Movie Review: Crossing Over

I believe I am cursed when it comes to movies. Having abandoned the theatres a long time ago in favor of books and videogames with a solid story that captivates you from leaf to leaf – or in case of videogames, from battery recharge to discharge – I have become overly skeptical about watching “mainstream” movies.

Crossing Over reinforced the above.

The movie attempts, rather valiantly, to tackle the issue of immigrants to the US. It might, might, hit home with some of the immigrants who successfuly got “naturalized” and have become residents of the Land of the Free. But the movie fails miserably in delivering anything remotely coherent, and the only form of consistency found is a continually elevated sense of boredom as the film progresses.

Crossing Over

The so many main characters in the film are shameless stereotypes of the sort of people who would love to migrate to the US. You have the honorable Japanese with their rebellious son trying to blend in by resorting to gangs and violence. You have the hot Australian supermodel who has sex with the department chief to get the green card at her boyfriend’s expense. You get the Pakistani family who honor-kills their daughter which brings shame to the family. You have the Muslim Afghan people who have to be deported, and all their scenes are a sobfest. You have the Mexican who left her life of poverty to work in some factor. And, the coupe de grace of the whole sad plot is the Jewish teacher who does not follow Judaism but made it through and convinced Americans he is a wannabe Rabbi because a fellow older Rabbi-and-American-citizen confirmed he recited the Holy Scripture accurately to – no surprise – the dumb African American at the naturalization department.

Crossing Over

If you’re the sort of people who feel obliged to sit through two hours to watch such crap because you paid for it, then stop this bullshit and leave the theatre. Life’s too short to waste on crap – be it movies or books or games or clubs or friends or outings – and consider it a 10 dollars well spent on buying yourself the choice of not watchingt his stupidity.

Or you can pay me that amount, as I have watched it in whole and summarized the whole thing in the big paragraph above. I certainly saved you precious time!

Side Note: due to “obscene” scenes in Watchmen – particularly the last 20 minutes – the movie is heavily censored in the UAE and is now dubbed “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Blue Penis“. If I review it, rest assured I would have seen the whole uncensored movie, somewhere, some other time. 

200,000 Books

“200 thousand books,” Sarah told me with lots of pride.

I wasn’t with her at all, mentally, when she said this blasphemous hypocrisy. My eyes were fixed on the librarian.

But let’s rewind a little bit.

On a random day, like all unlabeled, unnamed days when you are on holiday, Sarah and I happened to go to a local and small public library. We had earlier decided that day it would be a Day of Profound Enlightenment and there would be no better way to spend it than lounging around with an elite class of kids engaged in exhaustive reading of obsolete books ranging from pictorial to printed atrocities – the kind where the paper is so thin and the ink so thick that the sentences simply merge into a blob of blackness – and bask in the light of the enormous invisible bulbs that floated above our heads as we discovered new words and concepts that were not in the least bit pronounceable or imaginable.

I forgot the library’s name, but I am sure it contained the word Astoria, along with the district name and/or a president’s name, then generically ending with the words Public Library as a beacon to attract the underprivileged for free reading.

To be honest though, the library was of formidable size. Either that or I was unfathomably small, the only thing possibly smaller than me were Sarah the Midget and chairs specifically designed for hobbits. There were rows and rows of books, which, I think, were arranged by the color of the cover, starting oddly from yellow and ending in white and then black. Sarah explained to me that the prestigious books are always colored in maroon, black or white, and that as the colors became more vibrant, the easier they became to read and the shade of the color represented the age group – the more fluorescent the shade of color was, the more it was catered to toddlers.

Strangely, though, toddlers’ books were almost exclusively adorned with a white cover. I thought that they were indeed prestigious, for no human being other than toddlers can understand a book that contained as many words as there are pages in that book. They probably have an imagination so vivid and alien that they would effortlessly translate these unrelated words into an epic science fiction saga involving bears, chairs and other ornaments not exceeding 5 sides.

We went to the mildly colored section.

I grabbed a navy blue book, whose title contained the word Amusement Park and I just assumed it would be one of those Senior High books that everyone at school read about passionate love, break ups, menstrual cycles and occasional mishaps in locker rooms. As I opened the book, to my surprise, sprouted a large display of well arranged cartons that brought the said amusement park to life, in 3D form. The thickness of the book has finally been attributed. I shoved it back and followed Sarah around. She obviously knew what she was doing.

“I want to get a book on colonial Spain,” she said. I knew what Spain meant. I thought the first word was related to a certain person or some strange UFO sighting. “So how many books have you read till now?”

I was struck with this question. I knew Sarah was a prodigy. She started reading menus in restaurants when she was still a toddler. Her first word consisted of 18 syllables in some foreign language that sounded like Latin. Everyone in the family had been forever praising her extreme intelligence and fluency in English as well as unremarkable knowledge of Arabic obscenities. I simply could not compete with her. She would make me her laughingstock and the butt of all her jokes for generations to come.

“I don’t know,” I said, of course, as always. I never seemed to know anything, and it never contributed to my self-image. “How much did you read?”

It was then, at that very moment, that the most horrendous of all living creatures appeared before us. She was a mix of many different animals, none of which were human. She was unusually large, like a giant hippo or a small blue whale, with legs of course. Her breasts were so voluptuous they had their own gravitational pull, which clumped them together into multi layered blobs of blubber and undrunk milk enough to feed 10 generations of kids at an orphanage. Her body mass could only be seen in its entirety if she were in the far horizon or if you had eyes that can view in 180 degrees, and, even then, you would require a fish-eye effect in order to contain her within your frame of sight without having your eyes to skew sideways for a clearer view. I could only assume that she was born in this library and raised here, for there was no possible way out she could fit in any door. Her head looked like a piece of dragon, complete with scaly eyes, and for unexplained reasons she almost sprouted horns from her temples.

If I still had that book with the amusement park, I would be able to identify most of the animals in it to be presented in one form or another in this monstrosity.

“200 thousand books,” Sarah told me with lots of pride.

I wasn’t with her at all, mentally, when she said this blasphemous hypocrisy. My eyes were fixed on the librarian.

Sarah looked at me looking at the woman. From my height and the woman’s unusually large breasts, my line of sight landed on only two options.

“Kinan, Jesus Christ you are DISGUSTING. Oh My God she is a LIBRARIAN for the love of shit GET A LIFE!!!” she accused me, and ordering me to get a life in as many days as tripled of what I stayed in NY.

“I wasn’t looking WILLINGLY she occupied my WHOLE view!” I defended.

“Unbelievable. Every time I attempt to have a normal conversation with you, you end up being stupid. You never read any books did you?”

I couldn’t answer. Gravity was too intense.

We never returned there again.

Sarah Looked Hot All Wet part 2

“Come on chicken legs!” she said.

I didn’t listen. I embraced the rain. It was cold, cold rain, and the sky had become a darker hue of purple. We had to rush home, but I didn’t want to go home. I loved the rain.

She pedaled ahead of me, and I had to follow suit otherwise I would have lost my way back to the house. The rain was pouring hard enough to even cloud my vision. And the fact that I wore eye glasses did not help my perception of my surroundings in the least bit.

Remember the movie “Singing in the Rain”? I actually never got to watch it until three weeks ago. It was a brilliant movie. I loved the acting, the singing, the atmsophere. The love story was intense. The best part was close to the end where the two were on the stairs of the stage, the lady looking ethereal with her long, free, angelic gown and the surreal atmosphere. I also love the fact this has nothing to do with my post.

Not now anyway.

The road dragged on. A lightning blade sliced through the ominous clouds above, thundering the air. The rain hit hard my face and body. I could no longer ride with enough speed to follow Sarah. I told her to go easy a little bit.

“If you tilt sideways the rain won’t hit your face in the front,” she instructed. Of course, why would it? It didn’t occur to me. I had to swerve left and right as I biked.

But I enjoyed the rain. I was drenched far beyond drying. My gray shorts and white shirt turned darker as they soaked. I became heavier. The bike became heavier.

“Wait up!” I shouted. She didn’t listen; she kept forcing her way through the heavy rain. I put some effort to up my speed, but, with all the water on my glasses, I didn’t see the end of the pavement. I clumsily stumbled but steadied the bike; my glasses, however, just fell off. Not being able to stop to find them, I just carried on without them.

I should have lazik eye surgery sometime soon. It is a completely different feeling.

We eventually rounded up around the house, discarded our bikes in the backyard and headed to the warm inside. Or, maybe, it just seemed warm relative to the freezing rain and wind.

It was then that I realized that Sarah was wet.

It isn’t like I am that mentally handicapped to not think of the obvious, it just did not occur to me that she would get wet (if this sentence doesn’t make sense don’t try to decipher it). Women never get wet. Not when men want them to. But she looked… different.

I was 13.

She wasn’t the perfect figure. But why would a 13 year old care anyway? This is the best chance. Two soaked individuals, one juvenile 13 and the other around 10, in a hot kitchen.

There was only the orange juice bottle and some leftover cereal on the kitchen table. This is going to be really really hot.

I think it was in those few months in the States that I actually felt I have testosterone. After I turned 14 and went back to my regular, boring life, it took me 2 more years to self experiment and 5 years after that to have the greatest dream of all: Banging Angelina Jolie TWICE (once in a void and once on a kitchen table, with no cereal), and satisfy her (and myself) both times.

Nothing sexier than beating Brad in his game.

“Oh my God Sarah, you are wet!” I stupidly highlight the fact to her.

“Well, like, I don’t know Kinan, I think I THINK I was outside in the RAIN. And you KNOW it is made of WATER, so, like, of COURSE I will be WET DUUUUUUUUUH!” She noted that I am stupid, in a plainly American way.

She grabbed a towel and flanked it over her head.

“Well I just think that you’re kinda, I mean, wet,” where the hell was I going with this? Note to women: I am still that stupid.

“Kinaaaaan, ewwwwwwww, you are DISGUSTING! Get a LIFE!” She instructed. Note to women: I am still told to get a life. She stomped upstairs.

Oh, she wants to play hard to get now huh? Well, the bedrooms are upstairs, and so are the bathrooms and showers. It is going to be awesome.

Note to men: I had not seen porn before then.

I followed her upstairs. This is going to be a blast. Of course, I had no idea what sex is, much less how to do it. I don’t even recall I had an erection, and even if I did, it would take me some years to know what to do with it.

I went up anyway. I am sure she would show me the ropes. Even if she were 10, who cares! That idiot Tom/Bob thing had a crush on her… it is either me or him. And I had to take this opportunity.

Of course I am now speaking in retrospective.

I went up.

“It suddenly rained on us!” she said. To whom?

I continued up the stairs. Surely this must be the female way of attracting inseminating men. First by complaining, to draw attention, then by playing victim, to draw sympathy and sex.

Of course. This had to be it. I couldn’t possibly be wrong. She had been giving me hints so many times and I just overlooked them. I played the role of the forbidden fruit. She wanted me and bad. Really bad.

It is all text book.

I reached upstairs.

She was talking to her dad.

Adam’s Apple

Although I was good at table tennis, I was never good at the actual full-scale sport. As elegant and graceful as I may seem when attempting to strike the tennis ball, I discovered that, for me at least, tennis should be played vertically rather than on the ground’s surface. I don’t care if they have to string someone up and hang them from a window. I just can’t seem to be able to swat the ball in a nice curve across the net.

One of the kids who played tennis back in the States went by the name of Tom (although I think it was Bob but Tom is just easier to type). He was incredibly short and chubby, in stark contrast to my elongated and slim being. I was definite he was jealous, especially that he was the one who called me Sarah’s boy toy.

I later discovered he had a crush on her.

Anyway, I played with the school’s team even though I was not registered at the school nor did I even pay the trainers for their valiant efforts to suppress their urge to swat my head out of court. I got in because “Sarah said so” and it was the first time Americans got introduced to the term “wasta” (in return though I had to let them use my dad’s mobile phone to call their girlfriends).

That day we were playing double team. Me and Sarah against Tom and Melissa. They looked ridiculous as Melissa was twice as tall as Tom. Sarah and I didn’t look better either. She wore a horrendous pink skirt and t-shirt while I wore white shorts and a white t-shirt (both of which ended up being see-through). Being “the man” (LoL) I had to serve the ball.

It took 4 balls on the pine tree until I got it right. Two balls were almost mine.

But…

I hit Tom’s head with a ball.

He didn’t take it lightly.

As the game progressed I let Sarah take the shots, unless I really really had to or in case I had to pull off a special move. They were my signature moves that sent the ball zipping through the infinite vertical as Tom and Melissa hysterically tried to squint and see where the hell the ball is, only to be blinded by the sun and miss the ball entirely and we score. They called it cheating, but hey, there are no “outs” in tennis for the vertical shots. Right? The shots all remained in the rectangular horizontal perimeter.

Tom felt agitated by my shots, coupled with the fact that I was playing with Sarah (and, as I was behind her, I got to see her butt and legs and she moved, which, if any of you know me, probably was not the case). My final two serves hit both Tom and Melissa and anyone watching would swear I was born to be a tennis ball sniper.

When the game ended, Tom was flaming red and heating. Melissa was absolutely nonchalant as she thought we were all insignificant to play against in the first place. Admittedly, she was the best in school. But not good enough to avoid my shots hitting her abdomen.

As was customary, we had to “shake hands” with the other team.

Then it happened.

Tom.

He wanted to exact his revenge.

I didn’t see it coming.

He served a ball.

At 3 meters away.

And it hit my throat.

My Adam’s Apple went inside entirely and then bulged out and tripled it’s size (now everyone knows why I can pull off an elevator-movement with it). I was out of breath and almost fainted. I liked the attention though, everyone was around me making sure I was alright (funny though no one bothered to do anything other than asking if I was alright, and I had to waste my breaths on answering them).

I could see Tom’s face. Glowing with glee and joy over his triumphant revenge. He thought he had it all now. My voice got forever scarred (this is also why I sound like a smoking goat) and I would never be able to woo Sarah ever again.

He had it all, he thought.

Until Sarah’s tennis racket grilled into his face.

My First Turkey Sandwich Experience

Summer of 1997, for medical reasons (in a later blog post), my family and I moved to the States, to the Big Apple to be specific. We stayed there for quite a while, 4 or 5 months, but without a doubt they have been the most joyous months I have lived in my entire lifetime. I will bring you every now and then some experiences I had there, but first, let us start with moving in!

We had some family members there from my mother’s side. They lived in Astoria, Queens. A charming little house, like so many houses annexed to each other in a block. It was bewildering to me that a house can be made exclusively using wood. The only concrete was the porch because it was part of the pavement.

My father didn’t like staying over at other people’s house, so he decided to rent a little placed owned by my mother’s family’s babysitter. Her name is Jewel and she is the most charming person I have met. The house my dad rented was around the Fort Lee area. It was a nice little place but it felt disconnected from the rest of the family in Astoria.

After some debate, and seeing that a 13 year old (me) would probably be better off living with the extended family, I went back to Astoria to live with my mom’s relatives. It was a full house as it was, however, and so I moved in with their neighbors, who were also family members (technically my mother’s cousin’s husband’s brother and family). They were a small family of four: The father, who worked as a professional dancer and yoga teacher, the mother, who worked as a chef in her own Lebanese mini-restaurant (think 7ommous and falafel and the breakfast stuff), the daughter Sarah and her little 5 year old brother.

The parents were, most of the day, at work. The little bro went to summer school as well as other odd activities, and so for four months or so, it was most often only Sarah and I living through the days. I will talk in detail about some of them in later blog posts.

Sarah was (and probably still is) an enigmatic, energetic character who grabs life and bites it at the throat. She has a strong personality – which is only typical as she had to more or less raise herself as she experienced school and other social activities (all of which I was sucked into). She was a little chubby, and, in contrast, I was skinny (not that that fact changed anyway). I was dubbed Chicken Legs and I called her many mean names, but after being slapped and hit repeatedly by a girl you get the idea that you don’t get the privilege of calling her names.

She almost always wore pink or white or lime. I almost always wore gray or blue or white. We looked like a moving circus.

One of the first funny memories that come to my mind with her was at the deli’s after a tennis round (again… more on all that stuff in later posts). We went to the deli, starving little kids, Sarah and I and a girl called Melissa (stuck up spoilt girl) and I think a girl called Patricia (who was obsessed with skates, she might as well have played tennis riding them). Each ordered their sandwich, and when it was my turn, I asked Sarah “What are you having?”

“Turkey sandwich,” she said. It was the first time I heard that “turkey” can be used in a different context than the country. I thought to myself that it is probably a Turkish sandwich. I didn’t know what a Turkish sandwich would be like.

“What’s a Turkish sandwich?” I asked, naively I might add.

She looked up at me, puzzled, confused, as if I just told her that turkeys don’t exist outside of the States.

“It is that stupid big chicken thing they put on Thanksgiving,” she said, and added, “You know, the short ostrich!”

Her friends giggled… I don’t know if it was because of my question or at the analogy between a short ostrich and a turkey.

“Um, okay…” I said. I was shivering with fear. I expected a sandwich full of feathers and some other unchewable meat.

She handed me the revolting sandwich. I looked at it from the inside, and I almost froze in fear, almost screamed in horror at what I saw.

White meat that is neither chicken nor fish, surrounded by green stuff and olives and tomatoes as if to hide the little animal wrapped in the sandwich.

It took me over 15 minutes to have the first bite.

And it wasn’t me who fed me the hideous thing either.