Bourdain in Beirut

Chef and author Anthony Bourdain got caught in Beirut when Israel attacked, which he writes about at Salon: “Watching Beirut die.”

From where I’m sitting, poolside, I can see the airport burning — the last of the jet fuel cooking off like a dying can of sterno. There’s a large, black plume of smoke coming from the south of the city — just over the rise, where the most recent airstrikes have been targeting the Shiite neighborhoods and what are, presumably, Hezbollah-associated structures.

He’s definitely a foul-mouthed, no-holds-barred kind of guy (read this excellent account of a recent dinner appearance he made in Seattle), but I forget that he happens to be a damn good writer, too. (Go read Kitchen Confidential if you haven’t already.)

What is clear — as far as we’re concerned — from all sources is that there is no official, announced plan. No real advice, or information, or public exit strategy or timetable. The news clip of President Bush, chawing open-mouthed on a buttered roll, then grabbing at another while Tony Blair tries to get him to focus on Lebanon — plays over and over on the TV, crushing our spirits and dampening all hope with every glassy-eyed mouthful. He seems intent on enjoying his food; Lebanon a tiny, annoying blip on an otherwise blank screen. I can’t tell you how depressing that innocuous bit of footage is to watch. That one, innocent, momentary preoccupation with a roll has a devastating effect on us that is out of all proportion. We’re looking for signs. And this, sadly, is all we have.

Go read the whole thing.

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