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Copyright© 2001-2010, Renato Obeid
"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
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
A man from our village wrote an encyclopaedia – literally wrote it in longhand - copying and pasting (the traditional way i.e. with scissors and glue) the pictures into it.
Totally but wonderfully impractical and the very essence of the true meaning of the word amateur.
Amateur in its original sense* meant somebody who does something purely for the love of it, not for gain or profit, and did not originally have the derogative connotation that we mainly associate with the word today.
So in that true sense of the word, I’m proud to admit that I’m an amateur.
*French, from Latin amātor, lover, from amāre, to love.
Monday, March 26, 2007
‘’There is no Lebanon without the Maronites and there are no Maronites without Lebanon’’
- Politician Michel Edde on this evening’s LBC television newscast.
More insomnia – just in case you thought it had gone away.
But a career in insomnia has led me to the revelation that the insomnia (or any other ailment) is not the problem, it’s how you deal with it.
Insomnia still sucks but if you keep cool about it and not let it get to you then your problem is half solved – a problem ignored is a problem halved.
It’s not the problem that’s the problem, it’s the reaction to the problem that can or can not be a problem depending on how you deal with it.
If you have an aim or a mission in life and keep your sights set on that then everything else is just peripheral.
God, I’m sounding like a motivational speaker.
This new side effect of my insomnia is by far the worst thing to come from it.
What you’re now reading is also another adverse side effect of my insomnia – this piece, like so many others, was ‘’written’’ (I record them on the Dictaphone first and then transcribe them later) while I should have been asleep, so I’m glad that I’m not the only person suffering from the consequences of my insomnia but that you’re suffering with me.
If that is you’re actually reading this, if you’re not actually reading this then my addressing you would be futile.
Just like this whole piece and just like life (the motivational speaker has left the building – I knew it wouldn’t last long).
If I was asleep I’d be writing whole lines of Z’s.
The most important letter of the alphabet to an insomniac is Z.
The only place where Z comes last is in the dictionary.
When asked what his secret to success is, a very rich friend of my brother’s said ‘’1) always get a good night’s sleep, 2) have rich friends - it’s just as easy to love rich people as it is to love poor people’’ and I can’t remember the third but it’s not important because those two are more than enough.
Speaking of side effects, I reckon that the warnings on the packets of painkillers should be extended beyond ‘’WARNING: product may cause drowsiness – if affected do not drive or operate machinery ’’ to something like ‘’WARNING: this product may make you a shit gamer – if affected do not operate electronic games’’.
Sometimes when I’ve taken a pain killer and am lying down playing my knock-off Tetris game, I find that I’m worse at it that I usually am.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
THERE’S A DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
Just got back from my walk to Jounieh.
I got to Jounieh Square at around 5.00am just as the minibus that takes the Eastern European sex workers home from the ‘’super nightclub’’ there arrived.
Not the first time that ladies of the night get home and to sleep and before I do and probably not the last time.
There was nobody at the taxi rank in Jounieh so I had to walk about a kilometre north to the intersection where Jounieh meets Maameltein and where the real sleaze begins.
Right on the edge of sleepy provincial Jounieh is the only remaining red-light district in Lebanon.
With its old traditional stone architecture, famous restaurants and Mediterranean frontage, Maameltein is lovely during the day when the lowlifes are asleep or away but undergoes an ugly transformation at night.
And in sleazy areas you get sleazy taxi drivers.
I stopped at least five taxis whose drivers did not even know where Harissa was - three hundred meters as the crow flies up the mountain above, five kilometres away along the winding mountain road.
The old-timers say that in the old days, before the ambient noise of modernity that is all around us but we aren’t even conscious of anymore, you could yell out to someone in Jounieh from Harisa and actually be heard and understood and that people used to often communicate this way.
One driver said that Harisa was in the Bekaa (another province altogether).
I felt like Diogenes the wise old man of legend who wandered the streets with a lantern looking for an honest man except I was looking to shine my lantern in the face of a man who knew where Harisa was.
Suffice to say, they weren’t locals, probably not even Lebanese.
God knows where they were from.
I finally found a driver from the north who jettisoned the two little flower-selling* boys he was ferrying (they’ll live) to take me home.
*Reading Charles Dickens in Dickensian Lebanon is redundant – just go for a walk.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Contemplating how to temporarily fix my glasses with superglue.
I plan on wearing gloves.
I’m afraid of the stuff unlike the Hajji who, before she recently got new dental implants, used to superglue individual false teeth back onto their screw-on base in her mouth.
On one occasion she managed to superglue her fingers onto a tooth that she had just glued back in so she had to use a knife to extricate that tooth and her fingers from her mouth.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I think that people should have to obtain a licence to own and operate a car horn, separate from an actual driver's licence, because it takes a certain degree of civilization to be able to handle or (not handle) one properly and peacefully especially in this part of the world.
A car horn is just as dangerous in the wrong hands as a car can be.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Most Lebanese Christians have a Southern Mediterranean- type attitude towards alcohol – alcohol is demystified and young people get used to it at the family dinner table from an early age.
It’s seen not as some sort of illicit substance to abuse and get drunk on when you turn eighteen (or earlier if you can get it) but to enjoy in moderation.
A Lebanese/Australian I know was pulled over by police for a breathalyzer test in Sydney years ago.
He blew into it and sure enough it proved positive – he was over the legal limit.
He protested that there must be something wrong with the machine and suggested they test it on his seven year old son who was in the car with him to prove that it was faulty.
They did and it registered a similar positive reading so the police were convinced that there was something wrong with it and let him go.
Lebanese drink as much as anybody else but they do it responsibly.
Having drinks before dinner at a neighbour’s house, I declined his offer of a second glass of champagne because I didn’t want to ‘’drink too much on an empty stomach’’
My bounteous host replied ‘’the first one was on an empty stomach but the second one isn’t’’.
He was half joking but still it was logic I couldn’t resist.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Finally found a voltage regulator for my new laptop at a Beirut department store this morning.
Nothing extraordinary in that but the last time I was at that same store, a staff member told me that they didn’t have any voltage regulators despite my friend having actually seen voltage regulators there (he even told me the exact brand).
They must like them a lot and not want to sell them.
So this time I just walked around looking until I found one which is what I usually do when shopping in Lebanon because I find that shop staff in Lebanon are either over helpful (rarely) and stick to you like glue or totally uninterested and don’t know where anything is yet still send you on a wild goose chase or try to sell you the wrong thing.
I wasn’t so lucky finding an umbrella (I think I ‘’donated’’ my last umbrella to a taxi driver) – they told me that they didn’t have any (surprise, surprise) and I was too tired to look.
So if anybody knows where they umbrellas are at Spinneys Dbayeh, can you please email me?
Now that I’ve actually mentioned the name of the store, I must point out that Spinneys is my favourite department store in Lebanon and that the staff there are very friendly and relatively efficient but there are some still some all-pervading cultural traits that you’ll find across the board in Lebanon that won’t change so easily.
It’s still a dream compared to others – there’s one supermarket in Jounieh that I won’t even enter because it’s the citadel of Maronite arrogance.
So I end up going to a no-frills supermarket on the outskirts of Jounieh.
It’s pretty downmarket and the checkout chicks there are ugly (as they usually are at no-frills supermarkets) but the staff are less intrusive (because they're ugly) and it’s close to my walk route.
My uncle told me that he once saw a sequence of numbers in a dream.
Thinking that they might be prophetic, he entered those exact numbers in the lotto.
The prophesy was correct!
What had been prophesized to him in his dream were the losing numbers in the lotto for the next three years!
Which is how long he ran those numbers for until he finally gave up.
I get goose bumps just thinking about it.
The same uncle recommends that we ‘’establish a committee’’ when he comes over and we take too long to answer the door.
My uncle also says that diet has something to do with the lassitude of the Arabs – an American will have just a sandwich for lunch and then go back to work at NASA whereas an Arab will have a feast of stuffed vine leaves for lunch and will be comatose for the rest of the day.
A friend of my uncle’s went on the Hajj with his father many years ago.
When it came time for the stoning of the devil ritual, his father told him to throw rocks at the pillars representing the devil.
He refused, saying ‘’why, what has he ever done to me?’’
Rare yet welcome Islamic isolationist non-interventionism.
Finally, my uncle also says that the artificial physical exercises modern urban man does are essentially an imitation of the natural moves our Arcadian ancestors used to do in the course of their farming work.
He’s got a point – you don’t see many farmers exercising unless they’re poor Chinese farmers being drilled by the Red Guard or something like that (f***ed if I’m going to Google that for exact details).
Famers don’t need to excercise – they already ‘’exercise’’
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Banana company (that sounds funny – ‘’banana company’’) Chiquita Brands International have admitted paying $1.7 million in protection money to Columbian terrorist groups.
That’s a lot bananas and good news for monkeys no doubt but why don’t they just surround the perimeter of their plant with banana peels?That ought to do it I reckon
Habits are the bedrock of civilization.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
This ‘’game’’ might not be for everyone but it amuses my friend and I(I won’t mention his name because he, unlike myself, cares about his good name).
Introducing the porn game.
It’s not really a game per se but it basically consists of brainstorming for the most clichéd and/or stupid porn movie plots ever.
Each ‘’players’’ contribution invariably begins with ‘’oh! – did we say the one about…?’’
After the inevitable ones about the policeman pulling over a hot chick speeding in a convertible, hot chick whose car has broken down going to a house to make a phone call, hot chick not being able to pay the rent in the conventional way, etc, you come up with some quite amusing ones.
My friend’s best contribution is the one about a hot chick being driven around Paris (although I personally think it’s more likely to be Prague) in one of those touristy horse drawn carriages, then the driver takes her to a secluded place and then he…
My best is the one about a hot chick going to a shoe shop and the salesperson caressing her feet while he puts on the shoes, working his way up and then he…(funny but they all end that way).
I was reminded of this game when I just went for my usual walk to Jounieh and saw a nail salon and thought that lesbians in a nail salon was a pretty cliché porn plot.
Oh! – did we say the one about…?
I can bet you that all those people who like to portray themselves as indefatigable lions sleep like bears at night and probably in the afternoon too.
I think that people should be legally obliged to disclose just how much sleep they get if they’re going to carry on like that.
I call for mandatory sleep testing!
Saturday, March 10, 2007
In an instant message exchange, an Australian friend of mine asked me whether there had been any more suicide bombings in this part of the world.
I replied that there hadn’t been but that I was seriously considering it.
He said that I shouldn’t rush into things because it is a permanent career movie.
I agreed but pointed out that the fringe benefits are out of this world.
Which got me thinking about the fine print.
If you kill the wrong person does it still count, do you still get the 72 Virgin Megastores in paradise etc?
Apparently the suicide bomber in the Hariri assassination was an Iraqi who was told that he was targeting the then Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
Allawi, who had recently been on a visit to Lebanon, had already left the country but suicide bombers are not the smartest people in the world, besides you’re not going to read the newspapers so keenly if you know you’re going to die soon (you’re certainly not going to read the long-range weather forecast for example).
Still, he should have read the newspapers unless he’d already cancelled his subscription.
Is it success that counts or is it intentions?
I think it’s the later – after all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
When trying to force-feed guests (a Lebanese hobby), I have two methods – one is non-violent and diplomatic and the other is ‘’violent’’, that is bringing in the Hajji (my mother who’s a lot better at it than I am).
‘’Don’t make me deploy the Hajji - let’s settle this peacefully between us’’ is my common threat.
If and when agreement is reached, I’ll then bring in the Hajji to superintend and ensure compliance (‘’no violence Hajji –we’ve agreed’’).
One of the Hajjis recent ploys when trying to force seconds, thirds etc is ‘’I cooked it so I know exactly how much each person requires’’
Monday, March 05, 2007
Pretty rainy and stormy outside not that it concerns me – I went for a walk a couple of hours ago before the storm began.
I always feel like a genius who's beat the storm when it rains after I’ve been for a walk not during or before.
AIN'T POOR, JUST GOT NO MONEY (DOSH, SPONDOOLOCKS, BEES AND HONEY, DUCATS, ETC)
Although I don’t have any money, I’m not actually poor as such.
And I don’t mean the clichés about being rich in other facets of life or having a fortune that can’t be quantified in material terms etc.
Poor is more of a social class in itself (i.e. lower class, uneducated etc) that I definitely don’t belong to rather than a lack of money per se.
For example, you’ll often read about ‘’penniless aristocrats’’ not ‘’poor aristocrats’’ – poor and aristocrat being a contradiction in terms
It’s all academic, a moot point really, because, whether I call myself ‘’poor’’ or ‘’just having no money’’, at the end of the day I’ve still got diddly squat.
Cold comfort as I bask in the luxury of not having any money but at the same time not being poor.
It sounds like Orwellian doublespeak and something that governments can use to their advantage – ‘’we don’t have any poor people, just ‘unrich’ people’’.
As a matter of fact, I’m feeling rich already.
Now if I can just get the people at the bank to see things the way I do.