Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A history of Beirut as told by advertising's most famous lines...

Beirut/NTSC has gone through the most famous advertising lines to prove to you, that once an for all, Beirut could fit with all of them and still manage to recount its story.
Just like Francois Mitterand's mythical election campaign, Beirut is "la force tranquille" a mixture of force and tranquility - one second you are stuck in an infernal traffic jam, the second you are sipping minted tea in Rawda cafe right by the beach.
Akin to Stella Artois beer, Beirut is "reassuringly expensive." Unlike the beer, this is not a sign of quality but of Snobism.

Just like those angry French youth in 1968, "Sous les paves, la plage" (under the sidewalks, the beach), Beirut has extended its concrete jungle to engulf the sea - just look at the Marina in Dbayeh or the outskirts of Solidere without forgetting the Normandie "hill" right there by the beach (a trash hill for all of you who do not know!)

Forget "Gillette", "the best a man can get" is not a three-blade disposible razor (although it helps look sleek and clean for going out), it's the city itself. Being in a patriarchal society, a man can practically get away with anything here (even honor crimes)...

So foolishly, you thought that "the happiest place on earth" is Disney? Obviously you have not been out to Sky Bar yet - but then again, you don't have contacts good enough to secure a table there, so might as well go to Disneyland instead (at least there are no bouncers scanning your hip factor).
Apple might have prided itself in "think different" but this is where the good ideas come from - I mean, even the guy who invented their iPod turned out to be Lebanese.... And I am sure if you dig closely, Steve Job's ancestry could be traced one way or another back to some little village in the Lebanese mountains. MAC is actually short for MACtabtak, or MACtabak (meaning respectively your library or your bureau).
True, it was "Avis Rent a car" who came up with this "we try harder" (in reply to Hertz)... But as citizens who pay official electricity bills and generators, who pay the state's water meter and their the water supply trucks, landlines and cell phones... Definately we get the credit for "trying harder".
Braniff airlines were the ones who claimed "when you got it - flaunt it." But hey, any woman in Beirut could tell you that it is a no-brainer!... Besides, here even when you do not have it, you can still flaunt it. Wonderbra makes killing sales, not to mention plastic surgeons doing brisk business, all while everyone lives above their means just to "flaunt it."
"Have a break, have a Kit Kat", right? Not really... Even in the middle of all of its craziness Beirut can offer havens of safety - if you're tired from clubbing in Gemmayze, why not go to... Gemmayze? I am serious, right above the little Mazar (shrine) with the St. Elias statue, go up the hill and you will find one of the most serene places in Beirut, some lovely Lebanese houses, and a graffiti by Ashekman to boot!
"And you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984"", those words still send shivers down my spine. The come from the launch of Macintosh by Apple (which we have already established to have Lebanese origins)... Forget "Big Brother" - even in the worst days of un-democracy (I won't call it dictatorship) we still managed to get banned books delivered to our email inboxes (think "Israel to Damascus", or anything banned by Social Security ends up on youtube, etc...). We might not have democracy, but by God freedom of speech (even if what you say is rubbish) is secured.
Usually linked to De Beers "a diamond is forever" fits snuggly with Beirut. The city that will outlast all of us. I can only go back to the words of that anonymous man in the Gebran Khalil Gebran tribute who electrified the audiences by saying "I hate Gebran, and Lebanon, and the cedars... Because they are eternal while I am a mere mortal." Add Beirut to the statement and you'll get it.
"The choice of a new generation" might have been a claim by Pepsi, and whereas one of our main exports are 23 year old youth armed with a degree from a reputable university, a whole "new generation" of Ethiopian, Sri Lankese, Filippina, Eastern European girls (although each ethnicity for a different reason) are chosing Lebanon as the country to immigrate to.
Foget Nokia, it is Beirut that does the "connecting people" bit. The myth about a woman in Bikini saluting a veiled woman while both doing their morning sport on Manara is actually not a myth at all - it is reality. Don't ask me how we do it, part of the charm is not knowing that!

"Drivers Wanted", Wolkswagen... Not quite so. Apparently, the Ministry of Interior is considering throwing away all the current lot of drivers in Beirut (yes, this includes the Taxis as well) and getting a fresh new lot who is responsible, law abiding, and non-suicidal.... The recruitment though shall not specify anything about the state of the roads....

"Have it your way" is definately more adequate to Beirut than to Burger King... After all to each his or her own Beirut and the versions very seldom agree - but as long as you respect my own, I shall respect yours.

"It's everywhere you want to be" was originally coined for Visa, but truthfully doesn't it just fit like a glove here?.... Fine cuisine, clubs, pubs, religious zealots, everything is here and packed in just a few square Kilometers... Tempting, don't you think?
McDonald's might be massively marketing "I'm lovin' it" but when you have the only McDonald's with a Valet Parking (the one on the Corniche) - don't you think we have ourselves laid claim on bragging ourselves about it?... The tip for the valet will set you back more than a value meal, but then - prestige has no cost!

The Independent newspaper bragged "It is. Are you?" - well, Robert Fisk, their star correspondent might be upset about us hijacking the claim - but have you ever noticed how everyone in Beirut assumes directly that "you are one of us" - whatever the "us" is?... So anyone pro-March 14 will say All of Beirut is with March 14. Are you?" - ditto for March 8.... So seriously now "Are you?"
Timex watches will always be associated with "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking" but baby, Timex is not a city which resurrected itself 7 times from under the rubble - not the least of which was the devastating earthquake of 551 A.D. - and still manages to pull punches better than all of them!

Coca-Cola is "the real thing"... But with all the nose jobs, the boob jobs, the flashiness, the fads, the shallowness, no one is able to make an alternative reality out of fakeness than the Lebanese. So in our own parallel universe, Beirut is indeed "the real thing".
With all of this in mind, you still wonder why Beirut is "Never Twice Same City"?

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