October 3, 2009 | Arabic

SNL in Arabic?

A rainy day with Dr. Pimsleur concludes with a strange late-night television experience.

I was too tired to run today, so I decided to do a Pimsleur walk instead. As I left home for Central Park, rain was a distinct possibility, but I looked at the sky hopefully, deciding that if it didn’t rain, I would be terribly disappointed not to have gone, and took off.

72nd and Amsterdam

The second I started walking, my language skills improved. It was quite striking. I totally buy that body-brain connection.

It started raining about halfway into my walk, right when I hit 102nd Street on the West Side (I was going clockwise around Circle Drive). I tried hiding out under a few different trees and finally found a winner, with lots of needles. I sat under it on a comfortable, conveniently placed wooden fence, dry as could be, and watched the runners go by while I continued the Pimsleur. When the rain let up a little, I kept on.

By the time I hit 100th Street on the East Side, things started going badly.

This time it poured. I tried to take shelter under some leafy trees, but I quickly learned that leaves aren’t as useful as needles in a downpour. Fortunately, I found a tree with a big fat tilted trunk that I was able to tuck myself under at a slight angle. It was pouring on everyone and everything else, but I was hardly getting wet. I stood there for about 15-20 minutes doing Pimsleur until I started to get antsy. I took off again, even though it was still pouring.

Mistake. It started to rain even harder, and there were no good trees. I was running from one to the next, testing each out, finding each lacking, running further along. I was by the reservoir now. My nice leather purse was soaking wet. I was soaking wet. My Pimsleur headset was soaking wet. I kept doing my lesson as I ran along, but the quality of my responses was deteriorating rapidly.

Heading westward, I finally reached the bridge just past the Central Park tennis courts. Underneath were hiding two park employees, their carts, a woman reading, and now me. I joined them, sitting on a dry rock, and a thought passed through my head that in the midst of a recession I was in fact sitting under a bridge.

Eventually the park employees left with their carts, and then the reading woman left, which meant that I was now there alone. Under a bridge. Doing Pimsleur. And getting seriously cold.

72nd and Broadway, with Rain

I decided I had to clear out. I ran for Central Park West, then headed up a few blocks to the subway stop (getting damper each second), then took the train to 72nd Street. It was still raining.

It took me a long time to get warmed up. What I learned from this experience: I need a rain poncho.

More studying later at Café Margot. Languages with gender are a pain. At least Arabic, unlike Russian, doesn’t have neuter (which is also such a weird word, by the way).

One funny word I just learned: barfo. Barfo means “I know him.” In English it sounds like something a fraternity brother would say at a keg party.

I have been trying to eat a lot of vegetables at night, since I haven’t been able to get myself to eat enough of them during the day. Tonight pretty late I ate three mushrooms, a cucumber, some carrots, and part of an eggplant. Except our microwave isn’t working right now (the repairman was supposed to come last week, but got sick), so I cut up the eggplant into four pieces and tried to eat it raw. It was disgusting, so disgusting that while brushing my teeth, I said, “I wish I could brush my throat, too.”

Brandt said, “Gargle.”

I did, and I did very well with it. I told him, “There’s an Arabic sound I’ve been having trouble with, and that’s the closest I’ve gotten to making it yet.”

He laughed.

Tonight I had on Saturday Night Live when the characters in the skit I was watching suddenly began speaking entirely in Arabic. I couldn’t figure out why, so I rewound the DVR to see what had happened. Of course the whole thing was in English.

I had fallen asleep.

Comments (1)

Amit • Posted on Wed, July 15, 2015 - 8:58 am EST

I have seen Fred Armisen play the Iraqi prime minister and speaking Arabic, but all I could pick out was “la, la”.  I think these days they make some attempt to use actual languages rather just speaking gibberish that sounds like the language to Americans.

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