minutes from our house.) Getting the plumb seats was the easy part, though; anyone (with way too much time on her hands) could do that. No, the bounty I was after would require intervention far more divine than the good folks at Ticketmaster could provide.


Now, this woman who stands before you is no stranger to the art of staging “chance” celebrity encounters; over the years I have learned how to plot an effective hunting strategy and then pick the lamest gazelles (read: most sympathetic security guards) from the pack. But Adam presented a unique challenge: whereas my other targets had usually just passed (or long passed, in some cases) their celebrity peaks, Adam’s star was on the rise, and, I learned from hours of diligent YouTube research, with every tour date the fans were becoming more crazed (those savages!) and the bodyguards were becoming less amused. Not a promising combination.

So I began with the obvious resource: Facebook. (Side note: How did I exist on the planet before Google and Facebook? Was I stupid and friendless?) There I recalled seeing the wife of an old middle school (middle school!!) friend of mine in a series of pictures wherein she was posing with most (though not all—curiously, not Adam) of the American Idol contestants from this season. Well clearly SHE knew someone! I nonchalantly contacted the old middle school friend (Hi, what’s new, have I missed anything over the past 23 YEARS?) and asked if he might be able to pass along a letter to whomever had so royally hooked up his wife. My theory was that on paper, I could craft a sob story to melt the hardest corporate heart. All those years of creative writing classes were about to pay off, baby!

But middle school friend (“MSF”) explained that, unfortunately, the bigwig connection was too tenuous for passing letters along… and gee, it was too bad that I was planning to go see the show in State A at the end of JULY, because his wife was probably going to get hooked up AGAIN with aftershow meet and greet credentials (some people have all the luck!) in State B in the middle of AUGUST. Well here’s where fate stepped in AGAIN. Seriously: our LONG-ago-booked travel itinerary HAPPENED to have us flying into STATE B to visit some family on the VERY SAME DAY AS THAT CONCERT in mid-August!! I mean, come on, people, you can’t make this stuff up. The cosmos agreed that Adam and I were meant to be together. Obviously.

So I delicately BEGGED and PLEADED for MSF’s wife to include me in the hookup and, a mere 75 dollars’ worth of flowers to her law office cubicle later (a small price to pay, in my deranged rationale), I was graciously assured by MSF that his wife “would push for more tickets, and has no reason to think that she would not get the amount she asks for.”


This was too fantastic. And, even though MSF warned me that he wouldn’t know for sure about the credentials until the end of July, “we have no reason to think otherwise” sounded pretty good to me. I WAS GOING TO MEET ADAM!

Over the next couple of weeks, however, my confidence in “we have no reason to think otherwise” began to wane in the face of “we won’t know for sure until the end of July” and I started to worry. If middle school hookup failed, then I was going to be OUT OF TIME: we were scheduled to return to Dubai just 5 days after the August concert. I needed a backup plan.

Enter my most famous real friend (not to be confused with my other, less authentic celebrity friendships, which typically start off with a bang and then come to an abrupt end when the celebrity suddenly gets a strong—misplaced!—stalker vibe from me at some point). This friend has appeared here previously as “Seacrest,” and he masterminds a celebrity blog that has rightfully earned him all kinds of tv airtime.

So after about a nanosecond of brainstorming, Seacrest gets the brilliant idea to make me an HONORARY REPORTER for his website, and gives me his blessing to seek access to the Idols as a member of the press corps. YAY! and THANK YOU!! And also: easier said than done. It took me a few days just to figure out the right PR contact, and even then, all my charming overtures were met with the steely rejection of people’s voicemailboxes. And neither the starkly professional approach nor the sickeningly sweet approach was garnering any response to my messages.

Two weeks later, I was just about to give up (Seacreast had matter-of-factly informed me that No Return Phone Call = No Dice) when I decided to give it just ONE last try… and this time, I was ACCIDENTALLY transferred to some assistant named ERICA. And, being that she was just a lowly assistant, she actually ANSWERED HER PHONE. Oh HELLOOOO, ERICA! Surely you have heard of me, I’m VERY important! And I just wanted to CONFIRM that I am on the press list for the Idol concert at the end of July, oh I’m SURE my name is there, but you know me, can never be too careful…. WHAT? My name is not there? Well I was ASSURED that I would be issued the appropriate credentials… This MUST be a mistake… Would you be a dear and just follow up on this MINOR oversight? I promise I won’t hold it against your firm in the future! After all, I was once just an assistant JUST LIKE YOU, and I KNOW how much work they heap upon you, SO UNFAIR! Thanks, lovely… See you at the next big industry event!

And, sonofabitch!!, wouldn’tcha know that the very next day, I got a breathless phone call from Seacrest in which he uttered these glorious words, “You’re not going to believe the email I just got... ”

It began,

"We have received your request to attend the American Idols Live! Tour 2009 press opportunities… I can confirm for you the following credentials..."


In a rising plume of dust I was off to the mall, intent on arming myself with the calling cards of every respectable journalist: Mini cassette recorder complete with full size microphone attachment? Check. Handheld video camera complete with fold-away tripod? Check. Flirty sundress complete with hint of cleavage and a LOOK AT ME! beaded necklace? Check! Fine print of the credential letter be damned (“STILL PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT PERMITTED DURING THE PRESS HOUR”), I was gonna get my picture with Adam!!

I tossed a short list of questions carelessly into my canary yellow purse/equipment bag (after all, if it got to the point where I was actually INTERVIEWING someone, then something had gone horribly wrong), charged the hell out of my digital camera and, two short (interminable) days later, headed off to the concert venue. Press hour was at 3pm, and the concert didn’t start until 7, which gave me plenty of time to hide out in a bathroom stall and wait for my man if necessary. I packed some emergency provisions just in case.

So what if I parked in the absolute wrong lot and had to jog, barefoot in the rain (hard to run through tall grass in heels), about half a mile around the arena until I found the correct security entrance. So what if some of the other journalists (all women, hmmm) showed up with camera guys and stage lights. So what if, when the Idol tour manager went around the room introducing herself to the 8 of us press people awaiting entry, they all offered their business cards and I offered a bashful smile. ALL THAT MATTERED WAS THAT I WAS MERE MOMENTS AWAY FROM MEETING MY IDOL. Just be cool, I reminded myself.

“Alright, everyone,” said the tour manager woman, her long, ratty braid the perfect complement to her sourpuss facial expression, “I’m sure I don’t have to say this, but I will say it anyway: No photographs, no autographs, no ‘Will you call my grandmother and say happy birthday?’ We are all professionals here and I’m sure you will act like it.”

Wait, did she say something? I’m sorry, I was contemplating my astrological chart. Rising moon… venus… Oh well, certainly it was nothing I can’t figure out on my own.

“And without further ado,” she continued, “here is the list of the five performers who will be doing press interviews today. Matt. Danny. Lil. Megan. Kris. Ok, please gather your things and follow me.”

I wish I could tell you what happened next, but I think I blacked out. Somehow I moved one foot in front of the other, ascended an elevator to a conference room that had been set up with several little cocktail tables and chairs, and stumbled through 5—no wait, 6! (“Reporters, we have a BONUS Idol for you today: I am bringing up Scott MacIntyre!) (SHOOT ME NOW)—interviews (INTERVIEWS!!) of People Who Were Not Adam Lambert. At some point I regained consciousness long enough to bat my eyelashes at the blatantly flirtatious Matt and even slip him my cellphone number after he suggested he might be able to get me into the meet and greet after the show (Editorial note: He never called or texted, don’t buy his album), but mostly I was just staggering through the motions like a zombie. HOW COULD I BE SO CLOSE AND YET SO FAR?

At last the unspeakable torment was over (as an aside, Kris was an absolute sweetheart and very cute in person and I almost—ALMOST!—decided to forgive him for using his vast Christian minions to subvert the natural order of the universe). Just as I was packing up my things, I overheard one “Idol” comment to another “Idol” that the PRE-show meet and greet was about to take place in this very room… and I turned around in slow motion only to see ADAM WALKING IN THE DOOR… JUST AS WE “JOURNALISTS” WERE BEING USHERED OUT.

On pure animal instinct, I tried to make a mad dash for him: I needed to make SOME contact, even if it was just a word of sloppy groupie adoration, but that tour manager woman—let’s just call her DREAM CRUSHER for short—wow, she had my number. “EXCUSE ME, YOU ARE DONE HERE,” she announced, not only getting the attention of everyone in the room (Adam included!) but utterly mortifying me in the process. “I’M ALLOWED TO LOOK, AREN'T I?” I weakly shot back. And with that, I was herded out of the room… and straight out of the building. (The security person who was leading the group of us “journalists” outside didn’t even slightly fall for my “You know, I think I left my wallet upstairs, be right back!” routine. Very savvy, these security types.)

And just like that, it was over. I was kicked to the curb, in the rain, with no photo and no interview and only a mini cassette tape of meaningless blathering to show for myself. Needless to say, I sat in my car and cried. And cried. And fashioned a voodoo doll in Dream Crusher’s likeness out of the used tissues and stale Doritos I found in the kids’ car seats. Good luck recovering from THIS headache / backache / broken leg / severed ovary, Dream Crusher!!

It took me a couple of hours to regain my composure. I didn’t even want to go to the concert anymore. But Daddy insisted; being ever the optimist, he assured me that I could still have a good time (foolish man!). So I put on some tight black jeans and a sparkly black top and soldiered on, outwardly intact but inwardly shattered.

Truth be told, the concert wasn’t a total loss: I ditched the impossibly supportive Daddy at intermission so that I could wriggle my way all the way up to the FRONT ROW of the 20,000-seat arena in time for Adam’s set. Yet somehow, the fact that I was standing a mere 2 feet away from the object of my lusty affection while he crooned and wailed and gyrated his otherworldly sex appeal only made me feel worse.

When the show was over, I gathered what was left of my wits and contemplated whether there was any way to salvage this endeavor. Ok, the aftershow meet and greet Matt had told me about. It wasn’t much, and I had neither a credential nor a will to live at that point, but it was something.

So I casually asked a security guard, “Hello, where do we go for the meet and greet?” Giving me a quick once-over, he muttered, “You have your credential? Go to Section 104 and they’ll take you from there.”

Again, did he say something? Sorry, I was doing some quick tax planning in my head, you never want to miss a deduction! I heard something about Section 104, though. Great!

As I found a seat in Section 104, awash in a sea of about 40 people displaying their triangular stick-on credentials so proud and high on their chests that they might as well have been on their foreheads, I plotted my next move. “If you don’t have a sticker,” bellowed one security guard to the group, “don’t bother hanging around.” Hmm, could’a sworn I heard something? Nope. Wind in the trees.

A woman sat down in the empty seat next to me. There was a sudden commotion between the mother and daughter sitting in front of us. Then the woman turned around and said to my new neighbor, “Excuse me, but aren't you ALLISON’s mom?” (For those who are playing at home, Allison is one of the Idols, and Adam’s closest female friend on the tour.) Through a contented smile, and with a Spanish accent, the squinty-eyed woman said, “Yes…”

There was no time to process this information; my mouth was on autopilot. “Oh, wow,” I unknowingly sighed, “I am a HUGE fan of your daughter’s. In fact, you may not believe this, but I flew all the way from DUBAI to meet her!” The lady’s eyes widened. “Goodness, thank you! Are you coming upstairs? Do you have a credential?” I puppy dogged my eyes: “No, I don’t have a credential. But I am planning on staying here until they kick me out. I traveled so far to meet Allison, I’m not giving up without a fight!” The woman patted my hand and said, “You wait here, honey, I’ll get you a credential.” And she got up and walked away.


And then, I wasn’t. “I’m so sorry, dear,” said the Mother Who Clearly Hadn’t Tried Hard Enough as she sat back down next to me a few minutes later, “but the man who is issuing the credentials has already closed up his desk.” “But! But!” I stammered. “Surely they can’t throw me out if I’m with YOU.” She shook her head. “No, even my immediate family needs to have credentials. I’m sorry. They won’t let you in without one. It’s too bad.” Aw, lady, good luck getting rid of me that easily. “No problem,” I said defiantly, “I’ll just stick with you as long as I can.”

When the scary-looking head of security guy made the announcement that we should stand up, follow him, and make sure that our stickers were visibly placed on our persons, I ignored the unmistakable leave-me-alone vibes that were suddenly emanating from Allison’s mother, and followed close behind her. And when it came time for us to be spot checked by scary-looking head of security at the doorway to the VIP room, I conveniently folded my arms across my chest (Oops! Am I covering up my sticker! Silly me!) and planted myself so firmly in an intense (one-sided) conversation with Allison’s mom that I was practically daring the security guy to interrupt our emotional heart-to-heart. And you know what? He didn’t!


The first Idol I spotted was Allison, and so, in keeping with the good karma that her mother had unwillingly bestowed upon me, I rushed up to her, delivered the same line of BS about coming from Dubai just to see her, and got our photo taken together. Once that little item of business was out of the way, I started furiously searching the room for Adam. Adam?... ADAM? WHERE ARE YOU, LOVER??

My pulse quickened as I realized that he hadn’t arrived yet. WHERE WAS HE, I DIDN’T HAVE MUCH TIME! I was just checking my watch when my eyes happened upon a sight that, to this very day, sends a cold shudder down my spine:


I instantly averted my gaze, down to the floor, up to the ceiling, anywhere but towards the laser beams coming forth from her head. Dum, de dum dum dum… just standing around, taking in the scenery… what a neat light fixture! antique?

In a superhuman flash, Dream Crusher was standing right next to me. “DON’T I KNOW YOU FROM THE PRESS HOUR TODAY?” she sputtered. “Nope,” I said cheerfully, turning away from her and hoping like hell that my witness-protection-program disguise (a change of eyeglass frames) would confuse her. I actually thought I had DODGED THE BULLET as she wandered away… yet my relief was not only unfounded, but terribly short-lived.

“CAN I SEE YOUR CREDENTIAL?” boomed the voice of the surly head of security guy.

“I’m a guest of Allison’s family!” (lie.)

“Come with me please.”

“No, wait, I was personally invited here by Allison’s mother!” (lie.)

“Come with me please.”

“I can’t leave now, she wouldn’t know how to find me!” (she'd be thrilled to see me kicked out.)

“I’ll tell her where you are. Are you coming with me or am I calling for someone to remove you?”

This man never smiled. In fact, he never blinked. And he didn’t at all appreciate that hey! I’m no criminal, I’m a fan! This is fun stuff, music, concerts, autographs! Let’s have a good time! Woohoooo! No, he didn’t see it that way at all.

Before I knew it, I had been physically delivered by this man—this monster!—let’s call him THE HENCHMAN—out of the VIP room and into the hallway. HOW COULD IT BE OVER FOR ME ALREADY—WHEN ADAM HADN’T EVEN ENTERED THE ROOM YET?

I pulled out EVERY weapon in my arsenal: I begged (“Please, I need to see Allison’s mom, she would be so offended if I didn’t at least say thank you”); I wept (“You have no idea how far I have traveled for this!”); and, in what turned out to be a fantastically WRONG move, I name-dropped: “Ask [DREAM CRUSHER]! She knows me!”

The Henchman’s eyes settled into a cold stare. “She’s the one who sent me. IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO LEAVE.” He turned to a nearby security lackey. “Bob, take this young lady out of the building.”

The Henchman went back into the VIP room. I promptly attempted all the same tricks on Bob (minus the tragic name-dropping). He frowned sympathetically, but said, “Miss. I’m sorry. But that’s the boss. If he says you leave, then you leave. Don’t make me get a policeman up here.”

I cried all the way down the elevator, hoping that SOMEONE would take pity on me. And then… someone did!

When the doors opened, I was deposited squarely in front of two twenty-something girls walking by. I guess they overheard a snipet of my sob story, because one said to me charitably, “Hey, you need a credential? Here, take mine, we’re leaving.” Then she effortlessly peeled the sticker off her shirt and, as she extended her hand to me in a ray of light that was breaking forth from the heavens, I couldn’t help but think


Well, as you might have guessed, The Henchman wasn’t exactly waiting for me with open arms and a congratulatory “You did it, kid!” In fact, when Bob alerted him that I was back—WITH a credential this time!—he apparently responded with an unambiguous directive. Said Bob: “There’s no WAY you’re getting back in there, Miss. It’s time for you to leave.”

A new, even less well humored security guard had been called to take me downstairs, and this time, with nothing left to lose, I allowed my sobbing to get louder and more dramatic. Right before we reached the double doors leading out of the building and into the MASSES of fans standing behind barricades (hoping to catch a glimpse of Adam, no doubt), I played my very last hand: “Ok, ok, you win: I’ll just sit here and wait for my party.” And I sat, pathetically, on the floor amongst the row of dumpsters near the exit. “Sorry, Miss, you need to go outside.” “I’M SITTING WITH THE GARBAGE CANS FOR CHRISSAKES. HAVEN’T YOU HUMILIATED ME ENOUGH??”

They hadn’t. For a second time in one day, I was dumped on the curb outside the arena. I couldn’t tell if it was my time amongst the garbage bins or the stench of my own failure, but something was making me feel a bit ill.

It goes without saying that I cried the whole way home.

[Editor’s note: If there was any consolation to that disappointing night, it was that Adam never DID appear at the meet and greet, nor did he go out to the barricades to wave to fans and sign autographs. Something about a stalker.] [WHICH WAS NOT ME, thank you very much.]

Well, after this EPIC FAIL of a day, all of my Adam eggs were now in the middle school friend basket. Hey, I love my middle school! Remind me to send them a check!

And then, three days before the August show (and after I had sent MSF several increasingly urgent messages asking whether my beloved meet and greet credential had arrived yet), THIS bombshell of an email landed on my virtual doorstep:


[My wife] just heard back from her contact and I am afraid I have bad news. Long story short, he told her that there are a bunch of new "procedures" in place and because of that, he cant get her any tickets for the show and meet and greet so she wont be going. She is really really bummed about it and all I can say is how SORRY I am that we weren’t able to make this happen for you. I know what a huge fan you are and how disappointed you must be. I am SO SORRY!”

This time, I was absolutely, positively NOT. IN.

Where did this leave me? Did I board the plane back to Dubai in 8 days, a FAILURE? Or did I up the ante, pull out all the stops, and, to borrow a mantra from everyone’s favorite fashion cheerleader, MAKE IT WORK?

If you know anything about our heroine, you know the answer. At this point, it wasn’t just about meeting my Idol (THOUGH IT WAS CERTAINLY STILL ABOUT THAT); my personal integrity was also very much at stake. I had promised myself that I would make this happen (every time Daddy asked me what I wanted for my 35th birthday, which was only 2 days away, my perpetual reply was MY PICTURE WITH ADAM), and I wasn’t giving up until I was literally airborne, en route back to Dubai.

Delicately managing me in the way that I imagine sane people manage the insane, Daddy made the reasonable argument that, between grade school and high school and college and graduate school and our gainful employment experiences in Los Angeles, we must know *SOMEONE* with the “IN” I was looking for. It was just a matter of figuring out who, in a vast sea of friends and acquaintances and spouses and dentists and in-laws, was holding my golden ticket. As in, the most inane brain teaser ever.

And so, casting off whatever shred of dignity that remained, I sent out a slew of groveling emails that went something like this: HAVE LOST MY MIND. PLEASE HELP ME MEET ADAM LAMBERT. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME. But alas, each and every single message was returned with an apology and a “Good luck!” And time was running out. (In fairness, I must say that dear, dear Seacrest did suggest that I use his good name AGAIN and try to get ANOTHER press pass as a representative of his website… but my love for him is far too great to risk any [further?] damage to his professional reputation.) Thus, like a warrior on a solo mission, it had come down to ME and ME alone. I was going to GO to that August performance, damnit, and THIS TIME, I was not coming back empty-handed.

So great was my fear of another run-in with Dream Crusher and The Henchman that I promptly ruled out the postshow meet and greet as an option. Nay, my new strategy was OPERATION BARRICADE: despite the countless YouTube videos showing that whenever Adam appeared outside these arenas, the mob turned absolutely barbaric, my plan was to SO STAND OUT in the crowd that Adam would have NO CHOICE but to give me a heartfelt hug and take a well-lit photo with me. My mission: be utterly irresistible!

I went straight to my trusty computer and custom ordered a one-of-a-kind tank top that screamed, in all caps, “I KISSED ADAM LAMBERT!!”— assuming that, if I cleverly put it in the past tense, Adam would have no choice (barring some gross violation of the rules of logic) but to oblige. Additionally, I was already in fortunate possession of this incredible vinyl purse that some poor sap had handmade out of Adam’s Rolling Stone cover (thank you, ebay!). Thus, the shirt + the bag + my UNCONTROLLED PASSION surely = MY PHOTO WITH ADAM!!!

Having learned a while back that even my backup plan needed a backup plan, however, against my better judgment I revisited the meet and greet credential one last time.

Now let me tell you a little bit about this sticker. Made of cloth, it originally boasted a shiny veneer and crisp triangular edges. Several weeks later, it was not quite as crisp; in fact the only thing that retained its initial vibrancy was the ORIGINAL FREAKING DATE, which BOLDLY DECLARED, in BLACK PERMANENT MARKER, “ 7 / 29 ” (!!!!). Houston, we have a problem.

I tried my damnest to obliterate that godforsaken 7/29 (or was it 666?), knowing that I was going to have to SOMEHOW seamlessly convert it to a NOT-AT-ALL-similarly-shaped 8/11. I tried soap. I tried bleach. I tried nail polish remover. At my wits’ end, I tried White-Out. But instead of returning the sticker to its pre-Sharpie state, all I did was MUTILATE THE HELL out of this otherwise innocent piece of fabric. By the time I “finished,” what was left was a barely recognizable triangle and a VERY OBVIOUS expanse of White-Out. Even Daddy had to shake his head skeptically when I showed him the final product, which of course gave me reason to instigate a big, irrational fight with him. (Daddy! How dare you tell me the truth! Don’t you know loonies like to be LIED to?)

Ok, so the sticker was now officially crap. But I had my t-shirt and I had my purse and I had an indefatigable WILL TO SUCCEED! So I bought a ticket for the August 11 show (Hey kids! Come quick to watch another $90 swirling down the drain!) and tried so SO hard not to visualize the infinite possible scenarios in which this was NOT going to work out in my favor.

Show day. Daddy and I have an absolutely miserable flight transporting the rugrats from State A to State B. Screamer lives up to her name and, from the airport to the hotel and beyond, throws a top-tier tantrum that lasts about, oh, 2 hours and ends up with me physically restraining her in the hotel parking lot much to the horror of a bevy of geriatric onlookers who SHOULD HAVE BEEN MINDING THEIR OWN DAMN BUSINESS. Good times! When the hour arrives for me to get in my rental car and begin the 2-hour drive to the concert venue (go ahead, judge me, I can take it), I am already SHATTERED. I can’t find my concert clothes in any of our fourteen (14!!) suitcases, I can’t get the kids to go to bed, and, most critically, I CAN’T FIND MY I KISSED ADAM T-SHIRT! (and I’m too embarrassed to tell Daddy about it, so he can’t even help me look for it.)

FINALLY, FINALLY, twenty minutes after I’d planned to be on the road, I find the t-shirt and grab the Adam purse and thank Daddy for his unending patience and get in the car. It’s GO time.

Unexpectedly, the drive transforms me. The woman who climbed into that dingy gold-colored Buick—harried, strung out, beaten down—was not the woman who climbed out: refreshed, determined, and, damn it, happy! I had loved cruising down familiar highways listening to familiar radio stations and watching the sunset over familiar skylines. I had so enjoyed the break from the rugrats, who had been MAKING. ME. SUPER. CRAZY. for the past several weeks (years). And I had recaptured the gumption that had been drained out of me over the course of my many near-misses to date: TONIGHT I WAS GOING TO MEET ADAM!!

I pulled into the parking lot of the arena with my heart in my throat and my mangled credential stuffed deep into my purse. And not a moment too soon: the clothing fiasco had burned up so much time that it was already INTERMISSION when I swung open the hockey-sweat-covered glass doors. As usual, I had to move fast.

“Excuse me,” I said sweetly to a group of unkempt, oversized ticket-punchers manning the turnstiles, all of whom were better suited to a macho sporting event than a girly tv-show-inspired musicale. “Can you tell me where the barricades will be set up after the show for the autograph signing?” Cue the winning smile.

A craggy white-haired guy pulled a folded-up piece of paper out of his pocket, scanned it, and unceremoniously declared, “You missed it. Happened at 4:30 this afternoon.” Then he resumed his conversation elsewhere.

I shook my head politely, feeling sorry for this guy that he was so clearly misinformed. “Excuse me, no, I mean, after the shows, the performers always come out to meet the fans. Always. So how can I find out where that will be?”

Exasperatedly, he reviewed the paper again, and I could see that it was, indeed, a timetable of events. He shook his head. “No, there’s NOTHING going on after the show. The autographs ALREADY HAPPENED. Sorry.” (he was so clearly not.)

Suddenly, my head started spinning. Before I could edit them, the following unplanned words spewed forth from my lips: “BUT I HAVE A CREDENTIAL FOR THE MEET AND GREET!” At which point, the vision of my demented sticker presented itself to me and laughed its ass off.

The ticket-puncher checked his paper for a third time. He was getting annoyed. “NO, you missed that, too. It was a PRE-show meet and greet, and it happened at 4 pm.”

Now I was actually frozen. Someone was playing a joke on me. Without my participation, the lies started coming fast and furious: “BUT I DROVE UP HERE FROM GEORGIA FOR THIS. I HAVE BEEN ON THE ROAD FOR DAYS. I WAS TOLD IT WAS AN AFTERSHOW MEET AND GREET…”

And just like that, the curtain fell on my charade, and my eyes began overflowing with big, fat, REAL tears. Even if I hadn’t driven up from Georgia (WTF? Georgia??), I HAD devoted hours and hours on this ridiculous project and spent plenty of the money Daddy and I were supposed to be saving (video camera, cassette recorder, personalized t-shirt, second concert ticket, etc., etc., etc.) AND stripped myself of every shred of dignity before my family and friends… and it was all going to end like THIS?

“If you don’t mind,” I said quietly to the heartless ticket puncher man, “I’m just going to stand here and cry.”

Which is exactly what I did. I put my head up against the clammy tile wall of the sports arena and I wept stupid, defeated tears.

Moments later, I heard the ticket puncher’s voice behind me, but this time, it had lost its edge. “Ok, you’re in.”


“You’re in. I spoke to the head of security and explained your mistake and he said you could go to some aftershow meet and greet in Section 102, although I don’t know anything about it and don’t know how many people will be there.”

I forgot to breathe.

“But wait.” The edge in his voice was back. “There are different color credentials for the different nights. To get in tonight, you need a GREEN STICKER.”

At which point I reached into my tacky Adam Lambert Rolling Stone vinyl purse and, with trembling hand,







The angels sang, the sun exploded in the sky, a grinning unicorn danced gaily past.

I WAS IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next hour was a blur of racing thoughts and semi-enjoyable musical performances (Adam’s excepted, of course; it goes without saying that his songs were exuberant)—my emotions were fluctuating between unadulterated joy and utter terror (I was actually going to have to let my tattered, fraudulent “credential” see the light of day??). I kept reminding myself, however, that the fact that it was GREEN sticker night HAD to be more than just coincidence, and was instead some sign from the universe that THIS WAS REALLY, TRULY, FINALLY GOING TO HAPPEN. Screw the knot in my stomach, I was going to see this through to the bitter end. It was my only. chance. left.

The show ended (much to closing act Kris Allen’s relief, I’m sure; who in his right mind would elect to follow the hair-raising “Whole Lotta Love” with a down-tempo “Hey Jude” sing-a-long simultaneously being broadcast in sleepaway camps round the world?). But I was in no rush to head over to section 102: I needed to survey the scene and determine just how risky this was going to be. Hey, maybe, in another incredible stroke of luck, EVERYONE’s credentials would have a patch of White-Out?? (no.)

Ok, so the number of people assembling in the designated area was pretty large, which was good because I could potentially blend in, but bad because it might mean having to knock people over to get to my man (though I was ruling nothing out). My next assignment was finding a wingman who could envelop me in a protective shield of friendly chit-chat as needed (and it WOULD, I was positive, be needed).

Strategically positioning my purse strap across my chest in an attempt to hide the fluorescent patch of white on my sticker (not an easy task when said strap is made of CHAIN LINK), I took a seat in the third row. I tried chatting up the lady to my right, a bored-looking thirtysomething friend of one of the backup singers who said she’d never watched the show on tv. She didn’t qualify for the position because her lack of interest meant she might leave at any time, and oh—because she insisted on taking my PHOTO (“I told my friend that I would document this for her”) which suggested that she was probably an undercover American Idol cop gathering evidence against me. Bye!

So I turned to the girls on my left: two pimply teenagers in the midst of their orthodontic crises. They were yammering and texting incessantly and one was shivering like a Chihuahua with uncontrollable excitement. Noticing my Adam purse set her off on an 8-minute run-on sentence regarding her own Adam obsession: i.e., Adam’s shoe size, the fact that she had recently thrown a party to commemorate Adam’s HALF birthday, how she and a friend became a YouTube sensation when a video of them going postal while watching Adam lose the title garnered over 70,000 hits. While not ideal by any stretch—I didn’t need this freakshow passing out or throwing up at a critical moment—the teenagers were going to have to suffice. “Listen,” I told them firmly, in the same tone I use to speak to my unruly 4-year-old, “we need each other. I need you to take my photo, and you guys need me to take yours. If one of you will operate my digital camera and one of you will operate my video camera, I will not only take your picture with Adam, but I will also videotape it and send it to you via YouTube. Deal?” They dreamily agreed, with visions of their next viral video dancing in their heads.

So there we sat, waiting… waiting… waiting. People were beginning to get restless. And then I witnessed this depressing exchange: a security guard who was making small talk with some people in the front row muttered, “I don’t even know why you people stick around for these meet and greet things. I mean, they’re purely optional—the performers are under no obligation to attend—so why waste your time hoping to get four or five autographs?”

My stomach dropped. This sad piece of information explained Adam’s non-appearance at my first meet and greet attempt: why WOULD he show up for this fanfest if he didn’t HAVE to? Why NOT preserve his voice and his mysteriousness? Further complicating things, earlier that night I had spotted Adam’s new boyfriend in the VIP section of the arena (I recognized him from the tabloids, natch), giving Adam yet another legitimate reason to bail. I turned to Chihuahua, trying to disguise my own disappointment: “Look, that guy just said that the Idols are not obligated to attend these things. And I have a friend who went to a meet and greet a few weeks ago, and Adam didn’t show up there, either. So I just want you to know it’s possible that we won’t see him tonight, k?” The girl looked horrified. “But if I don’t meet Adam I WILL DIE!” I let her wallow in her panic for a minute; better here than in the VIP room.

At last a security guard addressed the group. “Folks, sorry for the delay. Please stand up and follow me in an orderly manner. Make sure your green stickers are visible. We will be checking them at the door.” Not unlike a somber congregation on the high holidays, we silently rose. I held that freaking chain strap so firmly in place over the White-Out on my sticker that I almost cracked my sternum. The line began inching slowly past a security guy checking stickers at the door… and when it was our turn to be evaluated, I used my best giddy teenager voice to engage my accomplices in vapid conversation (here’s when I’m actually grateful that my elfin stature and baby face have seemingly frozen me in the 11th grade) and made no eye contact with anyone. A few E X C R U C I A T I N G moments later, and

I WAS IN!!!!

There was no time to waste; was it just me, or in this room had the White-Out taken on the obnoxious glow of a lightstick at a rave?? I rapidly surveyed the crowded VIP room like a cyborg with built-in retina scanning technology. No Adam. NO ADAM! Other Idols were there in abundance: my good friend Allison… there was Kris Allen milling about… (and, if you watched the show, you’ll join me in taking a moment to feel sad for poor, bohunky Michael Sarver, who was standing in a corner with pen in hand and absolutely no one approaching him for an autograph). My heart began its slow, familiar descent from my chest into my stomach as the reality set in: he wasn’t going to show. Again. I was in my own personal, nightmarish, Groundhog’s Day. And just as I turned to my fragile companions to break the bad news, my gaze happened to fall upon some shimmery blue eye shadow…


At 6’1”, he towered over the dense, bustling crowd that swarmed madly around him, his smile beaming good-naturedly as they all clamored to touch him. And just as the crowd parted slightly to allow me to drink in the glorious sight of him, a sudden black cloud eclipsed the sunshine radiating from Adam’s aura, and an ominous darkness filled the room. Standing to his right, I noticed, stood Adam’s own personal security detail:


Attention heart: Go directly back to stomach. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. In fact, GAME OVER.

I tried to swallow but my mouth was a desert. Please, universe, not AGAIN! The Henchman was going to recognize me, he was going to throw me out; in fact, he was probably going to call the cops (not only was I a repeat offender, but now I had the added allure of surfacing in two different, non-contiguous states; maybe I WAS the stalker!). And, ONCE MORE, it was all going to go down IN FRONT OF ADAM. There would be no picture (AND HERE I WAS, LITERALLY SO CLOSE!!!), and furthermore, I was now destined to become the laughingstock of the entire Idol tour. Could this really be happening to our heroine, who had endured so much? Was this truly how the story was going to end??

Deciding it would be appropriate to play my violin on the upper deck of the Titanic as it sank (ADAM OR BUST!!), I ignored the forceful animal instinct to flee, and turned to my teenage compatriots and said, in an overly-controlled voice, “Ok. HE IS HERE. Stay calm, and follow me.” We took our places at the end (ok, middle, sue me, I was about to go to jail) of the vaguely formed line as I frantically attempted to somehow FURTHER alter my appearance from the last time The Henchman tossed my ass to the street. I removed my glasses (no glasses at all this time, that'll throw him!) and my beloved necklace bearing the names of the kids (who knows? maybe he is so highly trained in security measures that he inventories such minute details when faced with an imposter!) and tied my hair into a tiny knot (try to look bald!). Vanity be damned—all that mattered was that one flash of the camera. I could always photoshop glamour into my appearance later.

With every fraction of every minute that passed, the odds of my trespass being discovered exponentially increased. There was my Adam, pleasantly posing for pictures, signing autographs, receiving garishly homemade manifestos of devotion; and all the while The Henchman was methodically giving each person in the room a wary, dirty look. He barked out instructions to the masses: “Stand back!” “One at a time!” “Step aside!” “No, Adam cannot talk to anyone on the phone for you!” as I was trying to make myself as physically small as possible. Exacerbating my growing nausea was the sudden DISTRESSING realization that, if The Henchman was here, and accompanied the Idols on every stop of the tour—oh LORD—so, TOO, probably was DREAM CRUSHER….!!

I aggressively willed the line to move faster. At any moment, I was certain, SHE would appear in my peripheral vision, identifying me to the federal authorities with a bony finger and cackling like the Wicked Witch… or HE would have a little lightbulb appear over his head (of graying, longish, can’t-let-go-of-my-youth hair) and lick his lips like a carnivore closing in on his next meal. TICK, TICK, TICK went the seconds… THUD, THUD, THUD went the blood rushing past my ears…

And then. It was time. I was two feet away from Adam. The entire summer—hell, my entire life!—had led me to this moment.

At which point, OH NO!!!, The Henchman laid his beady eyes squarely on me and opened his chapped lips and

through the deafening drumbeat of my rapidly pounding heart

I was just barely able to make out the following words as they fell heavily from his mouth:


Whereupon he kinda smiled.

There are no words to adequately describe the next 29 seconds of my life (thank goodness the teenagers semi-captured them on video, otherwise I would be chalking the whole thing up to a wishful hallucination). Without dragging you through the smarmy details, about which I could go on for ANOTHER 20 screens (i.e., the brilliantly intuitive placement of my hand on Adam’s broad chest, the dewy contact that my forehead made with his heavily pancaked cheek as we leaned against each other, the delicious smack that my lips made against the side of his face as I kissed him, etc.), suffice it to say that, after all this,


Hey, I may be an atheist, but even *I* know a damn miracle when I see it! ☺☺☺


p.s. Endless thanks to Daddy and Seacrest for actively enabling my mental illness, and to PopPop for giving me the firm instruction NOT TO COME BACK WITHOUT THAT PICTURE, EVEN IF IT INVOLVES SPENDING A COUPLA NIGHTS IN THE CLINK. I love you men more than words can say. xoxoxoxoxo.

p.p.s. In response to some inquiries, I can't post the climactic photo, silly: on this blog I'm "anonymous"!

p.p.s. To the haters who read this post and are suggesting that I should *actually* be locked up: lighten up, please. You clearly don't know dramatic embellishment when you see it, and also, who invited you, anyway?