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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Off to Toronto / Guilty Pleasure Songs

Since I had to postpone the Toronto trip in December, I will be going in April. I'll be leaving on April 7 and my flight is at 9 AM. I bought a single trip ticket since it was cheaper that way. On April 7 I will be leaving from Philadelphia, have a 50 minute layover in Atlanta, then I'll arrive in Toronto at 2:14 PM. Coming home on April 10, I'll be leaving from Toronto and going to JFK Airport in New York City. I'll take a train from New York City to Philadelphia. By doing it this way, I saved $250.

I booked a bed & breakfast at the Indian Grove Bed and Breakfast. I will be staying in the Victorian Suites and I hope one of the nights I will be working on my book. Probably Thursday night since I will be tired from Thursday's travel. Is it weird I requested a teddy bear in my room? In some pictures, I did see teddy bears. On Friday, April 8 I will be seeing a Blue Jays game. I tweeted the team and I tweeted Jose Bautista (we've been following each other for two years) to see if it's possible to meet the players. I'd like to meet someone I've been following. HAHA. I'm excited, nonetheless.

I will be posting updates all throughout the planning process! I e-mailed my library boss about taking the 7th off, I just have to let my full time boss I need the 7th and 8th off for vacation.

On another subject: on Wednesday I posted a Drake song and mentioned that it was a guilty pleasure song. I posted a poem and promised that I would post more of the guilty pleasure songs I've been posting this week for Soundtrackers's Soundtrack To Your Life Challenge.

Of course, on Monday I posted Drake. You can view the blog here.

Tuesday is a double whammy:

"Here is proper Arabic music," he typed to me before he sent me a crapload of music files.

"Just don't freeze my phone! lol! I'm excited, though!" I typed back.

Moe sent me three files of Talal Maddah - unnamed except for "Track 5"; "Track 2"; "Track 10." He doesn't give much background except Saudi music is real Arabic music and it's tons better than the songs I listened to in class.

"My mom loves Amr Diab. Most women love him and Nancy Ajram. Talal Maddah was the man when I lived in Saudi Arabia."

"I'll take your word for it."

 I was curious to know Talal Maddah and looked him up. According to Wikipedia, Talal Maddah is one of the most prominent pioneers of the Alhijazi art, Saudi Arabia and the modern Persian Gulf region. Characterized by his unique voice, even the title of the golden laryngeal, with a simple attractive spontaneity. He eventually became the voice of the Arab region. Sadly, Talal Maddah died in 2000 when he collapsed on stage.

I was excited to listen to the "Voice of the Arab World." I loved the one that I call "Marhaba" out of the three songs Moe sent me. "Marhaba" seems to put me in a very good mood, however "Time of Silence" relaxes me.

"Hey Ziad!" I cheerfully exclaimed one February afternoon. It was snowy here in Pennsylvania; I figured he was out enjoying the sun of San Fran and wouldn't answer me right away.

I was shocked when I heard from him right away: "Hi, Jessica. How are you?

"Fine, thank you. How are you?"


"Hey, what are some great Arabic musicians? I'm completing a project for my Arabic class and wanted to ask you for some suggestions."

"Elissa is great!"

"Thanks, Ziad."

Ziad is originally from Baghdad - he was my ex's father's translator from when he served in the Army. I have always felt grateful that I was introduced to him when I was still dating Danny. He's the first person I go to when I have Arabic questions and I'm glad I went to him for some music suggestions. Ziad wasn't kidding about Elissa. There's just something amazing about her voice and although her songs are in Arabic, they don't sound different from English pop songs I have a guilty pleasure for. Arabic pop stars are not radically different than Western pop stars and that is what I learned on the day we presented our chosen songs to the class. Everyone actually liked the songs that were presented and what we wrote in response to our songs. I can't find what I wrote for this song (it's upstairs somewhere, just not on the computer)... 

The two years of Arabic instruction I had were amazing. I learned so much and it I loved learning about new cultures. I still keep up with my Arabic with Ziad and other friends. I really do appreciate Ziad. 

The Night Journey
Jessica Marie
In the darkness of shadows,
Struggling, I cry in despair—
No moon to guide me and the stars,
Those stars left me to fend and fare;
Why do you despise me, why, why?
All alone, I struggle to find meaning;
Coddled for years, I must relearn,
Like a child from a mother’s teat weaning—
“My precious, precious child” I hear above,
“Look to the sky, like the Prophet once did,
Though the stars are black as quartz,
And the moon do fare-thee-well bid,
Remember these following golden rules
And you will no longer be alone and mute.”

The ominous, billowing voice begins,
“a-b, the root for your ancestors and father,
Respect and worship like you do with me; a-b-d;
For those that follow the straight path; a-d-l;
Have nothing to fear, they will not be destroyed—a-d-m;
Or obliterated, smooshed to smitherines—a-f-w—
Do you follow, my child?” He quietly asks,
“Yes, my Father,” Looking up from my current task.
“Those that submit to me, will unite as one—a-h-d,
Adore the heavens with me, turn to me—a-l-h—
Teach your progeny about the grace of the book, ‘a-l-m,
Have hope that they will not stray from the path, 
Meditate, sing, dance, and praise my creations, a-m-l.
Join your mother in knitting for the poor, a-q-d,
Discover the beauty behind da’wa,
Announce your love for those less fortunate, ‘a-r-f.
Respect your virtue from those that charm, 
Be strong, fortify your conscience, ‘a-z-z.

Your love for me will always be everlasting, 
As are the letters of b-q-y and d-v-n;
Invite those who are skeptical,
In the root of d-a-a, but bear in mind—
Dh-k-r; some can be very stubborn,
Unlike f-t-m, don’t abstain from your friends,
Instead look to the advice of gh-n-y;
Praise the world and sing of joy around you,
Clean and cleanse the evil that lurks, gh-s-l.
Be like the jinn—j-n-n, magical and concealed—
Fill your heart with h-b-b—love and devotion,
But not h-s-d—green with envy,
For the envious don’t flourish.
Never be like z-l-m—dark and gloomy,
For sh-r-r—evil and wickedness loom there.
If you follow my lesson and path, w-l-y;
You will be wealthy and full of happiness—m-r-‘.
Never forget the love of your family or mine.”

The once billowing voice, now meek,
Disappear into the vast horizon of night;
The once hidden moon now peeks
And the stars shine their praise—
I lift my arms to the sky, with tearful eyes,
My new voice now clear, in the clouds raise. 

A note about this poem. In Arabic, words are made up of a root system that is constructed by three principle letters. An Arabic dictionary is usually listed by the roots instead of alphabetically (however, a lot of beginner dictionaries are in Arabic ا ب ت format). These root words help a speaker figure out the connotation of the word and how to conjugate words in the verb, noun and predicate forms. Please check out the following website for a complete list of Arabic roots since my poem only contains a few:


I walked into the Turkish restaurant on Fourth and South,
pungent aromas of delicate meats has saliva dripping from my mouth
as the lamb/beef mixture spins on the skewer in back,
"Welcome to our restaurant," friendliness doesn't lack.

He sits me down to a table under the big screen TV
with a beautiful voice bellowing: I love the melody.
As I watch people stroll by the window,
their steps, a rhythmic guitar riffs and drum bellows.

People walking on South Street became a symphony;
the waiter's movements are intense when he steadies the tea.
Her voice takes his when it comes time to order dinner,
I sing out, "chicken gyro and baba ghanouj" are a winner.

The music seems never ending, but soulful
even in a foreign tongue I don't understand - woeful,
yet it brings me back to memories of the Alps,
eating Turkish cuisine and seeing castles, our hearts palp. 

Turquoise domes and the stars glisten in the sun,
we don't want to leave, in the Alps we become one--
"Enjoy!" the waiter and musician on TV call to me;
piping hot chicken sits to tempt - but first tea

and a praise that syncs up with the ominous tunes;
with a 5/8 step, I cut and devour before sun sets soon.
I feel a sense of peace in baklava so sticky,
and a soundtrack so beautiful and tricky.

Thursday was another double whammy:

He has received the package and letter!
He received it a week after I sent it
with much anxiety of him thinking
that I’m a freak or a stalker or both 
or something more terrible.
I watched the tracking number closely,
from Norristown as the pink package embarked
before our first blizzard in 2016.
I sent my friend that text and emphasized:
“Oh God, I can’t believe I did this!” 
I freaked out as the package arrived in Philadelphia,
traveled next to the LOVE monument,
ate Lebanese on South Street
before making the rough and tumble
through the gray skies all the way
from Philadelphia to the outskirts of Connecticut—
Nassau, New York to be exact
where it stalled for five days as the snow pounded
D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City,
gave mercy to Boston, but it sat for five days in Nassau.
“I hope they don’t think it’s a bomb
and they don’t think I’m sending supplies to terrorists,”
my mind begins to panic some more—
not thinking that the snows that gripped
the cityscapes and country sides a like
kept the package stationed for a week.
Yet, on one unsuspecting day,
my phone is abuzz with the news
of the package being delivered on the stoop,
next to the daycare in Brooklyn—
my heart skips a beat and my mind races:
“Hey, me and the guys loved your package!”
He has received the package and letter!

Friday... I have to thank my dear friend Shady for introducing me to this awesome band:


Now an official
a piercing is suggested
she agrees quickly.

Walking to the back
telling her to lay down flat
with relaxing breaths.

Breathing out of her nose,
the needle quickly pierces
“Okay, you are done.”

Into the mirror
a new cartilage ring shows
she smiles, she loves it.

She exclaims joy and thanks her
her friend proud of the job done
directions given:

Clean until healed
with salt water and Q Tip
she does faithfully.

Great experience, a new addiction,
surprised it didn’t hurt that much
except when she sleeps.

Dressed for a night on the town,
brown hair that is straight down
flows wildly in the wind.
Her shoulder exposed, chilled,
the blouse, silky scarlet twill;
pulled up quickly for warmth and hope—
hope that the guy in the front seat
notices her unique, beautiful beat.
Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting in the background,
top and windows down, everyone around
can hear the three of them sing “That Smell.”
Looking above, the stars light Greenville—
freedom at last, the sting of her cartilage ring;
the guy in the front seat finally sings
Southern adventures, his high school days,
her curiosity grows, against her heart it plays—
noticing her, oh how chivalrous, he’s a gentleman,
hardy laughs despite a Northern Accent, no boos.
Zipping around at 100 in a 1980 Trans Am, red hue,
flying like the phoenix on the hood,
into the night, celebrating a joyful mood.


Star Crawl
Beyond the Gothic arches lie cities covered in snow,
I sit against the vibrant pillow watching snowflakes;
they dance from the gray sky much like the candles' glow—
I'm toasty with my meal, and for his sake
I dawdle, I just love watching from the arches.
While it's cold outside, I'm sipping my Arabic coffee,
and listening to the Arabic around me, my heart marches
to the winter beat outside, warmed by date toffee.
Yet, as he disappears outside of the arches, into white,
I'm still stuck in my Arabic textbook with lattice on the walls
and red, blue, orange, pillows; happiness from the bright
on a dreary day outside, yet both worlds call—
warm deserts and winter wonderlands that sprawl,
endless landscapes and night skies with star crawls.

And this is the song I'm posting tomorrow. I'm going to work on the piece for it after my shower:

Yes, I know, I have an eclectic taste in music. I actually listen to everything because I love music.


  1. I don't understand Elissa's lyrics but I love her vocals. :)

    (Re-posting because there was some error with my previous comment.)

    1. From what I can gather in my Arabic knowledge, it's a love song. From what I can put together, she's comparing love to different things. I should look at the lyrics because sometimes ears love to hear one thing, but the lyrics show something else. I'll keep you posted as I continue to learn more Arabic!