Sunday, February 24, 2013

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, but I prefer mine dried or fresh

Yesterday Chris and I did not leave our room. He wasn't feeling well and I for whatever reason felt like working, which meant lying in bed with a laptop. The work was not anything mentally engaging - mostly I sought to gain more Twitter followers for our firm. It's @GQRResearch; please follow!

The powers that be seem to think we're not growing quickly enough despite the fact that we are gaining 100 new followers a month, which is great growth for a small firm. When I started we had 1035 followers. A lot of those were spammers or inactive accounts which I blocked. Six months later we're at 1650, but 40 of those came yesterday. I spent the whole day following and unfollowing people, retweeting, and researching who would be quality followers to have who might retweet our stuff once in awhile. The trick is to find people who like your stuff enough to share it, which raises awareness about your organization and gains new followers, with the ultimate aim of gaining new clients.

This is the extent of what I did yesterday: cooked eggs and made the smoke alarm go off with bacon, made and drank lots of coffee, listened to the Italian bistro channel (881 on DirecTV - it has become a Saturday routine), watched the Nationals spring training game, listened to the Reds game, read the news, read and worked on Facebook and Twitter, ran around the corner for some wine, drank the wine, cooked homemade chicken noodle soup that made Chris feel better.

I think it's the magic of pepper. The last soup I made - a veggie soup - cured me of an awful headache. Both were heavily-laden with peppers of many varieties - lots and lots of black pepper, dried hot peppers, red pepper flakes, Aleppo pepper, a yellow Peruvian pepper that I forget the name of, a certain type of black peppercorn, chili powder, Frank's cayenne pepper sauce, and fresh green peppers and jalepenos. Yes, that's a lot of pepper, but no, it's not overwhelmingly hot. Yes, it has a kick, but it's a tasty kick, a healthy kick, a natural kick, a sinus-clearing kick.

So that was my yesterday, my Saturday, a less than kinetic day but quite wonderful. Every now and then you need a day to do nothing. The grind of monotonous routine is getting to me. I once had an office with a view of the Mediterranean; now I have a cubicle in the middle of a building. I feel caged.

I never had more freedom than during my second long stint in Beirut. My schedule was whatever I wanted it to be; my office was the balcony of my apartment. From there I basked in the radiance of the Mediterranean sun and watched people go about their daily lives with all the curiosity that true freedom can bring. The hum of scooters still rings loudly in my memory, a sound I frequently heard as they zipped in and out of traffic, over sidewalks, even. I don't miss the whirring generators or the choking smell of diesel that poured from them during the mandatory three hour power outages with which quotidian Beirut is plagued, but I'd suffer the suffocation in a heartbeat if I could be back on that balcony.

I can't wait to take Chris on a walk through Beirut, to see the amalgamation of eras and cultures, to show him the juxtaposition of shiny buildings next to bullet-riddled relics, and to drink and play darts in Amigo's bar. I'm not a planner when I travel, but we'll have only three days this time around and I need to make sure he's hooked by the time we get on a plane for Italy. I already have the touring routes mapped out, the two-block walk from the hotel to the steps next to American University of Beirut, past the bombed out building with the bright blue shutters and the "Seaside" sign on the telephone pole, around the curve to the corniche, where he'll be subjected to the physical proof that time does not exist, the old men and their clacking prayer beads and the women in abayas or niqabs walking next to women in tight, modern clothing, past the Starbucks and the Hard Rock Cafe and the shawarma stands and the overpriced Lebanese restaurants along the sea, around the bend to the ruins of the St. Georges Hotel and the statue of Prime Minister Hariri where he was killed by a car bomb, past the glistening five star Phoenician hotel that is dwarfed by the bombed out ruins of the Holiday Inn, through the streets of the Solidaire district and to the rebuilt downtown, across the road to Damascus, a road that eventually leads straight to a war zone, into Gemmayze where we'll stop for Almaza in Spoon, which has a great window table where you can watch all of what's going on, then back to Hamra where we'll cover the table of a restaurant with plates of hummus and tabouleh and all the pleasures of a Lebanese mezza, then onto darts and beer. I promised him the crusader castle in Byblos and a seafood lunch at Pepe's Fishing Club, so I guess that will be Day 2.

He's genuinely excited about going to the Middle East for the first time, though he's nervous. I used to be amused when Americans looked at me like I was crazy for loving Beirut. Now I find it annoying because of the ignorance. The worst is when they act like they know more about the place than I do, despite having lived and worked there for what amounts to a year. I'll never understand that mentality. But back to us going to Beirut. I hope it happens. We already have our plane tickets to Italy but the jaunt to Beirut is turning out to be more costly than expected, so we don't have those tickets yet. Chris is working his way back to singing for more than just weddings and funerals. But it's February, not wedding season, and people don't seem to be dying, so he isn't getting calls for funerals. One of us could go on a murderous rampage of Catholics to increase the number of funerals, I suppose, but then we might not get to go to Italy, either. Haha? (That's a joke, people.) He recently got all of his music out of storage - boxes and boxes of books of it have taken up what little floor space we have and he digs out the scores to every opera that comes on, it seems. He's also working with his former instructor so he can get back into gig shape. (If you want to help, you can do it here. Alternatively, contact me to hire Chris for your wedding, funeral, birthday party, anniversary, etc.)

I can't stop thinking about our trip. I can't believe I haven't left the country in...nearly a year and four months?!? Not since I went on vacation to Beirut over Thanksgiving in 2011. Of course, there are life reasons why. I quit the job with the psycho boss and got a new one, which meant I had to build up my vacation days. Oh, and there's the whole meeting Chris thing...February 26, 2012, as we discovered. Of course, that doesn't count the six weeks of knowing him and thinking he was obnoxious. :)

I haven't been to Italy since 1997. I made two ventures down there while studying in Luxembourg - one was to Cinque Terre and the other was a whirlwind week-long trip to Rome, Florence, and Venice. This time we're going south - to the Amalfi Coast, just across the Mediterranean from Beirut. I'm really looking forward to visiting the ruins at Pompei - I've always always always wanted to go there! That was my only requirement - Chris can pick where we go during the rest of our five+ days there. I can't wait to roam the streets of small town Italy and take in views of the Med.

I just hope his passport arrives soon...

No comments:

Post a Comment