Friday, February 25, 2011

Cockroaches could survive a nuclear holocaust

It's been awhile since I wrote anything about Amigo's pub precisely because I haven't been there of late. Part of the reason is my trips to outerspace, and another part is that I just grew tired of the place. Last night, however, I went there to kill some time away from the throes of a computer screen.

I threw on my Reds t-shirt and a pair of pants because it was no longer warm enough for the shorts I had been wearing all day. Hamra is still Hamra, but it's a better version of Hamra when the sun shines, the weather is warm, and I can sit all day long on the balcony.


It was a nuclear age. A bomb had been dropped somewhere and we suffered through periodic waves of radiation. The world around us seemed no different except there were strands of lights hung throughout the city that glowed red when another radiation wave was approaching. We had mere seconds to get behind anything we could - a wall, a chair, anything that could absorb even the tiniest bit of radiation, perhaps tacking on a few extra minutes or hours or days to our lives. We knew cancer was inevitable, but we tried to live as if death weren't lurking a few years away.

When the red lights flashed and we had attempted to take cover, the world around us was eaten by an orange glow, and then, just like that, the wave passed and was gone. We didn't feel any different; we just knew that more time had been taken from our lives. After one of these waves from which I had hidden behind a brown wicker chair, I was angry. I had been walking around the city and some farm fields all day marveling at how great was life. I had a strange encounter with Pete Rose. I had coffee at a cafe on a European square (but the dream did not necessarily take place in Europe. The farms looked like Ohio, only with more trees and less flat.) So when night fell and the red lights glowed and the orange wave swallowed the world for a bit, rage came over me. Why had the stupid politicians done this to us? Why had they made policies that had led to nuclear war? Why had these weapons been built in the first place?

The politicians didn't like me questioning them, and suddenly, a black gas began to fill the room I was in. I recognized it as poison and fled the room, but not before I had already inhaled some. I stumbled outside and grew weaker and weaker. I thought surely I would die. Then, an antidote! Apparently, the vast quantities of sugar in donuts could counteract the poison and there was a Dunkin Donuts in a shopping center I walked by. But when I got to the counter, they only had five donuts and they didn't have any I liked, plus I thought they were too expensive so I didn't buy any. I stumbled out of the store and prepared to die. Then, an antidote! A Krispy Kreme store stood on the other side of the shopping center. It, too, only had five donuts, but there was one that not only was a donut I liked, but it also had five mini-donuts on top of it. I bought it, ate it, and, feeling revived, went to see a musical.

High school friends were in the musical, people I hadn't seen in years. I went to find a seat and as I sat in one on an aisle, I saw our intern from a couple of summers ago. I said hi, I haven't seen you in Beirut. He responded with a slew of profanities and insults to the point where I was ready to get into a fist fight with him. But then I saw a certain Lebanese friend walk into the theater, and an immediate sense of calm came to me. I no longer heard the insults, and I no longer felt the anger, even at the politicians who had stolen our lives with their nuclear activities.


Somewhere between 9:15-9:30 I trotted through the Hamra night to the Evergreen forest, where Almaza flows in the streams and the woodland creatures meow or crawl around in the plates of carrots and cucumbers. There were only two other people there until an English guy walked into the bar in search of food. He, like I had when I first entered the bar more than a year ago, assumed that "Pub and Reste" meant "pub and restaurant" and the "Wine and Dine" written in neon on the electric sign outside meant "Wine and Dine." He stayed for some beers anyway.

Being an evil Westerner like myself, I correctly guessed that he worked in development. He was only in town for three days. It was supposed to be two, but because the term "deadline" has no meaning for the Lebanese, he had to stay an extra day to complete the work. Not exactly painful given that back in England it is wet and cold.

When he left, Amigo made his usual jokes about spies, only this time he said he'd rather have CIA than Arab spies since at least everyone knew what the CIA wanted. It was just then that an American poked his head through the door, and upon seeing the dive bar, nodded in satisfaction and entered. Amigo, however, did not switch gears, and the poor newcomer was bewildered by the instant accusations of being mukhabarat. No hi, hello, or welcome, just laughter about another CIA agent entering the pub. I explained to the guy that he had just walked into the middle of a joke, but he didn't seem amused. He stayed anyway and drank some beers, telling me that he worked with refugees - mostly Burmese and Iraqis - in upstate New York. I thought about how I had known nothing at all about refugees living in the US until I read Dave Egger's What is the What? about the Sudanese Lost Boys. [If you haven't read it, do. But have a box of tissues next to you.] He left me as the only customer in the bar.

Finally, the rocketship I had been waiting for landed, and I was easily defeated in darts in a mere two games by the ship's commander. A man of many talents.

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