Sunday, 24 July 2011

Beirut nights and the (aging?) Brit…

There was once a time when I’d cut through the crowds, empty glass and cigarette in hand, oblivious to the music, heading for the bar, to my friends, or a girl I liked the look of. It didn’t much matter where I was, what music filled the air, the music, the drink, the vibe, that’s all that mattered.

New York, Orlando, Miami, the UK, Beirut, New Zealand, the beachside clubs of the South Pacific, it was all the same. Whatever city it was, whatever the scene was, past midnight meant after hours drinks, music, knifing through the crowd in search of someone and that endless struggle to last till dawn.

As a young man I spent the most formative year of my life in New York. It made me realise what I wanted to do with my life, how I saw myself and how I could present that to others. It was an introduction as to what was possible, should you choose to grasp it. Added to that being “an Englishman in New York” made life that much sweeter.
Ahhh, Sting ... The hair's quirky, but I do 
question the scarf though...

Grasp it I did, that year passed by quickly, long hours at the office doing something I loved (publishing), longer nights at some of the most incredible bars and clubs and night spots on the planet. Or, if they weren't the best, they were certainly interesting:

DO: Arrive on your Harley
DON'T: Wear a suit... you will end up hosed
in tequila ... trust me... what can I say? It
was immediately after work, I had a meeting...
plus, she had a six pack and wielded a syphon 
like it was some sort of frickin' whip...

That all passed and I headed back to the UK for my bachelors. Armed with a self-confidence that now seems incredible, three years passed in a blur of ale, student discount nights, trips with the rugby team to distant cities and the weekly “social”*.

Eventually I ended up in Beirut to attend AUB. My introduction to the city was intense, I ended up living with a group of American students, they’d been in town for a year and were not the type to let an opportunity pass them by. Week 1: Centrale (Flaming Lamborghini’s on the bar), BO18 (too many single men sweating and on acid), Club Sociale (back in the day when it was little more than a long bar), Crystal (sparklers et al), Pacifico (when the food was still good), Element (Pink Floyd at 02.00 anyone?). Week 2: Oblivion. Can’t remember. Women (including my future wife) dancing on bars, boozy dinners at our penthouse apartment opposite Bank Audi on Hamra, it was endless. Somehow I ended with an M.A. … God knows how. My abiding memory is of a bottle of a substance known as Slwibowitz, a plum brandy that would be put to better use removing rust from your outdoor grill… Almost a potent as a certain South African brandy named Klipdrift where you’d bleed from the eyeballs after one glass.

The things we do to fit in...

Satan's drink

Fast forward five years …

It’s gone. The desire to continue to the end, the need to see that vanilla sky at dawn simply isn’t there anymore.

Last night I visited the kind of bar I craved when younger. Achingly cool, concrete floors, chains linking seating areas to the ceiling, bartenders who ignored you until the urge to reach over the bar and grab them by the throat was almost overwhelming. And the music, the music was as painfully chic as could be. The drink flowed, the women swayed … but it just wasn’t doing it.

As I sat nursing a 961 (lager, thanks) I reflected on it all. Actually, I didn’t, I just realised that this was the last place in the world that I wanted to be.

You might not look like much, but
you're safe and I love you

Don’t get me wrong, I was there with some of my closest friends, one of whom will be leaving Beirut shortly. I was more than happy to be there. At least I was. As the night wore on and the drink flowed something dawned on me: This no longer interests me.

It’s a little sad to realise that you’re no longer interested in clubs. A city like Beirut has it all, Sky Bar, the myriad rooftop bars, BO18, etc., etc., etc.. It’s all academic…

Dragonfly, that’s more like it. God help me, but surround me with Frenchies complaining about everything under the sun and I’m a happy man... plus ... they serve those little wheat puff things that are so addictive after one beer...

*Social: Something akin to an initiation ritual at a US college, but on a weekly basis for members of sports clubs, the one hosted by the rugby club was the most brutal. 

961 image shamelessly pilfered from here.


I've been gone for a while, but am, I hope, back for good.