Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Exorcising a part of my life

Exorcising a part of my life: Marrakech Restaurant in DC; (August 18, 2009)

From my diary of September 15, 2006

Before I woke up at 7:15 a.m. my reminiscences brought me back to a miserable and rough period in the USA, Washington DC and Montgomery County, around 1998.

I decided to exorcise this part of my life by recalling it and writing about it.

I started to take Real Estates courses in 1996 and passed the exam (basically the applicable laws).

My sister and brother-in-law (attache militaire of Lebanon in the USA) were about ready to return to Lebanon along with their 5 kids. And I had decided to stay, against all odds.

In this Real Estates business, if you don’t make a sale you don’t get paid.  For more than a year, I could not make a sale or even list a property and I was utterly penniless and looking sick and emaciated.

A Lebanese family who immigrated to the US in the sixties provided me a bed in the basement for two months.

I think that I did not look that hot or healthy, though I felt fine.

I checked a benevolent local clinic in Kensington (Maryland) just to be on the safe side; the physician assured me that my condition is simply a case of under nourishment.

Layla, my host family, suspected that, because I never married or had a girlfriend, that I might be gay and, perhaps, I had contracted AIDS and she was extremely worried. She was wrong on all counts.

My pecuniary situation was at the lowest and I talked of my predicament to Dominique, the priest of the Maronite parish in Washington D.C, who arranged a meeting with a Lebanese Armenian Bashir K.

Bashir owned a restaurant in the poor section of Downtown DC called ‘Marrakech’ (a city in Morocco).

Basir is not the real name of the owner, but he adopted it because he adored Bashir Gemayel, the ex former elect President of Lebanon and the leader of the ultra conservative Christian Lebanese Forces.

Bashir used to come at the restaurant wearing sandals, rain or shine, and in short. He parked his black Mercedes (a sign of prestige) by the rear entrance door, but he usually walked to the restaurant from his apartment in Georgetown.

Bashir’s sister ran the daily jobs of the restaurant and she was a divorcee with two kids.

The restaurant ‘Marrakech’ was sort of famous in DC because of the exotic interior design, the food, and the belly dancing show during intermission.

The walls and the low couches of the large hall were aligned with cheap exotic carpets The food, a modified Moroccan recipe to suit the American palate, was brought on a large brass plate.

I know that the food was not that authentic because I used to eat at a ‘Magribi’ restaurant in San Francisco, also called ‘Marrakech’ and it was run by Algerian students, who became friends of mine.

Before eating, a server would bring a jug of warm water, pour it on the hands of the guests and then pass around towels. People were to eat with their finger, which is ingenious because it saves on utensils of all kinds.

After the special greasy main course, and at the end of the 7 course dinner, hot towels were theatrically passed on to wash hands.

In the intermission, an American dancer would perform belly dancing routines accompanied by taped oriental music.

We used to be at the restaurant around 1:30 p.m. to dust, clean, take reservations, and prepare the ingredients for the food.

I worked on the same tasks as the other servers who were mostly from Africa proper, from Nigeria mostly.

When the restaurant opened, I donned the unique tunic dress that was supposed to be Moroccan and welcomed the guests and show them the way to their designated couches. I also was given the task to play the tapes and interview the applicant dancers, though the decision to hire dancers was with Bashir.

Smoking was forbidden and I used to surreptitiously take a few minutes off to smoke a cigarette outside. I wholeheartedly agree with that policy of non-smoking among the workers, not only because addicted smokers are less efficient in production (creativity set aside), but because they usually are more trouble prone than the non-smokers.

One night, I locked myself in my office and smoked a cigarette. In my hurry, I guess that I didn’t extinguish my cigarette butt adequately.  A few minutes later, a server told me that there are fumes coming from the office.  A fire was starting in earnest in the office and emanating from the trash can.

Everybody, from the workers to the architect who showed up right away to investigate the extent of the damage, suspected that the culprit was I, but they didn’t mention it directly to me.

It would not have been bravery of me to admit my culpability since all the facts incriminated me, but I cowed before the amount of the expenses for almost completely remodeling the office.

I think that I should have come clear because this guild, as a negative reaction, might have kept me from not quitting smoking.

A week later, Bashir gave me a lame excuse to take a week of absence because as he said “many of the regular guests who patronized the establishment started to suspect that I were the real owner and he wanted to dispel that misgiving for a while“.

I did not return to work after the week of absence.  I was paid as the other workers, but I managed to survive for two months until my real estate business at Re/Max picked up.

Note: Years later, I had settled back in Lebanon and I was teaching a few courses at a university. I met Bashir in Jounieh, we saluted and he made the disappearing act in order not to converse with me.




May 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,521,869 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 769 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: