Smoking Beirut: Reports from the Front


On good days he felt like a cat, on bad days like a cricket, on regular days like a freshwater fish. He had never felt like a pig, he oinked only occasionally, when his wife went to the supermarket and he wanted to remind her to get some ham or wieners.

It seemed life was going on a bender in a jar of hornets, still he liked it, he liked putting on his riot gear, it gave him a buzz. The phallic black rubber nightstick, the exoskeletal protective suit, a vigilante’s helmet, a very trendy see-through shield, and the eternal fashion accessory, an oiled and at-the-ready black Beretta.

As he rode the bus with his men he witnessed the unflushed toilets of paradise through the small partition, they were going to get there early, earlier than 4, the festivities would begin at 6. His men, like the protesters, suffered the same pangs. They were not narcs in a rich swill, they were not custom’s men accustomed to bribes, and were deprived of any extra income. They either betray themselves, or betray the hand that feeds them. As he saw it the protesters wanted to be fed, and his men wanted to be fed. His poor men! His poor men? Not really, if the government collapses they’ll each go back to whoever made sure they got their current job, and beef up his or her militia, or maybe make the coffee, or become some sort of Mafioso factotum. Their bread was buttered by a butcher knife, that was certain.

They shared the protesters’ anxieties that block independence, they got that suicidal rush to love humanity but rise above it, and the meteoric boot is the only floatation device.




The grey asphalt was hot that day, many people will testify.  They chugged trainloads of vodka, vodka is a revolutionary drink. They were from a proud, ancient culture, the 2nd or 3rd oldest, ‘we who invented the alphabet’ and ‘according to the Greeks we taught the Ancient Greeks’ and ‘we who helped build the Temple of Solomon’, ‘we who have no camels in our country’. (This last statement offends the author mightily, as he sees nothing wrong with camels, in fact he thinks they’re delightful.) They were the roots of the movement (a statement I find delightful as well), young Che Guavaras, ‘Thy Bones Returned to Castro’, an energetic young but bald Lenin’s cast in cold cheap bronze, the color closer to metallic shit. Never ending variations of poor Plato’s ‘Republic’, a movement within the vortex of an untamed flush.

The voice of the blood was calling, but they just sat there deflowering their lungs. They had water, cigarettes, wet wipes, scarves, tomatoes and Eggs. You have to throw a few Eggs at politician’s cars to make a dramatic social statement. The author also has to object to the barbaric ritual of destroying good decent Eggs who only wish to lead honorable lives. They didn’t have Molotov cocktails, they were Molotov cocktails.

A crowd of cops were only a few meters away, dressed like gladiators, and it looked like they couldn’t wait to pig out after a suicidal rush. But right now were practicing choreography. Maybe one of them will fall tonight, a rubber bullet bouncing off his chest.

They were good people, the kind who would escort an elderly person to a colonoscopy exam.  But all their lives they’ve tripped on deaf assurances. Just follow the sounds of the explosions and you get a free tour of the country, a red carpet laid for you, made of blood, guts, gore, and genitalia. We Lebanese are a welcoming people. The cops facing them did not look like welcoming people, they didn’t look like people, with metal grills on their faces. They looked like they’d been knocked out of a devilish wind. Were they finger puppets or thimbles?

The politicians in turn called them ‘a hurricane in a coffee cup’, which made them brew even hotter and stronger, which meant they chanted freeze dried, mildewed slogans that were filtered through an old sock. They thought they could do whatever they had to do, but they could not swallow the dregs, and drifted away like teargas, leaving a few broken sunglasses behind.




They sat around the round table the color of rotten cheddar, a magnetic doughnut shaped object, as they sat on their fat instead of chewing it. They were in a jar full of hornets, in a jar full of hornets, in a jar full of hornets, they were bees that had already lost their sting, and they sat there not chewing the fat with their entrails hanging out. The Minister of Interior had his thumb up his butt, the Minister of Public Works was busy picking his nose, the Foreign Minister was peeking nervously out the window though the blinds, the Environment Minister was cutting a wheel of cheese into portions of different sizes and colors. They had lost the power to convince with tantrums, the people were nagging like angry mothers, an organic grassroots grassfueled revolution. Facing the blast of good punk rock they had failed to synchronize, strip and do a dance, and hypnotize even momentarily. The people on the whole were united, but that in turn had united the politicians. Let no one say any different, you will be punished for your bad luck as well as somebody else’s. Who will emerge as immortal protector of a holy grail full of steaming shit? And who will be required to submit a stool sample? The future was dark and looming with a lunatic’s smile just below the black and blue skies. They were camped down there, chanting, bellowing, asking them to leave while they still had faces that could be sketched. It was like asking a bum to leave his stench behind, and if we lose the stench, what will we be left with?




He took a final hit of crack before setting out, for the past 20 minutes afraid that his lighter might just explode in his hand. The entire popular movement was a booze hound and with nobody to scoop up its litter, marking its territory with graffiti and acid pee. Now full of high velocity vice he readied the bunch, someone had a banner of his genitalia hanging, another a darkish rectum, and another a barely popable pimple. And they will go avenge the offended, an undomesticated preacher said so.

They will leave an ashtray in their wake.

Last time a cop went for his gun, and received a wedgie in return, but the cops rarely dealt with them, preferring to give them a wide birth, a cesarean, born with clubs in hand. The protesters were their targets, or certain protestors, they subscribed to a certain skeleton of organization, but when the blood rises and the concentration dwindles, it was permissible to become a berserker. They loved life as much as any free man would, the protestors wanted the same demands, they were similar in this disrespect, but they were curable romantics. Most of them carried switchblades and butterfly knives, all the time, not merely on occasions, a very original young man had mastered the art of stabbing with a spoon.  But they preferred their bare hands and boots, time to break up this block party with similar demands, a feast for the flies.

They were perpetually on the brink of a civil war, and on the brink of perpetual fluffiness, every time the politicians fucked each other, a million corpses were conceived, left to rot on the city streets.

They were there to blacken a few eyes, a farce to be reckoned with.

The protesters had a point, their officials were corrupt and incompetent, the movement knew what it wanted, and maybe what it could possibly achieve. The protestors were buzzing around a hornet’s nest, no doubt, and it would seem that they were there to kick ass in favor of those hornets. But first they had a few questions of their own, didn’t these people vote for these hornets? It was a fair and democratic election. They claim most officials bought a lot of votes with cash, someone who sold their vote shouldn’t complain, they signed a commitment for 6 years. Should people who sell their votes stand up against corruption? And everyone knew, corruption or not, if elections were held today, chances are you’d end up with the same hornets even if not one single vote was bought. So the politicians need not worry, laugh and play! Junky mosquitos, stealing the nation’s lollipops.

They got a few licks off the lollipop, that’s the most they could get, should the ‘revolution’ succeed, their lollipop privileges are gone. Do they really believe hot dogs ought to be free? All causes, lost or not, feed on each other. They had beaten up a few activists and dragged some away to a place where they weren’t allowed in. There were no street lights, no electricity, headlights resembling fireflies, and the sounds of the city in a jungle or vice versa, great big beasts you cannot see but knew were close and lived under every roof and bed.

No dreams of free hot dogs

No new sneaker smell on one’s birthday

No for everybody and anybody

No for whatever tomorrow brings

No dirty socks

No birdbaths

No medical insurance

No enemas

No cartoons

No acknowledgeable feelings as they walked back under the visible stars and bloated and content moon.




Many found an inner moisture, running down a wine-colored I.V. tube in a Red Cross ambulance. A certain serpent-shaped letter the only difference between ‘smother’ and ‘mother’. An eternal power play of ‘us’ and ‘them’, or should it be ‘they’? Demonstrating, drumming, dancing around a vacant altar of sacrifice. The warring factions assembled and agreed: gentlemen, for the first time in our history, we’re united by the fairest of our virtues: greed.

They threw firecrackers that exploded just above the cop’s rooftops (happy new state!), they were reflected in the helmets and shiny gear making them look like electric clowns. One good thing about wearing riot gear is that the identity of the wearer and tearer was unknown. Bazooka breaths, using skulls as percussion instruments tuned to B Flat. Tears due to tear gas or shed crocodile-style, the sound of sirens seducing them to crash into the metal barriers.

Prophets come and go, but the cross remains the same, this time more clumsily managed, no one paying much attention to the girl running naked and screaming through a village, claiming she’d been raped. There were just too many moving parts, and the parts were human.

All under a glittering confetti of snapshots of genitalia that caught their attention, while the ghost of a chance was dragged kicking and screaming into an undercover police car. A case of classic paranoia, a moralizing dilemma, perhaps it isn’t a good day to start something new? Knives across borders, free hot dogs for everyone, piss tests, the world is a non-reversible slinky. But burying it for good would be quite an undertaking. A lone, battered, old taxi passes on the slippery, deserted road of this darkest of nights, slows down and eases into a pothole filled with rainwater, making a comforting splashing sound.



Kamal Abu-Husayn is a Beirut-dwelling, Egg-worshipping turkey. Would rather rub noses than shake hands, hates Santa, and is already weary of the next war he’ll be forced to live through, if he survives this one, of course. He sells surreal estate for a living, and managed to release a collection of poems in 2010 under the title of Bingo’s Bedtime Book, hopes to publish another volume soon: The Egg Laying Manual.