In a restaurant in Beirut, Laila and Carma have ordered me a feast; Halloumi and figs, unpasteurised goats cheese, tabbouleh, saj with yogurt and thyme, more houmous than even my friend Simon (who would sell his soul for a mashed chick-pea) could eat. I’m here to play a great party called Cotton Candy. My generous hosts tell me some DJs are afraid to come here, put-off by the periodic instability of the Middle East. Stuffing another delicious piece of cheese into my mouth in the sunshine, I can’t think why.
I was woken by an explosion at 8.30am. As I shook myself conscious I heard the rain sheeting down, realised “thunderstorm” and fell back to deep sleep. Laila had a different reaction; she remembered summer 2006 when Israeli air-strikes hit the airport (tourism is the major industry here and so destroying the airport a simple way to cause economic difficulty) and other civilian infrastructure in retaliation for Hezbollah missile attacks on northern Israel. Returning to bed was not an option.
In the West we casually talk of “living in the moment” or “seizing the day” but our prosperity and security is such that we have little idea what “now” really means. The worst we have to fear is accident, sudden illness or economic downturn. Compare life in somewhere like Juarez, Mexico. One of the major drug-routes into the US, a brutal turf-war between the cartels and state law-enforcement agencies has resulted in the world’s highest murder-rate. When everyday life includes the threat of extortion or violence, just going out for a drink or a dance becomes a small stubborn act of defiance.
Halfway through my set there last November, a light shone directly in my eyes. A balaclava’ed man with an automatic rifle was waving a torch at me to stop the music. There were a dozen others on the dancefloor, all similarly armed. The promoter quickly told me it was only police checking the age of the kids in attendance. They left after 20 minutes and I started the music again, heart beating half out of my chest (who needs coke when you have adrenalin?) The cheer was massive, the rest of the party amazing. A false alarm, but for a moment disco escapism never felt less of a luxury.