Next morning, his head still swimming in memories of the rooftop pool and milonga, Max medicated himself generously at the Gefinor breakfast buffet, and emerged into the bright buzz of Clemenceau Avenue. He decided to skip the Tango seminar on “Women’s Adornos & Flying Legs”, and set off for Zuqaq al-blat, the birthplace of Nouhad Haddad, also known as Fairouz, the nightingale of the Middle East. Following a crude city map in his guidebook, he strode past glass-clad office towers and concrete apartment blocks adjoining secret courtyards and gardens hidden behind high walls and hedges of myrtle. He breathed the city’s redolence of diesel and tobacco and the heady fragrance of roses, jasmine, and wisteria. At noon, he found himself in the shaded garden of the Blue Note Cafe. He ordered a Pinot Grigio and grilled fish, and toyed with a porcelain egg in a basket on the table. A bandoneon-player and a violinist accompanied a lone couple circling the tiny dance floor.
Concentrating intensely, Max finally managed to balance the egg upright on the tabletop, took a picture on his phone, and sent it to Roxanne along with a brief recording of the musicians. He imagined her reflecting on the three-fold significance of the image: Perfect Balance, Improbability, and the Promise of Life. Ergo Tango. Leaving the Blue Note, he resumed his quest and came at last to the cobblestone street called Zuqaq al-blat. Somehow he had expected tranquil rooms with brilliant tiles, Persian rugs, tapestries, and marble fountains. Instead, he found a nut-vendor’s stall, selling crudely chiseled wooden chess sets on the side. At the far end of the street, minarets rose above the city clutter, superimposed on distant foothills draped in pastures and olive orchards. In a grimy recessed corner, with synchronicity worthy of Carl Jung, an ancient transistor radio played Fairouz singing the tango “La Boheme”, accompanied by Eduardo Bianco’s band all the way from Argentina, recorded in Beirut in 1951. Max checked his phone; no messages.
Published: 21 Jun 2019 @ 16:02