Saturday, July 30, 2005

Welcome to Ikhti Bar

I think people who open bars and give them names haven't got a clue what they're talking about. They've got it all wrong. What kinda names are these? Sky Bar? Asia Bar? Fashion Bar? L Bar? Creativity? Imagination? I think not. No matter how small it is, they always manage to jam themselves and their lame creations inside a box.

I, on the other hand, have got it all figured out.

What we all need are bars with a message. Bars for a cause. Bars that think outside the box.

Alaouak Bar: Non-alcoholic venue for the religious who want to get together and have some good, clean fun, without consuming the forbidden and engaging in "almounkar".

Shoulakh Bar: For politicians and businessmen with regular news and business updates automatically or on-demand. Courtesy cuban cigars.

Sornak Bar: For all those going through menopause and middle age crises. Jack Daniels and Smirnoff a gogo. Courtesy handkerchiefs to the watery and the emotionally uninhibited.

Moukhta Bar: A venue for scientists, intellectuals and nerds, with special emphasis on dairy and caffeinated beverages. Alternatively, a venue to initiate the young and innocent, who are still picking their noses, to the wisdom and pleasures of good ol' spirits.

Yes. That's how I see it and how I think it should be.

And if things don't go as planned but as expected, if I go bankrupt, if I get shunned and defamed, I will say hey, welcome to your life and mine, welcome to Ikhti Bar.

You're here now, and you'll be gone soon so, sit down, kick back, relax.

Drinks always on the house.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Butler the Schnauzer

This is from last year. Posted upon request.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Umm.. I beg your pardon? Ahhhhhhh :)

Dr. KT
Age:Old Born:HongKong YearsInUS:22 English:Perfect Accent:Asian Quality:Dense
Resident AF
Age:35 Born:Russia YearsInUS:9 English:Perfect Accent:Russian Quality:Faint to moderate

(First interaction behind a microscope. Looking at slides and making diagnoses. And conversation. At least trying to.)

Dr. KT: Soooo where do you live?
Res AF: (Faintly nods, unsure. Says nothing)

Dr. KT: Do you live close by?
Res AF: I beg your pardon?

Dr. KT: Where is your house? Where do you live? (weaaeeyuhoww weayuliiiii)
Res AF: Ohh. Sorry. haha. yeah. hmm. (Not a clue)


Dr. KT: LIVE. LIVE. WHERE DO YOU LIVE (very high pitched asian frustrated cry)
Res AF: OH so sorry Dr.T.. heh. I didn't (pulls himself back together). I live in Franklin.

Dr. KT: Antioch? (??)
Res AF: Franklin (now how these two were confused, I have no idea)

Dr. KT: Good
Res AF: Yeah.. very nice area


Dr. KT: How hard was it to come here from Russia?
Res AF: Russia? yes very nice too.. not hot at all. Very cold..

Dr. KT: No. How HARD was it to adapt to new lifestyle?
Res AF: Oh yeah.. (thinking hard) umm.. hopefully... thank you.

Dr. KT: I beg your pardon?
Res AF: I said thank you.. I appreciate it. Hopefully I will (smiles, actually believing he got it this time)

(Long Pause, still looking at slides)

Dr. KT: This is an interesting case. Do we have a previous biopsy on this patient?
Res AF: Yeah uhu..


Dr. KT: Can you pull the slide so we can compare?
Res AF: uhu yeah (nods)


Dr. KT: Umm.. I said could you please pull the slide from the file?
Res AF: (Smiles amicably, still nodding, brain completely shut down)

Res AF: Um Uh Yeah yeah! (realizing it must be an emergency). I'm sorry. hmm. I'm not sure I got that. (thinks hard trying for the last time to understand) What is it you're seeing? Yeah that's a GREAT example.. (Doesn't move)


(Dr. KT, who rarely gets flustered, quickly defaults back to zen, leaves his chair, goes to the files and pulls the slide. AF watches him do it while banging his head against the microscope. He tells Dr. KT he's terribly sorry. Dr. KT tells AF he wasn't the first. And that it was OK. Or so AF thought he said. There wasn't much talking done after that. Only rare mumbling and scribbling on reports. Things were better in the following months, though.
A few years later, it's me, sitting with Dr. KT in the same room behind the same microscope, listenig to him, lip reading and analysing his speech patterns, remembering AF's little misadventure, faintly smirking and totally and utterly cracking up inside :)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Our reason to persist

A new bomb shook Beirut last night. As always, I feel sad and desillusioned, but I seem to have lost the anger. I thought twice about posting a short tale of personal suffering when I'm just a little, insignificant drop in a sea of affliction. But it's all probably connected. And maybe it's all the same.

I passed a kidney stone yesterday. One tiny little piece of crystallized mineral salts, that felt like mount rushmore was slowly and painfully moving down my ureter. I have been quite healthy most of my life, but I'm no stranger to pain. I've had my fair share of toothaches, headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and yes, the all-dreaded heartaches. But this was no usual ache. This was it. And it was different.

It comes suddenly, finds you, digs ferociously into your gut, drenches you in sweat, tears and vomit all at the same time, and makes you wish you could carve your right flank out with your own cold hand and trembling fingers, and throw it to the dogs.

It makes you realize that, no matter how many patients you've treated and how much you know about body ailments, you never really apprehend until you find yourself sitting helplessly on the other side, the side of the ill, writhing in pain at home, at the edge of your bed, shaking like a leaf in an empty waiting room while people are too busy to lend you a moment, watching from the coldness of your stretcher the neon lights racing over your head, one light at a time, just like in the movies, as you are pushed around from your bed to the scanner and back, a journey of a few minutes that seems to take three forevers in a row.

It makes you respect the stone. And fear it.

Yet it passes. And as it lies inanimate and harmless in the palm of your hand, you stand victorious and invincible. Or so you would like to believe. Or so you probably should.

In times like these, the realization of how weak and vulnerable we are can bring an abrupt end to our willingness to fight. But it rarely does. Because the fight, although sometimes we might think differently, is not about the outcome. The eventual outcome is known and inevitable. The fight is about the fight itself. Not the least bit more.

Because that is what truly differentiates us from animals. Our survival instinct, our belligerence and anger, our neverending struggle, be it for health, power, ideology, food and water even, is not about preservation of the species or the individual. It is about not settling for acceptance. It is about not putting down weapons and giving up. It is about holding the fight till the very end.

It is about finding in the struggle for persistence itself a reason to persist.

Because we're all here for the journey. And if we weren't, all of life becomes nothing more than a big, fat, all too long and all too unpleasant joke.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

To the one who was, yet will always be, I pray for a hundred more days in a hunderd more years to wake up to the morning of her eyes, the most beautiful morning in all stories ever told.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Qui est-tu morceau de marbre terni par la pluie et la solitude.
Quitte car moi je ne te reconnais point.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The story of Y

Y joined our small lebanese community in Nashville a little over 2 weeks ago. He came here straight from Lebanon to complete a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery, which in itself is quite an undertaking, especially for the breed of "foreign" trained physicians that we belong to.

Being the hardworking and amiable person he is, he received tremendous support from the chairmen of both surgery departments, and with a heart filled with excitment and expectation, he jumped on and off the plane into the arms of sweet mother America.

On his very first day, he was handed a 10 cm thick pile of articles to read and write up into a review presentation, on a topic he knew hardly anything about. That's in addition to a long list of all his in-lab and in-hospital responsibilities. Although he felt a little apprehensive and overwhelmed, Y was never shy of hard work. He knew this wasn't going to be a stroll in the park, but he was all for it.

Yet he quickly found out that the hospital work wasn't exactly the hard part. It wasn't the hard part at all.

The first couple of days, he said, were the most lonely and most depressing he'd ever had.

Sleeping on the floor in an empty apartment, not knowing where to go, what to do, who to talk to, barely getting the gist of an unfamiliar english molded by the heavy accent of the deep south, realizing that in this new country, he was as human as a set of numbers stored in his governmental records; social security number, credit index, bank account, random numerical sequences that give him a statute of living, and without which he might as well cease to exist.

Three days into his odyssey, Y was ready to pack his things and fly back home.

Yet he didn't. Instead he found a small support system in the few lebanese kiddos that we are, and through us he tried to understand, just like we did not so long ago, that in America, emptiness was calm, numbers were order, and loneliness was an expression of character and individuality.

I don't think he quite understood though. I don't think any of us did.

A few days later, he told me he spent one hour and two hundred dollars at a middle eastern grocery store. Everything he saw and recognized, he bought. He said he even bought things like halewe, which he never ate when he was still in Lebanon. He said he couldn't help himself. He said he missed it all too much.

I wanted to tell Y I missed it all too much, too. But I have learned all too well to forget.

I don't know what will become of Y in a year, or two, or three. I don't know how he will change and who he will become.

I know that, over the past few years, I have somehow learned how to live without the man'ousheh, the ka3keh bi knefeh, the loubieh bzeyt, the betenjen me'li, without the jiran, the dekken, the service, without the to2borneh, the katter kheir allah, the sahtein wou 3afieh, the salemet albak, and the yeslamo hal iden. I somehow did.

Yet everytime I find a Fayrouz song, somewhere on a website, I can't help but listen, and as soon as the music starts, as soon as she starts singing, all I want is to go back to libnen, kneel down on every inch of soil that I have cursed and forsaken, and cry.

Cry until I have no more tears to shed and nowhere else in the world to go.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Everyone seems to be baffled by today's assassination attempt against pro-syrian Murr. Nothing to be baffled about. The syrian regime is beyond protecting its allies and eliminating its opponents. In its eyes and in the shadow of the grander plan, we're all alike and we're all disposable. The assumption that Murr was targeted because he knows too much is almost comical. Who doesn't know too much. The syrian contribution to the lebanese conflicts and political debacle is factual not speculative. The regime's objective is clear. Confuse and destabilize. This last gambit seems to have at least partially accomplished its purpose. More will certainly follow, and luck, it seems, has chosen to join the ranks of the enemy.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The dancer


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mon ame est triste jusqu'a la mort..

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Don't go

When summer cries
Echo in vain
When none that dies
Is born again
When all your days are lessons on how to forget and how to grieve
No matter how much time is left
It's time to leave

When love is only
Love your own
When lies are kept
And freedoms thrown
When all your days are flashes of humans and their sickening show
No matter how much time you have
It's time to go

When wealth is just
golden and green
When faith is just
What's heard and seen
When all your days are empty slates of grainy white and grainy black
No matter how much time you crave
It's time to go and not come back

When evil is
All that's in sight
When every thought
Fostered by hate
Kills a new light
When all your days are choking with I wish, I should, I pray, I might
No matter how much time is left
Don't go just yet
Wake up my friend
Stand up
And Fight