Thursday, July 30, 2015

Taxi Cab Wars in Amman

One of the things you have to put up with when you are an expat is the battle against the Taxi Cabs. Cab drivers around the world can be your ambassador to the country or city and sometimes they can really turn you off from a city. In Amsterdam, the taxi guys who worked the Centraal Train Station were crooks. I learned to direct them to the police station that shared an address with my house if they were refusing to use the meter there. In DC, it was so bad, they made a movie about it starring Mr. T

In Bangkok, we all have stories of the crazy cab drivers... refusing to take you places, dumping you off on the side of the highwayrefusing to use their meters, charging $25 to go two blocks, discrimination, clipping toenails and snorting weird substances and if you aren't lucky, murdering their customers.
I thought at first that Amman, Jordan might be a bit easier than Thailand. My first three months went okay aside from loud "bellydancer" music and the non stop smoking in the cabs. But last night was apparently the beginning of the end of my honeymoon period. 

After stopping three times on my normally 20 minute ride home last night (for water for himself, to check the oil in the car, to add more oil to the car), the taxi cab pulled over four times to ask for directions to the very famous shopping mall (Taj Mall) I gave him as a landmark. He managed to get himself lost in the valleys around Abdoun. We went under the bridge four times. Finally, he got another taxi driver to lead him to where we were going. At this point, I had been in the taxi about an hour and he had had 10 cigarettes and the sun had set.

We finally arrive at our destination and the meter says 3.75. I had him a 5 and wait with my hand outstretched for my change. He makes a lame attempt to look in his pocket and says no change. We're in front of several restaurants, a 7-11 type place and a liquor store. So I say, i only have 5 or 2 JD. No change! No change! So I throw the 2 JD at him and get out of the cab. I walk into the liquor store to avoid him. He starts complaining to the myriad Jordanian men who hang out in front of liquor stores about me. They come in and say "Miss, he says you only paid him 2JD and he took you here all the way from Khalda". My dander gets up "He stopped three times, got lost, took an hour and then tried to cheat me! " I said - "Ignore him, he knows what he did." The liqour store advocate agrees with me and goes out and yells at the taxi driver. The incompetent taxi man keeps going around and complaining about me to all the other men hanging in front of the liquor store.

Another one comes in to complain for him to me. "YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS!" I said with a fiery face. They all looked frightened. I came outside - yelled at the taxi driver some more and then went into the restaurant to meet my friend. The valet parker comes over to talk to the maitre d while I'm waiting to be seated to say what the taxi driver said. "DO NOT GET IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS!" I shouted, "He tried to cheat me, he was incompetent and I am not going to pay him a penny more." At this point, I was ready to give him 5 JD just to get rid of him but I really hated the idea of being bullied and cheated. I went into the ladies room. A Jordanian-American woman asked me what was wrong, I told her. She agreed with me. She said, "IF anyone gives you any trouble, I will help you. You just call me." I went back outside and asked for a table for two. Everyone looked at each other, shrugged, and that was the end of that.

I, however, needed three beers to calm down.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

An ode from 2011 to a former love

I have fallen head over heels with a Swedish peacekeeper. He smells of sunshine and herring. We talk about curry and war and when he makes love to me, he sounds like a seal pup. I want to cling to him like a starfish on a rock but he went back to Sweden after a perfect day of sunshine and scallops.

First time I was published

For those of you who know about my love life travails, here's something that might point out some patterns I've been in for a long time! In 1999, I wrote a letter to Garrison Keillor who was writing an advice column for at the time.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I've fallen in love! He plays me Joni Mitchell CDs, sends me poetry, feeds me Cherry Garcia. We talk for hours at a time. He is teaching me how to zydeco dance and I'm teaching him about social justice in Guatemala. He makes me laugh and I'm not afraid to sing around him. After seven years of numbness brought on by a terrible relationship, the death of my mother and a bout with clinical depression, I feel alive again and happy and ready to trust and open up my heart. I'm writing again and finally feel like a whole person. I feel calm and giddy at the same time.

There is one problem: He has a girlfriend of almost three years and didn't tell me that until after we had begun dating. Yes, that's a big problem. He has told me that he loves her and will not leave her right now but he is falling in love with me. I am afraid that when the hurt comes, it will numb me for another seven years. I want him in my life. Should I trust my heart and open up and love and deal with the pain later? Or should I trust my women friends who tell me not to have anything to do with a man who is deceiving his girlfriend? It is hard to think of turning my back on this happiness after having been miserable for so long.

Swept Away

Dear Swept,

It's too bad that, underneath all the singing and zydeco and poetry and Cherry Garcia, there is a lie sticking up like a post. He started dating you while he was still with a girlfriend whom he loves. The man is confused, at best, and you need to clarify the situation for him by creating some distance here. Stop sleeping with him, for one thing. If you want to rescue the relationship, you need to ease back to the beginning and rebuild on honest foundations. And he needs to deal with the girlfriend, whom he is still lying to, apparently. You're not going to slip back into seven years of depression -- you already did that, and it's over. You may get angry at him for seducing you so well, but that's different. This man is not the cause of your happiness; he is only the vehicle. He's the actor you choose to play opposite you in scenes that you yourself create out of the lavish abundance of your heart, and if the vehicle crashes, if the actor walks out, you still have that abundance to take elsewhere. You won't crash if he drops you, because you're not a puppet. You can sing anywhere you like.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

2014: A Year in Movies in Bangkok

It was another dire year in movies in Bangkok. As per the trend, they mostly play the big blockbusters and I either have to download or watch other films on the plane. I long for the E Street Cinema in Washington DC. Bangkok could be a world class city if they improved their movies. Oh well.

(Key: I saw everything in the theatre unless its noted *Download ** Airplane)

The Good: 
Grand Budapest Hotel: My favorite movie of 2014. I had to wait until August to see it on the big screen in Bangkok and it was worth it. Ralph Fiennes is excellent and it was much darker than some of his other movies (although I remember the Life Aquatic with Steve Zazou being dark).

Dallas Buyer's Club: Matthew McConaughey continues to amaze. Funny, raunchy, and sad all at once. Jared Leto was also wonderful. This "honest trailer" got it right. Yeah - I know it was from 2013 but didn't come to BKK until 2014.

12 Years a Slave: burned a hole right through my soul and made me hate the South and everything it currently stands for. How dare we? Same - didn't see it until 2014.

Neighbors: I'm in love with Zac Efron. Period. This one was funny and not as offensive to women as I expected. Rose Byrnes was excellent.

Begin Again: sweet music, even Adam Levine seemed sweet in it.

Snow piercer*: Chris Evans almost unrecognizable but an amazing adventure film. Love post apocalypse films.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: I was rooting for the Damn Dirty Apes over the humans.

Godzilla: EXCELLENT. Atomic breath! Not enough panicked crowd scenes.

Fury: Couldn't believe how good the tank battles were. I have liked the director, David Ayer, ever since I saw End of Watch. Also a major miracle, Shia LaBouef was not that obnoxious. Michael Pena, excellent as always.

Edge of Tomorrow**: Singlehandedly turned me back into a Tom Cruise fan. Something about watching him die over and over again and being pathetic at the beginning brought me back to him. Plus Emily Blount as the Full Metal Bitch was wonderful!

Gone Girl: Really good and intense. The whole theatre was rapt. At one point, bitter married couples laughed bitterly. My single friend and I were shocked.  Love the "Cool Girl" speech.

Guardians of the Galaxy*: Surprised the hell out of me. I really liked it but then again I've always been a fan of Chris Pratt since Everwood so it shouldn't have surprised me that much. But I was really not interested in seeing a movie about a raccoon and a tree. Color me impressed.

Alan Partridge*: Superb! And so so funny. I love Steve Coogan.

Behind the Candelabra*: amazing performance by Matt Damon and Michael Douglas. Creepy. Even with plastic surgery to look like Liberace, Matt Damon is awesome. Rob Lowe was also insane!

Jiho Dreams of Sushi*: really beautiful and compelling.

In the Mood for Love*: Finally saw it in a hotel room in Myitkyina, Kachin, Myanmar. Made me crave noodles, nostalgia, and thwarted love.

Dom Hemingway**: Saw it on a plane. I love Jude Law because he's more than just a pretty face. And he was intense in this. And I loved that he didn't force Daenerys from Game of Thrones to be his girlfriend. She was his daughter instead. No vanity.

The Bad (Actually the Mediocre):
Inside Llewyn Davis - I don't know what all the hoopla was about except for the main actor was intense and hot. A bit disappointed in the Coen brothers. But I loved the orange cat!

The Fault in our Stars - not moved. I don't think I even cried. I don't know. Maybe I'm dead inside.

Maleficent:  hard to see Angelina as a fairy after the summit! A bit dull and could have been written to be more powerful. I loved the Lana Del Ray song and I actually like the rape analogy.

**The Two Faces of January: Pretty good. I love Viggo Mortenson and Oscaar Isaacs

The Railway Man: A bit dull but awesome to see Thailand on the big screen.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier ... I"m in love with Chris Evans. I believe in Captain America.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt 1: Not as good as it should have been. I would have liked a bit more Orwellian scenes like when she's in District 13 and a little more "If we burn, you burn with us!" 

**X Men: Days of Future Past: I also love Michael Fassbender and Wolverine so it worked for me. I loved the 70s aesthetic. The present day story of Mystique’s vendetta against Peter Dinklage‘s Trask feels repetitive of ideas we explored in the previous films…with thoughtful social commentary they were interested in exploring years ago  left on the floor, offering the audience only in your face statements.

Long Way Down**: I thought it would be excellent. Nick Hornby. Pierce Brosnan. Toni Collette. Can Jesse Pinkman be serious? The answer. Not so much. Just not quite as good as About a Boy or High Fidelity.

The Ugly: 
The Hobbit 3: Ridiculous. The special effects were not good at all! Legolas running up the collapsing bridge? And the ridiculous animals they all rode into battle? Bored. The honest trailer below sums up this one too.

Bad Words: Terrible Edit in Doha. they edited out all the bad language, the sex, and the "immoral scenes", I think it was 20 minutes long and incomprehensible. It might have been good and funny but I would never know.

Noah**: Good Lord! I couldn't believe how they managed to make this tale so boring and annoying! No shots of animals??? And even Emma Watson was bad in it. The dialogue was ridiculous and I didn't like the Nephilim/ Watchers/Rock Giants/Fallen Angels.

Lucy: Stupid stupid stupid. The smartest woman in the world battles it out in 5 inch stilettos and a dour look on her face. Buzzfeed sums up the stupidity.

Her: Stupid Stupid Stupid. I have never wanted to walk out of a movie so badly.

The Maze Runner: Actually walked out of it. So boring and trite.