Monday, November 27, 2006

17-18 March, 1956 (Part 2 0f 2)

One thing being in Europe has taught me, which will not carry over to the states, I hope--& that is: "always haggle." You never enter a cab over here without first establishing how much you’re going to pay. Someone had told me I could get a cab for L1 (one pound, Lebanese)—33 1/3 cents. The cab wanted L1.50 (one pound fifty), which I refused to pay, until I found out that was the cheapest any of them would go. Incidentally, you never tip them either—in Europe, service fees are included in the price.

The telegram Coutre wanted sent contained seven words & cost L15.25 (roughly five dollars & ten cents). Since he hadn’t given me any money at all, my shopping plans took a sudden change for the worse.

After leaving the Post Office, which looks more like a bank on the inside—I wandered down one of the narrow, shop-lined side streets, looking around—shoes, clothes, pots & pans, all hanging outside the shops like weird fruit clusters.

I was inevitably "picked up" by a young man in a brown suit. These boys & young men go around looking for lone tourists, or groups of them, & offer to take you to various bars, shops, & stores—where they get commissions on whatever you buy.

After meandering through several side streets & Indian stores, we found ourselves in the market area—where sides of half-dried meat dangle in front of open butcher shops, & where the streets are filled with broken hand-made crates & vegetable leaves, not to mention large amounts of animal residue & other less tempting items.

Finally found our way (why do I say "our"—he knew where he was going) back to the same shop I’d bought the tablecloth. This time, with what little money I had left, a beautiful blue brocade robe—either for dad or for myself—whichever one of us it fits best (it’s a little large for me).

After than I found a tram headed for the "Ban Militaire"—I think that means "Military Road," but I’m not sure. Tram fare is 5 piastres—about 1 ½ cents. They’re all very narrow, with front & rear platforms (all depends on which way the thing is going) & wooden seats. They’re also electric cabled, & painted an orange-red.

I stood on the rear platform & watched the city go by. At one section, near the poplar-studded campus of the American University, I noticed the stores had advertisements & names in three alphabets—French, Arabic, & another that looked vaguely Russian to me, though it probably was Hebrew or some other Eastern language.

Near the University, a kid in a brown suede jacket & Levi’s got on. He said "Hi" & we got to talking—of course, I’d had a sneaking suspicion he might be American even before he spoke. He was a good looking kid of about nineteen—the kind you see all around you in the States. His dad is an oil engineer in Saudi Arabia—he, too, is going back to the States this fall, to join the Air Corps. They evidently do not draft Americans living over here, but they warn them to return home before they do.

He hopped off the tram near a barber shop—above its red-&-yellow pole the name was scrawled in Arabic--& waved so long. I rode on to the end of the line, where the conductor shifts the electric pole from one cable to another & starts back to town.

I walked down a winding road to where the Corniche ran past the large tent & numerous wagons of the German "Circus Belli." From there I could see the Anderson’s apartment house. In a small store in the same building, I bought two American magazines & went on up to the apartment.

Mrs. Anderson was changing clothes to go to a reception for the President of Lebanon—George had gone back to the USO for the package, which he’d forgotten. Mr. Anderson came in, told me to make myself comfortable, & that they would be back around six. Juliette brought me a Pepsi, & I listened to the radio till George came.

Pat came in a moment later & George & I decided to unpack the clock & put it together before Mr. & Mrs. Anderson got back. That provided an amusing half hour while we tried to get the thing together & running.

Mrs. Anderson had invited one of Pat’s girlfriends & her brother to supper with us. The girl—her name is Sharon, & that’s all I recall—came up immediately—we all talked & ate candy(Delicious) Pat ordered from the store downstairs.

When Mr. & Mrs. Anderson came home, the clock was sitting on an end table, working quite well. Mrs. A was very surprised & pleased, as was Mr. A. He in turn gave both George & me two packets of rare seeds from the Cedars of Lebanon. There are only about five hundred of these trees left in the country—there are rigid laws on exporting or importing any seeds or saplings of these trees. The only reason Mr. A. had any was because he works in forestry. I’ll bring them home with me—I don’t dare mail them. And we will start raising little Cedars of Lebanon in our back yard. Of course, they take 3,000 years to grow, at which time they are 80 feet tall & the second largest trees in the world, next to our own redwoods—they look like this (Very Roughly).

Sharon’s brother John came up (they live in the same building). He’d been out to the ship that afternoon & had an exciting time trying to smuggle four cartons of cigarettes ashore. Since possession of more than two packs is punishable by a nice long jail sentence by the Lebanese government, he was not too anxious to get caught. He’d had them shoved up his shirtsleeves & in his belt—anywhere & everywhere. Waiting to leave the ship, he stood in front of two customs officials—naturally, two packs had to fall down his pant leg & onto the deck. Fortunately, he got in a different boat than they, & was long gone by the time they got ashore.

Mr. Anderson broke out two bottles of champagne & took pictures of us all opening them. We really had a wonderful time.

Supper consisted of tons of spaghetti, an excellent chopped Lebanese salad, two kinds of pie, & other side dishes. I was completely bloated. After supper we all went to the USO (except John, who wasn’t allowed)—it was the Point-Four night to be hosts, & the Andersons & Sharon all had to be there.

We talked & Mrs. Anderson dragged me out to do the Polka, which I haven’t done in years. At about ten thirty, they began removing all the ships’ flags hanging around the room, & left only the Lebanese & American.

Dick Hagenbach had joined us by this time, & you know the rest of the tale.

I really hated to say goodbye to the Andersons—they did more to boost my morale than anything in the world—aside from going home—could have done. Maybe, someday….



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