Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘short stories/novellas’ Category

Instincts in Man turned toxic

Toxic Instinct (1999)

He is running after her.

He is big, fat and ugly.

She is smaller,

Quicker and much cuter.

 

He is running fast.

She climbs a tree.  He follows her.

Round and round

The trunk of the tree they turn.

 

He stops.

Squirrel girl stops.

She knows his moves.

She smiles:  All is planned out.

 

He starts, running after her..

She climbs higher and higher.

Branches are now thinner and narrower

But she keeps her pace, undaunted.

 

Squirrel guy is now more cautious.

He is not smiling, never did, the grouch.

She reaches the edge of the branch.

 

He is waiting;

He is thinking:

“She won’t dare!  She’ll be back to me.”

“She’ll get bored and tired waiting”

 

She jumps to the next tree.

He shakes his head and backtracks.

 

Many men would jump and fall.

They would.

Their toxic instincts fail their survival adaptive instinct.

Mining my diary: A Christmas Eve in Lebanon

Note: Re-edit of “Christmas Eve in a Christian family: Lebanon; ( Written in 2006 and posted on August 17, 2009)”

It is Sunday 10:20 a.m. of Christmas Eve 2006.  The sky is clear, sunny, and somehow cold in the 15 degrees C . I woke up around 7:30 a.m. and my mom was already working in the kitchen.

My little niece Chelsea (6 already) was helping her out through countless suggestions; mom’s fingers were so cold that they felt crippled and then she decided to heat some water.

Nephew William was already gone. (Forgot to where)

I worked for an hour in the garden and gathered greens.  Victor and family are off to Orthodox church (in M7idssi).  Victor had to pick Cedric up from work late last night because Cedric had misplaced the car keys.

There was an explosion across from the American University in Beirut; we learned that it was a gas container of a small eatery.

I read and wrote till 11 a.m. and drove to Beit-Chabab. I did not find aunt Montaha. I dropped off three books at the local library and walked to visit my cousin Joseph Ghoussoub. I visited my aunt Theresa on my back home.

Victor dropped off Adrea home and resumed driving toward the supermarket Spinneys and returned around 4 o’clock.

I helped niece Adrea carry a few groceries. Joanna showed me the area where the gifts are stacked in a corner of the dining room in her grand-mom apartment.

I counted about 36 wrapped gifts and it seems that Yuhanna (Joanna’s beau) contributed about 5 gifts and helped Joanna last evening in wrapping gifts before they went out together.

I had lunch with mom because dad had already eaten, and Cedric and Adrea were eating in front of the TV screen.

I had a siesta from 2 to 4 p.m. Mom was exhausted and had a sponge bath.  I picked up the dried clothes off the lines and went to my study room in the lower floor.

Adrea asked me whether I saw Joanna and she checked William’s bed because Joanna sometimes slept there for total privacy.

Mom is at my sister Raymonde’s on the third floor, helping her put the last touch for this evening dinner.

Ethiopia, backed by the USA, started the war against the Somali Islamists who are supported by Sudan and Eritrea.  They found another 46 unidentified bodies in Iraq and half a dozen US soldiers were dead and injured yesterday.

Italy’s Brodi PM is in Lebanon and had visited his troops (the UNIFIL) in the south within the multinational forces.

I would like to spend my night at the Downtown where the opposition has erected 1,500 tents and four huge tents complete with all the amenities; each one of the large tents can accommodate 2,000 persons; a midnight mass will be held at St George’s cathedral there.

Joanna and Yuhanna had left around noon and spent 7 hours walking City Mall for a last spree of buying.

Ashley did her hair and dyed it and left about 2 p.m. with Cedric carrying a box of cake.

Cedric went jogging about 4 p.m. in the cold and froze his ass off.

The former boyfriend of Joanna, Hikmat, paid us a visit; he is on vacation from Toulouse (France) and working on lab research for the electromagnetic switches of micro robots (nano-technology) that are injected in the human body to perform non-invasive controlled surgery.  In addition of grant money for his graduate studies, Hikmat teaches courses and loves Toulouse. As long as Hekmat is excited in his research project there are no chances that he might return to settle in Lebanon.

I joined the entire family after 8:30 p.m. and had a light dinner of salad, asparagus soup, an assortment of cheese and cold cuts, some pizza, and wine and Coca-Cola.

My dad went to sleep around 9:15; he usually sleeps by 8 p.m.

As usual, by 9:45 , little Chelsea started whining that she wanted to open the gifts so we moved to the sitting room and the unwrapping of gifts began.

William, Victor, Ashley, and Adrea took turn taking digital pictures.  It took the better of two hours for this exercise and everybody was satisfied with his gifts; after much hugging and trying out of the gifts the midnight mass project was shot.

Adrea did not have to complain and cry this year because she got more than she expected and spent an awful lot of time trying everything she received.

Chelsea was ecstatic with the skirts and the red bunny pair of slippers.

My mom said that by tomorrow Raymonde will have to make room for the new clothes and send the older ones to the “Bon Pasteur“, a close-by Christian institution of nuns, where the offered bundles are supposedly redistributed to the needy.

Joanna prepared four copies of a 1.2-meter laminated board spread of her photos with her friends and family.

Yuhanna complained that the dog Misha had twice more photos than he had; worst, his two photos were not satisfactory because they showed him wearing the baggy white suit that he and Joanna were asked to wear while cleaning up a stretch of a beach for cleaning it up of oil spill during Israel pre-emptive July War.

Cedric was sprawled on the carpet amid his gifts of Jeans, the deodorants, and the underwear heaped upon him.

William received a “tak wan doo” white suit and a very long woolen shawl that he wrapped over his head as the Sikhs.

By midnight William went to sleep because he had to wake up at 4 am in order to join the yoga ashram in Gemmayzeh; Cedric hit the sac also.

Yuhanna brought with him the saxophone, expecting that we might enjoy a family concert with Joanna at her Jazz flute, and Adrea at my classical guitar (that I never touched), and William at my accordion (that I never played). This concert did not happen.

Around 12:30 we had cakes and most everybody was feeling drowsy; Yuhanna was to sleep overnight and William prepared him the folding sofa downstairs in the basement floor where he had set up his study, by my room study.

By 1:30 a.m. my mom and I carried our gifts down to our first level flat.

(Funny why I failed to mention what where the gifts I received or the one I gave?…I usually offer books that go unread, or cash in envelop, and so does mother…)

Late Iraqi scientist Professor Abed Jabbar Abed Allah: Student of Einstein

سافر العالم أينشتاين إلى اليابان عام 1922 في الوقت الذي تم فيه الإعلان عن فوزه بجائزة نوبل للفيزياء !
وفي الفندق لم يجد معه مالاً ليعطيه للخادم الذي جلب الشاي.

فأمسك ورقة وكتب فيها جملة ثم وقعها ثم أعطاها للخادم ونصحه بالاحتفاظ بها.
بعد مرور 95 عاماً، في يوم 24/10/2017 اتصل أحد أبناء أخوة عامل الفندق ذاك، بدار المزايدات المقام في مدينة القدس ،لطرح الورقة في المزاد.

ابتدأ المزاد بالشاري الأول (2000 دولار) وبعد 25 دقيقة وقف المزاد على مبلغ (1,3 مليون دولار).
الآن… لنرى ماذا كتب أينشتاين في تلك الورقة:

{{ حياة هادئة ومتواضعة تجلب قدراً من السعادة أكبر من السعي للنجاح المصحوب بالتعب المستمر }} .

في العام 1958 كان رئيس جامعة بغداد… #البروفيسور_عبدالجبار_عبدالله ، هو أحد أربعة طلاب تتلمذوا على يد العالم أينشتاين في معهد ماساشوستس في الولايات المتحدة.

عندما حدث انقلاب القوميين والإسلاميين على سلطة عبد الكريم قاسم (1963)… اعتُقل العالم الفيزيائي العراقي ، وتلميذ أينشتاين فيمن اعتقلوا من كوادر وسياسيين وأساتذة وعسكريين.

وعندما أُفرج عنه هاجر إلى الولايات المتحدة، وأقام أستاذاً في نفس المعهد، ومنحه الرئيس هاري ترومان أعلى وسام …” #وسام_العالم ”.
أحد زملاء الزنزانة عرفه جيداََ… !

يقول إنه كان يشاهده مستغرقاً في تأملاته وكانت دموعه تنهمر أحياناً.
وإنه ذات يوم تجرأ وسأله عن سبب بكائه، فأجاب العالم الكبير :

عندما جاء الحرس القومي لاعتقالي… صفعني أحدهم، فأسقطني على الأرض. ثم فتش جيوبي وسرق ما لدي، وأخذ فيما أخذ قلم الحبر الذي أهداه إلي #ألبرت_أينشتاين، يوم نيلي شهادة الدكتوراه التي وقعها به.
وكان قلماً جميلاً من الياقوت الأحمر.
ولم أكن استعمل هذا القلم إلا لتوقيع شهادات الدكتوراه لطلابي في جامعة بغداد.

صمت هذا العالم قليلاً. ثم قال:
لم تؤلمني الصفعة ولا الاعتقال المهين.
ما آلمني أن الذي صفعني كان …أحد طلابي.

هذا ما قاله #البروفيسور_عبد_الجبار_عبدالله .
و #أينشتاين يقول:

(“2% من البشر يفكرون.
3% من البشر يظنون أنهم يفكرون.
95% من البشر يفضلون الموت على أن يفكروا”.)

الخادم الياباني أكرم انشتاين و احتفظ بالقصاصة لأحفاده بينما رجال السلطة لدينا اهانوا أنشتاين العراق والعرب وكسروا قلم أنشتاين…

ليس فقط في العراق بل الوطن العربي قاطبةََ دمروا العلم والعلماء والتعليم واهتموا بإنشاء جيل مهووس بالغناء والكرة والملاهي التي لا تسمن ولاتغني ولا تفيد إلا في انهيار الأمة….

#

Trip to Paris and Oklahoma?

Note: Re-edit of “Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown (Part 1, June, 2004)”

It was May of 1975.  I had just graduated in Physics from the Lebanese university.

I secured a student visa to the United States of America. I was to study English for the summer at a university in Oklahoma.

I did not know then that there was more than one university in Oklahoma. It turned out there were several and the university I applied for graduate study was Not the one I landed for English summer schooling.

The trip was not that urgent, but the civil war in Lebanon started to look serious and I dreaded Not be doing anything for the duration..

My inborn stubbornness clenched the deal and off I left.

Logically, my destination should have been France for graduate studies, but I was tired of theoretical education.

I figured that the US educational system was more hands on, practical… with upgraded labs and “stage” at factories…

I was wrong. It was mostly of the theoretical stuff.

It was my first trip away from family and home. I learned later that my mother played the fundamental role of convincing my father that it is time that I learn to be on my own and fly with my own wings.

My mother told me that the night I flew away my father cried his eyes out in his bed.

My father offered me $5,000. Two Lebanese pounds at the time was worth one dollar (Now, a single dollar is worth 1,500 LP)

I stayed in Paris for a couple of weeks, supposedly to visiting a student cousin of mine. My cousin Nassif happened to be vacationing in England with a girlfriend.

At the airport, no one searched me or welcomed me.

Before I exited the airport, an agent asked to search my luggage. Why me? No, it was Not a random search. I had to rearrange everything in my beaten suitcase.

Even then, France pinpointed specific passengers to be searched.

I met my friends Ghassan and Moussa who helped me rent a room where they stayed at a university complex for foreign students.

I toured Paris alone in metro and mostly on foot. Paris was gorgeous.

Strong with maps of trains and buses routes, I crisscrossed Paris from Mont St. Michel to the Louvre, and almost everything in between. Alone, all alone.

I walked Champ Elysee, Quartier Latin, Pigale…When I get tired walking I would join the closest train station and hop to another destination.

Breakfasts were delicious at the university low-ceiling breakfast restaurant .

Breakfast was the time to see all the various international students. The smell of fresh coffee, milk, bacon, eggs and fresh bread was appetizing.

The buffet was scattered with many varieties of fruits and drinks.

( I still dream of waking up to such a breakfast environment)

There was another restaurant for lunch and dinner, but the menu was dismal and Not tasty.

I landed first at New York at Laguardia airport. We were flying over the Oklahoma Territory, 22 hours after leaving Paris. We still had one hour to land.

It was pitched dark outside and I might have been feeling cold in the plane. One stewardess might have realized my haggard quietness.

An angel, no more than twenty years old, blonde, blue eyed, beautiful with a refreshing smile, and compassion transparent in her welcoming face.

She brought me a blanket without any request on my part and suggested to bring me some orange juice.

I felt then that it is okay to live in America and to know Americans. I wished I told her that I was scared, terrified, and numb at the magnitude of the unknown waiting for me.

I wished I told her that I needed to throw myself at her mercy and be helped.

I was lacking conversational skills and lacking practice in English.

I was not basically a social guy, though I enjoyed being among crowds.

Friends suffered me on account of my quietness: I painfully resigned myself for their impression of my “aura of bookish knowledge“.

Trip from Norman (Oklahoma) to San Francisco

Note 1: re-edit of my story from my autobiography: “San Francisco: Soothing recollections, May 31, 2009”

Note 2: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips stories.

The trip to San Francisco from Oklahoma on Greyhound bus to attend the Human Factors convention in 1991 lasted almost 3 days and I spent my money on junk food.

I borrowed the fare for that trip from a friend.

We crossed flat Kansas and had a break in Santa Fe that looked pretty much Spanish/Mexican feeling. We pushed forward to Flagstaff, a major change in scenery. I am under the impression that high in Flagstaff there was snow.

Other than that I don’t recall what I saw or observed on the route before I reached San Francisco.

This is a period I’m still not ready to face, much less to write about. But I finally came around to tell it when writing my autobiography (Of Not famous people).

Suffice to admit that I roomed with my adviser in the hotel and that he woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that my snoring was loud.

After the convention was over, I was on the verge of joining the file of the homeless.

I stayed at the studio of a referral that I got in Norman for one night in Ashbury Heights. I had later many occasions to walk this famous street during the period when the hippies selected it as headquarter for their movement.

The next morning I was feeling sick because of too much nervous tension. I called my cousin Nassif in Vancouver and all that I got was a reprimand “Adonis, you are always in trouble”.

I called Ali who was working in Canada but he had no referrals in San Francisco to stay over. I used an old number of Ali’s in Houston and it seems that this number connect him everywhere he relocates.

I know that I slept one night at an Algerian student who was the manager of the restaurant “Marrakech” that served Moroccan dishes; it was one of the longest nights and the most nerve wracking wait for this Algerian student to show up and pick me up.

It was a cold night and I waited for over three hours sitting on my suitcase wondering if he is ever going to show up. I had nowhere to go and no money for any decent lodging facility.

The next day I slept at a hostel for foreign student visitors for two nights in Downtown San Francisco.

The Algerian student referred me to two Spanish students living in a foggy neighborhood; the fog enveloped this quarter 20 hours a day. I had shelter for a week at the foreign students from Spain and they were very nice.

I managed to be hired in a full-service retirement hotel, for room and board in exchange of 4 hours work a day.

The Spanish students could not believe that I landed a job that quickly. I accepted all the overtime I could get in all the departments, until I was offered the job of assistant to the manager three weeks later.

I was fooled by the offer of $1,200 a month which turned out to be less than $900 after all kinds of deductions, but I fulfilled my “word” to stay a whole year in that position.

My cousin Patrick visited me once when he was attending a conference in San Francisco for the anesthesiologists.

I enjoyed my stay in this lovely city of San Francisco and visited frequently all its parks and waterfronts and beaches, carrying a book with me.

I had also located a nearby covered swimming pool that I patronized three times a week.

I had the opportunity to tour the neighboring towns around San Francisco with co-workers and a French older woman called Michelle that I helped secure a part-time position at the Hotel.  The red headed Michelle carried all her belonging in the trunk of her small beat up car and she invited me on her many excursions out of town.

I saw many famous locations because I was responsible for arranging tours to the elder residents and I was to be part of the trip for supervision purposes.  The City offered a van with a driver and we toured San Francisco once a week and I took pictures and described the tour in the monthly promotional brochure along with the monthly events in the Hotel.

I was caring for elder persons, mostly ladies, but in my state of confusion for my future and frustration in not finding within my spirit of what I loved to do for a job didn’t leave much space in my soul for sincere compassion.

Practically, I cared better than most of the managerial staff because I was new to this environment of human spiritual misery and I was highly respected by the “clients”.

The retirees knew of my higher education but never asked me “why are you working in such an institution with your degree?”. Iit is as people in the US are accustomed to see all kinds of individuals working temporary jobs that turned out to be more permanent than proclaimed.

One elder man of over 80 of age, tall and of powerful constitution, committed suicide a week after his “incarceration” by falling in a stairwell from the eighth floor.  Many of the elder ladies whom I cared for passed away during my job, but the manager made it for no one of us to realize how the dead person was vacated. I was not shaken emotionally, or that what I thought at the time.

I think that I read most of the famous authors who lived in and around San Francisco. I had a Mexican girlfriend. (You may read my post in the addendum to my introspection “Chica Lupita”)

I have toured Marin County, the forest of the highest Red trees, ventured to Monterrey, Big Sur, Little Sur, Carmel, and all the environs.

There was old Jake who was a gambling addict; he used to receive invitations from the casinos for free rooms in Reno.  Jake persisted in his invitations and I joined him twice because he needed company or to fulfill a condition of bringing someone along.

I played little and ate a lot in Reno; food and drinks were cheap and in abundance, and enjoyed looking at pretty servers too.

We traveled on two occasions as a group in a van belonging to an employee and spent glorious days up north and tasted wine in wine counties and farmhouses.

I recall that I had an interview for a job in statistical analysis and had to board several ferries to reach destination; luckily, I didn’t get the job but it was a good exposure for various transport facilities. All in all, my stay in San Francisco was the loveliest and most enriching experience in the US.

I recall taking the BART train to Menlo Park, an hour trip. I was to meet my ex-girlfriend Rose and we walked for a couple of hours in Downtown Menlo Park. She rejoined her ex-husband on reason of her two kids growing up. Her daughter Shannon was about to join a university.

During my stay in San Francisco I took the bus Greyhound to Boulder because my adviser sent me a letter that he was to deliver part of my dissertation to the convention of Human Factors Society and I wanted to attend it.

You can follow that trip on a separate trip story to Boulder, Colorado in my sub-category “Travel/Excursion”

The return trip from Boulder felt even longer.

A week later I was to confront a discrimination case battle.

There was this girl who claimed that I harassed her sexually and the case was dropped after weeks of hassles; she had no one to testify on her behalf.  This “American” girl , of a wealthy family, was pissed off that I got the position of assistant to the manager.

I had no hints of the power struggle that went on before I arrived to this hotel.  I wanted to resign but the manager convinced me that when I finish the whole year then I would be eligible for unemployment benefits of around $450 a month.

I finished the year and started to look for a steady job commensurate to my education.

I thus patronized an office on Van Ness Road that was funded by the City and aided with unemployment cases, such as writing CVs and how to tailor make your resume, and checking on the latest openings for work.

In one of my articles titled “Are you searching for a job?” I wrote:

“I recall that in 1991 the US was in serious recession during the Bush Sr. Administration and jobs were frighteningly scarce.  I had graduated with a PhD degree in Industrial/Human Factors engineering and missed better periods for hiring academicians.

I was working as assistant to manager at a retirement community in Downtown San Francisco and visited an employment center on Van ness Road. It was a center meant to help you out re-write your CV for the nth time, anytime you wanted to apply for the scarce job announcements posted in the center.

People swarmed this center just to feel busy and serious about searching for a job but Not that hot for finding one.  I guess the center was one of the hundreds of facilities with the sole purpose to blaming the citizens for failure to doing their due diligence and compete, since no one is about to beg you to work for them.

If you failed to re-write your CV and spent more money on useless stamps per day, then you are not making good use of this “valuable” help facility, or receiving a monthly stipend for trying to find a job.

This was the period when ridiculous denials were the custom of the land.

For example, this custodian at NASA who claims that he is contributing to sending astronauts to the moon; or redefining their jobs as sanitation “engineering”.

I recall during my graduate study that I was forced to accept a job cleaning and vacuuming the main library while working on my dissertation. I fooled my spirit into believing that as long as I am doing my job perfectly and with excitement then I am learning the value of a job well done, sort as a training period for toughening my character.

A state of denial is Not a bad reaction; it is successive states of denials that can be deleterious to your development”.

I was very curious and enjoyed being among crowds; I attended the public events such as Shakespeare in the park, the free open concerts, joined the homosexual yearly celebrations for curiosity reason, and the Latinos Days of Independence.

Unfortunately, I was mugged on a wonderful evening, just 50 feet from my hotel and at 10 pm, and I was hospitalized.

I never believed that I might be a statistics of the frequent mugging events.

Nobody in the hotel heard anything or even noticed what happened when I returned from the hospital.

I refrained from going out for three weeks.

Walking in San Francisco, even during the day, was no pleasure anymore: there were too many beggars along the streets and they were Not a peaceful lot.

I was glad to move to Washington DC for a change, but no city compares to San Fran in variety, beauty, and recreational facilities.

I never walked as much as in my two years stay in San Fran.

This was a wonderful period when I devoured all kinds of books on a daily basis. I had the pleasure to be acquainted with most of the famous Bay Areas authors from Henry Miller, to John Steinbeck, to Jack London, and the Beatnik movement.

Trip to Nashville.  April 1, 2020

Note: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips and adventure stories.

I learned that a young couple of my acquaintances at the university were leaving to Kentucky and would drive through Tennessee.

I had just graduated with PhD in industrial/Ergonomics engineering in 199,1 after 6 long grueling years of toil. I worked 4 part-time jobs within the university confine to pay tuition and make ends meet, in addition of a half-time student assistant in my last 2 years.

You know, I obey to regulations, even if most foreign students work outside and have much better pay.

I had an open invitation from my ex-girlfriend in Nashville. She once got pissed off of me and transferred her job from Oklahoma City to Nashville, along with her two kids. (No, the matter was Not of any cheating stories: just a nervous laugh in a funny situation. Told that encounter in my post on Rose)

I asked the couple to give me ride in their tiny VW Beetle. They dropped me in Nashville where Rose lived.

(I wrote about this trip in “An inch taller than her country women“, reminiscing about the women I got this lucky of befriending. A hard working and resilient divorced woman) .

I guess that I spent about three weeks in Nashville but I never had the opportunity to tour “Graceland“, even though Shannon, the daughter of Rose, worked there for pocket money.

I guess that I could not afford the $40 entrance fees.

I tried applying for a position in that period of acute recession during Bush Senior Presidency that lasted until he lost the renewal of his tenure to Clinton. Yes, I also endured this deep unemployment period in San Francisco.

I applied to Nissan plant at Smyrna? and other positions.

There is not much to see in Nashville and I was not in the touring mood since Rose was working hard to make ends meet and I was feverishly applying for jobs.

I recall that I paid a visit to this “famous” record company of Hall of Fames of country singers and gold records . I didn’t care much, but just for curiosity reason.

I even experimented with selling books for a multilevel scheme company.

Rose reluctantly let me use her brand new Japanese car. I don’t drive other people cars, but I was dead broke. The company allocated me a neighborhood to sell the “book of the week” that was to be promoted…

The deal is that you don’t miss a house or a business office in the area allocated to you and you tour the streets clockwise to close the loop.

You leave the customers the book of the week for three days for their perusal. You come back the next week to retrieve the book or sell it to the client.

We had to be at the warehouse at six in the morning, followed by a military style pep talk and then we are trained to memorize definite phrases to eliminate hesitations and how to close deals.

At six in the evening we had to learn the accounting procedures for our business and stay way after eight or even nine.

Supposedly, a few of our role models who were poor in math learned to add and subtract, to harangue, and to get rich.

I lost money in the final analysis because a few books could not be accounted for.

I think this “company” made money by charging the high priced of “displaced” or non retrieved books , when it didn’t cost it a fraction. Maybe they got these books for free just to spread them around.

I once got a traffic ticket for over speeding in Rose’s new Nissan car; it is impossible to know whether you are speeding in these smooth driving cars.  I never paid the traffic tickets.

The woman graduate student, Sara, picked me up on her way back to Oklahoma in her tiny beige VW.

I don’t recall that I spoke a word on that return trip. Sara didn’t attempt to talk either. I guess we both were Not in the mood of sharing our disappointment or frustration.

Sara reluctantly let me sleep overnight when we arrived in Norman: I had no place to sleep since I had vacated my rented apartment

Two days later, Fakhry (a close Lebanese friend whose parents worked in Africa and was married to an American) lent me $100 for the Greyhound bus fare to San Francisco.

I was to attend the American Human Factors annual convention.

It was an excuse to let go of Norman town, a “boring hole” and start afresh, though I had no acquaintances in San Francisco.

I figured that sleeping two nights at the hotel with my advisor might open up new opportunities for survival.

Trekking to Sadd Shabrouh: A dam in Keserwan Lebanon

Note 1: Re-edit of “Trekking about Sadd Shabrouh”. Written in July, 2007 and posted in August 2009

Note 2: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips stories.

Note 3: We have conducted an excursion in the the valley before it was inundated a couple of years before this trekking. We had enjoyed our excursion and ate at a “restaurant” there.

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and the weather was sunny and hot.

I read the daily “Al Balad” that we received for free for an entire year as a promotion campaign. I performed my exercises and fed the chicken.

Joanna was busy calling: she was programming a walking trip to “Sadd Shabrou7” around Faraya.  Joanna was also planning to end the day at Cherries’ for karaoke night in honor of her sister Ashley’s birthday.  She asked me to join the trekking expedition and I agreed.

I packed a spare of undershirt and socks and a light rain jacket and some biscuit and peanuts and I waited for everybody to be ready.

We waited for Ashley to come back from mass because she was not aware of this “surprise” excursion.  Cedric could not go because he hurt his fingers and the skin of his feet while playing wild basketball yesterday.

We drove off in two cars. Joanna took Ashley and retrieved Tony at St. Elie Movie Theater in Antelias. William took Adrea, Chelsea, David and I.

We met at Aoun supermarket in Zouk and they purchase a few items to eat.

Adrea waited in the car in the underground parking lot because she is pretty lazy.  We resumed our travel around 2 p.m. and William picked up Hanane at her home at Ballouni and we met at Yuhanna’s house in Ajaltoun.  From there, Yuhanna drove his car and carried Joanna, Ashley, Tony and Chelsea.

We arrived and parked our cars in the monastery parking lot and started our walk after getting some information and references from a passerby.

I wore a small towel under my cap and took the lead, hunched in a comfortable stature, and distanced the straggling group for 5 minutes and stopped and took off my top clothes and dried in the sun until they joined me.

I again advanced the group because I felt that keeping a fast and steady pace is relaxing for me, otherwise I will slacken off and my back might ache from slow walking.

I tried to investigate a promising path off the beaten road which was starting to bore me. Ashley asked me to backtrack.  I figured it was a good path that ultimately would merge with the beaten road.

We waited for the rest to join us and it seems that Adrea had trouble with her shoes that she didn’t wear for quite a time.

I took the lead again and decided for another off path and William came after me, looking very frustrated and said that we should stick together as a group and keep to the road. 

William and I took shortcuts to rejoin the group and then Joanna asked a driver for the best place to sit down near fresh running water and he gave her the direction of the path that I had already climbed before William came after me.

Thus, we retraced our walk; I suggested a path among the apple groves but they decided to take short cuts and climb a hill which took my breath out and had to sit down for a couple of minutes to recover.

We reached an area with a small waterfall “shalal” and a flat rock with no trees around.

Yuhanna and Joanna decided to go down among the apple trees to investigate the area.  It was the same apple grove that I intended to cross before I was desisted from in order “to stick to plan”.

Meanwhile, William climbed the rock opposite the road to check if there is a nice area and I removed my tops and my shoes and washed my face and dipped my feet in the icy trickle of water running across the flat rock.

David stored in the icy stream the amassed small apples and pears that he gathered from the trees and we also let our water bottles cool in the water. I had a pear and enjoyed it.

While the remaining group was anxious to go down to the apple grove where Yuhanna located a “nice place” to have lunch, I felt as happy as a clam tanning in the sun, walking bare feet and cooling my feet and rubbing lavender flowers on my hands and having a smoke.

William was pounding on a stone and it turned out to be of silex and he wanted to transform it into a stone knife; he had seen a big silex stone, but when he climbed to retrieve it he could not find it again to bring it back.

Within 15 minutes, Yuhanna asked us to join and we went down to another stream of running water among the apple grove and Yuhanna was frustrated with Chelsea because she was venturing far off the group.

We had lunch. The chips were first to go and Joanna prepared us cheese sandwiches and then we ended up with the Oriole biscuits and other kinds of chocolate covered biscuits; I had also raw peanuts and kept belching for the rest of the trip.

Joanna tried her hands with the kite that she had sent to Yuhanna from London. She failed to make it fly.  David and William drenched Hanane with icy water. I had a comfortable nap while people were chatting away.

Chelsea was a pain for the group in her wandering off, climbing and jumping off walls and rocks and being “har2a”. Obviously, she was a close second to my pain in the ass behavior for discovering new paths. We stayed and rested until 6:30 p.m.

The return path among the apple groves coincided with the path that I had suggested before we climbed the hill.  I took the lead again with Tony who was anxious to terminate the trip. And I never stopped for an hour and a half.

William joined Yuhanna and Joanna to check on a camping area and Chelsea joined them.  After a while we saw Chelsea coming alone grim faced and clutching her right hand and not stopping to talk to us: she had hurt her hand and was furious with Yuhanna.

Ashley decided to walk with Chelsea for the remaining walking trip.  Ashley was even jogging in order to advance me. I kept my fast steady pace and even jogged for a short distance but could not catch up with Chelsea and Ashley. Thus, I arrived third to the parked cars.

William gave us a summary of the statistics of this trip, collected on his cellular. He said that he walked 17,000 steps and the round trip was 11 kilometers and it took us 5 hours and a half, including the resting period, and the average speed was 5 kilometers per hour as a group.

At the suggestion of Yuhanna we had dinner at “Istira7at Al 3erzal” in downtown Farayat.

I refilled many cups of hot tea. We had labheh, baked potatoes, hummus and cucumbers.  I lent Hanane my light jacket to warm up.  Chelsea would not relent and never gave the gang peace or any quietude.  Tony brought up his dish to where we were sitting William and me, at the other end of the table.

Tony said that he usually sit in front of a wall at home to enjoy what he is eating and that when in groups, people eat a lot without noticing; William agreed with Tony and I sat next to Tony and we had a cigarette (the only two smokers).

By the time we paid the bill of 40,000 LL ($25) around 10 p.m. (I didn’t pay a dime: I had none) most of the gang members were exhausted and sleepy.

They decided to drop the karaoke part and go home.  I sat in the back seat: David needs to feel entirely comfortable; William was driving.

Chelsea made herself comfortable and slept on my lap while Adrea was sleeping in the other corner, all crumpled up. David was sleeping in the front.

I was feeling good and full of energy. We arrived at 11:30 and the public electricity was still out since noon.

Mother was awake because she watched the interview with General and Deputy Michel Aoun along with Raymonde and Victor till 11:30.

I watched TV till 12:30 a.m. David slept at Ashley’s. Ashley and Joanna gave Tony ride home.

Note: In that period, Ashley and Tony were sort of boyfriend/girlfriend. They are now married with a girl.

Barbara made me walk on air

Note: Re-edit of “I Should Have Told Barbara (Jan. 2003)”

The day before my trip to Los Angeles in the summer of 1976, Sue, the girlfriend of a dear friend of mine studying at the same university, asked me to get in touch with her sister Barbara.

I were in the USA since June of 1975, my first trip ever outside my country.

The International Office at the University arranged a group trip for one week to California, for some of us new international students. We were to meet families in this exchange program.

I did not care meeting any American families for the time being, but I needed to get away in my first summer and wanted to see California.

The International student advisor knew about my origin. The program matched me with an old Jewish couple in Pasadena without warning me. I do consider Israel as our existential enemy and anyone who support Israel financially could never be a friend of mine. I did assume this family supported Israel.

The family had a fourteen-year old boy, or maybe he was their grandchild.

I was Not that curious: They looked pretty old to me. The husband was very helpful and friendly, but his wife gave me the impression that she agreed reluctantly to join the program.

A student from Nigeria was assigned to the same family. The house was large with a garden.  The interior looked old, traditional, gloomy, dark and smelling like it was never aerated and reeking of old people.

The same evening they asked the Nigerian student a few questions, but I was spared this torture, may be because I didn’t look that forthcoming. Or that they figured out I’ll be very sensitive to whatever pertinent questions they might ask.

It is a crime to surprise youth among old people. Youth has to be forewarned, to be prepared on what to expect from elder people. Youth has to be reminded that elderly can be wonderful and much active, That older people are great people, still very much living humans And who could be funny, charming and could be very functional…

We had a general gathering the first day with all the host families and various students. Then we were given the daily program of places to see and I barely paid attention to the program.

We were to see Disneyland the next day for free. I declined the invitation: Disneyland is for kids.

I remember that I had another chance to visit Disney for free, two years later. And I again declined. Disney was still just for kids.

Many years later, I discovered that everybody liked to see Disney, including kids. I never saw Disney in California, but the smaller version in Orlando with my nephews. My little nephews and nieces, five in total then, loved Disney.

Not as much as I did enjoy it that day.

My host drove me for an hour to the meeting place with Barbara, living in West Hollywood. He drove two hours to pick me up, three hours later.

Youth: ruthless, mindless, uncompromising, and unappreciative.

I still can visualize Barbra after thirty years, coming toward me, in white shirt, long brown skirt reaching below her knees, almost touching her long brown cowboy boots.

Her boots must have added a couple inches to her stature. She is shorter than me in an afterthought. But the vision is always of a tall and grand lady.

She appeared taller than me but my pride increased correspondingly, by her side.

Her then long blonde-brown hair was raised over her beautiful head. She looked glamour incarnate.

She hugged me and made me feel I was a dear friend, of long time, whom she missed.

She spoke with effusion and earnestness.

She wanted to know all that is to know, instantly,

About how her sister is doing, what about her sister’s boyfriend who was my friend, About their relationship, about Oklahoma her home State…

About everything, but nothing about me, or how I feel or felt that moment.

I was glad that I was not the object of the conversation then, but not so glad now.

We walked together so close, and I was walking on air.

I felt that I must look the most envied guy, a most glamorous guy in the whole wide world.

I asked permission from my host family to move at Barbara’s, for the duration of the program, and they agreed.

Next morning was warm and sunny and I walked to Beverly Hills to see her in the fashion store she managed. I did walk on stars’ hands and the walk was Not that long.

She received me like a VIP and was happy at my surprised visit. And I toured Downtown Beverly Hills: Pretty empty of clients, boring, clean, expensive for no reasons… I cannot recall if I waited for Barbara to finish work or that I returned by myself.

I wanted to be with Barbara every second of my trip in California.

A couple of years later, I accepted to attend a conference in Los Angeles hoping to see Barbara again.

It was an important political conference but my heart was not in it.

My friends drove me through Beverly Hills, where the rich and glamorous live, but I was not impressed.

Finally, giving up, they gave me a lift from Anaheim to West Hollywood.

I called up Barbara and I invited myself to stay overnight at her apartment.

She had many friends. She was attached at the moment to a fashionable young man, working in fashion and with fashion, but they had problems.

She appeared depressed and disappointed and not in the mood for me. Her TV was on 24 hours.

I slept and woke up with the TV on.

Six years later, during my second extended trip to the USA, I had another opportunity to visit with Baraba

Sue was leaving to Little Rock with her boyfriend had she told me that Barbara was married and living in Oklahoma City and she gave me her phone number.

I met Barbara on Thanksgiving and she did not look the Barbara of my vision.

Her skin looked darker, her face emaciated, down to earth, resigned and decked in simple blue jeans and an old black sweater.

She was married to a full-blooded American Indian, herself a half-blooded lady.

A soft spoken husband, a polite artist who toured the USA exhibiting his paintings.

She stayed at home designing jewellery and managing her man’s business.

I accepted her invitation for a Thanksgiving lunch.

I went down to Oklahoma City for an important and specific purpose of mine: I was determined to tell Barbara my secret.

I went down with my steady girlfriend at the time. I had to because I had no cars: actually, I spent most of my University education on a bicycle.

Barbara’s eyes had an ironic shine looking at my oriental (Filipina) short friend.

She asked my friend all kinds of questions about our relationship,

How we met and what are our plans.

Barbara said to me: “You know, someone needs news about your friend”.

She meant that her sister needed to know the whereabouts of her ex-husband.

I had lost track of the whereabouts of my friend too and could not be of much help.

Barbara was entitled to know the truth, that the first time she walked with me, she made me feel that I was the most glamorous guy in town.

But I did not tell Barbara the truth.

I don’t recall that I talked during my two hours stay at Thanksgiving.

Maybe it did not feel right at that moment, but I should have persevered on my initial decision:

This truth is hers no matter what.

She could be eighty, but age does not erase the feeling, that to my young eyes, she was the most glamorous woman I set my eyes on.

She could be a hundred, but age does not change the fact,

That Barbara made me once walk on air.

Maybe if I had told Barbara, I wouldn’t have written this story.

And seasons resume their natural trends: Not aware of this Corona pandemics?

Note: I re-edited this article and tried to add poetry to Google translation from French

It was March 2020

The streets were empty, stores closed, people couldn’t go out anymore.

And then Spring flashed its colors, spread its scent: Spring didn’t know why this awful unusual aloofness of people with nature.

And the flowers bloomed prematurely, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, swallows were coming sooner, the sky was blue, and another glorious morning took us by surprise.

It was March 2020…
Young people had to study online, and find jobs from home, people couldn’t shop anymore, or go to the hairdresser. Soon there would be no room in hospitals, and people continued to get sick.

The garden needed urgent upkeep, the grass was re-surfacing its head, and still Spring was memoryless of what’s going on

It was March 2020…
People have been on lockdown, to protect grandparents, families and children. No more reunion or meal, family party. Fear has become real and the days looked alike.

But spring didn’t know, apple trees, cherry blossomed and the leaves grew green and larger

People started reading, playing with family, learning a new language (hopefully the language of cheerful living), singing on the balcony by inviting neighbors to join in, share the supportive community, and focused on other values than indefinite growth in production and financial “services”.

Then, it might have dawned on people the importance of health, the suffering of the isolated patients, of this crowded world that had stopped, of economical “perpetual growth” on halt.

But spring didn’t know. the flowers transformed into fruits, the bees enjoyed the abundance, the birds made their nest, swallows had arrived.

Then people found out on TV that this contagious virus had lost this round in the battle for a while, people hurried down to the streets, singing, crying, kissing their neighbors, without masks or gloves.

And that’s when summer took the spring by surprise: Both seasons didn’t know in what a mess humankind has been going through.

The next season started despite everything, despite the virus, fear and death. Because spring and all the seasons taught people the power of life.

Everything will be alright, stay home, protect yourself, and take another shot to enjoying life, a quality in living.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
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