Archive for January, 2003
AT ANCIENT GROUNDS, A RELATIVELY NEW WATER-PIPE CAFÉ IN SILVER LAKE, FOUR Arab men are playing gin rummy in a corner. For an hour they sit, engaged in their game, dragging on water pipes and happily chatting. A few tables away, I suck on my own pipe, a sort of gorgeous, elaborate bong. Suddenly, everyone starts screaming, raising their hands, throwing cards at one another. I don’t understand what is happening — the fight is in Arabic — but one man, Mohammed, yells the loudest, standing over everyone and pointing his fingers. Soon the others call out to an old man with sad eyes sitting near the entrance, “Abu Yusef, Abu Yusef.” Abu Yusef walks over and speaks quietly with the men. Mohammed storms out and paces in front of the store as the others laugh and go back to playing cards. Abu Yusef sits down again, and I approach him.
“Ninety percent of the Arabs who come here are Christians,” he tells me. “The Muslims are harder. They have their own places.” Mohammed, the one Muslim, is outraged, Abu Yusef explains, because he threw down cards he meant to keep. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t just pick them back up. “I told him, ‘You made a mistake. It doesn’t matter what you meant, it matters what you did. You blew it.’”