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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 according to a tartoussi

2009 is almost over. It started brutally enough with the massacre of 1,400 Palestinians by Israel and it is going to end with the decision makers of the free world still looking the other way. Not a single "democratic" country dares accuse Israel of being as atrocious as Nazi Germany. Statesmen and stateswomen disagree on everything: health care, welfare, the environment, military spending, prayer in school, immigration, same sex marriage, China and global warming but not about Israel. What a bunch of wussies! Ha! This is as far as I am willing to talk dirty politics in a bar or to write on my blog.

Personally, 2009 has been a great year as I have finally came out of my intellectual closet. I had my doubts about religion for as long as I can remember. I have chosen to keep my skepticism under the lid purposely so I do not upset others, many of whom I really care about. But then one day, I stopped being comfortable. I can accept being whatever to anyone but not a hypocrite to myself. To actually believe that we are lucky, chosen, blessed and special because we were born to a certain religion is the biggest lie we can teach our children. I put an end to that once and for all. Whatever I was by virtue of birth I am a secular humanist by virtue of choice.

I also took sides on several issues this year, at least on my blog. Syria, cradle of civilizations and birthplace of human folly and genius, is as colorful as a rainbow. It has always been a land of multiplicity where people of different faiths and cultures coexisted in peace and harmony. It is inimitable in its unique social fabric. The streets of Damascus and every other city contain a human assortment of opposites not to be found anywhere else. From the modestly clad to the sensually provoking, men and women of divergent cultural backgrounds walk side by side. Ours is a secular and pluralistic country where people have historically kept their religious beliefs to the confines of their homes. Generations taught subsequent ones to imitate them, to carry on their values and mores but to accept others for who they are. The new wave of religiosity is as alien to our Levant as the state of Israel is. Over the many centuries of conflict and struggle for political and social control no singular doctrine held power but ephemerally over this land and her people. Any attempt to restrict our diversity and garb us with desert gowns of ignorance, austerity and sameness will fail. I will side with anyone or any group, whether I agree with them or not, in their quest for freedom of choice and expression as long as they do not intend to curb mine. I am equally against men and women wearing burqas in airplanes as I am against them going inside houses of worship naked. The sexual preferences of others are their business and their business alone. Any self righteous hypocrite who denies them this basic right whether by terrorizing them with divine text or through imposing his or her twisted sense of morality cannot be trusted as a potential partner in the democratic process. They are the usurpers to watch. They are as bad, if not worse, than the prevailing variety of psychopaths ruling most totalitarian countries in the world.


I am comfortable with people and happy in my solitude. In 2009 I sought my lonely moments of privacy with unbound relish. Before being a hardworking man, a good neighbor and a law abiding citizen, even before being a husband and a father... I am me. “I came to this world alone and alone I shall leave.” If I do not enjoy the silent sounds of my thoughts or laugh at my own jokes, if I do not smile for her eyes only, if I cannot maintain that space that is utterly mine, how can I ever bring meaning to my life? What kind of person will I be to all the others if I am not myself to me? When I write “out loud” I do not intend to impress. I write mostly to a soul mate who is beyond the grasp of your imagination or my gift for words. For as long as I can remember I considered happiness as a vague and unreachable concept. Only idiots and non-sentient mammals could ever claim such state, I thought. This year has proved me wrong. The moment I realized that happiness is not an end by itself I became happy. No time is more important than today. Nostalgia adds a second dimension to the linear flow of time as memories bring solace and sweet compassion to our burdened minds. But only hope makes our lives worth living and dynamically happy. It is this third dimension that most people are missing and it is exactly what I have found in 2009.

I will continue to write out loud. I appreciate every single reader of this blog, whether she agrees with my choices or not. I am thankful for those who comment and criticize as long as they maintain common courtesy. I am honored by the many friends I have made over the last few years through blogging and who have been nothing less than inspirational. I still have no message to give. I do not blog to change others but to remain me, despite all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
To all my friends
To my dear readers
To You!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Imagine Tartous

I woke up very early as is my habit and enjoyed my solitary morning hour. The onslaught of last night's storm rebounded in my mind and trudged along the bloated streets and through the flailing branches. As the winds howled and the rain pounded against the windows the frowning sky inflicted her wrath down upon the coast. Outside the breakwater, the sailors of a moored ship toiled feverishly in the blinding gale to let her loose and untie her ropes from the constricting buoys . When they finally set her free her master put her on a defiant course in the face of waves and fed her all the power the monstrous engines could muster. She rode the six-meter high swells leaving the treachery of solid land behind and headed deep into the sea where it is safest for her and her men.

I sipped my espresso and listened to stubborn gusts inviting me for a ride along the seashore. They had something to show me, they promised.

Five minutes around Tartous to the sound of 3 random songs and that of the sea. Just come ride with me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


With our best wishes for the holiday season. Cheers!!
Ingrid and Joanie

It was a glorious Sunday in December in a beautiful European capital. I took the train from the airport and arrived at my hotel a little after 9:00PM the night before. I removed my clothes and toiletries from my suitcase and neatly arranged them in the closet and on the bathroom vanity. The room was small but cozy and comfortable, with an oak desk set in the corner, a comfortable Corona chair not far from the window and a palatial bed taking most of the remaining space. I took a quick shower, dressed warmly and walked aimlessly in the light snow in search of a place to eat.

My meeting was an all-day affair on Monday. Normally this type of business trips gives the traveler very little chance, if any at all, to unearth the treasures of his destination. I was lucky, however, not to have found any available seat on the Sunday flight and had to fly 24 hours before. I had the whole day free to myself to roam and discover the city.

I woke up early and refreshed. The snow had stopped falling overnight leaving the streets below thinly veiled in white like a pretty bride on her wedding day. There was no point in shaving my beard and it is absolutely unnecessary here to disclose my toilet habits for the innocent reader. Suffice it to say that I decided to have breakfast, hop back to my room (well to use the bathroom) then go out on an unguided and unplanned tour. Oh the delicious smells of food and coffee in the morning. Whenever I am traveling my capacity to eat, especially breakfast, is quadrupled. Business hotels are almost deserted on Sunday mornings but that did not stop me from having a hearty meal of eggs and sausage, croissants and cake, fruits and cereals, bread and cheese and coffee and tea. More than an hour later, I felt like a happy blimp ready to take on this dazzling and promising winter day. I took the elevator back upstairs for one last call of nature.

A housekeeping trolley was left unattended near my room and I had to squeeze myself between it and the door. The moment I stepped in, my eyes took the nonsensical scene instantly but it failed to register properly in my brain. There they were, two plump chambermaids half-naked on my bed in , shall I say, a very compromising position. I felt candidly sorry for my interruption since they seemed to be caught up in a moment of rapture. I vividly remember the wobbling breasts, or was it only one, of a reddish buxom in her late fifties. Her sweetheart was younger and a tiny bit smaller but was indubitably doing something with her mouth when I chattered the moment. Her lips were frozen in an expression that wildly ranged between appetence and disbelief. They both froze in time and space and stared at me.

“Please, don't mind me at all. I just need to pick up something. Well, come to think of it, I really don't need it right now.” I blabbered, honestly meaning every word. “I shouldn't be back till the afternoon. Please stay and have a good time.”

As I was leaving, my eye fell on the minibar. I opened it and took a sharp look at its content. There it is! I took out a half-a-liter champagne bottle and two glasses from the top. I apologetically approached the night-table by the bed and placed them there quietly.

“My treat, ladies. Have a nice day.” I strolled through plazas and alleys and wandered by a river. I had a generous lunch with a bunch of happy folks under a huge tent. Beer and wine flowed freely on our table. Most were lonely people just like me but that did not stop us from feeling like we were lifelong companions. It was an unforgettably perfect day, nothing less than what my luring and flitting ménage à trois deserved.

My return flight was scheduled in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. After a long day at work, interrupted briefly by a light lunch and concluded with a fancy dinner, I returned to my room late Monday evening. A box of chocolate, a bottle of Champagne and a short Thank You note, signed by Ingrid and Joanie, tickled me pink and kept me delightfully warmhearted.

My two lovely chambermaids still remember me. And, they sent me a Christmas card!!!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

On Minarets and Spires

That I agree or disagree with the Swiss' vote to stop the building of minarets in their country is beyond the point of this article. My opinion, pure and simple, is that it is their business and their business alone. Had I been living in a democratic country where referenda of such nature are held I would probably vote against the construction of many architecturally and functionally out of place structures, including but not limited to bars and brothels near houses of worship, for instance, and vice versa. I see no point in crying foul play when the logic behind the reasoning of those who disagree relies on another form of intolerance. When a fellow Muslim openly condemns Saudi Arabia for banning the construction of churches on her scourged piece of desert he or she might possess the minimum legitimacy to discuss and criticize the Swiss vote. Until then, however, they should keep looking the other way as they have been doing all along.

It is indeed ironic that an increasing number of Syrians consider the emergence of the new religious and conservative propensity in our society as a resurrection of old and cherished values while we deny the Swiss their right to be xenophobic. Monotheist religions in Syria are certainly part of her recent history but do not constitute founding elements of her ancient civilizations or her varied cultures. How can we, Syrians, trace our heritage, values and history to 1,400 years past and arbitrarily stop. Archeological evidence suggests that Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, predates Judaism by some 7,000 years, Christianity by 9,000 years and Islam by roughly 9,600 years. How can we selectively choose to obliterate 87% of our known past and reduce our identity to one usurping trend within a singular faith? The first fermented beverages were discovered in this land, the earliest beer and the primeval wines. We hatched passionate gods, literary epics and love stories while most of humanity was barely afloat in a sea of ignorance. We invented the Alphabet. The 4,250 years old literature of Ebla predates Genesis and subsequent accounts of creation by long centuries. Unlike early claims by “Christian” scientists that the cuneiform tablets found there uphold the authenticity of biblical history, the people of Ebla “authored” almost all of the stories thought to be of divine origin. In one of the rarest occasions of modern times the authorities of Judaism, Christianity and Islam agreed on one common goal, that of stifling the findings of Ebla. They collectively marginalized the significance then obstructed making it common knowledge that the Story of Adam and Eve as it exactly reappeared more than 1,500 years later, was written by an Eblaite playwright, no more no less.

That the Swiss singled out minarets and did not include church spires in their ban is an indication of their deep rooted  intolerance perhaps. That some oppose secularism in Syria, earthly cradle of civilizations, is a manifestation of their shallow bigotry.