Wednesday, April 25, 2007
After having lived a life of sin and temptation, your health deteriorates rather rapidly. With the waning of the moon you are admitted to hospital. The costly ordeal devastates you financially. Just when you think you are getting out of this slump, you are hit by a runaway truck.
Taurus April 20-May 20
You are in deep trouble. The Moon and Alpha Centauri are perfectly aligned in relation to the M33 Galaxy. Your life gets more miserable as you go on. There is nothing worth living for. Your partner leaves you, so will your parents, friends and neighbors. Shoot the dog before it bites you.
Gemini May 21-June 21
May is obviously not your best month. You will be plagued by different problems at home. Avoid contacts with all humans if possible. Do not argue with your superiors or inferiors at work. With the present asynchronous motion of heavenly objects, it is very probable that you are going to get fired on Thursday the 3rd.
Cancer June 22-July 22
One of your best friends betrays you. Distraught and having lost your faith in humanity, you will further succumb into depression. You are destined to become an alcoholic. A clash with the police is imminent. Avoid using electrical kitchen appliances as you might sever a finger or a whole extremity.
Leo July 23-August 22
Precisely every 42 years, the Emission Nebula (M42) and the Reflection Nebula (NGC 7023) continue to have nothing to do with each other. As thus, the effect on Leo is significant. Your appeal to the opposite sex will fade rapidly and you attract members of your same sex like flies are attracted to a discarded muffin. You will be unreservedly humiliated.
Virgo August 23-September 22
Once you believe that you’ve got it made, you are in for one huge disappointing surprise. All your property is confiscated, your rights violated and your food regurgitated. You will be homeless in the streets and eat out of soup kitchens for the rest of the year. Your unlucky days are Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As for Tuesday, it really sucks.
Libra September 23-October 22
A mass murderer appears in the horizon in the second week of May. You will fall in love with him (regardless of your sex). Eventually both of you will be cornered in a place of worship by a SWAT team. The mass murderer will miraculously escape. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that these snipers could miss two targets on the same mission.
Scorpio October 23 - November 21
While walking on a busy street a snake bites you. The pain is unspeakable. The agony is unbearable. The anguish is insurmountable. You will never be the same again. If you are single you will never get married. If you are married you will get a divorce. Nobody likes you anymore. You are utterly undesirable until the end of the third quarter.
Sagittarius November 22-December 21
Jupiter will screw you up, again. While on a long-awaited dinner date at a very expensive restaurant with what you thought is the most desirable person in the world you will throw up on the table. After the convulsions seize you realize that your date has left you alone and has taken your wallet. You wash dishes for the rest of the week.
Capricorn December 22-January 19
A recurring dream will drive you insane. You are in bed with George W. Bush who’s dressed in a flimsy piece of lingerie. You try to break free but he holds you tight and showers you with wet kisses. When he pins you down and tries to… you wake up sweating and gasping for air. On the night of May 21st or 22nd, you will jump out of the window and probably kill yourself.
Aquarius January 20-February 18
Solar winds will shake you profoundly in May. Nothing seems to be going right for you anymore. You will be dealt a hard blow. Migraines will taunt you for the rest of your unhappy life. You might feel better by mid May, but then it’s all downhill again.
Pisces February 19-March 20
Nothing is what it seems to be. What has started as a simple rash develops into something far more serious. The dermatologist refuses to even touch you as your case is highly contagious. You will live in exile on a secluded island where eventually you will be eaten by a hungry alligator. The alligator later dies of indigestion (around August).
Well, if you normally believe this horoscope crap, my word is as good as any. By the way, I can read your palm and the tarots too.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Eventually, by early April, 2006 I stumbled on Syria Planet  and was very excited to discover this underground culture. My early browsing of Syrian blogs led me to read those which were highly prolific, regularly posting on a daily basis. Initially, I accepted what I thought was courageous criticism of the local political, religious and social scenes on one or two of these blogs. But soon thereafter, in a matter of days, a certain pattern emerged in front of my eyes. These self-proclaimed “dissidents” were not just utterly boring, fixated and autistic; they were naked megalomaniacs, plain and simple. They had reduced Syria to an absurd dichotomy comprised of the regime and themselves. Their writings promoted the idea that everybody else, the vast majority of Syrians at home and abroad, can only choose between suffocating oppression or their cheap brand of prostituted freedom of speech. What a pity! As I had learned some long time ago to never give the local official media a second thought, I had no reason whatsoever to pollute my mind with this new type of psychotic delusional garbage. I never considered clicking their links afterward. I even suppose that I have blemished by own writing by mentioning them but I have to give credit where it is due, as they were also an inspiration for me to start blogging. I had no idea whatsoever what I would write about. I just knew what I should never allow my blog to become.
I took my first dip on April 24, 2006, and published a brief meaningless post. With no compass to guide me, I sought the moral assistance of a few dear friends living in the United States and Australia. I sent an email apologizing for not being in touch with them as often as I should have and telling them that I had started by own blog where I would try to post something every week. This way they would remain informed of what I was up to. My lifelong friends here in Tartous, those I see almost everyday, have still not heard about my blog. They might one day, but not from me. Blogging became my private hobby. I told my kids. They shook their heads and wished me good luck. Well actually, they were watching something on TV and I was in their way. I told my wife and she patted my back: “Good luck dear”, she said, “just don’t ask me to read your posts. I’ll do that on my own when I feel like it”.
Without hesitation, I named my blog: abufares said… the world according to a tartoussi. It had always weighed heavily on me that very little was written or known about my beloved Tartous. I thought that I could probably fill this empty niche. Slowly yet surely, comments started appearing, a few by my distant friends, others by total strangers. Super Hero , Mirzade , Ascribo , Ghalia  and Yazan  were among the very first to comment and I have to thank them and acknowledge that because of them I was encouraged to go on. They provided me with an early indication that “there is someone out there”. I had an audience but I had nothing to prove. During the past year I have written, admittedly, a little more than I thought possible or what I now deem appropriate. I would love to continue blogging as long as physically and emotionally possible but I must slow down a bit. I am not into making conscious decisions about the future but it would be more fitting to write once a week. I should not run the risk of boring anyone, including myself, although that might be too late by now. I have repeatedly written about Tartous, the city which forged my eternal identity. More and more is expected of me in return for all the favors Tartous has bestowed on me. I feel that I have managed to express my love for my city best so far in Gone Are the Olive Trees . I have never imagined that I would be posting recipes, but the modest yet cheering comments I received on 100 Ways to Cook a Rabbit veered me toward the kitchen and For the Love of Shanklish  eventually became my highest ranking post in terms of the feedback it received. Politics, a topic I detest by all accounts, crept on me and made me write Tom & Jerry . It shouldn’t be that hard to deduct who Tom and Jerry are, according to a tartoussi, after reading this macabre account. On a softer note, I was better able to portray my own moderation in Average People  while, at the same time, clarifying my stand on war and peace. On Faith & Religion, A Visit to Seidnaya  briefly portrayed my relationship with God and my resistance to any canned interpretation or indoctrination of this relationship. I also wrote about the women in my life, or their absence, on several occasions. Down memory lane my friend strolled in 3 Love Songs  and I expressed my middle-age blues in the ramblings of In the Mood . I also wrote about the ephemeral yet lethally attractive woman in The charms of the Passing Woman . When I came to my senses, I paid tribute to the light of my heart, the love of my life, Om Fares The Wind Beneath My Wing . My blog became more self-consuming and my first real personal post was in response to a commentator’s request. He wanted me to write about myself and I responded with Something About Me , a post I consider my very best yet by virtue of the memories it stirred and the profound impact this particular story had had on my own life.
The greatest pleasure derived from blogging though was the golden opportunity to cross paths with you. Within twelve months I have met some of the most amazing people ever. Most, I have never seen, a few, I don’t even know their real names but they have nonetheless become my friends. Karin , a woman of unrestricted enthusiasm, dedication and affinity for justice has done more good to the Palestinian cause and to Islam than most of us, Palestinians, Syrians and Arabs in general have. She is my friend and I’m so proud she considers me her friend as well. The Syrian Brit  a top-notch surgeon and physician living in England surprised me, and probably himself, with the many parallel lines we have in common. Like Karin, I have never met him yet. I don’t even know his real name. I read every single word he writes (although I wish he does more of it). I respect his sense of decency, his affection for his family and country and his dedication to his noble career. Shannon , a teacher of the English Language, is a sincere, hard-working American who reminds me of all the good honest folks I have met during my eight years journey of America. She, too, is a friend I have never met. Dubai Jazz  an expatriate Aleppine living and working in Dubai brings to memory my own homesickness when I was away. He also reminds me of my struggle(s) when I was his age. I admire him for his intelligence, his wit and his resilience in his quest for what is right and what is wrong. We are planning on meeting this summer and I will either teach him some bad habits or he succeeds in instilling in me some good ones. Most likely, it will be a combination of both. Yazan  and I have met over a glass of Arak in the mountains near Tartous. He is a bright young man with a promising future. I esteem his intensity, his compulsiveness and sincerity. Our meeting was too brief and I look forward more drinks and chatter. Chet  is a brother of mine across the oceans, across the mountains and the plains. Had I known Chet while I was living in Louisiana, I would have walked the distance to Nebraska to spend sometime together, on the front door of his trailer or in his favorite watering hole. We still have not met in person, Chet and I, but we will, one day. Soraya , her parents and I had dinner together one past summer night. She is a highly intelligent and sensitive woman. She writes from her heart, a heart as pure as snow and as big as Syria. Gray Fox  invited me not so long ago to Damascus. He has arranged a wonderful get-together of some Syrian bloggers. It was a great joy meeting all of them. They made me feel young again (although I’m not that old). I read Gray Fox very slowly like smooth Vodka and tremendously enjoy his writings, his dreams and his vision. Rime  an elegant woman with style and grace makes me wait for “her” politics despite my deep-seated aversion. Only a master such as her can tackle controversial political quandaries and get out on top. She loves her country and she is proud of who she is. When she attacks official Syria with hard balls she makes sure she does it, not from the sidelines, not from the dugout, but from her own side of the court. Another doctor I greatly admire is Abu Kareem , who writes excellent and readable political essays. We share more beliefs and values than we differ over circumstantial politics and I make sure to review his blog always. Razan, oops Sham, I mean Golaniya  brings warm laughter to my heart. She is spontaneous, she is smart, she is arrogant, she is modest, she is human. Had she been a few years younger, oops had I been a few years older, I mean … you know what I mean. I just wish she stops changing her penname, she’s making me dizzy. Writing from Montreal, an original ibn balad Damascene, Omar F  helps me fill some mental gaps I have neglected over the years. Whether by design or not, he excels in his role as the modern Syrian intellectual. I often crave a glass of wine, although at times something much stronger, after reading one of his posts. There is yet another Omar S  in Canada and I always read his delightful, lighthearted, easy flowing, unpretentious posts. He constantly succeeds in transforming me into a college kid and I tremendously enjoy this momentary transition. Canada is home to still one more blogger I regularly follow and appreciate. Ihsan  scribbles about everyday experiences or his reflections on the “Ghorbe” inside us all with compelling dark humor. Arima  who describes herself as “a mix of Egyptian and British genes” puts me on the line every now and then with a thought provoking tag or a far-reaching post. Although I have never seen her, but would love to, I imagine her as a woman of exceptional Egyptian beauty. Blogging is certainly dull if some of the comments do not challenge the writer. Lujayn  makes sure I do not get away with everything, especially when the topic is reservedly divisive. For some reason I enjoy disagreeing with her. She keeps me on my toes. Restless in Dubai  celebrates life on his blog in all of its triumphs and pitfalls. He is not afraid to be sensitive in the open, an attribute we should all learn to emulate and respect. I have also learned more about Ascribo  by reading his posts than by knowing him as my nephew. When I returned from the United States he was a toddler still. I was lucky to witness his first steps, and now I am proud of what he has become. I can rest assured that as I grow older and my health gets frailer, I will always have a Doctor in the house. Angel  should write more often on her charming blog. However, when she comments on mine she does so with such a feminine flair that I immediately think of losing some weight just in case I should run face to face with her one day. I am certain that I have failed to mention many other wonderful persons I have come to know through their blogs or on my own over the last year. This, however, is a shortcoming of mine and does not reflect their degree of importance to me. To all, a big thank you for writing and being a part of my daily life. I also appreciate the fact that you are reading me. I have the common sense to acknowledge that I do not make sense all the time. But at least I know that I try my best to remain the honest and candid person I have always been.
Blogging has helped me come to terms with some of my own unexposed traits. By putting thoughts into words, by publishing them on the internet for all to read, I have become a more content person. The effect is therapeutic as blogging has made me realize that my true self is acceptable to (some) other people. Their acceptance is not tinted by any material or conditional advantage. They are reading my blog because, apparently, it has touched them in some way. There is no greater reward than this realization.
Another tremendous personal gain I reaped out of blogging is ascertaining my own identity, as a Tartoussi, a Syrian, a Levantine, an Arab, a Muslim and a human being. A troubling trend has been gaining momentum in the last few years, encouraged by the State of Israel and the current US administration, that of planting seeds of doubts and shame in the collective psyche of the population of the Middle East and North Africa. This troublesome trend worries me as it has one of two possible outcomes. If the plot reaches some of its objectives then we are likely to go through rough seas in the near future. Every social minority, every religious sect, every extinct creed living now in arguably relative harmony will jump at the others’ throats. Just observe what they have done in Iraq and learn. If the scheming fails it might be more likely because it had stirred the dormant fire of religious fanaticism as a self-defense mechanism. Up till now, it is my belief that “most” (certainly not all) of the “terrorism” they keep complaining about has come about through the making of their own hands and the scheming of their own minds. In the 6-volume novel “Dune” by Frank Herbert (1920-1986) , the Fremen’s Jihad eventually toppled up the entire universe. The Fremen , a simple yet ferocious people belonging to tribes of the desert lived in deplorable conditions similar to what the State of Israel and the current US administration are forcing on the Palestinians and the Iraqis today. Similar also to what they are trying to impose on the other “tribes” of the region. The West (in general) is using the word Jihad too loosely, underestimating what it really implies. A true Jihad, if it ever catches momentum, could well change the face of the earth. Only if they knew what lurks inside the magic lamp. I might never know for certain my exact ancestry, and frankly I could care less. Being a Tartoussi for at least 6 generations past on my father’s side and from the alleys of Damascus’ Quanawat on my mother’s side, it could well mean that I have at least Phoenician, Byzantine, European and Arab blood running through my veins. But here I am at this very moment ascertaining in English that I can identify myself only as a present-day Arab. This is an identity worth defending as are all the other ethnic identities in existence. Even if I fear the risk of offending local minorities in Tartous, Syria, the Levant and the entire Middle East and North Africa I would say it still: You, I and everyone else living here, has the Arab identity tattooed all over their faces. It would be much easier to engrave it in their hearts as well instead of futilely resisting a simple fact of life. We are all Fremen after all.
I might have exhausted my welcome with this unusually long post. However, after one whole year of blogging and 117 different posts, after dozens of pictures and thousands of words, after the recipes, the personal thoughts, the politically one-sided essays, after the drinks and the passing women, after my devotion to my family, my love to my city and my total commitment to a just cause, after I inhale Syria with every breath I take and BEFORE I close my eyes every night, I still have nothing to prove, obviously not to you and certainly not to myself.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
The man was a big shot and the head of his own business empire. For some reason, he calls himself the chairman of the board. His older son (the idiotic looking one) was introduced to us, the innocent Italian and me, as the chief executive officer, while the second son (the disgusting one with the greased coal-black hair) the general manager in charge of foreign accounts. What kind of a stupid job description is that, I was rubbing my eyes now, why doesn’t he just say: “he is my fucking son and that’s why he’s sitting here with us.” The victimized Italian was desperate. I knew what was going on in his mind, no salary in the world would be enough of a compensation for spending 2 hours with this moron. He was probably dreaming of spaghetti and Bocelli, of the green Italian vineyards and the lithe girls coming to and fro in the streets of Padova at exactly this hour on a Saturday night. He’ll let us sleep it over, the exact amount of money he offered for our services and which he, in his infinite wisdom and business sense, deemed appropriate. Then he stood up and the meeting adjourned. Take them to dinner, he told his son, the one with the greased coal-black hair. I tried to extricate my miserable Italian companion and myself but to no avail. The chairman of the board had said: Let there be dinner, and there was no way around that. Has anyone ever said no to this asshole, I wondered.
We were driven by the two sons, the helpless Italian and me, in two separate cars along with a couple of the ass-kissers from the meeting to a fancy restaurant in uptown Damascus. Dinner was presided over by the older idiotic looking son. It was his turn to act like a peacock now. He ordered the food for everybody without even having the courtesy of asking us what we would like. Like father like son, he knows best. We were allowed to order our soft fucking drinks since HE doesn’t drink alcohol. The disheveled Italian and I have accepted what must’ve been fate. We have done something terribly wrong that day, last year, before we were even born or conceived, and we were paying for it. I left to the restroom to, well, take a leak really. The greased coal-black haired one followed me and stood against the wall. While relieving my bladder he popped up the question. Would you like some Vodka with your Cola? You know we can’t let the Haj know (the Haj being his brother, the chief executive officer). I smiled at him while zipping up. He looked so beautiful in that instant in time and I wasn’t hating him anymore. Not some Vodka please, a lot of Vodka, I pleaded. Relax, he said, let’s finish dinner with the Haj then I’ll take you around Damascus, just the three of us. The Italian, the beautiful man and I had 3 colas each. After the first sip, the Padovano glanced my way and wanted to say something. He stopped short as I harshly stepped on one of his expensive Italian shoes and benevolently smiled. It seems that the evening was turning our way after all. We might still end up winners.
An hour later we were descending some stairs in one of the better neighborhoods of Damascus. I had no idea what to expect but the beautiful man assured me that we’re going to like it. Now in all honesty, I can’t claim that I ever was a regular of nightclubs. I always preferred small bars where people go in to drink and talk. On the occasions I’ve been to places where there’s dancing, I was taken there by somebody. This was a huge surprise to me. I’ve heard that there’s nightlife in Damascus but I never knew to what extent. Let me say this, I never knew that there are such places in Syria. The atmosphere was fabulous. Crazy young men and women were dancing wild. They were kissing and touching in dark corners. Do they do that in Damascus? Alberto, or whatever his name, asked me. Sure, I said, boys and girls are like that everywhere. Shit, I couldn’t believe it myself. The beautiful man was in his early forties but that didn’t stop the half-dressed girls from dropping by our table to give him kisses and tell him how much they’ve missed him. The music was loud, the Scotch smooth and Alessandro, or whatever his name, euphoric. He was on the dance floor as his Italian pedigree proved irresistible to the women with too much blood in their alcohol, I mean, you know what I mean.
The beautiful man asked me if I was going to give in to his father’s demands and I told him that I didn’t think so. He told me that he didn’t think so either and that we should drink to that. We did and he taught me a few business lessons at three o’clock in the morning, the Damascene way.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
To Arima and all the wonderful ladies out there, apparently, I have the charm of JFK and the brains of Einstein. Or! Could it be the other way around?
According to the online test this is the type of leader I am. According to a tartoussi, I have no leadership qualities or interests whatsoever. The only trait I share with JFK is probably my passion for women. As for Albert, I agree with him that "God does not play dice with the universe".
That obviously makes me more like Pepe Le Pew rather than either of them.
I am tagging Karin, Dubai Jazz and Gray Fox with this one
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Politics is a dirty game even in vintage democracies. The system itself suffers from an inherited fallacy and promotes scoundrels and assholes. I’ll pick a country with a reputable history of democracy, umh, Sweden for instance. I can’t speak for the Swedes but it’s my understanding that their opinions about the majority of their politicians is in line of what I’m suggesting. The world’s parliaments, assemblies and congresses are mainly filled with rogues of little or no substantial intellectual capacity. They are after something for sure; however, I have my doubts that they are losing any sleep over the interests of their constituents.
Back to the local scene, what is it that makes these people tick? Do they really represent anyone but themselves? What about their supporters? What are these idiotic slogans?
What sonsofbitches came up with phrases like:
Together We Build Our Country
We Chose Him Because We Had Known Him
The Youth Candidate
Together We Fight Corruption
The Test is in the Choice
We Trust This Man
What about the titles that precede their names? Industrialist, Artist, Media Personality, Business Man, Ex-Football Player, Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, Haj. Isn’t anybody a nobody anymore? They are all dressed in suits and look fat and comfortable. It’s no longer in vogue to be a simple farmer or worker to run for the parliamentary elections. The majority are “appointed’ parrots from the “Front” and most of the rest are a bunch of fat cats. What about me? Of the dozens of ugly faces polluting my vision, who ever asked me what I want or what I need? Who dare say, he or she represents me?
With no political, social or economic agendas, campaigning for votes has turned into a circus (with actual tents). Truckloads of provisions and monetary staples are distributed among the populace a couple of weeks before Election Day. Then voters are brought in busloads, free lunch included, to cast their votes. The winners are our “independent” representatives.
Fashro! I represent myself. And I love my country and defend it with my own life in spite of them. I am sure there are some who have willingly entered this diversion with honorable intentions all along. I am also certain that may be a very few might actually get in. For these exceptions I have all the respect in the world. They believe that they might be able to positively contribute to the welfare of society through this mutated democratic process. I salute their courage and their efforts. For the rest, buzz off and get back to sleep.
Monday, April 02, 2007
If we were meant to live long enough to sit on the front porch and observe pedestrians going about their daily affairs and if we’re to gaze at young lovers courting in the sun, we’d better have some reminiscences of our own to use in that looming draught. We should start packing memories by living the happy times now. Keep in touch with those you care about. It’s the most important thing we can do for the future, for our own sake and for those we truly love.