Tomorrow I set sail for the old world, Phoenicia, via the not-quite-so-old world, old Europe. I am visiting the Frankfurt book fair, and will spend a few days with my family in Berlin.
Beirut. I look forward to seeing the sea (polluted or not), riding in precariously delapidated servises, instant coffee with condensed milk at Uncle Diek's on the Corniche, drinking beer on the cliffs at Raoche, all the iftars and Ramadan delicacies, rude awakening at the hands of the batata salesman, stray cats in lieu of New York City rats, call-to-prayer induced insomnia, my roommates' "Arab Lesbian Liberation Army" t-shirts, rallies and counter-rallies, sectarian bigotry, responding with stone cold silence to Abu Abed jokes, flying the Palestinian flag in Achrafieyeh, Cafe Younes iced cappucchino sans ice, and late summer grime and sweat.
Yesterday while driving on the BQE highway through Queens, two F-16 fighter jets flew overhead, breaking the sound barrier. Perhaps this is customary in the post 9/11 era, but it scared the bejayzus out of me. I instinctively merged onto the nearest exit ramp off the highway, only to find myself in a neighborhood full of Hacidic men who refused to answer my plea for directions. Perhaps they didn't speak English, or maybe I wasn't wearing the right stockings and wig. Finally a friendly plump Russian Orthodox girl offered me useless directions: "Go strayt, strayt. Nyet left, nyet right."
And now for a little music. While thoroughly irrelevant, this amused me. The North Korean Defense Hymn. The Wizard of Oz's "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" meets a Red Army anthem. They sound deliriously cheerful, those poor malnourished North Koreans.