A Different Definition of Comfort
And why Aanab No.4 is delayed
This draft has been under construction since the Mediterranean’s October olive harvest. Now, as we inch closer to the end of the year, I was convincing myself to just wait until January to finish this. Wait until after the Lebanese wine night, wait until after the fourth print issue of Aanab is done and shipped out, and wait until a fresh new year to start publishing something every week. I want No.4 out before January to stay on schedule but it’s also because I’d like to disappear after it’s done.
I’ll elaborate but first, if you follow me on IG, you know that I’ve been keeping track of the bottles of Lebanese wine sold at the wine shop. During the entire year before I joined, only 97 bottles were sold - all Chateau Musar - and only 208 total in the FIVE years before I came along. For my first year at the shop, selling 1000 bottles was my goal and I can finally say: we made it to 1033!
Now that I’m into year 2, I’ve set a new goal just for this holiday season. What are your predictions for the peak retail period?
Now back to Aanab news. Aanab No.4 is stuck in neutral. For a while, I’d considered using Ai-generated “artwork” to accompany the text as I don’t have spare change to commission any artists. However, the more I read about the murky waters of Ai - ripping off human-artists’ work through data mining, blurred lines regarding copyright, and gross feelings associated with showcasing it even with a disclaimer - the more I felt the need to delay publishing if it means I can then fund original works created by humans or come up with another creative solution instead. Getting stuck on Aanab No.4 brought me back here to Aanab News to finish off this draft. Here I am, writing a newsletter instead of finishing the newspaper that it’s based on.
Truthfully, Aanab No.4 is stuck because I am stuck. After years of writing and burnout, I know that when I can’t write, it’s because something else is lodged in my throat and it needs to be dumped somewhere before anything else can come through the pipeline. It’s been easy to keep myself occupied with work while in suburbia but it hasn’t been fulfilling. I’m not ready to give up on B for Bacchus but I do want to take a step back because something isn’t flowing. The ideas are there but the fuel is not. As much as I am proud of what I’ve accomplished since landing here - from Aanab to my Ancient World wine section at the wine shop to my own Bacchus shop to hosting the first Bacchus Lebanese wine night last Sunday - all of these things are all work-related and somehow still feel like insignificant distractions. What about everything else a life should contain? These accomplishments don’t fill my cup enough to offset the isolation of California. I knew this rumbling restlessness would come.
I keep wondering if the restlessness comes from not knowing how to be comfortable and if this is my body rejecting a new organ that functions the way it’s supposed to. The wine shop job has become an exercise in acceptance. When I took the job, I didn’t want it to be more than what it is and for 4 days a week, I switch gears and do a predictable and repetitive dance. It’s stable and unchallenging because the stakes and the pay are low. I’m at the bottom of the food chain. And yet, I was proposing ideas (because I’m very much this person) while management would leave me on read. This was the side hustle that was supposed to be low-investment and there I was, pushing for disruption. Eventually, I stopped pushing. That’s not what you’re here for, I now tell myself whenever initiative starts brewing.
One member of management asked me about weekend plans once. I said, “I have to finish my newspaper.”
“Why do you like to give yourself more work?” he responded rhetorically.
Because I need something tangible to present when I ask myself what I’m still doing here was the answer I didn’t have when he asked. Ironically, I came to the US to disconnect from Beirut’s toxicity but the personal cost has been too high. I left my city but I lost my community too.
It’s hard to find a new one here. The city has no center, people don’t walk, there is no town square, and time is not punctuated by anything other than Target holiday home decor. I see a few friends as often as I change my car’s oil and the rest of my social energy goes to a collection of wine shop strangerships and a fluffy cat that will follow me anywhere.
How a person lives is much more interesting than where, in my opinion. You can be boring or interesting anywhere. - Haley Nahman's #107
In this, the author talks about how his personal gas gauge was linked to the health of his fiddle-leaf fig tree and the tree not doing well was a sign that something needed to give. When I moved here, I bought a potted olive tree to add to the patio garden my mom & I set up last spring before she flew back to Beirut. The terrace garden she has nurtured there is my mom’s fiddle-leaf fig tree. It is her haven that she can control where nothing is constant except sunshine. Next to my dwarf of a tree here, I’d write on a dull afternoon or sit with my morning coffee while sending voicenotes to friends in different time zones. But my tree, along with the rest of the garden, didn’t survive this summer’s watering restrictions. It became a graveyard of pots and I too felt like I was done with this dry and stale place. I flew to Boston to see my good friend, the kind you don’t perform for, and we immediately got into the existential depths of my psyche.
“What do you want to do?” she asked.
“I want to go home,” I said and then I imploded in a fit of tears. I’d been resisting it for months. I’d been self-correcting and adjusting and burying and denying. I wasn’t allowing myself to feel that lure of the comfort zone, the warm place with a negative connotation if you’re a real adult. Turns out, I don’t have an issue with comfort but a different definition of it. After returning from Boston, I read Emily McDowell’s newsletter about listening to your body and the need/fear of taking a sabbatical because, as creators, we must always be visible.
”What if that story I’ve told myself, about what I must do to be safe, isn’t true?”
- Emily McDowell, The Emily Gazette
I’ve considered being invisible for the first quarter of 2023 but I’m so scared that this thing I’ve been building will be forgotten if it’s not showing up on your screens in some capacity. You could all move on. I could too.
All I know about the rest of this year is this: I bought a new olive tree and a coin plant this week and we’ll see how I feel about Aanab News after Aanab No.4 is done.
10 Little Joys
I was featured on Lift Collective’s #CollectiveFriday. Lift Collective is a great organization that focuses on uplifting others in the wine industry and I tried to give honest answers to their tough questions like, How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
Haven’t we all dreamed of a country cottage thanks to Kate Winslet in The Holiday? Inside Sienna Miller's Secluded Country Cottage | Open Door | Architectural Digest
Even though I like watching movies with subtitles (in Beirut, there are Arabic subtitles at the cinemas), I’ve been taking myself to the movies for discount Tuesdays as an effort to insert more play into my weekly routine. Before heading to Boston, I skipped Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling and opted for the less-hyped The Storied Life of AJ Fikry after I watched the trailer. It’s about a grouchy bookstore owner on a fictional island and it’s based on a book of the same title by Gabrielle Zevin. It got under my skin so when I got home, I bought the book and read the whole thing on my flight back to LA. I found the author’s newest title at an SFO bookshop on my layover. She keeps finding me. The movie is a decent adaptation of the book so if you’re looking for something to watch on a cold day, this could be it.
“Yet the deeper I went down the historical rabbit hole, the more it dawned on me that this was not a uniquely Lebanese story, but one that rippled out across the postcolonial world,” writes Zeead Yaghi in The Perils for the Past for The Point Mag.
I read Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain which was a follow up to his legendary Kitchen Confidential, and then I bought Nasty Bits and Bone in the Throat because I can’t get enough of this man’s words. RIP.
This old Twitter thread by Karl ReMarks about food in the afterlife.
The Marginalian’s life lessons included this quote: “Earth carves canyons into rock with nothing more than a steadfast stream.”
“The drunken, rumored history of Beirut’s famed doudou shot” by Chelsea Dagher because I miss the briney little things.
If you’re in Beirut, go check out the Allo Beirut exhibit for me. I interviewed Delphine Darmancy at her grandmother’s apartment in 2020 just two weeks before the Beirut Port Explosion. I haven’t used the interview for anything (yet). Too much happened after that but, at the time, the items she salvaged from the dilapidated Excelsior hotel were all over her teta’s floor. The exhibit was still a dream then. I hope it’ll stick around long enough for me to see it.
The Bacchus Shop
PRE-ORDERS of Aanab No.4 are open and even though we’re a little behind schedule, the ARAK-THEMED ISSUE, will be out soon. Reserve a copy now as I only print a limited quantity.
Aanab No.4 will be the last printed issue for a while as I shift the work online. Like I said here, I’m aiming for a meatier printed Aanab Annual issue next year but that needs time and money.
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