Michael Totten

This is Beirut

Posted by Michael J. Totten
Beirut is a bullet-riddled Holiday Inn with 15-foot holes blasted into the side of it towering above elegant new construction downtown.
Beirut is a Starbucks that is identical to the one near my house in Portland, Oregon down to the last nail.
Beirut is the most impeccably polite and charming waiter who has ever served me dinner and wine.
Beirut is a fat man smoking a cigar in the elevator.
Beirut is where everyone calls me “sir” and says “welcome.”
Beirut is a taxi driver leaning on his horn and screaming at cars.
Beirut is Eastern.
Beirut is Western.
Beirut is a veiled 50-year old woman in a black head-to-toe chador shuffling past a young scantily-clad jogger plugged into her iPod.
Beirut is a French colonial architectural masterpiece.
Beirut is a row of 1970s eyesore apartment towers.
Beirut is an elegant cobble-stoned street.
Beirut is a leg-breaking hole in the sidewalk.
Beirut is Christian.
Beirut is Muslim.
Beirut is ground zero of a liberal-democratic revolution in the Middle East.
Beirut is religious fanatics with guns on the streets of the southern Hezbollahland suburbs.
Beirut is a tiny woman begging for handouts.
Beirut is a tycoon decked out in gaudy over-sized jewelry behind the wheel of a Mercedes.
Beirut is the muezzin’s haunting call to Muslim prayer.
Beirut is the soft peal of church bells.
Beirut is booze, gambling, flirtatious women, and Playboy Magazine sold on the streets.
Beirut is where unmarried – even engaged – men are encouraged to visit prostitutes because it takes the pressure off their girlfriends.
Beirut is the capital of a Middle Eastern country that actually holds elections.
Beirut is where three Lebanese presidents were murdered by the Syrian Baath regime.
Beirut is Christians and Muslims living together in peace.
Beirut is an insurance company manager in an upscale bar with a picture of gun-toting Christian militia leader Bashir Gemayel saved on his cell phone.
Beirut is people who say in public whatever they want.
Beirut is Syrian secret police who listen to everything everyone says.
Beirut is a graveyard of Israelis.
Beirut is a graveyard of Americans.
Beirut is a graveyard of the Syrian empire.
Beirut is, especially, a graveyard of Lebanese.
Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East.
Beirut is the Sarajevo of the Middle East.
Beirut is civilized.
Beirut is wild.
One thing Beirut is not, and has never been: Beirut is not boring.