I wrote a poem

I knew. I wrote a poem knowing all along. I wrote a poem which he never understood. I wrote a prophecy he fulfilled. I choose to share with the para-social…. because the social are the strangers we surround ourselves with.

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Shop neon sign in Beirut, Lebanon that translates to “strangers everywhere.” n.d.

I hide in a thick shadow

I miss my love

In pain at separation, my eyelids frozen

I weep without tears…


I lay awake…

Already the first light of morning has stripped away the darkness and ripped the dress from the night..

My rage turned into a tempest

What if the tempest brings new winds?

What if the winds bring seeds?

What if the seeds bring life?

What if life brings death?

It is an end…

I am not singing my love song.. I am still.. hushed…


Sleepless, I hurt

Insomnia is my lover now, my bed mate…

My body is bruised, my bed mate has bit every part of it until my body bled…

My heart is drowned in my tears 


I tempted fate

I played with fire until it burned me to ashes.

But my soul clung to yours…

But our love has grown…

Death could not break the promises of this love

Ironic… this love could not survive the trials of fate.

Perhaps it will visit us among the shadows of tombs.

In the depth of the grave

Hidden, glowing like a burning coal

Papa Francesco, Pablo Picasso, and my fabulous destiny

His scores healed my broken heart… Yann Tiersen makes music from the soul to the soul.

Think of it surreal; think of it absurd; think of it just a coincidence. My pursuit of this timeless talent’s music took me on a unfolding journey from Beirut, to Los Angeles, and to Rome.

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My vinyl copy of EUSA

I first heard Yann Tiersen’s music in one of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s chef d’oevres called Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain when I saw the film at a theater in Beirut, Lebanon in 2001. More specifically at Empire Theaters in the Achrafieh neighborhood.

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I took this photo in Achrafieh two years ago to capture the colonial architecture of the neighborhood

Most of those who saw the film were enamored with Audrey Tautou’s performance and of JP Jeunet’s avant guard directing. Taking all this for granted, I was swept away by the music in the film as I thought it was mostly the tracks that told the story of Amelie.

Sure enough, instead of buying a copy of the film, I bought a copy of the sound track. Ever since, my obsession with Yann Tiersen amalgamated. I listened to almost all his records, and when opportunities came up, I watched him perform.

I saw him in Los Angeles twice …

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Yann Tiersen at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles playing La Valse D’Amelie.

And after that, there was Rome…

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There’s only so much charm I can handle when it comes to the streets of Rome.

Unlike Los Angeles, Rome is a pedestrian city with descent public transport. Whilst lost in the alleys of the city looking for  Auditorium Conciliazione where Tiersen was scheduled to play last fall, I accidentally landed a roaming exhibit featuring the original works and intimate portraits and pictures of Pablo Picasso at the Museo Dell’Ara Pacis by the Tiber River.

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The sign for Pablo Picasso’s exhibit

 

As I proceeded to search for Auditorium Conciliazione after the Picasso interlude, I seemed to enter the gates of the Vatican City.

An agnostic, I always resisted any religious establishments or rituals. Spirituality never offered me solace except at very rare occasions. Call it spiritual contagion, but at that moment I hoped very naively that  Pope Francis was watching to mend my wounds and heal my broken heart.

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It was a sunny day at the Vatican…

Serendipitously, it was at the outskirts of the Vatican where I was finally led to find solace.

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I finally made it at Auditorium Conciliazione

That night I saw Yann Tiersen at the Auditorium Conciliazione near the Vatican. That night, perhaps, Pope Francis heard my prayers.

 

 

 

 

Mythology takes over so deities don’t die

Like Narcissus, he proudly revered his beauty. Like Zeus, his battles were untamed. Like Achilles, his end was a Greek tragedy.

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Poster advertising a tribute art show, or ‘Ommaggio’ to Ali in Rome. It’s derived from a famous photo of Ali (1965) taken of him standing over Sonny Liston, fall 2016

This post is dedicated to Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., later known as Muhammad Ali Clay, later known as Ali (1942-2016), and in his own words as ‘the fighter, the greatest, the prettiest’ and the list abounds.

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Ali’s passing on the front of La Prensa at a street vendor in Mexico City, summer 2016

It is by no means an essay on how he fought in the ring, for civil rights, or for peace whilst battling a sickness that stripped him of all his faculties.

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I have yet to find out when his star was put up at the Dolby Theater’s entrance in Hollywood, fall 2016

Rather, it is a brief photo collection of the tributes that I encountered during my recent travels dedicated to the icon he has become.

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A domicile, when a friend shared with me his copy of Sports Illustrated after knowing how touched I was by his passing, fall 2016

After all, he is also the wise man who once said “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Bullied into silence: street art that speaks louder than words

What I’m about to share in this post is a collection of images of graffiti art across a number of cities I have visited around the world. This blog post might grow in the future as I add new snap shots of murals that I find in my photographic archives or from my future travels.

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ET pointing downward, not upward, this time on a walking path in Granada, Spain.

When I say bullied into silence, I am referring to the talents behind these murals that we see tucked in alley ways and the most inconceivable corners, balconies, bridges, underground, and walls of cities around the world.

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Mural in Beirut, Lebanon. My interpretation: we live in our own shackles.

Think of the many times we have come across this form of art and asked ourselves these questions: Who designed it? When? How long did it take to finish it? What does it mean? What is the artist trying to say? Most importantly, why?

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Beirut, Lebanon: Mural of the legendary Lebanese singer Sabah who passed away last year.

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Beirut Lebanon: Egyptian actress Fayza Ahmed who featured in key roles in Golden Age Egyptian Cinema.

By just prompting these questions, ironically the artists have spoken volumes. They let our imagination finish their story. To them, I say thank you for being my voice, thank you for the art, and thank you for your courage.

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Beirut, Lebanon mural featuring Ali. The neighborhood homeless in the area of Hamra who recently passed away. Rumor has it that Ali died of the cold on a stormy night. This mural depicts him so accurately: His signature beard and cigarette.

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Downtown Los Angeles, CA paid tribute to revolutionaries. I followed suit. Sadly this mural was taken down.

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This mural I found in China Town in Downtown Los Angeles left me with unanswered questions.

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El Che and the revolutionaries in Mexico City last summer.

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Another Mexico City graffiti: reads I am nostalgia of a country that does not exist yet on the map.

“I will beat Russia for you,” he told me.

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A mime I enjoyed watching on the steps of Montmartre in Paris, France.

 

I am not used to writing humor as I am intrinsically serious, introspective, and contemplative, which numbs any attempt to come up with a good laugh.

I do, however, appreciate a smart joke while dark comedies really crack me up. Among those are some stories I have gathered from some places I visited around the world of men trying to use some interesting pick up lines to try to talk to me— in a way adding to my plan to turn this into a travel blog of a different sort.

Note that the list is not comprehensive and I might compile the stories in a short novel one day.

Lebanon:

While jogging on the Cornish along the Mediterranean, I was interrupted by a man who announced to me that my pace was slow and  advised me that if I lifted my feet a little higher I would run faster. Of course the conversation ended with an invitation, not for dinner, but to be my trainer.

France:

“Where are you from? China?” He was way off, and really dull for someone who speaks the language of love. Non monsieur, I am of Mediterranean blood, color, and temperament.

Italy:

The land where machismo is perfected. Enough said.

United States:

At the line in the store: “What does a guy like me gotta do to get to know a girl like you?” — Classic!

At the gym: “So are you rippin’ it?” Naturally, I replied “Yes.”

“Those pants are dope!” I am assuming this means a good thing.

 

Qatar:

While I was staying in a long term stay hotel in Doha few months back, the room across from me was once rented out to a group of fighters from the Netherlands competing in an international boxing tournament. Michael knocked on my door after having seen me in the hallway to ask where I was from. When I told him I am American he so confidently told me in broken English. “I fight Russia tonight. I will beat Russia for you.”

Sadly, he lost the fight that night and then apologized to me the next day. I thought that was sweet.

 

 

 

 

El Che is alive and well

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Guillermo (aka Memo) is a young Mexican gentleman I met in the neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. The name and theme of his cantina says it all: Comida Revolucionaria

Every so often growing up in Beirut, Lebanon I would see this determined look graffitied on the streets of the city. Not only did his handsomeness emanate from his rugged masculinity but the universality of his struggle and his cause driven by nothing but sheer empathy and compassion to those who suffer make him the icon he is.

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My accidental encounter of El Comandante at a local cafe on the sea front of the Turkish city of Izmir.

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Che tucked in a local artisanal shop located at centro historico, Mexico City

El Che is alive and well not just on the streets of Beirut and Havana but also wherever  revolution is a state of being, including my own apartment.

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Saving the best for last. He too watches out for me at my apartment in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

It must have been the heat

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One of many construction sites I encountered on my daily walks across the Doha.

It was a leap of faith or might I say a leap of lack of faith. Exactly a year ago, I left a new life I had started in Los Angeles to Doha for a what turned out to be a random job.

I remember my first night there. June 17, 2015: I was scared, confused, and heart broken. The place was too foreign and too absurd to comprehend.

The first three days I was left alone in a new city that doesn’t even know what it wants to be. For three days I couldn’t get myself to eat or get out of bed as I was mourning not just leaving my daughter behind as circumstances stipulated, but also mourning losing myself and my soul.

I remember the heat so strong that it burned my eyes. I remember the sand storms. I remember humidity so stifling I couldn’t breathe. Could it have been the heat that compromised my judgements?

No, in retrospect I beg to differ.

Doha is not a city for someone like me. It lacks culture and sophistication. Its residents are either functional alcoholics or sexually frustrated beasts. Its government is a usurper and violator of human rights. My salary was mediocre, and the job lacked prospects and collegiality. As such, it was not a matter of whether or not I’ll stay in Doha, rather a matter of when I’ll leave this city.

I am now back in Los Angeles and instead of chasing shadows I decided to live the remainder of my life doing three things I love most. Help my daughter thrive, continue traveling the world, and design more arabesque tiles (I’m not an architect but I design arabesques and am a calligrapher).

Soon I’ll post more travel blogs on this page and I apologize for starting it with a place like Doha.

Today, ink turned to blood

One of many cartoons issued today, impromptu, in response to the journalist massacre in Paris

One of many cartoons issued today in response to the journalist massacre in Paris

This one hit close to home.

A group of journalists in Paris, France at their editorial meeting, called out by name before being shot dead. What ensued is the largest number of journalists that I know of killed in the line of duty at once.

I am a practicing journalist and I am very much aware of the risks this profession entails. I have written stories that provoked harsh criticisms in the past, and I always respect and understand that readers and viewers are entitled to their opinion. But they are certainly not entitled to kill me.

Yes, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo are notorious for testing the limits of their illustrations. However, they never single out one group as opposed to another. They are uncategorically satirical, skeptical, outrageous to name a few. That’s how they view the world and that’s where their wit and talents lie.

I am a journalist. I ask questions. I am skeptical. I am inquisitive. I am critical. I am embarrassed to say I am close to becoming jaded. This profession made me more human than I ever thought I would be. Delving into the stories that matter, I have a completely different approach to life and values. And as a journalist, it is my duty to value freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and think of censorship as a cardinal sin.

My tribute goes to all journalist, present and past, who died in the line of duty.

Today, I am a journalist. “Aujourd’hui, je suis journaliste.”

Too little too late

Laughable Loves - Milan Kundera

Laughable Loves – Milan Kundera

“It was futile to attack with reason the stout wall of irrational feelings that, as is known, is the stuff of which the female mind is made.”

Milan Kundera comes across as sexist and condescending in his Laughable Loves. However, as much as I accuse him of dismissing women to an irrational breed, he might very well have been referring to me.

I consent to his accusations as here is a woman who is driven by passion, is a dreamer, impulsive, emotional, unpredictable, to name a few.

No wonder my long term relationship with a philosopher proved his endless use of reason with me a futile endeavor.

I’m not saying I take all the blame for the abysmal failure of this relationship, but we obviously spoke different languages.