I am theoretically supposed to be spending this afternoon looking over my work from 2009 for entries in to various journalism contests. It’s an annual task I dislike under the best of circumstances, but I’m even less motivated this year.
I’ve already gotten an award.
Today I received, in response to a piece I wrote about Black Friday, a ‘Looks Like Beirut’ award. The certificate, along with a printout of my story and blogger Jad Aoun’s entry (http://jadaoun.com/blog/2009/11/28/looked-and-felt-a-little-like-bombed-out-beirut) regarding my story arrived in the morning mail from, of all places, Dubai.
The award, evidently, is given to journalists who use Beirut as a metaphor the destruction, decay or other unenviable urban environs. His argument is that the comparison has been made so many times, it has become a cliché.
He’s probably right. He’s also correct that as a writer, I should be in the habit of side-stepping clichés – most of the time.
In the case of the Black Friday story, which was a humorous first-person recounting of my own Black Friday adventures, the cliché worked because it offered a familiar foundation for a slight gag. Here’s the line in question, exactly as it appeared in the story.
“Although insanely crowded, Target managed to keep things on an even keel. Shelves were stocked, aisles clear and traffic, though tight, continued to flow.Toys “R” Us was another story.It was a plaything apocalypse that looked and felt a little like bombed-out Beirut, had Beirut been bombed out by the LEGO patrol.”
So while I agree with Mr. Aoun in principle, I stand by my use of a threadbare illustration in this particular case. Mr. Aoun also seemed confused by the term Black Friday, which is certainly a uniquely American term and experience. I assure you Mr. Aoun, I did not invent Black Friday. I was merely its victim.
So, in the good-natured spirit with which the award was given, I’d like to thank Mr. Aoun for spending the equivalent of $3 American to send me this cherished keepsake, for giving me my first-ever piece of mail from Dubai (It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Does Jad have a couch I can crash on?) and for reminding me that although I write locally, I’m read – every once in a while – globally.
P.S. – LEGO folks, I’m still waiting on my certificate from you.