The Big "Tiffeha"

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Faisal Malas 8(3)

The thing with New York is that, even though it may be an American state, it’s one of the places in the world where you will find nearly every single ethnicity in one place. Coming from Beirut, I would be considered privileged to travel to a place like New York. Coming from a small city in attempt to recreate it’s self to become something larger, such as New York, NY seems foreign but yet welcoming; like sheer beauty.
I travel there often to visit family, but strangely, every time I visit seems like the first time being there all over again. And I strangely love that. I feel like I have a connection with New York, something about it speaks to me. It’s original in its own way, just like Beirut is. Beirut’s broken down buildings and streets may seem just as simple as “broken down” but that’s Beirut’s beauty, its own originality. While NY seems more modern, it’s extremely diverse as well. New York has different districts based on different racial groups, not that they are being separated, but they are being embraced for their culture. For me, visiting the Big Apple is the greatest gift of all. I admire it to a whole other level. It gives me a certain feel when I’m there. The atmosphere jumps at me; it deprives me of every worry on my mind. The flashing lights, the tall buildings, the traffic jams, it all speaks to me, all of it.
As I walk through the city, I admire the beauty, the weather, and everything around me. I notice that nearly every person that passes me is of a different culture. A tall Arab man passes me; I hadn’t really noticed him until I noticed his stench. It was nauseating, but at the same time familiar. It was like déjà vu. For a moment, I felt like I was back home. I carried on, but kept the thought of Beirut in mind. With every building I passed, I somewhat contrasted it with what a building back in Beirut would look like. I imagined a small, aged, antiquated four story building, where the color of the paint was faded, and there were cracks in the wall, right in the center of a large, traffic jammed modern city. It was strange to think about, but definitely an amazing scene.
It’s funny, in New York, people are robbed, mugged, stabbed, and stores are broken into, minor offenses. While in Lebanon, political instability is a huge issue. As long as you’re keeping up with the news, you’re never comfortable. Thankfully, not too many people have been hurt. On the other hand, in Beirut it’s almost perfectly safe to walk alone at 12 PM. The chances aren’t very high you’re going to run into that creep who will follow you home. New York has people like that; it’s hard to get around. While the trick is, if you pretend like you know what you’re doing, you’re considered a New Yorker, and chances are deduced to get into a similar situation. With Beirut, I don’t have to pretend, I do know what I’m doing. Guys are going to eyeball you and give you dirty looks, so I ignore it (if not give them a look back). New York is a much larger city, there are gangs and thugs, and in Beirut the only thugs are the police. The people who think they are thugs, actually mean no harm. The “thugs” completely change the definition of “skinny jeans”-they are beyond “skinny”. They dress in what should only be called “anorexia” jeans, studded punk bracelets, a fake brand-name shirt, and spike their hair up higher than the Empire State building.
We all have our friendly neighborhood hobo. In New York, he or she will usually hang around the subway station or on the sidewalk during traffic hour holding an old empty can of tomato paste and a sign displaying the message “spare change”. Well, in my neighborhood, he hangs around McDonalds and is always smoking his cigarette and sipping coffee through the same paper cup every day. On the thought of traffic hour, in Beirut it’s always traffic hour, no matter what time of day. The streets are even packed at 3 AM. That’s when the “university kids” will be finished clubbing, and will get in a small old cab, to be driven to Bliss Street by an old man who can barely hear. Bliss Street is a hit after a long night. It’s flooded with small restaurants and kiosks, truly a home for the hungry. Usually, the majority of the people will get a “Charlie’s Hot Dog” which is supposedly a “New York Hot Dog”. To my surprise, it’s great and also a hit. The street is parallel to the American University of Beirut (AUB), that’s where all the kids go for lunch in between classes. The type of food on Bliss Street varies from traditional Lebanese meals such as “manouche”, to a classic “Big Mac” at McDonalds.
In New York one of the largest tourist attractions is Times Square, in Beirut there is Downtown. Downtown is the center of Beirut, a small industrial and political area which is always flooded with people. The center of Downtown is a large clock tower, in the middle of a cluster of restaurants and shops, where people go to eat, and kids go to play. A newly constructed mosque is also a large tourist and local attraction; it is a massive structure with colossal minarets towering over it, and the rest of Downtown. One thing in New York, that you won’t find something similar to in Beirut, is the Statue of Liberty. That is a one of a kind structure, it’s beautiful.
I felt a sudden and overwhelming feeling of hunger overtake me; I was soon going to meet for lunch with the rest of my family, so I didn’t want to waste my appetite. I spotted a small deli across the street. For a change, rather than waiting to see a car at a distance and making a run for it, I waited for a signal to cross the road. I then glanced at all the fattening unhealthy American snacks, Butterfingers, Twinkies, and a box of Nerds. I wanted to make up for all the exercise I haven’t been doing since I arrived to America, plus I was feeling healthy, so I decided to buy an apple. I leaned over the counter and asked the cashier for a “tiffeha”. I stuttered and quickly corrected myself, “an apple…my bad.” I can never seem to get the thought of either city out of my mind, wherever I am. I guess there’s always a little bit of Beirut in me.





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This article has 8 comments. Post your own now!

Maryam said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Faisal, this is absolutely amazing. I don't know if I have told you this enough, it is brilliant. I am so proud of you Fassoul :)
 
Clara A said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm
Props, Faisool.
 
john said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 11:11 am
I agree, the ending was very smart. Good use of vocab. How old are you? 
 
faisalmalas replied...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 11:39 am
13, turning 14 soon.
 
john replied...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 11:43 am
Wow. I'm impressed.. Keep up the good writing!
 
faisalmalas replied...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 11:45 am
Thanks, and will do.
 
the runner up said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 11:06 am
Great story, amazing writing. I especially liked the ending :)
 
adam said...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 1:03 am
great story - more brilliance from B-town
 
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