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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Thursday, December 28, 2006  
    I took to the streets in silent protest against my insomnia yet again yesterday afternoon, copping a bit of rain and snow (which doesn’t happen very often this close to the coast).
    For my troubles I was ‘’rewarded’’ with meeting The Taxi Driver Who Met George Hamilton.
    That doesn’t happen every day either.
    Every cloud has its sliver lining and to think that, there but for the grace of God, I could have been at home asleep and would have missed out on this.
    This middle-aged gentleman, who spoke English in a New York barman accent, had been the actor George Hamilton’s chauffeur when he visited Lebanon in its pre-war heyday and has obviously been dining out on that story ever since.
    He took Mr. Hamilton to the Casino Du Liban on three evenings in a row where Hamilton incurred losses of thirty thousand dollars a day at the blackjack table but, I’m told, didn’t care because he was only playing for the atmosphere.
    Hamilton gave the taxi driver to the stars a thousand dollars a day on those three days saying that his family probably needed it more than the people at the casino.
    Not such a big deal when you consider that, according to the taxi driver, this Hamilton was one of the Hamiltons whose forebear Alexander Hamilton is none other than the man on the US ten dollar note.
    Hamilton also offered to help him to immigrate to the United States but, hey, who needed to in those days (how many New York cabbies make a thousand dollars a day?).
    He has since regretted declining and was wondering how he could find Mr. Hamilton and take him up on his offer.
    I told him I’d Google him.
    I’m no George Hamilton so I negotiated him down to 10 000 Lira, quite an improvement on the preposterous price he first quoted me – he told me that he was ‘’expensive’’ because, apart from having a ‘’diplomat’s’’ car (a Mercedes 500 or something – not the height of luxury and not so unusual in a country where practically every second car is a Mercedes), he was also a tour guide.
    Although the only ‘’tour guiding’’ he did with me was of the most obvious variety – he pointed to a six storey high advertisement for Almaza beer (pictured below) and said ‘’beer’’.
    Thanks buddy – I didn’t see that six storey high image of a bottle of beer that has ‘’beer’’ written on it and even if I had have seen it, I wouldn’t have understood it without your commentary.
    Muggins me.


    UPDATE: The taxi driver isn’t the only one with fond memories of that visit.
    Denise Hartman, an American former resident of Beirut, kindly emailed me after reading this to tell me that she met George Hamilton and the late actor Sean Flynn at a record shop in Beirut and that ‘’they were very kind to an awestruck teenager’’.

    I didn’t carry an umbrella because it wasn’t raining when I set out and because, during a rainstorm, an umbrella is of little if any use with the rain coming in from all around you – left right and centre and maybe even from above.
    It’s also my experience that an umbrella might be of use in the city, where you’re protected from the howling rain by buildings etc, but up in the mountains it’s just not going to cut it.
    An umbrella in the mountains? – don’t make me laugh!
    Besides, athletes don’t carry umbrellas and racing bikes don’t have brakes.
    When I got over the initial horror, it felt quite liberating to be out in the open in the rain and snow without any protection.
    Anyway, even getting caught in the rain on this holy mountain is a serendipitous blessing – an impromptu ‘’baptism’’.
    Nothing happens entirely by coincidence in this land of miracles and believers.

    5:45 am

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