Blue Jay Jado!
Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr, and Jad Jichi. These four names all had something in common: come game day, they suited up, wore a hat and glove, and held a bat. They also received special treatment from pitchers, being intentionally walked. The first three household names deserved this treatment, as they were three of the best hitters of their generation, feared by pitchers across Major League Baseball. Jad Jichi was a five year old from La Mirada, CA in 1994 when he first began playing baseball. His parents must have thought he was a prodigy, because they repeatedly placed him on teams, session after session.
My name is Jad Jichi, hop on this literary bus ride with me to Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why? Because I am a record holder. Everybody who’s anybody knows young Major leaguers in the making start out playing t-ball. Essentially, it’s baseball with a pitcher who does not pitch. The other distinguishing factor is the batter places the ball on a platform in the shape of a pole and hits the stationary ball at his or her leisure. The field is also shrunken. Can you say dingers galore!? Unless you lacked average hand-eye coordination, you averaged a home run per every at bat!
Unfortunately, due to the annoyingly unavoidable and incurable disease known to mankind as aging, my glory days came to an abrupt end. Every athlete knows what occurrence follows their peak, the dreaded decline, and the shameful slump! Yes, the rumors are true; my baseball talents peaked during my tee-ball years.
My brother and I came to a fork in the baseball road one day, with Moe bearing right, and I left. It’s kosher to say that our baseball careers ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum from one another.
Resume: Catcher, shortstop, second base, outfield, and on occasion, pitcher, and a great batter. Overall, an outstanding baseball player who featured in three consecutive All Star games and the kid they called the prodigy. I normally don’t like to boast, but I’m pretty sure scouts came to watch Moe play. The only scouts that were present at my games sold lemonades and peanut butter patties, but I didn’t mind. “Mom not the thin mints! I hate those!” I’d yell from the dugout.
Little league baseball could be classified as the most terrifying experience of my life. If I ever catch the person who started the rumors that rumbled through every town, labeling me as a power hitting machine, I’ll do the unspeakable. Playing the field was a walk through the park. Catching, throwing, and whining under the hot outfield sun were second nature to me. Actually, I’m going to come clean, I rarely saw any action playing in the outfield, as my cohorts lacked the physical ability to hit the ball into outer space, where I was stationed by my coach to stay out of harm’s way.
The dugout was more like a hangout spot. My teammates and I would laugh, joke, and snack on sunflower seeds and fun dip. Unfortunately, dugouts did not carry toothpicks, for those seed shells that bury themselves in between teeth. We also held numerous intellectual discussions regarding the reasoning behind Wonka’s decision to only provide consumers with two candy sticks to go with the three powdered flavors.
It was all fun and games, but every game, every inning, every at bat, a string was repeatedly pulled, a broken record played, the butterflies in my stomach multiplied and my palms grew sweatier as my teammates either found themselves on base or struck out, and my turn to bat grew nigh. One by one, as I learned my teammates’ fates, the nagging ache in the back of my mind reminded me that I would soon have to stand trial in front of the pitcher and learn my own judgment.
For me, partaking in baseball games was the equivalent of being a captured sailor on a pirate ship. In the outfield, I played a shipwrecked sailor, floating about at sea. Three outs later, I was being pulled into the hold of a pirate ship as a prisoner along with my other shipwrecked mates. Cool, dark, and quite cramped, the hold kept over a dozen prisoners and stored supplies like water, Gatorade, faux chewing tobacco in the form of Big League Chew, and sunflower seeds.
There we sat next to each other, side by side, watching as our fellow inmates vanished before our eyes. Each individual was summoned to the deck to walk the dreaded plank. The pirates were devilish, ruthless beings, who showed no mercy as they threw bottles and rotten apples to force us off the edge. We were all forced overboard, that fate was inevitable, however what happened afterwards lied in the abilities of each individual.
With a helmet on my head and a bat in my hand, I would take the never ending walk from the ship’s dungeon to the on deck circle. As my mate stood on the edge of the plank, awaiting his judgment by the pitching pirate, I would take a few practice swings, the only swinging I’d be doing all day! After the guy in front of me disappeared overboard and managed to swim away to the safety of first base, my bat and helmet weighed me down, paralyzing my feet. Thank god for my excessive nervousness, otherwise there would not have been enough butterflies in my stomach to transport me to the plate. Looking back on my horror experiences, I’d say I possessed an intelligent winning formula, a subconscious one of course due to the fact that I was oblivious to it at the time.
Prior to the launching of the first pitch, I’m ashamed to say that my tear ducts were already at maximum capacity, waiting for something to break the levee. I can count how many times I actually swung at a pitch on both hands, which paints a vivid picture illustrating the usual protocol I followed when I found myself in this situation.
When death nears an individual, all motor coordination shuts down, which is why actors in movies stand idiotically idle and watch the giant boulder as it is about to crush them. If I wanted to save face, I’d lie and falsely claim that I came up with a logical reason not to swing, which is based upon the pitching inaccuracy of a six year old. Judging by the tiny bit of air space known as, the strike zone, in comparison to anywhere else the ball could go, the odds were against the pitcher. But of course my actions or rather my non-actions were a result of fear and not logic, so I’ll be honest because I am a vulnerable writer.
Frozen at the plate, I’d watch pitches fly by in every direction, with the ball induced breeze wiping the dripping tears off my cheek. And then it would happen, bam! Hit by the pitch. I’d like to think I received special treatment at the plate, but realistically speaking it was just bad pitching. Ouch! Don’t be fooled, six year olds that are pissed off at their nagging and embarrassing parents seated in the bleachers can throw some serious heat! At least when I got hit my tears were justified. 99.9% of my trips to the plate would result in me walking to first base either crying and relieved, or crying and in pain. Either way, I walked more than anyone in little league history.*
Ouch! Hit by a pitch: story my unsuccessful baseball career
As the only prisoner that could not swim, I managed to be the luckiest, because almost every time I was launched overboard I would never touch the raging sea. A dinghy always floated about, and caught me as I fell.
Moral of the story: When life makes you walk the plank and throws you overboard, be patient, have faith and you might luck out and land on a random dinghy. However, I strongly advise you to learn how to swim, I mean bat, because no one will ever break my walk record.
*There is no proof to the aforementioned statistic. Therefore, it is a farce.
Warning! Spoiler Alert! All Disney stories do not come equipped with a fairytale, happily ever after ending. Proof: This story. My lovely family and I (minus my father and my older brother) booked a vacation to the world famous Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My mom, younger brother, and little sister embarked on our first pilgrimage to the land of fairy tales and overpriced concessions in the August of 2010. Oh how naïve I was back then, as I innocently thought we were on a summer vacation, only to find out it was a summer job! This consisted of early morning awakenings, spending all day and night at the theme parks, dehydration, malnourishment, and more walking than I did in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
My family walked from memorial to memorial to, wait for it, more memorials. They’re not too far from each other, only a few miles apart. My favorite would have to be the Lincoln memorial. Honest Abe sitting upon his throne, overlooking the Olympic sized duck pond. Actually, I like the FDR one as well. There’s a statue of Eleanor and her dog, Toto! That’s not really his name, I could probably Wikipedia it but I fear I would run off on a tangent and drift away from the main subject.
We began by touring the Hollywood Studios on the first day, and then the claustrophobics’ nightmare of an island called the Magical kingdom, followed by my favorite, the Animal kingdom on the third day.
On the fourth day, morale had reached an all time low. We had bags under eyes (forgot to pack my essential L’Oreal anti-wrinkle ointment again!), dead legs, and severe cases of theme park overdose. Next up on the deadgenda, excuse me, agenda, was Epcot. My knowledge of this park, other than that of the enormous ball, was lacking. However, exploring the park while arguing over our coordinates on the map, we found the park to be quite fun. Attractions like the educational Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy (BILL BILL BILL!!) Dinosaur ride, the exciting hang gliding adventure Soarin’, and the sixty mile per hour ride, Test Track, breathed some much needed life into our deflating spirits.
The highly recommended talk of the park caught our eye next on our tourist map: Mission Space, described as the closest earthlings can get experiencing a journey to outer space, without attending the space cadet academy and not counting the Jetson’s. Anticipation and excitement levels were sky high as we walked past signage and statues pertaining to Mission Space. Anxious to fulfill my new found desire and appetite for amusement park rides, I sped ahead to read about the ride, making sure it was safe for me mum (minor disc issue) and if it was bearable for my twelve year old sister. Like other rides, the sign said persons who are susceptible to motion sickness beware, but this ride has two levels of intensity. The green team, which is a lighter and less intense experience, strongly recommended for motion sickness prone riders, and the orange team, well, is considered the real deal. REWIND. THERE’S SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW. I am extremely prone to motion sickness. Earlier in the day, I had ingested two tablets of Dramamine. Of course, this was when we first began parking (not the car, but when we hit the park!). Add the blazing hot sun, along with the gallons of water I used to rehydrate, and the effects of the miracle drug waved goodbye to me when I needed them most.
Full of arrogance and a great sense of invincibility, I laid out the plan for my family. I instructed my mom and my sister to join the mellow green team line, while my brother and I, with our chests pushed out in front of us and our melon sized heads, strutted our way into the orange team queue. Signs posted around the waiting area stressed the ride is not advisable for those prone to motion sickness. Finally, just before we entered the attraction and took our seats, we stood in front of a large monitor, where a video played with instructions regarding our mission. From what I understood, we were to take off into outer space, shoot around the moon, land on Mars, and return home. I turned and looked at Nader, and said, “We got this!” with extreme confidence.
At the end of the video, the actor stressed that if any astronaut in training did not want to participate, now was the time to change their minds and walk away, emphasizing the severity and intensity of the 2.4 G force that awaited us in the moments to come. Twenty seconds later, about seven people threw in the towel. Red flag, siren, alarm, or whatever you want to call it, but it made me nervous! Launch time arrived. Each rocket seated four astronauts, and each had a different responsibility on board. Nader was the navigator, I was the Engineer, and the Indian man and his daughter who sat next to us were the pilot and commander.
What happened next could easily be classified as the worst five minutes of my life. As I watched on the screen, I looked up at the blue sky and the fluffy clouds and listened to the countdown tick down to takeoff! The force that I felt from the gravitational pull was unreal and unbearable. What Dramamine? 30 seconds later we were in space and I was begging god for a power outage or some miracle to stop this hell. I remembered the senior astronaut mentioning not to close our eyes if we felt sick, so I re-opened them only to feel dizzier. I wondered if Nader was still alive as I was saddened about my life coming to an end, about never being able to see my girlfriend again, or never having gone to Old Trafford, and if they had sashimi in the afterlife. The screen prompted the commander to initiate first stage separation, leaving our boosters behind as we casually floated through space. The next orders instructed the pilot to engage the second stage rockets as we sped towards the moon. I thanked god for the smooth sailing so far and wished great things for my new favorite Indian family! The voice on the screen told Nader, the navigator, to fire rockets for the lunar orbit, but the ding sound that emits after the button is pressed was never heard. The voice again yelled for the navigator to push the button and still nothing occurred. Due to the awkward seating, I struggled to look over to my right, where I last saw Nader. Looking out of the corner of my eye, I saw an angel in the form of Nader’s outstretched fingertips and the sound went off and I was relieved, but only momentarily. Unsure of how much longer I could stay conscious, and how much longer this satanic ride lasted, I wanted to reach over and strangle Nader for the delay! The sickening force had let up as we were put into a “three month sleep” and I easily hit the button when called upon to initiate the hibernation.
Three months later, we pleasantly awoke in an asteroid field! The full force returned with a vengeance, forming an alliance with the burger and fries I had for lunch, and commanding them to arise via my esophagus. Our new reliable friends from the east came through once again in the clutch, while Nader continued his struggles to find the strength to push the button. Mars was within reach of our spaceship and soon we entered the red planet’s atmosphere. The thought of us still having to land, as well as having to embark on a return trip back to mother Earth, had me on the brink of tears. Nearing death, the voice demanded that I initiate the gliding wings. The harsh G force, and my motion sickness severely weakened me. During this defining moment, my eyes focused on two objects: the flashing red button and the increasingly attractive white paper bag. Struggling and fighting off adversaries in all shapes and forms, I leaned forward, stretched my arm, and finally hit the button after the voice had screamed at me three times, while simultaneously tearing a muscle in my arm. The others did the rest of the work from there on, and within a minute’s time we had landed. Miraculously, the seat guards had lifted, the lights flicked on, and we were free to leave. The suffering came to an abrupt end. Nader and I could barely walk. Using each other, as well as the wall as walking assistants, we slowly made our way to the exit as the last astronauts to arrive in the space station themed lobby. Morale was down, the arrogance had fled, the invincibility was no more, and we were orange with shame. Desperate to sit down, we crashed on a bench, in attempt to put a stop to our spinning eyes, floating heads, and turning stomachs. Ten minutes later we hear an eruption of giggles and laughter. Apparently my mother and sister emerged from the ride of their lives. Enjoying the calm and casual flight through space, as they playfully giggled and pushed buttons split seconds after commanded. They thanked me for placing them on the green team and poked fun at Nader and me, who sluggishly sat helpless and lifeless on the bench as they took pictures and rolled around on the floor, with laughter induced tears pouring out of their eyes. Next time, if ever, I’m going Green!
From Upper Left: Natalie, Nasty, and Carmen
Lower Left: Robert (Who is not included in this passage because I will be dedicating an edition to him later on), Moe, Jad (Me), and Ryan
I have an older brother named Moe. What happened was, well he was born before me, but everyone always thinks I’m the elder. (I prefer to use the word elder because of the elder wand; Harry Potter reference) I believe this is mainly due to the fact that in the year and three months that separate us, he stalled developmentally just as an act of kindness, (such a kind hearted cutie!) so we could experience everything in life together. We attended the same educational institutions, and oh how fine they were. Pla-school in the Pines (La Habra, CA), Eastwood Elementary (La Mirada, CA), Springbrook Elementary (Irvine, CA), Mrs. Sulaiman’s Home School (Kano, Nigeria), Lebanon School of Kano, Foxboro High School, Community College of Rhode Island, and Rhode Island College. Mrs. Sulaiman’s home school is easily my favorite of lot. There were easily about twenty of us, all different ages, sexes, and nationalities in a tiny classroom. It was quite a fine school and was extremely well run considering a single person ran it. We participated in science experiments, grew fruits and vegetables over the course of the school year, and even baked delicious oven delights.
Here I met my Chinese-Canadian-Nigerian-British daaaa’ling friend Carmen. Carmen was our DJ! She introduced my brother and I to all sorts of pop music artists. I’ve held this in for too long, she got us hooked on the Backstreet Boys, Westlife, 5ive, Nsync, B*Witched, Steps, Venga Boys and tons of others. She owned every NOW pop music mix. Carmen also used to treat us to new stationary products from Hong Kong, like pencil cases, pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, etc. Then there was the Croatian sweetheart Nastassia, (Nasty for short) who I couldn’t believe said no to fizzy drinks, (I hadn’t seen her in nine years, and when I did this summer that’s the first thing I remembered when we sat down for lunch) and the great Scots Natalie and Ryan. Natalie could play futbol better than any girl I’d ever seen and I hold Ryan completely responsible for infecting me with the Red Devil virus, my unhealthy and obsessive love for Manchester United FC. We all became good friends. My brother grew close to Carmen, Nasty, and Natalie, while Ryan and I became best friends. My brother and I were struggling to adjust to our move from Southern California to a third world country. I credit our new friends for transforming our turbulent adjustment into a zephyr. In each other we found common ground. We were all foreign to this land, a segregated mini-society, an out group. Another obsession of mine had originated from this tiny, yet extremely significant classroom, my introduction to Harry Potter! Everybody say ello Arry! (‘ello Arry!) And I’d like to thank Mrs. Sulaiman for making me believe that Hermione is pronounced Her-Me-own. I only got kicked out of the Wizarding club later in life, no big deal. One of us engineered a genius idea that escalated our friendship as a group: After school lunch and play dates! Once or a couple of times a week, we’d each take turns playing to each other.
Everyone’s house brought a different element into our hang out sessions so we never got bored.
Carmen lived in an industrial complex, and had a nice cozy home in a section of it. I never met her parents; it was only her and her brother Calvin, who was much younger than us. The first time we went is the most memorable. Carmen chefed up some Indomie noodles for us all. (Think Ramen noodles but sent from the heavens) Then we enjoyed delicious cups of tea with condensed milk. Foreign to my taste buds, it was a new sensation! All was well until someone managed to piss Calvin off, and he proceeded to unleash hell on us one by one, as if we were waiting in line to be served lunch. He used various techniques to bring us down to our knees and to tears. Pulling on our hair, punching our heads, and violently (playfully to him) swung what appeared to be harmless domestic objects, but on impact we learned how deceiving appearances can be. Overall, a fun experience was the outcome, even though we couldn’t wait to flee for safety reasons and for some reason it was our first and only visit to Carmen’s for a long time.
Nasty, like Carmen, lived out of town in a private apartment complex. To go along with the residential buildings were a few tennis courts near the main entrance, and a swimming pool in the middle of the rear of the complex. Once again, the girls would be in Nasty’s room, listening to pop music, talking about how gorgeous Brian Litrell and Ricky Martin are. (Little did they know Ricky didn’t think the same about them LOL) The boys and I grabbed a ball and stood across from Nasty’s brother Luka, and two Nigerian kids from around the way on the tennis courts. Battles were fought on those courts. Tackles of all sorts would fly in! Two footed, slide tackles, elbows were thrown, and each week a different winner would emerge. Losing hurt, physically and mentally. After a loss, we were eager for Nasty to invite us back to avenge our loss. If we won, we wanted a rematch just so we could win again. Competitively speaking, spectators would watch in disbelief that we played only for pride.
Natalie and Ryan resided in a nice house in a decent sized compound, which was located in town. The compound came equipped with a grassy front lawn, which served primarily as a soccer field, a rarely used basketball hoop (because we were soccer crazed), and a much needed swimming pool to cool off under the burning hot West African sun. We normally had a set agenda at each person’s house. At the McCarron’s we’d arrive after school and hang out inside the house for a bit, possibly sneak in a game of FIFA 99, while the girls performed their girly duties in Natalie’s room, which consisted of reading teen magazines, talking about boys, and kicking us out of the room when we repeatedly tried to crash their party. Soon afterwards, we’d proceed to the dining table and e a delicious homemade lunch. Patiently awaiting the digestion of our meal, we would lounge in the living room and watched a few shows on television. Obviously these varied depending on the day of the week, but we’d mainly have our eyes fixated on shows like Hey Arnold, Figure It Out, and WWF Smackdown before we spent hours playing soccer, pretending to be our favorite world class players. A memorable moment that I can recall occurred in one of the rooms where Ryan, my brother, and I would play soccer in during rainy days. We stood in a triangular formation and juggled the ball between the three of us. With my confidence overflowing, I attempted a difficult header, the ball flew in an unmanned direction and instantaneously heard that familiar noise that kids dread hearing; Shattering glass. Operation covert clean up began immediately. Ryan hit the pieces of the shattered glass globe and I got out of jail free that day. Sorry Mrs. Macca!
We never got sick of each other; probably because we all kept good hygiene and therefore our bodies emitted less airborne pathogens to potentially cause illnesses to self and others. Our play dates were not enough to satisfy our insatiable appetites for our friendship (aka there’s nothing to do in Nigeria and we were all desperate souls!) We’d normally beg our parents to take us out to a specific restaurant where we’d all coincidentally end up on Friday nights. There was a nice variety to choose from and we formed somewhat of a restaurant rotation. One week we’d arrange to meet at the Peking Chinese restaurant, (ran by Mrs. Lee who was a lovely lady when your cashing paying parents are around but when they went to the washing chambers…well let’s just say the laughs and smiles stopped there!) while another it would be the Lebanon Club, after that The Italian restaurant (yes, that’s the name of the establishment, I know, it defines originality) or the world famous (<—hyperbole) Marietta’s Pizza Shack.
Our house didn’t really differ much from the McCarron’s. In all actuality, we always ended up living out the same routine regardless of whose home we were at. (Please disregard the statement above when I claimed each person’s home brought a different element into the mix, yet we still never suffered from boredom) The boys always ended up kicking a ball around and the girls always did their thing. Ask anyone of us and I promise we’ll all agree that those were among the best times of our lives. Looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up alongside anyone other than our diverse group of friends. We exchanged cultural norms and beliefs, musical tastes, and learned so much from each other and although it sounds cheesy, we shared great times that can’t be taken away or erased. Carefree, worry free, and pure fun best describe those times and I’m still waiting on a reunion!
Carmen is an aspiring event planner now living in Londontown, England and her hobbies include shopping, tweeting, and working on her American accent. Ryan is an integral member of The Royal Air Force and definitely is still crazy about Celtic FC (Mon The Hoops!) while Natalie lives in Barcelona and works for Ryan Air. Nasty got married this past summer!!!!! And now lives down the street from my brother and I, just a four hour flight away in Florida. My brother collects sneakers and I blog…
Honestly, I’ll be the first to admit the shocking truth about my household that we’re not the quietest family on the block. A few years ago, when I was a young, energetic lad, I came home after soccer practice hoping to relax in peace. Upon placing my key in the hole and opening the back door, I heard a commotion. Not hearing one would’ve had me in a fretful state. As I walked closer to the next room where the noise was coming from, I saw foreign objects flying in every direction. A timberland boot came close to ending my potential nose modeling career. (Phew!) The source of all this friendly destruction was of course my older brother. Don’t let me scare you all away. He’s a swell guy. Not crazy or anything, just emotionally unstable at times, but my siblings and I have realized he just acts like he’s crazy around us so we respect him or fear him because he’s the man of the house. (No one really fears him, he’s such a cutie!) Judging from my observations in the few moments I had been home, I hypothesized that he was a little angry. And my mother was yelling at him in three different tongues. She kept saying “Just pick up the phone and call them!!” It seemed that he was “wrongfully” charged a late fee on one of his credit cards by some no name company. And things became quite vulgar but I’ll do my best to recreate the events in a family friendly way. And it wouldn’t be fun reading a story like this: @!&$*&#@$*$*$&*$&@*&*&@@@%@&@&**&$ !!
My brother replies,” I’m going to call them and I’m going shut the whole company down, fudge this, I’m going to fudging tell those mother loving lovers off! I’m not paying them crap!” This tough guy rant carried on through Wheel a Fortune, past three Daily Doubles, and well after Final Jeopardy. Finally, the moment of truth, time for action, no more talking (to us at least), he picked up the phone, dialed 1-800-AmericanExpressYourself. His face was beet red (Personally I never really enjoyed beets, but I’m told they’re an excellent source of iron) and full of anger and fight. His fiery eyes sent my siblings upstairs out of fear from possible blindness. My mother and I watched closely, and prayed for the poor soul who was about to pick up the last ringing phone they’d ever hear. Judgment day arrived, we could hear a voice on the other end, most likely thanking my brother for calling and asking how she could assist. And then it happened…
In the most gracious, kindest, friendliest, sweetest, and politest voice I’ve ever heard out of any living creature, my brother says, “ Hi, I was just calling because I recently received a letter stating that I was going to be charged a late fee for a payment. There’s seems to be some sort of misunderstanding because I certainly sent a payment and I always make my payments. Oh my god, thank you, no thank you, no you’re nicer, no you hang up first, okay, same time?” A few giggles and smiles emerged and my mother was half way to a heart attack prior to the phone call, surely this occurrence was going to drop her to the floor and I had completely lost all sense of feeling in my face. My jaw dropped and saliva oozed out of my mouth like a running faucet. WHAT JUST HAPPENED! Two minutes ago, he put his interior decorator hat on and turned our apartment into Beirut of 84’ and now he was acting sweeter than a PBS character. I thought the door bell would ring any moment and Billy Crystal would walk in, say something funny, and hand my brother a golden statue. What a performance! He took a bow and normal services presumed.
My brother walked upstairs, and my mother and I almost broke a few ribs laughing so hard about what he had just witnessed.
This epic is told when everyone is gathered together near the fire at my house. What Beowulf is to literature can be compared to what this story means to my family; An Epic poem.
I’d like to think I’m an integral part of a family of six. I like to take on the role of in house entertainer, so when everyone is home, which is a rare delight, I try to put on an unforgettable show. My rents are Lebanese, who made the great migration to California in the 80’s, I suspect the music made the decision for them. It had to have been the music; that much is true! Four kids born in the states, we soaked up American culture through our ever welcoming pores. It’s very easy to lose sight of your heritage and family traditions in America, so my parents made sure they educated us about Islam and made sure we could speak Arabic so we don’t make idiots out of ourselves during summer visits to Lebanon.
Although Christmas is not an Islamic holiday, my family has always, and will always celebrate it. I mean come on, who doesn’t love baby Jesus! Muslims love Jesus! And who doesn’t love presents, bright lights, and paid time off? A lot of Muslims look at me sideways when I tell them I put up a tree and flood its base with presents. I look at them sideways when they tell me they don’t! To me, Christmas is a part of American culture. In this country it’s more of a corporate holiday, it’s a monetary holiday, and if you live in a country based on capitalism, Christmas is for everybody in it.
Wake up!!!!!!! It’s Christmas! My little sister screams, in attempt to wake me up, as well as our neighbors five miles in every direction on a compass. I rolled out of bed and told her I’d be joining the family for the unwrapping of the gifts shortly. I ran down the stairs half naked, with my iPad over my head like a boom box, singing Last Christmas by Wham. I managed to cause an eruption of laughter within seconds of my entrance. Then I exited to my phone booth (the bathroom) to change into my world famous funky Christmas outfit. I kind of merged Halloween and Christmas and emerged from the bathroom as a ninja turtle!
Ninja kicking my way across the house, I eventually landed in the Xmas tree room. Trying to navigate my way I around the sea of presents, I almost drowned! Can you say presents galore? There seems to be some sort of correlation with my credit card balance and the amount of gifts under the tree. My current city of residence, Debt Central, USA!
We had to wait for everything to be just right before we could trash the room with present debris. Parents? Check. Siblings? Check. Camera, to capture priceless moments and to spot a possible Grinch moment? Discount double check!
Since my mom is amazing and is a real life wonder woman, it’s only right she gets the most presents. And since I like to create funny moments every time someone breathes, I figured I’d rig Xmas morning and make it look like I got the most presents! Because I worked on a corn field in Nigeria, and interned at the Jolly Green Giant, my jokes are somewhat (insert word here). Along with the gifts I bought for my beloved, lovely loved ones, I wrapped myself a few presents and labeled them from Santa. Santa means Mom. Come present opening time, a few people were giving my mom death stares because it looked like she was playing favorites!! I don’t want to name any names but there was a Grinch sighting! (Hint: He shares the name of an independent former presidential candidate) I had generously purchased three pairs of shoes for myself and put on an Oscar worthy “surprised” performance when I unwrapped them! My celebrations may have been excessive. My older brother, Moe, had opened up a gift from my beautiful girlfriend, and was ecstatic to see a G-Shock watch that he had wanted. I was on deck, so after he finished running around the room in excitement, I began to open a gift which was also from my girlfriend. Ripping and tearing the paper off, I could make out letters that were imprinted on the box. No more wrapping hid the secret treasure from my eyes. Wow! MOVADO!?! I couldn’t help but laugh, because my gift essentially successfully performed a highway robbery on his gift’s thunder.
After opening all my fabulous gifts because I was such a good boy this year, I told everyone to gather up in the sunroom,(an addition to my home where a fairly decent amount of sunlight hits and illuminates the area) where I would be unveiling the highly anticipated family gift I had been hyping up for days! I ran down the basement stairs and found my top secret surprise tucked away in my secluded hiding spot (behind the mini fridge in the corner, the first place anyone would look!). Galloping up the stairs, with the surprise in my hand, behind my back, I casually strolled from the top of the stairs to the adjacent sunroom. A deafening roar of laughter erupted! They couldn’t believe what I had in my hands, and couldn’t understand why. A piñata, on Christmas!?
Every member of my funky family took at friendly, fun whack at it, and we’re struggling to breathe because they were laughing so much. And then my little brother’s turn arrived… He was having a Grinch of a Christmas because he didn’t get what he wanted.
I tried to explain the horrible situation up north. He doesn’t pay attention to foreign affairs as much as he’d like. I broke it down like a Jenga tower and told him due to the new labor laws, in addition to the weak economy, Santa has been forced to cut back on the costs of his sketchy elf operated operation. This included shutting down outposts which received wish lists from the Northeast. I thought it was a fairly good explanation and justification. Did it get through to him? Well, my mom had the wiffleball bat in her hands, when my little brother leapt from his seat, snatched it out of her grasp, with one violent swing of the bat knocked it into the next zip code! (To be fair, I live on the town line of Mansfield and Foxboro; No big deal) The poor, headless inanimate being bled chocolate and dollar bills, ending the morning on a hilarious and fun high note.
14026 Avenida Espana, La Mirada, California. At this address lies my favorite house in the world. My first words were spoken in this house. My first steps were taken in the living room. The soft, brown carpet provided as a safety cushion I could break my fall on. I learned how to play every sport in that backyard. I bounced basketballs, took jump shots, and practiced lay ups on the concrete. My brother and I made diving catches when we threw baseballs and footballs from one end of the grassy area to the other. Street hockey was big in my neighborhood. The hot asphalt served as the rink. We played on the next street over because Avenida Espana is on a slight hill.
When I was five years old, I had a horrible accident on that street. My brother and I were riding out in front of our house. I rode my brand new, black Batman bicycle that had stickers of the bat sign all over it. My brother was riding on a battery powered motorcycle. We were playing a game where we would basically just crash into each other. I went up the hill and past a couple houses and turned my bike around facing the park at the beginning of the street. I started pedaling down towards my brother and his parked motorcycle. But I was coming down too fast this time, so to avoid hitting my brother at such a high speed, I turned away and flew by him. I was flying down the sidewalk. My brother yelled and told me to hit the brakes, but when I did, the bike did not stop because the chain had loosened off the cog. In front of me was the intersection of Avenida Espana and Alicante Road. Cars were passing by at a high rate on the busy two way street. The gut feeling I had made me realize I was in serious trouble. (The whole incident happened in the matter of a few seconds.) When I got to the bottom of the hill, I flew off the sidewalk, crashed my bike, and landed in the middle of the street. Drivers stomped on their brakes and got out of their cars. One person had the nerve to yell at me to get off the street. I saw my mother running down the street from our house, looking like she was about to lose her son. My brother followed her with his motorcycle, beeping his horn, not fully realizing the seriousness of the situation. Surprisingly, no bones were broken, but landing on the asphalt left me with bleeding cuts from top to bottom. My mom carried me home and my brother led the way on his motorcycle. He struggled to get uphill. The memory of it in my head makes me laugh. There I was, in the most amount of pain I had ever been in and my brother just cruised around on his battery powered motorcycle. Angry and upset at what had just happened, my dad actually yelled at me for putting my parents through so much worry. The first thing that comes to my head when I think of my first house is how fast I got down Avenida Espana.
(An excerpt from my memoir titled, The Irreplaceable Sock)
A typical year in California is made up of two hundred and ninety nine days of sunshine. One summer Sunday in 1994 was one of them. On a blazing hot summer day, two options ran through my mother’s mind: Take the kids to a swimming pool up the street or call it a beach day. She opted for the second, after sitting through the annoying persuasion methods my brother and I used: constant whining, pleading, nagging, and begging for half an hour. And once she told us we were going to the beach, in less than a flash, my brother and I were dressed in our beach apparel and had packed all the necessities. Wearing hats, sleeveless shirts, swimming suits, sandals, and carrying bags full of pails, shovels, and other tools needed to construct a sand castle, my brother and I, the best dynamic duo since Kareem and Magic, were ready for Long Beach.
My mom, my brother, and I began our journey to the shores of Long Beach. As my mother drove her white Dodge Caravan, my brother and I sat in the back, strapped up uncomfortably by the seat belts. Regardless of our comfort level, we still had our beach faces on, which looked a little like the faces that we made when the ice cream truck was coming down our street, smiles from ear to ear.
Upon our arrival, it was ridiculously hot. The air conditioner’s efforts to cool me down failed. The Californian sun was unbearable that day. Sometimes natural problems require natural solutions. I needed to be submerged in the cool water of the Pacific Ocean. The walk from the spot where we parked to the spot we settled in was longer than the Boston Marathon. I could feel the burning hot sand through my sandals, and with every step, my sandals melted a little more. I almost felt embarrassed to be carrying all the unnecessary crap I stupidly brought along. My brother and I went back and forth to the van for the beach chairs, and bags of snacks and drinks. On our final trip, we dropped the stuff off at the feet of my mother and her friends, and we sprinted towards the ocean. Once I hit the water, I was immediately relieved. I could not stay long because I had some business on the sand to attend to. I had just begun digging and filling pails with sand when my brother came and told me that one of our friends was at the other end of the beach. So we walked and walked and walked some more for about what seemed like half an hour, but it was only a few minutes. But the sun’s rays beating down on me and the overcrowded shore made the walk seem like a journey through the desert: long, difficult, and a little hotter than one hundred and five degrees.
Long out of my mother’s sight, we found our friend, who was more than a few years older than we, holding his boogie board, ready to hit the waves. He had an extra one and gave it to my brother. They both headed into the water as I watched from a close distance. But there were so many people in the water, and so many of them had boards. As they drifted to the right or the left, I tried to keep them in my sights. But I soon found that I was watching the wrong people. I had lost sight of them, and I was officially lost. At first, I didn’t panic. Okay, that was a lie. Panic had taken over my thoughts and fear was kicking in. I ran to the water and ran up and down the shoreline, searching for my brother. But he was nowhere to be seen. My next thought was to head back and look for my mother, but that proved to be an impossible task. We had drifted so far away from where she was sitting, and I could not remember how far we walked and whether she sat closer to the water or closer to the parking lot. I did not know what to do, so I did what any other five year old lost in an over populated public place would have done; I started crying. With no clue about where I was walking, I just cried like a little baby. Kids in Los Angeles would get lost all the time, but it was not exactly the cool thing to have happen to you. I was scared I would get kidnapped. All the sick and scary stories I had ever heard about the crazy people in Los Angeles ran through my mind. I remembered all the videos and lectures about not talking to strangers, and everywhere I turned I was frightened that a man in a black leather jacket and a black hat would approach me with a piece of candy and take me away. After adding gallons of liquid to the ocean in the form of tears, I was approached by a life guard. I was not exactly rescued, but rather more terrified than before. He took me to where he and his family were sitting and had me join them. I was still crying and scared as hell, especially when I realized he and I did not speak the same language. I only knew two languages, English and Arabic, and he was not speaking either one of them. So there I was, sitting with a Mexican lifeguard, his wife, and four kids. They were trying to talk to me, but they probably realized soon enough that I was not Hispanic. They were really nice people though. They offered me food and drinks but the only reactions they got from me were head nods and louder cries. I thought I would never see my family again. (It is funny how kids jump to conclusions). And then a miracle happened.
In an instant, I had ceased to cry; well, I still cried, but my fear level had dropped drastically. My brother was casually strolling by and noticed me, his little brother whom he had totally forgotten about for fifteen minutes, in a frantic state. He walked over to me with a confused look on his face. He was so calm about the situation. While I was lost among half of the city, he was having a fun, relaxing day at the beach. He just grabbed me and saved me from the lifeguard and his family. We literally walked less than thirty yards and there was my mother. She noticed I had been crying, and she freaked out when she heard my brother had lost me. She was even angrier when she found out where he had found me. I was traumatized, and I did not leave mother’s side for the rest of the day. (Probably because she gave me chips, fruit roll ups, and Capri Sun juice boxes). After about an hour I had forgotten about the whole thing, especially after she took me to the ice cream truck in parking lot. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ice cream always saved the day.
It was a terrifying experience for me, mostly because of my young age. But I never developed a phobia because of it. I actually got lost at a mall sometime after that, and although I was still scared, but I did not embarrass the hell out of myself by emptying a gallon of tears from my eyes. The beach was still one of my favorite places, with no hard feelings between us. I still begged to go every Sunday, with the thought of the Sunday I got lost in the back of my mind.