Saturday, December 1, 2007

באוהלך



מתוך ערפל סמיך הופיע לי אוהלך
ועל ארבע זחלתי וביקשתי להכנס
פתחת לי מהר ומשכת אותי אליך
ובנשיקות מטורפות הלילה התחיל

כמה מתוק להיות לצדך
אך בצדק אומר שלא באתי להתנשק
הגיע הזמן שתשכב על צדך
ואת גורלך תקבל

אז תפתח לי לאט לאט את שערך
הכניסה אל גן-עדן קשה, ככתוב
קשה לי לראות את הגיהינום על מבטך
אך ברגע אחד כל הכאב יעלם

Written by Nizo, Montréal, December 1st


Thursday, November 29, 2007

ركعتني


ركعتني يا خِل
انا الذي للخالق بالركعات ابخلُ
روضتني يا خِل
وجعلت من الضرغامِ كبشا مدجنا
بقدمك يا خِل
دُست على قلبٍ يصرخ إليك و يتوسلُ
اسقني يا خِل
من خمراذلالك ولا تبخلَ

Written by Nizo, Montréal, 29th of November

Saturday, November 3, 2007

اشتعل

احياناً اشتعل و يتفجر كل ما بداخلي
احياناً اتصرف كالمجنون
و اكسر كل ما اجده حولي
اكسر المرآة والأقداح
أتمزق
اصرخ
كل ذلك عندما احن لقدميك
لسيقانك
لأفخاذك

اعلم ان كل شيئ جمعنا قد مات
و لكن عندما اتذكر فمك الرطب
اشتعل
و يشتعل بداخلي كل ما لا يمكن اشتعاله
و قبل ان تهدأ الحريق
يشتعل من جديد ركناً آخر

Written by Nizo, Montréal, 3rd of November

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nizo's Erotica Part 1: Un Barbat Adevărat

To celebrate the advent of a sinful summer, politics will take a backseat as the next couple of carnal blog-posts will cover actual episodes of my exciting life. Here’s the first in a multipart series.

Raluca, my charming Romanian coworker goes berserk at the sight of a real man.

You see, my typical day at work involves meeting with a steady stream of visiting (mostly male) sales reps. They litter the parking lot with their oxford-green minivans. The same vehicles they use to transport their 2.5 kids from a previous failed marriage. If one requires an explanation for the high divorce rate, one only has to look at these middle-aged, engineering-degreed, checkered-shirted, bespectacled, nasal-voiced, bald-spotted, rotund drones.


How such men manage to bring a woman to orgasm is beyond my comprehension. No wonder their frustrated wives eventually replace them with plastic battery-operated contraptions - or a UPS delivery boy named Gino.



Fortunately, there is an exception to this pitiable parade of male mediocrity.

Behold the 6-foot-3 beefcake, built like an Abrams tank, with jet-black hair and deep blue eyes.

An ex-sniper in his late-thirties, he rides in once a month on a black Mustang, his potent appeal simmering, gurgling baritonely under a cool, imperturbable surface. He trots into my office, a proud thoroughbred, yet sans an ounce of overbearing machismo. Shaking my hand with a vice-like iron grip, he waits for my signal before seating himself.

At ease soldier. As they say, you can take the man out of the army...

He then pulls out his semi-rigid coaxial cable and executes the customary sales pitch regarding its many virtues. As is the custom, I manually test its firmness and then proceed to closely examine the gleaming bulbous nickel-plated connector tip.



Adonis smiles broadly as I give him an order sizeable enough to keep him happy, but never too much, so as to keep him coming back for more.
On his way out, the jovial ex-sniper shoots a wink at libidinous Raluca, who then sashays her way over and clutches my arm with a perfectly manicured paw. She tilts her head backwards and her big lustful brown eyes roll back into their sockets. A couple of moans and shudders later, she arches her back and cries out:


Wow… Asta Da Barbat Adevărat!
(Now that’s a Real Man)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Naked With Wiesel

On a dusky September morning, I decided to officially bid farewell to the 2006 camping season and go for that one last time. I filled the cooler with hummus and Heinekens and headed north.

On the way to the campground, I was forced to share the narrow one-way road with a fleet of bikers and their babes. To add to my aggravation, Blair decided to catch a large fly that had made its way into the truck. I drove with one hand on the steering wheel and the other trying to restrain my 70-pound canine who thought she was a frog.


Two hours behind the caravan of leather-clad inbred Wall-Martians was enough for me to call it quits and head back, but the exit was nowhere in sight. Since there was a police car separating me from the sluggish convoy, reaching out for a beer and alleviating my impatience wasn't an option.


I finally made it to the much awaited intersection. In an act of frustration and defiance, I floored the pedal and barreled down the unpaved path to the campground. Once there, I relished in the fact that there was hardly a soul and that I would be spending two full days of self-imposed exile far from the city’s noise and hubbub.


After setting up camp, I tied Blair to a tall sycamore and headed for the nearby dunes with Elie Wiesel's Town Beyond the Wall. Every once in a while, there comes a book that is painful to read; not because it's badly written, but rather since it stirs up my emotions so intensely that I am forced to put it down for fear of an angina. Indeed, Wiesel's Holocaust-related book is one of those intense oeuvres that I can only properly tackle in peaceful - hence calming surroundings.


I eventually settled down on a secluded cliff under a lonely, old and rotting tree. The clouds parted and the sun made a surprise appearance. Since this was a clothing optional campground, there was no reason for me not to shed the burden of attire and be one with nature. I read absorbedly, the mild breeze and the warm rays taking turns in caressing my outstretched nakedness.

I reached a point in the story where the main character had fled to France after surviving the death camps. Wiesel then went on to describe how the protagonist kept receiving unwelcome visits from a fellow survivor. The insistence of the former in refusing the latter's stubbornly recurrent visits and all the bitter memories they represented was analogous to my relationship with Wiesel's book itself. Many a time did I try to finish this book, and yet I was unable to breach that wall of emotion. Nevertheless, Wiesel stubbornly beckoned from the bookshelf and refused to be relegated to a lower perch like Dostoevsky and others before him.


I laid down the book and cupped my chin, fixated on the relevance and universality of that specific metaphor and how it applied to other contexts in my life such as relationships with people, causes and more.
Like Rodin's thinker, I sat on that cliff, hunched over and overcome with introspection. Silence was occasionally punctuated by the rustling of leaves and the occasional bird call.


Suddenly, a loud and shrill shriek punctured the serene stillness.
I looked around frantically, thinking it was someone who had fallen and gotten hurt.


The shriek quickly turned into a whole cacophony of shouts, and they seemed to be approaching. Then, an obnoxiously colorful kite cut through the blue sky a couple of feet away. I looked down from the precipice and saw a dozen naked golden-aged people being led by a bald, pot-bellied man a couple of years their junior. The pudgy Moses was holding up the kite and leading his senile flock through the dunes. I could not make out the specific language being spoken, but I was certain it was Slavic.


As amused as I was by the whole spectacle, my face had not yet recovered from the initial shock. There was a rather heavy-set straggler who struggled to keep up with the other geriatric power-walkers. She probably saw the confused demeanor on my face and quickly offered her apologies for the disturbance. I told her not to worry about it, and I smiled when she cheekily explained in perfect Parisian French: "Pardonnez-nous monsieur, mais nous sommes polonais" Excuse us sir, but we’re Polish.

Oh those zany Poles. Must be the vooodka.


As they disappeared into the horizon, I attempted to revisit Wiesel's book yet could not cleanse my mind of the images of loosely hanging liver-spotted-flesh and shaggy silver-maned genitals. I also figured that to shift from the imagery of a naked jolly frolic to an Auschwitz death march was mentally impossible, not to mention borderline sacrilegious. Defeated by the circumstances, I put the book down.

I hiked back to the camp and took an eagerly awaiting Blair for a swim in a nearby stream. While she was distracted by the small fish, I sunk my body into the icy cold water and did some more pondering.
Here I was, agonizing along with a character from a book set in WWII, while these Poles - who were most probably there at the time, were running naked with their bare behinds insolently and rebelliously mooning the world and its discontents.
Perhaps it was a reminder from above that one shouldn't take life too seriously.
I didn't last long in that stream. Blair and I headed back to the campsite for a nice plate of hummus and a chilled Heineken.
--------------
The start of the 2007 camping season approaches; Wiesel's book still begs to be finished.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Palestinian Mohel in London

On a Monday morning in April 2003, my boss came running to my desk to tell me that I had to hop on a plane and go to the company’s branch in the UK. My mission was to set up a supply chain program in order to pass a certain European industry standard. The deadline was weeks away and whether I liked it or not, I was on tomorrow’s red eye flight to Heathrow. Little did I know what was waiting for me on the other side of the pond.

I arrived the next day at 7am and had two hours to clear customs, get to my hotel, shower and shave before presenting to a noisy gaggle of Brits at 9am. That first performance set the tone for the next two months. My days were long and exhausting. The UK branch was squeezing the most out of me and my mere pittance of a Canadian salary. I had to drive around industrial estates, narrowly avoiding certain death at the roundabouts, all for the sake of meeting with customers to explain the virtues of the new program and addressing their potential concerns. My only consolation was a rather generous daily alcohol expense quota.

One memorable Thursday, my UK boss pulled me into a conference room and advised me that a key customer was coming in later in the afternoon to air his grievances about the new system. Apparently the customer strongly disagreed with certain terms and was threatening to pull the plug on us completely and give the business to the competition.

“Sure Thing Boss!”, I chirped. After all, 5 weeks of presenting the same PowerPoint slides and listening to the same questions gave me a definite sense of confidence.

Or so I thought…

“You do speak German, right Nizo?”

He proceeded to inform me that the customer, a known pain in the ass, was flying in from Germany uninvited. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time this particular customer was pulling such as stunt. What made matters worse was his obdurate demand that we present to him in German. Since the other two colleagues who spoke German were on vacation, I was stuck with this most unwelcome task. I didn’t have enough time to translate the slides, and even if I did, I had never been exposed to business German and wouldn’t know where to start.

Back in my university days, I had studied the language for three years, thinking it would open the doors to the works of great German writers and philosophers in their original untranslated splendor. I quickly realized that it would take many years of hard work to be able to properly appreciate Goethe in his mother tongue. Nevertheless, I attempted to immerse myself in the language as much as possible by watching foreign films and listening to ghastly Schlager music. I also went on a couple of trips to Switzerland, Austria and Germany. To my chagrin, most people there weren’t interested in engaging me in conversation and oftentimes switched to English. I was once told by a German acquaintance that Germans are such perfectionists that they would rather speak to you in English than hear you massacre their language.

So here I was, faced with the exception to the rule: a German, insisting on being served in German -- in London. I was as nervous as Richard Gere’s favorite pet gerbil.

Like a sheep to the slaughter, I was led to the boardroom where the customer was waiting. There he was in his full Aryan glory, an imposing giant of a man with a stoic square-jawed face chiseled from alabaster. He responded to my animated “Guten Tag!” with a curt nod. I wasted no time with niceties and delved straight into the presentation.

In order to avoid making mistakes, I tried to use the simplest sentence formulations possible. At some point, his facial expressions showed that he was being receptive to my message, and I felt emboldened to go further and showcase every bit of Hochdeutsch I had learnt in school. Luckily my UK boss was there for support, and it helped calm my nerves. This was going well, I told myself.

Or so I thought…

I had to discuss the customer’s main point of contention and explain that our company wasn’t going to hold itself liable unless he clearly shares his projected forecast ahead of time. This was the crux of the man’s grievances and therefore a most sensitive issue.

By the time I was done with my explanation, the customer looked absolutely horrified. His face was red and his mouth was agape. The look of an infant about to burst into tears.

Instead, he burst into a bout of uncontrollable laughter.

I thought the man was laughing out of sarcasm, and I frantically tried to accommodate him. I told him that if he could give me his forecast right away, I would personally make sure the new program would work for him.


My boss was giving me a dirty look: “you better not screw this one up”.

And the man laughed and laughed..

I was genuinely perplexed, what would cause the man to laugh so hard?

I attempted to use sarcastic humor myself, by winking and saying that we would love nothing better than a big forecast. Thinking he would find it humorous that although we were on the verge of losing the deal, we had the chutzpah to ask for more of his business.

Then he responded, in perfect English: “I think you meant to say “Vorschau” which means forecast, the word you've been using: “Vorhaut” means the skin at the tip of the .... "


“Foreskin!” my boss shouted, with the same gusto Floridian octogenarians yell “Bingo!”

I don’t think there was ever a point in my life where I felt so embarrassed. Here I was, a sweating nervous wreck, trying to put sentences together in a foreign language to save a multi-million pound business deal from going awry, and instead I was imploring the man to give me his foreskin, and telling him how much my company loved a big one.

Luckily, the gods had decided that I had suffered enough. With a sudden surge of courage, I decided to dismiss my embarrassment and use the opportunity afforded by the man’s elated mood to finish the presentation and bring the point home.


----------------------------

Although I didn’t get a favorable decision from the customer that day, he did call my boss the week after to say that he was ready to give the new system a try.

He sent me an e-mail thanking me for a most entertaining presentation.


Up to this very day, I smile uncomfortably whenever I have to say the word forecast.






Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Drunken Ponderings: In the tub with Argov

I had another stressful day at the office yesterday. I was on a three-party conference call with a local customer and a vendor in California who could not produce his widgets fast enough. The customer was understandably frustrated and since I'm the assembler, I had to speed up my own production to make up for the delay. Typical scenario.

Since my customer's command of the English language leaves much to be desired, I also played the role of interpreter. When the mild mannered Californian explained that he won't be able to deliver due to raw material issues of his own, the customer lost control and addressed the vendor directly.
He bellowed:
"(By not getting the parts), Nizo will be retarded, and then I will be retarded. In the end we will all be retarded".

I had to quickly intervene and explain that by "retarded", the customer meant delayed. In French, the word for delay is retard.

It leads me to wonder how a company's director can speak English so poorly, especially since most of his sales are overseas. Until Mandarin becomes the new lingua franca, English is the language of business. This isn't to say that all Quebecers speak poor English, many are so perfectly bilingual you cannot tell if they're primarily Anglophone or Francophone. Nevertheless, such ignorance is inexcusable within a business context.

Last week, I had to place a call to our branch in Petach Tikva. Although everyone there speaks impeccable English (including the security guard who moonlights as a receptionist), I try to seize every opportunity to practice my mediocre Hebrew. As soon as I finished my call, my neighbor, a fellow manager asked me what language I was speaking. Hebrew I responded, and she asked me to teach her a word. I was delighted, finally, someone was looking beyond their baguette and willing to learn something new. So I picked a simple funny sounding word that she would find easy to remember: Bakbuk (bottle). To my annoyance, she kept repeating "bakbuk", until the day was over.

The next day she approached me, and with a grave look on her face she exclaimed: "Nizo, I don't think the word you taught me was correct. I said it to my boyfriend's roommate and he didn't recognize it".

I asked her if her boyfriend's roommate was Israeli, and she answered that he was German.

I was perplexed. Was he Jewish?
She said No.
"So how would you expect him to speak Hebrew? "

She had a confused look on her face and exclaimed "What's the difference between Hebrew and German? they sound the same".

I thought she was kidding.
She wasn't.
How could a 34 year old university graduate, who holds a managerial position require an explanation about Germany and Israel being two different countries with two completely unrelated languages? Granted, both contain the ch as in Bach sound, and to the severely untrained ear, they might sound similar, but to think they're the same is ignorance worthy of physical punishment, which I would have loved to dispense had our HR department permitted it.

Ignorance debilitates me, it eats up my insides. I tried to make sense of it that night. When I got home, I spent two hours on the elliptical machine and another hour on the PlayStation where I was a great white shark who attacks beach-goers. She was one of the girls on the beach who never made it to shore.

Still, it wasn't enough to make sense of both situations.

So I took out my secret weapon, the key which unlocks all truths: booze.

I topped up the martini shaker with enough gin and vermouth to sedate a horse. I filled up the bath tub and lit a couple of scented candles. I put on a Zohar Argov CD.

I proceeded to marinate in the steamy hot bath, the heat a welcome escape from the -25 celsius arctic freeze outside.

Zohar's goat-like voice serenaded me and nudged me gently towards a new state of consciousness. I imagined myself in a faraway land, sitting in a courtyard under date trees and bougainvillea. Zohar was there too, along with his lead guitarist whose face was barely visible behind gigantic, opaque ray-bans. We sipped martinis. I talked, he listened. It was my turn to lament.

I mentioned the customer and his poor English. There's a socio-political context of course. Most in Quebec do not identify culturally with the rest of Anglo Canada and there's an active separatist movement which has tried to make an independent state out of this province. Thanks to the "revolution tranquille" quiet revolution, the Quebecois have made formidable advances on all fronts, and have managed to protect the French language and promote its usage. However, whether Quebec secedes or not, this province's educational system needs to do much more in order to churn out linguistically proficient and culturally aware citizens. Future generations should be able to find Germany on a map. Otherwise, Quebec risks becoming a nation of Wall-Mart greeters.

Argov listened intently... His guitarist strummed a mournful tune...

Speaking of cultural change, my rant went on to those who need it the most: the Palestinians. My people, yes, those with the tendency never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

I lamented about how Arafat allowed the sprouting of a dozen militias during Oslo thus turning Palestine into the mess it is today. How instead of sending our men to work in the new industrial zones, they were sent to terrorize Gilo. How we fell for Nasrallah's assessment about Israel being as weak as a spider's web subsequently using Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa as a pretext to launch Intifada II and decimate the Israeli left.

As if all of this wasn't enough, our great Palestinian nation punished the corrupt Fatah mafia by electing a bunch of bearded baboons who aspired to turn our nascent quasi-state into a second Afghanistan. Since we weren't regressing fast enough, our hooded gangs proceeded to kill each other in Gaza, and it took a silk-robed rotund sheikh to broker a cease-fire. All of this while Israel's settlement enterprise continues unabated, appropriating land and resources, cutting off populations.

So, how does one explain the above failures? I refuse to submit to the explanation that Palestinians are inherently evil, or that Islam in itself is belligerent. That's a lazy explanation, and at its heart a racist argument that dehumanizes Arabs and thus makes it easier to drop bombs on them.
On the other hand, I also disagree with the many self-proclaimed Arab intellectuals, who see all of our failures within a narrow post-colonial framework. Like street vendors, they pull out and dust off the same old arguments about Western interference and Arab helplessness.

Just like in Quebec, but on a much larger scale, a cultural paradigm shift is required. We need a reform movement, a party that harnesses the energy of moderate forward thinking Palestinians. It all starts with exorcising the demon which is the culture of the Shaheed (martyrdom). We need to start valuing life. First on the list must be
Palestine TV, which needs to be cleansed of shows that glorify martyrdom. If we cannot salvage the older generations, let's at least spare our children. Shows like the one below must be banned:





This is for our own sake regardless of the Israeli occupation. One only needs to look to Iraq to see how Shaheed culture is like a fire consuming whatever is left of the country. As I said in previous posts, the Palestinians aren't the first nation to be occupied or oppressed, there are alternative ways of resistance. Whatever the cause, children should never be put on the front lines. They should not be encouraged to kill themselves.

Instead we need more shows like this:





We need to de-program people, it's a huge endeavor. Yet it's not impossible. Shaheed culture in its current manifestation is a relatively recent phenomenon in the Arab world. The concept of martyrdom is as old as time, and is not unique to the Arabs or Islam. What is new is how indiscriminately blood is shed. How nothing is sacred anymore.

The question is, how do we get there from here. Short of a mass epiphany, one could only hope that change in Palestinian society will come gradually and organically. Hopefully people will realize the ineffectiveness of our current methods, that we have sunk so low that the only way now is up.

I heard a loud pop, something hit me in the face. At first I thought it was Zohar's proboscis-like nose. Was he trying to give me a kiss? I then realized that fluctuations in temperature and pressure made the metal cap fly off the martini shaker and come crashing down on my cheek.

Argov was still bleating about some long lost love, I switched him off and went to bed. At some point the mundane takes over...