Saturday, December 24, 2005

It all started when I was given a set of Legos

She’s back!
No, not the roommate, or we would be asking where are her apostles,
I think she must have gotten used to the smell of my trousers or something so she just happened to let herself be found and returned.
It’s raining…. I’ve always wondered why they say like cats and dogs because dogs and cats only rain on particular spots in the city like lamp posts not all over the place like the stuff pouring down now.
This brings us to the next topic of the running Lebanon commentary….. CONSTRUCTION.
It’s truly amazing the construction that happens in my building apparently roofing tiles are more decorations than actual things to keep water off of your head as you are snuggling under your blankie. I am sure some woman somewhere is looking for her long lost terra cotta earring that just happens to have been slapped on my roof. These things are actually tied with bread twisties, not hammered, onto a metal frame, not tar covered wood. Which means that they wink when the wind blows just right and you can see right up under the houses roof skirts! BLUSH
As the torrents of rain find new ways of invading your author’s habitat we must remind the readers that life under a winking roof is racy…

I nearly got a tile in the brain
and after soiling my undies
and jumping a distance that would definitely have me on the first to go to the Olympics list
I was stuck sweeping up a broken terra cotta plate.
Now most of you know that scraping sounds generally do not do one’s brain much good.
The sound of terra cotta jugging over itself is something to be placed in a category with the rake on the chalkboard.

So after the Herculean labor of withstanding the sound and getting all of the chunks of tile cleared away my bird perch, billed by the landlord as a real live balcony, was clear again.
But getting back to the construction thing… Lebanon after the war has faced a growth rate in buildings that isn’t alarming it’s astounding!

But, whenever anywhere grows, that much, that fast, something gets forgotten.

Here it was thinking.

I must say cement blocks here are more like potato flakes than cement. The bricks don’t have the nice big square holes like in the states. Their shapes are shattered and irregular. Blocks here have 8 to 10 blind oval punches in them rather than the nice two squares that go all the way through. This leads to a massive problem, how do you thread a wire through a block that doesn’t have a hole on both sides?
I remember jobs in the states that had the piping and cabling running up through the cement blocks and with 6inch by 6inch squares even your local orangutan could run cabling through the gapping from good bricklaying. That doesn’t happen here. Here you see a wall put up, often without a plumb line or a level like the Egyptians used for the pyramids, you do not see the large flat plywood board that leaves those beautiful patterns on the poured sections of wall.
Here you get slats of wood that are CONSTANTLY recycled. These slats are wetted with one cement project, dried, used in ladders, commissioned as doorstops, ran into the ground to mark territory, stacked for cribbing, used to hold clothesline, togged into saw horses, un-togged when someone too heavy gets on the slat board, perched on by chickens, used for herding sheep, brought to anther construction project where they are slatted together to make a wall and then slapped with concrete, dried, but never ever burned!

I am convinced that the certain amount of wood distributed around Lebanon comes from a wood rental company and you must remember to muddy it before handing on to the next customer.

Wood here is so used it doesn’t have the sharp edges I am used to on cheap pine 2 by 4’s.

Currently I was conscripted into helping on a project in Ouzai.
Yes, Ouzai that little village south of Beirut that runs smack dab in the flight line for all the big jumbo jets that land at the airport. This job is something of a horror show. Even if you take into account I was adding the highest floor in the ENTIRE village on a building that is the next but last one before the runway begins. I can still see the images of the world trade center doing a scale down version here on the roof at Ouzai. But I digress

True, all the concrete has wire reinforcing it.
True, the walls are made of concrete.
True, it will eventually have indoor plumbing and electricity.
True, it will even have a backup power supply!

But truth be told, the cement walls are only one block thick, blocks in Lebanon only run about 2 inches wide. In order to run cabling, according to common Lebanese practice, one builds a complete wall and then proceeds to hammer out the path of the wire and chisel away the block and mortar while ramming a plastic hose about where you want the cable to go. The same is true for plumbing.

Running conduits on the outside of walls or pushing a piping plan as the building was being built is far too….far sighted.

Sure the pipe may leak or the cable may get yanked out,
and maybe it is easier to get to if you made the walls out of balloon frame and just replaced the dry wall if anything really serious happened...

BUT No, we builders of Lebanon like breaking stone with our little nubs of hammers and we enjoy destroying the integral strength of walls by pouring slip (watered down cement) into the gaps because it makes us feel like manly men.

WE construction workers of Lebanon LIVE for the challenge of future business and know that these people will not remember who built the catastrophe they call home by the time things get lethal.

I remember the joy of punching a cable through a balloon frame house. I revisit the breaking of drywall, the quick easy plaster of Paris repairs, the cut and drill placement of new power outlets, and the quick in, quick out, plumbing work. Balloon frames require metal frames, wood, insulation, and drywall, all of which seem missing here. I mean, you can’t exactly rent a plank and return it, if it’s holding up a wall in someone’s house; although these construction workers here may actually try.

Maybe the construction workers joie de vivre comes from the fact that hard hats are not recommended or required; that a 5 point harness requires a carabineer to clip onto something; goggles and gloves are for wussies; that shoes are as well, real men use slippers, “who needs steel toed boots?” Welding should be done without a helmet, all you need is a bit of plate glass or a green bottle in front of your eyes and you are good to go!

Another interesting idea is having bathrooms higher than the rest of the building. It isn’t that stubbing my toe to the point where the bone has powderized every night I want to get into the loo is exactly fun; it’s that the risk of flooding has me petrified of the idea.
I know it’s because nobody runs piping until AFTER the house is built; that means the 3inch sewer line requires you to stack the floor but that still doesn’t take away the brown waterfall image that comes to mind as I step over the threshold.

So the rain is pouring down.
Even in the apartment.
The mushrooms will appear on my wall tomorrow.
The natoor(doorman, custodian, and general building superman, God bless him) will be shown the state the roof and wall has gotten itself into in the apartment; will complain that the landlord is comming back from Venezuela or Guatemala after he gets through another major cocaine deal; that the senile sister of his boss has forgotten to pay our beloved natoor AGAIN; that the elevator is once again attempting its suicidal plunge from floor 6 to the basement by cutting its own cable; and that politics is Lebanon is once again saving defeat from the jaws of victory!

It amazes me that though they won't do it in public
everyone who isn't Lebanese badmouths the country.
I feel like a right idiot doing it because it leaves me open to the don't like it then get out comment.
I don't like it but figure that if I complain enough someone here might get angry enough to do something about it rather than letting the guy:
park his car in the MIDDLE of Bliss street;
blaze through the red light into the intersection because he knows if you squint hard enough the driver sort of looks like Michael Schumacher;
who is a lazy bum just tossing his bottle on the street shattering it into a thousand shards should give up his NBA jersey he is wearing and get out of the car and PUT it in the Sukleen dumpster;
or maybe caring about his children and buckling them into a car seat rather than making them into cannonballs for one of the 5 fatalities that happen on the autostrad (highway) a day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

just one simple question : why you decided to come to lebanon ? in this critical period when everyone else is leaving the country you barge in for what? u get peice of the cake ? you make me laugh....

they would tell u, don't like get out ???? trust me they don't have that belongingness they don't even care , lost society......

4:43 PM, December 24, 2005  
Anonymous Farah said...

stop complaining.. at least you have a roof on top of your head.. even if it is a falling one! :p
this is the link to my blog. enjoy :)
PS thanks for the manaeesh.. did wonders!

1:45 AM, December 26, 2005  

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