Live, Love, Laugh, and Create

by Hamdy El-Gazzar  and translated by Amani Elmawed  /  October 21, 2013  / No comments

Notes from a stay on Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh’s Northside.

Randyland Entrance

The entrance to Randyland, on Jacksonia and Arch in Pittsburgh. Photo: Joshua Barnes

Randy is an old-timer with a white, youthful face and body. His whitish blonde hair grows down over his forehead like the Beatles who were stars back in time. On this morning, Randy suddenly appeared before the passing pedestrians. He was shirtless, and his white jeans were multi-colored, stained with paint.

  1. Off-Screen
  2. “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
  3. Hamdy el Gazzar
  4. Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

While walking down Jacksonia Street in Pittsburgh’s Northside, Randy shouted loudly to the pedestrians and newcomers to the city: “Come…come, Randyland is open.”

As he repeated himself, he grew louder and projected with greater enthusiasm.

Since he was a stranger to this place, and wanted to see the neighborhood and its small colorful houses, one passerby slowed down. He was out early to enjoy the nearly empty streets and the morning sun.

Though he hesitated a bit, the passerby crossed the street and entered Randyland.

Suddenly Randy was gone.

Randyland is situated in a space between two buildings. On the back of the first building, a smiling sun is painted at the center of an array of sunbeams, birds of many sizes, and blossoming greens. The other building is also painted with a sun and flowers, and as the passerby went further inside, his feet struck small rubberized mice, snakes, and animal toys; everything was of a crepuscular color, and beneath the sun the music of Bach filled the place.

The pedestrian sat outside in this happy space, which was sunken in colors, saturated with the spirit of innocence, and bright under the sunlight.

After an hour, Randy came and said to the pedestrian: “LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH!”

The passerby said: “Yes, this is good and beautiful.”

Randy said: “I’m just a carver, a carver, I’m not an artist or anything.”

And he explained his theory about art.

The theory is simple and beautiful: LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH.

Randyland Philosophy

Interior detail of Randyland. Photo: Joshua Barnes

On Sampsonia Way, just a block up from Randyland, there are several houses occupied by exiled poets and writers. Their external walls are works of multiethnic and multilingual arts; houses built from poems and paintings put exactly into place. On the left, looking out from the houses’ upper windows, one can see skyscrapers downtown, across the river. City of Asylum/Pittsburgh is the name of the organization that gives sanctuary to poets on that street. On that day, the staff is organizing a reading, working hard to make City of Asylum’s mission a reality.

Just a block apart, City of Asylum and Randyland have a reason to be neighbors, they share the same theory: Live, love, laugh, and create.

308 Sampsonia Way
9th October, 2013

About the Author

Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

View all articles by Hamdy El-Gazzar

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