Vacation by the Numbers

My three week vacation in the U.S. has come to an end, so it’s time to do the numbers: Books Read: Three. The first was How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. This was okay, kind of funny, but not memorable. It lacked much heart, and the plot line–that all contemporary fiction that sells well is calculated drivel made up to push sales–made me really cynical about the ability of current novels to inspire or elevate. After studying Ulysses for two years to write my dissertation I started to think that already a few years ago, so this is not a good direction for me. Next came Making Your Dog Your Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete. Non-fiction, fabulous book from the ’70s from a monastic community who raises German Shepherds and their advice on how to have a great dog. I loved this book and read it all in one windy day on the beach, which the library probably won’t appreciate because sand in every single page may have fluffed it up permanently. Finally, the perfect quick plane read, My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler. Hilarious, bawdy and totally inappropriate account of the author’s history between the sheets. Midgets included. I read basically the entire thing from Doha to Islamabad. I like memoirs about 100% more than I like fiction at this point. Trashy Magazines Read: Seven. So I am totally up-to-date on pop culture now. I used to turn my noses up at stuff like US Weekly and Star. That was before I moved to another continent and felt lost and confused when hearing about things like Kendra Wilkinson, Demi Lovato, the people with 19 children, any […] Read More

Buying Like an American

Last night I went to Walmart for the first time in my life. As I guess every single person in this country already knows, you can buy anything you want at Walmart, including oregano seeds for $1, karaoke CDs of Lady Gaga’s latest, and a pre-faded red tee shirt that says “I’m a Pepper.” This is awesome, any way you look at it. Draw a veil discreetly over that rather compelling documentary I watched a few years back about how bad Walmart is. My visit to Walmart was so unusual that my credit card company immediately suspended my card for suspected fraudulent activity. Remember that I live in Pakistan, charging up electric generator sets and tiki torch fuel cans left and right and no red flag is raised. Re-examine your screening process, Capital One. I restored my credit card privileges in time to do some damage at the mall today, the next stop on my consumer tour. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, but cramming six months’ worth of essential purchases into one day is especially icky. Random sampling of my list of must-haves today: sneakers, “Game Change” book about the 2008 election, sports bra, organic mascara, yoga block, 2011 dayplanner, pastry cutter, silver polish, and sesame oil. I should have bought the sneakers first and then put them on for the 6-hour mall walking marathon that commenced. Shopping by yourself is weird. You have to depend on the fawning opinion of the commissioned saleswoman about the black leather and velvet leggings/ankle boot combination that you want to believe could work on the Islamabad party scene this fall (solution: go with your […] Read More