Monday, December 22, 2008

Proof that Ehud Barak has not been reading my blog

Announced on the news while in my way to work:

In response to the rain of rockets on Sderot and the Western Negev: "Hamas will be surprised by the force of our response".

Let us review this again, shall we? If you tell us in advance, it is not a surprise. Really, it is not so complicated.

Though, in all fairness, it is true that everyone, Israeli and Hamas-i alike, will be completely surprised if the government actually does something to stop the rockets. As in, apart from talking about it and expressing sympathy and/or solidarity.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Live blogging: Attack of the Uniboober

Saturday
9:44 AM

Sliced turkey breast
Bras
Electric kettle
Coffee

These are the primary things I am looking for while I unpack. The sliced turkey breast was what I was munching on yesterday while Eliezer Movers was loading the truck. When they finished and it was time to head out to Jerusalem, I put it somewhere and now I cannot find it. I presume that, at some point or another, it will get vile enough to announce its presence. What worries me is that it is also possible that I left it at my old place in Tel Aviv, and that it is announcing its presence there and that my next-door neighbor will end up thinking I killed something and left it to rot in my apartment and she will call the police to come investigate and they will find the turkey and everyone will think I am idiot. Theoretically, she could investigate herself and then only she would think I am an idiot, but we are talking about someone who has called me up at midnight to come kill a cockroach, so I think it fair to presume that the chances of her taking on this challenge are slim to none.

As for my bras, I know where they are: in a box. The problem is that the boxes are unmarked. Marking the boxes…well…it just seemed so…unnecessary at the time. So silly! Why mark the boxes if, in the end, you will have to open them all up anyway? What a waste of time!

This is a good moment to point out that I have moved twenty times (literally) since I graduated high school. As in: I should know better.

My first intimations that this was a terrible strategy came last night as I was trying to dress for Shabbat dinner. I manage to locate a reasonably civilized outfit, but no bra. In the end, I had no choice but to continue to pair the deep V-neck, wraparound sweater and delicate shell top with my huge, industrial-strength sports bra. The results were comical. I showed up at the my friend's house with a Uniboob (I DO mean industrial strength here) and with random bits of the sports bra, including the industrial strength straps, peeping above and to the sides of the shell top. It was not a particularly good look.

But the worst of the fallout is the coffee. I have not had any, nor will I until I find the electric kettle and instant or real coffee. Right this very minute, I am conducting silent discussions with He Who Must Be Obeyed in which I am making it clear that if the aforementioned items do not come to light quickly, I will have no choice but to go to Apikoras Café on Emek Refaim (the one place open on Shabbat around here) for coffee.

Next time, not only will I mark boxes, but I will have one box prominently marked, in giant neon letters, "caffeine".

Never, ever moving again is also an attractive option.

10:00
I am really astounded by the sheer quantity of toiletries I have. I am up to box number three now…. And to think that, when I was 11, I heard Andy Rooney talk about how he washed his hair with regular soap and decided—wow, that sounds like a good idea—and did the same. As it happened, the idea was not so good and I was promptly ordered back into the shower to try it again, this time with shampoo..

This is a shame, actually. Just think, had it been a success, instead of packing and unpacking three boxes, I could have tossed a bar of Ivory in a baggie and called it a day.

10:30
I have found my electric kettle and my ground coffee, but have not yet found the instant coffee or my French press.

G-d is such a tease.

I have also found some chocolate chip cookies. These are the only things standing between me and Apirkoras Café.

10:45
I have finally come to the conclusion that, much as I would like to, I am not going to make any headway until I clean the kitchen so that I can start to unpack my dishes. I start scrubbing away. First, I find a box of rubber bands wedged behind one of the drawers. Then I find a bunch of those long plastic ties—the types we used to attach our name tags to our bikes on the Alyn Ride. Then I find something that looks rather like a pubic hair in the cabinet under the sink.

I do not even want to know. Extra bleach all around.

11:00
Am sitting here, trying to figure out what on earth that strange noise is coming from the outside. I finally identify it. Birds. Nicer than the ambulances, I must admit.

In addition to the birds, it appears that I have traded the traffic noises for those of a large family with small, screaming children. Well that is fine—the kids make enough noise that no one should notice when I blast Galgalatz.

11:15
Under the SINK????? Why? And HOW??? Like, with a dwarf???

11:30
By now, I have given up all pretense of constructive activity. Instead, box cutter in hand, I am running around the apartment and hacking away at random boxes trying to find the &^#$!!! instant coffee.

11:45
Fuck it. I head out to the friendly neighborhood Apikoras Mini-market to buy instant coffee.

12:10
Am now back home, coffee in hand. I have 20 minutes to be showered, dressed and at BG's for lunch. And in all of my box hacking, I have yet to unearth a real bra. I have no choice but to sports-bra it again. Luckily, I have found a big, bulky sweater, so that this time no one will be able to see the straps. Unfortunately, this is the type of sweater that looks fantastic if you are thin, and paired with a pair of slim jeans. It is much less attractive on a non-skinny person, paired with non-slim black pants and the Uniboob.

3:30
Am once again back at home. In addition to myself, BG hosted a couple in from the US and four girls who are in Israel on the Nativ program. I can only imagine what the girls thought of me. They are probably going to go back to their hostel and tell their friends that THIS is what happens to you if you pass 35 without getting married. You turn frumpy and weird, wear shapeless sweaters and grow a uniboob. Namely, the same thing I think about frumpy single women over 40. I suspect that the Nativ girls are equally as traumatized as I get.

3:40
But that is good. Because now they will work even harder to get married. And then they will have Jewish babies. Someone should, seeing how I am not exactly doing my bit.

3:45
Maybe one of them can have an extra baby, for me? I could buy the baby. But no…. That is illegal. I think the technical term is "human trafficking".

4:15
Or "adoption from certain third-world countries".

5:00
You know, I have a huge collection of work-out clothes. This is very amusing, when one considers how overweight I am. The reason is that I keep on buying more and more, on the basis that they will help me lose weight. The problem is that I seem to forget the second half of that equation, namely that one must then put them on. And, like, work out in them.

9:15
I have found my bras! Yay! Death to the Uniboober!

Right, so I may have inhaled a bit too much dust.

9:45
Still have not found my French press. Or the turkey. I shall expect a midnight call from Gilor, asking me what on earth I left to die in my apartment.

Sunday
8:30
I found the turkey. It was in my purse.

I am sure it seemed like a great place for it at the time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Alyn Day Three

Tuesday, November 11th
Arad- Hatrurim Fortress- Masada- Arad
55km/35mi distance; 1130m/3710ft ascent
From Arad we head South to Rosh Zohar. This high point was used as a lookout point over the ancient "Salt Road" from the Dead Sea to Hebron and Gaza. We have a deep descent into Nahal Morag (be careful!!), pass the Hatrurim Fortress and enter Nahal Ye'elim.
After a fabulous lookout (not compulsory!) from the Ya'ir Ascent at the top of the cliffs we will cross Nahal Rahaf heading North and continue on the desert heights until the Western slope of Masada, the last stronghold of the Great Revolt (70 CE).

In the Masada parking lot we will eat lunch, following which we have two possibilities: 1) Go up for a tour of the Masada site and then continue by bus to Arad 2) Ride back up a steep (over 8% grade) ascent to Arad. During the ascent, like Lot's wife, we will also stop and look behind us at the lookout point with a magnificent view of Masada with the Dead Sea in the background.

As anyone remotely familiar with Murphy's Law might have predicted, this day's biking is primarily comprised of hills, with a particular emphasis on going down hills. Going up hill is easy. If I can ride, I ride. If I cannot ride, I walk. Either way, I am generally going slowly enough that I am not likely to cause myself further damage.

The descents require a bit more thought. Given my unfortunate incident the day before, I approach downhills with caution. I classify them into the following useful categories:
A) Easy (about 5% of the hills)
B) Moderately challenging (10%)
C) Extremely challenging (15%)
D) Fuck No (70%)

"Fuck No" hills are the ones where descent while seated on a bicycle is not to be attempted at any cost. Instead, I walk my bike down, itself a challenge as these hills are steep and covered with sharp rocks and gravel.

I would classify even more hills as "Fuck No", were it not for Jackie, the chain-smoking medic, who after exhorting me to no avail to ride down a particular hill, pointed out (sensibly), that, at this rate, I was going to end up walking all the way to Masada.

Jackie, the chain-smoking medic, can be found happily lurching about in his MDA-equipped dune buggy or sitting on top of particularly large hills, puffing away. Jackie's presence at any particular spot is a sign that here, a medic is likely to be needed. As he watches us navigate the hills, Jackie exhorts us to go down the hills מהר, בלי ברייקסים (quickly, without brakes). I have yet to take his advice, in part because I am a coward and in part because I am not entirely convinced that it comes from expertise in off-road biking, as opposed to extreme boredom and hoping for a spectacular wipe-out which will give him something to do.

Evening

I have developed a crush on one of the riders. He is not only hot, but is also nice and (shockingly) single. My roommates, rather than being irritated by my blathering, have been kind enough to find it amusing. Of course, the object of my affections has no idea of the same or, if he does, he is studiously avoiding them.

As usual, I am at a loss as to what to do. Should I flirt? No, not exactly my strong point. Make a pass? Natch. Suddenly, I have it—a cunning plan! Use your strengths Gila! I will write a blog post about the ride, but instead of a boring, conventional post in which I thank this one and that for organizing the ride, running the ride and so on…I will create my own fun, funny and delightfully quirky thank-you list in which I will thank him for being such wonderful eye-candy. He will read it and will be so charmed that he will forget that I am lumpy and a bit dumpy and (at least at our last meeting) bore a distinct resemblance to Worf the Kligon…and will ask me out.

I run my idea by Yael.

Yael: Does he read English?

Me: Ummmm…..

Yael: Does he read blogs?

Me: Ummmm….

Yael: Your plan appears to be flawed.

Me: sigh... (Count on a mother of five to be brutally practical. )

But the thank you's are a good idea, no? As follows:

Oded the bike guy: for fixing my bike

Simon the medic: for being ear candy (LOVE the accent and the droll English humor) and for fixing my arm

Warren the doctor: for managing to miraculously be on hand whenever someone fell and broke something.

Masada: for the clean bathrooms.

Menta: Ditto. And the coffee. Must not forget the coffee.

Volunteers: for ensuring that the route was well marked with signs like this:


Salvador Dali would be proud.

The signs are actually supremely important. It is not just that the desert is big and a bad place to get lost because then I will run out of water and dehydrate and will have a choice between 1) a gruesome death or 2) making a phone call from the middle of the desert using the Jordanian carrier and having to sell a relative* to pay the bill and then waiting for someone to come rescue me**. It is also that the bits of desert that make up "the path" look pretty much like all of the other bits of desert, with the major difference being that if you ride on "the path" bits you will not ride over a the edge of a cliff and if you ride on the non-path bits, you will. I mean, in the forest, things are more clear: the path is the part without trees. In the desert, the path is the part without…what? You see the problem. So yes, volunteers, thank you very much for the signage. The random people with pompoms stuck out in the middle of nowhere were a nice, if surreal, touch as well.

* I can think of some relatives I would like to sell. I bet you can, too. So this might not be a bad thing.
** If it were Oded the bike guy, that would be cool. Though, honestly, he was kept quite busy and it would probably end up being Jackie the medic who would then try to goad me into going down all of the big hills "maher, bli braksim"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alyn Day Two

Monday, November 10th - Yitchak Rabin’s Memorial Day
Lahav- Yatir Forest- Arad
72km/45mi distance; 1200m/3940ft ascent
We leave Beer Sheva early for Lahav to reunite with our bikes. From here we will ascend a short part on a side road of the Sansana Forest. When we pass by Kibbutz Kramim (vineyards) we can get a glimpse of their plantations of exotic and unique fruits.

We will cut across the Meitar Forest and the Eshtamoah riverbed and climb the mountain ridges to the ruins of the ancient village of Yatir at an altitude of 623 meters/2,044ft. From this point eastwards is the Yatir Forest the largest planted forest in Israel (about 10,000 acres.) At this juncture we have a special challenging surprise for you – an orienteering section in pairs!! Along the route there will be orienteering “control stations” that you will have to find by using the map. At the end of the navigating section we will have lunch next to the Anim ruins.

Next to the village of Har Amasa (859 meters/2,818ft.) we will ride on road # 80 to a speedy and enjoyable descent. We will pass Tel Arad and the Yatir winery and reach Arad which is renowned for its clear and exhilarating air.

During the day we will enjoy the view of the Hebron Hills to the North, the Judean Hills to the East and the Negev to the South.

For some odd reason, instead of feeling worse today, I feel better. My "ass back" mantra is working and I am starting to feel slightly more confident on the rocks and gravel. Of course, I am still walking my bike up and down the steeper hills—the former because I did not train enough and the latter because I am a coward. These walking bits notwithstanding, by mid-morning, I am enjoying the route.

Here and there, when she decides to take long breaks, I catch up with Mandy. One such meeting is shortly before we arrive at the Hill From Hell, an ascent so steep that it is an incredible struggle to even push one's bike up it, much less actually ride the thing. (Who the hell put that on the route? What were they drinking when they did?) Mandy manages to get her bike up the hill herself, though she does aim some pointed queries of the male bikers gathered at the top of the hill as to whether chivalry really is that dead. I make it almost to the top, and then get stuck. I can move the bike or I can move myself, but I cannot possibly move both. I stay in place, flailing helplessly, rather like a turtle that has fallen on its back. Finally, one of the mechanics riding with the group takes pity on me (I mean, at first it was probably amusing to watch, but after a while…) and takes over the bike part so that I can get myself up.

The " special challenging surprise for you – an orienteering section in pairs" starts from shortly after the Hill From Hell. Mandy and I both decide to skip it, on the basis that רק זה חסר לנו; we need an additional challenge like we need holes in the head. Besides which, Mandy already has a sense of direction and does not need to practice orienting. For my part, I have absolutely no sense of direction, to the extent that I can and do get lost in my own neighborhood, the place I have lived for three years. Sadly, no amount of orienting exercises is going to change that.

[My apologies for being pedantic, but if you tell me what the challenge is in advance, on your website, than how can it be defined as a surprise? Unless you have hidden a live bear or some other unexpected challenge at one of the stops, the element of surprise has, alas, been lost.]

So we continue on. Now we are passing through a nice area; in addition to the requisite rocks and gravel, there are also lots of trees. We ride up hills. We ride on flat bits. We ride down hills. On one of those down hills, I find myself going a bit too fast. I squeeze the brakes.

While riding over gravel.

This was not a good idea.

To put it mildly.

Instead of going slower, I go faster and lose control of my bike. The tires slip out from under me. I fall hard on top of my bike, flat on my face and chest, and then continue to slide. Finally, I come to a stop, crying out as I try to suck in air. I am terrified. I am sure I have broken something in my chest. Like my lungs, for instance.

This being a group of Jews, there are doctors aplenty. Two of them come to help me. They determine that: my back is not broken, my limbs are not broken, my head is not broken and (what a relief) my lungs are not broken; I just had the wind knocked out of me. And my knees and elbows sport massive scrapes. And I fell on my head with enough force for my helmet to leave a heavy imprint on my forehead. I spend the next week looking like Worf from Star Trek.

Eventually, with the doctors' help, I manage to turn over. A sizeable group is arrayed above me. I have everyone's full attention. I seize the moment.

"Well, seeing how we are all here….I am looking for an apartment in Jerusalem".

After some minutes, Jackie, the chain-smoking medic, arrives at the scene. He cleans my scrapes, smears them with anti-bacterial ointment (or something) and bandages one of my arms. The next person to arrive is Oded, the head bike guy. It turns out that my bike is injured as well; both of us are flagged for the rest of the day. The bike and I hitch a ride with him to the next rest stop. There, Simon, the droll Alyn nurse, wraps up my hand and gives me ibuprofen for the pain in my chest. When I anxiously ask him what I should be looking for and how I will know if something is really wrong with my ribs or lungs (which really really hurt), he looks at me with a very serious expression.

"Well, if you have a sharp pain in your side? And blood starts running out of your mouth? Call Jackie. Or go behind a tree and die. Quietly".

I do so love Brits.

Evening

We have some time before dinner so Mandy and I decide to go look for real coffee. We head off towards the Arad mall, where we make the shocking discovery that there is no Aroma in Arad. I am terribly confused. How can this be? It is only the next morning that I manage to solve the mystery. In addition to there being no Aroma in Arad, there are also no traffic lights. Not only that, but the drivers in Arad are polite and yield at traffic circles and wait for bikers to pass them of their own volition, and without heavy police presence. No Aroma, no traffic lights and no Israeli drivers can can be explained by only one thing: somehow, we are no longer in Israel.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Live blogging packing my apartment

***Update*** Could not help myself--I did some editing this morning....

7:15 For the life of me, I cannot pick up Galgalatz on my mini-stereo. I stream it through my computer instead. Thank G-d for the Net.

7:30 Packing my dairy dishes and loving, loving, LOVING this fucking fantabulous packing paper that Mona at Eliezer Movers sent me along with the approximately NIS 1 zillion in other packing supplies that I purchased. Packing dishes is so much faster. And the best part is that, if I get sick of packing, I can just sit down and use the paper to make oragami birds and stuff. That is, I could if I knew how to do oragami.

7:45 Beyonce "If I were a Boy". I loathe this song. And what is up with this "I am Sasha Fierce" nonsense? According to Wikipedia, Sasha Fierce is "the singer's sensual, aggressive alter ego ". What--when she is Sasha Fierce she appears on stage stark naked, as opposed to her usual half-naked attire?

Question for all of you .... Am I am the ONLY one who finds it rather disturbing that a father would conciously raise his daughter to be a sex symbol?

8:15: Scarlett Johansson "Falling Down". Another song I do not like. I do not care how gorgeous she is, and how well she acts (attn Kayla--these are movies I have actually seen !)...she cannot sing.


8:30: Danny Sanderson and Amy Winehouse in succession. Happy!!!!!! (Linked version of Don Quixote is not Danny Sanderson. It is a guy I know goofing off).





9:00: All of my wineglasses (my extensive collection of about 12) are those souvenier types that you get when you visit the Yarden winery. Does this mean that I am not a real grown-up? Or that I am holding on to my college years? I mean, I do not drink. Nor did I drink during my college years. So I see no point to invest in new ones. Of course, my guests do drink. Guests? Do you care?

Yay! Kobi Afflalo!

9:10: I have a giant thing of bubble wrap! All for myself! Pop pop pop pop pop pop....

Right. I am supposed to be packing.

9:24: Really pretty song from הכבש השישה העשר-שיר לשירה. (The Sixteenth Sheep--A song for Shira). A number of years ago, I was in a local production of this play. Though I did not get to sing this song. My part during the song was to go to sleep while cuddling a plastic lizard.

Really! A plastic gila monster! You can stick your finger in its mouth and pretend it is biting your finger off! Hours of entertainment! For me, anyway.

Sadly, the lizard was packed a few days ago, so I cannot play with it. Sigh....




Now--two random points that popped into my head.

1) I am officially labelling "real wine glasses" as "an item that I only want once I am married". Because, now that I have my lovely Kakadu hallah board and my lovely Kakadu napkin holder, I no longer have any reason married. So now I do. I need to get married so I can get real wine glasses. Preferably from Kakadu.

Of course, seeing how I will not use them myself, even if I am married, not really sure that this is going to serve as too much of an incentive to go back on Jdate. But, whatever. Desperate times and all that.

2) Actually being in plays (I have been in two) has pretty much cured me of any desire to do any more community theater. I spent most of the time comparing my (rather paltry) solo with those of the other actors (much more impressive--full songs) and feeling quite neglected. I am far better off singing Broadway tunes in my kitchen while I am cooking. That way, I get all the solos.

Suffice it to say that "humility" and "teamwork" may not be my strongest points.

9:50: One could argue that I am also lacking "talent".

After packing and unpacking and repacking them FIVE times, my glasses and wineglasses are sufficiently packed and padded and bubble-wrapped to my satisfaction. I am going to seal the box now so that I do not have a chance to become dissatisfied again.

Anal retentive people should simply not be made to pack breakables. It is just too painful to watch. There should be a law.

10:03: Fun factoid--I am not into candles. At all. Please do not buy me any. I will just regift them. Or give them to the poor, though why the hell they would want them is beyond me.

I am thinking about this because I am about to wrap up the one set of candles I do like--the ones in the shape of chocolates that Rachel gave me. Of course, I am not going to use them. I just like to look at them and smell them because they smell like chocolate.

Oh, and another good song. American Boy.



10:30: I hate moving. I hate packing. I hate boxes. I hate bubble wrap. I am going to sell everything and just become a hobo or, I don't know, find an hideously overpriced, tourist trap, completely furnished apartment.

10: 46 What am I thinking???? Of COURSE I do not hate bubble wrap! I will bring whatever is left --after wrapping each individual Yarden winery souvenier wineglass in twice its weight in bubble wrap--with me to the furnished apartment. I will sit on the bed, popping the wrap and crooning Broadway tunes to myself.

10:55 How the fuck did I end up with FOUR bottles of olive oil? And approximately 15 zillion bottles of vinegar?

11:05 Other random bubble-wrappable stuff: my olive oil collection, my vinegar collection, my wine collection, my two bottles of vodka, bottle of Sabra and bottle of brandy, my elegant but too-small-to-be-useful glass flower vase, mason jars purchased back when I went through a Martha-Stewart-make-your-own-pickles-stage and now used as big and useufl vases, my pretty glass plate purchased on Nachalat Binyamin and a framed photo of my mother, ז"ל (may her memory be blessed).

So, if I pack my mother in the same box as the booze, would that be disrespectful?

11:35 Do they even make VCR's anymore? I ask because I have five random videotapes, inlcuding a collection of music videos from ארוץ הילדים (the children's channel) and Tom & Debra Teach Lindy Hop I & II...and no way to watch them. (I also have no dance partner--everyone here does salsa, damn it). So, do I trash them or cart them off to the new place so that they can gather dust there?

Hmmm...guess I will take them. I really really love that ארוץ הילדים video.


I also have one DVD: My Fair Lady. A great singalong flick.

11:46 Did you know that NONE of the cool songs from my ערוץ הילדים video are on Youtube? Bastards.

12:25 Time to shower, change and go off to Sarah's for a nutritious lunch. It will be a welcome change, as my diet for the last two days has been comprised of cereal, coffee and various sugary baked goods. This is not to say that cereal is not a sugary baked good. It just pretends to be nutritious. The other stuff...well, it does not even make an effort to disguise itself as something that that might conceivably be good for you.

I bet Sarah's meal will include protein. And a vegetable. I am so excited!

17:45 I have eaten, eaten some more and napped. Time for the second shift.

19:15 My packing diet has now expanded to include Diet Sprite. After all, man does not live by cereal and sugary baked goods alone.

21:05 I am still packing. It is taking a long time. This has more to do with my compulsive tendencies--everything must fit JUST so and NO space may be wasted--than with the actual quantities of stuff I own.

What is playing?

Campy music



Followed by very non-campy music



Gotta love Galgalatz.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fine fine fine...I give in already

Miriam, here is your Five Things Meme. (Someone else tagged me on another meme a few weeks back--I did not fill it out, but if you remind me who you are, I will add a link).

5 Things I Was Doing Ten Years Ago
1) Getting used to going by the name "Gila" and slowly but surely picking up social skills (I swear that the two really are related).
2) After ten months smoke-free, still fighting nicotine withdrawal symptoms. And getting fat.
3) Working at Arthur Andersen, and loathing it. The feeling was mutual.
4) Getting involved in Hadassah and loving it. Here again, the feeling was mutual.
5) Panicking because I was 28 and STILL NOT MARRIED (yeah....really humorous now, isn't it).

5 Things on My To-Do List Today
1) Write in my journal and plan my week
2) Call my sister-in-law to thank her for my very, very cool Hamsa bracelet (on my wrist now for five days straight).
3) Cook healthy, low-fat food for me to take to work for lunch (the week's goal is then to not completely destroy the effect by following up the healthy lunch with bread and nutella)
4) This evening: Go revisit an apartment I saw in Jerusalem and really liked AND go out with friends here in Tel Aviv. Not quite sure how or if I am going to manage this one.
5) Get married (just kidding)

5 Snacks I love
1) Chocolate
2) Pringles
3) Druze pita with labane, olive oil and zahatar (a meal, really--so I am cheating).
4) Apple with honey and cinammon
5) Popcorn

5 Things I'd Do if I Were a Millionaire
1) Buy an apartment
2) Give money to charity.
3) Take a year off and study at Nishmat or Pardes or some combination thereof. Write a book about it.
3) Travel: Spain, South America, Scotland, Ireland, China and the US. Write a book about it.
5) Write books for a living. Even if I did not make any money, what would it matter because, hey, I am a millionaire!

5 Places I Have Lived
1) Media, Pennsylvania
2) Houston, Texas
3) Newcastle, Delaware
4) Be'er Sheva, Israel
5) Arlington, Virgina (as a Marylander, am really ashamed to say this)

5 Jobs I Have Had
1) Midnight shift baker at Dunkin Donuts
2) Security guard
3) Telemarketer for MBNA America
4) Vacume cleaner salesman
5) Toll-booth collector

I tag: Washington Gardener, Safranit, Arab Chick, Quietus Leo and CK from Jewlicious.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shabbat Shalom

I have been in a really bad, depressed mood all week. As usual, it is my brain’s fault.

I was already in a not-so-good mood last week. There I was, not getting this done, not getting that done, slacking in this or that area. Frustrating, you know? Especially when one has just spent an hour perusing photos of one’s high school reunion which one did not attend because it is 1) way the hell far away and 2) it is a party, the type of thing one enjoys more in theory than in practice….anyway…and one has been reminded that one is 38 and close to being middle aged and overweight and frumpy and single and does not own her own home and has yet to do anything impressive etc etc etc.

And then I stopped myself. Why was I whining, when these were things one can do something about?! I can lose weight, if I want to. I can make myself all elegant and stylish—just like Maryam in Marrakesh—if I want to. I can find an apartment in Jerusalem and find someone to take my apartment in Tel Aviv. I can write a book. It is just a matter of Wanting and Doing and Using One’s Time Efficiently. What it is most certainly not is a matter of whining!

Thus fortified, I sat down and wrote my list of things I Was Going To Do over the course of the week. The list went as follows:

1) Start a diet and lose 1 kilo
2) Exercise every day for a minimum of 20 minutes
3) Write every day for a minimum of 30 minutes
4) Work on my book-proposal
5) Work-life balance—work no more than 55 hours for the week*
6) Start packing up my apartment and get a price quote from the movers
7) Put up signs asking for a place to rent in San Simon
* For me, a 50-55 hour work week is work-life balanced.

It is an impressive list, no? I thought so too. My brain on the other hand, was not so impressed. “You want me to work, find an apartment, get ready to move into it and write a f**king book? And you expect me to do this without chocolate? Bite me!” And then it proceeded to go off and aimlessly surf the net and daydream. If my brain had a belly button, it would be picking lint out of it.

So it has been THAT type of week. In the end, the only things I managed to do were work a zillion hours and look at some apartments. My brain may be an intractable, lazy SOB, but it is not stupid. Even it realizes that no job=cutoff of the chocolate supply and that no apartment=no place to stash the chocolate.

All in all, a stupid, wasted, depressing week.

By this morning I was feeling pretty desperate. Yeah, work is going fine and I saw a couple great apartments and one of them may work out. But maybe they will not work out and I will have to keep looking. And what about everything else? I am getting fatter by the day! And I never called Emilie the Agent to talk about my book proposal! And I am 38! What is wrong with me???? I want to do all these things…why am I not doing them? What am I going to do?

And then, I just thought--really--it just popped into my head--talk to G-d. He is there for you

And so I did. I broke out the little prayer book I carry in my wallet—the one my friend Irene’s father gave me when I was going through an observant phase. And I prayed. I do not like to be selfish when I am talking to G-d, so I asked Him to help this one find a job, that one to get pregnant and another one to find a shidduch. As for me…”I do not really know what I need, right now. But you do. And if you could send it, I would appreciate it”.

Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Alyn Day One


Sunday, November 9th
Jerusalem- Patrol Road- Shekef
60km/37mi distance; 1540m/5050ft ascent
After the send off ceremony at Malha, Jerusalem we ride through the Mediterranean forest of the Shalmon and Koby ranges of the Judean Hills. After a long ascent from Koby Bridge we stop for coffee at the Menta gas station at Mevo Betar and rest after completing the difficult part of the day.

We cross Tzur Hadassah and join the Old Patrol Road, the length of which we will ride until the end of the day.

First, we will descend westwards on the slopes of the Sansan Range with views of the Ellah Valley near the route of the 35 fighters on their way to the besieged Gush Etzion. We will stop for lunch near Moshav Aderet and continue through the the Adulam Strip towards the Lachish Strip in the Judean foothills. Our winding route will take us past rolling chalky hills and views of many historical sites and the extensive system of hiding places used during the Bar Kochba rebellion.

We will end the day’s riding at Moshav Shekef with a short ceremony for the one day GalgAlyn riders. The bikes will be taken to Lahav and we will go by bus to Beer Sheva for the night.

The “Tip of the Blade” group – those who ride faster - have the option to continue to Lahav (FYI: “lahav” when translated into Hebrew means “blade”!!!) which is an additional 18 kilometers of fast riding. The latest time that this group can leave Moshav Shekef is 2.45 p.m. The “Tip of the Blade” Group will have transportation from Lahav to Beer Sheva.


I am so nervous that I will oversleep that I find it nearly impossible to sleep the night before the ride and find myself waking up every few hours to anxiously check the clock. By the time morning rolls around I am already wiped. When Natalie comes by to pick me up at 6AM, I discover she has had the same experience and is similarly tired. No worries—I am sure that there will be coffee waiting for us at the starting point. Shockingly, this is not the case. Fortunately, it turns out that Malcha Mall, in addition to featuring a huge parking lot just right for bike-ride send-offs and many fine bathrooms, also has an Aroma which is open and is doing a brisk business in sales of caffeine to sleep-deprived bikers. I buy myself a café au-lait for the road.

The Ride is officially kicked off with a deeply moving opening ceremony. In the interests of full disclosure, I do not actually know that the opening ceremony is moving because, as usual, I cannot hear a damn thing. Rather, I am making an assumption. I think my assumption is fairly safe; G-d forbid one have an event chock full of tourists (much less an opening ceremony full of tourists) without it being "deeply moving ".

And now, with the speed and grace of a drunk, obese water buffalo, over five hundred bikers try to hit the road, all at once. Fortunately, no one is seriously injured in the process. Eventually, I am off as well. Once there, I soon discover that my training was, to put it mildly, insufficient.

I mean, I knew it was insufficient. Mandy, my official Alyn Posse person, trained religiously all summer—going out to ride several times a week and really pushing herself on uphills and downhills. Every so often, she would check in by email. "My friends and I biked up and down Mount Hermon last Friday. I don't know…I mean, it wasn't that bad, but still, do you think I am ready?" As for me, for most of the summer, the primary action that my bike got was in the form of fifteen-minute (round trip) jaunts to Ibn Gvirol to get ice cream at Vaniglia and THAT was only because biking was faster and cooler than walking and because the cookies 'n cream ice cream at Vaniglia beats anything offered at the local merkolet, hands down. It was only once September hit and I realized "oh yes, I have a five day bike ride coming up in two months", that I really started to work. Alas, it was too little, too late and coming after several months of seriously heavy cookies 'n cream ice cream consumption.

So yes, I did realize I was in deep shit.

I just did not fully comprehend the depth of the shit I was in.

Now I do. I am to spend the next five days riding my bike up and down hills and through rocks and gravel and up and down hills covered with rocks and gravel…and not only am I not physically ready, I also do not have the slightest clue as to how one actually does this, apart from 1) walking my bike for five days straight or 2) falling off my bike and killing myself.

More experienced riders see me struggling and take pity on me. One of them, Moshe (G-d bless him), gives me a crash course in how to ride down hills. "Push your butt back as far as you can. Keep your back straight and your arms loose—put the weight on your legs and not your arms. Go slowly. Focus on the path ahead and not the part directly in front of you. Do not try to brake while riding over loose rocks or gravel". As best as I can, I follow try to follow these guidelines. For the next five days, every time I go down a hill, I keep up a running commentary with myself. "Slow, slow, ass backbackback….yes, you can do it. Tighten your thighs, weight back, push the back of the bike dooooooown. Keep the arms loose…loosen up your hands. No no no, don't look at that rock—you already know it is there, it is what it is—look ahead. Up you go! Down--don't panic, you got it. NICE! Good for you! Okay, don't get too cocky. Slow…look aheadaheadahead. Okay, gravel, watch the brakes Gila…. Youcandoityoucandoit. Ass back, bike down. Gently now. Don't brake here…no…wait…yes, brake now…okay and now let off the brakes. Go you!"

Not surprisingly, I am plagued with headaches the first three days of the ride. Furthermore, by mid-day of Day One, my thighs are cramping up from the unaccustomed stress. Apparently, keeping ones' ass back, especially when said ass is the size of mine, taxes the thigh muscles considerably. Each time I get a cramp I am forced to get off my bike and hobble along, sloshing back Gatorade, until the cramp passes and I can straighten my legs again.

Mandy, of course, is doing great.

Finally, finally, it is over. The "tip of the blade" fast riders (read "suckers") are to do another 18 kilometers. But I am not anywhere near the tip of the blade. I am more like the end bits of the ceremonial tassel on the hilt, so for me this is the end of the road. Granted, maybe in the morning, before we started, I did think that maybe I would like to do that extra 18 kilometers. You know, to challenge myself. Because I like to challenge myself. By lunchtime, I accepted that this was not particularly realistic. By the time I get to the end, all I want to do was collapse and die.

A few bananas and a cup of coffee later, I am slightly more revived. As the other riders watch the Deeply Moving Short Ceremony for the one-day Galgalyn riders, I call my friend Kayla to update her.

"Where are you?" she asks.

"Somewhere between BeerSheva and Jerusalem that has real coffee, bananas and that does not require me to ride my bike".

Somehow she manages to figure out from this that I am in Moshav Shekef. I am not entirely sure where I am. But the coffee is tasty and I have officially survived Day One so I am happy.

Evening
Tonight, at 6.30, we will have the treat of seeing and hearing about some of the children being treated at ALYN Hospital for whom YOU are riding this week and also about those whose rehabilitation has been supported from funds raised by those riders who have participated in previous WOL Rides. A very special and dramatic surprise is planned this year during this presentation by Brenda Hirsch. Not to be missed!!

The presentation starts as I am enjoying a chat with MOChassid. He is scooped up to attend. I, of course, do not attend. If there was one thing I have learned from my nearly seven years experience as a Poor Sad Heroic Victim of Terror, it is that anything denoted as "special and dramatic" should absolutely be missed. On a similar yet only marginally related note, over my seven-plus years in Israel I have also learned to avoid any class, seminar or lecture which includes as part of its title any one of the following words or phrases: spirituality, consciousness, mysticism, soul/neshama, self-expression, healing, interpretive dance, moving, emotional, relationship, search for happiness… and anything else which hints at happy-clappy content.

You know, this is probably why I am not married.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Proportionality

I should open this up by pointing out that I do not support the practice of house demolitions in response to terror attacks. It does not appear to be particularly effective. It is not just; it is not a safe assumption to say that just because an individual is a terrorist, his family is responsible. (Nu, think about it...you do not know anyone who has taken a more "radical" route in life or a completely different route in life than his or her family? Such as becoming baal tschuva or converting or moving to Israel?) And, perhaps most importantly, we do not use it on Jews who commit similar crimes. Just last week, a car bomb was used to kill a member of the Israeli mafia. Three innocent bystanders were injured in the attack. Did we demolish the houses of those responsible? Yes, yes, the average Israeli wants to. Nu, but did we?

Why am I thinking about this? A friend of mine lent me The Attack. I am reading it in what is my usual fashion--namely flipping back and forth and reading random bits of the book, including the end. At some point or another, I may actually read the entire book. Or I may not. Anyway, one section I read included a house demolition.

This morning I woke up with an interesting thought in my head. Israel often gets slammed for our "disproportional" response to Lebanese, Palestinian and terrorist attacks, right? In a twisted sort of way, house demolitions are proportional. Consider the following:

Suicide bomber walks into a crowded restaurant and detonates his explosive. In an instant, and with absolutely no warning, the lives of random people and their families are demolished.

As described in the book: Israeli soldiers approach the home of the terrorist and inform the family members that they have 30 minutes to vacate. Thirty minutes later, the lives of those living in the house are demolished.


One demolishes the physical home. The other demolishes the individuals making up a home. The only difference is that our choice of lives to be ripped up is not random. This is nothing if not proportional.

Is it fair? As fair as a suicide bombing.
*****
Completely unrelated addendum....I do not agree with Olah Girl on all things, but this was very well said and expressed a lot of what I was thinking.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I just got back home from the Alyn Wheels of Love Bike Ride. In a nutshell--an large number of body parts hurt, and in particular those parts that took the blow when I slammed face and chest down, on top of my bicycle, after wiping out on some rocks. If you will allow me to share some of my new-found and hard-earned wisdom, trying to brake while riding really fast, downhill and over loose rocks and gravel is not a good idea. Having a good helmet, on the other hand, is an excellent idea; I am quite grateful for mine.

I will post more about the Ride but for now, one question.

Suppose you are pulling into Alyn after a grueling five day ride which was made even more grueling because you (ahem) barely trained all summer. And suppose that you are exhausted and sore and filthy and your digestive system is kind of acting up a bit after five days of gatorade, bananas and granola bars. And suppose that you are also really, really cranky because thanks to the rain, instead of doing a fun, off-road route to Jerusalem, you ending up having to do the On-Road-Ascent-To-Jerusalem-From-Hell (approximately 5000 kilometers, all of them uphill) followed up to the Death-Defying-Approach-to-Alyn-Through-Jerusalem-Traffic (also 5000 kilometers, and also all uphill). Okay? So imagine, that you are in this state of mind and you finally, FINALLY, get to the godforsaken end and are just straggling in with your bike, with your only goals in life being a hot shower and your bed and maybe taking your bicycle outside and smashing it with a large rock so you will never be tempted to ride again.

And then some lunatic dressed in some white cotton Purim costume blows an enormous shofar at you. And that sucker is really f**king loud.

If you then grab the shofar, and use it to whop this joker upside the head, is that considered a crime? Or would the items I noted above be considered adequate mitigating circumstances?

Right--I have achieved the shower already. Now: bed!

(For those of you concerned, my bike is still safe and sound at Alyn. I think I will leave it there for a few days, until I like it again.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Howdy! And see y'all in a week!

Over Sukkot, my friend Talia gave me a crash course on country music. This was while we were heading up to the Kineret to look for 1) genuine cowboys and 2) crash-able mangalim or 3) a combination of one and two. In the end, we found massages instead.

Of course, as much as I would love to post about that little adventure, unfortunately I have no time to do so right now, seeing how I am supposed to be on my way to Jerusalem to meet up with some friends and get my spirits up pre-ride. The problem is that not only did I promise Talia I would blog it, I actually brought along a tape recorder with me that day and spent the entire, several hour trip pestering Talia to come up with witty comments that would work in the blog. Whenever she did, I would shriek "Oh, that is DEFINITELY going on the blog", which would then be followed up by a spell of mad cackling.

(Really, I am surprised she did not drown me in the Kinneret when she had the chance.)

Anyway, since I really do have to shower and go, in lieu of an entire post, here is a genuine country singer, Tim McGraw, singing a genuine country song, "Live as Though You Were Dying". Talia, here's lookin' at you kid. Thank you for not drowning me in the Kinneret or dumping me out of the car at the turnoff to Jenin and telling me to hitch a ride home.

(And a hat tip to Leah for the song).




I considered putting up another one of his songs "Don't Take the Girl". The problem is that the song is so wretched, dreary and moaning that the entire time I listened to it, all I wanted to do was pat Tim on the head and say "There, there Tim, don't fret. We will just shoot you now and put you out of your misery".

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mind-blowing

A common complaint raised by the right wing is that the IDF and Shin Bet act more stringently toward the right wing than the left wing. As you might imagine, the left wing makes the exact opposite argument. Both sides claim that they are as kind, gentle and pure as the driven snow, and entirely undeserving of any police or military interest.

If you have spent any time in the English-language Israeli blogosphere over the last few weeks, you will have learned about how the settlers are persecuted and maligned by the media, the police, the IDF, the public and just about everyone else apart from G-d. G-d, of course, is firmly on the side of the settlers and right wing, as per instructions He received from Rav Ovadiah Yosef and various other Rabbanim whose names I cannot keep straight and none of whom know me, but all of whom believe that I should wear a lot more clothing than I regularly do.

As such, imagine my surprise this morning when I read the following:

The Israel Defense Forces has asked the Shin Bet security service and the police to provide it with information on left-wing figures active in the West Bank so it will be easier to issue restraining orders against them, Haaretz has learned….

Among the activists the intelligence services were asked to provide information about is Yonatan Pollack of Anarchists Against the Fence.

(Full article here):

I am of an astonishing assortment of minds about this. (Apparently, my attempts to work myself to death have made me somewhat schizophrenic.)

Mind Number One is a staunch supporter of free-speech and non-violent protest. Regardless of the violence implied in the name "anarchist", if all that they are doing is getting together and screaming and yelling, without actually hurting anyone or anything…that is their right.

Mind Number Two is an equally staunch opponent of violence, and in particular when that takes the form of citizens throwing rocks at the soldiers who regularly put their lives on the line to protect their sorry asses. If you are throwing rocks at soldiers (or at civilians, for that matter) you should be sentenced to time in prison for assault. This should cover Jews, Arabs, random tourists here to support the brave and noble Palestinian struggle and random tourists here to support the brave and noble Jewish struggle. The random tourists should then be sent back to their home countries to create problems there. (Hello, we need to import crazies? We don't have enough of our own?)

Mind Number Two also asks Mind Number One if it is for real. Anarchist=non-violence? On Mind Number One's home world, maybe.

Mind Number Three would like to remind Minds Number One and Two that even verbal and written protest has its limit—and that is when it crosses the border into incitement. It would remind those minds that we Jews do not find it particularly harmless or amusing when non-Jews engage in verbal attacks on Jews and/or Israel. It proposes we employ a simple test to determine whether an Israeli's language has crossed the border. Take the statement. Replace the "Arab" or "Palestinian" or "Haredi" or "Secular" with whatever you are. If the statement would not have you calling for the arrest of whoever spouted it, it is kosher. If not, it is not kosher. For example, take the following popular statement:

ירדן היא המדינה הפלסטינאי "Jordan is the Palestinian State"

I now change it to fit me:

נוי יורק היא המדינה היהודי "New York is the Jewish State". Clearly, this is very offensive. How dare someone imply that I am a New Yorker?

As such, arrest is clearly warranted.

Mind Number Four believes that we should be a country of law, and not of anarchy. The law should apply to and be enforced equally in respect to all parties subject to it. It proposes another simple rule of thumb: if you would arrest the Palestinian for it, arrest the Jew. If you would not arrest the Jew, do not arrest the Palestinian. It also suggests that said rule of thumb can be easily amended with such groupings as "right wing-left wing", "secular-orthodox" and "corrupt politician-corrupt government clerk".

(I realize that the anarchists will disagree with this, as they like anarchy*. They are, of course free to disagree, so long as they act within the boundaries of the law.)

Mind Number Five has found the silver lining to this state of events:

"Pollack also said he presumed that 'since there's a lot of talk now about restraining orders against right-wingers, they would use that against us to show balance, although there has almost never been a case of a left-wing activists suspected of violence and certainly not of violence like that of the right-wing activists.'"

Finally—something that the Far Left and the Far Right can agree on. Well, at least the first part of the statement. But that is something, no?

Right then, my vast collection of minds and I are now off to drop off my bike at Alyn in advance of next week's ride!


* If a person supports anarchy, should that not automatically result in him being precluded from ever complaining that the government is enforcing the law unfairly? That IS anarchy. He should be happy, no? Oh, it is so confusing!


VOTE BARKET-HITORRERUT YERUSHALAYIM ON NOVEMBER 11.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

גם אנחנו יכולים Yes We Can, Too

I have not been posting recently as I have been working approximately five million hours a week, trying to wear and stress myself out enough that I will really and truly be desperately in need of my vacation next week.

But just a few thoughts about the US elections.

I have the right to vote in the US elections. This year, for the first time since I have been eligible to vote, I did not exercise it. This is not because I found both candidates appalling. I mean, I did, to an extent. But as I always have the option of writing in Dave Barry, this is no excuse. No, the reason I did not vote is because I determined that it would be hypocritical for me to do so.

Allow me to explain. Every so often, I hear arguments that 1) Israelis overseas should be able to vote in Israeli elections and/or 2) all Jews, worldwide, should be able to vote in Israeli elections. I find these suggestions to be ludicrous, at best. Why on earth would we allow people who do not live here and who are not going to end up footing the physical and financial bill for government policies determine what the price tag should be?

Note to Israelis b'hul: you already voted. With your feet.

Note to right-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, so do those crazy left-wing Jews who simply do not understand the realities of the situation here (or reality at all, for that matter) and who want to give Israel to the Arabs and/or devoid Israel of its Jewish character.

Note to left-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, so do all those crazy right-wing Jews who simply do not understand the realities of the situation here (or reality at all, for that matter) and who want to carpet bomb Aza and/or turn Israel into an ultra-orthodox theocracy.

Note to center-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, you will have to endure months and months of fear-mongering, mud-throwing and remarkably vicious and hysterical campaigning from the left-wing and right-wings. Nu, you did not get enough of that from your own elections?

(In other words, to those Jews abroad...you think you want to be involved, but really, take it from me, you do not. "Ugly" does not even begin to describe it. As a case in point, by the end of the current round of elections, everyone and his grandmother, including yours truly, will have been defined by someone as a Nazi. And that is just for starters. Just count your blessings that you are missing the insanity, and keep on coming on vacations and sending the checks. Israel is great in small doses, isn't it?)

So how can I hold these views about non-residents voting in the Israeli elections and still justify my participation in the US elections? I can not.

Do I want the United States to continue to be a staunch ally of Israel? Yes. That being said, if the people who live in the US and who will be responsible for picking up the tag associated with that policy determine that it is no longer worth the cost-that is their right. Just like any other country. I mean, I would love it if all of the EU and all of Arab countries were to become staunch allies of Israel. And I do not get to vote there either. ( Of course, one could argue that in certain cases, even the actual resident citizens do not get to vote, so who am I to complain? But you get the idea, right?) Why should the US be different? Why should those in the US not be allowed to choose what they want and what they believe in?

The People of the United States of America have chosen.

Yesterday, the American people chose Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. I have to admit that I am not a particular fan of Barack Obama. I distrust his lack of experience. I distrust his lack of voting record. I distrust his collection of questionable associations. I distrust his proposed economic policies. I distrust his lack of foreign policy experience. Had I voted in these elections, I would not have voted for him.

And even so, I am thrilled by these elections. I am thrilled because I am inspired. Not by Barack Obama, but by the American people. They did this.

Forget about the media and the political machine. Yesterday, it was the American people that got up and went to vote. It was ordinary American citizens who--instead of turning election day into an excuse to take a very long weekend or a daytrip-- elected to stand in line for hours, in record-breaking numbers and in who-knows-what-sort-of-weather in order to exercise their right to vote. It was the American people, each individual acting in the privacy of a voting booth and in accordance with his or her beliefs and concience, that submitted the ballots that have turned the political establishment on its ear by voting in a previously unknown, African American candidate.

I am not inspired by Barack Obama. He has words and I am an action girl myself. I am very inspired by the American people. They have action in bunches. They ditched the apathy. They demanded a change. They voted.

Whether or not Obama makes good on his promises of change, the fact remains that the American people believe that change is possible and are willing to act on that belief.

If they can do it, we can do it.

Some months ago, I stood at a busy intersection with members of the (now defunct) Tafnit party, handing out flyers calling on Olmert to resign. The overwhelming response I received was one of apathy, frustration and despair. ? מה לעשות? יש מישהו אחר What can one do? There is no one else.

Maybe there is not. Maybe not yet. But as the United States just proved, there can be. And as the Americans just proved, when there is, if we want that change we can make it happen. We are entering into a round of elections right now, starting with the municipal elections on November 11. You have a voice? Let it be heard. *

גם אנחנו יכולים.

Yes we can, too.

*Unless you are voting for Porush in the Jlem elections. In that case, please stay home. (just kidding!)

GO BARKAT/ HITORRERUT YERUSHALAYIM!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Post Written in an Hour

I do not know how all of you have been spending the chagim but I have been spending my time reading Shogun for what has got to be the 10th time or so. Reading Shogun is something I do every few years. At certain intervals inexplicable forces—the moon or hormones or space aliens controlling my mind from the mother ship—compel me to take the book off the bookshelf and to spend several weeks flipping back and forth and reading random sections, which is what passes for reading in my world. Finally, the mood or hormones subside (or the space aliens get bored and move back to controlling the US presidential candidates) and I can put it away again.

Reading this book raises the eternal question: if I had to eat sushi all the time, like they do in the book, would I get sick of it? That is a frightening question (sick of sushi???), and one I would love to ask of a Japanese. Unfortunately, I do not know any actual Japanese and in particular, I do not know any actual Japanese who were alive during the 16th century, which is when the story takes place. So I am pretty much shit-out-of-luck. As of two months ago, I do know one Bosnian, though from the current century. I met her when she came to my house with her fiancée for a Shabbat dinner. Unfortunately, she was not able to clear up my question about the sushi. This is not to say that she taught me nothing. From her, I learned two important bits of Bosnian culture: 1) Bosnians are carnivores and 2) Bosnians consider the act of trying to use crumbled up veggie burgers in place of meat in a recipe as twisted and bizarre. In the future, I will not try to feed dairy Mexican food to a Bosnian, a suggestion I would recommend that you take to heart as well.

Yes, yes, yes…I realize that the Bosnian is completely unrelated to this post. But I just felt like sharing so that you would not decide that I was close-minded and provincial. No, I do not know any Japanese, but I do know a Bosnian.

So back to the subject, apart from eating sushi all the time, from this book I have learned that the Japanese use the phrase "so sorry" every third word or so and have an incredible death wish. Every time you turn a page, someone is asking for permission to commit suicide. This reminds me distinctly of the Spanish literature I read in college, in which extremely pious Catholic authors put out such zingers such as "I am dying because I am not dying". Based on said literary excursions, I have concluded that the key difference between the Spaniards and the Japanese apart from that 1) I know an actual Spaniard and that 2) the Spaniards may have better food (I mean, I like sushi, but every meal?), is that the Japanese are a lot more proactive in achieving their goals. The Spaniards are mooning about, writing flowery poems and waiting for G-d to take them away (rather like Calgon, but fatal). The Japanese, on the other hand, are proactive. They are sharpening their swords, and asking their liege lords for permission to commit seppuku at every opportunity. With that level of go-getting-ness, it comes as no surprise to me that modern Japan has become an economic powerhouse and modern Spain has been invaded by British retirees, rather like Raanana and Jerusalem. Unlike Israel however—and this is something I have picked up on from the actual Spaniard—Spain has much better fashion sense than we do here. Not that this is saying much.

I suppose that I could read some actual reference books or websites on Spain or Japan and I will, just as soon as the mother ship commands it. Right now I think they are really busy with the election.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Post that Took Me Five Hours (or More) to Write

By means of means of three completely unrelated conversations with three completely unrelated friends, I recently learned that the general assumption is that I just whip my blog posts out. They were shocked to learn that it takes me hours and hours to draft a post, and that several of my last posts each required four hours or so to write. "It took you HOW long to write THAT? Why does it take that long?"

I was not sure whether to be offended or amused. Nonetheless, I answered the question. I slave over my posts. First I have an idea. In marked contrast to my friends who (by their own admissions) spill their ideas onto the page, paragraph after paragraph, without rewriting, and then post the finished results. I squeeze my posts out in bits and pieces. I can spend G-d-knows-how-many-hours jumping around a piece, writing and rewriting and rewriting some more. For example, I can be sitting there, just minding my own business and writing Paragraph Two when suddenly a great idea for a line will barge into my brain and I would put it into Paragraph Two, but I realize that Great Idea belongs in Paragraph Four or Five or in a paragraph all of its own. So I take a leave from Paragraph Two to get Great Idea sorted. Or…while in the middle of Paragraph Three I will jump back to Paragraph One to make some changes. I mean, I thought Paragraph One was okay, but it is not really 'going' with Paragraph Three and I like Paragraph Three's tone more than Paragraph One's. Or…while reviewing my article for the trillionth time, I realize that I do not want my message to be x; I want it to be y and that a comprehensive rewrite is required.

Really, with all of the balagan, it is a miracle that anything gets posted at all.

My friends offered a solution: stop editing! This is not high school. No one is grading you! Why do the boring stuff? Blogging is your hobby. Who is to tell you that you cannot stick to those parts of writing you enjoy?

Exactly. I enjoy editing.

Yes, the initial creative process during which I just dump a lump of words onto a page and pound them into a general shape is fun. But to me, the heart of writing, the part that I love, is the editing process during which I mold and smooth and view the piece from the various angles to ensure the result is pleasing and effective. Is the flow of words smooth? Are the rhythm and tone consistent throughout the piece? I check to see if I have repeated words, phrases or sentence structure. Where I have done so as a rhetorical device, I ask myself if the repetition contributes anything. Where it does not— where it represents laziness or carelessness— I weed it out. I check my spelling and (sometimes) my grammar.

Even more critical than style is content. I am writing for a reason. I ask myself if I am conveying the message I want to convey. Is my point clear? Do I have a point? Do I want a point? Sometimes I like to write about nothing. Alternatively, perhaps I have too many points and each distracts from the other? Assuming that there is a point to get to, is the path clear? Have I left too many random, lumpy bits of opinion, exaggeration, humor or other literary debris lying around that people might trip over while en route? For whom are the path and the point intended? Who is my audience? Is my goal to preach to the choir or to the unbelievers? Are the form of the message and its audience well-matched? I read and re-read and think and analyze and rip apart and glue together paragraphs and I do this for hours and hours and hours.

And I like it.

My friends do not understand me, but truthfully, I do not understand them. Why would you choose a hobby that involves you doing something that you hate to do or even that you like to do, but not that much? Why write if you do not enjoy writing? Life is short and very, very busy; why waste your precious free time on things you cannot be passionate about? In my world, even if I never finish the piece, an hour spent writing something is never wasted; the process is as important and as enjoyable as the destination. Furthermore, if you have something to say, something that is important enough for you to say publicly, it seems reasonable to me that you would take the time to make sure that you are actually saying it. If not, why bother?

If not, why are you writing?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dancing at the Dancing Camel

About a month ago, as I was comparing my fundraising numbers with the amount I had to raise, and panicking, I had a brainstorm. Do a party at a bar! People seem to love bars. Fantastic! Everyone will come! Oh. But wait. How do I (read "Alyn") make money out of this?

Which is where brainstorm number two comes in: the Dancing Camel, Israel's one and only microbrewery and source of fine kosher beers.

The Dancing Camel is owned by David Cohen. David Cohen is a good friend of one of my friends. Is that really a strong enough connection for me to ask him to basically let me take over his brewery for the night and throw a fundraising party for Alyn?

Are you joking? This is Israel! Of course it is! Honestly, if the man had been the third cousin, three times removed, of my cleaner's ex-husband's ex-mistress, THAT would have been a close enough connection. (Just to drive home exactly how tenuous such a connection would be, I should point out here that my cleaner is a man). As such, with perfect confidence, I left a message on David's cell phone. How would you like some free publicity? All you have to do is: open your brewery on a night you are not normally open, bring in a full complement of employees to run the place, let my friend Kayla take over your CD player, rearrange everything so that we can dance and (last but not least) hope and pray that I can rustle up enough thirsty dancers who will buy enough beer to actually pay for the electricity, the waitresses, the guy at the door, the cleaner the next morning etc. Oh, and one more thing...you have to let me charge
a 10 NIS cover charge at the door for Alyn. Really! It is a win-win situation!

He went for it. No, I cannot believe it either. To make sure that this does not bankrupt him I offered to help waitress. (Because I might want to do another party next year, and honestly, I do not know that many people that own bars. Gotta keep him lively). He was grateful for my offer, though he did say something about my being required to wear a french maid costume and dance on the bar as part of my terms of employment. He was, of course, joking. I hope. Of course he was joking! He is religious! The brewery and the beer are kosher! Haha! What a comical guy!

(Batya--this would NOT be the time for you to chime in with any comments about the vast number of children in the average religious family and where they come from.)

Without further ado, I invite you all to please join me in sending the holidays out on their merry way with style with danceable music, fun people and some great beer.

Where: Dancing Camel Brewery, HaTaasia 12 (right on the corner of HaTa'asia and Rehov HaMasger), Tel Aviv
When: Saturday October 18, 2008 9PM to whenever David kicks us out.
Cover charge: NIS 10 (for Alyn)

Come with cash (no credit cards accepted) and ready to have a good time.

Hope to see you there!

For more info on the Dancing Camel, check here and here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back to the Swamp

I really should have anticipated this, shouldn't I have. I thought everyone was going to be asking about Resolution Number Five, and instead the eyes are on Resolution Number One. "Why do you want to move to Jerusalem?"

Honestly, that is a really good question. I have been asking myself that question a lot. Apart from the suffocating, hideously sky-high rents, the smog and the months of July and August, Tel Aviv is fantastic. Of course, everyone knows about the beach, the wealth of cultural events and that the city is conveniently located smack-dab in the middle of Israel's strongest job market. But there is more to like about Tel Aviv. By Israeli standards (which are, admittedly, not all that high), much of the city is reasonably clean, reasonably well run and offers a good system of public transportation. Even the smog is scheduled to improve; the number of sidewalks which have been widened to include a bike-path increases on what appears to be a daily basis. Best of all, I am not peppered with emails advertising events designed to help me to fix whatever is wrong with me so that I too will be worthy of a beschert. In fact, if the truth be told, not only is no one concerned with my marital status, no one is particularly concerned with me at all. I can wear whatever I want, eat whatever I want and do whatever I want and nobody cares or even notices. There is something very nice about this feeling of anonymity. As for the rents, I easily find something more affordable in Ramat Gan while still enjoying many of the benefits that Tel Aviv offers.

So why on earth would I want to leave all that for Jerusalem? I do not even like Jerusalem! How do I not love thee Jerusalem? Let me count the ways.

  1. The hideously sky-high rents
  2. The months of December, January and February.
  3. The nickname "the swamp" is appropriate, but should probably be applied to the entire damn city and not just Katamon.
  4. The incredibly shrinking Jerusalem secular community combined with the growing percentage of Jerusalem residents that appear to think that using the Taliban as a role-model in the area of community building is a good idea.
  5. Unless one is interested in working as a waitress or as a clerk at a store selling overpriced Judaica (both of which target the rich retiree/ rich foreign resident population so eagerly courted by City Planners), the job market is crap.
  6. The powers that are in charge of public transportation, namely Egged and whomever is in charge of the light rail, seem to be blissfully unaware that their mission is to help people get from A to B. (Light Rail Official Motto: "Serving Jerusalem from 2008 2009 2010, someday before the Moshiach comes…we hope. And until then, just ripping up the roads and making you all fucking miserable! Baruch HaShem!").
  7. The ever-present expectation that of course you are shomer Shabbat, of course you love two-hour long, Carlebach-style Kabbalat Shabbat services and of course you would be wildly interested in such fascinating courses as "You and Spirituality", "Spirituality and You", "Getting to Know the Torah through Vile Touchy-Feely Expressive Dance Classes" and "Create Your Own Interpretive Midrashes that Read Like Really Bad Romance Novels, Just Without the Sex".
  8. The insane, all-consuming obsession with getting married. Because you are nothing, NOTHING! unless you get married. And have children. Because YOU HAVE NOT LIVED until you have children.

(I would mention Jerusalem's alarmingly high percentage of right-wing lunatics but the truth is that this is met by Tel Aviv's alarmingly high percentage of left-wing lunatics. The only way I am going to find people who are normal politically is if I move to Haifa. Which is not currently on my list of Things To Do.)

Anyway, so right… why the hell AM I moving back to Jerusalem?

It is because I am getting old. Well, not old. But I am settled. At least I want to be settled. Some people are baby-hungry. I am not. If I have children it will be nice, but it will not be an all-consuming tragedy in my life if I remain childless. What I am horribly, ravenously, family-hungry. I want a place to belong to. I want the weight of people pinning me down—at least a little.

The yearning really started to hit right before Pesach. I flirted with the idea of moving back to the States to be near my family. "You can watch your niece and nephew grow. You can spend more time with your parents" I thought to myself. I soon discarded that idea. Who am I kidding? Even when I lived in the States, and even when I lived a 30 minute drive from my brother, I saw my parents once or twice a year and my sister and brother once a year or less. Now that I am here I speak to them and to my parents every few months. We simply do not miss each other all that much. Besides, I like Israel and the very thought of moving back to the States literally gave me nightmares in which I had moved back to the States and was depressed and homesick. Israel is home. The US is not.

But as things are now, Tel Aviv may not be my home in Israel. The perfect freedom of anonymity and the binding ties of family are mutually exclusive. And that is where Jerusalem comes in. Jerusalem, for all of its faults, is where most of my closest friends are. I can go several months without speaking to my sister (and she probably go much longer without speaking to me) but when it comes to my friends in Jerusalem I cannot go a week without speaking with them. As my sister quipped, my close friends in Jerusalem are "siblings like siblings are supposed to be. It is as if you had siblings!" My real niece and nephew are far away, but my ersatz siblings in Jerusalem have plenty of kids for me to be an auntie to.

That is only a partial explanation, as I also have close friends in Tel Aviv whom I will miss once I move. Shockingly (and to my friends and I this is absolutely shocking) I find that I miss the community. For all of its faults, its foibles and its ability to be incredibly obtuse and irritating, I miss the feeling of belonging somewhere.

I went back and forth on this idea for quite a while. To move or not to move. Then, two things happened to help me decide to go with it. First, I got a job in Lod, making a move to Jerusalem that much less hideously impractical. Second, I received a dose of common sense from my friend Ellie. "I don't see what the big deal is. Try it for a year. If you don't like it, you can move back. It is inconvenience and it is money but it is not as though you are making an irreversible decision". She is right. Why not try?

Monday, September 29, 2008

My New Year Resolutions

I would like to say that I have been thinking long and hard about my New Year's resolutions, but the truth is that I have not. I have not been thinking long and hard—or, arguably, at all—about anything that is not 1) work-related or 2) chocolate. But Rosh Hashanah is around the corner and I just passed the corner on which my birthday lives and as fascinating as work and chocolate may be, resolutions MUST be made. Because I ALWAYS make resolutions. Which means that my thinking had to be diverted.

Well then.

For years, influenced by my Franklin Planner and its supreme importance in my life, I drew up wildly elaborate annual plans. I listed my values and wrote a descriptive paragraph about each one. I broke down my life down into key areas (professional, relationships, spirituality, education, creative, and so on) and then proceeded to write page-long essays describing where I was in respect to each area and where I wanted to be the same time next year. The next step was to take these aspirations and make them tangible. I built an outline for each item in which I broke it down into steps. The idea was that as I planned each week, I would review my annual plan and pick one of the small, manageable steps from each category and thus make consistent progress in all areas of my life.

As you might imagine given the complexity of the drafting process, my annual plans tended to be extremely ambitious. For example, my annual plan from the Rosh Hashanah after I made aliyah included, among other items: pass the Israeli CPA exams, lose 20 pounds, find a job at a Big Six accounting firm, move to Tel Aviv, become stylish and cool, learn French, develop a sideline as an artist and meet and marry the guy of my dreams. In the end, the only goal that I actually managed to accomplish was the weight loss and the only reason I managed that was because of my surprise enrollment in the Machane-Yehuda-bombing-diet-plan mid-way through the year.

After a several years of drawing up hopelessly unachievable masterpieces, I came to the conclusion that creating a more modest annual plan might result in a better success-to-failure ratio, if for no other reason that one item achieved out of 10 results in a better ratio than one item out of 40. Accordingly, over the last few years, my annual plan has gotten successively more modest. By last year I still broke out my goals by key area, but the quantity of goals was way down, I did not bother to outline anything and I ditched the deep thoughts section completely. Sooner or later I fully expect that my annual plan will shrink to something along the lines of "avoid getting killed and anything else excessively fatal, injurious, stupid or illegal". Which, provided I manage to stay out of G-d's way, is eminently achievable.

But that is in the future, and must be worked towards. This year's annual plan, while much shrunken from last year, still has actual goals in it. As follows:

1) Move to Jerusalem
2) Write and sell a book
3) Get back into singing or studying parshat ha-shavua (Realistically, I might be able to squeeze in one, but not both. I have yet to decide which of the two I want more.)
4) Get in shape
5) Find a friend with benefits

I must admit that I really went back and forth on the last one. I think we would all agree that "meet the man of my dreams, get married and pop out some Jewish babies" is clearly a goal. It is worthy of being included in one's annual plan. But…finding a f**kbuddy? I mean, does that actually count as a goal? On the other hand, I am trying to set more achievable goals. So one could look at this as a goal within a goal. A goal which, by virtue of its existence, fulfills another goal. A double-point goal, if you will. Kind of like a triple point word in Scrabble, but unlike Scrabble, absolutely not suitable for minors. (Of course, Scrabble was not suitable for me as a minor because my snotty genius sister would always beat me, and that made me cranky and I would throw the board at her and toss the pieces all over the room and end up being grounded for a year. Really, just based on the number of Scrabble games I lost, and not even taking into account the time I hit my brother on the head with a large broom and my weekly destruction of the vacuum cleaner, I calculate that by rights I should still be under house arrest today. But I digress). Quite frankly, I have planned on the marriage and children thing for pretty much every year since I was…I don't know…legal? And yet, it has not happened. Apparently, it is not as achievable as one would hope. Perhaps modifying my goal to something less ambitious will improve my chances of success?

But then, if I am going to use that argument to justify ditching my dreams of holy matrimony in favor of life as morally bankrupt harlot, how can I possibly justify including "get in shape" on my list? THAT one has been on my list since I was seven, which is the year my my mother explained (read "started drilling into my skull with a jackhammer") the concepts of "calories", "dieting" and "you will never have a boyfriend if you are not thin". Some 31 years later, apart from the year I did the bombing diet, I have yet to actually succeed in my "get in shape" goal. I still list that goal year after year after year. Such inconsistency is disturbing. Fortunately, (well, no, not really) my mother passed away many years ago and the repeated and futile inclusion of "get in shape" can easily be considered an eternal monument to her memory, twisted as it may be. Which is, of course, not only appropriate, but admirable.

And yet…I still question my judgement in respect to the "special friend" goal. I conducted an informal poll of my friends. Responses were:

1) Of course it does! You actually have to ask that question?
2) Yes, because it requires a change of attitude on your part and changing one's attitude counts as a goal.
3) Yes, because it will make you a lot less annoying and therefore a better friend.
4) Yes, but you better make it plural because what if you find one and he turns out to be a one-off? Then where will you be?

The lesson to be learned from this, of course, is that asking a Tel Avivit—including a religious Tel Avivit— whether finding a f**kbuddy can be considered a goal is the ultimate kickback question. I decided to check another source in the form of non-Tel Avivit, very Orthodox, RivkA. After a moment of shocked silence, she broke into hysterical laughter. At first I was worried because her laughter seemed to indicate that this was a ridiculous question and that of course the answer was "no fucking way in hell". All of a sudden, it hit me. I realized that I had just provided her with a session of free laughter therapy! Charity and aiding the sick all in one fell swoop. This translates into divine brownie points. And the divine brownie points can offset potential divine demerit points associated with the above-mentioned goals. I had it! Rak B'Yisrael, the ultimate Rosh Hashana kombina.

Right then…so I think I am covered. Back to thinking about accounting and chocolate.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sort of a Guest Blogger

I went riding with Asher a week and a half ago. As you can see Asher has a blog, put as he says, he prefers to work from the basement of other blogs. Anyway, I meant to write about our excursion, but I have been working approximately 5 million hours a week, so that was not happening. So he did!

When you are done with that, Haveil Havelim is up with more reading material.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Help Asaf

I don't want to scare you guys, but Yom Kippur, the day G-d is going to decide whether or not to smite your sorry ass, is just around the corner. Have you racked up enough divine brownie points? No? Better get moving! Not sure what to do? SuperRaizy (via Baila) has a suggestion: find Asaf a kidney:


Elliot Jaffe, who writes the blog Weekend Hospitality, has a son who has been diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure. Elliot writes "Simply put, both his kidneys are damaged and scarred from some infection or defect that happened years ago. They will likely cease to function sometime within the next six months... the best solution for Asaf is a kidney transplant... Live organ donors are considered the best option for kidney transplants. The percentage of successful transplants is higher from a live donor and the transplanted kidney has a longer chance of surviving in the recipient's body. Please contact us if you know of anyone who might be willing to donate one of their kidneys to Asaf. The process takes about six months and requires numerous meetings with doctors, social workers, psychologists and committees to make sure that the decision is freely made and will not jeopardize the donor or the recipient. The recovery time for the donor after the transplant can be as fast at 3-4 days."

You can read Elliot's entire post here . The Jaffes, who live in Israel, have also posted a letter about their search here on the Jerusalem Post website. Elliot says that Asaf will probably need a kidney transplant within the next 12 months. All of his close relatives have been eliminated as potential donors. To donate, you must be in perfect health and have blood type B or O. The Jaffes can be reached at their blog or at elliot_jaffe@yahoo.com.

Please help publicize Asaf's case by linking to Elliot's post or letter.

For those of you who are not that concerned with collecting divine brownie points, but do enjoy being snarky and contrary, please allow me to point out that this is an EXCELLENT opportunity for us to wield the power of the non-existent Jewish blogosphere community* .

Asaf, may Hashem grant you a refuah shleimah. For the record--I only have 1.5 kidneys (had kidney disease as a child) so I am not a good candidate. And I had thyroid cancer. I am not allowed to give blood; I am pretty sure an organ is out of the question. But hey, my blog is your blog.


*Yes yes Rabbi S, I know, the community is imaginary, just like Mr. Snuffleupagus.