Just got in from a wonderful party, so I’m a little buzzed. Well,
actually, I can’t feel my fingers as I type this. Chuckle. My
sister-in-law, who is Lebanese, had an Arab-Lebanese party. Wow, what a
nice time. We drank, smoked the water pipe, laughed, told stories, ate
tabbouleh, babacanush, humus, kabobs of chicken, and a bunch of things
that I will never ever be able to spell.

Juan Carlos
brought some fabulous Rioja red wine. That got the thing rolling as we
took liberally of these fermented red grapes. Todd, an ethnic American,
who became friends with Miray’s brother, Lebanon and his party crew,
was an old hat with the whole thing. He knew most of the basic Arabic
terms and greetings, and seemed comfortable with his assimilation into
his adopted context outside of his own. He reminded me a little bit of
myself with the Puerto Rican crowd. Something about them demanded my
attention. They accepted me and I fell in, eventually marrying into the
culture. Todd, Mikey, Lebanon and Rami were a party group

Then somebody brought a couple of water
pipes, one of which was new, being used in a group setting for the
first time. They fiddled with it, complaining about the tightness, the
newness of the fitting, poking holes in the aluminum foil to aerate the
tobacco. No good, and away and away we puffed pulling the heat into the
tobacco through the water and into our mouths trying to get a good
draw. The cherry infused smoke was aromatic and we were even able to
convince most of the women to give it a go.

A dance began
with a particularly rhythmic song, as the hostess and her brother,
Lebanon began to circle in a traditional form. Arm in arm they circled,
laughing and dancing, winding their way through the house.

of the evening was spend chuckling, drinking, sharing stories and
trying to get a good draw on the water pipes. I spend my fair share
drawing deeply. It was truly wonderful, and eventually we began to get
a good smoke. "This pipe is smoking good now," they would say, as they
fiddled with the other. I came and I went, as I chased down Jaimito,
checked on Olaia and Laura to see how they were and what they were up
to, but I kept making my way back to that pipe. There was just
something about it.

I was an extremely nice time because of
how differently the experiences played out from what I’m used to. It
was interesting and wonderful to enjoy good times, but in a slightly
different context. The brotherhood of man, shared over tobacco,
something as old as human-kind itself, takes on a perspective of
closeness, seen from an angle that makes me take notice. Sharing the
water pipe, puffing, and laughing and passing, gives a visceral and
immediate context to our lives. Sometimes we forget about the
commonality we all share, and it is a dead dried plant and some spittle
that brings it back into focus. What am I talking about? What else
could that be? We all come into this life the same way and we all leave
it eventually. What we miss is all those wonderful details in the
middle, those simple banal things upon which we rarely focus, quickly
and recklessly moving onto the next thing, the next destination. The
same feeling, I believe, can be found in other rituals around the
world, a Japanese tea ceremony, a Basque cider house, Catholic mass,
tribal or native dance, or a simple sharing of the hunt, alcohol, or
smoke. Taken in moderation and shared amongst people in a certain
context they can be powerful rituals of remembrance.

but I write such drivel. Perhaps tomorrow I will be able to communicate
this in a better fashion. I feel like I do it such little justice with
these numb fingers and this swirling "mente" of mine.