This woman I know well… She lives her life like it’s performance art, always on the edge of disaster. She craves attention like her daddy left her at the crib. She smokes cigarettes like cancer is salvation. She’s like her country and it’s not pretty, but oh boy is it shiny!
Her crazy high-heeled shoes are neatly aligned on her bookshelves and it looks cooler than an Almodovar movie set, sometimes there’s still dirt or dog poo on the sole of what is certainly not a genuine Manolo. It’s just all so awkwardly glorious.
And when I think of her, I fondly think of Lebanon, and Downtown Beirut in the very early days of the millennium. Yeah I love the dead inelegance of Beirut’s kinky shiny downtown. My parents, who have known its old souks and dirty streets decades ago, do not approve. The artsy Hamra crowd certainly does not approve, neither do the artsy fartsy Ashrafieh cool kids.
It doesn’t get enough love because it screams MONEY, And because the nouveaux-poor love to hate the nouveaux-riches, And because all the other obvious clichés
Anyway, that’s beside the point. I love it. I’m not talking about lively Uruguay Street, or the occasionally busy Beirut Souks. I love the dead corners around Parliament Square, those destined for tourist who are not there, where restaurant chairs got old and rusty before enough people sat on them, where ice cream shop employees are always on a cigarette-break because nobody ever buys ice cream. Its tackiness screams survival. It says you can reinvent yourself, and not be what you were born to be… But that’s no way to love a city, like a weird curiosity to observe, that’s not OK. So many things are not OK… Real life is not OK. The hopeless look in my friend’s eyes as she tries to comfort her 2-year-old son, terrified by the sound of fireworks. Behind them, someone jokes that the kid will need to toughen up when Da’esh comes.
It stopped being funny a while ago, but crap humor is a coping mechanism like no other.
Showing tourists around Byblos and telling them to just ignore the soldiers, their big guns and their random tank on the harbor. Just close your eyes and imagine what could have been, what can still become.
Is there still time to dream beautiful plans for Lebanon?
At a yacht club, hotties in Armani are tanning, trying to ignore the sewage waste in the Mediterranean right in front of them. There are tanning next to sewage waste!
Lebland is beautiful, just ignore all the crap.
I am home for the summer, trying to pretend I’m better than those who treat home like it’s a hotel. Occasionally running into people from high school, we do a quick headcount: Those who left, those who stayed, a few returning, every choice loaded with significance perhaps, but we’re not sure what. Stay…leave….return…never return. To stay is as political as it is poetic in the hope it carries. In the despair in carries. Stay but make it count. Make your mark. Make a baby, build a company, be something and if you fail, fail with splendour. No-one will notice anyway. To leave is an act of survival as much as it is an act of lunacy in the hope it carries. Leave but do something great. Build an empire, climb a mountain, and let them know your name and the name of your country. If you fail, nobody will ever say your name.
She lives her life like it’s performance art, always on the edge of disaster. She always thought the future would give her more, She thought Chanel and Cartier would be in the cards, But she was dealt fake Manolos with dog poo instead. Still she makes it all shine while she still can.