on, but not in, Monot: generational geography
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 22, 2008
Last week I inadvertently started ruffled the feathers of two colleagues, both native Beirutis. I was searching for directions to Black & White, a venue described by a fellow foreigner as “in Monot”.
There is no such thing as “in Monot”, one said to me firmly. They mean that it is on Monot street.
I didn’t want to start an argument, but I was quite sure that I had heard other friends use the expression “in Monot” before – Lebanese friends.
Are you certain? I asked. I’m sure I have heard people say “in Monot” – like they say “in Hamra”.
“In Hamra” doesn’t mean on Hamra street – it means in the area of Hamra, which could refer to a side street or even one of the several streets that run parallel to Hamra. It covers an unmappable but fairly well understood area. AUB is not in Hamra; nor is the City Cafe.
Absolutely not, one colleague replied, closing the subject. Hamra is much longer than Monot – Monot is a very short street.
Well, I’m not sure about that, but I was silenced. At least, I was silenced until that evening, when I learned that the place in question was not only not on Monot, but it was several blocks off Monot. Thank goodness H gave us all a ride – I chose my shoes for that night based on added height, not functionality, and the walk would have done a number on both of us.
I didn’t want to argue with my colleagues, but I did want to sort out the in/on distinction. I wondered whether it might be an age issue, a neighborhood issue, or – sorry – a sectarian issue. People of different ages, people from different neighborhoods, and people of different sects do sometimes “see” the city in different ways.
So I decided to research the issue, i.e. spring the same question on innocent victims otherwise known as my friends.
H, how would you describe where Che is located? I asked one afternoon recently.
Startled, H looked at me. Diamond, he said, its right next to Scallywags.
I know, I replied, thinking: great, now I sound like an idiot. We eat at Scallywags all the time. But if you were giving directions to someone who didn’t know it, where would you say it is?
Hmmm, H said. Well, if I were telling my grandmother, I would say Tabaris, in Achrafieh.
Ahh, I said, thinking: I had no idea that H’s grandmother was such a fan of raucous Cuban salsa cafes. Well, this certainly explains why H likes Abou Elie, the Communist bar in Caracas, so much :).
So I tried again, this time asking L, who actually lives in Achrafieh.
L, I asked, where is Black & White?
L turned and looked at me.
Its the place we went last weekend, L said, frowning.
Right, I said, again feeling like an idiot. But if you were giving directions, what would you say?
Oh, its in Monot, L said easily, with a look of “couldn’t you figure that one out on your own?”
I am several years younger than my colleagues, and L & H are both younger than me. So I suspect that it may be a generational thing. If you passed your nightlife prime before Monot became hot at the turn of the millennium, it is merely a street. If you grew up with Monot-the-hotspot, it is an area unto itself.