You Should See My New House

I had totally bid a fond farewell to this page, but a couple people wanted to see photos of our new house, so I figured this was the best place for such a thing. This is our temporary rental solution till we can figure out how to buy one of our own.

This is what it looks like from the street.

The living room w/ Amy’s little computer area.

Amy populating said area.

The living room as viewed from the other side.

Our nascent wine collection. There’s another case in my bedroom closet, in case of emergencies. I have some hectic mornings.

The back patio. I have a brand-new bbq grill that I haven’t gotten around to putting together yet, but when I do…man, it’s gonna be sweet.

My new home office. I’m very happy with it.

A little corner of my office.

And that, as they say, is that.

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One Foot Out the Door

As is probably abundantly clear, I haven’t really been updating this space so much lately. Work and a houseguest and preparation to leave have made it hard to find the time. The fact that Amy is doing such a great job documenting what’s going on in our household over on her site makes it hard to see the point.

With less than 48 hours left till we head back to the States, I’m experiencing the sensation not unlike being at the end of a vacation and sitting at the hotel waiting to go to the airport. If not for wanting to see some of our friends one last time, I would be just as happy sitting in my office in NYC or our new house in Austin right now. Tonight we’re going up to the mountains with Mike, Bjorn, and some other regularly occurring characters for a final throwdown. Tomorrow will be all packing and errands.

So, this is it. It’s been fun but I don’t see myself keeping up this journal once we’re back in the U.S. Though who knows? Maybe I will be inspired by my fuel-efficiency research, quest for the perfect BBQ ribs, and the vagaries of home ownership.

Thanks for tuning in over the past year.

Though I was expressly forbidden to spin the cars on the ferris wheel last night, that didn’t stop Amy from doing it.

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Every Time A Bell Rings, An Angel Gets His Wings

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My mood is:

I just finished writing a functional brief and deploy instructions for a project I’ve been working on. Now it is out of my hands.

So tomorrow we leave for Oman at around 3pm. I am so happy to have a week in a strange place with no work. I’m disposing of the rest of my evening by “browning down* and burning CDs to play in our rental car. So far I’ve got the new Built To Spill, Oneida’s The Wedding and Come On Everybody Let’s Rock, and I’m trying to burn Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Tepid Peppermint Wonderland, but iTunes is giving me grief.

It was recently brought to my attention that my online journal is the #1 result when Googling “ethan beirut”. The last I had checked it was #2. Gagner! Googling “ethan brooklyn” only gets me #22.

* “Browning down” is actually what UPS managers and executives call it when they have to don the brown uniforms and go out into the field.

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King Wenceslas

My mood is:

Normally our neighbor across the street annoys us w/ constant hawking and spitting (if I can hear you clear your throat and spit from 5 floors up, that is some loud business) and blasting habibi jams and arguing with the Sukleen guys, but today he was playing some nice Christmas music. I was into it.

It occurred to me the other day that habibi jams have actually succeeded in eroding my appreciation of traditional arabic music. The hab-jams universally appropriate the same syncopated hand-drum beat and now whenever I hear strains of that rhythm, whatever the context, I associate it with terrible arabic pop. Thanks Haifa, Nancy, Pamela, et al. Other sounds that drive me crazy…there are two tourism commericials, one for New Zealand and one for India, that drive me absolutely bananas. It’s the music. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the commericials, but I hear them often enough when Amy is watching tv in the next room. Also, all BBC personalities pronounce Al Qaeda as “Al-qaed-er”.

I was going to write something about the guitar guy (not to be confused with this guitar guy) next door who used to terribly play along to Pink Floyd or something or the sax guy down the street who would atonally toot off from time to time, but I haven’t heard either in a while, so it no longer seems relevant.

So, I worked all day…Amy was in and out and went to bed early. Bjorn came over for a while and we talked about this and that and mostly movies on the front balcony, drinking the browns. I extolled the near-movie-saving performance of Gary Busey in The Hulk and supported his non-interchangeability with Nick Nolte. I later realized that it was in fact Nick Nolte that played Bruce Banner’s father in The Hulk. I hang my head. But it was a fun time.

Two more days of work and then Oman for 10 days and then 23 days in Beirut and then we’re gone. It hardly seems believable.

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Top 0xA

My mood is:

2 o’clock and all’s well.

Today was as pedestrian as they come…I worked till around 10pm, Amy made some great white bean soup (and cooked up the chocolate left over from Mary Ann’s icecream-filled pastries from Friday), we watched some incomprehensible Hank Azaria thing, and then Amy shaded off and I tried (unsuccessfully) to watch Amelie for the first time. After I woke up on the couch, I poured a glass of wine, read the NYT op-eds, and started writing this.

While on the subject of the completely mundane, I forgot to mention that I bought new pants this weekend. This was necessitated by the fact that Oman is really hot this time of year and all I have is jeans. Not much of story, but when the salesperson asked what size I wore and I told him 36 (or 52 European), he wouldn’t get the pants until I actually showed him the label of the jeans I was wearing. He was not the first salesperson to be flummoxed by my comical dimensions. I ended up with some respectable charcoal/chocolate cotton casuals. Amy was hoping I’d go for the baggy khakis with the drawstring, but nothing doing.

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t-minus 37

My mood is:

Our weekend in brief…I put my foot down and was strictly 9-5 on Friday (my day off). Our friends Matthew and Mary Ann came over with their daughters for dinner. A good time was had by all. Stella was either curious or had her curiosity provoked about my guitar so she, Danielle, and Matthew played around for a little while (see above). She wanted to play it like a cello (I think her uncle plays the cello). It was cute. We ate and talk about this and that, but as is often the case when you’re hanging out and being adults and enjoying yourselves talking about adult things, the kids have to go to bed, so the adults have to leave early. To be fair, the kids toughed it out past their bedtime. Amy and I went over to Torino for a little while afterwards, but ended up calling it an early night.

On Saturday morning, I drove out to Bourj Hammoud with Matthew. He was picking up some maps he was having framed at a place out there and I went along for the ride (and hopes of buying some artwork). I did end up buying a small painting. On the drive out and back, Matthew and I discussed Lebanese culture and the differences between trying to live in Lebanon as an American as opposed to an American pretending to be Lebanese. That is to say (and this may be oversimplifying), either it bothers you that your power goes out every other day and you can’t download all your podcasts, or it doesn’t.

After I returned home, Amy and I walked down to Gemmayze, had some pizza at Olio, a coffee at Torino, and then tried to see a movie in Achrafieh. No dice. Determined to see a movie, we took the #2 bus back to our neighborhood just in time to see Brokeback Mountain at the Concorde. It was interesting because when the film came out, we weren’t even expecting it to be screened here (which I think was naivete on our part). We’d read in Timeout that it was edited for showing in this country and I was hesitant to see the cut version before seeing the original. As it turned out, it couldn’t have been more obvious what parts had been omitted. I’d thought that they would’ve edited around the subject matter to make the relationship between the two main characters seem more ambiguous. This was not the case…they just didn’t want to show men kissing. So the two cowboys would lean in and–cut–lean out. We all laughed every time it happened.

Afterwards we went home and ate leftovers. Having not had my fill of films on the topic of complicated, adult male relationships, I watched Stuck On You on TV.

Today we went for our regular Sunday walk on the Corniche. I got some work done and then we went out to with Bjorn and Mike and some other people to Captain’s Cabin. It was kind of interesting as many of our crowd hadn’t been there since they were in high school…20 years ago. We talked about cabbages and kings and true love and life before, during, and after the war. Amy and I went home early again. We’re old and I’ve got the job in the morning.

And other than that, no news fit to print.

Here’s some pictures….

Stella’s handprint in the dust on my guitar case, which I noticed the next day.

Some flowers I saw on Saturday.

The painting I got in Bourj Hammoud.

While I’m at it, here’s a shot of the coffee painting we bought in Hama, Syria.

The waves on the Corniche were massive today.

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Get Node

My mood is:

In other news, Built to Spill has a new album out. It’s supposed to be a return to form and blah blah blah and all that rot. I guess I’ll have to buy it off iTunes and see for myself.

The other day I was in Virgin Megastore looking to see if they had the new Morrissey record (out of curiosity, as I had already bought it from iTunes) and I stumbled across their massive Genesis section. I had no idea Genesis had so many records, but I guess they do. Virgin must have had them all. No wonder it was such a big deal when Phil Collins came here this summer.

I was looking for a great quote Shane MacGowan had about songwriting….something like, “All these songs are just floating around in the air. All you have to do is reach out and grab them. And you’d better, because if you don’t, Phil Collins will.” However, the only Phil-related quote by Shane I could find was this:

I suppose Phil Collins offers ‘something for everybody’ and in hipdom that’s not cool. But in the real world there’s no shame in that at all.

I didn’t try very hard.

By the way, Virgin Megastore had no Morrissey records whatsoever.

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Mood Rings

I should start making icons to reflect my mood in journal posts, like our friend Joumana does over on her site.

Right now my mood is…

It was another “rear window” day for me, shackled to the machine.

Maybe that’s why I got such a kick out of this guy. The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but he was rocking OUT! What enhanced the experience was that I couldn’t hear him at all. He was singing, too.

I’ve had Depeche Mode’s song “Personal Jesus” stuck in my head for about 2 days. It’s not even the whole song, just the “…pick up the receiver, I’ll make you a believer…” part. You know, I can’t say that I’m really minding it all that much.

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Errata and a Draft

Right now it’s about midnight and some of the students in the neighborhood are revelling…hollering and singing happy birthday and whatnot in the street. I love our apartment and Hamra, but I’m certainly not going to miss living on dorm row. It’s a good thing Austin isn’t much of a college town.

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post is that our friend Ben emailed us from Baghdad last week. It was good to hear from him and interesting to see his pictures. It’s too bad that we’ll be gone when he returns to Beirut next.

Also, it looks like the fix is in for our good friend Malcolm to visit us for a couple weeks in May. This is an exciting development indeed. Malcolm and I were renting an apartment in Montreal when Morrissey’s last album (You Are The Quarry) came out. There is no significance to this.

Something I’ve been enjoying lately, thanks to Amy’s dad, is reading the NY Times opinion pieces every day. Today Nicholas Kristof was warning about the evils of high-fructose corn syrup. While I agree that obesity is a terrible problem in America and I find the school “beverage contracts” appalling, he was getting a little crazy (5¢/fluid oz. tax on sugary drinks). That kind of thinking will only lead to a crime-free-but-freedomless ultra-utopia in which we’re forced to reanimate Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes.

I found this old post floating around in my drafts. A few funny things about it are (a) how spectacularly I’ve failed on the work front , (b) about a week ago I discovered an electric space heater in one of our cupboards, and (c) they weren’t in fact offering visa on arrival in Iran.

(27 Jan 2006–at least that’s what the timestamp was)

So, we’ve been back in Beirut for a couple of weeks. We had a wonderful 5 or 6 weeks in the U.S.–flitting about the country visiting friends and family, getting married, etc–but it is also nice to be back at our own place. I’ll probably write more about that in a post entitled “There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Holiday.”

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Actually, our apartment doesn’t have any heat. It’s mostly fine, because we’ve got the gas-powered monster pictured below. however, we ran out of gas about 4 days ago, haven’t gotten around to ordering a new gas bottle, and don’t have a #25 metric wrench so that we can swap out the one from the grill.

We’ve been able to see our friends and revisit some of our old haunts, as well as get back into the swing of things here. I’ve also been taking on some extra work, which was surprisingly easy to adjust to. Now I’m just trying to force my schedule back into a 10am – 8pm timeframe (as opposed to the 12pm-10pm mess I’ve gotten myself into now).

But all this industry isn’t for naught. While we were down in Baltimore spending Christmas with my brother’s family, we took a trip into DC to visit the Syrian embassy. We were able to get a 2-visit visa with a 3-month expiry the same day for $100 each. The price tag was a little rough going down, since we’ve previously been able to get visas at the border for $16, but we definitely wanted to get in there a couple more times before we leave the Middle East and we most definitely don’t want a repeat of our last fiasco. So, although we had been looking forward to throwing a Super Bowl party, we’re heading to Aleppo for 4-days the first weekend in February.

Also, we’re going to Greece for 4 or 5 days in mid-February. Our friends in Oneida are playing a one-off show in Athens, which is about a 2-hour flight from Beirut. So, we’re going to head over for a few days, see some sights and the show, and then our good friend Katy (who happens to be married to someone in the band) is coming back to Beirut with us to finish out the week. It’s a plan that has good times written all over it. Also, having been on tour in the U.S. with Oneida a few times in various capacities, I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to sell Oneida t-shirts in a foreign land.

We are also trying to plan some more ambitious trips for the twilight weeks of our time here. There were several candidates, but once we heard that Iran was now offering visas upon arrival, that destination quickly percolated to the top of the list.

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