Friday, February 25, 2011


Hello, faithful readers... and new ones too! I thought I'd share this short piece that I wrote today for my non-fiction writing class. Our assignment was to interview a stranger and do a brief characterization of that person. I hit the jackpot with the interview subject I found; he was just the sweetest man. I hope that I've done him justice.


On a bench along the bay behind San Francisco's Ferry Building, Mustafa relaxes in the sunshine enjoying his cigarette. "You smoke?" he asks. When the answer is no, he politely inquires, "I hope is okay for me to smoke?" His bicycle is chained to the fence in front of him; he is wearing his bike helmet, khaki pants, and a crisp blue and white striped shirt. When asked his age, Mustafa laughs and says, "Ah, too old. Sixty-six." One would never know from looking at him; he is fit and trim, and easily appears to be ten years younger. He smiles serenely, seeming incapable of not doing so.

Mustafa arrived in the United States from Damascus, Syria eleven years ago. "I like life here," he says. What do you like about it? "Everything! I have good job here. I am a good tailor. I am designer. I do custom. I make shirts, I make pants." This explains the high quality of the shirt that he is wearing. He and his partner run their business out of a shop in San Francisco's Union Square, but right now he is on a break. What do you like to do when you're not working? "My bike, that's healthy thing." On especially nice days, Mustafa takes his bike on board the ferry across the bay to Sausalito and rides around there. He also has a membership at a gym, where he uses the steam room, Jacuzzi, and "I run on the machine there. To be healthy guy." But you also smoke. Do you see any contradiction there? "I'm not a smoker. Sometime I smoke, like, every day once. Sometimes no smoke."

As he lights his third cigarette, Mustafa says that he has been waiting for his green card for nine years. The process is dragging on because of "what happened on September 11th" and concerns that he may have terrorist ties. Do you have family here in the States? The smile remains on his face, but his eyes grow sad. "My wife still in Syria. I have four sons, two daughters. I have eleven grandchildren", ranging in age from 17 to 3. “They don't know me. I miss everybody." There's no way you can go visit them? "If I go there, I can't come back. Every day I call them and they are okay. Yesterday my grandkids, they say, 'When you coming back?' I say I don't know. And I like to live here, but see my situation? Very, very hard."

The conversation ends, and Mustafa suggests, “You make good money with my story?” He is reminded that the story is not being written for money, but rather for a college course. "But is good story, no?" His smile grows broader and he extends his hand for a farewell shake. His break about over, he prepares to ride his bike up over the hilly streets back to his tailor shop, to continue working. And waiting.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Now we're talkin'...

...or writing, as the case may be. As usual, it's been a while since I've done a new blog post... blah, blah, blah... stop me if you've heard this before. But the main reason that I created this blog was to give myself an outlet for my relatively new interest in writing. This semester, I have an English class about non-fiction writing... and I lo-o-o-o-ve it! In fact, dare I say it, my limited blogging experience has groomed me to do well in the class (and yes, so far I am). I'm cruising through this semester (a nice change from the last very challenging one), I've scheduled my summer classes already (my last semester before graduation in August... yay!), and I'm digging into the homestretch.

And now, to completely disregard any thoughts of a coherently written piece that I may have learned in my class, I give you some random thoughts that I've had over the last several weeks. For each one, I considered doing a blog post but never quite got there, so each one now gets its own mini-blog.

--Do you know how incredibly easy it is to make your own ricotta? Well, I haven't done it yet... but "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten made it look incredibly easy on Food Network this past week. And given my quest to remove as much processed food as I can from my diet these days, I think I'll give it a try soon. I've developed a taste for this quasi-cheesecakey dessert with ricotta, lemon zest, honey and blueberries. I bet it'll be incredible with homemade ricotta... I'll give you a full report if I make some.

--My Steelers lost the Super Bowl this past weekend. Congrats to the Packers... they played a great game. The Steelers? Not so much, but at least they made it interesting at the end. Over the course of the season, I never really expected them to make it to the "Big Game", so the fact that they did was a bonus. I was not at all impressed with the Black Eyed Peas' halftime show, and to be perfectly honest, I didn't even realize that Christina Aguilera messed up the words to the National Anthem until all the media hoopla afterward. And a final note to Ben Roethlisberger: please, please, please behave yourself off the field from here on out. Now... bring on baseball season, baby!

--I have rediscovered yoga, and I love it! I've been trying to do it at least a couple of times a week, moreso lately now that my hip problems from a few years ago have reared their ugly head again, and yoga helps me give that area a really good stretch. (I'm doing everything I can to not have to go back to physical therapy for my hip, but I will if I have to.) If you've got stress in your life (and who doesn't these days?) and you've never done yoga before, I suggest that you give it a try. It takes some getting used to at first, but once you get the hang of it, it feels great! Like some other things in life which shall remain nameless. ;-)

Okay, enough of this mini-blog chit-chat... back to the books for me. Thanks for reading!