Saturday, December 16, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Najib

I have to interrupt this hanging business for a minute because of an adventure of sorts that came to mind roughly during that time involving Najib, my Lebanese friend. I had met him at National Typewriter when I went there to buy one of these fancy speedwriters.
I don’t know whether Najib was an immigrant or a refugee from war torn (at the time) Lebanon. What he did tell me was that he had been a Telefunken agent back home, having his own shop there. He was probably hired by National Typewriter because of his expertise.
At the time in Lebanon, the various factions of Christians and Muslims would go around capturing each other’s people and holding them for ransom. If it wasn’t paid the captive would be murdered and sent home in a garbage bag. Pretty grizzly stuff that. It turns out that that was how he had found his mother one day on his front doorstep. He was stoic in relating this to me, saying only that “We Christians, We not junk people.” - referring to Muslims in general. It turns out that this had a profound effect on his choice of properties.
Based on his description of what he was interested in, I set up several appointments to view the properties and we took off to view them. On the way down Pine Ridge Road, we passed the Pine Ridge Cemetery.
“What’s that?” Najib wanted to know, swiveling his head back to look at the old, no longer used grave yard.
“Oh that’s an old cemetery,” I said. “It’s no longer used except for maintenance. It’s been here since the first settlements.”
“I don’t want to see the house,” he said. “I’m not going home every day past a cemetery. Maybe ghosts there,” he continued.
Well I couldn’t reason with him so we went on to the house where I made my excuses. That of course made us a little early for the next appointment but nonetheless, we went. Wouldn’t you know it? We passed another cemetery. It seemed every place we went to had a cemetery on the way. Well this was going nowhere fast.
“Maybe I should be looking in the city,” he suggested.
Well that would take another whole lot of research I thought.
“No, no,” Najib assured me. “I saw some places up on Selkirk Avenue I would like to look at.”
WHAT? Selkirk Avenue? Was he out of his mind? “Najib,” I stammered, “That is a tough neighborhood. You don’t want to live there!”
“No, this is further down. It’s nice there.” He gave me an address.
By this time I had gotten to know Najib well enough to realize that once he made up his mind, it stayed made up. He gave me the address of the house he wanted to see and I made the arrangements. Well, was I in for a surprise! Just about everything I could think of was wrong with the lace. The only good thing I could say about it was that it was indeed west of the tracks (which was good), but oyoyoy for the rest. It was a little two bedroom place set right to the front of a twenty-five foot lot with just enough room for a little tree planted in the middle of the front. There was a trap door leading down to an earthen cellar. I can’t quite remember the rest of the details except that everything that could be wrong with the place – was.
But Najib was resolute in is desire to purchase the place. He could, he said, fix it up in no time flat. I would be surprised at what he could do, he said. Well, alright then, we proceeded and he got the place for a ridiculously low price. His lawyer must have been a genius to have been able to get around all the caveats and restrictions attached to the place because first thing I knew was that Najib, his wife and their little son were moved in.
Najib had invited me to come and see the handiwork on his acquisition, so I went. I would have missed the place except for the sold sign which hadn’t yet been removed. The little tree had been cut down, exposing the five foot front yard to grass and the front window to all the traffic going by on this busy street.
The afternoon was awesome. I imagine it was a show of Lebanese hospitality on offer. We were in many philosophical conversations when Najib asked his wife for some Lebanese coffee and cakes for refreshment. She served up some cakes and two tiny cups of good smelling coffee.
“Take only small sips,” says Najib, “it’s very strong.”
Well what else can I take besides small sips, given the thimble size of the cup? But it’s very tasty, sweet and strong. But I’m used to twelve and sixteen ounce coffee cups, so I got finished a little early naturally.
“Make him another cup,” says Najib.
His wife (whose name I can’t remember) looked at him kind of sideways, but went dutifully to make another thimble for me. Of course it was getting a little late so I drank up and left.
After dinner that night I was telling the Missus about the nice time I’d had at Najib’s place and what a lovely little family they were. We retired about ten p.m. and I went to sleep immediately. Well immediately that is until about midnight when my eyes sprang wide open and I was suddenly wide awake. I mean WIDE awake, totally energized, almost hyper. What in blazes? That was the end of my sleep until the next evening.
It was about two years later when I was in touch with Najib again. By this time he had negotiated his way into a shop of his own with an attached residence, trading in his tiny little residence on Selkirk Avenue. I wasn’t insulted that he hadn’t dealt with me because he obviously had the talent to do it himself. But he wanted me to have a look at his investment and meet his brother who was now also in Canada on a visit.
We had a good visit again and I marveled at how he had upgraded his property and even his business. His store was not all that well stocked yet, but he was busy with repairs and upgrades. The thing about Najib was, he was always optimistic, quite unlike his brother who went on about Canadians being cold and uncaring toward their children.
“WHAT?” I said. “UNCARING? How is that possible?”  We provide them with food, shelter, clothing and whatever education they need and want, not to mention a whole lot of nurturing and love. Then (usually at about seventeen or so) when they feel they want to spread their wings, we allow them to move out on their own. Don’t kid yourself, there is still a lot of shopping going on in mom’s fridge, or dad’s car, but they are allowed to practice being adults.
Well that’s the sort of thing going through my mind as he railed on. “At home, our children stay with their parents until they are married. We teach them all things important to living good lives.”
The first thing that came to mind was ‘How’s that going for you’ – thinking of his mother. But I kept my own counsel and let it go at that. The difference between these two brothers was quite remarkable as was the difference in the view of each culture by the other.
It’s amazing the things you learn in the real estate business that have nothing to do with the real estate business. The thing is that each culture has its own traditions and therefore they are assumed to be correct. The problem arises in carrying one’s own tradition over to another culture and trying to impose it on that other culture. We’ve seen enough of that lately. But I digress.

It had been a while since I’d heard from Najib so I tried to drop in, only to find that he no longer owned the place. So I phoned down to National Typewriter to see if they knew where he’d gone. It turns out he’d sold up and went to somewhere in Texas. I had to assume it would have been a good outcome for him. While I was a little sad to lose touch with him, I could do nothing but wish him well, and move on.

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