Every once in a while, bored with the run-of-the-mill stress of daily life in Arabia, the Middle E Street Band gets together to bang away on the drums of war, sending everyone unacquainted with this fear-mongering power-grabbing tactic into a frenzy.
Everyone will threaten to blow everything up if someone else blows something up for blowing something up, so don’t try to figure out what’s going on; leave it to the experts. Your only decision should be: panic or poise?
To maintain your sanity during these trying times, one must learn to separate the crazies from the you-might-have-a-pointies and truly understand whether you are supposed to literally run for ze hills or party at a 72-hour festival on open grounds on the eve of WWIII.
The Out Of Towners
God forbid a couple of small insignificant bombs go off in some random ravine or clearing on a slow news day. The international news scavengers will spin this into a supposed doomsday, so expect your family living in the first world to call you from their la-z-boy in a panic, or at least send an email riddled with heavy USE OF ALL CAPS and !!!!!s.
This type of correspondence will come from family members over the age of 50. You should reply with a politely dismissive email about the ridiculousness of the mass media’s chicanery, perhaps accompanied with a picture of you sailing in the Mediterranean to prove that everything is ‘just fine’.*
Next in the sequence of events will be text or whatsapp messages from your friends who are trying to play it a little more cool than their elderly counterparts, but they undeniably love you and they fear for your life nonetheless. Unfortunately, they are also plagued with the modern day disease of being unwillingly informed about news events. Their messages will look a little something like, ‘hey, I was in the car today and heard something about Lebanon or Syria or something like that on NPR, just making sure you’re, like, ok.’ This effort, half-hearted as it may be, is still worthy of response; See above for reply.
Word on the Streets: Where to get the real information (hint: it’s not the news)
The best information, or at least the most entertaining, will come from service (said: sairveece) drivers, also known as the gypsy cabs that troll around the city. These guys have seen it all and are rarely fazed. They cross through many different areas of the country and they see more than the average person who is usually fixed to particular boundaries of work and play. They will be annoyed that the ‘situation’ is affecting tourism which, in turn, affects their business, but they will also tell you there is nothing to worry about and everyone is an idiot.
They might just be blowing hot air up your ass because you have an accent when speaking in Arabic and they suspect you are a spy gathering information. Is it the typical ‘move along now, nothing to see here’ approach? The world may never know.
Grocery shop owners
This is also a great way to gage the ‘situation’. Grocery Shop Owners (GSO) usually have the news on all day and all night. People are also coming in and out of their little shops sharing whatever information they have, so GSO’s might be the most well-informed people you have access to.
Political parties back most news channels in Lebanon, so you have to be able to read through the grocery-store guys’ cryptic messages. Since they usually set up shop in the neighborhoods they live in, and have lived in their whole life, and since the neighborhoods are divided by sect and class, their advice will probably be laden with xenophobia in all degrees, so be wary.
The Neighborhood Crazy
In every movie, book, etc., the crazy person is always the one with the knowledge of what is truly happening. Even Butters from Southpark is often dismissed as the retard, but he always knows everything that’s going on!
The crazy might end up being an Israeli spy, a sleeper cell working for the Mossad, trolling the streets for years under the guise of crazy. If Lebanese folklore is true, these people will rip off their smelly homeless person rags to reveal the crispy clean IDF uniform hidden underneath. Come to think of it, in either scenario, they ARE crazy.
Your family living in Lebanon
These people are swimming up the proverbial shit’s creek with you, unless you decided to go to the beach that day and you might actually be swimming up a shit creek, so they are the most relaxed about the situation. They will tell you to ignore people on the outside who are scaring you into leaving. These people are like the cold glass of water to the face that you need.
If they are wrong and you have to spend the next several months in an under-ground bunker with them, you will learn to hate they way they chew, breath, sleep…pretty much anything that you never noticed before.
All in All
There is never anything to worry about, until there is, so kick off your shoes and relax your feet and party on down to the war-drum beat. You will always feel like you don’t quite know enough to assess your information; that someone else is more privy to information about this crucial decision-making process of weather to freak out, run in circles until you hit a wall and pass out, or not, so just keep your ears to the streets, feel out the situation, and if the crazy guy on the streets has been missing for a few days, buy the first plane ticket outta here and leave…it’s time.
*Note: This will be a bit more difficult to brush off when Europe starts sending actual, real-life, war ships and Obama going on about red lines being crossed with total disregard to protocol. Even I was confused about how to feel about this particular crescendo of war drumming, but the worst seems to have passed, again.
The selection and preparation (and consumption) of food is an effort I take seriously. Making and sharing good food is a wonderful part of life.
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Watch them in concert this Saturday
…and don’t forget your life jacket!
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