backgammon craftsman foiled, great apartment found, flight home fumbled

Mitra’s trip to the Middle East was wrapping up, but before she left, Darius and Christiane wanted all of us to see their new apartment in the Clemenceau district of Beirut, Well located in an elegant building, Christiane had found it after an exhaustive search.

“She looked at more than 100 apartments, Dad!” Darius enthused. “She knows more about Beirut realty than anyone in Lebanon.”

“What about the location?” I asked. “You’ve always lived in Hamra, Is this new apartment far away?”

“The new place is only a five minute walk from the university and just a ten minute drive from Christiane’s office, Dad. And it has two bathrooms and two and a half bedrooms.”

The living room

Two and a half bedrooms?” I thought.

“You need a ladder to get to the half-bedroom,” Darius explained.

The landlady is a well-known artist who was looking for someone like Darius and Christiane as tenants. We were all dazzled with what we saw. The door featured original art panels, the floors had elegant tile work, the ceilings were high and the rooms spacious. It reminded me of our first home, on Prinsevinkenpark, in The Hague. (The key wasn’t ready but would be early the next morning.)

After Mitra’s (very) early morning departure, we slept in a bit — arising in time for Nazy to begin serious shopping. She wanted a stand for the backgammon set we bought during our last trip.

“We’ll just go to the workshop and bargain,” Nazy explained.
mitra and dan in mirror cropped

The workshop owner remembered Nazy (everyone remembers Nazy). He offered us coffee and conversation. He chatted about Darius. But ..

“$100 for the stand!?” Nazy exclaimed. “How would I even get it on the airplane?”

“I’ll give you instructions to put it together.”

“$50 is a better price.” Nazy replied. “Can I have it for $50?”

He offered it to us for $60 last time,” I thought.

“$90 is my
best price,” the owner replied. “Would you like more coffee?”

He’s either forgotten the price of last time or he senses that Nazy really wants that stand,” I thought. “In either case he’s made a big mistake.”

“I’d like a better price, not more coffee. Since I have to put the stand together,” Nazy continued, undeterred, “you should pay me for that work. $50 is my final offer.”

“$90 — best price — and I’ll give you very simple assembly instructions.”

“I will think about it.” Nazy replied.

‘I will think about it.’ means ‘No’,” I thought.

We need to find a new workshop,” Nazy exclaimed (loudly) as we left the shop. “He thought that we’d pay anything for that stand.”

A quick internet search pointed us in the direction of the Gemmayzeh district. We told Darius and Christiane that we’d meet them for lunch.

“How will you get to
Gemmayzeh?” Darius asked.

“We will take a taxi. The standard fare is $10.” I replied.

“You can wait for us. I’ll take you.”

“We can handle it Dar,”

“You might get lost.”

“And it might rain. A meteor may hit our cab. Don’t worry, we’ll cope.”

“Get the phone number of the store and have the cab driver call them.”

Dar!” I exclaimed. “I have traveled all over the world. I’m certain that I can get a cab to take me to a CNN-recommended craft shop.”
Door to Darius' apartment

“We’ll be right there. Just wait!”

We didn’t wait. We negotiated with a taxi driver in Hamra:

“Gemmayzeh?” He asked.

“Right. Pasteur Street.”

“Gemmayzeh?” The cab driver repeated.

“Precisely. $10!” Nazy interjected.

“Gemmayzeh? Paul?”

“Who’s Paul?” I asked.

We hopped in and took a taxi
directly to the general vicinity of our destination. However, Nazy and I eventually found the shop. On the way to join us, Darius and Christiane stopped by their new apartment to get the keys which weren’t quite ready.

We had dinner by the sea (they do seaside cuisine very well in Lebanon). On our last day in Lebanon, Darius stopped at the new apartment on the way to pick us up. (The keys were almost ready.) We did a bit more sightseeing and shopping, stopped by the new apartment to get the keys which were (surprise!) ready. We visited Christiane’s parents and then were joined by Christiane’s sister Aline at a great dinner in
La Creperie in Jounieh, a small city about 10 miles north of Beirut. The crepes were wonderful and the setting was spectacular. The only thing left to do was get home.

The British Air flight to London Heathrow was uneventful. [British Air evaluation: I’ve flown all over the world on airlines ranging from great (Singapore Air) to dismal (an unnamed airline with an ancient Twin Otter in Nigeria), but I have never seen seats so close together as the ones I saw on the British Air A-380 from LAX to London. The seats on the flight from Beirut to London were a close second. In both cases, the only part of the food service that was palatable was the Diet Coke. The staff was, however, very pleasant.]

At Heathrow, we not only had to change airlines (BA to American Airlines), we also had to move from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3. It wasn’t easy: Terminal 5 is in Scotland and Terminal 3 is in Wales. Luckily, we had time to buy a large toy double decker bus. The American Airlines flight was surprisingly not unpleasant. The food was tasty and the seats were almost comfortable. The only thing I could..

Tiger looking at double decker bus

“… complain about, Nazy,” I said somewhere over Canada, “is the duration. This flight is taking far too long.”

Nazy didn’t respond because she was asleep, but American Airlines delivered good news on that front too. Favorable winds (or, more accurately, a lack of bad winds) permitted a faster than scheduled trip. We landed 45 minutes early. I was ecstatic … until

“Because of our early arrival, our gate is occupied,” the pilot announced.

We sat on the tarmac for about an hour as American Airlines slowly dissipated good will. I can steel myself for any length flight, but when the airplane lands, I want to get off

Mitra met us at LAX, we had a nice dinner and then drove up to Santa Barbara. (Just before she fell asleep, Nazy told me how important it was for
me to stay awake for the drive.)

The trip to Cyprus and Lebanon was joyful and fun. Now we were back. Santa Barbara was cool. In fact, it was cold (and unexpectedly) a bit dreary. The annual
May Gray had descended while we were away.

For last week's letter, please click here.

In Tyre, Lebanon

Walking in Typre

blog comments powered by Disqus