Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer vacation blues

I've been feeling nervous and anxious and worried and all the synonyms that go with these words. Why? I don't know. A combination of things. Tomorrow is already July 1st and I'm looking at Facebook, seeing photos that people posted of wonderful places where they are traveling and my travel envelope is empty. So is my clothing envelope. Hubby is finishing his 6 month construction job with not a job in the very near future and that is also very disturbing, especially since I need nearly $2,000 from him each month to keep us going - and not even going, but to just be able to eat. So, I'd rather be travelilng to the North of Sweden and taking in the midnight sun, or taking a cruise along the Mediterranean or even Eastern Europe - just one city!! One city. That isn't asking for too much - is it?

I did buy a couple of tickets to the Jerusalem Film Festival, which is a lot cheaper than travel, and that will keep me happy for 10 days. And in August there's the Arts and Crafts festival with its many stalls, works of art, gypsy cafe, international performers, local performers, etc. There will be free/cheap entertainment this summer, but I worry. Will I be able to even have lunch out while my office is closed for two weeks? I was hoping to do "lunches" at various restaurants around Jerusalem because it's less expensive than dinner and I hardly go out for lunch - which is always taken indoors at the office. So this would be a treat. But what if I can't afford those lunches? I'm worried about summer deprivation and it's still only June 30th.

Every day I look at my two bathrooms where shower doors are supposed to be - and where I was hoping, after living in my apartment for two years, that they'd finally be installed. But it's a bad case of the "shoemaker's family's shoes" syndrome, and I'm living it. Feh.

You know how you have those bouts of "nothing is going my way" days. This week is one of those weeks.

It began by me going to a wedding of a distant relative of mine in Jerusalem. I didn't even ask Hubby to tag along because we hardly know anyone who would be there, and with separate seating for men and women at this ultra-Orthodox event, he would be totally alone. Which left more adventurous me to represent our family. I walked in with my lovely burgandy Naot sandals and a modest skirt with sequins scattered here and there and a black top which covered my elbows. I even wore a head covering. But everyone else there was dressed in designer duds and wigs and no one was wearing sandals (gasp!), while I was the only one there whose stocking-less toes were peeking out through their shoes. Fortunately, I found another outcast there(who was easily identifiable by her non-glamorous clothing and partially uncovered hair) among the guests, and so we sat together at our own table - no one bothering to sit with us, as if we had the plague or were in exile for daring to dress down/dowdy/different.

That was number one. Then every time I'd open Facebook this week, it opened up in Hebrew and I'd have to figure out how to get it to go back into English. You might think it's petty but I want my creature comforts and if I don't have money for travel, and English is it, then I should have it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rent in Jerusalem

Thank the good Lord I'm not doing that no more. I haven't rented in 2 years and don't intend to ever again. It was hell. Absolute hell. But that's not what I meant by this post's title. I want to tell you about the play RENT, that has been performing since June 11th, as part of Hadassah's Center Stage Theater in Jerusalem.

My calendar for things to do/see/go to has been filling up faster than a broken dam. That's a stupid analogy, I know - but you get the picture. I'm busy. Last Thursday, I was planning to go to a very serious interfaith event at the lovely Mishkenot Shaananim guest house. The event featured talks by various Jewish, Moslem and Christian leaders on the one God, which would eventually lead up to a discussion about the Temple Mount and how the Third Temple can exist side-by-side with the Al-Aqsa mosque - the hows and whys and how to overcome the difficulties that will certainly arise from even the thought of such a thing. They were giving out a simultaneous translation contraption, which I took, so my brain wouldn't have to work hard at translating Hebrew into English - let someone else bust their chops doing this. The audience was quiet, serious and a lovely mix of Druze, Christians, Moslem and Jews - quite a number of Orthodox Jews at that.

But a conversation with a friend of mine earlier in the afternoon coaxed me into seeing a rooftop performance of the Jerusalem production of Rent. Her daughter was in the show, and I figured it would be nice of me to go. I'm not into plays, theater - not even musicals. I didn't even care for Hair or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But I thought it would be a nice respite from the stresses of life and my hectic job, where I hardly have time to take lunch breaks.

I also like rooftop anythings in Jerusalem. The air is cool at night and there are rooftop barbecues, concerts, etc. happening all throughout the summer. If it's rooftop, I'm there.

One drawback for me was that it's not always so pleasant to go places on one's own. A movie, play, dinner out is so much better with a friend or two or three. I made a spontaneous decision to go, and tried calling one friend, who doesn't mind impulsivity, who I thought might want to go, but she couldn't be reached. So I got the one ticket, even though I didn't see too many other lone theater-goers.

To tell you the truth, I had expected a much more amateurish production. I used to go to Broadway shows all the time when I lived in New York and dated an entertainment writer. I didn't expect anything close to that kind of professionalism here in Jerusalem. But I was pleasantly surprised. The acting was great, the singing just as great and I thought the music was pre-recorded, until I looked over a few heads in front of me and saw a small band in the corner. I loved the play's characters, and my friend's daughter was amazing. She sounded like she could easily sell a whole shitload of records. And that kind of brought back all that nostalgia for American culture.

When I got home I tried to get my family excited about perhaps going with me again next week for the play's last week of performances, but none of my enthusiasm rubbed off on them. My kids just tsk'd at me - they're not into American anything. They are far too snobbishly Israeli to go to anything as embarrasingly American as this.

"I know you'll like the music, and the actors are all young, and pretty and handsome" I added.

They just shrugged their shoulders at me. Mom's crazy and goes to all these hippie, Arab-Jewish things, so why should they believe me now that they'll like something I like.

But I did get a positive response from Hubby. Yes, he, too, would like to lay back into a Jerusalem rooftop experience after a hard day's work and go see this play. And maybe he'll fall in love with the drag queen as much as I did.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sin City

I love Tel Aviv. I feel so free and easy when I'm there, and life seems so uncomplicated. I'm learning the city little by little. I decided to go with Hubby this past Friday, to renew our Canadian passport, pick up Madonna tickets, have breakfast at the Port and see the Pride Parade.

Being that we're car-less, we took a bus from Jerusalem, and the bus just glided its way into the Big City that never sleeps in the Middle East. We seemed to get there in no time at all, being that there's not much traffic on a Friday.

The Canadian embassy/consulate wait was two hours and I just KNEW that if I waited with a very ADHD hubby, things would not bode well for me, so I left that for another time when I'll go alone. But I wondered why the wait was so long. The U.S. Consulate is quick and efficient, and the Canadians either don't have the staff, or don't work fast or take long lunches. Who knows. We navigated towards the nearest bus stop and found out from one of the locals that it was an easy 20 minute walk from the Central Bus Station to the Embassy. Next time I'll do that instead of paying a taxi 30 NIS. I'm such a fucking tourist.

Picking up Madonna tickets was next on my list and we decided to take in Tel Aviv by walking the entire length of Ibn Gavirol Street in whatever shade we could find. Everyone was having breakfast on that street. Organic this and organic that - even a shop with organic falafel. I was impressed. We wondered what it would be like if we lived in Tel Aviv instead of our sleepy suburb of Maaleh Adumim, and I warned Hubby that he'd have to earn three times as much because a) I would need to get through all the restaurants - at least for Friday brunch and b) the designer stores for clothing/furniture/house stuff were much more interesting than what you see in Jerusalem - and more expensive. We got to the ticket place only to find out that the tickets for Madonna's concert weren't printed out yet, and won't be until the 21st of June. Hubby wanted to argue with the ticket people, but I told him it was pointless when signs were posted all over the place about the new date for pick up. A bit disheartened at two failed errands, we walked the rest of Ibn Gavirol Street until the street turned lush and shady, less trendy, with more middle-class families eating at greasy spoons on the street. We were right at the edge of Yarkon Park where we walked on the bicycle path towards the Port. There were people out canoeing in the kryptonite-green Yarkon river, which stunk at one picturesque point - which was an absolute shame. Aren't they supposed to be cleaning up the beautiful river?

We asked English-speaking bicycle riders for directions to the Port, and they pointed us in the direction. I told them we were "hicks from Jerusalem". Ah, yes, so were they, they laughed. "Good thing I didn't say we were white trash from Jerusalem, eh?" I ribbed Hubby.

We dropped our weary selves onto Comme Il Faut cafe right by the sea. I didn't care if breakfast was $1,000 at this point. We ordered a breakfast for two, gouda cheese, salmon, sparkling wine (!), salad, eggs with ricotta and hyssop, olives, labane cheese, cream cheese, good nutty bread, home-made jam, and carrot juice. I didn't want to leave! The sound of the waves was soothing and then an old, fat guy who we recognized from the Elvis Inn, who thinks he looks like Elvis, was walking up and down smiling at his "fans" sitting at the cafes, while he carried his beat-up guitar. Well that sight was more amusing than soothing.

We made our way to Ben Yehuda Street to wait for the Pride Parade to pass this way. I decided that seeing the Gay Parade in Jerusalem was too stressful, with all the Hareidi demonstrators who sometimes turn violent against the marchers. It's not fun for me at all. But there were no hecklers out today, at least none that I saw. Hubby found a sex shop on the street, and walked in. I couldn't do anything but follow him inside, and thanked God that I don't know a soul in Tel Aviv, and that no one knows me either. We spent the first few minutes chuckling at all the contraptions, looking like Virgin Sex Store Shoppers, which we are. We ended up asking the pretty saleswoman all sorts of questions - like how do you use this and how do you use that. One contraption was so amusing that she said all the "girls" buy for themselves. It looked like the kind of beaded necklace I used to string together when I was a kid, but they went from small to large beads. I will not explain further, so do not ask me. This is a relatively clean blog, except for my bad language.

We made a hasty exit, not buying a damn thing (it wasn't on our spending plan), because we heard the marchers coming our way. As I knew, the parade was fun, lots of drag queens, lots of young kids - mostly young kids marching, and many of the guys with lovely bodies (for me) to look at. Some wore very interesting outfits, and if I can ever get the photos of the parade out of my husband's phone, I'll post them, but if not, I'm sure I can find them somewhere on line. Yes, I just did and they're here . We decided to hit the beach with the rest of the party and got us some chairs with an umbrella a few feet from the water. The chairs were well worth the money but the expensive beer and mojitos weren't. We people-watched for a couple of hours until the sun nearly set.

The privately-run mini-vans do run on the Sabbath and we were able to easily get back to our city. So if you're secular, need to "get away" and find Jerusalem stifling when you're not feeling particularly spiritual one weekend, it's easy to just hop into one of those mini-vans and head out to Tel Aviv.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lost and Found

I've lost it. I've finally lost it. I used to have the best celeb-radar around. When I was 14 and hung around NYC waiting for the Beatles (separately) to show up - at their hotels, recording studios, business offices - I always knew where they would go, when the concert tickets would go on sale and who to contact for freebies or gifts or whatnot. But that is true no longer.

I drove home with my newly-married daughter and my son-in-law. He asks me:

"It's crazy trying to get Madonna tickets. Nobody can get through to the ticket offices. Are you going?"

"Going? Going where? To Europe to see Madonna?"

"She's playing here in September. You didn't know that?"

I would have throttled him as only a mother-in-law can do, but as he was the driver, I held myself back.

No I didn't know that. Since when did she creep up on us like that? And since when have I lost my touch for knowing everything there is to know about concert tickets in Israel?

Son-in-law blames me for not reading the Hebrew papers.

"You read the Jerusalem Post - that Settler paper. Of course you wouldn't see it there."

"I perused the Hebrew papers over the weekend. I read the headlines and the ads. And there was NOTHING about Madonna. There was an ad for Blue Man Group, but I haven't a clue who they are. So, sorrrreee." I glared at him, but he couldn't see this because he was looking out the front window.

"Are YOU going?"

Of course he would take her. He bought her diamond earrings for her birthday and sent her to a luxury spa. Ahhhh there are good husbands in the world, I just didn't fucking land one.

But my ego didn't get too busted up because just before I got into their car, I went over to check out a new restaurant in town called Simneh, a Yemenite bakery/coffee shop of sorts, beautifully decorated with Middle Eastern floor tiles, and Arabesque wall tiles. The place was spotless. The owner kept giving me samples to taste and I didn't have to buy a thing. Every half loaf of exotic Yemenite bread he gave me as a "treat" including a half piece of Knafe, which was more light-tasting than its Arab counterpart in the Old City's Jafaar Bakery. I was thinking perhaps I'll take my DA sponsor to meet with me here tomorrow and asked if it was kosher. Sure, they said, showing me the certificates. "I just need to know for my friend, because I'm not religious, but she is."

"What do you mean you're not religious??" the owner smiled at me. "There's no such thing." He was blond, tall, a proud Uber-Zionist Jew.


"You ARE religious. Because you're living in the Land of Israel. You're doing the mitzvah (good deed) of living in the Land of Israel. THAT'S being religious."

Wow. I wasn't even trying. So here, I may have lost my celeb-radar but I have found that others believe there is some good in me.