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Watering the Wrong Plants

Updated: Feb 7, 2019

They water the wrong plants. The water that emerges from the tips of their watering cans spill and caresses the weeds and not the trees. Now the weeds are thriving, and the trees are dying unable to grow and produce fruit:

May 23, 1992

My son and I open a restaurant on the ground floor of our apartment building

My restaurant's name

Baytuna - Our Home

A brief description of my restaurant

It sits at the corner of the road, on the ground floor of our apartment building. Above the building soar intricately entwined wire cables that stretch out with an occasional bird perched on top of them. The wires overlap each other in a chaotic yet sophisticated way over the banner with its red lettering that reads Baytuna Restaurant in graceful Arabic letters.

On weekends my restaurant is packed; busy tables, women, and men giggling and chuckling, children fighting over who would take the last bite, and wisps of smoke hanging above the black and white tiled floors, wooden table tops, colored scarves, bald heads, and curly, straight, wavy, black, brown, and gold hair of the people sitting on the chairs below eating their food. On these days the restaurant is loud and the pirouetting aroma of food draws you into the restaurant, forces you to one of the tables, beckons you to sit down and wave your hand to order a menu as the bitter fragrance of coffee, acrid whiffs of burned tobacco, hints of body odor and perfume loiter in air around you. I love it. It is a community, my community. A community I created.

November 07, 1999

A chain restaurant opens right in front of mine. Its logo blinding as it towers over the restaurant's rooftop. The logo's arching yellow downward curves and the red block of color surrounding the letters that form the chain's name are also glued to the restaurant's facade as they taunt me and nudge at my patience and sanity.

How I feel about the new restaurant that opened

Worried. Although my baba taught me to always be happy for the accomplishments of other people, I have to admit thoughts of uneasiness are dancing in my head. The music my thoughts are dancing to has a tempo that is increasing by the second. It is as if the musical sheet has an endless amount of accelerandos scribbled onto its pages.

My restaurant after the chain restaurant's opening

My restaurant sits at the corner of the road and still the cables run above its banner but on weekdays and weekends, its ambiance is no longer how it used to be. No longer is it crowded as it used to be. No longer is the food's perfume as strong enough to command them to enter my restaurant and be engulfed by its vivid atmosphere that hangs over the table tops. Now the faint scents of food linger over lifeless chairs and empty tabletops. For no longer is the wafting aroma of food powerful enough to make your mouth water. No longer do I hear squeals, chuckles, laughter, and gossip as often as I used to. No longer do I hold the same community within these four walls as I did before that restaurant opened across the street from mine.

Questions I wish I had the answers to

Why did people stop coming to my restaurant?

Did I do anything wrong?

Why do people choose international chains over local ones?

Where is Robin Hood to steal money from the rich and give it to the poor, where is he to give me money to pay for my electricity bills?

A letter I will never send

Dear whoever this may concern,

Ever since you've opened my customers have flocked to your restaurant. Is it nicotine that you put in your food to make people addicted and coming back through your doors asking for more? You don't love your customers as I did, you never greet your customers at the door when they come in like I did. You just want to wrap your oily fingers around their metal coins and paper bills. You want them in and out quickly. People come to your restaurant to fill their bellies with your plastic meat, fatty cheese slices, and grease-dripping, oil-oozing, limp fries that they wash down with sugary fizzy sodas. My food feeds their souls, your food kills them.

~ Abu Samir

Nov 07, 2001

It has been two years since the yellow arches were rooted in the piece of land in front of my restaurant. Still, my restaurant perches on the corner of the road, usually empty, and though it still serves food, it has a mission too. It has a mission of fostering a community. My restaurant is beyond its menu.

For all of those reading this journal, support local businesses because local businesses are the businesses that will support you. Don't let your money spill and caress the wrong businesses. Don't water the wrong plants.

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