Coke Zeros (again) as The Prophet (and Arrow) walk

We have returned from our holiday in Lebanon — refreshed and rejuvenated. The new grand child, the grand(est)daughter, was beautiful and happy. Her parents were thrilled and somewhat tired. For us, the trip was a total delight. (And, while we were gone, Arrow (almost) learned to walk.)

Last weekend, we joined the Lebanon-based family with an excursion to the mountains in the northern part of the country. We drove to Ehden along..

The Highway.” Darius proclaimed.

“Highway?” I replied.

“It’s a little crowded on Saturday morning, Dad.”

“Hmm.” I replied. “
A little crowded?” I thought. “It’s like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”

“Why don’t people stay in their lanes?” Nazy, cowering in the backseat, asked.

“Lanes?” Darius responded. “It will clear up pretty soon.”

“Great.” I replied. “
Before or after the Syrian border?” I thought.

Darius’ previously mentioned driving skills (immune to the occasional shouts of distress from the back seat) got us to Ehden in good time. We had lunch in a local restaurant (Le Mortier) famed for the regional delicacy… a meatball roughly as large as a basketball.

Giant meat balls

Note: The meatballs were very tasty.

We stayed in Ehden at a nice hotel with a great view of The Mediterranean. Most people don't realize that there are some very large mountains in Lebanon. The highest, Qurnat as Sawda, is over 10,000 feet. We enjoyed cooler temperatures and refreshingly clear air during the trip. And, on the way home, we stopped at the Mar Sarkis Monastery, which has a museum dedicated to Kahlil Gibran, author of
The Prophet. Gibran, born in Bsharri, Lebanon, worked and wrote in New York City. He wanted to be buried in Lebanon. The setting was beautiful and the museum enlightening.

“His poetry was very popular in the 60’s, Nazy.” I claimed. “
Counter culture.” I thought.

“I didn’t know that he was an artist as well.” Nazy replied.

“You mean artist as in painter, I presume.” I replied — looking at a thematic collection of paintings. “
He seems to favor naked ladies,” I thought. “60’s for sure.”

While we were having fun in Lebanon, there were unusual and ominous developments back in the USA. (I’m not talking about the actions of the ‘
administration’; those, while ominous, are not unusual. I am talking about big business blunders. It reminded me of..

Christiane and Darius and Leandra at Girban

Houston, Texas
April 23, 1985 (A day that will live in infamy forever)

Reacting with finely honed skill and speed to the frightening and unbelievable news, I moved swiftly and decisively. I summoned Hershel to my office in the Schlumberger facility on the Gulf Freeway.

“I assume you’ve seen the news,” I began.

“Yes, Dan. It’s a tragedy.”

“I know. I’ve already sent Nazy to the warehouse stores to stock up, but I’m not sure that she understands the g
ravity of the situation. I’ll be scouring the local grocery stores on the way home.”

“How can I help, Dan?”

“We’ve got IT equipment in every storage room in the plant, right?”


“And you have a key to every storage room — especially the ones where they store the soft drinks.”


better arrow walk August 2017

“Okay. Change the locks on the rooms with soft drinks. Then, during the midnight shift, move all of the ‘old coca cola’ into a storage room that we control.”

“You’re cornering the market on old coke, Dan! Smart! If we reorder cokes now, we’ll probably get more old coke before that new ‘liquid’ leaks into the system.”

“Great idea, Hershel. Run with it! But make sure that you’re there when they deliver.”

We can make a lot of money selling these a bottle at a time,” Hershel thought.

I’ll have to keep and eye on Hershel,” I thought. “He may be tempted by the money.”

And so, preparations began for dealing with the biggest blunder since the dinosaurs failed to fund the meteorite defense system. The Coca Cola company changed the secret formula for Coke — replacing it with ‘
New Coke’. The blunder was corrected a few weeks later (and before my stock was depleted) when they brought ‘Coke Classic’ back.

End Flashback

In the ensuing years, I switched from
Coke Classic to Coke Zero Coca Cola Inc., obviously aware that I had left the country, decided to reformulate my Coke Zero while I was away. And..

“Nazy,” I said. “I wonder
who told them that I was going to be gone?”

dan and Dar at AUB dean visit August 2017

Aware that there was nothing I could do, from Beirut, we continued to enjoy watching the beautiful Leandra. Nazy and I also joined Darius for a nostalgic walk to AUB. He was handing in grades for his final class. Later that day, Christiane and Leandra joined us for a trip to Lebanon’s wine region in the Beqaa Valley, a wing of the Great Rift Valley in Africa.

The Valley is relatively close to Syria, but the trip was completely trouble free. The restaurant in the winery was simply magnificent. The drive was …

“… somewhat problematic, Dar.” I concluded.

“Traffic was..”

“… fine, Dar. It was expected. I’m talking about the brakes.”

dan, leadra winery background dar and Chiristiane

“Since the Baqaa is a valley, you had to go over a mountain. The downhill part was hard on your brakes.”

In fact, the brakes overheated and almost stopped working. A little cool-off (and a friendly mechanic) solved the problem. Darius used the transmission to supplement the brakes on the drive back.

I recalled, and shared with Darius, the wisdom that my friend Dick Swan had told me about using the transmission to slow down when I got my first Austin Healy:

“Don’t do that Dan! It’s much cheaper to replace brake pads than it is to replace a transmission.”

“It’s better to be able to stop than to run off a cli
ff, Dad.” Darius replied. Pragmatically.

Safely back in Beirut, we began planning for the trip home. At Nazy’s suggestion, I logged into the Emirates website and joined their frequent traveler program. I was asked if I’d like to check-in online. When I replied affirmatively, a heavenly intermediary intervened.

“Look at this Nazy!” I exclaimed. “We’ve been offered an upgrade. Flat bed seats! Wide screen video. Short lines.”

Naturally, I accepted. More on our return flight in the next issue. For now…

For last week's letter, please click here

A couple of photos follow

Christiane, Nazy and Leandra at the Winery

nazy, Christiane and Leandra Winery August 1 2017

Tiger and Dan at Fiesta

dan and Tiger at Fiesta August 2017

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