I seem to be going to a lot of Houka lounges lately. They are like the pod people, showing up everywhere. It is so decadent to pose with the pipe on your hand, like a turkish sultan, close your eyes, suck in the smoke and blooooowwww.
I have first found out about Houkas or nargiles through books and paintings of turkish bejs and pashas. Of course, there is the famous illustrations of “Alice in Wonderland” with the caterpillar smoking one. And all the frat movies have a shot of its first cousin, the bong.
Being a symbol of all that’s old and decadent, I never expected to see one in Englewood at the most charming little lebaneze restaurant. The lady of the house brought it outside and smoked it with her friends, while I kept expecting cops to show up and arrest her. The houkas are made for smoking opium or hashish. But she was smoking it and chatting away and was still not in cuffs by the end of the night, so I figured the cops had become nearsighted.
I saw them again this year at this cute bar down in the Village called Le Souk, which seems to be the hangout for all young and “kewl” Albo kids. I said hi to a couple of them, just to see their faces frown and their hands unconsciously touching their hairdos and clothes. I bet they were thinking about how did I guess their ethnicities, but baby there was nothing they could do about their noses or angles on their heads.
Anyway, the nice friends I was with ordered one. It was interesting but it did nothing for me. Just a thing to suck in and blow out I guess. It was kind of sexy to tell you the truth and it is a good prop for posers and wannabes. We did have fun at that place.
Then, yes there was a lounge in Edgewater, and another one in Hoboken, and of course plenty of little mushroom places in Manhattan where you could blow smoke up other’s noses and have a sore throat any day of the week.
The Manhattan places are very lively and full of strange little people with piercings in interesting body parts. The houkas are more expensive, and they last less, but you get a pinneapple or orange rinds to enrichen the smoke. The music is this thumping middle eastern-80ies mix and they usually have a belly dancer who learned her moves from the Neena and Veena exercise videos, and a fortune teller who can only read the size of the drunken girls wallets. it is all in good fun though, and the New York hipsters suck it all up and consider themselves experts in Middle Eastern culture. And the smart club owners count the money and watch drunk girls corn-grown butts shake out of time with the music. (between you and me it is big fun to watch some butts try to shake it to the music. nobody ever told this people that they are supposed to shake it to the beat and not to dislodge their love handles)
By comparison, the Edgewater houka place was this somber bar with serious smokers of a certain age and from all parts of the Mediterranean, who sat in the comfy chairs, held philosophical discussions and blew applesmoke in patterns. The wine was on tap. The basketball game was on at the huge flatscreens all over the walls. it was quite interesting to watch. The place even had its resident “expert” who was trying to show his girl “how it is done” and dropped the coal numerous times in the process until only a bit of ash dust was left. We had fun watching him and sipping our wine, Shiraz for me Merlot for my friend.
So if you ever go to a houka lounge, remember to blow the smoke out of your nose, because it makes you an expert and a cool dragon. Do not try to make patterns, unless you have tried this at home or are a fiend with a cigarette. Suck the smoke in slowly, watching the bubbles on the houka and then blow it out even slower, with your eyes half closed and the pipe elegantly held in one hand. If you are a guy, an upturned pinky is probably not a great idea.
Prod the coal gently, if it starts to turn to ash and if the lounge provides tongs, but do not do so 1. with your fingers, 2. with paper towels, 3. with your nose (look ma, no hands, ouchh!! ouchh!! ouchh!!)
And do remember to hang up the pipe-nozzle if nobody else wants it. You do not want to come back to a nozzle somebody sat upon now, do you?
Now that I have led you through the labyrinth of Houkas, I bid you good night and may your dreams be filled with smoke and genies and a lot of belly dancing houris if you are a boy, or dancing for your pasha if you are a girl.
Note: the dreams can also be switched with your best girl/boy friend based on your natural/unnatural inclinations.