At night, the streets of Hamra and Gemmeyzeh are lined with expensive cars. People of all ages can enjoy alcoholic beverages in bars playing the latest R n B musical ‘songs’. These streets are also occupied by young children trying to sell flowers and chewing gum.
At first,I found the contrast between smooth rolling Mercedes and glimmering iPhones next to 10 year old kids trying to sell roses to be disturbing. In fact it still disturbs me. And so it should.
I developed an interesting bond with some of these young fellows after I started taking my guitar out into the street to perform. I never do it for the cash, I just like playing the guitar. The flower seller kids usually gather round, try to encourage passers-by to give me money and generally seem to enjoy that someone else is trying to whore themselves out for public enjoyment.
There is one kid who thinks he is 50 Cent and likes to rap over my guitar playing. He is about 14. After one particularly successful jam session (think Jimmy page meets Puff Daddy meets several bottles of Famous Grouse whisky) I tried to give little Busta Rhymes the money we had made (about 20,000LL). He refused to take it.
I don’t think anyone is under the impression that these children are actually ‘homeless’ and sleep in dark alleyways. But I at least had never given much thought as to who they actually work for. Until last Friday that is.
On a one man mission to prove that Bob Dylan is better than Lady Gaga, I was belting out the tunes accompanied by my usual flower selling chums. 50 Cent kid shows up, walking with a golf umbrella like a cane. Total pimp. I must have looked like the Fagin of the iPod generation.
As one of the kids was trying to explain (in Arabic) that I should push the guitar case further into the street to get more money, a strange character walked past.
He was built like the terminator, biceps bigger than my thighs, hair scraped back into a ponytail. He grunted an order at the flower boys. The kids jumped up, literally terrified of him, and ran off to their previous positions with their roses.
Muscle head looked me in the eyes, smiled, put his hands together as if saying a prayer then strutted off down the street.
Perhaps he was their Dad?
‘You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.’