--Warning: when going to Barbar, make sure you're accompanied by a man! As I crave a Shawarma after a night out, it seemed Barbar was the best and closest option. Ah the greasy, somewhat non-health-inspection-abiding, heavenly chicken Shawarma sandwich! P. is much more health oriented and so he goes for a fruit cocktail from the store next door. And picture this: at around 11.00 pm, 12 guys are sitting there, hanging out, and then a female comes in! Albeit accompanied by P., but a female nonetheless! The stares through the mirrors, the typical "shou ya 7elo", the sleazy smiles. I did not know where to look anymore, the store was all mirrored and so I ran to my car where I waited for P. like a good Lebanese female. And so when going to Barbar, if you want to take a chance and maybe catch salmonella (and I say risk well taken), make sure it's in broad daylight, or when accompanied by a male who could order for you, or bear the consequences of your actions and expect to be verbally aggressed. Well, you probably shouldn't be eating Shawarma at 11pm anyways!
It's cancer. Metastasized to the bone. And as I sit and use fancy terms in the physician's clinic I start looking at this wonderful man. Hit with a malignancy. And the term is evasive to say the least. This man is saintly. He has been everything to me and my family and more. And now no one can return the favor. And he takes it all, silently. -"But doctor, when can I jog again?" he insists with a serene smile on his face. It's too early. TOO early!! I want to scream: "Stay, they need you!". They all need you. They love you. I hear their worried voices on the phone and I cannot answer. And I wonder, where is the cure? Why are they all falling around me like a baseless house of cards? One after the other. And at the ripe age of 20sth, I remember this conversation with a 90sth years old lady. Me: You must feel so blessed, living to be almost a hundred! The Lady: But you see M., I buried everyone I knew. I cried over each and every one. And this is life as I will remember it. Alone.
And in the end, how I wish to tell you that I never deliberately said or did anything to hurt you. That things one tells friends in strict confidence are not meant to harm anyone but rather to alleviate some of the pain. That even with this in mind, I never said anything that was not. That sometimes stories are distorted depending on who is telling them. That even until now, even in the end, even if you don't count as much or not at all, I still defend you and especially in front of those who dislike you and I only speak well of you, regardless of me believing it or not. And I do it all for me, my own self. How I wish you told me and let me explain that anything I might have said was in strict intimacy to only my closest friends at a time where I was all torn up, disturbed and confused. How I wish I could tell you only to relieve my torment for I am falsely accused. ...But why wish? Why not pick up the phone? Why the soap opera? Because you don't care to know... And in the end, it doesn't really matter.
And here I was in the middle of Verdun traffic, playing russian roulette with my cell phone inbox. I did not know which messages will go first. But I was pleased. Freed. It seemed futile, maybe insignificant to the observer. But I've had messages I've been holding onto for years, reading them every once in a while. Some I wrote, some I received, some I never sent. Yes, it's one of my ways to keep memories, like a train stub, or a movie ticket. It's also one of my ways to remember feelings, dates, anniversaries. But it was time for some of these messages to disappear. And I did not want to delete them knowingly or willingly. How could I? How would I choose? So let fate decide. Besides, what is Verdun traffic good for if not added creativity?... And the roulette started turning. And it was all in the hands of the phone tech gods. And those messages I thought I wanted to keep but was secretly longing to delete are now gone. I am again and again a free woman! Live in the moment. NOW! Yes other moments were nice too. But nothing compares to now! And nothing compares to you!
I want Persepolis, I want Waltz with Bashir, I want personal freedom in Lebanon. I guess I'll just settle for pirated DVD's.
Disclaimer: I would understand why Waltz with Bashir should be boycotted, assuming any of the returns made in Lebanon would go to the zionist director but maybe limited screenings (like this one) can be made more readily available.
K. told me how she wants to make her work public, how she wants to reach out, how she has so much to say! so here it is: A public shoutout to K. I love your work. --Manon, A personal favorite --Femmes. --Oh Wow. --2005, K. on Torino, Gemmayzeh. (a personal favorite hangout)
There are many talks whether or not the Dome is staying, with the Beirut Gate Project being underway. The dome is more than just an intriguing childhood memory, it's a movie theater, part of the modernism movement in Lebanon and was originally designed by Lebanese architect Joseph Philippe Karam in 1965 as part of a complex of towers for shopping and entertainment. The civil war halted the plans and what remained was an orphan egg that withstood the test of time and war. Unfortunately it seems it will not withstand the test of rapid Dubai-zation of Lebanon. Never has anybody passed by this structure without inquiring about it, it's so unique, it's a national treasure, it's reminiscent of avant-garde 60's Beirut (the Paris of the middle east) and a reminder of the war and its ugliness. Here's hoping the Dome stays!
--Hopes And Doubts Exhibition, December 2008, The Dome, Beirut.
--An antique car, doomed to work as a "service", the public cab system in Lebanon, on a background of the new project around Bliss Street in Hamra "Al Hitaan in Hakat" (Poetry On The Wall). --The proud owner of the service, he's had it for 44 years.
The people that come across you and that you don't take enough time to get to know: -He was a blind man in his 60's. He used to come in every Thursday for lunch, he sat at the same table, ordered the same thing every single time: a roast beef sandwich. How did he come alone? Why every Thursday? How does he go about his life? What has become of him by now? -She was sincerely one of my best friends, a woman who left so much impact on me. A woman whose life is so different from mine and yet we got so close. She was also in her 60's, she grew up in hippie America, she was quite the wild child in her days, she then married a N.Y. firefighter. She eventually found him lying in their bathroom, dead of a heart attack. She had so many stories, so much that she'd been through, the good, the bad and the ugly. Her daughter was once as lucky as it gets, then she was diagnosed with Behcet's (an autoimmune disease), and she fights it to the day, unemployed, unmarried, unsure of her future. Her nephew died in 9/11, he was a firefighter too. So much more to tell about this wonderful woman, how she kept her optimism, how she was still a mix of the wildchild and the sweet grandmother. And to the day I wonder what has become of her, there were the sustained emails at first, and then nothing.
-She was married to a mob boss in NY. She was also in her 70's-80's, it seems the older you get the more interesting your life is. She used to play with my necklace and tell me how pretty it was. She was the sweetest woman I've met and yet I've heard so much about how mistreated she was by her late husband, although to the rest of the people she was seemingly leading the pampered high class NY lifestyle. She eventually died. She was my first patient to die. Albeit of natural causes. The first thing to do was to make sure we had her DO NOT RESUSCITATE order on file. As if it was business as usual. -He was 65. Newly retired. It seems he had enough of corporate America and so he decided to finally kick back and relax. He showed me his business card. On a Hawaiian themed background he had written down every single activity and "profession" he was able to do. (ranging from striptease to accounting). It was meant as a joke. I didn't laugh at the time. I thought he was a tad obnoxious. Had I seen it from his point of view. There was a man, who worked all his life, who was finally content with what he had achieved and now was the time to relax, and laugh at it all. Kudos. -He was 25. I was never too close to him, thinking he was too different from me. Different lifestyle, different interests... He then enrolled in the Lebanese Army. He died while serving in Nahr Al Bared. The summer 2007 war against palestinian extremists in the North of Lebanon. -She was 18. We used to dance ballet together. We never got close, again because of our different likes and dislikes. Then one day she actually collapses in front of me. She eventually goes into a coma that she doesn't come out of. My first experience with death. And so many more stories to remember, so many people that you come across. And with each and everyday you understand even more how you will never understand enough. This world is too wide to grasp, too rich with stories and people, and everyone has something to say. This is mainly the reason why I metamorphosed from a spoiled brat into a love-all, accept-all persona. And that no matter how much I learn about life, there's so much more, so much more. How will I ever come to term with life? How will I ever think that I know it all? Should I search for this feeling at all? Is it like "A la recherche du temps perdu"? Or should I just feel content with what I have? At least, I now know that each and every one has been through something interesting in life, each and every one is a good person in their own way and your perception of them will only depend on your specific interactions with them. Sometimes circumstances will not allow you to really get to know someone, sometimes circumstances will actually make you hate that someone, but just think for a second, how much more there is to this world and to its people. How interesting can your own life get with all these encounters!! To the people mentioned and to many more that I remember once in a while, I wish I got to know you better. I wish I was able to get the most out of these cherished moments that will never be again.
Old Palestinian man: You paint the Wall, you make it look beautiful. Banksy: Thanks. Old Palestinian man: We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this Wall, go home. --Sam Jones, Guardian, UK, Friday 5 August 2005
Tis' been a day of brainwashing and I'm tired. I've watched Zeitgeist, Sicko and read almost anything that had to do with Gaza. And so what's the final thought? Zeitgeist encompasses too many conspiracy theories together with little reference making it hard to believe it all for the average viewer like me. Sicko praises guantanamo bay for its medical excellence, therefore also making it hard to be credible at times. I also don't like Moore's attitude, he's trying to be sarcastic but it's too obvious and dumbed down. Especially that "anonymous" check that he sends to his arch nemesis by the end of the movie so that the latter can care for his wife's ailments. Publicity stunt much? And Gaza Oh Gaza, when it all boils down to the American/Israeli bashing along with the suffering of the children and the fake war on terrorism as if there is an absolute definition and description for the term. When it comes to that, you cannot but sit and wonder HOW just HOW do the Israelis think that what they're doing is humane or even justified? I just can't seem to get my mind to understand it! And that is even after assuming that Hamas is the all powerful evil it's portrayed to be. On another note, I've noticed that what I put in writing is only a fraction of what I might be thinking about a particular issue and most of the time it's only the conclusion that I reach after long deliberations and debates, and so it might look like I have drawn hasty judgements on an issue or another (like the movies above) and so a disclaimer is probably most appropriate here: I usually have a multi-faceted opinion about any subject but I tend to give off the one standing out the most, that is not to say that I am categorical about it because I usually am not, and taking the movies above into consideration there are many parts that I liked, that I looked into even further and that I might agree with. This brings me to an incident I had a couple of months ago, when R. got offended as I dismissed his ideas about the abortion pro-choice/pro-life debate, arguing that I should give it more thought, little did he know that I had reached this position (a personal one that I don't tend to convince anyone of and that is I am entirely pro-choice) by talking to scholars in the United States, where the issue was and still is a very hot topic in the medical field. I guess what I am trying to say is that although I might give off the impression of talking out of my ass most of the time it's usually after researching and coming to terms with any particular subject and frankly feeling tired of discussing it over and over again, especially that one of my big mottos in life is to "Live and Let Live". I can still welcome debates but I will never try to convince anyone and would like to be treated accordingly :) And sometimes, just sometimes, JUST LEAVE ME ALONE! And that was my rant of the day...
Au pays des Schtroumpfs, l'argent n'existe pas et la vie est gratuite. Un jour, un Schtroumpf va aider Olivier à faire une commission pour Homnibus et il apprend alors l'usage de l'argent. Rentrant au village, ce Schtroumpf décide de prendre modèle sur les humains et d'introduire le système monétaire (malgré l'opposition du Schtroumpf à lunettes), car il pense que cela rendra la vie plus équitable et intéressante. Cela provoque de nombreux bouleversements dans la vie bien tranquille des petits lutins bleus...
"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world. No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men." -- Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) 28th US President Date: 1916 Source: Attributed. In reference to signing the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. Most likely a compilation of 2 quotes from his book The New Freedom, 1916.
And so here's the post I was writing when the priest walked in on me... We went to an improv concert yesterday, (before all the night escapades): "A Trio (irtijal) / Charbel Haber Solo". It was something new, all improvised music with new ways to utilize the trumpet, double bass and guitar. I might be biased because I love the musicians themselves, Mazen (Mazen Kerbaj) and Charbel (Scrambled Eggs). G. thought it was nice, but it's not music per se because it's not melodic. K. thought it was really nice and avant garde. As for me, it reminded me of Bartok's "microcosmos" so the verdict is in: it's definitely music, it's experimental, it's something to watch. On another note it seems the improv scene is growing rapidly in Lebanon. I went to a play Mitlna Mitlak about a month ago, which is still showing for a week or two "due to its huge success as the producer put it", nevertheless it's also something to check out, have a different take on things. On yet another note, K. and I were trying to enumerate the noteworthy underground bands and artists in Lebanon like Soap Kills, Scrambled Eggs, Mashrou3 Leila, Tania Saleh, Rasha Rizk. The list must be longer, something to look into. --Trio Irtijal
And here I was, sitting calmly in my room, writing and reading, when someones knocks at my door. I turn to welcome the knocker (who I had assumed would be a family member) and to my surprise, I find a priest, in a black dress, spraying water at me. Now I'm a fervent follower of God's word and teachings but I am most skeptical about the church, its message, its authority, blabla... (maybe another post) And so my beliefs might be interfering with this particular incident, but I wonder who wouldn't be stunned/shocked/scared to find a priest in their room while they're in their pajamas going about their day as usual. Happy Epiphany!
I ended up in a stranger's car yesterday, for the first time. Granted it was only to drop me off at my car a couple of blocks away but still anything was possible at 2am! In the empty alleys next to the Lebanese Electrical Company. I was supposed to live these when I was 17, but I was always in a committed relationship at the time and the wild child in me never took to riding with strangers in cars... It was nothing major, I guess, but it showed me that I can still let loose and that I'm not as stuck up as I thought I had become, living in Lebanon year after year. I should also mention I had an accomplice, another girl, G., who didn't know any of the two guys with us either. Yes they were friends of friends of friends so they were decent by association. But I still like my story, I rode with strangers at 2am, after a night of partying with them without even being introduced properly.
What would Memoirs of A Geisha mean to me? I miss waking up on saturday morning with nothing to do, turning on the tv and picking a pay-per-view, keeping the volume as low as possible, and the lights off. And then you turning to me and saying "M. you don't let me sleep!"
It was a very vivid dream and I woke up troubled and a bit scared. Where did all that come from? Dreaming of cheating on my ex who I broke up with a year ago, with my most recent very transient "flame". And then worrying about my ex finding out and killing us both... I know I have feelings of guilt about my ex and this guy as well. I broke up with the former after 4 years of blissful togetherness, for very legitimate reasons, but without any forewarning. It was the distance, it was the culture, it was the unspoken wounds. As for the latter, our affair is just not politically correct. It's hush hush. It's mysterious and bizarre. Yet I could've made it right, but I never wanted anything more from him, I never strived for a real relationship because I can already see the end result. And so we kept it at igniting the flame every once in a while. And so to go back to my dream, it was very real, very upsetting, I was trying to find a way to get out of the house with the other "cheater", to escape the wrath of my ex whose anger did use to scare me in real life. I thought I was over this. I thought I felt bad for him now rather than feeling anxious. I need therapy. As for the other one, I know where the guilt comes from because as exciting as it is to keep something quiet, there still is a little voice in me, wanting everybody to approve of my actions.
I heart how eccentric it is I heart how I have a story to tell every night I heart how diverse it is I heart how lively it is I heart how professional it is I heart how funny it is I heart how big it is I heart how small it is I heart how accessible it is I heart how individualistic it is I heart how cultural it is I heart how urban it is I heart how historic it is I heart how famous it is I heart how attractive it is I heart how dirty it is I heart how fast it is I heart how unique it is I heart how inspiring it is I heart how everyone dreams to go there I heart how everyone feels they can make it there I heart how the person on the next table can be the current/next big thing I heart how the mayor takes the subway I heart how much literature/movies/shows/references there are about it I heart how there's something to do for everyone I heart how calm central park can be I heart how friendly people can be I heart how stuck up people can be I heart how I can take the subway coffee and free newspaper in hand I heart how I can catch the biggest shows on earth I heart how any picture I take would look amazing I heart how it's so difficult to live there, one can actually feel they achieved sth I heart how beautiful grand central is, I imagine it frozen in time for a second I heart how shady chinatown is I heart how upper-classy the upper east side is I heart how commercial downtown is I heart how hipster/indie brooklyn is I heart how fancy park/fifth avenues are I heart how they could fit that many museums in one place I heart how I never get lost in the subway station I heart how I never get lost with directions I heart how I always get lost downtown I heart how I can never get enough of the brooklyn promenade I heart how many interesting people there are I heart how many new inventions/ideas there are I heart how unusual and exciting it is I heart how I don't know what to expect at the next corner I heart how it oozes of greatness I can't wait to go back!
Maggie: Well, it tastes like a pear. You don't know what a pear tastes like? Seth: I don't know what a pear tastes like to you.
--City of Angels. 1998.
It's so overwhelming to think that everyone has a story to tell. That each person is the center of their own world with their own perceptions and experiences and understandings. Yes you define them as they cross your path. But what is their full identity? Who would be able to tell? Ever? Even the closest person to you, you give them a role, she can be your mother. But who is she as a person? What were her dreams when growing up? How much can you really know about her? How much do your interactions with a person even if circumstantial determine what you think of them? How can you accept people without defining/judging them and all the while without feeling overwhelmed? It scares me and comforts me to think that each person sees life differently.
Who are the people who tend to draw hasty judgments about you?: Those who don't care enough to get to know you. I've always given off a wary first impression and it's usually on purpose or because I don't care enough. Then, I choose the people I want to show my good will to and I do it voluntarily. I take the initiative. It's always worked for me. Until now. I've been struck with someone who I was able to spend too little time with, and due to circumstances a lot of that time was not of quality. But I kept trying to show him how good of a person I actually am, because I believe in myself and I know that people eventually understand me and like me for what I am. But here he was, he kept instigating flaws in me and I kept trying to fix things, especially that the shortcomings that he was pointing out are not really what I'm known for. No I'm not perfect but he didn't even get the chance to discover my real imperfections rather he fixated on fake ones, and this brought on even more frustration. However, how naive of me to think that if you try harder you can actually deal with the situation at hand and you can convince others of what you think. How did I not see that what was needed was a simple goodbye and farewell. He willingly did not want to take the time to discover me and my personality, and I had failed to factor this in. But now I know that if you try and try and for some reason you can't see eye to eye with someone, the problem is probably not what you are doing but rather the lack thereof of what he should be doing had he cared enough. Now I know, and I can say it, and frankly it's such a relief to know that I'm not doing anything wrong, it's just the way it is and yes "he's just not that into you!"
1907 Hague convention: a state is legally allowed to unilaterally defend itself and right a wrong provided the response is proportional to the injury suffered. The response must also be immediate and necessary, refrain from targeting civilians, and require only enough force to reinstate the status quo ante.
It's Lebanon 2006. It's Gaza 2008. It's the neighborhood bully once again.
He told her yesterday: How is it possible to have all these people around you and still feel lonely. This was the end to a bizarre 2 weeks spent together. She wasn't expecting them to get close again. The feelings are gone. Those feelings are gone. But some other ones emerged. This time they are not looking for an explanation. And so the connection continues. 7 years and running. With a new meaning each time...
And so how is it possible to have all these people around you and still feel lonely? Only in Lebanon. For an outsider, Lebanon is the party life, this amazing eden where you can go out every night and get together with friends you haven't seen for a long time and laugh and drink until dawn. The next day you can sleep tight knowing there's another party coming up or you can wake up and go meet other friends in daytime and so the circle goes round and round. (yes there's more to Lebanon than partying but this post is about the shallow Lebanese attitude and not tourism). And so how many people are genuinely happy? How many people are faking their smiles and their friendships? And I speak from experience. It's all perfect, no worries. Until it really counts. Until you need to look for a job or you need a friend to talk to or you're having problems noone is aware of. Here you can maybe rely on your family, and thank God for strong family bonds in Lebanon. But at a certain age, let go of your friends. Maybe it's life, maybe people grow up and move on, and since you cannot meet in the back of the school yard everyday then you're bound to feel the distance. But it's even more pronounced in Lebanon because people here are fake. All of them. Hospitality you say? Hypocrisy I reiterate.
And so he says to her "Now I know why I was feeling bad in Lebanon, because I was surrounded by everyone and still feeling alone, whereas here, I know i'm alone." Lucky those who got out on time. Those who can now focus on their own lives without the pressure of society and its standards. Because now is the time for this generation to shape its future. And from someone who felt homesick everytime she left the country, she's now someone who feels homesick in her own country. Because it's not the same anymore. Because it's time for her to rediscover the world before she can settle down where she would think will be best then. And for those who say Lebanon is the best place for vacation. If you're Lebanese and you've experienced the culture here, it's time for you to go to Cuba, go to South Africa, go to Brazil, go to Nepal. And maybe come back here once you've spread your wings enough because staying here will break them.
P.S. The picture is that of Kate Brooks/Polaris, for The New York Times At a Halloween party at the C-Lounge in Beirut, women tried to attract scarce visiting men with a “Who’s the Sexiest?” contest.
I found my requiem for a dream couple. She was at school with me. Disturbing/disturbed childhood. You know that friend that you see going through things and even at 12 years old you feel that life hasn't been easy and that they will lash out and do something they might regret. You know that friend that you want to protect but you feel that she's in a whole different world, that her problems are ones you can't even remotely relate to? There she was telling me at 12 years old that she ran out of the house. That night she went to another friend's house. Walking all over brumana. She eventually dropped out. I'm not even sure how deep her problems went and now I'm even scared to find out. When I was 12 I thought I could help her, she can talk it out with her parents. I can show her the light!!! How naive... And now I stumble upon a picture of her with her significant other. 12 years later. He's right out of requiem for a dream. They both are. And it's disturbing. I couldn't look at the picture for more than a minute. I wanted to modify the faces so that I can post it here but their looks were haunting me. She seems happy. They seem lost. I can foresee hearing about them in a tragic accident. I wouldn't have been able to help her anyways. Is that true? How much of a difference can someone make? Maybe if I cared more. But here is when you start seeing that you cannot care about every person that crosses your road. That each one has their own destiny and this is how you get to hear about these stories around you. I'm not here to save the world apparently. No one is. No matter how much self satisfaction it would've brought me. And yes I'm very aware of the fact that it seems I wanted to save the world for my own personal reasons and yes it's true, I never claimed to be the altruistic barbie.
It's 2009 and I have no resolutions. I wonder why. Not that my life is perfect as is but maybe because yet again there's nothing to be changed for the time being. So what's the point. Am I surrendering to fate thinking that I have no cards to play? Is this the bittersweet feeling of succumbing to one's destiny? There must be something I can change! Maybe it will be mid-year resolutions for me and not new year's... However, however, I can tell that 2010 will be one hell of a year! It's all in the number!