Last night I saw The Queen with Charles (who wrote about our fellow movie goers at Chou – infijar?). I tend to drag my feet at going to the cinema but the film was quite good. Charles proved to be a very amiable cinema companion, although he did insist on our finding “our” seats, despite the almost total emptiness of the theatre. I understood, though – I like to be anchored, too.
The best part of the Tuesday movie night might have been the walk home. We walked west on “Charles’s street”, Avenue Charles Malik, whose other name, Hikmeh (Wisdom), referenced a character trait that was not our strong suit. Walking through downtown was easy, but getting back to the west side involved several rather undignified fence and guard rail scalings. The city was beautiful by night, though, as it always is. We both deeply regretted our camera-less states.
BEFORE all this, though, I went for drinks in Gemmayze with G – a delightful evening of laughter and wide-ranging conversation. Our talk took a sudden turn from politics to sports, about which I know nothing. I soon learned that the owner of the vodka & seven keeping company with my Ksara rouge was quite an expert in … table tennis.
Wait. Do you mean ping pong? I asked, sitting up in my seat. Fantastic, I thought. Now my darkest, most potentially awkward question about life in Beirut can finally be answered.
Err, I began eloquently. So … you know … I mean … do you … do people … does one … mmm … is beer pong played here at all?
You mean ping pong, but with beer? G asked. How does that work, exactly?
Mmmm, I replied, Its a game of doubles with cups of beer and with funny distinctions made about hitting the rim versus sinking the ball into the cup. Oh, and … there’s a variation, called beirut.
Wikipedia, the current go-to site for relatively accurate first-dip research, has a brief post on beer pong here, although it lists beirut as an alternate name for the same game.
When I was in school, beirut was a slightly different game, involving more cups and no paddles. “Pyramids” of plastic cups half-filled with beer were placed on each side of the net, and players competed by attempting to “sink” the ball into a cup.
Why “beirut”? Because the sinking was like the fall of a missile, or a bomb. Hence the awkwardness: US college students have co-opted the site of a long, brutal, and bloody civil war for Thursday latenights.
I have for a long time wondered whether beirut the game had entered the consciousness of twenty- and thirty-something American raised Lebanese (and also whether they found it funny, or offensive). Wondered, but been too shy to ask until G’s fortuitous table tennis side showed itself.
*** I should note that as a non beer-drinker, beer pong and beirut were games I watched from the sidelines. White Russian or Midori Sour pong would have been more to my sweet-tooth tastes.
Also, things seem to have changed since my college days. Judging from the recent spate of articles in college newspapers and college oriented websites, beirut has become the standard form of beer pong. See for example Beer Pong vs. Beirut, or Naming the Game: Beer Pong or Beirut.