Monday, December 18, 2006

Chapter XXV. The coffee shop

Immigrants here in the states tend to hang out in places where their own “people” are around. There is little italy in the east side of Cleveland where Italians hang out and you could see the restaurants and the café’s. Little china is another one and so was little greek in the near west side by the orthodox church. As for arabs, there were few hang outs. One was “beit hanina” where Palestinians from that village have a social club and a wedding hall. Weddings take place in there. I went to a couple of weddings, and quit frankly, they were mistakes. I never wanted to go, but the guys insisted that I go. It’s not because I didn’t like to be around my own “people” but I just get the sad feeling of back home during weddings. Keep in mind that I was also single at that time, and for a single man, that was harsh I guess.

In those weddings, there are few things that makes you want to pull your hair. Maybe that’s how I lost my hair after all. Ok I can’t blame it all on the weddings, my dad’s genes has something to do with losing hair too. In one night, I went to a wedding. I didn’t know any of the families, or anyone. I just went out for fun that’s all. To my surprise, I saw strange things. I have never seen gold in my entire life as I saw that day. One lady was walking (and I don’t know how she could) with a necklace..wait..not just a necklace, but to describe it..ok..imagine those rose necklace that you get when you go to Hawaii, well, it was all gold. Probably 5 kg of gold around her neck. Other women had such fashion in the wedding too. Do I sound envying? Maybe. But the fact of the matter is I never seen gold in my life as I saw that day. Then they started giving money. So, there was the big guy, the kahuna of the family, and he took the microphone and started mentioning names and amounts. So and so has given $1000. The thing kept going on. Then he demanded that all dancers leave the dance floor, and started talking about how he was close to death and had a stroke, and god saved him. He then said that he wanted to thank God, so everyone leave the floor, except his sister so and so so he can dance with her. Frankly, it was pathetic. I thought he was going to donate money for charity.

As I got up to go to the men’s room to wash for the prayer, I saw kids fighting and cursing in a language I could only hear in the show soprano’s. At any rate, few of us started praying on the side while the music kept going on and the dance was still active. Not that I mind, but I wished that we could’ve found a different spot to pray. I couldn’t wait too long there, and went home. I just didn’t feel comfortable, you know, single in a wedding is not a good thing I guess.

Then I discovered the coffee shop. I used to smoke shisha so it was the perfect place for me. One night, I went to the coffee shop on lorain road, and sat outside by myself. I could hear guys playing cards and again cursing at each others. They cursed God, sisters, mothers and fathers. Yet, they were all smiling. I loved that place as long as I kept my ears shut. I would go there, sit alone, smoke the shisha and sip my tea and go home. I just needed an hour alone with my shisha, that’s all. On occasions, I meet guys and sit with them, but I never get to meet them again. Rarely that I see the dude again. But the hour was enough time to vent problems and harships. One guy in particular sticks in my mind. He was a Palestinian muslim who was married to a Christian Palestinian. They divorced few months after marriage and his mother in law took their child and baptized him and sent the video to him to torture him. I don’t have anything against my fellow Christian arabs at all, on the contrary, I enjoy their company a lot. But this incident sticks in my mind because I could see a guy crying without tears at all.

Another old man, a Jordanian Christian, whom I enjoyed so much. I saw him 3 times. He reminded me of home. He left his family back in Jordan and came to the states to work and support his family. You’ll be amazed of how torture this man went through. He invited me to the new years party at the Arabic church on West 117th street about 15 miles south of lorain road. Can’t remember the street name but it was known. We had good food and a nice music. Saw lots of people that made me feel home some how. But again, his story sticks to my mind. Oh..and the story of the Palestinian student who was hooked on drugs and his dad came to take him back to Jordan. This was devastating for all who knew the guy.

A fight broke out one time between some Jordanians and Palestinians guys in the coffee shop. I witnessed the fight while I was smoking my shisha. Simply pathetic. The two Palestinian/American guys went to Jordan last year and they were humiliated at the airport. It seems that they, as I heard early that night, threw their US passports at the guy who worked the airport passport booth. He didn’t like their attitude so he called security and it seems that the two guys were humiliated. In the coffee shop, they were cursing Jordan and all Jordanians. Couple of Jordanians didn’t like what they heard and that’s how the fight broke. Chairs were flying and shisha were breaking in the air. The police came and took all to the station. Yep…it was pathetic in all means.

Before the coffee shop opened, there was a night club owned by a guy from beit hanina. It was for arabs of course. So when I used to drink, I went to that place. There was a good singer, his last name was “haddad”, a Jordanian. He has a lovely voice and he would sing for Palestinians/Lebanese/Jordanians/you name it. I sat at the bar having my drink, and suddenly, a fight broke loose. It seems that a guy was hitting on someone’s wife. So they fought and knifes appeared and someone was cut. The police came and it was not a pleasant sight. Another night, I over heard someone discussing the details of how they would implant someone in jail to kill the killer of his brother. There was some money discussion. I don’t know the outcome, but the brother seemed to be pushing to kill hi brother’s killer in jail. Arabs drink pretty wild when they do and I do remember on a couple of occasions that I took some guys home because the owner, who was a friend of mine, asked me to take them home and don’t let them drive. Thanks God I am done with that stuff now.

Taking you back to the coffee shop, it was a nice place to be for someone like me. I got to hear omm kulthoom singing while I smoke my shisha. I loved the atmosphere. It meant home for me. I could hear stories of back home from guys who just came back from a visit. I got to kill time as I really needed to murder time in some instances. But it had it’s negatives of course as I mentioned above. I came to realize that arab hang outs are tricky ones. One needs to make a hang out for each religion, each country background, and each age group. Mixing all the above together spells troubles.

Then I decided to join the mosque, and that will be very exciting. Arab mosques in America are not fun either as I well show in the next post very soon. But right now, I had a long drive from Indiana to TN and feel exhausted. But since I’m staying for 4 days here in TN, I’ll have all the time to write while stuck between my beloved four walls that toughed me all about life and the importance of isolation while sipping coffee and smoking my camel’s light cigarette. See you soon.


Anonymous said...

because of these incidents, and more, sometimes I wish I had stayed home and never came to the States.

p.s. what happened to marlboro lights??

cathrina said...

nice thinking..

Anonymous said...

Amjad, nice again!!
with my years living in the states, i have never been to any of those coffee shops or the mosque..i try to avoid some arab gatherings, but maybe the reason is because my in laws are a big family and we did not really need others to interact with...all the fights you have seen in your days sound like action movies, everyone seems to have a knife handy!!
waiting for more.

Bo3Bo3 said...

El tapatio
I switched to camels few weeks ago. Tastes better..but frankly..I'm leaning toward quitting (again) :)


You do know arabs in the states. If you look at a group between the ages of 18 and maybe 25 or so, most of them carry some kind of a weapon in the car.

Yeah..I do exactly what you are doing now. I avoid large gatherings of arabs sadly, and focus on family.

Anonymous said...

lol I find it hilarious reading this as summer and prob some others reading this might think you are hyperboling things here but to be realistic you are trying to put things as lightly as anyone can put them about american arabs, oh wait that offends them they are lebanese shi3a, lebanese maronites, drooz (who might gringe at the word arab), Phoenicians(ya thought they didn't exist either and thats just talking about lebanese :)

and the younger the age group is the more fun the spectacle

before i forgot top notch as always
p.s. camels are really harsh after a while, and if u really wanna attempt quiting then smoke 2 packs of newports in one day and u are guaranteed to quit that is if u survive :P

Luai said...

Try Chantix to help you quit! Go see your doctor and ask for it.

Those so-called Arabs you write about in the US...I am just glad I live in an area where 90% of the arabs are related or they just know how to mind their own business. I think when people have much to lose, they avoid or remove themselves from those people or places that could bring the life they've built, crumbling down upon them.

Anonymous said...

i don't know why u make me hate arab americans

hope u r doinhg fine .... and still waiting for the bezer lool

always follwoing ur writing (f)