Living

‘Work harder. Don’t waste time. Eat carrots. Ask out that girl’

Born in 1982, Nasri Atallah’s family moved back to Beirut from London when he was 15, where he finished school and then studied at the American University of Beirut.

He then worked as an oil analyst and banker in London before returning to Lebanon, where he set up the blog – and later a book – “Our Man in Beirut,” which pithily chronicles the nuances of life in Lebanon.

Atallah now divides his time between Paris, New York and Beirut. He is currently working on a new project, “Gate37,” under the Keeward publishing house, which is aimed at establishing a community of “Third Culture Kids” – those who have grown up in a culture not shared with their parents – and publishing their writing.

Q: Describe a typical day.

A: Wake up. Read the NPR site. Check fffffound.com. Listen to a podcast on the way to work. Pour some bile and cynicism on the world. Sleep. Repeat.

Q: What was the last thing you bought?

A: A bunch of bottles of alcohol, some mixed nuts and some cheese from the supermarket. I was having friends over, and my apartment is always empty.

Q: Who was the last person you spoke to?

A: My good friend Nader. He’s the lead singer for The Wanton Bishops. We discussed the rain. It wasn’t exactly fascinating.

Q: Describe Lebanon in five words.

A: Love. Hate. Traffic. Mountain. Friends.

Q: If you could change one thing about Lebanon, what would it be?

A: There’s a shitload of stuff to change, but instilling some common courtesy would be a good place to start.

Q: What’s your earliest memory?

A: Having “Dumbo: On Land, On Sea, In the Air” read to me as a child in someone’s house in Montreal. I have no idea whose house it was. Maybe I should be concerned.

Q: What did you want to be as a child?

A: A car designer. I used to always draw cars. Well, I say draw, but I can’t draw to save my life, so that would have probably been a poor career choice.

Q: Were you a good student?

A: Up until I was 15, pretty much. Total nerd. No friends, lots of studying. Then I lost it and became a solid middle-ranger. I somehow bullshitted my way all the way up to my Master’s degree.

Q: What advice would you give your younger self?

A: Work harder. Don’t waste time. Eat carrots. Ask out that girl.

Q: What is the most valuable thing your parents or grandparents taught you?

A: I never really knew my grandparents, because they passed when I was pretty young. My parents don’t give me verbal advice, they just lead by example. So they are mostly things they never had to tell me – solid principles like integrity, kindness to other, and faithfulness.

Q: How do you think people describe you?

A: I know I get “that tall hairy guy” a lot. I’m also sure some nastier stuff gets said, but I choose to ignore that.

Q: If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

A: With good friends and a drink, basically. Preferably somewhere gray and chilly.

Q: What’s the best item of clothing you’ve ever owned?

A: Reebok Pumps.

Q: Do you read your star sign?

A: I know I’m a Scorpio and I have a mug that says we’re passionate, arrogant and intelligent. Which I don’t necessarily agree with. Beyond that, no clue.

Q: What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

A: Quit a job with no plan. Twice.

Q: If you could do any other job for a day, what would it be?

A: Honestly, right now, I’m living my dream. I’d never do anything other than what I’m doing.

Q: Which historical figure would you choose to go for coffee with?

A: Charles Bukowski. It probably wouldn’t be coffee though.

Q: How do you sleep?

A: Badly, and on the couch in my living room.

Q: How often do you laugh?

A: Very often. People think I’m grumpy, but I actually spend my day laughing with the most people I possibly can. It might even weird some of them out.

Q: What’s your party trick?

A: At parties I like to guess what people do, their life’s trajectory and whatnot. We tend to think we’re far more unique than we actually are, so it freaks people out when you show them how easy we all are to figure out. At least superficially.

Q: Skiing or swimming?

A: Neither. I’m a lazy bum.

Q: What do you look forward to?

A: Creating something meaningful with my work, and meeting someone special someday. Oh, and cupcakes.

Q: Happiness is ...

A: An interesting concept.

 

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