I resist the temptation to write sometimes because…

I resist the temptation to write sometimes because I worry I would border on politics. And the truth is I don’t really give a big damn about politics. Nor a small damn, as a matter of fact. Heck, I don’t give a damn at all. But, see, in Lebanon this is already too much politics.

The country celebrated Independence Day yesterday. It was cool. You get to hear lots of BS really. Not that it is rare on usual occasions. It is just cute when suddenly everybody gets proud of the country they mock all year long. I certainly don’t belong to that group of people. I am not proud on any day of year. I prefer to be honest.

Speaking of honesty,,,I saw a clip of the current Miss Lebanon being circulated heavily on the walls of Lebanese friends on facebook. Most of them were criticizing her for speaking “negatively” about her country. I salute this young lady. Somebody ought to tell the truth. And it wasn’t like she announced to the world that we don’t have electricity 24/7 or we have war criminals leading our highly educated people. All she said was that there is so much traffic and noise in the country. I salute this young lady again. Because she still lives in this country, while most of the people who were circulating the video live abroad.

I love the conversations I have with my friend. The other day we had a discussion about the effects of war on society and people collectively. How ethics shift and people’s judgement changes. I told her how it is very difficult to be “normal” in a society like this. If you can’t deal with people driving through red traffic lights, you need to “get over it”. If you can’t push and shove in places where you usually would find queues, you’re a pussy. If you think an M-16 and soldiers with machine guns filling the streets are odd scenes, you better get a life. When things like these become normal for people, they all become abnormal collectively. And when you, the pussy without a life who can’t get over these things, come to give it a second shot in your beloved independent country and point them out, people look at you as if you’re a foreigner: “Where are you from?” To heaven with you. To Lebanon with you.

In today’s conversation I told my friend a simple story that happened in my screenwriting class. A student pitched a futuristic story that takes place in Lebanon in 2047. In the world of her story, people were brainwashed, divided to two camps, and had no opinion of their own. They follow their leaders. In that environment, a man and his wife who’ve maintained their individualism start drifting apart when the woman gets sucked into the “public way of life”. The man decides to win his wife back and on the way to doing so he discovers a way to restore independent thinking to everyone else.
When my student finished her pitch, students started suggesting ways to add conflict to the story. One young lady said, “Maybe one time when the electricity goes off —” and I stopped her, exclaiming: “It’s 2047 for heaven’s sake. Will there still be electricity cuts?” And my beloved students all replied in unison: “Yes, Ms.!”
Tragically funny, I think.

The night is long. Thoughts consume me. Conversations never end. Love waits. Till a new post, have a good night. And good luck!

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No more Teta Grandma And for my mom…

No more Teta (Grandma). And for my mom, no more Mother.

We made lots of coffee today at Teta’s house. And we also ate lots of food.
None of which she cooked. None of which she tasted.

And there were many people who cared about her. She gathered them all but she wasn’t there to greet them. Like this my Grandma. She prefers to play it cool, all the time. All the time.

Jeddo is heartbroken. Khalto, my auntie, is like an innocent child whose mother’s hand was snatched away. I feel blessed to be near Mommy. And I secretly and selfishly hope that she is feeling our presence with her, by her side, because she is so precious.

I look back at the memories that Teta left with us and I smile. They are all good memories. Very romantic, when you actually come to think of them. She was always smiling. And I can’t but believe that she is still smiling 🙂

So last week was the first time that…

So, last week was the first time that I register, since a very long time ago, that I missed Beirut.
Of course there are reasons why I missed the city. Reasons that have nothing to do with the place or the time. Mostly logistic reasons which could be anywhere, but they happened to be in Beirut.
And it felt good to miss Beirut for a short while. Detach it from its historical and social and personal implications for me and miss it as the place where I can write and see the people I love and communicate with them. It did feel good.

Today, Teta lies unconscious on a bed at AUH. My blood pressure rockets every time I set foot in that place or even think of it (yes, like, now). I don’t like it. It brings bad memories and often accumulates newer bad memories. And today is not going to be an exception, I thinks. I hope I am mistaken. One way or another I feel ok though. This is life. We know this will happen one day or another to each and every one.

I must apologize to myself for the few…

I must apologize to myself for the few posts on this blog. New/old events in Beirut never seize to happen, but time runs fast and I don’t stop to post reminders for myself and others about the uniqueness of life in this city.

Today, however, my story comes from Tripoli. This old city in North Lebanon.

But before I start with the story I have to point to a reference that we use as a joke in our daily life. The joke is about people who beat elevator doors to ask other people to close the door properly or hurry up. As I am sure you know, massive drumming on elevator doors DOES NOT make the elevator go faster. So, back to the story…

I was visiting my very good friend Sahar with Lama and Hanaa. And, contrary to customs, when she opened the door for us to leave, we actually left instead of staying at the door talking for an hour. I don’t particularly remember if Lama was holding the elevator door open or not, but I remember we walked out and directly went in to the elevator. Going down from the sixth floor. BOOM BOOM.

  • What’s that? I said.
  • Somebody wants the elevator.
  • That’s weird. We just opened the door and went in. It was vacant ten seconds ago.

The elevator goes down slooooowly. The sound gets louder.
BOOM BOOM BOOM.
Someone is about to break down the door and someone is clearly PISSED.

I got scared. I was standing right behind the door and Lama, who is more courageous and stronger than I am, was standing inside. So I tried to squeeze in to switch places with her but I couldn’t. I was seriously worried. I can’t handle anybody screaming in my face.

BOOM BOOM.

– What if he has a gun?

The elevator goes down and is about to hit ground level. I searched for the stop button but didn’t find it.

This was the technical KO for me. In another place, it might be a joke. But in this country, in Tripoli, if SOMEBODY, or somebody who is the SON of somebody, or somebody who KNOWS somebody; if these people get pissed they may shoot at you for a stupid reason like not letting their car pass or, in that moment I thought, using the elevator when THEY needed it.

The elevator finally stopped. I didn’t open the door because I was expecting the “person in a hurry” to open it. But they didn’t. I looked through the stained glass and didn’t see a big black figure (as in my mind those “armed people” (msalla7een) usually dress. That gave me some courage so I -very politely- pushed the door and found… NOBODY.

I noticed a movement on my right hand. To my surprise, I saw a young girl, and then another girl. Maybe 8 & 9 years old.

Yes, they were pissed off. But they surely didn’t have guns. I couldn’t suppress a loud laugh as I exhaled heartily, to celebrate my survival from an elevator assassination.

But, then, I was also wondering, what in the world makes these two girls at their age impatient so much to use the elevator that they almost beat it to death? And I hope I don’t make them wait at an elevator ten or twenty years later. I am sure by then they’d probably be beating the hell out of it if they don’t find it waiting for them.

As I start writing this the time on…

As I start writing this, the time on my Mac reads 10:48 AM
The electricity is supposed to go off at 12:00 sharp. They’re usually never late to take it away. And neither late to bring it back, because they have to be on time with cutting it off on another place right?
Dear Electricity, please don’t go today. The weather is so hot and with Ramadan here, we’re waking up thirsty enough. Please stay. I’ll be real glad if you do. I promise to read the pages of my novel and to sleep as I usually do when you’re gone. I don’t care about the traffic lights. These can stay off so the taxi drivers can breathe for few hours a day. Actually I don’t know why I care and why am I begging you to stay when the people are not staying. Leaving is always easier, innit? Or maybe I should ask God instead of asking you?

Dear God, please keep our electricity on. Oh, the government?

Then today I walked on the corniche Beirut…

Then today, I walked on the corniche.
Beirut Corniche. Always the same.
The smell of Ka’ek. And the smell of gasoline from motorcycles.
The sound of the waves. Boys and men screaming and fooling around merrily. The noise of the street. Kids playing on their bikes and scooters and skates.
And then a distinct sound echoed. A tune. I know that tune. It’s the tune of the ice cream van.
The ice cream van used to drive around in the neighborhoods of Beirut when we were younger. Now I am certain that there’s no use of having it even try to do that again these days. The traffic is a killer.
I turned around and took a look at the van. The same colors. Pink and white. The door is half open and you can see the marry cream machine. It had double parked on the side of the road. Maybe someone wanted to buy one or two cones.
I remembered one time back in the 80s someone bought SIX cones for us all. And suddenly these other images started coming back. The other images of the 80s. They didn’t. They tried. I was on the verge of losing it again. They wanted me to look back at the ice cream van one more time and remember the horrible scary stuff. And then feel my ear and my head ringing and my heart pounding. And then cry and stop functioning. But they failed. I didn’t look back at the pink ice cream truck.
It sang and sang, but I never gave it the second look.
I won this time. And I am glad and proud 🙂