Sunday, April 30, 2006


I have loved Philip Seymour Hoffman since seeing him play drag queen Rusty Zimmerman to Robert DeNiro's NY cop Walt Koontz in Flawless. Lawdy, lawdy chillins...if you haven't seen it RUN to the video store at once. C'mon. It's Sunday. What else have you got goin' on?

Over the weekend I checked out capote. I'm smitten anew with PSH not to mention very affected by the film. It's subtlety and understatement is gorgeous as is adherence to period dress and mannerism. I'm intrigued by Truman Capote, very much interested in reading his novel In Cold Blood and particularly pleased by the fact that he was pals with my favorite of all authors, Nelle Harper Lee.

Hell, if you haven't seen that one either, get in on a Blockbuster 2 for 1 weekend deal and rent 'em both. Well worth it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Lately, whenever I put in a simple request with my four-year-old - pick up the spoon you dropped on the floor, put the puzzle away, come here and brush your teeth - he responds with a salute.

At first I was very mildly aware of the gesture. Then yesterday he did it again and the implications dawned. I asked him to do it again just to be sure that my precious little urchin was gesticulating as suspected. He was.

Where did you see that, sweetheart? In the movie Hair when Berger goes into the army? Wishful thinking on semi-hippy mother's part.

No. At school. There's a song we sing and we do that.

What the hell song is that? Er. Sorry honey. I mean, What song is that?

I can't remember.

I probably wouldn't be so sensitive if we didn't live where we live. I'm sure the song and the salute have something to do with next week's Memorial and Independence Days but nonetheless... Sue me for not finding military associations amusing particularly with regards to a preschooler.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lenny, Come on Down!

So Lenny's coming for a visit but he hasn't decided whether or not to perform. C'mon Len...I'll go your way if you go mine. Give it up.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Modern Dilemma

**I guess tonight's bombing sort of seals the deal...Eilat? Naah**

While walking the dog this ayem, I stopped into my neighborhood cafe to wish the owners a top of the morning. Strewn across one of the tables was a copy of Israel's Yediot Ahronot daily with a cover photo that begged caption reading.

For anyone who has ever liened in one of the Sinai Desert's "crunchier" spots, today's image was classic: Israelis lounging beside Sudanese and Bedouins on the multi-colored carpets that line cushions of Bedouin tent hangouts. Barefoot, sipping glasses of hot tea with mint, deeply tanned. The caption went something like: We're not afraid and we're not coming home just yet

Well judging by the ear-to-ear grins, no wonder they're not feeling particularly alarmed by Monday's triple blast a dog's bark away that claimed 28 lives. They appeared to be on the "special Sinai plan", if you know what I mean.

I want to go down to the Sinai too and hang out in the Bedouin tents playing backgammon with Suleiman or Assi, depending upon who sits down first. I don't desire the "special plan" but I do want to Scuba dive, sunbathe, read by candlelight when the sun goes down while drinking cheap wine from a paper cup and nibbling post-melt, malformed chocolate bars I've lugged across the border in my rucksack.

I've been longing for such a retreat for months. But every time I mention it people warn that the Israeli government is advising against travel down south yonder due to all sorts of unstable types that do things like blow up tourists as a means of further improving Egypt's perenially-suffering tourism industry.

I generally poo-poo those type warnings but then my radar isn't always up to speed. My brother, at wit's end and disgusted with my "they'll never fire missiles on us" brevity, took it upon himself to seal a room in our shared Tel Aviv apartment 24 hours prior to missile strikes back in 1991.

So what's a girl to do? And considering my family's combined passport mix - Israeli, American and Danish - we really won't announce our origins or current domicile should we go desert bound lest an Al Qaeda squadron be lurking nearby. Traveling with a very verbal 4-year-old informant however - I'm from San Francisco and my mommy says you never pay for dinner. Is that true? - might present a liability.

So what's the alternative? Eilat? No comment. Divers, silence seekers and chusha enthusiasts everywhere know exactly what I'm talking about right here. Who wants to blow up a bungalow village anyhow? But apparently someone did.

I'll have to give this one some thought.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Sponsors, More Words

A wee mention of a site for book lovers: FetchBook... But first, a wee disclaimer: I've never tried it and I don't know anyone who has so I can't give the thumbs up or down. I received an e-mail from the site owner/plugger asking me to blog it. So here I am. Blogging.

That aside, the way it works is you surf on over and search for the book of your dreams by title, author or ISBN. What comes up is 120 price comparisons based upon vendor. You choose who to buy from and whether you want it soft copy, used, hard cover...Also, doesn't matter where you sit in the world; shipping is touted as universal. Does this mean someone will jet in and hand carry me the out-of-print, rare title I order while on the Gombe reserve this summer during my annual chimp watch with Jane? (we're on a first name basis, of course) Hmmm. If anyone tries it, lemme know. I'm curious.

And here's a dose of the inane just in case things were getting a wee bit too bogged: Has anyone out there every tried switching back to apple or cider vinegar after adapting to Balsamic? No can do, mes amis. I tried.

There you have it. The world's just one big bookfest with Balsamic drizzled over wild radicchio leaves.

Yom Ha'Shoa

This morning air raid sirens will go off throughout HLC (Holy Land Central) signaling the country's 5 million or so Jews to stop whatever they're doing and observe a moment of silence and prayer in remembrance of the 6 million or so Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

It's been 9 years since I've been here for Yom Ha'Shoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) but undoubtedly the same enveloping bubble of sorrow that descends when the sirens wail will overtake again. Regardless of venue - public or within the private confines of home - the throat knot lodges in place daring the tears to flow.

My first year in Israel I was enrolled in Tel Aviv University's overseas program. My college experience was sort of backwards - freshman rather than 3rd year abroad. My dorm-mate at the time, Janice from Long Island, had somehow slipped under the radar and was unawares of the Holocaust memorial date. So when the sirens went off and people stopped mid-stream in their tracks while walking down the street or braked their vehicles, got out and stood silently on thoroughfares with heads hanging, she panicked. Janice thought the country had been overtaken by aliens who had established mind control over the entire population. Janice was say into Sci-Fi.

Aside from the larger meaning, the memorial anniversary date was chosen by Israel's Knesset in 1951 to mark the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when Polish Jews defied German forces planning to evacuate them to Treblinka. The battle lasted 27 days and resulted in deaths of 300 German troops and 7,000 resistance fighters. It is considered a high point in Jewish history.

I exit this posting with yet another P.J. O'Rourke quote. Generally quite humorous, O'Rourke also pulls out salient poignancy when necessary.

What could cause more hatred and bloodshed than religion? This is the Israel question. Except it isn't rhetorical; it has an answer. We went to Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial, and saw what the godless get up to. There are worse things than war...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Holy Drag

*sigh* I miss San Francisco sometimes.

Conveniences, the service industry, my corner cafe owned by Ramallah siblings Musa and Khaled Dajani who also own one of the city's hippest sushi restaurants, a swank bar, a Japanese whisky lounge and the cafe itself - Abir - no minor attraction.

But this morning what I missed was the irony. A running joke about San Fran is if that if you're looking for it, you'll find it. The "something for everyone" credo. Say you've always dreamed of joining the Church of the Lesbian Alliance of Korean Men for Buddhist Jews. You'll find it in San Fran. Just open the Yellow Pages. Sometimes, too many options can be...too many options.

It'll probably take some time for the ironies to wear off because when my old pal Matt e-mailed this morning with an illustration of a San Francisco ism, it took a re-read for me to "get it".

i just spoke to a friend i grew up with, who has recently come out of the closet and is living just up the block from me.
he called to say hello and that he was going out this evening to see a drag show at the Holy Redeemer Church.
How San Francisco can you get? Once again, the city never ceases to amaze.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy E.D.

Guess what today is, mein kinderlach...??

Yeah, we all know it's my birthday. Duh.

It's also Earth Day!! And I am oh so proud to share the significant date.

In honor of E.D. I won't advocate hugging a tree or even planting one - although if you so decide, good on ya!

Instead, glide on over to this series. Richard Bangs is a renowned river expert who's been navigating the world's wet wonders for decades. He's also the co-founder of Mountain Sobek Adventure Travel in Emeryville, California - an outfit that'll take you on that vogage across the Bering Strait if your heart so desires.

While chronicling some of his latest adventures, he and his team voyaged down the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. If you read nothing of his travels, at least check this one out. Clueless me had no idea the Dead Sea is rapidly dying. Note to self: Visit with Raphael before it's too late.

Enjoy Earth Day and be kind to your environment...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Heckling Hu

I found this story about the Falun Gong supporter who sneaked into the White House press corps and heckled Chinese Prez Hu Jintao during the formal welcoming ceremony pretty damned amusing.

First of all, whassup with White House security?

Second, Chinese people have no idea the incident occurred. Footage and press mention was censored back home so they got the standard Wally & Beaver cover of Bush and Jintao shaking hands and playing nice.

Third, reading a bit about Falun Gong was surprising; The Chinese government claims they have only a few million members. The FG, on the other hand, says they're 100-million strong worldwide. One statistic shows their membership as exceeding China's Communist Party membership. No wonder there's an attempt to suppress them.

I also didn't know that Qigong is at the group's origins and that the FG has only been around officially since 1992. That's a tremendous following in a very brief time period. Again, no wonder the Chinese gov't is a bit concerned. That, however, does not lend credence to brutalizing followers in an effort to stamp them out.

This coincides beautifully with a passage I read from P.J. O'Rourke's Peace Kills just two days ago whilst lounging on the beach. Referring to America's foreign policy, he writes:

..when America acts, other nations accuse us of...engaging in 'unilateralism', of behaving as if we're the only nation on earth that counts.

We are. Russia used to be a superpower but resigned 'to spend more time with the family.' China is supposed to be mighty but the Chinese leadership quakes when a couple of hundred Falun Gong members do tai chi for Jesus...

Well a few more than a hundred & Jesus doesn't come into the picture but you get the point...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Word from Sponsors

I recently received an e-mail from Ernesto, a middle aged Catholic fellow from Manila who moved to Tel Aviv half a year ago for work. He reads my blog and asked if I might link to his. So I am.

Check out his story about coming to HLC (Holy Land Central), his first time traveling internationally on a 20-hour Lufthansa flight via China and Germany (no less). Also take a look at his story marking Holy Week.

Best to you, Ernesto. Mabuting kapalaran!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Awkward Moments

My son is at the honest stage of life that clearly arrives halfway between ages 4 and 5. He vacillates between the fantasy world of dressing up as Buzz Lightyear, Spiderman, Batman, a Viking (Danish heritage) or Superman and openly questioning his surroundings then offering up observations that at times could stand a smidge of censorship. For instance... the doctor's office waiting room loudly announcing: "He's really, really huge mommy" when a bulky person walked in. the backseat of the car when he asked my cousin's struggling-with-overactive sebaceous-glands teenage son: "Why do you have so many pimples?" Had I not been pretending to be deeply engrossed in scenery outside the window, I'd have hugged the young boy for his response: Because I'm growing up and this is what happens to some people as they grow up. After mulling that one over for a few seconds young Rapha replied: "Yeah. I have them on my toosig" the backseat of the same car, leaning forward and asking my rapidly graying cousin: "Neil, you're kind of old aren't you?"

....any and every time he happens to the be in the room when I undress: "Ooh! Your toosig is really, really big. You eat too much junk"

...fielding a phone call at my behest: "My mommy doesn't want to talk to you right now."

...loudly noting the sexual orientation of a relative's parents: "But he can't have two mommies. Where is the daddy?"

...on the beach: "That man is really hairy. Why does he have hair on his back?"

Were we all this adorable?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Winding Down

Passover is in its last stretch...Tomorrow eve it's over and out until next year.

I've had a really nice vacation albeit clouded by yesterday's bombing. I think about our mini-jaunts around the country and then for a few seconds turn my thoughts to the families mourning today. It's too painful to think about them for more than that brief moment but my thoughts return to them repeatedly.

Raph & I journeyed, yet again, to Jerusalem today with cousins to visit the Bloomfield Science Museum. Actually a lot more state-of-the-art than my snobbish, former member of the Bay Area Discovery Museum self expected. A scientific hands-on extravaganza for kids with displays aimed at multi-level intellects and ages, we could've spent hours roaming each floor and trying out experiments. We loved the bubbles, the bubble magician, the light particle diffusion display and electricity and spark demos.

We left the museum and headed to Salah A Din Street in East Jerusalem across from the Old City's Damascus Gate for shwarma, falafel and hummus lunch. I couldn't get over the fact that we were actually hanging out there. When I left HLC years ago the East side of town was a precarious place to be if you were a native Hebrew speaker, which today's lunch companions happen to be. Incidentally, the other cousins - the Palestinian ones - can spot the Hebrew-ites a mile off.

I marveled over sitting there & eating so cordially and all and was then dosed with reality when a pair of twenty-ish hippy types in dark glasses and baggy clothing with long greasy hair and rucksacks on their backs passed us en route to Damascus Gate. Had I not heard the blaring Hebrew coming from walky talky devices connected to their front pack straps, I'd have never noticed they were wired. I guess they turn down the volume when they close in on whatever it is they plan to close in on.

My cousin and I did double takes and in unison declared: Undercover!

Sorta reminded me of the undercover units operating in major cities; Most of the gang members know exactly who they are and sometimes greet them by name. *sigh* Same game, similar playahs, different setting.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Agony of Parenting

My father phoned this afternoon and our conversation shot me backwards in time evoking an insight which had eluded me on my move back to HLC (Holy Land Central) after a ten-year hiatus...

Back during Gulf War the 1st, I was here in HLC working for NBC News when Scuds started lobbing into Tel Aviv. It was Iraq's attempt at goading Israel into the heat.

Ask almost anyone who was here during that time and they'll tell you with detail what they were doing and how they felt during those seemingly endless first-night-of-missiles moments. Being terrified has a way of sticking with our brains' clarity department. Funny thing is that we sometimes forget the stricken feelings of our associates in other locales.

A month after that first missile night a videotape made its way into my hands. "From the NBC affiliate station in Cincinnati," the cover stated. I knew what was on it.

That first Scud night, anxious relatives across the U.S. who couldn't get in touch with loved ones living in Israel due to phone line congestion, gathered at a local synagogues to pray and wait out the frustration together. My parents - awaiting word from three of their four children living in missile hit areas - were among them.

Local news producers raced to synagogues to lasso interview candidates and found my parents - wide eyed and willing to accompany them downtown for a live interview at WLWT's studios.

In hindsight I'm almost sorry I viewed that tape. Because forever frozen in my memory is the image of my father sitting on that television set ashen-faced, distracted, terrified and distraught as he absent-mindedly answered questions about his three children living in Tel Aviv and Haifa. He didn't yet know that we were all unscathed.

Today he phoned about the bombing. Initially hearing the inflection in his voice I asked: "Dad, is everything okay?"

I was going to ask you the same, he replied.

"Oh yeah. We're fine," I answered. "We don't really go to that part of town much."

And I hung up the phone realizing: Wow. Here they go again. A child in Israel. The worry is back. And the memory of that videotape returned and tears sprung to my eyes. What we put them through inadvertently.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Here We Go...Iran & $$

One person commented here that the Palestinian people need the influx of $$ and that Hamas, unlike predecessors i.e. Arafat, has historically been instrumental in ensuring funds reach the populace in the form of education, improved infrastructure, etc.

My concern lies more with the Iranian side & inherent symbolism in a donation coming on the heels of the U.S./European aid cutoff, Ahmadinejad's recent rhetoric regarding Israel and the Holocaust, talk of Iran's nuclear progress and the current cut-with-a-knife thick tension between Iran and the U.S. This move sends a clear signal to numerous parties and ups the ante..

* * *
Iran just announced they'll be donating $50 million to the Palestinian Authority since Europe and the U.S. recently cut off direct aid.

I don't even know where to begin vis a vis the implications of this one...Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Bestest Good Friday

Tonny, Raph and myself journeyed on up to Jerusalem to check out Good Friday goings-on in the Old City. Although I spent years "covering" this significant, Christian holy day while working for foreign news agencies, I never personally witnessed the procession along the Via Dolorosa.

It didn't happen this year either. We arrived too late. BUT action there was aplenty, regardless.

Simply venturing to Jerusalem is akin to traveling abroad for me. Buses packed with red-faced, Yiddish-speaking religious Jews in black and white, fur-lined spodiks and shtreimels atop their heads, long sleeved silk robes, women in heavy stockings... all in heat wave, 80-degree (26.6 C) temps. As I curiously peeked at my bus-mates en route to the Old City, a mutually curious 5-year-old with flowing side-locks peeked back. Schoingemacht. I'm the visiting alien.

We arrived at the Western Wall side of the City and made our way along the stone alleyways towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which, according to Christianity, is built over Golgotha i.e. the place where Jesus was crucified and buried.

As we moved into the Moslem quarter, the muezzin began calling worshippers to Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque. We found ourselves swimming against the tide of carpet-carrying men scurrying to prayer and so ducked into a chatchke shop to wait out the flow.

Heading out again, we knew we were getting closer to the church because the passers-by were getting blonder and the rosary and incense/myrrh shops were gaining in number. The heat was taking its toll so we stopped for lunch at a rooftop restaurant a block from the church.

The food was "eh" but the view from up top was beautiful. All those archeological gradations along Jerusalem's hillsides, church towers, Mosque domes...Who needs a vacation abroad when you can jump on a bus to J-Town? Speak English and occasionally pull out a digital camera and Voila! You're a tourist for the day.

The church was crowded, as would be expected, and I was moved, as happens on each visit to the Holy Sepulchre, by the tourists who kneel and spread their upper bodies over the cool, marble slab covering Jesus' final resting place, weeping openly.

It was a wonderful day, indeed, to be in the Holy City for the sheer experience of taking in all three major religions' holy times in a single go. Definitely one of those "I'm lucky to be here" days.

A Happy Easter to all of my celebrating friends...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We're Here

Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday) to my kin folk and virtual brethren worldwide celebrating Passover come sundown this evening. Rapha, Tonny & myself will be joining about 40 others at cousins Neil & Orna's who live just a hair inside the green line in a community called Kochav Yair. Picturesque natural setting and the scent of seasonally blossoming flowers and fruit trees will be heavenly.

My wishes for all:
  • Decent wine
  • A speed reader who gets you to the meal within half an hour
  • Lack of analytical relative insistent upon interpreting Haggadah texts aka Rashi
  • Not too bitter Maror
  • Find the Afikoman
  • Get the gift you truly desire for finding it
  • Relatives too tipsy to resume Haggadah reading after meal

Next Year in Jerusalem! (or this Friday or Sunday if you're headed up for Good Friday or Easter)...

(and yes, I know, Charlton Heston is an NRA loving bleep bleep bleep. But c'mon. Charlton IS Moses)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This Means War!

Okay call me silly but when I read Reuters reporter Nidal-al-Mughrabi's story this morning stating that Hamas views Israel's suspension of formal security ties as a "declaration of war" I mused.. Wait. Did we have a noon coffee date together and now we just screwed it up? Wait, Wait. Does this mean you won't be picking up the lunch tab?

Well I guess not seeing as the EU and U.S. cut off direct aid over the weekend.

I just don't get it but again, I'm far from a political analyst. When an entity won't recognize a country, won't renounce violence and its judicial branch proudly and publicly declares Jihad and "death for the sake of God" as its new government is being formed ...that seems a tad "troublesome" in more than just a roguish, drank a few-too-many-beers-last-night kinda way. But shucks..What would I know?

I know this: No money + declaration of war = No Good.

This feels like that kid at school who is determined to punch no matter what you do or say. Heck, you could declare your undying love and offer up a year's lunch money and the kid would still bloody your nose.

Israel is BY NO MEANS whatsoever the impish, cowering kid in the corner so let's rub out that implication from the get-go so as to give this posting's comment section a break. Hamas, however, isn't that cowering kid either.

I'm concerned over what may go down during Passover holiday.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Rendezvous Complex

Lately I've been ruminating over something my mother said a few years back. Recounting her 40th high school reunion, she commented that had attendees not been wearing name badges she would have recognized ne'ery a soul. People change as years scroll by and time does not necessarily glide by favorably for all.

This has recently been brought painfully to the fore in my own life. As mentioned in a previous post, a benefit of living here in HLC (Holy Land Central) is re-convening with old friends as they return home for holidays from assorted world enclaves. In the past week I have literally re-connected with 6 pals from days of yore.

Actual face-to-face meetings, however, are strategically spaced in order to keep anxiety levels at bay. Rendezvouses after a decade are stressful; those who have been through it know what I mean.

Unless you've been in regular contact with the other party via webphone or video-conferencing, the Polaroid of that person in your mind's eye is frozen. And outdated. So the initial greeting can be a tad startling. A few pounds, some gray hair, forehead wrinkles..But that's okay. You can live with seeing changes in the other person. And if the repor is good, you quickly move past the physical.

The uncomfortability lies in coming to terms with the reverse shattered freeze-frame i.e. YOURSELF. The dazed look of complete incomprehension on the other person's face - "My God! He doesn't even recognize me" - is particularly unsettling. You've spent the last ten years with yourself so the waistline inner tube acquired post-partem is now an old friend accommodated gingerly with drawstring, cotton sweats and low-rise, Spandex-waist trousers.

Your friend across the table, however, remembers midriff shirts and that belly-button piercing you used to unabashedly display. It's the blank stare on HIS face that sends you unwittingly to the Shelved Memories Department where all-nighters, clubs, dancing and a flatter-tummied you are stored. Instinctively, you take a deep breath, sit up a bit straighter and suck in the mid-section and then attempt to sit through the entire meeting uncomfortably holding that pose while smiling and sipping wine.

Yes, it can bring on bouts of melancholy coupled with wistful longings; the days of platform thigh-high boots, mini-skirts and barely there, transparent tops are pretty much over (unless a complete overhaul aka Cher or Madonna is off in the future somewhere).

Stressful indeed. I am beginning to appreciate hermitage.

Hope, however, lies on the horizon: In another 40 years or so I (hopefully) won't give a damn. I'll tap young boys' behinds with my cane "by accident", ask the particularly attractive ones for help crossing the street or wheeling me up the ramp and I'll shamelessly lift my knit sweater in public to show off "war scars". See here, young man! I used to have a belly piercing right here, I'll have you know!

Ahhh the glory of getting on...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Passover Countdown

A few notes as we head into Passover...

As mentioned in a previous post, things are speeding up here in HLC (Holy Land Central) as holiday preps go into the final leg. It's sorta like Christmas frenzy without baby Jesus, mall Santas, fake snow or tacky roof decor.

Tourists are beginning to arrive which is a good thing because the industry took a beating starting in 2000 and finally appears to be recovering. For me, the American visitors are easiest to spot in their Reebok walking shoes and neat coifs strolling the grimy open-air markets, gazing up at street signs with confused imprinted on their foreheads and strolling contentedly along Tel Aviv's beach promenade in highly audible groups.

A funny Passover ism is the supermarket "changeover". Rather than remove yeast-laden products for the holiday, paper sheeting is taped over shelves to cover "offensive" products. So if I reach behind the sheeting during holiday week, grab a bag of pasta and bring it to the register will the Elite Matzoh Unit haul me away?

Rapha (small child) and I spent the day in Jaffa yesterday tooling around the flea market, eating cheese-filled pocket dough at Aboulafia Bakery, checking out the narrow stone passageway galleries and hanging out on benches adjacent to the Crusader era breakfront. As we sat relaxing, a slightly hunched graying man in a tattered black suit and kippah approached the breakfront wall, turned to face the sea and began mumbling silently. My knee-jerk, initial thought was: Nutter.

Hands jammed in pockets he abruptly withdrew a small white sack from his trousers and tossed it into the crashing waves below. Tsk tsk. Not environmentally friendly went another knee-jerk notion. But wait. Was he performing the pre-holiday ritual of ridding himself either of bread products or of sins? The latter - tashlich - is generally reserved for the Jewish New Year. Maybe he does this every Friday because he has so many sins that the sack can't wait a year? Or maybe he got his holidays confused. Who knows? But it was interesting to observe.

Another interesting experience was our First Playground Scuffle. En route home from Jaffa we stopped for fun. Inside a climbing structure obscured from my view a teenager lifted Raphael up and pretended he would throw him.
Sobbing and calling for me, Raphael made his way down the slide. As he sputtered out the story in jags, the offending teen remained hidden inside the structure. A combined lack of Arabic, English or Hebrew on all our parts rendered significant communication with the teen's peers impossible. He ultimately descended, however, and was apologetic (he spoke a smattering of Hebrew) and sheepish when confronted by moi.

I was reminded of a similar situation in San Francisco. The teens there, however, were tossing a basketball back and forth over the heads of a dozen playground toddlers. When requested to refrain, one charming young girl threatened to "whoop" my backside and rearrange my face. Ultimately the police were summoned. Hmmm.

4 more days...

Thursday, April 06, 2006


I like viewing art. Photography, oil on canvass, mixed medium, massive Burning Man installations, Pop, Cubism, Realism, Asian, South American, Japanese street chic, sculpture, architecture, design...I'm not choosy. Give me a viewing and I'm content for at least a few weeks.

I'd love to become a collector and connoisseur, just like I want to play the stock market. The latter I'm motivated to do after lunching with my retired Aunt Babe yesterday who shared her investment portfolio tips while confessing she's self-taught. How does she know what to buy or trade? She watches investment programming, keeps an eye on relevant stock activity and buys or trades performance dependent. She says all it takes is studying and reading. I like reading.

As for art, my impressions in that realm have been formed by second-hand exposure to my mother's auction purchases, museum visits and some study. Oh yeah! And also by the unremarkable San Francisco erotica art opening I attended where hors d'oeuvres and wine were served up by quite remarkable nude men.

Red or white? Mr. Absent Clothing asked alternately holding up each bottle-clutching hand. His intonation implied: Excuse me but, like, where have you been? Nobody who's anybody in the service industry wears tired black and white these days. Oh honey, why don't YOU pour ME some wine? Breeders. Sheesh.

Until that point I had neglected to notice the hired help. "Uh, uh, uh" I stammered, forcing my gaze to remain level. "Want me to come back?" he playfully toyed. I vigorously nodded yes.

So where was I going with this monologue? Nowhere special. Just wanted to share some art with ya'll. Went to visit an artist's loft the other night - Eyal Dobinsky's his name and he's based in Tel Aviv's Montefiore neighborhood - sort of like an up & coming SOMA or Meat Packing District loft, artist warehouse-ish space area. Here's a link to his site. I have my eye on the oil painting up yonder top of page...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Quickie

I prostrate deeply for I have not faithfully updated...It's NOT that I don't have ideas and it's NOT that I don't think about writing. It's just that:

1) We're headed into Passover & kids are off school (read: no time for self, no time for self, no time for self)

2) We're headed into Passover so friends are popping up each day (read: people who moved abroad are here for the holidays so the coffee, dinner and social calendar is FILLING!!!)

3) We're headed into Passover so shopping is a high priority (read: picking up chatchkes for relatives is essential as is stocking bread & pita in the freezer - for this heathen, anyways - since it won't be available at the supermarket for an entire week)

4) Our sweetheart, Golden Retriever has a bone infection in her foot. (read: X-rays, doctors, compresses 3 times a day, an antibiotic and pain killer regimen twice daily, dressing and bandaging a swollen, oozing foot the size of a smallish grapefruit at least twice per day. Will wonders never cease?)

5) I have so many deadlines I'm treading water (read: I have so many deadlines I'm treading water)

However, I will take this moment to share...

- The country is rapidly heading towards that pre-holiday frenzy: supermarket over-crowd, shopping mall herding, general impulse buying, frenetic spring cleaning and idle youth on Spring break hanging out in public areas looking for excitement and action

- Matzoh (feh!) is stocked to the gills. Come and get it at your local supermarket, corner convenience store, favorite drinking establishment and in vending machines wherever snacks are sold. No supply shortage here.

- The weather is vascillating between wanting to be warm and sunny yet sinking into rainy chill glum. Could we please get that one in order? We have company that travelled quite a distance to bare skin, for god's sake!

Remind me to write about the security guard who is obsessed with Maccabi Tel Aviv and a cool young artist whose Asian inspired oil paintings are colorful and hip.

To bed. Over & out.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Last Thursday, an uber cool collaborative exhibit opened up at New York's Bronfman Center Gallery: Beyond Graffiti, Fresh Visions from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and New York City.

I wrote about it which led to the fortunate circumstance of interviewing some of the artists.

I spoke with Rami Meiri whose colorful depictions of Israeli life brighten up public spaces throughout the country; He is the father of Israel's public art/mural scene.

And with Nir Aharon, a promising young graphic designer/artist whose first foray into the graffiti world was spray painting his Beersheva high school in protest of teachers and the school itself.

"There was a police investigation and everything but we didn't get caught. It was in the local paper, though, so we got artistic exposure"...

And with Dan "Mobius" Sieradski, a New York transplant who d.j.'s, runs a non-profit, blogs, organizes Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop events and creates graffiti. Dan is into street art rather than the gallery type because he says it puts the art where it should be: back into the hands of the people.

Graffiti has come a long ways, my friends. Tagging with a can's one thing; Some of these artists use wood, metal, canvass, oil & graphics.

Follow the links and pretend you've gone gallery hopping for the day...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dreams & visions

In the late 90's I was living in San Francisco after a ten-year stretch in good 'ole HLC (Holy Land Central). Despite my Americana background, the culture shock associated with the transition back was literally painful at times.

One early summer afternoon feeling acute pangs of longing due to dear friend Malcolm's departure to England earlier that day, I sat on the stoop of the Victorian I shared with Israeli roommate Vavi sinking into my sadness. Rounding the street corner and clearly searching for a specific address, a lanky fellow wearing tight drain pipes approached and asked in heavily Hebrew accented English: Is Vavi here? He had watery, gray-blue eyes.

She wasn't due back for several hours but he sat down anyway, unwittingly commencing "The Summer of Nikko".

An early 20's aspiring chef looking to make his mark, Nikko had been advised by mutual Tel Aviv friends to contact Vavi for professional leads. He hoped she might help him get a foothold. She didn't. But he and I became inseparable. We shared movies, dinners, museums, drawn out telephone talks, cafes, platonic sleepovers, parties, shopping, walks in the park, city scouting and mostly talking.

Nikko verbalized the isms of American life that made us both squirm.

I'm calling you from the street corner. A little girl holding a junkie's hand was just led down the street sobbing, I had to step over a collapsed homeless person to get to the ATM machine and someone just vomited on the sidewalk and then carried on walking. This is normal life here?!?!?

And he coined the phrase "parva" as in: American life is not milchik or fleishik. It's parva. Something's missing.

Mostly Nikko talked about dreams. Flamboyant & colorful dreams for his future. To be a successful chef, author books, find lasting love, own a restaurant and host a cooking program he would star in. He even had a local artist draw sketches of the would-be television set of his dreams.

He didn't have the patience to sling hummus at a Berkeley dive while waiting to realize his ambitions so he cut out after two months and headed to Paris for an externship. He then returned to Israel and we've been in contact on and off since. I've stayed with him on holiday visits, phoned on occasion, sent postcards and yesterday, we sat together over coffee - our first rendezvous in 5 years.

Nikko is more reserved these days and seems tired. He doesn't laugh as readily nor does he yelp with delight as was his habit in the past. But chasing dreams can do that to a person, especially if he ends up catching them.

Nikko realized every last one. He opened not one but three successful Jaffa establishments, authored three cookbooks, travels the world as a lecturing "Israeli Ambassador d'Cuisine", found a life partner and his t.v show has garnered him HLC celebrity status.

Israelis know him as Nir Tzuk. To me he's still Nikko. Nikko who helped me get through the summer of longing and who illustrated by example how vision can actualize into reality.

"That and damned hard work!" he said yesterday.