Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 4, 2008
We’ve started the moving process: H picked up the keys to our new apartment on Friday, and this morning we did a three-trip mini-move. I started laughing while carrying two desk lamps and the rest of our salad dishes: to anyone watching us arrive at our new building, we must have looked like the big winners of a local “stoop sale” – the local term for what my East Coast college friends called a “tag sale” and what my fellow Midwestern suburbanites know as a “garage sale”. Would-be sellers work with the retail space they have, I guess.
And in a way, we are the big winners of the city-wide sale that happens daily on Craigslist. We didn’t call about the “pop-up bed”, but we are outfitting much of our new apartment with deeply discounted, gently used furniture, most of which we have lugged home on foot. (The lamps were the lightest objects; the heaviest was a solid – a very solid – wooden desk, which we could only carry 20 feet at a time before pausing for a quick rest.)
Much to my surprise, H is as much a bargain-hound as I am – or more. I think he would rather die than buy used furniture in Lebanon, but here he seems to have fully embraced the “when in New York, do as the wacky New Yorkers do” ethos. And it goes beyond Craigslist: H’s has discovered a genuine talent for finding good-condition used furniture on the street (its a New York thing: people put clothing, furniture, and all sorts of other odds and ends out on the sidewalk as a form of community recycling.).
Of course, H justifies the used/free furniture by saying that: we don’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture when we don’t know how long we’ll be in the US, and we probably won’t want to ship it all back with us. He makes a good point – and I can think of at least one new-found treasure that definitely won’t be shipped anywhere: our television.
I had seen a notice on craigslist advertising two desk lamps (the same ones I carried this morning) for $10 each, and asked H to call about them while I was in a meeting. The lamps are terrific, and were evidently part of a fire sale that included a dresser and a television – all for $10 each. We didn’t like the dresser, but we did need a television, even if it did come with … a built-in VCR.
That’s right: our new television was “born” in 1993. We won’t get to experience the joys of HD when New York officially switches over in 2009, but we can watch Arabic channels through our satellite subscription. (H called the satellite company to confirm that it would be compatible with our “retro” technology. Oh yes, said the woman who answered the phone. My television is from 1987 and it works just fine.)
If we shipped a 15-year old television to Beirut, H’s parents would probably disown him – not to mention his friends. And since it weighs almost as much as I do, even shipping it as freight would cost more than a new television. But its perfect for our New York life: with the money we saved on buying a new television, we can pay for at least three months’ worth of our satellite subscription. (We’re really missing the 20,000LL-for-100-channels satellite subscriptions of Lebanon’s gray market.)
And going vintage with our technology does have one advantage: we can catch up on the several movies about Lebanon that are only available on VHS.
First up is a B movie – in fact, it may be a B-minus movie: a 1974 thriller called Three Days in Beirut.
Here’s how one movie website describes the film:
When an African premier is kidnapped by terrorists, a crafty and smooth-talking soldier of fortune (Calvin Lockhart) allies himself with a sexy American interpreter (Diana Sands) in order to rescue him, while dodging assassins’ bullets. This gripping odyssey set against the background of the turbulent Middle East co-stars Seth Allen, Thomas Baptiste.
If you go here, you can read the New York Times‘ more restrained review, as well as see the original VHS cover. When you do, you’ll understand why the film’s original title was Honeybaby.
I think it was renamed Three Days in Beirut when it was re-released in 1983, in order to capitalize on the city’s vastly altered image. (I’m not totally sure that this was the reason, but this is my deduction.) Hence Rogers Video, in Canada, describes the movie as being set in “deadly Beirut” – a description that would have made no sense in 1974.
Of course, we have higher-minded VHS movies to watch as well, including Once Upon a Time in Beirut, in which two young Beirut women turn away from the destruction of the war to look at Beirut through films from the 1920s through the 1970s. If you’re in the neighborhood and feel like catching a film on a television born in the Clinton era, please let us know. If we don’t have enough chairs, we can always look on Craigslist .