30 January 2016


My sister talks in her sleep.

She has always been like this. Even when we were little, all through the night, she’d be jabbering away, crying, laughing and arguing – more than when she was awake, I would imagine.

O, if only you could hear her! My sister is quite the sleeptalker.

Probably you are thinking to yourself this should not affect me anymore. My sister and I are grown. Our days of sharing a bedroom are behind us.

Probably you are thinking that and if you are then you are wrong. It affects me even now because my sister is also a sleepwalker. Walls cannot hold her. She brings the party to me.

She finds me sometime in the night. She comes floating by, eyes empty in sleep. Singing. Drinking from a water bottle. Searching for her cell phone.

There is simply no escaping my sleeping sister.

It happened again this past week.

I’ll tell you about it next time, if you’d like…

27 January 2016

Peace be upon you

(for JoeySixPack and anyone else who could use the assurance…)

I might have believed this would go without saying and yet it does not, apparently. (How has it come to this?) So lest there be any misunderstanding between us, let me say for now and all time:

I do not wish to take your life. I do not secretly wish for any harm to come to you nor is anyone – to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge – biding their time, lying in shadows with scimitar in hand for you.

On the contrary, I wish you a long and happy life, full to brimming with unexpected flavors and stimulating scents. And when the end of your days finally arrives – decades from now, in a manner having nothing to do with me – I pray that you are encircled with loved ones and flowers and whisked away to the afterlife of your choosing for all eternity.

I do hope this clarifies any theological ambiguity in my words up until now.

(Assalamu alaikum…)

Aydin Büyüktaş, "Flatland"

24 January 2016

All apologies

I gave away some clothes yesterday. There was nothing wrong with the clothes per se – they were excellent business clothes – but I was bored of them and on top of that, many of them were even blue, if you can believe it.

I pulled up to the building where I give clothes away and I knocked on a very tiny door, a door that appeared much too small to serve its intended purpose, really. I remembered it from the last time.

An enormous woman answered my knock at the tiny door. She stayed inside.

I waved the clothes (which were all on hangers) at her, showing her I intended to give them away. To her. She appeared less than appreciative. Instead, she squished her arms out of the tiny door and picked through the clothing tags.

“Humph,” she said, or I think that is what she said, at any rate. “Do you have anything in larger sizes? Our women are going on interviews and could really use these in larger sizes.”

I peered down at myself and then I looked at the clothes in my hand. Then I peered down at myself again, for I was trying to recall where this interaction had gone all wrong.

“No,” I said. “I’m sorry, but this is the only size that I come in!”

She took the clothes anyway. I did not warn her about the blue ones.

Back in the car, later on, I wondered why I had apologized for only being one size. 

23 January 2016

Edmund Dulac

If I could disappear from this world and live inside some other world of my choosing for a bit, I would choose to live in the drawings of Edmund Dulac (1882-1953).

His world was full of strange creatures, surreal landscapes, Arabian nights, and lots and lots of faeries.  

19 January 2016

The magic snake

In a strange city, I met a man in a marketplace who tried to sell me a magic snake.

It was morning still, and the marketplace was busy with people. Bustling, I suppose. But the space of the man with the snake was empty but for me and the man and his lone box.

Home of the snake.

The snake, for its part, was not much to look at, but the man plunged forward with his pitch anyway.

“Twenty thousand rupees,” he said, “for the snake that does dog tricks! He can roll over. He can fetch. He will wag his tail on command. Twenty thousand rupees. Don’t tell anyone else I made you this deal.”

18 January 2016

Whirling dervishes

Whirling dervishes. Photo by Chris Lamprianidis

A sense of accomplishment

Some days, it feels like my greatest accomplishment is identifying street signs to prove I’m human while commenting on blogs.

And some days – like today, for instance – I don’t accomplish even that.

It’s okay, though. Those things can be difficult!

16 January 2016

How to tell the difference

from the illustrated manuscript
of "Dastan-e Amir Hamza"
It is easy to know the difference between legend and reality. Here, I will show you how:

In the Dastan-e Amir Hamza, we are told of an old Persian emperor named Qubad Kamran, who ruled near modern Baghdad. This emperor was just and also wise and his people flourished, but that is not the part that proves this is a legend. People do flourish sometimes in the real world, after all, even while lacking a just and wise emperor.

No, what I am trying to get to is this: One morning, the emperor called together his viziers and he called together his wise men and he called together his astrologers and he said, “Last night, I had a remarkable dream. This was an important dream, I know it. But upon my waking this morning, it is gone. Poof! I have forgotten it.”

He said, “Viziers, wise men, astrologers, you must tell me of this dream that I have forgotten! Remind me of the dream, interpret it, and then advise me on the proper path to take.”

11 January 2016


I hold no bias against different colors, but some different colors hold a bias against me.

I can prove this. I keep a notebook, you see. I have torn the cover off this notebook so that there is no question of a color bias – absolutely none!

Inside this notebook with no cover, every day I write two things.

The first thing is what color clothes I am wearing. Every day, I am very careful to pay attention to this and to remember to write it down in my notebook. The second thing is how good my day has been, on a scale from 1 to 10.

And after weeks and months and years of keeping track like this – every day, remembering! – I am able at last to find the average quality of my days according to color worn.

They are not the same. Days in orange are by far the best of my days. Orange days average 8.2.

Days in blue are the worst of my days. Blue days average 4.9.

I’m not sure how this happened. Perhaps I should go out and buy more orange clothes.

But I keep trying to give blue one last chance. 

10 January 2016

I have no idea

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.”

-       Rumi 

08 January 2016

The wrong words

“That is not what I mean.”

I say that all of the time. I say it so often that I sometimes wonder why I take such care in choosing my words. I might as well be choosing words at random – using some sort of random word generator, perhaps – if I am always to be misunderstood anyway.

It is last week. Mere moments before an important meeting between my boss and a Russian businessman is to occur. I find that our meeting room has been set up all wrong. Someone misunderstood my instructions.


If this is to be fixed – and it has to be fixed – then I must do the fixing and I must do it right here and now. Yet the only person around to assist me is a man who speaks only Russian.

I do not speak Russian.

I use pointing and pantomime and vocal emphasis to get my message across. And in this way, he understands me and I understand him. Together, we get the room in order in record time.

So do I mean to say that words are not important?

No. No, that’s not what I mean…  

04 January 2016

Four hundred rupees

from Journey to the End of Islam, by Michael Muhammad Knight:
“Fast food in Lahore caters to the upper class: a foot-long sandwich at Subway costs four hundred rupees, the daily wage for our driver and much more expensive than the superior Pakistani food you can get on the street.

“The billboards, movies, and music videos all speak to the fantasy life of the Westernized upper class, which seems embarrassed by the rest of Pakistan. Clothing stores at the Fortress mall sell fashions that no woman could wear in public, only rich girls behind closed doors when they dance to American music and do coke and hook up at secret mansion parties. ‘Radical Islam’ or ‘Islamism’ or the best one, ‘Islamofascism,’ almost appear logical as a knee-jerk reaction to all of this, and extreme patriotism has risen from the confusion of kids who buy up culture from a country that they assume will someday bomb them.” 

A possible future

I worry about becoming a Crazy Cat Lady. The idea sort of haunts me, to be honest. It seems to be a definite thing, you know, like a condition with symptoms and a specific diagnosis.

And sure, I am only twenty-four and I only have one cat but I’ll bet it sneaks up on you gradually. You don’t just turn into a Crazy Cat Lady overnight.

We used to have this woman who fed all the neighborhood’s cats. Same time, every evening, it turned into “Night of the Living Dead” over there, cats crawling, staggering, and creeping towards her front porch. We could smell her house a block away, like the world’s biggest kitty litter box.

One night, I turned on the news and there she was. Her house had been raided by the police, animal control, SPCA – whoever does those kind of raids. The UN, maybe.

The woman was standing on her front porch wearing a house dress and holding a picture in her hand. She was crying to the TV cameras. She said, “I used to be Elvis’s girlfriend and this is how they treat me!”

The camera zoomed in on the picture and sure enough, there was Elvis. He had his arm around a young woman who might have been the Crazy Cat Lady in some other life. It was hard to tell because there were no cats in the picture.

A few months after they came and took her cats away, we heard the woman had died.

Broken heart, I suppose.

That’s why I worry. 

02 January 2016

Open windows

The best times of year in Houston – for me anyway – have always been those hours, days, maybe weeks when I can open all the windows and let a cool breeze in.

This doesn’t happen a lot nor for very long. But when it does…

I feel more like part of the community, sleeping with the windows open at night. I can hear planes, dogs, accidents. I hear the people outside. They are walking down my street and they are arguing, making plans, or trying to find their cars again.

I miss out on this real life with my windows shut and the air conditioning blasting.

This morning, I pushed aside the curtains and pulled up the blinds so I might open the windows of my bedroom. There across the way from me was a neighbor I had never seen before, at her window, doing the same.

She was a pretty girl with blue hair and some tattoos on her arms which I could not read at that distance.

She waved to me.

I smiled and I waved back.

Isn’t that wonderful?

(Allahu Akbar…)

Music of 2015

In 2015, I listened to Lana del Rey’s “Honeymoon” more than I listened to anything else. The entire album leaves me hypnotized and I love it so much.