CA vs. CA, and it’s just so blindingly clear

You know what else is annoying? When you write up a brilliant entry and post it and then come back the next morning and check your weblog and don’t see it there. So apparently you just dreamt you wrote it, and now you have to “re-write” the whole thing all over again. What a process, man. My dream- versus my real-life needs to get it together already.

So, anyway, I guess that means I didn’t really write about meeting up with Elysium, photographer extraordinaire and all-around cool Canadian who was in San Francisco recently, so here goes all the various randomness that I remember off the top of my head. (Don’t you hate it when you decide to write things three weeks later, and thus forget everything?) [I just typed out this post and re-read it one more time, and that part about forgetting stuff was a big fat lie because, damn, is my memory good!, even three weeks later, as you will see. Freakin’ hell, man, how did this post get so long? Just how?] And, yes, I always seem to write about things at least three weeks later. This procrastination is a disease.

I always associate Elysium more with flickr than I do with Blogistan, which is just as well for you all, I suppose, since he’s the one who kept extolling the virtues of flickr and made me realize that flickr, too, has a community aspect all its own, just as weblogs do. So without his marketing, you wouldn’t be seeing photos around here once in a while – and definitely not that pretty banner I’m in love with, which comes from this photograph.

I was first “introduced” to Elysium sometime last year by HijabMan, so we bonded through our common love for HMan and his wild, ’80s songs-filled voicemessages. Telling Elysium that my father was a onetime Canadian citizen who keeps hinting that he’s going to move back to Vancouver when he retires certainly didn’t hurt matters either. Plus, my IM conversations always revolve around food and the weather, and apparently everyone can relate. It’s good to know I can easily forge common bonds with everyone this way.

Anyway, levity aside, Elysium is good people. We met up in the Mission district a few days into his San Francisco visit, for dinner at Bissap Baobab, this funky Senegalese place that I had been to once before last summer with SI and rehes.

As we began our walk down the street to Bissap Baobab, Elysium wondered, “Why are all these people just standing around?”
“Maybe,” I said pointedly, “they’re standing around waiting for their friends who are hella slow in showing up.”
“Hmm. No, I don’t think that’s it.”

So much for me trying to make a point.

And, man, was it cold for California. Our hands were freezing. [Clothing with pockets, this is what I need to be investing in, is what.] I agreed with E’s theory that this being-cold-all-the-damn-time thing must be genetic. Of course, I would like for it to be genetic, because that’s better than my father’s theory, which is that “it’s all in your head, Yasminay.”

Over at the restaurant, Elysium made the worst decision ever. It went like this: He skimmed the menu, closed the menu, sat back, and said, “You decide.”

Do you know what making me decide on food choices is like? It’s torture! TORTURE, I say! I mean, making food decisions for myself is bad enough, but having to decide for someone else, too, is nerve-wracking. And E was damn unhelpful, because every time I threw an idea his way (“Vegetables in peanut sauce?”, “Fish? Do you like fish?”, “Vegetarian stew?”, “What do you like better, rice or couscous? Dammit, help me out here!”) he’d just respond with, “You decide.”

In all honesty, though, this was my own fault, because I think I recall E making some sort of food decision and then looking at me for affirmation – “Right?” – which I immediately undercut with, “But that fried mashed potato appetizer did sound good.” So, of course, he put his menu away and left it all to me to decide. My potato obsession will be the downfall of me – thanks a lot for getting me into this, stupid Obsession With Potatoes (OWP)! ow, is right.

Here’s how you know people are cool: When they’re so nice and patient about the ten thousand hours (no, seriously, it was damn long) it takes for you to pick your food, even going so far as to ask about your day and then putting up with your impatient “Hold on, I can’t multi-task when I’m figuring out what to eat!” with a straight face. High-five to the friendly waitstaff also, who nodded understandingly at all my “I think I need another minute” requests.

As we sat around waiting for our food to arrive, Elysium tried to make sense of just what exactly I do with my life: “I don’t get it. You’re always out having lunch all the time. So when do you work?” Yeah, that’s a pretty valid question.

I made fun of his huge backpack and “carrying his life around with him,” just as I had with HijabMan back in September. At the end of the dinner, he actually made me pick it up, and all I can say is, I’m so glad I’m not the one who has to carry that bag around all day. Then again, unlike those guys, I’m the one without the laptop and the digital SLR, both of which seem like they would be fun investments.

E fished a bunch of different Canadian coins out of his pocket to show me. They’re actually pretty similar in size to US coins, I think. While I was looking at them, all intrigued, one of the waitstaff came by and stopped at our table, distracted by the shiny money. He picked up one of the coins and brought it close to his face, trying to read the writing on it. His face carried a comically perplexed expression. Elysium and I watched him in silence; I don’t know about E, but I was trying not to laugh the entire time.

“It’s… it’s CANADIAN!” the man finally exclaimed, all surprised as if he had discovered something so completely fascinating (and foreign) that it had never before been known to mankind. I tried not to burst out laughing. I think the dude took all the Canadian money, too. Maybe he thought it was part of the tip.

Walking back to BART, the following conversation transpired:

E, looking around: “Where are all the brown people?”
Y: “You mean, like, the South Asians?”
E: “Yeah.”
Y: “I think they live in the suburbs.”

And this is how I know Elysium is good at paying attention: When I made some sort of offhand comment about how I don’t travel on BART very often, E pointed out, “I thought BART was your friend.” Which totally sounds like something I would say, so I must have said it.

Downstairs, on the BART platform while waiting for my homebound train, I made friends with a short-haired girl who was intrigued by my headwrap. “I bought a whole bunch of pretty scarves so I could wear them as headwraps,” she said, “but my sister laughs at me, ‘cuz I don’t have enough hair!”

“Use multiple scarves and layer it up,” I suggested, amused, and then explained step-by-step. My train was approaching, so I quickly introduced myself and asked her name. Julia, she said. She was cool. See, I don’t understand why people tell me I would hate BART if I traveled on it everyday. BART is rocking.

Two days later was a Friday – jummah [Friday congregational prayers] at my favorite Oakland masjid that you’re probably tired of hearing me rave about all the time, but just deal. Elysium caught a ride to jummah with our lovely buddy, D; my favorite partner in crime – Princess Pretty Pants – and the Lovely L Lady also managed to make it, so I was super excited.

Afterward, while congregating in front of the masjid and then crossing the street back to our cars, we tried to figure out what to do about lunch. Once again, indecisiveness in action: Where/what to eat. W and F wanted gyros, PPP and the Lovely L Lady wanted pasta from Gypsy’s, and I didn’t really care what I ate as long as we all chilled at Julie’s Cafe, because Julie’s has patio heaters, dammit, and any place with patio heaters is the place to be. High-five to Elysium, once again, for patiently putting up with us.

Elysium and I got to Julie’s first, and took over a long table in the back corner of the patio. The line was out the door, so E suggested we wait until the line got shorter. This sounded fine in theory, except for the fact that, two minutes later, the line was out the door, down the entire length of the rectangular patio, and all the way to the steps at the street entrance. I amused myself by throwing disgruntled “This is all your fault” looks at Elysium and making pointed comments about how we COULD have already gotten our food and started EATING by now, but I think he is immune to guilt trips, which is just as well.

The rest of our group trickled into Julie’s, one at a time. “Where’s PPP?” asked W.

“She and L are getting pasta. They’ll be here.”

“Sometimes,” said W, twirling his favorite utensil with deliberation, “I just want to pick up my fork and stab her.”

“Your plastic fork might not work so well,” I pointed out, laughing.

W and his sister, F, with their jokes and sarcasm and mutual hostility towards one another never fail to make me laugh and brighten my Fridays. W, especially, is incorrigible, and his derisive comments have lately inspired me to insult him with the following: “You’re the worst Haji I’ve ever met!”

“I know,” he always says, laughing, looking far too pleased. “I came back worse from Haj than when I went!”

W and PPP traded barbs and insults all through lunch, including threats of stabbing each other. At one point, PPP put on her best mean face and said, “Do you know where I’m from?”

I started laughing. “Buddy, we know you’re from West Sac, so you’re dangerous and scary, but as of March 1st, West Sac has a reputation only for being home to the brand-new IKEA.”

“I KNOW!” she exclaimed, face falling. “I’m so mad about that! STUPID BASTARDS.”

However, as always, PPP and W managed to kinda sorta bond over their common obsession with hot sauce, so no stabbing occurrences were reported.

W and PPP – as well as the Lovely L Lady and I – are huge proponents of the “tough love” philosophy, which, to us, basically means that you make fun of your friends in order to show your love. Elysium was, I believe, a bit disconcerted by all this; I think I recall a comment along the lines of, “You’re so mean to each other!”

PPP tried to unsuccessfully explain, then finally gave up. “Tell him, Yazzo.”

I stepped in with the explanation. “If we love you, we will make fun of you forever.”

“Yeah!” said PPP approvingly.

Of course, this also led to PPP remarking, “Oh, but Yazzo is mean, though!” She then made me tell the story of the time I cussed her out in chemistry lecture during our freshman year of college. “You tell it better!” she said. This point is debatable, actually, because – while I have told the story enough times to be a pro at it by now – I’m actually not a very good storyteller at all in real life. This is why I have a weblog, kids.

No hanging-out session with Elysium is complete without a discussion about Canada, and I have to admit he did a good job of selling Canada to the Lovely L Lady. She’s all set to move, that traitor.

At the beginning of lunch, I peered over at L’s pasta from Gypsy’s and asked, “What did you get?”

“No- Noch-something? I don’t know how to pronounce it.”

“Oh, I know what it is!” I said. “I know how to spell it. But, yeah, I don’t know how to pronounce it either.”

Elysium came to our rescue with the supposedly correct pronunciation for gnocchi. “Yeah, people from Toronto KNOW these things,” I laughed.

Over lunch, we discussed Elysium’s less-than-stellar impressions of San Francisco, much of which, we decided, was based on the neighborhood where he had opted to stay. “Of all the places you could have stayed at,” said PPP, shaking her head, “you decided to stay in the crack capital of the world.”

“And it just so happens to be in San Francisco,” deadpanned Elysium.

Soon, PPP and L started getting antsy because they wanted to beat the 5 o’clock traffic to the Sacramento valley. I, however, had other ideas: “Let’s go get some gelato!”

[By the way: Gelateria Naia was featured on a Food Network show a little while back. Check Week 3, Episode 8 for videos of pretty-looking gelato. (Baji, I’m looking right AT you!)]

While we were walking down Telegraph, back to our cars, Elysium made some dig at my driving skills, which was laughingly echoed by PPP and the Lovely L Lady. “What are you talking about?” I said indignantly. “My driving is -” I paused, searching for the suitable word. “-AMAZING!” I decided.

Once at the gelato place on Shattuck, we had fun test-tasting ten thousand flavors before deciding on what to get. I went with my old favorites: stracciatella and chocolate orange.

I love the funky, bright orange and lime green walls at Gelateria Naia, as well as the decor. “Look,” I pointed out one of the wall prints to PPP, “there’s the kinda car we should have!”

“It’s Saif Ali Khan’s car from Salaam Namaste!” she said, delighted. (That stupid, damn catchy My dil goes mmmm song! Ahhhhh!)

Anyway, so we ate gelato, and Elysium took pretty pictures, and PPP made fun of his stalker paparazzi camera. E quite neatly sidestepped PPP’s incessant “You haven’t answered my questions! So where are you from? And what do you do?” demands. Evading PPP takes some major skill (even I can’t do that), so high-five to Elysium. [Clearly, I’m going outta control stealing HijabMan’s trademark high-fives for use in this post. Just you try to make me stop.]

Then we headed out to go our separate ways. I abandoned E at the Berkeley BART station because the thought of driving him back to SF in rush-hour traffic was too horrific (sorry, buddy!)

The Tuesday after that, I picked up Elysium from his hotel to drive him to SFO so he could fly back to his beloved Canada. And although he called me a “crazy driver,” I will be nice enough to mention that Elysium is a better navigator than HijabMan, I’ve decided. Also, for the record, I’m not a crazy driver, dammit. (Don’t make me run you over.)

I brought E a small bag of tangerines from my backyard tree, since he was dying for some Vitamin C and also because he’d always refuse my attempts to share chocolate chip cookies with him (seriously, what kinda friend repeatedly turns down home-baked chocolate chip cookies?). Anyway, he was a fan of the tangerines, even though he only took two – but he managed to sidestep a potentially hefty fine (up to $400 or something?) and smuggle them into Canada, which I think is the most awesome story ever. I was accessory to a successful smuggling, you guys! I’m going to tell my grandkids.

This post is about four pages too long already, but I have one more thing to mention before I wrap this up:

I am pleased to note that (I think) we sufficiently amused/traumatized Elysium with our constant usage of the words “crack,” “stalking,” and “stabbing,” which E later referred to as “the Yasmine vocabulary.” Actually, there was a point – mid-conversation with Elysium, during dinner in the Mission – when I realized just how often the word “crack” (and all variations thereof) spills from my mouth and, seeing the amused look on E’s face even though he was kind enough not to interrupt my sentence, I made a conscious effort to cut down on the usage. But it just wouldn’t work. So I am pleased to admit that if you know me only from the weblog or AIM, I use the words “crack,” “stalking,” and “stabbing” just as much in real deal life as I do on those mediums. That’s right, kids! Come to California so we can talk.

[p.s. As for the CA vs. CA debate, all the recent pro-Canada description over in the comment box of Anjum’s post was pretty damn awesome-sounding, I will admit that.]

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