July 23 – LETTER FROM DAMASCUS by Paul Chamberlin

(Click here to read previous Letters From Damascus.)

Sunday 23 July
In addition to the Ummayad mosque, the spectacular Old City, Bashar
al-Assad, and about five million Syrians, Damascus is home to the
french fry sandwich: A bun filled with coleslaw, mayonnaise, and fried
potato slices that hits the spot (and stays there) any day of the
week. We were enjoying one of these fine treats the other day in a
snack shop just south of Straight Street, the street that divides the
old city into the right and wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. Not
that Damascus really has a wrong side of the tracks (people don’t
really feel it necessary to use bike locks here, for example), rather
this is simply the side of town that you’re more likely to get funny
looks if you are obviously not Syrian. In any case, as we were trying
to finish off Syria’s answer to low cholesterol the owner of the shop
switched on Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, which seems to run Hezbollah’s
theme song to videos of guys jumping around in the woods and shooting
guns every hour on the hour. So now that’s in my head, it really is
rather catchy.

We also found a pirated copy of First Blood the other night at a kiosk
in the new city. Someone had recorded it with Arabic subtitles off
satellite TV. It wasn’t long before we were all sipping Syrian beers
(Barada, after the river) and watching Rambo on an Egyptian DVD

We went to a juice bar today to study and enjoy fresh strawberry
juice. One of the guys hanging out in the bar was an ex-commando in
the Syrian army. Everyone laughed when George Bush came on al-Jazeera.
The UN is suggesting that Israel’s attacks on Beirut might qualify as
war crimes (mass graves, whole families killed), Secretary Rice is
pledging to block ceasefires, Israel is massing troops and armour on
the Lebanese border, and the Syrian papers have picked up the story of
Washington sending more laser-guided bombs to Israel. At least people
here have kept their sense of humor.

(Click here to read previous Letters From Damascus.)

Categories: "Letter From Damascus" by Paul Chamberlin | Leave a comment

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

0 thoughts on “July 23 – LETTER FROM DAMASCUS by Paul Chamberlin

  1. These are great. They give the obvious impression that people are trying to maintain a sense normal existence with hell happening next door. No different than the Lebanese have been doing throughout the civil war and after.

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