’63-’64 as an 8th grader, ’73-’74 as a teacher (due to a lapse in judgment by Bro. Dell)
Left AUB and Lebanon 1976. Went to Arabia where I worked for the family of a Saudi classmate. Lived in Jeddah. Worked on projects throughout the Kingdom. Left Arabia to open an office for the company in Houston, TX. Ran that until In 1985. Then decided to try something new in ‘computers’. Moved to Louisiana (because if you marry a girl from Louisiana, as I did, you will one day live there) and went to work with a small company engaged in remote sensing. There I am today providing geo-spatial services to agriculture in the U.S. and Australia.
How was life in Beirut different in those days and what are your most vivid memories of that time?
I am reminded of the old Aznavour song, La Boheme, ‘je vous parles d’un temp que les moins de vingts ans ne peuvent pas connaitre…’ I was fortunate to grow up in Beirut in its long-lost ‘golden age’.
My most vivid memory is being a 13-year old kid out of the foothills of Colorado who woke up one morning in the strangest place he could imagine. I had never heard a foreign language and I walked out onto streets where people spoke three or more languages fluently-at the same time. I had never seen anything older than the Alamo and I was in a place where people had been living and building things longer than people had been writing things down. I breathed it all in. I got lost in it, ran the streets and never looked back.
I have vivid memories of Salesian Boys School. The kindness of the priests and brothers to a heathen kid. The incredible erudition of Fra. Bias. The patience of Fra. Mora trying to teach me Algebra. The good humor of Brother Montgomery trying to explain to me why I could not run with the ball or tackle people in soccer(?!?). And I certainly remember Bro. Dell who seemed to have a special sense of what I was trying to absorb and adapt to. I remember eigth grade classmates – Rade, Arshad, Francis, Haruki- from countries I could not point to on a map and from religious (and irreligious) traditions I had never heard of. And of course I remember the ritual violence of the daily games of Ambassador under the big shed.
Mostly I remember a place of kindness, friendship and scholarship with the worst playground I had ever seen- the ball never bounced straight on the sand/rock surface and the goals had no nets.
There are just too many memories. I had the singular opportunity to grow up in Beirut. I got married in Beirut (to my college sweetheart from Louisiana). I tricked Bro. Dell into letting me and my new wife teach at Salesian to make some money (VERY little money) as a grad student at AUB. I studied under some of the leading experts in MidEast history, politics, language and religion at AUB. And, I was first-hand witness to the destruction of all that was.
How do you think that the years of school in Beirut have influenced your later life?
They were THE influence in my life as you might sense from the previous. You could not experience that as an american kid brought up in cold-war, mass culture and not be transformed. Languages, history, geography, world politics, what is rich and what is poor, what is fun, what is fair. All those preconceptions got seriously re-worked.
Whom did you stay in touch with over the years?
Lots of folks from the area but the only Salesian boy is Charley Abbyad who lives in New Orleans and has been my good pal for over 40 years. Other names still connecting might be familiar to some: C. Boutagy, JP Cachard, R. Najjar, T. Najemy, C. O’Conner, M. Brechtel, A. Rais, etc.
Would you have liked to stay in Beirut after having finished school? And do you think your life would have been different?
I did stay in Beirut. I would have stayed longer but I knew that things were becoming impossible for my wife and me as the madness dug in. If I had stayed, I would have probably ended up working for CBS News or the CIA and neither of those options was particularly appealing.
Do you think you will return to the Lebanon one day? And if so, or not, why?
I might. Is a minakiche still 25 piastres? I’m afraid Thomas Wolfe was correct when he wrote “you can’t go home again”. I know many people who have gone back to Lebanon. They pronounce it ‘back’ but certainly changed and not all of that to the good. I am sure it would be a sad reunion for me- walking through the streets, looking for something familiar but seeing little that was. There’s that Aznavour song again: “Ca ne veut plus rien dire du tout…”
Are you interested in taking part in future reunions of ex-students?
If there was one I could drive to. Having enjoyed travel to every continent, I have lost my tolerance for airplanes. They have become crowded buses with really, really bad food. Just got tired of taking off my shoes at security.
What do you think of this website and how can we improve it?
I was thrilled to find it. No matter what the web-weenies want you to believe, it really is all about the content.