Sunday, December 31, 2006

Holiday festivity levels … A la Libanaise

Festivity Level 1: You have invited twenty to thirty people from all walks of life you met in the last couple of years doing your work all over the country. They are a true representative sample of Lebanese society. You even went out of your way to insist on inviting the local Hezbollah representative you struck a friendship with doing work in that borderline southern village.
Your guests are chatting amiably with each other, admiring the Christmas tree, some of them have gathered around the oud and piano players and are humming along that western-eastern fusion tune of Jingle Bells. All are enjoying Parfait Amour liqueur, Baileys or Drambuie and of course a panoply of fruit juices and sodas for those who don’t consume alcohol. Hors D’oeuvres specially delivered from Noura(1) are having all the ravings of the ladies without the calorie accounting.
Conversations are very civil and little laughters and “Allah Ykhallik – Allah Yi7fazak” (2) can be heard emanating from around the room.

Festivity Level 2: You notice that the conversation pitch has distinctly heightened. Some guests are talking loudly to each other, some to no one in particular. The Hezbollah guy has moved next to the Baileys bottle. Others are gulping down Drambuie as if it was seltzer water. A group is wolfing down hors d’oeuvres like there is no tomorrow. The oud player has a Stolichanaya bottle hidden under his chair while the piano player has switched tunes and is playing an eerie version of the Pointers Sisters’ “I am so excited”. You can sense that the room has divided into “Aounisti”(3) versus “Moustaqabalista”(4) and the apartment feels warmer just by the heat of the conversation!A woman is rearranging your Christmas tree ornaments.

Festivity Level 3: The guests are arguing violently about which shade of color is better to rule the country. You notice the Hezbollah guy has finished half the bottle of Baileys, you whisper in his ear: “Ya Hajj, this is Irish cream and it has tons of alcohol in it!” and he springs on his feet and screams his lungs out: “Mitil Irish!!! (5) I love the feeling it is giving to my head and yummy yum it tastes greaaaaaaaaaat”.
All your alcohol beverages are out and you notice that no one touched the juices. The oud player has taken a chord out of his instrument to floss out pieces of salmon stuck in his teeth. Although you made it abundantly clear to the musicians that you want them to play that famous Christmas song by George Michael, “I want your sex” was not what you had in mind, at least not for this “holy” occasion. The political debate is reduced to loud blabber even though you see some of the “belligerents” are starting to take pieces of their clothes off.
Noura shows up in person at your doorstep, her hair is a mess, she’s holding a half empty Jack Daniels bottle and she is going on and on about who makes the meanest “Tarte aux poireaux”(6) in town.

Festivity Level 4: The piano player is placing hors d’oeuvres in the piano to try new sounds. The oud player has somehow managed to stick his head inside the oud and he is trying all kinds of sounds for echo.
The woman rearranging the Christmas tree ornaments is now hanging Hors D’oeuvres on the tree. She has set fire to the gifts underneath the tree because she wants you to taste the salmon “Flambé”.
Opposition and pro government debaters are smearing “Paté de Foie” over their naked upper bodies and starting a ritual war dance around the burning Christmas tree.
You dash out quickly to the balcony and find that the “Makhfar Hbeich”(7) patrol is circling around your building as you hear fire engine sirens getting closer.
The Hezbollah guy is making out with Noura in your kitchen after unloading all the items from the refrigerator!!!
You stand there and evaluate the situation for a second and realize that you don’t even remember why you held this party.

PS: If you ever decide to hold such a party, make sure you keep the festivity level at around three!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All of You.

(1) A famous Beirut caterer.
(2) “God bless you”.
(3) A leading opposition party.
(4) Pro-Government political entity.
(5) An Arabic expletive involving male genitalia.
(6) some kind of quiche with leeks and vegetables.
(7) The Vice Squad of Beirut.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

All in an afternoon of much ado about nothing.

The following events “unraveled” yesterday afternoon. I was sitting in my office, feeling kind of bored actually. I am between projects currently, I just got back from a business trip where I had to present a project I had been working on for the last 4 months and the results were at best not up to par to what I expected. It is the week before Christmas, so work is kind of slow and I was in a blue of a mood.

I hooked the speakers to my laptop and let Dave Brubeck rip his way through the room.

At exactly 13:10 the following joke landed in my inbox:
Dear Zaven,
I am a crack dealer in Basta(1) who has recently been diagnosed as a carrier of the HIV virus. One of my sisters, who lives in Jounieh, is married to a transvestite. My father and mother have recently been arrested for growing and selling marijuana in their small garden and are currently dependent on my other two sisters who are prostitutes in Maameltein.(2)
I have two brothers. One is currently serving a non-parole life sentence at Roumieh(3) for murder of a teenage boy in 1994. The other brother is currently being held in the Trablos(4) Jail on charges of neglecting his three children.
I have recently become engaged to marry a former Thai prostitute who lives in Jiyeh and, indeed, is still a part-time "working girl" in a brothel.
My problem is this: I love my fiancee and look forward to bringing her into the family and of course I want to be totally honest with her.
Should I tell her about my uncle who voted for Michel Aoun?(5)
(Worried About My Reputation!)

I had heard this joke before it was about George Bush. I still found it to be hilarious even though I did not agree with its political connotations. It was nonetheless a very good joke.

The person who sent me this is a fellow Lebanese blogger and she had compiled a mailing list of about 30 recipients and sends stuff regularly. I did not ask her to add me to the list nor asked her to take me off especially that I did not agree with most of the political content of the emails sent. I accepted her messages under the freedom of speech mantra I am trying so desperately to spread around me.

BUT!!! I was bored. So at exactly 13:48 I send out the following reply to ALL the people on the mailing list:

Dear Zaven:
I failed to mention that both my brothers (the murderer and the child abuser) will vote for Geagea(6) as soon as they go out of jail - As for my "Ho" sisters and fiancee, they are die hard tayyar Mustaqbal(7)Voters ...
Nice Family BTW hayda Lebnen (This is Lebanon) (NOT)
Merry Xmas to you all ...

I am currently reading Malcom Gladwell’s book the Tipping Point which basically covers the issues of word of mouth epidemics in groups. I thought what better venue to put some of what I am reading to practice, throw some bait out and just sit and wait for someone to bite.

I did not have to wait for long. Eleven minutes later I got this reply from the person who inspired this post, her initials are AS (yes it is only one S, but as you will read on you will realize that the second S is virtual!!!)

Chou osstak bitdallak natira 3al mafra2 la “Sender”
Ba3dena don’t you ever reply to someone that you don’t know (“Sender” plz Bcc next time)
And you “min Beirut” ma hay2tak min libnan bil assass.. Bi khssouss Aoun and Geagea wman yantami illa al mou3asskarayn, “Grow UP people” you are destroying our country… fikoun thilllo ba2a 3annna w 3an libnan
In summary she is blaming me for picking on “Sender” because of a reply to another email about a month ago. But goes on and says you don’t seem to be Lebanese and regarding the political bickering between the opposition and the government it is destroying the country and that we should leave her and the country alone.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic. So I jacked the music even louder and wrote her back:

1-Whatever is between me and “Sender” is none of your business. If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen!!!
2-Ba3dena I am free to reply to whomever I feel like, if you don't like it you can either reply back or hit delete or ask “Sender” to take YOU off the mailing list
3-If you don't see the humor in all this then it is too bad for you - I think it is hilarious and I am having a blast ...
4-Don't worry ana min libnan (I am Lebanese) as much as you are (I will leave it at this, don't take up the issue again - friendly advice)
5-Did you take your Lexotanil(8) today ???

Brubeck was playing his very famous Take Five and I thought this was so appropriate. I was so full of anticipation to get the reply. In the mean time others on the list were replying with some really lame, politically correct statements which I really don’t want to bother you with and which I ignored in the first place. “AS” had me mesmerized for the afternoon.

It took her half an hour to respond. She wrote:

You consider yourself funny?
I think “Sender” will take YOU off her mailing list
You know you are such a jerk
And I can do better then delete (add you to my block list as I do for junk e-mails)
By the way, I never heard about Lexotanil! Maybe you are an expert in it?
GOD protect Lebanon from you and the likes of you!

Whoaaaaaaaa!!! Oh yes …talk dirty to me baby !!!!

I immediately replied:

I love you too ...Hayeteh..... ;-)
May you find an exit to all that build up anger ... I think I provided some help today...if you feel like unloading more please don't hesitate...besides my perpetual work in promoting free speech I also help in providing a crying shoulder for people in need of venting off.
And yes I am an expert on many issues in life and apparently you are in desperate need for my expertise. Doctors who prescribe medicine are not themselves sick but are attending to the well being of others!!!

PS: you are a government clerk ... what are you doing wasting my tax money on useless exchanges...please engage in your hobbies on your own time not the taxpayers'.

PPS: I thought you were capable of a civil exchange but you resorted to insults ... that speaks volume about you and your character ... I shall put an end to this conversation ... I only engage people who have made it past the 18th century.

I shall remind you of this saying of Dante:
The darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
Have a happy and a prosperous life.

She did not reply.

Now I think I hit three birds in one stone here:
1- I got the satisfactory feeling that whatever books I am reading have actually a way to apply them in a real life situation. The chapter I was at speaks of getting responses!!! Not necessarily angry ones, but hey I did get her to exchange a couple of them with me.
2- It has been a while since I last engaged in my favorite hobby of getting under a woman’s skin. Back when I was married I used to drive my wife crazy with wise ass arguments and discussions. I miss that to tell you the truth. And don’t get me wrong she used to enjoy them as well and it always ended in ….(you know!!!)
3- I think “Sender” finally grasped where I am coming from regarding freedom of speech because as I was checking my emails this morning I was happy to know that I was still on her mailing list.

(1): A poor area in Beirut
(2): The Lebanese infamous red light district
(3): The largest Lebanese jail
(4): A city in the North of Lebanon
(5): A leading opposition figure who is famous for loosing it at times
(6): A convicted criminal and warlord who happens to support the government…for now
(7): The political movement of the late Rafic Hariri. They have been marred in financial scandals although no convictions have been issued …Yet.
(8): Number one tranquilizer medicine on the Lebanese market.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Take me back…for Heaven’s sake!!!

I am writing this sitting in the departure lounge of an Arab country national airport. The country in question has not made it yet to the exclusive club of “progressive economies” and/or “neo-con democracies” that litter the Arab region but it is desperately trying. Meanwhile it lingers under the great socialist economic policies of the “pre-Marx” era. (for those of you who are not History aficionados that’s about 1807 … AD of course)

I have been here for 5 days now and frankly I feel that my political respiratory system has lost its ability to absorb and synthesize oxygen. I’ve always wondered on the ability of Arab regimes to affect the biology of their citizens to inhibit their bodies’ ability to take in oxygen or any gas for that matter … however, they do wonders on shoving the portraits and statues of the “el presidente supremo” down everybody’s throats and the people have done an even better job at “digesting” while keeping their mouths shut. If any one from the committee determining the new seven wonders of the world is reading this please take the aforementioned as a hint.

My journey started with the taxi driving me to the airport at 7:10 AM. The driver refused to put the meter on.
I said what’s wrong with your meter?
Nothing he replied, but the ride to the airport is set at 10 dinars.
I said, is that so?
Oh he replied, that’s the general “Truth”. It is well known all over the country that the ride to the airport is 10 dinars.
Even if the hotel is in the airport area? I replied.
Yes he said. This is still part of the truth.

I hate it when the truth bug infects a whole region.

I told him, listen my friend, you either put your meter on or I am going to give you the “Fatfat” treatment (1). He said no thanks I already had tea for breakfast but since you are Lebanese I will put my meter on. The ride ended up costing 1.7 dinars. I compromised and gave him five. After all, the guy refused the “Fatfat” treatment!!! It pays to award honor.

I arrive at the check-in counter and immediately head to the shortest line. There were three people ahead of me. I stand in line and look over to the counter. The check-in guy was arguing with a passenger and an old lady. I didn’t make much of it and decided to just wait it out. After about six or seven minutes, the line was not making any progress while all the others on each side of the check-in counter were advancing.
I decided it was time to take action.

I go over and ask the clerk what was the problem and why are we being held this long in line. He said that the passenger had some overweight and is refusing to pay the extras and he was bargaining with him to lower the penalty.
Oh lovely, just what I need at 7:30 AM a bazaar of some sort with no end in sight while I wait in line.

I told the clerk, listen man, I have only one baggage it should come only to 13 kg or so, please give my allowable seven more kilos to this guy and let’s get on with it. He said ok no problem but his suitcase weighed in at 63 Kgs!!! so he is still 36 Kgs overweight counting in your seven kilos contribution.

I thought what in God’s name has this guy packed? Is that a suitcase or a Mini-Van he is trying to get on-board?

As he took his suitcase off the check-in scale, I heard crackle sounds coming from his packed mallet. I thought my God this guy has packed his pots and pans and …. Oven!!!
I mean someone should tell him that the logistics of worldwide food delivery have been resolved more than fifty years ago and wherever he was going he will be able to find something to eat. There is no need to pack the kitchen.

I obtain my boarding pass and go through customs. On the security check there was the x-ray machine and the metal detector and passengers were putting their carry-on in the x-ray machine and walking through the metal detector as in every airport I have seen so far. However, the odd thing is that there was this security clerk with a handheld metal detector checking ALL passengers coming out of the metal detector: even if the metal detector did not beep you were still being “hand grabbed” by this fellow to check for that hidden “tactical neutron bomb” made from polyethylene plastic unrecognizable to metal detectors!!!

I put my laptop through the x-ray machine and walk into the metal detector. No beep. But “Fabio” there wants to hand check me. So he starts “feeling me up” from top to bottom. Arriving to my waist area, his grabs are becoming more forceful, he then puts his hands to the back and starts feeling up my ass without even asking me for dinner first!!!
I look at him, he’s unfazed.
I thought to myself let it go man, this is the closest you will get to homosexual love, just think of it as an experience!!! I walked on thinking it’s good all my clothes are still on.

This was not the end of it though. As I am walking out of the security area another bozo in a suit comes along and asks me:
Do you have any currency?For a minute there I thought he was begging for some cash. I thought should I tell him that I don’t, since I have been pan handling in your country for the last 5 days but could not even get enough for breakfast but decided against it.
He said again, “you cannot take out national currency from the country”. Usually, these retro socialist economic misfits of countries don’t like it if you take hard currency out but their own national currency? I was intrigued.
I pull whatever of their cash I had in my pocket and it amounted to about 35 US dollars. He said again: “next time you should exchange them before leaving”.
Hmmm, I thought my $35 worth of their cash is going to rock their financial stability? Damn, I never thought I was this much powerful financially.

As I entered the gate departure lounge I bumped into the MEA (2) crew. I looked over and saw the captain of the plane, we exchanged looks and I immediately said:
“Dakheel Ijrek, Khidneh 3a Beirut” (I am begging you take me to Beirut, already!)
He quipped right back: “Mista3jleen aktar minnak” (I am in a more hurry than you are!)

(1): Fatfat was the interim interior minister during the July war. He is the modern version of “Richard Coeur de Lion” when it comes to defending your country by making tea for invaders.
(2): Middle East Airlines, the Lebanese national carrier company.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

2 Weddings, 2 Funerals and a Car Accident.

Carpe Diem. I heard this term from two different people last July, during the war. Intrigued, I looked it up.

Basically it is Latin for seize the day or the moment and enjoy it as much as you can because life is so fragile and it can be taken away in a flash. I kind of agreed with the definition but it did not touch or move me at the time even though death and destruction were our daily bread back in July.

I guess the Big Fellow up in the skies was testing me this past month. He was more like messing with my mind regarding my acceptance of the Carpe Diem concept.

It is odd how our brains work and how they put us in a “frame of mind” when we are in a contemplating mode. The last 40 days have been really interesting from that perspective.

We are very tiny group of friends. More like brothers. We grew up together since our early ages of 8 or 9 years old. One of us was planning on getting married on the 21st of July and that of course did not happen because we were knee deep in “smart bombs and not so smart rhetoric” at the time. He postponed the wedding to Saturday September 30th.

On Friday the 29th one of the guys (A.) in our circle was heading to meet another one of our friends to discuss a few last minute issues before the big wedding and how we were gonna play a big prank on the groom and fool the parents of his bride-to-be who are Jordanian.
A. was riding his bike on the motorway when a car decided to make a sudden U-turn right in front of him. He didn’t even break and was killed on the spot. He was 35 and father to a 2 month old baby girl. I don’t recall the last time I cried that much. I may never have cried that much before. I was sitting through the funeral proceedings and the words flashed in front of my eyes again: “… it can be taken away in a flash !!!”

The wedding was grim. We are a loud bunch. We never miss a chance to poke fun at anything or anybody. We sat around that table and kept a seat empty for A. and for the sake of our groom we feigned a look of joy and happiness but we are bad actors. It showed miserably.
I always hated weddings in Lebanon. For starters the concentration of so many fake blondes in one surrounding is vomit inducing.
The display of plastic surgery prowess and “nude” clothing with Nancy Ajram and/or Wael Kfoury (1) playing loudly has always reminded me of a famous quip by Oscar Wilde: when asked to give his opinion during a wedding party about a beautiful woman, he said: she is wearing too much rouge and not enough clothes. Always a sign of despair in a woman.
Of course, Wilde was gay and that makes him an expert on women.
Despair is not my favorite emotion. Desperate people are not my favorite crowd. So unless some things change I still hate going to weddings.

The next week-end I was invited to yet another wedding. It was a close collaborator of mine who got plucked by a Lebanese expatriate who was on a visit to meet his match. I truly cared very much about this woman. She worked in my team for 7 or 8 years. I hated the idea of her getting married this way. But, it is none of my business and if the statistics are right and the ratio of women to men in Lebanon has reached 5 to 1, then by all means Mabrouk (2). I don’t want to interfere with destiny or statistics for that matter.

I hated that wedding as well not because of the graphic displays of “despair” but since I am unattached these days, there was an attempt by every “tante” (3) in the hall to introduce to me or me to a potential “mate” (By the way, mating season in Lebanon is a year round affair.)

Weddings are fun and the Carpe Diem ideology works best in such settings. Yet, I missed the opportunity to seize “anything” and I was about to get another message.

The second funeral also hit close.
This one was the celebration of a man who epitomized Carpe Diem. Uncle Y. was 73 years old when he decided he had had enough. There was not much more to do. He had done it all. He is the only one I know of who combined guns & poetry. He was the last of the “Abadayet” (4). A breed of men for whom courtesy comes first and enjoying life a close second. They never worried about money or planning the future. They lived in different times and different eras.
I sat through the condolences ceremonies for 5 days. I heard every story imaginable about him and the folks who were telling me these always ended their tale by: “...he grabbed life by its horns…”

When I walked out of the church hall where we were receiving condolences yesterday, I was thinking about his life and mine. I realized I was taking life too seriously, I was too insistent on navigating and not letting go of the helm. It was taking too much effort and too much resistance. I was worried that Carpe Diem might interfere with my future plans. But my future plans are NOW.

I slowed the car to a complete stop and signaled to turn left. As I moved to cross, a speeding car hit mine on the side and spun the car 180 degrees and I hit the gate head on.
It was a real loud crash. I unbuckled my seat and stepped out of the car. I looked at myself just to see if I was bleeding. Nothing. I squeezed my knees to check if they are ok. Nothing. I looked around, people were looking at me with awe. They did not believe I made it. The other car fled the scene. I did not care. I could not believe what just happened. My first ever car accident, 18 years after I got my driving license !!!

I looked at the car and I felt scared. During those few seconds of spinning, I kept thinking "it could all be taken in a flash".

Thanks a lot.
I got the message.
Carpe Diem.

(1) Lebanese pop culture singers. Although their names should never be used in the same sentence where the word “culture” appears.
(2) Congratulations
(3) Old woman with a knack for gossip and matching
(4) To borrow an analogy from the Wild West, these guys are the oriental version of a Jesse James or a Wyatt Earp.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another Thought

If ALL babies are cute...
How come there are so many obnoxious people around?

What the hell happened ???

Friday, September 29, 2006

Are we done yet? Like Hell we are …

My alter-ego in the blogosphere wrote an article recently putting men into categories. This is after we exchanged a few rallies of articles about Men/Women relationships and other current calamities!

So without further a due let’s get into the heart of it.

At the beginning of her article Maya@NYC wrote:
“In the morning, the reflection in my bathroom mirror is just a façade. It carries nothing in it. Just shapes, colors, forms. I am not there. I am in someone’s mind, on someone’s thoughts, in someone’s heart. In someone’s eyes.”

I respect that, after all this is a typical woman’s approach to her morning bathroom ritual.

For us men, that experience is much much less philosophical or existential if you want.

Of course we do look at the mirror to size up the shape of that ever growing gut and we pat it in and out trying to make it disappear or we can just turn half-way so that the angle is such that we see no gut. Of course we do stand and flex those muscles and say to ourselves: “Damn, those muscles put that Schwarzenegger dude to shame”.

Another aspect of our morning bathroom ritual, and women living with men can relate to this, is the noise factor!!!
Yep, it comes with the package I am sorry. That “Bayd Bi Awarma and Mkanek wou Soujouk(1)” dinner we feasted on yesterday with the guys has to find an exit somewhere after digestion and with us men all outlets are fair game … especially in the morning in the privacy of that bathroom.
I mean this is so deadly that I am proposing as a fight against global terror to send some of the guys I know to hunt down Bin Laden in those tricky caves he hides in. Americans may have used Agent Orange in their chemical warfare in Vietnam but in our approach we will use “Agent Mkanek” to biochemically blow that sucker into oblivion… Too bad I don’t agree with this neo-con administration and I am leaving my plan for the next one.

Now let’s get into the fun part of categorizing women just as Maya did in categorizing men.

First, she mentioned that some men make women feel like objects. Well, my first category is then of course: Candy.
Now, the subject of Candy has been discussed in sufficient details on this blog and we nearly missed a third world war and I personally came so close to loosing a good friend. I will not go into more Candy related matters but I will leave it specifically to my female readership, to enlighten me in particular and all the male readership in general on this question: If Candies are rampant all around why do you blame some men if they treated women as objects ? I mean what comes first here? is it because of Candy that men act that way? Or is it because men ARE that way that Candy exists? You tell me.

Second, there are the ones who dress to kill. Problem is they cook the same way. So unless you have a death wish, you’d better stay away from those.

Third, there are the mechanically hopeless ones. That’s when your wife/girlfriend interrupts your super important meeting with overseas clients to tell you that there is water in the carburetor of that brand new car you just got her. And you reply to her, don’t worry honey, there is no need to panic. I will send someone over to look at it. Where is the car now? And she replies it is in the pool!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fourth, there is the gold digger. Worst kind of them ALL. She married that balding fatso with the green pants and shiny white shoes because he was able to put her in a current year model Range Rover. After all, Mr. makes a bundle selling cow hides to Eastern European markets and this is how he got to be on first name basis with most of the “artistes” in Maameltein (2). Of course this is before he married “Madame” … and briefly after!!!
But hey, she doesn’t care since she can show off in front of her Bridge card playing group that she went to “Juan Les Pins”(3) for the summer tournament. Of course, Mr. thinks that “Jwan Lapin” is the cousin of “Jojo Lapin” and they are both cartoon characters.

Fifth, the hand holder. She really likes to hold hands. You are damned to hold hers too because of you let go, she goes shopping!!! With this category, if your credit card is stolen and you notice on your statement that the thief is spending less than she does. Don’t report the stolen card.

And then there is this category. When she is around, you feel that cosmic energy has been realigned. Although you were terrible at chemistry back in your school days, you suddenly understand it all, twenty some years later, you now understand how two liquids are miscible, and how atoms and electrons gravitate towards each other and you finally understand why an awesome energy is released from tiny molecules in nuclear physics. Although you never studied cardiology, you now know all about heart palpitations. You have no background whatsoever in physiology, but somehow you understand why you get sweaty palms and fidgety hands when she is around.

And as long as you cannot explain all the above phenomena, we are still not done!!!

(1): An eggs, lard and Lebanese sausage dish, if your medical insurance company knew you were under the same roof with, it would revoke your health policy without prior notice!!!

(2): The infamous Lebanese red light district.

(3): A rich and famous vacationing spot in France’s Cote d’Azur.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Women as Neckties?

A fellow blogger posted an intriguing article comparing Men to shoes. Now, there is no need to get offended before reading it. I found it witty and appealing. If it were music I would put it in the category of a light sonata.

It got me thinking though, I know women are mysterious, incomprehensible creatures (just read the comments on some of my earlier posts and you will get the drift) but can I compare them to items in my wardrobe as well?

So I took a walk in my walk-in closet and looked at that huge collection of neckties and said that’s it. Women are like neckties.

The good news is that we hold you around our necks, unlike shoes which are stepped on in very dirty environments, picking up all kind of filth, bacteria and mud. We tend to take extra care of our neckties.

The bad news is, you never look good around our necks unless TIGHTLY TIED!!! The bad news here is for us men of course, I am sure you don’t mind being tied around our necks with the tightest knot ever!

I started picking up the ties and remembering where I got this one, or who gave me that one and why.

My first three ties were Pierre Balmain, given to me by this French girl I dated for a semester my first year of college. Designed to be just a fling, I only wore them while dating her, their appeal quickly faded as fashion done them in!

Then I had this Nautica tie. Simple, straightforward, happy and colorful design. Problem is it’s too casual. Only good at an outdoor barbecue party with distant family members you see once in a blue moon.

Then I found this Izod tie. Should have never been a tie, Should have never gotten it.

The Kenneth Cole tie, I bought. Later on, I thought it was too expensive and not worth it. Not a good feeling. Thank God, I can’t compare any of my relationships with that one.

Lo and behold I found that Emporio Armani tie. Hum, not quite an Armani and fails miserably trying. Should stick to jeans I guess and never venture into “Necktie Territory”.

Then there “she” was lying majestically at the end of the drawer, hidden from prying eyes and pesky dust. Ermenegildo Zegna, my favorite of all time. Quite expensive to acquire but so chic and sober it never goes out of fashion. Made from the best silk. She’s for keeps. Too bad, the one who gave it to me is married on the other side of the world but at least in my fond memories every time I wear the tie.

I do have a Boss necktie. I hate the name though. Design is too cocky. I think I will recycle this one.

A couple of Tommy Hilfiger ties have good designs but they would be too flaky to wear to any serious event. No brains I guess. Hold your horses, these were my choices to buy.

Then I contemplated my whole collection of unbranded or unheralded neckties. Each had something special about it. A special period of my life, a special someone during that period or just me and myself battling it out with adulthood or manhood.

Then it occurred to me. In my case, there is no way I can compare my neckties to women. I have so many of them which I don’t even wear anymore. No one in his right mind could entertain that many women with so many different tastes.

Besides, the last time I wore a necktie was 6 months ago during a funeral!!!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Disclaimer …

It seems to me that a recent post I wrote has been taken too seriously and I was criticized for its contents as a professional in the field of women psychology.

Please note, that nowhere on my blog do I claim to be an expert on women issues or any other issues for that matter. Please know, I am no expert in any field. Period. And I proclaim it out loud and have no shame in admitting it. I am still learning even in my professional field in which I boast a 16 years experience but in the same time boast no expertise. Again I am still learning.

Now I started this whole blogging thing to vent off some steam that was building up in my personal life. I urge all of you who go through the pain of reading my scribbles to know two things about their author’s:
One, I am an incurable optimist. I inherently believe in the good nature of the human specie and tend to judge people from that perspective. I was taught since my early learning years to appreciate people for what they have in their minds and their hearts. I tend to appreciate more what they have in their hearts because you can always fill your mind if you have the will.
Second, I always try and look at the funny side of things. If you read my earlier postings you will notice that even during the darkest days of the July war, I was able to laugh at few issues that makes all so human and got the satisfaction of extracting a few laughs from those who read my writings.

Now, please, every time you visit my blog bear in mind that you will read about stuff that piss me off, make me laugh, or make me sad and I will always write about them sarcastically and make fun of them and not curse humanity because of it.

Please do not take that personally or judge me as person. I use that piece of the virtual world to express what I cannot express in the real world. I know it speaks volume about me as a person but again that whole experience of writing is to exaggerate and blow things out of proportion for all kinds of literary purposes.

Now, for your serious issues and stuffs which are bothering, itching, killing you. Don’t come to me for professional help or advice. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or proctologist!!! (sorry could not resist). Now you come to me as friend and seek my advice, then expect 99% of the time that I will make you laugh about it and will laugh along with you because life is too short to hold grudges and in my medicine book laughter is the best cure.

Now let me be … I have enough shit to deal with as it is.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Letter from a “Candy” fan of mine. Vol. 1.

I received today the following letter from a member of my fan club who happens to be a "Candy".

gitanes legeres said...
Toi qui connais si bien les femmes, "ultimate chick magnet", help me out. please. how do u deal with an annoying, pretentious, useless, vaniteuse, mean and rude candy?
I'm a very pretty, smart, sexy and nice person, with a great career ahead of me. and I don't understand why I'm so damn upset about it. and it's not a man thing. and nothing to do with hormones, just in case u were thinking about mentioning anything related. (my hormones r very well under control and my neurones always fire in total harmony).
thank u dear chick magnet
allah ykhallik ya rab...
(I need an answer. I'm seriously pissed off.)

Dear Candy #001:

First let me tell you that you came to the right person with your problem. However, we need to address a few issues, so let's dissect your letter. (Very Dr. Phil like)
First, you shall address me as "Your Holy Magnet" and not "ultimate chick magnet" please reserve such vocabulary to your surfer dude friends.

Now, let's get into the semantics of your letter (I know you are wondering about "semantics" so please look it up in the dictionary - Oh you don't know what that is either !!!....)
Now, usually you should build sentences with a coherent logic (look up coherent) so when you say I am very pretty, smart …. Well here we call this a contradiction in terms and it throws off the whole meaning of the sentence. Now you could be pretty smart (notice the absence of the comma) and meaning intelligent or you could be pretty. The verdict is still not out on the availability of the specie pretty AND smart.

You continue by saying you are sexy and nice, well don’t even go there girlfriend … you are either sweet and nice or sexy and a bitch … the line of compromise here is so thin.

“…with a greater career ahead of me” well if you consider being seen from Thursday to Sunday in Crystal, Concerto, Casino and Igloo a career, then by all means you are overqualified and should be getting an honorary Ph.D.

Now regarding why you are upset about it, because think about it Candy girl, with or without you around nothing will ever change…it is exactly the same, or maybe the gene pool of the population would need a bit less chlorine !!!!

Now, speaking from my experience as an Ex-married man, whenever a woman says: “my hormones are very well under control and my neurones always fire in total harmony”.

You should interpret that statement as follows:

“My hormones are totally fucked up and my neurons are in disarray, you either stay away from me for the next 3 to 6 days or I shall eat your liver with Fava beans (ftftftftftftft – think Hannibal Lechter’s Silence of the Lambs)
So when it is not the hormones, it could be all the Botox, Silicon and other tit & ass friendly chemicals you are injecting in your body to attract Mr. Right, for whom we shall devote a whole post in the coming days.

Now having written that, I shall retire from the blogsphere for a few light years and probably seek to become a hermit since the odds of me getting a date now are quite infinitesimal (is that dictionary still by your side Candy?)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

MasterCard Moments (A La Libanaise !!!)

Ordering two dozens Baba-au-Rhum from T-square for a binging fest with your friends: $48
A bottle of Dark Jamaican Rhum to make the binging more interesting: $12
Hurling 24 Baba-au-Rhums at the TV while Fares Soueid, Elias Attalah and Samir Franjieh (1) are holding a press conference: Priceless.

Having a Meza Extra dinner delivered from Diwan Al Sultan: $25
Washing it down with 1.5 Liters of Diet Coke: $1.30
Enjoying the dinner while watching Nayla Mouawad analyze the politics of the region and the fallout of the Iranian nuclear file: Brainless.

Average cost of a parliamentary election campaign: $ 1 Million
Salary of a Lebanese Member of Parliament: $4000
Hearing ANY member of Lebanese Parliament speak about the fight against corruption: Spineless.

Renting a cabriolet car for a day in Beirut: $150
Filling it up with gas: $250 !!!
Getting stuck in traffic near a diesel engine truck with its exhaust right up your nostrils: Breathless.

Calvin Klein Men's Pajamas: $85
A night at a decent Beirut hotel: $150
Claims that sit-in of Lebanese members of parliament broke the Israeli siege: Shameless.

To be continued ....

(1) Attalah & Franjieh are current "enlightened" members of parliament, Soueid on the other hand is an ex-member (Thank God !!!).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Eye Candy

I sat in a meeting a couple of days ago to assess an environmental action plan to address the oil slick pollution caused by the bombardment of the fuel tanks of the Jiyyeh power plant.

It was an ad-hoc committee meeting assembled to “brain-storm” on actions to be taken to clean up the oil that washed on the shores all along the Lebanese coast.
Needless to say, I abhor such meetings or such activities, especially that 90% of the time the people on such committees who are supposed to brain-storm often come with nothing to “storm with”. But, the person who called for this meeting is a good friend of mine and I didn’t want to upset her, so I was among the first people to show up.

People started trickling in little by little and soon we were about 7 or 8 persons sitting around a nice, modern furniture table in one of those fancy new buildings in Downtown Beirut where the NGO in question has offices. Then a young woman entered the room as if she’s walking on a modeling isle.

The guy sitting next to me leaned over and whispered:
- “Isn’t she an eye candy!”
I felt like leaning back towards him and saying that for the last six months I’m on a strict “sugar-free” diet but then decided against it and just nodded in “fake” agreement.

The meeting started and conversation soon turned into the details of the action to be taken to clean up the oil that washed on the rocks of the shore. The most effective way it seems is to manually clean the rocks using a special solvent agent which reacts with the oil and dilutes it.

The conversation was going on on how and where to get the solvent and what quantities were needed.

At this point, about 40 minutes into the meeting, “Candy” has said nothing and showed pretty much no interest in what was going on.

I asked to speak and drawing on my background in chemical engineering, I warned that although solvents could be very effective in such cases, a special attention should be drawn to the fact that we are operating in a sea environment and the high level of salt in the waters could hinder the solvent’s efficiency and care should be taken to order solvents capable in working in salty environments. Naturally, these solvents are much more expensive then the regular ones I added.

The discussion livened and arguments were advanced on how much should the budget be to cover the extra expense for the solvents. Another 10 to 15 minutes passed by.

Then, Ms. “M&M Mars” motioned to speak. There was silence around the table and then she said:
-“Isn’t there a way to take the salt out of the water?”

There was silence around the table and I think I heard a few chuckles.

I leaned towards the guy sitting next to me and whispered:
“Beware of eye candy, it causes intellectual diarrhea!”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Just A Thought

We are all born Mammals.
It is our suffering that makes us Human ...

Friday, August 11, 2006

An Open Letter to ………..SPAMMERS

In better times, I would have ignored your messages and just deleted them into my trash folder. But lucky you, since July 12 the nature of my daily workload dramatically changed so I am taking the time and having the pleasure of answering your messages.

1) On sexual enhancement products and other goodies:
I have received several messages inquiring if I am suffering from an “erectile” problem.
Well, I live in Beirut now and I am obviously suffering from a “projectile” problem. If you have a pill to cure that, I will buy it by the truckload.

Other messages inquired if I am having a problem “getting it up”. Well I am having a problem “getting it for my car”. Gas that is.
Do you have a pill for that? I did not think so.

One of you sent me this message which for the sake of intellectual property and integrity I’m copying and pasting here:
“The greatest thing about SOFT CIALIS is the security that you are on "automatic pilot", relaxed, carefree, with no worries about a sudden loss of erectile powers, no matter what kind of interruptions (kids knocking at door, dog barking, ill-fitting condoms) may be thrown your way.”

Oh yeah, what about if they throw an F-16 rocket my way, will I still be on automatic pilot? And if Israeli war ships are bombing the southern suburbs of my city does that qualify as an interruption without a sudden loss of “erectile powers”?What happens to my “erectile powers” if I zap to a press conference by Amir Peretz (1) or an interview with Nayla Mouawad (2) [Hounik el Knock out!!!].

Another enlightened one sent me this masterpiece:
“Hi, Hope I am not writing to wrong address. I am nice, pretty looking girl. I am planning on visiting your town this week. Can we meet each other in person? Message me back at
Oh I can’t wait to meet you, I know a very nice café in Haret Hreik (3) where they serve a killer cocktail named “Mirkava-on-the-rocks”. My treat of course.

2) On stock brokers or should I call them stock spammers:
First, if you want any of us to actually read your spam use a bigger font!!!
Second, do you think we take those stocks or those companies you are pushing seriously? If you do then I have a couple of stocks to sell you myself.

Ticker: D.I.C.K. this stock is Hot. And if you get in touch with the guy from above who sells Cialis tabs your stock is bound to go UP!!! That’s my little insider tip for you.

Ticker: F.C.K.U it should be obvious what this company does. So Enjoy!!!
If there ever was an orgasmic stock this is it.

To close this section, I am sharing with you guys what a wise man once told me and never understood until lately: the safest way to double your money, fold it over and put it in your pocket.

3) On African relatives of warlords or princes who want a safe haven for their gazillion Dollars.

Ok, I got to admit this is done with the intelligence of a lamp post! I mean come on I’ve seen smart bombs coming with better scenarios than what you guys are cooking up.

So you are the son of the late prince Claude de Gerkmiof (great family name by the way, I wonder what your grandfather pass time was?) now prince Claude, may God rest his soul, has managed to plunder 10 million dollars worth of diamonds and got shot trying to flee and now he’s a beacon for freedom fighters all over the world and you my friend are worried sick about his “legacy” and that it might go back to the government to be stolen by some other warlord.

You want me to be involved somehow because you got my name from I don’t know what American company who compiles email lists and you think that I have nothing else to do but accommodate your requests.
Well there is one thing I can do for you and I sincerely hope it would be of help. I still have a few stocks of F.C.K.U company which I am willing to unload at a joke of a price. Interested???

Man, it is unbelievable how thirty days of war make you forget the soothing therapy of giving people a piece of your mind. I am gonna do this more often.

(1) Israeli Defense Minister. He gives the song “you sexy motherfucker” a whole new meaning.
(2) Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs. Her ID card lists her under the gender female. I, on the other hand, cannot concur.
(3) The central part of the Southern Suburbs of Beirut. Or what used to be the Southern Suburbs of Beirut.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

This Is Why I Love Beirut

I love Beirut because she is the underdog and manages always to win. Through the rubble she emerges again and again every time more beautiful than before.

I love Beirut because I can read the “Agenda Culturel” (1) while eating “Fatteh bi Laban” (2) at Abou André (3)

I love Beirut because of the American saxophonist who plays twelve variations on “Bint Al Chalabiya” (4) as if he just finished a music course with Assi El Rahbani.(5)
I love Beirut because of the oud (6) player who makes Ravel quiver of excitement in his grave hearing the oriental rendition of Boléro.

I love Beirut because the bigger its temples of worship get the more secular its population becomes.

I love Beirut because at Masrah Al Madina a group of recently high school graduate females acted out a play about female masturbation called “The Secret Life of a Woman” (Hayat el Mar’a al Sirriya) and at the end of the play they distributed flyers about the subject to all the audience, male and female.
In any other Arab country, running such a play would bring the dictator down.

I love Beirut because you see the “frenchy-coocoo” chick, along with the pierced nose left winger WOUMAAAN, the veiled religious one with a ton of makeup on, and the slut who is two inches short of wearing a fig leaf as a business suit.

I love Beirut because of the BMW driving, cigar smoking, gel wearing prick who thinks he makes the New York Stock Exchange tick.
I love Beirut because of the bearded, pony-tailed artist/journalist who writes for left wing publications.
I love Beirut because of the guys who claim they are Lebanese university students and try to sell you scented trees for your car during traffic stops. These guys wouldn’t know a book if it drops on their head.
I love Beirut because of the nerdy types Engineer/Software developer dudes who are working on the first water fueled engine or the next Google search engine.

I love Beirut because of the “full-of-shit” politicians who make watching the news hilarious.

I love Beirut because of the sunsets at Raouche. The People on Corniche.

I love Beirut because they have delivery service for practically anything. Anything.

I love Beirut because in my neighborhood everybody knows my name.

(1) a bi-weekly cultural events agenda that never ceases to increase in volume making Beirut “The” cultural capital of the Arab world.
(2) A Chick peas, toasted pita bread and yoghurt dish
(3) A Cult restaurant serving low cost vegetarian dishes
(4) A very old folklore tune
(5) A very famous and very prolific music composer and theater playwright who died in 1986.
(6) Middle Eastern equivalent of the luth.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Here is Better.

I love Saturdays. Even more in Summertime. Though I am self-employed and I am passionate about my work, I look forward to Saturdays so I can get to do the things that need you to be in a certain relaxed state of mind: listening to music, reading all those bookmarked articles in your favorite magazines, finishing those last few chapters of the book of the month, doing some design work …
You get the drift, usually the stuff that does not get your adrenaline pumping.

My family, friends and even my ex-wife know that on Saturdays I am not available before lunchtime. I made an agreement with all of them that I would be there for them anytime of the week except on those 4 or 5 hours of a Saturday morning and I begged them if they have to die not to do it during those sacred hours because … they will be on their own.

Since the beginning of the hostilities I pretty much stuck to my routine especially that the bulk of the neighborhood left to the trendy ski-resort town of Faraya and left me quasi alone to enjoy the “peace and quiet” and the abundance of parking spots. So besides the sounds of F-16 rockets falling over the southern suburbs the neighborhood was very quiet making my Saturday morning routine even more enjoyable.

This past Saturday I woke up at 5:00 AM, the Israeli pilots had finished their “nightshift” at around 3:30 AM and gone home to the wife and kids after bombing the living daylights of what is left of the southern suburbs (in “self defense” of course).

The power was on. I flipped my laptop and realized that even the Wi-Fi was receiving an extremely decent signal. Sweet. I prepared what amounts to a full gallon of coffee, hooked my Ipod to the Receiver and had Miles Davis ripping through his rendition of “Summertime” through the neighborhood like an Israeli fighter jet releases its flyers over the city.
I logged on and started opening IE windows like crazy. The whole spectrum of newspapers in the area from Al-Diyyar/Nahar/Safir (1) to Haaretz (2), passing by The NYT, LA Times and the Google News website of several thousand newspapers.

Then at about 8:30 AM I thought I heard my doorbell, but Fairouz’s jazzy Kifak Inta was so loud that the doorbell ring merged through the harmony. Five minutes later, I hear a crisp “knock-knock-knock”. For sure I was not expecting company. So I got a bit worried to tell you the truth. I paused the music and went to the door.

I open and find her! All 142 centimeters of her. She beams that large smile at me and says:
- “Heelo Mister”
- Damiantee, what are you doing here? Didn’t you leave the country already? [Damiantee is my Sri Lankan cleaning lady. She comes by every Wednesday and Saturday to clean the house and do my laundry. I have not seen her since July 12 and assumed that she left]
- No Mister, “Hone” [Here] is better.
- Damiantee I know you don’t watch the news but can’t you hear the bombs? The situation is very bad. You should go back to Sri Lanka for now.
- No, No “Hone Ahsan” [here better].
- Why didn’t you leave with the others?
- Tamil Tigers.
In better times, I am a news junky and would have picked up the reason, but I swear that I heard her say Detroit Tigers and thought to myself: hmmm, I did not know that Damiantee is into Major League Baseball.
I said: chou fi? [what’s going on]
- They are fighting with the government and a lot of people are getting killed. I don’t want to go. “Hone” better.

Somehow I was proud of this woman. She has made the decision that either in her own native country she might die or in Beirut and decided it is better to do it in Beirut!
In my “republic”, she gets the highest Medal of Honor. In my house, she is most definitely getting a raise.

I let her in, put my music back on and go to my laptop.

Two minutes later she comes back horrified.
-Mister, house “bery, bery” dirty.
-Well what do you want, we are at war. Besides, I don’t know where you put the cleaning stuff. [Trying to make her believe that I was gonna clean!!!]

She goes back in and starts her work. I go back to the balcony with a soothing sense that things are slowly getting back to normal.

Stan Getz is now playing “Tonight I shall sleep with a smile on my face.”

(1) Major Lebanese Newspapers
(2) Major Israeli Newspaper

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A True Story

For the last 6 or 7 years the bulk of my environmental work has been in South Lebanon. I got to know the area pretty well and practically lived with its people on a day-to-day basis.

I was devastated to see them go through the atrocities committed against them. I decided that I will not sit idle and I will do whatever I can to be of help. One of the villages I worked at recently was completely devastated and its population fled to Saida. They had so little time to leave that most of them just left without packing anything.

I am constantly in touch with their municipality president and have been sending them stuff from Beirut to Saida via a very courageous truck driver who knows me only from my phone number. I keep calling him and telling him to go here and there and pick up stuff: sponge mattresses, baby diapers, food items, etc … and lo and behold he always manages to get them to Saida both to my amazement and that of the village municipality president. We have nicknamed him “Olmert Buster” and call him OB for short.

Yesterday, during my daily call to the prez he said they have about 25 babies less than one year old and they are in desperate need for specialty milk.

I call a friend of mine who works for a relief agency and state my need. He said that they are out of that kind of milk but points me to the only company left with stocks of that particular item.

I call them up and the following conversation ensues:

Me: Hello Ma’am, my name is xyz and I was told you have milk for babies less than one year old. Are you still carrying inventory?
Saleswoman: What’s your name again sir?
Me: xyz
Saleswoman: who are you associated with? [Inta ma3 meen?]
[I hesitate a bit and then say]
Me: Politically, I am with the National Democratic Party of Uruguay.
Financially, I am associated with the CAC-40, that’s the French Stock exchange and not some “caca – rente” as most people think.
Socially, I am a member of the Universal Organization for the Advancement of Brain Usage among People.
[I expected a laugh from the other end of the line, but nothing happened. I mean I know we are at war, but the bridges to our sense of humor have not been bombed yet]
Saleswoman: I am sorry sir we cannot sell to individuals only to organizations.
Me: [insisting on getting a laugh out of her] Does the Organization for the Liberation of No-where-istan ring a bell to you?
Saleswoman: Just a second sir. [She gives the phone to another lady]
[I decide that these people are way over-stressed and that my jokes won’t do but Lexotanil (1) would – so I back off]
Saleswoman 2: Sir, we are forbidden by law to sell to individuals.
[I completely loose it but keep my voice down and firm]
Me: Ma’am a friend of mine is the municipality president of a devastated village they have 25 babies less than 1 year old who desperately need this milk. I don’t know what law you are talking about but at this point I am willing to accept full responsibility for breaking it. I need those 50 cans of milk even if after this whole mess is over I have to go to prison for them.
Give me your fax number and I will send you an acknowledgment that I bear the full repercussions of my actions.
Me: Sister, we are at war here and under siege, please think about it just a bit, this law should not apply in war time. It doesn’t make sense. What if it was you and your baby in that situation, how would you feel if you were told that we could not get you the milk because of some stupid law.
Saleswoman 2: [without hesitation] that will be $309 for 48 canisters.
Me: You got it. Thank you. Someone will come by, pay you and pick them up.
[I hang up]
I am seriously considering starting the Universal Organization for the Advancement of Brain Usage among People.

(1): Number one Tranquilizer on the Lebanese Market.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Trip to the Supermarket

I live alone and my last trip to the supermarket was on July 12 at night. Hezbollah had snatched the two soldiers that morning and things went as usual in Beirut that day. Or so I thought.

Fast forward to August 3rd and it is amazing how things can flip around and you find yourself with plenty of time on your hands.
Usually during times of crisis one has the tendency to get nostalgic: for the last couple of days, my thoughts hovered around the killer “Mjadra” (1) my grandmother used to make like an Apachee helicopter hovers around a suspected missile site. So, with plenty of time on my hands I decided that today I will be making Mjadra.

As I mentioned earlier, I live alone since a “breakout-and-exit” from the golden cage of marriage six months ago. I live in a very nice apartment but also a very empty one since I was overwhelmed with work and had no time to fully equip the place.
So I run a quick inventory of my kitchen and find 4 coffee mugs, some cutlery, some dishes, a few glasses and about 2 dozens espresso cups. So much for Mjadra unless I can work up the miracle of cooking it in a Nescafe Mug!!!

With all the siege talk going on, I decided that a trip to the supermarket is way overdue. I arrive there expecting people to be all over the place. I was happily surprised. It was busy but civil. So I grab a basket and start “walking down the isle” with the “you-know-what-tune” humming in my head.

I first encounter one of those really annoying “frenchy-coocoo” young mothers whose son was misbehaving and she kept coming back at him in French:
- “Non, ….. laisse ca, …. Mais arrête …. Attends un peu" [No, leave that … stop …wait]And I kept thinking: “Lady, we are under siege here, would you cut the child psychology crap, slap the little rascal, get your groceries and get the F …. 16 out of here, the place is crowded as it is”.

I don’t say anything and decide to switch isles.

I am in the canned food isle and see one of those heavy-set mountain women with the red cheeks filling her cart like there was no tomorrow and there was her 7 or 8 year old son clinging to the cart as a treasured possession. She is going about her business like “a laser guided smart bomb”. When her boy tried to utter something he immediately got whacked for it. BAM!!!
I mean here is someone who appreciates the gravity of the situation but she made Dr. Spock (2) spin in his grave. Easy Ma’am, the boy is already tense from just watching the news, no need to add to his collection of childhood induced phobias.
I take a closer look on her shopping cart which has about 650 items by now and I am saying to myself “I would not venture into the parking lot with that cart if I were you. With all the F-16’s whizzing by, they would think you have a Zelzal Missile (3) hidden underneath that Mount Everest of groceries.”

I decide to speed things up just to be ahead of the mountain woman on the cashier’s line.

I am in the ice cream section and decide to load up on my favorite stick. I start grabbing them by the truckload. I look at the label closely and see something that I have never noticed before: It says “Diet Jumbo Vanilla/Chocolate”.
Diet Jumbo??? Isn’t that like a contradiction in terms? I mean most of us go on a diet just to go down a couple of notches on the “Jumbo” scale. I decide that that’s a matter I will bring up with the marketing department of that company in better and later times. For now, I am racing against the F-16’s to get to my apartment safe and sound.

I grab other items and decide that I’ve had enough and head to the check out lines. I stand in a short line and look at my groceries and realize that there are no solid foods in that basket. Then, a horrific thought crosses my mind: “What if they decide to bomb Farrouj el Lala or Marroush (4)? I will starve to death.” But another soothing thought quickly comes by: “Don’t worry, there is always Falafel Sahyoun (5).”

I leave the place having a sense of guilt about my nutrition. I mean, come on, we are under siege with no cease fire looming at the horizon thanks to the logic of Mr. Blair and rancher Bush, who has time to think about nutrition?
Besides, under siege, nutrition takes a back seat. Under fire, it is missing in action. Under siege AND under fire, it becomes a casualty of war or as the US military so aptly calls it “Collateral Damage”. [I am amazed at the ability of these guys to enrich the English language lexicon].

I unpack my groceries and draw the following assessment:
- I have enough diet ice cream to get me through the summer
- I have enough Diet Coke to last me till next Spring
- Enough Lavazza espresso coffee to last a lifetime

Siege? what Siege?

Bring it on.

(1): A lentils, rice and onion puree. Mjadra is a staple of Lebanese cuisine.
(2): Dr. Benjamin Spock was an authority in pediatric medicine and child psychology.
(3): The largest missile in Hezbollah’s arsenal.
(4): Cult chicken sandwich places in Beirut.
(5): “Ze” Falafel place in Beirut.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On Cease Fires and other Wonders of the “Civilized” World.

I don’t about know you, but when I was growing up whenever a fight broke on the schoolyard or on the basketball court or after a testy session of “art dramatique”, there were plenty of do-gooders willing to break off the fighting.

They would just intervene, most of the time without even knowing the warring parties, and call on their sense of decency to stop the violence and solve whatever they are fighting about reasonably or take it to the principal, the coach or the wacko theater teacher.

I don’t recall any bystanders having the following discussion:
“Well, let Karim beat the crap out of Joe before we step in and break it off” or “When he spits his third tooth it’s time to hold them off each other”.

To my recollection that never happened, and if someone mentioned the word “Machiavelli” in front of us we thought it was a fancy Italian ice cream flavor!!!!

Now, for the last 14 days or so, we keep hearing Condi, Bolton and Tony “Boy” Blair blaring about the un-appropriateness of a cease fire now! WHAT? it is always appropriate to cease fire. Just ask the mothers, the wives or the children of the warring soldiers.

It is always appropriate to put a curb on your Neanderthalean instincts and solve issues in a civil, Homo-Erectus way. (Assuming that you people and your boss in DC have joined the Homo-Erectus era. Don’t know about Condi and Blair, but Bolty boy and GW have "Neanderthal" written on their forehead).

Why don’t you stop insulting the whole world’s intelligence and just say it like it is:
“Listen folks, we just outsourced the Israeli army to do a dirty job for us and darn it it is taking them more time than we (or they) thought, so hold your horses it is going to bang for a few more weeks because we are in deep “poopoo” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Gaza, democracy seemingly worked and they elected a government by a landslide, but too bad it was not the one we had in mind so more “caca” for Gaza. We have been trying really hard on this “shoving-democracy-up-your … governing systems” policy and thought Lebanon would be a good model but this Siniora dude could not deliver. So we are delivering it by F-16’s if you don’t mind.”

Oh please … be my guest.

A reporter once asked Mahatma Ghandi:
“What do you think of western civilization?”
“That would be a good idea” replied Ghandi.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Letter to the Girl of Marouahine

I haven't been able to take you off my mind.
I can sleep soundly with bombs falling all over, I am now immune to their sounds ...
But seeing you lying there on the dirt is a sight I can't erase from my mind or my nights ...
For the second day in a row I twist and turn in my bed and can't shake you off my eyes. You are there, lying face down, clothes torn, your limbs shredded!!! I wish the sounds of bombs can drown the hissing of that chilly sight.

Yesterday, I had dinner with the Swedish rescue team who came to Beirut to evacuate their citizens. They finished their efforts and wanted to see another aspect of Lebanon besides the current madness, I started conversing with their leader and asked him if they showed your picture on their TV networks and was blown away to know that they don't even know about you and your family, about how you were thrown into the devil's pawns by the very people who supposedly represent the humane face of humanity. (1)

I feel the need to apologize to you for not letting the whole world know what a terrible terrorist threat you have been ... Otherwise how can one explain your fate ... I can't fathom the idea of a human being doing onto you what has been done ... I can't, because I still need to believe in Humans and their Humanity. This is what keeps me going ...this is what I keep waking up to everyday ... I need to believe that Good and Evil are not set by some retard in Washington DC who thinks he has a direct uninterrupted line of communication with God. I wonder what God is telling him now... I wonder if he saw your picture, would he pick up the "line" and dial God???

I don't know your name, but I know that I know you. You are my young sister-in- citizenship of a great country called Lebanon. A country throughout history, never attacked anyone but never ceased to defend itself against invaders.

As I see you lying there in the dirt can't help but wonder what could you have been? Was there another Madame Curie in you? A Helen Keller, a Dorothy Parker, or a Romy Schneider? Could you have been the next Fairouz or May Ziadeh? Or maybe you could just have been another Lebanese mother who rears her children with obsessive care in the beautiful landscape of South Lebanon.

Whatever you could have been was entirely up to you and "they" had no right to take that away from you.

The only way I can get my mind to accept what happened to you is that God must have been short on Angels. May He bless your soul as for sure you are in His kingdom.

(1) The Girl from Marouahine family seeked refuge at a UN post but were turned away. On their way out of town they were blown to pieces by a Nintendo pilot and his smart bombs.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

July War: Intro 101

I've been pondering upon the idea of starting a blog way before the July 12th happenings. My life was taking such bizarre twists that I felt I should let the general public in on it.

However, before that date, I was overwhelmed with work and other time consuming activities and was not really in the mood for it.
But, thanks to the "Hizeeeb" (1) (with a heavy southern accent for those of you familiar with it) and the "Yahoood" (2) time is no longer a constraint thank God. We now have plenty of it !!!

So I am gonna start with a message for the regular folks on both sides of the conflict who, like me, are just sitting and watching the madness unfold and who, like me, are sick and tired of pointing fingers and speculating on who started what when and who is to blame.
This conflict goes back so long and has caused enough damages on both sides, it really does not matter now to dwelve into finger pointing. It would be good to start thinking, us the people on the sides, on how we can move forward and how we can throw fresh ideas on the table to unblock the status quo of frozen-macho-mentalities who are currently ruling or calling the shots on both sides.

My message is taken from a book, I recently finished reading, by the Dalai Lama titled "The Art of Happiness". In the book, the co-author Howard Cutler quotes a passage from another author, Graham Green as follows:
"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they have brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce ? the cuckoo clock."
Incidentally this passage is quoted in the chapter titled: Finding Meaning in Pain and Suffering !!!
May we all find meaning in what is going on.

My second message is for the Israeli Air Force. Please convey my utmost congratulations to your Nintendo/Xbox/PlayStation pilots, they are doing a wonderful job on the defenseless buildings, bridges, factories and other infrastructures, however, do ask them to hit "abort" when they see truckloads of children and innocent civilians, I mean if their bombs are so smart they should at least be as smart as their bombs or a little bit more and hit the abort button. The body parts of the 4 year old girl splattered on the dirt in Marouahine are on their conscious. I hope next time they see their daughters, sons, nephews and nieces they will think of that girl and not sleep well (or at all) at night.

My third message is for the Lebanese/Arab TV stations. What's with the political and military analysts covering this war as if it was a Monday Night Football game. I know we have a lot of idiots roaming the country or the arab land but do you really need to shove them up our ... faces with their ludicrous analysis and utterly stupid comments. And please stop giving them all those fancy titles, "military strategist", "warfare analyst" and other bogus labels. I mean if we have to judge them by the intellect of their speech one cannot stop but wonder how on earth do people like this end up on my TV during such hard times. I wonder if the Americans can evacuate them, I will pay for their travel expenses.
Finally, for heaven's sake. For Goodness' sake. For Anything-That-is-Holy's sake, keep Elias Atallah (3) OFF the screen. I did not know they gave PhD's in Horseshit.

footnote: I am unable to watch Israeli television however I have the gut feeling that their viewers are also subjected to such idiotic "Analysts". Israeli readers are welcome to enlighten us in this aspect.

My Fourth and final message for this post is for the politicians in charge on both sides:
Mr. Siniora, with all due respect, you and your government are incompetent. Please have the decency to resign and go home.
Mr. Olmert & Mr. Peretz, I know you don't have a military background but you are trying too hard. Back off on the overachieving thing it only denotes your underachieving complex. I mean a lot of civilians are dying because of it. I know it is none of my business but the decency to resign applies here as well.

(2):[Jews of Israel as they are called by Lebanese Southerners]
(3): An "enlightened" Member of Lebanese Parliament ...need I say more ?