Friday, July 28, 2006

A tale of a tavern in wartime

Once upon a time there was a very vain man. Let us call him Hans. Hans was half Lebanese, half German, and he owned a tiny bar in a street lined with bars in Beirut.

He was one of those hands-on owners, who frequents his own establishment daily; he even placed a mirror at the entrance, in which he periodically fixed his hair throughout the course of the evening. Hans might well have been young with a premature crop of grey hair; but he was probably older and assumed this was well-disguised by dressing like a teenybopper in European club gear. He kissed and embraced the beautiful women as they came and went, by strategically placing himself near the door (across from the mirror). Sometimes he played records himself; he even had German music night on Tuesdays, where he subjected the crowds to Heimatmusik, much to the distaste of a certain German patron. His bartenders were permitted to get sloshed on the job and hit on some of the pretty and less pretty girls. Some of them even stalked the clientele. Hans' bar was always crowded, loud and open late, every night of the week.

Then came the war. All the other bars closed for the first week, in anticipation of air strikes. No one knew what to expect; everyone who could fled the country or sought refuge in the mountains. Others stayed home or packed up and moved to safer neighborhoods. Hans’ bar remained open, even though many of his regular guests, who were foreign passport holders, fled the country. Every night, the new clientele —-foreign journalists— would flock to Hans' bar to get shit-faced after a long hard day of covering tear-jerking evacuations. They asked to interview him; they wanted the story of the “other Beirut”, the one that persists in its hedonistic frenzy even when all hell breaks loose. Hans refused. His vanity was offended. After all, he was just trying to have a good time.

Soon some of the regulars started returning, with the promise of foreign flesh provided by the loose network anchor ladies from CNN and CBS and Japanese TV, and the other adjacent bars re-opened their doors. A jubilant atmosphere prevailed until the early hours of the morning on this tiny strip, in a ghost town, as the war raged on and on and on and on, forever after.

The End

P.S. If you recognize Hans, please don’t mention this to him. I too like to visit his establishment.

1 comment:

Charles Malik said...

A good Armenian friend of mine good himself (and, sort of me, even though I've been back a few times) banned from "Hans'" establishment.

My friend positioned himself to steal Hans' friend for the evening, then refused to pay for the bottles of vodka and champagne he'd purchased at the establishment, which is noted for beer consumption, not bottles.

Good to hear it's still open.