You want weird? Brace yourself.

Well, SisterScorpion went and memed me on things that are weird about me. 

Normally I don’t do these things.  Not because I’m above them, but because I end up putting way too much time & thought into them. Still, like Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons" I periodically feel the need to do something warm & cuddly to humanize my cold, analytical image with the masses.

This could take all day, but here goes:

1.  "Dried plums" don’t get the respect they deserve.
I really love prunes, and not just because they’re extremely
healthy. I find them very tasty and have
been known to eat 10-15 at a sitting. But with the
proverbial deadly consequences, so they have been banned from our larder. At this point, I’d have an easier time keeping pickled pigs feet in the house, as Shabana destroys prunes on sight.

2. Coffee is a food group.
My overindulgence in coffee isn’t all that unique in our
addiction-addicted age, but I suspect my near mystical attachment to the enchanted elixir might be. I’ve
often mentioned to people the need for coffee hats (a la the beer hats you see
at sporting events). Were I an eccentric
zillionaire, I would probably pour most of my fortune into the invention of a
Dune-style stillsuit that not only keeps the coffee coming at all times, but
processes its effluents without the distraction or disruption of the resulting trips
to the bathroom. 

One of these days, I may finally pen the masterpiece that’s
lurking deep within my breast, Diwan-e
Dunkin Donuts
. I refer to their
coffee like a person, actually a beloved who is ever out of reach. My zeal for "DD" is well known
among friends. Whenever I pass a Dunkin
Donuts on the road, it calls to me in like a siren and I usually stop for a
hit, regardless of the time of day or urgency of my errand. In fact, recently, some friends of
ours—Junaid and Maliha—discovered just how fanatical I am about this when I
insisted on us stopping at a DD temple that was only a mile away from the
airport. And we were late. And we missed our flight.

BTW, I’m also a sucker for all manners of strong, milk-heavy tea, especially masalha chai and dood pathi, but my Pakistani-but-lactose-intolerant wife takes her tea like a memsahib (i.e., with water) and proper chai is suprisingly hard to come by in the USA, even in desi restaurants.  (Ah, I still fantasize about the potent concoction I slurped down, skin and all, at a truck stop on the way to Abottabad in Pakistan years ago.  It was so gloriously strong it grew hair on my knuckles.)

3. I left my bladder in Paris.
Some people have bum knees from youthful sporting events, others scars from battles fought in distant wars. Me, I have a scarred bladder from a shawarma sandwich eaten a decade ago, during my a
student in Paris. I studied French there for the 1995-1996
school year. On the way to class, I would often grab a deliciously greasy sandwich grec  from one of the innumerable the Algerian-run lunch stands that dot
the city. One day, I came down soon thereafter with a mean case of
food poisoning that, among other things, prevented me from tending to the most frequent of Nature’s calls.  No trick or amount of effort worked.  Assuming that thermodynamics would soon sort this problem out for me, I waited.  And waited.  After a day and a half, the pain became unbearable.  So I rushed to l’Hôpital
Américain (the facility covered by our insurance) in the poche Neuilly district.

I won’t get into too many specifics,
but let’s just say that I was looking pregnant by this point and my pain was mercifully drained away by a device I’d never heard of: a catheter.   On that day, I understood why one of the definitions of happiness is simply the cessation of pain.

I had to wear diapers for weeks and to this day my bladder’s a little less patient than I like. Especially when I’m indulging my coffee habit, which
is most of the time.   

4. Jannah is a land of milk, honey, "Matlock", "Murder She
Wrote", …

I can watch those shows all day. There’s something profoundly comforting about
their neat, genteel  worlds. Were I a criminal who was going down, I’d sure it to be at the hands of a charming country lawyer like Matlock, and while Cabot Cove seems to have a disturbingly high murder rate, in all other respects the place seems so idyllic and civilized. These shows are like
Richard Scary books for adults, and I can’t get enough.

5. …and Borders.
I no longer get to indulge this habit much, but when allowed to, I can spend 5-6 hours happily reading stacks of periodicals in a Borders cafe.  The first few years of our marriage, Shabana found herself spending a lot of time with me at the many various Borders and Barnes & Noble cafes in DC. 

This honestly was one of my favorite activities, and ways to unwind.  Where else can you for the price of a cup of coffee (and, eventually, a sandwich or two) read everything from the NY Review of Books to The Economist to New Left Review to First Things to Tricycle to The Advocate to Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine to 2600 to MSDN Magazine?

Deep down I still miss Borders.  It was there for me when I didn’t know a soul in DC.

5. A bookworm with a terrible secret.
I have an absurd number of books, so many that I just keep ‘em in boxes. And I wouldn’t be willing to part with one of them at gunpoint.  The knowledge that a few were probably
tossed out some years ago when friends helped Shabana move after I’d moved to
Qatar for a job still weighs heavily on me.

Few things make me happier than buying books, and whenever I go abroad, I tend to lug back boxes of books.  I practically emptied out the Islamiyat
section Ferozsons in Lahore last
time I was there. I had so many books
that I had to ship them over sea via DHL. As a result of this addiction, Shabana and our friends live in fear of my relocations  It’s like moving a library.

The depressing and scandalous thing is how few of my books
ever get opened, much less read.  Those stats will go with me to my grave.

6. My tireless crusade against labels.
I believe in a label-free world.  Not those labels.  I’m talking about physical labels.  You see, I suffer from a neurosis worthy of "Monk"–I am compelled to remove stickers off things. They get under my skin, especially if they are visually jarring or askew somehow.

Perhaps Shabana is right about me being a vampire, who are traditionally believed to be obsessive compulsive.  (If you ever find yourself chased by a blood-sucker, don’t fumble and try to make a cross–err, crescent & star–drop a bunch of pennies.)  Shabana suspects this because I don’t share her penchant–her almost neurotic need, really–for taking strolls in the sun.  I’m built for fjords, not beaches.

The first thing I do after bringing home
groceries is tear those damn stickers from my fruits.  Especially the bananas.  And you can’t imagine how much time I’ve
spent over the years scraping price tags off glasses, plates, and the like. 

7. Svend van Winkle
I let myself, I could sleep for 10+ hours. I don’t need to-and I feel terribly guilty when I left myself sleep in– but I can sleep forever. 

Also, when I’m sleepy, my powers of reasoning are severely impaired.  As a slacker undergrad a decade ago, I once worked to the wee hours, woke up an hour before a final, and somehow convinced myself it was okay to go back to sleep.  Boy was that sleep delicious, though.

Needless to say, when I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep–Did I mention that I’m a night owl?– fajr prayer is a bit of a challenge for me .  I don’t want to even think how dirty my ear must get sometimes.

8.  Amateur student of deviance
Another quirk of mine is my abiding interest in deviance and dissent, both religious as well as political or cultural.  That doesn’t mean that I am myself necessarily subversive–believe it or not, in most things that matter I’m actually quite conventional and orthodox–but I find such groups fascinating.  Like Alfred Kinsey or Jon Ronson, I like to know what real people do and believe in the in the real world, regardless of whether these facts fit neatly into my values or theories

Whether it’s subversive countercultural movements, kooky subcultures, crazy cults, conspiracy theorists, crime rings, or wacko fundamentalist groups, I’m interested.  The diversity (and perversity) of human beings is limitless, for better or worse.

Shabana lives in fear of the weird things I dig up on NetFlix.

9.  Medicine’s for kafirs.
I sometimes joke that I’m a Christian Scientist (the only religion, it should be noted, founded in my hometown of Boston).  I pretty much don’t do medicine.  Not out of conviction–though I’ll confess to a a healthy distrust of modern medicine, with its overreliance on drugs–but because it’s just not something I’m used to.  In my house, when we got sick, we just waited it out.  We sniffed, sneezed, coughed, and groaned till Mother Nature got around to patching us up.  I’m still getting used to the idea of taking a  pill when I’m sick.  A little weird if you ask me.

10.  I’m a total sissy about horror movies
While I thankfully can’t claim to have been in any truly life-threatening situations, I think it’s fair to say that I’m pretty unflappable in real-world situations involving physical risks.  I tend to keep my head, whether it’s on the road or on the street late at night.  But, boy, do I "jump like a girl" during horror movies.  I throw what I’m holding into the air, growl ferociously and even punch into the empty air in self-defense.  It can be a bit embarassing and emasculating.  Shabana loves to watch horror movies with me for this very reason.

I hereby tag the following hapless individuals:

  1. Abu Sinan
  2. Mozaffar
  3. Indigo Jo
  4. Thabet
  5. Rachel

I compell you to divulge your weirdness.