Happy Birthday Sweethearts

Few weeks ago was my twin’s birthday, and what could be better than giving them a birthday gift of entertainment fit for grownups but a trip to the city that does not go to sleep

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The trip was more than 9 hours drive, but the road was smooth for most of the distance and filled with beautiful sceneries.

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The Stratosphere hotel was also a treat for a good deal, there was no need to go outside when the hotel had everything one needs just in the lobby.

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And the real treat was

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More pictures from the magnificent city

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Click on the pics for a better view

Only one setback was that I had to drive back at 3AM the same day we attended the play to catch up with other errands we had back in Mountain View. It wasn’t as bad as I thought though, the highways were mostly empty and I slept like a baby as soon as I got back home.
This trip officially ended my summer vacation, this summer was full of excitements for me, family and friends came at different times and filled my time as well as my apartment, we took short trips together and had lots of fun, and now that everyone is gone I feel melancholic, I already miss them so much. Life here is nice, the weather is beautiful, but it was much nicer with loved ones around.
This occasion also coincides with my blog that I started three years back with blogspot, and exactly one year back with wordpress. Remember when I wrote about the time for change? Well September always brings changes, and always to the better. There is a major change in my life of which its first threads are beginning to materialize, not time to talk about it though, but I will soon enough.
Happy birthday sweethearts and may you always have better times in future.

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A Trip to L.A. Via Highway 101 South

Pismo Beach

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Solvang (Danish town amidst CA)

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Old Pasadena

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L.A.

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Venice Beach

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Beverly Hills

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A Trip to San Francisco

City Life
Daunting
Zigzagging as
Eternal serpents

Cars aback
Cars affront
Flash
Beyond vision

Bumpy roads
Cable cars
History
Modernity

Streets somersaulting
Diving into bellies
And mounting onto
Women’s hips

People
Plenteous as bees
Apathetic
Or ardent

Bands on fishermen’s Worf
Guitars
Saxophones
Resonating

Children
Bungee jumping
Rosy cheeks
Aloud

Golden skins
Bald to the vehement
Ocean wind
Of August

Onyx seals
Lazy or playful
Against the horizon
Surreal

Golden Gate
A splendorous peacock
Copper to sunrise
Gold to sunset

Bay Bridge
Cutting into an island
Silver defying nature
With its tedious stretch

Back on highway 101
Radio playing
“Do you know
The Way to San Jose”

Back to “Home Sweet Home”
The peaceful alleys
Silicon valley
Mountain View

Back to the place
I’d rather be
Relaxed
Serene

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My First Visit to Cantor Center for Visual Arts

Thursday may 17, 2007, I was invited to attend one of my son’s Art classes, not in his college, but in Cantor Art Center of Stanford University, or what used to be called Stanford Art Museum.

The museum had a puzzling air about it; it was not exactly a museum, nor it was an art gallery. Stanford family, the founders of the University bearing the family name in the heart of Silicon Valley, laid the first cornerstones of the museum they built to house the art they collected from around the world, of which some ancient and priceless ones were bought directly from excavators. Then the museum grew to be more of an art gallery housing abstract and modern paintings side-by-side with the ancient, after surviving earthquakes and periods of neglect.


The Gates of Hell, 1880–1900


Stones gathered from the previous museum building that did not survive the earthquake. A groove that was caused by the earth-shake outside of the building was filled with some fillings and the remains of those stones. Notice how the groove zigzags.

So the first impression I had inside the museum was “a combination of an ancient world of museums co-existing with the modern or contemporary art gallery!!!”….. Not an easy combination for the interior decorator of the building, or the ones responsible for arranging such pieces to give the feeling of transition from the two diverse dimension of ancient past to the chaotic modern life. But I can see that this was well taken care of, and the color combination used to paint the interiors in each quarter, in addition to light-shade distribution in the building, added majesty to the place and helped in creating the right atmosphere, where such transitions became very smooth and that by itself is an art.

It was a real exciting experience for me that differed from any other experience I had in visiting museums or art galleries in the past. I have always appreciated arts. To me art is a creation, a discovery process of civilizations. And it always amazed me how some experts could get a lot of information from a small piece of broken ceramic found in the rubbles, or a canvas that may even tell the story of a whole civilization.

Museum visitations always carried a special joy in my heart, as if taking me out of my reality, and placing me in other dimensions, other people’s shoes, so that I could better understand my own reality. To me art is meditative, and that’s why I usually like to be left alone when I’m in a museum. Tour guides bore me with lots of information of which I won’t even remember much when the tour is over, and end up with a headache. I’d rather be left in my solitude to discover the jewels of a museum on my own.

But this visitation was not a regular tour in a museum, it was a class conducted inside the museum, in other words; it was a docent-tour. And to me it was a unique experience that I did not expect. The class assignment to student at the end of the quarter is to choose one realistic painting (not abstract) of the museum to write a report about. Now “how to write such a report, and what element you should look for in a canvas when writing the report” was the purpose of conducting this class session in the museum I suppose .

The class was supposed to group analyze a painting. So habitually I ran to the description label of that painting even before checking out the piece. Well, it is true that 99% of the times I don’t even remember the name of the artist, but I enjoy the effect the piece cast on me at that instant, especially after reading the label to know the theme. But unexpectedly, the instructor stopped me. She said something that sounded like; we will try to read the painting through the painting itself and not through the written words of the label!! In other words; no label reading!!!!

First we started by giving general description of what we saw in the canvas as outsiders; color, light-shade, identifying the objects in the painting and so forth. Then we got in the canvas and tried to figure out what is going on inside that framed boundary, and what impact that painting has on us while we’re there; like what senses is provoked? And what feelings?

Stories started popping out; all wild guesses. Then the majority agreed on a unified interpretation. And then we read the label to find out how close we were in our speculation. Exactly like learning how to read the ABC of a new language. And this to me was a new beneficial experience that I immensely enjoyed. How many times I’ve been to museums. Never for once I tried to see deeply into any piece of art before reading the descriptive label beside it.

The other thing that grabbed my attention was the building itself. The architecture resembled that of the Renaissance buildings with open halls and high ceilings. And lots of arches and beams gives a feeling of abundance and huge breathing spaces. But the Interior decorating in general was modern and it appeared to be based on researched affect each corner is supposed to cast on the visitors. Which was another irony that blended very well.
This is my general impression about the building. I did not get to check it properly since visiting hours were over only ten minutes after class ended. But, for sure I will have more visits and will take the class assignment seriously if the instructor does not mind checking it for me. And I’m sure that my son would be deligted to have my company on his next trip to the museum… 😉
LOL, it feel like a student again, only this time I don’t have to worry about my grade, and can have all my time to write that report, and I also have the option to choose not to hand in the assignment….sorry students, but pun was intended, I’m jealous 😛

Ok now; let’s take a look at some of the things I liked the most in the museum.

“The Horse”, no that’s not the official title of the piece, unfortunately I did not have the time to read the label…. :p. I didn’t even get the name of the artist, but I have made a mental note to check it out next time I visit and will update this post accordingly.
The thing about the horse is that it’s made of bronze. The details of the groves on the piece were so awesome that even with a very close look you could almost swear that it’s natural wood. The piece also had this three dimensional perfection about it; from whatever angle you look at it, you can hardly spot a fault, and the piece becomes more convincing.

Breastfeeding, African personification and “The Kiss” were also my favorites:

Click here if you want to see more pics, and enjoy.

Ends Never Meet!

Did you ever have to fulfill someone else’s promises, when they thrash this responsibility at you because they couldn’t keep it themselves? Well; this always happens to me when I have to deal with issues concerning my children with their dad.

I am a type of person that can’t do without organization in my life; up to the tiniest bit. I have to know where I’m going beforehand, or else any slight disturbance or unwelcome surprise to the original plan might cause me to lose rational thinking ability. And could end up in disturbing situations.

I hardly make any promises I could not keep. And when I make one; I strive to fulfill it. And my promise to my sons when I last left them here in the States was “give me few months to sort things out in Kuwait and I will definitely come back here to live with you”.

And that’s what I exactly did; I planned a flexible working schedule for the period I intended to stay in Kuwait, took care of the leftover issues; including moving out of my apartment into my dad’s place, and all whathaveyou of packing and liaisons involved. The most important issue was setting a target date to be back, and doing it on my own, at my ease, so I would get to enjoy my last days with friends and family in the process, and have a relaxing flight back to the Sates.

And I think things changed to my favor when my errands ended a month before expected, which meant that I would get to see the boys one month earlier. Everything went better than the schedule; every thing is taken care of and on top I had two days to relax with family in Kuwait till departure time, or; that’s what I thought!!!

A day before I left Kuwait, I had a call from my ex complaining that he could not find a hard box for my son’s electronic guitar (he only went looking for one on that day, although his son had asked him to do so a month back), and that I would have to manage since HE promised his son to send it with me, knowing beforehand that I would not refuse to do so when it comes to my children, even if that meant getting myself into trouble.
To make the long story short; I ended up at the airport with my computer bag and a relatively heavy electrical guitar in a soft leather case with very uncivilized shoulder straps (ask my upper shoulders about them).

And to make the situation even worse; at the BA counter; I learned that I only can carry one bag beside the musical instrument. And since I couldn’t sacrifice my laptop, I distributed the contents of my personal handbag (purse) between my pockets (thanks God I had many of those pockets on my baggy trousers with secure straps), I also used the small compartment attached to the case of the guitar to slip in my digital camera, and the rest of the stuff I pushed in areas around my laptop which was already stuffed with necessities of the one-night stay in London (BA regulations required that I carry no more than one bag and that I had an exception for one piece of musical instrument).

And I have to admit that here I lost patience, as well as mental balance!!!
First; because every piece I had to take out of my personal handbag was organized for easy access during my long flight. And rearranging them in the last moment disturbs my mental ability to concentrate; a burden that I did not need when I’m traveling long distances alone, with stuffed, unorganized baggage. And, second; the responsibility to get the precious thing across the boarder in one piece. And that by itself was the biggest burden…. The guitar had to reach my son’s hands in one piece; I did not need any last minute surprises.

It was no problem in Kuwait airport since trolleys are provided, and one can use them up to the boarding point. Then I only had to carry it on my shoulders for a short walk leading to the plane door, and ask the first stewardess to take care of it in its right place of the first class compartments while I was seated in the back seats of economy.

No problem at Heathrow either; both the laptop and the guitar mounted the trolley and the almost half a mile walk in the tube leading to Hilton Heathrow was a blessing after sitting for almost six hours. And now that the guitar and the laptop are in a safe place; it’s time to go out and have some fun since I had almost half a day to spend considering the two hours I gained with time change in England.

I took out my roaming and dialed a UK number. This number was given to me only tow days prior to my departure to London by a childhood school friend, whom I hardly ran into, as each of us led a very diverse separate life as we grew older. And I happen to run into her particularly one day before her travel to London!!
So you can imagine how disappointed I got when I couldn’t get hold of her line. The other bad news I had from the front desk advising not to go to central London on that day, since it coincided with Bank holiday and the transportation on holidays could get tiresome, when most places are closed. So going downtown London did not seem like a good idea. I spent the rest of the day between writing long awaited replies to e-mails, having a light meal and retiring early with my book.

My flight the next day was at 10:50 AM local time. I called the concierge asking for the direction to get to terminal one, since the tube that led me to this hotel was at terminal four and I wanted to make my provision to reach terminal one on proper time. And he figured it as follows; if I have a wake up call at 7:30AM, fast-check out at 8AM, walk the tube back to terminal four and catch the express to terminal one will all take 20 minutes, where I could be at the terminal on the two hours required time for check-in before my flight time.

So, I set the automatic wake-up call of the hotel phone on 7:30AM, and for more reassurance; I set my mobile alarm on 7:00AM. Not to say that I have slept that night, I have a bad habit of attachment to my bed that for the first nights away; I could hardly go to sleep. So, I waited for the mobile alarm to go off between my tossing and turning all night. And when it did; I was already in the bathroom brushing my teeth. And checked out even before the hotel alarm had a chance to go off.

The English morning air was refreshing; I took my time strolling while pushing slowly the trolley ahead of me with the laptop giving support to the precious guitar. And about half the way to terminal four; it suddenly downed on me; I have forgotten my wallet, passport and some other valuables in the safe, up in the room.

Without thinking, I strapped the guitar around my shoulders, tightened the straps of the laptop around the trolley edge, and raced the wind back to the hotel pushing the trolley ahead as if driving a car on a speed track. Thanks God there was no traffic. The concierge took me back to the room, and I retrieved my valuables and fled back to terminal four, this time with the luggage on the trolley, so it wasn’t bad except for the fact that I could not waste any time and lose the express connection on time. And as the express approached the station, it suddenly struck me that the alarm on my mobile was set to Kuwait time, and that I still had two hours to spare. So you could imagine the big smile that broke into my face as I envisioned duty-free shopping.

Of all the countries of the world, nothing is more tempting to me than duty-free shopping in London. May be because I already have in mind what I want and know where to get it. I don’t know. But the bad news was that I could not carry my trolley beyond the check-in point of terminal one, and there were no trolleys at the other side. Which also meant that; I either collapse on a nearby seat guarding my valuables and ogling at the big screen to announce my gate, or carry the guitar on my shoulders; bearing the grooves formed on my skin by the nasty uncomfortable shoulder straps, and wheeling the laptop along, for the sake of spending some time in shopping. Off course I chose the latter, and had to pay for it later.

The shopping was successful; I came out with five sets of new age CD’s, one documentary (aninconvennienttruth) about global warming, that I have not watched yet. I also got a couple of PIMM’S for gifts, of which I had the landlady in mind. Which also meant; more things to carry, but I took my mobile and wallet and other small stuff I stuffed my trouser pockets with, and placed them in my shopping bags.

It was a bit of a relief really, because the stuff was dragging my pants down with their weight to gravity; I did not mind my back tattoo peeking once and a while, but just to imagine that, in my haste, I might find my whole lower parts on the ground sent shivers up my spine, and I had to slow down each few steps to pull my pants up. I must’ve looked a freak to the onlookers, ready to take a corner and start to play the guitar, especially with those IPod ear bits playing in my ears while I’m checking CD’s. Almost everyone I conversed with while shopping asked me to play the guitar. And I kept swearing that I’m just a carrier with good ears, but no musical talents beyond that gift; none whatsoever.

The flight to SFC international airport was extremely comfortable. As usual; the guitar was tucked safely in the first class compartment, and I had four seats at the back of the economy all at my service for the rest of the flight. And it was a good treat for my tiered shoulders while lying down across four seats.

All was well till I got to the shuttle that was supposed to take me to the apartment in Mountain View. And as the driver approached the guitar I was guarding with my life, I asked him to take his hands off, demanding that it should stay with me or by the driver in the front seat. The driver gave in after some hesitation and a promise to be generous with him for his favor. And I thanked my stars for there were no other passengers but another sweet old lady. Boy; how was I wrong!!!

Our station was the first station to be loaded with passengers, there were at least five other stops that the shuttle made around the airport and more passengers were loaded aboard. But that was no problem really, it should have been expected, but what was not expected is the stinky smell of the driver. He smelled like a coolie, who has not had a shower in ages. And to be in a small, closed and crowded area with such a smell could really get you where the famous CA weed won’t dare. And to my disadvantage; I had to be taken to my place after the shuttle was completely emptied except for the last passenger who looked Chinese.

I was so thrilled to have finally arrived, took my luggage up, handed the landlady her gift, and as my youngest hug me, my glance went to the eldest (the owner of the guitar) with a dragged face; I have forgotten the guitar at the front seat of the shuttle, and that was no less than 20 minutes back, the shuttle had already left. And my digital camera was gone with it. Here I started becoming hyper while my son reassuring me that everything will be OK and I just had to relax. But how could I relax!!!! I have developed a special bond to that guitar.

Don’t worry folks; I got my stuff after a big hassle, and more payment. And the first thing my son asked me when he got his guitar was ” where is the Pedals? Please don’t tell me dad forgot it!!”

Now the million-dollar question goes to the judge who asked me to find a way to compromise with the father of my children; does he really think that we could ever have a chance to understand each other’s language?

1st Mission Accomplished

The boys took their placement tests and pre-reregistered for classes of the spring quarter. We got the apartment and completed the furnishing, this job was hectic at the beginning, especially that for foreign students everyone required an American co-signer, or an American bank account with a considerable balance. And with the holiday seasons that coincided in Kuwait and the State, this delayed the whole process to three weeks living in a hotel, which was not easy.

We furnished the apartment the hard way. At the beginning I had in mind to rent a car, but I decided later against this idea since after I leave the boys have to manage with public transportation on their own. And my part was to prepare them for that. So we all took parts in managing through Internet, free catalogues, phone calls and bus maps. We only used the yellow cab three times when we had too much stuff to carry.

That was good for us since we did a lot of walking, but it was real fun although exhausting, and we were lucky to receive the mattresses early; we only had to sleep one night on the floor. That also taught them how to do smart shopping, cost effective that is, not cheep. This was necessary so selling would be easy in case they need to move elsewhere in the future.

The boys also got each his laptop with mics and web-cams for easy, cost effective communication as well as to help them with school assignments. Computer setup and wireless (using cable Network) was all done by the boys, and they are very happy to have accomplished that.

We did not have time for touring the area, but we did spend NYE in San Francisco (my treat) and here are some photos:

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To Cal train station

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Time Squire in SF

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Spider web

Christmas Eve Ramblings

Ok what to do on Christmas Eve when all banks are closed and, well I’m waiting for some transactions, and today is Sunday, tomorrow is Christmas day, and nothing is open and my business has to wait till Tuesday 😦

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So we decided, me and the boys, just to get lost, no, not exactly, we decide to walk on the streets and discover new places. The streets were practically empty, and that’s understandable, since almost every one is having a Christmas occasion with family, but hey, there was this place which was open, it’s called New Age. Wow, New Age is my place, actually, this is the place I call the treasure, I’m fond of candles and spiritual books and CD’s as well as DVD’s.

And here is what I got after spending almost two hours in there with the boys outside waiting (poor guys); some CD’s (eight of them) that I’ve been hunting through the Net for a long time, as well as a book 🙂

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Then we strolled a bit more in the cold weather and saw this Irish Bar, what a treat, a place to have a drink and to warm up ha?
They were kind enough to let the boys in; one of them is underage. They have this pool room where the boys found their delight. As for me; I sat in a corner on a high stool. In front of me a Marlow glass on a high table, and further on, a bunch of people, loud but not to my attention, since I had my iPod playing my Enigma and Buddha bar music. But a couple of lovebirds were kissing right in front of me. Being the Kuwaiti I am, I could not resist ogling, they were not young, most probably in their forties, not good looking like movie stars either, but they looked beautiful. Something I’m not used to seeing back home, do you blame me for being a curious cat?

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The atmosphere was very Christmassy; but I was too sober to notice at first, so I crossed my legs on the high stool and started reading my new book (on my lap). What a nice feeling, nobody paid attention; imagine if I did this in Kuwait, LOL

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The decoration was like that of the old taverns; wooden walls mixed with brown bricks and oak wood walls and ceiling. Halve of the ceiling was open to the sky for fresh air since this was the smoking area, but there were heaters hanging to the ceiling, and with those and the effect of the Marlow, and of course the warm smiles of the people around, I did not feel the cold. And it amazed me that my youngest was winning all the pool games played in the room next to me. When did he learn that? hmmm. Another guy sitting next to me, unaware of my presence , as he was watching the NFL on TV. Time passed, between my book and occasional chatting with the people inside the bar. Everyone seemed happy and careless; did they know about the ministry of Sho2on banning guys from working in women’s stores? Nah… why do I have to think about that now?
On our way back I was a bit tipsy, so I raced the guys back to the hotel, and guess what, I won 😀

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No, we did not get back to the hotel yet, we discovered this Indian bakery that was still open and decided to get some fattining goodies for breakfast tomorrow. And to my astonishment I found my favorite Rasmalai and Taramasso with rum, hmmm the original Taramasso, ok, when it comes to Taramasso I’m a beast. So I couldn’t wait for breakfast; I had a few and I’m so full and fulfilled, good night guys till tomorrow.

An update
A dedication from Soud to me and from me to all of you :*

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