It’s been more than a few days since I heard the news. I stumbled across it by accident by having to find someone on Facebook. A place I avoid like plague. A place where clicking on ‘like’ or ‘friend’ apparently means something to a large sector of the unwashed…or is that brainwashed? …who spend inordinate amounts of time thinking they are making social contact.
Same day reports and comments made up the top new notifications, and I figured somehow in my guts it was true. A friend and brother, Obayda Habbal was dead. All those RIP comments, like someones death is an abbreviation on a Looney Tunes tomb stone…..and oh my God, all the ‘likes.’ A fucking Wile E. Coyote wake online.
It’s taken a few days. No one gmails to share the news. They click ‘like’ and move on. But I can’t do that.
Ubayda was one of my closest friends for the years I was in Syria. He got me back to playing guitar, I made him perform in plays by George B. Shaw in local theatres. He turned me on to that movie with the stupid ass title Fight Club, I introduced him to Tom Waits.
Things people share, by word of mouth and trust of intention; saying you, my friend will ‘get this’ ….this is something of value, I know you will understand. It went beyond that, as the years went by and life got vile and wonderfully demented at the same time. Hours, days, the projects, the impromptu guitar concerts on street corners at three am , down the street from Abu Rumaneh…….or clubs like Sixties. Arabic coffee and long long chats with Mazen at Dawn music of why certain guitar solos were immortal, downloading sheet music tabs. Rehearsals, performances, but also just a whole shitton of dinners , coffees, long late night rambles when even the restless dead in that dark house in Jisr al Abyad were silent. It was, to steal another man’s words. A long , strange trip. Things like that happen two, three times in a lifetime maybe.
Things changed, we got older…..the gang of four or five of us that would hang out in the damndest places in Damascus sifted down. People moved out, moved on. Lives changed, then those odd three am phone calls in a world where every call now seems like it’s placed at three am.
And war came. And everyone chose sides it seemed. And one day the news broke that Obayda was ‘disappeared.’ A sterile word meaning they were held in a limbo no one could call, or even Facebook. And war went on. And spread. And got more evil than anyone could have imagined. It seems Syria was going to show Lebanon how a proper civil war ought to be run.
Not too long ago, words penned under another reasoning kept coming back to me. And now the news, tabloids and all, and the governments around the world, and the million refugees here in Lebanon, and well, all of us, kind of simultaneous like? Realized. This wasn’t going to be a Darth Vader confrontation. The words still burn in my skull:
There’s nothing in the streets, looks any different to me,
And the slogans are replaced by-the-by
And the parting on the left, is now parting on the right,
And the beards have all grown longer, overnight…
I tip my hat to the New Constitution,
Take a bow for the New Revolution,
Smile and grin at the change all around,
Pick up my guitar and play,
Just like yesterday,
And I get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again…….
Don’t get fooled again.
Seems we did though. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…but when I moved from Syria about ten years ago, I recall having Obayda keep my acoustic, which I sorta traded for his first electric. And all I can think? Is that for varied reasons, both those guitars gather dust. Obayda can’t play, ever again. And I don’t want to at the moment.
And I can’t click ‘like.’ That’s such feeble, braindead space monkey shit in times like this. Just say No, Just click, ‘like’. Friend me. All kinds of foul shit these days and all kinds of people we used to be turning into toadies of Google and Zuckerman.
All kinds of bodies coming home in boxes. For the lucky few. What kind of mass graves will be found when this is all over? Can I even imagine a time when it’s over as the fear grows and spreads in Lebanon? Questions, questions, stupid ass questions.
Somedays, it seems we have all failed so miserably. So miserably as to almost be perfect failure. We get fooled on so many levels in so many ways, over and over and over.
Just click ‘like.’
That movie with the stupid ass title that galvanized an X generation keeps returning to me too. Sometimes it seemed I play Jack to Obayda’s Tyler, sometimes the opposite. And the idiocy quotient of the world ramped up till it’s all , I dunno, for lack of a better word? Shit.
Which is a stupid ass space monkey answer. Best I can do at the moment.
I can’t shake either, the image of Pahlanuik’s space monkeys idiotically chanting that, in death, members of Project Mayhem have a name.
His name is Obayda Habbal. His name is Obayda Habbal. It’s better than the tweets and likes and clever quips of a new dark age. It is after all a full sentence at least. Maybe that’s some kinda of tradition to maintain? Talking in full sentences. Saying hard to say things. Knowing when the words fail, and trying to fail ever better.
Yeah, in death? People have a name.
His name is Obayda Habbal.